Early that afternoon, they arrived at a cul-de-sac in front of a two-story home that looked almost identical to all the homes around it. It was quiet and as normal as Winghaven could get. Alysa got out, still angry about her defeat earlier that morning. Creed picked up on it, “Your mom taught you the mystic arts,” he began sympathetically, “Are you sensing anything about this house?”
She brushed him off, “My senses aren’t that good.”
“Concentrate for a second. I wanna see if you pick up on anything.”
Annoyed but compliant, Alysa closed her eyes and reached out with her non-physical senses and a few moments later, they opened and a curious expression crossed her face, “What’s in that house?”
“Buddy of mine. He’s got some problems.”
“I can tell. Is… it safe?”
“From him? Yeah. His wife? Probably not. Come on.”
Creed knocked on the front door and a middle-aged woman answered and Alysa could tell from the look on her face that she didn’t want to see Creed. Meanwhile, he seemed apologetic which was odd for him. She felt out of her depth just as much as she did against Queen Faith but for an entirely different reason.
“Whatever you want, I don’t wanna hear about it,” the woman growled, “Leave us alone!”
Creed spoke quickly as if afraid she would shut the door in his face, “I know, Susan, but this girl needs help,” he motioned toward Alysa.
“You say that kinda thing a lot, Farrell,” the woman placed her hands on her hip, “We’re trying to have a normal life as much as we can but you keep coming back here and -”
Creed’s frustrations began bubbling to the surface but he tried his best to keep the peace (what little peace there was to be had), “She just survived the Iseda Community Center bombing. She lost her mom and now people are after her. You can have whatever problems you wanna have with me but she’s got nothing to do with all that.”
The woman gave Alysa a brief, concerned look, then seemed to contemplate it for a moment before responding, “I’ll go talk to Gary. Wait out here.” She disappeared behind the door and Creed sighed to himself as he waited for her husband to come back. Alysa glanced at an upstairs window and saw a little boy and girl staring at them. She waved but they continued to stare, motionless. A moment later, a middle-aged man came out the front door. “Hi, Farrell,” his greeting seemed sad but sincere, “Let’s go out to the garage.”
In their garage, Gary sat a pitcher of water and a glass on a shop table. “Real sorry about this,” Creed apologized, “I hate having to come to you again, but I think your… condition might help us.”
“It’s fine,” Gary smiled warmly, “Like I said before, there’s a reason for it and I’m willing to be of help.”
“I know Susan and the kids hate me. They got a right to.”
“They don’t hate you,” Gary shook his head and Alysa thought it was likely one of the few times this man was ever dishonest.
Creed also seemed to not believe him but didn’t draw attention to it, “Yeah, well… I wouldn’t come to you unless I really needed to find some people.”
Gary rolled up his sleeves, “Who is it?”
“They’re followers of Iseda. Part of a sect called the Iconoclasts who don’t normally have any records or anything. Hard to track. They also tend to use magic, so it could make things trickier.”
“I get it. I’ll uh,… see what I can do…,” he stopped for a moment and corrected himself, “…What can do,” he turned to Alysa, “Just so you know, this might be a little hard to watch. You might want to wait inside the house.”
“I’ll be alright,” Alysa assured him.
Gary knelt down on the floor and closed his eyes. The light shone through the garage window, sending a beam to him which looked like a Renaissance painting. “Heavenly Father, I give my body as a living sacrifice…,” he began praying quietly, his voice barely audible. Instinctively, Alysa hung her head out of respect but noticed Creed continued to watch, which she felt was out of line. She silently tried to get his attention by waving a hand but he didn’t notice. She gave up and rolled her eyes, then kept her head hung. It was at that moment a white light began to shine through Gary’s chest to the point where the shadowy image of his heart and other body parts were slightly visible. Curiosity got the better of Alysa and she found herself watching alongside Creed. His prayer gradually trailed off and Alysa could see a spectrum of light emerge behind him that looked like unfolding wings. His head raised and his eyes snapped open, revealing two white, pupil-less voids. Alysa was alarmed but since Creed didn’t react, she remained calm.
“Farrell Creed,” Gary’s voice was gone, having now been replaced by a deep, echoing roar. “You’ve come for assistance once more. My calling is not to aid your investigations as you know. There is a higher purpose for me here.”
“Yeah, but I know you’ll help anyway,” Creed remained nonplus, “It’s what your kind does, right?”
Gary’s head tilted to the side but never quite looked Alysa’s way, “I see you have brought Alysa Saraki. Greetings, child.”
“You know me?”
“Who are you?”
“My name is Briathos.”
“Are you… possessing this man?”
“Only the damned possess mortals. This is my vessel until I fulfill my true purpose.”
“We need answers, Big Bird,” Creed interrupted, “You know my questions without me having to ask them, so let’s cut to the chase.”
“You continue to disrespect my station. Yet, I’ll honor your request,” the voice of Briathos did not convey annoyance. There was only truthfulness and patience, “There are people who seek to harm the two of you. They’ve taken many innocent lives and I know who leads them.”
“Who is it?,” Alysa asked.
“Listen carefully, child. There is a false prophet in the House of Iseda. Do not listen to the lies of dead men.”
“I-I don’t understand.”
“That’s the kind of information you get from this guy,” Creed whispered, “Believe it or not, it makes sense later.”
“I do not see the future but I understand fate. Surely, if I showed you the destination, it would defeat the purpose of your journey. Seek enlightenment, Alysa Saraki and then you’ll be ready to face your enemies. I’ve told you everything you needed to know. Farewell and peace be with you.”
The light disappeared like a bulb going out and Gary collapsed. Creed wasted no time in pouring a glass of water and Alysa helped him sit up. “Get away from him,” Susan rushed into the garage, making Alysa wonder if she had been eavesdropping the entire time. She snatched the glass from Creed and he and Alysa politely stepped back. As Gary picked himself up off the floor, she brought the glass to his lips; he was weak but he managed to stand on his own. As he drank the water and gathered his strength, Susan shot Creed a look, “You got what you wanted. You can go now.”
“Like I said, I’m real sorry for -”
“You’ve done enough. Get the hell out of here.”
Creed silently turned and left but Alysa stayed behind for a few moments as she watched Gary silently wrap his arms around Susan to comfort her. As she left the garage, she looked back briefly and saw the children again; this time, there were at the front door where they remained silent. She waved once more but they never stopped staring. Alysa turned and walked to Creed’s car as he prepared to leave.
“What’s wrong with Gary?,” she asked.
“He came to me a few years back. Thought he was possessed just like you did. None of the ministers could help him so he got desperate enough to talk te me. We found out it was an angel, not a demon but… who the hell knows why it’s here.”
“And you use it to solve mysteries?”
“If I need the insight. Hate myself for it, too.”
“Yeah, that wife really doesn’t like you.”
“People like that want quiet lives and I don’t blame them. They’re not gonna want a guy like me upsetting that. Especially when I remind them of something… that ain’t easy to live with.”
“There’s a false prophet in the House of Iseda,” Alysa repeated the angel’s warning, “… And don’t trust the words of dead men?”
“Briathos don’t give straight answers but when you know, you’ll know.”
“It doesn’t seem like we’re getting any closer to figuring this whole thing out,” Alysa got into the passenger seat of the car and slumped down.
Creed got in the driver’s seat, “Things aren’t always what they seem. You know that. We’re closer than you think.”
“Oh, really? We still got some hitmen after us, that priestess bitch might show up to try to finish us off, I know for sure I can’t fight and it’s not like you can punch magic, so how are we close?”
“And people say I’m cynical,” Creed started the car and drove them away, “We’re making a pit stop. I got no doubt your mom gave you everything you need and we just need to expand your mind a little like Briathos said. Enlightenment, y’know?”
“How am I getting enlightenment, Farrell?”
Pete’s Medicine was a small store containing many herbal remedies, weaved items, carvings and other Native American goods along crowded wooden shelves. Aylsa’s mother mentioned going to the shop once or twice but she was unfamiliar with it. As they entered, Creed called out, “Hey, Pete.” The backdoor opened and a short Native American man with long hair came out, “Is that my favorite white guy?,” he made his way around the counter and clasped hands with Creed. A Native woman emerged soon after, “He’s only my second favorite,” she said with a smile, “Sorry Creed, but you’re no Ryan Reynolds.” The shop was owned by Pete Bone Splitter, a man belonging to the Shawnee tribe. His wife was Lucille Hudson, a Comanche woman. “I’ll win your heart yet, Lucille,” Creed wrapped an arm around her shoulder.
“The cops came here yesterday, asking about ya,” Pete told Creed, “Not that I gave them anything.”
“They tell you much?”
“You were seen causing trouble just after the community center got bombed and they wanted to ask some questions… the usual,” he turned his attention to Alysa, “You’re Mama Saraki’s kid, ain’t ya?”
“Yeah,” Alysa answered meekly.
“We’re so sorry to hear about your mom,” Lucille told her.
Pete continued, “I don’t know if you been watching the news, but her face has been all over it. She’s been declared a missing person after the bombing and they think it might have to do with those missing teens,” he pointed at Creed, “Cops said you were on that case.”
“Lemme fill ya in,” Creed sighed and explained the situation. Once they were brought up to speed, Creed mentioned the run-in they had with Queen Faith and the recent visit with Briathos. He finished by saying, “I think Alysa has a lot of potential locked away. There’s no way Mama would leave her helpless. She just needs to… y’know -,” he fumbled over his words but Pete and Lucille both seemed to know what he was driving at.
“Awaken?,” Pete said helpfully.
“Yeah. Think you can help her?”
“I think we have something that can help with spiritual healing and things like that,” Lucille turned to Alysa, “If there is something buried deep in your subconscious that’s stopping you from reaching your true mystic abilities, it might help, but… it can be intense.”
“Can’t be much worse than the shit I’ve already seen.”
“I don’t doubt it,” Pete flipped the Open sign on the door to show that they were closed for the moment, then asked Alysa bluntly, “How do you feel about peyote?”