Imperial Suite <Fastheld Keep>

A spacious chamber that serves as the innermost sanctum of the most important individual in the realm of Fastheld: Emperor Talus Kahar.
The room includes two washbasins, multiple chamber pots that servants frequently replace for cleaning, twin wardrobes for clothing, and a four-post bed with an arched white canopy, polished brownwood headboard, thick beige blankets and comfortable fowl-feather pillows. Two angled writing tables are in two corners, where the Emperor or his assigned scribe may transcribe correspondence.
High wooden doors lead out into the quarters corridor, while a pair of smaller doors open onto the suite's private balcony overlooking the residence's courtyard.

The last tendrils of electricity scatter and crackle upon the ground and around the shaft of the Obsidian Staff that the Archmage holds in his right hand, symbolic of the arcane powers channeled in order to transport those of the second Fastheld Expedition to whichever location they desired. The eyes of the Archmage seem almost white as he himself, and his final "passenger", arrive at their destination: The Emperor's Suite within Fastheld Keep. It is here that he now stands, the sharp tones of his gaze fading back into their normal dusty-blue as crackle becomes sizzle, and sizzle becomes silence.

"And so the circle is complete." Zanorin Drakesfire comments lightly, regarding the Emperor with a smile as he stands there. "Are you sure this is what you wanted?"

Talus Kahar XIV frowns as he looks around at the environs he never thought to see again. "Is it what I *want*?" the Emperor asks. He sighs. He shakes his head. "No. This was never what I wanted. But I've come to understand that it rarely matters what we want in this life; it matters what we're needed for. Fastheld, for all its flaws, is my home. I owe it my allegiance and my life. It needs me now more than ever. My son is here." He unclasps the cloak from around his neck and then drapes the fabric over a nearby chair. "It's not what I want. But it's what I must do. Thank you, Zanorin. And thank the Lady. Look after the Refuge as much as you can."

The Archmage bows his head a little in an acceptance of the gratitude, but makes no move to depart just yet. Merely, he watches Talus for a few moments without comment, and then regards the environment around him with mild curiosity, before turning his attention back upon the returned Emperor once more.

"I once knew a man," he offers, his voice all soft pragmatism, "Much like yourself, who stood upon the brink of a coming darkness, yet remained powerless to turn back towards the dawn, should such an analogy make any sense. Before the great wall of a city that grew to become an Empire, he looked upon those who needed him, and uttered words that history should never forget. 'We stand at the crossroads of history.' were his words, spoken before a small crowd, and then read by all across the realm. 'The future of Fastheld relies on you'."

That flicker of a smile crosses Zanorin's visage once more.

Talus Kahar peers at the wizard. "You've been around a long time."

"Sirion Starkhorn stood to my right," Zanorin recollects, looking upon the ceiling as if his memories were etched upon the stone above his head, "Ulfell Lomasa to my left. Legends now, but mere men then, doing what they deemed was right. Talus Kahar stood there, before the walls of Old Fastheld, a single rock within a storm of panic and fear, stood defiant against all evils. It seemed to me then that what that man had within him was /real/ power, Talus. No mastery of the Arcane Shadowed Weave, or the blessed Light, but just flesh, blood, and a spirit more powerful than perhaps even my Lady, from a certain point of view."

His gaze snaps back to the Emperor, at once both bitter and compassionate. "I was cast out of this realm soon after. The demands of the people were stronger than the wills of the new Emperor. It was, as he said, an evil greater than that of the Wildlings, but an evil that would bring peace. We built a wall, and then wandered the realm beyond, our fates our own. You are mistaken, Talus; that which we want is highly important, as long as we understand the needs of those who want what we have."

He smiles once more, "Like herding cats, as your Sahna Nillu might say. You want the cats to chase the mice, but they'd rather sleep, and they want your milk."

The Emperor nods in understanding of the archmage's words. "Well, I still want to explore the world beyond the Aegis. The more time I spent out there, the more I realized that Fastheld doesn't protect itself by remaining totally locked inside that great wall. We're like ignorant fish swimming around in a pond while the wildcats and mankiller bears lurk on the shore and bide their time."

"The way to Crown's Refuge is still open to you." Zanorin notes, gesturing with his left hand towards the balcony, and the world, "Fastheld may not always *need* an Emperor, once the cats learn how to sit, and do tricks, in order to earn their milk. And between the times that it does, and does not, the shadowed weave can provide you with a means of travel..." An amused expression flicks across his features, "Providing you don't mind associating with shadow-touched abominations such as myself, from time to time, behind closed doors."

Talus Kahar manages a faint smile. He shakes his head. "I don't mind. Enlightenment has given me the openness of mind to accept that not all that is of the Shadow is necessarily evil and not all that is of the Light is necessarily good."

"The light sometimes blinds the good, and the shadow sometimes hides the evils of the world, so it is said." The Archmage manages a smile at mirrors the Emperor's own, re-clasping the Obsidian Staff in an effort to keep his hand from cramping. "Very well, I shall see about enchanting an item that will permit the translocation of yourself, and one other, from this room to your home in Crown's Refuge. I believe that such a thing will make the Lady somewhat pleased, for she would be most up-"

He pauses mid-sentence, raising his left hand in a gesture to remain silent, dusty-blue eyes flicking to the balcony.

"Hold." he hisses, casting a side-long glance back upon Talus, "We are not alone..."

Talus Kahar frowns, shifting his gaze toward the balcony. "What?"

The Archmage glances up at the ceiling, tilting the Obsidian Staff in his right hand to point the orb of crystal at the tip towards that which he looks upon; both his gaze, and that orb, tracking that which is unseen. "We have an unwelcome guest." he whispers, eyes never leaving that which he follows, unseen to anyone else. "If you have a weapon, I suggest you draw it. Just in case..."

Talus Kahar draws the Ancestral Guardian from the scabbard at his side, then moves to follow the wizard.

Zanorin holds the Obsidian Staff an arms-length from his body, as if preparing an underhand-throw of a spear, and then falls very still, the crystal orb tilting lower to a space high above the balcony opening. Then above the balcony opening. Then at the overhead lip of the balcony opening. The Staff crackles with power... the black head of a somewhat large Wildling peeks over that lip, head first, body held in an upside-down manner. A gangly arm follows in suit, claws cluctched around a crude yet wickedly curved shard of metal, long enough to gut a man from ribs to belly. An expression of shock flows over the creatures face as the look of intent malice it previously had is wiped away by the fact of being expected.

It didn't seem to plan for that. Nor did it seem to have any trick held in reserve for dealing with a lance of lightning as the Archmage sends the arcane power from the Obsidian Staff, striking the Wildling in the head with a sharp *snap* of electrical power, and blowing away some of the masonry from that arch that the creature was once holding onto it.

Masonry that follows the creature’s descent as it vanishes over the balcony edge to tumble to the ground below. If it was black before, the darkness that it's charred corpse now holds redefines the colour.

"Ah." Zanorin mildly comments as the dust settles, standing to his full height once more. "It seems you have a rat problem."

Talus Kahar boggles at the sight of the Dark Wildling, and then he watches in amazement as the arcane energy sizzles through the air and deals the beast a brutal and fatal blow.

A couple of patrolling Bladesmen happen upon the creature's corpse and look up toward the Imperial Suite. "Majesty!" one calls, "are you well?"

Talus moves out onto the balcony and waves down at the soldiers. "Well enough," he answers, and then looks back toward Zanorin. "And better than I might have been."

"I'm sure you would have been just fine." Zanorin Drakesfire states in all modesty, "You are, after all, the Emperor of Fastheld. One in possession of a somewhat enchanted sword it would seem." Though thoughts of the Wildling, and the repercussions that could have for the realm of Fastheld, are abruptly set aside as the Archmage finally catches a glimpse of the golden longsword. "Namara," he quietly intones to himself, "So that's where you went."

Curiosity sated, he regards the Emperor once more. "Well then, Emperor Talus Kahar, I should apologize for the damage, and take my leave. I imagine the Lady will be most interested to learn of this encounter. I will return when I have forged item that you seek, unless matters dictate otherwise. Unless you wish for me to heal this Oren Nillu I seem to have heard of before I depart for Ebonhold."

Talus Kahar shakes his head. "While I might appreciate such healing, it might not be received so well by Oren. The people of this land will have trouble enough accepting my rule after my time beyond the Aegis. I would not see his credibility undermined as well by recovering due to magic. Our healers will either save him or they will not. Thank you, though."

The Archmage inclines his head once more in acceptance of the logical decision, and then swiftly bows into a minor flourish, but one befitting of an Emperor all the same. "In that case, I can offer you only my wish that you remain well until next we meet, Talus Kahar, and leave you with one final item of information."

Zanorin gestures towards the door, causing a shimmer of blue light to flare and then die away as he dispels a ward that he evidently placed upon the door, and then smiles one final time; a smile of all due respect. "You have visitors."

With that, the Archmage clicks the bottom of his Obsidian Staff against the ground, resulting in a sharp crack of metal against floor, and with a crackle of eldritch power, is simply not there anymore...

Return to Season 3 (2005)

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