The Bronze Hall – The Imperial Palace
The ancestral home of the legendary Imperial Horsemen, this ancient hall is long and wide, filled with shadows and half lights; mighty pillars upholding its lofty roof; but here and there bright sunbeams or elegant moonbeams fall in glimmering shafts from the eastern windows, high under the deep eaves. Louvers in the roof permit thin wisps of smoke that issue from the flames of the torches that hold sentry upon the many support pillars to escape into the world beyond.
The floor is paved with stones of many elegant hues; branching runes and ornate floral etchings intertwined beneath your feet. The pillars are richly carved, gleaming brightly with reddish-gold and silver, and holdupon them beautifully flowing sunburst motifs, entwined with stars and botanical designs. The relic shields and weapons of Horselords long passed rest upon these pillars, at once both solemn and proud and they stand guard over the hall, and all that walk within it.
Maintaining an appearance of being thatched in bronze, the hall is at once both regal and majestic,caressed in recurrent horse motifs of many highly stylized forms that accentuate the sinewy strength of the animal upon which the Horsemen are so dependent. The finials on the roof cut dramatic silhouettes, while the raised dais of the Horsemaster and the two Horselords stands at the far end of the hall, resting empty now that the Horsemen ride no longer. Great doors, etched with flowing decorations that graphically commemorate the events of riders of the past, ensure that this place of honor and deed never fall victim to attack.
Varal stands in the center of the Bronze Hall. Draped over one arm the tabard and cloak of the Imperial Crown. However, the Valoria's attention is riveted on the platinum ring he holds in one hand.
Armored steps echo through the hall as the Grand Master, Norran Lomasa, makes his way calmly in from outside. He carries a somewhat unamused expression, bowing his heads to those that wander the hall as he glances around. Once he takes notice of Varal, his disinterest seems to fade momentarily, a grin retaking his face. "So. They let you in, and gave you a few gifts. My congratulations on surviving Varius, Sir Valoria."
Varal blinks, then turns to Norran. "Indeed they did. I guess my reputation as a fighter was enough to cover my rough edges," he states with some amusement, making it seem that the statement is far from true. "But. More importantly. I don't have to wear all this stuff, do I? I have a nice chest to hide them in."
"The tabard and that cloak are your uniform. The signet, a badge. Only when you're on duty and wearing armor, I suppose. I'd keep the signet with you at all times, however, just in case you need to prove yourself while you're wearing regular clothing, also for correspondance. Things of that nature, you understand," explains Norran, breathing a sigh as he gazes about the hall. "This place feels more like a museum than a hall of Knights. Our headquarters is being constructed in Elkmont as we speak, that place should be far more agreeable. However, you needn't worry of that. For now, I ought to give you your duties," begins Norran, stopping as he nears and glancing over a particular sword on display. "Due to your previous experience, and as suggested by the Prince of the Blood, I'm founding an organization as a sort of aside to the Order to reinforce them. An Adventurer's Guild, a sort of mercenary group, one designated to hire people on a mission-related basis to assist Knights of the Crown in their duties should they require the assistance. By no means an overly militant organization like the Blades where you're told how to live, sleep and eat, and its ranks open to all. They'd be unable to act with much authority of their own, and aide other Knights in their duties, ranks more or less open to all. I'd like you to become the Guild's Captain."
"Adventurers Guild. An organization of mages, misfits, and Wildlanders. And you want me to try to keep tabs on that unruly rabble. You'll be the death of me, Grandmaster," Varal says, half-sighing. "Then again, with my tendency to go on little adventures, I can see why you want me." There's a long pause. "What exactly does it mean to be the Guild Captain, then?"
"You seemed so very fond of mercenary work, I thought I'd let you continue! For the greater good of the Empire this time, instead of on your own whims," explains Norran, his tone amused as he gives a shrug of his shoulders. "You'll be in charge. Assignments, recruitment, finding work. I'll leave it in your capable hands."
Varal laughs, almost as though it's the only choice but crying. "So. Basically. Form the Adventurer's Guild and make it work. Determine what it should do. A small order, really." He pauses a moment. "We'll need a base of operations, I guess. I assume we'l be operating mostly in the Wildlands?"
"The Wildlands? I suspect you'll be mostly operating in Fastheld, though I'm certain the outlands might occur should a Knight-Errant find his duties take him there. The main purpose of the Guild is to aide other Knights, and I suppose that includes yourself. It's that simple, really." Norran pauses for a moment, a gauntleted hand reaching to stroke his beard, before he continues, "As for a base of operations, I'll see to appropriating one. For now, however, you're free to use whatever space is available in the Tribunal to the south, or any of the forts rifled about in your immediate area of operation. You needn't rush."
Varal nods. "I guess the core of the Torchbearers will make a decent start. I'll appropriate most of them to the Silverwatch, though. I think there may also be room in Light's Watch, although I'm not sure how appropriate a location it will be. It might make the wrong impression."
"Well! The best way to do things, in my mind, is to charge recklessly into the situation and then simply eliminate the consequences. Hasn't failed me once," proudly notes the Lomasa, although his tone /hopefully/ alludes to an ulterior motive of underlying humor. "We'll see what you do with it, Sir Valoria. If you do anything wrong, I'll simply let you know. Now! The final bit of business I'd like to ask of you is for you to tell me, if you could, any of the miscellanious things you may have been up to as of recently that the Order should see to, convert your personal workload to ours, if you wouldn't mind."
"Most of what I have been doing I have reported to the Royal Order. There's a smuggler named Nightslider who appears to be moving large amounts of banned substances. There are the dead ravens. And, as always, I do my utmost to keep my eyes on the mages about. And if trouble crops up, I will probably go to find it and do what I can to kill it," Varal responds. "I will probably write up some sort of proclamation looking for Adventurers if I don't stumble on enough of them. How big do you want this guild?"
Norran folds his hands behind his back, eyes cast upward as he apparently thinks. "The Order has been limited by the Prince at 500 Knights. So, this organization should be sufficient enough to provide their reinforcement as they so choose it. Not /simultaneously/, mind you, such a situation is what the Guard is for. I'll leave the judgment up to you. So long as the Guild retains those guidelines and you keep to the code, I trust wherever you may choose to take it." At Varal's other words, he ponders for another moment. "I've kin of mine, Baron Pardus Lomasa, currently investigating the manner of the Ravens on his own. If you'd like to investigate the matter, he's young but quite eager, and he's in our House's Order, aspiring to be a Knight of the Crown. He might also be a perfect candidate for the Guild. It's quite a mystery up there, as I understand. As for this smuggler...where, exactly? So long as none of the Houses would have their feathers ruffled, you're free to peruse that matter with my authority and see that he is brought to justice."
Varal nods slowly. "This Nightslider was operating in a cave off of the Imperial Thoroughfare. I stumbled across it, and felt it was unwise to deal with it myself. Enough men that I couldn't handle it too easily, and I was still injured from the latest jaunt from the Wildlands. Better part of valor and all. I informed the Guard, but I'm assuming he escaped. So, we're not in any real position there. As for the Ravens, I don't know how I feel. I will talk to this Pardus, see what I can find. I do not think there's much to work on yet with that. As much as anything else, I'm not sure a crime was really committed except for lighting a large fire that could have gotten out of control."
"It was a disturbing display, despite. I doubt the sort of minds that would dare such a thing would simply stop at ravens. It's best that such a mystery is brought to light rather than left to fester in the darkness, correct?" supposes the Grand Master aloud, quirking a brow as he turns his head to look at Varal, the silence broken by a boisterous laugh. "Better part of valor? Are you certain you aren't growing old? I'm surprised to avoided such a thing, but yes, I suppose it's what a /sane/ man should have done, so I'll abdicate to your wisdom. I understand you'll be quite busy. We'll let the Guard handle the matter of the smuggler, but I'll send a Knight-Errant if it gets worse. I'd go myself, but simple investigation isn't as easy as it once was. The pauldrons, you see."
"Well, maybe I am getting old. I think the Light is the only thing keeping me limber anymore. We certainly aren't young and fresh like we once were. Light, my scars ache from time to time," Varal admits. "But, it doesn't mean I can't turn most anyone in the realm into a bloody mess with my bare hands. And I'm sure, if we get bored enough, we can find a bandit camp to turn into minced meat."
"Mayhap. Well, then, that's about all I'll keep you for. You're free to continue on, Sir Valoria," Norran surmises, grinning as he looks toward the exit. "And, Sir Valoria, if you ever need just another man I'd appreciate you inviting me along. I'll never be the sort to sit behind a desk like Hartnek or stand about this Hall all day. My blades would never forgive me."
"As much as it hurts me to admit it, you are the best swordsman in the realm. Earl Lomasa. It would be a foolish choice not to bring you to a fight," Varal states with a grin. "Although, I have a few tricks. We ought to spar sometime."
"Not cheating with your foolery, I hope. Must such a thing be necessary against a mere mortal such as I?" queries Norran in mock-innocence, his grin wide and obvious. "Regardless, Shadow, Light and the mundane never mattered to me. I've fought against all three, fought with all three, loved all three. A battle is a battle. Tactics are shifted for the appropriate target, but personally, it doesn't matter which is fought. I'll do what I must.
Varal nods. "Exactly. The Light gives me speed, but it does not beat skill - merely matches it. The supernatural is so fearsome because it is unexpected, but the real advantage is mostly surprise."
"Death comes to all, however, so in the end the result is more important than how you got there," replies Norran with a sigh, unfolding his hands and making his way toward the Shrine. "I'm due a talk with Varius. I'll see you soon, I'm certain, keep me aprised of your duties if you could. Light be with you, Sir Valoria."
"A pleasure, Grandmaster. Have a good evening. Light Watch and Bless," Varal replies with a bow.