Oren Nillu's Chambers, Fastheld Keep
A spacious chamber with walls of polished biinwood and arched windows overlooking the courtyard below, this is the room that the Imperial Chancellor Alieron Mikin calls home.
The room includes a washbasin, a chamber pot that servants frequently replace for cleaning, a wardrobes for clothing, and a four-post bed with an arched white canopy, polished biinwood headboard, thick beige blankets and comfortable fowl-feather pillows. An angled writing table is provided for the chancellor or his vassals to work on correspondence. A bedroll is provided for a vassal to sleep close by the chancellor's vicinity.
High wooden doors lead out into the quarters corridor.
The cavernous suite is empty except for the single man sitting behind his desk with a flank of wine and a filled cup. He is working his way through a stack of papers and does not seem pleased about. The night itself seems as focused as he is, with the absent breeze keeping the world outside these walls in stillness. It is a night for duty, it seems, and Oren Nillu's is quite demanding.
From the hall comes a distant sound of humming, the type of which could cause the listener to envision the owner as being bumbled along in a bumpy carriage, sloshing wine in hand. Overly joyful, far from on key, and without a care to the whim.
Such a sound grows in loudness, too, and it's certain that the noise approaches the Chancellor's suite. Yes, it seems that the poor man's peaceful solitude is about to be trounced. The humming stops, and a fist, cane, or some object raps lightly against the door.
Each tap on the wooden door causes Oren Nillu's left eyebrow to twitch. By the time the knocking is done, the old man puts his quill down and glances at the door. Very few mysteries are as seductive as the burning questions that pry into the fog of ignorance, trying to deduce from within the depths of uncertainty what secrets may be held beyond the point of present wisdom. Perhaps it is in this sense that the Chancellor's annoyance is lessened, if only for the time it will take for the truth to be revealed. "Come in," he says, a hint of eagerness betrayed with the drawling of his voice at the end, yet another hint of the unconscious desire any man has to be spared a few moments of work.
And the truth that's to be revealed is, at least in most eyes of men, less than seductive. The door creaks open and in steps...a stranger. Wriggling her shoulders into a squared position of authority and lifting her dimpled chin, the woman could hardly claim a height much farther beyond five feet, perhaps two inches more. Her stately manner and somewhat boxy frame placed her as more forminable than height would give her credit for. As for her dress...commoner's clothing. It is most certainly clean and well groomed, but also somewhat worn. A green skirt falls heavily to patched slippers. A white blouse billows over her endowments while a vest is squeezed into place. Years of child bearing had done away with any girlish figure she once possesed.
"Hallo and g'evening to ya, Your Grace." The woman so eloquently greets with a jovial bob of her head and smile that reveals a missing tooth. A few of the other incissors look as though they're not far behind. She shifts the satchel in her arms to a healthily-rounded hip and relieves an itch upon her gray scalp. Her brown eyes twinkle amiably enough, set beneath fading brows. "I've been sent to check on ye."
Only the creation of worlds could hope to rival the sheer explosion of power that the revelation of truth spawns: it is the sound of a thousand singing voices, hailing praise; it is a myriad of effulgent rays that burn the mind with ecstasy; it is the finality of all things, when piece after piece falls into place in the big puzzle that is life. It is indeed the truth. It is indeed the answer to that itching question that bloomed in the back of Oren Nillu's head the moment the knocking came. It is the all and it is the nothing. It is the sum of all wonderments which rises like a pitched ring, sweeping the Chancellor in the direction of wisdom... only to let go and drop him on a bed of thorns.
"Good evening. I... what? Check on me? Are you Duchess Mikin's apprentice, then?"
"Hoo, Hoo!" The wrinkles around the woman's eyes and across her forehead deepen as she laughs, head briefly tossed back. Her softened bossom quakes in the short-lived burst of laughter before she can contain herself. A grandmotherly warmth radiates from the creases around her mouth. "Ah, I s'pect es wat et looks like..." Coughing once into her fist, she recomposes herself with a strong air of dignity and calm, stepping further into the chambers.
"M'name's Maeve Downwind." A glimmer of mischief dances in her old eyes, suggesting there's a great deal behind the humble name. "M'husband took the name Downwind, you see? Because nobody wan'd em to be *upwind*" Another laugh explodes from between her lips, but this time in the form of a quieter wheezing sort. A tear forms in her eye, waist bending to compensate for the sudden exertion. "Ah, I'm sorry. We always laughed at that..." She sighs and once more becomes sober, dipping into an awkward curtsey. "To answer your question, Your Grace, no, I am not Rowena's apprentice." To use the Royal Healer's first name? This was a peculiar sort indeed....
Oren Nillu blinks at the old woman's jovial outburst. "Yes, well... I see. So if you are not her apprentice, Mistress Downwind, who are you? I /am/ assuming she is the one who sent you to check up on me, after all."
Maeve takes a moment to breathe, helping herself to an amble glance around the vast chambers while she searches for a place to rest her things. "Healers of m'dear Rowena's type aren't simply born into this world with such knowledge. They are *made*." Huffing an puffing ceased as her normal breathing returns, the woman finally chooses to simply approach the Chancellor further and rest her things at the foot of his desk. As she straightens out, she casts him a wink. "She was sent ta me at the ripe age o'thirteen. A wild sprout, cast from her father's enraged sight. Funny to think of et now. A woman of her wisdom, her prestige, once running wild through the fields, much to her parents' agony. And that boy..." she croons, chuckle forming as she looks away again. "He was the cause of et, me thinks. One look at that poor girl in her dripping, dirtied gown and that equally weathered lad that chased after her sent the notion that she was to become a whore into her father's head, though how was he to know at the time just who that boy really was? And so....she was sent to me."
"Well, then, a mistress of the trade indeed," Oren replies with a chuckle. "Well, yes, that /is/ hard to imagine. So you are here to check up on me?" The old man takes his chalice and drinks from it. "I can assure you I am quite well. No longer in need of a crutch. The would still bothers me, of course, but it heals nicely."
"I've orders ta stay nearby until the Duchess returns." Maeve asserts with a nod, narrowing her eyes as though in study of his words' validity. "I've some things with me ta make certain that et don't fester. From what I hear, you have been truly blessed to have lived past such an attack." She praises, brows arching to create a new set of sags and stretches around her eyes. In a rustling of skirts, the woman climbs down to her knees, climbs because she must use the desk for stability, and opens the flap of her satchel. That throaty humming begins anew, far less soothing than her apprentice's thrumming tune.
"Where has the Duchess headed off to, Mistress Downwind? Do you know?" Oren asks.
"Oh, many places, from what little I understood of her letter." Maeve answers, muffled momentarily by her sleeve as she searches. A crumpled piece of parchment is tossed out, followed by a ribbon punctured by tiny teeth marks. Finally, her hand closes around a glass vial with blue-tinted wax seal. "She said she had sent word to her friend the Tradesmistress as well. She had business ta attend to. Her old home...some place in what's left in the wood. Then that market, that...Aegisview, it was. Yes, Aegisview. She said she had something ta see there of great value. Many things ta think about."
The woman grunts as she rises to her feet and sits the vial in plain view on the desk. It has a thick, creamy content with flecks of green. "And please, there's no need for any mistress this and mistress that. Just call m'Maeve."
"Aegisview," Oren Nillu echoes thoughtfully, then shakes his head and snaps out of whatever mental trance was threatening to consume him. "Maeve, then. Very well. What is that?" He nods to the vial. "I wish I had the time to learn about all these concoctions."
"This," Maeve announces with some pride in her voice, patting the vial on the head as though it were one of her many children. "you will spread o'er that wound nightly before you sleep. Keeps th'skin fresh'n'clean. Keeps the bugs away, it does." There's a pause as she glances around, remembering where it is she stood. A wide grin pastes itself to her features. "'Though I s'pose not many of those creep inside such a fine place."
Bending over with some instability, she takes the parchment wad from the floor and unfolds it to skim the manuscript with a crooked squint. "Yes. Yes, Sheltered...Flame...Keep. That's the other place she went to see. A former mystery, if I'm not mistaken. But many things have become mystery. The poor child...she hasn't laughed in such a long time. I see it in her eyes...the mysteries. There's much she's keeping from me, but I'm no longer one to pry it from her. She isn't a wiry wit of sixteen any longer." Stuffing the letter into her vest, Maeve drifts into thought for a moment before returning to the present conversation. "Ay'ways, just you put that on before you rest your sweet head each night."
"Many places indeed. Many townships, many keeps," the Chancellor muses aloud. And a grave site, no doubt. Oren shakes his head and sighs. "Yes. She is a grown woman, Maeve. Let her find her way. So this ointment will keep the insects away? Much like this here wine will keep the pain at bay."
"Mister Downwind fell downhill after he drunk so much of that..." Maeve tuts in warning, a plump but nimble finger shaking at him. "Mind you be careful. The realm has lost enough as 'tis." She huffs again, dipping her chin into her neck to cough again into her fist. "Ah, why is it age creeps up on one so fast? It was already two years ago that I heard my children's children's first cry." Sighing, she fumbles the satchel strap and hefts it noisily over her shoulder.
"Age does tend to do that, Maeve. We live and we grow old to eventually die under the Light," the elderly Nillu explains. "I have not been blessed with grandchildren myself."
"Aw, what a shame that es.." Maeve says before thinking better of it. "Though I s'pect you're better rested because of et. Never have I been so faint as after they have visited m'home. THey're just like my boys. All noise, all fuss, and no minding of their elders. But who can resist their little red curls..." Ending her tangent before it strays too far and sends the Chancellor into boredom, Maeve inhales deeply and then exhales a decisive breath. "Well I may not be as learned as His Majesty and yourself when et comes to such brusiness, but I can see that you were busy before I knocked." The old woman notes with a nod to his stack of papers. "I'll leave you to et for t'night. If I don't get m'self lost in this splendid maze then I will see you on the morrow." Bobbing her head in earnest, Maeve waves her farewell to the Chancellor and scoots herself towards the door with a greater degree of giddyness than she held upon entry. Such excitement this was! Truly a step up from her humble cottage.
Oren Nillu blinks and watches his assigned healer depart for the moment, chuckling. "Indeed, Maeve. Indeed." So ends the pause in the Chancellor's busy life, with the interruption now ended and the promise of more work looming in the horizon. The mystery has been solved and the solution was as simple as the riddle. Without much more thought invested on the matter, his work is resumed.