mini-prompt: I know you've got a way to do Borgias cannibalism. I KNOW you can work it in somehow.
The end of the world arrives two years into Pope Julius’s papacy, with Lucrezia pregnant in Ferrara, Micheletto suffering in the Castello St Angelo, and Cesare plotting escape from a very tall tower in Spain. In very short order, the rule of law is overthrown, the Pope is fled to France, and all the dead have risen.
Lucrezia’s husband dies in the first wave, throat ripped out by his own manservant. She keeps calm, arms herself, and orders a solider to see if dead men burn as well as live ones. They do, as it turns out. She fortifies the Castle Estense against the town in a matter of hours. In some obscure way, she is in her element: pregnant and radiant and ruthlessly practical. She is a Borgia: perhaps she was always meant to reign in hell.
She takes in the surviving townsfolk and orders that the ornamental gardens be immediately disposed of, and all the vegetables in the storerooms planted. She orders a constant watch on the walls, men armed with flaming arrows and muskets. Within a month she’s retaken the town, although she keeps the walls shut. Within six months, word has spread that Ferrara is a safe haven, although the Borgia bitch who rules over it will kill a man at the slightest provocation, not just for infection: for theft, for rape, for spoiling water. Her men are frighteningly loyal. It’s whispered that she keeps the dead away with spells. Soon Machiavelli is her vassal, and da Vinci, and the former bishop of Milan.
They cannot hold the outlying farms. The dead roam freely in the countryside. Lucrezia has over two hundred mouths to feed, and only a few vegetable gardens to do it with.
Machiavelli is the first to propose it, and da Vinci decides how it must be implemented, but Lucrezia makes the decision. Her children will not starve, and neither will her subjects.
She is the queen of hell. There will be meat on her table.
Micheletto is locked in a cell when the dead rise, which saves him. He might have died of thirst anyway, but a man is eaten alive not three feet from his cell, and when the bloodstained thing has had its fill and left, Micheletto tugs the corpse closer, steals the man’s dagger and picks the lock.
All of Rome is a charnel house.
It’s remarkable how easy it is, really, adjusting to the new world. He already trusted no one. He already knows how to part a resisting man’s head from his body.
He wastes several weeks making his way to Forlí, but when he arrives he finds it a graveyard. Cesare Borgia had destroyed the walls on his word, and the city had no time to rebuild. He chases a walker out of his mother’s house, observes the smashed pots and the bowl of soup left rotting over a cold fire-pit. There’s a brown stain on the floor, but no body. It’s little comfort.
It’s another month before he reaches Ferrara.
He finds the duchess of Ferrara in the kitchens, a fetching smear of blood high on her perfect cheekbone, supervising the cookery of a feast-day supper. A man’s leg rests on a wooden table, skinned but still visibly human, surrounded by bunches of thyme and rosemary and bowls of skinned potatoes. None of the kitchen servants appear fazed, although more than a few of them cast him suspicious looks, hands tightening on their knives. No one trusts strangers these days, especially not those still covered in the dust of the road.
“Micheletto,” Lucrezia gasps, her eyes filling with tears, and flings herself into his arms. It’s the first time he’s heard his name spoken aloud since the world ended; his own eyes sting briefly, Lucrezia’s fine golden head pressed into his neck, a relic of the world as it was.
She makes him the captain of her guard, and he sleeps in her bed. They don’t speak of it, and it’s only sleep–she clings to him because he feels like the last living connection to her family, and he has always found it difficult to resist giving the Borgias what they want. It should be a terrible scandal, but the world has ended, heaven is barred, and the children of Ferrara eat human flesh. Lucrezia Borgia can take whomever she pleases to bed.
So by day Micheletto kills demons for Lucrezia Borgia, and at night he eats at her table, plays with her son and infant daughter, and lets her pull him down into the duke of Ferrara’s bed. She rests her hand over his heart like the mere fact that it beats is a sign that Cesare is alive, that Micheletto’s return means Cesare’s too, that his worthless life is a thin thread stretching somewhere out to Cesare in the monstrous dark.
He isn’t happy, but this isn’t what he thought hell would be like, either.
the fact that even a single one of my followers doesnt know who Micheletto Corella is tells me i’ve failed y’all i’ve failed to spread the word of Strangly McWindowthrow and the wacky world of obscure renaissance history