The captain was still sinking to his knees as Ezio sprang across the courtyard, leapt onto one of the barrels for purchase, and used the hookblade to surge to the top of the tower.
The flare Yusuf had told him of had not been discovered or disturbed. There was a little mortar, and Ezio loaded the flare into it. A moment later, it streaked high into the sky, trailing a vivid streak of flame and violet smoke.
By the time he reached the foot of the tower again, Yusuf was waiting for him.
“No wonder you are our Mentor,” said the Seljuk Assassin. “You could not have timed that better.” He beamed in triumph. “The Templars are withdrawing on all fronts.”
The Bazaar Den was remarkably neat and tidy, given its recent occupation by the Templars.
“Any damage?” Ezio asked Yusuf, as his Turkish comrade stared at the ceiling.
“Not that I can see. Byzantine Templars may be bad hosts, but they are decent tenants. Once they capture a location, they like to keep it intact.”
“Because they intend to stay?”
“Exactly!” Yusuf rubbed his hands. “We must take advantage of our little victories to prepare you further for the fight against our Greek friends,” he said. “I’ve shown you how to use some of our bombs. But it’ll be even better if you know how to make them.”
“Is there someone here who can teach me?”
“Of course! The master himself! Piri Reis.”
“Piri Reis is . . . one of us?”
“In a manner of speaking. He likes to keep himself aloof. But he’s certainly on our side.”
“I thought he was more of a mapmaker,” said Ezio, remembering the map of Cyprus he’d been given by Ma’Mun.
“Mapmaker, seafarer, pirate—though these days he’s rising swiftly through the ranks of the Ottoman Navy—he’s a pretty good all-arounder. And he knows Istanbul—Kostantiniyye—like the back of his hand.”
“Good—because there’s something I’d like to ask him about the city that he may know. Apart from how to make bombs. When can I meet him?”
“No time like the present. And we don’t have any to lose. Are you all right after that little skirmish? Need some rest?”
“Good! I’ll take you to him now. His workroom isn’t far from here.”
Piri Reis—Admiral Piri—had a small set of second-story, open-plan rooms on the north side of the Grand Bazaar, whose tall windows threw a cold, clear light on the handful of map tables neatly arranged on the teak floors of a cramped studio. Equally neatly spread out on the tables were maps of a greater number and variety than Ezio had ever seen before, and, seated by them, a handful of assistants were diligently working in silence. The western and southern walls of the workroom were festooned with more maps, all neatly pinned up and squared-off to one another. Five large globes, one in each corner and one in the center of the room, completed the picture. The globes were also works in progress, and freshly inked-in areas showed the latest discoveries added.
The western wall was also covered with detailed technical drawings, expertly accomplished—but these were, as Ezio saw at a glance, designs for bombs. He was able to read enough, as he passed through the room toward where Piri sat, to see that the bomb drawings were divided into categories: Lethal, Tactical, Diversionary, and Special Casings. An alcove in the wall was big enough to contain a worktable, and behind it, arranged with precision, a number of metalworkers’ tools were placed on shelves.
This was quite a contrast to the chaos in which Leonardo loved to work, Ezio thought, smiling to himself at the memory of his friend.
Yusuf and Ezio found Piri himself at work at a large drafting table directly under the windows. Six or seven years younger than Ezio, he was a tanned, weather-beaten, healthy, and robust figure of a man, wearing a blue silk turban, under which a strong face, currently bearing an expression of intense concentration, looked out at the work through piercing, clear grey eyes. His luxuriant brown beard was neatly trimmed, though worn long, covering the collar of the high-necked, silver brocade tunic he wore, with baggy blue trousers and plain wooden clogs.
He gave Ezio an appraising glance, which Ezio returned, as Yusuf made the introductions.
“What’s your name again?” said Piri.
“Ezio. Ezio Auditore da Firenze.”
“Ah yes. I thought for a moment Yusuf said ‘Lothario.’ Didn’t hear the difference.” He looked at Ezio, and Ezio could have sworn there was a twinkle in his eye. Had Ezio’s reputation—in one department at least—preceded him?
He thought he was going to like this man.
“I have seen your work—your maps, anyway,” Ezio began. “I had a copy of the one you made for Cyprus.”
“Did you?” replied the sailor, gruffly. Clearly, he didn’t like having his work interrupted. Or at least that was the impression he wanted to give.
“But it is another aspect of your expertise I have come to seek your advice about today.”
“That was a good map, the one of Cyprus,” said Piri, ignoring Ezio’s remark. “But I’ve improved it since. Show me yours.”
Ezio hesitated. “I don’t have it anymore,” he confessed. “I gave it—to a friend of mine.”
Piri looked up. “Very generous of you,” he said. “Do you know what my maps are worth?”
“Indeed. But I owed that man my life.” Ezio hesitated again. “He’s a seaman, like yourself.”
“Hmn. What’s his name? I might have heard of him.”
“He’s a Mamluk. Goes by the name of Al-Scarab.”
Piri suddenly beamed. “That old rogue! Well, I hope he puts it to good use. At least he knows better than to try anything on us.”
Then he turned his eye on Yusuf. “Yusuf! What are you doing still standing there? Don’t you have anything better to do? Take yourself off and leave your friend with me. I’ll see that he has everything he needs. Any friend of Al-Scarab is a friend of mine!”
Yusuf grinned and took his leave. “I knew I’d be leaving you in safe hands,” he said as he left.
When they were alone, Piri became more serious. “I know who you are, Ezio, and I have a pretty good idea why you are here. Will you take some refreshment? There’s coffee, if you like it.”
“I have acquired a taste for it at last.”
“Good!” Piri clapped his hands at one of his assistants, who nodded and went to the back of the workshop, to return soon afterward with a brass tray holding a serpentine pot, with minute cups, and a dish of soft amber-colored sweetmeats, which Ezio had never tasted before.