Warm Shining Tavern

Like the great blazing torch towers that illuminate the four corners of this township, the Warm Shining Tavern does all it can to keep shadows at bay, with oil lanterns and torch-bearing stanchions as well as a fat-bellied fireplace of brown and gray quarried stone.

The tavern has no shadowy corners in which to lurk, by design. It is all about basking in some sort of glow and steering clear of the darkness. However, this does make for a sometimes overly warm environment - in the winter, this is fine, but during the height of summer, formal clothes and soldier's armor don't tend to be comfortable here.

A C-shaped bar made of polished biinwood dominates one end of the tavern. The rest is filled with round tables encircled by chairs.

Tomassa Zahir sits in one corner where she's got a vantage point of all the doors. Not that she's paranoid, mind you, it's just good sense. At the moment, she's got a mug of hard cider before her on the table and a bowl of hot soup accompanied by fresh bread. The lady eats, but not very neatly.

Varal struts into the Tavern, one hand resting on the pommel of his sword while the other straightens out his cloak. "Light burn the cold," he mutters as he closes the door behind him. He takes a good long minute to gaze across establishment, offering the few faces he recognizes a smile and a nod. His gaze lingers on Tomassa for a long moment, seemingly disapproving.

Tomassa Zahir cuts a hunk out of some cheese by her bread, stabbing it with her dagger and bringing it to her mouth. She eats like a hungry soldier rather than a 'lady', wolfing down her food as if it is merely fuel for her body rather than something to be enjoyed. She hefts up her mug and takes a long pull from it. When she sets it back down, her mouth is wet, so she wipes the back of her hand across her lips.

A haughty smirk slowly spreads across Varal's face as he makes his way toward the bar. He takes a seat, loudly stating, "Whatever is warm," to the cook. He plays with his cloak and scabbard so that they don't interfere with him sitting down. Once he's satisfied, he rubs his hands together, blowing on them lightly to try to warm them up.

Tomassa Zahir looks up at -that- voice, but she mostly ignores the gossiping merchants. Her coppery gaze darts across the bar to fall upon Varal and, tilting her head, she curiously studies him. If he could see her, her inspection might be considered rude. One last spoonful of soup is lifted to her mouth and then she shoves her bowl away in finality. With a thoughtful look, she slowly chews as she studies Varal once more.

Ever feel like someone's watching? After a moment, and waiting for something to be placed in front of him, Varal's eyes flicker back towards Tomassa, catching her stare eye-to-eye. The smirk is no longer there, but a thoughful look has taken its place. He swivels to face her, nodding politely.

Tomassa Zahir dips her chin just a little in returned greeting, but the smirk that's forming upon her lips is quickly hidden by a lifting of her mug. She drains the cider from it and sets it atop the table in a jarring blow as she leans forward in her chair to rest one arm atop the table. Now, eyes glinting, she grins at the man at the bar.

Varal rises to his feet, motioning to the cook to move his order. "Mind if I join you, M'lady?" he asks, and promptly sits down without an answer, taking the grin as an affirmative. "Were your talks with the Lord Chancellor successful, or have you yet to find him?"

"Eh, I saw him briefly, but he has not yet had the time to speak to me," the Contessa admits. Tomassa leans forward with a wry expression upon her face, adding, "Truth be told, Alieron Mikin bores me to bloody tears - no offense meant. That's just how it is with some people, you know. You either like them or you don't."

"I'm sorry you feel that way," Varal answers, seemingly offended at Alieron's behalf. Idly tapping his fingers on the table, he continues speaking. "Though, him being your direct superior, you'll have to get used to him." He smirks at the Contessa. "Of course, M'lady, you waste time buckling on a rapier with all that armor. Swordwork is not for women, and a rapier is no better than for sticking farm animals and naughty children."

Tomassa Zahir's right eyebrow quirks upward and she sits back very slowly in her chair. "Either you have no idea who I am or... you're trying to bait me. Neither is a very healthy idea. Though," she muses, "I must agree with you about the rapier. I much prefer a broadsword."

Varal raises an eyebrow. "Then your reputation doesn't precede you, I'd assume," the man replies, a slight grin playing across his face. "But the Blades don't accept women for a reason, I'd assume. Though the Church does. . ." He shrugs. "Then you can use that swine-sticker? Frankly, as a woman you don't risk duels, more likely bandits. No point not to have a broadsword."

"I," Tomassa states, "Am Contessa Tomassa Zahir. The Lioness of Hedgehem. I am not most women, sirrah, as you're going to very quickly learn. Have you not heard of me this far south? I'm surprised. Not even news of my win at the Vozdyha races? Even /I/ must admit that I was rather brutal in that Labaton match..." Her coppery eyes narrow slightly, a calculating look entering them as she attempts to assess Varal's truthfulness.

Varal nods slowly. The name might ring a slight bell, but there is no immediate 'oh crap'. "Then it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Contessa." He rises to his feet, offering a flourished bow, before sitting back down again. "I must confess that I have spent too much time in the practice yards, and not enough time on gossip the past years."

Tomassa Zahir waves one hand in dismissal, but she's still studying Varal with a new wariness. "It helps to have someone to keep track of such things on your behalf," she admits. "I would know very little, if not for my servants at Bramblestone." Leaning forward a little, she eyes the equipment on his belt. "So. Are you any good?"

"Good enough," Varal says with a sly grin, maybe making an attempt at modesty. "I have more to learn, certainly, but the Lord Chancellor sees me fit to be his personal bodyguard." He rests a hand proudly on the pommel of his sword. "Wearing a sword and not knowing its use is foolhardy, Contessa." Either it's an insult, or a not-so-veiled attempt at asking the same question he answered.

Tomassa Zahir lifts a hand to jab a finger in Varal's direction. "You," she states are her eyes narrow, "And I... are going to have a little sparring session, should your Lord allow it. Just so I can prove that a woman is more than your equal," the woman states with enough confidence for it to be haughty. "And I have no doubt that I am."

Varal half-bows, and then slides back into his chair. "So be it, Contessa," he replies with an unworried air. "But be warned, I spar as I fight - to win. I would hate to bruise a lady." His concern sounds sincere, though he refuses to back down from the fight. "Nor do I waste time with that fencing nonsense," he says with an obvious sneer.

Tomassa Zahir's mouth forms a slow and very satisfied grin. "That makes two of us," she points out. "And, as the two *men* who fell to me at the Labaton match can attest... I play to win as well. This could prove to be very, very interesting. At last - something in Light's Reach that is more interesting than the architecture."

Varal almost doesn't hold back an indignant snort, though the muffled noise is followed by a chuckle. "Thank you for your interest, Contessa," he says with amusement. "To be honest, architecture has never held my interest particularly much. Except churches and keeps, for divergent reasons."

Tomassa Zahir plucks up another bite of bread and eats it, slowly and consideringly. "Find a sword for me to borrow and we shall do this expediently. I could use a bit of exercise," the woman admits with more of that unshakable self-confidence. It's shining from her copper-colored eyes.

Varal rises, unsheathing his longsword and laying it on the table. "I will take a handicap, M'Lady. After all, a Contessa deserves a superior weapon," he says with continuing amusement. "If the Contessa is willing to wait a moment..." He doesn't wait for a reply, turning for the door of the tavern.

Varal leaves and quickly returns...

Varal walks back into the tavern, a naked shortsword in his hand. "I hope you like the balance on the sword, M'Lady. I was rather impressed with the blade, myself, though you might find it rather heavy." He raises the shortsword. "And if you'd rather have this one. . ." Ever the gentleman, even if it is somewhat insulting. He smiles. "But, I'd rather not hurt you too bad, Contessa. To first blood?"

Tomassa Zahir rises from her chair and lightly moves around the table despite the supposed 'handicap' of her armor. "If you really want to stop -that- quickly," she drawls, tilting her head to indicate the scar upon her cheek. "I'm not afraid of more, if you aren't," the woman says with a smirk that is challenging. Her grip upon the longsword is far from being that of a novice.

Varal smirks, "To mercy then. Let us pray you aren't stubborn, or you might find trouble getting a husband." He raises his shortsword in a one-handed grip, positioning his body so that he's a smaller target, but also so that he off hand is in a position to 'fight dirty'. "May the better warrior win."

"From your lips to the Light's ears," Tomassa says with a laugh. "Another husband is the -last- thing that I need!" She lifts the sword and salutes him with it before dropping back into a fighting stance.

Varal moves in quickly toward Tomassa, the smirk still spread across his face. He feints a jab with his sword, but the real move is with his off-hand. Fighting a female, it seems he doesn't actually want to have to cross blades, so he chops at her wrist - attempting to dislodge the sword or gain a purchase on her arm so that it becomes more difficult to swing.

Tomassa Zahir's sword falls from her hand and she growls in self-disgust at falling for Varal's trick. Her gaze lifts to his face and the copper of her eyes turns to something molten and decidedly dangerous in that instant.

Varal continues his momentum inwards, coming face to face with Tomassa. Despite the vicious look in her eyes, he offers her a smile, though his off hand attempts to clench her wrist. "You have been disarmed. Surrender?"

Tomassa Zahir *snorts* at that suggestion and, if that weren't indicative enough of her feelings, she says, "Not bloody likely," even as she slams her head forward in an attempt to make sound contact with Varal's face. She doesn't have a sword, but she can still use her head, right?

Varal swivels his head to the side as Tomassa's forehead flies toward his nose. Her skin brushes against said facial feature, and he takes the effort to lean in and kiss her on the cheek.

Tomassa Zahir, in response, stiffens at Varal's nearness and her jaw tightens at his kiss. She's still for perhaps a heartbeat before responding to him in a way that might be surprising. Or not, depending upon how well one knows the woman. With a low growl in her throat, Tomassa slams one knee up toward Varal's unarmored private parts.

Men are notorious for a single weakness, and Varal gets hit in the location. His mouth goes wide open and a low moan escapes, while his eyes roll up into their sockets. He collapses on the ground and curls into a ball, groaning.

The Contessa is broadly grinning as she leans down to note the man's pain. She watches him for just an instant with glittering eyes before her hand steals to her belt to fetch her dagger. She lightly twirls it as she oh-so-casually asks, "Is it still to first blood or have you had enough?" Her smile to him is mockingly sweet.

Varal is to busy mewling to actually answer the question, leaving the Contessa to do as she feels fit.

Tomassa Zahir looms over the fallen figure and extends the dagger to his forehead. She presses it -just- enough to draw blood, leaving only a small little cut where she pricked him. Still grinning, the Contessa lowers the blade to let him see the drop of blood upon it before absently licking it off. "Curious contest," she muses as she straightens. "We should try this again, sometime."

It takes a long moment for Varal to regain enough of himself to say anything, and the first time he tries to speak, nothing actually comes out. Luckily for him, he manages to keep his voice from being to high from its normal pitch. "Next...time," he stammers, "just....swords."

Tomassa Zahir laughs aloud at his comment, her hand easing the fallen longsword over to his side. She steps to the table to collect her main-gauche and rapier and then steps back over to peer down at Varal once again. "Next time," she drawls in her husky contralto, "Don't underestimate a woman."

Varal rises tenderly to his hands and knees, blinking. He doesn't notice the sword being dropped next to him, nor does he really seem to register the comment. His focus is on rising back to his feet, though a slow process it seems to be.

Tomassa Zahir folds her arms beneath her chest as she watches him in faint amusement. "Would you like some help?" she asks, sounding just a little patronizing.

"No," Varal hisses in obvious pain. "Shadow take your soul..." Wobbly, he reaches up to hold onto a chair. The man tests his weight on his arm, and decides that a little more time might be a better idea.

Tomassa Zahir clucks her tongue. "Is that any way to speak to your social superior?" she asks in undisguised amusement. The dangerous light in her eyes has been superceded by dancing laughter. "I suppose that I can forgive you since you men -do- seem to be rather weak when attacked in such a spot."

Varal mutters something under his breath, managing to get up to his feet. "I lost from foolishness," he says breathlessly. "Next time, Contessa, you won't be so lucky. I'll at least have..." he groans again, nearly losing his balance. He manages to guide himself into a seat. "Protection."

Tomassa Zahir laughs again, this time without reservation. It's a warm and hearty laugh that's not heard often enough from her. "I should hope so," she says to Varal in amused counsel. "You shouldn't be so trusting that, just because you're loathe to hurt a lady, she's as squeamish about hurting -you-."

Varal grimaces, managing to stiffle another groan. He glares at Tomassa as best he is able, but remains quiet. And he is still obviously in a lot of pain. A lot.

A well dressed, older man walks into the Tavern, looking cold and tired, a wool cloak wrapped tightly about him. He goes quickly to the fire to warm himself, and asks the waitress for a beaker of the mulled wine warming over the fire.

Tomassa Zahir plops down into a chair across from Varal and just watches him with obvious delight. She tries not to grin. Really, she does, but she can't help it. Recognizing Milo, she gets a look of contrition upon her features and clears her throat, smile dying. Maybe, just maybe, that's guilt in her eyes now.

Varal frowns at Tomassa, obviously irate. As the pain slowly ebbs out, emphasis on slowly, anger slowly ebbs in. However, as the woman gazes at Milo, Varal follows her eyes to look at the man as well. He grimaces again, having lost focus on maintaining his outward calm.

Milo sips the warmed and spiced wine, and begins to thaw. He looks around briefly, and his eyes pass over the Zahir lady. He takes another sip, and walks over to the table. "M'lady," he says, with the grace of a swordsman not spilling a drop from the cup in his hand.

Tomassa Zahir responds with, "Bloody Kahars," though the term is said in goodnatured tones. "How's your head?" she asks Milo, but a sidelong grin is given to Varal. "Him, this time, not you," she points out to her most recently wounded companion.

The Warmaster reaches around to touch the patch of white at the back of his head. "In one piece, my lady, I regret to inform you." There is a slight smile on his lips, but a wariness remains about his eyes. "I am pleased to hear your voice once more, m'lady."

"I managed to disarm you," Varal growls at Tomassa, anger and pain mingled in his voice. "I could have decapitated you as easily as kissed you." He looks up at Milo, hoping to have regained some of his wounded pride.

Tomassa Zahir stiffens at the mention of a kiss, jaw tightening. "You still say that after what you've suffered?" she asks Varal with narrowed eyes. The Contessa slowly rises to stand beside Milo. "My voice is well, aye, after much rest and hot fluids. My servants too full advantage of the fact that I was instructed not to yell at them." She faintly smiles at that, but the heat in her cheeks reveals her embarrassment at Varal's confession.

The smile widens to a grin as Milo says, "Well, I am certain you made up the lack, m'lady." He glances at Varal and frowns, then says, "I am at m'lady's service, of course at all times." A subtle hint to his willingness to defend a lady's honor. "You are," he says, frowning again at Varal, taking in the sigils on the man's clothes, "m'lord Mikin?"

"Simple Varal will do," answers Varal irritably. He slowly rises to his feet, walking carefully and slowly to the bar. "Brandy," he orders. "Two glasses," he adds after a moment of hesitation.

Tomassa Zahir grins at Milo's willingness to help her after she almost bashed his skull in at the track. She reaches out to clasp his hand as her other hand clasps his upper arm in a warm slap. "Tis good to know that you bear me no ill will, sir. After all, we shall meet again on the field, aye?"

Milo rolls his eyes. "Light protect me, m'lady, I believe we will. It is a comfort to know not all your family hates His Grace's servants with such passion." He rubs his head. "Though perhaps next time you could show your toleration in more physical ways."

Varal quickly downs the first glass of brandy put in front of him quickly. He settles into a stool carefully, and by the look on his face the alcohol is not quite as potent as he would like it. As he begins the next glass, however, he shows more moderation.

Tomassa Zahir chuckles, "Other than a bash to the head, you mean?" She releases Milo's hand and arm to gesture toward Varal. "There is a man who underestimated me today. However, I must admit that our contest did not go as well as either of us had hoped. Next time, it shall be with blades only - not brawling as well."

Tomassa Zahir chuckles, "Other than a bash to the head, you mean?" She releases Milo's hand and arm to gesture toward Varal. "There is a man who underestimated me today. However, I must admit that our contest did not go as well as either of us had hoped. Next time, it shall be with blades only - not brawling as well."

Milo raises an eyebrow. "I see. Well, perhaps we should find a more..." he considers his words, "a more regulated place for it." He shrugs. "Well, but that is not why I made this trip."

Varal takes a long sip of brandy before frowning at Tomassa. "Next time when I have you at my mercy, I won't underestimate your desire to win. And I'll have something protecting my privates, as well. It simply wouldn't have been proper to take a sword to an unarmed, disarmed, lady."

"So you were afraid to hit me as well?" the woman retorts as one hand finds its way to her hip. "You should know by know, sir, that I am not afraid of getting in the thick of it. In fact, I relish the idea of -truly- testing blades with you at a time when you will -not- hold back to try to somehow spare me from harm." She reaches up to touch the scar upon her cheek. "I'm not afraid of being wounded. Bring it on."

The Warmaster seems inclined to avoid bloodshed. "I would not doubt the Lady's resolve nor talent, my lord, but I would also say this is not the place for such a display. Perhaps one of you would hold a tournament, or display of arms? It would not behoove the Empire for a careless killing in a tavern to strengthen the feud that already lies between your houses."

Varal rises to his feet as he heads for the door. He smiles at Milo. "We are done for the eve, and next time it will not be such a hasty endeavor." He stops to look Tomassa over. "Strange, the woman who would prefer the kiss of a blade over that of a man. Until we meet again, Contessa." He offers her a low and polite bow, though for a moment it seems he might topple as he's still rather unsteady on his legs. Having shown proper deference, he makes his way towards the door.

Tomassa Zahir crossly folds her arms beneath her chest, reddening. "It all depends upon the man!" she calls after him, but the words are too hot and quick to be anything other than flustered. So much for the cool she displayed earlier. She edges closer to Milo and eyes him as if he'd better not comment about her red face.

The Warmaster shakes his head. "An unpleasant, crude young man."

Varal stops a moment to pick up his sword, offering Tomassa a quick smile. He speaks to Milo as he heads for the door, "Oh, give me another chance, kind sir. You caught me at my worst." He doesn't wait for a response, however, walking out into the blizzard.

Return to Season 2 (2004)

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