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.
It is the First hour by the Light on Riverstretch, and the night is warm and quiet around the Palace. The serenity of the Throne room in this peaceful time of night is seemingly reflected in the quiest shadows that take up residence in the high places of the great hall; the warm hues of the flickering flames in the stanchions not quite managing to illuminate those places, though remaining content to keep those who inhabit the areas closer to the earth with light enough to move and converse.
For the most part, those flames illuminate the reddish-gold surface of brass armor upon this late hour, reflecting crimson hues across the surface of the Royal Knights who wear it, taking over the nightwatch from the usual compliment of dedicated Bladesman because of who inhabits the Throne Room at this hour: Serath Kahar, Prince of the Blood, standing beside his Brother who apparent has decided to spend a few more hours 'on duty' than he needed to be, just to spend time with family.
"...which is all very well, but I think Rowena Kahar just has a better ring to it than Mikin does. Convincing her to change her name might be a bit tricky, but... either way, I'm sure it won't matter much beyond what's on paper." The warm regal purr of Serath softly cascades through the silence, much to the interest of the Knights who guard the room.
Tomassa makes her way into the throne room with a slight limp. Her helmet is tucked beneath her left arm in its usual place. Fatigue lines the corners of the woman's eyes, but there is no regret in her posture or her expression. There might be a slight limp to her walk as she moves toward the Emperor and his brother. Nonetheless, the woman lowers herself to one knee and bows her head in respect.
Talus Kahar nods to Serath. "I am sure, if anyone can convince her, Serath, it is you." He then turns to regard the arrival of the Lioness. "Surrector." He tilts his head, eyes narrowing as he studies her countenance. A frown creeps over his face as he asks, "What happened to you?"
"*If* anyone can." Serath notes with a smile, adding a touch of knowing humour to the conversation regarding how stubborn the Duchess can be, before his gaze in turn falls upon the visitor to the Palace at this late hour... and, looking upon Tomassa's battle-worn expression, that smile melts into a look of concern. He remains silent for now, however, merely looking on.
Tomassa lifts her chin just a little and then eases to her feet. "I... was hoping that I would not be the first to report," she truthfully responds. "I've just come from Light's Reach where a traitor was arrested and a riot was quelled," the woman says on a sigh. "Alieron Mikin now resides in your dungeon and there are members of his family in protective custody in the Chancellor's Suite."
The Emperor takes a step back, his eyes widening. His mouth falls open just a little, and he rests a hand on the armrest of his throne. He looks silently toward Serath for a long moment before returning his gaze to Tomassa. "The Chancellor? What happened? How? Why is he in the dungeon?"
The Prince-of-the-Blood can only sigh at this item of news; it's a sigh that dictates something feared, but trusted not to happen. He catches the Emperor's glance, a look of utter disbelief falling upon his features, before looking back upon Tomassa. "He didn't?" he asks, offering the unspoken question.
"He did," Tomassa replies to Serath while looking only to the Emperor. "After hearing of the man's reactions to your recent... dealings, I feared he might use it to his advantage. Knowing him as I do, I thought to attend the little speech he gave at Mikin Hall. I was right. It wasn't about the Order of the Flame, it was about your contract with the Luminary to aid Fastheld," the woman reveals in her tired contralto. She stands as formally as possible, though she is tired to the bone. "He spoke treason against you, Your Imperial Majesty. He said that you were under the influence of the Shadow. The citizens were quick to heed him rather than reason." Her gaze drifts to Serath and Tomassa faintly smiles. "If only Duchess Rowena had been present, they would have listened to -her-."
A slow, boiling fury starts to grow within the Emperor, his face flushing with blood as he steps up onto the dais and settles into the throne. He sits there in simmering silence, pondering the ramifications of the words uttered by the Surrector. His jaw clenches. "How many dead?" he grates somberly.
"Rowena already tried to stop it before it happened." Serath states, his voice sounding hollow against the quiet of the Throne Room amidst the wake of his brother's question. He sighs deeply. "She said that he already told her he was thinking about speaking out; that she managed to convince him no to, and that Talus..." he pauses, correcting himself in front of company, "That the Emperor knew what he was doing. I assured her that she was right to do so. She was. But, obviously, it wasn't enough... and if she couldn't stop him from doing it, I doubt she would have made much different." He glances over to Talus, "/That's/ what I wanted to talk to you about tonight. It would seem that faith wasn't on my side."
Tomassa quietly says, "Fifty. Thirty of the Ducal Guard and twenty of my own Irregulars. The elder priest, Orelnon Mikin, was gravely injured in the movements of the panicked crowd. My cousin Zurhael took an arrow to the backside." Tomassa tries to say that as neutrally as possible, but her nostrils still manage to twitch. She has to find -some- amusement from her stressful night. "There were other minor injuries, but nothing severe to my knowledge. I did all that I could to quell the crowd with words, my Emperor. Public speaking is not my strength, but I tried to use the example of the raising of the Aegis. It was no use. I think half the Mikins are as daft as Alieron."
"Damn him to the Shadow," the Emperor growls. "Treason!" He slams his fist on the armrest. "Over *one* Shadow-Touched person accepting exile to help us end the incursions of the Wildlings - possibly for *good*?!" His eyes narrow and he leans back in the throne, releasing an exasperated sigh. "Surrector," he finally says, voice growing dangerously low, nearly a whisper. "Bring. Him. Before. Me."
Tomassa lowers herself into a half-bow. "As you will it, my Emperor," the woman agrees. She turns to make her way to the doors, adding, "Merielle, Sophia, Fael, and, I believe, Orelnon Mikin are in the Chancellor's Suite. As are Zurhael, Ester Shardwood and Lotan Elkhorn. Kenneth Fionnlagh was invaluable to me today and I hope that you will protect him from censure by the Mikins. He took your side over theirs." As she speaks, her pace picks up.
Serath can't help but flinch a little as his Brother growls his opinion of the situation. Light hath no fury like the Emperor's scorn. Regaining his stance a moment later with catlike grace, he glances over to Talus once more. "Shall I have the Knights who are currently in the Palace set up a vanguard at the Gatehouse in case we see some of the..." he hisses the next word, "Chancellor's" and then settles back into a soft purr, "...friends decide to become patriots to his cause?"
Talus Kahar nods, then waits in the shadows of the torchlit chamber for the arrival of the traitorous Chancellor. "Rouse all the watches, Serath. Man the gatehouse and the battlements."
Palace guards open the door and usher in their prisoner. Tomassa follows behind them - better to stop an attempt at escape. She still carries her helmet beneath her arm.
Serath inclines his head in a sharp gesture of affirmation, then gestures to the nearest two Knights who stand watch in the Throne Room. "Quell, Malakim." His voice gains their attention; not through tone of command, for his voice remains a composed put, but by sheer reaction and loyalty alone. "Rouse all the Knights you can find. I want a vanguard around the gatehouse /so/ tight that even the Shadow itself would have a difficult time getting through. Wake up the Blades commanders. Have every battlement, corridor, and wall manned as if another catacylsm was on the way. Drag people out of bed if you need to. If we're not at full defense within the hour..." he smiles a dire smile, "Tell them I'll /personally/ make sure they remember their oath to the Crown."
The clatter of two Knights of Bronze pass by Tomassa and her quarry as she enters the Throne Room once more as they leave.
Talus Kahar is sitting on the throne, half in shadow and half in flickering torchlight, while Serath stands nearby. The soldiers of the Imperial Guard are lingering amongst the shadows behind and around the throne. The Emperor's furrowed brow turns slowly to regard the arrival of the prisoner, his icy blue eyes glinting with the reflection of flames both tangible and intangible.
Alieron Mikin steps into the Throne Room, escorted by the Palace Guards, a quiet different man than usually enters. His gait is broken slightly, exhausted, and his face is completely somber. His clothing appears dishelved from where it had been under the obsidian armor. He does not even look with his own blue eyes directly at the Emperor, it seems, they just appear distant, and dazed.
Tomassa follows behind her prisoner. There could be a lot more glee in her stance, considering how long she has hated the man, but the woman remains as impassive as possible. Fatigue makes it easier to be neutral.
The relative peace of the Second hour of Riverstretch is shattered as the deep and verbose blart of a War Horn cascades into the darkness of the early morning around the Palace. The rumble of that question is answered in turn by a second War Horn slightly further away in the distance, and then a third perhaps behind the Palace a few seconds later, and then finally once more as it calls out to ensure that it is remembered also.
The flutters of wings and feathers sound out overhead as the birds that were once sleeping in the high ceilings are abruptly pulled from slumber by the billowing sounds that echo around their home, launching themselves into the night in an attempt to escape such intimidating noises as the horn finally ease back into quiet. It would seem that the Knights of the Imperial Horsemen are answering the call to duty...
After at least a full minute of seething silence, the Emperor edges forward on his throne to scowl venomously down at Alieron. But, when he finally speaks, he doesn't yell or rant. He doesn't speak in his usual conversational tone. Instead, his voice is a hair above a whisper, like the burbling of a boiling pot kept barely contained under a wobbling lid. "Fifty people dead. Rioting. Treason. All over a choice - not even a *secret* choice - to enlist the aid of a single mage to help us get a strategic advantage over the Wildlings, to possibly end their incursions into our realm for all time." He shakes his head, still maintaining that whispery tone as he goes on: "No faith in the Crown? No faith in my ancestors? What could possibly explain this treason? It makes no sense to me. No sense at all." He laces his fingers together, leaning back in the throne. His own voice sounds shell-shocked, the sonic equivalent of pallid as he says: "You are a traitor, Alieron Mikin. You are stripped of title. You are stripped of authority. You are condemned as a prisoner, to dwell within the dungeon of Fastheld Keep until such time as your Emperor makes a determination of whether you should live or die. Is this understood?"
Serath, hearing the horns of war demand that those who have sworn an oath to the Emperor now live by that pledge, can't help but smile just a little as the noise echoes around the Palace. Yet the smile soon turns somber once more as Alieron is dragged before the Emperor; the Prince bracing himself for a greater storm that's to follow as he stands beside his brother with a stance that speaks of utmost loyalty, knowing better than to speak at such times of fury, merely listening as the torrent of the Emperor's wrath is unleashed.
Tomassa's shoulders even tense at the sound of the Emperor's voice. It is as if the hairs upon the back of her neck rise. The woman watches the man she has sworn to serve and then turns her gaze to the man she has grown to despise. There is no pity in her eyes, but there is no joy, either. There is only a sense of relief.
Alieron Mikin nods slowly, somberly, and then speaks, "You, Talus Kahar the Fourteenth, have made a deal with those touched by the Shadow, and in doing so have endangered us. The Shadow is deceptive, the Luminary wishes for our downfall, and you have dealt with them. The consequences of this will be far more than what has just occurred." He then silences.
"I did not ask for your further opinion, prisoner," the Emperor growls. He stands on the dais, staring down at Alieron. "I will say only one thing further to you before we next meet and I decide whether you stay in this world or go on to the next, if such a thing exists. Your sacrifice has gained this much: I will revoke the deal with the Luminary, to prove that I am not in league with the Shadow - or controlled by it - as you so slanderously claim. But mark my words, Mikin. Mark them well. The Wildlings will keep coming. More of our people will die. Their blood will be on your hands." He then looks toward Tomassa and hisses, "Get this garbage out of my sight."
"I hope the result was worth the price your family will suffer in anguish and shame." Serath adds in the wake of his Brother's words; not gloating, and not in glory, but in sorrow. Sorrow for people he knows. Sorrow for someone he loves. Regret for the high price the shockwaves of the incident and it's conclusion may yet have for them. His voice is but a whisper. "I hope you're happy."
"With pleasure, Your Imperial Majesty," Tomassa's husky contralto intones with a hint of that emotion within it. She reaches out with her right hand to curl gloved fingers into Alieron's hair. She then uses her grip, if he doesn't slip from it, to steer him toward the door.
Alieron Mikin attempts to slip from it, and walks on beside her, being escorted out by the guards. His face remains relatively emotinless.
Tomassa grins just a tiny bit, but quickly stifles it. She strolls behind the guards, reaching to the key upon her belt. "I have his effects in my vault," she says as an aside to the Emperor. "Including some items important to his House."
Talus Kahar nods. "See that any valuables are returned to his family. And I will want to speak to our guests on the morrow."
Tomassa turns to offer a small bow to the man who rules the realm. "I will inform them, personally." She glances to the prince and then turns to take Alieron to his new home.