The Council was not as surprised to see Komer Costa as Andre was. Word had come from Kaluma last minute at the Phulake Guardhouse after the Agabus had already left for the harbor. Elder Mathis had been stopped on his way from the village and made aware of the komer’s presence on the ferry, sharing the news with the rest of the elders just as the boat had pulled up to the dock.
They welcomed him back with hardy handshakes and, when asked, Elder Kerr gladly offered his office in Metoche as a place for Costa to have a word with them all. The komer kept Andre near, relying on the young man to give him support as they walked from the harbor to the center of the market.
Several people stopped with glad tidings at the sight of the long absent spiritual head, calling his name or running up to shake his hand. Eventually Mathis had to interfere and insist that everyone give Costa a moment to get settled before bombarding him with their attention.
Elder Kerr stepped into his tiny box of an office between the tailor’s and the general store, moving aside to allow them all to enter. Costa was given a chair, and Andre tucked himself out of the way by the single window facing the Circle while the Elders found seats or space along the wall to stand.
“This is a pleasant turn of events, Komer,” Mathis accepted Kerr’s seat behind the desk taking up most of the space in the room. “We had no idea that you were even this improved enough to return to the island. Praise Theos!”
The Council mirrored his exclamation with nods of agreement.
Costa merely looked from one to the other without smiling and waited for them to cease speaking.
His expression caused Mathis to pause. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat before leaning forward across the desk with a frown. “You have our full attention, Komer.”
“I am glad to hear that,” Costa responded curtly. “Because I would like an answer from you all as to why you have not been heeding the direction of the Agabus?”
Mathis paused as if not sure he had heard him right before glancing at his councilmen for help. “I’m sorry? How do you mean?”
Andre almost laughed, but thought the komer was handling things fine without his input.
“You were given a vision from the prophet, were you not?”
“And you were given an interpretation, were you not?”
“Yes.” Mathis appeared frazzled, and Costa did not care.
“And your choice as the leaders of this country was to disregard the interpretation and pull the missionaries from their Therapon.”
“Am I correct?” he insisted, raising his voice slightly without patience.
“Yes, but I don’t see how you can think we disregarded anything.”
“No!” Mathis was looking a bit red in the face while his peers shared expressions of confusion mixed with offense for Costa’s strong words. “Andre gave us details of the vision. We considered the interpretation and took it as a warning.”
“Yes,” Costa did not disagree with that.
“Well,” Mathis sputtered. “Then what’s the problem?”
“You heard the vision and pulled the missionaries for their safety.”
“Yes!” Mathis was growing tired of repeating himself.
“Before or after you heard the interpretation?”
“I—” The elder lost the argument and his nerve.
Andre didn’t feel that bad for him. Mathis knew where Costa was going with it.
The komer moved forward in his chair and folded his hands one over the other on the top of his cane, speaking to the entire council but looking only at its Head. “You should have waited to hear from the Father. You should not have acted on your fears. Are you understanding me?”
“Yes, Komer,” Mathis muttered.
“Then understand this,” Costa continued. “My bum leg did not come from a fall down the stairs.” He knocked his cane against his knee for emphasis. “There is a real Threat sitting within our mountain waiting for his chance to strike. He is full of confidence and you are making it easy for him to do great harm. You would know this if you took the word of the Agabus seriously.”
“We have always taken him seriously.” Mathis was newly offended.
“Then act like it!” Costa shot him down once more. “Bringing home the missionaries may seem like a wise move or at best an insignificant one, but I assure you it spoke volumes on our level of confidence on this island. More importantly, it shows a failure to follow directions and not act before wisdom calls. Am I off the mark on this, Councilmen?”
“No,” Mathis responded heavily with a resounding echo from the other four in like manner.
“Good.” Costa was finished with his ranting. Seeking Andre’s hand to help him stand, he prepared to leave the Council in their stunned silence. “I look forward to seeing you all at the Sanctuary soon. Dre, I would love a ride home if you’re willing.”
“Yes, sir.” Andre met his eye and saw a small twinkle of humor there. Refraining from grinning, Andre helped him outside and down the walk to where his car was parked near the Phulake Station.
“I wasn’t too hot-headed back there was I?”
“No,” Andre assured him gratefully.
“I find my temper short lately,” Costa admitted. “It is something I must work on.”
“It worked well in this case, sir.”
Costa laughed, leaning on Andre’s car while the prophet opened the passenger door to help him in. “It’s good to see you,” he grunted and slid awkwardly into the seat with stiff limbs. “It’s good to be home.”
The heated meeting had drained all of the komer’s energy, and he fell asleep as soon as Andre left the village for Erotao. Running the whole scene through his head a few times, the Agabus couldn’t help but grin. Allowing himself a brief moment of vindication, he let the whole thing go with no more feelings of anger toward the elders. If they could so readily forgive him for his poor judgment, then he could do the same. It was good to have Costa back though, and he did not hesitate to thank Theos for restoring him to health and bringing him home so quickly.
“We’re here.” He woke the komer when they pulled to a stop beside the Sanctuary, and Costa startled awake before looking around in a daze.
“Thank you, Dre. Help me in would you? Do you have time for a chat? I’m not quite finished with you yet.”
“Sure.” Andre didn’t mind missing the rest of the morning duties at the guardhouse for Costa’s sake. He aided him inside and they experienced another round of surprised greetings from the deacons and komers on their way through the building towards Costa’s quarters in the south wing. Turay was particularly shocked to see his superior show up out of the blue, stuttering and tossing out a dozen questions in stunned confusion.
“You and I will meet soon,” Costa told him. “But right now I must lie down. No, no, Andre will take me, thank you.” He shielded anymore questions or offerings of assistance, wanting only to get to his room quickly.
Once inside, Andre shut the door on the hall and locked it according to Costa’s instructions. The komer eased onto his neatly made bed, looking around the room as if seeing something he hadn’t laid eyes on in years. “Yes,” he smiled. “This is good. Have a seat,” he motioned toward a nearby chair and leaned back against his pillows with his legs stretched out before him. “No wait. Get me a glass of water if you don’t mind.”
Andre found a clean glass in the small row of cupboards holding all of Costa’s belongings and filled it from the sink in the tiny adjoining bathroom.
“Thank you.” Costa took it from him and drank half before setting it aside on the nightstand.
Andre sat and waited for him to speak again.
“Oh, Dre,” Costa sighed heavily with his head back and eyes closed. “I know you know how it feels now that you’ve left the island several times, but it truly is like breathing fresh air coming back. It’s less work,” he explained it precisely right. “You don’t have to think so hard here. You just have tobe.”
Andre smiled softly, knowing exactly what he meant.
“I’ve sat in darkness for so long.” Costa’s eyes reopened but he did not seem to see the room before him. “I am sorry for what you saw when you came to Kaluma. That is not a version of me I would have wished for you to see.”
Andre shook his head, “I’msorry. I shouldn’t have been there.”
“No, but I accept your apology if you will accept mine.”
Andre didn’t hesitate to agree. The komer didn’t even have to ask.
Costa nodded and sat in silence for so long Andre would have thought he fell asleep again if it weren’t for the fact that his eyes remained open. “I am tired.” He spoke with a heavy sigh, and the prophet sat up in alarm with another rapid apology.
“I can come back later.”
“Sit,” Costa commanded, “and don’t speak. I am tired, but I need to say this, so listen up.”
“Okay.” Andre sank back in his chair.
“I need to thank you for getting me out of there. I don’t know how you did it, but I am eternally in your debt.”
“No you’re not—”
“I said don’t speak,” Costa snapped, and Andre shut his mouth until he finished. “I am indebted to you for your obedience and in awe of Theos for His eternal protection. I have seen hell.” A shadow of the horror Andre had seen in the komer’s countenance while on Kaluma flitted in Costa’s eyes. The prophet could taste it in the air, and he could not pull his gaze away. “He drew me in with a dream. It was a lie. I should have recognized it for what it was. I thought it was a vision from heaven showing me what I believed to be truth. Abaddon has never been allowed to cast his influence in that way before. Not on the island. I now know why.
“He wished to test us, and I failed the first part of the test. I should not have acted so brashly. My dream told me you were in the cave, trapped within his torture chamber. The spirits could not reach you, and you were dying. He showed me a vision of what would actually become of me. I just did not realize it.” Costa looked so weary. Andre almost interrupted his retelling, not wishing to burden him any longer.
“He had me the moment I stepped beyond the opening of the cave. No one saw me go, and I didn’t think to tell anyone I was leaving. Another poor move, I know. All I could think of was the dream and how I must hurry. It wasn’t the first time I had been within the cave,” he announced to Andre’s surprise. “Yes, I’ve been there before, when I was really young. Twelve years old, maybe. I went there with your father, though neither of us told anyone. We never made it to the lower chamber. I chickened out and started back. Aleixo only came back when I threatened to get your grandfather. He was mad at me for weeks after that. He thought if he went down in Abaddon’s lair he would see spirits like his father. He eventually did, of course, and he wasn’t as thrilled with the gift as he had hoped.
“Anyway, I’ve been down there before, so I knew where I was going. The whole time I descended, looking for you, I wanted to scream and run away like I had as a boy. But I kept on going, and he found me at the bottom. He was hiding at the door.”
Costa met Andre’s gaze with his, and the prophet could almost see the events unfold as they had happened.
“I could see him, Dre. I could see him as I see you, as you see him. He is everything I could not imagine. He was…beautiful. Horrifyingly beautiful, and I could not run or even cry out. I couldn’t move.
“He knocked me to the ground and spewed foul things from his mouth. Everything I had ever feared, every sin I have committed was his bait to tear me to pieces. He gloated of his power over me and the havoc he would unleash now that we were within his reach. He abused me like a child with a toy. He showed me what a fool I was to have believed dreams without testing their truth. And then he showed me what a real nightmare looks like.”
Costa was fading fast, sinking within himself. His head rolled, and the whites of his eyes showed beneath his fluttering lids. His body shook with sudden fever as sweat beads stood out on his forehead.
“Lavi!” Andre yelled, jumping to his feet. “Grab him!”
The spirit appeared in a flash with the first command and put a firm hand on Costa’s chest, holding him with a magnetic force preventing the komer from slipping back into the dark places of his mind.
“Wake up, Costa.” Andre stood over the bed, willing him not to disappear on him again. He pleaded with Theos to do something to break the power of the komer’s horrific memories.
“Move,” Lavi instructed, shuffling Andre out of the way and lifting Costa into a sitting position. The holy man’s body convulsed as the Warrior sent a shockwave from his hand into Costa’s back. Gasping for air, the komer opened his eyes and grabbed the wall beside the bed, catching himself before falling as Lavi abruptly released him and disappeared.
Andre stood motionless in the middle of the room while Costa returned to his senses. His ragged breathing was the only sound in the room, and it took him a moment to meet the Agabus’ eye. “I should not have returned.”
“It’s okay,” Andre was short on breath himself, his heart racing in his chest. “It just because you talked about it. We won’t anymore.”
Costa wiped the sweat from his brow. “Can you promise me I won’t think about it either?” He knew Andre didn’t have an answer to that, and he didn’t expect one. “I am going to sleep now, Agabus.” He fell heavily back on the pillows. “Don’t worry about me. I know what I must do to keep this at bay, and I promise you that I will do it.”
He dismissed Andre with a wave, and the prophet stepped out into the hall, quietly closing the door. “Don’t leave him alone,” he told Lavi. “I’ll be back later.”