Imperial Suite <Fastheld Keep> -------------------------------------------------

(Indoors) (Cover: Fair) (Owner: Talus Kahar)

A spacious chamber that serves as the innermost sanctum of the most important individual in the realm of Fastheld: Emperor Talus Kahar. The room includes two washbasins, multiple chamber pots that servants frequently replace for cleaning, twin wardrobes for clothing, and a four-post bed with an arched white canopy, polished brownwood headboard, thick beige blankets and comfortable fowl-feather pillows. Two angled writing tables are in two corners, where the Emperor or his assigned scribe may transcribe correspondence. High wooden doors lead out into the quarters corridor, while a pair of smaller doors open onto the suite's private balcony overlooking the residence's courtyard.

Talus Kahar is sitting at his desk, a leatherbound tome open before him as he scribbles on one of the pages with a feather quill. "Come in!" he calls over his shoulder toward the door.

The door opens and Abon hobbles into the room, polished cane in hand. His first action is formal, a bow and greeting, "Light's Greetings, your Majesty." His second, much more familiar. A broad grins breaks across his face, "You don't look like you have grown horns."

Talus Kahar laughs and gets to his feet, closing the book and dipping the quill back into the inkwell for now. Turning, he approaches the arriving nobleman, reaching for one hand while clapping him on the shoulder. "Abon! So good to see you again, old friend. How'd it go with the Chancellor?"

Abon returns the gesture with his free hand and shrugs nonchalantly. As he speaks he dramatizes it with gestures and overblown expressions, "Well enough I suppose. I regaled him with my charm and wit. He came back with a one...two punch. 'It's a tough job, if you fail your life will be worth no more then horse piss in a puddle on the street.' I parlayed with a "Ah yes especially if one would have to put up with the scorn of an old friend. Horrors up horrors if that occurred." He dug a trench and returned fire with a 'Ah well. I'll get back to you. Many can offer what you do.' I strategically retreated with head bowed after one last volley of name dropping, 'Alas, speak to Talus he is all knowing and can pretty much tell you all you need to know." He stops and grins, "Though I'd appreciated if you could leave that tavern maid incident from way back when out of it."

Talus Kahar smiles wryly. "I'd probably tell him that incident's what caused your limp." He chuckles, then gestures to the sitting area. "Staying a while? I can have wine or tea sent up, if you like. No idea where Ashlynn's off to this evening, but it would be wonderful for you to meet her, if you've not already done so."

"I could and will," he states as he limps over to one of the chairs. "And no I have not had the pleasure, though I suppose if I had I probably wouldn't remember. Not exactly...well...I'll admit that." Abon turns and lowers himself slowly to the seat and rests the cane over his lap. Her looks up at the man and rumbles, "You surprise me. Never thought you'd pull such a stunt. You've got this whole shadin' place in a tissy you know. My mother won't bloody well shut up about it then she goes and prays and prays." He feigns a scowl, "I *hate* you for that."

The Emperor sighs, shaking his head, and meanders to the door. He opens it, informs Emmon that they'll need some wine brought up. The guard nods and passes the word to a servant, who rushes downstairs to convey the order to the cellars. The door closes and then Talus walks over to sit across from Abon. "My humblest apologies for any inconvenience caused by my impending wedded bliss." He chuckles. "Wait until you meet her. You'll see she's worth the 'stunt.' Not that much of a stunt, really, by the way. The Empress thing was a strategic misstep on my part. Royal Consort goes over much better with the rank and file."

"Yes well still..." Abon grins and holds up a defensive hand, "But hey. Who am I to talk. You know me. Plus you are the big guy. You can pretty much do what you want." There's a slight darkening of his underlying expression as he continues, still grinning, "Managed to make it back in one piece after what I'm sure must have been quite the adventure." The grin tightens somewhat, "You'll have to fill me in sometime. Again. It's quite the story that's making the rounds."

The door opens and a maidservant arrives to deliver a silver tray with two goblets and a carafe of Hedgehem red wine. Talus starts filling the goblets as he says, "I made it back with some reluctance, truth be told. Helped found a new town beyond the Aegis, which is now part of our protectorate." A sigh, then: "My real adventure was to be a boat trip along the Jadesnake - that's what the Fastheld is called beyond the wall. We were going to sail out to the sea and explore along the continental coast."

Abon's head tilts to the side as he listens, his expression taking on a somewhat skeptical air. "To me that sounds like more work then fun," her rumbles but soon nods as he thinks some more. "Though towns...that is land...and land is resources..." His mouth tightens though, "However, what of the Shadow. To be truthful Talus. There is much the Church tells of of the threat over the wall. I'd be lying if it did not make me inherently uneasy. If it was anyone other then you. Who I know well enough and who I can see with my plain old eyes has not lost his mind...." He snorts, "Well perhaps you don't want to know." He then eyes the Emperor with half serious, half playful gaze, "You haven't gone on evil on us Talus have you? Not hiding any secret shadow demons in there are you?"

Talus Kahar shakes his head. "No, my friend. I've not owned by demons." He scratches his cheek, watching the maidservant depart and close the door behind herself. He takes a sip of his wine and then says, "Much exists beyond the wall that we do not understand, Abon. Some involves Shadow magic. But the wall itself is a product of Shadow magic. In at least one respect, it protects us. In another, it has been imbued with the very curse that torments my family's lineage." He sets down the goblet and says, "I respect the Church and its teachings, but it has hidden many secrets of its own that we are only lately discovering."

Abon listens but doesn't say anything as he reaches for his goblet. "I see," he finally says in reply and forces a small smile. "It has indeed been quite a year for these secrets and revelations. Has it not? I suppose more of such would just play right along." He takes a small sip and rubs at his forehead, "It is surprising how much the people can take. Perhaps it's a combination of some hidden strength and abject denial. I wonder though, just how far things can be pushed. It is troubling. Is it not?"

"In some ways, yes, it is troubling how far things *might* be pushed," the Emperor agrees cautiously, although he follows that up with: "But even more troubling is what *else* might be buried, for good or ill, awaiting discovery. Bad as that dragon under the Citadel may have seemed to the most devout, it cannot be denied that she put an end to the terror that was He Who Destroys."

Abon sets the goblet on his knee and nods, "Which is where I believe the denial comes in. It is to much for the average man to comprehend. Complex and extremely troubling if you think about it." He shrugs and lazily twirls the liquid in the cup, "So thus. We keep them occupied, feeling secure and give them reasons to be happy and do what has to be done. Yes?" He grins slightly, "My people are down right brimming with mirth. Had several weddings and parties already this year. Gave out some of father's wine. Shoulda seen their faces with that one."

Talus Kahar grins. "Well, the upcoming festival and the royal wedding should be entertainment enough for a while." He leans back in his chair, goblet in hand, and inquires, "Did the Chancellor give any indication when he might get back to you about the position? Seems a rather important one. I wouldn't want to leave it unfilled too long."

Abon shrugs, "As any good Chancellor would say in this situation in order to leave his options open...soon." He raises the goblet to his mouth, "Perhaps he is waiting to see if somebody else comes along."

Talus Kahar laughs and nods. "Well, I hope you didn't hurt your chances by dropping my name. He's not entirely thrilled that I chose Ashlynn, either. He wanted me to spend the rest of my life with some shrewish Mikin girl, just to keep the Church happy."

"Ahh well at least you can sit back and realize that at least you've thrilled many a young common lass with fantasies of romance and possibility," Abon says with a sly grin, "Dreams really do come true, though I would predict that there may be a rash of previous cross boarder relationships seeing the light of day."

"If it truly were the fashion to imitate the Emperor, I should think we would have seen people swarming over the Aegis just because it appeared to be in vogue at the time," Talus replies with a grin. "She's a baronet. More than a mere commoner. But, yes, she is of the people. I think that will endear her to them."

"It's a lot easier to screw a pretty woman then to climb over a six hundred foot wall," Abon snorts. "The people aren't dumb. They know a good thing when the see it."

Talus Kahar chuckles. "You can make love to any woman you want. But turning her into your wife can be as insurmountable as the Aegis for some. Were Ashlynn not a baronet, I doubt I would be able to do this at all."

"Good thing you have the power to make it so," Abon chuckles and holds up the goblet in a gesture of a toast, "Guess being Emperor does indeed have its perks sometimes."

Talus Kahar lifts his own goblet in response. "Indeed. Sometimes." He ponders, takes another sip, then says, "One of those perks is that I can invite guests to remain in the residence. The chamberlain's quarters are unoccupied at the moment, if you want to stay on for a while until the Chancellor and I have a chance to discuss the post."

Abon swallows a sip and grins, "Now that is an offer I will not turn down." He thinks for a moment and glances around, "How is the female situation around here? Mother is on my back again. Least I could tell her I made an attempt."

"Well, we aren't overflowing with unwed noblewomen in the palace just now," the Emperor replies, scratching absently at his cheek. "However, I could see to it that a dinner party is scheduled that might draw some of them." He smiles broadly. "How's that sound?"

"Thrilling," Abon replies as he grasps the cane and sets in on the floor. "And..." he starts as he pulls himself up with a bit of a grunt, "Absolutely thrilling."

Talus Kahar snickers and gets to his feet, extending a hand again. "Good to see you once more, Abon. If all goes well, it won't stay such an uncommon occurrence."

Abon grasps the hand and gives it a firm shake, "Have a good night Talus and yes indeed I hope it goes in my favor. Light keep you." He turns and starts hobbling from the room.

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