Gideon rose to face the shocked silence. "I know many of you thought me dead," he said. "I know some of you are disappointed that I am not." There was a ripple of uncomfortable laughter before Gideon continued. "But the truth is, I was captured and imprisoned, and I spent the last twenty years in a Shadan Cult dungeon. A month ago members of the rightful government of Melek learned of my imprisonment and freed me. And for that, the nation of Kelsa owes them a great debt. For not only did they free me, but they freed the truth behind the resurgence of the Shadan Cult, the rise of the Con'Kumen, and the reasons behind these recent acts of aggression. They freed the truth of the danger we face."
He paused and looked around, and Jase realized the Dymas had everyone's attention. If he didn't know better, he would say half of them were holding their breath. "Throy Shadan has been refleshed once again and is preparing to pick up where he left off at the Battle of Greendom. His armies are twice what they were twenty years ago."
At the far end of the table, Chief Judge Zeesrom raised his hand in question.
"Yes, councilor?" Gideon asked.
"But for Shadan to be refleshed means the mission to heal the Earthsoul failed. Is that correct?"
Good, Jase thought, Zeesrom is with us. He knew what Talia had told the man. Apparently, the Chief Judge had decided she was speaking the truth.
"Yes," Gideon answered, turning back to face the lesser tribunals. "And though it grieves me to say it, the Earthsoul is still dying." A mumbling of voices filled the Dome as those in the assembly turned to each other to express their shock and disbelief. Most people knew of the prophecies concerning the Earthsoul, and Jase thought most people believed them to some extent. But many of those seated before him looked skeptical as they studied Gideon intently.
"The mission to the Soul Chamber was discovered by Shadan, and we were attacked. The Talisman was rendered useless. Areth Fairimor and his warders were killed. Benak Fairimor and I were taken to Melek and imprisoned. The only good news is that I was able to deal such a blow with Ta'shaen that Shadan was sent back into Con'Jithar and has only now been able to return to the world of the living." His eyes were icy cold as he surveyed his audience.
"But his minions have not been idle the past twenty years. They have spawned an army far greater than anything Kelsa has faced before. If I were to elaborate, you would think Con'Jithar itself was coming for us."
A wave of murmurs swept the crowd once more, but Jase could see that doubt was starting to fade. It was being replaced, he realized, with fear.
Randle stood. "What to do about Shadan's return and the state of the Earthsoul are matters for the Core Council," he said, and the chatter died at the sound of his voice. "War is imminent." He glanced at the canvas-covered doors to the Overlook. "War is already upon us," he amended. "Shadan's armies, led by his cult, are massing for an invasion of our nation. There is evidence Riak is involved as well." He turned to Gideon who continued.
"I have seen this army," the Dymas said. "It is made up largely of Meleki soldiers blinded by the lies of the Shadan Cult, but there are enough Darklings and other shadowspawn to decimate the city of Trian without cultist help." He leaned forward for emphasis. "Even worse, this army is led by a numerous host of Agla'Con and K'rrosha. They are gathered east of Zedik Pass and could begin marching at any time."
A deep hush fell over the Dome, and Jase looked up to see fear in nearly every face.
Randle's words cut through the silence. "You know what we face. I ask you to give us the power to combat it. And so it is with heavy heart that I, Randle Fairimor, call for a vote to invoke Military Law and Power."
Gideon spoke first. "I vote yes."
"As do I," said Cassia, rising to stand beside her husband.
Croneam rose, followed closely by Elison, Seth, and Andil. "Yes," they said and remained standing.
Jase rose. "Yes," he said and felt all eyes turn to regard him.
"Yes," said Elliott, and Talia was only a heartbeat behind him.