Chapter 4 — Project BRENDA

The idea for Project BRENDA had started many years before, when Castruccio Castracani was just a little boy. 

His father was the famous soldier Carlo “Mad Dog” Castracani.

Every evening after dinner, Mad Dog would sit in front of the fire in his big wooden rocking chair, and he would tell stories to his little boy Castruccio and his younger sister Angela, who were sitting in Mad Dog’s lap and holding hands.

Many of the stories dealt with the dark threats of war that Lucca had faced over the centuries from cities like


and Pisa.

Castruccio listened to these stories with rapt attention.

He admired his father greatly. 

Many times, the stories ended with Mad Dog looking at young Castruccio and saying,

“Listen closely my son. It is a dangerous world out there. Lucca is surrounded by adversaries, and our walls are tiny and weak. Be careful and always defend Lucca and Angela!!!”

After hearing this advice enough that he could say it by heart, Castruccio finally asked “Papa, why are Lucca’s walls so tiny and weak? Weren’t they started by the mighty Romans?

Mad Dog calmly responded:

“Castruccio, the Romans didn’t think big enough!

Why even a baby from Bagni di Lucca could see that a soldier riding a medium-sized giraffe could easily jump over those tiny walls that we’ve got!!!”

That night, little Castruccio had a horrible nightmare that stayed with him his entire life.

In the nightmare, a huge army of thousands of giraffes carrying thousands of soldiers ran toward the little walls of Lucca, easily jumped over them, and the poor Lucchesi were so shocked that they simply gave up and became servants of the invaders. 

When Castruccio woke up from this dream in a cold sweat, he ran straight to his mother’s bed and yelled out,

Mama I won’t let the giraffe army attack us! I will protect you and Angela from the giraffe army!!!”

Castruccio’s Mom, still half-asleep, said, “Thank you Castruccio, you’re a good boy. Now go back to your bed, it’s the middle of the night.

Years later, as a tall and strong young man, Castruccio was still thinking every day about how to better protect Lucca and his sister Angela from invasion. He took particular interest in his schoolwork whenever the teachers discussed walls, construction, fortifications, bricks, catapults, warfare, and so forth.

And of course giraffes.

And Castruccio especially liked it when the teachers discussed the concept of acronyms, because he had been secretly thinking about an acronym of his own for several years, BRENDA:

  • B – Baluardi
  • R – Repel
  • E – Evil
  • N – Nations
  • D – Defend
  • A – Angela

Yes, Project BRENDA was Castruccio Castracani’s secret plan that he wanted to implement when he became the leader of Lucca:  a massive system of fortifications around Lucca, anchored by gigantic baluardi connected by thick red brick walls at least 40 feet tall. 

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