The idea of staging an immorality play had seized and inflamed Azzie's imagination. He wanted to do great things, as he had in the past, first in the matter of Prince Charming and then again in the affair of Johann Faust. Now he wanted to strike again, to amaze the world, both spiritual and material.
He knew it was no small task; he knew he had some strenuous work ahead of him. But he also knew of the man who could help him create such a play: Pietro Aretino, one day to be eminent among Europe's Renaissance playwrights and poets. If Aretino could be convinced…
He made up his mind sometime after midnight. Yes, he would do it! Azzie walked through the town of York and out onto the fields. It was a splendid night, with a great spangling of stars shining from their fixed sphere. All good God-fearing folk had gone to bed hours ago. Seeing there was no one about, God-fearing or not, he stripped off his satin coat with the double row of buttons and opened his crimson waistcoat. He was splendidly muscled; supernatural creatures are able, by paying a modest fee, to keep their bodies in shape magically, utilizing the Hellish service that advertises "Sound body, evil mind."
Stripped, he unfastened the linen binder that pulled his batlike demon's wings flat to his body in order to conceal them during his journeys among mankind. How good it felt to stretch his wings again! He used the linen binder to tie up his clothing to his back, taking care that his change was securely placed. He had lost money this way before through careless stowage. And then, with three running steps, he was aloft.
He slid forward in time as he went, enjoying its astringent smell. Soon he was over the English Channel, headed in a southeasterly direction. A brisk little following breeze pushed him along to the French coast in record time.
Morning found him above Switzerland, and he pumped for more altitude as the Alps came into sight.
Next came the familiar Great St. Bernard Pass; soon after that he was flying over northern Italy. The air was noticeably warmer, even at Azzie's altitude.
Italy! Azzie loved it here. Italy was his favorite country, and the Renaissance, at which he had just arrived, his favorite time. He considered himself a sort of Renaissance demon. He flew over vineyards and tilled fields, little hills and sparkling rivers.
Azzie turned toward the east and, adjusting the set of his wings for the heavier air rising off the land, flew until land and sea seemed to interpenetrate in a great marsh that stretched green and gray below him and combined at last with the Adriatic. And here he came to the outskirts of Venice.
The final yellow rays of the setting sun illuminated the noble old city, glinting off the waters of the canals.
In the oncoming gloom of evening he could just make out the gondolas, each with a lantern suspended from a pole in its rear, making their way back and forth over the Grand Canal.