Standing at the doorway of the hayloft that was the only place this little village could afford to share with the party, Gianni stared out at the countryside. His fingers, unbeknownst to him, toyed with the pin that represented his prince’s favor. He’d spent years in training hoping to receive that very mark. Suffered beatings at the hands of combat trainers, sat through hours of etiquette and education classes, all with that one goal in mind. Knowing that a prince’s favor was the only way for him to be able to chase down his quarry. Being a landless peasant afforded him no recourse for retribution against a nobleman.
So Gianni had reached out to the one prince most likely to show an interest in such vendetta, Villanova. The most notorious of the princes, was also the most likely to be able to unite them. Either through domination, terrorization, or bribery, he had the best chance at bringing them together. If that could happen, Vodacce could become the power it once was and overcome the trading power of those upstart Vendel. So Gianni petitioned Villanova for patronage.
After the years of training and education, Gianni was told he had to perform one duty to earn his mark, assassinate an enemy of the prince. Without knowing who the mark was Gianni promised to return with the person’s heart for his prince’s favor. Then he came face to face with the reality of his job. His mark was none other than the very instructor who had taught him to read. The man who had helped him finally accept the loss of his family. The priest who had come to be the closest thing to family Gianni had. And now he had to kill the man. The worst part about it, was that he already knew that Gianni was there to kill him. Gianni couldn’t bring himself to ask how long he’d known, he didn’t want to know. Padre Accorso asked of him only one thing before the deed was done, to listen to his story. So out of respect, he listened.
Afterward, he did what he had sworn to do. The Padre, knowing how much Gianni’s word meant to him, even bared his chest for it. Gianni said a prayer for him as he did it, making it as quick and painless as he could. And the Padre thanked him for that. And Gianni cried for the first and last time as he cut the priest’s heart out and wrapped it for presentation to his Prince.
Receiving his Prince’s Favor that night was a hollow ceremony for him. The thing he’d spent over half his life pursuing meant nothing more to him than the metals from which it was made. He would follow the oaths made to his Prince, but if they were ever abrogated, he would not miss them.