Intersecting Lives


My latest for Pallet magazine. A story of international espionage, murder, war, and a villain so brutal he’d make George R.R. Martin blush: just a few of the factors that led to the guy who painted the Mona Lisa hanging out with the dude who invented modern political science.

The travelers were unhappy guests of Cesare Borgia, the pope’s son and reigning dark lord of Italian politics. A ruthless plotter rumored to have murdered his brother and slept with his sister, the 27-year-old duke came on like a cartoon villain, Darth Vader scripted by Tarantino. People said he stalked the streets of Rome after midnight, murdering strangers for sport. Lately, he had begun dressing all in black and, owing to a syphilis infection that scarred his face, wearing a mask—moves that only enhanced his rep.

At the turn of the 16th century, Italy was like Game of Thrones minus the dragons, a patchwork of mini-states run by oligarchs, warlords, and titled thieves dressed in fine silk. The pope, an aficionado of orgies and assassinations, was merely one of the bigger warlords. Foreign powers such as France and Spain meddled freely in Italian affairs. Meanwhile, the Turks, who had been moving westward for centuries, watched hungrily from across the Adriatic.

Pallet doesn’t post its stories online (at least not yet), so here’s the pdf.

(illustration by We Buy Your Kids)