The Stanchion - Approach

A winding road snakes north from Providence Road through stands of hale birch trees in the midst of former hunting land given over to the Church of True Light by Emperor Talus Kahar II.
The road eases up a mossy black stone ridge that serves as preamble to a promontory that overlooks the Lightholder River.
Upon the dark crest of rock stands a forboding fortress of granite and basalt, with cone-topped spires that bear the glowing sun pennants of the ancient Church. This massive edifice, home to the most zealous of priests and their attendant eunuchs, is known throughout the realm of Fastheld as the Stanchion.

Taran is more or less camped at the side of the road, a pair of horses tethered nearby, not far from the approach.

From Bandit's saddle, Sitting atop a grey highmount a cloaked a hooded figure makes her way from Providence Road towards the approach. "Woah Bandit," she coos to the horse upon spying the makeshift camp and horse and rider come to a stop. She sits tall, from about 30 yards away and gazes quietly at Taran without speaking.

Taran gets to his feet as the stranger approaches, offering her a bow. "Good day, milady," he says. "Light shine."

From Bandit's saddle, Ester doesn't say anything or show any other sign of acknowledgement of the greeting as she continues to gaze straight at him, her gloved hand holding onto the reigns tightly. her gaze lifts to the fortress that sits on the ridge above them, her eyes narrowing slightly.

"I am waiting for my friend, milady," Taran offers, indicating Rampart. "Please, do not let me keep you."

From Bandit's saddle, "I hope that you are not planning on going there," Ester states, still looking up at the Stanchion. Her voice is clear and forthright and easily carries over the distance that seperates them. She loses the reigns and swings her leg over the back of the horse in dismount, her skirt fluttering and shoes landing on the road with a soft thump. A saddle bag is opened and she starts rummaging through it.

"...I go where those above me bid me go, milady," says Taran quietly. "Lady Celeste wished me to accompany her; who am I to refuse?"

Ester dismounts from Bandit.

Ester pulls out a leather pouch and loosens the laces. "They will find you out," she states as she leads her horse over to the side of the road next to a small stand of birch trees.

Taran blinks. "Excuse me, milady?" he asks, at a loss.

Ester clutches the pouch in one hand as she gives her horses a muzzle a rub and coos, "Stay Bandit. I shall be but a second." The horse blinks and snorts in reply her head bobbing a little. "They will see right through you," she states in a louder voice, "And I shan't think they would be happy." She steps away from the horse towards in the direction of the trees.

"...To recount tales of old victories, milady?" Taran asks, surprised. "Why do you say that?"

Ester doesn't say anything more as she walks into the trees and disappears from view. "You are untrained..." the voice rings out. The faint sound of buzzing can be heard emanating from the trees and in a blink she reappears from the ether about ten feet behind Taran. "...and you are not marked." The pouch no longer in her hand.

Taran startles, scooting quickly away from the strange woman. "Who are you?" he asks. "What do you want with me?"

Ester looks briefly at Taran and squats sitting on her haunches, she looks back down the road and then slowly back up to the Stanchion eyeing it as if she is studying it. "You realize," she states as she tilts her head to the side, peering at the ridge, "That it is full of those who despite the proclamation don't particularly adore those, such as you." She hmms to herself as she forms the gloved fingers into a small circle in front of her, like a target and peers through them up at the fortress.

"Who have no love for an unmarked teleporter, milady?" asks Taran mildly. "I am a bard, milady. And I have promised to behave; not a squeak past my lips unbidden."

"Aye most likely," Ester replies in a matter of fact manner as her hands fall to her side. "Though I do not plan to walk straight into the midst of it now do I?" She looks back at him, the hint of a wry smile tugging at one side of her mouth.

Taran is calm now, watching Ester closely. "I ask again, milady. Who are you, and what would you have of me? I do not think I have done anything to call your attention."

Ester straightens to her full height, "And what makes you think that I want anything of you? Have I said as much? All I've done is impart a friendly warning." Her mouth twists with some amusement, "The better question would be want is it you want for yourself? To stay hidden and in denial of what you have?" She starts walking back towards the horse.

Taran blinks. "A good singing voice?" he asks. "I am fairly certain, milady, that I can not walk through thin air. Else mere wishing would have had me at a warm tavern hours ago."

"No not air," Ester replies as she passes by the man on her way to her destination, "But you do have the power to see." She taps her ear through the hood of her cloak, "And potentially the power to hear even the most minute of sounds. I should think that would be of use to a bard. No?" She chuckles softly and continues to walk towards the horse. A sharp whistle escapes through her lips and the animal start walking towards her as well.

Taran gives Ester a very long, steady look. "And you, milady?" he asks.

Ester grasps the reigns with a gloved hand and stops dead for a second. A smile creeps onto her face and she nods slightly. She steps into the stirrup, "Intrigued now are we?" she comments as she pulls herself up and into the saddle.

"I ask again, what you would have," asks Taran quietly. "A stranger come to the gates of the Stanchion, unmarked teleporter, who makes such claims of me? You do not, I think, come by chance."

Ester turns her gaze to Taran, "Ah what is chance then? But perhaps just the light working within us all for it's purposes? It's a question and one perhaps we are never to know the real answer to. Two people meeting as such..." The horse steps forward and she reaches a hand to her neck in a gentle touch to stop it.

Taran smiles slightly. "Of course, milady," he says. "Regardless, this humble bard has been ordered to undertake research here; perhaps if your claims are true, it is simply a high lord's way of murdering a freelander, no?"

Ester lifts her shoulders in a shrug, "That I wouldn't know. Is this high lord aware of your gift?"

Taran looks amused. "As 'aware' as you are, methinks," he says, the quotes audibly dropping into place. "Which is to say, he seems quite certain in his beliefs. And as one must of course take a noble's word over a freelander's..." he shrugs.

"Ah yes or course they must," Ester replies in a flat voice. She looks upon Taran, her expression showing some sympathy. "The Light can only provide us with opportunities good Master. It is up to us to recognize them as such before they filter through our fingers." Her head tilts to the side, "Though perhaps if one never indeed recognizes them, then at least they will not be aware of the loss and thus not experience the regret that comes with it."

Taran tilts his head at the stranger. "What opportunity do I miss, milady? What do I fail to seize, that you see?"

Ester lifts an eyebrow and quirks a wry smile. "Good Master, please don't tell me that you are so oblivious to how you have an ability to see people differently then most."

"Ah, and here I thought we were speaking of opportunities," Taran sighs. "For I am keenly interested in those."

Ester laughs softly, "But indeed we are. Have I not told you that you have potential to do more?"

Taran smiles slightly. "So you have," he says. "I will, for the sake of conversation, let slide the matter of actual potential, and point out that should I have such things, there is still no manner by which to refine skill."

"Ahhh," Ester says with a soft laugh and a knowing nod, "Now we are getting somewhere. A need becomes apparent." She glances from side to side as if looking for something or someone and feigns a small sigh, "Pity isn't...when such a desire might be present...and no way to meet it...alas such is the way of things..." Her mouth crooks with some amusement, "I question however just how strong the desire is at this time."

Taran tilts his head, regarding her. "Ah," he says. "So it seems you have a use for this humble bard after all, milady? For what is your next question, but that I prove desire or step away?"

"Again the wrong question. Is it really that I have a use for you?" Ester returns and waits for the reply. The horse snorts impatiently and the gloved hand reaches out for the neck once again.

Taran smiles. "Perhaps you would be so good as to tell me the right question?" he asks. "I have not even learned your name."

"Perhaps a name will come in time good Master," Ester says returning the smile. "I would however be doing you a diservice if I simply told you the question." She pauses," Let me leave you with this. You have recognized the seeds of a desire in you, but only see a wall to attaining that desire. I however do not want nor desire or as you put it have a use for you, yet potentially hold a rock chisel in my hands...hmm" She nudges the horse with her heel and it turns around to face Providence, "Contemplate some more and perhaps," she shrugs, "If the Light should fate it we will meet again..."

Taran nods, bowing. "With gifts such as yours, milady, I am certain that we shall," says Taran mildly, a pleasant smile on his lips.

Ester nods her head once at Taran and looks forward. "Gid'Yup Bandit," she calls and horse and rider start cantering back towards Providence Road.

Return to Season 5 (2007)

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