In 1478, the Catholic Monarchs Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, driven by religious zeal, established the Spanish Inquisition as a means to enforce religious conformity. Under the first Grand Inquisitor Tomás de Torquemada, the Inquisition cracked down on heterodox faiths throughout the country. A great majority of the arrests and prosecutions were conducted against Jews and crypto-Jews, those who were thought to be insincere in their conversion to Christianity.
Sensing the opportunity, the Grand Master of the Templars, Rodrigo Borgia, sought to exploit these persecutions to eliminate his Assassin enemies in Spain by proxy. He released the names of Assassins throughout the country to the Inquisition, condemning them as atheists while withholding that they were Assassins. Though an atheist himself, he had a long history of service to the Catholic Church as a cardinal-bishop and was therefore highly trusted by Torquemada.
By 1491, the Inquisition had targeted Assassin Guilds throughout the Crown of Aragon, a systematic purge that left the Assassin Luis de Santángel without much allies with an expertise in combat. That same year, his friend Christoffa Corombo, seeking financial backing for a voyage west across the Atlantic Ocean, was contacted by a man known as the Spaniard—actually Rodrigo Borgia—offering his sponsorship, and the two scheduled a meeting in Venice.
Luis, however, suspected that the meeting would be a trap, and urged Christoffa against it, but the desperate explorer refused to heed his warnings. The Assassin's intuition had not been wrong. The Templars had become privy to the existence of an entire landmass across the Atlantic unknown to the Europeans. Hoping to claim the continent for themselves before the other powers—or the Assassins for that matter—they sought to prevent Christoffa's voyage by murdering him.
Without Assassin agents left in Spain to rely upon, Luis and Christoffa arrived in Venice lacking protection from the Templars. Since Christoffa continued to insist on meeting with the Spaniard, Luis contacted the thieves' guild of the city, run by the Assassin Antonio de Magianis. In response to his request for aid, Antonio recommended Ezio Auditore da Firenze. Because Luis did not initially disclose to Ezio that he, himself, was an Assassin, Ezio considered his request to be mercenary work and was reluctant.
Nevertheless, the Florentine Assassin hurried to find Christoffa, saving him from a Templar ambush. Luis then issued one final request: for Ezio to recover Christoffa's atlas from their lodgings, which had been raided by the Templars. Once this had been accomplished, the grateful pair prepared to return to Spain, but not before Ezio advised them to bring their own protection the next time they were in Italy.
It was this point that Luis, still concealing that he too was an Assassin, explained that the Inquisition was cracking down on the Brotherhood in Spain. Troubled by this news, Ezio returned to Antonio to inform him that he had resolved to travel to Spain to rescue their allies there, feeling that this was his duty as an Assassin.
- “How strange to meet a gentleman leaping through these sewers. Are you on the run, or just recreating?”
- ―Raphael Sánchez upon meeting Ezio Auditore for the first time, 1491.[来源]
After killing the surrounding soldiers, Ezio deftly rolled past the guard captain charging at him and out the exit, with more soldiers behind in rapid pursuit. Faced with such an overwhelming force as he raced through the rooftops, Ezio slipped into the underground sewers hoping that this would allow him to escape only to find that it was already crawling with troops.
The furious chase continued, picking up tempo as he made a series of long leaps across great chasms to reach walls and ascending passageways unreachable by ordinary men. Unable to replicate his athletic prowess, soldiers pursuing from behind could not keep up, allowing the Assassin to slip past further guards in areas before him. Just as he thought he was in the clear, however, he ran headlong into a stranger who introduced himself as the Assassin Raphael Sánchez upon recognizing Ezio's Assassin outfit. Like Ezio, Raphael was conducting a mission to rescue his fellow Assassins, arriving in Barcelona just that morning. While Raphael did not know who betrayed them to the Inquisition, he did learn the name of the prosecutor responsible for their arrests: Gaspar Martínez.
- Gaspar: "Whoever those men claim to be, it won't matter after today. A public burning is about to commence for one of them. A wilful young man."
- Ezio: "If he dies, I will keep that fire burning until this town is a cinder."
- ―Gaspar and Ezio just before the former's demise, 1491.[来源]
Without further ado, Ezio began his hunt for Gaspar Martínez, tracking him to a grand, stately building adjacent to a castle in the rich district of the city. Gaspar, idling alone on a balcony overlooking Barcelona, was incredibly vulnerable to the Assassin, who merely scaled up from below to confront him.
Ezio questioned Gaspar as to the source for the names of the Assassins, baffling Gaspar, who was ignorant that they even still existed. Given the systematic nature of the purge, Ezio doubted his sincerity, but the prosecutor only turned away to end what he thought was a meaningless conversation, for one of these prisoners was to be shortly executed anyways. Gaspar had not understood the threat this stranger posed, and with his back turned, Ezio easily killed him with his Hidden Blade.
After recovering a list of six names from his corpse, Ezio rushed across the rooftops to the public square where the young Assassin mentioned by Gaspar was to be burned at the stake. All the while, he was beset by guards throughout the city in retaliation for his assassination. Upon reaching the plaza, he wasted no time to dispatching the soldiers there and freed the Assassin.
When Ezio presented the list of names to Raphael, Raphael confirmed that the listed men were Assassins, but that they were in the city of Zaragoza in the Kingdom of Aragon. Ezio therefore determined that Zaragoza would be his next destination, and asked if Raphael would join him. Though Raphael believed his combat skills had diminished with age, he agreed to accompany Ezio to provide aid as a guide. The Barcelonan Assassin saved by Ezio, on the other hand, opted out and only wished them safety in their mission. With that, Ezio and Raphael began their journey to Zaragoza.
Upon arrival in Zaragoza, Raphael instructed Ezio to locate the calificador of the city, Pedro Llorente. Because he was well known to the locals, Raphael left Ezio to his own devices for the time being, knowing he would need an alibi should Llorente suffer an untimely fate. This was aside from the fact that as the treasurer to Queen Isabella, he was scheduled to attend a finance meeting in Zaragoza that day anyways.
Taking Raphael's advice, Ezio began his search at the tribunal building on the far side of town, where he immediately found Llorente. From the windows on the roof, he watched as Llorente, in the midst of interrogating an Assassin, was greeted by the Inquisitor-General Tomás de Torquemada himself. Llorente humbly welcomed his superior, who had arrived unexpectedly, but Torquemada rebuffed his pleasantries and inquired as to the status of the prisoner. Impressed by the Assassin's fearlessness but revolted by his atheism, Torquemada had him executed on the spot, remarking that Rodrigo was right to have him arrest this man and his allies.
Hearing this, Ezio understood that—just as he and Raphael had expected—it had been Rodrigo himself who had supplied the names of the Assassins to the Inquisitors. Torquemada immediately departed with Llorente and the executioner, leaving the Assassin to bleed on the ground. In vain, Ezio hurried to save him, only to find that he was already dead. Determined more than ever to save the remaining Assassins, Ezio tracked his comrades to the underground catacombs. He navigated the labyrinth and rescued four of the Assassins one at a time.
News of Ezio's efforts spread quickly, and when Llorente caught word of the Assassins' escape, he was enraged. Berating one of his guard captains, he ordered him to maximize the security over the last remaining prisoner at his palace, threatening to have him "disemboweled" by Torquemada should he fail. Unbeknownst to them, their adversary was lurking just around the corner, slipping into the palace right on after them. The extra security thus proved fruitless, as Ezio easily advanced to the top bedroom of the palace, where the fifth and final Assassin was held, and freed him. He then made his escape via a Leap of Faith.
- Llorente: "The Templars? Surely you're joking, young man. The Templars were disgraced and disbanded two centuries ago. Rumors of their continued activities are as reliable as fairy tales."
- Ezio: "That's a shame, Padre... if they don't exist, they won't be able to save you."
- ―Llorente to Ezio before being assassinated, 1491.[来源]
Meeting with Raphael once more, Ezio updated Raphael on his current progress, including that he had learned that Rodrigo was behind the Inquisition's purge of the Assassins. With that he took his leave, hoping to eliminate Llorente as swiftly as possible.
As Raphael predicted, Llorente was easy for Ezio to find: at the Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar. Though access to the cathedral was restricted, Ezio had no trouble infiltrating from its roof. Like Gaspar before him, Llorente was caught by the Assassin alone, but believing the young man to be little more than a trespasser, he felt no peril. Ezio gauged the extent of the Inquisition's collusion with the Templars by casually asking Llorente for help contacting them. The calificador scoffed at his query, believing that rumors of the Templars were nothing but conspiracy theories. Not having expected any more than that, the Assassin struck down the Inquisitor on the spot and retreated back to Raphael as the guards sounded the alarm.
Escaping the soldiers, Ezio met back with Raphael to report his assassination and that he had no clue as to Torquemada's whereabouts. Raphael had expected as much and thought it a shame that during his finance meeting, Queen Isabella had failed to mention that the Grand Inquisitor would be in Zaragoza. Since this was the first time Ezio had heard that Raphael was in service to the Queen, he was stunned, amazed that an Assassin could be among the highest ranks of the Spanish royal court.
Nevertheless, Raphael acknowledged that while the Assassins had influence over the queen, it was likely that the Templars did as well through other confidants. He offered to explain more along the trip to Granada, but Ezio hesitated, saying it would be best that he returned home to Italy as he had accomplished his task in Spain.
Raphael, however, was adamant, insisting that the Templars had a horrible scheme in the works to assume control of Spain. Thus, putting his priorities aside and surrendering once more to his sense of duty, Ezio followed his fellow Assassin south to the Moorish stronghold of Granada.
Because of Ezio Auditore's intervention in Aragon, the Inquisitions' operations there were thrown into disarray, giving the Spanish Assassins an opportunity to regroup and counter-attack. Despite this, the Inquisition remained intact, and all its tribunals, including those of Barcelona and Zaragoza, would persist for the coming centuries. Ezio and Raphael moved on to Granada, where they would then foil a Templar plot to prolong the war between the emirate and Spain indefinitely to exhaust the Castilian treasury from funding Christoffa Corombo's voyage. While Ezio returned to Italy afterwards, Luis de Santángel and Raphael Sánchez continued to persevere at swaying the queen from Templar influence or that of the Inquisition.
Ultimately, they would fail, with the Inquisition's persecution only intensifying in the next few decades thanks to the Templar Grand Master Rodrigo Borgia's succession to the Papacy as Pope Alexander VI in 1492. Queen Isabella, initially regarded as a potential ally to the Assassins, would fall further and further into the trappings of religious fanaticism, threatening to spread the Inquisition to Portugal. As a result, Luis would change his stance and resolve to have her assassinated slowly through poison, a process finalized by Ezio's apprentices in 1503 after Luis's death.