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.

The Emperor of Fastheld sits upon the throne in the torchlit shadows of the throne room now that darkness has fallen once more over the land. Before the dais sits a scored and nicked slab of granite, against which leans a wood-handled axe. To the right of the throne stands a man in black clothes and black hood - most likely the executioner, if required. Several heralds are available to show attendees to positions on either side of a crimson carpet strip that leads toward the throne.

Soram Nillu stands by one of the numberous columns along the aisle of the Throne Room, a rockwolf sitting complacently at his side.

Ashlynn sits within easy ear-shot of the throne, in the official capacity of court scribe at this event. Upon the small table before her are arrayed several leaves of parchment and all the necessary writing implements.

Orelnon Mikin enters the throne room at a snail's pace, the once proud priest's back stooped, forced to rely on a cane to keep him from toppling over. He appears haggard and worn, the lines in his face drawn down more than usual. His expression is one of pure hate as he hobbles into the throne room, eyes roaming the room but keeping away from the Emperor and his throne.

The former Chancellor of Fastheld, Duke Alieron Mikin, steps into the Throne Room escorted by the palace guards. His clothing is dirty from the dungeon, his normally spotless robes dirtied, but his head is still held even as he appears to walk with some semblance of confidence in that he does not appear tonight as such a beaten man, but a man walking to whatever is in front of him.

Sophia arrives in the throne room, assisted by Fael and Vhramis. Her eyes are large and luminous as her gaze sweep about, landing first upon the Emperor then lingering on her father. The flanking steward and Lord Constable look grim and tired, frequently looking over to Sophia in concern.

Orell Mikin steps into the Throne room, his blue gaze taking in the Emperor, the Executioner, the Block and then the rest of the nobility within. He bows his head towards the Emperor, his expression not revealing anything, though the tiredness from nights laying awake shows with the dark rings beneath his eyes. As Alieron enters, his gaze lands upon him, and stays there as he walks towards where the Herald is leading him.

As Alieron Mikin is escorted down the path between the onlookers toward the throne, Talus Kahar taps the fingers of his right hand slowly on the armrest of his throne. His face seems frozen in an implacable mask, the icy eyes showing signs of neither malice or sympathy, but only the indifference of well-tempered steel. In grim silence, he watches and waits for the guards to deliver Alieron before him.

In support of the leader her brother once was, Rowena has made an effort to turn her crumpled appearance into a more presentable one. Her hair had been washed and coiled neatly to defy the limpness it held previously. Powder concealed some of her eyes' hollows. Her shoulders are stiffly held, head turning to pass an expression over Sophia before following the form of her condemned brother. She tries to make eye contact, moving from her vigil in the effort.

Alieron gazes over at his sister, making eye contact with her, his brother, and then finally his daughter. His head turns fully toward his daughter, as he gives her a solemn, saddened gaze though he remains silent for now. As he is brought directly before the Throne, before the Emperor, his gaze is upon the Emperor in a solemn manner.

Fael Mikin nods silently to the herald who guides the trio to their seats, then turns his attention towards the prisoner as Alieron is lead towards the throne. He frowns softly at the former Duke, but makes no other motion and his expression betrays little apart from exhaustion.

Vhramis falls still, looking about the Throne room with a muted expression. His gaze fall to Alieron as well, and he keeps his face carefully neutral and impassive, set in stone. His eyes though...they speak of a much deeper conflict.

Orelnon Mikin allows himself to be directed by the heralds to his appropriate spot, refusing any aid that they offer, determined to reach his seat on his own. He looks at Alieron for a moment, expression softening as he sees the dirtied Mikin. There is a slight nod from the priest as he settles into position, standing as close as he can.

Soram Nillu's eyes fix on Alieron, his expression somewhere between impassive and slight frown. He clasps his hands behind his back as the rockwolf at his side yawns absently.

After a fitful night's rest Sophia is immaculated dress with every one of her ebony locks in place. The young Marchionss dips into a deep sweeping curtsy before taking her place in the designated area seated between her Steward and her betrothed. Forcing herself to remain compose despite the grim atmosphere. Her blue gaze locks with Alieron for only a moment before the tears well up within the depths of her crystal blue eyes, but no tears fall. Sophia lifts up her chin with an aire of pride as one hand reaches out for Fael in support lest she topple to the floor from the anxiety and fear she is consumed with.

Ashlynn is as equally impassive as the guards that traditionally line the hall while watching the prosession enter the throne room, playing the part of simple background decoration until the time comes in which her skills are needed. Nevertheless, she is not so perfect that her mouth does not tighten as she gazes over the various faces that are presented to the emperor, hands refolding themselves upon her lap.

"Alieron Mikin," the Emperor begins, pushing himself up so he can stand on the dais before the throne and gaze down upon the condemned. "Through act and word, you betrayed your oath to the Crown and to the realm of Fastheld. You sought to raise a civil insurrection against the Crown. You uttered slander against the Crown, abusing your position of authority to lend credence to same. You violently resisted arrest after the Surrector sought to take you into custody. Your actions cost dozens of lives. Your actions forced me to revoke an agreement - a *one-time* agreement - that might have ended our troubles with the Wildlings for good. Therefore, your actions are likely to cost even further bloodshed than we can even calculate at this time. For the past two days, I have sought counsel from those closest to you as to whether you should live on in prison or die swiftly, at the blade of the executioner." He laces his fingers before himself. "Now, Alieron Mikin, I allow you one opportunity to speak for yourself before I make my final decision."

Orell Mikin stands settled in the place he is assigned, his eyes frozen onto Alieron's face, as if recording it down for a lifetime of memory. His mind flits through the memories he has with his brother, from the games of children, to the fencing bouts they have enjoyed, to the forests they hunted together, and finally to the crisis they have been through. A tear comes unbidded into his eyes, and he takes a deep breath to hold it back. He must be strong at this moment, for his brother, to stand by him for the greatest crisis they have been through together. He hears the Emperor, but his eyes remain on Alieron, waiting for his brother to speak.

After several drawn-out security checks along the way, Athraven Forest arrives into the hall, bearing nothing that even *resembles* weaponry with him. He takes his stance near the entrance, watching the goings on nonchalantly.

Here now in this hall, the controversial decision would be made. As Rowena stands with statue's stillness on the carpet's edge, as her eyes stare through a glassy sheen to that granite block, memories roll through the twenty-six years of their making. There were smiles in those memories, long before the spats and raging arguments over politics which had recently placed tension between the two. There were hurtful accusations and soulful apologies. There was life. And now...

Rowena wets her dried lips in anticipation, jaw hardening to fight against the urge to scream. There would be no time to mourn, of course. Fionnlagh would wake soon. Her knuckles unclench, white fading back into fleshtones.

Orelnon Mikin's grip on his cane tightens, eyes narrowing at the Emperor as the elder priest awaits his decision with great anticipation; his breathing quickening as the wheels of his mind turn in malicious circles.

Vhramis looks to Sophia, an anguished look crossing his face in reaction to her expression. He glances upwards to Fael next, before looking back to the Emperor and Alieron, shoulders tensing. He knows what it is to lose a father. To have your world turned upright.

Sophia Mikin keeps her gaze upon her father with an void-like expression within her eyes. She sits up ramrod straight in her seat only from pure will as she forces herself not to fall apart. Not here, not now. One hand clasps tightly to Fael's the other grabbing on to the side of the chair causing the knuckles upon her hand to turn white.

Soram Nillu looks toward the Emperor, then Alieron. His brow quirks, expression shifting from impassive to curious.

Alieron Mikin clears his throat, gazing before the Emperor, "I am a man whom my faith in the Light is the greatest. I am a man who sees the dangers of the Shadow. The slander I did utter of the Crown was simply the truth, that working with the Shadow is dangerous, and that an Emperor who would go to that point seems to be potentially under the influence of the spell of the Shadow-Touched or their deceptions. The danger in the Emperor working with the Luminary, the Shadow-Touched, in any capacity, and putting us in a position as to need the help of the Luminary is an omnious thing. I did what I did because of my faith in the Light, and not out of a treacherous intent toward the Crown. I did what I did not out of my self-interest, as for if it were self-interest I would have kept closed my mouth, but for truth. I see the Wildlings and the Luminary as of the same source, the Shadow. For they are both touched by the Shadow, the enemy of all that is of the Light. The Luminary would like nothing more than to see the fall of the Church, the permanent fall of House Kahar, and all others who would oppose them in their quest for a domination by the Shadow-Touched. I do not see my actions as causing the loss of dozens of lives, but the actions of yet another Zahir of House Zahir who takes great joy in the spilling of Mikin blood, and its retainers. That it was the Bramblestone Irregulars to enter Light's Reach, and shed the blood of the Ducal Guard is a great insult to my people. For if the Imperial Horsemen, representatives of His Majesty themself would have entered Light's Reach, I am certain the Ducal Guard would not have resisted. But, that the private army of a Zahir, the greatest enemy to House Mikin by their own doing, entered the domain of Light's Reach to attack the almost sacred grounds of Mikin Hall, and their Duke most certainly rose my Ducal Guard to engage them. Do not judge my family as you would judge me, for even against my own blood's advice did I do this. But I say now, and humbly as a devotee of the Light that what I did was for the Light, and what I feel is the greater good. My family has served the Imperial Family with utmost loyalty for hundreds of years, but our ultimate faith rests in the Light. I would only ask that all be vigilant against the Luminary, for I do not feel that all truly realize their maliciousness, and danger. I did what I did for the Light. I am apologetic, and remorseful for my family. I am remorseful for this severing of the bond between the Imperial Family, and House Mikin. I am saddened that I was forced into a situation where I felt I chose between the Light, and my mortal obligations. But may it go down in history that what I did was not with the intention of treachery, but with the intention to save us from the evil of the Shadow."

Orelnon Mikin nods slowly, approvingly, of Alieron's speech. His eyes then turn cold and his face hard as the priest regards the Emperor, daring him to pass sentence.

Ashlynn releases a long, silent breath at the end of Alieron's oration, eyes closing briefly. Then, her gaze flicks toward the others in the entourage for their reactions, before she naturally turns to the emperor for the response.

Sophia Mikin swollows the rather large lump in her throat at the same time a single tear escapes her eyes trailing slowly down the side of her cheek. She moistens her lips then bites down upon her lower lip causing a bloody imprint of her front teeth to keep her from crying out. The grip upon Fael's hand becomes stronger as her nails dig within the Lord Constable's hand.

As Alieron speaks, Soram switches his face back to cold and impassive, and then, about halfway though the filibuster, to boredom. He rolls his eyes as Alieron continues, glancing down to the rockwolf, who appears to share the sentiment, and has laid on the stone floor and started to lick himself in his sensitive areas.

The Steward of Wedgecrest Falls does not move an inch during Alieron's speech, eyes focused straight ahead and unflinching as he plays the statue he was so used to being in the past in Alieron's presence. His mouth is drawn into a tight line.

Fael Mikin watches Alieron carefully as the Duke speaks, his response to the man's words uncertain. He frowns tersely and glances first towards Vhramis, then back towards Sophia, but doesn't make any sound.

Weakness slips in the form of a salty drop from Rowena's eye. It trails unhindered to her chin where it may rest briefly before taking a plunge. A solemn nod is offered to Alieron's turned back. Her lips purse tightly in control and she dares to lose sight of Alieron briefly in order to study His Majesty's face as he mulls over his final decision. Yet while her kin stands trial, neither sentencings favorable, it is not hate that glimmers in her eyes. It is respect. No amount of tears, pleas, accusations would alter his fate. She would not continue to drive the wedge that Alieron had thrust through his religious act. Still, the gaze upon the Emperor falters after a few moments, head bowing and hands drawing to fold over her heart.

His face stiffening as he listens to his brother's speech, Orell silently accepts his brother's explanation, the central conflict of being a Mikin stretches a man of honor thin. He straightens and squares his shoulders to listen to the Emperor's sentence, the wetness in his eyes gone in his determination be be strong.

"I do not hear remorse in your voice, Alieron Mikin," the Emperor replies, shaking his head. He glances briefly toward the dark-clad man in the black hood, waiting to the right, and then returns his gaze to the notched granite slab and its companion axe. His attention then shifts back to the disgraced Chancellor. "You had other channels through which to voice these concerns. The Imperial Council, for example. Or, privately, to the Church. I would not have held either of those steps against you, and never would I deem those treason. But what you did was an effort to foment open rebellion against the Crown - nothing less." He tilts his head. "Were you any other man, you would have been dead the moment the Surrector first brought you before me. But you have been a good man, a good servant of the Crown and, in the past, a good friend. We are, through your marriage to my cousin, kin. And while I believe you were, and are still, wrong about the value of the arrangement made between the Crown and a single individual from the Luminary, which would have ended in their *exile*, I believe after speaking with those closest to you and after making my own observations in recent months that they come not from malice but from *madness*." He strokes his chin briefly with the fingers of his left hand, then says, "You will not die this day, Alieron Mikin, for I want you to live to see what comes of it. I want to see to it that you are personally apprised each time the Wildlings strike. I want you to hear the names of the fallen. I want you to receive visits from their kin. I want you to tell them, time and again, how it is such a bad thing I wanted to do." His brow furrows and now his shadowed eyes catch the flickering of a nearby torch. Ravens flutter and squawk in the rafters. "You are condemned to spend the rest of your life as a prisoner of the Crown, never to set foot on the soil of Fastheld again as a free man." He lets his hands fall to his sides and then says, "Your wife, my cousin, has made it clear - and I do not disagree - that condemning you to the dungeon of Fastheld Keep would be tantamount to a death sentence. You are a sick man, a mad and pathetic man, and I have no doubt that it would kill you to remain in such a place. But most any castle can serve as prison, can it not? The last ounce of compassion I spare for you, Alieron Mikin, is that you serve your sentence locked within East Bluff Keep, surrounded by those you love - and those *things* you hold dear - until such time as you perish. However, if you abuse this and elude your guards at East Bluff to roam the land even once, you will be brought back to this place, your head laid on this block, and you will serve to add another notch in it." He nods to the guards, saying, "See that he and his family return safely to Light's Reach."

Merielle Mikin enters late, slipping in through the doors to stand silent for the most part of the sentencing. She stands as straight and unflagging as she ever has, but her face is shrouded in a pale blue veil which masks the expression there and softens her into near indecipherability. For all the artifice of the veil, her eyes glitter brightly through their cloth shroud, steady on her husband as the Emperor speaks.

Soram Nillu nods in satisfaction as the Emperor speaks, the rockwolf returning to sit on his haunches regally upon hearing the words of Talus Kahar.

Tomassa's face attempts to remain impassive as the Emperor's wishes are made known, but she cannot hide the bitter scowl of disappointment that comes upon her face when the Mikin is allowed to live. The Surrector gazes at the floor, her mouth pursing.

"Behold the reward given the righteous man." Orelnon sneers, angry gaze burning into the Emperor. "Bargaining our souls for our flesh, Talus Kahar?" The priest's voice is raised in challenge, "I see one madman in this room." And his eyes are square on Kahar, though after this declaration his voice softens and his gaze falls on the assembled nobles. "And a score of cowards who care more about their titles and petty politics than their duty to the Light. The true defense of this realm."

Vhramis' face does not even twitch at the Emperor's announcement, him being fully intent in being nothing but a supporting presence to Sophia. The Priest's, however, cause his eyes to glance over in his direction.

"Mercy," utters Athraven to himself, a grin blossoming on his face at the decision. At the priest's outburst, the freelander's brow rises in apparent surprise, but under it lies amusement.

Tomassa's right hand moves immediately to her sword when Orelnon speaks and there is a slight hiss as she withdraws it a few inches before she can stop herself. She takes a half-step forward and fastens a cool look of censure upon the priest.

Talus Kahar glances toward Orelnon and nods, his voice replying softly, "And I see two." He settles back into his throne. "We are at an end. Keep in the light."

The beat of Rowena's heart is interrupted as the sentence is declared, her lips parting to utter an incomprehendable sound. Her breath leaves her breast in a fierce whoosh, knees almost buckling to the floor. With wide eyes, she searches immediately for the rest of her family to exchange glances, gauge their reactions...until the priest speaks.

Cowards? The contorted expression on her face solidifies into one of stern control. She steps quietly away from her place at the carpet when dismissed, approaching the priest steadily with an intent gaze.

Alieron nods to the Emperor slowly, bowing a slight almost half-bow, perhaps as simply a final note of respect to the Crown he served yet had to part ways with, and then turns his head toward his priest's with an solemn look. He realizes that no amount of speaking is going to change the Emperor's decision. He moves, if allowed, toward his family.

Ashlynn bows her head as the emperor passes the sentence, her expression momentarily indecipherable behind the screen of sun-whitened hair that falls forward with the motion. As she raises her head again to reach for a near quill and dip it into the inkwell, whatever flickerings of emotion that had dwelled upon her face pass...until Orelnon's outburst. Her pen has yet to touch parchment to write down the details of Alieron's fate when it freezes, the full drop of inky black collected upon its tip preserved in her shock.

The Duchess flinches visibly when Orelnon speaks, but her posture is not that of the guilty. Instead her shrouded face remains resolutely turned to Alieron and her shoulders come up a fraction, squaring themselves against some inner fury that passes all too soon and leaves her posture lessened. Soram Nillu furrows his brow at Orelnon, hand instinctively resting on the hilt of his sword.

Sophia Mikin stands up on rigid legs holding on to Fael for support. She is relieved yet sickened by everything that has happened. There is a vehmous glare given to Tomassa that lasts only moments before her gaze sweeps towards her father.

Hearing the Emperor's sentencing, Orell Mikin gives a very very small sigh of relief, at least he will be able to see his brother and within East Bluff, he will be comfortable and the rest of the family can take care of him. He bows his head towards the Emperor, accepting the sentense before turning his head back to Alieron, as he walks back among them. While he respects the Priest, this time he does not think Orelnon is wise in the outburst, and chose to ignore the priest first.

Fael Mikin emits a sigh as Orelnon begins to speak, his expression showing not anger so much as exhaustion and frustration. Seeing the Emperor ignore the priest he grins wryly and moves to help Sophia to her feet as Alieron approaches. His own glance at the Surrector is more measured, and thoughtful than Sophia's.

Orelnon Mikin laughs, a low, dry sound that seems as old and as malicious as the man it comes from. "Such a safe answer, Kahar. But we are not at an end. Oh no. This is merely the beginning." The Priest pauses, starting to turn, though the motion is slow and painful. "Until we meet again, Emperor of Shadows." He pays no attention to his kin, starting to hobble away.

Vhramis stays in his spot, seeing Sophia well watched over by Fael. He folds his hands behind his back, waiting until a time in which he may be needed.

"Keep speaking," the Emperor says, scowling at Orelnon and gesturing at the granite. "This stone is still thirsty, and you are not so old that *all* of your blood can have gone to dust that you might not slake it."

Ashlynn's eyes flicker toward Orelnon at the priest's last words, and now her gaze hardens with a very discernible emotion, narrowed in distaste and wary speculation. But as the audience draws to a close, she returns her attention to the parchment, and the quill dances adroitly between the paper and the inkwell as she writes.

Alieron's wife, the Emperor's cousin: Merielle merely waits near the doorway, although she takes one single deliberate step back should Orelnon wish to pass that way. This motion pulls her almost without a glance, as her now-dry eyes remain locked on the disgraced Chancellor's face and form.

Orelnon Mikin laughs again, this time the pitch higher and the sound reaching farther. "Your threats mean nothing to me, Kahar." The Priest says a way of parting, lifting his off left hand over his shoulder in a motion of dismissal now that he is headed for the door. He doesn't even glance at Merielle.

Far more young and nimble than Orelnon, even in her tired state, Rowena easily manuevers around the priest, coming to block his path with a soul-piercing gaze into his eyes. For a moment she says nothing, lips downturning into a soft frown. "How could you not see the hope in the Emperor's bargain, Father? For many more will now fall to shadow in the wildlings' wake than had the plan been executed. I beg of you to not speak so harshly of the man who oversees our wellbeing, for he has been merciful this day." But her whispered tone is far from begging, fine hairs along her nape bristling.

There. Satisfied, she sidesteps to permit the old man to pass and rests a hand gently on Merielle's shoulder with heavy sigh.

Alieron Mikin walks solemnly, and silently. He now does not look toward his priest, but accompanies his family outwarded with whomever he is being escorted by, and is followed.

Sophia Mikin isn't feeling very well. She looks to Vhramis and sighs softly. "I need to see to my father and return to Wedgecrest."

Again Merielle flinches, this time at Rowena's touch, and without meeting the woman's eyes she steps aside ans away just some little distance. "Please," she says quietly in a voice surprisingly steady, "thank you, but not now." Her feet draw her after Alieron, bringing her into step a half-pace behind him and to one side on his exit.

That's all Vhramis needs to hear. He nods his head and sets off to walk besides Sophia, watching her carefully less she stumble or need his aid in general. "Of course, my Lady. Anything you wish," he says quietly.

Following his family members, Orell Mikin nods and steps out of the Throne room.

The Emperor just sits on the throne, watching as servants arrive to carry off the chopping block. The executioner collects his axe and follows the stone away.

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