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Brothers born in Venice around 1230 CE or so, these two seemed bred from birth to be explorers. In the early 1250s they left their native country for Constantinople - both barely 20 years old - with dreams of cashing in on the ongoing Latin occupation of the ancient city. That same year they opened a trading post, and quickly established themselves as men of vision and talent.
Over the next few years, the brothers traveled between their new home and Florence, staying long enough to keep ties strong and - in Niccolò's case - father a child named Marco. But even this sacred domestic duty could not tame the fire in Niccolò's belly, and the brothers returned to Constantinople shortly after Marco's birth.
In 1256, the brothers sailed south to Acre, and from there traveled to Masyaf at the invitation of a man named Darim whom they had befriended the previous year. Once they arrived, Niccolò and Maffeo Polo found themselves in the company of the legendary Assassin Mentor, Altaïr Ibn La'Ahad. It was a meeting that proved as life-altering as it was mysterious.
After spending barely a month in Altaïr's company, Niccolò and Maffeo were changed men. Now devoted Assassins, they left Masyaf on the eve of a Mongol attack, carrying Altaïr's Codex and five strange artifacts - their value immeasurable and their purpose unclear.
After many week of hardship and tragic losses - most notably of the Codex, which unceremoniously fell into the hands of a raiding Mongol party - the Polo brothers returned to their trading post in Constantinople and began the long process of establishing a functional Assassins Guild, drawing on locals from all corners of the region - Greeks and Turks, Albanians and Jews, Genoese and Arabs.
But their efforts could not erase their shame of having lost Altaïr's valuable Codex, and in 1259 - after hiding Altaïr's five artifacts with great care - they left the city they had called home for nearly a decade, and headed east to seek the reigning Mongol Kahn on an errand that would only be completed decades later by Niccolò's son, Marco.