Despite his distaste of Commerce, Andre was surprised to see the summer fly rapidly by. With each passing week his fear of the Daimon grew less, though he never stopped thinking about it. When free time allowed, he would often drive to the east side of the island for a visit with the deacons and offered his time and support in prayer alongside the Sanctuary volunteers. Andre never wanted the focus to get complacent. If one thing could be said about the Eleutheros Day scare, it was that the Agabus had found new purpose in his position and took it seriously.
On a day when the fishermen returned from sea, the Kentro alarm bell rang in Metoche. The Phulake guardhouse received a message by radio from Kaluma alerting them to the return of the ships. The guards had the responsibility of alerting the island by sounding the bells which rang at five different locations spread out in every corner of the island. The people then knew that in one hour from the bell toll, the ships would make the crossing to Koinonia.
Andre was in service at the tailor shop in Metoche when he heard the bells. Checking the time on his watch, he quickly finished marking labels on a pile of garments yet to be taken in and informed the staff that he was leaving. The activity in the Market was bustling, as usual, but Andre did not see Declan or the twins as he wound his way up the street toward Highway 1. Waiting for traffic to pass, he crossed to the west side and walked down to the harbor.
No one could accuse him of being late for his duties anymore. He was more than early and didn’t mind waiting in the bright, summer sunshine. The wind whipped choppy waves along the shore, and Andre found a comfortable seat on a weather worn wood bench halfway down the hundred-foot dock. The sound of the bells had propelled an entire crew of laborers to move about the harbor in preparation for the arrival of the fleet of fishing boats. Andre would have been called down to help regardless of his place as Agabus for there would be cargo and import supplies to unload. The rest of the interns would be sent over soon to help load trucks and ride back to distribute them among the various shops and residences. There would be no instructional at Agoge that day; there wouldn’t be time.
The bells did not only warn the villagers that their fishermen were returning, it warned the deacons at the Sanctuary as well. Andre watched the Panoplia arrive and stand along the shore at various heights and distances. He counted the total and subtracted. No Malachi and no Lavi. Lavi was watching the cave.
Jora was the first to arrive out of all the interns behind Andre. She walked down the road from the center of the village and surprised him out of his deep musing by placing a cool hand on his shoulder. The tips of her fingers brushed the small hairs on his neck, and Andre startled with a burst of butterflies erupting in his stomach. Turning, he glanced up as Jora smiled. “Hello, dreamer.”
“Hey.” He slid over to give her room to sit.
“You have been bothered by something,” Jora observed after a short span of silence while they watched the sea.
Andre glanced at her as if surprised she had even noticed. “Bothered I guess, yeah,” he admitted with a shrug. “Mostly I’m just trying to figure a few things out.”
“Does it have to do with what Kylan told you the night after he returned?”
“Do you know what he told me?”
“No,” Jora shook her head. “But I know it bothered you enough to make you preoccupied.”
“I’m always preoccupied,” Andre said.
Releasing a heavy sigh, he squinted toward the distant, neighboring island. He could make out the boats just beginning to advance across the water. “Someday I am really going to enjoy sharing everything I’m thinking with you.”
“When will that be?” Jora asked.
“When your father says it’s okay that I marry you.”
He missed the smile that spread across Jora’s face as she turned away in the direction of the sound of trucks approaching from the market. Before the hour was up, the majority of Koinonians gathered in the harbor to greet the fishermen and help unload cargo.
Andre felt the ground tremble slightly, and he glanced over his shoulder in mild alarm.
“They’re breaking new rock in the mines,” Jora followed his gaze. “Kylan mentioned they would be this week.”
“He works in the mines now?”
“Started last week,” Jora nodded. “I don’t know why. It’s so dark and claustrophobic down there, but he says he likes it. There’s Svana and Declan.” She stood up from the bench. “Want to wait with them by the trucks?”
Andre accepted her invitation, and they walked down the length of dock to the boardwalk to meet the other interns standing in conversational clusters. Elder Mathis arrived soon after, and word was radioed to the guardhouse that the island was ready. Andre took his cue and left Jora with Declan and Svana to meet the first boat. The invisible line of protection the natives called Hupsoma ended just beyond the end of the dock and ran in a circle all around the island. It was a thin separation between them and a weaker environment, but it was enough.
Andre watched as the lead vessel eased in and docked, the crew tossing and tying off lines. The gangway was lowered for the unloading, and the prophet focused his eyes on each Koinonian on board, watching for any flicker of darkness which might try to cling and hang on. He usually wasn’t that concerned with the fishing crews. They were used to moving in and out through the Hupsoma, traveling over great leagues and enduring frequent stops at mainland ports while on Koinonian business. They were trained and conditioned to guard their hearts and minds. Fishing crews were made up of hardy, loyal souls who did not give into temptation easily. They wouldn’t be working the seas if they weren’t up to the challenge.
Andre greeted the captain as he stepped off his ship, turning and nodding toward the shore to give the go-ahead for the citizens to move forward and help unload. A working chain was built of people handing off goods and loads of fresh fish which were placed on the trucks or stored in walk-in freezers in the harbor storage facilities. The efficiency of the people moved things along quickly, and before the afternoon grew late Andre had inspected each crew and every boat had docked and unloaded. Relieved it was over, he returned to shore and nodded at the Panoplia in thanks for their protection before crossing to where Jora stood with her family reunited with her father after his long trip away from home.
“Agabus,” Mr. Kirkeby opened an arm in welcome, though he had shaken his hand on the dock once already. “Thank you, young man.”
“I hope your trip was successful,” Andre responded.
“Blessed and bountiful,” Kirkeby grinned. It was always his assessment of their takings, no matter how plentiful or meager the load. “Theos is good. And I am happy to be home even for a little while.” He put an arm around Mrs. Kirkeby and began walking up the boardwalk in the direction of the village. No matter how much work the crews put in on the water, they never shirked from helping unload in the market. Everyone worked until everything was done.
Andre turned at the sound of his name and waited as a young skipper waved a large, tan envelope at him while winding his way through the moving crowd to reach the prophet.
“I nearly forgot.” The skipper held out the envelope. “The Kaluma staff asked me to bring this to you.”
“Thank you,” Andre took it.
“Not at all.” He bobbed his head and disappeared.
Andre moved to a deserted corner of the harbor and ripped open the top of the envelope. Inside was a single piece of stationary stamped with the Koinonian crest. It was a letter from the healers caring for Komer Costa with an update on his condition.
To the Agabus, Andre Dietrich,
News from Kaluma: Our Head Komer, Abramo Costa, has improved very little during his stay in our facilities. His physical condition is stable and his wounds have healed to our expectations. His mental state, however, is feeble. He speaks only in broken phrases, repetitions, and exclamations of anguish. His psychological state makes it impossible for him to sleep without the aid of medication. The komer carries a great fear within him. Many members of our staff have felt ill while carrying for him. We must work in shifts so as not to become oppressed by his condition. He is being held in a separate building away from other inhabitants. We strategize daily for ways in which to break him of this terror but need collaboration from the citizens if there is too be any real breakthrough. Please share this information with the Council of Elders and the Komer Sect. Continued notification will be sent to you in the future. Thank you, and may Theos forever guide you.
-Kaluma Acclimation Staff
Andre lowered the letter with a disheartened frown. Searching the remaining crowd for any sign of Komer Turay, he concluded that the holy man had not been at the pier for the fishermen’s return. Avoiding the bustling marketplace, he took a back alley to where he had parked his car earlier that morning. Tossing the letter and its envelope in the empty passenger seat, he left the village and merged onto Highway 2 before driving south.
Erotao Sanctuary sat on the same road as Iasis, down the beach from his mother’s healing house. Like most buildings on Koinonia, it was made of stone. It was a long, rectangular building with two branching wings on either end giving it an angular crescent appearance with a peaked roof. The main portion of the Sanctuary was an open hall full of curtained stalls joined by a long hall running lengthwise and bisecting down the middle leading to each of the four exits on each side of the room. The ceiling was crisscrossed with beams much like the ones holding up the roof of the Alleluia House, and two parallel sections of small windows lined the alcove between the beams and the walls allowing in rays of natural light.
Anyone was allowed to use the prayer stalls at Erotao, but it was the responsibility of the deacons to keep up the constant prayer flow at all times. When Andre walked in, he immediately heard the reassuring murmur of many voices flowing from every corner of the room. A wave of relief washed over him, and he glanced up. Amnon was the Panoplia of the Erotao. He was always stationed in the presence of the deacons for unending protection and support. The position of prayer servant was a tiresome one, but the most important of all services on the island.
Amnon flew down from his high vantage point to greet the prophet as he did every time Andre came. “Have you word from Kaluma?”
“Yes.” Andre held up the envelope he had brought from the car.
“Velvela has been amongst us,” he informed him, speaking of the Kaluma Panoplia who often traveled back and forth between the islands to commune with her spirit brethren. “She has spent time with your komer and fought with his conflicted soul.”
“With a Daimon?” Andre looked alarmed.
“No. She has informed us that one does not possess him. It is his own mind which plagues him.”
That was a relief. Andre had feared Costa would have been a perfect target for possession while in his weakened state outside the Hupsoma. “Good,” he nodded and began walking down the long hall past the prayer stalls to the north wing of the Sanctuary. “I came to talk to Turay, is he here?”
“He is in prayer in the communion room.”
“Thanks.” Andre left Amnon in the main prayer room and entered a side hall lined with doors leading to a row of separate chambers. Some were resident sleeping quarters for the deacons when they weren’t in prayer. Others were larger prayer rooms for joint prayer sessions of more than one person. One of these was open, and it was here where Andre found Komer Turay.
He was leading the prayer with several deacons and his colleague, Komer Dokko. The entire group looked up when Andre entered the room, and Turay ended his prayer with a conclusion of praise and addressed the Agabus with a welcoming gesture. “Have a seat, Andre. What can we do for you?”
“A letter was brought over from Kaluma,” he told them all. “It’s from the staff, an update on Costa.”
Turay eagerly took the envelope and removed the single sheet of typed correspondence. He read it out loud to the room, finishing with a frown of concern on his ruddy face. “I hoped he would have improved by now.”
“We all did,” one of the female deacons said with compassion.
Turay sighed, and tucked the letter back in the envelope before passing it back to Andre. “Thank you for bringing it. Now we know what to focus our prayer on specifically. Though I don’t know how we can be of any more help. We’ve been praying unceasingly for his recovery for weeks.”
“He’s not supposed to recover,” Andre said, almost to himself.
All eyes turned to him again, and he glanced up awkwardly. “He will,” he encouraged them lamely. “Just…not yet. Excuse me.” He got up suddenly and left the room. Walking quickly back to the main prayer room he caught Amnon’s eye and attention. Not wishing to alarm any of the deacons within the stalls, he spoke to him by thought rather than voice.
“Some of you must know what’s going on,” he insisted. “Where is Malachi?”
“He has not returned,” Amnon answered from his place near the Sanctuary rafters with a shadowed expression.
“Why?” Andre wanted to know. “How long is this test supposed to go?”
“If you knew the answer to that it wouldn’t be a test.”
It was not the response Andre had been hoping for. Turning on his heel as abruptly as he had arrived, he walked back down the hall and stuck his head in the communion prayer room once again, surprising the komers and deacons a second time. “Can you tell me where I might find Deacon Calloway?”
Simon Calloway was young as far as deacons go. Only fifty-three with already four years of service under his belt, he had been brought on at Erotao after a factory accident had left him physically unfit for labor service. His leg wound had mostly healed, but he still found the need to walk with a cane, plagued by arthritic tightness in his knee more often than not. Because of his age, he was on the rotation with two other deacons to lead Therapon as a chaperone. It was his misfortune to have been a witness to the possession of May Beth George.
Andre was given directions to find the deacon reading in his room in the south wing of the Sanctuary. Calloway answered his knock with permission to enter, and did not seem surprised to see that it was Andre at his door. “Come in, Agabus. How are you?”
“Fine.” Andre stepped in the small, square one-room living quarters and shut the door behind him. “I guess.”
“You guess?” Calloway laughed. He was not exactly a pleasant looking man. Stooped shoulders made his arms appear longer than they were. His full head of busy brown hair stuck up at odd angles but failed to hide a pair of rather oversized ears. Simon Calloway was disproportionate in everything but mind. His travels of the world had made him wise in many topics of conversation. “Isn’t the state of your own disposition something you should be sure of, Agabus?”
“Yeah, I guess.” Andre took an offered seat in a straight-backed chair in front of a table cluttered with many volumes of books and piles of thick atlases.
“Always guessing.” Calloway stuck a post-it note between the pages of the book he was reading and set it aside for later, giving Andre his full attention. “Well, don’t leave me guessing why you came to see me. Though I am sure it has to do with last year’s Therapon Missionaries.”
Calloway was indeed a smart man.
“Do you have time?”
“Always,” the deacon bobbed his head in affirmation.
“Thank you, sir.” Andre prepared himself to begin. “I wanted to ask you what you thought about the day of Return.”
“The day of Return?” Calloway was surprised. “You’re not here to ask me about May Beth?”
“I read your notes on the trip,” he told him. “I read everyone’s.”
“Of course,” Calloway nodded. “Though I’m not quite sure my review was very clear when I wrote it down.”
“What do you mean?”
The deacon held a frown of deep thought, pulling on his ear in distraction a moment before waving his hand flippantly and sitting up straight in his seat. He released an exasperated sigh in annoyance with something unexplained. “My head wasn’t clear, none of ours were. I’ve had more time to think about it now. It’s easier to think in here, you know.” He pointed to the floor, indicating Koinonian’s clear airspace. “I’ve been trying to figure out how it happened, as I am sure you have. It just never has before, and I can’t help but blame myself. I should have been more aware. It was the most frightening thing I’ve seen in my life. Her whole face was changed, so unlike her own. The feeling in the room made us sick. We could actually smell the evil within it. I froze, to be honest, scared out of my mind when I ran into the room and saw Kirkeby trying to restrain her from hurting the other girls—”
“But nothing seemed odd to you that day on the ferry?” Andre steered things back on point.
“Aside from having to wait for you to arrive?” He didn’t say it to be accusatory, and Andre wasn’t offended. “No. We were homesick, but our minds were clear. We were ready.” There was no hesitation in Calloway’s response. He eyed Andre carefully, trying to read his thoughts. “The possession isn’t what’s bothering you. Not entirely.”
Andre debated on what to tell the deacon. He longed for someone to confide in other than the Panoplia but usually had these discussions with Costa. “Does it seem strange…” he began without knowing how to explain himself, “…May Beth encounters a Daimon, Costa gets lured in by Abaddon, I’m distracted from the missionaries’ return, and Costa hasn’t recovered from his torture.” Andre tossed the envelope on the table and pushed it toward Calloway. “The Acclimation Team doesn’t know what to do, and I’m sure it’s because he’s not supposed to return to the island yet. I think we’re being tested. I know we’re being tested, and I’m not sure what that means.”
Calloway took a moment to read the letter and contemplated what Andre said. Running a hand through his unruly hair, he gave himself an even more disheveled appearance and raised his eyebrows with a grunt. “You’ve got something there, Agabus. Not that knowing about it is going to change matters. If Theos wants to test us, that is His right. It wouldn’t be the first time.”
“It will be for me,” Andre said.
Calloway met his eyes with a look of understanding. “You don’t feel up to the challenge, young man?”
“I’m not sure.”
The deacon scratched his chin, glancing at the letter one last time. “Perhaps you should rectify that.”
Andre tried very hard not to be annoyed, swallowing his frustration and posing a question. “Do you know anything about Daimons?”
“Evil spirits?” Calloway tucked the letter back in the envelope and slid it toward Andre. “More than I would like.”
“Could there…can there be one on the island without us knowing?”
The deacon peered at him thoughtfully. “Without the Sight the people can always be deceived. Don’t you mean, can there be one here without you knowing?”
“I think there’s one in the mountain,” Andre cut to the chase. “I think it got in the day you returned and one of you brought it in.”
“That’s quite the accusation, Agabus.”
Andre didn’t blink, meeting Calloway’s stare with a stoic expression and waiting for him to deny it.
“If you’re wondering if I brought it in, if there is indeed one,” he didn’t sound so sure. “Then the answer is no. And if you think May Beth did—”
“I didn’t say that.” Andre wasn’t about to place the blame just yet. “I only care about the Daimon. Can it escape the mountain on its own?”
Calloway took a moment to think, continuing to contemplate the prophet and his theories. “No,” he said with assurance. “What I know of influential spirits is that they have to have permission to invade a soul. They might try to cling to whomever they wish but have to be catered to by their host. I have heard of some cases where the soul being possessed claims that they did nothing to invite the spirit in, but upon further study it was their lack of diligence which provided an open invitation.”
“Lack of diligence?”
“Yes,” the deacon nodded. “Our birthright of freewill makes us vulnerable. You are not used to this growing up on Koinonia, but most humans must work very hard to guard their soul. It takes willpower and wisdom, not to mention a great deal of petition for help from Theos.”
“In a place like Koinonia, where we have continuous protection, the only way a Daimon could slip in is if it’s invited?”
“I would think so, yes.”
This was something. Not foolproof, but something.
“And you believe that there is one here,” Calloway clarified, “on the island, waiting for a chance to attach to a host?”
Andre did not answer the rhetorical question, believing he had already been clear.
Calloway frowned, pulling on his ear and slumping back in his chair. “Then we shall pray it doesn’t find one.”
His visit with Deacon Calloway made one thing very clear to Andre. The issue was not with the strength of the citizens as a whole, but with him. No one else seemed to doubt their ability to withstand whatever Abaddon tried to throw at them. Andre needed to get over himself and have a little more faith. It had been nearly three months since the missionaries arrived home. Things went on as usual on the island and no Daimon had been seen within its borders. He had not forgotten his komer and dreaded what his continued poor mental health might mean. A Message would have been welcome, but Andre had no choice but to wait and watch. Fall was coming. The Commerce Sunesis was nearing its end, and they would be moving into the next phase: Produce.
Forgive me my doubts, Andre knelt within a prayer stall and tried to clear his mind of his own personal shadows. I’m sorry for my impatience. I wish that Your plan didn’t involve Costa, but Your reasons are Your own. I’m glad You’re with him, even at his worst…and with me at mine.