By the Gatehouse <Fastheld Keep>

The heart of the walled city-state of Fastheld, this expansive fortress serves as the center of government for all the districts and the home of Emperor Talus Kahar and his wife, the Empress Freia Seamel.
Soldiers of the Emperor's Blades can be seen walking along the battlements and throughout the grounds on regular patrols.
The Imperial Stables are off to the northwest, overshadowed by the ancient Bronze Hall of the Imperial Horsemen; so named for its appearance of being thatched in bronze, finials on the rooftops cutting dramatic silhouettes upon the skyline, while regal banners flank the huge doors that guard the Hall.
The Imperial Residence sprawls toward the north and east, while to the north rest the royal tournament grounds. Finally, one can find a gatehouse, defended by large double doors, leading toward the Palace Road to the south.

Under the watch of the six moons, and the passing gaze of a handful of faint clouds, the Justiciar and the Marshal arrive at the doors of the Bronze Hall; doors that are twice as large as anyone who might actually pass under them, and three times wider.


Of course, one must also consider the artificial bluff that the Hall has been built upon, too; the veranda of that bluff, overshadowed by those impressive doors, and guarded by a few of Soravyn's most trustworthy officers, cast in smooth black cobbles and stonework. All in all, the Hall deserves every ounce of respect it gets.

And every time he passes it, bar none, Lucius must marvel at the architecture and effort that was put in to construction the hall and its magnificent doors. It is easy to find oneself transported to the a hallfull of artisans working on an enormous cast metal door for hours on end, until it was shaped into its present form. Business is at hand, though. Lucius's eyes, cast upwards before now return to a more *human* height, glancing at the variety of Tribunal officers and casting them all nods of respect. They do certainly do their duty.

"I’ve always wondered," Soravyn notes to his companion, "as to when the Bronze Hall was actually built, and why the design is so different to the Palace around it. We believe it to have been here before the Horsemen, but could it be that it was here /before/ Fastheld Keep?"

Pulling his gaze away from those doors for a moment, and letting the question hang in the air, the Justiciar motions for his officers to move aside. "Permit no one else." he informs them in a hushed snarl of a voice, the wolf prowling closer to the doors, "Except for the Emperor, should he wish to wear himself out wandering around inside."

That said, he looks back upon the Marshal once more. "Shall we?"

"Perhaps it was, sir. Although in terms of lore, is it not held that the original city was within the Shadow District? And if that is so, then I do too wonder to what purpose this Hall was built for. I'm ready." declares Lucius, letting the Justicar lead him in.

The Justiciar gives the order, his officers unbar and unseal the doors, and then open them just enough for Soravyn and Lucius to enter, keeping a watchful eye upon the area around the Bronze Hall all the while.

The Bronze Hall of the Horsemen <Fastheld Keep>

The ancestral home of the Imperial Horsemen, this ancient Hall is long and wide, filled with shadows and half lights; mighty pillars upholding its lofty roof. But here and there bright sunbeams or elegant moonbeams fall in glimmering shafts from the eastern windows, high under the deep eaves. Through the louver in the roof, above the thin wisps of the smoke issuing from the flames of the torches that hold sentry upon the pillars, the sky presents itself in pale shades of blue, variant in tone depending on the time of day.
As vision adjusts to the low light of the Hall, one might perceive that the floor is paved with stones of many elegant hues; branching runes and ornate floral etchings intertwined beneath your feet. The pillars are richly carved, gleaming brightly with reddish-gold and silver, holding upon them beautifully flowing sunburst motifs, entwined with stars and botanical designs. The legendary shields and weapons of Horselords long passed rest upon these pillars; at once both solemn and proud and they stand guard over the Hall, and all that walk within it.
Maintaining an appearance of being thatched in bronze, the hall is at once both regal and majestic; caressed in recurrent horse motifs of many highly stylized forms that accentuate the sinewy strength of the animal upon which the Horsemen are so dependent. The finials on the roof cut dramatic silhouettes, while the raised dais of the Horsemaster and the two Horselords rests at the far end of the hall. Great doors, etched with flowing decorations that graphically commemorate the events of riders of the past, ensure that this place of honor and deed never fall victim to attack.

There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls. This instance, upon this night, is one of them, for no matter how fast light travels, it often finds the darkness has always got there first. For the Bronze Hall is in total darkness, with neither candle nor brazier to guide the way.

The silence is deafening.

Having only been inside the Hall once on a strenuous and annoying assignment, Lucius has never been able to drink up the beauty of the building from within. If his jaw could drop far with the chinstrap fastened, it would; that is, if the room were visible. "I did not bring my lamp, unfortunately. Perhaps we should use your sword, sir, as a light source?"

If Soravyn nods his affirmation of a good idea, it's a motion that has been swallowed by the darkness, it seems. However, the confirmation of the Marshal's plan is soon demonstrated as a scuffle of steel armor and the soft hiss of a blade being pulled free from leather harness sounds out in the wake of Lucius's voice.

Swiftly followed, of course, by the etheral dusty-blue light cast by the Lady's Wing once there is nothing to obstruct it. In a place of true darkness, such as this old hall, the effect is - suffice to say - quite haunting. Spirit Wolves prowl the Bronze Hall, it seems. "Interesting." the wolf offers, looking around as he holds his blade ahead of him, the shadows dancing around the pair in all directions, mocking the light, yet afraid of it all the same. "Stay close."

"It is a wonder that anybody could live in here, let alone thrive. Should I be on my guard?" Asks Lucius as he walks, his body not moving too far from the blue source of light as it dances off his amour and the Justicar's own. A gauntleted hand falls to his side, to the pommel of Dasbeck, uncertainly.

"Serath survived a year in the Wildlands." Soravyn notes in hushed tones as he carefully paces forward, sweeping the phosphorescent greatsword from side to side at random intervals, attempting to fend off the shadows and points of ambush. Not that the Hall provides many, but the Hall in total seething darkness is another matter.

"I'm sure he can survive in his own home without problem. It would have been nice to have been informed that he'd stopped keeping the place lit, however..." The dias at the end of the Hall draws ever closer. As for the rooms deeper into it, beyond the main Hall, who can say?

Lucius Nepos's sword is withdrawn from its scabbard, the painted runes glowing eerily in the Seraphite's light. He too tries to keep his gaze sweeping from side to side, to make sure that no creatures or people trying to sneak up on the duo. Afterall, ANYTHING could be out there. "He must have the eyes of a cat. Though I suppose it would be rather ironic.. House Kahar /is/ the house of the Wildcats."

"I don't think he needs them." The Justiciar advances further, the Throne of the Horsemaster looming in shadowy sight, flanked by the long vacant thrones of the Horselords. His foot brushes something that rustles slightly. A glimmer of light bounces from something that Soravyn doesn't notice, near his right foot. "Considering how he fights." He trails off, looking at something ahead. Books upon books upon books. "Light." the Wolf breathes.

Though Soravyn hasn't noticed it, Lucius has noticed that the light glimmered from a Dagger, stabbed point-down into the ground. The rustle seems to have been caused by the Justiciar stepping on a note of paper, trapped under it.

"Hold, sir. Something on the ground." Lucius quirks a brow at the apparent note on the ground, sweeping it with a gaze. However, it's too dark to be read, even with the dagger's light.. that is, when it's on the ground. Lucius scoops down to pick it up, slipping the dagger in a secure place on his belt and lifting the note to his eyes.

Soravyn turns - carefully, as he doesn't want to accidentally remove some of the Marshal's limbs in the process - to look upon Lucius as he makes his discovery, casting the officer in that ethereal dusty-blue light. "What have you found?" he asks, the hint of a cautious growl trailing at the edge of his voice. If nothing else, the Justiciar is very much unnerved by his surroundings.

Lucius Nepos's answer carries the weight of his uncertainty, and confusion at finding the note. "Not sure. Could you move your sword closer to me so I can read it, sir?" Lucius asks, squinting as best as he can to read it.

The note, quite obviously written in Serath Kahar's handwriting, reads:

To Rowena;
       I haven't broken my promise. I'll just need a little time to work on it.

To the rest of you;
       Must try harder.

- Serath

Lucius Nepos reads the contents of the note to Soravyn; its contents have in fact not cleared anything up in the Marshal's head, but instead made things even more confusing. They've scattered the puzzle, so to speak. "Has he escaped by some secret passage below us?"

"Probably." Soravyn admits, visibly relaxing as the threat of the wrath of Kahar is removed from the scenario. "We know we got into the Keep that way, and I imagine there are numerous secrets about Fastheld Keep that only those of Imperial Blood know about. Still..."

The Justiciar smiles. A mirthful smile. A mirthful smile followed by a deep *laugh*. "Sneaky Wildcat."

And as it appears to Lucius that Soravyn has no problems appreciating Serath's antics, Lucius himself smiles a little bit. Smiles for the hope of the Empire getting away to safety. "Assuredly, there must be secret caverns winding all under the Palace and Caryas Hill. He could be anywhere within or without the realm, by now."

"Yes." Soravyn states, mock regret playing into his balanced voice of dark pragmatism and subtle harmony as he lowers the greatsword to rest, tip down, upon the ground. "Whatever will we do? Oh well." He shrugs, innocent, but can't quite hide the subtle smirk that races across his features as he moves to slip around Lucius and head back out. "What a shame."

"In some ways I agree with you, sir. But it does mean that the Emperor won't be able to outrage the realm by calling for the Prince's execution." Lucius shrugs, slipping his engraved sword back into its scabbard, and cracking his knuckles thereafter. "Ah. One day, I shall see this hall in all its glory."

He turns to follow Soravyn out.

"For the record," Soravyn notes, drawing to a halt ahead of Lucius a few moments later, the angle of his blade shrouding him in ghostly ambience. "It was for the Empire, Lucius. For the bigger picture. Fastheld Keep? The Imperial Council? They don't mean a great deal. But the realm as a whole and the People in it? Those are what matter. The Emperor, love him or hate him, is one man in a realm of thousands, yet somehow manages to keep them all living ‘happily’ together.

"If it had come to civil war under Oren Nillu - and it was close, Lucius, it was close - then do you think we'd be in a better position than what we are now?"

Lucius Nepos considers the Justicar's words for a moment silently, before he shakes his head, expression mute in the dim light. "No, it wouldn't have. I would never have supported something that would have torn the realm in two, and eventually, in more than two as warlords sprung up claiming their own territories. Thousands of people would have died, innocents as well as evil ones. A sacrifice that I am not willing to make; which is why I signed the letter of allegiance, sir."

The Justiciar nods within the embrace of the shadows in the wake of the Marshal's words. "Why Zolor?" he questions, perhaps asking the yet unasked, "Because there was no one else."

"If we'd had known that Serath was here, perhaps-" Lucius trails off. "But we do not live in a reality of maybes."

"Some of us did." There it is: the admission that he was one of them. "The problem with Serath is the same one that answers the question as to why I, myself, didn't take the Throne. It was there, in my grasp. You saw it. I'm not an Emperor, Lucius, and neither is Serath. We enjoy our freedom too much. We love the People too much. We're too close to them. We'd be liked caged birds, singing the right songs, but never with heart. What Serath will do now?”

He sighs, but not regretfully, "I'm not sure. This is his chance to escape the Throne. People think he's dead. I hope he pretends to be."

"I fear he may not. Perhaps go on a tirade to expose some supposed wrongdoings with the ex-Surrector, Shardwood. She too escaped, though I know not how. The Chamberlain was prepared to cut out her tongue that day and, under the Emperor's wishes, make her the property of Sahna Nillu." Lucius shakes his head, sadly. "And when I thought slavery didn't exist in our beloved Empire. But, nevertheless, we must move on. There are greater problems in the realm than those of the new Emperor and friction with the former ruling House. I am not a noble, and therefore to meddle in such affairs would be unbecoming of my status."

"The Empire has always had Vassals, Marshal." Quiet as a whisper, the Justiciar pads onwards once more, paws falling upon the ground with hardly a sound as he stalks through the darkness. "Slavery under a different name is still slavery. We all like to pretend that it isn't, but we're all just kidding ourselves. Still, one Wildcat has his freedom, and we need to work on yours. I'll get the documents written up. Oh, and..." Soravyn looks back, a wicked smile written upon his features, "How about we "forget" to mention this to the Chamberlain?"

Once again, Lucius finds himself smirking at the Justiciar’s last words. "I think you're of the right mind with that, sir. She has a famous temper which might well.. explode, if it was mentioned. I'd rather it be pronounced in an official document or pronouncement than from my mouth. She might, after all, decide to perform Shardwood's punishment on me." He grins wickedly, keeping pace with Soravyn.

"After tonight," the Justiciar declares, his voice holding all the humor of a wolf playing with a cornered mouse, "She can do what she likes." And the open air greets him like a lover's embrace, and the moons look down fondly, and the darkness of the Bronze Hall is left far behind.

Return to Season 4 (2006)

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