The large chamber of the council sat in the center of the tallest tower of Atlantis, which lay in the very center of the city itself. Although there had been no deliberate plan for this at the beginning, Jorah felt it held significance, if not for others than for him.
The tower's watch looked over the entire city, keeping guard for the community, and the council that met in the heart of that tower had its citizen's welfare as their central goal. Both positions held a reminder of the weighty responsibilities they had taken on.
An oval table sat in the center of the room. The table itself was a dark maple, with Atlantian words that followed the edge of the table in a lighter color. It had sat here in this room for over two thousand years. One of the first distinctive items of furniture made for their underwater home, and as such, it was maintained continuously to keep it in pristine condition.
Jorah sat at the table along with the eleven other councilmembers, each representing their own clan, and wondered how much of the table was original. But it didn't really matter. It was the idea behind it that held value. The idea written on the table itself. Justice and Brotherhood, Love and Compassion
Jorah watched the men as they raised their voices and waved their hands. He questioned if they remembered what the table said or even cared at this point.
The meeting had started calmly enough, though he'd noticed their agitated faces. They'd opened the gathering with the announcement of names and clans so they could be marked in the book. He'd been last in declaring himself, Jorah of Clan Orca. At that point, all had worked at controlling themselves. Jorah put a hand to his forehead. He wished that was still the case.
A few incidental problems had been discussed before the more significant item was introduced. Once it was, the disagreement had rolled like a rogue underwater wave into the current chaos surrounding him.
He understood their anger and frustration. He felt every bit of it too. But no one seemed to agree on the solution, and that was a problem. The wild voices of the men and women on the council swirled around him.
"The humans are killing us!"
"I say that we just let the future take the humans as it will."
"We have been commissioned to help the humans survive!"
"Yes, but how can we do that without the artifact?"
"Ian is searching for the artifact and the one who stole it."
"It has been decades, and there has been no progress."
"Ian is not the only one out there. There has been progress. They are close to finding him."
"And if he does not find him, then that solves the human problem. We don't even have to think about it. It will be impossible to help them. Then we can wash our hands of this thing."
"We must do all we can! We have vowed to do so."
"A foolish vow, made when we were innocent of what they were like."
"What some of them were like! Not all of them are evil, many are good."
"We all know you have a fascination with them. Don't let your sentiment ruin our people!"
"Don't let your rush to judgment be your undoing!"
Unable to listen to angry voices any longer, Jorah stood. "Councilmembers! Stop!" He slammed a flat hand on the table until they quieted. "We need to come to order."
Once everyone was quiet, he began, "All will hear and be heard, as is our custom. All of you have expressed an opinion, but I have not. I will now do so."
"Look around you and see what we have here. Look at the beauty of this room, the riches we carry and the brotherhood among ourselves. We are favored. But of all these things, the brotherhood is the most valuable because with this unity we can replenish everything else.
"It is with this brotherhood in mind that we took on our commission of helping the humans. Not because they already were our brothers, but because they were helpless and our people have always aided those in need. And because, one day, they might become our brothers."
A low murmuring was heard.
"You may feel that they still deserve our mercy or you may not but that is not of any concern in this matter. The charge was for us to save them, it was not if they deserved our act of saving.
"Are they less than us? Yes, but that does not make them evil. Have our people died at their hands? Yes, but none of you can sit here and tell me that no human has ever died at the hands of an Atlantian."
"That was one Atlantian."
"Who killed hundreds of humans. How are we to know that this is not one human, yet you are willing to condemn entire races of people to death? Where is your brotherhood? Where is the vow?
"You may feel that our vow was made in haste to a man we barely knew, I have, at times, thought that myself. But then, I sit at this table--this table that marks the beginning our people and I read what was carefully carved into every inch of its hard surface.
"Justice and brotherhood, Love and Compassion.
What justice is there to blame an entire race for the evils of a few? What brotherhood if we are ready to--no--eagerly await their destruction? How long will love and compassion last amongst ourselves if we refuse to offer it to others?
"It is our duty to do everything we can to find that artifact and use it. It is our burden to find the killer of our people and punish him. And it is our legacy to carry on our motto within our own world and the humans."
Jorah sat back down in his chair. Silence rang in his ears. Then slowly, one councilmember after another rose and left the room. Some nodded to him, in what Jorah hoped was agreement. Others scowled as they made their way out.
He wasn't sure if more of them agreed or disagreed and he didn't know if it mattered. If they didn't find the artifact, there would be nothing they could do.
And though he fought for the Atlantian code, he wondered if that just might be the best thing that could happen.
A/N: Well, I'm voting they save the humans. :) Hope you enjoyed the chapter!
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