Aerie Heights Keep Great Hall
The largest room of the keep, it is big enough to be warmed by two hearths spaced down it's length. The raw stone walls of the keep are here covered by large parti-colored fabric hangings with the exception of behind the dias at the far end, there the wall is hung with a large tapestry showing a tournament scene from Fastheld's far past. The ceiling is as high as two men at the sides, sloping up to an apex far above in shadow. The whole of it is held up by large biinwoood beams, dark now with the smoke of many winters.
Along the sides of the hall a few biinwood benches and chairs are arranged for the convenience of members of the court as well as those who seek audience with the Baronial Court. The dias at the high end of the hall is polished wood platform, raised a foot of the floor. Here are two ornate chairs for the Baron and Baroness, and here is where the public business of Barony takes place. Exquisite chairs and tables laden with food are strewn around the room allowing ample room for guest to sit and dine.
Tomassa Zahir pulls off her chainmail gloves as the time for the meal approaches. She tucks them into her belt and settles down to another glass of the wonderful wine. She glances up at Damiante's words to Sinon and the widowed Contessa's face grows somewhat bland as she looks upon the infamous Sinon Lomasa.
Merielle Mikin has left.
The petite young woman follows her mother inside the great hall of Aerie Heights with an apprehensive smile upon her face as she keeps close to Merielle, who...has just been called to return home for some reason leaving Sophia almost in a panic. It has been four years since she has been back and feels completely out of place despite her rank. Standing by the doorway a guard annouces. "The Contessa Sophia Mikin of East Bluff and Light's Reach." Sophia inclines her head to those present as she moves within the room. "Good evening. Please accept the apologies of their Graces the Duke and Duchess of Light's Reach, they shall be late."
Hot on Sophia's heels, the doors to the keep once more swing open, this time quite rapidly and with force. Another guard approaches Vanamur, calling "The Second Horselord of Fastheld, Vanamur Seamel," as the Horselord strides past with long, measured strides. Still wearing his bronze armour, he looks rather out of place in the light of the hall.
"I saw the field as I was approaching," Sinon says with a nod, taking the goblet from Damiante, and briefly capturing her hand to breathe a kiss onto its back. "Charming as ever, my dear. I do hope I will be able to visit more often. You know the matters that prompted me to stay within my own domain as well as anybody; I don't think there is a soul in Fastheld left that has not heard of it yet." With a slight rolling of his eyes, the Duke moves along to the bench indicated to him by the Baroness, bowing his head lightly towards the equally infamous Tomassa Zahir as he passes by her, smiling.
Damiante looks beyond the shoulder for Sinon and sees the Mikin duo arrive. Seeing the older woman duck out quickly, she hastens to welcome the younger. She bows a short distance from the Contessa. "Welcome to Aerie Heights, Excellency," she says. "Please come in, take your ease. I have no worry that the Duke and Duchess shall arrive when they can." She gestures to the woman to join the others at table.
Sophia Mikin gives Damiante a grateful smile for it is extremely apparent this young Contessa is not used to social gatherings since being cloistured for so long in the country. "Thank you so much your Ladyship for the invitation. Their Graces look forward to attending." Sophia moves towards an empty space near the table and waits for someone to pull out her chair. Her eyes flicker to Sinon very briefly then quickly down at her folded hands.
The noble ensemble is currently sat eating in the great hall, a variety of servants and retainers about.
Ovatos enters, leading his horse with one hand, rubbing his legs with the other, obviously legs unused to horse-riding. He is a little bowed over, and looks tired.
A servant breaks off from the table discreetly, moving to intercept Ovatos. Attempting to take him aside by hooking his elbow, he whispers "Sir, the Baron and Baroness are holding a feast here. Animals are not allowed."
Damiante, seeing another noble man appear, stands her ground. "Good eve, Excellency," she says. "I am Damiante Nillu, Baroness. Please be welcome and join our feast." With a harsh glance to another, less noble man entering with a horse, she strides to Ovatos. "What!" She gestures to a guard. "Escort this man and his horse out of my Hall, this instant." She hisses.
Ovatos stares for a moment at the lady. He bows deeply. "Madam, forgive the intrusion. But there are, after all, no stables here. Am I to leave this beast to be stolen by the notorious horse-thief there is hereabouts?"
Vanamur removes his bronze helmet as he crosses the room, casting a brief glance back at the intruding commoner. A thin smile appearing, he reverses direction, helmet cupped under one arm, and moves to stand by Damiante. Facing Ovatos, the thin smile widens slightly.
Sophia Mikin is just about to place a linen napkin on her lap when the man and his horse enter the hall. She looks up with a startle with her jaw dropping. Her eyes dart to those at the table, mostly upon Damiante then back to Ovatos. "The wine is excellent Baroness." The dainty sound of Sophia's voice can be heard even though the goblet of wine has not even been sipped.
Warlan gives an only slightly amused glare at the intruding man with the horse. "While I share you love and concern for horses my good fellow. I do assure you there are stables available in the yard. And, if you are unable to afford that, I give you my warrant that your horse will be still in the yard where you 'will' leave him, yes?"
Ovatos bows once again, and speaks, "My Lady," he bows again in the direction of the Baron, "My Lord," he stands, smiles a half-smile with one half his mouth, "I shall lead the beast outside. If I have your leave?" Without waiting for word, he pulls on the bridle of the horse, who shinnies briefly and pulls up its head. Ovatos strokes its neck, but the horse does not move further. He pulls harder on the bridle with a slight grimace, and the horse now turns. Leaning forward as he drags, he leads the horse outside.
The servant who was attempting to usher Ovatos out turns to the Baron and Baroness with an apologetic smile, before returning to his post at the door.
Damiante Nillu stands, elbows akimbo and watches the man and horse leave the Great Hall. She does not even have to glance toward the servant quarters before the mess left behind is cleaned by two grim faced men. Her face is flushed with anger and her breathing is hard. It is evident that to cross the Baroness on her own field is something few dare to risk. Only the foolish, in fact.
Tomassa Zahir's husky laughter drifts from her place at the table while she watches the man pull his horse outside. She plucks up a torn bit of bread to eat it, copper-bright eyes still twinkling as she chuckles around her food.
Glancing at Ovatos, Vanamur at first says nothing, simply shaking his head, the amused smile still on his face. "Commoner, what are you doing here? Have you not looked around?" he says acidly, looking around at the splendour of the hall himself. "Taking your horse outside has not helped matters - there is still a rather unpleasant presence in this hall, one that does not fit in. That presence, my young fool, belongs to you." His gaze bores into Ovatos as he speaks, hammering the words out with a commanding tone. "I have told you once not to interfere where you presence is not required. The Great Hall of Aerie Heights is another such place." He pauses again, his eyes hardening. "Get out. Now."
Sophia Mikin keeps silent, very, very silent as she listens and watches while holding her goblet of wine. Every once and awhile her crystal blue eyes drift to the doorway as if seeking for someone, and she is. There is always a smile upon her face which is a facade for the apprehension Sophia is feeling presently. She would much rather be home reading or playing her harp than be in a room full of strangers and a commoner who keeps company with is horse.
Merielle Mikin has arrived.
Most of the nobles are still seated, eating. Ovatos has entered with a horse, left to stable the horse, and now come back. Vanamur has told him to leave, Damiante is not impressed with his presence, and Sophia appears somewhat uneasy under her happy exterior.
Warlan crosses the Hall in slow measured steps. Nodding encouragingly to the Contessa Mikin as he passes her place. Approaching the tension filled entry he smiles at both Vanamur and the commoner. The smile does not reach his eyes. "A moment, if you would Vanamur, before you ride him down?" Now turning toward the commoner, "While I appreciate your valor, for now that is how I will take it, I do question your persistence at remaining." Puffing his cheeks, Warlan lets the air out slowly, then raises his voice a little so that it might be heard by all. "Each citizen who comes to this Keep will have a chance for to speak their piece, You have have this once chance...use it well."
Ovatos bows to the Baron, glancing a moment as he does to one side, at the old horseman Vanamur, a slight smile on his lips, with one-half his mouth. "My Lord, I thank you for this chance to speak with you. Vanamur speaks sooth when he says that I have no place here, for I am a mere common man of the woods. But though I am unused to - " he gestures around, "these noble ways, and the intricate etiquette, I can show a proper respect to those above me. Here - " Ovatos, unhooks his belt, and takes the scabbarded longsword off his belt, "I present to you, Baron, this gift, showing my respect, and good wishes for a day of feasting." He presents the scabbarded sword, hilt-first, to the Baron, again bowing. "It is a fine sword, Sire, which I shall be honoured should you accept it. Then at some later time, I would have words with you on another matter which it is better to discuss in private."
Ovatos gives Bronze Longsword to Warlan
Damiante remains standing throughout the exchange, hands still on her hips. Her face softens at the sight of the beautifully wrought sword being presented to her husband. "Well met, young one," she says, her voice warming slightly. "I leave you in my husband's capable hands. I should attend to my guests." With a swish of braids and skirts, Damiante turns and moves back toward Sophia and Tomassa. "Is everything well with you, Countessa's" she asks, the last of her anger seeping away. "My apologies for the outburst."
Tomassa Zahir looks up from her hearty feasting, grease staining her bared fingers. She finishes chewing her bite of elk before offering Damiante a grin and a nod. "All is well," she assures. "All is well. Your hospitality is unparalleled." The Lioness wipes the back of one hand across her mouth and then hefts her wine for another drink.
Stepping into the Great Hall, incredibly late, is the Duchess Merielle Mikin, a faint frown resting upon her delicate lips. She pauses, seeing the tension between Warlan, Vanamur, and Ovatos, her brows lifting, drawing together slightly from concern. She then pauses again, searching through the sea of faces for one, Sophia, expression slightly worried.
Vanamur continues to stare at Ovatos, but keeps the thin line of his lips pressed shut. He says laconically "As you wish, Horselord" in response to Warlan's request. Eyes flicking between Warlan and the commoner, his sight paces back and forth like an untamed horse. Crossing his bronze-armored forearms, his stance shifts to one of wary caution rather than outright defiance, but he remains rooted to the spot.
Not a bite of food has been take nor a sip of the goblet of wine held in Sophia's dainty little hand as the scene has enthralled the young woman's attention with worry. Through it all, the petite noblewoman has kept her composure though inwardly feeling extremely panicked. The Countessa gives Damiante a rather timorous smile though her features are soft and enchanting when the smile warms up just a touch. Her crystal blue eyes linger upon Damiante's face offering the Baroness a courteous inclination of her head. "No apology is warranted your Ladyship." Sophia replies in her gentle voice. I am pleased no one was harmed or.." Her blue gaze drifts towards Ovatos, "Beckoned to be forciably escorted from the hall." A rose hued blush creeps upon her pale cheeks at her words though when her mother's entrance Sophia's smile lights up her entire face creating a delicate beauty to emit.
Taking the sword in hand, Warlan takes a moment to run both eyes and long fingers over the scabbard and hilt. He draws the blade a hands breadth out to examine the flat groove and edge of the blade. "This...is... a fine blade, Woodsman. A fine blade and a fine gift, which I will accept in the spirit it is given. There is, it seems, more to you than appears." Turning to the Second Horselord, he offers, "Now here is a mystery worth a mild indulgence, yes Quick Rider? Please, we've saved a seat for you next to mine. Sit...eat...and for certain, try the wine. I'll see to this lad and we'll have our time yet." Warlan motions to the far end of the Hall with his eyes before turning back to the commoner. "Well, then. You are welcome to food and wine. And you will be welcomed to this hall at any time. I will be interested in what further we may discuss."
Ovatos bows yet again to the Baron. "I thank ye, Sire, for your fine hospitality. I am honoured by it. My name, Sire, is Ovatos Pebble, and though today is a day of feasting, I shall call again at another time, to discuss this other matter." He stands, still glancing at Vanamur, with perhaps a trifle of unease in his face, and waits for the Baron to turn away to his feast. "After you, Sire. I know _that_ much of noble manners." He gestures, and smiles his half-smile.
Seeing more guests arrive, Damiante inclines her head to her guests. "Please, eat, my noble cousins," she says. "I have no desire to feed that man's horse much of the leftovers this night." And with a smirk she returns to the entrance of the Hall.
Tomassa Zahir sits back in her seat, sated with food for the moment. She sips from her goblet of wine and watches the proceedings with smirking amusement. Her helmet is tucked down at her side atop her left thigh and her chainmail gloves are upon her belt to leave her hands free for eating. Her uncovered hands are bare but for the two rings she is wearing.
Merielle Mikin makes her way further into the hall, but stops, seeing the Baron, and Baroness near the entrance. She slowly makes her way towards them, with the grace, and elegance expected of her position. "Baron Lomasa, Baroness Nillu," she greets softly, giving a polite nod of her head.
Once again, Duchess Rowena Mikin appears in the doorway. Her face is lightly flushed from her hustle, but not a strand of hair has strayed yet from its meticulous pinning. Standing herself just behind Merielle, Rowena spreads a smile of warmth onto her features but waits to speak until she can do so without interrupting. As she waits, her eyes sweep the room, identifying faces in the crowd while passing over unfamiliar ones.
Arturo Lomasa has perhaps the second most surprising companion of the evening as he enters, second to Ovatos' horse. Escorted as a proper lady on his arm as he steps in with a smile is the unmistakable form of a young lady somewhere in her teens, upon whose form shines the chainmail armor and weaponry that mark her unmistakably as a Shadowscourge. The Baron himself wears fine leather armor amidst clothing of fine violet, red, and lilac shades, and waits his turn behind Rowena in the greeting line. It's a moment before he realizes who stands before him, and murmurs quietly. "Good eve, and Light's greetings, Duchess Rowena. And my congratulations upon your ascension to ladyship of West Bluff." Behind the pair, four guards slip in and towards the side, joining the myriad other retainers feasting in the hall, their tabards bearing a rampant Lomasa bull above, and crossed double-bladed axes beneath.
Sister Laeria Mikin, easily identifiable as a Shadowscourge by her dress of chainmail and white cloth, enters on the arm of one Baron Lomasa. Her steps are carried with poise, though she doesn't have the look of recognition playing across her faintly freckled face that others show. The young teen keeps herself close to Arturo, nearly straying too far from his side. It's with observation and silence that the blonde meets the individuals present. For now.
Vanamur again has no comment, but eyeballs Ovatos for another moment before taking Warlan's cue. Bronze armor clanking loudly on the hall floor, he strides over to a seat by Damiante, near the head of the table where Warlan's seat is also located. He gives no real sign of acknowledgement to anyone, his thin brows knotted together in a scowl. This expression still on his face, he takes a seat and picks delicately at the food.
Sophia Mikin stands when her mother and Aunt move towards the table and being a properly raised daughter the Countessa dips into a respectful curtsy. "Your Grace, I am so pleased you returned." Her dainty voice is soft and melodic when she speaks and the rose-hued blush upon her cheeks adds an enchanting charm to her entire face. "Aunt Rowena." Sophia says with a serene smile to her Aunt then adds, "Is his Grace the Duke coming?" Her eyes return to Merielle's beautiful face when she speaks though momentarily flickering to Arturo then quickly looking back to her mother.
Warlan shows the commoner the tables to the side of the Hall where the guards and carriage drivers have assembled to feast and wait the pleasure of their charges. Turning to the newly arrived nobles his face and demeanor change not a wit. Open and welcoming he greets each of them. "Welcome, yes, welcome. We are most pleased you have made it to our corner of the Fastheld. There is food and company in plenty. Duchess Mikin, I am happy to meet you. I hope all is well at East Bluff? And I see we've your twin keeps new proprietess as well. Welcome your Grace, be welcome. Rest and have good cheer." For his nephew, Warlan reserves special attention. "Arturo, I am most happy you have come. I have been wanting time with you, but the reformation of the Horseguard has been putting demands on my time. And m'Lady, most pleased am I to welcome you to our hall."
Ovatos slips past the Baron, and moves slowly to the table of food, looking all about him steadily. He mutters a few words to himself, unheard by others in the din of the feast. He approaches one end of the table, and looks for a moment at the food. He joins in.
Damiante Nillu bows to each noble who comes through the Great Hall doors. "Welcome," she says warmly. "Welcome to our home. Your Grace of East Bluff, thank you for coming all this way. Your lovely daughter sits near the Countess of Hedgehem." She gestures to the head table. "Your Grace of West Bluff, we are honored. Please sit near your kin at table. Your Excellency, our good nephew, be welcomed." She takes his face between her hands and kisses him gently on each cheek. "A place has been set for you at table." She bows once again to the Scourge. "We are doubly honored by your presence Eminence," she says. "Please take my place at table, my servants will tend to your every need." She eyes Ovatos again. "And you, Woodsman, my husband has greeted you and accepted you. Please sit at table with the other freeholders who have come." She gestures kindly toward a set of tables near the scullery.
Tomassa Zahir settles back into eating and drinking, though she does not cease her curious appraisal of the other revelers.
Merielle Mikin smiles to Damiante, and Warlan, turning slightly to see her her sister-in-law, smiling warmly in greeting, before looking to the Baroness, "I must offer my apologies for my husband, Duke Mikin. He has been caught up in quite a bit of work," she says softly, bowing her head.
Rowena sends a swift glance and smile back to Arturo and Laeria before looking ahead to the others that address her. "Thank you for hosting us, m'lord and lady" Rowena bobs her head to Damiante and Warlan, overwhelmed by the sudden greeting from all sides. She then takes a moment to beam at both Sophia and Merielle. "I haven't spoken with my brother since late last eve before the last of my things were carted to the West Bluff." She notes to Sophia, dipping her chin just a little to compensate for the height difference. "Come. Let us find a seat. We've much to catch up on, now haven't we?" She grins and casts another look over her shoulder to Arturo from beneath long lashes, before stepping aside and free of the crowd to search for her seat.
Arturo Lomasa meets that look Rowena casts him, before bowing to Damiante and then to Warlan in proper order based upon who bears the local title as he judges it. The kiss on the cheek from Damiante is returned, and he offers her a smile. "Thank you for the welcome, Your Ladyship. It is most pleasing to see you again." Then to Warlan. "And yours as well, Your Lordship. It is far too long since I have been able to visit, but matters have kept me very busy. We must speak at length when time allows." He looks to Laeria, and indicates her with his hand. "May I present Sister Laeria Mikin, who has..." he pauses a moment, then chooses a word. "...consented to be my escort this evening." That sounds better than been assigned, right?
As kind an offer as it is, Sister Laeria removes her hooked arm twined with Arturo's, leaving him free to used his hands and her as well. She sees to removing her gauntlets, one at a time, to hang on her belt for later. Seabreeze spheres swerve to meet Warlan and then his wife, smiling graciously if albeit ceremoniously at the both of them. Her head dips in respectful bow, a diagonal angle of acknowledgement as she's introduced. "But you honor me too much. Please. I am but a simple servant of the Light. Sister Laeria at best. A delightful meet." The young Scourge side-glances to her escort as he speaks, then they return to address the host and hostess once more. "My humble thanks and Light's blessings to you both for the open hospitality. It is most kind." The vast array of introductions, exchanged looks, and flashed smiles is more than enough to keep this girl busy.
Vanamur takes a sip of the wine, his face impassive as he observes the gathering. Watching Laeria remove her gloves, he copies the action and removes his own gauntlets, setting them aside with his bow and quiver. Sipping delicately, his narrowed gaze moves back toward Ovatos, briefly, before moving on.
Sophia Mikin smile warmly up at her Aunt and finally seems to be relaxing now that members of her family have finally arrived at the banquet. The goblet of wine that has been held within her small hand lifted to her lips where a sip is taken. Blue eyes the color of a clear summer sky look about the room lingering on one person than another with a soft smile forming upon her lips. Yes, the Countessa seems more at ease now.
Greetings done for now, Warlan moves back into the main part of the Hall and takes his seat. Seeing Vanamur's glance, he places a hand on his friend's arm. "Worry not about him, Vanamur. I find him harmles, though crass. Wonder instead at his story of finding the sword in the wilderness. Did you see it? It is very fine make. By his eyes, I take the story to be true. Which leads me to wonder, 'Whose sword was this? And what became of him?' Now, I deem that worthy of concern."
Ovatos looks at the Baronness wordlessly, his face stiff. "Well," he says, as though that were a complete sentence. "My... Lady." The briefest flicker of a bow. He moves away from the table of nobles where he had picked up a joint of elk and glass of wine, and joins the commoners near the scullery. Once or twice his hand goes to his belt to rest on the hilt of the sword, no longer there, and he looks down with surprise.
Damiante, her welcomes made makes the round of the tables, directing servants to refill plates and goblets before settling down at the end of the head table near Baron Arturo, allowing, as she indicated, for the good Sister to take her place near Warlan. She settles in, allows a servant to create a plate for her, and delicately eats her food. She leans over to Arturo, "I am glad you are here, Arturo," she says. "I have been worried about Dianna and am anxious to know if you have been able to see her." She pours a goblet of wine for him and then herself.
Merielle Mikin bows her head, "If you'll excuse me, Baron, Baroness, I shall see to my daughter," she says softly, before casting Arturo a curious glance, then moving towards Sophia, and Rowena slowly.
Rowena places a slender lightly on Sophia's shoulder, guiding her along to their seats as Merielle follows. As they walk, she tilts her head ever so slightly to whisper something though her eyes remain on the food and drink that lies in waiting before them. As she speaks, the coils of hair respond to her head's tilt and swing with bounce to briefly curtain the side of her mouth.
Tomassa Zahir rises and travels toward the exit, but leaves her helmet behind to indicate that she shall return. She says nothing to anyone, but dos move to go outside for a moment.
Tomassa Zahir heads into Aerie Heights Keep Approach. Tomassa Zahir has left.
Arturo Lomasa sits where indicated as well, smiling to Damiante as she takes her seat beside him, and reaching to take the goblet that she pours. He nods, a little of his smile melting, and murmurs back softly. "I have not...though the Duchess Rowena was able. I am worried as well. I have...just returned from tracking down the man she married after Adaer divorced her." He keeps his tone low, not wishing to disturb the others at the table.
His scowl dissipating at Warlan's gesture, Vanamur makes a non-commital noise. "Indeed, those are worthy questions. How has he 'found' a horse, and 'found' a sword of fine manufacture?" the Horselord ruminates, expression neutral. "It may be my lack of contact with the world recently that is making me sceptical of his story, or it may be well founded. However, I concur to your judgement in this matter. Serath always used t-" he pauses mid-word, and ammends his tense to "Serath likes to say I am prone to outbursts."
Sophia Mikin whispers something soft for Rowena's ears as her Aunt leans in towards her. Then the Countessa turns her attention towards Arturo as the Baron speaks and winces slightly at the subject now at the center of conversation. Sophia is so very glad she isn't wed and hopes she never has too. "I pity all involved." The young woman suddenly declares in her soft voice hardly believing from the expression upon her face she has indeed spoken up. A quick sip of her wine is taken as her eyes flicker to her mother.
Warlan smiles at Vanamur's admission, and the slip in tense. "Yes, yes, it throws me still. Not your outbursts my friend. I value your quick mind and hand as much as I do your quick reflexes. I meant that Serath is alive and leading the charge again." Glancing at the commoner again as he makes his way to the far tables, he pauses. "The commoner has asked to meet with me privately. No doubt I will soon hear the full tale as he would tell it. One way or the other, I shall be interested in the source of this blade."
Ovatos stands among the commoners chatting, singing, flipping, juggling and feasting. He speaks to none, but gives a nod here and there. He eventually steps to one side, and leans against a stone wall, looking about him, some tension in his shoulders, slightly hunched. A slight grimace comes to his face when someone pushes past, and he quickly throws back some more wine.
Damiante takes up eating knife and fork, delicately portioning her food and eating it. Her expression is of great concern as she listens to her nephew's tale. "I hope you are able to see her soon," she says. "She needs great comfort in these days. Is it true she is with child?" She takes a sip of her wine after a brief salute to her husband at the far end of the table.
Merielle Mikin reaches her daughter, and sister-in-law, smiling to both, kissing her daughter on the forehead gently in greeting, "Good eve, my dear. Forgive my tardiness," she says softly. "Good eve, Rowena," she greets the other Mikin Duchess warmly, smiling to both.
"Hello." Rowena nods to Merielle and finally takes her seat after shedding her cloak and draping it over her chair. Shoulders and chest again exposed to the air, she carefully sits down and tucks herself in. No escort for this Mikin. Her hands reach to fill her plate while eyes glance to Sophia with a little nod. "Aye, there are many unfortunate events which your young ears have thankfully missed in your time away. But now is a time for feasting and dancing. Let us see a smile." She comments gently and reaches for her goblet.
Arturo Lomasa nods ot Damiante's statement, and again to her question, sighing softly. "It is true, Aunt Damiante. She believes firmly the child belongs to Adaer. For my part, I care not whether it be Kahar or Zahir. The child bears Lomasa blood, and I intend to petition to raise it if nothing halts her execution. I am her eldest brother....the responsibility falls to me if she is dead." He sighs, and shakes his head softly, leaning to whisper something more to Damiante.
Jacib steps into the Great Hall from outside, shedding his cloak as he does so. He folds his cloak over one arm and steps to the side, looking around the crowded room for a place to sit.
Varal Mikin enters, and shuffles his shoulders so that his cloak sits a little more loosely than before. He looks around a little nervously, but as he spots a gaggle of Mikin ladies seated he heads in the direction, offering anyone who looks in his direction a slight smile and polite nod.
Alieron Mikin arrives from Aerie Heights Keep Approach Alieron Mikin has arrived.
Vanamur again makes little response to Warlan's answer, just glaring back in Ovatos' direction. Evidently content to drop the matter, he says by way of conclusion "Indeed, his story shall be something to hear. Let us hope he is as honest as you believe, for all our sakes. There is enough happening at the moment to take up all of our attentions, and we are yet to ride to the Bronze Halls and speak with the Horsemaster." Taking up a bottle of fine wine, he pours first Warlan, and then himself, another glass. "Let us think of other matters now, my friend. The common rabble need not detain our attention for long."
Clattering a utensil on his glass, he stands and calls out in a commanding voice; "Let me now propose a toast, to our hosts, the venerable Baron Warlan Lomasa" he gestures to Warlan, smiling, "and the Baroness Damiante Nillu!" He raises his glass in Damiante's direction, glances around the hall, and drains his glass.
"Mother." Sophia replies to Merielle as her mother finally approached. The petite woman stands only to lean forward to kiss her mother's cheek. "I am relieved you could return. I was feeling slighlty out place." The Countessa tells her mother speaking in her gentle toned voice. "The conversation at hand is rather unpleasant, I do not like hearing such tragedies whilst at a banquet. Is this normal?" Her eyes dart towards Varal and quickly looks to Rowena or was it her mother, she can't think, it must be the wine. "A woman is to be executed for what crime your Lordship?" Clearly Sophia has no idea what is going on and perhaps she wishes she didn't know. Her dainty voice is full of concern. "Forgive my inquiries your Ladyship." Sophia turns to say to her hostess Baroness Damiante. "I mean no disrespects but since this topic is being discussed. I simply am very confused."
The double doors to the Great Hall open, and in steps Duke Alieron Mikin wearing his elegant red robes. He carries himself in regal posture, walking right through the center of the doorway, and as he enters gazes across the Great Hall. His cloak shifts as he walks, bearing the crest of Light's Reach, and the Order of the Flame.
From his position near the entryway, a herald in the Nillu livery calls in clear voice, "Good Lords and Ladies, Alieron Mikon, Imperial Chancellor, Dukes of Light's Reach and Master at East Bluff Keep and Grand Master of the Order of the Flame!" Bowing low, the Herald sweeps an arm in invitation into the Hall.
Warlan watches with a calm expression as Vanamur makes his toast, raising his glass to honor his Lady Wife as well. Making to stand and answer, he is instead drawn by the name announced by the Herald. Instead he makes his excuses to Vanamur and the rest seated close by. "If you will pardon me. I will welcome our new and most distinguished guest. Vanamur, I thank you for your toast and offer my thanks for your support and friendship. For that, this house is blessed." Then, with a light bow, Warlan excuses himself and makes his way through the tables to greet the Duke Mikin.
At Vanamur's call for a toast, Damiante stands, goblet raised, eyes gleaming bright. Though at least a head shorter than most of her guests, she stands tall and proud. She nods to first her husband, then to Vanamur. "It is with great joy we accept your toast, Vanamur," she says. "Such a festive celebration!" She raises her goblet to all present. "You have all made this celebration truly special. We are honored by each of you, and hope you will visit as often as time will permit. To His Imperial Majesty! To His Brother, the Prince of the Blood! Long life!" She drains her cup, a flush to her cheeks, then bows to Arturo. "Please excuse me, I must welcome my noble cousin of the MIkin House." She sets her goblet aside and matches her stride to Warlan, two steps to his single.
Merielle Mikin smiles to her daughter gently, "Fastheld is going through a difficult time, my dear," she says softly. "Dear, if you wish to know, I'm sure there are many people who can tell you, though, I do not wish to frighten you on this evening, when all is supposed to be happy."
Rowena lifts her half-emptied goblet to the toast with a broad grin before looking to her new arrival. She reaches to the side to pat Sophia's hand. "Worry yourself not now. I shall inform you of these things later if you wish. There is your father. Find your smile again dear, lest he frown upon me." Maybe that was a jest, maybe not. She glances to Merielle with a soft smile and tips back a bit more of the wine before reaching for a piece of meat on her plate. Her nimble fingers slice a sizeable but polite piece and pop it into her mouth for a thoughtful chewing while her eyes lock on Alieron.
Arturo Lomasa stands when others do, raising his glass to both Lord and Lady of the Keep, taking a swallow of the drink as the toast is completed and bowing politely to Damiante. He turns his gaze to Sophia then, offering a polite nod and a faint nod of agreement to Rowena's words. "The Duchess knows much of the matter." he response gently, indicating Rowena with the words, before he too turns to see the arrival of Alieron.
Tomassa Zahir arrives from Aerie Heights Keep Approach Tomassa Zahir has arrived.
Jacib walks towards the commoner's table at an easy pace, taking a seat as he arrives. He takes a loaf of bread from a basket near him and picks up a simple wine glass. He then leans back in his chair to watch the table where the nobles congregate.
Tomassa Zahir stalks back into the Keep, ending her sojourn outside. She's looking irritated and the presence of Alieron doesn't seem to bode well for an improvement of her mood.
Varal Mikin turns away from the table, nodding to Alieron. With a few quick strides, he makes his way to the lord. "Y'Grace," he says politely. "I was afraid 'twas I who was late. How does Y'Grace fare?" The Captain takes a position following his lord to wherever he may go.
Vanamur sits back in his seat at Warlan's prompt exit, his eyes drifting across the room to look at the arrival causing such a stir. He glances at Alieron briefly, his attention evidently lingering but briefly, before turning on the commoners table. His notices Jacib, and taking his glass in hand he stands and moves toward the carpenter, face impassive.
Sophia Mikin nods to what her mother tells her though her attention lingers elsewhere. "Yes mother. Aunt Rowena." She replies softly as one small hand lifts up to brush a stray tendril of jet black hair from her brow. "I...." Sophia forget what she was going to say and the expression of confusion mars her gentle face. Quickly the Countessa sips the remainder of her wine and inclines her head politely in Arturo's direction. "Thank you your Lordship." A warm and tender smile forms upon her face when her father is announced.
Walking side by side with Damiante, Warlan looks hard at the face of the newly arrived Royal. No change takes place in his face, but his happy demeanor of moments ago has become more guarded and formal. Once the entry is reached, Warlan lets his Baroness take two steps more to put her slightly ahead of him so as to make the formal greating to this, her keep. Warlan bows low as is required but retrains his gaze on the Mikin's face as he rises up.
Alieron nods slightly to Varal as he approaches, but then turns his attention toward the hosts of the evening. He nods in recognition, looking each in the face, "Baron Lomasa, Baroness Nillu." He smiles slightly, gesturing across the Great Hall, "It appears to be a lively feast. It is unfortunate I have missed most of it, though affairs in Light's Reach called me away. Though I see that my family is here, and I am sure they have enjoyed the evening." He glances momentarily toward the head table where his family sits.
Damiante bows low to the Duke of Light's Reach, hand over her heart. "You honor us with your presence, Your Grace," she says. "Be welcome to Aerie Heights. We have food and drink to share." She gestures to the Duke's family at the head table. "Your family is here, good company and cheer." Her blue eyes are steady, warm, having already made the Duke's acquaintance earlier. "We have food and drink for your retainers also," she says, sweeping a hand to the tables near the scullery. "All are welcome, all do us honor in this celebration." Damiante nods her head toward the Captain of the Light's Reach Guard. "As are you, Excellency," she says. "Please take your ease at our table."
Merielle Mikin rises to her feet as she sees Alieron, smiling to Sophia and Rowena again, before making her way to her husband slowly, coming to stand at his side, "I am pleased you could come, my husband," she says softly to the Duke, smilng warmly.
Glancing a final time to Sophia with woman's art of silent communication shining through her eyes, Rowena leans back in her chair as Merielle leaves and drains the remainder of her goblet. While waiting for it to be refilled, she peels a bit of the bread free from her chunk and places it on her tongue to ease the buzz aroused by the wine. Her eyes close for a moment, listening to the drone of voices and laughter combined with clattering silver. When she opens them, she stare directly at Sophia, and swallows the bread. "Do you dance?"
Arturo Lomasa inclines his head to Sophia at her thanks, and listens to the greetings before seating himself again, setting into another helping of the roast elk. He glances up and about at those nearby, but for the most part attends himself to the food, letting some of his disquiet flow away with an extra glass of wine.
Tomassa Zahir strolls up to where she had been sitting, her helmet atop the table marking her place. She drops into her chair with a jingling of mail that hints she must be wearing more of it beneath her skirt. The Contessa's hands lift to touch the arms of her chair as she watches Alieron move to his family. Her face is a rocklike mask as she studies the Mikins until her eyes rove to take in Varal. Then, almost imperceptibly, she smiles.
Jacib glances over his glass of wine at Vanamur impassively. The carpenter inclines his head respectfully at the approaching noble.
Varal Mikin bows deeply to Warlan and Diamante. "Baron, Baroness, it is an honor to attend this feast. I thank you for your hospitality, and please, may I do the same for you someday at Light's Watch," he utters with the utmost politeness to the pair, on the verge of being a little too polite. With a wary smile, he moves to seat himself with the rest of the assembled Mikins at the feast.
Vanamur continues his advance toward Jacib, ignoring the entrance party for the moment. His bright bronze armor clangs on the floor of the keep, throwing off the light from the hearth in all directions. Reaching Jacib, the Horselord smiles thinly in greeting. "Carver," he greets, "have you made any progress with my order?" He stops, fixing himself in place to gaze down his sharp nose at the carpenter.
Sophia Mikin sighs softly as she reaches for her empty goblet, just something to hold on to presently. "Yes, I was taught to dance though I am not that good Aunt Rowena." She answers with a delicate smile. "Did you want to dance?" Now a pretty giggle flows from her lips. Sophia projects an aura of enchanting innocence as she grins at Rowena and for some odd reason suddenly turns slightly flushed.
Warlan's brow uncreases at the well delivered and well received greeting. Giving his wife's hand a squeeze, he leans in, "Thank you Darling, well done. For a moment I feared his arrival was more than a pleasant visit. I had not realized my nerves ran so close to the surface tonight. I will try and set them at ease for the rest of the evening." Another squeeze before letting go. "If you will excuse me, I will try to catch up to Varal."
Alieron Mikin takes the arm of his wife in the traditional posture, and leads them forward in his regal walk through the center of the Great Hall toward the head table with the various hangers on. He holds his head up high, his cloak moving as he walks along with his wife, the gleam of his rapier at his side flashing through at moments. He gazes up toward the head table, at his sister, and daughter.
Damiante nods to her husband and returns to the head table and her seat near Arturo. Servants scuttle about serving roast and bread, filling goblets to brimming. Musicians play a merry tune, one similar to a country reel. Guests begin to shove tables aside and dance together an elaborate bransle. Once she reaches her seat, she takes up her fork and knife again. "You are always welcome here Arturo," she says. "Should your troubles seem hard to escape. The young sister intrigues me and I'm sure I could keep her occupied should you need." She smiles conspiratorially, and takes a stab at another piece of elk.
Merielle Mikin smiles up at Alieron gently, before glancing at Sophia, concern crossing through her eyes, "Sophia?" she calls softly, frowning faintly. She glances up at her husband again, nodding in the direction of their daughter subtly.
Tomassa Zahir toys with the stem of her goblet, sated for the moment and content to watch and listen. She studies the Mikins with bemusement before turning her attentions to the other guests of the feast. The Scourge is noted, as is the young woman's brother, but the armor of the Horseman keeps drawing her attention to the Seamel.
Without further hesitation, Rowena stands from her place at the large table, her red-clad form acting as a red flag for some. With a twinkle in her eye, she stares across to Sophia and reaches to pat her hand. "Come on then. Let us stretch our legs." But not alone of course...With deliberate steps, she leans behind Varal's chair and smiles down at him. "I am pleased to see that you could join us." She gestures across to Sophia. "This is my niece. She's been absent from Light's Reach for a few years now. Perhaps you may join us for a dance?" Leaving that in the air, she glances to Alieron before moving on. Her gown sways gracefully and she approaches Arturo's chair next.
Arturo Lomasa actually laughs softly at Damiante's words, inclining his head. "You have my thanks, Damiante. If it would not be imposing too greatly, might I ask for a room to stay a few days? There are things I would discuss with you, and with your husband as well. And I would ask for a room for the Sister if that also is possible. It would be unseemly of me to not provide for her, since she is bidden to remain with me."
Jacib rises to his feet as Vanamur speaks to him, responding, "G'd evening, m'lord. I've made progress on your order; 'n fact, 't's finished. I'd guess y'd be wanting t' take delivery 'f it soon?"
"But Duchess," Varal protests weakly, "I've just arrived..." Nonetheless, the intrepid Captain rises to the occasion, or merely his feet in this case. "Contessa Sophia, it has been ages since I've last seen you. Perhaps we can reacquaint with one another?" His gaze also flicks back towards Alieron, a combination of 'don't worry, I'll keep an eye on them' and looking for permission.
Face impassive, Vanamur displays very little emotion. The only indicator of his response is a slight narrowing of his eyes, suggesting he was expecting to be able to have some more fun with Jacib. "Done?" He sips his wine, nodding. "Most impressive, commoner. I trust you have not rushed the work at the expense of quality? I shall be most displeased if these arrow do not fly truly. I may need to test them, first." A wicked smile tugs at his thin lips, giving him a rather unfriendly appearance.
Sophia Mikin stands up from where she is seated along side Rowena when her father and mother approach the table and at once dips into a deep and respectful curtsy then rising she says to Merielle. "I am alright mother, just a bit tired, but doing well." Her gaze darts to Alieron. "Good evening Poppa." Her voice is gentle and dainty soft as a light summer breeze when she speaks. Then with Rowena's gesture, Sophia follows her Aunt only to bug out her crystal blue eyes when Rowen invites Varal to dance with them both. Is her Aunt insane?? The Countessa's entire face turns to a lovely shade of deep crimson as the flush of embarrasment creeps upon her pale cheeks.
At once Sophia's mouth opens then closes much akin to that of a fish out of water and gasping for a breath of air. "I am ssss-sure Milord that..." Her eyes dart to Rowena then to her father and mother then back to Varal and seeing or thinking she sees an excuse arise quickly states, "I am sure my Lady Aunt would prove a better dance partner than I." She steps back with no intentions of dancing with anyone. "If you will excuse me please, I have..." Sophia looks positively panicked. "I shall return to my seat because, well...I haven't danced in years and I am not that good." Help???
Alieron Mikin looks upon his daughter as he approaches the head table, and glances over to his wife momentarily as he sees the condition of his daughter. He frowns a bit, giving a look at Rowena as he had been watching her earlier, and looks upon her daughter. He gazes over toward Rowena, "Whom was my daughter supposed to dance with, sister." He puts an emphasis on sister, lengthening it slightly, as he looks upon Rowena. He guides his wife to move toward a seat at the head table near where they stand.
Warlan watches with amusement as intended target, Varal, is lead off to dance. He stops for a moment, passing his gaze around the room. His amusement returns as he sees Varals intended partner sit down again face ablaze. Easing up behind the man he intones, "What's this good Varal, she is tired already and you had her not 4 paces from her chair? Why fellow, you are hard on those you meet yes?" Smiling heartily so that he may see it is only in jest, Warlan takes Varal's elbow and steers him clear of the ladies, though not so far as to bring him out of eyesight. "I understand there is a difference between keeping safe and keeping amused. So Varal, yes? How have things been since our last meeting?"
Damiante nods to her nephew in law. "Of course," she says stay as long as you like. I know the Baron has been anxious to speak to you two." Inclining her head toward the Scourge, she says, "And I am sure I can keep her occupied. I have many questions about the Church --" her voice trails off as her attention is taken to the dancing. She gestures with her hand and a lovely reel, jig, reel combination begins, the musicians happy to see dancers on the floor. Whoops, laughter and clapping fill the air. "Go! Dance, Arturo, a lightness in your heart would do your sister good if she knew of it. There is time enough to brood once light dawns again. Let shadows take our sorrows this night."
Merielle Mikin glances at Sophia rather worriedly, "My dear girl, you seem tired, perhaps you should save your dancing for another night," she says gently, holding out her free hand to her daughter. "Rowena, you should find other dancers, and let poor Sophia rest. Her day has been eventful, and tiring."
"Why it seems your daughter's intended partner has been led away, brother." Rowena answers Alieron with a mirrored tone, pausing in her path towards Arturo. Turning back, she smiles gently upon Sophia's terrified face and her worried mother. "Very well. I shall allow you to enjoy the rest, my dear." Again, her eyes fall upon Arturo after nodding politely to Damiante. "As our last meeting was cut short by weariness, perhaps we may start anew in liveliness?" Very slowly, she extends a hand, glove-free and burdened only with a single ring. From her sudden burst of energy, one may think the wine to be taking its toll, but the look in her eye suggests that she's very sober.
Arturo Lomasa offers Damiante his gratitude at the first parts, but looks about to protest as he's ordered onto the dance floor. As Rowena approaches and offers her hand however, he chuckles softly, allowing himself a small smile. "With the command of a Baroness and the request of a Duchess, I do not see how I can refuse. Though I fear I shall need to retire after a short dance. I have had a long day." He stands then, taking Rowena's hand with a polite bow and brushing his lips against it, before leading her onto the floor. A few glances to take in where the other dancers move, then a look to Rowena, and he guides her expertly into the whirl of dancers if she's prepared.
Tomassa Zahir sits back and barks out a laugh when Varal terrifies his intended dance partner before they can even make it to the floor. The Lioness hefts up one leg and thunks a steel boot upon the edge of the table - despite the fact that she's wearing a ballgown - and then lifts the other leg to cross it over the first at the ankles. Chainmail can be seen upon her legs beneath the skirt.
"Had I a few weeks t' work, m'lord, I might've done better," Jacib admits, "but I trust y' 'll find the arrows 'f satisfactory quality. 'f y' want t' test them, please do." His tone remains respectfully affable in the face of the Second Horselord's seemingly slighting manner.
Varal Mikin allows himself to be dragged away with no more resistance than a slight frown, though more at Sophia's nervousness than Warlan grabbing him. At the very least, it gives him an escape without embarrassing either of them particularly much. "So it appears, Baron," he replies dryly to the jest. "But myself? I have done well since our last meeting, though I wish that final round would come. Pity about the Zahir's horse. Ruins the sport, if you ask me. All the waiting, and my head's already healed."
Vanamur continues to smile thinly, setting his wine glass aside by forcing it into the hands of one of the waiting staff. "As this is a celebration, we will leave business until later. Be assured I will be calling soon to pick up the order, however. If they are not satisfactory, we will have to re-assess the situation." With a almost invisible nod of dismissal, Vanamur heads back toward the head table, his hand briefly straying over his mouth to cover a stray yawn.
It is extremely difficult to project an aura of confidence and regal persona when you are in fact uncertain about yourself and your abilities as a royal and heir. Years of seclusion only reinforce Sophia's vulnerability thus giving the petite Countessa the appearance of a delicate porcelain doll. She tries to appear as if she is in control of the situation when in fact feels like a wallflower amongst a garden of blooming red roses. A pretty smile is forced upon her lips with a steady flows of words that are hushed spoken to her parents and her Aunt. "There is nothing wrong really. I am just...well.." Sophia collects the right words to say and not make her father displeased with her obvious weakness. "I just felt like enjoying some wine presently and I am sure the Lord Captain prefers a more experienced dance partner than I." A rather pathetic attempt at a chuckle is emitted. "I would not wish to step on anyone's toes." See, Sophia can be witty or so she thinks she can.
Alieron Mikin sighs just a bit, gazing over at his daughter, "It is fine, my dear. Just rest yourself, no one expects anything of you tonight. Not this night." He reaches forward to grasp some wine, and takes a sip from the goblet as he gazes out at Rowena. He sighs, gazing up at Merielle, "My sister... always up to something." He takes a sip of his wine, "She loves taking things into her own hands." He gazes across at the host, and hostess to offer them a smile.
Warlan stretches slightly,"I'm eager to finish our contest as well. You showed very well for yourself. I did not. Though I feel I must do better this next round. What say you that we send a petition to the Duke Kahar by way of encouraging him to schedule the final round?"
Tomassa Zahir lifts her voice to add to Warlan and Varal's conversation, "And inform -me- this time as I should dearly like to bash Varal's head myself! You both have yet to face -true- competition." She flashes a fierce grin to both men, lifting her glass to them. However, she then calls to Alieron, "You'd do well to allow your sister to handle -more- things for you, Mikin. She's far more diplomatic."
Seeing the Contessa of Hedgehem place her boots upon her new table, Damiante scowls, yet says nothing, merely muttering. 'Mind the wood, Excellency." She chuckles, however, used to such displays from the Horsemen who have visited her home for many a year. She takes a bit more wine and bread, watching the proceedings with interest. "Your Grace Mirelle," she says. "Your daughter has grown in grace and beauty both. You must be very proud."
Merielle Mikin smiles slightly, wrapping an arm around her daughter, "Come, dear, you look as though you could use some fresh air," she says softly. She then beams at Damiante, "Thank you, Baroness. I am always proud of my daughter," she responds, kissing Sophia's cheek gently.
Well, it seems Rowena isn't either as light on her feet as she thought, or she's not as ready as Arturo suspected. Attention distracted by Sophia, the tug by Arturo into the flow of the dance catches her off guard and while she hops hastily in, it is on the wrong step. Oops! With an open laugh of "Sorry!", she nearly trips over her own feet, gripping Arturo's hands in efforts to keep upright. So the first step was clumsy, but her mood doesn't seem to be affected, nor her persistence as she tries to fall back into the swing of rhythm after listening carefully to the bounding music.
Arturo Lomasa keeps hold of Rowena's hand....that much he can do right. He dances a few whirls with Rowena once she tries to get her feet again, then begins to giggle as it becomes only a game of chance how long till their feet entwine. He draws her out of the main whirl of the reel if she's willing, chuckling softly. "It seems our hostess put out a particularly potent vintage, Your Grace. I fear we are more hazzard than aide to the celebrations. Perhaps we should dance again when we are both more sober? I think we have provided a measure of entertainment for the evening." He grins warmly at his partner...his mood lightened at least. that was the point wasn't it?
Arturo Lomasa adds to his comments. "I should be retiring for the night, but if it would not displease you I should like to speak again later."
Reaching the head table, Vanamur appears to decide he actually has had enough of company. Too long alone must've dulled his social skills, as he gives the room one final look around, inclining his head to the host and hostess, before heading toward his temporary room in the Keep.