Tribunal Plaza <Imperial Tribune>

Paved in a remarkable white shade of black-flecked marble amidst the general flagstones of a more sullen cinereal and copper tones, and flanked on all sides by the high stone battlements of the Tribunal's curtain wall, the Tribunal Plaza is a majestic place indeed.
Suitable for either high-profile meetings or casually chasing the hours away in equal measure, the plaza has been designed to be fitting enough for even an Emperor to consider being more than enough to respect them. It features five fountains arranged in an "X" formation, with four smaller founts remaining arranged around a large central attraction that dominates the plaza with an unmatched authority all of its own, cast in a glistening tone of black stone, with the four smaller counterparts set in white. Suffice to say, the steady hiss of water jets is a constant theme of this tranquil setting.
Two large and symmetrical buildings rest to either side of the plaza; those being the Hall of Healing to the North, and the Museum of Artifacts to the south. The architecture of both of these structures is remarkable to say the least, with each featuring graceful arches, dazzling windows, and beautifully ornate pillars to name but a few. The main gatehouse that leads back out of the Imperial Tribunal rests to the west.
Yet the most dominating feature of the plaze remains the Imperial Tribunal itself, the great white hall that rests to the east, elevated above the rest of the region upon its very own raised and stepped foundation. Like a great and terrible temple does it dominate the landscape, accessible only by ascending an avenue of red-paved steps up towards the main doors; themselves hidden behind proud support pillars under a shadowy ingress.
The stepped approach itself is not without ornamentation, for upon either side of that flight of stairs stand two colossal statues: That of Sirion Starkhorn to the left, and Ulfell Lomasa to the right. A third statue stands at the very top of the stairs, cast in the immortal image of Emperor Talus Kahar. Three statues of three legends: The Tribunal.

The warm weather bodes well on the activites that stir the Imperial Tribunal plaza this afternoon. The heavy clouds above, however, speak rather ill of later hours to come. And so it's with a sense of light urgency that the officials conduct their business about the yard. Even the servants hurry to and fro, offering tight smiles and curteous head-bobs to bodies in passing.

Life for the Royal Healer that governs one of these grand halls is no different. There's some bustling activity near the Hall of Healing now as a boy swiftly halls a cart of goods before the opening doors. Two women - one young and one old - emerge to offer the lad payment and discuss with him future errands. A third woman emerges between them, her attention falling solely over the items in the cart to which she steps gracefully. Deft hands reach in, sifting through the pouches and boxes and occasionally bringing to her nose a bundle to sniff.

Climbing the flight of stairs and passing between the two great statues as he looks up and stares at the architecture, Benedict finds his way into the Imperial Tribunal rather slowly as dark clouds drift by overhead. He stumbles abruptly at the height of the stairs, failing to lift his foot high enough to clear the last riser and curses harshly before straightening up and glancing around with an expression that is both embarrased and nervous at the same time.

"Very good," a voice of melodic authority offers in approval and the finer-dressed of the three tosses a packet of tingle leaf back into the cart. "Leave your load here and venture 'round to the back where you'll find some shade and drinking water. I'll have the kitchen bring you something to eat." Dismissing the boy with a warm smile, Rowena gestures his freedom. To the others, she adds "Have these brought to the inner store and I'll join you this eve to prep them for use."

Benedict glances up at the statues flanking the staircase once more, frowning until he turns and begins to make his way slowly across the yard. "Maybe them ladies'll know something," he says before altering his path to take him closer to the small group. "Scuse me ladies," he asks, reaching up to remove a wide-brimmed hat from his head as he approaches the ladies. "You uh, you ladies would'n happen to know where 'bouts I could find the lady that sent me this letter," he continues while holding up a piece of parchment with some writing on it.

The oldest of the three squints her brown eyes, lower lip set over its mate in concentration. "Eh, yeh." She nods vigorously, mouth stretching into a broad smile that bares most of her remaining teeth. "Yew've found tah right place." Chuckling, the old woman waddles her amble form around and catches the blue, velvet sleeve of the woman that's nearly vanished back inside. "One of yer requested craftsmen, my dear."

Meanwhile, the youngest of the three flicks a shy glance between her work and the weathered stranger. Three..four...while bending to grab a fifth packet, she fumbles with the other four, sending all items tumbling back into the cart. A rosy hue rises to her cheeks and she scrambles to gather them again.

"Ah, a fine timing, Maeve." Rowena murmurs to the old woman, slipping her a secretive grin of satisfaction before turning back around to regard their visitor with more composure. "Good afternoon, sir. I presume you to be...Mr. Thatcher?"

Benedict puts his hand down and is about to reply to the woman who answers him but she turns away from him and his attention is caught by the girl who drops a handful of things back into the cart. Again he starts to say something but manages nothing more than opening his mouth before he's addressed by the third and richly dressed woman. "Yes ma'am, uh... mi'lady," he answers when he looks to her and nods. "Benedict Thatcher's my name," he continues, brandishing the letter in one hand as if it were his identification and keeping his hat held close in his other hand. "I uh... my apologies for takin' so long to make the time t' come see you. I've not had a whole heap of time to be runnin' around lately."

"Aye, I understand the busy nature of such schedules," Rowena sighs, waving a hand to the letter indicating it's of no need. "As the weather warms, the more men turn to sport and dangerous creatures awaken, thus keeping these walls quite...lively." Pausing to watch Maeve assist the girl in emptying the cart, she contemplates the whereabouts of her list. "If you'll come in for a moment, I will explain to you the work I've need done. Two orders, really, as the Crown shall be funding one list and myself the other."

Benedict drops the hand holding the letter back to his side and moves to follow the finely dressed woman further into the large buildings, leaving both the older and younger woman to their work and the cart of supplies recently deliverd. "I 'spose you're right 'bout the weather. Bein' hot like it is an' all," he says.

It is a hot noon. The air is stagnant, not stirring with the slightest breeze. The skies are perfectly clear.

Main Hall <Imperial Tribune>

Illusions of the mind's eye can lead those entering the hall for the first time that it expands into the reach of eternity. Time seems even to cease its existence, as the lack of windows numbs the body's circadian rhythm. Mighty pillars of stone file down the length in pairs like the ribs of some giant beast. The shadows overhead hide their meeting with the ceiling. Torches held by iron talons are secured to every other pillar as well as alternating spaces between.
Over the entry way is a particular item of interest. Crossed like a display of arms rests not a pair of swords, but a stalk of sage and slender twig of birch. The healer's display is mounted onto a piece of wood, shaped to be a shield. After calling attention to this oddity, one's mind might register what the senses have already detected - a faint waft of lavender scents the hall's air. Its source remains unseen, oils burning silently to fuel the torches. As the lavender had ordered, a sense of calm is invoked here.
The dull, gray stone floor is livened by a burbling fountain about ten paces from the entrance. It is circular in shape, the blue marble stacked to a fairly shallow height of two feet. Inside, a black falcon crest is shaped on the fountain's bottom. The eyes are formed from sparkling blue gems, piercing with an upward stare through the rippling waters.
At the very end of the hall, a biinwood door leads to an exit. Hidden between two pillars, another door leads to the unknown. Two sentries guard the entrance.

"The fountains grow more tempting by the hour" Rowena agrees, turning into the cool shelter of the main hall. Inside, the torchlight strives to illuminate the hall to match the noonday sun, but without avail. It may take a moment for one's eyes to adjust. Blind or not, Rowena continues to move forward with ease, her feet having memorized the floor plan well. "I hope the travel was not too unbearable for you? There are some shade trees along the way."

Benedict listens as he moves from the open plaza to the hall's windowless interior. His steps slow as he looks around, not answering immediately as the distance between him and the woman increases. "Uh... yeah, plenty of trees," he hurries to catch up. "Specially if you find a decent trail to get on rather'n stay on the main road all the time."

Rowena pauses near one of the pillars, waiting for him to join her before she vanishes into the shadows. "I've the list on my desk. Just be certain to watch your step. My companion is somewhat...underfoot." Smiling secretively at that, the healer slips into the somewhat hidden passageway, motioning for him to follow.

Benedict nods his head in agreement as he approaches. "Sure th... underfoot?" comes his reply as he stops in his tracks and looks down at the floor. "Uh... companion?" he asks as he looks around and then back up to her with a puzzled expression.

Healer's Passage <Imperial Tribune>

Slipped between the flare of torch-wielding pillars, a biinwood door leads to this passageway's access. The space is narrow and leads to two stone stairs and a second doorway.
Engraved on this door is a pair of hands, cupping within some sort of herbal/floral arrangement. Beneath it is inscribed:
"Patient are the hands that turn away the enemy unseen,
For wield they not the sword but rather leaves of green."

"He's an affinity for boot laces, I'm afraid," Rowena murmurs and reaches out at the end of the hall to insert a key into a second wooden door. The latch turns with a muffled 'thunk' and she pushes it open with ease. The lighting changes dramatically once more, this time for the better. An open window allows natural light to sift inward while additional candles keep the the shadows in the corners at bay. "Zareef, mind yourself," she calls. A chittering noise answers her immediately, followed by a great deal of rustling under the desk.

Benedict steps forward, hesitating somewhat as he heads to the door. "Some kind of critter then eh?" he says upon coming to the door and looking around the well-lit office. "But I'll keep an eye on my boots just the same."

Healer's Chamber <Imperial Tribune>

Drawn away from the often chaotic scene of the hall of healing, this chamber denotes an air of peace to its seclusion. It is circular in shape and very spacious. A large mud bear rug is sprawled in the center of the room. Candles in talon-shaped sconces litter the walls to provide lighting.
On the northward side, to the general left of the doorway, is a somewhat small biinwood desk and chair. Ink and quill rest dutifully in the corner while a packet of parchment is strewn across the top. Every so often, a breeze through the crack in the wooden shutters will rustle them, as well as the bundled herbs that hang above from rafters. Mounted on the wall alongside the desk is a shelving arrangement to give the illusion that the desk is set into a little alcove. Scrolls and texts are stacked in some meticulous order on some of the shelves. On others, bundles of instruments and supplies rest.
A large hearth sits in the southward wall, heating the chamber when need be. Hanging from iron stands are several kettles, buckets, and other mixing wares. Towards the east, across from the door, three slender, biinwood beds are lined in a row to accommodate the healing staff. Rich, crimson sheets of cotton are tucked neatly in. A thick, woven blanket is folded neatly at the end of each. Also at the foot of each bed are small, birch chests. To the immediate right of the doorway is a large, biinwood wardrobe. In the space off to the side, there is a wash basin and chamber pot which is emptied frequently.

Zareef peeks forth, twitching his little nose wildly in Benedict's direction. "Chee," He squeak-trills and scuttles forth to investigate the stranger. Ignoring the mongoose's advances, Rowena steps over him and to the shelves. Nightslider skulls, wildling claws, and an assortment of other rather fearsome mementos greet her with a glint of fangs. She plucks a slip of parchment from beneath a leather tome and looks it once-over. "Yes, yes" confirms her find.

Benedict continues further into the room, keeping his hands to himself as the brown-haired mongoose moves towards him. Benedict scratches his head for a moment, watching as he is investigated by the curious mongoose. "Well hello there to you, too," he says, bending over a bit and looking down.

Zareef snorts, hopping aside as the big man bends over and chooses to sniff from another angle.

"I'll write a copy of this for you...the two orders, that is." Rowena notes as she bends over the desk and quickly puts quill to parchment. "Send bill to the Crown for the Hall of Healing orders which include a biinwood desk and chair, biinwood wardrobe, and birch chest. I will be personally funding the rest, however, which includes a biinwood bed, wardrobe, desk, a gnarl pine chest, desk, tables and chairs."

Benedict looks up from watching the mongoose as it continues to nose about his boots and glances around, looking first at the desk as the healer makes up a list and then at the shelves beyond. He shifts his position a bit, standing casually as he looks towards the window. "This's quite a place you have here," he comments after a few moments of silence on his part.

The quill scratches along dutifully, writing out the final bit of instructions. "It functions well for its purpose," Rowena replies softly. "It at least gives illusion of a home." Done. Signing the document with a flourish, she pours a bit of melted wax above her signature and presses her signet ring firmly in place to add authenticity. When she rises from the desk, there's a refreshed smile that creases her cheeks. "I cannot express how pleased I am to at last begin this long period of renovations."

"Change's usually good," Benedict says lightly as he looks away from the window and back to the small desk. "Glad t' be of service mi'lady," he adds before folding the letter that he's been carrying into an untidy square and shoving it into the waist of his trousers. "When I've finished these you want I should bring them here or somewhere's else mi'lady?"

"The list of the items paid for by the Crown shall be delivered here. The others, however..." Pausing, Rowena glances to the window briefly to ensure that no faces are visible lingering about. "When you finish the items for which I myself with pay, send word. I will arrange a time for them to be delivered to Light's Reach. From there, I will lead you to their final destination." Punctuating her instructions with a small wink, Rowena gestures towards the door. "An ancestral secret, if you will."

"A secret," Benedict repeats slowly with a nod of his head. "As you wish mi'lady," he continues, turning toward the door at her gesture. "I won't ask no questions 'bout it mi'lady. I'll just send you a word when I'm done." Before he moves though he does look down, surveying the floor at his feet. "Don't wanna step on nobody's tail," he warns before moving towards the door and out of the room.

Return to Season 4 (2006)

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