Andre, Declan, and the twins spent the end of every day during their last week of Citizen Sunesis in the Agabus’ office completing their preparations for the journey into the mines. They were interning in the education departments, so most of their time was spent at Agoge anyway. Andre had returned to attending each of the sessions including every Enlightenment class, though he could recall very little of what they were being taught. His mind was on locks, steel doors, and long, dark shafts.
Declan managed to get his hands on a lock of similar make and model to the one already in the mine. He studied it carefully so as to know how to properly install it and readied what tools they would need to take with. They went over the plan again and again so all would go smoothly once they were granted access to the tunnels. The layout maps were memorized in detail to avoid getting lost, and secondary plans were made in case something should go awry.
Andre was certain that once he was in he would have no trouble from the miners and Kopiao staff. If he said he needed to get to the forbidden passage, he would get there. It was getting the other three in which wouldn’t be so easy. Their strategy called for secrecy and relied upon help outside human ability.
They left the Agoge Center late on Friday afternoon confident they had everything in order to carry out their plan early Monday morning, their first day of Operations Sunesis in the mines. Andre jumped in his car and headed for Kentro and the Community Center. Costa had called a Congregational Meeting for the citizens to address the issues that had been neglected for too long. Jora, Svana, and Declan were allowed to attend also, but as Agabus, Andre had an obligation to be present on the board alongside the Council of Elders and the Komer Sect.
He entered the already crowded building and crossed the floor to a raised table facing rows and rows of chairs for the citizens. Costa, Turay, and Dokko were already seated at the table in front of the growing assembly as well as Elder Kerr and Elder Ackers. Dokko and Costa sat at one side of the table, while Turay huddled at the far end with the two elders and talked amongst themselves, ignoring the Agabus when he sat down beside Costa.
“This should be fun,” he muttered, wishing he was anywhere but there.
Costa held back a smile, keeping an eye on the door and tabs on who was there and who wasn’t. “I suppose it could be enlightening. How does it look to you?” He nodded out at the crowd.
Andre followed his gaze. “Empty. They’re on the roof, and so far the Panoplia are keeping them outside. That doesn’t mean they won’t be able to work their influence though.”
“No,” Costa agreed with a frown.
Elder Mathis and the rest of the Council arrived and joined them at the table as well as Captain Barow who had been invited from Kaluma to speak on Kylan’s well-being. Andre found the Kirkebys in the crowd as the people took their seats and prepared for the meeting to begin. Jora caught his eye and nodded for reassurance, but her father looked no less distraught than when Andre had last seen him. Demi and Laken had managed to get seats in the front row off to the right, and they encouraged their nephew with similar nods and expressions of confidence. Elder Mathis stood from his place at the middle of the table and picked up one of the three wireless microphones spaced out in front of the council.
“I want to welcome you all here and thank you for answering the call to assemble this evening,” he began, getting the attention of the room and bringing the noise level down to a hush. Andre could hear the scraping of talons on the roof now that the congregation had ceased their chatter, and it made his stomach churn.
“We are here tonight to address some concerns brought forward amongst the people with their dissatisfaction in relation to our Head Komer, Abramo Costa.” There was a mixture of approval and disapproval with this, and Mathis waited for the grumbling to calm down before continuing. “That’s why we are here, to discuss these things which are causing a rift in the community and allow you all to have a say in what is to be done about it.
“It has come to my attention that a petition has been circulating among you to remove Costa as Head and place Komer Turay in a permanent position.” This caused even more of a reaction from the crowd, and Mathis had to put up a hand to call for silence. “Please, people! We’re not going to get anywhere jumping all over each other. Let me finish then the floor will be yours.” The room eased back into a restless silence, and Mathis glanced at Costa before resuming.
“It is not the Koinonian way to simply vote out a spiritual leader by a show of hands. There must be sound evidence that the komer in question has not been performing his duties to the betterment and stability of the people.”
“I believe we have that, Elder Mathis.” Elder Kerr picked up a second microphone, glancing around at the faces before him and drawing encouragement from many nods of approval. “Our country is under a spiritual attack, how is that not the responsibility of our spiritual Head?”
“Costa is not at fault for bringing evil through the Hupsoma.”
“He willingly entered Abaddon’s cave,” Elder Irons pointed out. “That in itself put us all in danger. What if he returned with something? The problem started after he returned from Kaluma and many of us were not sure he was ready to do so. Have you not visited Iasis almost daily since your return, Costa? Could you have passed evil on to the young George woman?”
“No,” Andre interjected before Costa had a chance to respond. Every eye turned to him expectantly, and a microphone was shoved in his face so the entire assembly could hear him. “I’ve been with Costa a lot, and I’ve never seen any Daimon attached to him at any time.”
“Tell me how we are supposed to know that for certain, Agabus?” Kerr argued. “None of us possess the Sight like you. We do not begrudge you your relationship with the komer, but does it not create a bias in your judgment? And you yourself have been within the cave and admit you were at Iasis the day Ms. George committed suicide. Who is supposed to check you for Daimons? Kylan Kirkeby has been home for nearly a year. If he possessed a dark spirit, why have you not seen it until now?”
Andre opened his mouth to respond, but Costa took away his microphone and prevented him from doing so.
“You are already aware of the prophet’s theory on this and, if you can recall, he shared his concerns with you the very night of the Therapon missionaries return. We are certain a Daimon was released when the missionaries crossed the Hupsoma without the observance of the Agabus and hid within the cave until released by Kylan Kirkeby.”
His open accusation caused an uproar, and Mr. Kirkeby jumped to his feet and shouted above the noise at the komer in fury. The excitement of the Daimons overhead, snarling and snapping their jaws at the Panoplia standing firm with weapons drawn to hold them back mixed with the anger building within the walls of the Community Center. The confusion of sound grated on Andre’s nerves, and he closed his eyes against the discomfort, trying to block out the unseen battle above to concentrate only on the one in front of him.
“Dre?” Costa noticed him go tense, and blocked the microphone with his hand. “Are you alright?”
Andre merely kept his head down and nodded without speaking.
“Sit down Kirkeby!” Mathis bellowed over the din. Using the handle of his microphone as a gavel, he banged on the table until the attention of the crowd was back on him and the excitement had settled to a manageable level. “Disagreements or not, the komer’s accusation is not without merit. Listen!” He prevented another outburst before it could erupt. “Captain Barow is here from Kaluma with word from Kylan himself, and I insist that you all pay attention and consider what she has to say.”
Mathis sat down as Barow stood, and the only sound in the great room now was the shuffle of feet under chairs, whispered murmurs, and the hissing of hungry spirits buzzing like insects overhead. The captain took the offered microphone and spoke in a direct, clear voice devoid of emotion, giving the facts as she had them.
“Kylan Kirkeby has admitted in a signed statement that he is in fact the reason for all the turmoil on Koinonia.”
The announcement shook the building with the reaction from the crowd above and below, and Mathis hit the table with his ‘gavel’ once more, demanding quiet.
Barow continued with a raised voice despite the fact that she did not have all of their attention. “He claims responsibility for bringing it here, for releasing it from the cave while working in the mines, and for passing it on to May Beth George at the healing center. He beseeches his countrymen to forgive him, to cease this dissension, and to trust the word of the Agabus as you have before. He has denied himself the right to ever return to the main island should Theos restore to us our Hupsoma, and begs that no one try to get him released, for he will not go.”
“That’s a lie!” Kirkeby was frantic now, not even speaking with reason. Jora looked helpless in her seat next to where he stood shouting at the council, the komers, and the captain. Svana looked furious at his behavior and mortified as if she wanted to sink into the floor. Mrs. Kirkeby just looked lost and under a severe amount of stress. “What did you say to him?” Kirkeby demanded with his ferocity focused on Andre. “You coerced him to say these things!”
Laken had to hold Demi in her chair or she would have erupted in her own fight for her nephew’s honor.
“Don’t overreact, man,” Kerr looked embarrassed for him as well, standing and taking back the stand as Captain Barow regained her seat. “It does not matter how the fracture occurred, it matters that it did. We have a problem here and it starts with a lack of leadership. You have spoken, and it is clear it is time for Komer Costa to step down.”
“That is not how things are done here,” Mathis reminded him, losing his temper.
“Well, perhaps it’s time for a change,” Kerr shot back. “Or give the people a choice. There is room on this island for more than one church. Let Costa have his following and Turay his. It is how disputes are settled in the rest of the world.”
“We are not the rest of the world!” Mathis was standing again now, and the two men faced off on the raised platform and stirring up the crowd to new levels of distrust. “Or we should not be! How can you all just sit there and except this sort of division when you know what it leads to? How can you do nothing to restore what we had?”
“Do nothing?” Kerr snorted derisively. “I believe it was you, Head Elder, who told the people to do nothing the night of the attack. You did not even pray!”
“End this petty argument, gentlemen!” Costa had had enough. “Divided or not I think we all agree there is a Force set against us, one we cannot begin to withstand alone. His plans already are ripping us apart, and all this,” he gestured to the entirety of the assembly, “orchestrated from within his hole. What do you think will happen when he decides to join his minions?” Costa scanned the stoic and uncomfortable faces staring back at him. “One of us does know.” He turned to the Agabus. “I suggest we listen.”
Andre looked up, not expecting to have to speak again. It took him a moment to gather his wits, push aside the grating sound of Daimons on the rooftop, and pick up the microphone. “Costa…Costa’s right,” he began shakily. “Abaddon won’t stay down there forever. What we’re doing, how we’re acting, is only making him stronger. When he does come out, there will be battle unlike we’ve seen here. When he does, I you need to pay attention.” Andre paused to ensure they were listening, meeting the gazes of his friends staring back at him with confidence in their shared plan. “The mountain will shake with his anger and when it does, you must get on your knees and pray. Pray together.”