It is the Twelfth hour by the Shadow on Fealty, the 9th day of Stormclaw in the year 624.

Aerie Heights Keep Great Hall

The largest room of the keep, it is big enough to be warmed by two hearths spaced down its length. The raw stone walls of the keep are here covered by large parti-colored fabric hangings with the exception of behind the dais at the far end, there the wall is hung with a large tapestry showing a tournament scene from Fastheld's far past. The ceiling is as high as two men at the sides, sloping up to an apex far above in shadow. The whole of it is held up by large biinwoood beams, dark now with the smoke of many winters. Along the sides of the hall a few biinwood benches and chairs are arranged for the convenience of members of the court as well as those who seek audience with the Baronial Court. The dais at the high end of the hall is polished wood platform, raised a foot off the floor. Here are two ornate chairs for the Baron and Baroness, and here is where the public business of Barony takes place.

A guard in Nillu livery stands at the entrance of the Aerie Height's Great Hall while Damiante, Baroness, sits on the dais, a stack of parchments in hand.

Eventually, the doors to the great hall open wide to grant Oren Nillu access into the Keep. He walks in with a weak smile on his face, turning to the guard. "Send word ahead that the Lord Chamberlain has arrived. Be quick about it."

The guard bows deeply, then hurries to the dias. He quickly whispers to the Baronnes who listens carefully, stands and crosses the room the guard in tow. A few feet from Oren, she bows deeply, hand to her chest. "You honor me, Lord Chamberlain," she says gravely. She returns to a standing position a glint in her blue eyes. "Welcome my uncle!" She spreads her arms in anticipation of a hug.

Oren Nillu does indeed walk forth to give Damiante a hug, smiling. "It has been long since I last saw you. Duties to the land keep me away from those I have to my family," he explains apologetically. "I hope you do not find my arrival at such an hour in the evening untimely. I meant to send word ahead, but I was unable to. How are you, my dear niece? I hope I find you in proper health."

Damiante takes the Chamberlain by the arm and leads him to the study. As she passes a bowing maid she says, "Bring wine to the study, Brenna." She looks up at her uncle. 'I am well, uncle, and glad for your visit no matter the hour." She opens the door to the study and steps aside to allow him to enter first.

Oren Nillu chuckles as he follows Damiante. "Still, it is late. I just found myself freed from duties and decided to come and see you, both you and the Baron," he says, stepping through to the study.

Aerie Heights Keep Study

As quiet as the Scullery is noisy, the study is where the private business of the Barony is attended to, and where the Baron and Baroness can often be found on cool evenings. There is a generous fireplace set into the north wall with a few comfortable chairs placed close by. The stone mantle is carved to show the village and keep of Hawk's Aerie in Winter. A large table fills a corner, covered with maps and tally sheets. One full wall is decked in darkly polished shelves stuffed to overflowing with leather-bound books, large dusty tomes and scrolls of every material suitable. Each wall, but the one holding the fireplace, is bisected by a large door of deeply carved wood. The stone lintel over each completing the seasonal theme begun on the fireplace mantel; Spring for the Guest's Chamber, Summer for the Master's Chamber, and Autumn for the Great Hall.

Damiante closes the door behind them and guides Oren to a chair near the fire. Brenna enters and brings two wine goblets, bowing and offering on to each noble. After the maid leaves, Damiante raises her goblet to her uncle. "To your continued good health and the prosperity of our Emperor,” ...she toasts.

"Ah, yes. My health. I am old past my time, but let us hope it keeps with me until I can finish serving as I must," Oren answers, raising his own cup. "May the Light bless His Majesty and the land indeed." He brings the goblet to his lips and takes a small sip. "So tell me, how has time treated you, my dear niece?"

Damiante settles into her favorite chair. "Well, uncle," she replies. "Well indeed, though it is still difficult to try and fill my mother's place here. She was a force to be reckoned with, and although the staff has been kind, I have been less than confident in continuing her work. My baron husband is away, awaiting the pleasure of the Horsemaster. He will be sorely disappointed to have missed you. Will you stay until the feast at the end of the month?"

"I am afraid that duty calls upon me, so I can stay only as long as tomorrow, but I will do my best to be here for the feast," Oren replies. "Your mother was indeed a great woman, but I see her spirit in your eyes, the same fire that burned brightly in the face of all task. I have no doubt that you will indeed fill her place with the same strength."

Damiante blushes and sets her goblet down. "My thanks, uncle," she says quietly. "Your words give me strength." She looks up. "I would seek your council on a matter, though, if you are not too tired."

"I will be more than happy to offer whatever help I can," Oren answers. "What troubles you, Damiante?"

Damiante sighs. "I'm sure you've heard the trouble between the Mikins and Zahirs," she begins. "Nothing unusual to be sure, but His Grace Vodz-Kahar has asked me to intervene with Duke Mikin to...ah...encourage him to come to table with Duke Zahir, so a peace can be made. He is confident my words will sway the Duke Mikin, but I find myself in a tenuous position given my proximity to the Prince. That and..." her voice trails off as her face reddens again. 'At my first feast the Duke Mikin and I were at odds about the possession of a Mikin ring by the Countessa Zahir.'

Oren Nillu's demeanor grows grim. "A stubborn man," he says quietly, then sighs. "My dear niece, I would hope against all things that you would steer clear of this matter, but if you feel your words are capable of swaying the Duke into sense, then I encourage you to try. My counsel, however, would be for you not to strain yourself. If the Lord Chancellor will not heed you, do not fight it. The Zahir-Mikin matter will be resolved, with or without his cooperation. I do not wish for his pride to turn this into a Mikin-Nillu matter as well. When and how did you plan to speak with him?"

Damiante smiles and nods, listening carefully to her uncle. "I thought to ride to East Bluff sometime in the next few days, to invite him once more to our table," she replies. "I planned to gauge his reaction to my invitation before asking his thoughts on the Duke Vodz Kahar's peace meeting. I understand from Duke Markus, that he has had no word from the Zahir, so even if Duke Mikin will listen to me, there is still much to be done to achieve peace in this matter. What think you on it, uncle?"

"Duke Zahir has already agreed to meet," Oren answers, stirring the wine in his cup and gazing at the liquor with thoughtfulness. "It is only Duke Mikin's hesitation that is keeping this matter from clearing. If you choose to visit East Bluff in the next days, you may not find the Lord Chancellor there. I was there myself yesterday and he had taken leave from his Keep, to locations he did not wish to share. If you believe you can talk some sense into the man, go ahead, but as I said: whether he wills it or not, His Majesty wants this issue resolved and it will be so."

Damiante shifts in her chair, her braids swinging with the movement. "Not at East Bluff," she repeats. 'Then perhaps it would be best for me to send a courier message. With so many details in my hands these days I can ill afford to wait at his keep until he returns. I wish to be of service to his Majesty in this matter, but it sounds as if things are well in hand with my betters." She stretches and yawns behind a hand. "Oh forgive me, uncle. I should retire for the evening. Your room is ready - please, our home is yours. Stay as long as your time allows."

"I still encourage you to try, dear niece. I share Duke Kahar's faith in you, but be wary not be trapped by the tendrils of intrigue that surround this little game between House Zahir and House Mikin," Oren says, standing up for Damiante. "I thank you. I will see you tomorrow before I go, no doubt." He waits for her to rise as well and goes forth with another hug. "It gladdens my heart to see you, more than I can ever put to words. Sleep well."

Damiante hugs her uncle tightly and kisses him gently on the cheek. "Be well and Light keep you, uncle," she says. Then stepping back, withdraws to the Mastery.

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