Great Hall <Fastheld Keep>

Thick, squared-off stone columns made of one block stacked atop another form a sort of sentry line along this spacious corridor, where newcomers get their first glimpse of the residence of Emperor Talus Kahar and his wife, the Empress Freia Seamel.

Statues of famous nobles of Fastheld have been installed in various alcoves off to the sides of the great hall. The ceiling has been adorned with friezes crafted by the realms finest artisans. The walls boast remarkable paintings and tapestries beyond compare.

In celebration of the Winter Ball, the Great Hall currently features a winter theme to it. Elegant snowflake motifs and flowing tapestries depicting winter landscapes and townships besieged by snowdrifts adorn any available space upon the walls, while hanging weapons and armor have been lightly dusted with flour to grant them a snowy effect befitting of the mood.

One might even notice a central painting of an isolated Ranger clad in Pathfinder Armor tracking Wildlings upon an endless tundra of snow in what appears to be the northern plains of Fastheld taking pride of place above a grand fireplace that serves to heat the entire Hall for the duration of the Ball.

Banners and Flags lavished with the heralds and colours of each Noble House hang proudly from the ceiling above the themed Ball, representing the fact that all Nobles, regardless of past conflicts and alliances, stand here today as equals in celebration of the Winter season. As well as celebrating drink in equal measure, too.

Soldiers of the Imperial Tribune stand watch at the front entrance and at the approach to the staircase, which leads both up and down in the estate. Archways lead to the dining hall and the ballroom.

Arturo Lomasa returns to the room to find it much changed since he was drawn aside....and he stops flat in the doorway, simply staring around the room. Light help him. But it's all over too late for him to do anything about it. So he just stares some more...and shakes his head, muttering as he moves through the crowd. "Madness...first the women and now the men." He uses his height to such advantage as it is, searching the crowd for sight of Healer and niece....and launching into a long stride their way as soon as he's able to locate them, lips set in a thin line.

Duhnen's amusement only seems to increase tenfold as the armored men about the room join into the chorus, the man lowering the trill and sliding it away, before beaming broadly at Soravyn. He scoops up a drink from a server who, like most others, is staring in disbelief and amusement, and lifts the wine glass. "And to the Justiciar!" he adds in addition to Tormun's toast, taking a drink. "I never quite imagined you sang, you know. This is all to be blamed on my wife." He grins over his shoulder to Gabriella.

Anys Lomasa drifts away from Rowena and Tormun with a polite nod in their direction as she goes to retrieve her honeyed pork roast. This time, she's careful to keep some distance between herself and the protective healer, in case there's another round of singing to come.

"Oh, ummmm. Is she ok?" Dirk hesitantly questions, looking over to the unconscious woman, shuffling slightly.

"By the way, Duchess, thanks for the rescue. Still can't find someone to dance with?"

"Two," Gabriella answers as she approaches both the Justiciar and Duhnen. Oh yes, her hands on her hips. "You two men are as bad as schoolboys! I'd take you over my knee and give you both a sound beating if I thought it'd do a bit of good."

"Terribly so." Rowena confides in Tormun with an exaggerated tone of distress. A sly smile curls to her lips afterwards in silent contrast as the fish crunches between her teeth. "I suspect there are some worse off, however." Staring after the place where the poor lady had toppled from her throne of piety, Rowena sees Arturo make his return and shrinks a bit closer to Anys upon study of his expression. "And here comes your uncle...”

"The nobility has officially fallen into the gutter." Sahna murmurs to Dirk with a shrug, downing another healthy swig of wine. "I blame the military of any flavor. A man puts on armor and it goes to his head, like with Eden. And there's Gabriella, reveling in the filth like it's second nature. It just figures, really. Would you get me some more wine, Dirk? Tonight, I wish to drink."

As the general buzz of conversation arises once more - be it shocked, amused, or merely indifferent - Soravyn adopts a more wolfish expression once more, although a feral pride remains burned within the icy depths of his gaze. "Oh, I don't sing." he notes, dryly, "I command. Sometimes, the line between the two is difficult to distinguish." That said, he can only blink at Gabriella once or twice at her statement. "I thought you were happily married." he intones, before offering a wolfish wink towards the Duchess Seamel, and - with a final knowing look back upon the surrector - pads off into the teeming masses once more.

Duhnen laughs and turns back to face Gabriella, beaming broadly at her. "Well, love. You /did/ dare me, didn't you? I just never thought it would play out like this. Who could have imagined, really?" He passes off the wine again. "I /am/ glad Katya didn't come, love."

"Sure." Dirk saids, as if in preparation, reaching over to his goblet on the nearby table and offering it over to Sahna. He truly has gotten the swing of things, it seems. "I used to like jumping in mud puddles too, m'lady, when I was a kid. It can be fun." He gives a cautious glance to his 'employer'. "Though that dress might be a little fine for gutter runnin', Sanny."

Dradin grumbles to himself as he marches over to Soravyn, having located him easily during the song. "Turns out the man was Duchess Sahna Nillu's guard." He makes a face. "I got an earful."

"I didn't think you'd /take/ it!" Gabriella laughs, shaking her head once more. "Well. I can truly use the defense that I learned all my bawdy tunes from my husband, now. And in the Great Hall, no less! With the Justiciar!"

The Justiciar's feral smile becomes wild for an instant as Dradin falls into step with him, complaints and all. Oh yes, the Wolf can still hunt. Can still hunt indeed. "Think nothing of it, Guardian." he notes, glancing sidelong as his lower ranking companion. "Sometimes battles are fought with wit, rather than arms. I think we won this one. You did well. Take the night off, and enjoy it as you see fit. Amongst the sheep, if you wish."

Tormun Seamel takes another sip of his wine, nodding in agreement with Rowena before seeing her attention turn elsewhere. Still grinning in amusement, he moves off into the hall, his attention drawn to one of the statues in an alcove, dusted in white flour for the evening's festivities. He studies the state of Hallard with intentness, absently taking another sip of wine as he does so.

Dradin beams and salutes Soravyn. "Thank you, sir!" He turns on his heel and marches toward the dining table, presumably to get sloshed.

She doesn't bother to correct the nickname, just shaking her head to Dirk with a bemused expression. "Most noblewomen don't indulge in mud. Most. " Her eyes track the Justicar again, chagrin fading slightly as she adds to Dirk, " Tonight, three very prominent fellows took a gala and turned it into a joke. On one hand, I'll live, and it's a passing event. On the other hand.. It seems like everything's being turned into a mockery. I'm not of a mind to forget this."

Not pleased remains written across Arturo's expression as he casts a glance towards Duhnen, then returns his gaze to Rowena and Anys. He steps around a nobleman, and then steps *through* a Bladesman, obliging the freelander to step aside to avoid a trampling from the slightly but not fully rampant Lomasa bull. He's not brimming with rage....just displeased. As he nears the Healer, he addresses her, with a glance to Anys briefly. "I think...that this event has taken such turn as to render a departure the best chance of preserving some air of dignity, perhaps? Would you care to take drinks and food to the dining hall with us, Rowena?" Us, one may presume, includes his niece automatically as he offers his arm to the younger of the pair with a small sigh.

"You've made people mad, Duhnen," Gabriella murmurs, although a smile doesn't leave her face as she stretches on her tiptoes to place a kiss on the man's cheek. "Ah, now they'll speak of that mad Seamel couple, instead of just that mad Seamel wife," she teases lightly.

Anys Lomasa echoes the small sigh, though she wordlessly accepts her uncle's arm. Just when it was starting to get interesting, too!

"Oh, right." Dirk saids, turning his eyes to the ground, clasping hands behind his back again. "I forget how much this stuff means to you. Well... I guess it was kinda disrespectful, since ya know, this was a noble party thing with all the pretties hanging around. Drinkin' songs were probably improper. Right?"

"Well, I imagine you were getting lonely, being the only one spoken bad of," Duhnen responds to Gabriella, not sounding too concerned. He meets Arturo's glance, and gives the man a large grin and wink. "Anyway, they'll get over it. They were probably just surprised at what things looked like when they lowered their noses from the ceiling."

Dradin helps himself to some mead and quickly knifes a few things from the table and loads them onto his plate. "Food always tastes better when it's free," he grins to himself as he begins devouring the contents of his plate noisily. "A fine ren'ition, M'lord," he half-bows to Duhnen as he passes.

Tormun Seamel gives the Bladesman loading up his plate a grin. "Looks like a good night, Guardian," he says in greeting as he helps himself to another goblet of wine. The Grand Dining Table accepts Tormun Seamel's money in exchange for the item which is placed on the counter.

"Come now, Arturo. The wine has been freely flowing and it was only one song." Rowena whispers to the snorting bull and reaches for another pick of the fish. Her eyes are pleading, looking up at the man through her lashes with a perfected, borderline pout while retaining her dignified posture. "You may leave if you so wish. I, however, have not been surrounded by so much jubilee in well over a year's time. Nor do I know that I'll have the chance to do so again." Placing the snack between her teeth and sealing her lips over it with a defiant 'crunch' of a sound, she looks to where the dancing *had* been taking place.

"Oh, maybe a little bit improper." Sahna replies, with a dry chuckle. "If my mother was here, she'd have either fainted or pitched a tantrum. I'm not going to do either, though. I have something else in mind. “ She gestures to the exit. "Go on and head out, Dirk. I'll see you some other time, and I appreciate you coming."

"Oh they say that a lass born in Eastwatch, Will place her heart in a box..." The Wolf prowls around the assembled officers stationed around the Great Hall, offering them all nods of respect and approval as he pads by, regardless of the colour armor that they wear. "But the key, don't you see?" The soft singing follows the Justiciar like a specter of melody as he makes his way to the arch through which he entered, the Justiciar satisfied that security is tight and that officer morale is high enough to carry his officers through the night, and on into the coming dawn, without concern. That measured place - the pace of a hunter - faulters not in the slightest. "It comes with a fee." And thus Soravyn Zahir, Justiciar of the Imperial Tribune, and Director of Imperial Law, stalks off into the waning moonlight. The soft hue of the Lady's Wing - that wicked Seraphite Greatsword inherited by the Tribune and adopted by the Zahirian Wolf - flowing behind him like a much content tail. "La-ta-ta, la-ta-ta, ta-ta..."

"A fine night," Dradin echoes Tormun as he feeds on sockweasel. "No one fightin' anyone else er nuthin'. And free food."

"You've made a friend of the Justiciar," Gabriella whispers before taking Duhnen's hand and tugging him in the direction of the food. "Hartnek, perhaps, would have strung you by your toes.. although, he is a Lomasa."

"But I don't wann-ur" Dirk begans, clamping his mouth shut on the dangerous complaint "Well, if you're sure you don't need me. It's not like I really fit in here anyway." Then he starts for the exit, hands still clasped behind his back. "Thanks," Duhnen grins to Dradin as he moves along with his wife. "Well. I don't quite know about that. Hartnek probably was quite familiar with that song as well. I'm sure I'll be getting plenty of letters from noblemen and women I've offended with my crude behavior."

"It isn't as if I haven't heard the song before...nor even as if Anys likely hasn't, in Duhnen's company. But here, Rowena? At the Imperial ball?" He shakes his head firmly, displeasure written there, his words quiet but earnest in their concern and unease. "Take the Emperor marrying a Freelander, and add in the senior officials and half the Blades of all Fastheld singing ripe tavern songs at the top of their lungs in the most elegant ball of the season? I'm not saying the Emperor cannot marry who he wishes, but this will only make the divisions worse. Make the tongues wag, and then the heads. And likely draw the Church to suspicion as well with them already in an accusatory mood. And I have a pregnant wife to take care of as well. I don't fancy being associated with the situation under such a circumstance."

Tormun Seamel grins at Dradin and nods. "Quite so, quite so," he says in agreement, though his attention seems to be on the exchange between Arturo and Rowena.

Sahna hesitates at Dirk's retreating back, almost speaks, then changes her mind and heads for the balcony upstairs.

Gabriella glances over to Arturo, her brow furrowing as she speeds her steps in his direction. "You act as though he sacrificed a virgin, Arturo," she addresses boldly. "He sang a song.. and he brought more mirth to this room then the rest of you combined."

Dirk stops next to Gabrielle, looking over the group with her. "Um, excuse me? Could I say something, please? Other then what I just did, of course."

Duhnen pats his wife's hand, shaking his head to her. "Don't worry of it, love. I've taken enough of their time tonight with my music." There's an almost amused look on his face as he winks at Anys. "You wanted to eat now?" he adds to Gabriella.

Anys Lomasa smirks faintly at Duhnen from across the room in response.

"Then you are free to disassociate yourself." Rowena replies softly. As curt as the words may seem, there is no display of malice in her eyes. Instead, there is remnants of sadness. "Yes, this is meant to be a most formal affair, but I doubt sincerely that the Church will curse men for..." She gestures vaguely as an end to her statement and looks to Dirk with a now neutral expression. "Most certainly." But whatever it is he's about to say, however, she's not about to stick around to hear it. Rowena turns her back and glides calmly away.

Elegant orchestral scores continue to fill the air with lilting tunes, impressive crescendos, haunting melodies, romantic interludes, and delicate recitals.

Over in the corner, the Jester continues amusing guests with various card tricks, delightful anecdotes, witty riddles, and an assortment of the other various services he's been hired to perform.

Arturo Lomasa turns attention on Gabriella, fixing her with the disapproving Lomasa glare. "And tomorrow? When the story is all over Fastheld and all the naysayers and enemies of the throne are harping on how this was bound to follow the Emeperor marrying a common courier? Is it so short a time that you've forgotten that the throne has been challenged not once but twice? How much good will the Surrector have done for the Emperor then?"

As Rowena turns to glide away, he turns towards the door suddenly as if taking affront at her departure. "Am I the only one who recognizes the implications this could have? Light help us if I am." Whether Anys is still attached to the arm as he turns outward is perhaps up to her to decide for the initial moment.

Dradin rends a piece of roast elk into smaller bits, chomping noisily as he meanders around the hall. He rolls his eyes as he overhears Arturo's tirade, though in such a manner as to not be seen by the Count.

Anys Lomasa doesn't pull away so much as stay in one place as Arturo turns away. She's quiet and thoughtful at the moment, lingering near the outskirts of the group as the adults work this craziness out for themselves.

"I, ah." Dirk opens his mouth to give thanks, but swallows it as Rowena glides away. "Anyway, thanks for the memory, sir. I've never seen someone faint at a song, even one totally misplaced." An awkward bow, filled with inexperience, is directed at Duhnen and those gathered with him. Anys, Arturo, Gabrielle, Dradin, ya know... the in crowd. Short, sweet, and doing his best to remain out the noble's argument while still getting his say in. Then he straightens, slipping out of the door.

"He sang with the Justiciar,.. if you weren't always so worried about tomorrow, perhaps, for once, you would learn how to enjoy today. It is people like you who constantly remind the Emperor /and/ the people of the reasons his throne might be challenged that he is not already securely seated, planning the future of his son," Gabriella spills out in a fury. "You question what good my husband does for the throne... but I have only ever seen your family do poor for this realm, Arturo Lomasa. Question his loyalty again, and you will find me a most bitter enemy."

Duhnen smiles almost sadly at Anys as the arguments carry on. "Well, I doubt you imagined you'd have this much fun when you left the Glade, earlier. Did you enjoy the song? If it marks the end of Fastheld, at least you can tell others you were here to witness it."

"I hardly even got to hear the song," Anys answers Duhnen with a wry smile.

"If you're capable of erasing the moment, Arturo, then I most certainly would support you in doing so. If not...I simply fail to see how raising your anger now is going to mend anything." Says the little mongoose beneath the stomping bulls as she continues to retrace her steps to the former painting of interest. There would be no dancing, after all. Her mood, delicately balanced between enjoyment and anxiety, had been subdued for the evening. A feat that was no longer difficult to do. And so she comes to stand before the fire again, looking into its warmth and listening to the embers spit and hiss at one another. Above her, the lone ranger continues his trek through the snow, hunting after the demons which plagued them all.

Tormun Seamel continues to watch the growing argument, but stays well away from the verbal combatants. He takes a sip of wine, using the goblet to cover the amused grin that spreads across his face as the various nobles debate the implications of a drinking song.

Dradin strides through the crowd to an out of the way spot, though still close to the dining table.

"I didn't question his loyalty, Gabriella Seamel, I questioned his judgment. An altogether different matter," spits Arturo in his turn, hands clenching at his side. "Don't you *dare* try to lump me into a 'people like you' and blame me for the troubles of the realm, little cousin. I'm not going to be cowed by another of your little furies, and you know it. Good eve and Light keep. Light willing what you can't see won't hurt you." He turns his back with a snap of his cape, but pauses a moment as he remembers Anys. A glance to her, with much of the fire forced out of it, and he simply says quietly. "You may stay with Rowena if you wish. I'll lodge here tonight if you wish to join me." He leaves the decision to her, stalking for the exit with the full stride of long legs.

Anys Lomasa glances around the ballroom with a sigh, and then scurries to follow Arturo. "I AM NOT LITTLE!" Gabriella yells, raising both fists in the air after Arturo. "So help me...” the indeed petite noblewoman mutters before managing a smile in Anys' direction. ”Never marry, nor attempt to marry... In fact.. /never mention the word marriage/, Anys," she warns, and this seems to lighten her mood a bit.

"I can repeat it for you sometime, if you'd like," Duhnen states to Anys with a dry laugh, before glancing to Arturo. He shakes his head and bumps lightly into Gabriella's side. "It'll be alright. She can always marry me, once you get tired of me."

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