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Arrivals Corridor

For some, the overall appearance of this entrance tunnel into the depths of The Warren is reminiscent of nothing so much as a mine - just not quite as dismal. Braced with biinwood framing, the dark rock walls are aglow with torches in brass stanchions. Festooned between the bracing segments are tapestries and other works of art that help liven up the otherwise gloomy environs.

The corridor is wide enough to allow for the passage of horses and carriages, with a cavern off to the side echoing with the grunts and whinnies of stabled steeds. A smaller cavern has been burrowed for the keep's servants. The corridor curves around to the left toward the lower levels.

Unescorted by any guards or aides, the dark-haired Zahir nobleman walks down the sloping passage of the arrivals corridor, his violet cloak flapping softly around his legs as he moves.

Wherever one of the Light's own children is, the air carries a heavy, damping note, vassals and free citizens hushing their talks as they hurry past in fearful reverence. How much stronger is that feeling when it is the Right Hand of the Light Maiden herself! For though the House of Lomasa is said to be a jolly and often jovial one, Brynhrist is as a blade, clear and no-nonsense -- and indeed, the entire bloodline she belongs to is said to be that way, as the Master of the Blades, her older brother, shares that disposition. She is, right now, taking a stroll through the corridors, though it seems more as though she is patrolling.

Zolor Zahir inclines his head to Brynhrist as he slows to a stop nearby. "Your Eminence," he greets.

Brynhrist stops likewise, giving the older man a considerably longer-than-necessary look of her mismatched eyes before she dips her head. "Lord Zahir," she replies to the brief greeting. "I was expecting you."

"Indeed?" Zolor replies, his voice droll. He glances down toward the deeper shadows of the Kahar keep. "My kinsman. What is his status?" His eyes return to Brynhrist. "Have you determined the veracity of Adaer Kahar's allegations?"

"The Church has not yet begun the examination of your relative," Brynhrist answers in the negative, ignoring the mocking jest in the older man's tone. "The matter is thick with threads of intrigue. It was the decision of the Corona to wait until members of both Houses involved were present... which is now the case. You will stand by as witness."

Zolor Zahir smiles thinly. "That is acceptable."

Brynhrist nods curtly, her chin dipping once, a motion precise as a knife. "Good," she says, very simply, and turns on a heavy heel to precede Zolor down the corridors to the living quarters.

Residence Cavern

The main corridor that winds down through the rock of The Warren ends in this spacious cavern, supported by polished biinwood bracing that angles up toward the shadowy stalactites that hang from the ceiling, where the keep's most populous inhabitants - cavebats - can be heard chittering and flapping about.

Torches flicker in brass stanchions on either side of archways that lead into the master and guest suites.

Dianna Lomasa looks up at Markus, "What?" she asks, sounding confused. "Someone is supposed to be coming to the Warren tonight? But...but...Adaer isn't here!" she sounds worried, and slightly upset.

Zolor Zahir walks down the main corridor, following Brynhrist at a respectful distance, violet cloak furling around his legs as he takes in the cavernous surroundings with a faint sneer on his lips.

Brynhrist is advancing down the corridors, preceding Zolor Zahir, and soon flanked by the Ray Perfect of disciples that followed in her attendance when she arrived earlier, the three young Scourges emerging from different guest quarters to fall in beside their Hand. They march in perfect unison, all movements in perfect synch with each other, and without further prompting proceed to the entrance of the quarter where Cygony Zahir is currently being held as Brynhrist stops to turn halfway, her glassy blind eye grazing Zolor as she informs him, "We will now wait for the other parties to arrive."

Caught in mid-sentence, the venerable Patriarch of Vozhdya spins on heel and bows deeply to the Her Eminence, the Lightmaiden's Right Hand, Brynhrist Lomasa. While much older, he does his best to show his respect to her. The same cannot be said of the diplomatic but unaffectionate headbow that greets Zolor Zahir. "Welcome to Vozhdya; you have already met the Matron of this Keep, the Lady Dianna Lomasa?"

Dianna Lomasa turns as well, bowing politely to her relative first, being sure to be as polite as possible, then to Zolor Zahir, who recieves slightly less respect than Brynhrist, but still a fair amount of respect. "Welcome to the Warren." she says softly to both arrivals.

Zolor Zahir glances first at Markus. One eyebrow knits. Then his gaze settles on Dianna and a smile breaks sinuously across his face. "Lady Lomasa, so pleased you could pull yourself out of bed long enough to help resolve this matter. Your Lord Husband could not attend?"

Brynhrist looks around, her brows narrowed over her eyes, her mouth curled downwards in open disapproval. "Where is your husband, Lady of the Warren?" she demands to know, cutting into the sharp exchange Zolor no doubt intended to start. "His absence is of hardly positive effect for his claims."

Markus Kahar lies through the gleaming off-white of his teeth, a hand resting on Dianna's shoulder reassuringly. "I sent him away, to the Aegis for the duration of your visit. Perhaps it was not the wisest of my ideas at the time, however, his anger and worry over this situation may have made the truth harder to ascertain. Surely, in an ecclesiastical court, the accuser is not in the same room as the accused during questioning? Perhaps I am mistaken; it is my gaffe, your Eminence, and I ask your forgiveness. I have maintained peace in my land during this ordeal by seperating the two; that is, my nephew and the Zahir." He looks to Zolor as well, his comment sparking a browpique, but Markus does his best to catch his temper. "... And you, Royal cousin, you grace us with your presence."

Dianna Lomasa's cheeks darken with a rosy color at Zolor's words. Whether insult was intended or not, insult was taken. The Lady of the Warren manages to keep her mouth closed however, letting Markus respond, nodding her head to back up his words as best she can.

Zolor Zahir defers to the Church authority, lacing his fingers together before himself as he favors Markus Kahar with a wry smile and waits for the process to continue.

Brynhrist regards Markus coldly for a duration that borders on the uncomfortable, and does not deign to reply to the Duke's explanation. Instead, she nods her head jerkily towards the door, and the Scourges, having taken up position there, open and enter. "Enough," she then decrees, a cutting motion of her hand signaling that there will be no more talk full of ill-disguised spite and venom. "We are here for a reason. You will all stand witness." With that, she turns from the nobles and proceeds through the now open door.

Guest Suite Cavern

Guests of The Warren find hospitality within this spacious cavity carved from the rock beneath Vozhdya and braced with polished biinwood. A four-post canopy bed with plush blankets and fluffed pillows serves as the centerpiece, surrounded by throw rugs of bear and wolf fur. A claw-footed marble washtub sits off to the left of the bed. An angled writing table and chair are to the right of the bed. Standing opposite the bed against the far wall is a biinwood wardrobe flanked by a long gilded mirror and a colorful tapestry. Torches flicker in brass stanchions attached to the bracings.

Cygony Zahir is sitting on the bed, leaning against the wall, looking quite bored, almost as if he's waiting for someone to show up.

Brynhrist enters, a Ray Perfect of three Scourge disciples entering after her in file and fanning out along the walls of the cavern, one remaining by the door. Their miens are cold, open scorn marring their foreheads in the presence of the alledged 'Touched. Brynhrist moves to the center of the room, planting herself firmly there, but waiting for the entrance of the nobles following her.

Zolor Zahir enters after Markus and Dianna, stepping to the left and inclining his head in greeting to his kinsman. His fingers are laced together before himself. He does not speak, allowing Brynhrist to hold forth without interruption.

Dianna Lomasa enters soon after Brynhrist, sliding in as quietly as possible, taking up a spot against a wall, near the door, remaining as invisible as possible. She nods her head to Cygony, a small way of greeting, too worried for anything else.

Markus Kahar follows suit, seating himself in the far corner of the room, in a convienently placed recliner. He rubs his beard, idly listening to the conversation, however his eyes are carefully focused on the inquisitor.

Cygony Zahir smirks just a little at the new arrivals and asks, "And where is my gaoler?"

"He is not here," Brynhrist says evenly, "And that is all you need to know." Even though her tone is flat, her expression is anything but approving of the fact. "Lord Cygony Zahir, you are under suspicion of being Touched by the Shadow, condemned and cast from the embrace of Light. Accusations of your possessing eyes of fire were brought before the Church, and the Church heeds. We are here to interrogate and examine you, and should we find you to be indeed one of the Touched, to take the appropriate steps. Know that in our presence, your Taint will be of no avail to you." She turns her icy blue eye to Dianna Lomasa. "You, I was given to understand, were witness of the deed that is claimed to have been his doing. Bring forth your account of what happened."

Dianna Lomasa flinches visably at Brynhrist's icy stare, leaning back against the wall, as if wishing she could melt into it. She stares at the ground for a few minutes, thinking, biting on her lip, before slowly raising her eyes to meet Bryntrist's, shivering slightly. "Cygony is not Shadow-touched." she says, barely above a whisper, almost too soft for anyone in the room to hear her. Her eyes flicker over Markus for a moment, before looking back down at the ground, leaning against the wall even more, really trying to disappear.

Zolor Zahir quirks his mouth in a mordant smile.

Cygony Zahir raises an eyebrow as Dianna is called upon to speak about the account of what happened. And when she says he's not shadow touched he smirks a little, going back to his resting on the bed.

Markus Kahar gives a long, measured sigh, criss-crossing his fingers. He looks to Dianna for a moment, before looking back at Cygony and nodding. He remains wordless, for now, save for one murmer under his breath, "... the young live to trouble the old."

Brynhrist's look, up to now simply cool but calm, gains the edge of cold rage. Even the blind grey seems to blaze as she glares at her young distant relative. "You and your husband are aware of the penalties that come with invoking an examination on hollow evidence and for the lone sake of one's own advantage?" she asks, and even though her voice is carefully modulated to remain even, the sharpness with which she speaks could cut granite.

Cygony Zahir coughs quietly and speaks up, "I would note that it was her husband who slandered me in the court of the Emperor, and then invited me here just days later and attempted to light himself aflame as confirmation of my guilt. Do not blame the woman because her husband is a fool."

Dianna Lomasa stays against the wall, pressed against it, though her blue eyes continue to stare back at Brynhrist. "/I/ had nothing to do with what my husband did." she says quietly, her eyes narrowing slightly. "I am aware of the penalties, but are there also not penalties for lying to the Church?" she asks, raising her brows slightly in question. She glances over at Cygony at his words, looking a tiny bit surprised at him even trying to sound halfway helpful.

Zolor Zahir glances from Cygony to Dianna, then back to Brynhrist, waiting. Markus Kahar simply listens before very carefully voicing his opinion, his words slow and calculating, "... and I would not, Cygony Zahir, that it was you who cuckolded him. There is another dimension to this strange little tale, your Eminence, that I would quickly like to elucidate: that this Zahir here, while in *my* employment, seduced my niece. My nephew, who is very much in love with her, felt betrayed and defeated by his new bride." Markus pauses, "... Is it not also the Zahir's fault for degrading his nobility by insulting me, as his employer, and my nephew, as a man? I will admit: it was stupid for my nephew to pull this stunt. But the man is heartbroken. He was not acting on his full resources. He was too pained." He does his best to make his voice as sincere as he is, "... I ask, on his account, that his pain be taken into account. He was cuckolded. As his Uncle, I am surprised he did not outright murder Cygony. Adaer is at wrong, I think, but perhaps... so are these two? Am I presumptous, your Eminence?"

Zolor Zahir chuckles softly at the pleas of Lord Kahar, but offers no further elaboration. He clasps his hands behind his back and simply waits. Justice abides.

There is no wavering in the steel of Brynhrist's gaze as it shifts from Dianna to Markus, not even bothering to deign the alledged Touched on the bed with any sort of response. "This entire affair will have dire consequences for all houses involved," she declares icily. "One does not make the Church an instrument in one's feuds without consequence. Not even those of blood relation to His Imperial Majesty. For he serves the Light as well. Drawing the tenets of the Church of True Light into the mud of your interfamiliar disputes for whatever reason cannot and will not go unpunished. I will carry this matter before the Corona. Your fate will be decided there."

As he's not being addressed by Brynhrist, Cygony seems to take that as a cue to remain quiet and wait his turn for the pronouncement of judgement.

Markus Kahar arches a brow, looking at Dianna as she verbally distances herself from her husband's action, then looks to Cygony and his Duke, and suddenly realizes that in his own lands, he's the only one of his house. Two Lomasas, Two Zahirs and a Kahar. His attention turns to Brynhrist, his voice as controlled as it can be. "Why, pray, will the houses suffer? It is the fault of Cygony Zahir, Dianna Lomasa and my nephew. The Zahir Duke has done nothing, nor has any other Zahir. Nor has any other Kahar, or Lomasa. Where do you find fault with the Houses of Kahar, Lomasa and Zahir?"

Zolor Zahir raises a hand, palm outward. "Eminence, House Zahir has been an unwitting victim of this vengeful charade sparked by marital problems between a husband and wife of House Kahar. My kinsman has been imprisoned against his will for weeks. Regardless of any romantic indiscretions that may have occurred, I do trust that the Corona will be informed fully as to how Lord Adaer Kahar engineered this entire affair and his wife went along with the ploy until such time as Your Eminence placed the question squarely upon them." His hand lowers as he glances toward Markus Kahar. "It is pathetic and despicable that someone would attempt to use the Church as a blunt weapon." He sniffs. "So clumsily done too. Lord Adaer should leave intrigue and deception to those with a sharper mind for it and focus instead on finding his own arse in the dark while perching over a chamber pot. He should bear the blame for this alone."

Dianna Lomasa looks over at Cygony for a moment before facing Brynhrist, "The Houses should not be involved for something that happened in between individual people." she says firmly. Her eyes are then drawn to Zolor, anger burning in her eyes, but she manages to stay quiet, and leave the arguing to other people.

Brynhrist's hand whips up, palm outward. "Silence!" she orders harshly, and if there was any doubt as to the authority she carries, her tone of voice makes perfectly clear that she can and does demand utter obedience, and will not allow any questioning, pleas, or petty haggling. "I have spoken my final word. I will hear no more." She turns to Cygony, pointing a gloved finger at him. "Lord Cygony Zahir, you are free to leave. However, until the Chuch fully closes this matter, you will be under surveillance by a Ray Perfect." She gestures sharply, and the three Scourges that have stood by silently gather to stand by the end of the bed. Then Brynhrist turns to let her eye graze the three other nobles harschly. "'May the Light break through the clouded thoughts of those of fuddled mind, that they see their follies.'"

Markus Kahar blinks, then looks to Brynhrist with a 'can-you-really-believe-that?' look. "Your Eminence, with all due respect to the Zahir Duke, the Lady Lomasa did not just seduce herself. Without vulgarity, it takes two people to have an affair. Humbly, all three parties are to blame for this ensuing stupidity, are they not?" "And may I remind the Zahir Duke of his age, and station. That he was born into Royalty, and finally, that he is a guest in our house, and if he insults my kin, or the husband of the Matron, who is in his presence, again, will be swiftly ejected?" As the Right Hand renders her judgement, the Duke arches a brow, then cracks his knuckles. He looks confused by the ambiguity. "Fine, so be it."

Cygony Zahir chuckles quietly, "Fair enough." he says, standing from the bed slowly and starting for the exit, eyeing the three Scourges for a moment, before paying them no more heed than he does Deneiss.

Dianna Lomasa watches everything going on silently, her eyes following Cygony for a moment, before turning back to listen to Markus, and Zolor, a frown settling over her lips.

Zolor Zahir inclines his head respectfully to the Right Hand, then turns with a crooked smile favoring Markus Kahar. But he says nothing more to the Duke of Vozhdya, instead stepping to join Cygony on the way out of the chamber.

Cygony Zahir murmurs something to the Zahir Duke as he continues out, seeming only too glad to be leaving the Warren.

Markus Kahar rises slowly, happily showing the Zahir out, and gesturing for Dianna to exit also. He pauses for a moment though, "Right Hand, your Eminence, if I may beg one further question from you, privately?" His voice is quiet, trying to abstain from the Viper's earshot.

Dianna Lomasa slowly pushes herself off of the wall, moving to follow after the Zahirs, seeing Markus gesture for her to leave. She nods politely, before walking out of the room stiffly.

The air temperature around Brynhrist could not possible sink any lower as she too makes for the exit, striding across the room with wide, harsh steps, as if to bring as much distance between herself and this place as possible in as short a time as possible. She sees no need to veil the scowl on her face as she is stopped on her way out, and turns only halfway to the Duke. "What, Your Grace?" she demands curtly.

Residence Cavern

The main corridor that winds down through the rock of The Warren ends in this spacious cavern, supported by polished biinwood bracing that angles up toward the shadowy stalactites that hang from the ceiling, where the keep's most populous inhabitants - cavebats - can be heard chittering and flapping about.

Torches flicker in brass stanchions on either side of archways that lead into the master and guest suites.

Zolor Zahir steps out of the guest cavern, remaining at Cygony's side as he whispers: "*You* have not inconvenienced me, Cygony. It was this or bet on dog fighting tonight, and, well, I liked your odds better, to be quite honest." He chuckles, shaking his head. "None of this would have happened if Adaer Kahar had been either a better husband or, failing that, a better mummer."

Dianna Lomasa walks out of the Guest Cavern slowly, her movements stiff as if each step she took were uncomfortable. She slowly starts to walk towards the Master Suite, then pauses, leaning back against a wall, resting her head there, looking as if she would like to start banging her head against the wall at any moment.

"Or at least intelligent enough to not have witnesses about to see him attempt to perjure himself." Cygony notes, following respectfully in the wake of the Duke.

Brynhrist exits the chamber, her steps resounding harshly from the cavern floor as she makes for the corridors leading up and out. She does not look like she will take well to any other attempt to delay her departure.

Zolor Zahir nods to Cygony. "Just so." He makes no move to intercept the Right Hand, instead continuing to speak with Cygony. "What will you do now? It would seem your service to the Emperor's Blades may be ending rather abruptly."

Dianna Lomasa watches Zolor and Cygony for a few moments, before starting to move to try and intercept them, biting her lip a little bit, running a hand through her hair nervously.

"My service for the Ducal Guards is ending, I do not know of any news of my appointment with the Blades. If it ends, it ends. I suppose I will have to wait for my father to slip off to the great beyond and then take hold of the family keep." Cygony replies, before glancing sidelong at Dianna.

Zolor Zahir nods curtly, following Cygony's gaze toward the approaching Lomasa woman. He raises his right hand and shakes his head, "You and your husband have done enough, I think. Leave us be."

Dianna Lomasa narrows her eyes slightly at Zolor, but approaches them anyway. She bows to both men, "My lord Zolor, my lord Cygony." she says softly. "Cygony, I want to apologize for your being kept here for so long...for being kept here at all. Adaer was not right in what he did, and I should have spoken out against him sooner. I am sorry." she says, before backing away slightly, giving both men room to continue walking, or to stop.

"Were I you," Zolor Zahir replies, stopping and turning to fully face Dianna, his cloak furling slowly around his legs, "I would be quite concerned about what might become of you, now that you have betrayed your husband in this ill-advised scheme. In House Zahir, such disloyalty might be rewarded with a tainted glass of glossy star wine. Your husband already has demonstrated a desire to rise above the stalwart do-goodness of House Kahar, my dear. Such ambition may lead him to attempt to deal with you prior to an official Church inquiry into his activities." He smiles thinly. "I highly recommend using a taster, hiring your own trustworthy guards and paying them well while sleeping elsewhere."

Cygony Zahir is in no position to really say anything to Dianna, as he IS following the Duke, though he does glance sidelong at Dianna, and nod just fractionally. He adds, "Were I you, I would not spend another night in this Warren. Your husband strikes me as less than stable in any case."

Dianna Lomasa nods her head to Zolor, smiling weakly, "Would you say that it is less than I deserve, my lord Zolor?" she asks quietly. "I /did/ betray him, and have dishonored him more than once now." she pauses, looking at Cygony, "And where would you suggest I go? No Cygony, I will stay and face what will come." she steps back again, eying the younger Zahir noble for a moment, "I'm sorry." she whispers, in general, not just about what just occured a few minutes ago.

Zolor Zahir chuckles darkly. "Ah, yes, the world really needs more martyrs." And then he strides off, ascending the passage that leads out of the Warren.

Cygony Zahir shrugs slowly at Dianna and follows Zolor out, matching the Duke's pace.

A short while later...

Approach to the Warren A grassy expanse of pasture surrounds the angled granite walls of the remarkable keep known throughout the realm of Fastheld as The Warren. The battlements of the underground fortress form what looks like a hollow four-sided pyramid with the upper half chopped away. Verdant green twists of ivy crawl along the walls.

A road winds north toward the town of Vozhdya. Off to the east, the great barrier known as the Aegis rises several hundred feet, looming above a verge of shardwood trees.

As they emerge from the Warren, Zolor laces his fingers together, stops and turns to regard Cygony. "Have a care in the future. If you wish to have a dalliance, make it with someone less scandalous. A scullery maid or someone else of equal disposability." His head tilts slightly. "Next time, the husband you cuckold may be more clever than Adaer Kahar by half, and you will find yourself in a totally untenable position."

"Indeed it is luck that saved me this time, and had I known that she would cling to me incessantly I would not have attempted it. But I shall take your advice m'lord. Thank you again." Cygony replies, bowing to the Duke.

"Of course," Lord Zahir replies with a crooked smile. "Let us hope matters end as well before the Corona." And, with that, he starts walking toward Vozhdya's crossroads.

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