Northeast Tower Top <Fastheld Keep>
A conical ceiling with wooden rafters rises overhead in this upper turret of the northeast tower. The cyclindrical chamber is largely cloaked in shadows, with doors leading out onto the eastern and northern parapets along the castle walls. A heavy wooden door leads into a residential chamber. Rough stone steps spiral down toward the base of the tower.
You appear to be alone here. Obvious exits: Massive Wooden Door <MWD>, Onto the Eastern Parapet <OEP>, Onto the Northern Parapet <ONP>, Down the Stairs <D>
Duhnen is currently pacing the stretch outside the doors of his chambers, the man's hands folded behind his back.
From below comes the unmistakable sounds of clanking that only armored people make upon these stairs. Another turn brings them into view. Two Bladesmen in the front and three in the back of the woman that was once the Surrector. Tomassa looks a little tired, but her hair is freshly washed even if her clothing is not. Her blouse and skirt are rumpled and less-than-fresh - hinting that she doesn't have a change of clothing.
Bladesmen making the rounds isn't all an uncommon a sound, and so the ascendance of the soldiers up the stairs isn't enough to give Duhnen pause. Though as the man turns about to begin another lap in his steady pacing, his eyes fall on Tomassa, and he pauses.
"I can move a little faster, you know," the woman in the midst of the guardsman grumbles. "Just because I'm now wearing skirts doesn't mean I mince about with delicate steps..."
"You can leave her be, for now," Duhnen says to the guardsmen from where he stands, waiting patiently. "She's not going to attempt to tear down the Keep stone by stone." His eyes fall to Tomassa, and he looks thoughtful for a few moments. "Afternoon, my Lady."
Tomassa looks up at the Seamel and a sudden grin flashes upon her face. "Afternoon, Surrector," she says to him with a bit of a twinkle in her eyes. She attempts a curtsey, but it is awkward and stiff. "I do believe you wished to speak to me?"
"That's 'Surrector Seamel'," Duhnen corrects with a faint smirk. "I attempt to sound professional, though that particular mantle doesn't seem to sit easily on me. And yes, I did. In private." The last bit is directed probably more to her escorts than to her. "So...I'll leave it to you. Talk on the parapets, or inside?" He gestures to the door leading into his chambers with a raised eyebrow.
"I've had more than one conversation past that door, Surrector Seamel," Tomassa allows with a faint smile. "It will not disturb me to have another there." She slides through the front two guards even as they're beginning to part, slipping through with the nimbleness of one of Zareef's brethren.
Duhnen nods his head and steps forward to push the door open for her, looking to the guards. "You two can wait out here, if you'd like. There's no escape from the windows. Not with those lovely iron bars that Gell erected to cover them." There's faint joking in his voice.
Tomassa's faint smile quirks a bit more, but she lifts her chin and marches into her old quarters without looking back at her guardsmen.
You head into Duhnen Seamel's Chamber.
Duhnen Seamel's Chamber <Fastheld Keep> A spartan chamber, kept neat and tidy by a meticulous occupant, this edifice includes simple and fairly modest furnishings compared to most rooms in the rest of the Imperial fortress. The bed is a basic four-poster, no canopy, with neatly trimmed beige blankets and thin pillows covered in linen. An ink well and quill sit perched atop an angled wooden writing desk that seems to have received a great deal of use over the years. Next to the ink well is a seal for pressing the familiar wax "DS" on communiques to the Chancellor, Blademaster and other worthy recipients. A gray stone wash basin is off to one corner, available for cleansing. A plain pinewood wardrobe stands against the northern wall, holding the clothes of the Emperor's Hawk. Two crimson-curtained archways lead out onto balconies.
You appear to be alone here. A steel vault is here. A biinwood bed is here. A biinwood writing desk is here. A biinwood armoire is here. A red velvet biinwood chair is here. A red velvet biinwood sofa is here.
Obvious exits: Southeastern Balcony <SEB>, Southwestern Balcony <SWB>, Out <O>
Duhnen Seamel arrives from Northeast Tower Top Duhnen Seamel has arrived.
"I suppose I never did quite share your favor for the color red," Duhnen admits as he steps in, the door closing behind him with a light *thud*. "All the same, that doesn't mean that the lazy Seamel would refuse to sit on the red furniture." He gestures about the room, offering her choice in seating.
"The red wasn't mine, actually," Tomassa admits as she stalks forward to take a seat upon the sofa. "It was Gell's. I saw little need to redecorate just because it was a *Mikin* color." She settles herself downward and easily sits, the cloth of her skirt falling between her parted legs.
"A nice blue would be welcome," Duhnen shrugs, stepping forward and taking hold of a chair midstride, lifting it. "I always did like blue..." The chair is placed backwards in front of the sofa and Tomassa, and the man sits on it with his legs straddled about the backing. Almost a childish way to sit. Though the intent look he sets on her isn't childish in the slighest.
Tomassa exhales in self-exasperation when she realizes how she's sitting. She arranges her skirt and tries to sit with more ladylike grace, but she'll never be as elegant as Rowena. When she looks up again, she meets Duhnen's intent gaze with one of unflinching calm and awaits his next words.
"Serious charges," Duhnen states, in as much of a way to prompt her to begin, as to also leave the direction of the conversation to her, at the moment. His arms lift to rest atop the back of the chair as he rocks slightly.
"Yes, they are. Nonetheless, I find it somewhat amusing that one can be charged with treason for simply -speaking- of something and not -doing- it. When Shalis and I came to give our oath and for me to confess the conversation to Oren, we didn't realize that someone had already accused me of treason. And how interesting it is that the person who did so is the person who -brought up the subject- to me," Tomassa says with a tilt of her head and a wry expression.
"You speak of Aiden Zahir," Duhnen seeks confirmation. "He has leveled the charges against you, after all. And you say he attempted to plant the seeds of treason."
"He did," the woman agrees as her hands gently clasp together. "Aiden spoke to me not long after he returned from beyond the Aegis. He said that you, Sahna Nillu, and himself were *forced* to kneel before Oren to make oaths of fealty after he learned of the Emperor's wishes. He said that Oren was a tyrant who must be stopped. He told me... that Oren was sending Bladesmen throughout the realm to force the nobility to swear to him. The idea of Bladesmen showing up at Bramblestone to take my oath or besiege my home angered me."
Duhnen bobs his head, whether in agreement or understanding. "And what then, Tomassa? Tell me more. Everything and anything, preferably."
The left corner of Tomassa's mouth quirks upward. She has no trouble meeting Duhnen's gaze as she speaks. "Aiden then said that he did not think the Blades would come to Hedgehem because of the oath he had made. That mollified me somewhat. He seemed terribly bitter about Oren's appointment and the Nillus quest for power. He said that he wished for a return to the old ways when the heads of families ruled their own lands and there was no emperor. It was -then- that he named me... Goram's heir." At last, her calm expression changes to one of extreme distaste. "He said it was time the Black Rider returned to Fastheld to stir up the people against palace authority. And he wished for me to do it."
"With the preferred end result of facilitating an overthrow of the Regent," Duhnen reasons, rising from the chair and wandering over to a sideboard. He opens it up and gestures questioningly to a small bottle of wine.
"No, thank you," Tomassa politely replies with a small smile. "Yes. That is what Aiden wished. He suggested that the Black Rider begin by posting propaganda at each news post in the realm. To that end, he even -wrote- an announcement for me to copy and carry around Fastheld. When Shalis and I gave our oaths and I told Oren of this plot, I delivered the letter into his hands."
"Well, I can't be expected to drink alone," Duhnen sniffs with a light chuckle, closing the sideboard with the heel of his foot and returning to the chair, dropping back into it. "So tell me more about the Black Rider. Did he give you any more support with the task?"
Tomassa exhales and gives a small nod. "He did. He offered his dark horse to be ridden during the task so that the populace wouldn't recognize me by my familiar shires. I had no idea that he was going to accuse me of treason. Shalis and I did not know of Aiden's accusation until after we spoke to Oren. That is when Oren put us under restriction here at the palace as well as Aiden." She pauses as a quiet smile comes to her face. "When I married Shalis, I made promises to him. One was that I would be truthful with him. I went to him with what Aiden had said to me and Shalis said we would go to Oren with the plot. Shalis has also forbidden me from having any further dealings with my cousin. I have done my best to comply with his wishes, even when Aiden baited me with insults at the dining hall. It took a great deal of willpower to ignore him."
"It'd do you two well to not come in contact," Duhnen agrees at that. "If he seeks you out, let me know." He taps the fingers of one hand against the chair as he looks at her thoughtfully, before adding, "Your dislike of the Regent is fairly well known. Or, if not dislike, than at least disagreement with his policies."
The woman nods. "That is true. But, as I told Rowena, it is not like me to give oath and then betray it. Even you should be familiar enough with me to know that I would make no secret of my disagreement. If I were to defy the Regent, I would do so -openly- and not wish secrecy. Yet... Shalis and I came and gave our oaths. It is true that I dislike Oren Nillu, but I would have followed Talus Kahar beyond the Aegis without looking back. I may not like his choice of regent, but I will do my best to tolerate him for Talus' sake."
"So you were not going to follow through on his idea," Duhnen nods his head. "Anything else you feel you need to tell me, then? That you feel is relevant?"
Drily, Tomassa asks, "How long ago did the expedition return from the Emperor? Have you heard tales of a Black Rider? Have there been postings anywhere in the realm? If I were going to follow through with this plot, I would already have done so. Instead, I made confession to my husband and we came to pledge our oaths to the Regent. After I -gave my oath-, I made confession. How is that treasonous?"
"Look, I do not know what Aiden is up to with his accusations, but it seems apparent to me, now that I know he accused me before I arrived, that he wishes me ill for some reason."
"It appears he doesn't hold any great love if he's accusing of treason," Duhnen replies. "I'll consider your words, and also interview Aiden. Perhaps I'll need to speak with you again, as well." He taps a foot against the floor twice before sighing and adding, "Corriden has passed, you know." There's a nice change in topic.
At last, there is a sag to the woman's shoulders and her gaze drops to her clasped hands. "I know," she quietly says. "If someone wished to accuse me of his murder, I would not defend myself. I killed him as surely as if I had pushed him into the furnace." There is a great deal of guilt in her voice and the weight of grief rests heavily upon her form. "If I'm found guilty of treason, I shall bear my punishment simply as partial penance for C.. Corrie's death." Her voice falters on his name and has grown husky.
"I seriously doubt he'd approve of us acting like this," Duhnen replies. "He wasn't very sensible most of the time, but he did have his moments of clarity." He watches her face closely as he says his next words. "I believe Sister Oak wishes to accuse Ester of having a hand in his death."
A tear slips down Tomassa's cheek as she squeezes her eyes closed to curtail more of them. "Ester loved him. That's ridiculous," she huskily says. "Shalis asked me if Corriden could bear it, if we were to wed. I... I thought he could. How could he have been so unhappy as to end his life? Why didn't he talk to anyone?"
"He was drunk, by all accounts," Duhnen answers. "He did lots of stupid things while drunk. Including trying to kill the Second Blademaster. There's no forgiving what he did...it was cowardly at best. But that doesn't mean he wasn't a good man. We just have to remember that."
Tomassa looks up at Duhnen with watery eyes and a guilt-ridden gaze. "Still. You can't tell me that you don't think he'd still be alive, if I'd married him."
"Do you think you could have stopped him from drinking?" Duhnen asks, lifting an eyebrow. "Despite how much he may or may not have loved you, I don't think that would have been enough. I don't think anything would have been enough, short of removing his hands."
"He stopped once when I asked him. Gave it up. He got the shakes and he still wouldn't drink. I.. I don't know, Duhnen. All I know is that I feel responsible for his death," Tomassa quietly admits.
"He drank regardless," Duhnen states, slowly. "You didn't put the bottle to his lips. You didn't drive him towards his end. No one did but himself. Guilt over a death you had nothing to do with is pointless...even if it's a natural feeling. I've had it myself."
Tomassa lifts a hand from her lap to scrape her knuckles across her wet cheeks. "Thank you," she says with a weak smile. "I'll try to remember that." Straightening her shoulders, Tomassa says, "As for this treason business, I trust that you'll make a fair decision. I'll do what I can to abide by it."
"Justice will be had, I sincerely hope. At least, I'll do my best," Duhnen replies, rising off the chair and offering a hand. "I envision a Fastheld where evil doesn't walk unhindered. A bit of a childish fancy, isn't it?" He smiles tightly to her.
"Evil walks unhindered in many disguises," Tomassa quietly advises. She reaches up to clasp his hand and rises from the sofa. "I wish you luck and Light's aid," the woman offers with a slight smile.
"Thank you," Duhnen nods his head, leading her towards the door. "Your guards are probably growing antsy. So I'll leave you to them."
Tomassa glances to the new Surrector with a slightly wry expression. "Thanks," she drily reponds, but then she faintly smiles. Stepping out to the landing, she states, "I'm going downstairs. See if you can keep up," to the waiting Bladesmen.