Orana's Glade <Forest District>
Gentle, rolling hills cradle the slight impression in the ground knownnow as Orana's Glade. Fringes of biinwood trees and hill angels delineate the edges of a small bowl of lush farmland, much of which has been planted withtidy rows of fruit trees. From within the abundant isles a slender tower, graceful in design and slight in proportion, rises at the centre of the dell.
Five centuries ago, in the year 130, a gifted healer by the name of Orana Lomasa settled here. Retired from the Emperor's side and the position of Royal Physician, she spent her long remaining years tending her newly-built Keep and her newly planted orchards. To this day no tragedy worse than a broken arm has marred the lands inside the plain wooden fence that encircles the Glade.
Duhnen rides along towards Orana's Glade from Lomasa Road, armored in his obsidian mail. Along with him comes Bladesman Adaer Kahar.
From Sable's saddle, Adaer Kahar, helm and all, rides aback Sable, a rather bland looking black horse. He sneers and keeps quiet as he follows the Surrector.
From Burnish's saddle, Wilesly is moving down the path from the Lust Glade Fastness, kicking up dirt as he sends Burnish out at a full headlong gallop. However at the sight of approaching bladesmen he pulls back on the reigns causing his mount to skid to a stop. He just sits in his saddle waiting for the approaching Bladesmen, his interest particuarly following the one in Obsidian.
Spotting the rider in the middle of the road, Duhnen holds up a mailed hand in a signal to Adaer to hold. He considers Wilesly for a moment from the distance, before speaking up, voice loud. "Master Wilesly. One side, if you would."
From Sable's saddle, Adaer halts, on command. It isn't something he'll have to get used to, he thinks, but tonight, the Surrector was the one giving the orders.
From Burnish's saddle, The 'courier' brings his horse around to one side allowing sufficent space to pass but not at all making it too easy to pass as he comes a bit closer. He blinks his eyes twice, them narrowing slightly as if trying to look through the helmet. "M'lord? Is that the Surrector that addresses me?", Wilesly asks as in a tone that suggests he already knows the answer. "M'lord I was just riding out to bring m'lord here. My fiancee and I just heard the news...I...I...she wanted you to meet her in the Conservatory." His face is much paler than it usually is.
Nodding his head, and unconciously breathing a quiet sigh of relief at the statement that there wouldn't be any resistance, Duhnen waves on Adaer again, beginning to ride towards the tower again. "I'm glad. If everyone cooperates this will all go much easier."
From Sable's saddle, Adaer frowns deep, as his eyes squint catching Wilesly's silhouette becoming more vivid and colorful as they approach, once more moving on forward.
From Burnish's saddle, Wilesly brings his own mount about to fill in the flanking spot alongside Adaer. He calls after Duhnen, "There isn't to be any trouble m'lord. Just a horrible mistake is all. She could not at all be responsible for this mess for she was not well and in bed here at the Tower for nigh the past two weeks!", Sly calls in a tone verging on panic. "They can't put her in a cell m'lord. She is still not well. It would be a /death/ sentence to place her back in the Keep. Light please, don't have her imprisoned. She's done nothing wrong at all."
Sighing quietly again, Duhnen glances to Wilesly briefly, before looking forward, back to where he's riding. "Calm. You're going to scare your horse. I'd rather not have it throw you, if we could avoid it." He pats Reluctant's neck and dismounts, once by the tower entrance, hitting the ground heavily, weighted as he is by the obsidian.
From Sable's saddle, Adaer Kahar snaps Sable's reins, trying to stay away from Wilesly's horse, almost rebeliously. His eyes remain straight forward and his lips, pursed. Once reaching the tower entrance he leaps from his horse, as best as he can manage in the medium set of armor. His chain boots dig into the ground as he pats Sable's neck, choosing, definitely, not to stable the horse. "Stay," Adaer whispers to Sable. He then looks toward Duhnen, before walking over to flank his rightside.
From Burnish's saddle, Wilesly frowns, lightly offering a nod in Duhnen's direction, as his own hand comes down to Burnish's neck. "Burnish has not thrown me yet.", Sly murmurs. He too brings his horse about to the stables, nodding to the stableboy, and carefully dismounting. His eyes wander on one particular horse, Jasper, and he shakes his head lightly as the reigns are plucked by his hand from a stableboy. He moves to catch up with Duhnen, "M'lord. I promised her she would not have to go back to the Keep or into one of those cells. If, by the Light, m'lord could prevent that I would be forever in m'lord's debt."
Naris Thorn comes a skipping out the doorway, the strain of the past few days still quite evident on her features. Her forced cheer is finally taking its toll, and she stops dead in her tracks as the men approach, her face turning white. "Com.m..me to take ba.d.dd Nar.r.r.ris away now?"
"We've come to take her into custody," Duhnen replies to Wilesly, not looking over to him again. "I can't leave her here, however, where there's the possibility of escape." He glances to Naris as she appears, and he shakes his head, reaching to gently move her to the side, out of the way. "No, Miss Naris. Don't you worry. Go tend to your flowers?"
Adaer sighs at Wilesly's persistant talking, "You talk to much," he says, finally. "Just keep your mouth shut. Everything thing will work out fine," he says, as if knowing of Dianna's innocence, or at least assuming it. His eyes then regard Naris with a perched brow.
From Burnish's saddle, Wilesly hangs his head low slightly at that. "Anywhere but a cell m'lord. Anywhere but the Keep.", Sly murmurs dejectedly as he follows along behind. He doesn't even pay Naris any heed.
Naris Thorn lets herself be moved out of the way, dejection replacing fear upon her features as she sighs and nods. "Yes, Nar..rris only good flow.w.wers." she states, her quiet stutter barely even aubible.
Lush Glade Tower: Conservatory <Forest District>
A riot of green fills the top of Lush Glade Tower. Where usually there would be the crenellations and flat stone of a warlike platform, instead the thick stone walls of the tower have been crowned with a slanted ceiling made of pane upon pane of glass, held up by cleverly carved wooden columns that resemble treetrunks. Pots full of flowers cover nearly every inch of ground save those left free for paths and benches, and the air is heady with floral perfume.
Not only flowers adorn this space, but small bright insects and especially the flutter of birds' wings fill it too; though shy of people these creatures will come up to the slow and patient.
Anys Lomasa and Dianna Ebonwood sit together in the conservatory, engaged in serious conversation. "I meant Auntie Jahna," Anys answers Dianna, offering only a shrug to Dianna's apology.
Dianna rolls her eyes a little bit, hugging Anys close, "You can have a family outside of your spouse," she notes. "Even when I was married to Adaer, I still had my family. They did not become less than because of a husband."
Duhnen pushes the door open to the conservatory, the man tromping in amist the clanking of the obsidian mail he wears. It's simply enough to spot Dianna and Anys, and he begins to walk towards them. "Dianna," he greets, businesslike. The Surrector also nods to Anys, giving her a small smile.
Adaer Kahar flanks the Surrector on the right, wearing a helm. His eyes are a bit icy, but once they catch sight of Dianna they seem to lighten up a little. His takes a deep breath as they approach the women, Anys and Dianna.
Wilesly moves in behind Duhnen and Adaer, sprinting ahead of them to stand behind Dianna. His hand descends to touch her left shoulder, so that he may stand behind her and project some sort of aura of protectiveness. It quickly crumbles as his face for one of the few times in his life betrays his emotions.
Anys Lomasa leaps to her feet, her eyes widening as the men make their noisy entrance into the conservatory. "Duhnen," she interjects, "you aren't really going to arrest her, are you?" She clutches Dianna's shoulder protectively as Wilesly moves toward them, her gaze anxious and untrusting.
Dianna rises to her feet as Anys does, gripping at Wilesly's hand and Anys' shoulder to prevent herself from keeling over. "Greeting, Surrector Duhnen Seamel," she says softly, dipping her head down. "I would offer you a more courtly bow if I were not worried about falling down in doing so." She pauses for a moment, looking the Seamel up and down, taking in a slow breath. "I trust your wife is well? I have not seen her since the night of the Emperor's address to the nobility of Fastheld." Her voice holds a certain amount of longing in it, before she turns to Adaer. "I greet you, Bladesman, though I cannot say how well my kin will react to you setting foot within their territory. Your name is well remembered by my eldest brother."
Duhnen nods his head in response to Dianna. "We'll be able to speak of better things later, Mistress Ebonwood. As I'm sure you know, I'm here for official reasons. And Bladesman Kahar is as well, so I'll not have any grudges brought up by his presence on these grounds." He glances to Anys and smiles slightly again. "This'll all be settled soon, I'm sure. I seriously doubt your Aunt has gotten into the business of murder." The smile swiftly fades away, however, and his attention is back on the once-Lomasa. "By the order of the Justicar's Office of the Imperial Tribune, and in the name of His Majesty Talus Kahar the Fourteenth, I place you, Dianna Ebonwood, under arrest for suspicion of the death of one known as Gammon. Please step away from your niece and Master Wilesly." He glances to Adaer and nods. "Bladesman. Please take Mistress Ebonwood into custody. No manacles are needed, I believe."
She recognized his eyes immediately, apparently, maybe she even expected him. Adaer squints at Dianna's words, his eyes meeting hers. Upon his belt are a pair of manacles, but his hands swing free, not clutching a weapon or griping his waist of crossed at his chest. "Good evening, Dianna," is all he offers her in greeting and reply. If she steps away from Anys and Wilesly, Adaer walks over toward her, and merely gestures toward Duhnen and the door, "This way, please."
"M'lord, Dianna is not well. She can barely stand up without help.", Sly pleads stepping forward. "Is there no way you might take me in her stead to serve as some sort of insurance that she will not attempt to flee? As ransom? I should gladly take the prison cell in her stead or even give another digit so that no harm may befall her." He looks back towards Dianna concern ever present on his face.
A glint of recognition shimmers in Anys' eyes as she realizes who this Kahar that Duhnen speaks of must be. "...No!" she protests, turning her pleading gaze to Duhnen. "Duhn... I mean, Surrector... you can't let him arrest her. Couldn't you question her here? Or something?" she offers desperately, grasping at straws.
"No," Dianna interjects to both sets of protests. Even though her body may be weak, her spirit seems strong enough. "Be at peace, my loved ones," she says, looking to both Wilesly and Anys. "I will be well. Duhnen Seamel is not Gell Mikin. Remember this. I would gladly put myself in his custody." She squeezes Wilesly's hand gently before giving Anys a kiss on the cheek. She then steps forward, granted slowly, to meet Adaer, and to allow him to escort her, even though her body wobbles a bit.
"Anys, you and Wilesly can come along in a short while if you wish, to see her," Duhnen offers the pair, nodding his head to the man. He steps back, watching Dianna for a moment. "Thank you," he says to her, turning about to move to the door.
Adaer Kahar sighs, noticing the wobbling of the sickly commoner. "Are you going to need some tending, Dianna?" he asks, walking behind her toward the door. "Can you make it down the stairs and to the entrance fine?" Adaer turns and looks toward Wilesly, "Bring her horse when you visit, I don't think she's able to ride alone right now, do you? She's feeble-footed - just look."
Sly nods to Adaer, not really listening. "Dianna be well, love! I'll not be kept from you long! We have a wedding to attend!", Sly calls after her, his own gray eyes turning dark but his voice remains hopeful. He looks to Duhnen, "M'lord please don't let any harm befall her. I should drive a dagger into my own heart if anything should happen to her." He says once more moving over to stand near Anys, "We'll be right along, love. Light Keep." He looks as if he is about to break down.
Anys Lomasa's suspicious glance darts toward Wilesly, and without even thinking, she moves away from the commoner and shakes her head briskly at Duhnen. "Wait... Wait! Can I come with you? Please? To be certain she's alright?"
"Thank you for your concern, Adaer," Dianna says softly, rewarding the Bladesman with a quiet smile, though it's strained. "But I will be well enough. I know these stairs well. I will not fall." As Wilesly and Anys start making a ruckus again, she turns swiftly, a little too swiftly, teetering back into Adaer. "Sorry..." she mumbles, before shaking her head. "I have done no wrong, Wilesly. There is no reason to punish me for nothing done wrong." Even though her words are confident, there is a swirl of fear forming in her eyes. "It is just questioning. It is my tavern. I would know more than the barmaids, afterall." She hesitates for a moment, then looks towards Duhnen. "I could use Anys' help on the ride there, Duhn... Your Grace. I fear your Bladesman may be right. I would never make that ride on my own. I would welcome my niece's help."
Considering Anys' request, Duhnen sighs faintly. "Come, then. Ride with me. Mistress Ebonwood, you will ride with Bladesman Kahar. He'll keep you from falling. Fortunately, it's not too far a distance. But we must leave immediately."
As Dianna brushes into Adaer, he does nothing but brace her by reaching for her wrist. He doesn't grab it, though, stopping just short. He then looks toward the Surrector and frowns. "Thank you, Your Grace," Adaer says, oddly with a strained squint. Duties...
Wilesly frowns lightly as if he has heard those words before. He also does not look to thrilled about the concept of Dianna riding with Adaer. "I'll gather Jasper and Burnish, to Lightholder then. I will arrive as soon as it is permitted, love." His head sinks down to the floor. "I love you Dianna.", he says just loud enough to be audible.
Anys Lomasa offers Duhnen a quick, appreciative smile as she hurries to follow him, offering not even a glance backward at Wilesly. "Thank you, Surrector," she murmurs.
Dianna smiles softly, nodding her head. "Thank you..." she says softly, her gaze focusing on Anys, sending her niece an affectionate look. She then looks up at Adaer for a moment, her cheeks reddening as she steps away, moving for the stairs. "Be well, Wilesly. I will be well," she calls over her shoulder.
Duhnen nods his head and sets off to the door, leaving and heading back to the outside grounds. Anys Lomasa follows Duhnen down the stairs and out of the tower, glancing back frequently to assure that Dianna is alright.
Lush Glade Fastness: Southeast Garden <Forest District>
A low stone wall, no higher than twenty feet and sometimes as low as ten, encircles the smooth, jutting height of Lush Glade Keep. In reality the Keep begins within that wall which cups a ring of vibrant kitchen garden. Carefully planted centuries ago, the figs and oranges and apples are clumped in pleasing patterns and underplanted with both flowers and vegetables, carefully tended. Violets bump shoulders with the exhuberant yellow blossoms of squash; spinach and thyme provide a deep mossy green backdrop for round red orbs of tomato and dangling clusters of plump purple grape. A stone path circles the garden and the Keep, each stone worked by hand into the likeness of a fruit, vegetable, or flower.
Here on the warm south side of the garden, in the full brightness of the rising sun and clustered against the stones of the tower which hold warmth late into the falling year and early in the rising spring, the trees are predominantly oranges.
Dianna slowly makes her way out of the tower, a bit behind the others, her arms wrapping around herself, despite the warmth of the night. She lets out a soft sigh, her eyes lifting up to the sky for a moment, before towards Anys and Duhnen.
Duhnen gestures to Anys to approach him by Reluctant, and if she does, reaches to lift her and set her on the large horses' back. He climbs up to sit behind her, settling in, and waiting for Adaer and Dianna to finish.
Anys Lomasa nods faintly at Duhnen and accepts his help onto the tall horse.
Adaer Kahar has Dianna's back, in case she is to fall forward, or backward, of course. The trip down the stairs as uneventful as Dianna promised, and, outside of the tower, now, Adaer follows Dianna. "Sable's right there, Di," hesays, pointing toward the horse at the Towers entrance. He hasn't budged. Good horse.
Dianna makes her way slowly towards the horse, pausing at Sable's head to give the horse a gentle caress on the nose. "I do hope you remember me, Sable..." she murmurs softly. "You carried me about so long ago... it seems like a life time ago." She lets out a sigh, continuing on to stand by the saddle hesitantly, glancing back at Adaer, and then at the saddle.
Adaer reaches Sable and looks Dianna over, before grabbing at her waist, gently but abrubtly. If she allows, he plops her up onto the horse, before climbing into the saddle behind her. He reaches around Dianna and grabs the reins and whips the lightly. "Good boy, Sable," is all he says.
Duhnen nods his head to Adaer and Dianna, and reaches his own arms about Anys, one about her stomach to keep her sturdy, while he holds reins and wheels Reluctant about. Off they go.
Anys Lomasa glances over her shoulder at Dianna protectively as Duhnen prepares to ride off.
By the Gatehouse <Fastheld Keep>
The heart of the walled city-state of Fastheld, this expansive fortress serves as the center of government for all the districts and the home of Emperor Talus Kahar and his wife, the Empress Freia Seamel. Soldiers of the Emperor's Blades can be seen walking along the battlements and throughout the grounds on regular patrols.
The Imperial Stables are off to the northwest, overshadowed by the ancient Bronze Hall of the Imperial Horsemen; so named for its appearance of being thatched in bronze, finials on the rooftops cutting dramatic silhouettes upon the skyline, while regal banners flank the huge doors that guard the Hall.
The Imperial Residence sprawls toward the north and east, while to the north rest the royal tournament grounds. Finally, one can find a gatehouse, defended by large double doors, leading toward the Palace Road to the south.
It is a mildly warm evening. A steady gentle breeze stirs over the land. Dark puffy clouds hang low in the sky.
Duhnen has dismounted from Reluctant, and aided Anys to the ground as well. He nods to Adaer as they arrive also. "Mistress Ebonwood will be confined to my quarters, under guard, due to her health. I'd not want her getting sick if she's to be questioned." He gestures for them to follow, making way to the Northeast Tower.
Anys Lomasa nods her agreement. She dithers between following Duhnen and making sure that Dianna is alright, lagging a bit behind the Surrector as she keeps an eye on her aunt.
From Sable's saddle, Adaer Kahar dismounts, too, and helps Dianna down. He sighs and nods to what the Surrector says, "Yes, your grace." He gestures for Dianna to follow, following only after her.
Dianna slowly manages to ease herself out of the saddle, though she seems to be suffering a great deal from the ride, her face white from exhaustion. She trembles all over as she leans against Adaer for support, her breathing regular but shallow.
"There's quite a few stairs," Duhnen states, glancing back to the unsteady Dianna. "I or the Bladesman can carry you, if need be."
Anys Lomasa continues slowly, her wary gaze focusing on Adaer as he escorts Dianna through the Keep.
Adaer Kahar walks over and sighs, reaching to pick Dianna up, if she allows, without waiting for her to answer. "I'll do it." He then begins to trudge ahead, up the stairs.
Dianna squeaks a little bit as Adaer picks her up, but doesn't struggle, just nestling herself into a comfortable position in his arms. She quietly murmurs something to him, near his ear.
"Don't worry about it," Adaer replies as he stares up the stairs, trudging on as fast as he can manage. He then reaches the top and waits to follow Duhnen into his chamber, nearly forgeting to put Dianna down first. He does, though, belatedly.
Duhnen gestures to the bed in his chambers as he enters, walking over to the armoire and opening it. He withdraws the scabbard from it and turns about, making way to the desk. Opening the drawers, he looks about within, before closing it and locking it.
Despite the awkwardness of the situation, Anys manages to shoot her share of cold, indignant little glares at Adaer as he delivers Dianna to Duhnen's chambers.
"Thank you," Dianna murmurs softly as she's set down. Her hands clasp together and she waits silently, eyes lowered somewhat. "And now, Duhnen?" she asks quietly.
Adaer Kahar stares at the ground through his helm.
"Take a seat, or lay down," Duhnen replies to Dianna, beginning to make his way to the door. "You're unwell. Sleep if you need. You'll have guards here, and we can call a healer as well. I'm going to go let people know you're here in custody."
"Sit, Auntie," Anys admonishes, moving to guide Dianna toward a chair.
"And the crowns," Adaer says to Duhnen, "give them to Dianna, please." He looks toward Dianna, "A wedding gift." He then looks toward Duhnen, "I'll await the guards, if need be, otherwise, I'd like to take my leave now, Your Grace."
"Thank you, Anys," Dianna murmurs to her niece softly, making her way towards the chair quietly, before looking up to Adaer. "Thank you, Adaer... Light protect." Her gaze then drops down, resting on the floor as she settles herself down. "I believe sleep sounds good... how long do you think I'll be here?" she asks hesitantly.
"The crowns?" Duhnen asks of Adaer, lifting an eyebrow. "Ah. Right. The reward." He shrugs. "Dismissed, Bladesman. Things are well in hand. Thank you for your assistance."
Adaer Kahar nods and, without waiting a moment too long, he turns toward the door and walks at a steady pace. "Light protect," he whispers too soft to hear.