The Trinity Hall stood proud, gleaming in the sunlight that hadn't shined on Karmine for years - not since king Herod, remembered in antiquity, had unknowingly summoned Karmine's new overlord.
Herothi had reigned for seventy five years - three quarters of a century in which Karmine had been shrouded in darkness. Generations had passed without seeing the fresh, azure skies that were the land's trademark in times of old.
And then the Prophecy had been foretold, and the Trinity had found each other. Luck, chance and skill (Mexii would've liked to have thought) had taken them to the final battle at the gates of the Ligntning God's stronghold, and they had triumphed - just. In the struggle, Mune and Juliexus had lost their lives, but Mexii had used the dwindling well of Herothi's power to revive them, and in the process had been imbibed with the dregs of her old master's abilities. With these new powers, and a few expert dwarfmasons from the mountains, the Trinity had built the Trinity Hall, on the site of Mexii's father's old castle.
The Trinity had ruled Karmine for over five hundred years. And things had changed.
"I put our country's suffering on your heads!" roared a corpulent dwarf from his contingent on the right hand side of the hall. "You've ruled for half a millennium! I say you're getting a bit big for your boots!"
A frisson rippled around the gathering.
"Silence, Dagnor!" roared the dwarf chief, a wizened old Miner by the name of Grimlock. "Don't presume to blame this on one party! Making scapegoats of anyone will not help our cause!"
The hotheaded dwarf resumed his seat, grumbling and twisting his beard.
Mexii came down into the middle of the hall, down the short flight of steps that led to the massive mosaic map, sprawled on the floor.
"Peoples of Karmine," she said in a carrying voice, an impalpable air of power around her slight form; "We implore you! Do not allow discord to enter this council - this council, moreover, which has ruled our country in a Golden Age for more than five centuries! Corruption cannot be allowed to infect it, else it will cause our undoing!"
"Who else could have offended the Gods, then?" demanded the young Dagnor. "Not us dwarves! We have adhered to the Trinity's bidding for centuries!"
"My young dwarf," said Mexii quietly, "we are here to debate, not to argue."
Dagnor remained silent once again, if only because his liegelord gave him a quelling look.
"Council of the Trinity!" Mexii called, standing on the marble circle which marked the location of the Trinity Hall on the colossal map beneath her feet. "The power and cohesion of our congregation is not based on how well we rule in peacetime, but how well we rule when problems beset us. We cannot lay down our standards and strop like scolded children when events do not go our way! We will rise up and survive this time of hardship, not by accusing our neighbours but by working together, when our country needs us most!"
This rapturous speech was followed by hearty cheering from the centaurs of the Lunar Forest; and the elves, of which Mexii's long-passed friend Gray had been a part of. She smiled at their support: it meant a lot to her.
But if she was entirely honest with herself, she didn't know what was causing the harvests to fail; summoning the flash floods and devastating storms; leeching the rain from the desert and baking it in scorching droughts. The dwarves had been worst affected; great waves of snow had coated their mountain realms, blocking their mining tunnels, jamming trading routes and smothering farms and villages. They had not risen in approval at Mexii's words, but remained in their seats, many of them stony-faced. Mexii glanced nervously at them - she could see they were going to be a problem.
She and the other Trinity spent hours under that vaulted ceiling, discussing rations, trade and water shortages with her subjects. The elves, many of whom were adept magic casters, had agreed to send water from their lush homelands to the stricken settlements in the depths of the Donmar, whilst some, less grumpy dwarf chiefs consented to send some of their finest stone to help construct clean wells. A rising feeling of controlled elation rose in Mexii's breast as she saw how she was uniting her people to weather the coming hardship.
And then at last the meeting was over, the contingents retired, and Mexii met with Mune and Juliexus in their office on the west side of the hall, guarded by two liveried centaurs and a mail-clad human, who stood aside respectfully as they approached.
"Do you know more than you're letting on?" said Mune, in a slightly accusing voice.
"I know no more than you, sister," said Mexii quietly.
"This combination of events cannot be occurring for no reason," said Juliexus, with cool conviction. "You may have convinced our peoples that we can weather the storm, but I have doubts."
"Don't say it!"
"He might have returned."
"He could not have!"
"Spirits are never killed, Mexii, only banished."
"But when they have inhabited a human, they lose their immortality. I felt him die, Julie. It's impossible for him to return."
"Well, for Karmine's sakes I hope you're right," said Mune darkly. "If not ... we may find the council less prone to calm discussion."
And Mune and Juliexus left Mexii alone, deep in thought, the ruby red sun setting beyond the mountains and staining the office a final, deep crimson.