Chapter 2
Secrets in the Dark

AZ 1453 - Autumn
Kalonis, Notos

Gamaliel was in a foul mood. Ever since they arrived in Notos, he sought an audience with the King and was rebuffed each time. Who was the apostate to deny him?
It was not that he had any great desire to see the King, but formalities had to be observed. He was to be treated as an equal partner in this venture and did not appreciate being shut out of their planning. If anything, it should have been the apostate begging him for an audience. Did his Army of Light not surpass all the men who flocked to the King's banner? Thirty thousand faithful brought together in a mere four years' time. The apostate should have been doing everything in his power to curry favor with the Archbishop but instead he refused all petitions for an audience.
A knocking at the door incensed the Archbishop further.
"Have I not said that I do not wish to be disturbed?" he asked tersely.
His chamberlain, Father Heraclios opened the door, his head bowed low as he said, "Forgive me, Your Holiness, but Father Auguston requests an audience. He says it is a matter of the utmost importance."
Father Auguston was the confessor of Lord Xenomachos, the legate of the Second Legion. If there was any useful intelligence to be had in Lord Xenomachos' confessions, Father Auguston would faithfully relate it to the Archbishop. Perhaps he would have information to explain the King's odd behavior.
"Very well," Gamaliel said. "Admit him."
"Yes, Your Holiness."
Father Auguston was bowed at the waist before he even entered the room, shuffling forward to kneel before the Archbishop.
"Your Holiness," he said in a low voice.
The Archbishop extended his right hand so Father Auguston could kiss his signet.
"What is this matter of utmost importance?" Gamaliel asked.
Keeping his head bowed, Father Auguston replied, "Lord Xenomachos has confessed to me a most terrible secret. I knew you would want to hear of it at the soonest opportunity."
The confessor was usually far more discreet than this, which made Gamaliel wonder all the more what secret Lord Xenomachos confessed.
"What could possibly warrant such haste to seek an audience with me?"
"Your Holiness," Father Auguston said haltingly, "the Apostate King, he is is dead."
It was true that the King was advanced in years, but for him to die so suddenly was nevertheless a shock.
"What? Dead?"
"Yes, Your Holiness," Father Auguston replied. "The Devil Queen gathered the legates in secret to reveal the truth to them. Even now, a conjurer of the forest folk borrows the King's countenance and sits in his stead. The legates agreed to the Devil Queen's masquerade. Lord Xenomachos resisted at first but ultimately succumbed to the influence of his peers. That is why he confessed all this to me."
And so all became clear. With Solon dead, the Devil Queen made her move. Perhaps she even had a hand in his death. The wheels in Gamaliel's mind began to turn.
"Thank you, Father Auguston," he said. "You have done well. Return to Lord Xenomachos and keep me informed of any new developments."
Father Auguston bowed.
"Yes, Your Holiness."
He then withdrew, leaving the Archbishop to his thoughts. It was as he feared. The Devil Queen and her infernal host would claim dominion over the people of Zephyr. However, his fears being realized also presented an opportunity. Surely the people would not bend their necks to these monsters. The time had finally come to sweep away the profane and reforge Zephyr as a holy nation. Before that, though, his zealots needed to be tempered in the fires of battle. The Darklands awaited and them and after that, Zephyr would be his.