| With Rome safe from the French once again, courtesy of Cesare's Beautiful Deception, the Borgia papacy seems yet again like a viable and valuable ally for the august houses of the Romagna and the papal states. Cardinal Sforza brokers a deal between Pope Alexander VI and Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, a former French collaborator, to join forces with Venice and Mantua in order to expel the French from the Italian peninsula once and for all and stop their ravaging of the country. The combined forces of this newly-formed League under the leadership of an old-school militarist, the Duke of Mantua, Francesco Gonzaga, prepare to leave for the North where the decisive confrontation with the weakened French arsenal is to take place. Little do they know that Gonzaga's new bride, the Duchessa Bianca, is a former flame of Rodrigo who is intrigued to travel to the North to see her again and make sure that the two forces will annihilate each other thus rendering Milan, Mantua and Venice weaker enemies for the papacy and the Pope richer by the French King's booty. |
Meanwhile Cesare learns that the retreating French army scouts attacked the convent of Saint Cecilia, raping and murdering his former lover-turned-nun, Ursula. Over Ursula's mutilated body, Cesare vows to empty his heart of every emotion and focus on revenge which he is planning to facilitate by ordering Micheletto to gather retired, disenfranchised Roman condottieri to compile a stealth team. The lethal, new unit's first task is to apprehend the Gascon scouts that are responsible of the abbey massacre: an abandoned wedding feast setting is an ornate trap that helps Cesare torture and interrogate the French agents, only to learn that the plan to defile the nuns of Saint Cecilia's convent originated with Giovanni Sforza who was aware that the eldest Borgia son was the abbey's benefactor.
Alexander VI leaves Rome for the North, escorted by his son and untrustworthy cardinal Sforza, and his choice of an acting ruler for the Vatican who is to sit on his throne "in loco parentis" is really bold: his beloved daughter, Lucrezia. She decides to aid Rome's destitute and joins Giulia's project, putting on a show attempting to demonstrate to the greedy cardinals of the Sacred College that they should hand charity money to the poor who deserve it by definition. Farnese suggests that a natural member of their little cabal would be Lucrezia's mother, Vanozza, who as a former courtesan knows exactly where to look for the weaknesses of the cardinals: the brothels of Rome. Vanozza is suspicious of Giulia but agrees to help her, having seemingly put their enmity behind them.
As Alexander VI is travelling North, his carriage is stopped by French troops who bring him news of King Charles' VIII wish: a private audience with the Pope. Rodrigo agrees to meet the dying monarch in a nearby church, just as Cesare remains hidden in the chamber, and the French King demands that the League's forces leave him be and return peacefully to his homeland, unless they want to challenge him and provoke his wrath. Rodrigo tries to reason with him for a certain consideration - the much desired French campaign spoils - but the King denies any negotiation. Rodrigo warns him that Godsend rain may render his cannon useless but it is really Cesare's inside knowledge of how the French conceal their gunpowder that could seriously endanger the French victory.
Meeting the leaders of the League, Rodrigo hears the confession of Francesco Gonzaga, trades his blessing of the troops for French booty and then spends the night with the Duke's wife, while praying for torrential rain. Cesare, despite being warned by Rodrigo not to engage in open warfare in fear of jeopardizing his vengeance masterplan, leads a raid, infiltrates the French camp and blows up the ammunition, thus incapacitating the dreaded French artillery.
The next morning, Rodrigo wakes up victorious and inspects the field of the battle, believing that God has answered his prayers, despite his indiscretions with his ally's spouse, with a deluge that is to be credited for the bloody and ignominious retreat of the French invasion army. Much to the Pope's surprise, Gonzaga informs him that the victory belongs to Roman agents who destroyed the enemy's firepower. As Rodrigo considers how to deal with the disobedient Cesare, the French King asks his doctor for a substance that will put an end to his long torment.
Meeting Cesare in a tent and confronting him on his subterfuge, Rodrigo's hypocricy and duplicity is revealed as he is subtly called to account for bedding his ally's wife the night before the battle that could have cost him his life was to take place. Rodrigo stays silent and just a little bit in fear of the changes in his son's behaviour.