1 The death of an old friend

It dawned cold as was typical of autumn days, the cool breeze passed through the well-trimmed grass of Matteo Abbey - in honor of the angel Matteo, the just one - and the trees that glowed red and yellow-gold, whose leaves looked like shiny jewels against the black walls of the ecclesiastical building.

The priests and novices walked in their long dark clothes and hoods hiding their short hair and dark looks, the steps were quick and everyone seemed very busy even though it was so early in the morning, they had to hurry up for the first morning mass.

"Brother Lattanzio? Brother Lattanzio? I know the cold is very bad, but we have to go to the temple. Today it is our turn to lead Mass for the novices. We can't be late again, it's time for dawn" the voice of an elderly man came from outside one of the rooms on the first floor, which belonged to the priests who lived in the abbey all year.

The elderly man who wore a long-sleeved tunic in gray, with the embroidery of the sun and moon linked by an intricate circle with ancient words, the man's hair was snow-white and his eyes were gray color, slightly faded, the wrinkles were thick on the forehead and close to the mouth, which showed how much he frowned in concern for much of his life. There was a black cloak under his long robes, the wide hood was down which showed how intimate this elderly man was from the person who was asleep in the room.

Ícaro Conti was a priest at the age of 62, which was considered to be a very high age, since the average life expectancy of people was up to 55 years old. Unfortunately, he wasn't well-endowed with spiritual power and his life was rapidly declining. He was different from those priests and bishops who were known to be exorcists, who possessed spiritual powers beyond imagination and lived much longer lives than ordinary people.

"Brother Lattanzio, I'm going to enter the room," said Ícaro, a little impatiently. Every Thursday it was their turn to preside over the morning mass for the novices. In addition, today they had to take their first-year novices to visit the whole Matteo Abbey, so they had a lot to do.

Adding this to the severe warnings of Father Bernardes, who is the organizer of the priests' schedules, they had already been late twice, which led to several criticisms from the superiors who watched the novices as hawks, this included all the priests who interacted with them.

Despite his advanced age, Father Conti remained very active with his activities in the abbey and guiding new novices every year. He was a priest teacher and was responsible for one of the novices' first year classes. He thought that interacting with young people energized him more than being reclusive in prayer in his decaying room.

He and Father Lattanzio have been friends for years, they started together as novices in the capital and afterwards with more than five years of field experience traveling almost all over the country and even outside the country, they were sent to this distant and relatively quiet abbey.

So, Father Conti became a teacher and Father Lattanzio became one of the administrators who took care of the logistics of the clergy, as they weren't very apt for the sacred power, they knew that they wouldn't rise much in their careers. However, they were already happy to have honorable positions and a living wage.

Both were the third son's weakest and most traditional noble children of the Kingdom of Dawn. So, they were sent to the abbey of the capital very early to begin their ecclesiastical studies and to reduce the general expenditure of the family. Of course, with them becoming priests, the family's prestige would also rise a little more, since religion was somewhat dominant in this kingdom.

Unfortunately, in recent years Father Lattanzio had distanced himself from him (Father Conti) and joined with the current Abbot and other figures who were considered important even outside Matteo Abbey, these were usually on a temporary visit, although Father Conti didn't know how Lattanzio had managed such a feat.

There was even a strange rumor that said that the Pope also said good things about Father Lattanzio. Of course, this could only be crazy nonsense, after all, that Pope is going to praise a clergyman from an abbey in a remote region?

Father Conti didn't believe in the gossip of other priests and visitors. What mattered to him was to keep the ritual of the two conducting the first mass on Thursdays together with his old friend. Maybe he was getting too old and sensitive, since it was almost a matter of life for him to maintain the routine.

The priests 'doors were generally not locked, so the door opened easily for Icarus, the room was being lit with a soft light that should have come from the few magical lighting items that were in the priests' rooms. There was a narrow single bed, with a medium mattress covered with white sheets freshly washed by the novices, there was a rather poor desk in the corner of the wall with a padded hardwood chair, which was a real luxury in a place like the abbey.

On the north wall there was a small fireplace, and next to it was a wooden table and worn wooden chairs, not far away was an old dark chest with copper bandages.

Not far away there was a simple partition with a large wooden tub for bathing, next to it were two medium basins for physiological needs, on the east wall there was a wooden bookcase and on the west wall there were two medium windows covered by heavy gray curtains, which blocked out the daylight.

At least that was what Father Conti hoped to see, in addition to hoping to find his friend still getting dressed in a hurry, because he was always late. Unfortunately, the reality was too cruel.

"For the love of the God of Light!" Icarus Conti shouted in his old, shaky voice. His gray eyes were wide open and his wrinkles trembled with fright.

Father Lattanzio's body was stretched out on the bed with both wrists cut, blood soaked the white sheets and dripped onto the stone floor; dead old man and snow-white hair that was spattered with blood.

The open mouth seemed to smile grimly at Father Conti and the empty orbits seemed to want to swallow his soul.

Father Lattanzio's eyes had been stolen!

The calm abbey ended up having a chaotic start to the morning.

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