During the 17th century, the Holy Church trained and employed Slayers to eliminate preternaturals. They were often provided with an intermediary who served as a combination of servant and sparring partner.
Slayer Alessandro and his lover, Jos, have devoted over two decades to the cause. During that time, Alessandro has learned that most non-humans just want to be left alone to live in peace - something he dreams of himself.
When a preternatural threat arises close to home, something previously unheard of, Alessandro decides this mission will be his last.
Unfortunately for Alessandro, someone else has the same idea.
Late 17th Century - A small town in what will become Italy
Alessandro looked down at the young boy plucking at his arm, and smiled. "Si, yes, my little man?"
"Please, Signor Slayer, the padre wants to see you in the church. As soon as you can, he said."
Ruffling the boy's hair, Alessandro gave him a silver coin that made the boy's eyes shine. "Run back to the church and tell the padre I'm on my way."
"Si, signore. Grazie, signore."
Watching the boy run, graceful and nimble despite the old, uneven road, Alessandro laughed. The laugh quickly became a sigh. If the padre wanted to see him, chances were good that he wouldn't be going home like he'd planned. Dear God, I'm tired. Tired of being the Bishop's Sword. The bishop needed a younger man to clean the world up for him. Alessandro was in his late thirties now, old for a slayer. I miss my Jose. At least this little part of the province was safe once more.
In times past, Alessandro would never have thought to question his bishop or the wishes of the church. Nowâ€¦now he'd seen and done things the church would condemn him for. He'd made allies of those he was expected to destroy--and let them walk free.
A soul deep sigh escaped him. I can't even cleanse my soul by confessing I let those they'd see as their enemies go free. At the very least, he'd be accused of possession. Alessandro couldn't risk the church naming him a traitor. They wouldn't only kill him, they'd slay Jose too.
Ambling through the town's cobbled streets, loath to reach the padre and find the message was another mission, Alessandro headed for the church and went inside. Walking the length of the aisle, Alessandro studied the small stained glass windows as he waited.
"Ah, Slayer, you got my message. Good." The padre's voice was still strong, commanding, despite his bent body and lined face.
"Indeed, Padre. What can I do for you?"
The old man pulled a scroll from the sleeve of his robe. Alessandro recognised the insignia on the wax even before he accepted the missive.
"The messenger came urgently. I'm sorry, Slayer. I know you must be weary, but I think His Excellency has need of your services once again."
Offering the padre a half-smile, Alessandro broke the seal and scanned it quickly, then again more slowly. There was danger back home. He never expected a preternatural to strike at his home town. Particularly given most he'd dealt with didn't seem overly interested in humankind and gave slayers a wide berth wherever possible.
Alessandro was also concerned for Jose, but his lover was both intelligent and skilled in self-defence, so should be safe enough until he returned. "Well, at least I'm heading home. Even if I will have work to do once I get there."
"Ah, I remember your town from my youth." The padre smiled, his eyes taking on a distant look. "The way the town is perched on the hill, crowned by the church and its glorious golden dome. That beautiful harbour, the traders with their silks and spices, such colours and smells. I've never experienced anything like it." The padre smiled at Alessandro in fond remembrance. "I used to climb the hills and watch the shepherds tending their flocks. Such carefree times."
"Sometimes I forget how blessed I am to live there." Alessandro nodded. "Although I worry about the people if evil is abroad. While the town's walls are mostly robust, the northern side has almost crumbled away, making them easy prey, especially at night. The Duke hates to spend coin on anything that doesn't directly affect him, which our little town does not. I'm sure he feels the money is better spent impressing his many visitors with lavish parties."
"Ah, yes, Bishop Mattia's uncle. Does His Excellency still visit the Duke frequently?" The padre gave Alessandro a sideways look, his pursed lips suggesting he disapproved of such politics.
"Quite regularly, as I understand it. But they are family, Padre, so it would be unusual if His Excellency didn't visit the Duke." Alessandro shrugged. Even here, in this remote village, it didn't pay to criticise the Duke too vocally. Lazy and self-indulgent as the man may be, the Duke had eyes and ears everywhere.
"Si, si. Family bonds are of great importance." The padre patted Alessandro's arm. "Come, my friend, let us go and get you some supplies to replenish your saddlebags for your journey home. Perhaps I may find a torta or two, since you are so fond of the little pies."
"Grazie, Padre." Alessandro smiled more openly. Torte would be a sweet treat on his ride back and a change from the normal dried food he carried on his travels.