Chancellor's Suite <Palace District>

A spacious chamber with walls of polished biinwood and arched windows overlooking the courtyard below, this is the room that the Imperial Chancellor calls home.
The room includes a washbasin, a chamber pot that servants frequently replace for cleaning, a wardrobes for clothing, and a four-post bed with an arched white canopy, polished biinwood headboard, thick beige blankets and comfortable fowl-feather pillows.
An angled writing table is provided for the chancellor or his vassals to work on correspondence. A bedroll is provided for a vassal to sleep close by the chancellor's vicinity. High wooden doors lead out into the quarters corridor.

Oren Nillu is currently abed. His entire body is covered in sweat and deep red spots. His wakefulness is betrayed by the constant coughs.

The door is opened and Ester walks slowly into the room. White knuckles grip a small wine bottle, wrapped in a cloth in one hand. She stops and looks at the bed, her expression quite tense. "Your Grace?" she asks quietly.

Oren Nillu mumbles something softly and then opens his eyes, turning to face Ester. "Mistress Shardwood. I heard you were missing but have returned with your mother's miracle cure for this cursed pox. I am glad to see you are well. The rumors were rather unpleasant."

There is a call from outside the room, "Does anyone need anything in there?" Ester jumps and looks behind and calls back, "Yes. Come in." She then turns her attention to the man, "Yes your Grace. I have quite a tale to relate to you when you are well." She walks over to the side of the bed, "Mistress Balsam said you are not fairing well at all." She pauses to swallow heavily, "What I have to offer...there is no guarantee. It has worked on but one person as of yet..."

Chaori Balsam comes in. "What can I bring you? Do you need to know what the Chancellor's been given?"

"Well, so far the medication I have been drinking has done little good, Mistress Shardwood, so perhaps you hold in your hands a miracle for this old man. If it does not work," the elderly Nillu adds, smiling, "then at least we tried."

A gleam of sweat appears on Ester's forehead as Oren explains his condition. Another heavy swallow follow by a forced smile, "You are important to us your Grace. Even more now. The future of the Realm is at stake. Some of us would do almost anything to ensure your health." She closes her eyes for a moment as if thinking on something then suddenly turns and answers Chaori's query, "Do you have something that would help his Grace sleep. It tends to work better with the body at complete rest. I fear this cough will make that difficult without help."

Chaori Balsam replies, "it is dangerous to combine a sedative with the dark pox treatment. Let me think a moment." She takes out her kit and gazes at the packets of herbs. "In his condition, chamomile might do it, but I fear the sleep would not be deep enough. Let me mix up a chest rub to ease his breathing and I *think* I have a sedative that should not harm him." Oren Nillu

Ester nods her agreement with the healer's solution and turns back to Oren, "We can do it all at once your Grace. I will do what I need to and then you can sleep, while it works." She glances down at the wine bottle, shake her head slightly, take one deep breath and then explains. "I need to put this on your back, arms and chest. Chaori it should not effect the chest rub any. It can go on top. Then you will drink some and the tea prepared. Then we wait." She forces another smile as the gleam of sweat forms into a few small beads. "I'm sorry your Grace but it will be somewhat messy. The sheets will have to be changed in the morning."

Chaori Balsam says, "They should really be burned. It will be safest." She works a little while, then says, "That's the ointment. Excuse me, while I send that poor Blade to fetch a teakettle."

Oren Nillu nods slowly. He turns his head away and coughs. "Very well. Do what you must. I want to be rid of this disease one way or the other."

Chaori Balsam says, "He should be back momentarily."

Ester nods and uncorks the bottle. She starts to pour amber liquid out of the bottle onto the cloth. "Can you sit up your Grace or do you need help?"

Roland comes in a few minutes later with a kettle, and a cup. He glances about, and moves to set both on the desk.

Chaori Balsam absently smiles at Roland, but watches Ester and Oren, who is in bed and looking none too good.

Oren Nillu closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, then slowly but surely manages to sit up. Once he has managed to do so, he remains there slumped, visibly wearied by even such a simple task.

Ester stoops over the old man, cloth raised to begin the application. Slowly she reaches for his back and just stops, dead and just stares at the cloth in her hand. "Oh Light," she breathes under her breath, "Here we go." With that said she starts spreading it over his skin, leaving dull red streaks with each stroke of the cloth. "I hope it's not to cold you Grace."

Chaori Balsam begins preparing a cup of tea, humming under her breath. She's over by Oren's desk.

Oren Nillu shivers briefly. "A little cold, but nothing I cannot handle. I have always been a man more inclined to the cold, I suppose."

"Father?" The voice precedes the ghoul, a small woman dressed in naught but a dressing gown. Her feet are red with the cold, and her face is flushed with a fever that has her in its terrible grip. Her hair is beyond the usual wild curls as she peeks around this corner and that, opening all the doors she can get her hands on. "Father? You're supposed.. to take me now, remember?" Her body is weak, and her movement is slow as she opens that door to the Chancellor's suite. "Father? Where are you? Didn't anyone tell you to come get me?"

"Good good," Ester murmurs. She resoaks the cloth and starts on one of Oren's arms. "The tea as soon as you can," Mistress Balsam she says with a small tremor in her voice. The sound of the voice causes her to flinch and she looks to the door, "Gabby? Light whaaa?"

Chaori Balsam takes one look at the latest arrival and says, "It's not delirium. She wouldn't be able to move. It's psychosis. Chancellor, I'd rather rub your chest before you drink that tea. You'll be out like a light."

Oren Nillu opens his eyes to turn towards the door. "Mistress Shardwood, is this medication supposed to make me... see things? I doubt my fever is far yet this advanced." His entire body /is/ covered with red spots, however. "What in the Light's sake...?"

Well! If she is a spirit forgotten by the Light's realm, how is she being seen by these creatures? "I'm looking for my father," she announces quietly, folding her hands in front of her. Sweat drips from her brow, and she looks upon a room full of strangers. "He has /green/ eyes." This fact is very important to her, it seems.

Ester's eyes grow panicky and stares at Gabriella, similar to a deer caught in a lantern's light. A single head shake and she’s out of it. Her gaze moves to Chaori. "Of course," she says quickly, "I will do his chest first." Carefully, though with more vigor this time she moves to wipe the liquid over his chest. "Gabby," she says sharply, "I believe I saw your father down the hall. Perhaps you should check there."

Chaori Balsam studies the tea. "Not just yet," she says. "I think I'd better spend the night in here, all things considered."

"Mistress Balsam, call your guard in. I want him to look after Duchess Gabriella, make sure she gets back to her room safe or that nothing happens to her until she does. Clearly, she is not well of mind," Oren instructs, sighing. "If she wants to stay, that is fine, but I do not want the palace servants to see her in the state. Or those who haven't already, at least."

Roland steps inside, and looks over to the Healer.

Chaori Balsam tells Roland, "Would you please escort the duchess back to her room, at the top of the northeastern tower? Keep her from hurting herself, or anyone else, and please try not to let anyone else see her. I'll stick my head in when I can."

"Duchess?" Gabriella asks at the same time, tilting aside her head and all her rioting curls. Her hands twist in her dressing gown. No, something isn't right here.. something about the ring on her finger. She looks down to it, and twirls it lightly. "I'm only looking for my father. He's not in the tower. I looked. That's where the other place starts, and the old one ended. Lord.. Lord.. G.. g.. he thinks so, too."

Ester thinks for a moment and smiles weary smile. She shakes her head at Chaori, trying to ignore Gabriella "I would like to see it done now, Mistress." She swallows and gives Oren a tentative look, "Then if you please. Leave the tea. I need to speak with the Chancellor for a few minutes on an urgent private matter before he goes off to sleep. I will give him the tea and call you when we are done if you wish to watch him."

"All matters seem to be urgent these days. Such a harsh and cold winter this one turned out to be," Oren notes. "Very well. Guard," he tells Roland, "please escort the Duchess to her room. Mistress Balsam, Mistress Shardwood can handle it from here. Thank you. Call on me tomorrow and if the Light sees it so, I might be better."

Chaori Balsam replies, "As you wish, but someone should monitor your breathing for the rest of the night." She scoops the mixed-up chest balm, which does not smell sweet, into a little jar. The tea does smell fruity, but will prove to have a musty aftertaste. In just a few moments, she is packed and ready to leave.

With a shrug, Gabriella smiles sadly to those present. "You must be caught here, too," she murmurs pitifully before moving towards the door. "I..I.." Her subconscious catches, as though she nearly remembers something. "Well, I suppose he isn't here." The noblewoman begins to wring her hands again, the skin overheated by sickness and worry. "Perhaps he doesn't want me anymore..." And with that, the white nightgown flows out of sight.

Ester stands up after she finishes with the cloth, looking quite relieved when Gabriella leaves the room. She bows her head, "I thank you Mistress Balsam. I promise to find you when I have to leave. Please be assured I have the Chancellors best interest at heart. Thank you for your help."

"Leave your instructions with Eram outside and he will look out for me tonight," Oren tells the healer. "Good eve to you." Chaori Balsam replies, with a formal curtsey, "Good evening then."

Ester sets the bottle down and moves to pick up the jar of balm. As soon as the healer leaves she pads over and locks the door. "Just to make sure there is no interruptions." She walks back to the bed and stoops down to start applying the balm. "Your Grace I'm not sure if you've been told yet but I was gone because I was kidnaped," she says quietly as she reaches to start rubbing the sticky substance on his chest. "I was held in one spot for months and in the end I overheard some men speaking about the pox. The one said the words, "The pox. It has done more then we could have hoped for. The he ordered me killed."

There is silence from the Chancellor at first. "It had already occurred to me that the circumstances under which this disease appeared were suspicious at best," he comments. "Who were these men? Who are they that they can create such an abomination and rejoice in the death it brings?"

Ester lets out a small sigh and rubs another glob around. "I cannot be sure you Grace. But to me it sounded an awful lot like Zolor Zahir." Her expression grows dark as she remembers, "I couldn't see him. My face was covered. But no matter who I will *always* remember that voice. I feel like it has been engraved on my mind."

Ester finishes with a balm and sits back on her haunches, resting the jar on her knee. "The Surrector and Duchess Nillu." She pauses, "However I did keep one thing from them. During my escape I tore a necklace off of one of his underlings neck. It was an amulet. A wolf."

"I need this tonic of yours to work, Ester. I need it desperately. If only it can grant me health for one month, it will be enough," the old man comments, sighing. "Where were you held? Did they ever tell you why they had you? Anything at all?"

Ester looks sad and shakes her head, "I believe it was in the Shadow District somewhere. When I was to be killed I was brought to the dumping grounds." She shakes her head and closes her eyes, "I don’t know why they had me. Or took so long to kill me. I just don't know. I was alone the entire time except when someone brought me gruel. I...I am so sorry your Grace that I can't tell you more."

Oren Nillu shakes his head. "It is fine. Do you have the amulet?"

Ester pushes herself to her feet and walks over to where the tea and cup sit. Her hand is shaking as she picks the pot up and starts filling up the cup. "Not with me, but I can bring it to you tomorrow. It is with my things in one of the guest rooms." The cup steams and after the pot is set down she walks slowly back, "In is very simple. Silver. A wolf on four legs, howling in the air."

"Do not give me that tea yet, Ester. I need my wits about me for as long as I have them. I have one more thing to do tonight. Eram," Oren says, raising his voice to call out the last name. A servant walks in. "Go find the Surrector and tell him to come here." The vassal nods and departs, leaving the Chancellor and Ester once more alone. "I have preparations to make. There is no telling if..." He turns away, coughing, a sound filled with the viles of phlegm. "...if tomorrow I will be worse. So a wolf, you say? I do not recall ever seeing such a symbol before."

For a split second Ester's eyes grow panicky again and the cup shakes so much a little of the liquid spills over the side. "Ow," she cries out and almost spills some more. Quickly she turns away from him a look of anguish and frustration coming to her face. "Of course your Grace. I understand. It needs to cool anyway..." she mumbles as she sets the cup back down on the table.

"I am sorry you had to go through that whole ordeal," Oren says. "I promise you we will do everything within our grasp to find the culprits responsible, but I need you to keep what you have told me tonight to yourself. Other than the Surrector and the Assessor, no one must know about it." He pauses. "Ester? No one. Not even and specially not Ashlynn Birch. Do you understand?"

Ester takes a few moment before she nods in agreement, her expression, one of trepidation hidden from his view. "Of course your Grace. I will hold to your wishes."

Oren Nillu's eyes close briefly. "Ah, this fever. Was it this tonic of yours that helped you survive the pox, Lady Shardwood?" Ester takes a quick breath, steels herself and turns back to face the Chancellor. She smiles gently, "I think perhaps it's because I had something similar when I was younger. I've talked to a few who have experienced the same thing." She blinks rapidly for a split second, "This...I mean that was how I knew of this mother used it."

"If this tonic works, I intend to have it taken across Fastheld," Oren notes. "After this, your mother might even be raised to the status of Baronet much like you were. She will be a hero, Lady Ester."

Ester shifts uncomfortably from one foot to another and turns to walk over to the desk. "My mother is dead," she says simply as she grabs the chair and drags it back to the bed, "She was killed in Lightreach." Her eyes close and she swallows heavily, "I was only left with a couple of bottles and the recipe. I know what’s in it and how to do it, but it requires plants that you cannot get this time of year. I...this...I mean that's why I haven't given it to everyone." The next swallow is more of gulp, "That's why I...we must choose the most important."

Oren Nillu sighs. "A shame, that," he says. "So many could be saved. Well, no matter. I am sure the healers of the realm are doing what they can."

"They say it is subsiding you Grace. The worst is past," Ester says with more ease. "Though many have died. I just spoke with Contessa Tomassa Zahir. Her son has passed."

"Many more will fall before this is over, I fear," the old man comments. "Tell me, how long will it take for the tea to put me to sleep? If it will be long, I suppose I could drink it now."

"I...well...I really don't know your Grace. I'm not really sure what it is. Perhaps sometime. Enough time for it to travel up your innards," Ester replies with a glance back at the cup.

"Fine. Serve it up. I shall drink and hope Duhnen reaches us soon." Oren sighs again. "Zolor Zahir. I should have dealt with him when I had the chance. Little rat."

Ester lets out a relieved sigh and hops to her feet. The cup is carefully, she speaks tentatively as she makes her way back to the bed and holds it out to him, "If it becomes necessary your Grace...I have ways of *helping* and would not be adverse to doing so."

"Oh?" Oren asks, taking the cup. "What can you do, m'Lady?" He takes a sip of tea. "This is not a simple man we are dealing with -- not by far if he is responsible for this pox."

"No man is capable of remaining with defenses all of the time," Ester replies with steel in her voice. "I am a hunter your Grace. And a good one at that. There is little difference between animal and man. Just their habitat." She nods assuredly, "And I am just as familiar with the ways and means of this human one as I am with the wilds."

"Regardless," Oren says, "an animal can be killed and the problem of his existence thus erradicated. A man has wiles, deadlier than those of mere critters. And this man has the means to do horrible things and the brains to ensure that, should anything can happen, he will have ways to react. Not all defenses are visible to the eye."

Ester nods once, "I understand your Grace. The Zahir is a crafty animal. I just wished for you to know what you have at your disposal." She smiles dryly, "If you should need it."

Oren Nillu smiles. "Perhaps I will. Ah, this tea seems to be striking already."

Ester raises a brow and looks at the door. "The Surrector? I.." She leans forward with a worried expression, "Is there something you wish me to tell him? If you should doze off that is."

"Just tell him I will..." Oren shakes his head, fighting to keep his eyes open. "...speak with him, yes. Speak with him in the morning, I... it seems this tea is getting the work done. I think I will lie down now, Lady Shardwood."

Ester nods and reaches to take the cup from the Chancellors hand. She looks to the door again, "Oh course your Grace. I will make sure he is hear." Oren Nillu allows himself to drop down slowly on the bed, resting his head on the pillow. "I... well... good night..." He mumbles something. "Very important..." Mumble, mumble. "Yes..." Soon enough, he is gone, far away in the land of dreams.

Ester sucks in her breath and waits for a few seconds. "Oh Light," she whispers to herself as her forehead breaks out in sweat. With nervous motion she sets the cup down. After checking it carefully to make sure that it is indeed locked and hurries back to the bed. Slowly she gets on her knees, stares at hi for a fews seconds, pokes him once and speaks out, "Chancellor? Can you hear me?"

Oren Nillu is silent, except maybe for the occasional soft snore.

Ester takes a quick look around as if expecting someone to be there. There isn't an she swallows a couple of ties. Trembling hand reach out towards the sleeping man. One is placed on his arm. The other his forehead. "Alright," she murmurs softly and closes her eyes, "May the Light help me." She starts to breathe in and out and slowly but surely the tremble subsides. An air of relaxation and calm falls over her and within moments her hands begin to glow, a faint white aura surrounding them.

The glow soon subsides, and Ester's eyes flicker open. She stares at the man, a hopeful expression on her face. Unsure of what to do next she just sits that way for about a minute before slowly standing. Tears form in her eyes as she leans over to plant a gentle kiss on his forehead. "I am so sorry you Grace. That I've had to lie to you this way. Had to do this to you. Please forgive me," she whispers before straightening with a jerk and hurrying to the door, wiping the tears off her cheeks as she goes.

Return to Season 4 (2006)

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