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.

Talus Kahar paces slowly in front of the throne, reading a scrawled parchment unfurled in his hands.

There is a slight rustle of conversation beyond the throne room; one side of which seeminly belonging to the guard currently on duty today, the other a warmer, more dignified voice. A voice that, regardless of that warmth, still sounds somewhat solemn. After a few moments of the light murmering that echo into the stone chamber beyond ceases, revealing only the guard and a cloaked figure in black at the entrance. They seem to wait as a herald quickly paces towards the Emperor.

"My Emperor," he quickly stutters, his tone somewhat haughty, "There seems to be a..." a pause, a scowl, "Raaanger? Yes, a Ranger, here to see you. A Graymist fellow. Rather weather worn, I might say. Shall I turn him away? I don't believe we're aiding the lesser fortunate today."

Talus Kahar barely stifles a smirk as he stops, glancing from the herald to the waiting ranger. He raises his voice theatrically, flourishing with his left hand, which holds the parchment. "Indeed, this proclamation holds that on this day we are to suspend all cloaked weather-worn visitors from their toes atop the battlements!" He notes a couple of the guards taking his comment seriously, shifting their pikes and moving to approach Serath. "A jest, men. Nothing more." He chuckles, shaking his head, then says, "Come forward, ranger." He nods dismissal to the herald.

The herald just stares blankly at his Emperor for a few moments, the joke apparently lost on him. After all, such trivial things as humor no doubt have a difficult time passing through all that etiquette and doctrine. Eventually the penny drops though, and a forced chuckle can be heard; A chuckle that doesn't really have much sincerity behind it, though coughed up to keep in good standing with the Lord of Fastheld all the same. "Ah, rather good my Lord. One of the history books, no less! I'm sure bards will repeat your jest in taverns and stage shows for decades to co..." Realising that he's rambling, the herald abrupt stops himself, clears his throat, then proclaims: "My Emperor; Sehraaath Graymisst." The Ranger steps forward when summoned; clearing the blockade of guards that now allow him to pass, the soft tap of every step echoing throughout the throne room as he moves. That weathered cloak flickers at his feet, the torches upon the stanchions bathing his features with soft light, the soft creak of leather present with every move.

"That cloak of yours is the very definition of threadbare," the Emperor critiques of Serath's garment. Slowly, he twists the parchment into a tight cylinder and then motions for the ranger to walk with him - away from the throne, although guards keep pace at a distance in the shadows among the columns. "Its time has come and gone," Talus says, once they're relatively clear of the ears of heralds and guards. "You must set aside mask and cloak. It is time to assume a mantle of responsibility - public responsibility."

"I imagined that this time was drawing closer." The ranger answers, his words a mere whisper as he falls into step with the Emperor of Fastheld as they move into the shadows; shadows that have become synonymous with the title he bears. It is, perhaps, an odd sight to behold: The Freelander Ranger, walking with the Emperor. Their clothing remains a world apart, the distance between their occupations equally vast. Yet he seems to take no offense over the comments of the cloak. "Your summons, by Royal Courier, were all the indication I needed. To be honest, I've been looking forward to it. But why now?"

Talus Kahar stops, caught in an angled shaft of torchlight amidst the shadows. "Ill omens, brother. First, the troubles in Vozhdya with our kin. Now, the tragic disaster in Light's Reach. Dark work in dark times. The easy answer, of course, is to point to the Zahirs. I would love nothing better but to prove them truly responsible. But that answer is *too* easy, in my mind. Already, we see the Steward of Light's Reach acting out of paranoia. My own Chancellor cannot keep a grip on matters at hand. The Surrector can find no evidence of Dianna Lomasa's alleged demise." He shakes his head and sighs. "Once, I thought I could keep you safely out of these matters, relying on the judgment of Markus Kahar. But the choices he has made of late ... sometimes it seems to me he does not think beyond the borders of his lands. He forgets the blood that courses through his veins. Our heritage. Our history. Our *pride*. And I would have someone at my side, someone to move around the realm at will, to be my swift-moving eyes and ears, someone who shares this blood and knows and honors our heritage." He clasps his hands behind his back and concludes, "Our need is growing dire. That is why I call on you now."

At the talk of these ill omens, Serath looks upon his Emperor with a glance of dark concern; concern that extends beyond that to which a soldier has for his Lord, but instead is deeply routed in something far closer: Brotherhood. "I have seen the majority of these omens first hand. I know of what you speak, and I know of dark tidings that exist beyond the townships. I do not believe that our troubles are so simple as Zahir trechery; and I know that Dianna Lomasa is still alive." The Ranger sighs deeply, his gloved hand tightening its grip the hilt of the longsword that soundly sleeps in the scabbard at his waist; his eyes reflecting the image of his brother, features illuminated by that shaft of torchlight. "These are dark times indeed my friend." A few moments on reflection interject; moments that are soon broken by a warm smile. "Then as you wish it, this cloak shall be shed, and I shall return to your side once more; and with me the Imperial Horsemen shall return in my wake. Spirits shall be shaken, enemies routed, and the thunder of hooves shall roll through the streets and plains. Again the Horsemen will ride; For my Brother! For the Emperor!"

"You honor your Emperor and your blood," Talus replies, smiling grimly. Then, he starts walking back toward the throne. "But I would not ask for you to assume this role without the proper mark of office." He ducks behind the dais briefly, before returning with a helmet cradled in his hands, tooled with motifs of suns and horses. "The helm of the Horsemaster."

"The blood of our house has been honoured by those who have already shed it, brother. It will always hold honor so long as you hold the throne." Serath softly notes, "But it will not be I that forsakes that tradition; nor breaks that pride. But by your decree I will enforce it. The Imperial House shall retain her honor; for ruin or glory." His words fall silent as the Helm of the Horsemaster is presented, Serath bowing his head in respect to what it represents.

Talus Kahar places the helm gently atop the Horsemaster's head and then steps back, hands clasped behind his back. "Go now. Take back your name and step out of the shadows. Let all the realm know that you are a Kahar, brother to the Emperor, and the conscience of the crown." He bows his head. "May you always keep in the Light."

Serath stands fully upright once more; no longer a Freelander. No longer a Ranger. No longer Graymist. Serath Kahar, Horsemaster of the Imperial Horseman, has returned from the dead. "As you wish it," he regally states, "It will be done." At this he pauses, watching the Emperor, and in an instant his tone lightens. "I've come home, Brother."

The heralds and the guards in close proximity to this look shocked, some actually gaping at the revelation of the Emperor's kin. Talus nods, paying little attention to the surprise on the faces surrounding them. "Your first duty is to begin rebuilding the Horsemen. I will advise you as I can." He steps up onto the dais, resting a hand on an arm of the throne. "And I would ask that you pay close attention to developments in Light's Reach. I care not for the turn matters are taking in the Chancellor's domain."

"I will have to explain myself to a lot of those who would once follow me into the darkest of Shadow." Serath darkly notes, removing the Helm for the moment to rest it securely under his arm. "Their Captain has returned from death, and I can only wonder how they will take it knowing that it was all a ruse. But, I will make them understand." He pauses, then looks back upon his brother, "That is, of course, if my armor still fits. It is good to be home again. Good to see you in person once more. I've missed you."

"And I, you," Talus says, settling into the throne. His voice lowers to nearly a whisper as he adds, "But I had so hoped to spare you this burden. Mother knew I was lost to this damnable chair; to my duty to this realm. She took great comfort in your distance from these matters. I find solace in the fact that, while she yet lived, I respected her wishes. But I can ill afford to do so now."

"Sometimes the time which we have is not ours to do what we like with." The reborn Horsemaster sadly notes, the hand that once gripped the hilt of his longsword now easing its grasp upon the weapon. "I've been away from home for two years. I consider that a long time away from burden; though my burden is not as heavy as your own. Regardless, perhaps now I am here to share it with once more, the burden that has been placed upon you will lighten. Or at least seem more amicable."

Talus Kahar inclines his head, nodding to Serath. "Thank you, brother. I will speak with you again soon, I hope."

Serath Kahar inclines his head in a gesture mirroring the Emperor's own; "You will." he affirms, softly, "Whatever darkness the future holds, we'll face them together." That said, the Horsemaster leaves the Throne Room, leaving the twilight of the Ranger behind him, facing the new dawn of the ride of the Imperial Horsemen.

Return to Season 2 (2004)

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