Lightholder Tavern <Palace District>

It is said - primarily by the proprietor, a jovial merchant-classer named Solas Creek - that all roads in Fastheld lead to the Lightholder Tavern. On any given night, it's not hard to see why he might justify such a claim. The pub, which started centuries ago as a small refreshment wagon for laborers building Fastheld Keep atop Caryas Hill, sees boisterous crowds filling its rafters with laughter and pipe smoke at all hours of the day and night as travelers make their way through the realm.
About three dozen tables are arranged among the polished wooden columns on which hang the wrought-iron lanterns that help give the tavern its name. Solas or one of his assistants can usually be found working behind a wide C-shaped counter, serving mugs of keg-tapped ale to thirsty patrons who stand at the bar.
The floor is strewn with amber rushes, except in a circle of about twenty feet in diameter, where the stone fireplace and chimney rise toward the ceiling.

Ester sits at a table near the stairs holding something in her hand that's attached to a string around her neck. She seems lost in some thought. Her fingers of her free hand drum in an even pattern on the hard top of the table.

Dradin steps into the tavern, a smug little grin on his face. He struts up to the bar counter and triumphantly plunks down a few Imperials. "Finest grog, If'n you will, shopkeep!"

Ester glances over at the counter as she catches movement out of the corner of her eye. She watches the man for a moment, before looking away. She tucks the object into the folds of her tunic and looks over at the door, then to the stairs and sighs softly.

Dradin leans on the bar counter. "I just slew a fierce beast of the forest, and was gen'rously rewarded wif this 'ere riches." He regales his epic quest to the barkeep, who stares at him glumly and slides him a mug.

Ester appears to catch part of Dradin's comment and glances back towards him. She shows some interest in her expression but says nothing.

Dradin gestures dramatically as he continues. "Aw, it was a big chitter, it was, bigger'n me head. But I fought it to the last, and Misser Ore's vermin problem is remedied!"

The hint of a grin plays at the corner's of Ester's mouth as Dradin reveals the nature of the beast and further details of his conquest.

Dradin catches the grin and gestures to Ester. "See? At leas' someone appreciates the good I do fer Fastheld. I should be a farggin' Blade and kill 'em Shadowy things." The bartender continues to look unamused.

Ester nods solemnly though amusement glints in her eyes, "Aye, nasty things those are. Pains in the arse I say. Into everything no matter how much you secure it."

In the corner of the tavern a couple of servants speak amongst themselves. "I 'ere there was a girl found in thuh' school. 'ere was Blud 'eerwhere! Took almost a for'nigh to clean it." They continue talking their words changed to hushed whispers. "Who'eer she was she bludy-well deserved it I c'n tell ye that. No one gets be'en that bad without reas'n." "Yep! That's why they call on me, Dradin Gale, Slayer o' Chitters and other things what annoy!" Dradin strikes a pose. "Actually, I only did that slayin' bit once, usually I brew ale and whatnot."

Ester finally quirks a small smile, "How'd you manage it? What did you use?" She leans towards him, seemingly genuinely interested.

"Well, I *was* fighting it in mortal combat with this 'ere," He taps the katar at his side, "But it kept moving aroun' so much, so I dropped a rock on it."

Ester laughs out loud for a second. "Now that's something I never thought of. Usually I just used arrows." Dradin quirks an eyebrow. "Arrows? You?" He looks Ester up and down. "But.. yer a girl. Though I guess it does explain 'em armored bits ye got on."

Ester laughs softly and shrugs, "Aye, I've been know to shoot a few here and there. Though I do have to say, next time I think I'll give a rock a try. It'll save my good arrows."

Dradin grins and nods, offering his (sorta grimy) hand for a shake. "Dradin Gale, at yer service."

Ester lifts her hand and gives his a firm shake, "Ester Shardwood. Light's greetings to you." "Pleased to meet yeh," Dradin beams, shaking Ester's hand. As he does so, he tries to slide the ring off of her finger, none too stealthily.

An old wench informs a younger serving girl of an old tale: "Mark my words! The bite of a shriekweasel will turn you into a Shadow-Touched monster when all six moons are full!"

Ester starts the handshake with a smile but it leave suddenly as she feels the ring start to slide from her finger. "Shades man," she snaps loudly as her other hand darts forward in an attempt to grab at his wrist while at the same time she tries to pull away. "What are you doing!" Her expression is one of surprise and brewing anger.

Dradin's hand is easily grabbed by Ester. "Oy! Wha's all this then?" His eyes dart around nervously. "Ehm, not doin' nuffin', dunno what y'mean..." E ster glares at the man and stands. Her chair grates loudly on the floor as it moves back. "You. Tried to take my ring. Don't tell me it was nothin," Ester says evenly. She attempts to tighten the grip on his hand, "Bad move good master. This is no mere trinket. It came from the Prince of Blood himself." Her eyes flick to the side with a quick glance at the various tavern patrons as if she was looking for something. "My men will not take lightly to such actions."

"Owowowow!" Dradin's fingers wriggle in vain as the grip tightens on his hand. "Alright, alright, sorry! I didn' know! Oy, youv'e got a good grip," he comments meekly.

Ester doesn't let go, her tone quite serious, perhaps a little ominous, "Aye come from years of hunting and butchering. Good honest, manual labor. A bit bloody at times but good none the less." She raises a brow, "I'm an excellent butcher you know."

Dradin cringes. "Ehm, well," he struggles for words, "...I can't feel my hand."

Ester stares at him for a moment before replying. "Hmm well...then I will let it go." She pauses and speaks again, "Perhaps this has been a misunderstanding Master Gale. But I will tell you this. I will be letting my men know, the hunters that is, and perhaps even good Lord Kahar, the second bladesmaster, who I just happen to know quite well, that you...perhaps have cause to have such 'misunderstandings'. She lets go. "You understand?"

"Yessum," Dradin replies weakly, nursing his numb hand. "Sorry 'bout that. 'S just, I don't have much coin, y'know, an'.." he trails off, looking dejected.

"And yah think this way is a good option?" Ester says without sympathy as she touches the ring. "There's more honest ways of getting what you need."

Dradin frowns. "Well, 's what I'm good at. 'S what I've always been good at."

Ester considers his comment. "Then you are saying this is a common occurance. And not a misunderstanding..." She looks towards the door, "Then perhaps its best that I report this."

Dradin starts looking rather scared. "Noo! Then they'll chop off my hands and make me eat 'em and do all sortsa other nasty things!"

Ester shakes her head, "I doubt that Master Gale. That is a little harsh. Perhaps just some time in confinement. You know, time for contemplation."

Dradin frowns. "I dunno. I know people what've been taken in, an' they come back missin' parts."

Ester shakes her head again as she turns and strides towards the door. "Watch him," she barks seemingly to no one in particular, though by now there are many eyes on the pair. She opens it and leans her head out and shouts loudly out to the street.

Dradin remains where he is, looking rather afraid to move.

Ester turns and walks back to Dradin. She says nothing, just stares at him.

Dradin blinks. "So... am I gonna get my hands chopped off?"

Ester shrugs as one hand moves to rest loosely on the hilt of of the knife that's strapped onto her belt. "I doubt it. Though I suppose its up to the blade that's coming." Her gaze doesn't leave him. Several of the patrons glance back and forth from the door to the pair and back again. The air grows tense. Dradin looks around nervously, not moving at all aside from the constant darting of his eyes. He's standing by Ester, and obviously looks scared.

Ester is standing in front of Dradin by one of the tables. Her hand rests on the hilt of her knife as she watches him. The tavern is rather silent with many of the patrons quietly watching the pair and the door in turn.

Ester glances back at the door. "Not long now. I would think." The door to the Lightholder Tavern slams open, but the evening gloom is blocked by an even greater darkness: a giant of a man, seven feet in height, clad in black obsidian. Without helm or gauntlets, yet one hand upon the hilt of his blade, the giant -- Eden Kahar, for there are few (if any) that look alike -- steps into the Tavern, brown eyes taking stock of what lies within. Quickly, the young Second Blademaster's eyes go to the two nearest to him, and they leap from one unfamiliar face to another better known to him: Ester's. "Guildmistress," he greets, warily, "The Bladesman on duty outside told me of a woman's call of distress. Was that you?"

Dradin looks up at Eden. "See! I knew it! They send a giant over to chop my 'ead off, they did!"

Ester shows some surprise at the sight of the giant of a man. She ignores Dradin's comment, "Lord Kahar. Yes it was I." Her gaze turns back to Dradin and shakes her head ever so slight giving him and bit of an 'I told you so look'. She speaks evenly, "Seems as if Master Gale and I have an issue that needs to be taken care of. He deemed it necessary to try to relieve me of my ring." She holds her hand up. "Without my permission. I think it was a very bad move on his part."

At Dradin's words, Eden lifts his hand from his swordhilt, perhaps to assure the more skittish patrons present (accused thief intended) that there will be no intentional chopping-off-of-heads. "You are quite correct, Guildmistress," Eden agrees dourly, casting another glance towards Dradin, "But there is no need for an audience. Let us step outside." One hand rises to gesture to the main door, and another warning glance is cast at the would-be thief.

Dradin follows Eden's words and walks toward the main door, hands up in front of him.

Ester nods once at Eden and starts following Dradin to the door, "Of course M'lord." As the group leaves some of the patrons look disapointed, others just go back to their business as if nothing has happened.

Lightholder Crossroads - Interdistrict Carriage Hub <Palace District>

A small village has sprouted on the edge of the Lightholder River where the cobblestone roads from Fastheld's other prominent districts intersect, in the shadow of Caryas Hill and the majestic gray silhouette of Fastheld Keep - the seat of power for the entire realm.
Sutlers, traveling performers and other small-time merchants ply their trades along this main crossroads - competing for space with carriages hauling passengers, couriers rushing important communiques from one district to another, and the soldiers of the Emperor's Blades who regularly patrol the area.
On the northwest corner of the intersection, next to the road that twists north toward Lightholder Bridge and the palace, sits a large tavern and inn where weary travelers can refresh themselves.
It is a quite cold night. A strong breeze blows over the land. A thick curtain of water drenches all under the sky. Lightning flashes in the sky and thunder echoes off in the distance as a fierce storm rages.

Eden Kahar has just stepped out of the Lightholder Tavern last of all after Ester and Dradin, letting the door swing closed behind him, cutting off the curious gazes of the patrons who had hoped for a spectacle of some sort. Unfortunately, it seems like the previously passable weather has escalated in those mere minutes indoors. The Second Blademaster raises one hand to point towards the auction warehouse, evidently indicating it as the suitable place for them to seek shelter from the storm, before using the same hand to shield his face from the howling wind and battering rain, and reaching to try and grasp a fistfull of tunic at the scruff of Dradin's neck, to assure himself that the apparent thief does not make a getaway.

"Ack!" Dradin gags as he's grabbed by Eden, and compliantly follows the Blade.

Ester gasps out loud as a bolt of lightening flashes across the sky. She cringes with annoyance as she pulls the hood of her cloak over her head to try to ward off the rain. "Figures," she mutters more to herself as she starts off towards the warehouse.

Laoya Zahir steps out of the carriage stop with a heavy growl, keeping her head down in the storm and heading towards the relatively safe shelter of the tavern, stopping to give a tiny nod to Eden on her way by, but not bothering with niceties now that there's a huge storm lashing about.

Not wishing to waste time, Eden starts across the storm-lashed Crossroads, inwardly relieved at Dradin's compliance.

Lightholder Auction Warehouse

A rather spacious warehouse made from planks of unpolished shardwood, with two large doors that can be opened to allow for the delivery and removal of cargo. The goods stored here are in a wide variety of containers, from crates to kegs to burlap sacks.

Ester shakes off her cloak as she hurries into the large warehouse. She does not look happy as she comments, "I am sorry to bother you on such a small matter."

Dradin pads into the warehouse behind Eden. He was only in the rain for a little while, but somehow managed to get drenched. He looks around at the interior, frowning at the bear pelt in the corner. "Shoulda went in here instead," he mutters.

Water trickles down Eden's immaculate obsidian armour as he steps out of the rain, and he lifts a hand to brush his now-sodden hair out of his eyes. With the other, he releases his hold on Dradin's tunic, but not before giving the man a slight push into the wall; somewhat rough, though only hard enough to lead to a faint bump. Likely a little practice of intimidation, rather than any form of genuine roughness. "Do not apologise, Guildmistress. If such small unlawful acts went on unchecked, then they would quickly grow into things great and terrible. Best to end it here." Grim brown eyes flicker back to Dradin.

Ester takes the opportunity to offer a more detailed explanation after she nods in agreement. "Master Gale and I were exchanging pleasentries with a shake of the hand when he tried to slip the ring off my finger. I caught him. He did not deny it except to offer a rather feeble excuse." She pauses, "I thought at first to give him the benefit the he perhaps made the wrong choice except he went further to inform me that he has done such things before. we are."

Dradin watches Ester and Eden talk, not moving from his place against the wall.

"Indeed," affirms Eden, turning back to face Dradin. He tilts his head slight down at the man, placing his hands upon his hips and inclining his chin at the fellow. "I take it you are not a very smart thief, Master Gale, to try and rob someone in the Lightholder Tavern, and then inform your victim that you've done it before."

Ester grows silent as Eden questions Dradin. Beads of water drip from the hem of her cloak and puddle aroudn her feet.

Dradin avoids eye contact with Eden. "Well, never said I was smart or nothin'. Jus' never really been caught b'fore."

A muscle in Eden's cheek twitches, and then without much warning, his large right hand shoots out, attempting to grasp Dradin by the throat -- firmly, should it find its mark, but not murderously -- and push him up against the wall of the warehouse in silence.

Ester flinches but stays silent as she watches the two.

Dradin gives an 'urk' as Eden grabs his throat. He gurgles and struggles to breathe, eyes darting around wildly.

"Look at me, Master Gale, and heed my words carefully," states the young giant of a man grimly, lifting Dradin with little apparent effort, till the man is forced to stand on the tips of his toes. A certain measure of ill-humour and impatience reflects darkly in Eden's brown eyes. "I've few words and even less time to waste on such a matter of petty crime."

Ester keeps her gaze focused on Dradin and sucks in her breath as Eden lifts him up.

"gurk.." Dradin burbles, his frightened eyes meeting Eden's.

A blink of satisfaction, and then Eden speaks again. "Count this moment in a measure of mercy, for I will not toss you into jail as I might normally be inclined. But, if you wish to ply such a wicked trade again, do so in the District to the west, where failure will earn you a quick knife in the belly. I will give your name and description to my Bladesmen, and if any one of them catches you carrying out such a misdeed again, I will have them drag you you the darkest of the cells below Fastheld Keep." There is the briefest pause for acknowledgement, and then Eden releases Dradin, smoothly turning away from the man. "Good evening, Guildmistress. Light Keep," murmers the young giant of a Second Blademaster as he begins pacing towards the storm-riddled exit.

Ester listens and then bows her head politely as the man makes his exit, "Light Keep you as well M'lord and thank you for your time." The hint of amusement tugs at the corners of her mouth and very quickly she wipes it away. She looks towards Dradin, nodding nods, "I will offer you the blessings of the Light as well, in hopes that it will help you see the error of your ways. Goodnight Master Gale." With that she turns as well and follows Eden, pulling the hood over her head as she walks.

Dradin falls to the ground, rubbing his neck as he gasps for air. "Agh... *coff*..."

Not a backwards glance is cast to Dradin as Eden steps outside, though he does twist his head just enough to offer Ester the faintest wisps of a smile. Then he steps beyond the warehouse, and is consumed by the storm.

Return to Season 3 (2005)

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