Dungeon Cell <Fastheld Keep>
- This chamber is six feet wide and deep, and about eight feet high. It has a musty pile of hay and a ratty gray blanket that passes for a bed. A grimy-looking wooden bucket serves as a toilet. A similar bucket contains brackish drinking water. Take care to know the difference. Iron shackles and manacles are affixed to the wall, and can be used to neutralize troublesome prisoners.
Ester sits in the corner of the back of her cell leaning up against the wall, her cheek pressed fast against it as he appears to be sleeping. Her eyes are closed and her breath comes in even sequence.
From Dank Corridor, Steps echo down the narrow hallway to herald someone's arrival.
Ester stirs at the sound and begins her ascent from the world of dreams. Blearily her lids flicker open and she looks towards the cell door.
From Dank Corridor, Oren Nillu finally comes into general view of the cells, immediately approaching the one where the huntress is being held. "Ah, Ester. How are you holding up?"
Ester looks weary as she croaks the first few words until her voice clears," As best as could be expected your Grace." She straightens a little and pushes some strands of hair thats taken on a rather grimy look away from her face.
From Dank Corridor, "How long as you going to be held here? Has anyone told you anything?" Oren asks.
Ester looks to the wall, her voice strained, "I expect for a long while, if not forever. Unless he decides when things quiet to take my life."
Ester closes her eyes, she is sitting at the back of her cell speaking with Oren. "Aye I have spoken with him. He was not happy with my response," she replies in a resigned tone. "His exact words were he would take my signature on that friggin piece of paper when I could do it without being a whiny whore."
From Dank Corridor, There is the pitter patter of a soldier's boots as a figure rounds the corner, armored and carrying a lamp.
From Dank Corridor, "Then sign it, Ester," the former chancellor urges, his voice calm. "This is not a game where the most stubborn wins. This is a game of rocks and soldiers." He smiles and the turns to face the hallway. "Someone is coming. Are they feeding you well? Treating you properly?"
"Your Grace he now knows that I know about what he did to the Emperor," Ester replies in a quieter voice. "I am assuming that my chance for signing has passed. I'm sorry you Grace but I feel that your own loyalty will be questioned if you show to much concern for my wellbeing." She open her eyes and offers him a bland smile, "It is alright."
From Dank Corridor, As Lucius approaches closer, he can hear the two voices in their verbal intercourse and also spot Oren. The Marshal doesn't yell out in greet, but continues to approach into conversational range.
From Dank Corridor, Oren Nillu chuckles. "Do not worry about me," he replies. "You stay strong. Do not die on us, Lady Shardwood. I will speak with Zolor Zahir about your release. You just hold on until then."
Ester looks to the sound of approaching boots but is unable to see their owner just yet. She swallows and shakes her head, "Don't your Grace. I do not want you to. Enough has been done already."
From Dank Corridor, "No need to speak to Zolor about Ester's release, your Grace. She's going to be released later today by the Chamberlain." Lucius says, voice loud, but somber sounding. "Zolor is making her property of the former Assessor."
From Dank Corridor, Oren Nillu raises his hand to stop Ester and thus dismiss the subject. He is about to speak when Lucius interrupts. "Property of my niece, then? I see."
This news causes Ester to straighten a little. Her eyes narrow, "Property?"
From Dank Corridor, "I do not know how one person may physically /own/ another person, as Fastheld does not have slaves, except those souls who work in the mines, tongueless and blind." Lucius pauses. "But the Emperor has deemed it so... I suspect she will treat you will Ester."
From Dank Corridor, "Apparently slavery will once more become legal in our civilized Empire," Oren notes. "So be it. At least it will see you out of this cell, Lady Shardwood."
Ester looks between the two men and rises to her full height. "So be it?" she queries of the older man, her tone taking on a bitter edge as anger rises in her cheeks. "That is all you have to say? I am now deemed at the level of a farm animal that can be bought and sold...after all I have done for you and the Emperor."
From Dank Corridor, "There.. is more." Lucius's head lowers a bit, eyes following suite. "But I cannot bear to say it, Mistress Shardwood. I hope you forgive me in due time for not being able to do anything." The Marshal's eyes remain downcast.
From Dank Corridor, "This was not my decision," Oren tells Ester. "At least this will provide you with freedom, however. If you would rather stay here, it is your choice, but only death will follow. Sometimes, Lady Shardwood, we must all taste a bitter medicine so we may eventually survive." He turns to Lucius, eyes narrowed. "More?"
Ester glares at Oren before turning her attention to Lucius, look questioning.
From Dank Corridor, "The Emperor has ordered something done because of Ester's supposed spreading of rumors. That he was the one who spread the plague." The Marshal look around before continuing. "While we know this to be true and I've been told my the Assessor that the council knew for a while.. it is bad press, to him." He doesn't elaborate on what must be done.
From Dank Corridor, Oren Nillu's eyes grow cold. "He is going to silence you, Ester, but allow you to live in order to suffer the humiliation. That I cannot let stand."
"Silence me ho..." she stops in midsentence as the horror of realization to what the most likely punishment will be. Her fingers go to her mouth. She stands looking absolutely stunned.
From Dank Corridor, Lucius Nepos's eyes narrow at Oren. "And what do you want to do about it, Grace? Get yourself killed? Get her killed?"
From Dank Corridor, "You underestimate my power of persuasion, Marshal, and the sort of things I have at the bargaining table. Ester," Oren says, turning to her. "Stay strong." With that, he starts down the hallway and away from the cells.
Ester steps forward and stares after him, her silence hanging around him. After he retreats she hisses at Lucius without looking at him, "Give me a knife Lucius."
From Dank Corridor, "What do you plan to do, your Grace?" Asks Lucius, eyebrows raising up high onto his forehead. And now at Ester. "And /you/ Ester? What do /you/ plan to do?"
Ester holds out her hand and says more forcefully, "For all the Light and any friendship or respect that we may have had. Give me a knife. I will not let this happen to me. I will *not* let either of those Zahir snakes take any pleasure."
From Dank Corridor, Lucius Nepos stares at Ester, a deepset frown tugging at his face. "She does not want to do it. She's been ordered by the Emperor. She said she wanted to render you unconscious and try to give you something for the pain.. please, Ester, do not take your own life!"
"And she will take the deepest of pleasure from I being unconscious or not," Ester returns, her voice rising from a hiss to a growl. "I do not care about the pain Lucius. Light knows I have taken pain before." Forcefully she thrusts her hand in his direction, "For the love of Light give me a knife and get out of here."
From Dank Corridor, "My only knife.. is in that chamber." Lucius motions towards the east, and further down the torture chamber. "She took it from me for the purpose.. I will be likely executed if I'm found out doing this." Lucius stands motionless for a few moments, breathing in and out deeply, sadness tangible on his face. He turns to the east a moment later, wordlessly.
Ester starts to shake as soon as he leaves and braces a hand on the stone wall to support herself.
From Dank Corridor, Clasping the beautiful, flowing obsidian dagger, Lucius looks even worse than when he went in. Afterall, he now has the actual implement in his hand, and he walks slowly towards the cell, unlocking it with his ring of keys. He enters.
Ester steps back from the door, her shaking arm falling to the side. She looks at him and blinks with watery eyes. "Thank you Lucius," she says in a wavery voice, "Thank you."
For the moment, Lucius holds the blade by its pommel in his left hand. The armored right gauntlet comes to gently rest on Ester's shoulder. "You wouldn't have some amazing plan of escape, using the knife to dig yourself from out of the prison, would you Ester?" He smiles wanly.
Ester looks down at the weapon, not reaching to take it yet. "I wish," she says in a forlorn tone, "I truly wish." Slowly she lifts her hand. It is now shaking so much she that it takes concerted effort to close her fingers around the smooth handle.
Lucius Nepos brushes his hand by Ester's cheek, eyes looking into hers for the last real time it's possible, evidently. "As do I. I am so sorry that it had to happen like this."
Ester tilts her head towards the touch, savoring it for that one small moment. "As am I." The knife slips from Lucius's hand and falls to her side. Her whole body begins to tremble. "Do not let him and his manipulations get the best of you Mast...I mean Lucius. I do not blame you for being unable to help."
And as it has not happened in a long while, not since the whole mess of the pox started and the Emperor passed, something rolls down Lucius's cheek; a solitary tear. Lucius turns away to exit the cell, breathing ragged. "Go join the Light, Ester." The door closes behind him, and locks
A short while later....
Ester is standing in her cell, trembling and staring down at a black knife that she holds in her hands.
Fionnlagh stirs in his own cell next to that, after an unusual thing for the forester...a fitful night of restlessness. Tossing and turning and grumbling to himself. The conditions aren't that bad....though anyone who was listening to movements the previous night would know the forester had been taken out of his cell, and led Eastward...further in rather than towards the exit. He's had a shaken and troubled manner since his return.
Ester continues to stare at the knife, her expression twisting in pain and uncertainty. Trembling she holds it up to her throat and lays the blade flat against the glistening skin. There she stands, breathing in and out, in and out. Her eyes squeeze shut as the blade slowly swivels up on edge, the subtle pressure of the edge pushing a line into the skin.
"Ester?" It's a whispered question, from the cell next to hers, heavy in tone, weighted with a sorrow and perhaps a bit of resignation. The Forester's voice.
The voice. A familiar voice. Ester's eyes snap open and the knife's pressure lessens as she hesitates. "Aye?" she finally returns.
"Still angry at me?" inquires the Forester quietly.
Ester blinks, incredulous at the question. What timing. "No," comes the stark reply and nothing else.
Fionnlagh nods quietly, even though she can't see it, and shifts to peer out his cell bars, looking for guards. Not spotting any, he turns attention to the cell beside him, murmuring again with that same tone. "How much do you know of what's coming, my friend?"
Ester moves the knife out in front of, far enough to where she can look at it. "Everything," she hoarses. "The tongue? And Sahna?" he asks quietly, his own voice taking on a tightness of throat, followed by a dry swallow.
"Aye," comes the reply after a long silence. "I hope you understand..." she starts, "...about my feelings towards Tomassa, which I spoke in anger the other night. I did not me to hurt you old friend."
"I do..." he says softly, sighing heavily. "We've been through a very long path together, haven't we? The question is...do you understand mine?"
Another long silence follow by a small sigh. "No," she states simply, "I do not."
Fionnlagh leans his head against the cool of the bars, speaking softly after a moment. "She knows the truth now, Ester. She's a spiteful woman...though she is trying not to be. Just now....she knows you were right. What she doesn't know is what to do. She's trapped. She'll have to go through with it...but she'll do what she can to make you feel as little pain as possible. It was of her own will, the day the two of you fought....it isn't now. Forgive her this, if you can, my friend."
"That is much to ask," Ester replies with a small sigh. Another look at the knife, "Forgive me but I cannot. As we all live with her choices, she will have to live with hers."
"I'm in the habit of asking much, lately," he murmurs softly, the sorrow still in his voice. He's quiet a moment, before he asks softly. "Do you know also what happens if she does?"
"What?" she returns brusquely, "She will feel bad while she lives in the lap of luxary and exerts her new found power over those who have little choice but to comply. Forgive me again if I hold little sympathy."
"She'll be allowed to see Serath where Zolor has him imprisoned," states the Forester quietly. "Though that is not for any other ears. I tell you so you will know there is more reason than hatred and entrapment.
She hoped that you might take some consolation in that. Some small good out of the evil." There's a pause, and then he says softly. "If there were a way to rescue you, I would, Ester. I hope you know that of me." A long pause, and then he speaks again. "Tell me what you would have taken to others. If I can, I will. You know that."
Ester links and her cheeks redden with an anger. She ignores the last comment as she focuses on the first bit of news, "And I am supposed to congratulate her upon making a deal that will help us how? Do you realize how insulting that sounds friend. How is that a good thing? Why would I give a sweet pig's ass that my tongue and freedom is being traded for a social chat. Perhaps you could suggest that they have a cup of tea and dinner as well. Oy...now that would make feel better."
"It is a better thing than your death traded for nothing," he states, a bit sharply, then moderates it quickly. "I don't know if it will do any good at all. I really don't. I don't know that anything will. But I'm desperate enough to cling to tiny hopes...because there are no big ones left. I don't want the loss of your tongue...but I want even less the loss of my friend."
Ester slowly raises the knife back to her throat, "I cannot give you that comfort either. I *will* not let myself be humiliated and give any pleasure to that man."
"Worry enters into the forester's tone, and one hand comes up to curl about the bars. "What will you do?"
Ester stands in her cell, holding an obsidian knife at her throat with trembling hand. Fionnlagh is in the other cell, where he can hear but not see. "All will be made clear soon enough," she hoarses in a wavery voice.
Fionnlagh has his forehead against the bars of the window in his cell, one hand curled around the bars, his tone growing more worried, "Ester? What does that mean? Ester?"
From Dank Corridor, The sound of heavy boots sound down the length of the dungeon halls, clumping along the dank stone corridor.
Ester ignores the man's questions and starts at the sound of boots. She turns her head towards the cell door and steels herself by planting each foot firmly on the ground. With white knuckles she squeezes her eyes shut and grips the knife with white knuckled hand.
"Ester? What are you doing? Ester?" There's a rise of tone in the Forester's question, worry shifting into full fear. "Ester? Answer me."
From Dank Corridor, The man is clad in the armor of the tribunal, a scar-lined face at odds with the slight puckish upturn of his nose. Other than that he hardly seems distinctive- Not too tall or too short, too thin or too fat. In fact, besides the scars and somewhat distinct face, he might be called common and average. The footsteps stop at Ester's cell, iron keyring jingling in one hand as he peers within.
Ester slides the knife to the side of her neck, eyes growing desperate at he sound of the door opening. She sucks in her breath and presses the blade into her skin, a small bead of blood pooling over the black surface. Her hand trembles and she struggles to quell it enough to control her actions.
Fionnlagh hears the jingling of the keys next to him, grip tightening around the bars of his cell as he presses his face as tightly against the window as he can, trying to get a look. "Ester?" he queries, open worry in his tone.
From Dank Corridor, The solider watches this for a moment through dispassionate eyes.. A shade of odd sage-green that would probably look familiar if Ester was looking. Slowly, so as to not make the move threatening, he moves his thumb up to his nose, fingers held upwards-- These, he wiggles, as he makes a raspberry sound with his tongue. "Thhhhhhhhhhhhpt."
Ester falters and her eyes open as she looks towards the guard. The gesture and sound is entirely unexpected and catches her off guard. "Huh?" comes the reply as she stares at him, questioning with her eyes. "I uh...it seems the time has come for my departure old friend," she offers in an utterly uncertain tone. The knife still stands at her throat, but the energy to complete the intended tasks slowly leaks from her.
The rising panic in the forester is derailed by that one utterly childish sound...and he blinks, brow furrowing, too caught off guard to quite retake his worry before the words come from the next cell. "Ester? Are you?" Well...how does one end a question like that? Okay doesn't quite seem to fit.
From Dank Corridor, While Ester is faltering, the guardsman unlocks the door to her cell, with the sound of a heavy bolt being drawn back and the jingle of keys. Winking to the former surrector, he gestures for her to walk in front of him.. Most notably not in the direction of the torture chamber.
Ester nods at the guard, still uncertain but willing to follow the directions. She lowers the knife, looks at it, looks to the guard and looks back at him. Realization finally dawns as does a gamut of emotion that passes over her face, relief, elation, concern, panic, worry and then the steadfast expression of one who has a job to do. She leans down, draws up the leg of her skirt and slips the knife into the top of her boot. "Take care old friend," she states in a quiet tone, "I will take what is coming without protest. Fate has decided my path."
Fionnlagh stretches a set of fingers out the bars, grip loosening a little, as perplexity overtakes worry in light of the calm of her voice. "Are you...are you okay?" It's a weird question to ask a person just taken out of a cell by a guard...but nothing is going quite like he expects so far.
From Dank Corridor, The guard taps his heavy boot, wearing a look of impatience. He folds muscular arms over his breastplated chest, scowling over in Fionnlagh's direction with an imperious snort.
Ester casts a look at Fionnlagh her eyes full of sadness, "Remember my voice Kenneth and my words. I'm resigned that that part of my life is over." She smiles blandly, "Do what you need to do to get out of here. Go to the Hunter's guild. I tender my resignation as Guildmistress with you. Tell Oldman and Highgrove that they have served me well an I am indebted to their service in these hard times. Farewell." With that said she starts off down the corridor as directed by the guard.
From Dank Corridor, Ester and her escort disappear down the hallway, with the soldier pushing at her back to hurry the woman up.
The Forester meets those eyes, nodding quietly, and gives his old friend a look of mingled uncertainty and affection. "I won't forget, Ester. Light keep you."