Tournament Ground <Fastheld Keep>

At the center of the great keep of Fastheld lie the tournament fields, where nobles and their squires come to face each other in contests of skill and endurance before the Emperor and Empress - as well as the adoring crowds who enjoy wagering on their favorites.
The tournaments, which are held at least once a year during the warmer seasons, draw the cream of Fastheld society to compete and observe. It also draws sideshow performers and sutlers who sell food and merchandise once they've secured permission from the Emperor's Hawk, Gell Mikin.
The royal audience views the jousting, archery and swordsmanship competitions from a platform accessible by a low flight of wooden steps.

Hartnek Lomasa strides onto the tournament grounds from the west, from the direction of the Hall of Blades. He's followed by a young Imperial page who carries a piece of parchment. The Blademaster's gaze settles on Chamberlain Oren Nillu, and then Hartnek starts walking in Oren's direction. "Lord Nillu," he calls, raising a hand to further draw attention to himself as he approaches.

Tomassa Zahir lingers near to the Imperial seating, one hand upon the hilt of her steel longsword and its obsidian scabbard. It might take more than one glance at the woman to recognize her as she has shorn her long hair into an ear-length bob.

Oren Nillu's smile widens as he steps onto the field, slowly heading towards the place where Tomassa is standing. He stops, allowing his eyes to drift in Hartnek Lomasa's direction. "Lord Lomasa," he says by way of reply. "A good eve to you. I am glad to see you made it for the events."

Hartnek Lomasa coughs into his fist as he stops near Oren. "I would not miss it," he says, then smiles weakly at Oren, glancing for a moment at the young page with the parchment before returning his attention to Oren. "Might I speak with you?" His gaze shifts briefly to Tomassa, then back to Oren. "Privately?"

Fael Mikin wanders into the tournament grounds, and quickly proceeds across the field to locate a spot to sit for the Ceremony. His green eyes drift casually across the assemblage, as he moves though he appears to be looking moreso for his own interests than out of a desire to locate anyone in particular. He is unarmed, which is somewhat unusual for him, and appears to have a faint smile permanently affixed to his features.

Oren Nillu glances at Tomassa briefly, then back at the Blademaster. "Certainly, but I beg to ask you make it quick so I may not miss the events," he answers with another smile. "Lead the way."

Orell Mikin steps onto the tournament grounds from the direction of the Gatehouse. He looks around at the people gathered here and nods briefly at Fael as he walks past him towards Tomassa.

Hartnek Lomasa nods curtly, walking with Oren to a spot about fifteen feet from the viewing platform. Once they're distanced from the crowd, Hartnek takes the parchment from the page and looks toward the Chamberlain. "At this rate, it appears as if there will be nothing to miss. Lord Mikin has departed the palace. He left this note, indicating his displeasure with the Emperor's choice - both of a woman and of a Zahir. The former Surrector is most incensed, it would seem. He wanted no part of the proceedings."

Fael Mikin returns the Dukes nod respectfully, before managing to locate for himself a seat in the stands set aside for the noble spectators. As he gains his seat the Constable turns his attention towards the Imperial seating area, and the figures of Oren, Tomassa and Hartnek as they stand in discussion. He peers at them thoughtfully for a moment before allowing his attention to wander once again.

Emerging from the south is Norran Lomasa, a curious look upon his face as the man strides gracefully into the tournament grounds, smiling in recognition of the place. With some confusion, he idly wanders through the grounds, seeking proper seating.

Tomassa Zahir spies the approaching Mikin and she turns to politely incline her head to him. "Greetings," she offers to Orell, one corner of her mouth curving into a smile. The woman seems a little distant as her eyes scan the entrances.

Oren Nillu follows the Blademaster and listens quietly as he speaks, then sighs and shakes his head. "Lord Mikin seems to be making a habit out of questioning His Majesty's decisions," he states softly, a tinge of irritation showing in his voice. "I do not see how this is a problem, however, Lord Lomasa. His absence could be dismissed with the excuse of duty -- even if that seems a bit ironic -- and the events could go on as planned."

Hartnek Lomasa frowns at Oren, his brow knitting. "For centuries, tradition has held that the former Surrector inducts the new Surrector, Chamberlain. Without the former Surrector, we cannot have a symbolic passing of the torch. Additionally, it creates a cloud over the appointment of the incoming Surrector. Ill omen, would you not agree?"

Norran Lomasa continues with his wanderlust through the tournament grounds, a hand idly tapping on the bronze cup hilt of his rapier as he observes the area nonchalantly, walking at a casual pace.

Oren Nillu blinks. "Ah, this old fool," he muses aloud. "You were speaking of the former Surrector. Of course." He shakes his head. "I beg your pardon." He pauses, then nods. "Yes. I agree that this is quite a problem. Did he leave any word about his whereabouts? If so, perhaps he can be sent for and shown reason. It seems to me like his actions are a direct insult to His Majesty. It would be best to postpone the events, then. If Lord Mikin is not here, it will be a public offense to the Emperor."

Hartnek Lomasa chuckles, shaking his head. "Perhaps it is best that he not be brought back. He might, in fact, speak his mind, if I know him as well as I think I do." He scratches his chin, pondering. "But your initial suggestion could be adequate. Claim he was too ill to attend. And then induct the Surrector yourself. That should be adequate. No one else need know the true reason behind Gell Mikin's absence."

Tomassa Zahir begins to scowl as the moments pass and she does not spy Gell Mikin. Her hand leaves her sword and she moves her arms behind her back to tightly clasp her hands. "Where -is- your kinsman?" she asks Orell with an arched eyebrow.

Fael Mikin carefully watches the arrival of the Lomasa Baron across the Tournament ground. As the man approaches he motions towards the empty seating nearby. His face displaying a grudging respect for the other nobleman if not a particular level of camaraderie.

Oren Nillu appears to consider the idea for a few seconds, then nods. "Very well. I will induct her myself. Shall we, then? I have heard much about Lady Zahir and I would hate to keep her waiting."

Hartnek Lomasa inclines his head to Oren. "Very good, Lord Nillu. Thank you for salvaging this terrible situation." He nods to the page, then turns and walks back toward the gathering crowd.

Orell Mikin frowns at Tomassa, as he looks around at the gathered nobility, "I have just came back to Fastheld Keep from the Trademaster Office. Last I heard, he was still here. Surely he would have arrived earlier." He shrugs and sets his cloak properly on his shoulders.

The younger Lomasa, Norran, takes note of Fael Mikin in the crowd, and arches a brow in some display of amusement. He starts off in a walk torward the man, travelling the ground easily as he nears the seating and settles down, nodding to Fael. "Eve, M'lord Mikin. It appears there is not very many noble youth in attendence? I would have assumed as much."

"Trademaster?" Tomassa repeats, looking back to Orell. "Ah, so you are *Orell* Mikin. Your face gives away your lineage, but I did not realize you were the Trademaster." Pausing, Tomassa glances to the entrances again and then back to the Mikin. "Hrm. You oversee the Guilds, aye? If so, I would like to make a formal complaint later."

Oren Nillu nods as well and turns to walk back towards the crowd, offering polite nods and smiles every now and then to his fellow noblemen. "Lady Zahir," he says by way of greeting as he approaches her.

"Contessa," Tomassa says in automatic correction of the elderly male before she even turns to look at him. A faint smile upturns the right corner of her mouth. "Contessa Zahir."

Nodding at Tomassa, Orell speaks, "I will be most willing to listen to your complaint, Contessa, later, when the ceremony is over." and then turns to look at Oren as the Chamberlain approaches.

Fael Mikin nods his head in agreement with the Baron's statement. "So it would appear, M'lord Lomasa", the Constable replies with relative curteously, "I thought that it was in my best interests to be present, since I shall likely be required to work with the new surrector at some point in the future", his gaze shifts towards the small group of nobility still standing near the Imperial section. "And I will admit I was interested to see the unfolding of events as well." He grins slightly.

Oren Nillu nods. "Certainly. My apologies, Contessa. I hope you are ready. We will be starting soon. I am afraid Lord Mikin will not be able to attend due to health limitations, so I will be conducting your induction."

Hartnek Lomasa takes a position near the Chamberlain after directing the page to take the parchment and proceed back toward the Hall of Blades to the east.

Tomassa Zahir's eyebrow climbs even higher at Oren's news and she actually seems surprised. "The Surrector is unable to attend?" she asks, hands unclasping to allow her arms to return to her sides. Her cloak, no longer constrained by her arms, sways when it is released. "Is it not tradition for him to hand the position over to me?" A slight flare of fire enters the woman's coppery eyes.

The Lomasa Baron chuckles to Fael, nodding slightly. "Perhaps. I find it odd the Surrector is not here. Very curious. As for working for the Surrector, I don't quite see how. Lord Mikin acted quite aloof on most occasions, to my knowledge. With any luck on my soul at all, my own life's path would be set before me if I managed entrance into the Horsemen."

"Even tradition must sometimes be altered and bow in the face of matters beyond our control," Oren Nillu explains calmly. "We will be starting now." He takes a few steps back, stands firm and then allows his gaze to fall on the crowd in order to let them know the ceremony is about to start. Gradually, some of the noblemen and women who notice him begin to fall silent.

Fael Mikin turns his head towards the Baron, a curious expression in his eyes, and he appears about to speak. Just then he notices the Chamberlain standing, and notices the fading noise level around him. He closes his mouth and simply nods his head slightly as he turns his attention towards the Ceremony.

"No," the Lioness sharply says in her authoritative contralto. "We will -not-." She scowls up at Oren, voice clearly cutting through the silence that begins to fall over the tournament grounds. "I will not accept the title from anyone other than Gell Mikin," Tomassa announces as her hands curl into gloved fists. "There will be no cloud over this appointment. I do not wish for -anyone- to say that I am not truly Surrector because we did not follow tradition!"

Hartnek Lomasa scratches his chin, glancing over the chamberlain's shoulder at the scowling Contessa. He then seems to find some nearby damp blades of grass fascinating.

"Contessa Zahir," Oren Nillu says, his voice perhaps surprisingly loud and energetic for one of such age, "as you and everyone here well knows, the Lord Surrector Mikin has been through a great deal of things over the past few months. It has finally caught up with him and he has found himself unable to attend due to problems of health. There will be no cloud over this appointment if you choose to accept it tonight. No one here will doubt your appointment."

Ester Shardwood slips into the tournament grounds and makes her way into the group of onlookers. She attains a position where she can observe teh ceremony clearly. She crosses her arms lightly over her chest and watches.

"Curious," speaks Norran Lomasa to himself, arching a brow at Oren's newest words, as he glances sidelong to Fael. "I doubt that will convince her," he ventures in a quiet, thoughtful tone.

Tomassa Zahir's eyes narrow as she studies the elderly Nillu. "And what of those who are not here?" she slowly asks. Her right hand 'casually' move to rest upon the pommel of the steel longsword that hangs in a scabbard upon her left hip.

Fael Mikin nods his head in agreement. "My interactions with the Contessa have proven her to be quite a formidable woman, particularly when she has her mind set on something". He frowns thoughtfully as he watches the continued interaction. "I wonder why Gell is not present," he ponders thoughtfully.

Orell Mikin steps back as Oren approaches and at the Lioness' sharp voice, he folds his arm and furrows his brows, as he listens to the exchange. Since he is close to the Contessa, he notices her hand on the pommel and his deep blue eyes turn steely as his hand too approaches the scabbard. He however narrows his eyes at the Chamberlain, "Lord Gell Mikin will not be absent, even if he's unwell, he's a man of great respect for tradition and the crown. Has he left the Fastheld Keep?"

"Those not here will not question your appointment either. This is His Majesty's will and, regardless of Lord Mikin's presence or not, to cast any doubt over his decision would be an act of treason. If your mind is set on accepting the title only from Lord Mikin, then that is your choice, but until he is well enough to be here, Fastheld will be left without a Surrector." He turns to Orell. "Even a man as strong as him cannot stand against all ills. Even a man as steadfast in his respect for tradition as him must sometimes submit for the good of the land."

"I jousted with her, beat me twice. Despite her being a woman, I would consider myself humbled to have been paired with her were she to have sought out the ranks of the Imperial Horsemen," idly comments Norran as his eyes become more settled upon the Contessa and the proceedings.

"Then, if he cannot come to the ceremony, perhaps the ceremony should come to him," drawls Contessa Zahir. "I have already given my oath to the Emperor. I know his will, but I wish for this transition to be understood by all in the realm. Lord Mikin will understand my desires, I am certain."

Ester Shardwood watches silently her expression unchanging except for a slight narrowing of her eyes as Orell speaks.

"I remember", Fael responds without shifting his attention away from the confrontation, "She is quite skilled", he says simply, with no qualifications. "I know little enough of her beyond that however"

Orell Mikin shakes his head slightly, "Submit for the good of the land... Lord Gell Mikin has always done his best for the good of the land." and he lowers his voice as he speaks to Oren, "And I do not think a break with the long established tradition is quite a good thing at the moment. Did the Emperor set a fixed time for this handover? If we can work within his instructions and follow the traditions, it'd be best."

"This may take awhile," suddenly notes Norran, quite obviously, as he leans further against his chair, watching the situation with the Contessa with great interest.

"Then it seems you have made your mind regarding this matter," the chamberlain points out, eyes on Tomassa. He then turns to Orell Mikin. "Yes, he has always done his best for the good of the land, which is why even if he is too unwell to be here, he allowed tradition to be slightly overlooked. For the good of the land. Now, as I said, this is the Contessa's choice. If she wishes to postpone this until Lord Mikin can be present, it will be done so, but there is no telling how long that will take." He shakes his head. "Enough of this. Contessa Zahir, the decision rests in your hands."

Fionnlagh makes his way into the crowd assembled to watch the event, adjusting the bow over his shoulder, his quarterstaff tapping the ground in time with his movements. It's a long ride from Light's Reach to the palace, but perhaps better late than never.

Ester Shardwood starts easing her way through the crowd making her way towards the front.

Tomassa Zahir's jaw clenches and her teeth grind as she visibly struggles for a response. Her form is lined with tension and the hand upon her sword grips it fiercely. Begrudgingly, the Contessa releases her sword's pommel and straightens. "I made a vow to the Emperor," she says through clenched teeth. "I will accept the title from you only until such time that Lord Gell Mikin is well enough to pass it along himself. His experience is vast, so I will seek him out to learn from him," the woman announces. There are coals of resentment in Tomassa's gaze as she studies the elderly Nillu.

Fael Mikin silently nods his agreement with the Baron as he likewise leans back in his chair, his green eyes shifting away from the confrontation for a moment to consider the reaction of the crowd to the delays in the ceremony.

Hartnek Lomasa lifts his eyebrows and breathes a rather loud sigh of relief. He then catches himself. Coughs. Clasps his hands behind his back and smiles broadly.

Fionnlagh begins to move through the crowd himself, speaking quiet pardons as he heads among the commoners, seeking a spot from which to view the conversation well. This likely causes him to follow in Ester's wake, to an extent, her own movement leaving a gap that provides him a path of least resistance to follow.

A nobleman wearing the colors of Hourse Zahir walks onto the tournament grounds, his cape billowing behind him in a picturesque manner. He moves through the crowd with authority, shouldering or pushing where necessary, on his journey to the front.

Orell Mikin shrugs slightly, the cloak on his back shifting slightly, "As long as the Contessa eventually receives the title from Lord Gell Mikin, I believe it will assuage the uneasiness of the people. The Contessa is a firm hand, in these troubled times, and I wish you well, Contessa" and he walks off the tournament grounds towards the front of the gallery to watch the ceremony.

The elderly nobleman nods, turning now to address the crowd. "Good evening," Oren Nillu starts, "to all of you. We, who walk under the soothing care of the Light, are often faced with trials spawned by creatures who dwell in the Shadow. There are always those who fight to keep such evils away. There is one person who among them is tasked with the great responsibility," he adds, looking at Tomassa, "and honor of protecting the Imperial Family against these beings of darkness. Tonight, we are here to pass on that title and all the duties it holds, to a person who has proven herself more than worthy of the task."

Ester Shardwood apologizes quietly to an older woman who she jostles accidently with her movement. As Oren starts to speak she focuses entirely on the ceremony, her gaze mainly falling on the Contessa who she watches with steadied eye.

Upon arriving at the front of the crowd, the Zahir nobleman displaces a freelander effortlessly and takes his place, as though it was reserved all along. Before turning his attention to the ceremony, the nobleman takes a few moments to smooth the wrinkles out of his clothing.

Fael Mikin shifts his gaze back towards the Chamberlain and Tomassa as the Ceremony begins in earnest and the soft chattering of the crowd stills. His eyes rest on the Chamberlain first, then move to consider the soon to be Surrector more closely. His expression is largely unreadable as he watches Tomassa.

Tomassa Zahir straightens a bit more as Oren begins speaking, but her visage is still begrudging of the way things are being handled. A few more deep breaths has her taking a more natural stance rather than one as tense as the one she held while speaking to the elderly Nillu. Though she is still, a slight breeze stirs the woman's long, black cloak.

Fionnlagh moves up to the front of the line beside Ester, nodding a greeting to her and then looking towards the platform, leaning on his quarterstaff lightly. Should anyone look his way, he'll incline his head politely, but otherwise he's content to remain unobtrusive.

"We are are all here, on this eve, as witnesses that the struggle against the Shadow endures," Oren Nillu says, his voice now deep and solemn as he faces the appointee. "You have accepted to serve as the watchful eye that guards His Majesty and his kin. You came here in the Light, Contessa Tomassa Zahir. Now, as you leave, every man, woman and child will know that you are, now and for as long as you serve under the title, Lady Surrector of the Empire."

Norran Lomasa watches in curiousity, leaning forward in his chair a bit to better view the proceedings and adjust him position.

Orell Mikin remains standing at the front of the gallery, uncaring of who he blocks from their view of the ceremony. He then moves towards the aisle, his eyes scanning the crowd, and speaks a few words to an aide who then runs off out of the tournament grounds in the direction of the gatehouse, obviously sent on an errand.

Hartnek Lomasa smiles, turns toward Tomassa and begins applauding.

Ester Shardwood nods in return at the Fionnlaghs greeting offering him a brief smile. She returns her attention to the proceedings and crosses her arms lightly over her chest.

Fionnlagh blinks slightly as Hartnek begins applauding, glancing around to see if others also judge the time right for applause. He starts to applaud quietly, but he'll let it die pretty quickly if others don't join in.

Several of the people gathered indeed begin to applaud and Oren Nillu, now smiling, joins in.

Tomassa Zahir inclines her head to Oren Nillu and turns to face the people who have gathered to witness the occasion. She lifts a hand to quell the crowd somewhat, her visage stern. The Contessa looks even more martial now that she's shorn her hair from its waist length braid to an ear-length bob. "I have made a vow to the Emperor," she says, voice ringing. "And I mean to keep it. Let all those here know that I was asked to take this position by the Emperor himself and he has put his trust in me. There are those who think a Zahir is not fit for such a job, but the Emperor saw fit to call upon -me-!" She scowls along the crowd, watching faces. "Know that I intend to serve him as fiercely as any of you. I -will- protect the Imperial family and I -will- bring glory to the name of Zahir once more. Let my home no longer be known as Craven Rock in the undertones of Goram Zahir's memory. From now on, it is the home of the SURRECTOR!"

The Zahir Lord in the front row remains motionless, as applause rises around him. He doesn't seem terribly excited or interested until Tomassa, herself, speaks. In response to her statement, he begins to clap slowly, still not making much noise.

Hartnek Lomasa begins to clap louder now. "Well said."

Oren Nillu inclines his head to the side slightly towards Hartnek. "A fierce woman, is she not?" he whispers conversationally, his own applause increasing in power.

Hartnek Lomasa nods to Oren. "The Shadow faces a formidable adversary in this one, I agree." He grins.

Fionnlagh increases his applauses as well, studying the face of the Lioness as she makes her proclomation. The hair catches him slightly off guard, a quick start, but he subdues the surprise back into a pleasant demeanor once more.

Fael Mikin rises to his feet and joins in the rising applause for the newly appointed Surrector. He can't help but grin slightly at the ferocity and content of her statement.

As the applause rings out, Norran Lomasa joins in, a pleased grin settled across his lips as he claps loudly after the speech, even pausing mid way to place his forefingers in his mouth to release an appreciative whistle of congratulations.

Tomassa Zahir half-turns to look back to Oren and Hartnek, an eyebrow climbing. Did she really hear them over the tumult? Perhaps so. "How nice of you to think so," she murmurs toward both men. "The Blades and the Horsemen would never have accepted me, but the Emperor himself finds me fit to protect him. Perhaps you should think upon that."

Ester Shardwood glances from side to side before starting to clap. Its grows louder after the Contessa speaks as a small smile appears on her features.

Hartnek Lomasa continues smiling. "The Emperor can afford to make departures from tradition. A benefit of wearing the crown. One of the few." He tilts his head, then says, "Congratulations, Surrector." He turns, then makes his way west through the crowd, toward the Hall of Blades.

Orell Mikin nods as he listens, but he does not applaud, for admiration is earned not merely from words, but his expression is one of expectation, as if he is curious to know what the new Surrector intends to do, now that she has taken the title.

"I will remember it," Oren Nillu vows, still smiling and applauding at Tomassa.

Ormon Zahir's slow clapping fails to gain any momentum. It stops entirely, for a time, as the nobleman reaches up to carefully adjust his hair. His attention returns to Tomassa and he begins to clap once again, doing so with as little effort as possible.

Tomassa Zahir turns from the podium and begins to stride through the tournament grounds toward the exit in a swirl of black velvet cloak. Perhaps she's said all that she has to say for the moment in regards to her appointment. After all, she is known for her skills as a fighter, not a public speaker.

Oren Nillu watches Tomassa depart, then finally allows his hands to drop to his sides. He sighs and is visibly exhausted.

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