Arrangements were made for the burial of May Beth George in the Kentro Cemetery east of the village. Declan’s father arranged for the use of his backhoe to break through the frozen ground, and the stone mason provided a chiseled cross to place at the head until the tombstone could be made ready. Despite the feeling of unrest, nearly all of the Koinonians partook in the memorial service at the worship house. It was a sunny afternoon, cool but calm, and the snow melted in droplets from the domed roof like a gentle rain.
Andre kept his distance from the funeral, only going down to Metoche to keep an eye on the roving Daimons working their way through the crowd and feasting off of their grief. He knew that the George family had chosen Komer Turay over Costa to officiate the solemn ceremony, and it angered him that the people were so quick to take sides. Already the rumors were working their way like venomous streams through the streets and creating further division and fear.
There was the side of the Head Komer and the Agabus, the group of dedicated loyalists who believed what Andre said he had seen that night in the storm. They worked shifts in the prayer stalls and held meetings at their homes to try and encourage one another and keep the Panoplia in the fight. Laken and Demi were his biggest supporters, and Demi had taken to visiting Imani once a day to cover her in prayer. One of Andre’s greatest fears was that a Daimon would destroy his mother’s healing. He did not put it past Abaddon to hand him this painful blow to try and shake him.
On the other side were those who, like Mr. Kirkeby, believed that the Agabus had it wrong. Not all were sure that it was May Beth who unleashed the first Daimon and destroyed the Hupsoma, but they did not feel it was Kylan. It was becoming popular opinion that the trouble began with Costa’s return to the main island. The common question always arose, had he truly recovered from his torture in the cave? Had the Agabus missed something in his surprise of the komer’s return?
One thing was certain, Costa was not welcome in his place leading worship at the Alleluia House any longer, and most of the people continued to see Turay as the Head of the Sect. Disagreement and pride had driven a line down the middle; the people chose their side and turned their backs on their neighbors.
From the mountain, the Master of Chaos laughed and enjoyed his fun.
Andre remained in his place out of the way, leaning against the wall of the bistro as the funeral ceremony broke up and a procession began to form for the walk through the streets to the cemetery behind the pallbearers carrying the casket. May Beth’s mother sobbed into a white handkerchief while she clung to her husband’s arm for support. Mr. George stared straight ahead at the box which held his eldest daughter with a pale face and steel jaw. The women of the community sang a low, mourning hymn as the line wound its way out of the market, through Oikos Crescent, and out of the village.
Andre noticed Jora walking arm in arm with Kai Brandt, her face flushed from crying. He did not see Svana, and Mr. Kirkeby had boarded his trawler and left with his crew as soon as his son had been confined on Kaluma. He had yet to return.
“See something you want, prophet?” the Spirit of Desire swayed in the open street with a destructive grin. Unlike Havoc, she was not yet so wretched to lay eyes on. Her wings fanned out behind her, rippling in the breeze, and her eyes burned not with the light of the Panoplia, but with a golden gaze difficult to break. Her long fingers were razor-edged snares, quick to strike and reluctant to let go.
Andre pushed away from the wall with an expression of boredom before turning to leave. “Sorry,” he told her. “You’ve mistaken me for someone else.” He walked to his car and got in, driving to the Sanctuary to find Costa. He did not go near the cemetery; he had already seen what would transpire there and did not wish to see it again.
The Agabus grew accustomed to seeing the Daimons running around his island or clinging to their prey as January turned into February. Costa and his supporters worked hard to reconstruct severed relationships, and the komer willingly welcomed anyone who sought guidance and counseling during the time of unrest. Andre was brought to the Sanctuary for many sessions so that those who had not been at the Community Center the night of the breech could hear for themselves what he had seen. The honesty in his telling brought many around and built strength for the Panoplia, but the war still raged and the mirthless laughter continued to shake the foundations of Bethel Peak.
The Leverandør returned to Paralios Bay with its captain ragged and thin from his own war waged upon the sea. He had visited his son on Kaluma and was outraged that Kylan was locked up in a ‘cell’ like a criminal. “I want him home, Mathis,” he demanded of the Head Elder. “Show me proof he caused this break in our Protection and maybe I will believe him.” He pointed a condemning finger at Andre amid the dumbfounded and grumbling crowd in the harbor. “But my son does not deserve such treatment, even if he is the cause of all this!”
Kirkeby stormed back to his boat without even waiting for a response from Mathis. The elder avoided the stares of his people and slipped away. Andre waited until the crowd dispersed to go about their business before he made a move. He was not needed at the pier to observe the returning passengers on the ships any longer, but he found that he could not stay away. Now he came to watch new teams of Daimons slip onto his shores with greedy, snapping jaws and hungry eyes. They hissed at him as they passed, giving the prophet a wide birth should he try and disturb their fun.
He cared little for the Daimons at the moment. His was mind on other things with his gaze drifting from Kirkeby’s trawler to Kaluma across the winter gray water. He had never known Lavi to be wrong before, but there was a first time for everything. Leaving the harbor, Andre drove to Iasis to search for Declan. The prophet had given up attending his Sunesis at the healing center, but his classmates had not.
He had hoped to find Declan alone, but when he inquired in the security office, they informed him that he was on the third floor in the Children’s Ward. Debating on whether he wanted to risk running into Svana, Andre decided it didn’t matter. She was the one avoiding him, not the other way around. If she had a problem with him visiting his friend at work, then she could walk away as she always did.
The sound of Jora’s voice behind him caused his heart to skip a beat, and Andre turned just outside the door to the stairwell and felt his lungs were short on air. He had been seeing her only at a distance for weeks, and it took him off guard to have her eyes on his with mere feet of space between them. The fact that they were as brilliant blue and clear was a relief and no dark spirits lurked nearby to destroy the moment.
“What are you doing here?” she asked.
He could not help but notice how wonderful and at home she looked in a healer uniform, carrying a patient’s chart under her arm with her hair pulled back from her face. Forcing his focus solely on what she had asked, he shook himself slightly before replying. “I’m looking for Declan.”
“Oh,” she nodded, looking slightly crestfallen.
“And you,” he added quickly. “I was looking for both of you.” Why not? he thought. If his plan worked, she had every right to be included if she wanted. “Are you busy?”
“Of course,” she answered honestly, and Andre began to apologize but stopped when she stepped in front of him into the stairwell anyway. “Declan’s upstairs with Svana.”
“Alright,” he quickly followed.
“So what’s up?” she asked, pausing on the third stair and waiting for him to catch up.
“Let’s wait for Declan,” he told her, only wanting to explain things once.
Jora nodded and moved her chart to her other arm so she could hold onto the stair rail. “My father is returning this morning.”
“Yeah,” Andre nodded awkwardly. “He’s already back, actually. I just came from the pier.” Her reaction was neither negative nor positive to this, she simply kept on walking. He was thankful that she wasn’t ignoring him or sending hostile glances like Svana was prone to doing, but the new uneasiness between them was difficult to swallow after how close they had become. He did not want to think about the fact that her father most likely perceived the courtship over between them. He dared not ask Jora if this was the case.
“Did you notice if his catch was good?” she asked, bringing him back from his uncomfortable thoughts.
“No, I couldn’t tell.”
She nodded again as if expecting this response.
“Have they not been?” he asked.
“No,” she said. “They haven’t been good for any of the crews. Which, of course, affects everything. Mama said her last trip to the market was awful. Half the vending stalls were empty and those who were trading didn’t have much.”
Andre knew very well that the shopkeepers and tradespeople were acting cautious with their goods. Suddenly it seemed like everyone was worried about not having enough. They were hoarding what they had for their friends or keeping it for themselves.
“The healers grumble about not having enough supplies,” Jora continued. “And it’s all because the people aren’t giving their percentage of offerings.”
“Costa told me the same thing is happening at Erotao,” Andre told her.
“We’ve had an influx of illness too,” she added. “There have been patients coming in with debilitations the healers haven’t seen in years. They say this is the greatest number of infirm they’ve had to treat in the history of Koinonia. They’re worried it could lead to an epidemic.”
“It’s not just one thing,” she shook her head. “There are many different strains of flu and colds, but those who have them just don’t seem to be able to fight them. They’ve never had to before. Not of this magnitude. They just seem weak. If people stop asking for Theos to provide, He’s not going to,” she concluded.
They reached the landing on the third floor and found the door to the hall closed. Jora reached it first, pausing with her hand on the door and ensuring that she had his attention before turning the nob. “Beware the wrath of Svana,” she warned him.
“Well noted, thank you,” he responded, and stood back for her to step into the hall first.
They found them in the playroom where Declan was fixing a projection unit and Svana was assisting a rambunctious four-year-old with her therapeutic exercises. Both looked at the door when Jora entered, and Declan’s face lit up at the sight of Andre behind her.
“Yeah, Dec, you?”
“I’ll be better when I can get this unit to work right.” He set down a screwdriver and left a mess of plastic and jumble of wires on the low table where he was working on and walked over.
Svana had yet to speak, not moving from the floor where she tossed a weighted ball back and forth with the four-year-old and shared a series of meaningful glares with her twin. Andre ignored her and asked Declan for a favor.
“Anything, what’s up?”
“Any chance you could get a hold of a set of Phulake speedboat keys by tonight?”
The unexpected question dropped between the four of them and left baffled expressions on the faces of Andre’s classmates as they exchanged glances which conveyed their opinion that their Agabus had become unhinged.
“Fancy a joyride, Dre?” Declan asked.
“Something like that. I need to get to Kaluma.”
He did not miss the change in Jora’s expression or the darting of Svana’s eyes from where she kept her head down over the exchange of the ball.
“Yes.” He knew it was a lot to ask, but if anyone had pull at the stationhouse, it was Declan. “Without anyone knowing, if possible.”
Declan’s eyebrows went up and he released a lung full of air considering the probability of pulling off such a request. “Yeah, I guess I could do that.”
Andre nodded, “Good, thank you.”
“I’ll pick you up on the pier, after midnight.”
“I can just get the keys—”
“Oh, no,” he shook his head. “You’re not taking one of my boats across the bay. Not the way you drive. No way, Agabus, I’m coming with.”
“Me too,” Jora chimed in resolutely, daring Andre to object with a determined look. “If you’re going to see Kylan, I’m going too. You are going to see Kylan, aren’t you?”
She knew him too well, and Andre almost smiled. “Yeah, I’m going to see Kylan.” He glanced at Svana, but she wasn’t looking, her eyes resolutely set on her patient. “I need to speak with him.”
Jora appeared to be trying to guess what questions he was looking to have answered, but seemed to decide it didn’t matter. She wanted to see her brother and would take any option she had to get there. “Okay. I’ll meet you both at midnight.” Jora looked at her sister expectantly, but Svana continued to ignore them.
“Alright.” Declan ran a hand through his hair, standing it on end and adding to his completely ruffled look brought on by Andre’s request. “Midnight it is.”