Lightholder Tavern <Palace District>

It is said - primarily by the proprietor, a jovial merchant-classer named Solas Creek - that all roads in Fastheld lead to the Lightholder Tavern. On any given night, it's not hard to see why he might justify such a claim.
The pub, which started centuries ago as a small refreshment wagon for laborers building Fastheld Keep atop Caryas Hill, sees boisterous crowds filling its rafters with laughter and pipe smoke at all hours of the day and night as travelers make their way through the realm.
About three dozen tables are arranged among the polished wooden columns on which hang the wrought-iron lanterns that help give the tavern its name. Solas or one of his assistants can usually be found working behind a wide C-shaped counter, serving mugs of keg-tapped ale to thirsty patrons who stand at the bar.
The floor is strewn with amber rushes, except in a circle of about twenty feet in diameter, where the stone fireplace and chimney rise toward the ceiling.

Lucius Nepos sits at one of the many wooden tables with a cup of shak tea in front of him and a loaf of bread. Breakfast, it seems, before the journey back to Vozhdya. He is in full armour except his boots and bracers, which lay next to him. Two other Ducal Guards sit at the table with him.

Althea sits near the fire, boots off her feet, warming her toes. Whenever the door to the tavern opens, she glances around the room as if looking for someone. On one of her glances she sees and recognizes Master Nepos. "Good Morn, Master Nepos," she says. "How fare you?"

In the middle of a sip of the hot tea, Nepos looks to the woman who speaks to him and smiles. He swallows his tea and then replaces it on the table. "Morning Mistress Weaver. I'm doing fine, and you? How does your quest go?"

Althea brings her feet up underneath her to keep them warm, and turns to Master Nepos with a wan smile. "Until yesterday, I'd nearly given up hope," she replies. "The proprietor here, though, gave me a bit of news and I'm unsure now how to proceed." She reaches for her mug of spiced wine and takes a sip. "He said he saw both Alana and Jessa a few weeks back. Together! An amazing thing. But since they've not sent word back to the Guild, I can only assume they've gone on with their project. I want to find them still, so I'm trying to figure out where to go next."

The Ducal Guardsman smiles again and nods enthusiastically at the good news. "Excellent. I attempted to find you at the Gold Coin when I had the approval of the Warmaster to leave with you, but you were no longer there. However, if you stay here for a day I could most likely get the approval to leave once more and join you on your quest. A good guard is always useful, especially one as well equipped as I am, if I may say so." He grins and chuckles lightly.

Althea pulls on her boots, takes her cup of wine, and takes the few steps over to where the Guardsman sits. Finding and empty chair, she sets down her drink and settles in. "That's wonderful, Master Nepos," she says with a smile. "Of course I can stay a day or so. Perhaps you can advise me on where to go next? I last left Jessa in Light's Reach, but she apparently found her mother on her way here. I think Jessa was planning to go north, but there are so many possibilities...." Her voice trails off as she shrugs.

Zirek wanders in from the street with several other young men, already considerably drunk. He and his group stumble towards the bar mumbling something about more ale.

A mangy mutt that was sitting next to the fire gets up and trots over to where the Guardians and Mistress Weaver are sitting. Nepos, not feeling particularly hungry, rips a piece of bread off his loaf and tosses it towards the dog, who lies down and consumes it greedily. "Any indication on where she wished to head after? Perhaps...over the Aegis?"

Althea eyes the dog suspiciously trying to recall if the mutt is the same as the one she saw yesterday. Unable to place it for sure, she decides not to order stew. She purses her lips at the thought of a place beyond the Aegis. "I have no idea," she replies, a shiver going up her spine. "I know that Jessa's project had something to do with a weaving or dyeing technique as yet unseen in Fastheld." She lowered her head. "Do you think there is anything beyond the Aegis besides Wildings?" she whispers.

Ignoring protests from the bartender, Zirek and his compatriots make themselves comfortable at the bar. Many slump over stools or rest their heads on the bar. Though Zirek himself looks like he could pass out at any minute, one of the men orders a round to celebrate the young man's birthday.

Lucius Nepos shrugs lightly. "It is not the place of a soldier to wonder about other people besides his own.. But personally, I do not think it possible that people of our glorious realm are the only in the entire world. So yes, I do. As for anyone else being close to us... it seems impossible. Wouldn't we have known about them since the first Wildling war? No, I do not know where Jessa could have gone, but it seems likely it is beyond the Aegis. Whatever madness could have possesed her to do so, I do not know."

Althea takes another sip from her cup, obviously shaken by the Guardsmen's words. She begins to finger the Ranger ring hanging from a silver chain around her neck in nervousness. "Do you know the paths over the Aegis? I found a gap in the wall up North, but didn't go very far having no light with me at the time."

"The Aegis is a gigantic fortification, and I do not think that anyone in Fastheld knows all its nooks and cranies. In my experience, my two years on Aegisport, the only exits that I used were the ones heavily guarded by soldiers. I do not think it is wise to leave Fastheld without official permission. In fact, it's damned near suicide. I am not a forrester or a ranger, and I would not know where to look for your friends." Lucius says, finishing off his tea and tossing the rest of the bread to the dog.

Althea nods. "I am neither soldier nor ranger," she says ruefully. "Yet, I seem to find myself in a position to be a bit of both." She rolls her empty cup between her hands. "I think I should try and find more information," she says finally. "To be sure of where they have gone." She looks up to the Guardsman. "The Aegis exits are guarded, you say? Then if they went over the Aegis, then they likely needed permission too. Or at least they would have been seen by a guard. Do each of the gates have their own offices we can inquire at?"

Lucius Nepos orders another cup of shak tea, while the others at his table seem genuinely tired. One has his feet up on the table, while the other has moved his chair closer to the fire, eyes closed. "Ah, but I did not say that all exits are guarded. I'm sure there are several in the North that are not, nor are really known about. I just do not know of them."

Althea blushes. "I have this tendency to get lost in the strangest places," she admits. "I found an opening in the Aegis in Northwest Fastheld. Didn't seem guarded at all. They could have gone there." She thrums the cup with her fingertips. "I think I'd better send out more inquiries, and ask the Duke for advice. I haven't even really asked him for permission to be on this quest to begin with." She sighs and looks over to tired guards. "I think we'd all best get back home, get supplies, and such. Master Kolenko said he'd be finished with my other dagger later this week. Now that I know that Jessa and Alana were at least alive two weeks ago, I can rest a bit easier."

Lucius Nepos arches an eyebrow and takes a sip of his newly delivered piping hot tea. "Northwest as in the area of Northwatch? What were you doing there, if I may ask, mistress?" He inquires.

Althea coughs nervously and orders a cup of chitterberry tea from a passing server. She turns back to the guard and tries to gauge his reaction. "To be perfectly honest, I wanted to find out how far the road went westward. I stopped at shops along the way to see who had supplies I needed, primarily bronze and brass, but after a few days, I began just enjoying the ride. After Road's End, I got...hopelessly lost. The next thing I knew I was at the Aegis, and decided to do a bit of exploring. I found one opening, but like I said, didn't go in for fear and for lack of light. I turned round and eventually found a garrison, but no one paid me much heed. I eventually found a road back to Aegisport, then I took a carriage home again." She shrugs. "I feel like I tried too much, but it might be useful to know in the future."

Lucius Nepos frowns slightly as Althea recounts her story, nodding at the end of it. "It is good of you that you turned back.. some of the creatures beyond the northern and western walls are frightful. More so than the east, I'd reckon." He takes a sip of the tea, frown dissapearing from his face. "Did you order any armour from Master Kolenko? I'd advise you to have at least a full suit of leather if we are to journey around Fastheld. Wild beasts, brigands and other such delights prowl the more un-used roads of the realm.. Always good to be protected, lest a stray arrow catch you in the heart." He says this with utmost seriousness.

Althea takes her tea from the server and hands the woman a copper coin. She chuckles at the Guard's comment about armor. "You and Master Kolenko are such worrisome creatures," she says. "I appreciate your concern, but I have a fast horse and a quick enough wit to know not to seek danger when speed is in order." She fingers her ring once more. "I am well protected." She sips her tea.

Lucius Nepos puts his hand down on the table hard, waking the two other Guardsmen with a startle. "Start lacing up, we're heading back." To Althea. "If you do not want to purchase this, I will. I won't have the person I'm protecting completely open to attack. A fast horse is no match for a good archer who can shoot you down as you ride." His tea is now finished again. He gives the mutt next to him a quick scratch behind the ears and then slips his steel boots on, tying them fairly tightly. "I must be off now, Mistress Weaver, but it is good talking to you. We will talk again in Vozhdya."

Althea chuckles and shakes her head. "It's not a matter of money, Master Nepos," she replies gathering up her few things, "It's a matter of not wanting to be confined. I will consider your words carefully. I have need for dagger sheaths and boots anyway, so adding armor won't be much of an issue." She drops another copper on the table. "I'll away myself homeward, please feel free to visit me anytime and we will continue to make plans." She offers him her hand in friendship. "My thanks for all your good concern in this matter. I am glad to call you friend."

Lucius Nepos smiles jovially at the Weaver as he straps his bracers on and picks up his large, curved oval shield. "As am I, Mistress Weaver." He rises from the seat, the other two heading for the doorway. Before putting his helmet on, Nepos says, "Farewell, Mistress Weaver." And then quietly walks out.

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