Goat's Horn Tavern <Fanghill>
- Someone seems to be saving money on candles and lantern oil, keeping this cozy stone tavern minimally illuminated by virtue of a central square fireplace of quarried sun clay that remains stoked and burning throughout the day and night by the barkeep and his employees. The floors are strewn with amber rushes and sand imported from Nillu lands to soak up the stickier spilled beverages.
- About a dozen polished shardwood tables provide seating for groups who want to socialize in the Goat's Horn, perhaps the most popular spot in the township of Fanghill. Despite the shadowy nature of the bar, patrons can lose themselves in good conversation, song and dance, or parlor games.
- A C-shaped counter along the west wall is fronted by six stools for lone patrons just looking for a drink.
Zolor Zahir is sitting at his usual table, enjoying a bowl of stew and goblet of wine as he quietly observes the goings-on in the Goat's Horn Tavern.
The door to the tavern opens and several cloaked figures walk, two clutching longbows in their hands "Same as yesterday?" and male voice inquires of the others. "Aye," Ester replies as she pulls back the hood, eyes sweeping the the tavern. Her gaze falls briefly upon Zolor, narrow slightly but move on as the man who spoke moves to the bar counter and Ester and the other walk towards an empty table.
Zolor Zahir notes the activity around the doorway, paying particular attention to the men wielding bows. His eyes then settle on Ester Shardwood. He observes her approach to the empty table and then takes a sip of wine from his goblet.
An old wench informs a younger serving girl of an old tale: "Mark my words! The bite of a shriekweasel will turn you into a Shadow-Touched monster when all six moons are full!"
Ester removes her cloak and drapes it over the back of the chair. Her companion sits but before she does likewise she leans over and talks quietly close to his ear. The other man, after speaking with a serving girl who giggles and pours three goblets of wine, picks them up and carefully starts the journey to the table. Ester grimaces at whatever her companion says, nods and straightens. With purposeful steps she walks from the table and intercepts the man with the wine. Silently she takes a glass and heads in Zolor's direction.
Setting down his goblet, the lord of Fanghill Keep sighs and raps his fingers - thrump! thrump! thrump! - steadily on the tabletop. His attention seems to be fixed, at the moment, on the head of a shriekweasel mounted on the tavern wall.
Ester pauses briefly a few steps away from the table and after a quick breath as if preparing herself for something, steps forward and pulls the chair out across from Zolor, moving as if to sit down.
A thin smile touches Zolor's lips as his gaze shifts toward the woman at his table. "Ah, Mistress Shardwood. Congratulations on your *latest* promotion."
Ester sets the goblet down as she clears her throat, her voice dry, "Aye and I'm sure you mean that with the utmost of sincerity Lord Zahir." She smiles a half smile, "Are you keeping well M'lord?"
"I manage to keep myself busy," Zolor allows. He takes another sip of wine, then asks, "Feel free to have a seat, Madame Surrector. I find myself most intrigued by what possible mad plots I'm to be linked with this time."
Ester settles into the seat and lifts the wine to her lips. She lifts a brow, "Plots? What makes you think I am here to speak about plots?" She glances back over her shoulder at the men at the table, "I am simply here on some business with some local men of the the hunting sort, saw you here, a thought it prudent to at least make my greetings. How rude and counter to etiquette would it be to ignore you."
Zolor Zahir shrugs. "Please, Madame Surrector, the hunting in these parts is not so appealing and you only ever seem to show up with questions and veiled accusations about my activities. I should be disappointed if you have become so pedestrian as to fall back on courtesy as the excuse for placing yourself in my company."
"I declare that the Light has spoken to me!" proclaims one *highly* intoxicated preacher. "It has warned me of doom! We're all doomed! All is lost! And we... hey a penny!"
Ester sits silent as she considers the man for a few seconds a faintly ironic smile tugging at the corner of her lips. "Well I'd be lying if I said I wasn't at least somewhat curious as to your dealings within the political turmoil that seems to be upon us right now. Though I doubt there is much in the way that you would tell me even if I did ask about it." She sips, "So then I am left with the problem of strategy...how does one find out such things?"
Zolor and Ester sit at a table, each with wine glass in hand. The tavern itself is moderately busy with groups chatting and drinking around then. A couple of men sit at one table, talking over goblets of amber liquid. One casts glances over at Ester, making no attempt to hide the worried expression on his face.
The Lord of Fanghill Keep leans forward, a virulent smile on his face as he speaks softly to the Surrector. "Would it make your life easier if I were to tell you that I was involved in a planned insurrection intended to overthrow the government of Fastheld?" He sets down his goblet and extends his hands over the table. "Take me away in chains, perhaps? Lock me away?"
From the direction of the entrance a certain Master Sprigg, perhaps well known or frequented in many taverns such as this one efffortlessly sidesteps his way through the floor of the tavern. His eyes play over Zolor and Ester at their table for only a moment, passing over the second table with just as fleeting of a glance and coming back to focus on the man tending bar. "Wine. Red please.", Wilesly orders, placing a few Kahars down on the bar. As the man goes to fill the order Wilesly murmurs to himself, looking back towards Ester and her companion. "Seems to suit the mood>"
Ester stares at the hands and then looks up to Zolor's face, "Your sarcasm is biting M'lord. Bravo. Quite entertaining." She smiles wanly, "And do praytell fill me in on how you propose to accomplish this? Are you planning on riding the Realm of the members of the Royal House or just hold them captive. I've heard that you may be experienced in using such tactics."
Zolor Zahir withdraws his hands, sighing resignedly. "I haven't figured that much out yet, but when I do, I assure you that you will be among the first to know."
Wilesly sips his newly arrived wine, continuing to watch Ester's and Zolor's table. More specifically he watches lips and facial expressions. Of course he does this from just over the rim of his glass as not to make it quite so obvious.
"Your consideration of me is heartening," Ester scoffs. "Though your planning skills seem to be somewhat lacking. I thought much more of you M'lord."
"You have my humblest apologies for falling short of such high expectations," Zolor replies with a smirk. He takes another sip of his wine. Then, he says, "The turmoil hasn't been of my making, Madame Surrector. Look closer to home. The choices made by our late lamented Emperor, the lies of the Church, the Imperial Council's dalliances beyond the Aegis. It requires little expert analysis to determine that *those* are the sources of conflict in our realm."
"Those sound a good deal like the hallmarks of dissension, m'lord...In fact a good deal like the writings in that White Dove Herald.", Wilesly remarks, approaching the table and offering a low bow to those present. He looks to Ester with a smirk. "Friends close but enemies closer, m'lady?". He takes one submissive step back from the table, fixing Zolor with intelligent if not somewhat masked gray eyes.
Ester returns the smirk, "And yes of course...you have just sat idly by with nothing but passing comments on it all..." She's interrupted by Wilesly's approach, her eyes darkening with annoyance upon recognition. "Good day Master Sprigg," is her only reply.
Zolor Zahir glances curiously at Sprigg for a moment. Nods. Then turns his attention back to the Surrector. "I have nothing to do with that White Dove business. It amuses me, I confess, but it would be disingenuous for me to claim authorship of such genius."
"And so I took down that bog ape all on my lonesome!" says one mercenary to a pretty lass he's courting. "Oooooh!" she coos. "What'd you do with the body?" The Mercenary looks to the side. "Err... I left it in the stable. With my horse. Three towns from here..."
Wilesly maintains a mirthless smile all the while standing by submissively. He waits a moment and then begins to fiddle through a satchel he wears underneath his cloak. It's a short while before he extracts a folded piece of correspondence which he taps absently in his hand while the two continue their conversation.
"Well I'm glad you are enjoying it so. I find myself in a similar state," Ester says dryly as she looks away from Wilesly, "Instability and conflict are highly amusing in my mind. I say let there be more so we can all laugh the days away." The tapping catches her attention and she does her best to ignore it, her eyes flicking to look at Wilesly as she speaks. Finally something gets to be to much and she snaps gaze and voice at the standing man, "What?"
Zolor Zahir lifts his eyebrows as the Surrector's attention fixes on Wilesly. It's only natural for him to observe Wilesly more openly at this point. A smile touches his lips as Ester's voice suggests irritation at the man.
Sprigg's smile never falters. He even has enough wherewithall to feign mild surprise at irritation, the note coming to swift stop in the palm of his hand. "Ah well, m'lord, m'lady, will forgive my interruption but I had checked at m'lady's office to find m'lady truant.", Wilesly continues in a tone of neutrality which in itself is somewhat pretentious. "Just a word about the Moor matter but it hardly compares with a coup so I'm quite prepared to wait my turn." His eyes shift back to Zolor who gets a mild inclination of his head.
Ester's brow furrows as she looks between the two men. Uncertainty taking hold for a split second. It's soon disapated with a steadying breath. Her smile is polite and tone careful, "Master Sprigg, Lord Zahir and I were just having a amiable chat, such as that is among old friends. M'lord has a good sense of humor it seems. Nothing more and nothing to stop me from attending to business."
Zolor Zahir chuckles, shakes his head and stands. "I should leave you to more Surrectorly duties," the Lord of Fanghill Keep says. "Unfortunately, I am required elsewhere. It is *so* much work coordinating the toppling of a centuries-old regime, you know. But perhaps I could stop in at Fastheld Keep sometime and have another of these chats soon?"
"Of course, m'lady.", Wilesly returns as his smile turns into a grin. "I suspected as much as for being somewhat familiar with the business of secrets and murmured confidences ... a tavern is not necessarily the best place to discuss these things." He nods to the Zahir. "I've heard quite a bit about you, m'lord ... quite a bit." He smirks. "Anyway it was not so much for business that I should approach but for the chance to exchange witticisms." A sigh and a shake of his head. "But it appears business before pleasure is the course of the day."
Ester stands as well, for the moment ignoring Wilesly. She looks amused at Zolor's comments, "I would look forward to it M'lord. I have some other matters that need some discussion, but as Master Sprigg said a tavern is not the place. Please feel free to stop by anytime. I will most likely be there attending to my duties." She lifts her glass for one final sip and says pointedly mimicing sentence and tone, "It is *so* much work coordinating the protection of the heir."
Zolor Zahir bows with a mild flourish to the Surrector, then nods to Wilesly before taking his leave, striding toward the door as his cloak flows behind.
Wilesly watches the Zolor leave for a moment before he turns towards Ester. "Sorry to intrude. Wasn't quite aware of your standing with the man and I've found you can often find out alot about a person if you throw them off balance for just a moment.", Wilesly apologizes, with a slight shrug. "Protection of the heir?", he inquires.
Ester, her expression now one of supreme irritation, watches Zolor leave the tavern as she replies to Wilesly. "The crown prince Master Sprigg. One of my main duties is to ensure his protection." The two men at the other table now look to Ester and she gestures at the door. "And don't be fooled. Throwing Lord Zahir 'off' balance is no easy task. The man is deplorable..." Her mouth tightens, "I need to get back to the palace. If you wish to speak you will have to ride with me." The men gather their bows, finish off their drink and head for the door.
"I should not have tried if I knew who the man was.", Wilesly replies, shaking his head. He nods though, biting his lip lightly. "But yes I shall ride and speak if it pleases, m'lady." He tucks the letter away back into his satchel, adjusts the cloak he wears, and looks quite ready to move. Before he leaves though he asks a very simple question. "Have they returned?"
"Has who returned?" Ester shoots back in an absent manner as she walks to the other table to grab her cloak from the chair. "What a waste of my time," she mutters to herself as she fastens it around her shoulders. She steps towards the door after a brief glances at Wilesly to see where he's at.
"A certain mongoose and cat.", Wilesly returns back cryptically, moving to follow behind the Surrector. "I am sure some effort must have been made to reach them with the news." He moves to keep up with her, talking just behind her.
Ester pulls her hood up and the fleeting glimpse of a scowl is lost amongst the shadows of the material. She seems to ignore the question. "It is a long ride Master Sprigg. We need to get going," comes the blunt statement as the door is opened and she strides out.