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.

Solas Creek works behind the counter, pouring ale into a merchant's mug and laughing at the joke of a scraggly young vassal at the merchant's left.

Dianna Lomasa steps into the Tavern, her cheeks a rosy color from a long ride.

Althea Weaver quickly steps into the Tavern and shuts the door, stamping her feet to warm them. She surveys the room searching for an empty table, then steps to the bar. "Good morn, sir," she says. "Have you any stew this morning?"

Solas Creek twists his mouth a little, glancing back toward the kitchen. His eyebrows twitch. "Stew?" He calls to the back. "Fest, any stew left? Any stew?" The cook peers out from behind a partition, eyes wide, shaking his head. Solas mirrors the motion while saying, "Sure there is! Keep lookin'!" The cook eyenarrows, but ducks back behind the partition. Solas turns, smiling, toward Althea. "We may yet. We may yet. 'ave a seat."

Dianna Lomasa follows after Althea silently, offering a small smile in greeting to Solas.

A courier deep in his cups at a nearby table mutters about peasants vanishing without a trace in Hedgehem. "No great loss " he grunts "but Edgel always had the best gossip."

Althea rubs her hands together in anticipation. "I have heard wonderous stories about your stew, sir," she says. "Two bowls then, two loaves of bread, and watered wine, if you please." She sets a few Imperials on the counter. "Let's find a spot near the fire, Dianna. My toes are still quite cold!" Althea wraps her arm around Dianna and leads her further into the room.

"Roight," Solas replies, barking the order at a serving girl. "'ave a seat and we'll get that out to ye quick as rain."

Dianna Lomasa is being a good girl and following Althea, as a five year old would follow it's mother. She looks around, smiling slightly, "Least there aren't tons of Mikins wandering around." she grumbles, half to herself.

Althea winds her way around the room, wishing she had come here sooner, hoping she will hear rumors about her Guildkin. Finding a pair of chairs and table near the fire, she unwraps her cloak and lays it on the chair. "This looks welcoming," she says. "Please sit down. You still look quite worn, my friend."

The cook, Fest, comes out of the kitchen, wiping his hands on a towel as he looks around the tavern. His eyes settle on the mangy dog currently curled up near the fireplace, snoozing. He grins, exposing a few missing teeth, and begins circling around that direction.

Dianna Lomasa smiles a little at Althea, "No, I'm okay. Just been traveling alot, it would seem." she says quietly. She sighs slightly, "I'll be alright once I get some food in me." she adds reassuringly.

The serving girl arrives with the loaves of bread and glasses of watered wine for Althea and Dianna.

Althea smiles to the serving girl and pulls a cup towards her. "i've never been here before," she says. "Seems nice enough." She looks around unsure. "I don't see anyone I know, though."

Dianna Lomasa smiles slightly, "I was here yesterday..." she says quietly, taking a little piece of bread, nibbling on it lightly. "Seems the Mikins do not like me that much, excluding the Dutchess Rowena Mikin."

Fest gets about two feet from the dog curled up by the fire, whispering, "Good lad, yeah. Good lad. Jus' ye stay roight there, yeah." The dog's ears flick backward, its head comes up and its eyes open just in time to see the cook lunging toward it. The dog scrambles out of reach. Fest grumbles, chasing the dog around the fireplace, between tables, back around the fireplace. The dog scrambles under Dianna and Althea's table. Fest drops to all fours and crawls under *after* the dog. The dog growls. Fest yips in pain and draws back, scrambling to his feet. "Bloody spawn o' Wildlin's!"

Althea jumps to her feet, knocking the table with her knee and upsetting the crockery. "What the-!" she exclaims lifting her skirts in surprise. Seeing the mangy dog, her eyes widen in fear and she steps back a few paces to give the cook room to grab the dog.

Dianna Lomasa, on the other hand, doesn't seem afraid of the dog, having seen it yesterday. She back away, but doesn't seem to be as freaked out by it as her friend. She peers at Althea, looking a little curious.

"Thanks so very much, m'lady," Fest huffs, favoring his bleeding right forearm. He waggles a finger at the dog. "Now I won't feel so guilty throwin' you in that bloody pot, ya cur!" He drops to his hands and knees, moves under the table. The dog bolts. Fest jerks up, banging the table with his head, shaking the wine glasses. He growls, then moves to crawl out from under the table and chase the dog.

Althea stands shocked and breathing heavy, her eyes still wide. She licks her lips and tries to compose herself. Reaching to her chair, she slowly sits down, still eyeing the trail taken by the dog. As she turns back to Dianna, she sees the curious look on her friend's face and blushes. She takes her cup in two shakey hands and drinks deeply. After a moment she sets the cup back down. "Too much like wolves," she whispers, her mood vastly changed. She shivers and reaches for a loaf of bread. "I do hope he wasn't serious about serving the beast to us."

Dianna Lomasa's eyes widen as she stares at the cook, "You can't put the dog in a pot!" she says, sounding shocked, and horrified. "it's an innocent animal." she shakes her head, sighing slightly as she sits back down. "I really hope he didn't mean it either."

Fest gets back on two feet, chasing the dog toward the bar counter, weaving through the crowd. The dog dodges left as the door opens to allow in a pair of burly Guardians from the Emperor's Blades. The dog darts between the legs of one guard, safely vanishing into the crossroads, while Fest slams headlong into the chest armor of the soldier. He goes down, out cold, sprawled on the floor. The younger of the two soldiers drags him off to the right. Then they walk to the bar and order milk.

A barmaid pours a drink for a merchant and tells him that she heard the royal tax assessor Alath Kahar got mugged in broad daylight by a peasant not far from Fastheld Keep. "That peasant must be Shadow-Touched to get away with that " she opines.

Althea watches the scene with the cook and dog, then bursts out laughing at the cook's fall. She shakes her head, glad for the dog's departure. "This place is nothing if not lively," she comments. "But you were starting to tell me about the Mikins. I've not met any as yet, but have heard the good Healer is a good woman." She takes a bit from her bread and a sip of wine.

Solas Creek fills two goblets with milk, sets them before the Guardians, and then he steps toward the unconscious form of Fest. His mouth twists. He pulls open the door, gazing out at the crossroads for a moment. Then he sighs, shakes his head, walks over to Althea and Dianna's table. "Ah, ladies, it is with much regret that I be tellin' ye we are fresh out o' stew. Might I int'rest ye in a bowl o' boiled veggies?"

Dianna Lomasa laughs softly, but turns somber again, "Yes...the Mikins...the Dutchess is a good healer, and a good woman." she says quietly. "The Mikins don't like me because of the fact that I was with a Zahir, I think."

Althea looks up at Solas with a look of concern. "Yes, vegetables will be just fine," she drawls. "Tell me good sir, have you heard of a woman named Jessa Finethread? Or perhaps Alana Finethread her daughter? I have been looking for them for some time."

Solas Creek scratches his chin. "Well, seems I recall some guilders went by those names. But I ain't seen 'em 'round 'ere in many a day."

Lucius Nepos walks into the Lightholder Tavern, his face dirtied up by what looks like a tumble in the mud. He is followed by several other Vozhd-Kahar Ducal Guards, in identical armour and looking similarly dirty. His shield remains strapped to his back for the moment.

Dianna Lomasa checks the time through the window before standing up, "Althea, I'm sorry, but I have some things I need to take care of. I'll see you later, probably back in Vozhdya." she says, looking a bit worried about something.

"One bowl o' boiled veggies then, is it?" the proprietor inquires.

Althea brightens, "Guilders? Two women," she says excitedly. "Together, these days past. Please sir, tell me were they well? Did you speak to them?" Althea turns realizing her friend has spoken. "Is everything alright, Dianna?"

Dianna Lomasa nods slightly, before heading out the door silently.

Lucius Nepos removes a water skin from his belt and takes a swig from it. The Ducal Guardsman then pours some water onto his hand and wipes it all over his face, removing a lot of the dry dirt. He heads for the counter, the bartop, with no particular haste, steel boots clanking against the wood floor.

Solas Creek shrugs. "They seemed well enough, when I saw 'em, but, mind ye, it was some months past. Roight odd not to 'ave seen 'em since. Were I recallin' properly, I'd say Jessa was the one always ordered the nightslider soup. Alana favored bread an' cheese - not much on the cookin', y'see. Didn't trust it much. Rather hurtful, that, as we pride ourselves on good cookin' at the Lightholder, y'see."

Althea's eyes dim. "She must have found Jessa after I left her," she murmured. "Did they say where they were going?"

"If they did, I don't recall," the proprietor says, shaking his head. "Sorry. Roight, then. Boiled veggies, comin' up." He turns, walking back toward the counter.

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