Chapter 4
A Plague of Locusts

AZ 1455 - Late Winter
The Ruins of Naus, The Darklands

The Kobaloi were the first to challenge the Army of Light and they were crushed utterly. Even with every manner of foul beast at their beck and call, they fell easily. The Archbishop would have pursued the few scattered survivors to their forest home and exterminated them to the last, but a new threat presented itself.
Giant insects called Herakles by the historians--though the Army of Light took to calling them 'the Locusts'--descended from the north. Their armor was thick and their attacks relentless. The Kobaloi would have to wait.
That was four months ago. The Army of Light besieged the Locusts in their nest in the ruins of Naus, but rather than fight them directly, the Locusts resorted to blocking the tunnels with the bodies of their own dead. It could take a whole day just to clear a single body, so progress was slow and the Archbishop's patience was wearing thin.
Father Heraclion entered into the Archbishop's tent and bowed.
"Your Holiness, Lord Stephanos seeks an audience."
"Let him enter," the Archbishop replied.
Lord Stephanos was admitted into the tent and he knelt before the Archbishop.
"Your Holiness, we are ready to proceed."
"Then let us begin. The Light is with us."
"It is with us indeed," Lord Stephanos and Father Heraclion replied in unison.
The Archbishop left his tent that he might bear witness to the ruin of their enemy. The ground tunnels of the Locust hive were all blocked, but there were eight spires used by the Winged Locusts to freely venture in and out of the hive. Each spire was nearly a hundred feet tall, unassailable by normal means, but because the Locusts took to blocking their tunnels, the Army of Light was left largely unmolested while it constructed scaffolding to scale the spires. However, the plan was not to descend into the spire. No, the plan was quite different.
Scouting parties discovered pitch springs along the banks of the river to the east. For two months the men had been harvesting pitch in large clay vessels that held about eight amphorae apiece. Eighty thousand such vessels had been assembled, ten thousand for each of the eight spires.
The scaffolding was not sturdy enough for horses, so the vessels had to be carried up by the men. Four strong men could carry a single vessel without much difficulty. It would take two or three days to dump all the vessels down the spires, but if all went well, the months of siege would come to a swift end.
The Archbishop stood watching the work for hours on end, retiring only for brief periods. At first Winged Locusts emerged to challenge the men scaling the spires, but there were spearmen waiting at the top to beat them back. Eventually there was too much pitch for them to pass through and nothing could impede the work.
Then came the third day. The Archbishop stood with Father Heraclion and Lord Stephanos when a runner approached the legate and knelt.
"Milord, Your Holiness, the last of the vessels have been dropped into the spires. The men are in position."
Lord Stephanos glanced to the Archbishop.
"Your Holiness?"
The Archbishop nodded, prompting Lord Stephanos to tell the runner, "Let us begin then. Light fires."
"It shall be done, milord."
The runner left and soon the buccinae sounded. Several vessels of fresh pitch were set alight and pushed down the spires. It did not take long for thick back smoke to rise from each of the spires. The Archbishop watched for a while, but but there was little to see.
"Let the vermin burn," he said to Lord Stephanos, turning to leave. "When the smoke clears, finish off whatever remains."
"Yes, Your Holiness."
As the Archbishop returned to his tent, he thought on the fires' cleansing power and the Kobaloi still lurking in their forest. Forests had a way of burning. What more fitting judgment for those wretched beasts?