Regent Oren Nillu pays a visit to the Lightholder Crossroads during an ill-omened alignment of the six moons...

Lightholder Crossroads - Interdistrict Carriage Hub

A small village has sprouted on the edge of the Lightholder River where the cobblestone roads from Fastheld's other prominent districts intersect, in the shadow of Caryas Hill and the majestic gray silhouette of Fastheld Keep - the seat of power for the entire realm.

Sutlers, traveling performers and other small-time merchants ply their trades along this main crossroads - competing for space with carriages hauling passengers, couriers rushing important communiques from one district to another, and the soldiers of the Emperor's Blades who regularly patrol the area.

On the northwest corner of the intersection, next to the road that twists north toward Lightholder Bridge and the palace, sits a large tavern and inn where weary travelers can refresh themselves.

It is a mildly warm late evening. The air is stagnant, not stirring with the slightest breeze. The sky is filled by dark, low clouds. All six moons - the cerulean orb of Herald, the crimson Dayhunter, verdant green Stormwatcher, the rich violet of the Serpent's eye and the gray baubles known as Torch I and II - wax brightly in the sky, neatly aligned in a row that portends unspeakable might in the hands of Shadow-Touched mages. Legend holds that just such an alignment accompanied the great Cataclysm ages ago.

From Lilac's saddle, Seeing no obstacle on her way to the stable, Adria slides off the horse and leads Lilac the rest of the way, keeping her eyes averted from the crowd around Oren. She quietly pays the stableboy to take Lilac, then wanders away from the stables, an expression of slight disorientation on her face, as if she forgot the reason she came here in the first place. Though it is mildly warm, a slight pink tint colours Adria's cheeks.

Dianna Lomasa finally comes up on the group around the stable, dipping her head down, pressing as close to her horse as she can manage without tripping herself, or the horse up. One pale hand comes up to tuck back a loose strand of hair as bright blue eyes regard each of the noblemen in turn, before turning to commoners.

Duhnen chuckles faintly, his attention being drawn by the steady stream of individuals putting their mounts up in the stables. One in particular catches his attention. "Adria?" he calls to the botanist.

"Jaltham Siltwater," States the waterman, offering a nod towards the Regent in acknowledgement as he is addressed, "...Of Light's Crossing, and in service to the Duke Orell Mikin." With that, mouthful of formal greeting done, the waterman adds a belated "Your Grace," after a moment of hesitation.

Dradin struts about, being on patrol and all. "Evenin' fair citizens o' Fas'eld! Abidin' th' law, I 'opes," he beams and waves at a passing couple who wave back and smile uneasily, their walking pace noticeably quickening.

From Reliable's saddle, Warnings there may have been, but mouths will continue to go hungry. On an urgent run to ease the hunger of the chattering pets, Rowena Mikin thunders in from the north on Reliable's hooves. She leans back in the saddle, coaxing his sprint into a slower trot with which to approach the stables. Reliable protests with a great deal of stomping and tail lashing before conceding to her request. It seemed that the strange alignment of the moons had him mildly spooked as well. "Hold steadfast, my friend." Rowena softly murmurs, stroking the beast's mane once through. As they grow near, she squints ahead in the growing darkness in attempts to study the faces of those before.

Ester lowers her gaze from the night sky as Duhnen calls out the woman's name. She follows his gaze so her own falls onto the woman in question.

As quietly as she can manage, Dianna shakes her head at the approaching stablehand, leading the horse into the stables herself. She disappears from view, and for the moment, away from everyone else.

"What service do you provide for Duke Mikin?" Oren asks, briefly following Ester's gaze upwards. "Yes, a peculiar sight indeed."

Adria stops as she hears Duhnen, her shoulders stiffening for a moment before she turns around and gives Duhnen a cheery wave and smile. "G'devening!" she calls back, curtseying slightly. She then begins to head back in Duhnen's direction, her smile shaking.

"How've you been?" Duhnen asks of Adria, turning to face her with an easy smile. "Been staying busy? I've caught word that you've opened your own glassworks. Sounds like you're doing quite well." With a gesture to his side, he looks to Ester. "This is Adria Driftwind. An old friend of mine, Ester."

"I have stewardship of the waters and shoreline about Light's Crossing," Jaltham Siltwater elaborates, "...and also serve as Ducal Guardsman." His stance is sharp, and response attentive, though his gaze continues to be that of a near constant squint, despite the growing darkness of the late evening.

Through the moon-dappled shadows of the Lightholder Tavern's rooftop, a figure moves. Slowly. Gracefully. The barest whisper of the skin of bare feet against slate tiles. Silent and fluid, almost languid, the crouched figure stops and peers down into the well-trafficked crossroads with silvery eyes.

"Pleasure," Ester offers Adria with a simple nod. The horse she's standing by snorts softly and shakes his head. Ester turns her attention to the animal and coos, "Yeah I know hun. We'll get going soon."

From Reliable's saddle, "I see I am not the only fool to dare escape the loneliness of the Keep's safe walls..." Rowena whispers to her mount, praising his cooperation with a hearty pat on the flank. "Let us see if we cannot find some feed for those two fuzzy fiends." Reliable snorts, tossing his mane vainly as the scent of female trotters wafts his way. As the duo clip-clops nearer, Rowena identifies many of the faces gathered near by and calls first to Oren with "Good Regent!"

Oren Nillu nods slowly as Jaltham speaks. "It is good to see such fine men in proper service. How are those shores faring? No more bandits in the water, I would hope?" He turns as he is addressed and smiles widely in greeting of Rowena. "Duchess Mikin, a good eve to you."

Skirt swishing, Adria joins Duhnen and Ester, her smile steady. "Ah, yes, so yeh've 'eard abou' the glassworks. Qui'e a beautiful craft, it was a pleasure teh learn, though tiring. An', yes, 'ello!" Adria tilts her head in greeting to Ester, flitting her gaze between the woman and Duhnen.

"I'm sure it'll come in handy, though. And, as you said, be satisfying," Duhnen nods to Adria, glancing sidelong to Rowena as he speaks. "This is Ester Shardwood. Again, my old friend." He chuckles faintly and lifts a hand to wave to Rowena.

Karell Mikin crosses the road, passing a couple who were talking with ignorant dillusion. His wiry features remain on place, the door of the infamous tavern. He stops, only now taking the time to look around.

Dradin approaches the stables with a swagger in his step. "Good efen'in to yer all, fine folk. I takes it this night finds yer well, eh? Wouldn' be seein' nuffin' suspicious 'ereabouts?"

At the other side of the crossroads, crouched on the roof of Homark's Mercantile, another pair of silvery eyes peers down. They fix with particular interest on the corpulent regent. A dark-skinned hand, clawed, grasps a bow and nocks an arrow. The other hand draws back the bowstring to the cheek, beneath a silvery eye that peers out from under the banged-out shell of an iron helmet scavenged from the expedition to rescue Talus Kahar XIV from beyond the Aegis. The hand releases the bowstring. The sharp-tipped shaft hurtles through the night, bound for Oren Nillu's chest.

Jaltham Siltwater offers a good natured chuckle, "Save those of the Darkwater, that see fit to harass me from time to time, I've not encountered overmuch trouble." His expression returns to serious, "I am hoping to be able to coordinate with the blades to offer assistance where needed, and to keep the bandits once turned from Light's Reach to take for the waters."

Ester looses her attention from Adria and Duhnen as she hears the Duchess speak and looks up and over at the woman. "Your Grace," she murmurs with a dip of her head, though most likely not loud enough for her to really hear. Dradin gets a quick glance and a split second later a glare.

"Bandits in the waters are as bad as them in the ground," the Regent explains. "Evil can sustain itself regardless of the place it chooses to nest in. Yet those of us who fight for what is just will always be there to push them back." He smiles just as the flying arrow nails him. There is a whispered groan before the old man stumbles a few feet back and falls on the ground, his mouth working soundlessly with pain and a stick protruding from the right side of his chest, where blood is already starting to stain the cloth with a crimson pool.

From Reliable's saddle, "The goodness may be debated, Regent, but evening it most certainly is." Rowena replies wittily with a jaded smile. And as the wicked hiss of an arrow cuts through the warm night, her statement could not be more true, but before so much as a squeak can emerge from her throat, the weapon hits its mark with meaty thud. In a flurry of motion, the healer unceremoniously leaps from the saddle, stumbling towards the felled Regent with a cry. "The rooftops!" She shouts and wastes no time in grabbing at his shoulders as though her small frame could actually drag him to the safety of stables.

As the regent falls, the dark, shadowy forms atop the tavern and the mercantile leap down from the rooftops and scamper away into the inky darkness in two directions. One is going in the direction of the river while the other lopes south toward the Forest District.

Adria's eyes flit from Ester to Dradin as he makes his greeting, and she raises her eyebrows, pursing her lips at the man. Just a few moments later the Regent falls to the ground, though it takes Adria a moment to register what has just happened. When she does, she puts her hands to her gaping mouth, an expression of horror widening her eyes. She stands frozen to the spot, immobile with surprise and fear. She doesn't notice the two shadowy forms scampering away.

From Rei's saddle, From the River District, a small, frail woman rides in astride a lanky river trotter--- A haggard Sahna Nillu, who looks up just in time to see an arrow peirce the Regent. Eyes widening with shock, the Nillu saws on the reigns in an attempt to slow her mount, stunned into silence.

Dirk is sitting here, minding his own business, just like he should. He doesn't notice the arrow, nor perceives the Regent's bloody fall from grace, but the screams do draw his attention. Rowena's exclamation is followed, as he looks up at the rooftops, completly missing the reason she yelled in the first place as the shadowy assassins drop away and scurry from their positions.

The gasp of the Regent, as well as him slumping to the ground draws Duhnen's stunned attention. The Royal Healer's shouted warning snaps him out of his shock, causing him to lift eyes to the rooftops even as the blade is withdrawn from the scabbard at his waist. "Ester," he prompts for input as he looks about for some sign of the attacker.

A growl erupts from a startled onlooker. Karell turns to track the shot as soon as his reactions allow him to work out what happened. Naturally, he gives chase, pushing himself forward into a hurried run, hand reaching up to pull his silver sword from it's sheath. He chooses his course quickly, veering off to follow the river goer.

It takes the barest of moments for the waterman to react to the stumbling of the regent, his squinting gaze for once growing wide and alert, to the point of having no squint at all. He starts to move forward as if to catch the man, though ceases once Rowena sounds the alert, and rushes on her own towards the wounded Regent. - Instead, the waterman twists on his heals, first towards the roof-tops, now long vacant, and than into the blackness surrounding the gathering as his now widened gaze searches for the offending archers. He does not yet draw his weapons.

"The Heir," Oren Nillu manages to whisper, turning to glance up at the person tending to him. "Who... Rowena... palace..." Every word is a struggle against the pain, the scarlet now covering nearly half his chest.

Ester blinks as the Regent falls right in front of her. Her reaction is immediate, she shrinks back next to her horse and glances wildly around, hand moving in a protective gestures over her abdomen. She blinks as she peers into the dark night. "I can't see," she hisses in reply to Duhnen's prompt and immediately reaches her hand out to the saddle bag and wildly grabs at the longbow that sticks out from one of the pockets.

Dradin flashes Ester a cheery smile. "If'n it ain' Guildmis'ress Es'er! How've ye been, love?" His focus on the Huntress is broken by the whizz-thunk of the arrow into Oren's chest. "Aw, figs." He unsheathes a crystal-bladed dirk from his belt. "Where 'ey at? Roofs?" he echoes Rowena's shout. "Righty-o! To the roofs!"

From Rei's saddle, Sahna all but leaps down from her mount, and immidiately reaches down to rip a slit along her expensive skirts. With the extra mobility, the Duchess bolts for the Regent, cape rippling behind her. "Uncle Oren!" Her contralto, usually powerful, is a high-pitched shriek of distress.

"Oh light. Ohlightohlightohlight." Rowena gushes in stunned exclamation, tongue unable to form more intelligent words. The crimson continues to spread, catching the lacy cuffs of her gown and leeching into the twilight blue as she halts her feeble efforts to staunch what she can with a palm. The Ring of the Stars is drowned by a bloodied pool. "Help me.." She calls hoarsely to those that remain standing by and kneels by Oren's side. She bows forward to listen, her freed hand cupping behind his head to lift it from unforgiving ground. "We'll go." She whispers. "We'll go together, just...keep yourself here." Her eyes go to the position of the wound now, pondering the damage within.

Dirk spots one of the other assassins, having dropped his eyes quickly, as the man runs toward the forest district. "Forest district!" He yells, attempting to catch someone's attention, gesturing wildly in the direction he saw the figure leave in, obviously not planning doing anything about him/her/it himself.

A growl erupts from a startled onlooker. Karell turns to track the shot as soon as his reactions allow him to work out what happened. He turns and frowns, hand reaching up to pull his silver sword from it's sheath. The shadows move around, but he cannot pick a target.

Adria stands rooted to the spot as everything happens around her, people drawing their weapons on all sides and taking action. The woman tugs at her curls, her face contorted with distress. "Not wha' I planned!" she squeals to herself, spinning around to cast her frenzied gaze in the direction of the rooftops. She hears Dirk's yell, and yells back in confusion, "Wha' abou' the roofs? Tha's where they are!"

The Surrector's gaze snaps to Rowena, and then to Oren, and he nods his head, before bellowing loudly. "Blades! Blades to the tavern! Defend the Regent! Assassins about!" Turning to Dradin, he gestures to Rowena. "Help her carry him. To the inn." The man bends, helping to lift Oren with his free hand as he can. "To the inn, Rowena! The keep is too far."

"Duhnen! The heir is your first priority! Leave Ester here and go to him!" Sahna calls sharply, reaching Rowena and Oren and attempting feebly to assist the healer. "Summon Hartnek, he'll know what to do at the palace."

Oren Nillu's face is contorted with both pain and rage. "Assassins," he whispers between gritted teeth. "More... than arrow... to kill the realm..." He offers his own help to the efforts to carry him, struggling to rise to his feet.

The miner jerks at his beard, "They came offa the roof!" Dirk yells back, gesturing wildly again, but doesn't seem to be helping anymore then that, instead warily glaring back up the roof and speaking in a softer tone directed to himself. "I hope." Then he moves over to help those assisting the Regent, or probably more accuratly, get in their way.

Ester stops her wild searching as no more arrows seem to be heading in their direction. "Light," she murmus in horro as attention falls onto the stricken man. "Light...light," she curses as she steps away from the horses an stares at the arrow sticking from his chest. Hand moves to cover her mouth, and as she curses under her breath, "Bloody Shades. Not good. Not good." She flicks a glance at Duhnen and says in hoarsly, "Duhnen? What do I do?" Her look is pleading.

Jaltham Siltwater spends several precious moments in search of the assailants, to no avail. - He settles his gaze on the forest district once Dirk sounds his own call to attention, and the waterman is off at a run. His left hand settles itself on the hilt of the dirk at his side, while the right reaches to and unsneathes sword from the baldric that is also off of his left side. - "Where?!" he exclaims, questioning the miner as he runs blindly in the direction of the Forest district. "Show me!"

"Bu--" Dradin looks at Duhnen and then to Oren. "I can't... I can't carry *tha'*." He gestures to Oren's mass. "I mean, shades man, I ain' a healer!" he grumbles about never being able to knife people.

"What, m-me?" The miner blanches behind his beard, nose flaring, as the man that called for his help races past him. "That way." He points, a futile gesture, doing his best to keep up with the man as they go.. assassasin hunting.

"Off o' the roof?" Adria says blankly, expression frantic. "Tha' means... tha' means they're on the groun'! An'... an'..." The botanist groans into her hands, standing still for a few moments. In that time, she seems to steel herself to the sight of a man with an arrow in his chest, and looks back up at the group gathered around the Regent, rushing toward them. "Is there anything I can do?" she says hurriedly, looking from face to face.

"Fetch the local healers at once!" Rowena shouts over her shoulder, meeting Duhnen's eyes for the briefest of moments in understanding. Though another look to Oren's paling face tells her intuition that more hands will be of little use. As the Regent moves beneath her on his own will, she barks to him as though he were but a dog. "NO! Be still!" To Sahna and the men gathering to help, she nods. "The Inn. You," She directs to Dradin and Dirk, "Support and carry his shoulders and knees. Do NOT move that arrow." To Sahna, she commands "Run ahead. Clear a room and have them bring water. Boiled." She waits, hands cupping around the protruding shaft, mashed against his flesh.

Karell Mikin's eyes fall on Siltwater and he frowns, he had nothing to go by, there was a lot of shouting. Everywhere suddenly got busier. His eyes dart back to the group centered around Oren, his eyes flare and he pelts it towards the miner. He wanted to go 'assasin hunting' too.

At the smell of blood, Reliable shies away, stamping his hooves nervously. A wise stableboy pulls him into the stables to secure his ties. Danger was afoot.

As Dirk, Karell and Jaltham pass the mercantile, all three notice a longbow and a quiver of loose arrows strewn on the ground behind the shop. No sign of the fleeing assassin, however. Just the weapon used in the attack on Regent Nillu.

Dradin sheathes his blade and bends his knees in order to lift Oren. "Y'know, I fink I'd be more useful chasin' affer the assassins wot done all 'is, me bein' a Flyin' Dagger an' all 'at." He mentions this casually as if Rowena ought to know.

Oren Nillu actually chuckles in response to Rowena's order -- a feeble sound that soon turns into a quiet groan. He obeys, however, and allows himself to be carried.

"The realm isn't dead yet, Uncle." Sahna whispers soothingly to Oren, her kinsman's blood staining those expensive clothing of hers. "If you give me the authority and I'll put martial law into effect until things settle down. Relax." She pitches her voice to carry, calling out in tones of command. "Disperse this crowd! A million imperials to anyone who catches the assassin!" With that, she releases Oren and makes ready to head to the Lightholder inn, kicking off her slippers.

"Ester, stay by my side," Duhnen responds to the Huntress' question. "We'll do what we can, when we can. But not until then." By this time, the man's bellowing has drawn the attentions of several of the patrolling Blades, who come running. "Do as the Duchess says," he tells two of the soldiers, before nodding to the third. "You. To Fastheld keep. Inform the Blademaster that the Regent has been attacked and is in the Lightholder Tavern. Put more guards on the Heir, and bring more men here. And healers." The mantle of command falls upon the Seamel fairly easily, apparently. More likely he's just winging it. "Adria, just do as the Duchess says, please." Finally, to Sahna, as he helps move Oren. "The Heir is safe, and will be safer once word reaches the Keep."

"You will do as I tell you now!" Rowena hollers at Dradin with the crown's authority in her tone. "Do you honestly believe that The Assessor and I can move him by our...HEY!" She shouts after Dirk now, eyes afire in rage. "Bloody men..." She snarls beneath her breath and looks down to Oren with an exasperrated sigh. "This is precisely why the realm will fall to pieces. You menfolk think less with what lies upon your shoulders than..." She trails off, rant ended.

"Shadowspawn!" Jaltham exclaims, and follows through with a low growl of anger and frustration as he's unable to detect sign of the assasin. In disgust, he makes a sweeping slice of his sword in the empty air before himself, before releasing grip of the sheathed dagger, and transfering the sword into his left hand. He than crouches, shifting gaze towards the miner as his right hand reaches for the knife within his boot, draws it, and than indicates the cluster of arrows on the ground. "Take these to the healer!" He directs of the miner, "Be 'ware the tips," He glances towards Karrel, flicker of recognition. "M'lord. Shall we advance?"

"No martial law," Oren states, his tone firm and loud, strength born from the power of determination, a lapse of energy that lasts only that long. "Single arrow..." He seems to be fighting to maintain consciousness due to loss of blood.

The miner slows, spotting the weapon, but not the hand that put it to it's deadly purpose. Dirk tugs at his beard again, looking sincerly distressed, face pale. "Sorry. I was slow." Rowena's accusation of the man's thought process goes right over the aforementioned extremity, largely because he has moved away past where the insult could be considered audible. He nods, happy to help, taking the quiver and bow up with care, to take back to the woman handling the injured man.

Adria's strained gaze shifts to Duhnen, and she seems grateful for somebody to tell her what to do, though she really isn't sure what it is she's -supposed- to be doing, as may be evident by her bewildered expression. Ultimately, she makes a grab for one of Oren's arms, as if to help carry him to the tavern.

"Oy, I resemble 'at remark," Dradin eyes Rowena crossly. "An' yer not 'xactly in th' position t'complain right now, are ye?" The freelander's eyes go wide and mouths 'A million imperials!' after Sahna makes her announcement, looking at Rowena the same way a child might look at his mother when being denied going out to play with his friends.

Her question answered Ester nods at Duhnen and murmurs, "Aye. Alright. When we can." Her mouth tightens into a thin line as she watches the Regent being carried and with shaking hands she turns back to her horse as hurriedly pulls bow, quiver and a dagger from the saddlebags.

Sahna Nillu shrugs at her bleeding uncle, shaking her head. "Allright, if you're certain." She murmurs, before jogging off into the inn to prepare the way.

Karell Mikin slows as he catches the two giving chase. He looks around again. "Did you see where he went?" the question doesn't have a clear direction but it's obviously aimed at either of them. "Where?!"

Off the Blades go to their tasks, some standing about looking intimidating around the Regent as he's moved steadily to the tavern, and the other setting off at a run towards Fastheld Keep.

Rowena gives Dradin 'the eye', but says no more. With the efforts of Adria, Duhnen, and herself, the Regent would be carried inside. "Thankyou." She says softly to those helping to lift the well-rounded man. "With every second that passes, his life slips further. We make haste."

"I'm s-sorry." Dirk saids in response to Karell, bow and quiver in hand, "I-I..." He backs away, face twisted in an apolagetic frown behind his facial hair. Then he turns to head toward the distant forest, as if to give one last look for the figure before he leaves to deliver the weapons used to assault the regent to the Blades.

As Dirk steps toward the woods, he finds something else glittering on the ground. A necklace of some kind, made of silver segments. Dangling from the end of the necklace is a crow's foot carved of shiny black stone.

Ester slings the quiver over her shoulder and hurries to ctach up with Duhnen and the others as they carry Oren to the tavern.

"M'lady" Adria wheezes in reply to Rowena, her energy absorbed in the task of moving the Regent toward the inn. She shuffles along, her arms straining to hold Oren's arm and shoulder while her gaze lands everywhere but the arrow.

"Can see why Serath chose t' fight Wildlin's," Dradin mutters under his breath as they carry the portly potentate to the inn. "Didn' wanna put up wif you." This jab is directed at Rowena, but hopefully she won't hear it.

The door to the tavern, half open due to several curious patrons peering cautiously out into the night at all the ruckus, is rather unceremoniously kicked by one of Duhnen's booted feet to help clear the way. And the door does open, though probably swats rather painfully against an individual or two. "Clear the way," he shouts as they move the Regent in, glancing behind him back into the night.

Jaltham Siltwater says, "No sign!" Jaltham exclaims, making a single, forceful, shake of his head out of frustration. He re-sheathes the knife before standing straight from his crouch. Sword transferred into his right hand once more, and the left hand once again placing its grip around the hilt of his dagger. "I've your lead m'lord. Where shall we start the search?""

"Ummmmmm..." Dirk saids, tossing the quiver to a safe spot over his shoulder, bow held in one hand. Kneeling, the miner digs grubby fingers into the dirt, withdrawing a necklace with a crow's foot clenched around a black stone. "I-I found something else." He's on a veritable roll. Like a kid in a treasure hunt. A kid with a full beard and who really is to old to be a kid. Yeah.

Karell Mikin nods silently at Jaltham before frowning and turning to give Dirk a dark glance, "You have a very astute eye... Congratulations, now -give-that-to-me-so-I-can-look-at-it-!" Karell remains rather red in the face, holding a hand out, he was quite visibly flustered, bringing all of his weight up to add more prominence to his stance. Ester's boots crunch on the ground and as the group reaches the tavern door she stops and surveys the moon lit street.

"Almost....there." Rowena pants in attempted encouragement. Her gown is far from salvageable at this point, dyed with the swirling scarlet of her leader's life fluids. As Duhnen clears a path, she squeezes herself through the doorway, pressed between the frame and Oren's side.

Adria keeps her eyes firmly locked on the tavern's light inside, not noticing the blood that is currently staining her arms and the front of her dress, which is probably all for the better. She squishes through the doorway closely after Rowena, into the warmth of the tavern.

The bearded miner clenches a fist around the necklace, as if considering defending it with his life. Then a nervous giggle pops out of Dirk's clenched lips at the absurdity of his actions, extending the hand with a wary step forward to place it in Karell's palm. "I-I'm sorry. Here it is."

From the corner of her eye Ester watches the group enter the tavern. She looks down and grimaces at a spot of blood that drips off the door jab. She starts to tremble and hurriedly sets the end of the bow she's carrying on the ground and leans on it as if trying to steady herself.

Karell Mikin stares at Dirk a moment longer, green integrity fixed firmly on spot as he snatches the necklace, his gaze turns onto it instead, holding it up so that the decoration hangs in front of his face. He keeps it at a distance so that the others might look, however, for there was no immediate significance he could hold in it.

As Dirk hands the necklace to Karell, a writhing tendril of blue energy lashes north through the underbrush of the woods behind the mercantile, a horizontal lightning bolt, connecting with the crow's foot pendant and then coursing along Karell's right arm before the bolt envelops him in its shimmering nimbus and renders him catatonic before it fades and leaves him to drop, comatose, to the ground. The crow's foot necklace is still clutched in a death grip in his hand - although the hand is now burned black as the stone talons from fingertip to wrist.

Duhnen comes striding out of the tavern, sword still waving about in front of him in a self important manner. And the...the lightning. "Shadow take it!" he shouts in amazement, blinking at the sight of Karell dropping to the ground, and then he looks to the underbrush. The man seems uncertain for a moment, before he growls and rushes to move towards the forest, working to get out of sight.

Ester can't help but see and here the lightening flash. She cringes downwards and yelps in fright. As Duhnen takes off her eye widens and without hesitation she bolts away from the tavern and half runs, half jogs after him.

Dirk's smile as he passes the object over is gone in a flash of lightning. The man's scream is quick, sincere, and to the core, backpeddling, arms flailing wildly. A meaningless effort to keep his balance, as the stunned miner falls down to his rump, staring at the comatose Karell.

Jaltham Siltwater shifts glance towards the signet as it his held visible, though not much more than that, given the lack of significance the sigil itself holds in the eyes of the waterman. "You've...," the waterman manages the barest beginings of a question towards Dirk, as the bolt of blue lightning splits the air between them to strike at the sigil and Karrel. The waterman is able to do little more than blink for several moments, blinded with the sudden flash of light at close range. Once he is able to act, "To the tavern! Help me." - With that, Jaltham crouches to the ground in an effort to take hold of Karrels shoulders, starting to drag the comatose Mikin.

Duhnen continues to work his way cautiously towards the general area of the lightning bolt's origin, his free hand gesturing behind him for Ester to follow. He moves further into the brush, face grim.

Ester follows and slows as she catches up with the man. She clutches the bow tightly in one hand. "Duhnen," she whispers ominously, "This is some short of Shadow work. Be careful."

Dirk stares blankly at Jaltham, obviously not understanding, at least until he grips Karell's shoulders. Then recognition colors his eyes, standing up, moving to assist in the effort of moving the man toward the safety of the tavern.

Sul'thraze, the pattern-welded cutlass of Siltwater's lineage is rested atop the chest of the Mikin Lord, right wrist placed underneath the armpit of Karrel, with the back of the blade facing towards the Mikin's neck, and the point somewhere across the left armit near where waterman's left hand is gripping. All of this has the effect a series of minor slices across the surface of the noble attire, though the flatness of the blade against the chest keeps this from hitting skin- other than that of the waterman's left hand, which is managing to get nicked by the point of his sword as it bounces with the motion of dragging the Mikin lord towards the tavern.

"If I get hit, make sure they do also," Duhnen murmurs to his companion. "Put an arrow right at the spot." The man extends his sword arm, pushing the brush aside with the serrated blade.

Dirk, bow and quiver thrown over shoulders, assist Jaltham with the burden, grunting before he speaks. "I-is necklace cursed by the Shadow?"

Ester peers into the darkness, curses and rips the bandage off of her eye and chucks it onto the ground. She peers again and her breath catches. "Duhnen," she hisses and points in the direction of the form, "There's something running over there." She hurries off in that direction, pulling and arrow out of the quiver as she does so.

"It's for the church to decide, and the healer to coax out of his hand!" Jaltham states, continuing his efforts to drag the man unceremoniously across the crossroads, continuing to make little slices into the noble's attire, and continuing to cause his left hand to bleed as the adrenaline keeps him from noticing the minor nicks of his own skin. Gritting his teeth as he attempts to pull the weight of the man even harder and faster, he continues. "If it be shadow, it be shadow. Shadow or not, whatever left it behind deserves death!"

Ester gets about ten steps through the underbrush before she runs smack into an energy field. When dormant, the field is noiseless and invisible. But when activated, it thrums and grumbles like a clanging gong and sparks like a wall of white, purple and blue summer lightning before flinging Ester six feet back. Her bow flings out of her hand. The arrow just narrowly misses her unwounded eye, scraping the skin of her temple before it gets buried tip-first in the earth.

Duhnen looks to the figure as Ester gestures to it, and nods his head. "Get him," he says to her, moving to pursue. "We have to drag him back, dead or..." His words are cut off as he jumps back as Ester is thrown backwards, his eyes widening. "Light," he gasps, rushing to her side. "Ester?"

Dirk doesn't respond with words, turning his focus to keeping his part of the burden balanced, dragging the man toward sanctuary, heavy footsteps stirring up the ground. He throws a wary glance back at the sound of the gong, looking for more trouble.

Ester opens her mouth and lets out a noiseless scream of shock as she flies backwards, landing in some shrubbery that crackles and breaks under her wait. As her motion comes to halt she blinks and stares up at the sky, her expression incredulous and confused.

Duhnen looks up from the woman towards the area where the barrier stands, and with a frustrated noise, grabs hold of Ester's wrist with his free hand, and seeks to put him and her on the far side of the barrier.

Jaltham Siltwater is engrossed with his efforts of assisting the catatonic Mikin, narrow focus preventing him from taking notice of much ouside of his efforts to drag Karrel towards the tavern. "Good. We're close." the waterman grunts, continuing to back himself in the direction of the tavern.

Emerging from the tavern with a group of eager news couriers, the tattered Nillu Duchess starts rattling off details to the men, before sending them scurrying. "Remember, get it to the towns quickly!"

Ester lets out a soft moan as Duhnen grabs her hand. "Duhn.." she starts and all of a sudden her face curls and groamces with pain. Her free hand flies to her stomach.

Duhnen narrows his eyes, and his grip tightens on Ester's wrist. He sees past the 'shield' and into the brush, and feels the pulling of the magic. And then...*SNAP*. At least, if there was a word to describe it, that'd be most accurate. Reality seems to twist as the world about him distorts, and, eyes widening, he whimpers softly, before torn out of his throat is the loudest scream he can muster, sustained for at least a second before his eyes roll up in his head, and he topples to the ground.

Screams are becoming a disturbing common occurrence this night. Dirk throws his head back toward the distant figure, blanching again. "G-get him the rest of way, I'll go back to help them."

A scream. Duhnen's scream. Sahna would know /that/ voice anywhere. Just as Jaltham and the unconscious Karell near, the tiny woman takes off towards the sound of the shriek, making a small, strangled sound in the back of her throat.

"Duhnen!" Ester shouts in horror through her own pain. Any concern for him is short lived as she doubles up in pain again. "Gah," she moans and grasps her stomach with her hands. Her eyes start brimming with tears, her lip quivering. She takes a couple of deep breaths and closes her eyes. Gritting her teeth she murmurs to herself, "Concentrate...just concentrate Ester. It'll be alright." With another couple of breaths she places both hands on her swollen stomach and breaths in and out once.

Duhnen doesn't quite have anything to say. He just lays there, face down in the dirt, eyes rolled back into his head.

Jaltham Siltwater makes a single, almost violent, shake of his head, spreading his arms wide, as he stops moving and bends forward to allow his lord to collapse onto the ground once again. The watermans eyes are both wide and wild, with the adrenaline that runs through his veins. "/You/ take him inside." With that, the waterman bursts into run after the sound of the scream.

Havoc wrought, pursuit neutralized, the shadowy pair of assassins disappear to the north and south - leaving behind the wreckage of their passing, the suffering of the wounded, and the tantalizing clues. In the sky above, the six aligned moons glow profusely in the cloudless night.

Dirk waits for Jaltham to answer, wincing as Sahna races past them. Then he get's his answer, as all the pressure is immediatly dropped to his end, Jaltham leaves him stranded. "O-ok..." The miner sighs, adjust his grip, and takes the noble into the tavern.

As Ester breathes a soft purple glow forms around her hands. It stays for a few seconds as Ester's expression turns to one of calm. She sighs and pulls them off of her stomach and lies silently on the ground.

Adria totters out of the tavern, white blouse blood-stained, taking a moment to shove her curls behind her shoulders before her eyes register what is happening in the crossroads. Her eyes flit between the horrors present, her expression contorted, but ultimately she decides to brave crossing the fray to complete her errand. She hurries past the various injured, trying not to look at them, and bursts into the stables, explaining in a choked voice her duty. The stableboy rushes to retrieve Rowena's pack, then shoves it into Adria's arms. The botanist hasn't seen the assassins, but she sees Ester lying on the ground and hurries toward her. "Are yeh alright, Ester?" Adria gasps, forgoing formality. "I'll take yeh inteh the tavern." She reaches down with her free arm to grasp Ester's arm.

Duhnen and Ester are off in the brush. Duhnen is...laying facedown in the dirt, unmoving, with his sword stewn next to him. Ester is sitting, looking fairly calm.

Adria totters out of the tavern, white blouse blood-stained, taking a moment to shove her curls behind her shoulders as her eyes register everything that is happening. Focusing on her task, Adria hurries past the various people going about their business, trying not to look at them, and bursts into the stables, explaining in a choked voice her duty. The stableboy rushes to retrieve Rowena's pack, then shoves it into Adria's arms. The botanist hasn't seen the assassins, fortunately, and is able to return to the tavern with little to no trouble.

"Duhnen?" Ester questions as she refocuses on the scene at hand. "Duhnen," she tries again while giving him a nudge on the arm.

Jaltham Siltwater continues his blind run for the general direction of Duhnen and his now silenced scream. He steps on the discarded shafts of arrows, as he rounds the Mercantile, though is fortunate enough to avoid slicing through his boots with the tips. It's about at this point that he passes the tax assessor, without much of acknowledgement or glance in her direction. Once past, he thrashes into the underbrush behind the Mercantile, continuing on his blind quest for Duhnen, succeeding in making as much noise as is humanly possible. --- A forester, Jaltham Siltwater, is not.

Duhnen is down for the count. The man doesn't so much as twitch at the prodding.

Sahna, slower than Siltwater, isn't quite as lucky-- She'd kicked off her slippers earlier, in an unwise fashion. One of the arrowheads slices her foot as she passes, and the Tradesmistress doesn't seem to even really notice. Wheezing, she tries to keep up with the waterman, slowing only to try and follow the man's path through the underbrush.

Ester starts to grow panicy when the nobleman doesn't move. "Light Duhnen," she hoarses as she clambers onto her knees. She starts pushing on his arm to try to roll him over. "Light..." Her eyes widen and she starts to yell, "HELP. I NEED HELP OVER HERE! DUHNEN IS HURT!"

Jaltham Siltwater turns towards the sound of Ester's call, the underbrush getting thicker, and more densely packed as he runs. Soon, there is a sickening *ker-snap*, as the waterman has the fortune to locate a fledgling tree with his left inner thigh. There are further snapping and popping sounds as the waterman tumbles over, and scrabbles to regain his feet. He continues towards Ester and Duhnen, at a slower pace, and with a pronounced limp.

Dradin jogs out of the tavern. "Oy, recrui'ed fer a 'lite unit an' all I get t'do is carry His Fatness up an' down stairs," he grumbles. Upon hearing the distress call from Ester, he sets off at a run in that general direction.

Ester keeps yelling as she starts gently slapping the side of his face. "HELP HELP"

Oh, so that's how it is? Duhnen gets slapped around but still doesn't respond. The lights are out. The Surrector has stepped out for the evening.

Sahna catches up as Jaltham slows down, and the couple finally reaches Ester and Duhnen. Now what? "What happened?" Sahna queries, breathlessly. "How'd he get hurt?"

Ester eyes Sahna with a knowing look for a moment and points off deep into the woods, her expression worried. She takes a moment to consider her answer. She hisses "There is some sort of wall of energy. Six feet that way. Watch it. It got both of us. He's out and won't wake up. We need to get him back to the tavern."

Jaltham Siltwater breaths in rapid breaths, that almost resemble the panting of an animal. His light blue eyes are wide, and wild, with the adrenaline that continues to course through his veigns. His first priority is to stalk the perimiter of where Duhnen and Ester lie, not having much for the conversation as he searches for continued danger with drawn sword. He than comes to a stop, with expression of puzzlement and not more than a few inches from the source of the 'field', and turns back towards Ester. He manages a quizzical raise of an eyebrow as he tests out this strange word, "Energy..." Silent a moment, he than questions, "You mean, like lightening?"

Sahna considers the matter for a moment, eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "Bloody shadow-work.. Well, if he's just unconcious, no need to distract Rowena from the Regent." She turns to Jaltham, squaring back her shoulders. "I need you to help load the man onto a horse.. Lash him down if you must. Ester will take him where he needs to go for a healer. Can you do this for me?" She kneels beside Duhnen, gloved fingertips brushing the dirt away from the man's face almost lovingly. "Ester, send me a courier note when he wakes, too.. I trust you'll keep a watch over him? I need to meet with Rowena still. Until Hartnek arrives, I'm the only council member in adequate shape to deal with all of this." She glances meaningfully at Ester.

"I dunno," Ester says with exasperation in answer to Jaltham. "All of light..Boom bang." She shakes her head at Sahna, and gives her a quizzical look "To the tavern. To his room. I will sens for Gabriella."

Jaltham Siltwater makes a slight nod in the direction of the tax assessor, and than draws in a somewhat deeper breath before releasing it. His once widened gaze, now starting to make the journey back towards its usual squint. Coming to be aware of the brusing of his thigh, the waterman spares his left hand to make a rub at it. He than notes the bleeding of his hand, raising it his lips to salve the cuts and scrapes with saliva. "Something like that happened to the lord Karell Mikin..." Jaltham volunteers, "He took hold of a sigil that was left behind, and was struck with a flash of light..." He swallows once, continuing. "He now lies in the same state."

Dradin reaches the location of Duhnen's prone form. "'ey now, slappin' 'im 'round won' be doin' much," he scowls at Ester. "Wot 'appened?"

"No, no, no sense putting him there." Sahna replies, shaking her head. "Gabriella'll only natter him to death. " She turns to Jaltham, ponderously. "Did he really? We'll have to let the church have a look at this.. Sigil, you say? It sounds like shadow-work to me, taking out the regent and the surrector." After another moment's pause, she leans in to whisper something to Ester.

Ester listens to Jaltham explain the prior events. She about to say something when Dradin speaks. "Shut up," she snaps at him, her expression angry "I already said. Some sort of energy barrier." She listen to Sahna's whispers, scowls and shakes her head, "No. To the tavern. He needs Gabriella."

A fly buzzes over and lands on Duhnen cheek, wandering up to walk across the white of one of his eyes. He doesn't seem to notice.

"Oy! Don' be tellin' a Blade t'be shuttin' up! Bad form, 'at." He frowns at Ester, then looks around. "Where's 'is energy barrier?"

The group of people is off in the bush and not in view of the crossroads. Duhnen lies on the ground, not moving with the others standing around him.

"It had a silver chain" Jaltham continues, though he ceases the shiftless gawking and sheathes his sword. Once that is done, he starts towards the head of the surrector to reach beneath the armits and support his weight from the front. "Some kind of claws, or talons. Carved out of black stone. Like a raven." He than shifts glance towards the blade, muscles tensing on an upward bent but not quite begining to lift the Surrector as he waits for the blade to help.

Sahna bares her teeth angrily at Ester for a moment, shaking her head. "Well, Rowena can't be spared from the Regent. If he dies, it's your head." She snarls, shaking her head. "I need to go back to Rowena and the Regent. Talons.. Like a raven." She murmurs, frowning slightly.

Ester again looks annoyed as Dradin speaks she manages a quick, dry muttering out of the corner of her, "They let you be a Blade? Shades." She points in the direction that leads into the forest, "There you can't see it. Now help me carry you're Surrector." With that she turns her attention back to Jaltham she listens, her eyes flicker in recognition, "I know what you are talking about. It is this big? Right? " She gestures with her finger and thumb at Jaltham. Matching the size of the object perfectly. She then snaps at Sahna, "He's not going to die and I 'm not moving him unesscessarily. That's more likely to kill him."

"*Flyin' Dagger*, too." Dradin puffs out his chest pompously. "But 'ats aside the poin', ey?" He looks in the direction Ester pointed, and then picks up a nearby rock and throws in unceremoniously in that same direction.

From Grut's saddle, Morgan brushes back some of her long red hair which shrouds her face, reaching behind her head, gathering most of her hair into a single handfull and lifting it away from her neck in an attempt to cool herself a bit. It does little to help though and she quickly tires of holdingher hair back, instead settling on keeping it brushed back from her face as she slowly leads her donkey and flower-filled wagon into the crossroads.

Sahna just shakes her head mutely, then turns to head back to the tavern, ignoring Ester and the rest of the squabbling group. Her eyes are narrowed, thoughtfully.

Jaltham Siltwater makes a slow, rueful, shake of his head before attempting to muscle the Surrector upright without the assistance of the blade. Given the sheer weight of the other man, he's not able to do much more than lift his chest a few feet off of the ground. His buttocks would be raised no more than a few inches, with the legs still flat against the earth. - "Strong enough to take him towards the Crossroads," he grunts, strained with the effort, "Just... can't get him closer to upright."

"Well flyin Dagger or not. I'm reporting you, useless tit of a thief. Are you brain dead? The Surrector is hurt and you're throwin rocks. As Deputy Surrector the report will hold some weight" Ester mutters with exasperation and moves around to Duhnen's legs. She nods at Jalham as she stoops and takes a hold of them, grimacing at the strain as she lifts. Her motions is awkward as she has to deal with the problem of one swollen stomach containing one tiny baby.

Just a few feet distant from the stables, there would be a small puddle of blood on the cobblestones, dribbles of which leading in the direction of the tavern, some of these streaked with foot-traffic, and others smeared as larger objects were drug across. At the mercantile, there is a small pile of broken arrows, discarded and scattered. Not far past the mercantile is first a small hole, where an object had been dug into the mud, and than pulled free. - Close to this impression, there is a wide indentation of the underbrush, much of the shrubbery trampled and broken in a more or less straight line.

From Grut's saddle, Morgan slows her pace a bit when she sees a woman come marching out from the forested brush and head directly into the Tavern located in the main portion of the crossroads. "Well, what'ya think she was doing out there in the bush this time of night Grut?" she asks,turning to look at the unconcerned face of the donkey that follows her. With a shake of her head, she continues on and heads for the stables.

"Pfeh!" Dradin rolls his eyes at Ester. "I'm *tryin'* t' *find* th' shadin' barrier yer goin' on 'bout, woman, as I can see th' S'rrector's in good hands," he says the last bit with just a /hint/ of sarcasm. He sighs and marches back toward the tavern.

Ester manages to lift Duhnen feet so that he is off the ground. She looks incredulous as Dradin marches off. "Well," she says to Jaltham, in an even tone, "He won't be long as a blade. Will he? Stupid man."

Dradin pauses, swivels on his foot to regard Ester and company, and sighs. "Shades..." He walks back over and gestures to Duhnen. "Gimme 'at," he grumbles. "Woman in yer c'ndition shouldn' be luggin' knocked out folks abou'," he mutters begrudgingly.

From Grut's saddle, Morgan is just about to hand over her donkey and wagon to the care of those in the when she hears bits and pieces of conversation comming from the underbrush some ways away. She doesn't pay any attention to it though and reaches up into the back of the wagon to grab a worn leather pouch as the stablehand leads the animal and wagon around behind the stables. "If you need anything of me I'll just be in the tavern gettin a bite to eat now," she says as they move away. That said, she turns and starts across towards the tavern.

Jaltham Siltwater starts to back himself in the direction from which he had come, with the weight of Duhnen's torso, and Ester with the weight of his legs. With several halting steps, to acclimate himself to walking backwards on the stumbling ground that is the forest floor, the waterman is able to lift higher, and take a little bit more of the weight from the man's torso, as Ester is able to support the legs. - "You want to take his weight under the knees?" Jaltham asks of the idiot-blade "We might have half a chance to lift him high enough to clear the underbrush."

Ester nods at Jalthams' intructions and starts shifting her hands forward when Dradin makes her return. She says nothing except , "Hold on Master, to Jaltham as she lowers Duhnen to the ground so the Blade can take over.

Jaltham Siltwater continues to support his own share of the weight, coming to a stop and hunching forward beneath the weight of the Surrector, as Ester relieves herself of her own burden. He waits for Dradin to assume his share of the load, before hefting once more. He is silent, all of his concentration on avoiding a hidden pitfall on the ground, as he attempts to feel with each step before settling his weight.

Morgan crosses the road and heads into the tavern, once more brushing back strands of hair from her face.

As Dradin takes her position Ester glances around and runs over and grabs Duhnen's sword. She follows along behind the men as they carry Duhnen through the bush, finally making it to the tavern.

Some time later, at Fastheld Keep...

Blademaster's Office <Fastheld Keep>

This chamber serves as Blademaster Hartnek Lomasa's official private space on this level of the barracks, where can meet with individual soldiers and visiting dignitaries, but it isn't designed for frequent occupation. It has a few wooden chairs, a writing desk with inkwell and quill, and a tapestry featuring images depicting an assault on the fortress by werebeasts some three centuries ago.

The Blademaster, usually calm and collected - if gruff, is beside himself with fury. He's clutching the letters from Sahna, one in each fist, and he's bellowing at a subordinate: "HOW IN THE BLOODY NINETEEN SHADES OF BURNING WALLACE DID THIS HAPPEN?!" The subordinate, a young man of perhaps no more than 18, cringes and looks very much like he wants to crawl under the nearest rock to hide. He opens his mouth, daring to speak, but Hartnek cuts him off: "I'LL TELL YOU HOW IT HAPPENED! THE REGENT UP AND WENT ON A LITTLE JUNKET WHEN ALL THE MOONS ALIGNED AND DIDN'T BOTHER TO GET A SPECIAL DETAIL TO ADVANCE THE ROUTE! THAT'S HOW IT HAPPENED!"

And Sahna's back-- Small, quiet, and looking very pale and haggard. Without knocking, she simply steps inside with a bitter, tired smile and watches the ranting in an unflappable manner, sage-green eyes holding a worldly bleakness.

Hartnek Lomasa glowers in Sahna's direction, and seems about to unload a salvo or two of venom at her, but then stops, turns back to the subordinate, and snarls: "WELL, GO ON THEN, YOU WORTHLESS PILE OF HOG LEAVINGS! GET OUT OF MY SIGHT!" The subordinate winces, saying, "But you told me this afternoon to come tell you..." Hartnek jabs a finger in the kid's face: "I DON'T CARE WHAT I TOLD YOU THIS AFTERNOON! THAT WAS THIS AFTERNOON! THIS IS NOW! AND RIGHT NOW I DON'T WANT TO BE BOTHERED! SO GET YOUR BLOODY ARSE OUT THAT DOOR BEFORE I PUT YOU THROUGH IT!" He notes that the door is open and Sahna's near it. "OR, WELL, I'LL HAVE HER CLOSE IT! AND *THEN* PUT YOU THROUGH IT!" The subordinate doesn't stick around to argue further. He scurries away. The crimson-faced Lomasa then drops the wadded letters on his desk and huffs in exasperation. "Damn it all," he growls.

Sahna closes the door-- Behind the subordinate, alas. "He didn't request anyone to go with him, then? Tch. I'm sorry, Hartnek, but we're in bad shape. I see you read my letter." She murmurs, smiling unhappily at the crochety bladesmaster. "There's a little I left out, but I was in a hurry.. I've been sending off letters to Duhnen's kin, especially.. Rowena's with Oren."

Hartnek Lomasa nods. "Well, we need to get the regent back to the palace as soon as practicable. Duhnen Seamel too." He frowns, settling into his chair behind the desk. "I want to send another group out to find His Majesty. It worried me, just having an old man for a regent, but now it's even worse than I feared. Someone wants him dead. If that happens, Light help us..." He clenches his jaw. "Time for someone to go out and tell Talus that his vacation is over. We need him back."

"As soon as Rowena's given the okay, we'll have blades transfer them both." Sahna agrees, nodding slowly. "Well, people resented a Nillu administration. We all knew it'd happen." She takes a chair uninvited, arranging her skirts and watching the bladesmaster. "This time, the team needs to be told that 'no, I'm staying here' isn't a workable answer. I would like to go with them, if you want to handle things here.. As I said in the letter, it's up to you. But there's one more thing you need to know. I've been warning everyone about Aiden for a while, but rather recently, he told me that he planned to call in a favor with Zolor Zahir to try and make a bid for Chancellor. It may be completely unrelated.. Half the time, his words are just boasts."

Hartnek Lomasa shakes his head. "You mentioned a clawed bird's foot. A talisman of some kind?"

"One with shadow-magic of some sort, yes. Have you ever heard anything like it? Shardwood said it was familliar to her, but I didn't have time to ask details. Whatever it was, it apparently took down Karell Mikin." Sahna responds, shaking her head. "Raven or crow or something.. My mind was elsewhere when it was mentioned, I'm sorry."

"His Majesty mentioned something like it to me once before," the Blademaster replies. "Ashlynn Birch, the courier, found a dying boy up near Hawk's Aerie last year. He was clutching a talisman like that. A stone crow's foot on a chain of silver. Come to find out, it's worn by patrons of Zolor Zahir's establishments in the Shadow District. Sort of a calling card, to show they belong in the place."

Sahna's expression darkens dangerously for a moment. "If he's involved with this.. Well. How soon can the expedition be prepared to depart? Anyways, I hope you agree on keeping the escorts on Aiden and Tomassa. Frankly I'd like to throw them both in jail."

Hartnek Lomasa knits his brow. Sighs. "Just when we're getting a handle on the banditry around Light's Reach. I hate to do this. But..." He grumbles. "Get with Nepos and the Daggers. Find Birch and whoever else might be useful to persuade our man in Wildlingland to get his bloody arse back on this side of the Aegis. And then I'll see ravens get sent to the wall so the watch knows you're coming. Then. You. Bring. Him. BACK." He grimaces. "I don't care if you have to rope him like a sodding calf and drag him behind a mule, get him back here. Meanwhile, we keep those two Zahirs under watch and we'll see to the Regent and the Surrector. When you get back with His Majesty, I'll feel comfortable going after Zolor. Understood?"

Sahna sits silently for a long moment, nodding on occasion as she listens. "Allright. I'll count on you to run things while I'm gone, Hartnek.. Although, you really may want to stick Rowena back in a council seat.. How about mine, in my absence? She's a level head, and she can help you." The tiny woman winces as she stands, inhaling slowly. "Nepos and the daggers, Birch and anyone else I can get.. I'll put out an open recruitment call. Believe me.. I'll either return with Talus Kahar, or not at all. Thank you, Hartnek." She smiles sadly across at the surly man. "I owe you a bottle of wine from my plantation or something."

Hartnek Lomasa shakes his head. "No. You owe me my Emperor. Bring that back and I'll bloody subsidize your plantation. If Rowena Mikin wants to sit in your seat..." His voice trails off. "Oh, sod it all." He stares gapingly at Sahna. "I don't wanna be acting Regent. I'm no bloody bureaucrat!"

"Oh.. I've got Thayndor on the water and Varal looking over Light's Reach.. I'll send word to Varal not to let up on the bandits.. As for Thayndor, his fleet's been cooped up so long that they're going after anything that moves already." She shakes her head at Hartnek. "Look.. Someone needs to run things before someone else steps in and says 'Hey, I'm in charge now'. You're just going to have to do it. With me gone, you are the /only/ council member left. I'll see if I can get you a Lightkeeper before I go, and Rowena for support, but unless you want Rowena to be acting Regent, those are our only options."

The Blademaster rubs a beefy palm against the ruddy skin of his temple. He closes his eyes and then scratches frantically at his beard with the other hand. "Fine," he growls. "I'll do it. But only until you're back. Only until *he's* back. Get the real ruler back on that throne, girl, or I think this kingdom really may be done for."

"I'll make the announcement right away." Sahna replies, calmly. "And yes, I agree. If we don't get some stability back, and quickly, I put the possibility of civil war at a /very/ high chance. " She places her palms on Hartnek's desk, glancing at him from beneath her sable brows. "The name is Sahna, by the way. I'm breaking my back enough as it is doing half the real work running this kingdom; 'Girl' simply will not do, especially from a military man. I was thrown out by your former Second Bladesmaster like so much garbage for standing by the decision to release she; I will therefore never, ever tolerate poor treatment by a Blade again. I had enough of it in my so-called marriage. Is there anything else we need to address?"

Hartnek's not having the most joyous day, either, so he gets to his feet and thumps his fist on the desk, causing the crumpled letters to bounce vigorously. "Listen, lass, I don't care if your name's Queen Mother Shriekweasel, I got enough to worry about without kowtowing to some uppity woman who's all sensitive about how a set-in-his-ways soldier talks! Shadow take your bloody whining! Not like I tried throwing you over my knee and spanking you or something! Go on, now. Get your expedition and get the Emperor back. No real reason for me to change my ways now if there's a chance you're not coming back, right?" He huffs. Shakes his head. "You bring him back, I'll never call you 'girl' again and I'll not blink if you call me 'boy.' Right? Right. Go on, then."

Heat rushes to her face at last, the first show of anything but calmness the whole meeting-- And then abruptly, oddly enough, Sahna Nillu laughs with delight. "You really don't know how to treat a lady, Hartnek Lomasa.. But I'm not much of a lady anyways. I only hope you don't spark off a war with your verbal farting to the esteemed peers of the land before I get back. All the same, I'll take your deal. Good night, Regent." She smiles in a positively wicked manner and bobs into a courtly curtsey.

Hartnek Lomasa nods glumly at Sahna. "Night." He then brusquely sweeps the crumpled parchment off his desktop. "Don't let the door pummel your arse on the way out."

"I can see why you're still a bachelor!" She calls back, slamming the door just for the gleeful effect of it.

Hartnek Lomasa grunts at that. "And will stay that way. Until I die. Light willing."

Return to Season 3 (2005)

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