Everyone rose and all eyes turned toward the door of the inner palace where Randle and Cassia were entering the Dome. Gideon walked at their heels, and behind him came a dozen Elvan Bero'thai. Randle wore a dark blue uniform trimmed in gold and carried a short scepter in the crook of his arm, a polished staff of Silverwood with a large blue crystal cut into the shape of a flame set in its end. The crystal flame caught the sunlight streaming through the windows and shimmered like a real flame near the King's elbow. Cassia held his other hand and looked stunning in her blue velvet dress.
Gideon's face was a mask of seriousness as he followed in the King and Queen's wake. His eyes glittered almost as brightly as Randle's scepter. He wore a grey shirt and pants and a dark grey cloak similar to the one he'd worn when he'd first arrived in Kindel's Grove. The blue flame medallion centered his chest.
Jase followed Gideon with his eyes as he drew near, and the big Dymas met his gaze. A faint smile touched Gideon's lips and, with a flit of his eyes, he indicated the source of his amusement. Jase looked up to see all hundred plus members of the lesser councils staring at the Dymas dumbfoundedly. Many looked worried - the older members anyway - since they understood the full import of Gideon's return. Even the lesser judges did little to conceal their surprise.
Randle took his seat, and those at the table followed. There was a collective swishing of clothes and a ripple of murmurs as the twelve lesser councils settled in above them. Once everything quieted, Randle stood to address them.
"Dymas, if you'd please," he said, gesturing to the stones. Jase felt Gideon draw on Ta'shaen and the seven Communicator Stones flared blue, filling the empty seats with the glowing, semi-transparent images of the Kings and Governors of the other ruling cities. Although he'd never seen the stones work, he'd heard enough from his mother to know that the link made it possible for them to function as if they were truly sitting at the table.
"Honorable members of the lesser tribunals," Randle continued, "we of the Kelsan High Tribunal welcome you to this emergency session. It is under the most dire of circumstances that we gather this day. Our nation is threatened once more by enemies of old, and it is our duty as leaders to confront it."
He paused and let his eyes travel the length of the tiers. "Already lives have been lost in this war, as evidenced by the vacancies in your midst." He gestured with his scepter, and the crystal flame flashed blue. "It grieves me, and it angers me, but it also steels my resolve. Those who took part in this assault have been destroyed. Those who orchestrated it will be hunted down and destroyed as well."
Jase watched as the majority of tribunal members nodded their agreement, their faces grimly determined. The lesser judges, however, kept their faces smooth. Glancing down both sides of the crescent-shaped table, he saw a variety of emotions on the faces of the High Tribunal. Most notable was Elder Nesthius. The aging High Priest's eyes were bright with excitement as he watched Randle speak.
It surprised him that a man of the church, especially the High Priest, would show so much eagerness for war, but then he thought of Gideon. The Dymas was both a Prophet and a warrior and had served Elderon in both capacities for three centuries.
As if drawn by his stare, Elder Nesthius turned to regard him. The High Priest's gaze locked on his, and for a brief moment Jase was powerless to look away. It gave him the feeling that Nesthius was taking his measure. When Randle starting speaking again, the spell was broken and Jase hurriedly looked away. Elder Nesthius may be over ninety, but he had the intensity of a forest fire.
"The attack last night was savage and powerful," Randle said, "but it was nothing more than a single gust of wind from an approaching storm. A storm so vast and potentially destructive that we will need every weapon at our disposal to combat it. It is for this purpose that we have gathered. It is for this purpose that I wish to invoke Military Law and Power and turn matters over to the Core Tribunal so they may counter this growing threat."
A ripple of mutters swept through the lesser tribunals, and heads pulled together in conversation. Randle drew all eyes back to him as he continued. "To explain the seriousness of the danger we face, I call upon the Guardian of Kelsa's Flame, Gideon Dymas."