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'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.


Lucius Nepos stands at the entrance to the foyer, shield fastened around his left arm and his right laying casually near the hilt of his sword. He appears to be waiting for someone.


Dianna Lomasa arrives at the Keep, pushing back some of her long hair, frowning slightly about something. She continues to walk, staying out of everyone's way, heading towards the door.


Lucius Nepos approaches the noblewoman and bows respectfully. Proper custom and all. "M'lady, the Duke has summoned here for a meeting with him. Please follow me." Lucius immediatly turns around and begins to walk for the foyer.


Dianna Lomasa blinks slightly, before nodding her head, "Thank you." she says politely, starting to follow after Lucius, looking a tad concerned, and unsure of what is going on. "Would the Duke have mentioned what he needed to see me about?" she asks.


Lucius Nepos doesn't shakes his head, but continues to march into the foyer, boots clanking all along. "No m'lady, he did not." Is his reply, then he falls silent.


Lower Foyer <Vozhd Keep>


The entrance of the ancient manor echoes an emotion tangibly desolate; little sound escapes the thick stone, and even the floor-to-ceiling tapestries bring little joy. Two solid, bolted oaken doors guard the entrance of the manse, and inlaid in to the wall on either side are large stained-glass windows. An ethereal glow dances from within their scenes, and with every flicker of candlelight the walls come alive in rainbow of softly iridescent reds, blues and greens.
The walls of the hallways are decorated with a number of portraits depicting children: three boys and a young girl. While once beautiful, all appear to be covered in a veneer of dust and, when occasionally highlighted by the dim candlelight, appear more like specters in the darkness then anything else. A rich, red velvet, gold-bordered runner covers the granite floors and splits to lead in three directions: left towards the Formal Hall, right towards the Armory and ahead towards the Mastery.
Furthermore, a twin staircase spirals upwards to the second floor of the keep.


Dianna Lomasa frowns slightly, "Hmm..." she murmurs softly, following after Lucius. "Wonder what I've done." she narrows her eyes, but continues walking, toying with her hair lightly.


The two guards near the door to the foyer retain their rigid posture, spears pointing up into the air. Lucius ignores them for the moment and heads towards the mastery door. He again, doesn't say anything, but instead puts his back to the wall and his shield on the ground in front of him. "The Duke is currently occupied with other matters." He says.


Dianna Lomasa nods her head slightly, her lips pressing together from worry. "I see." she says slowly, toying with her hair again. She seems to be looking a little worried now.


Lucius Nepos loosens his posture a little bit and leans in slightly to say something quietly to Dianna. "Don't let anyone else know I'm telling you this, but he's meeting with the Imperial Surrector Gell Mikin in there.. I'm supposed to bring you in when he asks for you.. Just thought I'd give you fair warning." He straightens himself once more.


Dianna Lomasa turns a ghostly white, looking like she might faint at any moment, "Gell Mikin?" she asks weakly, pressing a hand to her forehead for a moment, then down to her chest, as if to make sure her heart is still beating. Worry is now firmly etched upon her pale features.


Lucius Nepos nods gravely, frowning. Licking his lips, he repeats again, "Mum's the word, if you please m'lady." His eyes dart to the door, and then back straight ahead.


"Yes, I would not want you to get into trouble for giving me warning." Dianna says weakly, her brows drawn together in thought. Her face just keeps going paler and paler, if that's possible. She also now starting to look a little sick to her stomach.


About 10 minutes later, a sound is made from the door. Lucius turns around, grips his shield in his left hand and straps it in and then opens the door. "After you, m'lady." He says.


'Inside the mastery...


Gell Mikin nods to Markus, then smiles faintly at Lucius as he walks toward the opening doors of the mastery and steps outside.


Markus Kahar stands, looking quite shaking, his brow knitted in anxiety. As Lucius and the Lady step in, he gestures them forward. "Come, come, both of you now."


Dianna Lomasa steps inside the Mastery slowly, taking a moment to look around before frowning slightly. She moves in the direction of Markus, looking slightly concerned.


As Dianna Lomasa, the former lady of the Warren enters the Mastery, Lucius closes the door behind them. His shield strapped to his left arm, Nepos approaches and then bows deeply to his Duke. "M'lord. Here is Lady Lomassa as you requested."


Markus Kahar wastes no time. His voice is measured and calm, but he doesn't look pleased. Does he ever?


"The Emperor is furious. This entire scandal is an embaressing mark on House Kahar, all this with Adaer. The suspicion of Shadowtouch has fallen on everyone. The Church is going to make an example out of Adaer, if I cannot convince them to have mercy." He looks straight at Dianna, "... I just did my best to convince the *Emperor's Hawk* that you simply made a youthful mistake. A *day* after doubling the size of my family's landholdings, I am now risking everything I have ever accomplished. If this gets out of control, he may revoke the birthright to my lands for the shame this has caused. With his word, years of loyal service would vanish. In his heart he is my cousin and my friend, but he must show that he will punish all equally, even if they're his family and his House. My lands... my Keep... everything could be forfeit. This scandal ends *now*."


Lucius Nepos backs away from the Duke, positioning himself on the wall. Shield unstrapped from his hand and placed in front of him, he assumes the familiar guard position without a spear, the Kahar Wildcat and Thunderbolts of the Ducal Guard projected brightly into the room. He obviously says nothing, a commoner listening to the dealings of nobles.


Dianna Lomasa is about to bow before Markus, but pauses as he goes off in another rant. She takes a few steps back, her hands tightening slightly on each other. "How do you propose we end this scandal, My Lord?" she asks quietly. "I would like nothing more for it to end. I would like nothing more for Adaer to be left alone." she says softly, narrowing her eyes slightly.


Markus Kahar gestures Lucius Nepos back, "Come. You've been with me as long as anyone else here. I know you would Dianna, you've sufferend enough humiliation and problems. This is persisting. Something or someone is going to have to give. The blame has to fall on one person, if we're to save the other two."


Lucius Nepos immediatly picks his shield up once more and approaches his Duke without question. Again, he stands there, tight lipped and postured rigidly.


Dianna Lomasa stiffens slightly but nods her head, "I will claim fault, My Lord, if it will keep Adaer out of harm." she says softly, slowly. "I only wish that my baby would not be harmed." she adds a little desprately. "It is innocent, and does not deserve to suffer because of it's parents."


Markus Kahar arches a brow, "... somehow I don't think that's the best solution, darling Dianna, being that you'll be sent to work yourself to death in a Light-forsaken Mine somewhere. Besides, it'll crush my Nephew. Ideas, Lucius?


Lucius Nepos frowns when asked for assitance in such matters, as he is not one of them : a noble. He is the son of a soldier, who's only every really known soldiering and fishing. "Well sir, I'm not sure how the Surrector works, but perhaps the untimely death of the Zahir involved in this would help? I hate to be so... crude, but I can nigh think of much else. Or would that be too obvious, or dishonourable?"


Dianna Lomasa looks down at the ground, biting on her lip for a moment, "Better that Adaer be saddened, than him being dead." she says softly. She then looks at Lucius, "Killing Cygony will not help at all." she says sternly.


Markus Kahar quirks a brow at Lucius, "... yes it would. Why wouldn't it? He'd turn up dead, ritualized, as if in some Shadowtainted cult. This is why I employ you, Guardsmen Nepos."


Lucius Nepos nods stonily, and continues with his idea. "Perhaps something more brutal is in order.. While grisly it may appear to be more legitimate if he is mutilated nearly beyond recognition." The Blade ponders.


Dianna Lomasa looks at Markus shaking her head, "Kill an innocent man? He dishonored you, he dishonored Adaer, but that does not mean he should be killed, especially such a horrible death." she says softly. "I beg you, Duke Kahar, do not harm him."


Tears fill Dianna's eyes, but she looks sraight at Markus, "I would rather suffer alone, than let anyone else be hurt from this." she says softly. She clamps down on her lip, preventing the tears from actually falling. "I don't want Adaer to suffer anymore, and I don't want Cygony to be hurt for something that was not his fault. Nor do I want you to lose your lands, and the respect of your people." she pauses for a moment. "I am but one woman, but if I can help those around me, those that I care about, I will suffer."


Markus Kahar peers at Dianna before smirking, "Save your tears, sugar plum, for the Church Fathers. That's where they'll do you the most good. I've decided to let Adaer take the punishment for his foolish actions; however *you* and *I* are going to do our *best* to lessen the punishment, on account of these myriad of complications.


"No!" Dianna half shouts, "No, I won't let you. I won't let Adaer be hurt." she says, calming herself slightly. "Please don't let Adaer face the Church. Please do something." she begs, "He acted foolishly because of me. Don't let him face the possibility of being hurt, or killed." she pauses, stepping back, "I'll go to Gell Mikin, the Surrector. I won't let Adaer suffer anymore." despite her tries, the tears make their way down her cheeks.


Markus Kahar arches a brow at Dianna, "Adaer got himself into this. I'll stand by him as his Uncle. I won't let them kill him. But a good punishment will teach him not to pull a prank like this again."


Dianna Lomasa shakes her head, "It was only his foolish love, and lack of thought that got him into this." she says desprately. "It was my fault in the end. You know this. If I hadn't slept with Cygony, none of this would have happened."


Markus Kahar nods, much of this seemingly oddly familiar. "Right. However. You don't deserve the sort of abuse that'll occur because of infidelity. You do know what happens to girls who are found to be Shadow-touched...?"


Dianna Lomasa shakes her head, "No, I admit I do not know. Pain, death, suffering." she guesses, frowning slightly. "Rape?" she adds in after a moment's thought.


Markus Kahar blinks, "... no, not that. Of course not. They're the Church... not monsters. However the latter three are a distinct possiblities. You must be entirely mad to want to turn yourself in. A dead martyr is still dead."


Dianna Lomasa flips back her hair, "Entirely mad, or in love." she says softly. She sighs, "I cannot beat you, it would seem. I will submit to whatever you choose." she murmurs. "I will fight for Adaer, and I /will/ die for him."


Markus Kahar sighs, resigning himself. He rests a hand on Dianna's arm. "You're a brave girl. If that is what you choose, then so be it. Gell Mikin will be staying in a guest room. What will you say to him, my girl?"


"I don't know." Dianna admits. "I just want Adaer safe." she pauses, looking at Markus, "What do you think will happen to him if he faces the Church?" she asks meekly.


Markus Kahar shrugs, "I'm not sure, never having been up in front of it. However something terrible. Probably the mines, Light Forbid."


Lucius Nepos stands still in the background, stiff as a statue and back in his formal guarding position. Quiet again.


Dianna Lomasa blinks slowly, "So...it ends up being a choice. My life or his?" she asks quietly, biting on her lip again. She sighs, running a hand through her hair.


Markus Kahar looks to Lucius for a moment, then looks again to Dianna. "I would think so, yes. That's what it appears to be. One of you must stand before the Church. They may have mercy on a pregnant girl."


Lucius Nepos arches an eyebrow and seems poised to comment, but ends up closing his mouth and saying nothing.


"Merciful only until the baby is born." Dianna responds quietly. "No, after I have my child they would probably do what they planned on before, and I would lose my baby." she shakes her head. "No, I doubt they would be merciful to me, Duke Kahar."


Markus Kahar arches a brow, his words slightly ominous and perhaps... ambigous. "Have you no faith in the justice of the Light? Where is your religion, girl?"


Lucius, finally unable to hold it in, blurts out, "My lady, were you pregnant at the time of your.. engagement with the Zahir?"


Dianna Lomasa looks at Lucius, her eyes narrowing slightly, "Cygony Zahir did not father this child." she says, deadly calm. Not much else to say to that, so she looks at Markus, "My religion?" she asks. "It is gone, along with my hopes and dreams of spending my life with Adaer." she says quietly.


Lucius Nepos shifts slightly, uncomfortably, straightening his shoulders. "That's not what I intended to imply, ma'am. If you were pregnant with the child of your husband at the time of the.. affair, you could plead that it muddied your sense of judgement, ma'am."


Markus Kahar arches a brow at Lucius, before looking back to Dianna. "It's... a plausible excuse, I would think. I simply find it hard to believe the Church would sentence you to work in the Mines. Not of if you begged for mercy, co-operated. The Church can be merciful."


Dianna Lomasa watches Lucius for a moment, "I would have to speak with Dutchess Rowena Mikin to determine if a general time could be known." she says slowly. "Adaer and I discovered the pregnancy after everything with Cygony, though."


Lucius Nepos nods a few times, quickly. "Of course my lady." He returns to his business of being quiet and observant.


Markus Kahar arches the other brow. In fact both brows. "Wait. You discovered it *after* Cygony, or before?" His face pales slightly.


"After..." Dianna says, sounding a little concerned for Markus' pale face. "It could not have been Cygony's." she tells Markus, trying to reassuring him. "It would have been impossible to be Cygony's."


Markus Kahar says, "How, pray, are you so entirely sure? What makes you so confident? It could've been, could it not? I don't *mean* to be vulgar, however, unless there's something I should be aware of it has as much a chance of being Cygonys as it has being Adaers."


Dianna Lomasa pales slightly, "It cannot be! The time I was with him, it wasn't the correct time of the month for something like that." she shakes her head. "I can't be Cygony's."


Lucius would probably whistle if this were any other time besides now, but it would probably be ill-appropriate. So he stands still as usual.


Markus Kahar steadies himself. "Right. Wait. So, wait. If you were at the right time of the month with Adaer, that would mean that the WRONG time of the month never happened with Cygony, if you were indeed pregnant by my nephew. But if not, then it still would've been the right time of the month for either men, leaving us back to square one."


Dianna Lomasa blinks a little bit, slightly confused, "Perhaps a healer could help us with this problem?" she asks quietly. "I had been with Adaer many times before Cygony, and one of those times, was at the /right/ time of the month. It would have then been impossible for Cygony to have gotten me pregnant, especially since it was at the wrong time."


Markus Kahar shakes his head, "That's... that's my point. How could you have known it to be at the wrong time of the month if... nevermind. We'll find out in nine months. Oh Light save us."


"Less than nine months, I believe." Dianna corrects gently. "I believe that I got pregnant at least two months ago." she explains, "So it would be less than nine months." she frowns, "Would the Church be willing to show mercy upon Adaer because he will have a child to care for?"


Markus Kahar shakes his head, "I know not, I know not. But I am tired, I am going to retire to Break-Fast. Lady Lomasa, only you know what should be done. Do what you must, whatever your choice is. Guardsmen Nepos, I bid you good day."


Dianna Lomasa bows to Markus, "Light keep you, Duke Kahar." she says softly, frowning as she stares down at the ground for a few moments.


Lucius Nepos picks up his shield and bows deeply once more towards Markus, immediately heading for the door.

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