"Both," Jase answered, shifting his shoulders uncomfortably.
"So why did you follow them?" Croneam asked.
"I don't know," Jase told him. "Curiosity perhaps."
"Is that all?"
Jase hesitated. "I suppose I wanted to believe it might be real."
"But you weren't forced to go?"
"No," he answered. "I chose to."
Croneam leaned forward, a twinkle of understanding in his hazel eyes. "What do you think would have happened if you had ignored the vision and the whispering?"
"The prophecy wouldn't have been fulfilled, I guess."
"Wrong," Croneam said firmly. "It simply wouldn't have been fulfilled last night. The scriptures don't say exactly when or by whom the prophecy will be fulfilled, only that it will be fulfilled. If you had chosen to ignore the whispering, the Earthsoul would have whispered to you some other time. If you were to continue to ignore Her call, She would simply select someone else who would listen."
"I hate to cast doubt on your theological optimism," Elliott interjected, "but what if time runs out before these prophecies can be fulfilled? I mean, what if the dark prophecies - and I know there are some - what if the dark side wins out before the prophecies of light come to fruition? What if the Earthsoul dies before Jase can heal Her?"
Croneam shrugged. "We'll have to have faith that won't happen."
"Faith," Elliott grumbled, "isn't much good against a sword-wielding Darkling. It wasn't faith that stopped the killing last night, but this." He shook his sword in his fist. "In a fight like that, I'll take cold hard steel over something I can't see, anytime. Faith didn't keep a dozen women from getting their throats cut by those vermin. Faith didn't stop the awful from happening."
Croneam leaned forward and looked Elliott in the eyes. "The awful, as you so aptly named it, was also prophesied," he said softly. "If not, then the night of blood spoken of in the Dy'illium is yet to be fulfilled. Not a very comforting thought, all things considered."
Frowning, Elliott fell silent.
Croneam studied him for a moment then continued. "Some things happen for a reason," he said softly. "Some things simply happen. You can't explain them. You can't even come to terms with some of them. All you can do is pick up the pieces and move on. To do nothing mocks the agency given you by the Creator. To do nothing is to give Maeon the victory without a fight. You know bloody well his minions are exercising their agency - doing all in their power to bring the dark prophecies to pass. And what's more, they believe in those prophecies. They have faith in them. Rely only on your sword if you wish, young Prince. I'm going to look to a higher power for help."
An awkward silence fell over the group and stretched to uncomfortable lengths. It wasn't until Talia and Teig began to talk quietly to one another that the others in the group followed suit, trading small talk designed to cover their nervousness. And they were nervous, Jase knew. He could see it in their eyes and hear it in their voices. Everyone except Seth, Elison, and Croneam, he amended. Those three looked ready for war.
He picked at his food and stayed silent, preoccupied with the images of the vision. He knew he needed to tell Gideon what he'd seen, but the Dymas still hadn't arrived. A glance at the large grandfather clock showed only a half hour remained before the start of the tribunal. If Gideon didn't join them soon, any sharing of the vision would have to wait until this afternoon.
As the minutes wore on, the chatting gradually ceased until only the loud ticking of the clock remained. Finally, Elison rose from the table. "Time to go," he said. "Most of the lesser tribunal members have undoubtedly gathered already. They will be eager to see what we have to say."
"And not so eager to accept it," Seth muttered.
During the minutes prior to a meeting, the Dome usually thundered with a din of voices so loud it made communicating with the person next to you difficult. Today, however, was different. The Dome was subdued, almost hushed. The five tiers of seats were filled, but those occupying them kept their voices low as they talked, occasionally casting frightened glances in the direction of the Overlook and frowning worriedly. It was easy to see why they were concerned.