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My soul is full of whispered song;
My blindness is my sight;
The shadows that I feared so long
Are all alive with light.

Crown's Refuge <Wildlands>


Established in the year 625 ATA (After the Aegis), the village of Crown's Refuge was founded by Talus Kahar XIV, Emperor of Fastheld, after he entered exile in the wake of the Ravager crisis.
The town is built on a hill overlooking the shore of the waterway known within the Aegis as the Fastheld River, west of the great wall as it forms the border of the city-state once ruled by the exile. Here, in the realm known to inhabitants as the Wildlands, the river is known as Jadesnake and it winds its way from the perimeter of Fastheld to the distant sea.
The town has been formed from timbered wood taken from the nearby forests by citizens, many of whom are descendants of Fastheldian exiles of years past.

As the ocean of starlight blankets the obsidian depths of the stratosphere above, claiming the heavens without contest from impassioned clouds or tumultuous drakes, the majority of those who live within the wooden palisade of Crown's Refuge go about their final business of the day, getting ready to call an end to the diurnal course that dictates the life they lead to wait for the first hints of sunrise to claim the horizon and drive the preponderant moons from their dark domain.

Yet there are some things below the sphere of starlit darkness that operate as well during the shadows of the night as they do during the scintillated shroud of day. One of which, clad in a cloak as black as the night, returns to Crown's Refuge at this very moment, having spent most of the day at the inlet of crystal water known as the Stormtails, apparently enjoying the view, although some say looking for something.

Regardless of his intent, the stray cat known as Serath Kahar has returned once more. However, his 'return' this time is, thankfully, from nothing major. Ice blue eyes shine from within his visage as the light of nearby torches refracts from their liquid crystal depths, while the sheen of anything metallic drinks in such illumination with zest, his pace the measured step of an agile feline Prince.

Although he isn't actually a cat, of course.


"We'll rest and try 'gain on the morrow if he's not yet returned." Rowena calls softly behind her as she abandons the cabin's warmth for the breath-catching chill that frosts the land. A stream of ethereal fog billows like the smoky breath of drakes as she sighs into darkness. Unlike the prowling wildcat, however, this cloaked figure does not operate well in the shadows of night.

There's a clink and scrape as her rapier catches the door frame on her way out, then as she turns to inspect, loses her footing on a frozen patch of ground. A blue-halo'd hand flails in efforts to catch herself and in the process of holding steady to the frame, she tips her head a bit too far forward. The next sound is more fleshy than metallic and results in her complete retraction from the menacing frame. Landing soundly on her rump, the duchess swallows forcefully a strangled sound of despair and crumples forward to rest her throbbing skull upon her knees. "Pox..." She whimpers into her sleeve.


"You alright your Grace?" comes a voice from just inside the house. Theo rushes out clambering to get to Rowena.


The clunk and scrape of a Duchess fighting a doorframe and loses has the result of prompting a feline footed Prince padding a little quicker towards his destination; namely, the whimpering Rowena and her somewhat sore rump. The trails of his cloak fluttering in his wake, Serath's arrival on the scene is heralded by the mild oath of "Shades..." in a tone that is as much warmth as it is concern atop that soft yet vibrant sound that is his voice. The scabbards that sleep at either side of his waist 'chink' with every step, buckles and clips that secure them in place adding their own metallic cadence to the faint ambiance that is a running ranger.


Hissing at her own oafishness, Rowena waves Theo back with one hand while her other gingerly prods at the forming knot. "Serves me just as fair, this welt..." She tremors and cups a hand to shield it as well as a fair portion of her weepy eyes from view. The cold had numbed it considerably well already, but it was the internal siege of discomfort that had set this tumble to be the final straw in her breaking.

As the sound of a hastily-moved body reaches her ears, she peers cautiously forward to the owner of such footsteps. "Light, give me strength." She whispers somberly and remains seated while meeting his arrival with an attempted smile.


Theo is already stooping to help when he's waved off, "Aye yah ooh." He lurches backwards, almost stumbling himself and grabs at the frame for balance. He casts a bewildered gaze at the woman until she looks off towards the approaching ranger. Eyes widen as he pulls into view, startled and immediately stiffening into total silence.


The soft clink of metal making contact with metal upon the advent of each step silences promptly as Serath slows to a halt near to Rowena and Theo, offering a glance of pure concern for his beloved Duchess as she offers him that ventured smile, though not returning any mirror of mirth himself to either of those who stands - or, sit, as the case may be - before him. Theo... well, Theo usually gives Serath /that/ look anyhow, so he pays it no heed right now.

Still, a gentle hand gloved in leather is presented to Rowena regardless, with the owner knowing that anything more would just be an insult to the Lady of Flame. "I'd offer some comment about using your head, but that's best left to people who want to make friends with the pointy ends of rapiers." he purrs, a half-smile caressing his features as he makes an attempt at making the crestfallen Duchess feel a *little* better. Such as it is.


Theo manages a jerky nod at Serath and turns to look back in the house. He calls out in hoarse and trembling voice, "The Duchess fell, Master Skinner, and well... um he's here."


"He's here?" The answering call comes from inside the domicile, following by a loud crash. Sounds like somebody tripped over something in their haste. The door flies open and Vhramis emerges, rubbing at his knee with a sour expression on his face. "We just get back and then we find him..." he grumbles, limping over towards the small gathering.

"I would never wish to bring tears to your eyes, you realize this." Rowena murmurs, her injured expression changing little as concern furrows into one brow (the other being a bit swollen for the time being). But concern for whom? Taking the offered hand gently, she rises to her feet of her own accord and ducks her head to gather her bearings while she continues to hold fast to that now captive hand. At the sound of a crash from within, she jerks her head around to look to the emerging Vhramis with bewildered eyes. It would seem that the entire crew, save for one man, of course, is fighting a distracted battle with gravity this night.


Gravity has always been Serath's friend, it would seem; the Prince and his feline grace a close companion of the natural force that causes rangers to stumble, Royals to slip, and even lesser men to embrace the ground beneath without actually having want to do so at the time. Still, thankfully, Serath's stance is quite secure as he helps Rowena to her feet, quicking a brow a little at her curious choice of words as he does so... and then offering a somewhat equally disconcerted glance behind his fiancé as Vhramis decides to do battle with stationary objects as well.

It's turning out to be a very strange night.


Theo jumps straight up at the crash and lunges off to the side to get out of the large mans way as limps outside. He plants himself up against the side of the house; almost as if he's desired to disappear into the shadows.


One last rub to his knee, and Vhramis straightens, only looking slightly embarrassed for his less than impressive entrance. He's far too distracted for shame. "Serath," he greets, bowing his head, and glancing down to Rowena with a distinct questioning look.


Mouth still slightly ajar, Rowena twitches her head faintly into a 'no' to the recovered ranger. Glancing downward, then back to her riddled love, she pats his hand lightly. Her lips offer a saddened smile of compassion but in her gaze there is more agony than that derived from her brow's kiss to the door frame. "Come inside with me. There is much to speak of and...and this air is too unforgiving to linger long."


A look of deep suspicion sweeps across the enduring visage of the Sovereign Prince as his closest companions act in a manner unlike that which he is used to. A manner that prompts him to look over the surrounding houses and palisade to make sure that he's actually in the right Crown's Refuge, and not some surreal alter version of it.

Yet, Rowena's touch *is* Rowena's touch, and her eyes and that sad smile are everything that Serath has come to love about her (and has done for many years). And so, after glancing upon Vhramis one last time, expression unchanged, he can only accept the lead from his Duchess and follow her inside.


Theo doesn't move from his place at the wall of the house until the three have entered the house. Even then he hesitates; however the shiver that runs through him convinces him otherwise.


Vhramis doesn't seem intent on following the Prince and Duchess inside either, probably figuring it's not the best time as of yet. Thus, he steps to the side to allow unhindered passage, taking up watch.


Talus Kahar's House - Living Room - Crown's Refuge


Built mostly by his own hands, this is the first structure built by the exiled Emperor of Fastheld, Talus Kahar XIV, as a project to learn self-sufficiency among the denizens of the Wildlands.
The main living room area is rather spacious, with room for a couch and several chairs. An L-shaped wooden counter divides this area from the kitchen and dining area. A door leads to his bedchamber.

"I do not mean to be so strange." Rowena sighs shakily, leading Serath into the warm haven of His Majesty's house. "I'm trying..." Hold that thought. Clamming up for a moment to sort out her words accordingly in her head and relax her throat so the words were not so strained, Rowena releases his hand and removes her bits of weaponry one by one. The rapier is laid to rest alongside the basket of fried salmon. The parrying blade aligns against it with care. The dirk, however, remains at her thigh, a constant companion be it visible upon her trousers or hidden beneath a gown.

"Let us sit and I will tell you what it is you are overdue to hear." Moving to the table, she perches lightly on the edge of a chair.


"I fight my battles standing, Row. You know that." The Scion of the Imperial House softly purrs, the ice of suspicion previously adopted by his visage melting somewhat as he witnesses Rowena battle with emotions and half-thoughts, as well as the systematic removal of weapons and such.

Still, the Prince pads to her side all the same, his hands resting upon the hilts of the rapiers that sleep in their scabbards at either side of his waist, lamenting the loss of Rowena's own touch all the while, though apparently appeased by the sensation of cold steel against leather all the same.

"What's wrong?" he finally asks, his voice a soft purr as a hundred different scenarios present themselves to him in the wake of those ominous words. Overdue to hear. Much to speak of. Never wish to hurt you. "You haven't foun..." Serath shakes his head. No, he doesn't believe *that* one for a minute. "No, not that." A smile.


Theo steps into the house and looks over at the pair as they settle in at the table. He seems uncertain and looks to the bedroll in the corner. He takes a couple of steps, changes his mind and backtracks to the door. He stands silently and looks down to the floor.


Found? Pondering for just a heartbeat what it was that is most certainly 'not that', Rowena reaches out and lifts one of his hands away from their vigilant perch to clasp between her own. "There has been word sent from home."

Where there was once panic and uncertainty storming within her soulful eyes, there is now a sense of clarity. Calm. A realization of how it is that she, a warrior of a different kind, shall meet the task set before her, despite the sadness it will bring. It is the weight of such sadness that softens the firmness of her gaze.

When she at last speaks again, it is in a low melody, one typically reserved for quieting infants. "There are some wars in this world, Serath, which cannot be fought by traditional means. No mighty blow of scimitars, no angry lashing of fists. There are enemies against which no armor can defend, nor archer strike down. History has seen these battles rage so silently for centuries, and each time, they pillage as indiscriminately as the first. Men, women, nobles, peasantry, children…" Her tongue poises for another word as her brain races to catch up and she looks to the fire for inspiration.

"It is these wars, my love, for which I, others like me, are enlisted to fight. A different breed of battle, if you will. And it is my loathing to say that such a war has come to pass and has ravaged as per its nature" Voice breaking from its steadiness, she retracts one hand to slip it through the loosened neckline of her tunic. There's a rustling of parchment against fabric and out fishes a folded letter, bearing a smudge of wax seal. She holds fast to it. "I will let you read as have the rest of us, or I will speak it to you. The choice is yours." The letter is left to fall to the tabletop.


The surreal disquiet that envelops the Living Room of the House of Talus Kahar is not lost on the Sovereign Prince as he looks from the soulful eyes of his beloved Duchess to the omen she places upon the table in front of them both. Such a small thing, it is, that casts so much fear and doubt within those around him. Seconds pass by as Serath watches the folded parchment; the cautious eyes of a General surveying an enemy force placed upon the wax seal, fearful of what words rest within.

"You're here," he notes to Rowena, never looking away from the letter as he finally reaches to take it within a tentative grasp, "So it cannot be all that bad. How did it arrive?" He stands regarding it, waiting for an answer, though not yet daring to open it. He will read it himself, it seems... but in his own time.


"The Chancellor...a raven." Rowena whispers, watching the letter be transfered into hands of the one who may soon smite it. Tearing her eyes away from it, she looks forlornly to the other room where her haversack has been neatly packed, satchel readied for travel, and found specimens bundled into neat packages of hide. Her attempts to control her breathing are rewarded with only a cramped hiccup and so she permits a few silent pants to heave in her breast while a hand cups her mouth to catch the air before it all escapes her at once. "Please sit down..."


"A raven." Serath repeats, Rowena's request for him to sit falling forsaken upon the jagged rocks of selective hearing. Such is the cost of ominous conversations. He sighs deeply, still regarding the letter in his hands.

"Dark wings, dark words."

The wax seal is swiftly parted once more. The letter unfolded. The words read in silence.



A small parchment with writing on it.

It has been engraved with: Lord Vhramis Skinner, by the Grace of the Light, I task you to deliver this information to the Prince of Blood:

His Majesty, Talus Kahar, Emperor of Fastheld, has passed beyond the mortal coil due to a vicious pox that struck the realm. Serath Kahar is now requested to return and assume his rightful place as Regent of the Crown until such a time as his nephew, the Prince Heir, can take the throne. The bonds of blood and flesh are thick. For brother, for Emperor, and for State, he is asked that he returns with haste so he may also attend the last rites of his departed kinsman.

Yours in the true spirit of the Light, under duty and mourning, I await a response.

- Oren Nillu, Imperial Chancellor of Fastheld



Theo holds his breath, waiting in anticipation. He finally has to give up let it out in a gush and take in another. Again he steals looks but as Serath actually starts to read it he


The crackling flames in the hearth have become unnaturally loud in these moments, taking advantage of the silence by filling the void with spits and sparks. While the Regent of the throne learns of the monumental loss by the telling of aged ink, Rowena subtly leans more of her weight to her feet in preparation of whatever is to come. She holds his face fast with her eyes, one hand extending timidly to touch his forearm. 'I'm here', the gesture says, and nothing more, as she waits for him to finish digesting the news.


Dark wings, dark words. The Regent of the Imperial Crown, the Scion of the Imperial House Kahar, the Sovereign Prince of the Blood... for all that those titles may claim, Serath Kahar is but a man. A man that looks as if he's just been stabbed in the back, lost in the atramentous maelstrom of words upon delicate paper. Words, nothing more. Yet words that smite the heart of one who has looked into the very soul of darkness, and lived to tell the tale.

As solemn as a quiet sky of the obsidian cast heavens above, Serath takes Rowena's touching hand gently, places the letter within it, offers her a bereaved smile of bittersweet pain, and promptly turns away from her. It seems that looking upon the face of the one he loves more than anything is just too much to bear in the wake of the news written by the mournful ink on that parchment.

One step, two, three... cloak swirling at his heels, Serath moves beyond Theo, beyond Vhramis outside, and out into the cold. Where once would have been the rage of Kahar, now something much more human remains.


Theo first hears, then see Serath coming towards him. Quickly he steps out of the way, letting him pass with ease.


Rowena inhales shallowly and exhales a breathless "Wait..." to the wounded soul. Determined to keep the man from fleeing too far, Rowena gets swiftly to her feet and hurries out after him, no longer able to maintain the mask of calm.



Crown's Refuge <Wildlands>


Established in the year 625 ATA (After the Aegis), the village of Crown's Refuge was founded by Talus Kahar XIV, Emperor of Fastheld, after he entered exile in the wake of the Ravager crisis.
The town is built on a hill overlooking the shore of the waterway known within the Aegis as the Fastheld River, west of the great wall as it forms the border of the city-state once ruled by the exile. Here, in the realm known to inhabitants as the Wildlands, the river is known as Jadesnake and it winds its way from the perimeter of Fastheld to the distant sea.
The town has been formed from timbered wood taken from the nearby forests by citizens, many of whom are descendants of Fastheldian exiles of years past, who have chosen to follow Talus Kahar's lead in this strange land.

Vhramis was not alone in his watch. As he stood outside, waiting, the raven that delivered the message returned once again to it's favorite perch - that of the Ranger's shoulder. And, much to Wolfsbane's discomfort, it also returned to it's favorite activity. Pecking at his earlobe. "I should put you on a spit and cook you up nice," Vhramis threatens distractedly, his eyes on the house. As the door opens and Serath emerges... and passes. The man watches quietly.


Some things, it seems, strike deeper than any steel could hope to reach. Still, the wounded Prince doesn't get very far as he seeks to find comfort within the embrace of the cold night air. Pacing upon near silent feline steps, Serath makes it a little way away from Talus Kahar's house before he draws to a stop, icy blue eyes gazing upon the glittering stars that rest upon the blanket of darkness in the heavens above. The moons, eternal in their stewardship of the night, look down upon those below with slyvan disinterest.

A hiss of metal and a flash of steel swiftly break the contemplation as two rapiers are awoken from their rest, drawn so quickly as to betray the eye into thinking they merely jumped from scabbard to hand. Rapiers that are then promptly driven into the cold ground below, tip leading, hands upon hilts.

Serath falls to his knees in their wake, his breathing discordant from the wound of grief suffered within.

Making no attempts to conceal her pursuit, Rowena bustles and huffs in Serath's wake, quickening her step to catch the man. She glances to Vhramis in pausing, tears of feared sorrow in her eyes. The storm had been a silent one, but there was more to be brewed...and it rolled in from the horizons in the form of whispering steel.

The flash of metal spurs the woman into a forward dash, fingers releasing their desperate clutching of cloak. She is just as quick, just as synchronized as the twin blades, and swoops over the fallen man in a sheltering spread of midnight velvet. Her arms seize him tightly beneath the settling cloak, pinning his left side to her embrace while her fingers grip tightly his right arm in attempts to cradle him to her. It was her turn to be the protective guardian, though against a pain not easily remedied. "Oh, Serath..." She breathes into his hair, finding no other words to better express the apology.


It's a pain that's quite familiar. The loss of a loved one. Of family. And though he has experienced it many times in the past, it never does get easier. And thus, Vhramis watches his friend's pain from a distance, understanding, and knowing that his own actions and words could never compare to that of Rowena's. He brushes the ravan off his shoulder, the bird taking flight into the night to land upon a nearby tree, and steps backwards to fade into the shadows. He would watch. And follow, if needed.


Shoulders heave in time to the raucous laments of Serath's grief as he kneels there, embraced by Rowena, with the transcendental starlight above as witness to his loss, and the adamantine shimmer of steel before him as scribe to his pain. He gains strength from the caress of his beloved, it seems, as she envelops him as a mantle of compassion and love beneath a flowing blanket of velvet.

The stars in the heavens are but seraphic teardrops of elysian condolence.

"For what is it to die, but to stand in the sun and melt into the wind?" the fallen Prince finally whispers, his usually warm voice husky with anguish. "A debt we all must pay. One paid... too soon, Row. Far too soon."


"No debt is ever welcomed, Serath." The hand upon his shoulder migrates inward to rub at his back whilst the other lifts to caress once down his cheek while the tears course down her own. "But it is that wind, the Light's beckoning breath, that will gather him into peace...it is a fixed footrace, Serath. Regardless of how swift we may will ourselves to go, we will not cross that sacred threshold until she has readied our reception."

Rowena sniffs quietly, adjusting her footing so that they do not both topple. She bends gently over him, sheltering him from that invasive glare of the moons like a mother dove sheltering her brood from the rain. She plants a tender kiss to his bent brow then rests her chin delicately over his crown. "I'm sorry that it hurts."


Return to Season 4 (2006)

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