He leaned forward and placed his hands on the table. "As you do these things be wary. Be
ready for an attack at any time, in any place. The Agla'Con have created a talisman that acts
much the same as the Veilgates of the Old World. They can pass through this gate and appear
anywhere they choose as if stepping from thin air. Nowhere is safe. No place is secure. Twice
now they have used it -- once to send Darkling troops into Chellum Palace, and then a second
time to send a small army into the heart of the Chellum army as it marched to Fulrath. If they
choose to, they could open this gate and drop Shadowhounds in our laps."
He saw the fear in their eyes as they contemplated his words.
It was Elder Zanandrei who broke the silence. "How many Agla'Con are we talking
about?" he asked.
Croneam answered for him. "According to my Master of Spies, the Meleki army alone
has five hundred or more."
"Five hundred!" King Agisthas gasped. "What's to keep them from simply stepping
through this gate of theirs and conquering any of our cities on their own?"
"Several things," Gideon said patiently. "First: Shadan, arrogant fool that he is, wants
credit to go to his cult. Second: even being so numerous, the Agla'Con couldn't maintain their
hold on what they captured. Using the Power is draining. They need the Meleki and Darkling
armies to occupy the places they conquer. And third: the Agla'Con are needed to control and
direct the shadowspawn they have created. Without the Agla'Con to keep them in check, the
shadowspawn would turn on each other and the rest of the Meleki host."
"I see," Agisthas said, sounding only partially relieved. "I don't suppose there is a way to
eliminate the Agla'Con?"
"By myself?" Gideon scoffed. "We'd need at least a third their number in Dymas to even
challenge them. I'd prefer half. Two to one odds aren't insurmountable."
"If the Dymas are trained for battle," Croneam added. "Even with the Gifted who may
come forward to help, it's unlikely any of them will have been trained for battle."
Gideon nodded. "Which is why it's so critical that we find Dymas. I can't train them all
myself." He turned and glanced briefly at Jase. "I barely have time to train those I do know about.
Not only do we need Dymas with skill and power, but we need Dymas who have the nerve to
train the Gifted quickly. We don't have time for reservations about their safety. Keeping them
from hurting themselves will do little good if they aren't ready when Shadan's forces show up to
He took a calming breath. "There is one more reason the Agla'Con can't simply attack us
on their own," he said, getting back to Agisthas' question. "Probably the biggest reason. While it
is true that they hate us terribly, they don't like each other very much either. They spend as much
time plotting against one another as they do plotting against us. They are as likely to start fighting
amongst themselves as to attack Kelsa if they think they can gain something by it."
"And thankfully so," Seth added, "or it would be over for us already."
"With five hundred Agla'Con, I'm not so sure it isn't," Judge Geshiann said.
"It's definitely not a war we can win," Gideon told them. He saw General Crompton
stiffen, but he continued before the general could speak. "Not without first healing the Earthsoul
and sending Shadan and the other Refleshed from the world of the living. Healing the Earthsoul
will also lessen Maeon's power. He is the real enemy in this war. It is to him that Shadan and the
Agla'Con look for leadership and power. Heal the Earthsoul, and we can better fight what's left."
"So, in essence, we are back where we were twenty years ago," Judge Zeesrom said.
Gideon looked around the table. "I'd say we are in worse shape than that."
"Do we have a Talisman of Elsa?" Croneam asked.
"No," Gideon answered. "And that is the heart of our problem."