Chapter 27: Traitors in the Dark
An hour and a half later, Hannibal, his team, Xavier and the other Cimmerians, Jacob and his family, Nicodemus and Joshua stood in the throne room discussing how they would deal with the traitors. While that was going on, there was a joyful reunion between Jacob’s family and Milo and Sharon. Some of Joshua’s most trusted men brought Milo and Sharon to the throne room where Jacob and Rebecca awaited them. After the emotional reunion, Milo and Sharon were informed about what was happening and were all for ferreting out the traitors because Sharon had been another who had been abused by the traitors.
In fifteen minutes, they had decided what to do. A few minutes after that, the leaders and officials of Arionath began to filter in. Hannibal stood on the edge of the dais with his sword slung and his armor on. He had his tattered hat on as well, giving him a dangerous air as his piercing eyes scanned those who entered. Selina stood at his left with her armor and weapons, wearing a tan dress and khakis. Her hair lay braided in a long ponytail with silver clips in it. She wore the belt with the draken buckle, standing there with her hands on her hips, her sword strapped to her back. To Hannibal’s right, stood Rebecca and Jacob, with Crystal standing with Nathanael, who held her hand as he stood behind Hannibal like a huge bodyguard with his executioner’s blade at his side. His left hand rested visibly on the sword’s hilt. Harry stood next to Jacob with his hand on his war hammer’s handle, whose head sat on the floor in front of him. Beside Selina stood Xavier, Amelia, Kahn, and Carver, who had their weapons very visible, but sheathed. Behind Hannibal stood the rest of his team with their weapons sheathed, but ready along with Milo and Sharon, who stood close behind Jacob and Rebecca. Nicodemus, Joshua, Bruce, and Doug stood on the stairs of the dais about half way down with several more of Joshua’s most trusted men, including Aragon and Vergil.
Hannibal had his arm around Rebecca in a fatherly way, paying very close attention to her reaction as the people entered. He also kept an eye on those who came in, trying to place the faces he’d seen in Rebecca’s mind and seeing what their reaction would be to seeing him and Rebecca together. Xavier and Harry stood with Milo and Sharon, watching their reaction to those who came in. “Amelia, Selina; be wary and alert. I want to know if anyone is suddenly anxious or angry when they come in,” Hannibal ordered. They nodded.
After several minutes of people entering, they began to spy the traitors. As they would filter in, Selina and Amelia would sense their apprehension and relay the message to Hannibal. He would also see Rebecca’s reaction to them and would match the face to what he saw in her mind. When she would react, he would whisper in her ear and she would nod. Xavier, Milo, and Harry watched Sharon’s reaction and she would point out the traitors covertly to Harry and Xavier, who would then inform Selina, who would then inform Hannibal telepathically. When everyone came in that was supposed to come, Hannibal nodded, and several burly guards who stood at the doors closed them and drew their weapons, standing guard. The guard Anwar stood directly in front of the door as a sentinel, sword drawn and a mean, stern look on his rugged face.
For nearly two minutes, those on the dais merely stood there as the crowd milled about. Finally, Nicodemus spoke up. “Friends,” he called out, “I have called you here under the gravest of circumstances. We apparently have more traitors in our midst. We will find out who you are and you’ll answer for your actions.”
A loud rumble arose from the crowd as they eyed each other suspiciously. “We know who you are,” Hannibal shouted in an icy tone reflective of his anger. “You have only one chance and one alone. You can come forward now of your own free will. We can’t have traitors in our midst. If you come forward now and repent of this wickedness, you may be dealt with leniently. Otherwise, you will pay a heavy toll for what you’ve done to these people.” He looked around the crowd and knew exactly where the traitors were in the crowd. The throne room became dead silent as he waited for a response he knew wasn’t coming. After a few moments, he said harshly, “Don’t make us come for you. I know who you are and where you are in this crowd.” A few more seconds of silence passed and he continued, “All right then. If that’s the way you want to play it, so be it. People, friends of Arionath...the traitors are here in this very room and I will identify every last one of them to you. We have thirteen traitors in our midst. They’re guilty of heinous crimes and treason against many of your people, including this precious woman standing beside me and this one standing with my colleagues. They’re also guilty of collaborating with the Emperor, who is plotting your destruction.” By now, the thirteen traitors were getting very concerned and slowly began to back toward the door without anyone noticing. “Now I will unveil these wicked doppelgangers,” Hannibal declared with great authority. “Guards, when I name them, take them. Anyone else who wishes to help restrain them may do so without fear of reprisal. Furthermore, if there’s anyone who’s being manipulated or terrorized by these men, you no longer need to fear. Turn on them as they turned on your people. This madness ends here and now!” The crowd murmured as Hannibal started call out names. When their names were called out, great fear took the traitors and they bolted, only to be immediately set upon by the guards and the crowd around them, who subdued them.
In the matter of five minutes, the thirteen traitors stood before Hannibal, his team, Xavier and his people, Jacob and his family, Milo, Sharon, Nicodemus, Joshua, Doug, Aragon, Vergil, and Bruce. The traitors had two guards each that restrained them, holding knives to the traitor’s throats. Great fear showed in their faces. Six of them were elders, three were military men, and the rest were city officials. Nicodemus looked at them with great hurt in his eyes and asked, “How could you do it? We’re brethren! We loved you.” They refused to reply.
Hannibal left his place on the dais and walked down to the main floor with Rebecca clinging to his arm, almost hiding behind him. He looked at them in anger, his eyes flashing. “Did you really think you’d get away with it?” Hannibal demanded. “Did you really believe the Almighty didn’t see nor care what you were doing to these people?” They didn’t answer, which angered him further. “It’s a damned good thing that I’m not the same person I was twenty-seven years ago, otherwise I’d have killed you where you stand already for this travesty,” Hannibal hissed icily. “Now hear this. You’re not going to die at our hands. But you will be banished from here under pain of death. You will be taken to the Plains of Blood and released. If you die, it will be by the Emperor’s hand, not ours. But if you ever show your face anywhere near these people again, you will surely die. Do I make myself clear?” They stubbornly refused to acknowledge him.
“Bind them hand and foot,” Hannibal ordered frigidly. “And take them to the dungeon for now. I want the people assembled so they may see the traitors caught and punished. Do it as quickly as you can.” Rebecca followed him back up the stairs as the prisoners were taken away. Turning back to the crowd, he called out, “Leaders and friends of Arionath, is there anyone here who was under their control?”
A voice cried out, “I was! He made me kill my friend!”
Another voice cried out, “Me too! They took my boy and sold him to the Emperor!”
A woman cried out in tears, “I was gang-raped by six of them and their henchmen!”
Within seconds, nearly half of the crowd had admitted being abused or controlled in one form or another by the thirteen traitors.
“Friends!” Nicodemus called out. “You no longer have to fear their retribution. You’re also forgiven of any wrongs you may have done while under their control.”
“What about their henchmen?” a voice rang out. “You have the traitors but not their henchmen. What do you intend on doing about them? They can still do us great harm.”
“Good point,” Hannibal agreed. “If there is anyone who know who the henchmen are, step forward and tell us. We have a chance to break their power here and now.”
“Anyone with knowledge of who these fiends are, come forward now,” Nicodemus ordered.
Immediately, people began to come forward. Hannibal and his team came down the stairs followed closely by Xavier, Amelia, Kahn, and Carver. Rebecca, Jacob, Milo, and Sharon were right there with them. Within minutes, everyone was taking the names of the henchmen from those who came forward. The crowd that came forward numbered about thirty. From the thirty, nearly seventy names were gleaned in a matter of a half hour. A list was hastily assembled of those who were still loyal to the traitors. Once the list was compiled, Joshua said, “We’ll round these people up too. What should we do if they resist?”
“Do whatever it takes,” Hannibal said coldly. “If you must kill them, do so, but only as a last resort. Take them to the dungeons and lock them up. They’ll go to the Plains as well. Enough blood has been split already because of them.”
Joshua nodded and motioned to the elite guard that was in the throne room, saying, “Okay fellas, we have a lot of work to do. Let’s go.”
“Nicodemus, gather the people in the square after it is cleaned up so we can show the people the traitors have been caught,” Hannibal said.
Nicodemus nodded and called out, “Friends, gather the people in the square once it is cleared. We will show them that they have nothing to fear from the betrayers in our midst. Go.” The guards at the door opened them and followed Joshua out. The crowd then filtered out. Many of them came forward and thanked Hannibal for exposing the great treachery in their midst, and then left. While it was going on, Nicodemus said, “I’ve got work to do.”
“Go on, Nicodemus; we’re going to get something to eat, and then we’ll do what we can,” Hannibal said as Nicodemus waved and left with the rest of the crowd. “Come on people. I don’t know about you, but I could use something to eat.” They all agreed and followed Hannibal to the dining hall.