Causeway Gate <Ebonhold>

Rising from the ground below the shadow of Ebonhold, and linking to the gatehouse that leads into the Citadel of Ebonhold that stands on the spur that juts out from the eastern cliff face, the causeway is a simple affair, existing as a polished bridge of obsidian and oak that gentle curves up and around as it links the two points, looking wide enough to safely lead a caravan of wagons up with room to spare on either side.
The Gatehouse itself is a wide cube-shaped edifice made of stone that serves as the main access point for Ebonhold. Lanterns are bolted to the walls, providing illumination around the clock, while a wrought obsidian portcullis can be raised or lowered for the arched opening that leads between the fortress and the regions beyond.
Two large reinforced wooden doors are on the opposite side of the gatehouse from the portcullis, providing Ebonhold's gate a second possible defense against intrusion - assuming an attacker makes it past the portcullis. Or, for that matter, even to the Gatehouse itself...
It is a temperate night. The slightest breeze stirs over the land infrequently. A light rain pours from the heavens. The following of the six moons are visible in the sky: Stormwatcher (green/waning), Torch II (gray/waning).

Vhramis approaches the obsidian portcullis of the Citadel of Ebonhold, yet finds further progress denied. It's not just that the portcullis itself isn't letting them by, nor that the huge black wooden doors behind it are firmly shut either, but the close-helmed guards that peer down from atop the battlements, clad in Ebony Plate Armor emblozoned with the standard of Ebonhold - a blue dragon upon a black canvas - really don't seem to want to let anyone in...

Though the great black doors behind the portcullis don't open, they don't seem to have to actually do so to permit some people travel beyond their mighty frames. So it is now upon this temperate night that a ghostly figure walks through those - quite literally so - to stand in the middle of the Gatehouse Arch between wooden door and obsidian portcullis.

Tendrils of white energy crackle around the black staff he holds with one gauntleted hand, while the other remains free of such covering, though remaining palm up and seeming to play host to an orb of lightning all of it's own that occasional sends spiking arcs of power in front of the distinguished, imposing man.

Sharp dusty blue eyes fall upon the two that stand on the otherside of the portcullis and, in an instant as recognition flares upon the mans visage, that tempest of wrath that flows about his form instantly subsides, and Zanorin himself takes solid form once more, slipping back into the 'here' from the half 'there' that he currently maintained. That long magecoat he wears ripples softly as he regards the adventurers before him.

"Whatever you're selling," he purrs, "We're not interested."

Vhramis was busy uneasily staring at the heavily armored guards atop the gate, considering their armor, but even more so, the weapons that they were toting about, and occationally warningly training their way. With the sudden less than conventional appearance of the Archmage, he can't help but take a half step back. With a glance to Theo beside him, he swallows before speaking. "I'd like to say I'm getting used to things like this...but I'm not. I was wondering if we'd be allowed to speak with anyone."

Theo stands silently as he stares with wide eyed surprise and apprehension at the Mage. He swallows loudly and mutters something under his breath as Vhramis speaks. "As opposed to what you're doing right now?" Zanorin inquires without emotion, his expression revealing nothing; even if the threat of electrical harm is no longer on the table. He doesn't say anything more however, content to just look upon the two that stand upon the other side of the portcullis.

With a blink, the woodsman shakes his head. "Meant rather that I was wondering that before you...ahh..." He grimaces and waves his hand. "Sorry to bother. Just came to look into a few things that have been bothering me as of late. And to do some business in regards to Crown's Refuge... and such. Uh." It's pretty obvious he's nervous.

Theo can't seem to tear his eyes from the man, even as Vhramis speaks. "You uh..." he starts and stops almost immediately as the sound catches in his throat.

Spiking the end of the Obsidian Staff into the ground, the Archmage takes this moment to place both hands upon the shaft - flesh above gauntlet - and lean on it, evaluating Vhramis and Theo in equal measure with those cold dusty blue eyes that speak of an age vastly greater than his physical appearance. At long last, he offers his verdict.

"I suppose you'd better come in then."

With that, the Archmage turns on his heel, and paces back through the heavy black doors that form the second defense of the main arch of the Gatehouse. /Through/ the doors. ...but nothing else seems to actually happen.

Vhramis sta res as the Magus disappears in much the same way as he appeared, and takes a half step towards the doors as well. "...I expect they'll open soon," he comments to Theo, not looking away from the rather imposing gate.

"Are you sure we should go in there?" Theo says, his voice wavering. "I mean...yah... Alright." He moves to follow Vhramis, his manner reluctant.

Time passes. A light rain begins to fall. The guards on the battlement cough lightly. Somewhere in the distance, a wolf howls.

Shifting about, and beginning to feel rather foolish, Vhramis glances to Theo again with a rather incredulous look. "Maybe he did something to it?" he mutters, taking a breath and moving forward to prod at the gate, a few glances given to the guards.

"Maybe, he meant no and was just bein' all smart ass and such," Theo mutters and casts a wary look up at the guards.

Eventually, as if almost as an after thought, the Archmage Zanorin Drakesfire steps back /through/ those intimidating black doors once again, rubbing at the back of his back with the hand that remains of flesh and bone, and stands to regard the pair of visitors once more. "Right," he mutters, mostly to himself, "I forgot you can't do that."

The level of his voice swiftly rises to a commanding tone in reply to that thought, the cry of "Raise the Portcullis!" sounding into the night; a cry that is promptly repeated by the Guards atop the battlements, and then again further along the line...

With a great creak of complaint, the obsidian portcullis begins to rise, the black doors begin to open, and the lush veldt of the terrain behind the wall of Ebonhold and the Citadel itself slowly come into view...

Outer Court <Ebonhold>

The Outer Court of Ebonhold is much the same as the Inner Court; however, while the Inner Court surrounding the Citadel itself is elevated far above ground level, the Outer Court is much closer to the ground, resting directly behind the gatehouse and the curtain wall that stretches around the spur that the Citadel sits on.
The primary battlements stand high above the ground of the Outer Court, usually patrolled by a Wildling or two, with a few human Archers for effect. They flow from either side of the Gatehouse itself, running around the entire length of the Citadel's lower level, before joining up with the natural wall of the mountains to the northeast, and merging into the high Ebonhold Rampart to the west.
Statues of people who most likely had some importance in the distant past guard the various stairwells that lead up into the Inner Court at the foot of the Citadel proper, their features grim and weather worn, yet still determined as they remain eternal sentinels of this place.
From the depths of this wide Court, one can depart the fortress via the Gatehouse, head through the Court to the west and then down into the Dragonspine Ravine, head up into the battlements and then due east to stand upon the intimidating Rampart, or merely head up the winding stairs and into the Inner Court on the second level.
It is a temperate night. The slightest breeze stirs over the land infrequently. The sky is filled by dark, low clouds. The following of the six moons are visible in the sky: Stormwatcher (green/waning), Torch II (gray/waning).

Vhramis watches the portcullis and doors open, and smiles faintly at the Archmage. "Feel free to teach me how, if you'd like. I suppose it'd come in handy." He seems to realize just what it was he asked for, after the words leave his mouth, and his eyes widen slightly in a bit of shock, before moving forward into the Citadel proper.

Theo waits a few seconds before following. "You're a shadin' nut Skinner," he says, trying to make light of the comment.

Zanorin, as he leads the way, merely casts a glance back over his shoulder towards Vhramis as that particular comment. A deadly glance so sly that it'd make even the most cunning of Fox jealous. "Now," he states, looking ahead once more as that ebony magecoat of his ripples around his form as he walks, "Wouldn't /that/ be something."

Though his footsteps make no sound as he walks, and though he seems to leave no trail upon the wet stone underfoot, the 'click' of obsidian tapping against the ground flows in his wake as he leads the way up towards the Inner Court, and the Citadel proper.

Inner Court <Ebonhold>

The Inner Courtyard of Ebonhold is much the same as the Outer Courtyard; however, the Inner Courtyard surrounding the Citadel itself is elevated far above ground level, while the Outer Courtyard below remains much closer to the ground, resting directly behind the gatehouse and the curtain wall that stretches around the spur that the Citadel sits on.
The secondary battlements guard the Citadel itself, and the dominating spire that is Drakesfire Tower, home to the Archmage of Ebonhold. Should the Outer Court ever fall to enemy hands, it would seem that the Inner Court has been designed so that it can be sealed off and easily defended, allowing those upon it to rain down all kinds of hell from high above.
One can head into the vast Citadel itself from here, or ascend the stairwell known as Drakesfire Ascent and head up into the Archmage's Tower, far above Ebonhold itself. Failing that, one can merely head back down into the lower courtyard that is the Outer Court of Ebonhold.
It is a temperate night. The air is stagnant, not stirring with the slightest breeze. The sky is filled by dark, low clouds. The following of the six moons are visible in the sky: Stormwatcher (green/waning), Torch II (gray/waning).

Vhramis clears his throat and nods his head, unable to disagree. Yes, it /would/ be something. Especially considering his blood, and such. He looks about to the surroundings as the trio move along, and in the spirit of conversation... "I hope the Lady is well?"

Theo looks behind him as they walk until he catches Vhramis's query. "What Lady?" he asks as he gaze snaps back to look at him.

"That depends *entirely* on what you came here to say." comes the perhaps unexpected reply from the Archmage of Ebonhold, his place not slowing in the slightest as he leads the pair to the main plaza in the shadow of the Citadel. The jagged teeth of the Dragonspine Mountains provide a stunning backdrop to the scene. Having arrived at the intended destination, Zanorin promptly stops, turns about to regard the two outsiders, and takes up a posture of leaning upon the Obsidian Staff he holds, stabbing the tip firmly into the ground.

To Theo, he gestures to the vast veldt to the west of the Citadel, and warmly answers: "The one over there."

Painted in an aura of soft dusty blue does the Lady present herself to any who care to look, for within the rolling veldt that covers what should be barren terrain sleeps a beautiful Dragoness of blue. One hundred foot of scales, teeth, and unfathomable power, it would seem that the Lady is in court upon this night, and curled up amidst her domain.

A few Wildling and Human villages, each merely a few houses or huts in size, dot the edges of that domain as they remain nestled beneath the feet of the Dragonspine peaks. The northern section of the Jadesnake can also been seen, shimmering in the moonlight, as well as Talus Kahar's boat.

Inhaling sharply as he catches sight of the Dragon, Vhramis watches her for a few moments, seemingly unable to remember what it was he was going to say. His mouth is gaping open a bit too, and he maybe looks vaguely fishlike as he mouths words to himself. " of the things I ask has to do with..." He gestures towards the large blue form. "Black Wildlings."

"Oh," Theo squeaks as the Lady in question is pointed out to him, "That Lady. Yah... I remember now."

"Black Wildlings." Zanorin repeats, his gaze narrowing as his voice begins to take on a dark tone of impatience. "What about them?"

"I've seen the Lady's power. We all have, those of us who were granted to ride on her back," Vhramis explains, looking back to the Archmage. Getting to the point of the matter seems to help focus him on the task at hand. "And it's terrible and overwhelming. I can't imagine anything withstanding it. My question...and this concerns the wellbeing of Crown's Refuge in a sense, is why the Black Wildlings still are about to, as I understand it, war with the Green Tribe." He gestures to one of the loping creatures as it wanders about in the distance. "Is there a reason she does not destroy them?"

Theo turns his attention back to the conversation. He listens and gives several exaggerated nods at Vhramis's questions. "Yah... that." he adds for emphasis.

The Archmage sighs, his expression taking on a softer look to it as Vhamis's question is asked in earnest, his grip upon the Obsidian Staff loosening for a moment as his left hand pulls free of the metallic shaft, gesturing towards the Dragoness in question.

"The Lady Kalath'aria," he begins, a smile creeping onto his visage as his magecoat shifts slightly from the breeze, "Is what we call the Instrumentalist, as you may well know. Kalath of the Aria, an elaborate song for single voice to perform. She is Instrumentalist of the song of balance, and that is an elaborate harmony that she maintains with deadly guile and force. Were she to utterly destroy the Black Wildlings, then the balance of this region of this land that we live upon would be damaged, and the cascade from that would lead to infathomable events. Or so it is written in prophecy."

He takes a breath, as attempting to explain things that even he doesn't really understand isn't exactly an easy task, but is saying quite a lot without words. "Suffice to say that the Lady does not subscribe to wholesale genocide if she can avoid it, which is why only the insufferable "Church of True Light" was all that earned her wrath within Fastheld. Besides which, this "War" is as much as that which it is called as a rock is against a river. The Black Tribe, as they are, poses no real threat to Ebonhold as long as the Lady remains here. Should she leave, then that is what the balance demands, and harmony will be maintained."

He smiles that same sly smile again, and asks: "Anything else?"

Vhramis considers that, looking over to the Dragon again with a faintly disappointed air about him. "...I suppose I can't begin to think as she does. I'm not exactly the same as she." He makes a quiet amused noise in his throat, shaking his head, and regarding the Mage again. "I asked because, as of late, Wildlings have begun testing the walls of Crown's Refuge. We've had a few minor encounters with them thus far." He shrugs, before moving on.

"Another question, again having to do with Crown's Refuge. I've begun considering what the town can do in terms of Trade. At least in the future, if not immediately. But it'd be something worth considering early, I believe. So I've come to see if there is anything that Ebonhold requires that is not immediately available."

"Make no mistake, Vhramis Skinner." The Archmage abruptly warns, his gaze narrowing once more. "If the Black Wildlings , or anything else, begin to pose a threat to Ebonhold or those that dwell within the land around it, then the Lady will send them directly to Oblivion with a fury and wrath that will long be marked upon the pages of scripture as the day the sky rained fire and death. Are we clear?"

Vhramis' eyes widen briefly, before nodding his head, a solem mood settling over his features. "I understand. Fully. As I've said, I've seen her angry. The land will undoubtedly remember it for countless years to come."

Theo listens, his expression showing his struggle as he attempts to comprehend all the information that's moving between the pair.

"Good." Zanorin states in a softer tone, a light smile caressing his features now that he's put the fear of Drake into his peers. Clasping that stave with both hands once more, he considers the other offer on the table. "Ebonhold itself needs little, but I imagine there are a few exotic items that our more Human inhabitants would love to have imported again. Brandy, for example. Some of the Wildlings have also begun taking an interest in clothing. Skirts in particular. I don’t need to illustrate /that/ mental image for you further, I'm sure, but there's always that consideration if the concernment doesn't wear off."

The Archmage ponders the question for a few moments longer, and then abruptly smiles a genuine smile. "As for myself, I collect items of rare craftsmanship and power, as you well know. Unique weapons, items of lore, enchanted armor, arcane scripture, that sort of thing. I'm sure such trinkets are of no concern to you, but a Master of the Arcane Weave must have his collections. Thus, should you have anything like that to trade, I would be more than willing to accommodate."

"Brandy and other wines and liquor are something prized in Crown's Refuge as well," Vhramis nods his head. "There's already a bit of smuggling going on, but that's limited in how much can be moved at once. I've been looking into seeing if there can ever be an official state of trading between Fastheld and Crown's Refuge, but..." He shrugs at that. "I don't exactly believe that I can deliver you items such as you'd like, but...funny you should mention that. It brings me to the next topic. I was wondering if there was anything I could do to gain your aid in dealing with the problem of the Aegis' curse. Specifically, in helping to protect Talus Kahar from its effects.

Theo furrows his brow at the talk of the curse and shifts uncomfortably from one foot to the other.

The Archmage doesn't seem all that bothered with the news that alcohol isn't going to be easy to get. It's doubtful that he himself would even partake in such trivial things, but the mention of the 'Aegis Curse' maintains his interest for a while longer, enough for Zanorin to pace towards the western side of the plaza a little, casting that stentorious gaze outwards across the Dragonspine Ravine, and upon the Lady that sleeps there.

"Kahar's Bane." he finally offers without looking back, "You believe I had a part to play in that?"

"No... that's not what I meant," Vhramis says to him, turning to regard him, and taking a step after him. "I was just wondering, if there were anyway to counter it, if only on a small scale, if not entirely."

Theo mouths the words, "Kahar's Bane," to himself and looks thoughtful.

"Perhaps I did." Zanorin admits, his gaze fixated upon the Dragoness, "But not directly. Damned fools, all of them. What could Talus do but give in to the demands of the people? Spurn them, after a great war? I killed them all myself. Betrayal. I felt the rise of that old familiar feeling... I hated it... I welcomed it... and so they fell. One by one. Mage after Mage until there was but one left."

"But no." he finally states, "To undo that which many of my peers created is beyond even my mastery of the weave. But not Hers..."

Vhramis surely doesn't know of mages killing mages, and he can only stand and listen to the Mage's reflections. At least until the words are directed back to him. "Would the Lady aid him? Is there any service I can do for her? Is there anything I'd even be /able/ to do?" "Can you destroy the Aegis?" The Archmage asks of Vhramis.

"She wishes it destroyed?" Vhramis asks, lifting his eyebrows.

Theo blinks and gasps, "The whole wall?"

"No, she doesn't." Zanorin states, casting that salient gaze of dusty blue back upon the Scion of Kahar in a contemplative sidelong glance, "But YOU do."

Theo looks incredulous and repeats, "The whole wall?"

Vhramis sighs, rubbing at his smooth shaven head. "I suppose the needs of the many outweigh..." He nods his head, swallowing. "Thank you for your time, and your hospitality." "The only way to remove Kahar's Bane from Fastheld is to destroy it, and there is but one thing that I know of that could do such a thing. Regardless, you may remain within Ebonhold for as long as you wish. I'll have a few provisions and sleeping rolls placed within the Citadel itself for you to take residence upon. Should you wish to bathe; the river is always there to assist."

The Archmage turns about face, and begins to slink away, "Feel free to ask around. See what people need. If Crown's Refuge can provide, then we shall see about establishing a trade route. Should you with to speak with the Lady, do so with care. In the meantime, I'll see about honoring your former request for weapons and armor. I'm sure we have some lying around." Vhramis nods his head, offering a smile to the Archmage. "Thank you again. We can surely use the equipment. It's fairly impossible for us to try to begin mining operations, as you can imagine. We will stay the night, at least."

"Stay out of my Tower." remains the departing shot, and with that spoken, the Archmage merely blinks out of sight.

As if by magic...

Return to Season 3 (2005)

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