Back in the council room, Turmalis seated himself. He leaned back in the chair and crossed his arms to make his contempt for the mysterious proceedings obvious to anyone who looked at him. Jepok seated himself next to him as Judicators Turinas and Aldaris joined them.
"Again, my apologies for the delay. Let us cut to the chase," Aldaris said. "As most of you know, there has been civil unrest in Therazan since the Conclave instituted martial law."
"At your behest," Turmalis scoffed.
Aldaris floated him an amusing glance. "Yes. It was my intention to keep things from getting out of hand. You see, there is a Khalai faction that seeks to overthrow Judicator rule."
Turinas stiffened. "Impossible. That would violate the very foundations of Khas' teachings. They would not dare!"
"They would and they have," Aldaris replied. "Other cities have faced their wrath in the past several months through unexplained accidents and the disappearances of citizens. I have recent reports of these faction members attempting to gain support for their cause in Scion. They even had the gall to pass out profane and blasphemous literature denouncing the Conclave. I have reason to believe they will next strike here in Therazan."
Turmalis uncrossed his arms. "I was under the impression Scion's populace was obliterated."
"We have repopulated the city with volunteers from other provinces since then," Jepok replied.
Turmalis looked back at Aldaris. "Even so, they could not possibly be as serious a threat as you imply."
"More than you realize. They have not only Khalai and Templar in their ranks... but Judicators as well," Aldaris said with disgust.
Turmalis' eyes widened with disbelief. "And you have proof of this?"
Aldaris gave a sour expression. "Of course. The leader of the heretics is here in Therazan now."
Turmalis stood. "Then what do you plan to do about it? If these terrorists are planning an attack on the city..." He paused. "Oh no... Endara..."
Aldaris waved for Turmalis to sit down. "She is safe with Verana. I have already confined the citizens to their homes. That should keep them safe from harm. As for what I intend to do about it, that is why I have called this meeting in such haste. I have need of your input."
"As long as the populace is safe from collateral damage, we should act quickly to stop this faction before their violence spreads," Turmalis replied.
Aldaris eyed him and spoke with a knife-edged seriousness in his voice. "Then you are with me?"
Turmalis waved his hands out of frustration. "Of course! I may not have always agreed with you or the Conclave's judgments but I respected and accepted them."
"You have my support as well. All of my warriors are at your disposal," Turinas added.
Aldaris turned to Jepok, his voice brimming with sarcasm. "And what of you, mighty Judicator? Can I count on your support as well?"
Jepok sighed and rose to his feet, towering above the others. "I tire of your game, Aldaris. Just get on with it."
Aldaris let out a wicked laugh. "Very well, then." He waved his hand and the large doors behind him opened as the contingent of Zealot guards entered the room to block escape. Aldaris rose from his seat. "Judicator Jepok, I hereby place you under arrest for treason and crimes against the Empire."
Turinas blinked his eyes in swift comprehension and rose from his seat, slowly backing away from the behemoth Judicator. Turmalis still sat in his seat, looking at Jepok dumbfounded. "Jepok?"
Jepok looked down at him sadly. "Every so often a puppet has to cut his strings."
Aldaris waved his hand again to the Zealot guards. "You see? He admits his involvement. He confesses and you are all witnesses."
"I confess only to having made peace with my conscience. Your uncompromising hatred and intolerance has tainted the Conclave. You believe you are above the very people who have given you the power you wield. You are not."
"Save your words for the Tribunal. It will make a fitting epitaph at your execution, traitor," Aldaris sneered. "Arrest him!"
An explosion rocked the room, filling it with a cloud of dust and throwing everyone off balance. Turinas slipped as rubble pelted him and crashed backwards into a guard. Turmalis waved the dust out of his face as he struggled to his feet. As the dust began to settle he spotted a newcomer in the proceedings tapping Aldaris on the shoulder. Aldaris turned his head to see a familiar face.
"En Taro Adun, Judicator!" Sinar said. He punched Aldaris in the face with a devastating uppercut that sent the Judicator flying through the air. He turned to Jepok who smashed two of the guards head-first into each other. "I hope you will excuse my tardiness, Master Jepok."
Jepok picked up Turinas and hurled him at the other Zealots moving in on him. "No need. Your arrival was right on cue."
Aldaris staggered back to his feet, seething with anger. He stared across the room at Turmalis who stood in shock at the events that were transpiring. "Make your choice now, Turmalis! Kill them in the name of the Khala!"
Turmalis closed his eyes and made his choice.
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