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.
Jermael Zahir walks into the throne room calmly, stopping to bow to the Emperor, before moving off to the side, to watch the proceedings.
Talus Kahar sits upon the throne in the center of the spacious chamber. As he watches the nobles and royals filing into the throne room, he nods to them. "Your Emperor welcomes you. As it appears the members of my Council are not yet present, we shall proceed with official audiences. Who among you has business with the throne?"
Shalis Kahar stalks in behind many of the others, his milk-white boots soundless on the floor. His smile remains, as it was outside, pleasant. His eyes follow one and then another of the assemblage for moments at a time, though when he presents the Emperor with his bow his gaze does not wander.
Tomassa Zahir still stalks, despite being confined in a velvet gown. She looks almost as uncomfortable as she feels, though she attempts to summon an aura of normality. One gloved hand rests upon the silver hilt of her rapier, fingers absently brushing the golden ribbon that has peace-tied the weapon. The woman's eyes flick over the crowd and she lightly frowns. She may be dressed in a velvet gown, but she's still wearing steel bracers and a chestplate.
Adaer Kahar steps in through the arched entrance arching his head back and forth and he looks around. He then approaches the area near the Emperor and the nobles he bows to the Emperor saying not a word. He walks dragging the cloak he wears on the ground with less of a frown and more of a content smile. His manner denotes pleasantness but little happiness as he smiles to the Emperor respectfully as he bows.
Talus Kahar nods to Adaer. "Good evening, Adaer Kahar. Step forward. What tidings have you from Vozhdya?"
Tomassa Zahir finds a nice spot from which to watch the proceedings, seeming a bit more at ease in her finery now. Her right hand flexes within its velvet glove and she gives an absent glance down to her signet ring. As Adaer approaches the emperor, she flicks her gaze over him and then moves on to study the other Zahir - Jermael.
Shalis Kahar paces to one side of the hall, near enough to the front that he might study the supplicants as they approach. He watches Adaer, and then the Emperor, with that pleasant smile unruffled.
Jermael Zahir's attention is mainly directed toward the Emperor and Adaer, with occasional glances to the other nobles and royals in the room. He occasionally shifts his weight, but otherwise stays still and quiet.
A long thoughtful pause follows the question raised as Adaer steps a few paces forward and places his hand on his beard. "Perhaps it shall please the throne that all is well in Vozhdya. I only come to ask a general inquiry of the Council - and all in attendance - as for what rumors have come along past their ears." Adaer goes on to narrow the question down, "I hope to clear some up if any exist." Adaer pulled his hand away from his beard to gesture while speaking but then when pausing he placed his hand back in it's place. After he finishes speaking he steps back looking about the audience.
Talus Kahar arches his eyebrows. "As you can imagine, your Emperor is far too busy to traffic in petty rumors." His attention drifts to the others assembled in the room. "But if others require clarity, Lord Kahar, then, by all means, enlighten them."
The Imperial Lightkeeper's pleasant smile grows rather thin on his lips now, and his eyes narrow faintly as they flicker to the Emperor. Shalis touches a fingertip to his pendant and then lets his hand drop.
Talus Kahar sits upon the throne, facing Adaer Kahar, who is standing before him. A crowd of other nobles and royals has assembled nearby.
Tomassa Zahir shifts her weight from one foot to the other, velvet garments whispering. She eyes the huge Kahar with slight impatience and resists the urge to tug at her skirt again.
Adaer Kahar nods a bit and thinks for a moment, "Well, the rumor I have come across is far from petty I can assure you M'lord." Adaer turns to the audience and begins speaking, "Those of you who know Lord Cygony Zahir may have heard a few rumors about him. I thought I would bring one to the attention of the Counsil." Adaer turns his head to the Emperor, "There have been reports that Lord Cygony Zahir has the shadow taint. I can not confirm the rumor yet but I have observed strange behavior. The reports I have recieved go into detail but I'll shorten them for the sake of your time." Adaer widens his arms out and takes a breath, "He seems to have threatened a farmer into submission. The farmer claims to have witnessed Lord Zahir sproating fire from his eyes." Adaer goes onto assure, "Once again, I'd like to say, I side with Lord Cygony Zahir because I have no proof he is shadow-touched other than this report. I just thought it be best if I let the Council know about this."
Shalis Kahar's thinned lips take on an ironic arch, and he shifts against the wall. In a slight rustle of fabric he crosses his arms over his chest.
Talus Kahar leans back in his throne, stroking his chin with two fingers. "Might this farmer bear some animus against Lord Zahir? It would not be the first time false allegations such as this have been lodged against a noble by some disgruntled commoner."
Jermael Zahir glances about again, before quietly removing some papers from his robes. He glances at a few, before finding the one he was apparently looking for, and returning the rest. After some more fishing, he finds a small lump of coal, and makes a few marks on the paper.
For the first time since she left Bramblestone today, Tomassa Zahir... smiles. Her lips curl up in amusement and a wicked gleam enters her pale eyes. For now, she bides her time, but her smile languidly spreads into a grin.
While the court is rapt with attention placed upon the tale of Lord Zahir, Vallant Seamel quietly slips into the chamber and steps to the side. The relatively unknown gentleman's eyes regard the proceedings from behind the black-tinged lenses of his thin spectacles, arms tucked away in the robes which function as part of his self imposed uniform. Vallant maintains the neutral expression his features as so naturally disposed to; he doesn't seem to be coming forward on the subject.
Adaer Kahar ahs and shakes his head toward the Emperor, "I have looked deep for a reason he may have but I have found none. The farmer is new to the area of Vozhdya, his only reason for making a false report would be to widow his wife upon the proving of it's falsehood perhaps." Adaer gestures for the expelling of meaning, "I wouldn't waste the counsil's time if I didn't think this report should be acknowledged."
Talus Kahar nods in agreement to Adaer Kahar. "Deliver your report to the Church of True Light. Allow them to pursue this matter. Make certain they speak personally with this farmer who served as a direct witness. Such allegations require great care when they involve nobility." His head tilts. "I trust your lady wife is well?"
Shalis' glance is drawn by some slight sound to the rear of the chamber, where Vallant has entered. He nods very slightly and turns his attention back on Adaer, his lips thinning once more into irony. "Has this matter been reported to Our Holy Mother Church, Lord Kahar?" he asks.
"Why would a powerful Shadow-Touched reveal his nature to a mere farmer and then allow him to live, thus making it a near certainty that the Church would come for him?" Vallant Seamel finally announces his presence in the query; his lightly accented voice is too neutral in tone to imply any feelings of belief or doubt. The older man continues to regard the chamber through black lenses.
Jermael Zahir looks up from his notes, and grumbles a bit, before saying, "Indeed. It would seem most foolish for him to allow the farmer to live if this were the case, and while he posesses mamy traits, I am inclined to say that foolishness of such magnitude is not one of them."
Tomassa Zahir listens, but her frown is returning little-by-little. She rubs the side of the signet ring upon her index finger with the pad of her thumb, head tilted toward the conversation. For now, she has nothing to offer.
Adaer Kahar nods to the Emperor as he speaks until his wife is metioned. He pauses for a moment mouth a gape a moment until his attention is brought towards Shalis. He shakes his head towards the Royalty, "I thought, since, it involves a nobleman I should ask the Counsil guidance first." He then turns his face toward the rest of the inquiries, "Like I said, I have no other proof he is Shadow-Touched."
"Further questions about the veracity of the farmer's story are good for nothing more than gossip and conjecture," the Emperor says, turning and narrowing his eyes slightly at Vallent Seamel. "Of course, such are the tools of your trade, Lord Spymaster." Talus Kahar returns his attention to the crowd. "I am pleased to present Lord Vallant Seamel, the successor to Aiden Zahir."
Shalis Kahar lowers his voice faintly, not narrating but speaking only to Adaer. "I will speak with you later on how best to approach this. You will find me in the chapel." Then his attention moves to the next order of business, the Seamel spymaster.
Tomassa Zahir lifts her coppery gaze to Vallant in a sharp gesture at the Emperor's announcement. She studies him for a moment, letting her pale gaze drift down the man's form and then back up in silent assessment. One of the woman's eyebrows quirks upward a touch and then she gives a polite inclination of her head to the new Spymaster.
Vallant Seamel steps forward as the Emperor announces his name, suspicious squints cast in his direction aside. The newly declared spymaster inclines his head to the court in general. "It is my honor to serve." He expresses the standard pleasentries in his monotone voice and takes a pace back again.
Talus Kahar favors Vallant with a nod, then regards the crowd once more. "Do others have business with the throne?"
Tomassa Zahir straightens when the Emperor voices that question. Drawing herself forward with as much dignity as she can manage in a dress, the woman pauses before the throne to offer the Emperor a sweeping bow rather than a curtsey.
Shalis Kahar nods to Vallant in return, his pleasant smile returning immediately to his features. The smile is wiped away almost immediately by Talus' query, and his eyes move to the Emperor. He shakes his head slightly, side to side, and looks away towards Tomassa.
"Lady Zahir," the Emperor acknowledges Tomassa. "Please, be heard."
Jermael Zahir's attention centers on Tomassa, waiting for her speech, charcoal at the ready over his paper...
Straightening once again, the woman begins to speak in an authoritative contralto that has no trouble being heard in the throne room. Tomassa, it seems, is no stranger to public speaking. "As some might be aware," Tomassa begins, "I am the Constable of Hedgehem. If his Majesty does not mind, I would like to bring up some questions regarding the law to clarify them before the court."
"Of course," Talus Kahar replies with a faint bow of his head.
The Lightkeeper's eyebrows raise very fractionally. He leans comfortably back against the wall to listen with patient attention to the constable.
"Now, we are all familiar with the differences in rank between, say... a vassal and a noble." Her lips twitch into a bit of a smile as she regards her listeners. "The points of law and society that I wish to address tonight concern the status of women and how to handle certain acts that are performed against them." She gestures with one hand, elegantly shrugging in a way that makes her cape sway. "It is the right of a nobleman, should he desire it, to satiate himself with one of his vassals. Is this not correct?" Despite all of his previous decorum, this question seems to startle Jermael slightly, and he shoots an odd glance to Tomassa before recovering his poise. He makes a few marks on his paper.
Talus Kahar lifts his eyebrows. "The throne makes no stand on the recreational proclivities of nobles of either sex, so long as they are not a threat to the realm. I am aware of no specific right granted by the throne to engage in such dalliances. Rather, this would be better directed at the individual who governs your township." His mouth twists a bit. "Of course, given that it is Aiden Zahir, that may be a matter of some difficulty. Therefore, Lady Zahir, I believe the issue rests with you to determine its acceptability within Hedgehem."
Shalis Kahar's smile remains determinedly pleasant, though he in turn shoots a glance at Jermael and then the Emperor before his gaze rests once more on Tomassa.
Tomassa Zahir lifts a velvet-gloved finger, her signet ring gleaming. "Ah, but I have not yet gotten to the heart of the matter, Your Majesty. My true purpose is to bring up a question that affects all of the realm." There is a glittering quality to her pale copper eyes. "Women of lower status have no say or privilege in such things if their master wills it - most of the time. However, what if a woman of noble or royal status were to face unwanted advances by a man of equal or higher rank and stature? It is my hope that women of my own status or higher do not have to suffer such indignities without recourse. And that, good people, is the meat of my topic. What punishment should a nobleman face should he sully a woman of high breeding? Is she allowed to defend herself to the point of killing, if need be? It is a sensitive topic, I know."
"Again," the Emperor says, "this is a matter of local concern. The throne will not offer a blanket approval of murderous self-defense by either party involved in an amorous relationship. Nor will the throne condemn the justified killing of a suitor who poses an imminent threat to the life of an individual. If such matters cannot by solved through Church mediation or the local constabulary, then, yes, the throne will hear evidence on both sides and issue a determination, but the throne will be a final option - not a primary source of law on such issues."
Tomassa Zahir scowls as her attempts at subtleties seem to be getting her nowhere. The woman begins to pace a bit, stalking back and forth like a caged and irritated lioness. "So. Hypothetically, if a man foolish enough to brave my wrath attempted to force himself upon me, I would have to bear his attentions and -then- cry foul? That does not sit well in my belly, Your Majesty. I would sooner slit the man's throat than be raped." She pauses in a swirl of violet velvet and her scowl softens a fraction. "Ahem. Not to be indelicate."
Shalis Kahar uncrosses his arms to rub at his upper lip with a fingertip for a moment. He looks, suddenly, amused, though he pulls the edges of his mouth down quickly into decorum.
Talus Kahar smiles archly. "That is your choice to make, Lady Zahir. The throne does not involve itself in the tiniest details of the lives of its citizens. Were someone, hypothetically, to harm someone for unwanted advances, then they would have full right to a hearing, as is befitting someone of noble birth. If the matter must come before the throne, as I stated, we would hear the evidence and render an opinion. It may well result in a ruling in favor of the so-called victim. However, do not ask - or expect - the throne's unqualified blessing for such behavior."
Tomassa Zahir abruptly places her hands upon her hips as she regards the Emperor, a golden eyebrow imperiously arching. "And what of women who are not as versed in the military arts, my Emperor? What of those more delicate creatures of Mikin and Kahar and Lomassa and all the other houses? I would -hope- that such a crime against a noble or royal woman would be *unthinkable*. Are they not regarded as the flowers of the realm? It would please me best, if you, *ahem* my most honorable and noble Emperor, would state before all gathered that such acts of indelicate violence are not to be tolerated against females of higher birth. Simply for... the sake of reassurance?"
Jermael Zahir looks up from his papers, and tilts his head for a moment, in thought. After that moment, he speak up, saying, "With all of these hypotheticals, I am forced to wonder if there is something beneath them... Does the good Lady have a particular incident in mind? If this is leading to a specific accusation of someone, wouldn't it be prudent to come forth with it? I like debating the finer points of legal philosophy as much as anyone, but I think this is becoming a bit tedious."
Talus Kahar stares flatly at Tomassa Zahir. "The throne maintains that such matters are the purview of the townships. I believe it is common sense that all people of noble birth should be treated with dignity and respect, but the throne relies on competent keepers of the peace such as yourself to ensure that the principles we hold dear are taught and allowed to persevere." Raises a hand at Jermael. "I do not require any details of a particular incident. This is not, at this time, a matter for the throne."
Jermael Zahir bows his head to the Emperor, and returns to his papers.
Shalis Kahar keeps his expression suitably pleasant, though he looks away from Tomassa and instead to the assembled crowd of nobles with a gaze that might be described as searching.
Tomassa Zahir's teeth clench and she barely keeps from hissing. "So, it is up to the townships to state that the rape of a noblewoman is a crime. The Emperor will not take such a stand for all of the realm?" she asks, nostrils flaring. There's just a hint of her rage in a tremor of her voice, but, to her credit, she does an excellent job of reining herself in. Her pale copper eyes swirl with heat, however.
"It is not a crime against the realm, no," the Emperor replies simply, adding, "it is a crime against an individual, to be considered for punishment by the lawkeepers of the townships. The last I heard, Lady Zahir, nobles preferred the throne to refrain from meddling overmuch in the affairs of the townships. Hear me clearly: The throne does not *condone* the actions of such loathsome individuals, but it leaves their ultimate disposition in the hands of the townships until such time as it is determined that the leaders of the township are incapable of reaching a competent decision on their own. Surely you do not suggest that you, or anyone else in the townships, are so blatantly incompetent as to require that kind of hand-holding from your Emperor."
"That is not the point!" Tomassa bellows, jabbing her finger toward the Emperor. "I simply think that some of your so-called 'noble' men need to be reminded that there is an obligation of honorable and responsible behavior associated with their birth - especially to women of equally high rank! You can rest *assured*, my Emperor, that the township of Hedgehem will handle such matters with utmost expediency and severity! It was simply my hope that I could offer some *small* reassurance to women of other Houses in the realm that their bodies, their dignity, and their privacy belongs to -them- and, if someone attempts to take it away, they have every right to protect themselves from such invasive brutality. We are not -vassals-, good sir. We are the women that shall bear the next generations of nobles for this realm!"
Shalis Kahar blinks once at Tomassa's raised voice, a frown coming to his mouth as he looks back at the angry noble. He rubs his nose, and looks interestedly then at the Emperor.
The Emperor dispatches with his passive, polite demeanor, and opts instead for a markedly chilly gaze, his jaw setting as he leans forward, resting a hand on his right knee. "You forget your place, Lady Zahir. You forget your place and you hear only that which you wish to hear, dismissing anything else out of hand. The throne's position is clear. Your anger at someone - perhaps your Emperor in the absence of someone truly at fault - may well be understandable. But you will not come before the throne and behave in this fashion. If you cannot maintain a civil tongue, if you cannot curb insult against the crown, then you may consider yourself unwelcome at these audiences. I have no tolerance for it."
Nodding very faintly, the Lightkeeper transfers his eyes, first to the guards, and then back to Tomassa. His frown turns thoughtful.
Tomassa Zahir blinks. Once. In that instant, the molten metal of her gaze changes to frost. She gets very still, but then eases herself into another low bow before the Emperor. "Yes, Your Majesty," she agrees in a hoarse, but chilly tone of voice. "Please note, for the Record, that the crime of rape in Hedgehem shall henceforth shall be punished by beheading or castration depending upon the severity of the crime. It shall not be tolerated." By the time she finishes speaking, her voice is mild. The noblewoman steps back with another bow, velvet cape swirling.
Talus Kahar lifts an eyebrow, but inclines his head before looking to the others assembled in the room. "I grow weary. We are adjourned."
Shalis Kahar bows fluidly to Talus Kahar and turns to watch the assembled Nobles depart, though he hangs back to follow all but the very last out.
Silently amused by the sudden conflict breaking out in the court, Vallant Seamel's lips twitch only once from their otherwise conservative state of neutrality. The spymaster's eyes slip away from behind their darkly tinged concealment as he turns to stride forth from the throne room.
Tomassa Zahir gathers herself and, stiffly, turns away from the throne. Her jaw is set, but that chilly demeanour still lingers around the woman. With languid dignity, she makes her way from the throne room - walking more like she's wearing pants than a gown.