A Cold Cointaking 18th of Shadowreach, 625 ATA

Hall of Blades <Fastheld Keep> ::::::::::::::::::
This masonwork edifice is partially contained within the western wall of Fastheld Keep, but extends about twenty feet into the main grounds of the fortress. The ceilings are buttressed with seasoned brownwood rafters. Stanchions line the broad corridor, which ends to the west with a flight of steps that lead up to a dais that holds a large bronze gong that's emblazoned with twin swords crossing each other above a crown.
Doors lead to the facility's armory, spacious training hall, and the Blademaster's office. Steps lead down into the lower portion of the barracks.

Sahna Nillu is lounging outside the Blademaster's office doorway, leafing through a few sheets of parchment with a thoughtful expression.

A few sheets of parchment are likewise grasped in Lucius Nepos's armoured hands, as his figure moves up from downstairs. Probably logistical tabulations and the like, and reports on troops who are healing up from any one of the randomly violent encounters the Daggers find themselves in. He does not look up yet, simply idling next to the staircase for a moment.

"If you're here to see Hartnek, I'm afraid you'll have to wait a while, Nepos." Sahna's cool contralto cuts across the air with a confident ease. "If that's who you're after with those reports or whatnot, at any rate. You may wish to rethink the timing, for that matter. I can't imagine why but our encounters usually leave Harty a little upset."

"I am not here to see the Blademaster, your Grace." Lucius looks up and meets Sahna's gaze as he speaks, this time using the proper title. "As the commander of the Daggers I must keep track of my soldiers somehow. Written records are the only proper way to do that, your Grace."

She lifts an eyebrow dryly. "Well, well. Consider me corrected, Nepos. On your way, then." She replies, then returns to perusal of her figures.

Lucius Nepos regards Sahna for an extra moment before nodding his helmeted head and giving her a respectful bow. "Keep in the Light, your Grace." He adds, and then begins to move towards the outdoors.

The Blade moves towards the gate...

By the Gatehouse <Fastheld Keep> ::::::::::::::::::
The heart of the walled city-state of Fastheld, this expansive fortress serves as the center of government for all the districts and the home of Emperor Talus Kahar and his wife, the Empress Freia Seamel.
Soldiers of the Emperor's Blades can be seen walking along the battlements and throughout the grounds on regular patrols. The Imperial Stables are off to the northwest, overshadowed by the ancient Bronze Hall of the Imperial Horsemen; so named for its appearance of being thatched in bronze, finials on the rooftops cutting dramatic silhouettes upon the skyline, while regal banners flank the huge doors that guard the Hall.
The Imperial Residence sprawls toward the north and east, while to the north rest the royal tournament grounds. Finally, one can find a gatehouse, defended by large double doors, leading toward the Palace Road to the south.

Coming from the North is Lucius Nepos, dressed in his armour but lacking a shield. Not on guard duty, in any case. His armoured form strolls down the path towards the gate at a relaxed pace.

Also having come from the north but much closer now to the stables, Rowena huddles inside her cloak, eyes burning with angry tears. As judging from her expression, her consultation with the priest had not been a pleasant experience.

Despite the probably appealing stack of parchment sheets in one hand, Lucius takes quick notice of the crying Duchess, eyebrows arching upwards a little bit in unison. He moves towards her, calling out, "What ails your Grace?" And although he is speaking loud, he tries to soften his tone as best as possible.

What is it that ails the rest of the Light's loyal when her servants of the Church do not trust us?" Rowena replies a bit heatedly, tugging the cloak more tightly around her shoulders. Her step remains hasty, nearly costing her her footing as she treads over a patch of frozen earth.

Lucius Nepos too has his cloak drawn over him, in this case his familar wolfskin one that he's worn for three winters now. He draws it closer as there is an unexpected gust of wind. "Ah. Your Grace had a meeting with Father Flint, I understand?"

That gust sends Rowena's hair into a forward tussle that only a violent shake of the head is able to put back into place. "The word meeting implies that each party partook in some acknowledgement of the other's being, which would in this context require each to listen to the other's words. I doubt seriously if he heard the truth behind my words." Crunch, crunch, she marches onward. "I'd call it instead a confrontation."

Lucius Nepos keeps pace with the woman, the little wedges in his boot digging into the icy ground and giving him decent traction, at least. "Indeed. It felt like that when he called me into the Chapel, although I was able to steer it more into a direction not involving me. But I felt his anger when that council meeting was held, your Grace... he is a zealot. One who would gladly sacrifice anything for his purposes."

"If his interests include keeping the citizens of Fastheld fast held within the Light, then he should not put so much effort in condemning our every move, especially when our moves are geared toward *spreading* of what is good and defeating the Shadow that plagues." Rowena snips in reply. The little mongoose's fur has been ruffled by an unbiteable, iron gauntlet, and now she's quite pissed.

"I have never felt so undermined despite what it is my family has done in favor of the Light, what *I* have done, what *Serath* has done..." She growls forth a somewhat foul punctuation for that sentence and peers inside the stables for a stableboy.

Perhaps in his head, Lucius is a bit taken aback by the intensity of Rowena's words. Still, his composure remains absolute and he ventures back into the conversation, "His Highness will protect his subjects from undue persecution if anything such as that happens. Until then, we may simply let Father Flint spit his fire.. and perhaps he will burn himself out prematurely, if we stop feeding him. A fire without fuel is no fire at all." Offers Lucius with a little smile.

"I will not lessen myself to estinguish a flame. If it is meant to burn what it is I am, then ...." Finding herself unable to piece together another comprehendable sentence, Rowena gestures with a flourish of cloak and hisses "Fine." Now, the stablehands don't need a sage's wisdom to decipher the expressed vehemence that reigns over the *peaceful* healer's features at the moment. Stumbling over a pitchfork, one of them scrambles to fetch a horse. "Reliable." She instructs to the boy's turned back with an only slightly softened tone of voice. Her right shoulder leans against the wall now as she waits and casts Lucius a somewhat apologetic glance.

"Of all things, I simply cannot conceive why the Church has chosen *now* to take such actions. If they were truly concerned, would this summoning not have occured when the attacks began? And come now...what harm lies in a *ring*?" She squeaks the ending note, and then roughly rubs her cheek against the weather-worn velvet of her cloaked shoulder. In place of the moisture now streaks a red blotch.

Lucius Nepos doesn't notice the blood, nodding a bit as the Healer speaks, yet shrugging his wolfskin covered shoulders at the end of her words. He doesn't seem to notice the red blotch, yet opens his own mouth to reply, "I know not either, your Grace. We must remain strong in these times.. I just wished that I had had the common sense not to bring my Seraphite shield to the throne room. This may have been averted, and for that I apologize."

Wilesly is just making haste under the portcullis of the keep, hasty enough to overhear a bit of the conversation between Lucius and Rowena, and perhaps just enough that his sudden halt would be supremely evident by both persons. He pauses for a moment before turning around and lowering his hat to Lucius and Rowena. "M'lord. M'lady."

"It is not your fault that the stone happens to...glow." Rowena sighs. "If the wearing of a stone that I have worn for a year's time is all that Father Flint finds me guilty of, then I suspect I have truly nothing to worry about." Or so one could hope. "None of this will matter, when I..." Snapping her attention 'round to identify Wilesly, Rowena lets the previous conversation die with the words "Good eve to you both."

The muffled clip-clop of horse hooves over damp straw announces the arrival of her mount. She takes the reins from the stable hand with a mumbled word of thanks and smoothes the bristly hair between Reliable's eyes with her palm. "I'm sorry that I kept you waiting." She speaks softly to the horse and circles around to his left. She reaches up and in a whirlwind of velvet and silk, hoists herself adeptly into the saddle. Her knees bend with poise to the side as current garments would demand. "I'm late." She states in explanation to Lucius.

Lucius Nepos's eyebrows inch up even more on his forehead as Wilesly greets him, laugh lines showing prominently on his face as his mouth quirks up into an full out grin. "M'lord, eh? Not quite yet, or even ever, Master Sprigg." He chuckles, this having evidently brought good spirits upon him. "Marshal will do fine as titles go." He turns to Rowena on her horse, smile diminishing to something more 'polite' like, and he offers her a respectful bow. Afterall, she's a royal. "Light keep m'lady, if nothing else."

Rowena rides away.

"Even ever /Marshal/? I believe I've heard that quite too many times this week. Not meant to be... Never going to happen.", Wilesly responds with a jovial grin but his gray eyes speak of a different matter." He sighs lightly, before looking over his shoulder. "I won't trouble you with my problems though. It sounds as if you have enough of your own, sirrah." He gives a sad smile before he offers a shrug.

Lucius Nepos's eyebrows inch up even more on his forehead as Wilesly greets him, laugh lines showing prominently on his face as his mouth quirks up into an full out grin. "M'lord, eh? Not quite yet, or even ever, Master Sprigg." He chuckles, this having evidently brought good spirits upon him. "Marshal will do fine as titles go." He turns to Rowena on her horse, smile diminishing to something more 'polite' like, and he offers her a respectful bow. Afterall, she's a royal. "Light keep m'lady, if nothing else."

"Thought I have no desire to actually voice my troubles at present, I do happen to be up on my way to have a word with Her Grace.", Wilesly notes almost with a tone of relief at the thought. He smirks lightly, "It is funny because I have always thought m'lady to be the pinnacle of Her Grace's own ends. Information, for now, at least is usually regarded as my trade. What do you need to know? I cannot promise delivery..."

"Well, I was supposed to be going on a mission, one commanded by your Lady and the Blademaster. I cannot speak of specific details, so if you know, you know.. and if not, well then. I was wondering if you had been told that I was pulled off the mission by the Nillu, and why?" Lucius asks, his hands folding behind his back ,and under the cloak. Mm, warmth. He then decides to add in, "The Lady is out of her element regarding this. She should stick to monetary figures and making sure the Imperial treasury is properly managed, to be frank."

"Well to be frank /Marshal/, a title is just that...a title. It is usually the most mundane or those without such titles who wield an unbalanced amount of power in a governing body...actually it is all rather complicated stuff that I'm sure a soldier would be not be interested in but again to be frank... you've not a clue sir." He grins at this and shakes his head and arms to wave away any misconceptions. He then steps in and intones, "I've heard whisperings, sir, and I /was/ summoned here for a matter of 'some importance'. That being said I do not believe it is in the best interests of the Crown to send those in possesion of certain glowing objects ... anywhere away from the reach of the Church ... whether they be a Marshal of the Blades or the Royal Healer. Again quite frankly I doubt the Crown can appear to be soft on the Shadow." He steps back and gives a grin as if he were just discussing a particuarly pretty lass.

"Are you implying that my shield, simply because of the properties of a stone which resides deep underground, is influenced by the Shadow?" Lucius's eyes narrow at the man, his expression and body language now markedly neutral and cool. "Nonsense. It is no more touched by the influence of the Shadow than that colourful felt hat on your head, Master Sprigg or an iron dagger, which, I may note, also comes from the ground. I was called to the Lightbringing - the Father in charge did not even mention the shield. Perhaps because it is irrelevant? No, apparently her Grace has decided she would want someone who has less experience with the outlands on command duty. She hasn't liked me from the first time she set eyes on me. I hope to the Light that she finds someone with good knowledge on the areas outside the Aegis."

"Do not think me a pawn to the Church, Marshal.", Wilesly replies very quietly but it emerges nearly as a hiss. Again he steps in a smile growing on his face and even taking a moment to clasp the man's shoulder as if exchanging a simple confidence. "Things that are not understood or liked must be works of the Shadow, no? Because if they should be truly blessed by the Light we would know about them and all their intricacies? Strange things frighten people and they are seen as a threat. We must remind ourselves that perhaps we are not yet meant to know why or how these things happen. We may bury them, denounce them, but awkward things have a tendency to creep out form the depths. Wouldn't you agree?" He steps back, a somewhat understanding grin on his face. It does not speak at all of heresy.

"The world is changing. Did you not see that all encompassing light at third watch, the other day? Surely, it was nothing less than that great Dragoness who lives to our North. At times like these, we must use any advantage that we can against the Shadowed magic wielded outside of Fastheld. I have been there, Master Sprigg - it is not to be dismissed." Lucius shakes his head, his body remaining still and stony even as Sly attempts to reach out in a friendly manner. "And yet, there you stand, lumping praise upon the Duchess's actions. No, Master Sprigg, while you may not be a pawn to the Church, you are to the Assessor. But she is your patron, and I will no longer speak that which must surely make your ears ache."

"In that, then, I would agree with you, and praise your quality of thinking if it is so that you are loyal through free-will. There are all too many who are mindless pawns. I do not take the virtue of loyalty away from you.. I suppose that those in the Assessor's good graces do well for themselves. I only wish it was so and I could do my duty unhindered, sometimes." Lucius smirks too, chuckling a bit. "And to think these feelings of anger towards me started when I debated the armour to be used on an expedition. Sad, that is."

"I do not believe it is who you are, sirrah. It is just what you are that may vex Her Grace. I would not take it personally. I cannot promise anything but I will inquire after the matter.", Sly comments with an understanding nod. He frowns lightly glancing at the afternoon sun and then up to a particular Southeastern tower. He eventually is looking back towards Lucius. "You take care of yourself, Lucius. There is always shortage of good minds and good men, and it should be a shame to see one denounced and burried. Do not marytr yourself for an ideal that will eventually come but don't ever stop thinking and questioning." He smirks slyly. "I would not worry too much though. From what I have seen...the Crown does not forget its allies. Have Lady Mikin take care as well. It may be some time before I'm around so good luck." He does not bow, but instead offers a respectful tug of his hat.

"They call me too sly to be martyred." Comments Lucius, grinning and winking at sly. "As for yourself.. take care, Master Sprigg, on whatever ventures you pursue. And try to stay away from the Lightbringer, he's a little bit of a firebrand." Lucius extends a hand to grasp Sly's forearm, a gesture of friendship.

Wilesly observes the forearm with a nod and a smile, his own arm coming up to give it a tab. "Sly indeed. They'll never bring ol' Knapsack down ay?", Sly comments with a grin. "Take care, sirrah! I'm late!" With that he turns on a heel and marches towards the Southeast tower, his traveling cloak riding on the wind behind him.

Lucius Nepos does an about face as Wilesly says his goodbyes, a slight wince on his face as the man mentions the name, 'Knapsack'. Shaking his head he moves out the gate.

Return to Season 3 (2005)

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