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.

It is the Tenth hour by the Shadow on Lanternglow, the 1st day of Greening in the year 626. An hour that is as cold as it is dark, punctuated by a sky of dark crystal that serves the showcase a glittering canvas of starlight and lunatic majesty in the spaces between the persistent swells of tumescent clouds and adumbral haze.

An hour in which guards of the Imperial Tribunal stand in a closed chevron at the ingress to the Throne Room, presenting an honor guard of deep crimson to those within, while holding those without at bay.

An hour in which passages long since forgotten have been remembered again to secure access to places that few tread amidst without watchful escort and guard. Passageways designed not for infiltration but for escape, used by those who know of them for purposes opposite for what they were created for.

An hour in which that which once was lost has now been found. One in which the ghost of an Emperor walks the Throne Room once more, yet not alone.

Borne on the soft night's breezes, they had made a silent return. No fanfare, no appointments...just the gentle warbling of the lonely birds in the rafters who have long-awaited the return of life to this emptied hall. Having sloughed the toils of their journey for a smoother garb of silk and velvet, Rowena stands with greater ease at the Prince's side. Her eyes gaze with mournful reverence to the crimson cushion, weighed down only by a fine layer of dust in these past months.

Her fingers tentatively rise to remove the burden from her shoulders, a secretive glance cast to Serath as she contemplates her actions of the former night. The contents of the haversack had greatly changed beneath the vigilant eyes of the moons. A larger bundle had come to protrude from the upper flap, drawing the sack's shape into a longer form than its prior days required.

No fanfare, no appointments. Yet the rogue Sovereign of the Imperial Bloodline, Serath Kahar, is at least somewhat amused to find that the removal of half a realms worth of ash, a hasty scrubbing of worn leather armor, the removal of half a month of stubble, and a very distinctive shade of eye color, is enough to get into seat of Imperial power. That and an honor guard as well, no less.

"There and back again." the Prince softly offers to his beloved companion as they both regard the Throne, and just how utterly empty it seems. "Only... it's not the Fastheld we left behind."

"Much has changed..." Rowena murmurs thoughtfully in response, her stance dropped to one knee and haversack rested against her thigh. "But not all." Head bowed in concentration, she unties the taut line to free the flap and open the sack's maw.

"The glory of Light and Legends still remains, both in the hearts of her people...and in those that will lead her." Leather rustles against velvet, flesh across silk, and oh so gently does she lift the black, velvet-bound bundle free from its imprisonment.

"There is a great amount of restoration in store for the realm, for all of us. And so I would like to restore to you what has been lost for so long. Kept safe, all this time...a remnant of what I once thought I had also lost." She cradles it over the bended knee, one hand supporting the end to her right gingerly whilst the other takes a firmer hold on the left.

"My Scimitar..." It's as if he'd been presented with his left hand; an item as familiar to him as sun is to daylight. As stars as to night. Serath looks between Rowena and the blade she offers with an expression of pure astonishment; all thoughts of change routed for the moment in the wake of speechless wonder. From blade to Duchess, his eyes catch hers and never let go.

"But... at Daggerford... how... when?" Obsidian. Like the night was. Sharp. Like the claws were. Symbolic, perhaps, of many things. The Prince has no words to offer - none seem to be needed, and none would suffice regardless.

"Your brother." Rowena answers softly, eyes upturned to meet his with revealed wisdom that had been forced into hiding for so long. "Vhramis." Her left hand pulls back the velvet from the studded hilt, revealing a touch of the attached blade. The scuffs and tarnishings of that final battle have been buffed away, endowing the blade with its renewed sheen. The encrusting mahogany of aged blood brushed with care from the hilt to erase the pain which held it last aloft.

"The night that the search party returned from the Wildlands, without you, he came to me. He gave Eriya to my hands to keep safe for you, in faith that you would indeed return again to Fastheld. And so I have kept her hidden with the hopes that she would one day rest at her master's hip."

Lashes glistening with dewy tears, she wraps her slender fingers around the worn imprints of his own, holding the blade still while she pulls away the rest of the midnight shroud. "Ask not how he came upon it, for my ears heard few words that night. Know only that you have been reunited."

"You know, Rowena," Serath softly offers, crouching to bring his gaze in line with the Duchesse's own as he reaches a hand out to rest it atop those that in turn rest upon the black blade named Eriya. "There was a time when the return of this scimitar would have meant more to me than a great deal of other things. As if it were the answer to a question long sought, or the key to a lock that has remained closed for far too long. Yet now..."

The Prince smiles with the warmth of a summer that will never embrace the realm of Fastheld, reserved as it is for who he looks upon. "Now I know that a sword is just a sword. Honed metal, leather, and wire, forged in a fire. There are thousands of them in Fastheld. Perhaps even more beyond it. It's not important... but what it meant to you, not of the physical but of the emotional, is as priceless as it is unique. And that, Rowena Mikin, is worth more to me than you can imagine."

Mirroring that warmth in the form of a a tear that leaves a trail of heat across an otherwise chilled cheek, Rowena lets the velvet puddle to the floor. Eriya is offered to him as pristine as the day she was forged with both hands, head bowing to rest her chin upon her chest.

"Then it is with knowing a fraction of what joy I feel for turning this back into your hands o'er that of a grave...that you will take this with the promise that you will *never* lose her, or yourself, to that wretched ground again." She insists, lifting her chin to stare him square in the eye and pushes the graceful bringer of death into his hands.

"I made a promise." Serath simply offers, sincerity adding steel to his voice, and dedication burning withing the icy depths of his eyes. "I intend to keep it. If the last year had taught me anything, it's that this..." he pauses to gesture around the Throne Room, hand leading to everything and nothing, "Doesn't mean anything. It's been here for six hundred years. It'll probably stand for six hundred mores. Or perhaps not. But you... you're everything to me, and that's what matters. It was a lesson I should have learned earlier, but experience is a harsh teacher. The test is often before the lesson."

With that, and scimitar in hand, the Prince stands, offering a hand to the Duchess below him.

Nodding in acknowledgement to the renewed vow, Rowena rises with aid of the offered hand, leaving the bag to rest on the floor. The vacancy of the throne serves to expand the chamber's vaulted depths with hollow sighs.

"'Tis far less intimidating to stand before a golden shell than when a body filled its space..." she notes, returning her attention to the room's feature item. "I wonder if the Council has gathered in this place with the same reverence and wisdom of speech."

"Probably not." Serath admits, offering a shadow of a smile as he turns away to look back upon that empty throne, scimitar hanging by his side, attached to the hand that holds it. "I imagine they'll have been lost without Talus leading the way, and now everyone will expect me to suddenly know what to do. How to behave. They'll want an Emperor to tell them what to do. And I haven't the faintest idea..."

The Prince sighs; a forlorn sonance of expectant fears and plans that wash up dead upon the tides of fate as he regards the dias at the head of the Throne Room, and the rich purple carpet that leads up to it. "I left everything behind," he observes, "on a personal crusade to deliver Talus from the claws of an undead Drake, and for what? In the end, where the Shadow failed, Wildlings lost, and enemies miscarry, all it took was a malign illness."

Shaking his head, Serath can but whisper, "I suppose you found that amusing." And smile for a brother lost, but far from forgotten.

"Illness is far more crafty, swift, and silent than any enemy this realm has otherwise seen, Serath. I was perhaps anything but *amused* by the nature of his death." Rowena refutes, gaze shifting to look back on the doors with a grim tilt to her brow.

"I've no idea as to where Theo and Vhramis have wandered. How long do you suspect it will be until the first tongue has slipped or eye has spied and the entire premises are alarmed to our return? Might I suggest that you find rest while you can." Resting a hand on his arm, she looks to him with sincerity, voice as grave as though she spoke of his doom at the teeth of hounds. "They'll come with no mercy once they catch scent."

"Not you." The Prince notes as Rowena steals his arm with a hand, offering a weaker version of the smile that recently caressed his features as he deftly avoids the offered subject of hounds and rest. "Talus. I think... I know... he'd find that amusing somehow. We're not so fortunate to have the grim irony of death to look back on and laugh about just yet."

With that said, and on sudden impulse, in the middle of the Throne Room, the Prince of the Blood drops the scimitar upon the ground and sweeps the Duchess into an impetuous embrace. "Or perhaps we are." he purrs.

And so he kisses her.

Bladesmen be damned.

‘’Return to Season 4 (2006)

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