"Take Amy in your bedroom with you," I whispered to Sam as we finished cleaning the mess.
"Gladly," she said, still upset. She stood to go without another glance at Joseph, but she snatched the five dollar bill from the table on her way out. "C'mon, Amy," she said, "let's play a game." She walked into the kitchen and took the towel and the remains of the cup with her.
"Uh," Amy said, glancing at me. She was feeling insecure.
"Go ahead," I said to her. "I won't be long."
"Okay." She followed after Samantha.
Joseph was sitting on the couch now, so I sat in the chair. "Would you like more coffee?" I asked.
"No, thank you," he answered. "I must hurry, and I have caused enough disturbance here. I sense that there is unrest about my visit."
"No," I said. "You are welcome..."
"It's okay," he said. "I am a stranger and you people already have enough trouble of your own. Everyone is worn thin right now. You need time to repair and rebuild. I understand."
"Well," I said, "then let's talk about your concerns. We've talked enough about mine, unless you have some insight for me."
"Insight?" he asked. He leaned forward with his elbows on his knees and looked into his hands again. "No, Brother. I have no insight about these mysteries. I'm sorry."
I was no healer, but I had a pretty keen sense about people myself. I could tell that Joseph knew something he was not saying. Nevertheless, Joseph emanated goodness. I trusted him. If he had secret knowledge, I assumed it must be for good reason. "Okay," I said. "Thank you for indulging me."
"Not at all, Simon," he said. "It is a fascinating story."
"I suppose." I sat back, exhaled to clean the air and gave him my full attention. "Let's move to your serious business," I said. "What brings you here?"
"Yes," he said, and he furrowed his brow as though wrestling with a difficult decision. After a moment, still bent forward and looking at his hands, he said, "Tell me Simon, are you the Avenger?"
The question was shocking, being asked so directly. This was, indeed, a serious matter. I saw no reason to discuss it here. "Well," I said, "I don't know about that, Joseph." I paused to collect my thoughts. "Surely," I said, "your business has nothing to do with that."
He stared down at the floor, not speaking.
"Our teaching is so different, Simon," he said. "Let me tell you the story, and we will see if we know it the same."
"The story of Hell," he said, looking into my eyes.
I became very uncomfortable. "Speak quickly, and softly," I said, leaning toward him. My heart began to pound.
"Of course," he said. He moved over on the couch toward me and leaned in. We were very close. "The Resting Dread knew about us long before we knew about them," he began. "Such is their way. They are constantly seeking and studying. They are constantly learning new things." He looked at me and I nodded my agreement. "We had never known them, however, until that day." He looked again, and again I nodded. "But first, before we met them, we met the other, the most hated, the Demiurge."
"Yes," I said, and I shuddered.
"The stories say there was terror when he appeared in the Rest, more than one hundred meters tall. He stole the Lightstone. And, breaking into the old temple, he stole a Keystone. When he had them, he was gone, and the Rest was thrown into Darkness."
"Yes," I said, "though I had never heard that he was 100 meters tall."
"It is as my grandfather told it," he said. I nodded, and he continued. "From that day forward, the Human dead could not enter the Human rest. The Demiurge delivered the Lightstone and the Keystone to the Dread Rest. From that day, when Humans died, they entered the Dread Rest, where they found no rest." He paused and swallowed hard. "And that was not all," he said. "Using the Keystone to the Human Rest, and bringing with them Dread light, so that they could see where we were blind in the endless Dark, the Dread began raiding the Human Rest. We do not know why they came," he said, "but they took only captives with them. Before long, the Human Rest was almost empty. All of Resting Humanity were carried away to the Dread Rest."
"To Hell," I said.
"Yes, so we call it," he agreed. "Things continued in that way for more than one thousand years. Eventually the Dread raids stopped, and there was only a Remnant left in the Darkness of the Human Rest, a small group of less than 1,000 men and women."
"No," I said, "there were 1,587."
"Yes," I said, "I have seen their names on the Altar of Remembrance at Knight's Hall."
He stared at me in obvious awe. "Such a privilege, brother," he said. "Then, though the date is not known for sure, the Raven Sama had mercy on us."
"May his reward never cease," I said, following the custom.
"Yes," Joseph answered, smiling. "He brought the Four Gifts, the Dread Keystone, the Hell Map, the Sliver of Light and the Dark Secret." He glanced at me, and I nodded. "You carry this Dark Secret?" he asked, though he must have known the answer.
"I do," I said, touching my chest.
"Of course," he smiled. He went on, "And so, with the new hope of the Four Gifts, the Remnant named a leader and took an oath."
"Yes," I said. "An oath to repair."
"And our order," he said, "the Knights of the Repair, was born there in the dark."