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 sits at his usual corner table, back to the wall, savoring a cup of warm mulled cider.
The door to the tavern opens, which isn't unusual in itself. Entering through the portal, along with an unwelcome burst of frigid air, is one Imperial Courier followed promptly by one steward of the Wedgecrest variety. The latter closes the door behind them. "Well...at least we're inside," he says quietly to Ashlynn.
Ashlynn glances back to pay him a small, wry smile at the quip before she sobers again upon finding the Zahir occupying his favorite place within the tavern. Gesturing for Vhramis to precede her, she murmurs simply, "There."
The aforementioned Zahir glances up from his shadowy corner to observe the woman pointing at him, along with her companion. An eyebrow arches eloquently. He waits in silence.
Vhramis nods his head to Ashlynn and sets off to approach the seated man, looking him over thoughtfully. "Lord Zahir," he greets with a deep bow of his head as he pauses in front of the table. Folding his hands behind his back, he adds, "I hope I'm not disturbing you too much."
Ashlynn follows Vhramis to stand behind the steward's right shoulder, a simple witness for the moment as she echos the bow while remaining silent.
Zolor Zahir shakes his head. "No, not at all." A thin smile wriggles across his pale face. "Sit, please. How may I be of assistance?"
With another gracious bow of his head, Vhramis draws the chair across from him and seats himself slowly. "I am Steward Vhramis Skinner of Wedgecrest Falls, Lord Zahir. I've come to discuss the purchase of a contract from you of a particular woman. Clariele Stone, I believe. It would be of note that her son recently passed."
"Clariele Stone?" Zolor ponders, stroking his hairless chin with slender fingers. "Ah, yes. The defaulted farmstead in Hedgehem. You wish to purchase the balance of her contract, eh?" A faint smile quirks upward on his lips. "I see no reason to refuse. The balance is 25,000 Kahar Imperials. Pay that and her contract is clear. She becomes a freelander and I take back the land to re-contract with another family."
Ashlynn does little more than shift her weight as she waits for the transaction to be finished, her gaze resting easily upon the Zahir lord.
Vhramis nods his head slowly in response to the sum. "And she holds no other debts to you, aside from that?" asks the steward simply.
Zolor Zahir shakes his head. "No, that is all." His brow knits. "Terrible thing about her son. But, agreements are agreements. I am pleased to see someone has taken an interest in Clariele's situation." Again, the faint smile, this time as he glances toward Ashlynn.
"It is indeed terrible," Ashlynn murmurs smoothly as her eyes meet Zolor's glance. "You are familiar with her son, as well as the circumstances surrounding his death?"
Vhramis glances to Ashlynn at her question before looking back to Zolor. "I've heard very little about it," he adds with a nod.
Zolor Zahir shrugs. "I know what I heard from a particulary daft Shadowscourge who dared to accuse me of having something to do with the lad's demise."
Ashlynn lifts a brow sharply, shifting her weight at the response but managing to control any other reactions enough to ask mildly afterwards, "Daft indeed. Why would she think that?"
Vhramis looks interested as well by this, but there's no point in him talking as well, so he simply reaches up to tighten the black cloak about him.
"Someone handed her a trinket from one of my establishments," Zolor replies to Ashlynn, lacing his fingers together on the tabletop. "Apparently, she jumped to the conclusion that this automatically made me a prime suspect, despite the fact that even the seediest of my gathering spots draws hundreds of people on any given night."
Ashlynn's eyes narrow in contemplation as she asks with open curiosity, "Are you aware of the general activities that occur in these places, M'Lord?"
"I am given to understand that they cater to some of the baser desires of the dwellers in the Shadow District and, if rumors are true," Zolor's glance drifts toward Vhramis, "occasionally to those who live outside the Shadow Wall. Pleasures of the flesh, the occasional dog fight, a certain amount of wagering." He shrugs. "Nothing I personally partake in, but it seems quite profitable."
"I've heard smatterings of talk of them," Vhramis nods to Zolor. "I can imagine how profitable it must be to tap into some of the darker sides of people." He shrugs slightly.
"Profitable to whom, may I ask?" Ashlynn ventures with a faint tilt of her head. "Do you merely rent out the buildings, or do you also take a hand in the official business that they house?"
Zolor Zahir lifts an eyebrow. "Pay the money for the contract and be gone. You came here to take an interest in Clariele. Good for you. But I refuse to be party to this unofficial inquisition over and over again."
"We can have a contract drawn up," Vhramis nods, and glances to Ashlynn. "Obviously I'm not carrying the money with me. But I'll get it to you promptly."
Ashlynn shakes her head with a spread of her hands in apology. "It is no inquisition, M'Lord, but a simple request for information. I asked whether you determined the establishment's official business...not that which might occur without your knowledge," she salves. "Though the boy's fate may be too far beneath your notice, surely you would not begrudge a few innocent questions?" she finishes with a last, hooded glance before she nods to Vhramis. "If you wish for a written notice, I can either draft one now for you both, or have a document delivered for your signatures within a day."
Zolor Zahir stares flatly at Ashlynn. "I will grant you three days to draft the document and deliver the payment." He lifts his mug and takes a sip of cider. Then he sets down the mug, allows a faint smile and concludes, "Farewell."
Vhramis nods as a polite smile takes his face. "Light keep, Lord Zahir. An honor to see you again," he says as he slowly rises to his feet and steps to the side, sliding the chair back in. He looks to Ashlynn to wait for her before leaving.
Ashlynn bows her head in silent farewell, a thin smile overtaking her face before she turns to accompany Vhramis in his departure.
Zolor Zahir watches the departure of Ashlynn and Vhramis, allowing a scowl to etch across his face as they leave for the chill outside - his gaze becoming more heated as he settles back into the fire flickered shadows of his corner.
Return to Season 3 (2005)