Hedgehem Constabulary (Forest District)

When an outsider commits an offense against the property or person of a member of House Zahir or when two Zahir kinfolk cannot settle a dispute through negotiations, their issues are brought before the Constable. It is her role to hear the facts involved in a dispute, to question the accused, the aggrieved and any available witness, and then to make a ruling.
This chamber, contained within a structure of quarried gray stone, has a raised biinwood platform where the Constable sits in judgment, chairs for witnesses, a holding cell for prisoners, and four long pews for members of the public to assemble and observe the proceedings.

Tomassa Zahir sits upon her chair behind her platform, feet up on the table. She sorts through a bunch of parchments in her hands, frowning.

Jacib enters from outside, his cloak fastened about his shoulders. He takes a few moments to look around before starting for the front of the room and the platform.

Tomassa Zahir barely glances up from her paperwork, scowl still in place. "Aye?" she snaps. "What is it?"

"My name's Jacib Carver, m'lady," the carpenter says without preamble. "Y' sent me a letter requesting my services."

Tomassa Zahir looks up, sharply, one eyebrow languidly arching upward. "Aha," she says, her scowl fading somewhat as she lowers the parchment. The Lioness shifts her feet to the floor and sits up, leaning forward to peer down from her bench at Jacib. "It took you long enough," she points out with a slight smirk. "You are skilled?"

Jacib gazes back up at Tomassa evenly, his posture respectful though very slightly guarded. "Skilled, m'lady," he says, "'s understating."

Tomassa Zahir shuffles her paperwork off to the side and clasps her hands atop her desk. "Good," the woman replies in her husky contralto. "I have need of several things for my Keep. How soon can you begin the work?" she inquires as if there is no doubt in her mind that the offer of work will not be refused.

"I c'n begin th' work shortly," Jacib replies. "I'm finishing a bit 'f work in Vozhdya, but after that I'll be able t' start."

Tomassa Zahir's mouth purses and she studies Jacib for a long moment. "Very well. When you are done, bring yourself and an abundance of supplies and tools to my Keep - Bramblestone." She narrows her eyes, expression darkening as she adds, "You might know it better as Craven Rock, but that is -not- its name. I shall be needing a wardrobe, perhaps more than one, several trunks, a throne for my Mastery... as I said - be prepared."

"Bramblestone," Jacib repeats. "About th' throne, m'lady--there're a few things I need t' ask about it. I'm going t' guess that y' want cushions on it--what color?"

Tomassa Zahir's eyebrow arches again as she considers her answer to that question. "Violet, I suppose, though I might actually prefer a sort of golden brown. After all, it will mostly be hidden by my ass when I'm /in/ it." Did she just make a joke? It's hard to tell by the woman's expression. "Use your best judgement. It would prefer that it had a, well, lion-like theme."

Jacib nods, covering a smile with a cough. "Best judgement. Right. 'nd would I be correct in supposing, m'lady,' th't y' want th' things that y' ordered in biinwood?"

Tomassa Zahir leans one elbow atop her desk and studies Jacib for a long, silent moment. "Do you think that is the best wood?" she finally asks. "I mean, why do you suggest biinwood?"

"Biinwood's what's usually asked for," the carpenter explains after a few moments of thought. "'t's strong, a lot 'f people like th' color, 'nd it's fairly easy t' work with."

The Lioness' mouth twitches at the corners. "And what if I don't wish to be like everyone else?" There is amusement in her bright copper eyes, but only a trace of it shows upon her face.

Jacib rubs at his chin as he replies. "'f that was what y' wished, m'lady, I might suggest oak 'r perhaps shardwood to y'."

"Of those two, which would you prefer to work with?" the woman asks, watching Jacib with faint interest. "Which is stronger and would hold up to more abuse?"

"Th' two are kind 'f exclusive, m'lady," Jacib replies with a half-smile. "Out 'f th' two, shardwood 's th' stronger one."

Tomassa Zahir rubs at her chin, slowly nodding. "Shardwood, then. However, if it proves too difficult to procure, then I shall settle for oak. I've always liked the look of oak. Prepare to spend quite a bit of time at my Keep, carpenter. I'll arrange for a room for you. There is much work to be done, I assure you."

"I doubt 't'll be too much trouble t' find shardwood, m'lady," Jacib replies. "I think 't deserves saying, though, th't shardwood 'sn't th' best-looking wood there is, unless a lot 'f time's spent on it."

The woman draws in a breath and seems to be trying to hang on to her patience. Slowly, as if speaking to a child, Tomassa says, "So, you're saying that I would be better off with oak? You could've simply said so in the first place."

"I'm not saying th't either 's better, m'lady," the carpenter replies. "Only th't shardwood'd take more effort t' make look good. Not," he continues quickly, "th't that's a bad thing."

Tomassa Zahir is seated at her bench, leaning forward to look down at Jacib who stands before it. "Bring some of both," she suggests. "Not everything needs to be made of shardwood. Oak is a perfectly fine choice as well." There's a touch of both impatience and humor upon her features.

Grinn Harwel enters the constabulary, bearing the badge of Sheriff upon his breast. For once he carries neither spear nor halberd, although a deadly array of knives line his baldric and belt. Quietly he slides his arms across his chest, peering at the carpenter from the doorway.

Jacib nods. "Some 'f both," he repeats, gesturing towards the door as he continues. "'f that's all, m'lady... ?"

Tomassa Zahir sits back in her chair, long fingers taking up the discarded parchment once again. "Aye, aye. Be on your way," she says with a glance toward the ceiling. "I will expect you soon at Bramblestone or I will have a letter explaining why you are not there."

"Or y' can explain it to me," Grinn pipes up, striding across the room toward the pair. "I think maybe it's best you just git the job done, though." He raises one his his large hands, flexing the calloused fingers. "Lady Zahir like's me fists unbroken, an' I'm sure you'd like t' keep your face in one piece as well, no?"

Jacib merely nods deeply to Tomassa and turns. As Grinn speaks, he nods again. "'t's a goal 'f mine," he replies as he strides for the door.

Tomassa Zahir quietly chuckles as Jacib begins to leave. "Don't overdo it, Harwel," she murmurs to her underling. "A letter will be sufficient... and if one isn't delivered, you can have your little hunt."

Grinn Harwel's eyes follow Jace up until the man's eventual departure, and then he shifts to face Tomassa, smirking faintly. "Refurnishin' Bramblestone, are we?"

Tomassa Zahir focuses her attention upon the parchment in her hand, trying not to look sheepish. "I had a bit of a temper tantrum," she mumbles as she folds the parchment and reaches for another.

Grinn Harwel's brow arches questioningly. "Oh?" He places his hand upon the large knife at his hip, smirk forming into a toothy grin. "Who brought that on? Might be I could make 'em think twice 'fore angerin' the good Lady Constable, hmm?"

Tomassa Zahir folds this parchment as well, before carefully lifting both and tucking them into a pouch at her belt. "It was nothing," she says in an attempt at a casual tone. She rises from her chair and says, "I'm finished here and shall be returning to Bramblestone. " Grinn Harwel studies the noblewoman suspiciously a moment longer, but lets the matter drop. "Y' won't be needing me for anythin' this eve, will ya?" He steps aside, clearing the path for Tomassa's exit and tugs ineffectually at his sagging belt.

Tomassa Zahir steps down from her platform and pauses, turning her curious attention to Grinn. An elegantly lifted eyebrow precedes her words. "You aren't returning to the Keep tonight?" she asks, hand absently checking the pouch upon her belt.

"Oh I will." Harwel leans the bulk of his weight against a nearby pew while brushing at the underside of his chin. "Just wonderin' if mayhaps you have something y'need taken care of before I retire. Wouldn't want t' leave the Contessa unsatisfied."

Tomassa Zahir's own smirk forms as she resumes her trip toward the door. "No, I'm sure you wouldn't," she drawls. A split-second later, she realizes how that sounded and the woman quickly adds, "Wish that. I'm sure you wouldn't /wish that/." The Contessa scowls as she feels her cheeks heat a bit and she attempts to cover it with a spurt of ill-humor. "Return to the Keep when you wish. I'm not your Keeper," she grumpily tacks on.

The sellsword pushes off from his perch, idly running a finger along the baldric crisscrossing his chest. The Lioness' words are not lost on him, and it is with no small amount of restraint that he does not snicker. After a moment's consideration he follows her out, steel boots thudding audibly.

Hedgehem Crossroads (Forest District)

Tall, slender spires of verdant green harvest pines flank Zahir Road as it straightens from its loops, bends, dips and twists long enough to meet up with Hedgehem Road, at a crossroads village that has helped fuel the legend of the House of Serpents over the centuries.

The buildings at Hedgehem Crossroads are constructed of smoky gray stone and roofed with shardwood slates, and most of the structures stand one-storey tall - the exception being the Nest, a two-storey tavern and inn catering to the tradesmen and vassals who pass through. Other buildings include Yalkul's Market, the Hedgehem Constabulary, a temple of the Church of True Light, and a smithy.

Tomassa Zahir stalks toward the stables where a stableboy scrambles to fetch her horse after catching a look at the Lioness' face. The woman pulls herself into the saddle, glares toward Grinn, and then urges her mount into a gallop.

Glory speeds off at a gallop toward the North.

Grinn Harwel emerges from the constabulary not long after the woman. A length of straw is produced from within the folds of his cloak and slipped into his mouth as he leans against the doorway, watching the road with passive interest.

At the Keep...

Tomassa Zahir rides Glory off toward Bramblestone Keep.

Bramblestone Keep (Bramblestone)

The gray stone walls of Bramblestone Keep rise on four sides, providing a protective barrier for the residents who dwell in this imposing edifice that has been tainted by the actions of a prior occupant: Goram Zahir.

During the first Wildling War, Goram Zahir and his allies betrayed Talus Kahar I and his army to the invaders from beyond the Aegis. Goram did this in the hopes of removing Kahar from power, but his effort backfired and earned him execution and his family the undying reputation of untrustworthy backstabbers.

An iron portcullis leads to the moors outside. An archway opens into the receiving hall of the fortress.

It is not long before a horse and rider can be seen emerging from the mists of Hedgehem Moors. For once in his life Grinn seems unsure of himself, clinging to Beauregard awkwardly as the beast more or less guides itself to their destination. Once there he slips unsteadily down the animal's side, taking the reins and leading it to the stables where it can be fed and watered.

Tomassa Zahir lingers in the archway as Grinn arrives. When she spies him, however, she turns to move into the Keep, striding into the light that spills out through the opened door.

Inside and up the stairs...

Lady Tomassa Zahir's Suite (Bramblestone)

This domed chamber, roughly forty by thirty square feet with walls festooned with purple and blue tapestries, is the dwelling of Tomassa Zahir.

A polished biinwood dressing screen, wardrobe and writing desk with cushioned chair surround a round canopy bed with six posts. The gray stone floor is largely covered by rugs made from the skins of snow and mud bears. The chamber also features a claw-footed washtub and a pot-bellied fireplace.

There is a muffled knocking upon the door leading to Out.

Tomassa Zahir yells, "What?"

From Residential Quarters, Grinn Harwel yells, "Hurum's sent me up with a tray of fresh bread. Says ye must be famished after such a day."

Tomassa Zahir yells, "Enter!" She Zahir has removed her armor and placed it upon a wooden mannequin for storage. She is presently undoing the cuffs of her cotton tunic as a servant pours a bucket of steaming water into the liquid that already rests within her claw-footed washtub. The Lioness wears a scowl as she works at the knots of the cuff to undo them. Her tunic is heavily wrinkled and moist with perspiration after being clamped to her body all day beneath her armor.

Grinn Harwel steps into the room and sure enough bears a tray of dark bread and a fluffy clump of butter. The chain hauberk and assortment of pointy objects normally worn by the gruff sellsword are notably absent, replaced by wool and cotton respectfully. "Pardons, but you looked a might pale at the Hedge..." he trails off, catching the woman in an inoportune moment (for her anyway), and finds himself at a loss for words.

"Worried about me, Sheriff?" the Contessa drawls without looking up from the puzzle of her cuff. She's already removed her boots and it appears that the woman wears nothing other than her tunic and a thin pair of cotton leggings. The servant girl looks over at the man, but puts down her bucket only to lift another and add it to the bath. She looks questioningly to the Lioness who says, "That will be all," before the girl can speak. Nodding, the servant collects her buckets and hastens from the room with her eyes downcast.

Stepping aside from the doorway, Harwel deposits the food upon Tomassa's desk. All the while his eyes remain riveted upon her, his features smoothing into placidity once the servant has departed. "Looks as though you need an extra set of hands," he comments dryly, approaching her with a subtle sense of caution and reaching for the cuffs with inexpert but oh-so thick fingers.

"Or a knife," the woman comments with equal dryness. The knot finally gives just a little, but Tomassa has to rest her fingers before making another try at it. Her hair is still caught back into its thick braid, but it has loosened from the strains of the day, wisps drifting here and there around her head. Frowning, Tomassa finally, distractedly, glances up at Grinn and it begins to dawn upon her that he is in her bedroom. And they are alone.

Grinn Harwel's touch is surprisingly gentle, the touch of a man who has come to terms with the fact that things break far too easily in his hands. He works at the knot now, allowing the Lioness to rest her fingers. "My Lady ought not work 'erself so. Not when she 'as a willin' lad to tend to her needs." He meets her gaze with a grin, a reassuring one, though his eyes are incapable of concealing what lies behind the calm facade.

Exhaling, Tomassa studies those eyes for an instant before quickly lowering her gaze to conceal what might be lurking in its coppery depths. Her arm is held out toward Grinn at a comfortable angle and she does not try to free herself from his attempts at undoing the knot on her cuff. "Half the Keep probably knows you are in here by now," she matter-of-factly murmurs.

Grinn Harwel tilts his head, bringing his lips close to the woman's ear. "I pinched th' bread an' crept in quiet as a mouse," he whispers gruffly, "Only one what saw me is that servant girl, an I've ways of keepin' her quiet." With a strong jerk he forces the knot undone, his reassuring countenance dissolved into a lewd sneer. "Now why don't you just slip into them relaxin' waters an' let ol' Grinn work th' knots out of yer muscles next."

Tomassa Zahir slowly lifts her eyes from Grinn's fingers to his face, one eyebrow climbing. "And what about our yelling?" she points out, though her voice is a little huskier than before. The woman pulls her wrist from the man's touch in an unhurried movement. "The last thing that I need is to cause another scandal for House Zahir at this time..." She speaks softly and with a patient speed, though the banked heat in her eyes is unmistakable. "We must remember our places, Sheriff."

Grinn Harwel's nostrils flare and he breathes a heavy sigh, his arm falling limp to his side. "The hour is late. Mayhaps... mayhaps no one heard?" His words are thick with uncertainty, as well as a tinge of bitterness. "You would not be left unappeased."

The banked heat in Tomassa's eyes surges, turning her gaze into twin pools of molten copper. "I know," she thickly whispers. The Contessa looks at Grinn for a long, intense moment, eyes locked to his face until she finally looks away. "Goodnight, Sheriff," she calmly says in a more normal tone of voice. "Thank you for the food. I'll see you with the rest of the men in the morning."

Grinn Harwel's eyes roil with an untamed lust which threatens to unleash itself like a sweeping tide of passion. And when the Contessa dismisses him he half reaches out to her, fingers extended toward her cheek before he snaps his arm away in a fit of anger. He says nothing and turns abruptly to march to the door. "Sleep well, Constable." The words are forced, bitterly angry and harsh. With another sigh he opens the door, peering momentarily over his shoulder before slipping out.

Tomassa Zahir bows her head for a moment after he leaves, shoulders slumping to reveal more vulnerability than she allows to be shown in public. She just stands there for a moment, but then reaches up to pull her braid forward over her shoulder to begin undoing it. Soon, she moves into her routine of undressing, bathing, eating, and then going to bed.

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