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Throne Room <Fastheld Keep>


The high ceilings of this gray stone chamber are supported by rows of massive columns along an aisle that features a purple carpet that extends from the arched entrance to the Emperor's throne room and ends at the first step of the dais that holds the gleaming majesty of the Imperial throne - a chair of gold, armrests encrusted in jewels, back and seat cushioned with stuffed pillows covered with crimson velvet.
Torches flicker in stanchions attached to the columns. The fluttering wings and twitter of birds can occasionally be heard in the shadows overhead, where the fowl have nested after coming into the estate through one of the balconies or the courtyard.
The seal of Fastheld - a crown within a dark, unbroken circle - is on the tapestry that hangs behind and above the throne of Talus Kahar.

Duhnen is sitting about in the throne room idle, playing a quiet tune to himself on his trill.

Sahna Nillu is seated a few feet from the musical councilman, her own way of passing time a dull one-- She catches up on her correspondence, scrawling out letters at surprising speed with a bland, noncommital expression.

Aiden Zahir enters the throne room with swift, powerful gait, the Spymaster's dark robes drifting in his wake. On this rare occasion, there is nothing in way of smile upon his face, none of the normal ebullience. Only stern, unreadable neutrality. And a glint in his eyes of disquieting vagueness.

Every man has a heart. Likewise does a realm have a beating organ that eases the flows of politics out onto the lands beyond. This is such a place -- a room where the heads of all Offices meet around a table now set up for use in front of the dais. Each chair awaits its respective owner, peaceful for the moment but ready to greet the tides of raged battle if needed.

And there... above it all... set upon the highest point... the true seat of power, now left vacant but waiting eagerly for the day when it will once again serve as the pedestal of justice and symbol of grandeur across the fields. Silent and lonesome, the Throne of Fastheld watches down on the meeting about to take place.

Oren Nillu steps in not long after Aiden, his own face grim with determination as he promptly heads to his place at the table.

More people? Oh yes, it's a meeting. Duhnen's eyes lift from his instrument as the two men walk in, and he takes that as his cue to stop, slipping away the trill into his cloak.

Selecting a small piece of red wax, the tiny Assessor holds it over a nearby candleflame for a moment, and affixing her seal to the bottom of a letter. That finished, she dusts a small scattering of sand over the paper to dry the ink, before tapping the remains back into a jar. "Chancellor, Spymaster, Quarrymaster." Sahna greets in a formal contralto, without looking up. "It seems some of our ilk will choose to be fashionably late this evening."

Aiden Zahir settles into his chair just before the CHancellor, affording a curt nod to the others gathered, but beyond that, nothing, as yet. Words enough can wait until business is officially presented, and the floor opened. For now, the Spymaster merely watches. And waits.

"Duchess Rowena is dealing with certain matters that require her immediate assistance. She is forgiven her delay or even possible absence," Oren states. "The Surrector also has been detained. Anyone else who chooses to be late better have an excuse. Anyone else who does not come better be dead or mortally wounded, or he or she will be otherwise unemployed." He sits down on his usual chair, glancing down at some papers on the table. "We will wait a few moments before we begin."

Duhnen chuckles faintly and nods his head, leaning back in his chair. Propping an elbow on the armrest, he rests his chin in his hand, watching the assembled council members.

Sahna Nillu starts leafing through a small pile of dispatches, drumming her spidery fingers on the table after Oren's word. It's a small moment, easily missed if one isn't looking at her, but the tiny Nillu assessor glances towards the tradesmaster's empty chair with a briefly speculative, cold smile.

Aiden Zahir knits his hands upon the table, leaning forward in attentive study of Oren. Faintly nodding at the bid for further time, he concedes with a short nod, "Very well. Perhaps others will show up, yet. The Council has never had more necessary business to consider, after all."

"Does that include Bladesmaster Lomasa as well?" Sahna asks in an absent tone, shuffling a few papers around with a slight frown. "I didn't manage to find him before the meeting, but surely even he realizes he should've been here. He lives right in the palace, for that matter."

Oren Nillu looks at each of the empty chairs in turn. "I am disappointed. This is a rather poor turnout for what has to be the most important meeting in the more recent history of the realm. I will, therefore, allow those not here unearned courtesy by leaving the most important matter for last. I hereby declare this session open. Originally, I intended to ask Duke Aiden to provide everyone with an account of the events that transpired on the Shadow District. That must wait. Those of us here know most of it already, so we can begin with... Zolor Zahir." He glances at Sahna. "Yes. Even the Blademaster will be held accountable, though perhaps to a lesser degree. We all know his duties."

"I understand he's been waving around all sorts of interesting artifacts and toys, none of which he felt we needed to know of," Duhnen chimes in, looking to those assembled.

Hartnek Lomasa walks into the throne room, hand resting on the hilt of the sword jutting from the scabbard slung at his hip. He has a rather snarly look on his face as his pace takes him through the torch-flickered shadows toward the meeting table. "My apologies for the delay, Chancellor," he says as he arrives at the table and pulls out his chair, glancing toward Oren. "Disciplinary issue in the barracks."

"Blademaster." The Assessor greets, before turning immidiately to the matter at hand.. Zolor Zahir. "Not only artifacts, but information. It'd seem he's not interested in sharing it unless he can make a dramatic scene of it." Sahna murmurs, setting aside her sheaf of papers.

Aiden Zahir looks askance at Hartnek's so very timely entrance, commenting with dry bemusement, "At those footfalls, I had thought perhaps it was Orell Mikin joining our little assemblage. As to Zolor," the likewise Zahir chimes in, looking back to the others, "for whatever his shortcomings, my kinsman was single-handedly responsible for subduing the Ravager. We may not have recovered our beloved Emperor in the process, but the realm, for the moment, whilst weakened, has yet been saved. And secrecy aside, Zolor has proven pivotal in that salvation. His future usefulness may be ... a bit more questionable, but I expect that, for whatever lack of trust, I can gain any information we need from my ubiquitous uncle."

Oren Nillu nods to the Blademaster and turns to Aiden. "You have said as much in the past, yet you knew nothing of the artifact you say he used. You knew nothing of the paths he took to reach the place where that other foul creature was. Perhaps, had we known these things, we could've made more haste. He is linked to acient lore and has dabbled with the Shadow. We need to know everything he knows, so we must find out one way... or the other."

Duhnen sighs faintly and doesn't comment for the moment, drumming his fingers lightly on the chair.

"It's quite possible this 'instrumentalist' is more powerful than the original threat we'd faced, so it's no time to be patting ourselves on the back." Sahna murmurs, expression grim.

Hartnek Lomasa frowns, settling into his chair as he listens to the topic of conversation. "Zolor Zahir. What scares *me* is that man may have such a monster at his beck and call thanks to some little trinket. I agree with the Chancellor. We need to know all we can about this, any way we can."

Shalis Kahar's steps are heard hurriedly in the corridor without, and he enters with a faint sheen of sweat on his forehead and his hair touselled thoroughly by wind.

Aiden Zahir casts a deep frown at first the Chancellor's response and then Hartnek's addendum, swift to answer the pair, "The coercer is not himself so easily coerced. Zolor is immune to normal methods of persuasion, and his reasons for anything his own. Even I find it enormously difficult to extract useful information from him, but if it is to come, it cannot and will not be in haste. Zolor is most cooperative when he is at ease and confident, and that is only achieved when he is encountered in a time and setting of his choosing, circumstances of his making. If I am to glean anything of substance; anything to help us in our continued quandry over this latest, and seemingly most enigmatic creature, it will have to be handled delicately. And slowly."

The Blademaster laughs bitterly. "I'm sure the Emperor will just sit and wait patiently for that."

Oren says, "Delicately? Slowly? While this Instrumentalist is out there and His Majesty remains missing? No, Duke Aiden. Zolor Zahir had a chance to do what was right at his own pace, now he will not have that luxury. Perhaps it is time he meets the tune of our own drums. A day in the dungeons, properly questioned, while Bladesmen search his estate. Too rash maybe. I am open to suggestions, but I remind you all that time is of the essence."

"The Blademaster is correct," Duhnen nods his head in response. "Time isn't something we have a surplus of, unfortunately. And we can't use the amount we have to play to Zolor's whims."

A few moments after the somewhat rushed arrival of Shalis, a faint rapping on the massive doors draws the immediate attention of the herald. In as hushed a tone as possible, he speaks briefly with the woman's voice that lilts softly on the other side. "The Healer Rowena Mikin." The herald announces, though the true necessity for the announcement is probably nulled by the monumentous discussion at hand. He steps aside, permitting entry for the Duchess.

Less tussled by the wind than her predecessor, Rowena appears to be more well-groomed and rested than she has in perhaps months. Her eyes calmly assess the attendance before her before she approaches the table, lips silent. A solemn smile and nod is given to those seated.

Sahna Nillu steeples her fingers, eyes narrowing thoughtfully. "Especially considering I greatly doubt he has any interest in seeing the emperor returned anyhow." She sniffs, leaning back in her chair, frail shoulders slumping forward. "Instead of knowing something, we now know nothing, just about. Is the church willing to disregard his actions?"

Shalis Kahar sums up the gathering from a distance as Rowena passes him, stepping forward to the table and seating himself in silence until Rowena offers the opening. "My apologies, brethren," he says, his mouth a tight line, "on my tardiness."

Hartnek Lomasa strokes his chin, then glances over at Sahna. "*His* actions? He didn't act alone." He sighs, sitting back in the chair as he looks across at Oren. "Of course, he did lead an expedition that eventually resulted in the destruction of the oldest Church of True Light cathedral in Fastheld. Perhaps the Church would take some issue with that." His brow furrows. "But all this chatter about monsters and reprisals aren't getting us any closer to retrieving the Emperor. Any thoughts in that regard?"

Aiden Zahir exhales a heavy sigh, shaking his head in patent disagreement with the prevailing opinion. "You will gain nothing from Zolor by bullying or threatening. Or even by unleashing the Bladesmen on him. No, do that and you close off all hope of gaining substantive information from him. As to Zolor and the Church, were it not for his presence in the releasing of She Who Protects, and my own, the Church would have nothing but corpses and ruined temples to its credit. The blood of our ancestors alone stayed the beast's hand, when Zolor could just as easily have bade the enraged Dragoness to vent her full fury upon Fastheld. Where haste profited nothing in ending the scourge of the Ravager, nor will it assist with the Instrumentalist ... nor in reclaiming an Emperor whom even the most understanding of opinions would count for lost. If he is not dead, the Ravager's influence and proximity would have twisted him into something inhuman and redolent with the Shadow. No, I submit that in while we must continue to search for His Imperial Majesty, as is our duty, we must prepare ourselves and the populace at large for a likely inevitable conclusion. It must be recognized that even with Zolor's help, success in our efforts would require miraculous intervention."

"I'd more referred to the artifacts he carries, Bladesmaster." Sahna replies, shaking her head. "Showing up at the whole messy business, not the destruction of the cathedral. We knew that'd be likely." Sahna murmurs, tapping at her cheek.

"There is the fact that Duke Zolor manifested shadow-touched powers in the presence of witnesses," Shalis murmurs, but his expression is noncommittal.

"The Church can easily take issue in a great deal of the things reports say he said and did," the chancellor assures. "The State can just as easily label him a traitor. Witholding information that could have helped us get His Majesty sooner is, by itself, an act of treason." He turns to address everyone gathered. "I have nothing but the purest of loyalties for the Emperor, but make no mistake: *our* priorities as council should focus on the safety of the realm. Zolor Zahir may have information that will help us fend off this... Instrumentalist when and if the time comes. I want His Majesty back as much as any of you, but I cannot afford to let my love for him steer me away from my duty." Finally, his eyes land on Aiden. "Bullying him? I am suggestion we use every method of questioning known to us to suck even the smallest bit of information from him."

Duhnen listens quietly, his eyes lowering to the table and occationally nodding his head slightly.

"No stone sanctuary will stand against the blow of that beast." Rowena murmurs from her place at the table as she takes a seat, eyeing in particular Aiden. "How then can those of us without the miraculous gift of the Light's power prepare? Do not think of His Majesty as lost quite yet. The sword and the heart of his brother still seeks him. He will be found." Looking then to Oren with a nod of agreement, she folds her palms delicately over her belly to rest. "Lord Zolor is not immune to the questioning that every other man and woman in this realm is subject to. True, it would be unwise to cast him immediately into the depths of the dungeon, for it would warrant only defiance from his...serpentine nature. I suspect there are none so close to him as could persuade the man into reason?"

Sahna Nillu purses her lips, shuffling her stack of papers for a long and quiet moment. When she speaks, her voice is low and flat. "There are chambers that could find out information.. He is intelligent, enigmatic, yes. Torture is, however, something most men are succeptible to. What kind of precedent does it set, if we let such an openly acknowledged man walk around with no reprisal?"

Shalis turns his veiled eyes on Sahna, and he clasps his hands on the tabletop in front of him. "It will not go unanswered by the Church," he states quietly.

Aiden Zahir's hawkish gaze falls fast upon Oren. "Lord Chancellor, you quite plainly suggested that a possible solution to Zolor's intransigence could be found in applying pressure through the Bladesmen. In my estimation, that amounts to bullying. But if that is included in 'every method of questioning', by all means, be my guest and attempt it. I can assure you here and now that it will get you nowhere, and no information gleaned. If haste is your watchword, then have Zolor brought in for interrogation. Let it be remembered, however, that I warned it would avail nothing. My kinsman's knowledge began and ended with Halo, and is no more helpful now than the folly which She Who Protects made of that fallen citadel's cathedral."

Hartnek Lomasa chuckles. "If the man is dabbling in Shadow powers as some of you seem to claim, what's to make us believe he's not invulnerable to torture. Of course, we won't know either way unless we *try*." His gaze settles again on Oren. "Might we just invite him here to talk? Perhaps he'll come willingly. He did once before, as I recall."

"This is what I propose." Oren's eyes are ice, his voice steel. "As the Blademaster has suggested, we can invite him to come. Should he refuse, we send a group to him in order to... speak with him. If he continues to be difficult, then we bring him in for a more... intense questioning while Bladesmen search his estate for parchments that may contain clues. This idea should rest well with all of you, based on the things I have heard."

"He's intelligent enough to realize that cooperation would be the best choice," Duhnen nods his head, looking up from the table to Oren. "And he seems to revel in showing off, anyway. So this may just be another opportunity for him to do so."

"It'd be easier on everyone involved if he came in a civilized manner." Sahna agrees, with a faint smile.

Rowena continues to watch the lines and shadows upon Oren's aging face with intensity as her head nods in compliance. "I will agree to your proposition, Chancellor. For in the Emperor's absence, you are closer to his voice than the rest of us." Staring only for a moment longer at the man, she glances to Sahna with a sad smile. "It would be the first easy step to occur."

Aiden Zahir slowly nods, acquiescing to as much. "An invitation I have no qualms with, and that may well succeed in drawing Zolor out and encouraging cooperation from him. But care must be taken to maintain a cooperative rapport on our own part as well. So long as that is done, my kinsman might yet prove helpful in preserving what precious little peace and order remains in this realm ... and, mayhap, miraculously, regaining our Emperor."

"If the council," Shalis says simply, looking at Oren, "wishes the aid of the church and Her warriors in any capacity, if for instance the Duke is not amenable to the invitation, it has of course only to ask. I assume you wish us not to visit the consequences for his shadowed dealings upon him just yet."

"Then it seems to me the matter is settled," Oren says. "Duke Aiden, you are closest to Zolor Zahir than anyone else in this room. Send our invitation to him. If you think it will help, you can even go there personally, with someone else from the council, to request the honor of his presence. We shall proceed from there depending on his response." A nod is offered to Shalis. "He will eventually face the Light's justice. We request only patience on behalf of the Church, so the matter may be handled as wisely as possible."

Hartnek Lomasa nods in agreement. He laces his fingers together and glances toward Aiden, awaiting the Spymaster's response.

Duhnen turns to look to Aiden, smiling faintly to the Spymaster.

A single, slight nod answers Oren, and then Shalis clears his throat and unfolds his hands. "I've another matter to discuss, if this one has been concluded."

"No objections here, certainly. I'll even go with the Spymaster, if he wishes." Sahna murmurs, toying with the lace trimming on her glove.

Aiden Zahir effects a thin smile at the Chancellor's bidding, replying affirmatively, if with decided redolence, "As you wish. I will carry out the Council's bidding, and we shall proceed from there at Zolor's cooperation or lack thereof. For now, we may consider the issue closed, to be re-opened as soon as I've a report to render."

Oren Nillu watches Aiden as he speaks, nods and turns to Shalis Kahar. "I will allow all topics of dicussion to be placed on the table before we move on the issue that is in fact the purpose of this meeting. I want every mind clear by the time we address it. Go ahead, Lightkeeper."

Offering her silence as an affirming reply to Shalis's remark, Rowena focuses her attention to the Lightkeeper. She lifts a hand to discretely scratch at the base of her skull while checking the state of her curls.

Duhnen sends a brief glance to Sahna, one eyebrow raising slightly, before he turns his full attention on Shalis.

The Lightkeeper's face is still unreadable, shuttered, as he says, "I must announce my resignation from this position which I hold. Due to a combination of both circumstance and innate lack of talent, it is not a fit one for me. In this moment of crisis I have no wish to disturb the waters, but it has been suggested that Sister Left Hand, the leader of the Shadowbane Order, take my place on this council until another Lightkeeper can be... found. Else, I will continue these duties to the best of my ability, but I feel that for me to do so would do this realm a disservice. The realm needs a public face to the church which will reassure it at such a time, and I am not such a face."

"Very well, Lightkeeper. I am sure the council will agree that we have no wish to keep you here when you feel unable to perform. Unless anyone here has an objection, I see no problem with allowing the Left Hand to be a temporary replacement until a new Lightkeeper can be found, provided the search for one does not take too long," Oren says.

"I do not object," Duhnen states briefly, hands folding on his lap. "And if I may say, best of luck to you, Lord Kahar, in all your future endeavors."

Aiden Zahir musters a convivial smile, head nodding in agreement with the Chancellor's well-wishes. "I pray the Light will bless you in your future endeavors, and trust for your continued happiness. Certainly, while your position can always be filled, no one can replace you, Lord Shalis."

The shifting torchlight in the chamber toys with the expression of Rowena's furrowing brow. It contorts it further. "You are certain of this?" She questions gently, fingers entwining over her knee. "Then I wish you well in whatever it is you move forth to do for the realm. Will you send a summary of what this meeting has determined to Sister Left Hand so that she may be aware of our decisions in matters at hand?"

"None here." Sahna declares, slender eyebrows raised. "I hope the Light will bless your upcoming union with the Surrector. What is Sister Left Hand's name?"

"I will act as Lightkeeper until I have reported to the Maiden, as I cannot in good conscience leave you Lightkeeperless through this meeting if it is indeed so important," Shalis says smoothly, his shoulders much lighter somehow in set. "Sister Left, as with all Shadowbanes, has no public name."

Oren Nillu nods at Shalis. "Very well. Now, does anyone else have a topic they wish to bring forth? If not, let us move on to the main issue."

Hartnek Lomasa shakes his head.

Union? Brow arching to this new bit of information, Rowena glances between Sahna and Shalis with a faint smile. Indeed, this wretched season had been a chosen one for such things. With a sigh, Rowena tilts her head to give Oren her attention. "You have my ears."

Sahna Nillu peels her gloves off, tucking the lace glove away with a faint smile. "None here."

Aiden Zahir readily agrees, "I have nothing to submit. Let us continue with the agenda at hand."

Shalis Kahar inclines his head slightly, nearly smiling.

Duhnen remains quiet, simply nodding his agreement.

"I am sure everyone in this room prays for the safe return of His Majesty, the Emperor, and His Highness, the Prince of Blood," Oren says, allowing the words to take their toll. "We must, however, face the reality that they may never return. We must also face the fact that rumors of the Instrumentalist and even what he said are seeping out. The people of Fastheld will soon enter a state of chaos. They need support. They need assurance from us, those who lead them, that things will be fine. The Prince Heir will not come of age for years yet. It falls on us now, councillors, to assign Regency."

Rowena's eyes downcast, jaw held firm by a clenching of her teeth. They would return...Her ears would not hear words of contradiction to that belief. "While we may offer assurance, let it not be in the form of lies, Chancellor." The healer murmurs. "When a man lay dying despite my best efforts, I do not place trust in his kin that he will survive. Thus I suggest that whoever does ascend into greater power keep such in mind and be honest with our people. Regardless of the grim nature."

Aiden Zahir looks with appreciation upon the Healer's words, his smile softening at the eloquent sentiment. "This Council should continue to act as an arbiter for that honesty, and in appointing the Regent, we must make it perfectly clear that what we install we can just as easily remove if the situation calls for it. Indeed, I should go so far as to suggest that the Regent should come from our own. Beyond this Council, who can fathom the heavy weight of present circumstances upon the ancient shoulders of Fastheld Keep? We must have a Regent equipped to meet those challenges, and to surpass them. Perhaps our Lord Chancellor would be the best candidate for such a weighty position?"

Duhnen considers Rowena's and Aiden's words before adding his own. "I would support the Chancellor for Regent. He is a wise man, and has the ability to do what is needed for Fastheld to keep it and it's people safe."

"Honesty is a good policy, but the truth is already out there anyhow. No doubt the rumors are already spreading like wildfire." Sahna chips in, resting an elbown on the table. "I believe the chancellor wished to examine the options in the Kahar line before any of the other lines.. If we /do/ choose someone of another family, we must all offer our unequivocal support before the houses get into too much of a fuss."

Hartnek Lomasa nods. "I concur with those who support the Chancellor. In this time of crisis, Lord Chancellor, you have served capably in the position of acting regent in the absence of the Emperor."

"The Chancellor was chosen by the Emperor to be his closest aid, amongst this council. Those in the position of Chancellor are trusted with His Majesty's thoughts, words. Thus I agree that it is fitting for him to act as regent until the blood-born ruler comes again to power." Rowena adds, lifting her chin in punctuation to the remark.

"He's shown ability," Shalis murmurs reasonably, showing no sign of dissent.

"I appreciate the faith all of you have in me. However," Oren adds quickly, allowing his gaze to travel the length of the table, "I do not believe there is a clear understanding of what the Regency implies. First and foremost, the Lord Regent will be a figure that will be presented to the people of Fastheld. I believe a man from any House other than Kahar will spark unwanted unrest. It is sad that upon review of possible candidates I found no one I thought fit, but I open the table to suggestions. Furthermore, I am an old man. You must all consider that. I am but mortal." He smiles faintly. "If you push for me as Lord Regent, then before the Prince Heir is of age a new one will have to be chosen, unless -- Light willing -- either His Majesty or his brother return."

Aiden Zahir adds in interjection, leaning forward across the table with pointed posture, "We have no suitable Kahar candidates, at least of which I am aware. The only one seated here at this table, our good Lord Shalis, made clear his intention only moments ago to withdraw from public office. In my estimation, with the immediate and unanimous support of this assembled Council, and given the circumstances of this evening, the Light would seem to have already made the choice for us, Lord Oren. We can weather future crises as they come, but for the here and now, and the dire circumstances we face in these uncertain hours, you are the obvious and overwhelming choice."

"If we're too worried about the future to take the best action in the present, then we're in deeper trouble than it seems," Duhnen comments quietly, in general agreement with the other councilmember's sentiments.

"Although surely meaning the best, the Prince himself abandoned rule to seek out his brother; Surely Fastheld will understand if we must have a regent whom is of non-Kahar blood, as any likely or even possible vestiges of that blood have made themselves off limits in the matter. If you do not wish the regency, Chancellor, do you have anyone to suggest?"

"I know no man or woman with rank, experience, or known trust of his Majesty more worthy of the position than yourself." Rowena says in answer to Oren, echoing Aiden's statement, slender palms turning upward in honesty. "It is as the Tax Assessor says. Of those still known to be...within Fastheld...you were the closest to the Emperor." She pauses there to breathe, and curls her fingers to brush over the cool comfort of the ring of promise. "We are all mortal. But for this hour you breathe, we look to you."

Oren Nillu inclines his head in a single nod. "May the Light help me choose the path of wisdom that will help me cradle the realm in safety, then. I will accept the task and hope that you all journey with me through these times of peril ahead."

Duhnen nods his head at that. "I congratulate you, Regent, despite the fact that the circumstances are not the greatest. I don't doubt that you will act with wisdom, and know that you have our support."

Aiden Zahir fashions an acquiescent and respectful smile, a nod of the same tenor levelled at the acclaimed Lord Regent. "What services I may continue to render for the good of the realm and the stability of the Throne you guard and protect now as steadfastly as ever, my lord, those talents and abilities are yours for the marshalling. As I should pledge myself in loyalty to the Emperor, I pledge the same to you in proxy."

"The church, as always, is at the service of the crown," Shalis adds with a slight smile.

Hartnek Lomasa nods in concurrence with the others nearby. "All this said, Lord Regent, I will devote my best men to trying to track down the Emperor. I just require the approval of this esteemed Council to embark on such a mission, as it will take some of our soldiers beyond the Aegis."

Sahna Nillu leans on an elbow still, smiling faintly as she watches Oren.

Satisfaction curls the healer's lips upward in the corners. "You need only beckon." She offers her allegiance with a bow of her head. "My ears remain forever open to both those who serve and rule this realm. And if Light wills it, my tongue may even offer advice." Smile deepening for a hearbeat to those words, Rowena lifts her head and brushes aside a wayward curl. Glancing now towards the blademaster, she falls silent in thought.

"Lord Hartnek," Oren says, his voice all business again, "you have permission to send any man you wish beyond the Aegis in search of His Majesty. You, however, must remain here, within the walls, to continue your service as Blademaster unless you can find a suitable replacement I approve of."

Hartnek Lomasa inclines his head in deference to the Chancellor. "That is all I ask. I would not seek to deprive the realm of its Blademaster at this time. I will assemble a team of worthy warriors and send them forth as quickly as possible."

"Is there any specific plan on where they will travel?" Duhnen asks of Hartnek, lifting an eyebrow. "I assume you must have something specific in mind, Blademaster."

Hartnek Lomasa shrugs, brow furrowing. "Our initial search will begin on the west side of the Aegis, near Aegisport. That was the direction the Ravager traveled after grabbing him."

As she listens, Rowena finds herself mirroring Sahna's posture, lashes closing together. Her brow relaxes into a more stoney, unreadable state as her mind ticks away. With some hesitation, she then speaks around the heel of her palm. "Serath set forth on such a mission. He's already weeks ahead of any bladesmen that you intend to send. Perhaps there are eyes beyond the Aegis that have seen him and may offer a point in the proper direction." Opening her eyes after this offered remark, she tests the limits of her vision by casting the blademaster a sideways glance.

Hartnek Lomasa blinks, shifting his attention toward Rowena. "*Serath* went? Without permission from the Council?! He's liable to shot trying to come back!"

"Warriors are a necessity, but other skills are also needed. If you wish, you may recruit from among the commoners men and women with such skills as you deem needed. Before the group leaves, I will expect a full report so their intentions and plans be presented to this Council," the old man commands. "I also request that you dispatch Bladesmen to key locations I will send to you on the morrow. There they will ensure that no unwanted trouble arises from the decision of my appointment." He turns to face the entire group. "Now is the time to smooth the wrinkles I have mentioned in the past. I know not who or what this Instrumentalist is, but we must maintain the peace." Again, his gaze travels to the Blademaster. "Serath is more skilled than you give him credit for. If he managed to pass beyond unnoticed, he certainly knows of ways to return."

"How many men will you send, Bladesmaster?" Sahna queries, her reserve seeming to melt back away now that the matter of regent has been decided. With a wan smile to the Royal healer, the assessor adds, "Eyes on the aegis, perhaps. Duchess Mikin, do you perhaps know anything to share with all of us on the matter? I know he went over to look for his brother, but nothing more than that.. And it would bode ill if a prince, even one who doesn't wish his duties to the royal line, was shot for loyalty to his own brother."

After a period of simply watching the discussion, Shalis' face shutters once more. "The church has some... small... recent knowledge of the space outside the walls, though we did not know of Lord Serath's ...journey. There are, of course, many who are tainted with the Shadow there. If the Blades wish Church assistance..."

Hartnek Lomasa coughs at Oren's suggestion of using commoners. "With all due respect, Lord Regent, I am not entirely sure this is the sort of expedition that lends itself to the untrained touch of the common folk." He then shifts his attention to Shalis. "Naturally, the Church would be welcome to provide a contingent for this. Trained soldiers of the church, preferably. I don't want my people running off on all kinds of rescue missions when they should be focused on *one*."

"Any who have the gall to shoot at him shall be wise to check their tea before drinking it." Rowena snaps, sitting suddenly upright with a lively burn in her gaze. Eyes narrowed in fierce defense of the Prince of the Blood, she takes a few calming breaths and turns to more calmly address Sahna. "I do not know beyond that. He would not tell even me in person that he left, let alone details. He knows I would have followed...I know only that he was alive long enough to send me a parting gift."

"Only Shadowbanes, with the ability to move disguised and possessed of the utmost in tact and self-control, would be selected, I think. I will be sure to pass your words on, however," Shalis replies, and his eyes snap towards Rowena. He pauses a beat, and then says to her, "when dealing with the creatures without, sometimes one must not wait for clear identification before shooting, I understand."

Oren Nillu shakes his head. "This is why you would be able to choose who goes with your, Lord Hartnek, rather than making it a general invitation. You underestimate the capable skills that some of the commoners have, but as I said: it is your decision."

"A more than wise suggestion, if facing shadow-powers is in question.. Scourges are far better equipped than Blades." Sahna notes, although she grimaces at the belated redundancy of the sentiment. "I sincerely hope for his safe return, Duchess Mikin. Kahar men seem to have an incredibly stubborn streak, one might say."

"Stubborn does not encompass the half of it." Rowena mutters, sinking a bit lower in her seat as she redirects the rest of her risen temper to plucking at a loose string of her laced cuff.

Duhnen nods his head to the comments expressed, not seeming to have any of his own to add at the moment.

Hartnek Lomasa sighs, but nods. "I will concede to your wisdom, Lord Regent, and conduct proper screening of any interested individuals, common or not."

Oren Nillu nods. "Very well. Details for the mission will be worked out swiftly over the next days. Unless there is anything else, then we will consider this meeting at an end."

Hartnek Lomasa stands, bowing at the waist as he faces Oren. "Thank you, Lord Regent. Light keep you, m'lord."


"There's the matter of Orell Mikin." Sahna murmurs, quietly. "He didn't show, nor write of his intent to miss this meeting. Will be be dismissed?"

Shalis Kahar's eyes flick along the table, person to person, and then he re-steeples his hands atop the table and turns his attention on Sahna.

Duhnen glances over to Sahna, though only quietly sighs and leans back in the seat, waiting to see where things will go.

Rowena looks up, releasing her garment from scrutiny to acknowledge both the departing blademaster and wise observation from the tax assessor. "Unfortunately I cannot vouch for his whereabouts. I've been away from the school for a time." She admits with a tone of regret.

Oren Nillu rises from his seat. "Orell Mikin will answer to me. I still hold my duties as chancellor. That has not changed. I will deal with the Trademaster. Councillors, I thank you all for coming. This meeting is now at an end. Light keep you all."

Hartnek Lomasa turns, once dismissed, and steps through the shadows toward the door leading out into the Rulers Passage.

Now Shalis rises as well, though he watches the assembled councillors rise rather than taking his own leave immediately.

Duhnen rises to his feet as well, as that seems to be the current fashion, and nods his head to those assembled. His hands fold behind his back, and he doesn't make a move to walk out just yet.

Sahna Nillu stands, expression thoughtful now. "Mmh. Good eve." She murmurs, bobbing into a curtsey to the other councilmembers.

Remaining in her seat, Rowena nods to all, then turns a pair of imploring eyes to the Chancellor now that the meeting has officially adjourned. "Might I request the use of a room in this keep for my own as I dry and cure the supplies I've recently gathered? Those I was tending to in the ballroom have all either passed or recovered fully. It is again free to return to proper use."

"Duchess Mikin, you may take any of the available rooms and make it your own. As member of this Council, you should have proper lodgings in the palace. If anyone requires a word with me, I will be at my chambers," Oren says and turns, walking off.


Return to Season 3 (2005)

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