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Luca joins St Xavier’s as a Novice aged 11 on the death of his parents. As the novel opens, he is questioned over his opinion that some religious miracles were fake and could be better explained scientifically.

Expelled from the church, he is recruited into the Order of Darkness and it secretly delighted at opportunity to leave the monastery and is relishing the prospect exploring his own curiosity though enquiring.

Brother Peter

'A spy if ever I saw one. Pale-faced, soft hands, trusting brown eyes: the shaved head of a monk and yet the clothes of a gentleman. A spy without a doubt.'

Peter is appointed by the Order to serve as Luca’s clerk. There is mutual distrust between Peter and Freize. As a clerk, Peter holds an administrative position in the church and so is (presumably) loyal to it—one reason Freize is so suspicious of him.

The End of Days

'We are making a map of the fears of the world, travelling outwards from Rome to the very ends of Christendom to discover what people are saying, what they are fearing, what they are fighting. We have to know where the Devil is walking through the world. The Holy Father knows that we are approaching the end of days.'

The End of Days, also known as the end time or doomsday, is described in religious writings from the Abrahmic tradition: Christianity, Judaism, Islam. Specifically in Christianity, the End of Days is depicted as a time of tribulation, which will precede the second coming of Christ.

The fall of Byzantium Constantinople (the Eastern Rome) to the Ottomans marked the end of 1,500 years of the Roman Empire and exposed the Christian world to attack from the east.

Pope Nicholas V believed that this marked the End of Days and ordered a crusade. When support from the monarchs was not forthcoming, he undertook to lead the campaign himself but died before he could put his plan into action.