- "Tessa has a disturbing love for venom. She is so precise in her work that she can paralyze a man, put him to sleep, cause him to go mad, fake his death, or, of course, kill him in various horrible ways."
- ―Francesco Vecellio.[src]
Tessa Varzi (died 1503) was a member of the Italian Brotherhood of Assassins during the Renaissance. She was a member of the Assassin team that included Francesco Vecellio and Cipriano Enu, with whom she completed various missions across the country.
Between 1501 and 1503, Tessa trained under Ezio Auditore da Firenze in Rome. She grew to be an expert pickpocket, and even met the later head of her Assassin team, Francesco Vecellio, by defeating him in a pickpocketing exercise.
Tessa completed many missions with her teammates, and as a master of poisons, she was often summoned for those that required victims to be paralyzed, put to sleep, or killed silently.
On one occasion that Francesco assisted her in manufacturing her poisons, he witnessed Tessa purchasing and gathering a variety of materials to process, including minerals, medicines, mushrooms, nuts, and wildflowers. She then spread the resulting toxins upon blades, or placed them in vials for later use.
Life as an Assassin
- "Ezio has given us several tasks which will require Tessa's specialties. They will be perilous, some of them placing us right in the heart of Borgia power."
- ―Francesco, on calling upon Tessa's skill with poisons.[src]
Tessa played a key role in three of her team's missions against the Borgia family, wherein poisons of varying effect were required.
The first involved freeing a group of prisoners that Cesare Borgia planned to shoot at with his crossbow, purely for his own amusement. The Assassins decided to replace the prisoners with the guards who were serving Cesare, so Tessa was tasked with making a poisonous powder to be used to paralyze the guards.
After the powder was successfully administered, and with the guards' tongues cut, they were sent into the courtyard in the prisoners' place, where they were subsequently killed by their own master.
The second instance was the protection of the Duchess of Urbino, Elisabetta Gonzaga. Elisabetta sought to attend a Borgia jubilee, and ignored the Assassins' warning that there would be a danger to her life, since her family openly opposed the Borgia.
When Elisabetta entered Rome, Francesco's team was forced to intercept the Borgia's ambush. While Francesco initially tried to reason with the Duchess, she ignored his remarks due to the disguises the Assassin team were wearing. Instead, Tessa pricked Elisabetta with a Poison Blade in the midst of the Borgia attack, causing her to fall unconscious, and allow them to bring her out of the city in a cart of hay.
The third mission was the assassination of Doge Agostino Barbarigo, who was targeted after he betrayed the Assassins by serving the Borgia, and by succumbing to greed, extortion, and the selling of justice. Tessa sent him four threatening letters that she had powdered with poison, after which he fell ill and died.
- "The floor beneath us collapses, taking several Assassins with it! They shriek as they disappear into the blaze below! A woman's scream! Tessa? Tessa!"
- ―Francesco realizing Tessa's fate.[src]
Tessa's final missions involved the suppression of the French Templar Charles de la Motte and his troops. At their first encounter, Tessa and her teammates traveled to Barletta and infiltrated a competition between the men of Cesare, and of Charles. There, the Assassins coated the supplies of the French troops with poison, causing them to under-perform.
Some time after this, Charles and his mercenaries entered Rome at Cesare's request, and began terrorizing the people to purposefully draw out the Assassins. Tessa personally approached the foreign troops dressed as a civilian, handing out flowers to several soldiers, which she had coated in poison.
After she and her team were discovered, the combined forces of the two Templars proved too much for them, and they were forced to take refuge inside an inn. Their enemies promptly set the building ablaze, and as the Assassins attempted to escape to the roof, Tessa and several of her teammates fell through the weakened floorboards, where they met their deaths in the rising flames.
Personality and characteristics
- "I suggest she may have found a better life as a cook, but she reminds me that her food would not sit well in my stomach."
- ―Francesco watching Tessa prepare her poisons.[src]
A proud and confident woman, Tessa practically invited herself into Francesco's team of Assassins after he had been selected to lead one. Throughout their time together, Francesco would praise her for her speed and lethality.
Tessa was notably skilled in pickpocketing, and knowledgeable with a wide variety of poisons, which she was able to extract from various common substances. She used these poisons in liquid or powdered forms, and usually coated them on small blades and crossbow bolts.
Though she received the overall combat training of an Assassin apprentice, Tessa seemed to favor using a spear and crossbow, alongside her poisons.