Palace Road <Gatetown>

At the edge of a twelve-foot-tall wooden wall is a large, hand-painted sign proclaiming the collection of buildings within to be "Gatetown". Beyond the gate lies a humble assortment of homes, shops, and apartments arrayed in a simple, backwards "L" shape.
The Palace Road runs through the middle of the town, and continues onward to the west, though another road branches off to the south and leads to the rest of the community. At the relative middle of the collection is a tall guard tower which provides watch over the incoming aqueduct lines that convey water to the town's residents.
It is a cold late evening. The air is stagnant, not stirring with the slightest breeze. A light rain pours from the heavens.

Well, the blades that were drawn to the Shadow district are rapidly forming into marching columns. Seperated by divisions and ordered properly, the men prepare to depart.

Iestyn Nillu joins the gleaming formation of Shadowscourges, their ranks drawn up nine by nine, at the head. They stretch out, mounted behind her in a gleaming river that pours back towards the Shadow Gate, and at her hoarse cry they begin to move westwards, inwards, towards the task that waits.

The Imperial Spymaster exiting the brothel after the Bladesmen, his notary follows afterwards, grunting underneath the weight of a sizeable trunk. Aiden turns to snap his fingers imperiously at the man, ordering him brusquely, "See that loaded on the wagon and returned to Fastheld Keep, Ubaldo. And bide a while to ensure that the ladies of this fine establishment stay far away from our procession, hrmm?" With that, rising into the saddle of his tall brown steed, gingerly directing it towards the rear of the forming ranks.

Out of the tavern comes two columns, about twenty soldiers, of Blades's heavy infantry - strangely, though, they have been outfitted specially for this assignment; because combat might be more fluid, instead of their normal half-pikes, this group carries two throwing spears each, behind their shield (in a compartment). Lucius Nepos, Guardian Leader, is at the head of the strange crew of the men. Waving his hand forward, they form up into two lines. "Form up! We're moving out!"

Iestyn leads the sluggish river of armor as the pace picks up to an earthshaking trot and then, finally, into a full-out gallop into the west.

From Sunshine's back, the Light Maiden figureheads the march of Scourges along the Palace Road towards the west. Hooves stir up thunderous dust, and armor creaks multiplied by so many shriek through the evening.

Palace Road <Shadow District>

Leaving the destroyed environs of the abandoned village, the landscape

returns to vacuous nothingness. The inky flatlands yawn into the dark expanse of the Shadows, offering refuge to all the miseries of humanity. In the distance the Aegis looms, bathing all below in a further wash of utter darkness.

Here, even the sun seems to shine less brightly, and at night the stars

are impossible to discern. There is no sound but the wind, yet the darkness is far from lifeless. Eyes shine in the black: cruel yellow pupils staring, then disappearing once more. The Palace Road continues to the northwest, ever closer to the Aegis, while another road detached from it to run towards the northeast.

It is a cold late evening. The air is stagnant, not stirring with the

slightest breeze. A light rain pours from the heavens.

From Moorshroud's saddle, Zolor Zahir draws back the hood of his cloak, gazing toward Ashkalia Zahir. "Good evening," he says with a faint smile. "Keeping the Light aglow even this deep in the Shadow District? Impressive."

Ashkalia turns, her eyes dark through the visor and faintly glittering. "I am here," she says levelly, "to guard the way, milord. This may be a night in need of guarding."

From Moorshroud's saddle, Zolor Zahir rests a hand on the pommel of his saddle. He nods to Ashkalia. "If all goes well, it is my hope that this night will yield a solution to that monster that menaces our realm and made off with our beloved Emperor." His lips curl upward at the last.

From Waterdeep's saddle, The deluge comes along the road-- Or rather, a sea of three-hundred some blades, iron armor with the occasional row of leather-clad archers, marching to a thundering beat of heavy boot fall. Several units of cavalry flank the main marching formation, taking point and dispersing a bit to ride ahead and scout.

From Sunshine's saddle, Iestyn Nillu leads the march of the Scourges as the many columns of bright, gleamingly armoured churchknights gallop forward, wheeling smoothly to take the northeast road.

"Then let us pray that all goes well," Ashkalia says simply, her head lifting and turning to watch the approach of the column of warriors. Her black eyes narrow.

From Blazer's saddle, Aiden Zahir rides in with the formation, the Imperial Spymaster cutting a most unique figure amongst the armored Bladesmen and Scourges, his expression disturbingly bright, a broad grin upon his face as though this were nothing more than a pleasant traipse through the Forest District's manicured pathways. Catching sight of Zolor and Ashkalia, he kicks his steed into a gallop, sending it towards the pair and calling over the din of clattering hooves and clinking armor with a tone as convivial as if he were announcing the weather, "The ravens are gathering, it would seem. Carnage must be close at hand."

From Waterdeep's saddle, The blades march somewhat slower, as not all of them are a horse, so the lengthy procession of men snakes around the bend to the Northeast, solid lines of men on the march.

Aiden's approach spurs something in Ashkalia to move, and she takes three precise steps and swings herself up onto her mount. "Stay you back, brother," she warns in a voice that will never be anything other than soft, "the danger here lies beyond your own abilities."

From Moorshroud's saddle, Zolor Zahir shifts his gaze toward Aiden. "Ah. Well. Spymaster, good to see you. I suppose it was just as well that the Council refused to hear reason and I tore up that agreement to take your job." He smirks. "Government work is so dull, anyway." He glances off toward the old city of Halo and its central temple. "She's right, by the way. Likely to be quite dangerous."

From Blazer's saddle, Aiden Zahir looks first towards Zolor, inclining his head in greeting and remarking around a dimpled, almost wolfish grin, "What some call reason, others reckon madness. And I don't imagine my post would give you much time for dallying about these less-savory departments as you are wont to do, Zolor. Nonetheless, 'tis good to see you. And to know that you're at fault if all of this gets blown to Hell." Now to Ashkalia, expression not wavering for a moment, "I have no intention of riding in the van, sister mine. I'm here to observe on behalf of the Council, and shall do so from as comfortable a distance as possible. Do take care of yourself as well, my dear. I've a suitor in the wings for you, I believe, and should hate for anything to imperil your flawless beauty before I've captured his interest."

"I stay here, and guard the road," Ashkalia says, her gaze wandering after the dusty wake of the army. The news seems unsurprising to her, or perhaps only insignificant, considering. "You will see what happens from here, I believe."

From Moorshroud's saddle, Zolor Zahir laughs. "Sending you to witness, are they, Aiden? I had so hoped they'd send that pert young scribe." He shrugs, then strokes his chin. "Unfortunate." It isn't clear where he thinks the lack of fortune lies, however.

From Blazer's saddle, Aiden Zahir shoots Zolor a disapproving look at the jibe. "That 'pert young scribe' is a remarkable woman," he defends Sahna as eyes glint with a vigor not entirely wholesome. "And I've grown quite fond of the Marchioness. Indeed, I've plans for her, but that's neither here nor there, at the moment." That intrigued bemusement fading, the Spymaster looks now to his sister, nodding in affirmation. "If events can be watched from here, then I'll move no closer. However She is to be released, I expect it won't be gently, and as far as I can get from any projectile masonry, the better."

"From what I understand," Ashkalia says in a tone devoid of inflection, "she is quite large." Some flash in her eyes at the mention of Aiden's plans is soon veiled.

From Cleo's saddle, Initially traveling at an easy canter, trading off speed with distance, Ashlynn pulls her mount back to a trot as she nears the occupied intersection.

From Moorshroud's saddle, Zolor Zahir pulls the hood of his cloak back up as the rain resumes. His gaze is drawn toward the clomping hooves of Cleo, bearing Ashlynn Birch. "Ah," he says, a faint smile curling his lips again. "The scribe arrives just the same. Now the Council will have *two* witnesses. Excellent."

From Cleo's saddle, Ashlynn arches a brow as she catches Zolor's words, slowing her mare down to a walk as she eyes first the elder Zahir warily, and then the rest, bowing her head in greeting. "M'lords...Lady..." she addresses simply, as she begins to turn the river trotter toward the northeast.

From Blazer's saddle, Aiden Zahir affords a broad and welcoming smile to the arrival of the Imperial Courier, greeting her in kind, "Madame." As she makes to ride further, a gloved hand rises to bid caution. "You would be advised to bide here, with us, my dear. If you are here to witness the ... proceedings, we should have ample vantage point from this location, and have been warned that any closer would jeopardize our safety."

"There are over two hundred Scourges at the temple," Ashkalia says suddenly, "a single closer witness might go unscathed. And, of course, a close witness would be most enlightening to those who ordered such a thing."

From Moorshroud's saddle, "Bide here?" Zolor chuckles, shaking his head. "And miss history in the making? What sort of justice will that do when you must recount this affair to the Council? All of the Scourge's misgivings aside, and as dangerous as this may be for those involved, well, as the Scourge herself said: Enlightenment and all that."

From Cleo's saddle, Ashlynn's gaze travels from one to the other as they speak, the mare stomping restlessly beneath her as her hands vacillate upon the reins. A corner of her mouth quirking upwards in a crooked, humorless smile, she nods to Aiden as she resolutely straightens her mount out upon the northeast road. "I thank you for the warning, but my mother always said I was as foolish as my brothers, and I would hate to prove her wrong. By your leave, M'lords and lady," she says politely before kneeing Cleo onwards.

From Blazer's saddle, Aiden Zahir turns to scowl at Ashkalia and Zolor, retorting flatly, "You were amidst the voices of caution. I haven't the time for this foolishness," the Spymaster mutters with dark intent in his eyes. "I'll continue on with you, my dear," he insists to Ashlynn. "The Council bade me witness this event, and so I shall." And with that, he kicks his horse in the shins, sending it forward.

From Moorshroud's saddle, The elder Zahir laughs softly. "Always beware when I voice caution, Aiden. I rarely mean it. I thought you would have learned that by now." He jerks the reins controlling Moorshroud and then guides the horse off toward Halo.

Moorshroud sets off at a trot toward the Northeast.

From Cleo's saddle, Ashlynn turns to blink over her shoulder at the reinstated spymaster in surprise before she nods in muted welcome and kicks her mount back into a canter.

Silently Ashkalia watches, at least, silent until Aiden is out of earshot. Then, flatly, in a voice which is too controlled to be unsteady, she whispers, "Hedgehem. Shadowcull."

Halo, Old Capital: At the Gates <Shadow District>

Halo -- even from afar, the remnants of what was once the capital shine

like a beacon: fires and torches are everywhere on the wooden palisade that surrounds the town, forming a ring of light around that holiest of holies, the Temple of Fire Everlasting, seat of the Shadow Patron.

A wide berth of water surrounds the palisade on all sides, halting any

assault; the only way in from this side is the drawbridge of the Southern Gate, permanently manned by nine, or three times three, Scourges: a Ray Perfect. As behooves a battle-group, they are heavily armed with swords and pikes, bows and crossbows, a sight seldom seen in the civilised quarters of Fastheld. They bring to mind that old proverb, "Light shines strongest in the darkness".

Once over the drawbridge, one must pass the double portcullis of hardened

steel and the heavy gates themselves before one even reaches the gatehouse -- truly, this gate is meant to withstand assaults of a scale that Fastheld has not seen in eons.

It is a cold late evening. The slightest breeze stirs over the land

infrequently. It is raining.

Twenty-eight black-robed figures stand close to the gates, outside, their sunburst masks blacked and dull. In ranks, three by three, they watch the road impassively.

At the head of his twenty heavy infantryman marches Lucius Nepos, the hard metal of his tassets and the hobnails of his boots crunching down on the paved road and, along with the other 300 hobnailed boots, creating an extremely loud and terrifying noise which moves with the divisions. Lucius's eyes survey the area warily, finally squaring in on the black robed figures.

Iestyn slows the torrent of Scourges to a tooth-shivering trot, a thundering walk, and then finally lifts a hand. The Scourges - mostly - halt as one. The Light Maiden turns to the knot of dark-robed figures, and her mount trots that way in a sudden surge of movement.

Left Hand steps away from the group of battle-dress Shadowbanes to meet Iestyn. It is, of course, impossible to identify her. She nods silently to the Light Maiden.

Upon arrival, the blades branch out into three parts, creating a 'semicircle' of sorts behind the ranks of the scourges. A little confusion is visible here and there as the small army sorts itself out, but for the most part columns and lines, with longbow archers in the back, form up reasonably. Pulling to the forefront of the group, Jodfrey dismounts into the clouds of dust that such a large troop movement causes, approaching the Lightmaiden and the robed figure.

Harper settles into his part of the semicircle, grouped with a squad of Light Infantrymen. Shields held at their side and spears held upright, countless pairs of intrigued eyes look between the Captain, Light Maiden, Shadowbanes, and Cathedral.

Iestyn Nillu turns her head, her blue eyes unreadable now, to look at Jodfrey. "A handful of your best men," she says.

Cielle dismounts just after Jodfrey does; though she remains standing in the same place her feet touch down. Her hands immediately come to clasp in front of her, while her eyes scan between the Light Maiden and the group that forms around her, and the Cathedral. The green in her eyes shifts to a more matted color.

The Blades whom Lucius leads halt in unison, fanning outwards. Now in a four deep by five long block, they approach each other and click close enough to lock shields, if necessary. Although why would it be?

Left Hand's mask turns silently to follow the exchange between Bladesman and Scourge.

And in the back, one among many, Toivo watches with emotionless readiness. Despite his unkempt appearance, he stands with respectful and eager anticipation.

Jodfrey Seamel waves the dust away with a hand as best he can.. "As you wish, Your Holiness." He replies, in formal tones, before turning back to the silence of the ranks. "Guardians Hobus, Harper, Nepos, Woodshear.. Bladesmen..." He rattles off, picking names out for a moment or two, then adds onto the end, "Front and center, colums form up the gaps!"

Guardian Hopus and Guardian Leader Nepos, both Heavy Infantry Blades equipped with throwing spears and heavy armor, approach Jodfrey's position. In Lucius's eyes is a look of slight apprehension; he is really unsure of what is happening. Every tighter the shield's grip is held as he stops next to Jodfrey's horse.

Harper's eyes widen slightly under his helm. Him? Why him? Regardless, he steps forward as called, the sea of blades parting for him and then flowing together in his wake. He moves to a location with the two heavy infantrymen, taking a standard position behind them.

"Ashta. Shana. Vini. To positions," Iestyn Nillu calls in a ringing voice, and as the Scourges dismount, as attendants lead horses to pickets back further on the road, as the rover of armour snakes and dissipate, she turns her mount towards the city and enters it, walking the horse at a slow pace through the city streets.

Cielle begins to walk more towards the side of the ranks and columns of the various groups, angling her path so that she no longer remains at the center front where she had dismounted. She finally picks out a location that seems to be fairly out of the way and takes up her position there.

On foot, the single Bane who rode forward to meet Iestyn follows her Light Maiden, and at a hand signal the handful of banes just... disappears into the city.

A light job brings Guardian Hobus up to the rest of the selected. Once again, blank, grim determination lines his face as he falls into place, his bow shifting to fit among shields and spears.

Jodfrey Seamel turns back to Ietesyn, nodding. "This set'll do, Lightmaiden." He calls, with a polite, if baffled smile. That said, he grabs the pommel of Waterdeep's saddle and vaults back up into it.

Iestyn Nillu lifts a metal-sheathed hand to gesture Jodfrey forward, still guiding her mount forward, and forward, into the temple plaza itself.

Halo, Old Capital: Temple Plaza <Shadow District>

Though the Imperial line has always held the official claims to the

Shadow District, it is the Church that has come to rule in the old capital. Blades or Horsemen or the hired guards of noble domains are nowhere to be seen, but the rattle and clinking of chainmail is everywhere: the Shadowscourges protect this domain with the zeal and ardor to be expected of the Church's Fist when put in the homeland of shadows.

The plaza, though central to Halo now, was once only one in many; a map,

masterfully layed out as a mosaic of cobblestones, tells of a peaceful time before the fall, when this was only the southern-most part of a much bigger city. Now it is the only part still standing, and as the largest open area, it has become the heart of the town. Though Imperial rule is nonexistant, that has not stopped valourous merchants from setting up shop here, supplying the town with the goods and services needed to survive.

It is a cold evening as the sun sets beyond the horizon to the west. The air

is stagnant, not stirring with the slightest breeze. It is raining.

The plaza has been cleared, cleared and emptied of everything except three huge knots of Shadowscourges who stand at attention facing the larger plaza itself. Little motions among them show a faint weariness; they stand as if they have been here for hours.

Iestyn Nillu draws her mount to a stop and swings off Sunshine's back with only a trace of stiffness. She steps towards the single mounted Scourge among the group. "In Light, Sister," she calls, "have you found the way in?"

From Waterdeep's saddle, Jodfrey Seamel rides forth with the small contingent of men, glancing over to Itesyn, then back over at the group of scourges. "Do you have anything to brief us on, Your Holiness? The ah, exact details of the matter of release aren't something we'd know about." He murmurs, slipping down from his own saddle once again.

From Wallflower's saddle, Velvela shakes her head in a single, solemn negative. She glances over to Jodfrey and reaches up to slide her helm off with an audible sigh. Quietly, in a tone low for the natively boisterous voice, she says, "She is underneath the Cathedral, we think. We've found no way in as yet. The Scourges have not tried as hard as they might until backed by your full force."

Left Hand stands, silent, her mask turned towards the cathedral itself.

"What exactly will we be.. facing, Your Holiness?" Pipes up the deep, rolling voice of Lucius Nepos, his pauldrons clanking as he shifts his weight onto his shield. His gaze shifts from 'Bull' (the other Blade) to Jodfrey, eyebrow arched.

Harper shifts his weight as he looks about the plaza, not commenting for the moment. His young face is set into a thoughtful mask.

"We may hope-- nothing," Iestyn says, a faint smile in her voice. Her eyes are blanked as if dead, "she will, Light Guide, go for the Ravager an destroy him. Else, she may decide to destroy us. She is more powerful than he."

It isn't a Guardian's place to ask questions. Nor is it to doubt the wisdom of the leaders of the realm. However, muddy eyes can be seen shifting over the other faces of his companions, his grip tightening on his bow.

From Wallflower's saddle, Velvela's shrug is invisible beneath her armour. She runs a hand through her hair and then slides the helm back on.

Lightly, the Left Hand speaks for the first time. "If all goes best, we'll be left standing here with nothing to do."

From Waterdeep's saddle, Jodfrey Seamel strokes at his whiskers, unable to quite hide all of his unease. "We'll do our best for you, on the blades' honor, Lightmaiden.” He glances at the woman in the robe, curiously. "That's true enough, we'll hope for the best, in that case, and prepare for the rest." His eyes turn back to the Lightmaiden again. "You say you're looking for an entrance, Your Holiness? Do you want these men here to assist, or do you have something else in mind for them?"

"Yes," Iestyn says, glancing over the assembled Blades. "Leave your horse here, Captain Bladesman. He will not avail you inside. My Lords," she inclines her head to Velvela, then to the Blades, and mounts the temple steps.

The plaza is emptied of all but Shadowscourges and one lone woman. The Shadowscourges stand at attention, each and every armored statue facing the Temple. Velvela Mikin stands at their head, also facing the temple, for long still moments.

Cielle slowly enters from the area of the gates, hands clasped in front of her and eyes ever vigilant. Her walk is steady and slow, though she does appear to have some purpose as she never once hesitates in her path. Her small stature allows her to draw very little attention as she goes.

Zolor Zahir stops leading his high mount as he stops a short distance from Velvela. He inclines his head, pressing his palms together in an almost prayer-like attitude, in deference to the Shadowscourge leader. Then, he glances toward Aiden and Ashlynn. "Come. The time approaches."

The Scourge nods very slightly, her movement rigid and jerky. One hand lifts in a sweeping gesture towards the temple.

Aiden Zahir offers a respectful, short bow to Velvela before making to accompany Zolor forward, gathering his robes about his person, cloak flaring behind in the wake of a quick gait.

A pinched look overtakes Ashlynn's expression for a moment at Zolor's words before she is able to smooth it into impassivity again. Without a word, she leaves Cleo with reins trailing to anchor the mare along with the other horses and she moves to follow the others inside.

Temple of Fire Everlasting: Main Hall <Shadow District>

Oldest temple of Fastheld, seat of the Shadow Patron, center of the

Church's activities in the fallen district: many attributes set this magnificient building apart from other temples and churches in the Empire. But it is the architecture that is truly without rival in the realm: high and higher into the sky its three towers reach, representing in white marble the Three Pillars of the Faith: Truth, Honour, Toil. Giant gates, higher than ten men, open into the main hall, a gilded sunburst carved into the aged biinwood.

The hall itself dwarves the visitor even more than beholding the temple

from the outside did. The curve of the ceiling far overhead bears paintings that depict the great Cataclysm, that greatest of all battles between Light and Shadows and their followers. It stretches all the way from entrance to the area at the opposite end of the hall, where the Holiest of Holies lies, the reason for making this temple the goal of pilgrims, and that which gave it the name: the Fire Everlasting.

From a crack in the white marble floor springs an unending flame, like a

fountain of bluish-white fire, shooting up to well over a man's height. For safety as much as artistic reasons it has been surrounded with a wide waist-high ring of marble, polished smooth by centuries of pilgrims running their hands over it as they circled this natural momument to the Light's everlasting vigilance against the Shadow. To save this holy place from corruption was the reason that the Orders fought to the death rather than yield one inch of ground when Old Halo fell.

Iestyn sighs near-silently beneath the cover of her armored steps, walking forward at a slow pace towards the Eternal Flame. She doesn't look back, now, and her shoulders have a resolute set to them.

The Left Hand hangs back by the doorway.

Lucius Nepos nods quietly now, his green-blue eyes clouding with some look of doubt. However, as a good soldier he does not question the order; merely heads inside, drawing one of the spears from its compartment and gripping the throwing strap with his index finger and thumb. He observes the Eternal Flame with awe as he enters, but soon focuses on his job.

Jodfrey Seamel places his palm to his heart in silent reverence, before moving along once again. "It'll be a shame to lose a shrine such as this." He murmurs, almost to himself, eyes drawn to the blue-white flame.

The holiness of such a place isn't lost on the archer, his eyes flicking towards the eternal flame. He does not break his soldier's pose, but dips his head slightly in respect and piety.

Harper moves along behind the two heavy infantrymen, the solemn mood of the temple and his duty keeping his movements somewhat muted.

The Light Maiden flinches visibly at Jodfrey's words. She continues walking, however, until she reaches the Flame. She stops before it, silent, with eyes nearly blank to her surroundings.

The Left Hand keeps back by the door, hovering there, her mask sliding across the depiction of suddenly very pertinent events on the walls.

Jodfrey Seamel frowns over at the Lightmaiden, but it's an expression filled with a moment of sympathy... And perhaps, some understanding. He pauses a few feet behind her, silent, waiting for the woman to... To what? Say her goodbyes, perhaps. To speak, at the very least, although the archer Captain looks like he has something he'd like to say.

Lucius Nepos stands behind his Captain, collecting himself for whatever will be down there. He glances downward to make sure that his scabbard, on his left hip, to make sure that the blade will be ready should it need to be drawn. He offers an encouraging gaze to the rest of the Blades.

Iestyn offers no encouraging look, no encouraging word, and no shift at all in her stance. Understanding breaks off her armored back like a breath of air against steel.

A single Shadowbane lurks at the back of the temple, near the doorway. The Bladesmen are spread out within it, while the Maiden herself stands still before the flame.

Harper doesn't respond to Lucius' gaze, simply shifting his weight slightly and watching the Light Maiden. There's an obvious air of tension about his body.

Cielle steps nearly silently into the vast room, and as soon as she is through the threshold of the door she shifts her walk to take her to the side of the doorway. She says nothing, and from the humble way she places herself at the back of the room, appears to not mean to draw attention.

At length, Jodfrey turns back to the men under his command. "You, men.. If you're wondering why I chose you, it's because you have names that I remembered. Every man along on this mission is of the best of what his majesty's Blades have to offer; Sometimes that involves taking hard orders." He murmurs; the pain in his expression far more open than the stronger metal the Lightmaiden seems to be made of. "We're looking for an entrance to what lies beneath, but they would've found it if it was obvious. I must order... Ah, no, ask you to willfully search for something hidden. That will involve prying up decorations, removing paintings and tapestries, even checking every bit and bob of decorative work; Essentially, although done with the best of intentions, desecration. If any of you men is unable to bring himself to do that, speak up now and we'll send for a replacement with no shame attached."

A single Shadowbane lurks at the back of the temple, near the doorway. The Bladesmen are spread out within it, while the Maiden herself stands still before the flame. Cielle stands near the door as well. Toivo does not budge from his place among the selected, the end of his longbow tapping down solidly against the marble of the temple. "This, and all the temples in the realm would be lost, were we to back down now," a deep, rumbling voice announces. "Better one than all. Better a House of the Light, than the Light itself."

"We must do what is best for the Realm. The Light will forgive us." Lucius Nepos says, bobbing his head in response to Jodfrey's order of desecration; the Blade replaces his spear into his shield compartment and begins to search the Temple of Fire Everlasting for any hidden entrances. 'Bull', the other Blade, similarly begins to search the room.

Iestyn Nillu does not move. Her stance solid, foot-square in front of the flame, she does not turn even at Jodfrey's ringing words, nor does she flinch again. She also, however, says nothing and does nothing. Not so much as a twitch of her fingertips betrays her as a living being.

Harper simply nods his head faintly, sliding the spear into the thong at his waist with the others. After another look about the temple, he steps forward with Lucius and Bull to start searching.

Cielle narrows her eyes very slightly at the word 'desecration', and there is a definite tightening in her clasped hands. She remains silent though, her lips pressed together tight enough to form small lines emanating from their sides.

Zolor Zahir draws back the rain-slicked hood of his cloak, revealing thin gray hair and a hawk-like face. Grimly, he strides toward the heart of the temple: The unending flame that issues forth from the crack in the white marble floor. He stops a few feet from the fountain of cerulean fire and then turns to regard Ashlynn. "Scribe, step over here with your tools and make a large circle whose perimeter encloses the flame on either side of the crack."

The Left Hand begins to move, crossing the temple towards Jodfrey when it becomes apparent that Iestyn will not respond to him. Masked, dark-robed, she is as near a representation to a shadow herself as might be, but steps back against the wall as the Zahirs enter.

"Get to it then; Pry it off if it's stuck to a wall or the floor. Look for repair-work on the walls or the floors, or cracks and possible weaknesses. Use your daggers, swords, spears if need be; Dented blades will be replaced, but find me that entrance. Scrape, batter, break if you must." Jodfrey declares, moustache bristling. To the silent lightmaiden, he declares, "I'm sending for some men to take back anything portable that can be saved. " The orders given, he stands at a silent vigil nearby, watching the Lightmaiden-- That is, until Zolor enters. Eyes narrowing, the Blades Captain inclines his head questioningly. "My Lord. What is it that you are doing?"

Aiden Zahir enters with his kinsman Ashlynn. At Zolor's apparent understanding of that which is perplexing the Bladesmen and the Faithful to no end, green eyes narrow in scrutiny, mouth upturning into a gentle smile. Leave it to a Zahir to nurse a secret until the optimal moment for its revealing. How delightful.

Toivo places the bow over his back once more, reaching to retrieve a small dagger. Without another word, the Guardian follows the others to begin the search.

Even now the Light Maiden doesn't turn, doesn't move. She doesn't step aside for Zolor Zahir, though he traces her earlier footsteps nearly exactly, and her eyes remain lost in the flame right before her. She seems a statue in truth.

Ashlynn pauses briefly upon the threshold as the sight of the unending flame and those already milling within the temple sinks in, and it isn't until Zolor calls to her that her attention refocuses upon specific events. "For what reason?" she asks with clear surprise and suspicion, even as she begins to walk toward the elder Zahir, hands already reaching inside her courier's satchel.

With the back of his spear clasped an backspike barred, Lucius now gets to work removing tapestries, mosaics and any other decoration which could hide something. If he sees anything suspicious, he investigates it; he tries to pry bricks out with the back of his spear, tries to find this entrance however possible.

"Well, primarily so those bog apes in Imperial armor don't tear down this lovely establishment in the hopes of digging their way down to a dragon," Zolor replies to Ashlynn. He glances over at Jodfrey. "Imbeciles. The Church didn't just stick the thing in a sub-basement. They had help from the Luminary and shut it well off, deep underground. A group of us will be transported from this place to Her lair."

Harper's search is delayed as he looks over to the new entrances, lifting an eyebrow slightly as he considers them. He reaches out a hand to tap Lucius on one of his iron pauldrons to get his attention.

Dradin clutches at his cloak as he ducks through the entryway, moving himself out of the way of the nobles and other important folk. He kneels by the wall and begins uttering a prayer under his breath, one eye kept slightly open to watch the goings-on.

/Now/ Iestyn flinches and, movement restored, turns blank blue eyes on Zolor. She takes a half-step towards him and waits numbly.

Cielle lowers her mouth into a gawk as belongings start to be removed. Eventually she looks as if the bottom half of her face has detached completely. Her hands are a stark white from how tightly she digs her fingers into them. All words that are spoken are lost on her as her attention seems to be irrevocably upon the decorations of the room.

The Shadowbane is also spurred to motion by Zolor's declaration, and she steps forward at a quick pace to put her hand on Iestyn's shoulder. Low, quiet, she says, "stay you here, Maiden, and I will go."

The mild-mannered captain's lips draw back in a silent baring of teeth, almost a snarl, as he watches Zolor and Aiden. "So, you've come to let pearls of your blasphemous wisdom fall to us lesser men, now that you're fashionably late to do so? How kind of you to let the rest of us know. Shall I snivel a little for you, or just stand in the background with men who came prepared to sacrifice their lives since you didn't bother to /brief/ us, bog apes that we are, before making us think we had to defile one of our own temples?"

Lucius Nepos ceases his blasphemy and pillaging as Zolor declares the Blades imbeciles and the Guardian is further tapped on the shoulder. He regards the nobleman with an arched eyebrow, for a second time replacing his spear in its compartment. He remains silent.

Into the belly of the beast? What a cheery thought. This latest of Zolor's amazing string of revelations begs a chuckle, an odd emotion amidst such tension. "When all of this is said and done, Zolor, I'd like to know just how you discovered all of this," the Imperial Spymaster hints with a wink, before rounding on the Captain in annoyance, "If you feel that way about it, Captain, lash the nearest virgin on the high altar and have at her, hrmm? If you're in a mood to defile, by all means, desecrate to your heart's content."

Zolor Zahir shrugs at Jodfrey. "That your superiors didn't see fit to brief you properly is none of my concern. Light knows I tried to brief them myself, but they wouldn't hear of it without rending their own garments and crying blasphemy." As he utters the last word, his gaze has settled on Iestyn. "And that is certainly the last thing on any of our minds this night."

"Transported?" Ashlynn echoes with sudden apprehension, nearly fumbling her stoppered inkwell before she takes it in a firmer grip, glancing nervously back toward the Light Maiden and Scourge before she turns a narrowed look upon Zolor. "How will you contrive to do this with scribe's implements? M'lord," she tacks on belatedly, twisting off the inkwell's cap, but waiting for a response before she begins the requested drawing.

Poor, idiotic Toivo. His expression is grim as he goes about prying at cracks and doing other various unholy things in the glaring light of the Eternal Flame.

Harper casts a glance to Lucius and Bull before moving over to stand behind the Captain, apparently waiting for further orders with this development.

Iestyn Nillu's eyes return Zolor's look silently for a moment or two, the Shadowbane ignored, Jodfrey ignored, all of it passing her without touching her expression. Then, finally, she nods in answer to the other woman. "My place is not there, Sister," she says slowly, "not there. You are right. You are stronger than I. All of you."

The Freelander in the corner of the temple continues his prayer, lips barely moving as his voice hovers just above a whisper.

Cielle seems to finally take a breath as people in general cease their assault on the various pieces around the room. Her eyes now turn towards the group gathered at the center of the room, more specifically on Jodfrey as he was the one to give the order in the first place. She seems perched carefully on her feet, as if ready to move forward immediately if she discerns the need.

Jodfrey Seamel doesn't so much as bother to look at Aiden or deign to reply to him, focus purely on Zolor with a smoldering gaze. "I take comfort in the fact that the Light knows its' own, and knows those whom aren't. All right, do your little show for the adoring audience.. Light knows we've no choice but to stand here and listen to the bragging." He turns back to glance at Toivo, with a sharp whistle to call the man's attention. "Hobus, get back here. Follow the shadow-riddled fool, I'm returning to the main body of the force to let them know about this latest mockery." With that, the man turns on a heel and strides for the exit.

Left Hand embraces the Light Maiden quite naturally, the gesture intimate with familiarity. "You're a builder. Let me destroy. I'm good at it," she says gently. Stepping back, she turns the Maiden with her unarmored hands and gives her a little push back towards the door.

Zolor Zahir releases a weary sigh as he peers at Ashlynn. "The Emperor has been gone for how many days now? In the cold? In the rain? Waiting with no sign of rescue. Here we stand, so close to the means to recover him if he yet lives, and you pepper me with petty questions. Woman, make yourself useful and put that circle on the floor.

Iestyn Nillu nods slightly to the Left Hand and turns under prompting. She begins to walk slowly towards the door, stopping halfway there to turn and watch from a distance.

It's not Harper's place to think. Something he's quite aware of. And so he watches the proceedings without a protest, drawing out a spear from the thong at his waist again.

Toivo turns at the whistle, tucking his dagger back into his belt and moving in the direction of the Zahir. He stops himself near the other three guardians, drawing his bow once more.

Aiden Zahir murmers darkly as he watches Jodfrey storm off, "It's a shame we can't roast him over the nearest flame." A shrug and a sigh, and the Duke makes to join his kinsman, apparently intending to join the group journeying into the creature's lair. "Whatever the danger, I'll not remain behind, here. I shall join you in whatever it is we go to find, Zolor."

A frown is present on Lucius Nepos's face for only a brief moment - it is replaced by a placid look of neutrality a minute later, after hearing Zolor and Jurus's speech. "I'm the superior officer here.. I'll assume command. Let's form up." Another time he removes his iron spear.

Ashlynn's jaw tightens, her eyes narrowing with a flare of anger. But rather than give Zolor more fuel to snipe with, she turns sharply to gauge the distance needed to surround the fire and begins to drip the black pigment carefully across the ancient marble, her ink-stained fingers nimble and steady with their task.

Zolor Zahir smiles faintly, watching as the circle begins to take form around the flame. He nods approval as Aiden steps forward. "Into the circle, Spymaster." He then lets his gaze take in others assembled in the temple. "Anyone else intent on going, be heard. We can't take all the soldiers and Scourges in the realm, but we can take a contingent of people below."

"I will come. I will choose three of mine to come with me. You will wait?" the masked Shadowbane says.

"I will follow my commander," Toivo offers flatly, eyeing the Zahir warily.

Zolor Zahir nods to the Bane. "We will require the talents of the Sunkissed to disarm the wards leading to She Who Destroys. So, yes, into the circle. We will wait as long as we can."

Aiden Zahir steps quickly into the infernal circle, his smile not wavering for a moment as he muses, "Hand in hand into Hell. Marvelous."

Quickly, the Left Hand walks out beyond the Maiden and to the courtyard beyond.

Cielle tilts her chin slightly upwards and uses her lean on her feet to spur her momentum forward. As she moves away from the back of the room, she raises her voice though all and all its just above a whisper. "I wish to go." Her feet draw her into the circle that is forming, not waiting for acceptance or agreeance from anyone.

"I follow," Harper responds, stepping forward to fall in behind Lucius.

After she closes off the last leg of the circle, Ashlynn caps the nearly empty inkwell, stowing it carefully in the satchel before looking up at the others while they sort themselves out...and quite studiously ignoring the fact that she has drawn the shape with her feet planted firmly within its boundary.

Not four but seven hurried sets of near-silent footfalls return heartbeats after the Left Hand vanishes through the door. Quickly, they all file in at their mistress' back and make for the circle, black-masked and -robed.

Lucius Nepos enters the circle as well, his weapons now held at the ready. "I don't know what to expect on the other side, but we must be ready. Assume a combat stance; we may be going straight into battle." His shield is held out in front of him, and his fingers loop into the throwing strap once more. He wears a determined look on his face.

The elder Zahir clasps his hands behind his back as peruses the result of Ashlynn's work. He makes a tsking noise. "More of an oval than a circle, but it should serve well enough, I think." He winks at the scribe and then glances toward Cielle. "Oh, by all means, my dear. I wouldn't think of denying you the opportunity to learn all you can about the Church of True Light."

By now, Dradin has completely stopped muttering under his breath and is regarding the people standing in the circle, head tilted curiously. "Mus' be some important noble fing," he grunts to himself.

Toivo moves within the circle's confines, drawing an arrow out of his quiver. Its suspended by two fingers and the bow's string, prepared for the battle.

Cielle allows one of her eyebrows to quirk up against her otherwise blank face. "As a Priestess of the Church, the Light has willed me to be here. I do not come out of my own curiosity." Her words are made semi-firmly, though coming from such a small figure they are far from overwhelming.

Ashlynn lifts a brow at Zolor's chiding before she snorts and answers, "Forgive my lack of competency; I have had more occasion to pen documents than practice drawing circles. M'lord."

Aiden Zahir looks in expectation to the others forming up within the circle, perhaps grateful for the profusion of armed and well-trained soldiers in their midst. If true and present danger lies down ... up ... wherever it is they're headed, there'll be swords enough to fend it off. One hopes.

Dradin perks up at the arming of weapons and scurries over to Zolor. "'Scuse me, M'lord sir," he offers several partial-bows, "Horribly sorry if I've int'rupted anyfing, but is 'ere gonna be fightin'? And if so, mays I humbly tag along?"

The drawn circle gets a long skeptical look as Harper steps within it, seeming to prepare for whatever is going to happen. He seems awfully unsure about the whole situation.

Cielle takes in a deep breath, lowering her head so that chin touches chest. Her fingers unclasp long enough to touch fingertips to fingertips. In a tone half under her breath she says, "The Light embrace me and illumine my Path. The Light serve as a beacon against the approaching darkness. The Light be my presence, my touch and my might." With that said she raises her head again, then takes a half step closer to Harper as he steps in near her.

From under the collar of his doublet, Zolor Zahir draws a silver chain. Suspended from the chain is a gleaming platinum medallion that might otherwise be mistaken for a discolored Kahar Imperial. He pulls the chain over his head, grasps it in a palm that's soon closed into a fist, and then he rests his gaze on Dradin. His mouth twitches into a grimace. "Fighting? One hopes not. But I'd just as soon have you along to stand between me and danger, just the same. Into the circle, then."

Once within the circle, the seven Banes are still, pressed close to each other. They are nearly indistinguishable, of varying heights and builds but not remarkably so.

Iestyn Nillu merely watches from her distance, her blue eyes dark and her shoulders defiantly squared for all the faint droop to her head.

Ashlynn's eyes follow Zolor's actions with curiosity and suspicion, shifting her weight impatiently while the last few cross the drying ink's dark line.

Dradin hops into the circle. "Dradin Gale at yer service, M'lord sir! I'll most honor'bly place myself 'tween you and any perils that may await so's that M'lord sir may not ruin his good clothes." The last comment is delivered without a hint of sarcasm and in utmost sincerity as Dradin beams broadly at Zolor.

"I count on it," Zolor Zahir mutters to Dradin. "But do so downwind of me. There's a good lad."

Settled in now, the only movement from Lucius Nepos is the shift of his green-blue eyes to make sure he's still in this room and the heave of his chest, segmented armor gleaming in the light of the Eternal Flame as he breathes.

Aiden Zahir nods approvingly at Dradin's addition, remarking to himself, if audibly, "The man may not know his possessive articles, but he can take a blast of hellfire to the face just as well as any two-bit soldier."

"Gale, you say, huh?" Harper repeats, getting as good a look at Dradin as possible considering they're all scrunched together. His eyes narrow slightly.

"My father once told me, a long time ago, that a day would come when the stories his father told him, as told by *his* father before him, would be proven true and no longer merely regarded as the addled ranting of Goram Zahir's bloodline," Zolor says, turning so that he faces the column of cobalt fire full-on, his eyes and the chain clutched in his fist reflecting the brilliance that towers above him. "He said that one day, the light of *truth* would shine." He extends his fist into the Fire Everlasting, where it becomes surrounded by a nimbus of white light that starts to spread outward to encompass all standing within the circle. "Let it shine."

Iestyn Nillu steps back, and back again, until she is outside the temple.

Halo, Old Capital: Temple Plaza <Shadow District>

Though the Imperial line has always held the official claims to the

Shadow District, it is the Church that has come to rule in the old capital. Blades or Horsemen or the hired guards of noble domains are nowhere to be seen, but the rattle and clinking of chainmail is everywhere: the Shadowscourges protect this domain with the zeal and ardor to be expected of the Church's Fist when put in the homeland of shadows.

The plaza, though central to Halo now, was once only one in many; a map,

masterfully layed out as a mosaic of cobblestones, tells of a peaceful time before the fall, when this was only the southern-most part of a much bigger city. Now it is the only part still standing, and as the largest open area, it has become the heart of the town. Though Imperial rule is nonexistent, that has not stopped valorous merchants from setting up shop here, supplying the town with the goods and services needed to survive.

It is a cold evening as the sun sets beyond the horizon to the west. The air

is stagnant, not stirring with the slightest breeze. A light rain pours from the heavens.

Velvela stands outside, still, in front of a courtyard of armoured statues.

Jodfrey Seamel storms out, taking a few moments to control his angry, contorted expression into something polite, confident... And utterly fake to anyone who looks hard. Taking a few, slow breaths; he begins to walk again with a measured, slow pace.

Left Hand steps outside quickly, and vanishes into the shadows, though she returns a moment later with the shadows at her back, and remounts the steps.

Jodfrey Seamel returns from briefing the men still in formation-- It looks like it'll be a long wait for them, burdened in armor as they are. Although he approaches the building again to look it over, the tired-looking Seamel doesn't enter it.

Iestyn Nillu stumbles out of the temple early on, and sits on the steps. It is silent behind her as she watches the assembled soldiers, and they in turn are oriented coincidentally on her.

"Lightmaiden." It's a quiet greeting, without the kind smiles that he wears most of the time; His face is dour, worn-out, as Jodfrey approaches the Nillu. "Is there anything you need?"

The Light Maiden tilts her head up, her blue eyes unreadable still within the shell of her helm. They crinkle at the corners with a smile. "Nothing you can give, Captain Bladesman. The concern is appreciated, if ill-placed."

"Ill-placed, hm? Well, if you're certain." Jodfrey replies in a quiet murmur. He remains standing, although the steps look tempting. "Suppose I wanted to feel useful for something." He adds, looking back at the assembled troops with a sour expression. Silence, more natural than uncomfortable, dominates the ill-fated conversation after that.

"You could speak meaningfully to Velvela Mikin about strategy," Iestyn says, nodding towards the Scourge in front of the others, at attention.

"If you wish me to, Lightmaiden." Jodfrey replies, looking over to locate the woman in question with his eyes. "Bit moot at this point, mind. Zolor Zahir can just show up and draw a circle or something, thus voiding anything I could possibly plan for while he pulls all this magnificent information out of his a--Hat." Oops, that was aloud, wasn't it? Jodfrey's gaze darkens as he adds, "I hope Bladesmaster Lomasa wasn't aware that he was going to show up like this. It'll be an interesting report when I get back. Well.. Light bless, Your Holiness. " He moves off towards the troop.

Iestyn watches Jodfrey for some moments, and then her gaze falls in on herself again.

Time passes, somewhat, before Jodfrey returns from speaking with one of his men. This time he heads for Velvela Mikin casting a dour look towards the citadel. "I say.. I say, Sister, do you have a few moments?" He calls. The silence is stifling, but not a dead silence.. The sort of silence filled with creaking movements of sweating, armored clad people as they stand without any respite.

Velvela stands her ground, helm turning towards Jodfrey, but she does lift her hand and slide the visor back. "We seem to have some time!" she calls back.

"Isn't that the truth of it?" Jodfrey replies, pulling off his leather helm and tucking it beneath an arm. "Captain Jodfrey Seamel, for what it's worth, Sister Mikin. I was shooed off earlier to come speak tactics with you." Perspiration mats down his hair, as he absently reaches up to try and tame it. "If this goes on a few more hours, it might be a problem. Standing on a drill ground all day is one thing, but if they need to fight the men must be fresh."

"Your men, perhaps," Velvela calls back lightheartedly enough, "the Scourges will hold them off until you can get yours back to their feet, Blade."

Jodfrey Seamel laughs evenly. "Oho! Well, we can't all be the holy servants in brass, alas, but we Blades will do our best to match you, in that case." He pauses, rubbing at his whiskers absently. "Uh. Well. Anything you wanted to talk about? Honestly, I think it's mostly been covered...”

"If we knew what was coming," Velvela calls back, "we could plan. Scourges haven't worked in groups this large for centuries, though. You have range?"

Jodfrey Seamel snorts, shaking his head. "S' what I thought. Longbow range is impressive, Sister Mikin, so we have range to the door, more or less, but the other side of a large citadel? Nay, though I wish I could meet the bow that'd do that."

"If she comes up," Vela calls back cheerfully, "there won't be a door, no worries there."

That actually lightens his mood enough for him to bark an abrupt laugh. "Truth! Mind you, I like the door just where it is regularly.. Anyways, it won't take them long to get into range if they're out of it. I daresay we archers might not be much for heavy armor, but we can run faster than anyone else I know."

"Hah!" the Mikin Scourge banters back, "Hah! You speak as if you came to visit when the realm wasn't in danger. A likely story! Have your archers pair up with those of us who can cancel out magic. They may strike home that way. How many archers?"

"I'll have you know I made a pilgrimage here when I was a mere lad, and every year since... My mother was a Mikin, and so I was raised knowing what's right and wrong." Joddy replies, grinning... Although the smile fades as he continues in a more sober tone, "Which is why I feel in a position of authority to say there is something /deeply/ wrong with Zolor Zahir, and the information he just 'happens' to know. One for each ten in Iron, which means thirty. How many who can cancel?"

"Few dozen," Velvela responds, turning to look at the women in columns behind her. "Satie. Sharn. Elee. Jaharna. Kez. Anasmae. Bel. Arra. Lil. Fari. Take your Rays and each of you find some archers," she says clearly, "move in place if your legs are tiring, the rest of you." The whole courtyard erupts in jingling and fidgeting.

Jodfrey Seamel whistles out to catch the blades attention. "Move in place, don't let any limbs fall asleep!" He echoes, then shakes his head amusedly. "Won't be hard to find the archers. Back of each formation in leather armor. Want to move them forward? It's unconventional since they don't stand up to much punishment, but perhaps prudent." He queries, grinning sheepishly.

"They'll have some whips at their back," Velvela responds with an armour-muffled shrug. "We don't know where they'll come from, though. They do fly. Like a bird."

"They? I thought we were just facing one entity." Jodfrey replies, scowling at the thought. Mmph. Well, best order them to the middle, then. Better range and accuracy, not so likely to be wiped out immediately. Acceptable?"

"I've never worked with range really. A couple of spears," the Mikin Scourge says lightly, "do what you think is best." As requested, her Scourges seek out archers amongst the Blades' ranks.

"Middle then. It's not the distance from here to there that's the problem, it's the potential altitude. In the middle they can clear the heads of the men above them easily enough, and still stand a better chance of hitting what they're after." He turns and barks off orders to an adjutant, tersely.

"Which branch of Mikin?" the Sister asks curiously, as orders spread throughout the ranks.

"Jalia Mikin. Mm.. Well, she came to live with my father in Seamel Valley, but I do suppose she was a Light's Reach Mikin." Jodfrey replies, relaxing once the orders are given. "I'm certain she would've mentioned it if she was of more than just a cadet branch of the family, of course, but I was only twelve when the wasting disease took her. I suppose children don't make that sort of distinction."

"The question is always, were you one of Orell and Alieron's bunch," Velvela answers with a chuckle, "if not, it doesn't matter much."

"Probably related some way or another." Jodfrey declares, shrugging absently. "'one of that bunch'? Er.. I must not be, since I don't understand. Third or fourth cousin at absolute most, I garner.. Never met either of them, though I've heard of them often enough."

"If no one asked you to rebel against the emperor, I wouldn't worry too much," comes the quick reply. Velvela glances over the Bladesman with an audible sigh.

Jodfrey Seamel grimaces at the mention of that ugly episode. "No, I'm a Seamel as much as a Mikin.. I gather I'm below most of that half of the family's notice, for some reason." He murmurs, frowning. "Couldn't have done it, anyhow. I'm a blade, have been for years, and that kind of oath isn't something you just break. If my duty ever became too hard for me to bare morally, and today has come very close, I'd seek proper absolution of my promises like Second Bladesmaster Kahar did last week." He glances over at Velvela, curious now. "And yourself?” He could be asking about the rebelling, or about which part of the family she was in, he doesn't specify.

"I'm Scourgespawn," Velvela says without much elaboration, though she smiles. "What did the Blademaster do?"

"The Bladesmaster?" Jodfrey stifles a sigh. "Nothing. No statement, no... Well, just nothing. I know he has alot to look over, but I've ended up guessing in half of my orders during this whole matter, and the briefing... I couldn't really call it that, most of the information I have, I got from others. “He looks bewildered now, lost.”That's why it's so hard to lose the Second Bladesmaster. He was the one we were used to seeing and hearing and reporting to."

"There's been a lot of shift lately," Velvela comments, almost idly.

"Not the good kind, either." Jodfrey replies, looking back at the ranks with a grimace. He raises his voice to call out, "Cycle through sittings, a few minutes at a time. From the right-flank to the left!" Turning back to Vela, he adds, "Looks like your scourges outlasted us, but no matter. I don't want the fellows to have legs cramping up." The far right flank, one third of the blades force, kneels or sits depending on the general comfort of the wearer in platemail, many stretching out...

Not to be outmatched, Velvela shouts, "First sister per Ray, follow the boys and sit. Trade out as need be, keep two on alert." She smiles at Jodfrey and says conversationally. "Nothing's been good lately. The worlds ending."

"Seems that way, sometimes, but we've a legacy to protect." Jodfrey replies, grinning at the new orders. "Some day I'm planning on having children and I'd like Fastheld to still be around for it, and all."

"I'm standing here, aren't I?" Velvela demands, her voice lowering a trace, "but the Emperor's done with us. Used and thrown away. You he still has need of. Your children will be safe, if they never become Scourges."

"He can't throw you away, so long as the rest of us folk have the faith in our hearts." Jodfrey replies, smile fading again-- His voice is low, addressed to the Sister only. "I won't pretend I understand his reasoning, if he's even alive anymore, or pretend I'm comfortable with this whole business, but I think I speak for a lot of people when I say we still believe in and need the church. Rebellion was the wrong way to say it, but if enough sensible voices refuse to be silent... Well, he can speak by his example but he can't make us feel the way he does about it."

"That's not what I mean," Velvela says, quietly, "but I'm glad you think so. I don't believe I caught your name, Captain Bladesman?"

Jodfrey Seamel rubs at the back of his head with a sheepish expression. "It wasn't? What'd you mean then? Er... Oh, Jodfrey Seamel. You probably haven't heard of me, I only made Captain a few months back, and I've spent most of the last decade up on the Aegis. Anyways, I mean it when I say I'd be proud to have a child take up with the church. Especially considering I don't have anything in the way of land to leave them... I ceded that to my younger brother when I went off to shoot things with arrows."

"Velvela Mikin," Velvela says, "I'm weapons mistress at the Keep, and I din't get out much. At all."

Jodfrey Seamel chuckles throatily, managing to resist the urge to pace for now. "Well met, Sister Mikin. Do you do anything with archery? I could come practice sometime, so you don't forget what the rest of us look like, wot?"

"I'm more than passable," Velvela says, "but let's wait this out first, shall we?"

The middle flank of the Blades gets a chance to sit, now. "Naturally, of course." He replies, leather armor creaking as he shifts his weight to the other foot. "I just hope those Zahirs aren't causing too much trouble for my men. They don't even try to hide the contempt they have for everyone beyond themselves."

"It's part of the job, Bladesman or Scourge. We'd be the same if the fighters ran things and beancounters took our orders," the Mikin Scourge says, regaining her lightness. She reaches up and inside her visor to scratch at an eyebrow.

"Wouldn't that be nice?" Jodfrey asks, laughing delightedyly. "No, get some fellow in a frumpy doublet and fancy trimming and he owns the place. That's just how it goes."

Return to Season 3 (2005)

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