Light's Reach (Forest District)
- The first township established by House Mikin outside of the old city (now known as the Shadow District), Light's Reach was founded by Fahral Mikin atop a mound of grassy earth called Eastwatch Hill some six hundred and fifty years ago, as the mortar still dried on the uppermost battlements of the Aegis surrounding the Imperial realm.
- The buildings are of quarried gray Nillu stone, their walls kept clean of crawling vines that might otherwise encroach and give them a greater sense of antiquity. Wooden shutters angle out from many open windows when weather permits.
- The township derives its name rather literally from the fact that it has become a beacon in the heart of the Forest District: Four high stone towers rise at the four corners of Light's Reach, with great lanterns kept blazing throughout the night, to stave off the evils of the Shadow. Fahral Mikin was rather obsessed with the defeat of darkness, particularly after the death of his youngest son, Allal. That son fought in the first Wildling War in service to Emperor Talus Kahar I, and died in the bloody betrayal at the Valley of Blades, where Zahir treachery let the Wildlings overwhelm the Bladesmen.
- The town center includes the Warm Shining Tavern, a Church of True Light temple, Light's Reach Mercantile, and the local constabulary. Shadowcull Keep, the legendary home of Surector Gell Mikin - direct descendant of Fahral Mikin - looms on a hill to the northeast. Other Mikin nobility hold keeps along the road the proceeds away from town. Most notable among these keeps are West Bluff and East Bluff - the torch tower guardians and practically mirror images of each other in design.
Tomassa Zahir emerges from the carriage with slow, steady steps, her armor clanking. The woman stands tall with her left hand lightly curled about the pommel of the sword that hangs from that hip.
Fael Mikin stands near the entrance to the Light's Reach Constabulary, his right palm resting gently on the pommel of the longsword hanging at his side as he watches the busy traffic about the square. He glances in the direction of the arriving carriage and its occupant, but makes no immediate move in that direction.
Grinn Harwel files out of the carriage. The soldier's helm is worn tonight, resting atop a coif of fine chain protecting his throat and head.
Barit Smithy hops out of the carriage right after Grinn, and is dressed in his usual full suit of chainmail armor, axe slung over his shoulder.
Another fellow ambles out after Harwel. Lanky and tall, with gaunt features. It is the mute, Gully, which is oft seen by the sellsword's side.
Tomassa Zahir takes a look around, a grin slowly spreading over her features. A grin of the sort that would make most sane people nervous. The woman saunters forward and looks toward the tavern in consideration. "Well, gentlemen?" the Lioness says with anticipation. "Where shall we begin?"
Fael Mikin glances once again in the direction of the now somewhat surly looking group of newcomers, before pursing his lips slightly and turning to say something to someone inside the Constabulary. After a moments pause to listen to the reply, he makes his way across the busy square towards the group. "Good day", he says in the serious tone that impies that it /will/ be a good day if no one does anything untoward. "Welcome to Light's Reach."
Grinn Harwel shrugs, casting furtive glances into the gloom. "Where you lead I follow," he murmurs after a time, a hand falling to caress the leather hilt of his blade. Gully looms to the right and slightly behind Grinn, arms crossed and expression glum. He stares off into the distance, lost in some private world of his own.
"Don't really know. Not too good o' a party spot. Place is more full o' stiffs than a cemetary. They're bound to be showin' off and pokin' at us 'cause they got nothin' better to do," analyzes the axe-wearing mercenary, glancing torward Fael. "I rest my point." Barit mutters aloud.
Tomassa Zahir lifts her copper-brown eyes to the approaching man, lips quirking into a smile inside of her helmet. "Ah. The Constable, I presume?" she drawls in her husky contralto. "Well met. I am Contessa Tomassa Zahir the Constable of Hedgehem. I trust that there is nothing wrong? I'm allowed to pay a little visit to your jurisdiction, am I not?" the armored woman asks with an elegant gesture of her right arm.
Varal guides his horse towards the stable at a slow pace, allowing the animal to cool down his muscles from the gallop into town. As the Lord Captain guides Fettier, he looks about the Light's Reach commons for familiar faces, spotting the glimmer of Fael's silver armor in the moonlight. Once he stables the horse, he quickly paces back in the direction of him, and the assorted others.
Varal Mikin pays a stableboy to have Fettier stabled in Light's Reach Stables. The boy leads the horse back into the stables.
Fael Mikin smiles politely at Tomassa, bowing his head respectfully. "Of course, M'lady", he says simply as he looks past the Noblewoman towards her escorts for just a second. "You and your... friends... are more than welcome."
Grinn Harwel's lips part in a toothy, and entirely mirthless, smile which he directs toward the presumed constable. Gully mirror's this expression, proudly displaying a handful of decaying teeth and the absence of a tongue.
Barit Smithy grunts at the noble's answer, keeping quiet and taking a look around the reach.
"Thank you, Constable," Tomassa drawls. "May I introduce my sheriff? His name's Grinn Harwel," the Lioness advises with a jab of her thumb in the man's direction "Behind him is.. ah... well. Another one of my men. And -this- one," she says in indication of Barit, "Is my blacksmith Barit Smithy." There is a bit of a twinkle in the woman's eyes when she studies Fael's polite attitude. "So... where is the best place to find some entertainment in this town?" she asks.
Varal Mikin steps in behind Fael, catching the tail end of the conversation. "Entertainment, Contessa? You found it." He smiles lopsidedly at his joke, hand resting lazily - not so much threateningly - on the pommel of his sword. "I'm glad to see that you were wise enough not the wear the ring, at the very least," he continues, his tone certainly more grave.
A faint smile touches Fael's lips as Varal makes his entrance, he turns slightly and nods to the newcomer, "Good evening, Captain", he says before turning his attention back to the Contessa's party. "My pleasure to meet you all", he says politely although his serious mien as he considers the three men, is a little less welcoming than his words. Turning back to the Contessa, he says, "As far as entertainment is concerned, the Warm Shining Tavern", he waves his free left hand towards the squat structure by way of identification, "is an ample establishment, my men certainly enjoy spending their paychecks there."
Grinn Harwel advances to his Lady's side and inclines his head upon her introduction. "Hail and well met." The words, much like the sheriff's demeanor, are neutral. For obvious reasons the other fellow in Tomassa's employ does not offer his name. Rather he slinks off to the stables as the rest are engaged in banter, resting a mailed shoulder against a nearby post whilst observing the grooming of an old mule.
Barit Smithy also steps forward to Tomassa's side, though, unlike Grinn, decides to remain utterly neutral and silent. He pays no real attention to the two in front of them.
Tomassa Zahir's mouth slides into a smirk when she recognizes Varal Mikin. Her right hand drifts to her hip where it rests there as a fist while she studies the man. "Well, well, well. If it isn't Duke Mikin's lapdog. What's wrong, Lord Captain? Have you already licked all the filth from the Duke's boots this evening?"
Varal Mikin blinks at Tomassa, a cool smile spreading across his face, but not reflected in his eyes. "One would hope that you would show more respect to a man when you stand upon his grounds, Contessa," he replies. "As for boot licking, was my breath the give away?" he continues sardonically.
Fael Mikin's eyes widen slightly at the blatant animosity in Tomassa's words, but apart from that his face remains largely inscrutable. He glances in Varal's direction before saying seriously, "I believe that I already took care of that job. The Lord Captain was fetching his slippers." His eyes twinkle slightly, and a hint of a grin touches his face as he speaks.
Grinn Harwel looks from Zahir to Mikin with a quickly spreading smirk. However, the burly fighter bites his tongue and holds back any retort. He instead cocks his head, exchanging a vaguely amused glance with Barit.
Barit Smithy almost looks sickened by the responses of the two Mikins. He looks back to Grinn with a sigh, a light headshake, then a return to his sentinel-like position.
Tomassa Zahir seems none-too-pleased with the quick agreement, either, though her smirk begins to return. "It figures that the two of you would so quickly own up to it. Alieron Mikin must enjoy it when you both... take care of him," the Lioness slowly drawls. Her gaze drifts to Varal, the copper as cool as frosted metal. "As for respect in your own territory? Why should I give you any respect -anywhere- when you were so quick to denounce -me- at the Lomasa feast?"
Varal Mikin tilts his head to the side. "Contessa, I hope you would not be so hopelessly naive as to even need an answer to that question." He smile turns very quickly into a sneer. "The Order of the Flame, belittle the Lord Chancellor as you may, is an honorable entity for those of Light's Reach alone. You have not business wearing the insignia. 'Tis not a gift for anyone but the Duke himself to give." He pauses a moment, then adds, "And it would also be fitting to add that His Grace can always see fit to remove you from the position of Constable, if /you/ continue to act in a way unbefitting of such a peer of the realm."
Fael Mikin seems content to let the barbed comments lie, and leaves Varal to take care of his own arguments for the moment. His own attention turns back to the sparse evening traffic through the square. As the conversation turns to the Order of the Flame his eyes dart to the face of the Contessa for a moment, before turning back to watching a small group of men making their unsteady way from the Tavern towards the residential area of the town.
Any amusement Harwel might have harbored a moment earlier dies in an instant. Varal's threat is not taken lightly by Hedgehem's sheriff, as evident by a tightening of the jaw and narrowing of the eyes. However, in a display of self control reaching far beyond the norm for Grinn, the sellsword wisely maintains his silence.
Barit Smithy has apparently had enough of all this, and grunts audibly. He turns to walk away torward the stables and join Gully to watch the mule.
Tomassa Zahir hisses at Varal's maddening words and she steps forward to jab toward his chest with a chainmailed finger. "That -ring-," she retorts, "Was given along with a note of passage to this place after I'd -helped- the people of Light's Reach. And it was -needed- since people here obviously know nothing of gratitude and intended to bar all Zahirs from the place - including *me*. It has since been -returned-, for your information, and was not worn as an *insult* to your pompous Duke or his Order. I wore it because that was the only way that I could insure the ring's -safety- until it could be returned! Not only -that-," she spits as her eyes flash. "But I'm not so sure that I can tolerate having to report to a man who cannot -understand- that."
Gully looks looks up at the approaching Irregular, his glazed eyes seeming to bore straight through the man. There sagging of shoulders, and then he returns his focus to the show. By now the stableboy has begun to comb thistles and twigs from the mule's tail. By all accounts a most fascinating pass time. For the mute anyhow.
"The intention is irrelevant, Contessa," Varal responds, undaunted. "Insult was the result, and your response to the Lord Chancellor was less than conciliatory. And while there certainly is gratitude for what you did, the ring was not a necessary sign. Your face is known here, and no actions have been taken to throw you out." The corners of his mouth quirk slightly, turning his lips into the barest of smiles. "And if M'lady wishes to put aside the mantle of Constable, I doubt there were would any difficulties."
Barit Smithy does seem to enjoy this watching a mule passtime, more so than the one he was just enduring, anyway. He looks as the comb brushes through the tail, transfixed on the action before him.
Fael Mikin's eyebrows raise slightly in alarm as the conflict between the two nobles continues flare. Finally he steps, quite deliberately, between the two. "M'lady", he say to the Contessa, then turns towards Varal, "Captain." He smiles coldly at both parties, then pauses, long enough that bystanders would begin to wonder if he is planning no just standing there silently until something happens. When finally he speaks, his voice seems eerily emotionless in contrast to the previous conversation. "I have little knowledge of your argument, as the Captain said, your help has not been forgotten M'lady, and your service to Light's reach is without doubt Varal. But I will not have you two sputtering and hissing at one another like two alley cats. If you have to carry on his argument, do it outside my town."
There is a subtle shifting of Harwel's stance, the likes of which only the most perceptive might notice. A bending of the legs, loosening of the joints. In all respects a stance leaving the sheriff ready to move, and move quickly. And if the close proximity of hand to sheathed blade is any indication, Grinn is -not- preparing to flee. All the same, however, he does still chooses not to interject.
The brush is discarded as the boy walks around to the beast's side. He kneels and takes one muscled leg in hand, lifting it up to peer at the mule's shoe. The action is repeated three more times, and then the animal is lead away. Gully frowns, foot tapping impatiently as he waits for something new to transpire.
Tomassa Zahir's right hand lifts in a lightning movement as if to backhand Varal across the face. However, Fael's bodily intervention checks her movement a little. The Contessa curls her fingers into a fist that shakes with the effort to control the waylaid blow. "Thank you," she hoarsely says to Fael at his words. "But I would ask that you step aside for the moment, so I may properly challenge this ill-mannered fool," the Lioness grates.
Barit Smithy is completely oblivious to the challenge. That is, until the mule is taken away. He looks pretty angry, and stomps back off to move near Grinn.
Varal Mikin's jaw tightens, the muscles bunching, as he glares at Fael, and then promptly at Tomassa. He takes a deep breath before speaking, returning to his more relaxed, albeit conceited, composure. "Ill mannered fool, Contessa? Mayhap one should not call the kettle black," Varal says calmly, doing his best to infuriate the already furious female. "Besides, such heat is unbefitting of a minister of the law - control is a more enviable trait." He smirks broadly, adding one last bit: "And a /woman/ cannot issue a challenge." He blinks at Fael. "Forgive me, /Lord Constable/. I ought to return to Light's Watch, the hour grows late." He crosses his arms. "Contessa, let me formally invite you, and your 'lawmen,' to Light's Watch. We can 'discuss' our differences then."
Barit Smithy glances over to Grinn, eyebrow arched in utter confusion. "What the 'ell just happened?" asks the mercenary to the other mercenary.
Fael Mikin looks both of the 'combatants' in the eye, before stepping to one side. "I'll leave you to your business." he says curtly. "Pleased to meet you, M'lady", he says with a half bow to the Contessa. "Good Night, Captain", he directs towards Varal with a lopsided grin. "I should get back to my post, the night watch is just started, and duty calls", he says, his tone indicating no humour in the statement as he turns and strides down one of the many alley ways of the small town.
Grinn Harwel's expression darkens further, if such is possible, and he circles to Varal's left. Fierce eyes dart between Captain and Contessa, a half inch of steel glistening beneath moonlight as Harwel eases his blade free quietly. The soldier's teeth grind audibly. No reply is given Barit, for Harwel's attention is divided fully upon the pair of nobles.
The very instant that Fael moves, Tomassa's fist flies toward Varal's face in an attempt at a backhanded blow. The copper of her eyes is now roiling with heat and rage, pushed just -that- much further by Varal's goading words. "I -challenge- you to a duel!" she bellows as she lets her arm dart to him. "And, if you refuse me, I shall make it known throughout Fastheld that you are a coward who is afraid to meet the challenge of a woman!" The Contessa throws her weight behind the blow, trying to hit far harder than needed for a simple challenge. "Jousting or swords! At Baron Lomasa's tournament ground!"
Varal Mikin's head snaps to the side as the blow lands, and then he slowly straightens it - gouges from the chainmail dribbling little bits of blood. "I am no coward, Tomassa," Varal says coldly before slowly straightening his face. He mouth slowly works into a sneer. "I am loathe to put myself in a position to hurt a woman, even one such as yourself, but you leave me little choice, wench." He lowers his head, his dark features darkening with anger. "Swords. And this time don't expect me to give you the chance to surrender until I have you on your knees."
"You'll eat them words, runt." The words are hissed in a low, gravelly tone, containing within them more chill than the frigid night has to offer. Grinn Harwel slams his knife back into its sheath, hawks loudly and launches a glob of spit at the nobelman's feet. "Shame, too. Crescent Moon could find use for a purdy face like that."
Barit Smithy sneers aloudly, turning and heading for the carriage. "No point in stickin' around this sorry excuse for a township any longer, 'Arwel. Lemme tell you, that tavern, it is the WORST one I've ever seen. They sell three things, just three: Snake Soup, Bread, and Ale. I've been fed better in /DUNGEONS/! Let's get the 'ell back to Hedgehem 'fore I vomit." Barit moves to locate a carriage
Barit Smithy hires a passing carriage and it pulls up so they can board.
Tomassa Zahir's teeth grins as she forces herself to begin turning away from Varal's presence. "The only place where you'll see me on my knees is in your wetdreams, Lord Captain," the Lioness hisses. "I shall make arrangements with Baron Lomasa for the use of the grounds and then we shall settle this, hmm?" Without waiting for an answer, the female turns to stalk toward the carriage Barit has procured.
This carriage passenger compartment is rather cozy and informal, with a pair of shardwood benches facing each other and open windows on either side that can be somewhat inconvenient during inclement weather.
The carriage driver accepts your money and says, "As you wish. Off we go to Hedgehem Crossroads!"
Peasants gaze hungrily from the roadside, hands outstretched pleadingly toward the carriage as it rolls by.
Tomassa Zahir settles into a seat, form tense. She growls in anger, slamming a fist into the wall of the carriage. "Damn him!"
"I think that ended rather nicely," says Barit to Grinn.
A Kahar red deer lopes across the road in front of the carriage.
Grinn Harwel and Gully take up the seat across from Tomassa, the former fidgeting with his rage. "I could slit the bastard's throat," Harwel offers. "Leave 'im in the alley. Make it look like a pickpocket gone sour."
"Nay," the Lioness darkly says as she sits back into the seat and sulks. "We shall save that in case I actually /lose/."
A Kahar red deer lopes across the road in front of the carriage.
The carriage driver turns to you and says, "Here we are, then. Thank you!"