Shadows flickered across the small room, growing and diminishing in an eerie dance. From somewhere deeper in the caverns, the haunting melody of a man chanting the high mass rose to a ghostly creshendo then faded away. The voices of the dead seemed to echo the intonation. A strange cool breath of air puffed in from behind Damiano; the exhalation of the living labyrinth extinguishing one of the pale candles smoldering on the dark stone altar at the front of the room.
Damiano gazed past the flickering light, instead considering the twisting aspect of the smoke rising from a golden censer placed in front of the candles. He inhaled deeply, the delicate scent filling his nostrils. "My son Amerigo, you return to us earlier than expected."
The man, short shorn hair matching his black cassock paused in his approach, severe visage tightening. He folded his hands behind his back and gazed at the back of the kneeling Cardinal's head. "Yes, Eminence. We located the objective quickly." His sharply ennunciated words echo and fade into the haunting silence.
Damiano stands, red cardinal robes draping elegantly around his statuesque form. He folds his hands before him, a black stone rosary intertwined in his fingers, then turns around to gaze on the messenger. He looked godly indeed, incense curling around him and the light from the many candles forming a halo about his countenance. "How clumsy of him. How fares our good Father Anderson?"
Amerigo drops to one knee as soon as the Cardinal stands and is visibly confused when Damiano does not offer his ring for the priest to kiss. But he regains his poise quickly, eyes tracing a crack in the stone floor. "He soon will return to Rome. The Illuminati...in essence have ceased to exist. Our hold in the eastern United States is questionable. The Bishop of Philedelphia sees the destruction of the Illuminati as a sign of weakness in Section XII."
A light touch on the man's shoulder brings him to his feet. Damiano has schooled his features, but the curl of his lip reveals his displeasure. "And you did nothing to persuade his Excellency of the incorrectness of this thought?"
Amerigo had begun to bring his eyes up, but quickly returned them to that crack. "There was nothing that could be said to alter his opinion, Eminence."
Damiano turns in a swirl of silk, denying his subordinate his gaze. Instead, he angrily eyes the dancing flames of a hundred candles. This was a disappointing turn of events. Perhaps it was time to rise from the depths and reveal the Zealots as more than just a lingering legend. In the silence, the hollow chant of the mass once again rose and fell, the holy echo seeming to confirm the excommunicated cardinal's thought. Finally, he turned back around, eyes flashing. "Inform me when the Pope's dog has returned to Rome." He flicked his fingers, rattling the rosary beads wound about them. "Go."
The wary priest bows and quickly turns away, anxious to leave the presence of the testy Cardinal. Daminao hardly notices, already lost in his thoughts. A tight smile forms on his narrow lips. His hand tightens on the rosary until a bead cracks with a snap. Yes, it was long past due that he pay Father Alexander Anderson a visit.
===>Father Anderson's Study