Imperial Suite <Fastheld Keep>
A spacious chamber that serves as the innermost sanctum of the most important individual in the realm of Fastheld: Emperor Talus Kahar.
The room includes two washbasins, multiple chamber pots that servants frequently replace for cleaning, twin wardrobes for clothing, and a four-post bed with an arched white canopy, polished brownwood headboard, thick beige blankets and comfortable fowl-feather pillows. Two angled writing tables are in two corners, where the Emperor or his assigned scribe may transcribe correspondence.
High wooden doors lead out into the quarters corridor, while a pair of smaller doors open onto the suite's private balcony overlooking the residence's courtyard.
The Emperor of Fastheld is looking none-too-pleased this morning. He paces in front of the open doorway to the balcony that overlooks the Imperial gardens. After the guards show Sahna into the room, Emmon closes the door leading into the corridor, leaving the Emperor and the Tradesmistress alone for now. The click of the door seems to trigger an end to the Emperor's pacing. He stops, turns, and - for the moment - just quietly glares at Sahna, hands clasped behind his back.
Sahna doesn't look very happy either.. In fact, she looks rather tired. "Allright. Let's get the screaming over with, Talus... But someone had to say something. I won't even remotely pretend to agree with this travesty." She shoots the emperor a look of irritation. "What did you expect, Talus? She's a /commoner/. The rest of us aren't allowed to fall in love with commoners. And that business about respecting House Seamel was transparent as anything. Why? Why did you have to spring this on everyone?"
"I don't intend to scream at all," the Emperor says, although his tone does enough seething without volume. "There's *saying* something to me and then there's broadcasting it to the entire realm. It's disrespectful. It's disloyal. It's a thinly veiled attempt to get the Church itself to oppose the marriage. It's *almost* treason. And it's definitely cause for me to remove you from my inner circle. If you can't be trusted to keep your bloody mouth shut when it needs to be shut, then Lady Shardwood's concerns about you are well placed. You *are* a danger to us all. And you're bloody perfect for the wife of a Zahir."
"It's not disloyal at all.. And if you think the church was going to condone a common empress, you've been gone a long time. They already resent you as it is, and this is the perfect opportunity to whack at you." Sahna replies, tone scathing. "As a peer of the realm did you expect me to say /nothing/? To let chaos ensue? You may be the emperor, Talus Kahar, and you may have ideals, but all I see is one man who can't force himself to marry a noble even after making a big deal of announcing it and getting the hopes up of the houses. You have basically spat upon every noble daughter that was presented to you. It's bad enough that we're treated like property, and have to turn a blind eye to mistresses. I was in love with a farmer once, but did I try to do something daft like go off and marry him? No! I remembered my /duties/. And I know full well that you know what duties are, Talus. You just conveniently forgot them, this time.. And instead of warning the council, you spring it upon us. What did you expect? People who were raised their entire lives knowing how our political system is based on heritage to dance with joy when you throw it out the window?" She folds her arms across her chest, nostrils flaring. "I'm not marrying any Zahir. I've had /enough/ of marriage. I think going back to my estates will be good for me and you can find some other hapless twit to do your dirty work."
"Your resignation is accepted," is all Talus has to say in response to that tirade. He nods toward the door.
Sahna shrugs, with a sigh. "Allright, Talus. All you had to do was make her a consort. But if you think the nobility is going to kowtow and bow to an empress who wears trousers, it'll be a rude shock for you. Maybe you can get Ester Shardwood to take my place. That'd be amusing." She turns to go, gathering her skirts.
"This isn't about my choice, Sahna," the Emperor says with a frown, shaking his head. "This is about *your* choice. Had you talked to me first, resigned in protest and *then* made this little rant of yours, I'd be able to countenance it. But you didn't. And trying to fling something like this in *my* face while you're still feeding at the Imperial trough is a bit above your pay grade. So, you either apologize for stepping out of line and failing to go through proper channels and hope I accept it, or you quit. I didn't *have* to come back, you know. I could have stayed out in Crown's Refuge. Maybe I should have. But *you* brought me back. Insisted I had duties here. So, I came back. You may not like all the choices I make, but do at least show me some measure of respect before embarrassing yourself this way."
She spins on a heel, rage suffusing her features "Do you think I want to leave my job? No. I want to serve an emperor who has some sense of sanity." Sahna fires back, angrily. "How much do you think I'm paid to go through what I do for this government? No, Talus Kahar.. I may be ambitious, but I am a noblewoman. I know what it's like to be treated as less than what I am or could be. You have duties here, yes.. I thought you recognized that they didn't involve ripping apart the hereditary monarchy! What do you think is going to happen when young swains are suddenly free to marry whomever they like? All those noblewomen.. Basically property waiting to be owned, with no freedom.. A code we have to adhere to, the awful clothing we have to wear, why do you think we do it? From the day we're born, our lives are not our own. Some, like Tomassa, like me, we break the mold. But what about the others? What's going to happen to them when they're deprived of even the mockery of a cold arranged marriage? Commoners belong in /brothels/ or as mistresses, Talus. /We/ pay the price for the ability to marry pigheaded idiots like you, like Eden, like whomever, and now we won't even have that." She inhales, nostrils flaring. "You could've taken a Seamel and kept the girl on as your courtesian or mistress. It's /expected/. So of course I tried to make a statement to minimize the damage. Who else had the guts? There are no Lions left in Fastheld. We've gone through too much change, too fast.. Mark my words, Talus, you will /break/ the kingdom you seek to rule with this recklessness... And I will not /beg/ to be a part of that."
Talus Kahar nods slowly. "Well, you will not win my cooperation by making a public challenge of it. If the Emperor of Fastheld can be cowed by some pale wisp of a woman, what chance does he have in standing against threats within and without our wondrous wall? Off you go, then."
"Threats? You don't stand against threats! We needed you back so the traditionalists would shut up and so we wouldn't be plunged into civil war.. Which you seem determined to make happen anyways." Sahna replies, baring her teeth. "You want to talk indignity, you pompous ass? I'll take indignity. You want this pale wisp of a woman out? You fire her. You make an announcement of it even.. An eye for an eye, after all. Go ahead, take your best shot while I'm off packing, because I'm not going to just resign and make life easy on you. Explain it to the realm. Go ahead. Tell them that you can't countenance a council-member that wants to hold on to some semblance of tradition. See what they make of /that/."
"So be it," the Emperor says. "I suppose I've run my limit of precedents since I came back, hmm? Hired Shadow-Touched people to hunt Shadow, allowed a Shadow-Touched woman to serve as Imperial Tradesmistress, and then, sin of sins, I took a baronet for my bride. Indeed, I am a man whose judgment should be questioned openly and often by the very people whose lives rely on my discretion."
"If you want to turn me into the church, Talus Kahar, you are my emperor and it is your right. That is the risk I took when I revealed myself to you, because I believed that the empire was more important than a secret which could kill me." Sahna answers thickly, raising her chin with an imperious expression. "One of the things that I understand which you do not seem to is that when one makes a decision, one must live with the consequences. I lost my first marriage for my decision to release She. Eden told me he could never love a woman who made such a shadowy decision. So if that's how you want to play this? Go ahead. Faeyd said you'd turn eventually, when the Light caught your ear again. Are you having that change of concience suddenly, in your anger? Would you rather a council that smiles, nods, and follows blindly? People will not miss that sort of thing forever. I'm telling you, Talus.. Marry her, make babies with her.. But I and many other nobles will not throw away what our ancestors fought to preserve by calling her anything but a Royal Consort. A commoner cannot be an empress, and that is the heart of the matter. If I had come to you directly and said so I would have been blown off and we both know it."
"No, we *both* do not know it," Talus answers, "and your assumption otherwise is further proof of your total lack of respect and unfitness for duty in the Imperial Council. Had you come to me privately to make this assertion, it is quite likely I would have agreed. I may *yet* agree. The question now isn't whether you were right or wrong in substance, but whether you were right or wrong in execution, and whether *that* is reason enough to send you packing. Do I want to turn you in to the Church in an act of petty vindictiveness? No. But I just want you to recognize that the least of my sins is taking Ashlynn Birch for my bride, and that you've made it the target of your outrage in the public arena does more harm than good to the empire you so blithely claim to serve."
"The controversy started /long/ before I wrote a letter saying who had what jurisdiction over what areas." Sahna hisses in reply. "Are you so isolated that you didn't feel Fastheld itself hold it's breath? There isn't a single world in my letter that isn't true, and not a single word that was intended to do anyhing other than calm the situation. If you read it as me trying to force your hand, well, that's your interpretation and not mine. Unlike Elkmont, I made no attempt to stir public outrage. Still, I see no reason to beat a dead horse and defend myself to you. I have work to do, and I will continue to do so until you send someone to inform me of my termination and I hear a public statement to that effect. Good /day/, Talus." She spins on a heel and makes for the door, again.
"I haven't dismissed you," the Emperor growls.
"I don't /care/." Sahna answers... But she stops at the door anyways, and turns back, one hand on the knob, eyes blazing. "No, that isn't true. I do care. Am. I. Dismisssssed." She hisses.
"No," the Emperor says, shaking his head. He gestures toward his writing desk. "Sit. Get parchment and pen. You are so fond of preparing official statements, I'll have you take down one from me, to be issued upon the end of this meeting."
The woman literally is shaking with anger by this point, but jerkily makes her way to the desk, picking up the inkwell with such spastic violence that it spatters on her dress. She sits, shoulders rigid, and feels blindly for a parchment. "I did prepare most of them while you were off sailing." Sahna murmurs, her voice hoarse as her composure wears very, very thin. "I don't regret bringing you back, even now. I just regret that you're the most selfish, daft ass that ever lived."
Talus Kahar clasps his hands behind his back and just rolls his eyes in response to the insult. He clears his throat and then proceeds to dictate the following: "Upon consideration of the tumult generated by my announcement that I would take Ashlynn Birch as my Empress, I have decided in the interest of the realm to set aside that title. Instead, as suggested by Sahna Nillu, Lady Birch will bear the title of Royal Consort. However, the affront posed by the Tradesmistress in taking her concerns to the public arena rather than at least giving me the opportunity to discuss the matter in private renders her untrustworthy and ineffective as a member of my inner circle. As such, she is terminated from service to the Crown, effective immediately." He glances over at Sahna. "Is that succinct enough?"
Sahna writes the letter out in her elegant hand, which somehow manages not to shake, eyes on the paper until she finishes. "Yes, that looks about right. There's less likely to be an uproar now." She muses, gaze distant for a long moment. "It'll go out with the couriers immidiately." She adds, closing her eyes. "You may send any guards you wish; Packing my quarters won't take long, much of it will stay for my successor, whomever the hapless sot may be."
Talus Kahar nods. "Hope it was worth it. Now you're dismissed."
Sahna stands and looks to Talus, then nods slowly. "To not have a commoner as an empress? It was worth it, yes. Painful, but worth it." She responds softly, then turns to depart.
Talus Kahar offers no further response, save for a mordant stare before he walks toward the balcony.