Lightholder Tavern <Palace District>

It is said - primarily by the proprietor, a jovial merchant-classer named Solas Creek - that all roads in Fastheld lead to the Lightholder Tavern. On any given night, it's not hard to see why he might justify such a claim.
The pub, which started centuries ago as a small refreshment wagon for laborers building Fastheld Keep atop Caryas Hill, sees boisterous crowds filling its rafters with laughter and pipe smoke at all hours of the day and night as travelers make their way through the realm.
About three dozen tables are arranged among the polished wooden columns on which hang the wrought-iron lanterns that help give the tavern its name. Solas or one of his assistants can usually be found working behind a wide C-shaped counter, serving mugs of keg-tapped ale to thirsty patrons who stand at the bar.
The floor is strewn with amber rushes, except in a circle of about twenty feet in diameter, where the stone fireplace and chimney rise toward the ceiling.
There is a large crowd gathered here.

Dianna Lomasa arrives from Lightholder Crossroads

Solas Creek stands behind the counter, wiping a mug with a white cotton cloth.

Hartnek Lomasa sits at a corner table, drinking ale from a battered bronze mug.

Gell Mikin stands at the counter, resting an elbow on the flat surface as he sips hot tea from a cup and quietly surveys the crowd in the tavern.

Dianna Lomasa steps into the Tavern, shivering, huddling in a cloak wrapped around her. She takes one step to the side, intaking her surroundings.

A barmaid pours a drink for a merchant and tells him that she heard the royal tax assessor Alath Kahar got mugged in broad daylight by a peasant not far from Fastheld Keep. "That peasant must be Shadow-Touched to get away with that " she opines.

Solas Creek puts the mug he's been wiping on a shelf behind the counter, then nods toward Dianna. "Welcome to the Light'older Tavern, m'lady."

Hartnek Lomasa takes another drink of his ale.

Gell Mikin turns his gaze toward the newly arrived noblewoman.

Dianna Lomasa smiles faintly, "Thank you." she says politely, huddling a little more in her cloak.

"'ave a seat anywhere," Solas says, gesturing toward the array of tables around the central fireplace. "Mind the dog don't get too sniffy at yer scraps. If ye be 'ungry, we've got a fair venison stew boilin' in the kitchen. Needin' a drink, well, we can 'elp there too."

The Emperor's Blademaster sets down his mug, then picks up a chunk of bread and dips it into a bowl of stew. He munches on the bread, then washes it down with ale.

The bald Surrector, his neck adorned with a necklace of wrinkled severed fingers, sets his cup of tea on the counter and then makes a sure and steady approach toward Dianna Lomasa. "The Lady of the Warren, if I am not mistaken." Not so much a question as a statement of fact. He stops, lacing his fingers before himself as he studies Dianna with raptor-like eyes.

Dianna Lomasa looks at the approaching man, pressing her lips together tightly, "I /was/ the Lady of the Warren." she says coolly. "Until I was forced to leave my home, and my marriage." she adds, "Is there anything I can do for you sir?" she asks, lifting one brow slightly.

Solas Creek quirks an eyebrow at the exchange, but then immediately busies himself with filling a mug for a merchant at the counter.

A mangy-looking dog wags its tail as it settles onto its haunches next to Hartnek's table. The Blademaster flings a crust onto the floor. The dog quickly snatches it up.

"I am sorry to hear about your misfortune," the Surrector replies, but then he extends a hand toward an empty table. "But perhaps it would help to discuss it."

Dianna Lomasa looks a little warily at the Surrector, "I would not wish to trouble you, sir." she says politely, her hands gripping each other tightly in front of her. "It is a matter of no importance."

"Any matter that would put you out of keep and wedlock must surely be deemed important," Gell Mikin replies with a grim smile. "Particularly if a chance exists that the Shadow's Touch could have contributed to this situation." He nods his head toward the table. "Sit, my lady."

Solas Creek grumbles something at a scullery maid as she works in the tavern's kitchen area.

The mangy dog nudges its snout against Hartnek's leg. The Blademaster grunts, but takes the bowl of stew from the table and sets it on the rush-strewn floor. The dog starts slurping enthusiastically.

A bit of color graces Dianna Lomasa's cheeks at the Mikin's words. "The Shadow Touched did not contribute to the situation." she says firmly, remaining where she is. Her eyes sweep around the room for a moment, checking the amount of people, and which people are around.

Gell Mikin lowers his hand, frowning deeply and sighing at Dianna's denial. "Just because Adaer Kahar fumbled in his ill-advised effort to frame Cygony Zahir does not necessarily mean that Cygony Zahir is *not* Shadow-Touched. Such sorcery would go far in explaining your erratic behavior. It might even explain Lord Adaer's own foolish antics."

A merchant sitting at the bar says something about the Mikins offering a bounty for a slanderous poster of news.

Solas Creek walks into the back room and returns with a fresh keg of ale, which he pits on a stand behind the counter. He plugs a spigot into the keg.

Hartnek Lomasa leans over to pet the dog, scritching its ears while it enjoys the leftover stew.

A frown forms on Dianna Lomasa's lips as she shakes her head, "What happened was people making bad decisions, /not/ Cygony Zahir being Shadow Touched." she says quietly, her voice very firm. "It is none of your concern either. The Church is handling the matter."

"You are mistaken, my lady," the Surrector replies frostily. "When it comes to matters of the Shadow and its threat to the security of our realm, I assure you that it is very much my concern. That concern is amplified when it seems to be at work in the House of His Majesty, the Emperor."

Solas Creek refreshes the ale of a nobleman sitting at the counter.

The dog pants contentedly and then curls up at Hartnek Lomasa's feet as a serving wench refills his ale.

Dianna Lomasa doesn't flinch at the frosty tone, "If your concern is about the Shadow Touched, then you should be looking for people that are truly Shadow Touched. Cygony Zahir is many things, but /not/ Touched." she says calmly.

The Surrector smiles darkly, tilting his bald head. The light catches on the grisly neckwear with the dangling fingers. "Perhaps." He nods curtly. "Indeed, perhaps all concerned have been looking to the wrong individual for suspicion of Shadow." The smile fades. "Lady Lomasa, isn't it?"

Hartnek Lomasa takes a sip of his refreshed ale. The dog rolls over on its back, leaning against Hartnek's right leg.

Solas Creek takes come gold Kahar Imperials from a weary traveler, who then starts for the stairs leading up to the rooms.

Dianna Lomasa arches a brow at Gell, frowning even more, "And who should we be looking towards as being Shadow Touched?" she asks mildly. "And yes, I am a Lomasa." she adds, lifting her chin slightly.

Gell Mikin smiles sagely at Dianna. "It is not unheard of for the Shadow's Touch to taint the Lomasa bloodline. It is possible that *you* are the one who has employed sorcery to cause this strife between Zahir and Kahar."

Hartnek Lomasa peers at the dog nuzzling against his leg. Grunts. Orders another bowl of stew.

The proprietor of the Lightholder Tavern orders one of the servant boys to fetch more logs for the fire.

Dianna Lomasa stares at Gell for a moment, "You're accusing /me/ of being Shadow Touched?" she asks, sounding shocked. "Why would I wish strife to my husband, or Cygony Zahir for that matter?"

The Emperor's Hawk regards Dianna with a wry smile. "I simply say that perhaps the Church has done a less than thorough job in rooting out all possible sources of the Shadow in this matter. As to why you might seek to cause such strife, well, Shadow-Touched or no, you saw fit to seek comfort in the arms of a Zahir in betrayal of your Lord Kahar. Given the ancient enmity of those two houses, one would think, had you wished to avoid strife, that you would have shown much greater discretion."

Solas Creek watches as the servant boy returns with two logs to put in the fire.

A serving wench arrives with a fresh bowl of stew for Hartnek Lomasa. The dog rolls back over onto its belly, gazing hopefully up at the table.

Dianna Lomasa continues to stare at Gell, before her eyes narrow slightly, "I am not Shadow touched. What I did was stupid, and I blame only my stupidity in the matter. This whole incident was stupid, and should not have even happened." she says simply, still frowning slightly.

"I could not agree more that it should not have happened," Gell Mikin concurs. His mouth twitches into a faint smile. "But I cannot be so sure that it was spawned by stupidity. That will be determined by my investigation."

Solas Creek laughs at a joke told by a merchant at the counter.

"This batch is mine," Hartnek grumbles at the dog, dipping a spoon into the bowl of venison stew.

Did you hear? First the tax assessor gets held up and now the Head Forester's horse is missing right from the middle of town. He's posted a reward if anyone finds it.

Dianna Lomasa continues frowning at Gell, pushing her hair out of her eyes, "As you were not present during the duration of the events, I believe it would be hard for you to determine whether it was stupidity or not. Those involved, Lord Adaer, and Lord Cygony, would both probably agree that it was stupidity, and lack of thought that drove all of us."

"Then I am sure my independent investigation will bear out your claim, and you will therefore have nothing to fear," the Surrector replies. He dips his head slightly, the necklace of fingers rustling against his chest, and then he says, "Keep in the light." He turns and walks back toward the counter and his waiting cup of tea.

Solas Creek sees the Emperor's Hawk returning, and quickly moves to refresh the tea so that it's nice and warm.

The dog whimpers softly, nudging against Hartnek's leg again. The Blademaster glowers at the mutt. "I did not take you to raise." The animal directs its soulful brown eyes at him. Hartnek grumbles, shrugs, and tosses another bread crust onto the floor. The dog goes eagerly after it.

Dianna Lomasa nods her head to Gell, before turning to take a seat near the fire, frowning at the flames, as if they were the reason for her troubles.

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