Throne Room <Fastheld Keep>
The high ceilings of this gray stone chamber are supported by rows of massive columns along an aisle that features a purple carpet that extends from the arched entrance to the Emperor's throne room and ends at the first step of the dais that holds the gleaming majesty of the Imperial throne - a chair of gold, armrests encrusted in jewels, back and seat cushioned with stuffed pillows covered with crimson velvet.
Torches flicker in stanchions attached to the columns. The fluttering wings and twitter of birds can occasionally be heard in the shadows overhead, where the fowl have nested after coming into the estate through one of the balconies or the courtyard.
The seal of Fastheld - a crown within a dark, unbroken circle - is on the tapestry that hangs behind and above the throne of Talus Kahar.
Duhnen is seated at a long table set out for the council meeting. Likewise, so is Sahna. The Emperor is seated on his throne, along with his honor guard.
The closest pillars to the Emperor currently have his honour guard, all elaborately dressed, standing at attention. However, after about four or five rows of columns, the guarding place is taken by Blades. Lucius stands near one, fully dressed in his armour. Most noticeably, however, to one entering the room for the first time would be the large drake shaped shield he has strapped to his arm. Even more noticeable is the material that this is made out of - a brightly glowing blue-type metal; very exotic. Lucius himself stands at attention, his body as rigid as a statue, eyes shifting about to keep a good watch.
Outside these walls, Winter's cold grasp has extended throughout the realm, enveloping the land with cold fingers. Such harsh weather is not to be found within the throne room, where the gentle warmth of fires has vanquished the icy winds. Oren Nillu steps in carrying a small stack of papers. Upon reaching the council table, he puts them down and offers Talus a bow. "Your Majesty," he intones formally before sitting. "Good evening, councilors."
Talus Kahar nods in acknowledgement of the Chancellor, but then allows Oren Nillu to proceed with the business of leading the council meeting. He laces his fingers together on his lap and appears content to listen and observe for now.
"Evening, your Grace," Duhnen offers to Oren, rising to his feet to bow to the older man before retaking his seat. "Lots to cover, I see," he comments, eyeing the stack of papers.
The birdlike Assessor shifts in her seat with a faint smile to the elder Nillu. She steeples her spidery, lace-gloved fingers, with a quiet chuckle, then starts to say something-- Only to notice the glow that doesn't seem to come from the torches. With a perplexed look, Sahna turns towards Lucius Nepos, eyes narrowing.
Lucius Nepos may have noticed Sahna's narrowing gaze and expression. However, being the epitome of military discipline (Yeah, riiiight), he does not flinch nor offer a response.
"There are some matters we need to cover, yes," Oren Nillu replies, offering Duhnen a smile. He rests a hand over the papers, almost protectively. "Let us put the usual business out of the way first, shall we? Sahna, have you anything to report?"
The newest arrival in the throne room is a robed priest of the Church of True Light. He stops on his approach toward the Council table as his shrewd gaze fixes on the glowing shield in Lucius Nepos' possession. A faint tsking noise comes from him before he says, "The Shadow, right in the seat of power for all of Fastheld, and *not one of you* seems troubled in the least."
As silent and unobtrusive as always, Ashlynn occupies her usual spot as court's scribe to the throne's right. With pen attentively perched above fresh parchment, she awaits the first speaker and begins sketching the first dark strokes across the blank surface - before the priest's interruption has her glancing up in surprise.
Duhnen's eyes flit to Sahna, and then to the glowing shield, over to the Priest, and then to the shield again. There may be a slight look of amusement on his face for the briefest of moments, but it could just be a flicker of light. "A most unusual metal," he states in response to Bandis. "...Father."
Sahna blinks a time or two and turns her gaze away from Lucius, shuffling through her small pile of parchment. "There are a few substantial names on the arrest and lien lists from not one but four of the houses, which might prove to be a bit of a bear to manage." The Assessor replies in a smooth, unruffled voice. Her report completed, she quite simply nods to the priest. "Ah, delightful. Are you our new Lightkeeper? We've been asking for one for months. Welcome, brother."
Oren Nillu turns to find the source of the interruption, glances back at his fellow councilors and then once more to the new arrival. "Father, is it? Welcome. Do you intend to address us? If so, please, take a seat and you will get your chance in due time."
"Keeping the Light is something this Imperial Council has paid short shrift to, if at all, for quite some time," Bandus Flint growls in response to the assessor. "I am a Light*bringer*. Long overdue here. Long overdue." He scowls anew and approaches Lucius. "Where did you aquire this device?"
Lucius Nepos also looks rather suprised by the Priest's 'outburst'. I mean, he keeps his leather covering on normally and now that he wants to bring his fancy duds out, he gets slapped on the wrist? Damn. His expression returns to its formerly neutral state though, a moment after. Is he supposed to say anything? Well, finally he does. "Father. It is a metal, much like gold or iron, except that it is much rarer." He states. Then as Bandus asks him the question, he answers, "On assignment, sir."
Talus Kahar lifts his eyebrows, shakes his head and then glances toward the priest. "This is the Council's time, Brother Bandus. As the Chancellor indicated, if you wish to address the group, you may await your turn to do so."
Duhnen shakes his head and watches Bandis, remaining quiet for the moment.
Ashlynn blinks at Bandus' pugnacious growl before Oren and Talus' responses reminds her of her current duties, and the pen's nib hurriedly scratches across the paper, recording the latest interchange.
Sahna stretches out in her chair with a fluid relaxation, unruffled. "Surely the Lightmaiden informed you of the glowing material we sent along from the gargoyles? It isn't a new discovery at all, Brother Lightbringer. Nepos here, although incapable of dressing to regulation, did go on the expedition outside of the Aegis. " She pauses for a beat, then continues. "The two troubling prospects are Sylvana Seamel and Sinon Lomasa, both keep-holders.. In fact, I do believe Eastwatch is under Sinon Lomasa's care. Both are beyond an easy reconcilliation with the treasury."
The priest grimaces at the Emperor, then returns his baleful gaze to the guard with the unnaturally shiny shield. "Your name, soldier. And your usual assignment. In the coming days, you will be summoned to the Lightbringing to answer for this abomination you carry." His attention drifts back to the assembled bureaucrats and politicians. "The rest of you will answer for allowing it in here. Of course, it will be among the least of your transgressions, I suspect. But, I concede it is *your* time. I will bide my own. I will watch. I will listen. Certainly, it promises to be most illuminating." With that, he takes a vacant seat across the table from Duhnen.
Oren Nillu calmly waits for the priest to be seated before nodding. "Thank you, Sahna. Duhnen, do you have anything to report?"
"Marshal Lucius Nepos, sir." Answers the soldier in even tone. "And it was obtained inside the Aegis, m'lady." He corrects Sahna, then falls silent. His eyes oncemore shift forward, locking on some obscure point on the wall.
"Nothing of importance to report to the Council," Duhnen shakes his head to Oren, leaning back in the chair slightly.
[Talus Kahar:] Talus Kahar rubs his forehead as the priest concludes his rant, sparing a brief glance toward Ashlynn, and then he returns his attention to the Council table.
"Excellent," the elderly Nillu says, turning his attention to the stack of papers, which he divides into small groups. He turns to hail a servant over and hands him one of the packs to be taken over to the Emperor. He passes the rest out for those sitting at the table. "What I am now handing you are plans for the construction of a Blades outpost near our protectorate of Crown's Refuge. If we are going to offer our protection, we must do it properly. Sahna, I am tasking you with getting me some numbers as far as cost goes. Between Ebon and yourself you must handle resources. I am trusting that no one here will see a problem with this, but I am willing to put the matter out for discussion. Following that, we will discuss the full of implications of this action."
Bandus Flint curls his lip in an undimmed snarl, but otherwise seems disinclined to insert himself into the debate. He just rests his hands, palms flat, on the tabletop, and listens.
"Yes, the world is full of new discoveries... Especially outside of our walls. Whole towns, even. I'll have figures to you by the end of the week, your majesty. Those people could clearly benefit from our assistance." She smiles her most winning smile in Flint's direction and adds, "Nepos here did his job well enough to earn his chunk of metal. All the same, brother, I'll have you know that the Lightmaiden herself was informed of, and approved of, all actions this council has taken." Sahna replies, her tone growing silky. "Of course, that might be a problem if she's dead.. I did hear a little something about a number of deaths in the upper heirarchy of the church recently. I do hope everything's allright with the champions of faith."
Though Ashlynn does not turn away from her task, her eyes flick toward the emperor's movement, and the near corner of her mouth curls briefly in rueful acknowledgment before she is quickly switching from one page to the next.
Duhnen clears his throat with a look towards Sahna, before turning his attention back to Oren. "How will an action like this be viewed? I can see the thought of sending a force of Blades past the Aegis in any permanence causing some discord."
Lucius Nepos is very glad that the boisterous priest has concluded his angry little rant against him and his wonderful glowing Seraphite shield. However, one probably wouldn't be able to see it on his face (and to be honest, who's looking there anyways?) as he continues to hold is post in front of the column.
"It will be viewed much in the same way most of the things that have up to this point transpired were viewed. There will be discord, yes, but the worst is behind us. Fastheld will learn to understand." Oren smiles faintly. "It took a man much younger than me to make me understand that these are, indeed, times of change, Duhnen. Change is never easy, but it will come. As Sahna has pointed out, Crown's Refuse is more than likely not the only town beyond the Aegis. There are others out there, equally unprotected from those savage Shadow abominations with claws. This may and will probably be the first step towards the expansion of the empire. A bigger Fastheld," he adds, glancing briefly at Flint, "to protect those outside as well against the viles of the Shadow."
Bandus Flint twitches as the Chancellor addresses him with his gaze. His eyes break from Oren Nillu's, fixing instead on Lucius Nepos, lest the soldier suspect he's evaded attention.
Ashlynn bites her lip at Oren's handy twist of the Light's involvement in affairs involving the Wild, unable to resist a glance up to catch Bandus Flint's reaction before returning her gaze to her duties.
Offering only a furrow of her brow and shifting of her eyes to indicate puzzlement of the seemingly progressed state of the Council meeting, Rowena ponders if her walk from the stables had taken longer than she suspected. The herald's voice is the only sound that accompanies her entrance, however. Keeping her chin dipped in respect, she files silently to her seat so as to not interrupt the conversation and casts a subtle glance Sahna's way as if to say 'what gives?' It is only when she's bent into her chair that she takes note of the priest. Ah yes...Lightbringing had begun. Her lips spread into a quiet smile of greeting and she folds her hands with poise atop the table, brandishing without thought the similar glow of the Ring of the Stars which casts the faintest blue kiss over her left hand.
If you disobey orders, you get whipped or stuck with latrine duty. And with whips comes pain, while latrine duty brings smelly stuff to one's nose. So Lucius Nepos, concious of the fact that the priest is staring at him, continues to stare forward, and sometimes make sweeps of the room with his green-blue eyes. Cause to do otherwise would be disobeying orders. However, he does catch the blueish glue on Rowena's hand, his eyebrow arching up ever so slightly.
Oren Nillu keeps his hands peacefully on the table. "So no other comments or suggestions or even questions on the matter? You do understand what we are speaking about, correct?"
Bandus Flint glimpses the shiny bauble on the Mikin woman's hand. He rolls his eyes, then glances toward Oren Nillu. A taut smile creeps across his face, but he offers not a word.
(Sahna) "I don't see how we can ignore our fellow man. Anyhow, is this settlement anywhere near the water? Getting the stone for the garrison will be the main problem. The cracks in the wall aren't large enough for what basically amounts to a gate's traffic, unless we want to try making a gate so we can sentry who comes and goes. If we quarry the stone outside there's the wildlings to contend with, too.. It'd just be easiest to send it down the river by boat."
"Aegisport *has* a locked and guarded river gate," the Emperor informs from his seat on the dais. "Crown's Refuge is situated along the Fastheld River. So, yes, shipping the stone is practicable."
Duhnen looks to Rowena and gives her a smile, before adding his own thoughts. "There may be a point when we can look to some of the potential mineral resources that are past the Aegis as well, should we secure a large enough area. No doubt there are large deposits that are just waiting to be excavated."
"I..." Rowena glances to all present, mirroring Duhnen's smile just briefly before turning her gaze to rest solidly over Oren with an upturned brow. "I'm sorry? What is it precisely that was discussed? We are intending to expand beyond?" The question is posed with serenity, no objections to the concept present in her tone. The faintest of color returns to her ears, fingers clasping eachother tightly to relieve her frustrations arisen by this apparent tardiness. Troubles counting the hour at her age? Perhaps she was indeed losing her mind.
Oren Nillu nods. "Security is also a matter to consider, yes. I was hoping the Blademaster could help us with that, but he could not attend the meeting due to other pending assignments. Sahna, I believe you two are good friends? I will let you handle that as well and speak with the man." He chuckles. "I am in luck to have you on the table again." He nods at Duhnen. "I am certain there have to be deposits close to Crown's Refuge. We must send a group out to inform Baronet Vhramis of our intentions. Perhaps the Flying Daggers." Finally, he allows his gaze to rest on the healer. "Ah, apologies, Rowena. We are discussing the creation of a Blades outpost to protect Crown's Refuge. Expansion beyond that is... a possibility, one to be considered but not yet talked about with any certainty. There is the Instrumentalist to consider, after all, and we are not strong enough to defy it." There is a pointed pause. "Yet."
Although tempted to start whistling a loud, lewd tavern tune that he hears on a regular basis, Lucius Nepos refrains from doing so. However, his left index finger does move under a plate of armour to scratch at the leg under. How intriguing. At the mention of the Flying Daggers, though, he perks up a bit.
"The Darkwater Deepers can be used for it. They're tough men who won't be easily spooked by superstitions or wildlings alike. As soon as I can talk to Hartnek and see who he's willing to detach, I can get accurate numbers down. " Sahna's gaze lights up, wickedly. "Why, yes. The bladesmaster and I get along like two peas in a pod. " Glancing over to Rowena, the Assessor grins delightedly. "Rowena, would you mind leaning on your kinsman Fael to pay his taxes?"
Duhnen nods his head, seeming satisfied at that. A glance is given to the high ceiling, before he brings his attention back to what is being discussed.
"I would love to hound my cousin...nephew...if only I could manage to make contact with him." Rowena answers swiftly to Sahna, then reverts back to her previous questions. "Can I accompany them?" Is the next inquiry to fly directly from the Mikin's mouth. Fixated on Oren with the wide-eyed gaze of a pleading youth before some parental authority, she holds her breath for a moment and looks to the Emperor with the same unfaltering expression. "If there's to be a horde of men carrying sharp instruments and the innate sense of sport, then *someone* must be present to keep watch over their wellbeing, if only for a little while." Falling silent, she corrects her posture after realizing that she'd begun to lean to the edge of her seat in anticipation and casts an apologetic smile around the table to pardon her sudden interjections.
Oren Nillu matches Rowena's gaze. "Not an entirely bad idea. We can talk about it privately soon." He turns to continue addressing the council. "The outpost will also serve to send several missions out to explore the land. There is much to be learned from the lands beyond our Aegis."
Duhnen considers Rowena quietly, not seeming overly pleased by the thought of it, if his suddenly dire facial expression is any indication.
"If no one else has anything to say, then I will allow Father Bandus to address the council if he so wishes. If he doesn't," Oren assures, "then we will consider this meeting adjourned."
At last...A soft breath of thanks leaves Rowena's lips and she relaxes her fingers. There was a great deal to learn, though the answers she held in mind of course would be quite difficult to find. Her stare focuses now on the Father for the time being, listening intently to the remainder of what is said.
"I don't have anything to add," Duhnen shakes his head, looking to those assembled, Bandis last, expectantly.
Bandus Flint smiles grimly. "Oh, I've nothing to add. At this time." He stands, pushing back his chair and then inclining his head toward the Chancellor and the Emperor. "We will have much to discuss later, of course." With that, he strides away, the fabric of his white robes whispering along the gray stone floor.
Oren Nillu smiles at the priest's departure. "Keep the papers I have given you. They detail the plans for construction. Address any questions you may have to me. This meeting is over." He seems about to ride, then stops and adds: "Light keep you all."
Return to Season 3 (2005)