“Wiz, Stew…” Debbie said, “We need to talk to everyone in the dining room, please.” Her eyes were wet and cheeks were flush.
“Sure,” Stew said, looking at Wiz as he walked toward the archway that led to the dining room.
“This is going to be bad news,” Stew whispered. “I can feel it.”
The members of the group filtered in and sat at the table. Mike and Debbie, the owners of Queen Anne’s Revival Bed and Breakfast, were the last to sit down. “I’m sorry guys. The mayor called us. He wants you out.”
“What? Why? He can’t do that.”
“He said with Stew being questioned by the police for murder and kidnapping…”
“But I was cleared of that. Alex is right here and she told them about Zachary.”
“I know. And it’s Zachary coming after you he’s concerned about. Now that your sister’s been taken… He wants to repel crime, not attract it. And he feels that if you’re here…”
“That’s the silliest logic I’ve ever heard.”
“It is, but he’s threatening us with taking the Revival.”
“How can he—“
“It’s a historic site. This house was used as a hospital during the Revolutionary War and it’s been in my family ever since. It’s also rumored to have been one of Blackbeard’s houses where he stored treasure. Members of the NC Anthropological and Archeological Society have asked to investigate several times. The New Bergen Historic Association has been wanting it for years for a museum. The mayor has fought to let us keep it the whole time. All my ancestors are buried in the cemetery down the street. Every one of them would crawl out of their graves, find me and bludgeon me to death with their bones if I ever gave up this house. I’m truly sorry, but you have to go.”
“We’re not leaving New Bergen. He can’t kick us out of the--”
“It’s ok, Brandr. We understand. I sense Zachary’s involvement in this. We’ll figure out something. We sincerely appreciate your hospitality while you allowed us to stay here.”
“If there were something else I could do…”
“Don’t worry about it. We’ll get packed up and be on our way.”
“We’ll give you a full refund.”
“No. You wanted to do some renovations. Keep the money. We don’t need it.”
“Okay, but only if you go to church with us tonight. There might be someone there who can help you.”
“It’s a deal. As long as the mayor isn’t going to be there.”
“No. We’re Baptist. He’s Methodist.”
“Wiz, this is our pastor, Carl Clement. Pastor Carl, this is Wiz.”
“Nice to meet you, Wiz. Welcome to First Baptist. Now… is Wiz your given name?” the pastor asked, giving Wiz a firm handshake.
“No, Sir. It’s not.”
“I’m just joshin’ ya’. Come on in. All are welcome.”
“Am I welcome, too?” Regan whispered in Wiz’s ear.
“They can’t see you, so, yes. You’re welcome, too.”
They were unable to find seats together for all of them. Stew, Alex, Marc and Samal sat next to an older couple in the second row. The husband eyed Samal’s golf cap as if he were trying to will it off the satyr’s head. Samal just smiled, looked away and tried to ignore the stares. The rest of the group sat with Mike, Debbie and the pastor’s wife in the front row.
“My friends, we are blessed with special visitors today. Visitors from Charlotte, Salisbury and all the way from Norway. And they have some special needs.”
At a park down the street from the church, a crowd was gathered, listening to a street preacher. Dressed in dirty, blue jeans, a dingy, black, hooded sweatshirt and a beat up motorcycle jacket, he did not look very much like a preacher. A scraggly, red and white beard and a shiny, bald head, he looked more like a Hell’s Angel than a religious leader.
“Whatever the Devil sets before you to make you fall, the Lord uses as a stepstool to lift you up. And whatever the Lord uses to lift you up, the Devil cannot tear down. Some of you call me homeless. But no one is homeless who has Jesus in their heart. When—“
The preacher’s eyes rolled back. His body was frozen.
“Fred?” someone in the front of the crowd slowly moved toward him. “Are you okay? Fred…”
Fred gasped and lurched forward, bracing himself with his hands on his knees to keep from falling down.
“Fred, what happened?” the man who had stepped toward him asked, wrapping his arm around him for support.
“Give me a second,” Fred said, holding his hand up. After a moment to catch his breath, he started walking toward the parking lot. “Follow me. God has a mission for us.”
There were a few groups that were only there for the show and they either walked over to picnic tables and sat down or towards downtown.
“Where are we going, Fred?”
“Church? Our mission is to go to church? I thought we were at church. Church is the people who worship. Not the building. Isn’t that what you always say?”
“Yes. But today we’re going to a building. Don’t worry. It’s the people inside who are our mission.”
Wiz stood at his seat in the sanctuary, addressing the congregation. “He was framed for kidnapping and murder by a man named Zachary Di Corvo. This man has taken Stew’s younger sister, Rebecca. Now, he’s brainwashed the mayor into threatening Mike and Debbie Watson, your friends, with taking away their livelihood unless they kick us out.”
The front doors swung open. Golden light poured in from outside, with a crowd led by the street preacher.
“Ten Dollar Fred has just received word from above that someone in this church at this very moment needs my help,” Fred announced.
“Now, Fred…,” Pastor Carl interrupted. “I appreciate your willingness to help, but in the future…”
“I apologize for our intrusion but I was told that it’s very important. I’m looking for a… a wizard?”
“Wiz. That’s me,” Wiz said, still standing. “Do you have somewhere for us to stay? Twelve people and a dog?”
“Well, I certainly do. But are you sure there’s not one more? I was told fourteen total, including the dog and someone who has been abducted. There is one who is… hidden… somehow. And someone else is more than he appears to be. Not that that affects the head count, though.”
“Fred, is it?” asked Wiz.
“There are certain details about us that these people might not understand.”
“My friend, the truth shall set you free,” Fred assured him.
“What are you hiding?” someone in the congregation yelled out.
“Why should anyone help you if you can’t be open and honest?” someone else asked.
“Contrary to what you expect, we are a very accepting fellowship,” Pastor Carl commented. “You need not be afraid of imperfections. ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.’”
“It isn’t the revealing of our sins I’m worried about. Samal… come here, please. Remove your hat.”
“Are you sure?” Sam asked. “We could just run out the door.”
“No. It’s okay. They want to know. We’ll tell them. Zachary’s gathering an army. Perhaps this is ours.”
Samal took off his hat and held it in his hands, waiting for the mob to close in on him, accusing him of being the Devil.
“Sam... Samal… is a satyr. Half-goat. Half-man.”
“Like Pan,” a voice noted.
“Yes. Exactly. We saved his life from being ended at the hands of Zachary. He feels that he is indebted to us. As far as I’m concerned, he’s just the newest member of the family. The one who is hiding… That would be Regan. She’s a faerie. There is more to this world than what you can see and touch.”
“Abominations!” someone yelled from the back.
“Janice. Please… It is apparent to me that there is something going on here that we cannot yet explain, but that does not mean that it is not from God.”
“This man, Zachary, is evil. An evil that is rarely seen. He’s building an army of followers. Now, I don’t know what his intentions are, exactly, but I have an idea. He’s been alive for a long time. He’s very intelligent and extremely persuasive.”
“How old is he?” a man in the front pew challenged.
Wiz gulped before answering, steeling himself for whatever came after. “1250 years old.”
“Twelve-hundred?” the front pew man gasped. “Are you all that old?”
“Tófa, Brandr and I are also that old. We’re immortals. Stew and Alex have a special situation but they are immortals, too.”
“You don’t think this Zachary could be the Antichrist, do you?” Pastor Carl wondered.
“I had not thought of that. If he isn’t, he probably thinks of himself along those lines.”
“So we could be talking about the Apocalypse?” Carl continued.
“I suppose we could, if you want to talk worst case scenarios.”
“Supposin’s for sideways talkers,” an elderly woman in the second pew from the front chided. “Do you sup-pose… that we could get a straight answer? You’re scarin’ people here.”
“Yes, we could be talking about the end of the world, technically speaking. But are we?” Wiz shrugged. “Your guess is as good as mine, if not better. I’m not a good guesser.”
“But you’re a good supposer,” the elderly woman added.
“I suppose I am.”
“What are we really looking at?” she grilled. “What can this Zachary fella do?”
“Honestly,” Wiz answered, “we’re still trying to figure that out ourselves. We do know he’s very resourceful, extremely determined and quite arrogant. He can do at least as much as us, magically. Those attributes alone add up to a genuinely scary individual. Fred, if you don’t mind, can we have a look at your place?”
“There’s no time like the present. Is there?” Fred qquipped.
“It’s a little campground outside of town.”
“Wait,” Tófa interjected. “Camp Granganimeo?”
“Yes,” Fred replied. “You’ve heard of it?”
“Well, yes, just recently. It’s in foreclosure, isn’t it?”
“Technically, yes. But I’m working on remedying that.”
“Let us help. financial resources is one thing we are not short on.”