East Bluff Keep
- The amber glow of the north and south torch towers at night creates twin halos above the battlements of this castle, known to some as East Bluff Keep or the East Twin. Others call it Fahral's Folly, after the grief-stricken Fahral Mikin, who invested much of his fortune in the construction of the torch towers and this keep, which was built specifically to guard the light against any who might seek to extinguish it.
- High gray stone walls encircle the main keep and servant quarters. Rough stone steps angle up the wall to the battlements and the bridges that lead to the torch towers.
Merielle Mikin turns away, "Good eve, My Lord. May the Light shine upon you," she adds, before returning up the stairs.
Damiante enters the East Bluff Keep, a guard guiding her horse behind her. Seeing a familiar figure, she slips in next to her husband, yet is silent, waiting to be recognized.
Warlan swings about in the saddle, hearing the portcullis raise and hoofbeats sound twice. "Ah, your Excellency, good eve to you." Sitting still in the saddle, with Plough calm under the weight of his armored form, Warlan continues, "I am playing catch-a-tail with the Horsemaster, have you seen him? I apologize for my abruptness, I have been riding all day." Looking over the Duke's shoulder, a faint smile shows on his scarred face as he nods to his lady wife.
Alieron Mikin having just ridden into the keep, he places his hands upon his hips, glancing over toward some of the other Ducal Guard. He pulls his hood from his face, "Nay, I have not seen the Horsemaster. I have been off on a personal retreat the past few days
Damiante bows toward the Duke. "Good Eve, Your Grace," she says gravely. Then looking up to her husband, returns his smile. "You are a sight for sore eyes, Baron my husband. Still searching for the Prince? Perhaps he has returned to the Hall once more."
From Plough's saddle, Warlan bows at the chest from Plough's saddle, "Then I will not keep you from your Keep and your rest." Looking to his wife, he blows out his checks a bit, "And you, dear Lady Wife, I had forgotten your intentions for this day. Will you forgive my disappearing on you so soon? I have news for the Horsemaster that should not wait." Warlan brings Plough up close and bends down as far as his armor will allow to brush a kiss on Damiante's forehead. "I will see you 3 days hence Darling. Now, I must be off. Good eve to you both!" Alieron Mikin nods slowly to Warlan, "Goodnight Baron. Ride safely." He gazes over to Damiante, "Baroness, how do you fare this eve?" He gestures toward the Receiving Hall "Shall we enter the keep?"
"Light Keep you, My baron husband," says Damiante, then turning toward the Duke Mikin, follows him into the keep. "I am well, Your Grace. Please, after you." Her guard tethers her horse and follows a few steps behind.
Alieron Mikin steps up the steps into the Receiving Hall of the well lit courtyard, lit very brightly by the burning torch towers. The Ducal Guard flanking the large door put their hands to the chest in a salute, as the Duke steps into the Receiving Hall with the Baroness.
The eye-catching centerpiece of this brightly lit receiving hall, beneath a gleaming crystal chandelier, is a large black marble sculpture of a sinuous mongoose with bushy tail and snarling snout in the middle of hurling itself at a vicious-looking bushdragon with flaring rills and slashing claws.
Archways lead into the dining hall and ballroom, while double biinwood doors engraved with the letters HM mark the entrance to the keep's mastery. A spiral staircase leads up to the private quarters.
Alieron Mikin steps into the Receiving Hall illuminated by a crystal chandelier, stepping toward the Mastery as the Ducal Guard flanking it open the doors for him, his cloak flowing behind him. The servants glance at the fact Alieron has returned, some giving him a certain look before quickly turning away, and not seeming to notice his guest though a few take note it would be impolite to second glance a guest.
Damiante follows the Duke Mikin into the Keep, guard in tow, and head purposely forward, stepping lightly across the floor, two steps to the Duke's one.
A foot-high black marble dais serves as the perch for two cushioned, high-back biinwood chairs where the master of the East Twin and his lady sit while holding court beneath the banner of Light's Reach. The polished biinwood table off to the left of the dais provides a meeting place for the keep's council, with the largest and most comfortable chair reserved for the master. The table is often stacked with parchment and a ready supply of quills, wax seals and ink. A scored wooden raven's roost sits beneath a glowing lantern. Double doors lead out into the receiving hall.
The Duke of Light's Reach steps regally toward the throne of East Bluff, turning as he takes his seat upon it. He clears his throat, "Now Baroness, speak of what draws you to my keep at this late hour." He gestures toward a nearby servant, "Would you like some wine, or anything else?"
Damiante bows once more, having reached the heart of the Duke's seat of power. "Thank you for allowing me entrance to your Keep, Your Grace," she says. She stands, hands clasped behind her back. "Wine would be very pleasant." She pauses, then takes up a goblet offered her. "To His Majesty and the Prince of Blood, and to you and your continued prosperity, Your Grace," she says, before taking a sip.
Alieron Mikin nods slowly, holding his own goblet of wine up handed to him by the servants up to toast to the first, he takes a deep gulp of the goblet as if he is stressed, and drinking more as a painkiller. He stares at Damiante now with a grave look, "Now what do you come to speak to me of, Barones." He rests his hands on the mongooses on each hand rest of the throne.
Damiante returns the goblet to the servant, and again stands hands clasped behind her back. "Have you received my recent letter, Your Grace?" she asks. "I have heard disturbing news wherein missives have been misdirected."
Alieron Mikin nods slowly, "That I have Baroness. Though I wish to hear what you have to say from your own mouth, rather than from the pen." He takes a sip of his goblet, "Your missive was not misdirected."
A look of relief passes over Damiante, yet she seems to shift from one foot to the other. "I am glad my letter arrived safely," she begins, then what energy seems pent up in her feet sets her in motion and she begins to pace. "I wrote mostly to share my concern about the difficulties between House Mikin and House Zahir. I was much troubled by the incident in my Hall last feast, and hoped it did not indicate a more dangerous course in the path toward peace."
Alieron Mikin clears his throat once again, watching the Baroness as she paces to and fro with his blue eyes, his face remaining impassively. "This is an situation well outside your sphere of influence Baroness, why do you feel you should make comment on it." He leans his elbow up on the armrests to bring his hand up to stroke his face.
Damiante stops in her tracks and turns to face the Duke, straightening. "Forgive my apparent impudence," she says. "I certainly mean no disrespect. It is true that this situation is best left to my betters, but I come in search of reassurance that the situation is being handled as quickly and as peacefully as possible. The peace of these two Houses affects my own and I am keenly interested in its outcome as a result."
Alieron Mikin clears his throat, "If you do not know my personal opinion of the Zahirs, I will let you know my personal opinion. They are scum, almost each and every single one of them. Deceitful liars who will sell their own mothers for coin or power. They are not, and never are to be trusted. They are a plight on the realm second only to the Shadow, and its creatures. They are evil."
Damiante's eyes narrow. "I see," she says. "Nonetheless, the Zahir cannot be overlooked as a power in our realm, and since you are Chancellor I have great faith that your personal feelings can be set aside for the greater good of our City State." She pauses and takes a breath, knowing she is on tenuous ground. She takes a few steps toward the Duke. "As Baronnes of this Realm, Lord Chancellor, I ask you, do you seek peace or war in this matter?" Her eyes are level and unblinking.
Alieron Mikin shakes his head, sighing, "I am a man of peace, Baroness. However, the Zahirs continue to be an affront to House Mikin in their every action. I cannot allow this. I also have a very low opinion of Duke Zolor Zahir, whom's exploding statue caused injuries in Light's Reach, including my sister. This suspicious occurrence, seeming as if touched by Shadow, has still gone uninvestigated. Every member has direct disrespect toward our House, they cannot speak as if they want peace. They taunt us in every way. Do we disprect them? No, we only preserve our dignity."
Damiante raises a hand palm up. "I am relieved to hear your words, Your Grace," she says. "The explosion could well have been a Shadow activity. Has the Church come to investigate?"
Alieron Mikin sighs, gazing at Damiante, "No, and neither has the Surrector. I should request an immediate investigation, but I believe I have already brought it up to the Emperor. The reply, if I remember his words correctly, was that it could have been someone else who had made the statue explode in such a way. But nay, it must be investigated to find out if this is the truth, for the statue did glow when it exploded. It was a statue sent by Duke Zolor as revenge for the accident."
Damiante tilts her head. "Then it seems a better course to ask the Church directly," she replies. "Perhaps the Right Hand or the Aurora can give counsel in this matter, if you do not trust the Surrector himself."
Alieron Mikin nods slowly, "Indeed, I plan to speak to one of them." He strokes his chin, "But even with all these affronts by House Zahir, you expect me to even speak to them? I do not want to hear Zolor Zahir's deceitful tongue, or be around a man who could very well wish the greatest evil upon House Mikin. You are not in my situation, Baroness, do not presume you know what is best."
Damiante flinches as if struck and she bows her head, taking a breath. "I do not presume, Your Grace," she says. "To understand your pain or your concerns in this matter to your level." She looks up again. "Yet I do look to you, as my elder noble cousin to be the greater man in this, to at least come to table with Duke Zahir and hold the higher ground. His Grace Zahir is willing to speak peace, even if it is to keep in good terms with His Grace Vodz Kahar. To do /less/ than he would be a greater affront in the eyes of many."
Alieron Mikin shakes his head, "I will not be in the presence of this man. My sister may go, or none will go. She has the authority, if I vest it in her, as Second Liege of Light's Reach to broker "peace" for our House. I will allow her to agree to what will amount to a cease fire of this cold war, however I will not let down my vigilance against Houze Zahir."
A servant enters the Mastery, carrying a letter upon a silver tray along with a letter opener, which he presents to the Duke with a bow. The Duke takes the letter, using the letter opener to open it, as he reads it over a moment.
Alieron Mikin suddenly turns very red faced, as he stands from his throne with such ferocious swiftness as to make the servant jump, and drop his tray to the ground. He crumples up the letter, and throws to the ground as he yells "WHAT!". He throws his wine goblet across the room, and it clatters into the wall. "The Emperor has WHAT!" He gazes toward the servant, red faced, and then in the general direction of the ceiling. "How dare they go above my will!" He growls, "The Emperor has granted my sister full powers to represent the will of House Mikin WITHOUT my permission, this is an outrage!". He descends from his throne, gazing around with anger in his eyes.
Damiante raises a hand as the goblet goes flying. Her guard takes a step forward, but she waves him back. "Your Grace!" she yells. "Calm yourself! Tell me what has happened." Her voice is stern, though she steps away from the Duke as he rages.
Alieron Mikin looks toward Damiante, as if suddenly realizing where he is, he restrains his anger into himself as he clears his throat. He speaks sternly, "His Majesty has granted my sister full powers to represent the will of House Mikin, without my permission."
Damiante sucks in a sharp breath, then shakes her head. "Your Grace," she says gently. "The Emperor seeks peace. The opportunity could have been yours to brook, but you had chosen otherwise. I am sorry." She bows deeply. "I will depart now, to leave you with your thoughts. Light keep you, Your Grace."
Alieron Mikin nods slowly, saying as if an afterthought in hospitality, though disregardent as if he has exhausted himself from his outburst. "You may stay in the Guest Manor off the tournament field if you so wish, it is well appointed, and very comfortable. I am sure my wife would love to speak with you further."
Damiante nods. "I would be honored, Your Grace," she replies. Bowing once again, she gestures to her guard who follows her out the doors.