Sahna Nillu's Chamber
Sahna's still stuck in her room-- But it isn't the dungeon. She's reclining on her bed, looking pale and drained, a wineglass in one hand. Her clothing is a comfortable chemise, from what can be seen above the covers.
Tomassa eases her way inward, acting more like an uncertain guest than someone entering the domain of a prisoner. "Sahna?" she queries, brows drawing downward when she spies Sahna's current position. "Is this a bad time?" the Chamberlain inquires.
"Tomassa?" Sahna raises both sable brows, gesturing for Tomassa to come in. "No, not at all.. Unfortunately I seem to not have fared very well after my little dungeon stay, so I've been abed since yesterday. How have you been?"
"I've been better," the woman murmurs, stepping inward and quietly closing the door. "I am sorry to hear that you are unwell. Is there anything that I can get for you? Well... that might be within the palace walls?"
"Been better? You're at the top of the heap now. What's wrong, power doesn't taste so good once you realize the cost?" Sahna asks, leaning forward to regard Tomassa with a tired smile. "No, I have all I need here. I'm used to being ill, unfortunately. Would you care for some wine?"
"Despite what I am sure must be general consensus, I did not -ask- for this," Tomassa calmly points out as she strolls closer. She studies Sahna with a quiet gaze, grasping her hands behind her back. "You saw me when I came to you to pay taxes. Do you think that woman would want any of this?"
"Was I saying that you did?" Sahna asks, smiling faintly. "But, wisely, you did not refuse. Of course, at the time, you didn't know what I knew." Now, her smile is sad. "Zolor Zahir the first.. It's such an ironic name. What do you think he intends to do for a legacy, he who has no living children, and deprived so many others of theirs?"
Tomassa steps forward until her leg touches the end of Sahna's bed. "Let us hope that he does not wish to wed Rowena," she says in a fervent tone. "I should hate to see that."
"I doubt it." Sahna responds, shaking her head. "Rowena has no major land or fortunes to take. If he weds, it will have to be a woman who will either gain him a valuable alliance, a fortune, or a male heir. If he's given thought to the fact that he has no heirs, he will doubtless wait to see where the most advantageous union would be." She gazes at Tomassa for a long moment, then adds, "House Mikin, although the natural adversary, is too weakened to be much of a threat. He will most likely make other moves to weaken Kahar, as well."
"But, think on it, Sahna. He would be taking as his bride the woman who loves Serath. That might be just sick enough to amuse him," Tomassa offers, "Though I do truly hope it does not go that course. I... would not wish that on Rowena."
"Has he given any indication that he's thinking like that? Yes, it would be something he could taunt the prince with.. . But how long do you think he can afford to keep Serath alive? A well planned union would be more advantageous in the long run, and that's how Zolor thinks." She pauses, racked by a hacking, dry cough. Taking a sip of the wine to clear her throat, she continues. "Even back then, he must have had an eye to the main chance. Think back to the ravager, Tomassa. He was the one who showed up with the forbidden knowledge for the drake's defeat. He could have demanded a council seat then, but instead he stuck to the background, letting the religious backlash hit the council instead. He must have started subverting the church even back then. Aiden told me all about the trip to the depths of Halo.. How is it that nobody ever called him to task for his actions back then? The Lightmaiden, light bless her if she's still alive which I doubt, permitted the sojourn at great personal cost.. Yet everything was quiet, after Halo was destroyed. " She leans back into her pillows, exhaling with a rasp.
"He has said little to me other than to fetch this person or that from the dungeons," the new Chamberlain exhales. Tomassa looks downward, studying the end of the former Assessor's bed. "Truth be told, I have not greatly thought much on Zolor. I have been too concerned with my friends." The woman clears her throat. "I actually came to visit in hopes of borrowing a change of clothing."
"He doesn't trust you yet. He may never trust you.. I don't think he's someone who trusts easily." Sahna responds, tiredly. "Be careful how compassionate you allow yourself to appear, Tomassa. As for clothes.." She gestures to one of the wardrobes. "Nothing I have will fit you, but Gan's about your height, and his clothing is in there. Take what you need."
"Is he going to mind?" Tomassa asks. "I shall take good care of it, I promise. Unfortunately, this coup caught me here for a simple visit to the Memorial Chapel. I had only what is on my back." Amusement actually hints in her voice when she says, "And bathing oneself daily does not mean the clothing will remain fresh, I've found." Turning, the woman wanders to the indicated wardrobe, hesitating as if unsure which one was meant.
"He won't mind. He can actually be tolerable at times, unlike my last husband." Sahna responds, with a shrug. "Just pick out whatever you like. His stuff isn't as nice as mine, tailoring-wise, but Luna Grey is one of a kind when it comes to making clothing, so that's only to be expected. " She coughs again, small frame shuddering with the effort. "I wonder how long I'll be penned up in here, anyhow?"
Tomassa carefully opens the wardrobe to look inside. "Shall I put in a word with the Emperor? He's been listening to me, it seems, where that sort of thing is concerned. Is there anywhere in particular that you wish to go?" Her slender right hand reaches in to touch a blue silk gambeson.
"No. I have no desire to grovel before him. He's not even interested in making any deals.. It's just 'sign this paper and go away'. I wonder what I'll do with all my spare time, now?" Sahna asks, smiling faintly. "A Nillu hates it when there's no haggling, no bargain involved. All I asked was for Shardwood's safety, since I had promised Duhnen... As if a spineless girl like that would be a threat to him." Sahna snorts, derisively. Tomassa pulls a blue silk gambeson from the wardrobe and holds it in front of her torso, eyeing it. "I'm going to wear this and nothing else for at least a /day/. I don't care if it causes a scandal. The clothes I currently have on are going to be very, very thoroughly cleaned."
"Are you certain you wouldn't like at least a skirt, or some pants?" Sahna queries, inclining her head. "Just go demand the guards outside give you theirs, if there's none in the wardrobe. You're important now, and all."
Tomassa presses the gambeson to her belly with one hand, looking downward. "I'm endeavoring not to make people hate me any more than they already do," is the woman's dry reply. "The only demands that I have made have been to the Emperor."
A sharp knock comes to the door.
"You won't last long, then." Sahna responds, shaking her head. "Listen here, Tomassa. You're only useful to him so long as you're doing useful things. If you pussyfoot around and try to show a kind face to everyone, do you know what that'll get you? Nothing, that's what. No trust from him, no subordinates attracted to a charismatic leader.. You'll just become roadside chaff. The council, no matter who runs it, has a way of using people up and throwing them by the wayside. That's politics, and you're not playing them very smart. "
Sahna Nillu yells, "Enter!"
"And? What am I supposed to do? I would _much_ rather be back on horseback, finding my /own/ path," Tomassa honestly replies, "As I was w..." Her head turns to the door as it opens and a guard enters. "Ah," he uncertainly says, "Lady Grand Chamberlain? It seems Ester Shardwood escaped the palace."
Sahna raises both eyebrows at the news, looking at Tomassa. "Well. For a sealed palace, it's not very secure, is it? Still, that's good news for me. It tidily discharges any obligation I had to the woman." She shrugs, passively, then coughs again.
Tomassa's face remains impassive before the guard, her gaze still directed to the gambeson. "Thank you," she says in response, much to the relief of the messenger. "That will be all." The young man turns to go as quickly as he arrived, hastening himself out of the way.
After the door closes, Sahna begins to chuckle. "Do chinks already appear in the marvelous armor of Zolor Zahir?" She questions, shaking her head amusedly. "It's too bad the life of a fugitive wouldn't suit me.. I'm getting bored, cooped up in here. Anyways, of course you'd rather be somewhere else.. This is what you chose, however. To only do a half-assed job because your heart isn't in it? That's shameful. If you want revenge for the people who died, you can't be so wishy-washy."
"The fact that I have nothing left to lose is likely why Zolor has not made me sign one of his pledges," Tomassa quietly says. Suddenly, she looks very, very tired... and every minute of her age. "Besides, Sahna, there is little for me to do until the palace is opened again. I cannot very well order supplies now."
"Is a quartermaster all you are?" Sahna asks, grinning. "Tomassa, during my tenure as the assessor.. What do you think gave me power? Was it the fact that I was empowered to tell people to give me money? Do you think that's all I did?" She leans forward, stabbing a spidery finger at the chamberlain. "The key is to simply assume that you will not be denied, that you have the right to do anything you want, in a matter-of-fact manner. If you take that attitude, people will naturally listen, because you /behave/ like someone with the authority. Do you think I had the right to dissolve the Vozhd part of the Kahar family? Of course not. But I've fooled most of those saps into thinking I did, so they went along with it, and as a result I have a keep dead-center in 'Aegisview' while Markus is off being a hermit. Mind you, the method doesn't work with everyone.. People like Zolor, Oren, Talus, Hartnek, Sorvayn.. People who were born or appointed into that kind of authority or who ardently desired it are more sensitive to who can do what. Everyone else, though? I want you to try it. Just try it out on anyone you meet in the palace. Assume you will not be denied. Try it out, and you'll see it works."
Tomassa's mouth quirks just a tiny bit at one corner. "I am already doing that with Lucius Nepos. It has been the only way to earn his respect, it seems. At first, he seemed rather angry with me... or his demotion in general."
"Let me ask you this, Tomassa. What do you plan to do? You need clear goals. Are you going to serve Zolor faithfully, or work covertly against him? You don't have to tell me which one, of course, but you need to make up your mind about exactly what you want to do, and then economize your actions towards your goal." She folds her arms across her chest, drawing herself up. "No matter what you do, build a network of allies with you as the unquestionable authority. Build up your position.. Start with Nepos, if you wish... He should be halfway decent as a testing ground, since he's already your subordinate."
"Ah, yes, but he went to visit Shardwood /twice/ in the dungeon without my knowledge. Once, even going into her cell. I do not know that he is trustworthy. Yet," Tomassa says as she pushes the wardrobe fully closed and drapes the gambeson over her arm. "As for Zolor? I... do not know."
"Someone doesn't need to be trustworthy to be your subordinate, Tomassa. This is the key mistake many people make, in thinking so. Win him over to your side, but realize that every person who serves you has their own agenda, strengths, weaknesses. Zolor knows this cardinal rule, or he wouldn't have been willing to use you. In the last year with all of your losses, I have seen the Lioness turned into a sheep. He has seen this as well." She smiles dryly, at this. "Secondly, about that gambeson. Wear it until you have a chance to get your own things, but remember that your clothing is your armor. In your case, you are a woman who can fight and hold her own; Put on the obsidian again, and when you appear in finery, be certain that it's the best that money can buy. How you look, walk, and act conveys your authority as much as any word, written or spoken. "
Dryly, Tomassa says, "I shall need to speak to Zolor about hiring you as my etiquette consultant."
Sahna smiles, dryly. "You have no need of an etiquette consultant as long as you do away with the histrionics that got you into trouble back when you were Surrector... Besides, when I realized that Zolor had bested everyone, myself included, I did offer my services. He didn't feel that he needed them, which is his loss. I'll just have to find other things to fill my time, on my little country estate in Sweatyneck Acres." The ex-Assessor smirks, leaning back into her pillows, and takes another sip of her wine. "I tire now, Tomassa. If you see Zolor, do tell him that my health has suffered from my stay in the dungeons.. I could most likely be persuaded to sign his quaint little paper."
Tomassa dips her head into a tired nod. "I shall do so, Sahna. My hopes are that your health shall improve very quickly," the woman adds with a small smile. Lightly patting the gambeson upon her arm, she turns to take her leave with unhurried steps.
Sahna takes another sip of her wine, staring at her quarters. "I'll miss my tower. Maybe I'll build another keep." She murmurs, absently.