Healer's Chamber <Imperial Tribune>

Drawn away from the often chaotic scene of the hall of healing, this chamber denotes an air of peace to its seclusion. It is circular in shape and very spacious. A large mud bear rug is sprawled in the center of the room. Candles in talon-shaped sconces litter the walls to provide lighting.
On the northward side, to the general left of the doorway, is a somewhat small biinwood desk and chair. Ink and quill rest dutifully in the corner while a packet of parchment is strewn across the top. Every so often, a breeze through the crack in the wooden shutters will rustle them, as well as the bundled herbs that hang above from rafters. Mounted on the wall alongside the desk is a shelving arrangement to give the illusion that the desk is set into a little alcove. Scrolls and texts are stacked in some meticulous order on some of the shelves. On others, bundles of instruments and supplies rest.
A large hearth sits in the southward wall, heating the chamber when need be. Hanging from iron stands are several kettles, buckets, and other mixing wares. Towards the east, across from the door, three slender, biinwood beds are lined in a row to accommodate the healing staff. Rich, crimson sheets of cotton are tucked neatly in. A thick, woven blanket is folded neatly at the end of each. Also at the foot of each bed are small, birch chests. To the immediate right of the doorway is a large, biinwood wardrobe. In the space off to the side, there is a wash basin and chamber pot which is emptied frequently.

In harmony with the natural world, the healer's chamber is kept minimally lit during the nightime hour. The hearth has lost its gusto of the day, glowing faintly between smoldered embers. Most of the wall-mounted candles remain lit, namely the two that flank the doorway, one upon the desk, and one mounted above the three beds. The window shutters are open enabling a splash of ethereal blue and red to spill over the scattered desktop items and across the mudbear rug in the room's center. There, it illuminates two small wooden cages, each containing a mongoose of different colors.

Aside from the quiet chitter-chatter of Zareef and Veda's trilled responses, there's peace to be found in the healer's chamber this night. A single woman occupies the room this night, pacing between shelves and desk, thumbing absently through old stacks of parchment as she goes. Tis easy to read through the dark of shadows when one possesses a seraphite ring. The dancing lights catch the glare of sweat from her brow occasionally, a testament to the warmth of the room. Such is the excuse, perhaps, for her choice in dress - a cotton chemise that falls full length to brush over the toes of red slippers, thus hiding her bared legs. A rich hum floats around the room in her wake. One's voice can be the best company on such lonely nights.

"And to-oo the lass the blade did lend..."

As if to punctuate the verse, a rich staccato of knocking at the door sounds out. Visitors at near twilight? Cloak and daggers all around.

The lilting tune falters into nothingness at the sharp rapping against the door. Looking to the skies to check the hour, Rowena fingers the gilded hilt of the parrying blade that gleams with safe promise from the desktop. A pair of unseeing eyes stares menacingly over her shoulder to the mystery visitor, fangs splayed widely in display of warning. That is, until a scrape of shoved documents intrudes upon the nightslider skull's shelf and tilts it aside.

Dusting the bit of spidery web from her hands, Rowena bustles to the door and deftly pulls the locking pin to open it a hair's width and peep outward to the visitor.

One friendly gray eye meets Rowena's gaze, followed by a mouth. "Your Grace?", it inquires in a voice that may be familliar. "I apologize for the hour but ... well ... it's been a long time."

The scent of lavender lingers where a green eye once met that gray as Rowena steps aside and pulls the door open more widely. "Indeed it has, Master Sprigg.." she murmurs, bestowing him with a warm smile and gesturing for him to come inside. "Much has transpired since our last...encounter."

The gray mongoose falls silent, curling against the corner of her cage while the brown-colored fiend raises his ruckus from the cage, twirling in tight circles.

Wilesly offers a world-weary smile at that and a nod of affirmation as he steps inward. He doesn't much seem to take notice of Rowena's dress ... he's been in odder positions before no doubt. Once he deems himself sufficently into the room he turns and rubs at his forehead as if to rid himself of a headache that his plagued him since his departure from Crown's Refuge. "From deseperate battle, to plague, political maneuvering, and succession ... it's a wonder I'm here to be weary about all of it." His hand absently fingers the pommel that protrudes from his scabbard, it's jewels and gold shining brilliantly even in spite of the lighting conditions. "I am heartily glad though, Your Grace, to see that no harm has come to you."

"Rest assured my feelings were as yours, Master Sprigg, for I feared the River's waters would not bear the vessel so smoothly home." Returning to the desk, the Duchess takes up a goblet in hand and a dwindling ammount of wine in a glass flask in the other, readied to pour. "I've a little left to wet the lips if you wish," She offers from over her shoulder. "Your tongue may need it if you wish to share tales."

Zareef halts his rustlings to crane his neck sideways and poke his nose through the cage bars. He sniffs curiously in the stranger's direction. Boots. Boots had laces. Laces were fun to chew. Chittering in nervous excitement, he rolls over and pokes his nose at Veda who responds less amiably with a curt squeak and snipping of teeth.

"I could indeed.", Wilesly returns with a light appreciative nod. In the meantime he makes himself a little bit more comfortable, stripping himself out of his cloak and removing his hat. They go on the nearest polite surface possible. As he turns about to do so he spots one of smaller critters to which he returns a wink just as sly as any one of the critters seemingly could imagine. He clears his throat and turns back around. "I apologize for not tracking Your Grace down earlier ... but Your Grace must understand as things being as they were." His eyes shift back to the Mongoose for a moment.

Zareef turns his back to Veda and stretches a paw through to test the distance. Too far. Circling again, he reaches through the next set of bars. Nope.

"Yes..." Comes Rowena's reply, distant in tone as she steadies her hand and pours the crimson drink into the silver chalice. "Fastheld has seen more change than simple passing of seasons. The passing of an entire bloodline and birthright has quaked many a personal world. As one body, however, she seems to remain alive." The last drops of red trickle forth as she lifts the flask to set it aside. A single tear falls from the lip to her desk, spattering a crumpled letter with wine.

"Things will never be as they were... but old ways needn't perish entirely. I have heard that there is effort by a certain 'ghost' to have young Talus removed from his captive home and into hands who may raise him to be the image of his father." Winking with sad eyes, she extends the goblet towards Wilesly and stuffs the stained letter into the mouth of the flask. "It would mean that the phantom become more real, of course, to contradict the words of those who protect his life with claims of death. But there are those of us with firm enough holds in the right places to ensure that the Princes remain safe."

Wilesly murmurs a thank you as he accepts the goblet and tastes it. It's a long drawn out taste that's meant to cover the entirety of Rowena's story about the younger Talus. He concludes with a light nod, holding the goblet down by his side. "And what of the Wildcat?", Sly asks, with a light frown. "I spent some time in the Imperial Dungeons ... in fact I was travelling with the ex-Surrector as we walked into the trap. There were rumors. Unsettling ...".

"A man who shadow has failed to conquer cannot be so easily detained by the wicked intentions of flesh and bone, Master Sprigg." Rowena smiles wryly and leaves Wilesly to enjoy his wine while she recovers the parchments from the dusty shelf. A gentle hand props the nightslider skull up into the reared state, mindful of the fangs. "And so in that way, he /is/ a ghost."

"Those weren't quite the rumors I was speaking of, Your Grace, but ... a fitting metaphor none the less.", Sly responds, keeping his goblet where it is. He eyes Rowena for a moment, considering something. "Tell me, Your Grace being a healer, is it seemingly possible for an ... individual to manufacture a plague?". A rather odd question but he asks it with a facial expression that suggests a deadly seriousness.

"To create a sickness from one's own....what is it you are asking? If it is possible to birth a plague from a mixture of herbs and poisons?" Rowena casts him a mildly incredulous glance over her shoulder as she strides further along the expanse of shelving and 'files' the records under a heavy motar and pestal. "Of course not. Not in a natural fashion, that is. Plague spreads as a disease born in the flesh, or..or a rotting carcass. Filthy street. It is not born of a person's kettle, or..." Tossing a hand up in the air with a light snort, she adds "Garden."

"I'm not wise in the ways of herblore or anything like that but I had never heard of anything so unnatural so I doubted it.", Wilesly responds, sampling the wine as he continues to track her through the room. "Which in itself is rather disconcerting considering the source ...". He pauses, "Again I hope you do not mind another inquiry but ... were you familliar with Shardwood?"

"Shardwood..." Rowena mutters to herself, stooping to shift gears in the cleaning to open a sack upon the floor. "The only Shardwood I am familiar with is the woman who was once employed as a Mikin huntsmistress. Ester, yes. I saw her briefly for a time upon my return, but..." Shaking her head, she tosses the strings to either side of the sack and reaches inside. "We did not speak, really. I thought she wished to tell me something, as she seemed disturbed when she approached me but I'm afraid my foul mood disuaded her from doing so. Why?"

Out pops a handful of wildling claws, gripped dextrously between the healer's fingers. She begins aligning them by digit pattern on the shelf.

Wilesly nods lightly as he rolls the wine around in the goblet a bit staring at it. He then brings his gray orbs up to eye the claws for a moment, recognizing them and uncomfortably moving his left shoulder that bore their mark not so long ago. "You see, Your Grace ... she was the source of the rumor.", Wilesly responds. "During the plague she had gone missing for a short while and then she returned rather unexpectedly in the middle of it." He pauses for a moment, with the practice of one who is used to recounting events. "Later, when she was being dragged away to her cell close to my own, she made a startling accusation. I believe this may have something to do with her approaching you ... " He looks to Rowena for reaction.

The claws clatter together as Rowena finally stops her work and looks up to Wilesly with a frown of disappointment. Her head bobs slowly in affirmation. "I believe that is a safe assumption," she murmurs softly and lowers her eyes to stare back into the bag. "Perhaps you will tell me then what it was she tried to say?"

Wilesly shifts his eyes around the room, an ominous silence coming from his direction as he looks for openings, lumps behind the curtains, an eyeball looking through a keyhole or pressed up against a latch. He takes a few steps closer to Rowena, his voice taking on a conspiratorial tone as well it should considering the message he is about to impart. "That the viper tha now sits on the throne is responsible for the death of Talus. That it was his plague, that he manufactured, and that Ester witnessed while under his captivity. Something out of the Shadow district ...". He bites his lip.

For a long moment, the only sound to pass between them is the sound of breaths, as Rowena stares in disbelief to the messenger of such grave news. She, too, scans the room...and remembers the open window. "Impossible." She hisses loudly, rising with sudden urgency to hurry to the window. A clamor or three later and the duchess has climbed onto the desk, leaning as far as she can from the frame to listen in the darkness outside. Only when she's satisfied that there is no lurking fiend evesdropping below does she retract inside and pulls the shutters closed firmly.

Wilesly watches Rowena's response with an understanding nod. He understands the reaction well enough to empty his goblet's contents with one gulp and place it down on a nearby surface. "At first I thought as much but as I spent a few days in my cell ... well things began to seem less and less unlikely.", Wilesly responds. "Why would a woman who was supposed to be condemned bother to lie? What would she have to gain from it?"

While Rowena's words may have denied the notion, the eyes speak differently, now that safety is assured, and she turns to him with a glassy glimmer of mournful suspicion . "An uprising." Her right hand rests over her mouth, left still gripping the shutter latch tightly. "Why was Ester in his captivity before the plague, before his rise to the throne? Only before the plague began could there have been a witnessing of its manufacturing. Of its plotting. What is it she saw or heard after the tragedy had ended?" She whispers from between parting fingers, hand lowering slowly to her side.

"She was to have her tongue removed. Something that adds credance to the notion that she knew too much.", Wilesly adds, with a light nod. "You understand there was no real way to get the details out of her considering our situation but she managed to escape." He develops a rather serious frown. "I fear now that my loyalties are be tried. My desires versus what is right."

"And if her claims are correct?" Rowena questions, bending at the knees to climb cautiously down from the desk. "What is there that can be mended? The Church has approved Lord Zahir's stance. Any claims of shadow's involvement or treachory for that matter will not be heard by the priest. The Church did not approve of many of Talus' actions or ideals. Why will they find the Zahir at fault now?" It was an obstacle that had unnerved her from the start. That man had slipped through many a suspicious situation without so much as a warning glance, and get at him from any angle was nigh unfathomable.

Wilesly can't help but give a sardonic laugh at that. "And what if they are?", Wilesly asks. "I fear I don't have an answer for that one, Your Grace. I fear I'm just a pawn and a messenger when it comes to these things. A poor soldier and a confidant at best." He sighs lightly. "To continue on knowing that the one who holds the throne is responsible for such vile treachery or to continue on just as Fastheld seems so ready to do. To put up any singular resistance would be setting one self up to be the pebble that stands up against the torrent of a river... to be ground to dust as it were."

"Dust..." Rowena echoes, slippers touching to the floor with a whisper of velvet 'gainst stone. Enclosed now in considerably more darkness, she picks up the candle at the desk's corner and traverses the mudbear rug to light more above the hearth. "I had hoped to speak with Chaori Balsam about her findings, about the symptoms...I received a letter stating that she had fallen into unconsciousness and it was not certain that my visit would be well-received..." Touching the flame to the sleeping wick, Rowena waits for it to take hold, then moves to the next. "Perhaps her illness is no coincidence."

"I fear I have woken a sleeping mongoose...", Wilesly murmurs, watching Rowena move about with renewed passion. He bites his lip lightly as he considers something. "Is this a purely academic exercise or ... more than that?". It's a simple question, but it's asked with a near desperate need to know.

"This mongoose is forced to be lorded by a particularily slick serpent, Master Sprigg. A serpent that hunts with his tamed wolf the wildcat with whom this mongoose was meant to make her nest. What, then, do you conclude?" Is the rather curt reply from the hearth as Rowena finishes illuminating the wall. Racks of utensils of questionable sort and bits and pieces of glassware reflect the light brightly. Basking in the glow, the healer turns her head to look solemnly back at the man.

"Tamed or seemingly so?", Wilesly asks, the frown never leaving his face. He crosses his arms over his chest. "I do not know what to think, m'lady. It is however with my limited experience of wildlife that they are at their most dangerous when cornered and that the mongoose is a particuarly wiley animal at that." That's enough to illicit the smallest of roguish grins from the weasel.

"Oh, we are." Rowena muses, abandoning the candle to the hearth floor and moving to open Zareef's cage door. The little beast chitters rapidly his thanks, squirming in her grasp with the desire to be set free. She releases him to the floor and in an instant, the mongoose scuttles towards Wilesly's feet. Veda queries softly from between the bars of her cage, looking with hopeful eyes to her mistress, but it is not to be so. Rowena stands and looks to the still-opened bag of wildling prizes. "But it would be better if mistress Balsam were able to conference with me."

"Even if she is not able to speak herself ... perhaps she has kept notes on her research somewhere?", Wilesly asks, smirking lightly at the little mongoose that now is at his feet. He gets down on his haunches to inspect the creature closely while he awaits a response.

Zareef flinches backwards as Wilesly stoops closer to his level. Lean forward, sniff, flinch back. Forward, sniff, flinch to the side. Repeat. Following this introduction protocol, Zareef makes his rounds in a slow circle around the man's feet.

"If not, then the other healers that survived the disease should have at least some observations to report to me." Rowena sighs and glides around the bent Wilesly to collect her bag. Reaching inside, she procures a pair of vials that contain a dark serum of some sort and places them alongside the 'ling claws. "I could send word for a summons. A gathering from all districts and townships that were afflicted to convene here. Or perhaps a more secluded location."

Wilesly follows the motions of the mongoose with his eyes before looking up towards Rowena. "Somewhere not under the watchful eye of what the wolf fancies himself to be.", Wilesly suggests. He frowns slightly. "Is what you say about the Prince of the Blood quite true though? Tamed? He did not seem the sort to turn lackey."

A light scoff from Rowena's lips answers Sly's question. "By tame, I was referring to the Justiciar's service to Lord Zahir. That is a word foreign to Serath's vocabulary. I cannot even myself persuade him into settling. I suspect my skin shall be wrinkled and hair turned white by the time he chooses to...finalize things." Dropping the bag a little more forcefully than gravity would have done, she pivots to shuffle through more parchments on another shelf. "The turnover of the crown is yet one more obstacle he must first overcome...not so much as to reclaim the throne, but simply find a way to exist in public and not put end to his survival."

Wilesly nods lightly, a smile returning to his face. "Well that at least does make me feel a bit better.", Wilesly admits with a sigh. He continues to observe the mongoose's antics while thinking. "So assuming we do find foul play ... what then? If nothing doesn't it all seem like an exercise in futility?"

"If a substantial enough link is 'found' between 'his majesty' and a less than savory act or aquaintance, then at least one member of the Church may be persuaded." Rowena says, frowning at the thinness of the thread their hope hung from. "If not, then I will undoubtedly be tried for treason in one form or another, and Fastheld will continue on in my absence as she has for centuries. There's no harm in simply investigating. We've time to devise a safe way of enacting the accusation, IF any is to be justifiably made."

"And even if an accusation is sucessfully made ... I do not think that means the viper would just roll over and give up so easily.", Wilesly agrees with a sigh. "Perhaps I am getting too far ahead of myself. The matter presses heavily on my heart I must say because this is the man who I believe through design is trying to get at me through my dearest." He moves to stand up.

"And why is it he wishes to do so, I wonder?" Rowena inquires softly and finds what she is looking for. Pulling the three sheets away from the rest, she tucks them alongside the vials and claws. Zareef dances a second time around the boots and then makes his attack. A swift pounce to the boots siezes a lace in his jaws.

"Loyalty perhaps? The Zahir saw me with Shardwood. In fact we had a lovely little chat hours before he took over.", Wilesly responds, lifting his boot lightly and watching the creature play with his laces. "I do not know but it was very kind of him to socially promote Dianna again, elevating her beyond me and then turning around and offering to bestow the title of Baronet at her petition. Nay. Just coincidence." Though he is facetious it is certainly a very bitter trajedy for him at this point.

A tinny growl is issued forth as Zareef stands on hind legs to keep his hold on the laces.

Rowena grimaces, shaking her head. "If one cannot wound a man physically, to do so socially is almost as, if not more, satisfying." Offering those sole words of wisdom, she moves to the first bed and calls Zareef to her with a tongue-clicking. The mongoose obeys after the second round and is awarded with a piece of jerky.

"Though perhaps I am putting too much importance on myself and misinterpreting the whole set of events. Conspiracy around every corner. Cloak and dagger. The business has been known to do that to a man.", Wilesly remarks, watching the mongoose yet again. "Either way it has the same ill effect, intended or otherwise."

"There's much distress to be felt by many, Master Sprigg," Rowena reassures, sitting on the bed's foot and folding her arms loosely over her belly. Zareef snacks noisily on the jerky at her feet while Veda peers with envy at his prize. She rolls, belly-up, in attempts to capture his attention. "We must be sure to keep our faith and trust that the Light will continue to bless those who follow Her."

"I fear my faith falters when observing the actions of a few of its representatives.", Sly murmurs darkly. He sighs lightly and shakes his head. He scratches at a brow for a moment. "I fear I should go insane for having nothing to do but exercise the machinations and plottings of my own mind. This settling down business is perhaps the hardest I've yet to get involved with."

Rowena utters a quiet chuckle to that, eyeing Wilesly with a knowing smile. "And to think that in true perspective, it is the easiest task any man can be expected to master." Zareef swallows down the last of his snack and leaps up to drape himself across her lap, his beady eyes watching Wilesly closely through the faltering light. "Tell me...does the rock wolf still stay at Dianna's side?"

"I have heard mention of him but have yet to meet the fellow.", Sly replies, with a light smirk. "Perhaps he has not taken kindly to her new companion." He gives a light shrug. "I swear though ... I must find some activity to engage in before I doing something rash. Perhaps I'll respond to Thayndor Zahir's letter. He's a different sort of viper all together."

"I may have an activity only slightly rash for you to engage in..." Rowena murmurs, brow arching, "Of course, to what degree depends upon your familiarity with anyone who has traversed the Shadow District well."

"Your Grace! I practically spent my youth in the Shadow District.", Wilesly returns with a most roguish grin. "What would Your Grace have me do?"

"Well, Master Sprigg, if I am to find any unusual claims about the plague symptoms, I will need a listing of any questionable sort of person that might be rather skilled in an alchemists trade, will I not?" Thus delineating the task, Rowena gives him a firm nod and then looks past to the window. "Dealing of such contraband is most certainly against our Law, and thus would merit a fairly sound questioning..."

"A poison brewer to be precise.", Wilesly agrees with a nod. "They're hardly a commodity. Though the good ones ... the Zahir could certainly afford the best no doubt." He rubs at the stuble on his chin and nods. "I'll see what I can do." He pauses for a moment. "There was something else of interest I noticed when I rode through though I'm not sure if it is of recent times or of times past. A farm abanoned ... rather sizeable. Messages left regarding a plague. Are the two related perhaps? Maybe we have an origin?"

"It is possible," Rowena murmurs, scratching at Zareef's back absently while she squints at Wilesly. "Where is this farm? Perhaps 'we' might take a closer look?"

"Outskirts of the district.", Wilesly replies. "Just on the road out of the Fetters." He frowns lightly at mention of a Duchess coming along with him. Then again that's rather silly isn't it? This is the same woman who braved the Wildlands with him.

Rowena nods absently to some distant thought in her head. "My dear Umbrus could use a good leg stretching," She says. "We'll make a short time of it then, a quick look around so that I may see for myself. Nothing more, no chit-chatting with locals yet. I don't want word to spread that the Royal Healer is consorting with the Fetters, as it would lay heavily against my favor in the future if anything is to come of this investigation."

"I shall take up lodgings at Lightholder then and await Your Grace there.", Sly replies with a nod. He moves to gather his things. "I fear I have kept Your Grace entirely too long." It's just about now that he's realizing that Rowena isn't exactly properly dressed. "Entirely too far from proper at least." There's a sly smirk there as he pulls his cloak back over his person.

"Yes, for you've certainly not witnessed me in worse a state." Rowena firmly notes, lips curling in a wry smile. "Ride safely, Master Sprigg. I shall meet you there in two days, at the Inn." Standing, she deposits Zareef back into his cage and offers to show the man to the door. "I suspect there is a certain someone who awaits you."

"I am not quite so sure of that Your Grace. Dianna had it in her head I was heading off to sell my soul to a Zahir just to have her as my own.", Sly remarks, a little less than happily moving with Rowena to the door. "Something that has not not crossed my mind.", he murmurs darkly. He waits dutifully at the latch for any closing remarks. While he does so he waves to the creatures. "And to you my friends ... it was certainly a pleasure. I wish you could appreciate the big smelly man as much as I enjoyed your antics."

"You never can let your guard down around them....mongooses, that is." Rowena notes, wiggling a finger in the pair's direction. "Or you're bound to lose a glove. Or scabbard. Or whatever it is he has the strength to drag away from your person." Chuckling tiredly on that note, she opens the latch and permits him to leave. "Good eve, Master Sprigg. Light Keep."

"And you too ... Rowena.", Wilesly replies with a smirk. "It's such an odd business to be so formal when talking treason isn't it?". With that he offers a wink and moves to open the door. He's gone soon enough with about just as much notice as he came with. However he's left with something much more valuable than all the Kahars in all of Fastheld. That is to say he's left with a sense of purpose. A genuine and even somewhat content smile finds it's place on his mask, a sight which has not been very frequent these past few days.

Return to Season 4 (2006)

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