A rustle of commotion flows in the path of a newcomer to the Mastery; commotion from the Guards who, though apparently ordered to check for weapons, have left he who now paces forth with those that he brought with him: A scabbard at each side of his hips, a sleeping long sword within. Of course, this is not the most remarkable thing about this person, for as he draws closer one might distinguish the reddish-gold gleam of the armor he wears to be that of bronze.

Bronze of immaculate quality, etched with ornate floral patterns and horse-theme intaglio that glimmer in silver, shrouded by a flowing cloak of royal blue velvet, flicking with every step. Though his face is mostly hidden by the helm he wears, one might be forgiven for thinking that the Emperor himself has arrived, clad in full armor, for the features of this persons visage seem to draw some mirror with that of the highest of the Kahar; Ice blue eyes the jewels upon the imperial visage. Only these features are weather worn, touched with wisdom and sadness, enduring to the letter. Nor is this the armor of the Emperor either...

Suddenly, the posture of Alieron Mikin changes very quickly. He thrusts outwards, opening his arms, and points his finger directly at Markus Kahar. "Damnable blindness!". He raises his voice, "Can you not see the threat to us all by the Zahirs! Can you not see the evil in their house!" He sweeps his arms, "They threaten all of us, and you do not prepare for this threat. Light's Reach is a bastion against the darkness of treachery. We illuminate upon the treachery of the Zahirs, and you refuse to act upon it! It is foolish!." He finishes yelling for the moment, his face heated, as he looks upon Markus.

Markus Kahar's eyes narrow at Alieron, rising slowly in his seat, "And what would you have us do? I am *Kahar*! The Emperor gave us orders, and I must follow them! Blind I may be - few dislike Zolor more then I - but I am blind with a purpose. Until the Emperor gives his word, all I can do is council. My hands are bound by honorable duty; the events, at this time, the entire lack of proof... they do not give me the freedom to act as I would *like*, but I... darkness be damned."

Markus cuts himself off to turn his jaw-slacked attention to the visitor. "Is... who... what... GUARDS!"

Lucius Nepos was dutifully propped against the wall, shield leaned up in front of him in an assumed guard position. That is, until the Imperial Horsemaster walked into the mastery. Lucius, having seen an Imperial Horseman only once before, does not really recognize the amour for who its proprietor is - he picks up his shield quickly and quickly sprints towards the Horsemaster as a good Guardsman does. He doesn't unsheathe his sword, yet. Maybe the glimmer of memory stops him.

Rather startled by the sudden turn of events, Rowena would have shook a fist at her brother had Markus's adamant reply and sudden appearance of an armored figure not stolen the words from her mouth. She sits frozen instead, lips parted with questions poised upon the tongue while her green eyes examine the newcomer.

"Your Guards will hold station, their blades asleep." The voice of this stranger clad in bronze stands regal and proud as it commands the silence amidst the clutter of the guards moving, his steps faltering little. "Lest they would draw steel upon the blood of the Emperor; for the brother of Talus Kahar has returned to this realm from shadow, and he has returned to find the blood of the Imperial House tainted, friends forsaken, and the courage of men failing." Still moving, regardless of any challenge from any guard, Serath Kahar removes the Helm of the Horsemaster from his head, revealing himself as real; the Sovereign returned from death. "For there is more darkness here than light, and it has not gone unnoticed."

Markus Kahar's eyes narrow, his heart beating wildly. He does his best to control his voice - the shock a bit much. "What sort of black sorcery is this?! You are dead! I saw you buried myself - the dead sleep, this is... is the way of things! That you have arisen is proof enough of your own tainted shadow! I... What... what has brought you back!?!"

Alieron Mikin turns quickly as he is silent, his facial expression changing to one of shock as he sees the man standing there. His posture is one of surprise, as his eyes are wide. He remains in stunned silence, beyond word, as he stares into the moment.

Dead men walking? Rowena clamps her jaw shut, hesitant of course of action. Looking into the face of the returned royalty, the royal healer slowly rises from her chair, dispelling the mongoose from her lap. With some effort, she bends one knee, then her head with a soft gasp of pain in her words. "Pardon of us our disputes." She murmurs.

Lucius Nepos stops in his tracks upon hearing of the Emperor's brother - he himself had heard of his death, years ago. He seems unable to decide what to do. Detain the madman? Kneel in fealty? For the moment, Lucius hovers a few feet away from Serath, shield strapped to his left arm.

The Horsemaster of Fastheld has returned; and though his pace slows, he continues his approach towards Markus. "That would dare proclaim that the brother of Talus Kahar is touched by shadow brings truth to my words." Serath's voice lowers now; his tone remaining a regal sorrow, though warmth reigns deep within it, commanding of the guards now left to their own free will. It would seem, however, that he would claim fealty from none at this hour. "But I did not fall into darkness as far as you had feared, for the light dictated a new path; but no longer." He looks upon Markus with a gaze almost a mirror of the Emperor's own; yet these eyes are not as sharp and imperial; less high in stature, less remote and distant to behold. His gaze falls upon Alieron, then Lucius, then Rowena.

Markus Kahar looks to the three as well. To say he's unnerved would be an understatement. "... so what then, shade, have you come to haunt us for? You speak cryptically - this was never your way in life. Thou art a demon, in my eyes."

Alieron Mikin gazes over to his sister as if to insure her safety, and then his gaze returns upon the man. He stutters for a moment before speaking aloud, in a slightly shocked voice, "You were dead, you were lost, how have you returned?!. He looks Serath up, and down with a look of disbelief. His eyes are focused upon his face, he shakes his head slightly, "It is impossible."

Rowena's bow shifts so that her head may rise to watch, free of her hair's curtain. Awe is easily read in her features, mingled with a sense of fear. The Zahir and bloody statue are forgotten for the time being. "Nothing in the Light's eye is impossible." Rowena murmurs. "If it is the light which has willed it."

Lucius Nepos has seen the busts of the Emperor, arrayed all around Fastheld in taverns and households. And here, in front of him, stands a man who bears almost perfect likeness to the sculptures - the Captain of the Guardsmen seems split beetween a decision, but he ultimately goes with the consensus of nobles in the room. He does not bow down to swear fealty to Serath Kahar, Emperor's brother, but instead remains on the guard, brow furroughed, yet does not adopt a very aggressive stance.

The look which is returned to Markus is one of a dark amusement. "/I/ have yet to begin to haunt you for the corruption you have brought to the Imperial Bloodline; and should you deem the honor in my blood furious when I call upon you to remember your heritage, then you will only /begin/ to imagine the fury that the Emperor may bring upon you. But for now..." Serath glances back to Alieron, looking sidelong upon him, choosing to deflect the questions of how real he is in favor of getting directly to the point.

"There is a darkness in Light's Reach, Duke Mikin. A darkness that has not been brought upon your township by Zahir, but your own Steward. It is darkness that is welcoming only to the suspicions that perpetuate the dawn. The rumors of what your Steward has done has long since reached the Throne, and these rumors speak of secret guards, acting in sovereignty, answerable only to your Steward. It speaks of /treason/, Duke Mikin, and it will end. The question I pose to you is how you wish it to end... for if the fury that the Emperor has for our cousin is terrible, you have yet to imagine how worse it could get."

Althea Weaver steps into the Mastery of the Vozdhya Keep and is taken aback by the array of nobles there. She hovers near the door, unsure whether to stay or leave, her own concerns weighed against the obvious tension of the room. She can see that all eyes are on a man richly dressed and armored, and recognizing the Imperial armor from her days at the Court of Baroness Damiante Nillu, she bows deeply, her hands at her sides, her palms turned outward, and her fingertips brushing the ground. She does not speak, instead waits, bowed and waiting for recognition or no. It does not matter to her. She simply waits.

Markus Kahar stares blankly at Serath, his eyes burning with embarrassment and anger - that is - until the mention of shadow-guards starts. Markus turns his attention to Alieron, "What... what is he talking about? Duke Mikin would never do such a thing. What is this, Alieron? What has Hurin done?"

... Markus barely even registers Althea's entrance, there being the ghost of a dead Kahar in the room.

Very gradually, the gaze of concentration in the Duchess's eyes weakens, her pale lips during down in a look of horror. If what this apparation says is true...Her other knee falters, bringing it to bear also upon the ground heavily. The jolting change in posture jerks a choked cry from her throat, but it catches midway, her chest tightening beyond belief. Hurin? Hurin whom she...

Rowena's eyes tear up swiftly in two forms of pain, the physical drawn from the popping of a stitch as she sucks in a violent breath. While the men discuss the wicked probability, Zareef the mongoose scampers out of the way as his mistress melts to the floor, blackness swallowing her vision.

Lucius Nepos is utterly confused by the volleys of speech that go on between the nobles. He decides to take the "plunge". Backing up several feet, he bows deeply, very deeply to Serath. Although his hands remain a few inches from the ground - perhaps as leeway to if he ever saw the Emperor. After which, the Guardsman rushes over to attend the the Duchess as she collapses on the ground. Again, unsure of what do to. Lots of uncertainties tonight.

Zareef sniffs at Rowena's hair, his own fur bristling with an uncanny sense. Skirting a wide radius around the 'ghost', the mongoose scuttles over to the next of kin, Alieron.

Alieron Mikin looks momentarily surprised, then glances up at Markus, then to his sister, and then his gaze returns to Serath. He clears his throat, lowering his head, "I believe he refers that my Steward has created a secret guard in order to seek out, and purge Light's Reach of those who are believed to be collaborating with the Zahirs." He looks up at Serath, "Though their intention was to root out treachery within Light's Reach, nay is there any intent to commit treason. I would never act against the Emperor's will." He shakes his head slightly, looking over now noticing his sister as she collapses. He rushes over to her, glancing back at Serath before kneeling down to see what is wrong.

Adosh pads around in a circle before settling on its haunches.

Zareef chitters and sticks its tail out.

Markus Kahar stares at the 'ghost' now, "... so is this what you wished to accomplish? Do what you must do, then leave us in peace. I know not your reasons, but, this is my house. If you *are* a Kahar, then you understand the concept of hospitality."

As Rowena is hefted into a chair by the guards, she flutters open her lashes again to cast a dazed look at Alieron. "It isn't true..." she whispers. "I *warned* you of touching the statue. I knew things would worsen.." Trailing off, she pants softly, breathing hindered by both a prominent sting of her wound and pesky boundaries of the gown.

Althea looks up when she hears the Duchess fall. Keeping her head down and her body bowed at the waist, she scurries to Rowena's side. Seeing blood bloom on the Duchess's gown, she takes the cap off her head and presses to gently to her side. She places her free hand on the woman's forehead, pale as it is, and strokes it gently. She turns to Lucius. "She needs water, Lucius," she says. She glances at the nobles around here. "Please," her green eyes sparkle gold.

"You believe correctly." The three words, spoken darkly, stand out in the quiet that follows Alieron's admittance, and his subsequent dash to his sister. The Horsemaster himself, however, retains his perfectly commanding stance, continuing the side-long glance upon the Duke of Light's Reach. "The very fact that they have been mustered is treason, Duke Mikin. That they were mustered in secret *outside* of your Ducal Guard, that they are abducting /innocent/ citizens of the Crown as they deem fit, answering only to your /Steward/ is dark treason indeed. You may defend the actions of your Steward until there are no more actions to defend, Duke Mikin, but mark my words and mark them well:"

He pauses for a few moments, then presents the ultimatum, "You will disband this secret militia, allow the Zahir back into Light's Reach until they are proven guilty, and you will explain yourself to the Emperor, including why a Steward - a Freelander - was allowed to amass and command so much power. You will do this, or one morning you will awaken to hear not the song of birds, but the thunder of hooves as we remove this shadow militia /for/ you, lest you start a House war that you cannot hope to control. And I warn you now Duke Mikin, that it will not be I who lead that charge."

After getting Rowena into a chair, the Captain of the Guards gives Althea a hefty nod and quickly moves to order a guardsman to go fetch a pale of water. Quickly. Lucius himself steadies the woman and tries to make her comfortable before moving back towards his Duke and the 'action'.

The Baron Warlan Lomasa, eyes adjusting to the torchlight, takes a moment at the door. Seeing the assembled nobles, his shoulders straighten and he takes four steps into the Mastery. Bowing first to his host he then acknowledges each noble assembled as is there due. His eyes land last on the prostrate form of the Duchess Mikin. Turning back to the Duke Kahar he speaks, "Your grace, I perhaps have come at a inopportune time. I had heard you would be entertaining visitors this eve." Resting steady eyes on the form of the man in the fine armor, he moves to speak again. Then, with the smallest of twitches to his eyebrows, falls silent.

As the Lady Rowena falls, the Duke of House Kahar rushes to her side, calling for guards to bring water and pillows. He barely registers the Lomasa Baron, his attention mostly concentrated on the hellish aberration of poetic retribution currently ruining his party. With few other options left, he calls out, "... prepare a room!" Lady Rowena, can you walk?"

"Yes.." Rowena mutters, and pushes aside Althea's hands and Markus's attentions to peep down her gown. "It is only small...the flesh has healed more than last." In an effort to sit, she casts the dead man a wary eye. "We wish for no war. I had only heard of the lockdown but a night ago, lest I would have spoken with the Steward myself. I haven't been able to.."

Althea sets back on her haunches, obeying the Duchess, and withdrawing her hands. Her head remains down and her voice silent. Her small concerns becoming smaller each passing moment. A slight blush has touched her cheeks, the only indication that she feels embarrassed to be privy to such noble outbursts.

The guardsman sent to retrieve water has returned - another, sent very recently returns with pillows that were in the mastery at much the same time. The water is put down on the ground near Rowena, and the pillows are placed in strategic positions. Lucius Nepos himself moves in cadence with Markus. "Shall we move her, your grace?"

Markus Kahar nods, "Yes, lets." The Duke gestures to Lucius, "On three, upstairs, to the guest bedroom. Ready?"

The Baron Lomasa stands where he stopped. Staring with little etiquette at the man in the Imperial Horsemaster's armor. He eyes travel the face, then move to the armor, noting dents and dings, now well polished, but giving hint that this armor was not for show only. Eyes rising again to the stern face, now turned to other attentions, he solemnly drops to one knee, hand on breast, stern eyes on the boots of the Horsemaster, returned from the dead.Lucius Nepos nods steadfastly. "Ready, your grace." He wraps his hands around Rowena's arms.

Alieron Mikin watches Rowena, still his attention on his sister, he backs away as she is helped by others. He turns quickly, abruptly toward Seraph. He looks at him directly, stating solemnly, "I will take any action which the Emperor commands, and that will clear the Mikin name of any wrong doing before the Throne." He stares at him, awaiting a response from the armored man. His face is one of utmost seriousness, with some sadness.

As Rowena is lifted, she shakes her head at Alieron. "Please don't harm him..." She whispers, lip trembling in grave realization of what Hurin's acts are going to bring to him. "He meant well, I am sure."Althea scoots aside to allow the men to carry the Duchess away. She remains kneeling, the blood soaked cap in her hands, her head still bowed, her voice still silent.

The Horsemaster watches Alieron intently, and at the solemn words of the Duke of Light's Reach, the expression that once rested upon the visage of the Sovereign Kahar softens a little; his tone following suit, regaining a warmth of compassion. "Then you are a wiser man than your Steward, Duke Mikin, and I expected nothing less." He sighs deeply, before a light shake of his head breaks that dark sound of tension, the glimmer of a somber smile caressing his enduring features. "Act with swift vigilance, and perhaps you will avoid both the fury of the Emperor, and the wrath of Zahir. These are not the times for the foolish actions of which your Steward has embarked upon."

And carry away they do! Lucius and the Duke march out of the room with the Duchess, promptly rushing her to the guest room. The other two guards bring buckets of water, and another guard is sent to fetch the keep's healer. Althea remains kneeling on the floor.

Alieron Mikin offers a slight bow to Serath, "If you are as you seem to be, then we welcome you with open arms. Perhaps as you say, there is darkness among us, some of which is able to spread because of the confusion in the realm in these times." He sighs deeply, "I must rest now, I am weary. I will travel to Fastheld Keep to make my report to the Emperor as soon as I am able." He turns toward the doors, beginning to walk slowly out.

Serath watches Alieron depart with an expression that speaks of nothing; though, considering the Zahir suspicion abound in Light's Reach, a glimmer of remote sympathy does briefly play upon his features. But such dark thoughts are put aside for now, and the Horsemaster's attention instead falls upon the waiting Baron Lomasa as Alieron slinks around him. It is to he, then, that Serath Kahar paces towards now, his step lighter than it was when he arrived, the Helm of the Horsemaster still held firmly under his left arm. "Stand, Warlan Lomasa; A Horselord, though forgotten, need not kneel before me."

Return to Season 2 (2004)

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