The burden of the Agabus was to watch his country crumble before his eyes. Weary from lack of sleep and worry, Andre stood outside the open doors of the Sanctuary beside his komer and watched a battlefield form upon the moors. The Hupsoma was broken and there was nothing stopping Abaddon’s army of Daimons from descending upon the island. Costa had gathered what deacons and citizens he could and convinced them to pray unceasingly without fear. The most resilient among them with memories fresh from the oppression they had witnessed and experienced in past lives elsewhere, were quick to solidify their faith and fight back against the attack. They trusted the word of the komer and Agabus and weren’t about to give up their freedoms so easily.
When the people called, the Panoplia charged in to clash weapons with the Daimons with fierce devotion to their Creator and His children who called for His aide. When the light of morning crept upon the mountain peak, the storm had exhausted its efforts and moved on over the windswept sea leaving drifts of compacted snow upon the shore. The air was cold and bitter, tasting coppery on Andre’s tongue.
“I should never have confronted Havoc in front of them,” he shared his regrets with Costa, watching Malachi take on two dark spirits with his sword raised. “It only made it worse.”
“They were already filled with doubt,” Costa told him before using the Agabus’ own advice as proof. “It is as it is ‘to prove our Lord’s Might.’ ”
Andre glanced briefly over his shoulder and had to concede that one to Costa, “Yeah, alright.” He turned back to the battlegrounds and winced against the frigid gusts of wind blasting shards of snow across the parking lot in front of the Sanctuary. He could hear the raised voices of a handful of deacons beseeching heaven within, and he drew from it and gained confidence.
“I saw Mathis,” he said.
Costa nodded. “He wanted to join in the prayer, but I believe him to still be full of fear. He is with Deacon Calloway now and will find his faith again soon.”
“Maybe he will be able to sway the whole council.”
“Perhaps,” Costa did not sound as confident. “But do not rely on one man to sway thousands.”
“It’s not unheard of.” Andre met his gaze again, and Costa corrected himself.
“Do not rely on that man to sway thousands.”
“You got them to follow.” The prophet nodded back toward the open Sanctuary. “If we can only get a few more to pray—”
“It is not about prayer,” Costa cut him off. “Not anymore. Everyone is praying, Dre. Believe me, not a single household is without prayer this morning, but prayers are just words without belief in the request and faith in the inevitable action. What do you think the George family is praying for right now? Or the Kirkebys? Everyone is praying, so who should the Father answer first?”
Andre frowned, considering the komer’s sense carefully without reply.
“The game is changed now, Agabus. The darkness we’ve fought for so long to keep off this island is now clouding twelve thousand perceptions of truth. The only way to reunite us again is to dispel the shadows and clear the air. Until the people denounce the influence of the Daimons, they will continue to wreak havoc and cling to any soul who allows them access.”
“That’s it then,” Andre responded resolutely. “We’ll just get rid of the shadows. No Daimons, no influence. All that will be left is human nature to contend with.”
“Human nature is contentious enough.”
“But just as good as it is bad,” Andre argued, and it was Costa’s turn to study him thoughtfully.
“How do you propose to get rid of this many shadows?”
Andre squinted up at the mountain as the clouds parted and the eastern sun hit the dazzling white snow at its peak. “By confronting the source.”
The path to the altar was packed with sopping wet snow, but Andre trudged to the top and met Chesed at the end before turning onto the rock shelf. She stood on a tall outcrop of stone looking down on the island behind him, watching the ongoing battle with concern in her vibrant eyes. “There is not enough of us,” she spoke when Andre stopped to catch his breath from the strenuous climb. “We cannot defeat this many on our own. Your people must request more help.”
“They’re not exactly listening to the Agabus right now,” he responded tightly before continuing on his way. “Is he up there?”
“Yes, he is preparing to fight.”
Andre stopped and looked at her, “Fight? He was just injured.”
“He is the Warrior,” Chesed responded plainly without taking her eyes off the battle below. “I must go too, unless you request otherwise.”
Andre let her go, waiting until she was beyond the slopes of the mountain before hiking the last few steps to the altar.
Lavi sat on a low shelf of the rock wall adjusting the strap of his dagger holster around his leg. He was fully dressed in battle armor, his spear sharpened and gleaming where it stood propped against the wall nearby.
“Good morning,” he grunted in greeting, “if it can be called so.”
“You got your dagger back,” Andre observed.
“Yes.” The Panoplia held it up and turned it over, examining the hilt. “Shamira retrieved it for me. She said you got him in the shoulder.” His eyes danced with the humor of it. “I appreciate that. Well done, Agabus.”
“Yours healed nicely.”
“Chesed is very skilled.” Lavi’s neck muscles tightened, no worse for wear despite the scar which stood out white against the rich color of his skin.
“I thought he was going to kill you,” Andre admitted.
“Havoc is strong, but he does not have the power for that.”
“Can you be killed?”
Lavi stood up, stretching his arms, and gearing himself up for a fight. “Anything created can be destroyed. Just look at Abaddon.”
“He’s not dead.” Andre didn’t get his meaning.
“Isn’t he?” Lavi raised an eyebrow and picked up his spear. “You have come for a reason,” he stated, prepared to wait but eager to go. “Or is it just to make sure your favorite Panoplia is alright?” He passed Andre a roguish grin.
Andre returned it with an expression of annoyance, and began back-stepping toward the far side of the rock shelf to the west side of the mountain. “It looks like you’re just fine. I’ll let you go get your revenge.”
Lavi narrowed his expression questioningly. “Where are you going?”
Andre shrugged nonchalantly without slowing down, “Just to get mine.”
“No, no.” Lavi shook his head and crossed the open space as Andre turned and jumped over a low ledge to a lesser used path veering down the mountain. It cut through sharp, angular passageways in the sheer stone walls before merging with the scruffy pines of Hule Copes below. “Agabus!” Lavi launched himself over the ledge into the snow and blocked Andre’s way. “What are you doing?”
“I want a word with Adabbon,” he stated plainly.
“Don’t be dense.”
Andre opened his mouth for a disgusted response but decided not to waste his time. He sidestepped the Panoplia by ducking under his arm and continued down the snow-packed trail walled in by stone.
Lavi snagged the collar of his overcoat with his spear and stopped the prophet abruptly in his tracks. Andre had to catch himself from slipping on the slick ice. He passed the Warrior an irritated scowl over his shoulder. “Don’t you have someplace to be?”
“My priority is you.”
“Well, that’s sweet.” Andre unhooked his coat and started walking again.
“You’re not going down there alone.”
“Then come, I don’t care. I just want a word with him.”
“You don’t just have a word with Evil.”
“I’ve got a proposition for him—” He did not get any further as Lavi pulled his characteristic move by slamming the butt of his spear into the prophet’s back, knocking him to the ground. Furious, Andre rolled over, blocked a second hit, and kicked the Panoplia’s shin in retaliation. “Cut it out, Lavi! I’m sick of you hitting me with that!” He shoved the spear away.
“Then stop acting like a fool.” Lavi leaned in so Andre would get it. “The shadows cloud your mind, and I don’t like it.”
“Yeah, we’ve determined that already!” Andre shot back defensively.
“Don’t let them.” Lavi moved to hit him again, and the prophet grabbed the spear and wrenched it away from the spirit, tossing it down the path. Lavi responded by throwing a handful of snow in his face, and Andre sputtered and blinked it out of his eyes and face.
“I hate you.”
“And I believe you,” Lavi responded with mild sarcasm and grabbed him by the front of the coat. Yanking the Agabus to his feet, he set him right while brushing the snow from his shoulders in a conciliatory manner. “You cannot proposition Abaddon. That is certain failure.”
“I want to win back my people.”
“Who said you lost them?”
Andre glared at the Panoplia and searched for a way to get ahead of him. “As long as the Daimons have free range they will keep us divided. I want them out.”
“And asking nicely for Evil to draw back his forces is going to work?”
“I wasn’t planning on asking nicely.” They were locked in a stubborn stare down, and Andre wasn’t about to give in first.
Lavi contemplated the prophet with narrow eyes. “Get my spear,” he commanded.
Andre tried to see the catch, but eventually did as he was told, handing over the weapon while on his guard against another attempt to keep him from his mission.
“Let’s go then.” Lavi waited for him to lead the way.
It wasn’t what the prophet expected and it took another sarcastic gesture from Lavi before he began moving again. “Alright, I will.”
“And hurry it up. I’ve got someplace to be.”
“Yeah, right,” Andre muttered ungraciously, tramping through the deep snow. “Not all of us have wings.”
With that, the Panoplia lifted into the air and snatched the Agabus one handed off the ground, soaring over the trail, through the trees down the side of the mountain and into the open air.
“That wasn’t a suggestion!” Andre yelled, grabbing Lavi’s arm for dear life, and clamping his eyes shut tight.
Moments later, Lavi dropped him on his feet before the closed mouth of the cave. Andre caught his breath and looked around as the spirit came to rest on a broken piece of rock which had at one time been a part of the cave ceiling. “There’s an opening,” he informed the prophet.
Andre climbed quickly to where the Panoplia stood looking down into a small chasm left by the blast. It was no bigger than Andre’s head, but the loose rock around it appeared easy to remove.
“You’re not going down there,” Lavi told him.
“I don’t have to,” Andre responded, finding solid footing on the shifting pile of stone and glancing at the Warrior while readying himself for what was to come. Lavi stood back with his spear at the ready and nodded for the Agabus to proceed. “Abaddon!” he yelled into the dark chasm. “Abaddon, come out and face me!”
There was no response, not immediate or forthcoming. Not even a burst of steam or shake of stone, even the wind in the nearby trees was still.
Andre met Lavi’s eye again, and the Panoplia did not look surprised.
“Abaddon!” he tried again, yelling louder and bending low over the opening. “Stop hiding!” It did not matter what he said or how many times he said it; Evil was not interested.
“What did you expect?” Lavi asked without accusation. “The minute he steps out of that hole his minions will be drawn to him. It’s what we would do in the presence of our Lord. He likes where they are and he’s satisfied with the results. He has what he wants, why would he entertain the idea of allowing you the chance to take it back?”
Andre sank heavily onto the damp, frozen rocks in irritation. He did not want to admit it to Lavi, but it was exactly what he expected.
The spirit gently nudged him in the shoulder with his spear for encouragement. “It’s time to fight, kid. Soul by soul until your island is restored the way everyone else does it. It’s a long, hard job, and you’re not going to like it, but that’s your only option now. Welcome to the real world, Agabus. It’s what you’ve been longing for, isn’t it?”