and turned to face Malgus. He no longer wore his mask, and his faceunmarred and handsome, like Master Zallows, and with a neatly trimmed goateewore smugness with comfort.

Malgus recalled the look on Zallows face when the Jedi had died, and imagined replacing Adraass current expression with one that echoed Zallows death grimace.

Darth Malgus, Adraas said, his false smile more sneer than anything. I am sorry I did not announce myself before your outburst.

Malgus ignored Adraas and addressed Angral directly. Why is he here?

Angral smiled, all innocence. Lord Adraas was giving me his complete report of the attack on the Temple.

His report?

Yes. He spoke highly of you, Darth Malgus.

Adraas took the other chalice on Angrals desk, sipped.

He? Spoke highly of me?

Malgus did not play Sith politics well, but he suddenly felt as if he had walked into an ambush. He knew Adraas was a favorite of Angrals. Were they setting Malgus up? They certainly could use his condemnation of the peace talks against him.

With effort, he got himself under control and sank into the seat beside Adraas. Adraas, too, sat. Malgus endeavored to choose his words with care.

The attack on the Temple could not have gone better. The plan I developed worked perfectly. The Jedi were caught completely unawares. He turned to face Adraas. But your report should have been approved by me before it came to Darth Angral. He turned back to Angral. Apologies, my lord.

Angral waved a hand dismissively. No apologies are necessary. I solicited his report directly.

Malgus did not know what to make of that and did not like that he did not know. Directly? Why?

Do you believe that I owe you an explanation, Darth Malgus?

Malgus had misstepped again.

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