Courtyard <Vozhd Keep>

A crumbling, four-foot high wall with handcrafted iron gates opens to reveal the manorial courtyard. Centered amid the cut grass is a gurgling fountain: the water pouring forth from a spilled gourd as a resplendent wildcat victoriously presses his paw upon it.

A table holding a bottle of wine has been set near the fountains and the air is heavy with the scent of fruit blossoms. Birds chatter in the breeze and the reflection of torchlight creates a golden glow through the manse windows. Blooming flowers intertwine with the thick ivy that covers the far wall.

The various fruit trees planted - plums and apples, as well as figs and olives - scent the air about the courtyard. Other gates are visible, one leading back out to the township and the other an entryway to the manor itself.

Sinon Lomasa rides Cinnamon in from Entrance to Vozhd Keep.

Markus Kahar nods his head to Jacib, "Excellent, that'll be more then fine. Contact me when appropriate, good sir. We'll speak later."

Jacib nods, and sets off toward the gate out of the courtyard at a brisk walk.

Cinnamon comes trotting through the gates, fresh foam at its mouth from pressed riding. Its rider, the Duke of East Leg Sinon Lomasa, reins his mount in and surveys the courtyard briefly before dismounting.

Jacib heads into Entrance to Vozhd Keep.

In the cold winter snow, the august Duke waits patiently in the Courtyard, dismissing one workmen only to wait for another. Markus clutches his cloak tight around his body, his hand resting on the oranmented pommel of his sword. The evening is silent and still, and tiny snowflakes fall upon his hair, catching in the strands of peppered gray. His breath turns to steam, and still, he waits.

Grasping his horse's reins, the Lord Lomasa leads it a little off the pathway before patting it on the neck and leaving it to itself; he must put great trust into the steed's training to leave it unsupervised like that. All his attention is centered on the Duke of Vozhdya, whom he approaches with wide strides.

Markus Kahar waits patiently, and when the Duke of the Lomasa approaches, he nods to his guardsmen to let him pass. Entirely dispensing with formalities, Markus calls out, "... the evening is late and the weather is cold, and now the patriarch of the House Lomasa rides to Vozhdya. Things are grim indeed. I assume, then, you've spoken to the Emperor."

The mien of Sinon Lomasa is everything but cheerful as he steps up close, nodding once in a similar dispense of formalities between two nobles of approximately same rank. "Indeed," he says quietly. "I received a summons no later than midday that very same day, and made for the palace posthaste."

Markus Kahar nods, the steam erupting from his nostrils. "And?"

Sinon Lomasa shakes his head. "I do not think it is necessary to paint you a picture, Your Grace," he replies, glancing gatewards. "But His Majesty made quite clear that he expects the issue... resolved... by month's end. By my own hand."

Markus Kahar clicks his tongue, "No. I insist, that it be resolved by *my* hand. It seems you walk away unscathed, I have lost both the love of my cousin and my leadership of the Bladesmen. I may never again hold an Imperial position. For the forseeable future, my career is over. This girl has ruined me."

"No," Sinon says with a completely even tone of voice. "You will not do anything to that effect. It is I who is under Imperial order to resolve this issue; and that alone is why I seem unscathed to your eyes. His Majesty commanded me, expressis verbis, to find my niece, lay her in chains, and before the month is over, wield the axe that will sever her Shadow-addled head from her rump. There is none for you to do in it. I'll not have it."

Markus Kahar hisses miserably, "... so, then, I'll have no amends. My career is in tatters, and this stupid girl's blood cannot even fill my cup. What then will you have me do; there is nothing left."

"There is the hope that once life has left her and the grip she held over us with her wicked powers has vanished fully at last, the situation will be considered done. For me, only another spotch on an already stained vest -- there is naught that could tarnish a tarnish'd reputation further. For you, maybe the first, maybe not the last. In either way, it is clear that she was Tainted after all. We were grossly mistaken and abused. That case may do us good." The Duke of East Leg takes a breath, brushing a lock of hair out of his forehead. "Yet, I have to find her first. Time runs, and the Imperial patience has been proven to be thin these days."

Markus Kahar arches a brow, "... so she -was- touched? Then cut her down with all expediency. The last time I saw her was in Light's Reach. She is a stupid creature; I am sure that is where you could find her now."

"Nay," Sinon says with a shake of his head. "I come thence. She was not seen there since she left for the Emperor in her ploy to charm him, too. She passed through here, I'm certain, but whereto I know not."

Markus Kahar says, "The frontier, perhaps. A new city was founded on the northern river. Hawk's... something or other. You will find her, doubtless. May I make a request, however...""

"Hmmm?" Sinon replies, lifting a brow.

Markus Kahar's smile turns cruel and dark, "... before you kill her, when she is still very-much alive, do this one thing for me. Send me her head. Salt it, and send it to me. Give an old man this comfort."

Markus Kahar adds, "... you say you will cut off her head. If this is to be her means of death, then I implore you... grant me this."

Sinon Lomasa levels an even glance at Markus Kahar, and only after a while nods, slowly. "If His Majesty does not have other plans... So be it."

Markus Kahar nods, "I'll hold you to that. If there is nothing else, then allow me to offer you shelter for the night. The ride is too much, too far, at this hour."

Sinon Lomasa glances up, towards his horse, and nods. "My thanks. I'll see my horse stabled and then try to enjoy your hospitality to the fullest."

Markus Kahar nods, "Excellent. By all means, then."

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