Khorun stood silent in the darkness of a room ornately carved from slabs of agate and pillars of chiseled limestone. Narrow beams of light stabbed downward through cavities in the cracked and crumbling stone roof; the only other light in the chamber coming from a cluster of machinery and tubing connected to a cylindrical stasis cell. Through the transparent glass, he watched as the upper half of his brother's unconscious body, battered and mutilated, drifted in the bubbling current of a green luminescent liquid, held in place only by hoses connected to his waist.
From the darkness came a concerned voice. "What is his status?" Turmalis inquired.
Khorun sighed and turned to see him step into a shaft of light, the Judicator's sullen face mimicking his own. "He is stable but unconscious. His legs could not be saved in time. The Apothecary said it is too soon to know if he will survive. If he does, he will spend the rest of his life in the cramped confines of a Dragoon."
Turmalis placed his hand on the Zealot's shoulder armor, a gesture of sympathy. "You should rest. I will stay here with him for now and you can return when you are refreshed. If there is any change, I will alert you immediately," he said solemnly.
Khorun stepped away and turned, the Judicator's hand falling away in the process. "I will go, but not to rest. I will be in the Great Temple should anything change but otherwise... I do not wish to be disturbed."
Turmalis' expression changed to one of uncertainty. "What will you do there?" he asked.
Khorun walked into the shadows, vanishing in their embrace. "I shall pray." His words reverberated in the chamber, and in Turmalis' mind.
High above the crowded strata below, High Chancellor Priax observed the reconstruction probes tearing down the damaged buildings and erecting their replacements. He turned to his Khalai assistant, Sclavus. "Double the work effort. I want every Protoss that can stand out there with the probes. Inform them that Praetor Fenix is missing and presumed dead, and that the extra effort is in his memory. Antioch must be fortified by dusk. I will not accept any excuses."
"As you command, Lord Priax," Sclavus replied with a bow.
Priax turned and strode regally toward the nearest lift. Along the way, he spied a female Zealot fiddling with a nearby shuttle's auxiliary power conduit trying unsuccessfully to remain inconspicuous. "You there. Where is Judicator Turmalis?" he demanded.
Verana knelt down on one knee, eyes to the ground. "I believe he is with the Apothecary, High Chancellor."
Priax stroked his jaw curiously. "He was wounded in the attack?"
"I do not believe so, High Chancellor," the female Zealot replied.
Priax eyed her suspiciously. "You look familiar, Zealot. What is your name?"
"Beladona, your excellency."
Priax couldn't place her face, nor the name, and shrugged. "Very well. Go back to whatever it is you were doing. We have a city to rebuild and little time to do it in. Report any who shirk this duty and you will be rewarded." He turned and walked off towards the lift, failing to notice the amused scowl on Verana's face, her eyes like daggers on his back.
Khorun knelt on the smooth granite floor of the Great Temple, the Khalai-sculpted statue of Adun looking down at him as the rage and desolation swelled within him. Being further out from the main city, it was rarely used by the Templar, who generally preferred the closer proximity of the sanctum in the Archives instead. It was only one of several forgotten and abandoned temples surrounding the perimeter of Antioch province, and there were likely even more ancient and undiscovered ones hidden in the thick jungle foliage. Here there were no holographic projectors to bewilder him. This time, if the spirits came, there would be no doubts to their authenticity, for which he now had many.
"Spirits of the Khala... I command you to appear!" he shouted. His eyes wandered left to right and back again, scanning the room as he waited for something to happen. After several minutes had passed, his doubts about the previous vision grew stronger, and he tried thinking of various ways he and his brother could have been fooled. He finally settled on hallucinations cast by some mischievous High Templar that either of them might have inadvertently snubbed or offended.
"We are as real to you as you are to us," came the cryptic words of the spirits. Khorun turned to see one of them divide into a total of three, none of which he recognized.
"You said that we were your chosen. That my brother and I were the ones you were entrusting with the secret of a dark evil. Why did you not warn us that Nurohk would be... disfigured?" Khorun rumbled.
"Destiny is a strange thing," one of the spirits said, circling him. "Prophecy is the warning that foretells what Fate will call into being. If it is written, it shall come to pass. It is not the how or why that we can change, but the who and the what," another finished.
"My brother was almost destroyed all because I was slowed down by the snot of an alien animal, and you speak to me in nonsense riddles," Khorun growled, his words dripping with contempt.
"Not at all, young Zealot," the spirit replied. "We are all puzzle pieces in a great play, but we are interchangeable. We cannot stop these events from taking place, but we can change their outcome by changing the roles of those involved. How one individual reacts can make all the difference."
"We are saddened by what happened to your brother. We did not expect this to occur. You must understand that we are doing what is within our meager power to help you," said the third spirit.
"I do not want your help. It has saved no one and therefore it is useless. Be gone! Leave me be."
"We will bother you no longer in your time of grief," said the first spirit. The others looked as if to object, but were waved to be silent. The spirits faded into nothingness.
Khorun picked up a stone from the ground and considered it for a moment. Fueled by his feelings of anger, sadness and guilt, he hurled it with great force at the statue of Adun. The impact shattered the stone head, and the pieces fell in a random pattern around its base.
Khorun fell to his knees and wept.
"The city is in disrepair and I find you hiding in here. What are you doing here, Turmalis?" Priax demanded.
"Priax?" Turmalis said recognizing the voice. He turned and glared at this intruder. "I should ask the same question of you," Turmalis responded with disdain.
Priax approached him, glancing briefly at the stasis cell holding the severed body of Nurohk. He extended his arm and jabbed a finger at Turmalis. "You will address me as High Chancellor Priax, Judicator," he hissed.
Turmalis gripped the arm like a vice and twisted it away, squeezing hard. "This is my Province. I am in command here. If you have any issues with how I rule it, I would highly suggest you take it up with the Conclave."
Priax yanked his arm away, appalled. "How dare you touch me... I should kill you where you stand."
Turmalis crossed his arms. "You would find me a most formidable opponent since our last encounter."
Priax laughed. "Would I now?" he said with amusement.
Turmalis' eyes glowed briefly. "Indeed. You would."
Priax's face grew uncertain. Was this fool bluffing him? Who could be greater than Priax with a psimitar? This imbecile was likely just overconfident in his ability. Still, there was something in the Judicator's voice that struck a nerve. If it was a bluff, it was a good one.
"Perhaps the next time we meet, I will take you up on that and we will see who is the better. Right now there is a city to rebuild and a world to defend. Or has sitting with a single mutilated Zealot in the dark addled your mind and made you forget that? What you see in these inferior Zealots I will never understand," he commented, before stalking off and leaving Turmalis there alone, once again in shadow.
Turmalis sighed and placed his hand on the glass of the stasis cell, looking sadly at Nurohk as the green torrent of bubbling liquid buffeted his body around.
"I see myself," he whispered.
The Antioch Chronicles™ © 1998, Eric Dieter & Ruben Moreno. All rights reserved. The Antioch Chronicles™ trademark and associated logos are the exclusive property of Eric Dieter & Ruben Moreno. Characters and distinctive likenesses thereof, character names, item names, place names, named events, artwork and all other related material not disclosed herein are protected under the laws of the United States of America and other countries. Any reproduction, retransmission, or unauthorized use herein is prohibited without express written permission.
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