Sunesis

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Chapter 5

Andre had nearly earned his full credits at the Agoge Center of Higher Education. It was standard for Koinonian children to attend ten years of schooling beginning at age six, after which they were issued a diploma of excellence if they met certain requirements. At about the time they turned sixteen, the students began their Sunesis. This was a year of discovery to determine what gifts they desired to use most in service to their country. It introduced them to a number of possible occupations and gave an overview of what each entailed. It was a good way to determine where they excelled and where they would rather avoid engaging in a long-term career.

It was also a time of enlightenment, a time for the learned men and women to share their knowledge of the world in greater detail. Not just its history and culture which Koinonian children had been studying for years, but of morals and deeds. Wars were discussed in greater depth with the focus on more than just facts and dates. It was a time to dig deep into the functionality of mankind and to discover why humans lived the way they did and what influenced their decisions.

These instructions were a key to the fulfillment of their education as they not only deepened their understanding of the world but prepared them to function in it. At the end of Sunesis, each student would arrange to embark on a journey. They would leave the island for their Therapon, the final step in the educational process. A charity driven expedition, it revolved around visiting locations picked specifically for their need for aid. The students gave of themselves while viewing the world and all it had to offer. Therapon was looked at as something to both fear and anticipate with excitement. For Andre, it was still too far away.

With one week left at the Agoge Center, his main focus was to finish the memorial video for the Eleutheros celebration and graduation ceremony. What he thought was a finished album was still taking up a great deal of his time. There was one clip he really wanted to include. It would make an excellent ending, but was proving difficult to track down. Andre was very close to giving up and finalizing the video without it. It wasn’t until he had decided to do so that he came across the elusive footage and was able to add it just in time.

Aside from that, he had completed all his other credit requirements and final projects. Attending class was now merely routine procedure. Mainly his professors entertained Andre and his classmates with rapid-fire trivia sessions and oral pop quizzes to test their wit and spark in-class debates.

“What do you look forward to most about the upcoming year?” the literature instructor wanted to know one afternoon while they scribbled away at a thought-provoking but entirely pointless essay assignment.

“No essay questions,” Svana piped up from her writing desk near a row of windows.

“Who says?” their professor responded. “Every occupation will have a questionnaire at the end of each of the three month Sunesis. What do you suppose a questionnaire is but a series of essay questions?”

Svana scrunched up her face trying to determine if the teacher was joking and disliking the fact that she probably wasn’t. “I object to questionnaires.”

“Then you will find your Sunesis rather trying, I’m afraid.” The professor appealed to the rest of the class for more responses.

“I know what I’m going to dread the most,” Declan spoke up. “Fishing. Why, why must we try everything? Do I look like a seafaring chap?” He gestured to his small stature and made his point. “I will be swallowed by a swordfish, no joke. Agabus has seen it in a vision.” He reached out and slapped Andre on the arm in the desk beside him. “Tell ‘em, mate.”

“It was a mackerel, actually,” Andre jested. “An itty bitty one.” Holding up his fingers, he showed Declan the minuscule size, grinning at his friend’s empty look of disparagement in response. Jora at least appreciated hid humor, passing Andre a beautiful smile which caused him to forget what he was supposed to be writing for his assignment.

“I can’t wait to intern at Iasis,” she told the professor. “I already know I want to be a healer.”

“Excellent foresight, Ms. Kirkeby, but don’t jump to conclusions until you’ve had a go at several of your options. There are many wonderful ways to serve the community, none better than the rest.” Their teacher settled back in her chair, looking at them all with a knowing expression. “This next year will be a test, both difficult and revealing. Do not take it lightly and learn all that you can. No one says you cannot change your mind after picking an occupation. The choice is always yours, but also don’t waste your time. You are given Sunesis for a reason, so make use of it wisely.”

Andre was glad she let the subject drop before asking him his opinion. If anyone really wanted to know, he wasn’t looking forward to Sunesis at all. There wasn’t any one profession which he felt more drawn to. The idea of being a healer made him queasy. He shared Declan’s opinion of fishing and had been introduced to the responsibilities of his uncle’s farm enough to know he definitely did not want to do that. What Andre did want was to be a year older so he could skip right to Therapon. Traveling the world, helping war torn and devastated countries, this is what he longed to do.

It might be his only chance to do something outside of Koinonia. Many citizens had chosen a life devoted to charitable service, but none of them had been prophets. Andre knew the island needed him, but his desire lay outside of Koinonia’s protective boundaries. What that meant for his future, he really had no idea. He doubted that his grandfather foresaw such a glitch when he designed the educational system. Dr. Dietrich could not have known that the Sight would run in the family. He certainly did not allow for the chance that Andre would be called as Agabus before finishing his education. But that was the case, and Andre wondered what that meant for his future.

By the end of the school day on Thursday, Andre presented his completed video project to his professors and left for home feeling oddly exhilarated. Technically school wasn’t over until the following day, but according to the records, Andre was finished. Completing his studies and being the legal age of sixteen gave him full adult status in the community. He was free to make his own choices and would be respected not only as the Agabus, but as a man. Not even Aunt Demi could tell him what to do anymore.

Something about having the right to do what he chose made him want do what he had been failing to do nearly every day before. That last Thursday before graduation, Andre got home on time. According to the clock on the farmhouse kitchen wall, he was even a little bit early.

His aunt glanced up from a mixing bowl where she stood near the sink preparing dinner for her family. She was pleasantly surprised to see him but said nothing about his early arrival. She merely smiled and welcomed him home. Andre sat at the table suppressing a grin which revealed a touch of pride.

“Someone looks happy.” Demi slid a plate of cookies on the table in front of him.

“I’m done,” he told her, nabbing one and polishing it off in two bites.

She smiled warmly. “It feels good, doesn’t it? But now comes the tough part.” Demi shared his dislike of Sunesis. She had several humorous horror stories of her misadventures in job trial. Andre’s aunt was a writer. She had always had a way with the written word and preferred spending long hours at her personal computer, pounding out the latest chapter of one of her books than partaking in any physical labor or complicated occupation. Andre considered writing difficult enough but was grateful that she understood his aversion to the looming Sunesis.

“Have you received your schedule yet?” she asked, returning to her mixing bowl and tossing in a pinch of salt.

Andre nodded around a mouthful of cookie. “We start with Commerce and Trading.”

“That’s not so bad. Just don’t do what I did and knock over an entire cask of milk on the trading square.”

“You did that?” Andre laughed. He hadn’t heard that one before.

“All ten gallons,” she elaborated. “It was like a creamy deluge right there on the Metoche floor. Cats ran from every corner of the village. Your mother never let me hear the end of it.”

Andre laughed, appreciating the imagery.

“It was only day one of the Commerce Sunesis, but it was pretty well decided that the market wasn’t the place for me. It didn’t get any better either.”

“Didn’t you burn an entire batch of bread at the bakery?”

“That was day two.” Demi held up two flour dusted fingers. “I was clumsy but generally only once a day.”

A truck pulled up at the end of the drive, and Andre watched through the open kitchen door as Davi and his two cousins jumped off the open tailgate and ran for the house.

“Bring these out,” Demi added more cookies to the plate. “I’ll bring milk. Tell them not to come inside until they’ve removed their shoes.”

Andre carried the plate outside and set it on the retraining wall of a stone flowerbed. Davi dropped a soccer ball to his toe and kicked it toward Andre as the girls dashed by in a hurry. “Shoes off!” Andre called out before they reached the kitchen door.

Viva, age nine, and Feronia, age seven, kicked off their muddy shoes and pushed their way into the house without slowing down. Laughing and chattering the way girls do, their voices carried into the side yard long after they were gone.

“Good day at school?” Andre asked as he passed the ball back to his brother and tossed him a cookie.

Davi caught it one handed while blocking the pass with his foot. “It was fine, I guess.”

“Ready for a break?”

“Yes.” Davi was sure about that. The students at the children’s school, Paideia Elementary, attended class all year round except for week long holidays between quarters. A holiday was always a welcome event no matter what it entailed. “The instructors made us practice our pieces for the Eleutheros.” His expression was full of disgust around a mouthful of cookie.

“Your favorite time of year,” Andre responded sarcastically and motioned for his brother to return the ball.

“I like it.” Davi kicked it back across the small patch of worn lawn. “I just don’t like having to be in the assembly.”

“I’m a part of it,” Andre reminded him as he dribbled the ball against this knee. “A whole lot more than you.”

“Yeah, but you’re graduating. You have to be.”

“And you’re a student. Everyone has to do something.”

“First to five?” Davi changed the subject and stole the ball. Knocking it toward the barn behind the house, he led the way to a stretch of open grass worn down from many hours of after school soccer matches. Uncle Laken had set up a few rusting barrels half-full of soil to mark the goals at each end of the field. Andre and Davi played one-on-one until Viva and Feronia reappeared and joined in.

It was the first of June and the days were longer and warmer, the temperature a comfortable fifty-nine degrees. Many of the neighboring farms surrounding the Flacos’ were green with fresh grown heather where the sheep and cattle grazed. Bobby Nair from up the road walked down to join their game, and he and Andre discussed their upcoming graduation. The Nair family was also anticipating the return of Bobby’s sister from her Therapon abroad.

“We talked to her two weeks ago,” he told them. “She said the group all went through a mess of sickness which kept them holed up in a hostel in Berlin for over a week. She thought she would die, she’d never felt so bad.” Bobby had possession of the ball. He was a tall, robust farm kid with a brillo pad dome of unruly auburn hair. Though not very fast, he was an excellent defensive block. Davi managed to snag the ball out from under him but had trouble breaking free to score.

Andre nodded in response to Bobby’s news. He had heard about the flu outbreak the Koinonian missions crew had endured. There had even been talk among the elders of postponing their return. Thankfully all had recovered, and word from Kaluma was that everyone was healthy and prepared to rejoin their families on the main island.

“Did she tell you anything else about the trip?” Andre asked, stealing the ball from Viva and passing it to Feronia.

Bobby merely shrugged. “I think she wrote more to my mum about it, but my parents won’t say. I think it was rough though, some bits anyway. I do know that Mum’s anxious to have her back.”

Andre frowned. He may have been Agabus, but there were still some things the elders and adults of the island tried to keep from him on account of his age. Even questioning the Panoplia got him nowhere. He understood why they were withholding, but sometimes it seemed too protective.

Dr. Dietrich preached caution when he founded the principles of Koinonia, but Alexander had believed knowledge was a form of defense and never wanted his citizens to be naïve or afraid. It was the whole point of the existence of the Agoge Center. It was not just a place for secondary education, but a research facility for anyone to use the resources available to expand their knowledge and stay in touch with the important issues in the world. From what Andre could tell, no one cared about such things anymore. Koinonians rarely bothered to look outside of their tight community unless the mission teams and educational instructors brought it to their attention. No one seemed the least bit interested any longer.

Andre wanted to know everything, and he did not understand their reservations. It was against Dr. Dietrich’s mission for the people of the island to close themselves off so completely. Koinonia was meant not only to be a refuge, but a training ground for world servants. It only made Andre all the more eager to get through the next year and have his chance to go. This secrecy surrounded by fear was beginning to frustrate him.

The five of them played ball until Laken called the boys for chores, and Bobby wandered home to complete his. Demi announced it was time for dinner as the sun began to dip in the west. A cool breeze lifted in the early evening, scenting it with aromas of summer and salty seas. They ate around the hard-scrubbed kitchen table with the door open to allow in the fresh air. Yard cats meowed at the threshold, begging for crumbs which the girls tossed from their plates until Demi scolded them and insisted they focus on eating their meal.

When the table was cleared and the dishes washed, the family walked down the road connecting their farm with their neighbor’s. A bright drape of stars stood out between breaks in the clouds. Each home along the gravel road had at least one friendly face to greet them. Many families were out walking like the Flacos or sitting on benches and rocking chairs outside their stone cottages. There was already a feeling of holiday in the air with the Eleutheros so near. The neighbors chatted about Saturday’s upcoming events and recalled memories spanning the last fifty years.

Andre was repeatedly asked the same series of questions surrounding his graduation and Sunesis. He dreaded the repetitive inquiries over which profession he looked forward to interning for the most. He was very tempted to say: “Absolutely none of them.”

By the time the Flacos were ready to make their way home, the sun was long gone and a chill had settled over the moor. Andre excused himself from the family and struck out on his own, moving in the direction of the village.

As it always was on Koinonia, the night was quiet. Very few vehicles moved on the roads after dark, so it was safe to walk. The Flaco farm was less than a quarter mile from Highway 2, the stretch of blacktop road which followed the curved, eastern edge of the island. It was another two miles to the village, but Andre did not regret leaving his car at the farm. He liked to walk and think under the stars with the Panoplia casting an iridescent glow where they roamed over the open pastures.

The rolling moorland dipped into the Kentro Valley with the lights of the village spread out below. Andre took a back street on his left, below the ridge where the wind energy turbines loomed like giant, protruding pinwheels out of the earth.

Just as the farmers sat outside their cottages in the dying sun, so did the town folk sit on benches and wicker chairs in the light filtering out their open doors. Garden gates stood wide for neighbors to walk in for a chat and a cup of tea. Andre waved to several welcome faces as he passed. Below Oikos Crescent he entered the vacant market place, lit only with lanterns hung on spaced poles at each branching street corner.

“Good evening.” Lavi appeared beside him, stepping out of the dark like his very own shadow. Only his eyes gave off light, shining like the glow of the overhead lamps.

Andre greeted him in return, slowing his steps to match the Panoplia’s easy movements. “You all are out tonight.”

“We are out every night,” Lavi pointed out. His spear made no sound as it hit the cobblestones beneath his feet. Lavi used it as a walking stick in an absentminded manner. He conversed with Andre but, as always, his eyes were on their surroundings.

“Not this much,” Andre argued. “Not so close to the village.”

“Trying to get something out of me?” Lavi asked.

“Yeah, so?” Andre didn’t deny it. “You’re looking for something. Should I be looking too?”

“Do you see Malachi?” Lavi responded with the same snide tone as Andre and a sarcastic smile. “Then there is no message you need to know.” He let that settle, and Andre took the hint with no hard feelings. It had been worth a shot. Sometimes asking paid off when Lavi was in the mood to share. “There is nothing to indicate a disturbance.” The warrior didn’t mind filling him in a little. “Abaddon has not been seen since the battle. We have been watching, but there has been no movement from his hole.”

“That’s normal,” Andre saw no problem with this. It had been less than a week after the battle; Evil usually took his time licking his wounds.

“Yes,” Lavi agreed, “but a citizen reunion so soon after a battle is not.”

Andre understood the Panoplia’s reservations now. The island’s defenses were always a little thin after such an attack from Abaddon. They were usually given more time to recover before having to reopen the door to the outside world. “The Kaluma staff told the elders that the missions unit is fully debriefed and healthy,” he said.

“Yes,” Lavi repeated but didn’t sound anymore assured.

“What’s the problem?” Andre was a little alarmed by the Panoplia’s odd behavior. “Should we wait? I can call off the reunion until we’re ready. What does Malachi think? Has he talked to Theos?”

“He has spoken to Him,” Lavi nodded, “but there was no return message. We have been given no instructions to wait.” He stopped walking. “The block most likely comes from Abaddon. Our close proximity to his lair this week has undoubtedly clouded our perception. That is why we roam tonight, for clarity.”

“More deacons are scheduled for prayer coverage tomorrow before Eleutheros,” Andre added. Increase in spiritual coverage wouldn’t hurt either.

“Good,” Lavi agreed.

“But if Malachi receives a message—”

“You will be notified immediately,” the Warrior cut in absently with his gaze on the outlying alleyways once again. “You were going to the Community Center.”

Andre appeared lost a moment before recalling why he had walked to Kentro in the first place. “Oh, yeah.”

“Do not let me keep you.” Lavi maintained a straight face but didn’t bother to hide the amusement in his tone. “Get going, kid. Go mingle with the community while she is still there. Just be sure and play it smooth. Girls like a man with confidence.”

“Right,” Andre didn’t mask his sarcasm either. It was unfortunate that the Panoplia could read his thoughts so easily. Unfortunate and rather annoying. Walking in the direction of the Community Center, he left Lavi standing beneath a street lamp. “I’ve always wanted relationship advice from a spirit,” he shot the last sentiment over his shoulder, but Lavi was already gone.

The Community Center was a massive rectangular stone building lined with windows. It sat on the east end of the market facing the Alleluia House with two great winged doors which opened onto the street. The interior was lit with a welcoming glow of electric pendent lights. The center was used for anything from elder council meetings to worship services and feasts when the weather wasn’t ideal to hold events in the outdoor Alleluia House. In the evenings it was always open for the young adult crowd, fourteen and older, who wished to congregate outside of school.

The polished wood floor was open for games of basketball, volleyball, and indoor soccer. At the far end of the expansive room were the kitchens where food for the feasts was prepared. On an open pass-through counter sat a gathering of refreshments and snacks for the youth to enjoy. Several sat eating and chatting in migratory groups between the ongoing games and a cluster of tables set up in one corner by the kitchen.

When Andre walked in, several of his classmates were already there, including Svana and Jora. They were in the middle of a volleyball game, teamed up against each other with a couple of classmates.

Svana called his name and waved him over. “Play!” she commanded, shoving him toward the opposite side of the makeshift net held up with aluminum poles stuck into circular weights on the floor. “Jora’s team is in desperate need of help.”

“We are not,” her sister responded competitively, but to Andre she lowered her voice aside. “But please play, because we really are. We’re losing ten to three.”

Andre laughed and gladly took a position on the court. “Where’s Declan?” he asked after Svana served and propelled the ball his way. Moving directly under it, he popped it up and stepped out of the way so his classmate and friend, AJ Eckard, could tap it back over the net.

“He’s home,” AJ informed him. “His dad is still finishing the new stage for Saturday’s assembly.”

Declan’s parents were contractors and in charge of nearly every building project on the island.

A player on Svana’s team knocked the ball out of bounds, and it was Jora’s turn to serve. She set it up gracefully with an adorable little push off the balls of her feet for extra momentum which Andre admired. She squealed with glee as the ball landed within the court just over the net. Svana’s teammates scrambled but couldn’t save it from dropping and hitting the floor. Ten to four, they were catching up.

“Jora’s good luck charm has arrived.” Svana tossed the ball back to her sister for the next serve. She met Andre’s eye with lifted eyebrows and a subtle smirk. He was prepared to respond with a lighthearted jab, but Jora spoke first.

“He sure has. Four-ten serving.” She picked up her heels and continued the game.

They scored two more before Svana’s team regained possession of the ball. Andre used a lull in the volleys to glance around the room. The gathering of teens was thinner than usual. Andre attributed this to the time of year. Farmers were busy finishing spring planting and projects which had been put off around the farms over the winter. The teens of the community had a sense of duty and responsibility toward their families to help out.

Along with that, every citizen was getting ready for the Eleutheros. It was one of the most looked forward to event on the Koinonian calendar and everyone was involved in some way. Andre knew that the majority of the regulars missing at the Community Center were home helping their parents prepare. It was probably where Andre should have been, but his guilt was minimal compared to the enjoyment of being considered Jora’s good luck charm.

One absence in the center which did strike him as odd was Komer Costa. The komer didn’t always have time to spend with the youth at the center each evening, but Thursdays were usually his night to chaperone. It was one of the religious leader’s favorite responsibilities of the week, being little more than a grown kid himself, so Andre was a little confused.

“Heads up!” AJ called out as the ball collided with Andre’s left shoulder. “Wake up! They’re widening their lead again.”

“Sorry.” Andre passed a sheepish grin at Jora.

“I guess that luck was just a fluke.” Svana looked gleeful.

“Wait ‘til I serve,” Andre responded, pointing a threatening finger as if he would intentionally target his serves right at her. Svana grinned, bending her knees and readying her stance with the implied message that she was ready for whatever he could dish out.

“Anybody memorize their piece for the assembly yet?” Kai Brandt, Svana’s volleyball partner, asked from the other side of the net.

“You haven’t?” AJ spiked the ball with a flourish, and Andre took the position to serve.

“You do realize we graduate in two days?” He waited for the ball toss and situated his stance, directing the sharp serve at Svana.

“I know,” Kai shrugged. “I’ll get it done.” She was a well-known procrastinator.

“I’ll memorize it for you,” AJ grinned. “Then all you’ll have to do is move your mouth like a puppet. I’ll stand behind you and talk.”

“You’re taller than me,” Kai stated blandly.

“Just memorize your piece,” Svana grunted, hitting the ball with a thrust of her upper arms. She was annoyed that she seemed to be the only one focused on the game.

Not quite, Andre was in it, stepping in front of a distracted AJ and getting under the ball. It shot back over to the other side out of Svana’s reach, and the score was eleven to six; they were still in it.

“It’s unbelievable,” Jora commented after giving Andre an appreciative high five for his efforts. “I still can’t get my head around the fact that we’re graduating.” Her tone made it difficult to tell if she was excited or nervous. “It just came so fast.”

“Fast?” Andre asked mid-serve. It had not arrived fast enough. “This year needs to go fast.”

“No,” Jora shook her head. “Therapon can wait.”

“You’re not excited?” AJ looked as surprised as Andre. “I am. My brother said it was the best year of his life.”

“He told you about it?” Andre stopped, not even paying attention when Svana whipped the ball at him. Flinching, he caught it at the last second while waiting for AJ to respond.

“Not really,” he shrugged. “Just that he saw things he would never forget. Good and bad.”

“Right,” Jora’s fears were confirmed. “How is that fun?”

“Because it’s an adventure,” Svana responded with a touch of sarcasm. “Are we still playing, or do you forfeit?”

Andre served again, and this time Svana was ready for it. She smacked it hard, back over the net near the far corner of the court behind her sister. Jora dove, stretching out her arms and managing to get a fist under it before it touched the ground. The ball flew into the air, and AJ was ready to send it back over the net to gain another impressive point for the losing team. Andre and AJ cheered ecstatically. Jora lay stretched out, face down on the floor with an astonished grin of amusement on her face.

Andre offered her a hand. “Nice save.”

“Thanks.” She accepted it and allowed him to help her to her feet.

“That was brilliant. You okay?”

“Fantastic.” Jora blew her hair out of her stunning blue eyes. “I think we can win.”

“I think we should.”

They didn’t, but they came close. The final score was ten to twelve. Svana was merciless in her gloating but congratulated her twin on her skillful save. The Community Center closed soon after, and Andre and AJ walked the girls home. Since he did not have Jora’s father’s consent to escort her, he refrained from offering his arm as they walked. Instead, he gave her his zippered, hooded sweatshirt to wear and shoved his hands in his pockets while maintaining a respectful distance.

“What about you?” he asked. “Are you looking forward to Kylan returning on Saturday?”

Jora nodded enthusiastically. “Yes, I can’t wait. My mother talked to my father on the phone yesterday. He said Kylan looks older. Different, but the same, you know?”

Andre had forgotten that Mr. Kirkeby and his fishing crew were also on Kaluma until Saturday. They had recently returned from a short fishing excursion and were awaiting the go-ahead from the Acclimation Team to return to the main island.

Andre wasn’t Kylan Kirkeby’s biggest fan, but he was Jora’s brother. A strong personality with an aim to be witty at every turn, he was worse than Svana with the never ending jabs at Andre’s expense. It was always supposed to be in fun, but for Andre it was just embarrassing. He had not missed Kylan as much as the twins had over the last year.

“Everybody changes a little.” He stopped outside the gate in front of Jora’s house. Svana caught up and overheard their conversation.

“Ky won’t have,” she shook her head. “Not as much as Dad says. Ky never changes.”

“How would you know?” Jora argued. “He’s never been gone before. Andre’s right, everybody changes from Therapon.”

Svana rolled her eyes, “Andre’s right, everybody changesIkke være dumme, Jora. Not even the prophet knows everything.” She stormed into the house without saying goodnight to AJ who stood by with a surprised look on his face.

“Svana!” Jora was shocked, blushing red and glancing apologetically at Andre.

Andre shrugged it off like it was nothing. “She’s right, I don’t. Kylan’s fine, I’m sure.”

“No, you were right. She’s just upset because it’s the truth and she doesn’t want it to be. She’s just as scared about going next year as I am, but she doesn’t want to admit it.”

Andre couldn’t fathom why. “Jora—”

“I need to go in,” she cut off his attempt to argue before stepping away with a feeble wave. “I’ll see you tomorrow. Thanks for walking us home.” She passed a farewell to AJ and disappeared.

“I don’t get it,” Andre shook his head.

“I don’t either, mate. They’re so moody.”

“No, I mean why is everyone so stressed out about Therapon? Of course it changes you, it’s supposed to.”

“I know,” AJ didn’t disagree, “but some people don’t want to change.” He slapped his shoulder to get him moving again. “Want a ride home?”

Andre shook his head. “I want to walk.”

“Okay.” AJ let him go and took his own route back to the Community Center to retrieve his car.

Andre was wide awake and ready to move again. The night was perfect for walking and his mind was full. There was nothing lonely about the moor; not with the Panoplia roaming.

Chesed the Merciful and Shamira the Guardian had joined Lavi in the heather fields. Whatever concern that had been written on the Panoplia Warrior’s face while in the village appeared less prominent under the moon in the open air. The spirits emitted enough light to see by as he walked, and Andre ventured off the road to take a short cut through his neighbor’s acreage. Chesed was always flighty when the mood took her. Stretching her great expanse of wings, she rarely touched the ground while brushing the dew damp heather with the tips of her toes. She darted in and out of their close unit as they moved across the pasture. Flying ahead, she rose several feet into the air and hovered as she watched the ground below for miles on either side.

Andre knew a Panoplia’s sight had a range much further than the island was wide and nothing escaped them even in the dark. “All that energy, you could fly me home,” he suggested mildly. There was no reason to raise his voice even with the two yards of distance and height between them. Panoplia hearing was even stronger than their eyesight. Andre could whisper and Chesed would have heard every word.

“Tired already?” Her laughter rang like bells.

“It takes a lot of energy to impress a girl,” Lavi input while lazily twirling his spear.

“Lay off, would you?” Andre retorted as he quick-stepped to a low, stone dividing wall between two meadows. Stepping up, he maneuvered it like a tight rope and attempted to walk the entire length of the narrow shelf without aid of his arms to maintain balance. “I’m not doing that. Jora’s just—”

“A beautiful young female.” Shamira flew on his right with a dreamy look in the stars reflected in her eyes.

Andre felt the heat rise in his face.

“But she is not your equal.” Lavi walked alongside him, lower in height now that Andre stood upon the wall.

“Why, ‘cause she’s not a prophet?”

“No.” The warrior shook his head and missed the sarcasm in Andre’s response. “She carries a lot of fear of the world.”

“Doesn’t everybody?”

“Not you.” Chesed rejoined them by the wall. “You have a heart for it. Like your grandfather.”

Andre couldn’t help but feel pleased by the observation. “Yeah, but I kind of have to, don’t I? I mean, Jora only has to go for Therapon. She doesn’t ever have to leave the island after that if she doesn’t want to. That doesn’t make her unequal to me just because I want to do more.”

None of the Panoplia responded to this, and Andre frowned, getting their point but not liking it. Well, maybe she’ll change her mind when she sees what’s out there, he thought.

“You must give the girl some credit,” Lavi said. “She has endured your bumbling idea of courtship and has not been scared off yet.”

Andre responded to this by snatching the Panoplia’s spear and jumping down the other side of the wall, running at full sprint and laughing along with Chesed and Shamira at Lavi’s reaction.

“Look at the brilliance of this kid, taking a winged warrior’s weapon as if he has no fear!” Lavi rose into the air and swooped in with great speed. Picking Andre up under the arms he lifted him from the ground as he ran.

Andre caught his breath in the exhilaration of the flight and launched the spear into a shadowy thicket a few feet to his left. “Fetch!”

Lavi was kind enough to dip nearer to the ground before he unceremoniously plunged Andre into a bed of heather. Andre rolled, landed on his back, and twisted to his right to watch Lavi drop heavily beside the patch of brier with his spear sticking out of it. His two colleagues hovered a few inches above the moor, haloed by a star-filled sky, unable to quell their fit of laughter.

“No fear and a great deal of quick wit,” Shamira giggled. “The perfect formula for an Agubus.”

“If that is what it takes then I fear for this island.” Lavi yanked his spear free and turned on Andre with a look of determination in his eyes.

The boy knew what that look meant, and he attempted to scramble to his feet, ready to run. The warrior was too quick. He cut the distance between them in an instant and wrestled Andre back to the ground. “Alright, alright!” The prophet surrendered easily, pinned beneath the Panoplia and struggling for air. “Get off!”

Lavi was enjoying himself and wasn’t prepared to let him go that easily. Slamming the young prophet with the entirety of his weight, he refused to release him before receiving a full apology.

“Why should I?” Andre argued while struggling to breathe. “Where’s my apology?”

“Let him go, Lavi,” Chesed smiled. “He is human after all.”

“Yeah,” he agreed, “no smothering humans.”

“No de-arming spirits.” Lavi released his hold but not without whacking Andre over the head with the blunt end of his spear for good measure.

Andre winced and rolled to his feet. The meadow grass was damp. He was sweating and soaked from the dew. “I’ve got to go.” He attempted to brush the mud off his jeans.

“Steal and run, is it?” Lavi responded. “Get going then. You have a lot of cleaning up to do for that girl of yours.”

“Shut up.” Andre waved him off and ignored the echoing laughter of the Panoplia as he sprinted across the field to the Flaco farm. He wondered vaguely if all prophets received such ribbing from the spirits or if it was just him because of his age. He couldn’t imagine Lavi bulldozing his grandfather in that way. But then again, Dr. Dietrich had not been one to steal spears.

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