Imperial Suite <Fastheld Keep>
A spacious chamber that serves as the innermost sanctum of the most important individual in the realm of Fastheld: Emperor Talus Kahar.
The room includes two washbasins, multiple chamber pots that servants frequently replace for cleaning, twin wardrobes for clothing, and a four-post bed with an arched white canopy, polished brownwood headboard, thick beige blankets and comfortable fowl-feather pillows. Two angled writing tables are in two corners, where the Emperor or his assigned scribe may transcribe correspondence.
High wooden doors lead out into the quarters corridor, while a pair of smaller doors open onto the suite's private balcony overlooking the residence's courtyard.
If walls had ears, what stories would they tell? If they had a voice to tell them, well... it might just sound like the one that speaks from somewhere beyond the walls of the Imperial Chamber. A pragmatic tone of voice indeed, one that holds an accent not of Fastheld. Somber, yet mixed with an underlying confidence that betrays a danger all too apparent in the physical aspect of the man that owns it.
"That is the custom, I believe? Knock, knock? Am I supposed to also knock something first?"
With a sigh, a the ghostly visage of Zanorin Drakesfire peeks through the far wall, glancing around for any sign of the Emperor, soon followed by an equally translucent staff, gauntlet, and the rest of his phase-shifted body. "Why would one wish to knock something? Perhaps you Fastheldians are more destructive than you realize.
Talus Kahar blinks as he glances up from reading a tome opened on his writing desk. He scowls in the wizard's direction. "We knock so as not to intrude on the privacy of others." His eyebrows flicker upward.
The Archmage tilts his head to the left as if contemplating this strange custom, before dismissing it with a casual smile and a slight shrug of his transparent shoulders as he slowly paces through the Emperor's bed. "I would have knocked on your door, but I think the soldiers posted there would have taken issue with it." His visage darkens for a moment. "THAT would have been messy. But I digress."
Talus Kahar nods. He closes the tome on his desk and stands to face the Archmage. "Welcome back to Fastheld."
"I thank you for your greeting." Zanorin quite pleasantly replies while making himself solid again, shifting between the realms of that which is real, and that which is between whatever "there" is that permits such acts of shadow. Regardless, he doesn't seem all too bothered by the shifting. "Wildlings are not so courteous, I've found. However, exiles of Fastheld are, it would seem."
"Fastheldians are sticklers for courtesy, by and large, at least among the nobility," the Emperor allows with a wry smile. He gestures to the sitting area, with the couch and several chairs. "Want to sit?"
"I prefer to remain standing." the Archmage purrs, raising his left hand - the one of flesh - to politely dismiss the offer, keeping the other firmly clasped around the Obsidian Stave that remains as much a part of him as his organic side, it would seem. The reflective metal shimmers with the flickering of light.
He waits for a few moments as a silence permeates the conversation, and then gets to the heart of the matter. "My reasons for being here are two fold, Talus Kahar." he begins, "The first is the deliver on a promise I made, while the second is slightly more pressing, and so I shall begin there. The Lady, in her infinite wisdom, believes that the Dark Wildling presence in Fastheld at this moment in time is because, much like those who came before them, they are seeking the means to an end."
"What end?" Talus asks, walking past the archmage to instinctively peer out the balcony to check for any more dark intruders.
Zanorin clasps both hands upon the Obsidian Staff that he now holds in front of him, an expression of darkness crossing his visage. His tone becomes grave indeed. "The return of Kas'arath the Ravager."
Talus Kahar doesn't immediately turn from his perusal of the balcony when Zanorin speaks the words, but his shoulders tighten and his fingers clench into fists. He relaxes them slowly, uncurling the fingers as he turns and stares at the Archmage. "How? How would that even be possible?"
"That's what I intend to find out." Zanorin watches Talus in a sidelong manner as the Emperor paces around, his posture shifting little as he relays the apparent suspicions of Kalath'aria. "Although it may cross a few lines of theology along the way. Sadly, the answers to the many questions may even now be beyond reach. What was the relationship between the Instrumentalist and the Ravager? Who was She Who Protects? We're they both aspects of the same creature? The Lady is not very forthcoming in that regards."
Talus Kahar frowns, but nods. "Great. So, we've got clever Wildlings who learn how to use our weapons and our armor, and now they want to bring back the drake that wrecked Light's Reach and hauled me beyond the Aegis. Fabulous."
The Archmage allows himself a soft smile. "Oh, it's not all bad. The Wildlings may have learned basic things about your people, such as helmets being worn on the /head/ and so forth, but I seriously doubt they've mastered the secrets of the arcane Shadow. Those who are born with that gift have more power, I'm sure." He shrugs again, causing the bottom of his longcoat to sway with the action. "Regardless, the Lady has a vested interest in maintaining harmony, and would be unlikely to allow such a thing to pass. Until she lands in your Empire, you can sleep safe in the knowledge that everything is fine."
Talus Kahar chuckles. "If only that were the only problem I faced."
"Well," Zanorin spreads his hands, still clasping the Obsidian Staff with his gauntleted right one, "Everything in /that/ regard, at least."
Talus Kahar smirks. He walks over to the table and pours himself a goblet of wine. "Faeyd has fallen ill. The Luminary is in disarray. And they've captured some kind of monstrous spider thing that they say caused Faeyd's illness. That ring any chimes for you?"
"Not one." The Archmage honestly replies, a smile akin to that of a Fox spreading across his features as he continues to track the Emperor's every movement. Paranoia, or just honest caution? "Friends of yours? Sans the Spider, of course." Talus Kahar shakes his head. "I wouldn't call them friends. But, at the moment, I consider them allies. Bad enough the Church is starting to develop rogue elements now that it has started crumbling; if the Luminary falls apart, matters will only get worse."
Zanorin inclines his head as if in thought, considering these words as a mentor might contemplate the questions of a student. "I see." he intones, before finally casting his gaze back towards the Emperor. "Monstrous spider thing."
Talus Kahar nods slowly. "Correct. Sahna Nillu would be a good person to talk to at some point about it, if you're so inclined."
A flash of recognition flares within Zanorin's dusty blue gaze. "Ah, the wildcat. No, I'd rather not speak to that one again. She /hungers/ for power, I can see it in every aspect of her being. More than that, she presumes to threaten me." His smile broadens greatly. Threateningly so. "As if I can be labeled as a criminal for being touched by the Shadow. The irony."
"Yes, well, right now she's all that stands between order and chaos," Talus replies with a shrug. "If Faeyd dies, she is the likely inheritor of his position." He knits his eyebrows and glances over at the Archmage. "She's the one who asked me to bring this up with you, if that matters."
"I'm afraid it does not." Zanorin offers, ending the statement with a derisive shrug, "I have no desire to assist a spattering of novices. If things get too bad, then perhaps I shall become involved. Until that time, though, I have much more pressing matters to attend to than those that involve spiders and designs for power." He tilts his head to the left, and then blinks as something occurs to him, "Oh. Except for one trivial matter."
Talus Kahar nods, settling back into his chair at the writing desk.
The Archmage reaches down with his left hand to a pouch that rests upon his belt, unclips it, and proceeds to fish around inside for whatever is contained within... which is revealed a moment later in the form of a perfectly flawless sphere of black and orange quartz, patterned in a tiger-strip manner. He holds it up for inspection. "The other side of the Gateway."
"Ah, splendid," the Emperor replies, studying the pattern of the orb. "And this won't scatter me in bits and pieces all over the realm?"
"In some fantasy where I had designs for your assassination, it could do. It could also destroy half of the realm, in such tales." Zanorin smiles once more, shaking his head, "But no. This is a simple Gateway marker of a kind that predates the Cataclysm, so I believe. This marks one end. The other, well, I imagine you can figure that out. It can be keyed to be used by two people. Currently, this one is blank. The key, and the keyword, will be entirely of your design."
"And how does one set it properly?" Talus asks.
"Ah, right." Zanorin states, as if that part of the whole "how to use" part didn't occur to him beneath all the technical issues. He glances around the room and, after finding a suitable location for the placement of the sphere, places the item on the polished brownwood headboard near to the Emperor's bed. From another pouch on his belt he produces a wooden stand for the sphere to rest in without rolling away. The gold plaque on that stand reads: 'Silvan Nevrast'
"Just place your palm on the sphere, and speak a keyword - while alone, I might add - and then do the same again, from that point on, to open the gateway between here, and your home in Crown's Refuge."
The knowing look upon his features as he mentions Crown's Refuge hints at something he's not mentioning, but it doesn't seem to be anything malicious.
"The second person who can use it, they just do the same thing?" Talus asks.
"Naturally." Zanorin answers, without looking back.
Talus Kahar nods slowly, getting up from his chair and walking over to the wooden stand so he can stare at the orb again. "Works in any weather? Any time of day or night?"
"As I understand it." The Archmage, satisfied that the location of the Silvan Nevrast is ideal, nods to himself and looks back upon the Emperor that now stands beside him. "Once pressed, a gateway should open..." he gestures to the middle of the Chamber, "There. It should seem like a doorway, with your home in Crown's Refuge on the other side, and vice-versa. Take care not to move the sphere, however, as the gateway always opens a fixed distance away from the source of its marker, and you wouldn't like to step into a wall, or into the middle of a tree, upon the other side."
"Ah, okay, I see," the Emperor replies. "And what happens if someone the sphere doesn't recognize touches it?"
Zanorin smiles at that. "Nothing." That, and the simplicity of it all. "To anyone else, it should seem like a very exquisite ornament."
"All right," Talus says at last, sighing. "Good. Thank you."
"Think nothing of it." With that, Zanorin Drakesfire turns and paces back towards the middle of the room, casting a quick glance at the horizon beyond the view of the balcony, and then draws to a halt, turning to regard the Emperor once more. "I doubt we will see each other again for a while, Talus Kahar, so do take care."
Talus Kahar nods in acknowledgement of the wizard. "Farewell, Zanorin. Give my regards to the Lady."
The Archmage smiles one more time. A somewhat dark smile it is as well, one sparked by amusement related to the departing words of the Emperor. Yet, with a tap of that Obsidian Staff upon the ground, and a rumble of distant thunder, such cryptic shows are swiftly nothing more than a memory.
Just like Zanorin himself.
Left alone for the moment, Talus Kahar stares quietly at the orb on its stand. He turns his right hand, palm down, so that it hovers above the sphere. It doesn't quite touch the surface - not just yet. He draws back the hand, walks to the door and opens it. He tells Emmon to go downstairs and request that tea be and dinner be sent up. His chief guard knits a brow, but complies. Talus watches the guard disappear down the stairs, then closes the door and returns to the orb. He places his hand fully upon the orb, flesh touching stone, and then he whispers something under his breath. The deed is done. The link is made.
Return to Season 3 (2005)