The unending night was broken by streaks of light. Stars: millions of them. Unknown, anonymous, unaware of the tiny craft that rocketed past them bearing its passengers toward an uncertain reception at the Jedi Temple.
After locking the guidance system on autopilot, Ben Ken'ba slid from his seat, his sword rattling against the navigation console. He was tired; his body ached from the day's fighting, as well as the ghost pain from the man in the co-pilot's seat. All this on top of the Jedi's damned insistence that he go to Coruscant along with him.
Habit had Ben reaching for a stim-stick, the familiar rush of adrenaline putting things into perspective once again. Deal with what you can, let the rest sort itself out along the way. "Get your ass to the med bay," he growled, glaring down at the Jedi. The older man was in no shape to argue with him at this point. If it was necessary, he'd knock Jinn out and drag him there.
"I was just going to suggest that myself," Qui-Gon countered mildly as he stood, his right arm pressed against his chest. "If there is one to be had on this vessel."
"There is." Ben's eyes flicked to the charred area on Qui-Gon's shoulder, mentally assessing the wound and what treatment it would need.
The Jedi merely returned the stare. The only evidence of the pain he had to be feeling was a slight tightening of the skin around his eyes. Otherwise he appeared totally unaffected. "And how do you know that?"
"Have been on this ship before, belongs to a man named Cratos. He owes me." This said, the fighter left the small bridge, heading down an unmarked corridor, his path taking them deeper into the bowels of the cruiser.
Ben stayed silent and Qui-Gon was forced to resort to sifting through those memories of the other man that he could recall in search of an answer. "He's made a lot of money off you."
"So have a lot of people, it's the way of the Arena. Some people get rich, some people die."
"But not you."
"Oh I got rich all right, just never managed to die."
"But you wanted to." It was a statement, not a question.
"When the time was right. It was today until someone interfered."
"Forgive me for hindering your plans." There was a hint of humor in the older man's voice. "I just had no desire to die myself at this point in time so your doing so would have been inconvenient."
Ben palmed open a door and gestured the Jedi through into a small but well stocked medical bay. "There was no reason for you to die. She had me, that's what she wanted."
Qui-Gon sat on the exam table and started to pull off his tunic. His movements were slow and painful and, after a moment's observation, Ben made a low sound of annoyance.
"Hold still," he commanded, pulling out a dagger and expertly splitting the garment up the seams so that it fell from the larger man's body to the floor.
"You know, I may have wanted to wear that later."
"Then sew it back together when we're done here. Sit still." Hands that were surprisingly gentle in their touch went to work, first applying an anesthetic and then debrading the charred flesh.
Through it all, something was still gnawing at the fighter and he finally spoke. "Why did you think you were going to die?"
A layer of artificial skin covered the raw, angry flesh of his shoulder and Qui-Gon channeled the Force into the injury, encouraging the new cells to grow. How to explain the mechanics of a life-bond to someone who had never heard of one before, let alone been a part of it? "It's simple. If you had, I would have."
"Sounds a little melodramatic to me, Sar Jedi," Ken'ba scoffed as he checked the bandage over the other man's wound.
"Call it what you will, but there is a bond between us and I am telling you the truth." Qui-Gon concentrated and sent a pulse of energy along the link that connected them. Ben flinched and the Jedi nodded. "See? I feel what you feel and vice versa. It's there, you cannot deny it."
Angrily the fighter slammed the instrument he had been using back into its drawer. "That's a load of crap. The last thing I want is some 'bond" to a fool of a Jedi who can't keep his damned nose out of other people's business! Hear me out on this, Jinn. When we get to Coruscant you do what you have to but I'm gone."
"It isn't crap my friend." The older man's eyes held a wealth of knowledge and sadness in them. "It is the will of the Force, there's nothing you can do to fight it."
"Fuck the Force!" Ben shouted, stalking through the door, his heavy footfalls hanging in the air long after the fighter had left the room.
"I'm afraid it does not work that way," Qui-Gon murmured sadly. The trip to Coruscant would take them almost one standard month. There would be time to talk of this later. Now he had to concentrate on healing himself. He had the feeling that showing any weakness when dealing with his reluctant bond-mate would not be beneficial.
With a sigh, the Jedi arranged himself into his favorite position for meditation and closed his eyes, giving himself over to the pervasive rhythms of the Force, allowing them to guide and heal him.
"Biggest load of crap I've ever heard..."
Ben's muttered comments preceded him as he stalked through the corridors of the cruiser. Unfortunately, its small size meant that there weren't many places to go. The cargo hold took up most of the space, while the med bay, three cabins, and a tiny galley used up the majority of the rest. Thankfully - for Cratos was a man who wanted the best - there was also spacious lounge that could double as a training facility with only a bit of renovation.
Food wasn't a problem. The cruiser was well stocked for whatever trip the information broker had been planning. Fresh meat, breads, vegetables, a wide variety of spices and condiments and a selection of wines and liqueurs that would do any connoisseur proud.
An image of Cratos' expression when he found out that his ship was gone made the fighter laugh, the sharp bark loud against the silence of the galley's unadorned walls and floor. The stretching of his facial muscles brought a twinge of pain with it and Ben rubbed at his cheek with his palm. His hand was tinged with blood when he pulled it away and it was then he remembered the lines the Empress had dragged across his face with her nails earlier in the day.
Satisfied that everything on the ship was as secure as it could be and that he and the Jedi wouldn't starve during their journey, Ben palmed the lights in the galley off as he headed out of the room. Choosing one of the cabins at random, he peeled off his clothes, tossing them in the sani-unit - who knew if there was anything on board that would come close to fitting either him or Jinn.
A glance in the mirrored wall of the 'fresher room revealed the image of a wild man. Most of the dried blood had flaked off of his face during the run from the palace to the port, but enough of the gory mask remained to create an unsettling impression. Bared in the harsh light of the small room, scars stood out in stark relief against the darker tan of his skin. If he had wanted to, Ben could have recalled where most of them had come from and who had given them to him, but he had no such desire at this time.
Slapping a hand against the water control (and silently thanking Cratos for being extravagant enough to have such a luxury on his ship), Ben stepped under the pounding spray. The heat and force of the water rinsed the accumulated blood, sweat and dirt from his body, leaving the fighter feeling cleaner then he had in all his years on Golgatha.
Leaning his palms against the wall, Ben let the force of the droplets work at the tension in his back and shoulders, slowly eroding it away as a river would the sharp edges of a boulder in its path. Tightly drawn lines relaxed, revealing a youthfulness that was not at all apparent in the face he presented in public.
Blue-green eyes closed and Ben rested his forehead against the cool wall of the shower stall, relaxing for what felt like the first time in his remembered existence. Free. No more challenges, no more battles, no more dealing with the whims of the Bitch and her power-hungry court.
The sensation would have felt better if there hadn't been that slight tugging at the back of his mind. The reminder that, while he may have been free of Golgatha and all it represented, there was someone else who claimed a hold on him now, sent the vestiges of calm the fighter had found skittering away.
Probing at the connection as he would a painful wound, Ben found only silence at the other end. The Jedi was there - but then again he also wasn't, not consciously.
"Good, maybe he'll stay that way until we get to Coruscant." The muttered words were drowned out by the noise of the spray, then all was quiet as Ben turned off the water.
Shaking his head to remove the excess water, he moved over to the sonics, letting the quick blast dry him. Dressing in his now clean garments, Ben shook another stim-stick out of the container, frowning when he saw how few were left in it.
As addictions went, the adrenaline-loaded sticks were mild; their loss wouldn't cause death or hallucinations. If there weren't any more on the ship though, the fighter knew he was in for several uncomfortable days. Readily available on the open market, their abundance was the one reason Ben had allowed himself the luxury of the temporary relief they offered. There was no way to govern or limit their spread - half the populace used them, to cut them off would have been madness.
Unfortunately, that bit of information did nothing to help his present situation. What had begun as a minor habit had developed into a full-fledged addiction that worsened with each passing year he spent under the Empress' control.
Training would help. Sparring would be even better, but he doubted that the Jedi would be in any shape for that soon. That left one solution: the careful rationing of the supply he did have and an immediate search for something that could provide a substitute for the rush the adrenaline dose gave him.
Muscles flexed under sun-bronzed skin as Qui-Gon studied his shoulder, comparing the movements of his now healed arm to those of his unscathed one. Near to the same range of motion, movement mostly free of the pull of healing skin; three days of almost constant meditation had restored his limb to nearly full health. The only thing that could be improved upon was his strength. That would come with training and time- something he had an abundance of at this moment.
He had seen little of Ken'ba the past two days. The fighter had dropped off meals for him at first in the med center and then in the cabin he had appropriated. Other than that, the younger man had hardly spoken and only then if asked a direct question.
Ben seemed jumpy, a direct contrast to the deadly calm that normally seemed to surround him, and Qui-Gon had so far been unable to ascertain the reason. There were no enemies out here unless you counted those each man carried within himself. Perhaps, the Jedi mused to himself, those were the worst of all.
The ship's stores had included a variety of clothing and, though none of it was of a perfect fit, Qui-Gon had managed to find a tunic that fit him through the chest. The fact that it was too short in the arms was of little consequence. Any covering was better than none in protection against the chill air of the cruiser.
The first day of his meditation had been occupied with healing his arm. The next two - while still involving using the Force to rebuild his shoulder - had been less of a concentrated effort. As his attention was free to explore other pathways of the Force, Qui-Gon had found himself examining the narrow but unbreakable threads of the bond that connected him to the other man.
Through the link, he had been able to determine that Ken'ba spent much of his time practicing, working himself daily into a state of exhaustion for some unknown purpose. Perhaps - if the bond between them had been deeper - the Jedi could have understood his lifemate's motivations. As it was, he was still mostly blocked from the younger man's mind.
He's going to kill himself - and me - if he keeps this up. After pulling his tunic back on, moving carefully to avoid stressing his shoulder, Qui-Gon left his cabin, walking down the hallway toward the lounge. Lush maroon carpeting whispered under his boots and artwork (probably very expensive but none-the-less gaudy artwork) adorned the lavender walls. Whoever this 'Cratos' was, he had money. Just not much in the way of taste.
The door to the lounge was open and Qui-Gon leaned against the left side of the entryway, watching quietly as Ben worked with a set of jury-rigged weights. A tingle of desire shivered through the part of his mind that housed his bond-awareness, but the Jedi firmly quashed the erotic leanings of his thoughts. There would be no more of the mindless animal coupling between them. The next time they came together it would be with the knowledge of who and what they were. He would not be ruled by the base demands of his body. He would not.
"If you're well enough to be up and walking around, you're well enough to make your own food." The comment was accompanied by the dull thump of the weighted bar hitting the carpeting and the deep, even exhalations of the fighter's breath.
"What? Not going to tell me how much cooking I owe you for the meals you prepared already?"
Ben swiped at his face with a deep purple towel, then tossed it over the bar. "Consider those paying off the debt I owe you," he stated, leveling at stare at the older man as if daring Qui-Gon to contradict him.
"Paying your debts means a lot to you, doesn't it?" the Jedi queried, moving from his place in the doorway to take a seat on one of the sofas that had been pushed to the side of the room. The butter-soft leather looked and smelled to be brand new and proved to be very comfortable, though the electric blue color was a tad off-putting.
Ben reached for his shirt, plucking a small container from the pocket and shaking it. Realizing what he was doing, the fighter scowled. He did not need one of the sticks to deal with the Jedi, he could handle Qui-Gon on his own. "One clings to whatever shreds of honor one has left."
"Honor is also important to you."
"You Jedi are so perceptive."
"Perceptive enough to see that you are terrified of letting anyone get close to you."
Ben flung himself to his feet at that, glaring at the larger man who simply looked back questioningly. "You don't know shit about me Jedi Don't try to fool yourself that this bond or whatever you claim it is tells you any different." Plainly on the edge of losing control, the fighter snarled out a curse, grabbed up his scabbarded sword and strode out of the lounge, intent on putting as much distance as possible between himself and the other man.
Qui-Gon rubbed at his temples, debating going after the younger man, then deciding against it. He couldn't go far, not on this ship. There had to be some way to break through the defenses his life had built. Ken'ba had to have a weakness, and once Qui-Gon found it, he would exploit it ruthlessly until Ben came to understand that they were a pair. This was not something that could be turned off or ignored until it withered away from neglect.
The bond was for life and a life apart from his bondmate was something that the Jedi did not want to contemplate.
The low, incessant purr of his comlink roused Qui-Gon from his light doze and he reached unerringly for the device, thumbing it on. Flicking the lights on at a low level, he raised the conlink and spoke. "Jinn."
"Just what did you do on that planet, Qui-Gon?"
"I'm not quite sure what you mean, Mace. I sent you my report on the unfortunate incidents that proceeded my departure, what more is there?"
"Revolution," Council Member Adi Gallia interjected bluntly, her tone holding a good bit of frustration. The dark-skinned Jedi Master was known to control a huge information gathering network, and being caught blind-sided by this development had plainly annoyed her.
"The people are rebelling?" Qui-Gon could hardly believe this was possible. There had been no sign of an incipient revolt during his time on the planet.
"Empress Nepasa made a public confession - a live public confession carried on all the com-bands planetwide." Muted ticks sounded as Mace brought something up on a viewscreen before him. "Corruption, slavery, drug-trading... and this is only the start of the list she gave. Needless to say, Golgatha is in an uproar and the government has been toppled."
Qui-Gon raked a hand through his hair, pushing it back out of his face, his mind fixating on the image of Ben whispering into the Empress's ear. Now he knew exactly what the other man had said to her. "I suppose this means that Golgatha will not be allowed to join the Republic?"
"Time for jokes it is not, Qui-Gon! Demanding explanations the Senate is. Answers we must have for them."
"As soon as I have an explanation, I will share it with you. Until then you must trust in my judgement on this matter."
The harsh bark of laughter that came in answer was easily recognizable as coming from Even Piell. The scarred, one-eyed Jedi had always made plain his dislike of Qui-Gon's sometimes unorthodox handling of situations.
"We must have those answers soon. There is unrest in the Senate. Those who were the most vociferous in their support for Golgatha's entry into the Republic are demanding answers and we must be able to provide them with proof that the crimes the Empress admitted to were actual ones." Ki-Adi-Mundi's tone was even more solemn than usual, an indication of how serious the situation actually was. The Jedi had enemies in the Senate - some known, others unknown - and a hint that his mission to the planet had led to this uprising would cause all of them to become more vocal, to demand more restraints be put on the Order.
"I will have answers for you upon my return to Coruscant. Will that suffice?"
A lingering silence while the Council shielded the line to converse amongst themselves followed, then Mace spoke again. "That will be acceptable. We can explain the delay due to your injury and the travel time."
"May the Force be with you, Master Qui-Gon."
"And with you also, my Master." After he cut the connection, Qui-Gon leaned back against his pillows, studying the shadows on the ceiling and trying to quiet his mind. He knew the answer to the Council's questions but what would be the cost of bringing Ken'ba before them? He would not have his bondmate thrown to the mercy of the Senate - considering their mercurial nature, they would as soon tear him to shreds as honor him for exposing a corrupt regime. This would be much simpler if the fighter was speaking to him, but conversation seemed to be something they were incapable of.
With a sigh, Qui-Gon set his com-link on the bedside table and pressed the heels of his hands to his eyes, searching for some solution to the ever increasing problems that surrounded him.
In his hands he held salvation and damnation both. This tiny stick, the last in his possession, could provide blessed relief, but if would only be for a while. Then the craving would be back and there would be nothing to slake it.
Temptation dragged at his hands, bringing the adrenaline-loaded dispenser closer to his mouth. Al it would take was a small motion and it would be between his lips, his teeth would be closing on it, the familiar rush of the drug would invade his body...
A violent tremor raced through the fighter and the slim rectangle dropped to the floor, bouncing under the bed, becoming lost in the shadows there.
"Fuck!" Ben was off the bed in an instant, not caring that he pulled the tangled, sweat-soaked sheets with him. Spewing out curses that would have caused some of the Arena's most seasoned gladiators to blanch, he dug under the bed, frantically searching for his last remaining stim-stick. His last hold on sanity.
The slickness of the floor and the thin edge of the stick combined to elude him and Ben howled in frustration, smashing his fists against the side of the mattress as he tried to vent his anger and frustration. Two weeks of ever increasing withdrawal had left him prone to violent mood swings and almost uncontrollable shaking. Dark circles ringed his dulled eyes and sweat spiked his sandy hair, darkening the color to almost that of blood.
The universe narrowed down to that moment. Years of pent up rage and frustration boiling over to be unleashed on the room and its furnishings. The bed shattered under a wild flurry of sword strokes, splinters of the heavy Andaluvian wood raining down to land on swatches of the linens and puffs of the mattress's stuffing. The other pieces of furniture fell next, toppled, then hacked apart by rage and Force-enhanced strength. Hangings flew from the walls, torn to shreds even before they hit the floor. Ben raised his arms to deal another blow to the bedframe, at the same time levitating a crystal vase and propelling it toward the wall.
The crash he expected to hear never came, however, and suddenly the fighter found himself wrapped in a pair of enfolding arms. Struggling became impossible and his sword slipped from his hands as another round of shaking began, draining the strength from his body.
"Easy, easy," Qui-Gon murmured, sweeping the area around them clean with a careful use of the Force, then lowering them both to the ground, cradling the smaller man's body against him.
Ben fought viciously, hissing and cursing the whole time, but his body simply was past the point where it could fight efficiently. Finally, exhausted, he slumped against Qui-Gon's chest, his breath rasping in and out of his lungs in labored gasps.
"Need - can't find - " he panted, making a vain effort to escape the larger man's hold once again.
"Can't find what a'shera?" the Jedi kept his voice low and soothing, trying to calm the younger man.
"Fuckin' stim-stick. Dropped it and..." Ben waved a hand toward the wreckage of the bed and a note of desperation crept into his tone. "Last one I had..."
Now it made sense. The mood swings, the edginess, the times the other man's restlessness had awakened him in the middle of the night. Classic symptoms of enforced withdrawal and tonight's episode was the culmination of the buildup. Qui-Gon cursed himself for not seeing it earlier.
This is going to be a very long night.
Keeping his movements slow and gentle, Qui-Gon shifted them around until he was leaning against the wall, his arms still folded around Ben's chest. Once they had settled into this new position, he reached out with the Force, gradually channeling power into the link that bound them, broadening the connection. Utter chaos greeted him as he took a glimpse of the other man's mind and Ben moaned low in his throat at the intrusion. Rudimentary barriers rose, then fell as exhaustion stripped away the control needed to sustain them. Reaching out with his thoughts, Qui-Gon let his consciousness seep into the fighter's, soothing the raw, aching places, dulling the need for the drug.
Gradually Ben relaxed, not understanding what had happened, simply knowing that for the first time in weeks he was at peace. With it came the knowledge that the Jedi had not taken advantage of the access he had been given. Had not taken advantage of his debilitated state as so many others would have. The first beginnings of trust began to take root, tiny but strong, in the morass of the fighter's emotions.
"Sleep a'shera," Qui-Gon murmured, loosening his hold enough to shift the younger man's body into a more comfortable position. Leaning his head back against the cabin wall, the Jedi stroked his bondmate's hair, his fingers following the white patch and the scar that marked his scalp under it. Feeling Ken'ba finally relax into the oblivion of slumber, Qui-Gon sighed. "What am I going to do with you? What am I going to do with both of us?"
"Drink your tea, Ken'ba, it will help with the headache."
Ben arched his eyebrows and gazed at the ceiling but did as he was told. During the past ten days, a kind of impasse had developed between himself and the Jedi. The wary trust on his part was met with calm acceptance from the older man, something that still never failed to amaze the fighter.
After the night they had spent on the floor of his wrecked room, something had changed in their relationship. The bond felt different, more complete. Thoughts and emotions flowed more freely across it and Ben found himself less inclined to try to block himself off from it.
Through a combination of distraction and Force-healing, Qui-Gon worked Ben through the lingering effects of his addiction, walking the hallways of the cruiser when the cravings became too much until they both knew every inch of the ship by heart.
There was no pressure for intimacy, no demand for some kind of payment for services rendered. This in itself was so far outside Ben's realm of understanding that he simply could not comprehend it. On Golgatha everything came with a price of some kind or another. To have someone offer not only care, but hope, was unheard of.
As for Qui-Gon, he had come to spend the time looking for the infrequent flashes of the man behind the gladiator. He was there. It would just take time and patience to woo him from his hiding place out into the open.
The second night after Ben destroyed his sleeping quarters, he had planned to stay in the third cabin, but sleep did not come easily, if at all. This was repeated on subsequent nights until finally Qui-Gon rose from his bed, caught the reeling fighter by the arm and guided him into this room. This was met with a snarl of protest that died off as the Jedi opened his mind to the other man, letting him search his thoughts for any sign of ulterior motivations.
The moment Ben's head hit the pillow, he was asleep. Qui-Gon smiled to himself as he slid back into bed beside him, knowing he too would sleep this night.
Waking up with his bondmate in his arms was one of the most profoundly satisfying things the Jedi could recall having experienced. The moment was somewhat marred by Ben's tensing the second he awoke, but the younger man didn't pull away or run, so Qui-Gon counted that as a minor victory.
A week passed, one that found Ben up and out of bed more often then not when Qui-Gon woke. The fighter was confused and it showed. He had lived his whole life learning not to depend on anyone other than himself, but his body and mind were both demanding that he put his trust in the older man. Unable to come to a satisfactory reconciliation of his feelings and thoughts, Ben spent many hours staring out the viewscreens in the lounge, watching the blurred images of the stars as they swept past. Meals he shared with the Jedi, but he could not bring himself to go to the other man's room until he was sure that Qui-Gon was asleep.
It was a fragile peace at best, one that could not be maintained forever. The call of the bond between them was a living tangible thing and there were times that Ben felt he would go mad from the desire to give in to it, to lose himself in the connection emerging as some new, whole being.
The siren song was loudest in the morning. That was the main reason the fighter fled the bed they shared. Waking up, limbs tangled with Qui-Gon's as if they had sought each other out during the night, it was becoming increasingly difficult to come up with reasons why staying away was a good idea.
The morning he paused and looked back at the Jedi only to find him awake and gazing back, cerulean eyes holding no demands, only a single, heartfelt question, Ben's resolve crumbled. This was not the maddening, all-consuming lust that had claimed them the prior times they had come together. The fire burned, but it was low, enduring, flaring as their lips came together in a slow exploratory kiss.
The thin sleep pants both men wore did little to hide their reactions to the kiss and the fabric soon became damp as they rolled together, bodies arching into one another. Soft moans and gasps for breath accompanied the end to the next kiss. Hands roamed, learning the quiescent strength of hard muscles, the angular sweep of toned bodies.
When he felt the rough sweep of Qui-Gon's beard on his throat, Ben cried out, a despairing noise that ended in a groan of satisfaction as teeth and lips closed over the flesh, tracing a pathway that crept slowly downward.
"Jinn," he rasped, dragging his hands away from the larger man's back to fist them in his hair, pulling until the Jedi looked up. "I want you," he said. The mental image that accompanied the simple words making what he meant abundantly clear.
"Say my name, Ben, I need to hear it, a'shera," Qui-Gon whispered back watching in fascination as the fighter's eyes dilated even more and the pulse in his throat sped up.
"Qui-Gon." The words took a moment to come, but when they did, they were melodious to hear. "Now." There was no doubt that the last was a command as Ben pulled the other man's mouth down for a ravaging kiss after he said it.
Verbal communication became impossible, but images and emotions flowed as fast as thought through the ever-deepening bond. With a bit of cooperation, their remaining clothes were disposed of, leaving them skin to skin, as close in body as they were in mind.
The slow, thorough explorations continued, each studying the other as if they were a finely crafted piece of art, one that had to be understood and examined fully to be understood and appreciated. Fingers and tongues stroked over scars and burns, soothing old pains with new memories. Lips followed palms, teasing flesh until new sounds were heard, soft begging on the part of both for the oblivion of release.
A bottle of massage oil was found and put to good use. Tight muscle stretched, aching flesh oiled until the two came together in a shuddering sigh of ecstasy, all else forgotten except the rightness of what they found in each others' arms.
"Damn ugly planet."
"I will agree with you in that. If it were not the Order's headquarters, I would have little use for it. The living Force is weak here. There is too much metal, too much interference to feel the natural rhythm of things."
"Why is the Temple here then?"
Qui-Gon shrugged slightly, his eyes never leaving the viewscreen before them. "Perhaps because it has always been here, perhaps because we need to be close to the Senate."
"To keep an eye on them?" Ben asked cynically.
"Partially. But mostly to be available when and where we are needed. If the Temple was on one of the Outer Rim worlds, we would be far from most of the other planets in the Republic."
"And that wouldn't be a bad thing?"
The Jedi chuckled at that. "There are times I would agree, but..."
"Cruiser Delphian Light, this is Coruscant Central. You are to land on platform J-4581. I also have a message for Master Jinn."
"You are instructed to proceed immediately to the Council chambers upon your arrival."
The two men exchanged a look, each having their own opinion on what the Council wanted, but neither voicing them. They would know soon enough what was in store for them.
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