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Bramblestone Keep (Bramblestone)


The gray stone walls of Bramblestone Keep rise on four sides, providing a protective barrier for the residents who dwell in this imposing edifice that has been tainted by the actions of a prior occupant: Goram Zahir.
During the first Wildling War, Goram Zahir and his allies betrayed Talus Kahar I and his army to the invaders from beyond the Aegis. Goram did this in the hopes of removing Kahar from power, but his effort backfired and earned him execution and his family the undying reputation of untrustworthy backstabbers.
An iron portcullis leads to the moors outside. An archway opens into the receiving hall of the fortress.

Barit Smithy is currently standing near the portcullis, leaning on his battleaxe, looking nearly dead from boredom as he stares at the opposite wall.

Tomassa Zahir stalks out of the Keep and moves toward the armory. Once again, the Contessa is clad in armor... perhaps signifying that she's no longer going to brood.

Jacib stands by his wagon, examining oak logs carefully. Two stacks of wood sit in the wagon, one much smaller than the other. The carpenter's arms, hands, clothing, and in part hair all display curls of wood, sawdust, and other detritus from his profession.

Grinn Harwel rides Beauregard in from Bramblestone Approach.

Tomassa Zahir's left hand, clad in chainmail gauntlets, lifts to casually rest upon the hilt of the sword that hangs upon her left hip. The woman angles her path to the armory and stalks inside for a moment.

The steady clop of hooves announces Harwel's arrival even before he appears beneath Bramblestone's portcullis. He glances down at Barit, half sneering at the man as he murmurs a single, gruff phrase: "Piss-pants." With a chortle he digs heel to flank, spurring his mount into a canter which carries him to the stables.

The ring of steel on steel echoes faintly from somewhere in the grounds, in a rhythmic pattern: Tentative, solid. Tentative, solid. Tentative, solid. The sound is easily heard, but its source is as yet invisible.

"Bah!" exclaims Barit at Grinn, grumbling harsh obscenities before piping up. "Atleast think somethin' up that doesn't sound like some semi-educated tavern whore thought it up." Barit grumbles still, shaking his head slowly. "Where the 'ell've you been?"

Jacib tosses a log onto the larger stack in his wagon and selects another. He hefts it in one hand, and with another he pulls at the bark near one end. A few moments of inspection ensue, and the carpenter sets the log onto the smaller stack.

"He's probably been with semi-educated tavern whores," drawls the Contessa as she emerges from the armory and pads toward Jacib's wagon.

Cat stares impassively at its surroundings.

"High, low, inside, good!" comes a smooth masculine voice, in time with the more aggressive sounds of metal on metal, as both sounds come nearer to the group assembling in the courtyard. "I'll make a swashbuckler out of you yet, my boy."

Grinn Harwel hops down from Beauregard's side, and manages to ensnare his foot in the stirrups. After a bit of muttering and much hopping on one foot the man-at-arms manages to free himself, spinning about to bow before Tomassa. "Now, now, milady. Ol' Grinn's a taken man, as you ought know."

"Like Mayn Zahir?" This voice is that of a timid child, barely distinguishable as a boy's, and much quieter than the first one. There is a rasp of metal sliding along metal, as of one rapier running down the blade of another.

Barit Smithy grins a little, also bowing to Tomassa as she appears. "Quite likely, M'lady," He states, chuckling a little, squinting at Tomassa's armor. "Special occassion I haven't been told o'?" Asks Barit, then gives Grinn a sidelong glance. "You? Taken? When the 'ell did this catastrophic change occur?"

Tomassa Zahir leans against Jacib's wagon and grins toward the carpenter. Her eyes twinkle and she says, "Probably when you asked him to marry you, Smithy." She laughs, hooking her elbow on the wagon's side.

Barit grunts, shaking his head quickly. "I'd rather marry the unstable wagoncrash I just finished datin' than that bog ape over there," Barit clarifies, wandering torward the wagon himself.

Grinn Harwel leaves his mount in the hands of a stableboy, snorting haughtily at the banter. With squared shoulders he makes his way toward the barracks, and there throws his back against the wall. A malicious glare is cast in Barit's direction. "Never you mind that, ya bloody halfwit."

Grinn Harwel pays a stableboy to have Beauregard stabled in Horse Stables. The boy leads the horse back into the stables.

Jacib glances upwards. "G'd evening," he says, examining another piece of wood. A frown settles onto his face.

"Yes, Tomas. Just like Mayn Zahir. Aha! Keep your guard up." There is another strong clash of metal on metal as the stronger male voice - but still youthful - chides the younger one cheerfully. In a swirl of black cloak, Thayndor Zahir backs into the courtyard, a simple training rapier in his hand raised in the classic fencing position. Attacking is a pale, towheaded, undersized youth with a much smaller rapier, making inexpert thrusts and slashes with sweeping motions, obviously struggling to hold the sword aloft. "There? You see! Keep your tip up! Push forward, young man, like a daring adventurer, a hire-sword if you will, a member of the Blades perhaps. Are you a mercenary? Some sort of wandering hero?" asks the older youth, pushing from his teens to his twenties.

Tomassa Zahir glances after Grinn and hides a smile by pursing her lips together. "What are you doing, Jacib?" the woman curiously asks as her eyes rove back to the piles of wood. "Selecting..." She trails off when she hears Tomas and Thayndor and the Lioness' attention roves to her son.

"I am a Horseman!" exclaims the young man, his eyes lighting up at the opportunity to tell a story. "And you're a thief caught stealing from my saddlebag!" His voice squeaks as he makes tiring jabs at Thayndor's midsection with the ball-tipped foil. "Take that, brigand!"

Barit Smithy seems to ignore the sounds, shrugging at looking to Grinn. "I'm sure she's a fine woman," He grins in reply, taking a look at the wagon. "We've been sittin' around here, watchin' the Guildmaster build this wagon a wee bit too long. We need some work."

"'f y' happen t' need any firewood, I've got plenty th't's not worth anymore," Jacib grumbles as he pitches the log he's looking at onto the larger pile. He glances up at the sounds of the swordfight and returns his attention to the wood in the wagon. "I'm not building one yet," he explains in Barit's general direction. "I'm seeing 'f I have enough good wood left t' do so."

Grinn Harwel draws the old, heavily nicked knife from his side and studies the ancient weapon thoughtfully. However, his attention soon shifts to the boy and his trainer, expression lightening at the frail child's exuberance. He scrapes nonchalantly at his cuticles with the razor sharp blade and cants his head to spit. "Finer 'n any spinster you've ever 'ad."

Thayndor Zahir laughs easily, a rich sound as he tilts his unshaven chin towards the sun and looks down at Tomas. "Very well, young Horseman," he says, then deflects the young boy's rapier to the side. As the child falls forward, Thay arrests his fall by grasping hold of the back of his tunic, then ruffles Tomas' hair. "The thief retires the field. You did well today, Tomas," he encourages. "We've just to put some more meat on your bones, and you'll be all the ladies' fancy in Hedgehem, aye?"

Tomas makes a face. "I don't want to be the fancy of all the ladies, cousin Thayndor," he complains between panting breaths, letting his rapier clatter to the ground and resting slim, frail hands on skinny knees. "They ... are icky ... except for mother," he finishes, with a smile, turning to look at the Lioness in question. He straightens up and waves emphatically to the woman with one hand.

"I do hope that he's not about to begin stealing hearts just -yet-," the Contessa says with a faint smile. "It's my hope that he'll stay young for a while yet." She raises a gloved hand in recognition of Tomas' wave, warmly grinning to him. "You're doing better, my lad. Much better. Is cousin Thayndor tiring you out?"

Cat licks its paw.

"He's got a point," Barit says to Grinn, in regards to the young boy's words. "I wouldn't touch a woman in that town with a spear."

Grinn Harwel bunches the frayed edge of his cloak in hand and begins lightly polishing the chipped steel. "That don't apply to the men though, now does it?" Grinning toothily, he sheaths his weapon and extracts a cut of salted lamb from a belt pouch. The preserved morsel is snapped in two, the smaller half offered to Barit.

Jacib blinks twice and covers a yawn with a fist. "I think I'm going t' go get some sleep," he comments, beginning to move in the direction of the Keep proper.

Thayndor Zahir laughs. "He's getting better," the young noble calls across to Tomassa. "All one has to do is play thieves and Horsemen, and he'll race you to the rapiers." He leans down, patting the boy's back. "Run to your -" but of course Tomas has already begun traversing the courtyard, headed straight for Tomassa's arms. Thayndor stoops to pick up the young boy's foil and carries both in the same direction.

Tomassa Zahir calls after the departing guildmaster with, "Sleep well, Jacib! You've done some excellent work today." She then holds her hand out toward her son after looking to Grinn and Barit for a moment. "If the guildmaster is going to bed, you should as well, little man," she chuckles to Tomas. "Do not forget to wash, first."

"Cousin Thayndor tells me all kinds of stories," Tomas reveals, taking his mother's hand obediently and wiping sweat from his forehead with the back of his other hand. While still soft, Tomas' right hand is rougher, when he removes his glove; he has grown a blister. The prelude to a callus. "Like Mayn Zahir. He says that if I practice I could be just like him." Tomas wrinkles his nose. "And then there's the story of the time Mayn went to the Shadow District. I'm not so sure I want to be like him that way, though."

"Bah," Barit grumbles again. "Almost wish you'd go back to wenches so you'd get some disease and shut up for a week. The silence was glorious," Barit laughs, going off to take a peek into the back of the wagon.

Grinn Harwel takes a bite of the tough jerky and chews slowly, returning the extra piece to his belt. He reaches beneath the folds of his mantle, producing a small waterskin with which to wash the snack down.

"Keep your hands off 'f that wood," Jacib calls back over his shoulder. "Unless y' want t' lose 'em." He turns and offers a half-bow at Tomassa. "'Night, m'lady." He turns again and disappears inside.

Tomassa Zahir looks from Tomas to Thayndor, one brow arching. "Perhaps I should ask Thayndor about some of these stories, hmm? You're only nine, after all." Tomassa gives her son a light squeeze against her armored side. "Go on in, little man. You've had a long day and tomorrow shall be here all too soon." The Contessa leans to kiss the boy on the crown of his head and then lightly whaps him on the backside.

Thayndor Zahir chuckles at Tomas and smiles thinly. "Perhaps we'll talk to your mother about Mayn and the Shadow District another time, young cousin," he says as he approaches, his eyes shifting left then right just a little suspiciously. "Mayn Zahir, our legendary ancestral cousin who turned a pirate raid along the river into the foil to a Wildling invasion," he explains with the hand not holding the rapiers. "Grand stories are what get him interested in the outdoors," he explains, as the young boy leaves.

"Okay, mother." Tomas smiles at the kiss and jumps a little as he is tapped on the backside, rubbing one buttock with a frail hand as he runs towards the Keep but pausing to wave shyly at Thayndor with the other.

Tomassa Zahir watches her son leave with a look of wry amusement. "So... stories of adventure motivate him into practical play? I had not thought of such a tactic. Perhaps I should have the two of -you-," she calls toward Grinn and Barit, "Spin yarns for him as well? Though... not tales of the Crescent Moon, hmm?"

"When we go out lookin' for trouble, it's always the same thing. Someone accidentily bumps into Grinn, he tosses'em into a table, and someone whacks me with an ale mug. We're not too special, M'lady," Barit modestly tells Tomassa, shrugging with a grin. "Unless you got something for us to do, that be."

Grinn Harwel hmmphs, shaking his head side to side. "Best I didn't," he notes, sliding gauntlets from his hands. "A man what asks few questions at the jingle of coin tends not to 'ave many moral tales." He casts one last look about the yard and screws his face up an exaggerated mask of fatigue. "I'm off to lose this Light forsaken hauberk and catch a few winks." With that he turns, already loosening his cloak, and steps into the barracks.

Grinn Harwel approaches the door to Bramblestone Keep Barracks and pulls the handle.

"Well, it took a bit of doing," Thayndor replies, resting a hand on his hip. "I had to get him interested in adventure stories. Then I had to convince him to talk about it. And then just yesterday I got him to play." He smirks and glances sidelong at the gritty pair. "I believe, Cousin, that you wanted me to provide somewhat of a role model. How a noble man *should* act. Your retainers would be a bit counterproductive." He glances back at the woman. "Don't you think?"

Tomassa Zahir turns to jab a finger into Thayndor's chest, her coppery eyes suddenly flashing. "There's nothing wrong with my retainers," she defensively states. "Nothing," *jab* "At," *jab* "/All/." *JAB* "I will thank you not to insult them simply because they lack your bloodline, Thayndor."

Barit Smithy glares at little at Thayndor at his words, grumbling. He grins faintly at Tomassa, whistling to himself as he idly patrols the wagon nearby.

Thayndor Zahir's eyes flash back at Tomassa's, not fiery, but dangerous in a cooler way. He tempers the eyes with a reassuring smile, unmoving under the Lioness' finger. "For their intended purpose, certainly not, cousin," he responds smoothly. "I am sure they are the most productive of enforcers. But to tell tales to a young boy?" He shrugs slowly. "He is your child. But if you think my stories may get too racy for his ears ..." he grins crookedly.

Tomassa Zahir backs off a little, cheeks reddening. She folds her arms across her armored chest and scowls at Thayndor. "Yes, but /you/ are his rolemodel. They are not," the woman points out in a slightly grumpy tone. She glances toward Barit, spies his slight grin, and then has to hide one of her own all of a sudden. "Besides, if Barit tells Tomas stories, he'll mostly hear about Grinn passing out under a tavern table."

"It's what the ol' boy does best!" Barit chimes in from the other side of the wagon, though for the most part leaves the two nobles to their conversation.

Thayndor Zahir smirks, glancing aside at Barit, and then to Tomassa, still looking fairly casual. His defiance recedes in reciprocation to Tomassa's temper. "So it seems," he says, and inclines his head slightly. "And I'm sure they will have much to teach young Tomas after he is strong enough to handle more than a light rapier."

Tomassa Zahir exhales, some of her grumpiness escaping her form. "I'd thought to go for a ride to hunt up some trouble," she slowly admits. "My mood is strange this night. Perhaps an old-fashioned brawl might be good for me," the Contessa muses. "I feel a need to tire myself out."

Thayndor Zahir arches an eyebrow. "A ride looking for trouble, hm? With Tomas around my opportunity for such activity has been rare as well. And Sundust always loves a run."

Barit Smithy conviently decides to pace near the nobles, noticably, almost, volunteeringly in nature. But quiet.

Tomassa Zahir turns rather abruptly to look toward Barit. "What say you, Smithy? Shall we gather a crew and go add to Zahir's bad reputation? If Grinn's asleep, twill just be the three of us, but I think we can still cause a large commotion. Think we can rouse him to add to the cause?"

Thayndor Zahir drums his fingers against the gold hilt of his rapier, considering. "I ought to get some armor one of these days," he muses. "Something light. Leather, perhaps."

"In my experience in those Barracks, M'lady, I've learned a simple thing. Never, ever, under any circumstances, upset anyone who's sleepin' quarters is 5 feet away from yours. I'll go, but we'd better leave'em be," Barit grins, looking to Thayndor, "As for trainin' the son, I'd be more'n happy to train him o' the ways of battleaxes, and thanks to the Contessa, hand-to-hand combat."

"Axes," Thayndor replies, sounding interested. "Perhaps I'd sit in as well. And hand-to-hand in addition. The art of more refined combat gets so boring when one is this good at it," he says, and sniffs."

Tomassa says, "Well, we could head to Vozhdya and cause our ruckus? Perhaps visit old Pityr Kolenko?"

"I wouldn't be sayin' so, M'lord, best I knew before was brawlin', hand-to-hand, it's fascinatin' stuff. Lookin' back on how I used to fight, I'm surprised I actually called myself an expert in it's practice," Barit chuckles, heading for the stables.

Tomassa Zahir starts off after Barit, grinning. "I tend to brawl, myself. Nothing wrong with that. It takes inspiration."

A stableboy leads Glory out from the stables and around to the front, handing the reins to Tomassa Zahir.

A stableboy leads Lulu out from the stables and around to the front, handing the reins to Barit Smithy.

Barit Smithy mounts Lulu and settles into the saddle.

Thayndor Zahir considers. "A moment. I must get something from inside." He strides quickly in, in a swirl of cloak.

A stableboy leads Sundust out from the stables and around to the front, handing the reins to Thayndor Zahir.

Tomassa says, "Mount up, boys! We're going to have a party!" The woman throws herself eagerly atop her horse and taps his sides with her boot heels. "YAH!"

Tomassa Zahir rides Glory off toward Bramblestone Approach.


Some time later...


'Vozhdya Square (Forest District)


The city of Vozhdya is a bustling commercial center bordering the Aegis' major eastern gate. Hundreds of red brick cottages dot the shire's lowlands, populating the grassy hills and rolling valleys. The stone chalets grow more concentrated in the city, eventually clustering around a large central square. There, brightly colored tarpaulins cover small merchant shanties and larger brick storefronts. In the very center of the market is a large limestone fountain, supplying fresh water to the townsmen year-round. A few snaking chimneys protrude from the city's skyline, intermittently releasing plumes of black smoke in to the air.
Vozhdya's outlying lands are a patchwork of fields divided by ivy-claimed stone walls. Her western borders are a chain of forested mountains and her eastern border is the Aegis itself - looming in the distance and dwarfing all in its shadow. To the north, behind high walls, the battlements of Vozhd Keep can be seen, and to the south the precipitous towers of The Warren. In the far east, the rippling purple banners of the East Aegis Garrison remind visitors that above all else, Vozhdya is a stronghold of Imperial authority.


Damaya Norwood smiles slightly at that. "Well I guess that's true ..."

Thayndor Zahir slides out of the carriage before it departs, pulling his cloak about him and glancing around.

Elymara Threadgoode stands by Silkdancer, holding onto the reins with one hand and patting his neck with the other.

Tomassa Zahir stalks out of the carriage, armor jangling. She's carrying a hauberk over her arm in addition to the rest of her attire. The Lioness grimly smiles as she looks over the bustling burg of Vozhdya.

Damaya Norwood is standing by Fletcher herself, speaking with Elymara.

Barit Smithy steps out, flanking Tomassa, draped completely in his cloak with his hood up and over his face. He retains an escort position, eyeing the area.

Thayndor Zahir slides to a halt next to Tomassa. "Well?" he says smoothly. "Shall we ... ah." His eye catches on Damaya. "I've some business to attend to," he says, turning in a spin of cloak. "Shan't be long."

Elymara Threadgoode's gaze glances over Thayndor and Tomassa, and a shadow of uncertainty clouds her blue eyes. She looks over at Barit, taking in his escort position, and lets go of the reins to gather her skirts in her hands and sink into an uncertain curtsey.

Damaya Norwood looks over as the group leaves the carriage, studying them quietly. Yes. A jeweler by a horse is oh-so-threatening ... not. She blinks over at Thyandor as he approaches and ahhs quietly, moving to her wagon and digging around in one of the trunks.

The Lioness of Hedgehem straightens to her full height and stalks toward the Kolenko Iron Works. The weight of her violet velvet cape sways behind her in her wake.

Elymara Threadgoode straightens up, letting go of her skirts, which fall with a swish around her ankles. She looks over at the stable boy. Elymara Threadgoode pays a stableboy to have Silkdancer stabled in East Aegis Stables. The boy leads the horse back into the stables.

Barit Smithy follows after Tomassa, keeping at her side, keeping his cloak drawn closely about him. The only thing visible would be the chainmail boots on his feet and the axe over his shoulder as he followed after the woman.


Kolenko Iron Works Showroom (Vozhdya)


The showroom is warm and inviting, a light aroma of lavender wafting through the air. The floor, ostensibly of stone, has been covered from wall-to-wall in a thick burgundy carpet, and the walls are of stained mahogany wood. Large glass countertops encircle the entryway and snake around every corner of the room, displaying their goods for the prospective customer. Suits of armor have been propped on wooden mannequins near the windows, and a certain cabinet behind the counter holds weapons of exceptionally fine beauty.
Swords, daggers, axes; weapons and tools of every sort are visible, each individually stamped with the discreet sparrow-sigil that is the mark of Kolenko excellence. In the far right corner of the room is a fine iron wood-burning stove that warms the atmosphere considerably. A pot sits upon the stovetop, bubbling rapidly, and a small calico cat is comfortably asleep before it. Two doors are visible, leading into the Iron Works proper.

Tomassa Zahir pushes her way into the showroom with a chainmail hauberk draped over her armored forearm. The Contessa wears a scowl that lessens upon spying the man who owns the shop.

A familiar form with a whole lot of familiar gear, the darkly cloaked form at Tomassa's side wears a Biinwood Battleaxe over his shoulder. His hood soon is pulled back, revealing the face of Barit Smithy as he escorts Tomassa into the showroom.

Pityr Kolenko sits. Alone as usual. Sweeping. It's kind of pathetic really. He's here, all hours of the night. One wonders if he ever goes out. Let me ruin the suspense for you: no.

Tomassa Zahir loudly says, "Pityr!" as a grin spreads over her features. "You're looking as handsome as ever, you old dog," the Contessa says with a warm laugh, sauntering closer to the armorer. "How are you?" she adds as she reaches out to clap a gauntlet-covered hand on his nearest shoulder.

Barit Smithy is standing beside Tomassa, grinning at Pityr as well. "Also good to see you, Master Smith," He greets the man with a friendly smile.

Pityr Kolenko stands and chuckles, pleased to see the Zahiress, "Ein zein vein! Mein lady, how gut to see you back again! Master Smithy, too, ju are most velcome. Of late, ve have produced MUCH for jour lands mein lady."

Grinn Harwel strides in from outside, his cloak drawn tight as he exhales a steamy tendril of breath. "Bloody weather," he growls to himself, narrowed eyes sweeping the showroom. He half gives a start upon spotting the Contessa, but quickly schools himself into a state of amused calm.

Tomassa Zahir dumps the hauberk on the floor and reaches to clasp Pityr's face in her chainmailed hands. Laughing, she presses a big, wet kiss to the man's forehead. "And I am here to ask you to produce even -more-, my friend. Do you think you can make armor of better quality than what I'm wearing?" the woman asks, thumping a fist over her cuirass.

Barit Smithy grunts, maybe a bit jealously, at Tomassa's treatment of Pityr. But, grunts aren't easily communicable. Either way, he folds his armored arms in front of him as he eyes the showroom.

Pityr Kolenko's face flushes beet red. He tries to reassemble himself, but looks far happier then an emphysemic blacksmith should. "I... vha? Oh, jah, ze armor." Pityr bites his tongue, visibly forcing a promiscuous comment back to the netherworld of his addled old-man brain. "Lets see here... vhat sort of quality is this..."

Grinn Harwel strolls across the room to stop by Tomassa's side, announcing his presence with a polite cough. He draws his arms across his armored chest and frowns.

Tomassa Zahir looks back at Grinn and arches an eyebrow when she spies him. Her grin curves into something impish. "Well... I wondered if the boys would be brave enough to wake you and tell you where we'd gone. Or is there another reason for your presence here, Harwel?" she teasingly asks him. A nod is given toward Barit and the woman reaches out to punch Smithy on his arm. "Barit was too afraid to rouse you."

Luckily, Barit doesn't really feel it with his vambraces on, chuckling heartily. "As I rightly should've been."

Pityr Kolenko nods, satisfied with his inspection. "Vhat sort of material did ju vant ze armor out of? Steel?"

"Me temper flares somethin' fierce upon wakin'." Grinn Harwel intones, "An' the lads know that well. I got business of me own to settle once milady has satisfied 'erself." A crooked smile forms as he loosens the mantle's clasp and drapes it behind his shoulders.

The woman studies Grinn curiously for a moment, but then turns back to Kolenko and flashes him another grin. "If that will give me the most protection, aye," Tomassa agrees with a squeeze of the old man's shoulder. "See this ugly cuss over here? We might need to fix him up with some better quality chainmail as well. He needs all the help he can get, Pityr. Trust me."

Pityr Kolenko thinks, "Vell here is vhat I can tell ju. I can most certainly make better pieces, however I am unsure of how long it vill take. Ju see, the smallest thing - flaw in the materials - can alter ze quality. I am usually make items of a good quality, but something far greater? Zat is hit und miss, I may have to go through three or four pieces before I find something relatively flawless. Ju understand?"

"Which ugly cuss you talkin' about, M'lady?" Barit interjects, laughing a little as he looks over at Grinn, then back to Tomassa. "Don't think I'd be gettin' any finer armor, bein' he made my set in the first place."

Grinn Harwel snorts, reaching with gauntleted hands to jingle his somewhat crude hauberk. "Don't need no fancy pomp," he interjects defensively. "This ratty ol' thing's kept me from gettin' stuck more'n a few times."

"You need it, if I say you need it," the Lioness states as if she'll brook no argument. "Tis your job to look out for my interests and mine to make sure you can do just that," she says to Grinn. Her solemn expression eases as she looks againt to Pityr. "Your work is worth the wait, Pityr. Even /I/ had noted that you'd made Barit's chain. Can you decorate the pieces you make for me? Make them fit for the Lioness' wear?"

Barit Smithy grins, nodding at Tomassa's words. "Is a fine set o' armor. I doubt I'll be gettin' rid o' it for a long time to come."

Pityr Kolenko nods, "Jah, of course. And it iz not so much a problem of time - well, it is - but also financially. A suit of mixed quality is vone zing, mein lady - of top quality another. Ju realize that I vill have to incorporate the costs of the pieces I make vor ju zat *aren't* of good or better quality. Profit aside, if I do not, I lose money. For von good pair of gauntlets, I may have two of fair quality. I must take zis into account."

Grinn Harwel tries and fails to fix Tomassa with an irritated glare, instead finding himself grinning ear to ear at her demanding attitude. "Well, if y' insist on it, then it'll be left unadorned an' darkened like what I got now." The soldier slips his gauntlets free and hooks them to his belt. "This ugly cuss don't want to stick out on the field of battle any more than the next sod."

Tomassa Zahir keeps touching Pityr as she deals with him, patting his shoulder, and then patting him a bit more gently upon the cheek. She leans into the small man and gives him a saucy wink, murmuring, "You do just that, my handsome friend. You do just that. I'm sure that we can come to some sort of... agreement... about payment." Is the Lioness actually /flirting/ with the little armorer? Amazingly enough, it seems so. She trails her chainmailed fingertip down his nose and gives him a slow, sly grin. "You always do -such- good work for me, Pityr."

Pityr Kolenko melts into an incomprehensible jumble of Vozhd colloquialisms. While the language is gutteral and to be suspected - mostly of the Shadow - Pityr's intonation is that of a pleased animal; of a dog scratched behind the ears. "... Jah. Vhatever ju desire, mein lady. I vill do my utmost to perform. The service! To perform ze service. Of ze armor! To perform an admirable service in jour armor. Ze armor!" Pityr conveniently erupts into a fit of coughing.

Barit Smithy squints at Tomassa's behavior to Pityr, first amused, then...creeped out. He looks over to Grinn with a disgusted grimace on his face, as if watching something getting torn to shreds before his eyes.

Grinn Harwel's brow climbs higher and higher as he observes the flirtatious noblewoman, the set of his jaw growing firm as his broad grin suddenly turns to a thin frown. Color rushes to his cheeks and his dark eyes narrow to slits as they attempt to bore holes in Pityr. He shifts uncomfortably, fists clenched tight at his sides and erupts in a guttural grunt.

Tomassa Zahir lightly taps the man on the back when he begins coughing, concern upon her features. "Careful there, careful. Well, if you need further information on my ...desires... simply send me a letter, hmm?" the Contessa says with a slight grin. "Don't forget - steel plate for me and sturdy chainmail for my Sheriff. We don't want the thieves and scoundrels to get the better of him."

Apparently, that is the final straw for Barit. His eyes grow wider, grimace wrenched almost horrifically, untill he finally locks up and shudders visibly. His face turns a ghoulish color, and he quickly turns to temporarily exit the shop.

Pityr Kolenko nods emphatically, "Jah, mein lady. I vill do so."

"Thieves an' scoundrels indeed," Harwel spits, the icy words directed at Pityr. "I'd rip their Light forsaken throats open with me bare hands, leave them shudderin' at me feet an' drowning in their own blood."

Tomassa Zahir gives Grinn a weird look at his words, but she begins easing away from Pityr Kolenko now that she's made her wishes known. The woman bends to take up the fair piece of chain from the floor, crouching to drape it over her arm again. "Aye, Harwel," she drily says as she stands. "We all know what a ferocious warrior you are. Shall we make our way to the tavern now or did you wish to describe more scenes of gore to poor Pityr?"

Pityr Kolenko's eyes narrow on Harwel's words, "... vhat, exactly, are ju referring to Master Harwel? Iz zer some zort of problem?"

Outside the shop, horrendous noises can be heard of for quite a long moment, a variety of hacks, coughs, and further unpleasantries. Thankfully, it halts, and the bladesmith comes stumbling back into the shop and over to the group, face a sickly pale with much widened eyes. He speaks nothing, trying to regain his composure.

"Nothin'," Harwel growls with a dismissive wave. Looking to Tomassa he nods fiercely. "Let's." He turns, white knuckled fists still held at his sides, and marches out.

Pityr Kolenko arches a brow, simply shaking his head before he returns to his work. "Ze younger generation; entirely bizarre. Even vor Ootlanders."

Tomassa Zahir makes a circle with her finger as she faces the returning Barit, hinting that he should turn around and head back the other way. The woman pauses long enough to grin at Pityr and gift him with another wink. "Perhaps I'll see you soon, Master Kolenko," she purrs before turning to make her way out of the shop.

Barit Smithy sighs, emitting another shudder. He seems frazzled, nodding slightly to Tomassa. "M'lady, I think I may have...eaten somethin from the cook I shouldn't have. I will just be in here for a moment, and I will catch up."

Tomassa Zahir nods to Barit, grinning just a little, and then stalks outside.


Vozhdya Square (Forest District)


The city of Vozhdya is a bustling commercial center bordering the Aegis' major eastern gate. Hundreds of red brick cottages dot the shire's lowlands, populating the grassy hills and rolling valleys. The stone chalets grow more concentrated in the city, eventually clustering around a large central square. There, brightly colored tarpaulins cover small merchant shanties and larger brick storefronts. In the very center of the market is a large limestone fountain, supplying fresh water to the townsmen year-round. A few snaking chimneys protrude from the city's skyline, intermittently releasing plumes of black smoke in to the air.
Vozhdya's outlying lands are a patchwork of fields divided by ivy-claimed stone walls. Her western borders are a chain of forested mountains and her eastern border is the Aegis itself - looming in the distance and dwarfing all in its shadow. To the north, behind high walls, the battlements of Vozhd Keep can be seen, and to the south the precipitous towers of The Warren. In the far east, the rippling purple banners of the East Aegis Garrison remind visitors that above all else, Vozhdya is a stronghold of Imperial authority.

Grinn Harwel is halfway to the tavern now, moving with a fast, deliberate step. Most take one look at the armed and flustered man and head off in the other direction.

Tomassa Zahir emerges from the Iron Works not long after Grinn, her coppery eyes darkening as her face forms a scowl. "*What* was -that- about?" she asks Grinn Harwel with a spreading of her hands. She stomps after him, exhaling in exasperation. "Good Light!"

Barit Smithy arrives a bit after Grinn, looking pale and frightened. He makes a quick dash to catch up to Grinn and flank him.

Damaya Norwood blinks a couple times and looks towards the group as they emerge, looking puzzled.

Grinn Harwel stops midstep, wheeling about to face Tomassa. "Bastard was eyein' you somethin' inappropriate," he bellows irritably. "I 'ad half a mind to bury me dagger in 'is gut." Spittle arcs from Harwel's gritted teeth as the chill winds whip at his cloak.

"And if he -was-?" the woman bellows back, her scowl becoming fierce. "What is it to -you-, Sheriff? Was there any harm in it?" Tomassa snaps. "I think not! Especially, if it means that I might get even a small break in the man's usual price. Every little bit helps, Harwel! I'd be out of a home, if I let myself buy everything from Kolenko Iron Works that I desire!"

Barit Smithy is more visibly shaken than angry, shaking his head slowly. "By the Light, I'm never lookin' at my grandfather the same way again...I need a drink" He grunts, quickly departing to the tavern.

Grinn Harwel holds his ground stubbornly, and in an entirely un-servile manner. "It is my duty to look after my Lady's honor," he huffs, arms drawn up across his chest in scraping of iron against iron. "Codger's 'ead was filled with impure thoughts. It's a might lucky for 'im I didn't beat them out"

Tomassa Zahir stalks up to Grinn and pokes a finger into his chest, absently nodding to the poor, sick Barit. "Touch one hair upon that little man's head," she hisses up at the slightly taller man with a narrowing of her eyes. "And you won't live to regret it. He is more than an armorer, he is an -artist-. I refuse to let you do anything to harm him... especially while he's making an order for -me-!" The Lioness ends her tirade with an emphatic push to the sellsword's chest. Tomassa says, "Now come on. I want a drink."

Grinn Harwel meets the fiery Tomassa stare for stare. But quite wisely keeps his mouth clamped tight. The soldier steps back at he shove and flares his nostrils, but simply turns and starts for the tavern once again.

Tomassa Zahir exhales in satisfaction and saunters after her lackeys, mouth set in a firm line.


Gold Coin Tavern (Vozhdya)


The tavern of the Gold Coin is a remarkably attractive redbrick cottage. Inside, its terracotta tile flooring is covered with thick, warm embroidered carpets. A large, circular firepit is centered in the room, capped by a rack supporting several rotating spits of meat. The walls are decorated with various images of Vozhdya's glorious past, from the Wildling Wars to the coronation of House Vozhd. Mounted highest of all, however, is a portrait depicting the Ascension of Emperor Talus Kahar XI.
Overhead hangs a large, three-tiered iron-and-copper candelabrum, swaying gently. The atmosphere is one of familiarity, as various persons - mostly soldiers - play games at the large ebon tables. Perhaps a dozen of these populate the room. The second story of the cottage is dedicated to small sleeping quarters for guests. A door to the kitchen is visible, as is a large biinwood bar stocked with copious amounts of booze.


"If the Horsemen are avatars of Justice " asks one freelander of another "then Vanamur Seamel must be the full fury of that justice. Woe be any merchant who forgets *his* order!"

Tomassa Zahir stalks into the tavern behind Grinn, her anger evaporating a little at the thought of knocking back a few drinks. The hauberk over her arm jingles with her steps.

Barit Smithy has already taken a seat at the bar, quickly downing a stein of ale, guzzling it like water.

Grinn Harwel enters the establishment looking grim as death. Indeed, a few drinks would do some good about now. The sellsword glances at the fire briefly, then sets off for the bar.

Tomassa Zahir follows the lead of her men, moving to the bar to find a seat with them. She looks grumpily to Grinn for a moment and then gives her head a shake. "Drinks are on me," she murmurs as she sits.

Grinn Harwel stares bitterly at the wall, making a pointed effort not even to glance at Tomassa. The ale that is served is consumed almost at once in three healthy gulps.

Barit Smithy is, apparently, well into drinking. A collection of 5 steins is set to his side, and he continues to order more ales.

"Well," the Contessa says in a dry tone. "This is fun." She turns to Barit and smirks, asking, "Are you angry with me, too?"

Another foamy mug replaces the empty one at Harwel's elbow. And much like the first it is drained in due haste. "I ain't angry," he mutters.

"Of course not, M'lady," Barit answers with a weak smile. "Just very, very disturbed," He answers, the effect of the ale clear on him, "A beautiful woman such as yourself, with that elderly old fellow, combined in a...embrace...bad...images...Light...MORE ALE!!!" Barit exclaims nearly incomprehensibly, and the cook eagerly resupplies.

Tomassa Zahir can't help but to chuckle at Barit's reaction, giving her head a slow shake. "And there, I thought I'd frightened you just because you'd never seen me do anything like that before," she says with a growing grin. "I don't, often," the woman quickly corrects as she reaches for another ale. "But in this case, it is to my best advantage." She looks at Grinn, tilting her head. "You -aren't- angry?"

"Nope," Grinn assures in a gravely tone, now working on his third drink. "Fumin' pissed." He tosses the last of the ale back, obtaining the desired 'buzz', and slides off the stool. "Pardons but I'll be turnin' in. Unless milady wishes otherwise."

Barit Smithy quickly downs a few more, and it seems to calm him down. He looks over to Tomassa, grinning slightly. "If he wasn't that old, I'd probably just get a wee bit jealous. But that...simply the most sickenin thing I've ever witnessed in my life. Thinkin in my head...such a waste, this creature...put upon that man..." He quickly shakes his head. "Steel. You make steel...outta carbon and gold, no, no, wait, no, it's coal and /iron/. Iron!" Barit isn't in his best condition.

Tomassa Zahir exhales again, her mood souring once more. "Barit, would you like to share the carriage back to Hedgehem or stay here a while longer?" she inquires as she eases from her own stool. "Actually... you'd /better/ come along. I'm not sure you'll make it, otherwise."

Grinn Harwel takes his leave, grumbling to himself just as soon as he's out of earshot.

Barit Smithy nods slightly to Tomassa. "O' course, M'lady. I'd like that," He shakily rises from his stool, stumbling a little, before managing to maintain balance. "There we go."

Tomassa Zahir steps up to take the man's arm in an attempt to steady him. She chuckles just a little, but Grinn's demeanour has her irritated. Carefully, she steers Barit toward the door.

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