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Lightholder Crossroads <Palace District>


A small village has sprouted on the edge of the Lightholder River where the cobblestone roads from Fastheld's other prominent districts intersect, in the shadow of Caryas Hill and the majestic gray silhouette of Fastheld Keep - the seat of power for the entire realm.
Sutlers, traveling performers and other small-time merchants ply their trades along this main crossroads - competing for space with carriages hauling passengers, couriers rushing important communiques from one district to another, and the soldiers of the Emperor's Blades who regularly patrol the area.
On the northwest corner of the intersection, next to the road that twists north toward Lightholder Bridge and the palace, sits a large tavern and inn where weary travelers can refresh themselves.

Brunhilde leans against the doorframe of the stables, a large bag over her shoulder as she chats with the stable boy there. "He is *not* a pig, ya oaf. He's a growing colt! He just enjoys his oats. Wouldn't you, if you were a horse?" She swaggers her hip a little, defiantly.


Hartnek Lomasa steps off the Lightholder Bridge, turns onto the Imperial Thoroughfare and approaches the crossroads where smoke twists from the chimney of the popular tavern. He seems unfazed by the rain, which plinks on his armor and soaks his hair.


The stable boy remains just a little annoyed, ignoring the woman's rants to stare at her. "The agreement is to stable yer horse and give it a little food 'n water, not have it eat us outta house and home! I don't even know how 'e managed to get in the back bin. It's got a swinging door, and everything!" He scratches his head, muttering, "You owe at least another 20 imperials, ma'am."


The Blademaster passes the stable on his way to the tavern. He stops as he hears the squabble. Rivulets of rainwater trickle down his cheeks and stream down his armor as he ponders the situation. After a few moments, he turns and moves toward the shelter of the stable. "Something wrong here?" he inquires as he steps under the wooden overhang.


Brunhilde huffs, gritting her teeth as the blademaster approaches. She begins digging around in a belt pouch on her left hip. "Nothing, m'lord.", she says softly, handing a few coins to the stable boy and standing up straight. "Just a misunderstanding."


Hartnek Lomasa nods curtly. "Glad you got it worked out, then." He smiles jovially, clasping his hands behind his back.


The stable boy nods grumpily as he takes the coins, counting them before nodding to the Royal. "It's been worked out.", he concludes, quickly dispatching the coins to his pocket in a clinking fashion. "Thank you."


The Blademaster bows slightly. "Keep in the light." Then he turns and walks back out into the rain, resuming his path toward the tavern.


"As long as it shines.", the woman replies, gathering her horse's reins and raising her leg to mount. She swings her bulk over the creature, and begins to lead him to the north.


The Emperor's Hawk, Surrector Gell Mikin, walks into the crossroads. Rain glistens on his bald head as he walks toward the tavern. His dark eyes sweep the area, watching for anything unusual. Anything shadowy.


A stableboy leads Bilato out from the stables and around to the front, handing the reins to Brunhilde.

Brunhilde mounts Bilato and settles into the saddle.


From Bilato's saddle, The hairs on the back of the woman's neck begin to slowly raise as she and her horse move out into the rain. She takes a deep breath, her hand moving to smooth the tenacious frizzle atop her head. Her head lowers and her muscles tense as she looks about, her bag pulled that much more rigidly over her shoulder.


Gell Mikin stops outside the Lightholder Tavern, his fingers clutching the handle of the door and then releasing it as his eyes narrow. He glances toward the horse and rider emerging from the stables. He watches, silent and focused, stepping away from the door for now.


From Bilato's saddle, The fat, black shire makes a muffled whinny as the woman tighens her grip on him. Brunhilde licks her lips once, then twice. "Surrector.", she whispers under her breath, spurring her horse to head slowly towards the north. Her hands grip the reins tightly, knuckles white.


Gell Mikin slowly wipes the sheen of rainwater from his bald head with the palm of his right hand, lifting his chin as he watches the passage of the horse. Close inspection would show water also dripping from the wrinkled brown digits that form the necklace that dangles against his chest.


From Bilato's saddle, Brunhilde turns her head slowly to look towards the Shadow hunter, and a smile forces its way upon her tensed features, like a seedling prying its way out of heavy clay and into the light. "Good morning, m'lord.", she says smoothly, nodding her head in respect, her now-matted hair tossing a few thick drops of water down against the flank of the shire's black fur.


So addressed, the Emperor's Hawk begins to prowl with purpose in his measured steps toward the horse and rider. "Hold," he calls over the soft patter of the rain. The dull rumble of thunder growls in the distance.


From Bilato's saddle, A jolt of energy seems to run up Brunhilde's features, as if the lightning to the rumbling thunder. Gritting her teeth, she pulls at the reins for the horse to stop. She turns back to look at the Hawk, eyes narrowing, her face emotionless. Her shoulders shrug at the blue fabric that has begun to cling to her sides as she waits.


Gell Mikin stops, standing next to the horse, running a finger along the tether that links to the beast's bridle. He then glances up at the hooded rider. "Where do you ride from?"


From Bilato's saddle, "Apple Village, m'lord.", the woman says tersely, eyes remaining on his. "Is there a problem?" Her right eyebrow quirks slightly.


"Why would you think that?" the Surrector inquires softly. "Should there be a problem?" A faint smile touches his otherwise mordant features. "I merely inquire as to whether you have seen anything unusual between there and here. Anything that might suggest the Shadow at work. You *are* vigilant for such things, I trust."


From Bilato's saddle, "Always, m'lord.", the woman says, deadpan, her hand moving up to sweep a few of her now-wet locks that have strayed into her line of vision. "But I can't say that I've seen anything of interest today." The plentiful wrinkles at the corners of her eyes bunch together in a light smile of her own. "Thank the Light."


Gell Mikin nods, releasing the tether and glancing in the direction the horse is pointing. "You have business at Fastheld Keep?"


From Bilato's saddle, Brunhilde nods quickly, pointing towards the large sack. "I make burn salves, and one of the cooks had a nasty accident with a hearth. Poor dear." She shifts the sack on her shoulder, grimacing slightly as she continues to keep her eyes locked on the Emperor's Hawk. "Everyone ends up getting burned eventually, it seems."


The surrector returns his attention to the woman on the horse. "Some deserve it." A dark smile touches his lips. "Have a care on the Palace Road. Caryas Hill can be treacherous in the rain."


From Bilato's saddle, "I've handled worse.", the woman replies with a smirk, spurring her horse to movement. "And what's life without a few challenges?"


"Death," the Emperor's Hawk replies. He stands in the rain for a few moments, watching the horse trot away bearing its rider. His eyes narrow once more, and then he turns, walking toward the tavern.

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