Chapter 1
The Holy War

AZ 1449 - Autumn
The Golden Basilica, Zephyr

It was the day before the Feast of the Founder, one of the holiest days for the Church of Holy Light, a time when pilgrims from every corner of the kingdom congregated at the Golden Basilica. A rather fortuitous coincidence brought the King's declaration of war so near a time when so many of the faithful would be gathered in one place. Then again, perhaps it was the work of Providence.
Whatever the case may have been, it was the perfect opportunity for Archbishop Gamaliel's address. Circled by his bishops and flanked by his best choir of monks, he was well-prepared to make his call to the thousands before him.
"My children," he declared in a voice that could be heard by all, "peace and blessings be upon you. The Light is with us!"
"It is with us indeed!" the crowd intoned in unison.
The Archbishop continued, "Tomorrow will mark the two hundred and ninety-seventh year since Saint Photios enlightened the first people of this land to the Shining Path of the Divine Way. From those few seedlings, a wonderful garden has bloomed: each and every one of you who stand before me here this day."
He gave the devotees a few moments to cheer and shout praises before continuing.
"It is right and good that we should celebrate, but I come to you bearing grave tidings. The Darkness in the East threatens to cast its shadow over us. If we do nothing, the Light will be extinguished."
The crowd began to mutter amongst itself and a few wailed openly.
"Fear not!" he rebuked them. "The Light lives by the blood, sweat and tears of its followers. Their faith and devotion make it shine! We will not sit still and watch the Darkness overtake us! The King seeks to raise an army to fight the Darkness, but his power is rooted in the world. The world will pass away, but the Light is eternal!
"I call on you to become a grand Army of the Light. I call on you to train in the arts of war. I call on you to raise crops to feed this army. I call on you to build ships to convey this army to the very heart of Darkness itself. I call on you because the Darkness can only be banished by the Light and the Light lives in each of you! Will you answer the call?"
The unanimous roar of assent could be heard for a mile. Gamaliel grinned secretly to himself. They would do anything he bade, follow him anywhere. The time he had long awaited drew ever closer.