Iasis was a place of tranquility. The house of healing was a massive stone structure with many branching wings and long corridors connecting brightly-lit rooms painted in therapeutic tones. Andre found Costa in single patient room lying on a thick mattress between crisp linens. He was medicated and receiving fluids through an intravenous tube. He had not woken.
Andre sat by the window overlooking the sea. The komers had ushered out the healing staff and given him time with Costa alone as soon as he arrived. Showered and dressed, he felt infinitely better than he had a short time before. Now he was left with only his mind to plague him.
“He said it was over,” Andre spoke out loud without reason, but Lavi didn’t mind. He stood near the closed door of Costa’s room, his back to the wall and his muscular arms crossed. He had just returned from one of several consecutive island patrols. There still had been no sign of any infiltration of foreign forces. Andre struggled to understand what this meant. “Why would he say that if everything is okay?”
“Abaddon has been known to lie before.”
Andre shook his head, continuing to stare at the rain splattered window. “Not this time. I saw it. Theos granted him permission. The vision…” Andre shook his head, unable to put that Light emanating from the chasm into words. “He wasn’t lying.”
“Perhaps not,” Lavi didn’t argue, “but his efforts obviously failed. He entrapped one,” he nodded toward Costa, “and drew you in. All to no avail.”
“Yet,” Andre looked at him pointedly, “to no avail, yet. We don’t know how he’ll come out of this.” He gestured at the bed as well. “What’s going to wake up with him? I want him moved to Kaluma right away.” The elders approved it his decision, but it makes Andre sick to do it. He rubbed his tired eyes with his palm and returned his attention to the window. “I want him here—”
“But you’re afraid of how Abaddon will use him.”
“There is nothing wrong with precaution.”
Andre agreed but didn’t respond.
“You feel you should go with him?” Lavi read his mind.
“Why not? He could just as easily use me as Costa.”
“You’ve had contact with Evil many times.”
“I’ve never been inside his lair before,” Andre pushed his point. He swallowed hard and avoided the Panoplia’s penetrating gaze while focusing on maintaining a steady voice. “I feel…really heavy.” The weight of the cave had not left him when he left it. “I feel like my Sight is cloudy.” He looked back at Lavi and allowed the spirit to see the fear in his eyes for the first time. “What if I missed something?”
Lavi returned the gaze for a long time before he spoke. Costa’s shallow breaths filled the room and nothing else. “You are the prophet, but you are human. It is a wonder that you are not in the same position,” he referred to the patient in the bed once again. “If doubt and clouded vision is all you received from the encounter, then believe yourself blessed and praise Theos. The sight of the Panoplia does not lie. We saw nothing to fear from the Returned. We see nothing clinging to you. Let your mind rest. Our Protection will not.”
Andre felt an immense amount of gratitude for the spirit guardian. Lavi had always appeared stern and cold compared to the compassion of Chesed or the bubbling humor of Shamira, but the Warrior was nothing but honest and true. He was a tremendous support beneath Andre’s obvious weakness.
There was a knock at the door and it opened. A healer in a pale blue uniform poked his head in and requested entry. “We are ready to move him if you are, Agabus.”
“Are the komers still here?”
“Get them, please,” Andre ordered softly. “They will accompany Komer Costa to the ferry.”
The healer nodded and retreated, leaving Andre alone with his mentor once again. He moved forward in his seat so that he could reach for Costa’s cool hand lying at his side. He touched it for only a moment, noting the grotesque track of scars and burns. Running his own hand through his hair, the prophet released an exhausted sigh. It was two in the afternoon. He had missed his graduation assembly and didn’t even care.
“Forgive me,” he prayed. “I just want to see what You see.” His desire was selfish, but he was in pain. Andre dropped into a tone of frustration and gazed at the still form while his building emotions simmered deep within. “You gave him permission, so I’ll deal with it.” Abaddon needed proof of their loyalty? Andre touched Costa’s hand one last time as he stood and prepared to leave the room, no less angry, but far more resolute. “I’ll make sure he gets it.”
The falling of rain covered the sound of the rustle of frayed wings in the smog belching from the mouth of the cave. A skeletal shape stretched his limbs and blinked his marble eyes from the recesses of veiled shadow. All the while he sat and waited he made no move beyond the entrance back into the world he had just emerged, though the craving was strong. Nor did he slip further into the chasm breathing at his neck for he had not yet been invited. Often did the detestable host of the glorious pass by, but he did not move to engage them. It was not in the orders to give his presence away too soon. Wait, and take shelter in the obscuring camouflage of rank and sinful air which would hide him from detection. It was not in his nature to disregard orders, but the aroma of wholesomeness was strong and tantalizing.
“Welcome to the land of the pure, my friend.” His master emerged from the abyss with open arms. “You made it.”
The thing called Havoc rose from his perch with a ghastly grin on his horrid features. All beauty had faded like a dream that never was, leaving behind only pale skin stretched over angular, protruding bones. Shreds of blackened fabric were all that remained of once glorious robes, and its wings were useless limbs carrying matted feathers of sickly green.
“The Vessel which gained your entrance?” Abaddon enquired. “Oblivious?”
Havoc’s leer widened in reply with a low, hungry growl somewhere deep in his throat.
The Evil One was well pleased. “The allure is tempting, I know, but we must give them time to become complacent. Feel the lamentations they send to heaven. They are strong and crushing. We must wait.” He stretched out a directive hand and stood back to allow Havoc to descend into the lower chamber. “They will not withstand what is coming.” The echo of Evil rang deep in the abyss, following in the wake of Havoc’s maniacal snarl.