Crown's Refuge Palisade <Wildlands>

Running around the perimeter of the bluff upon which the township Crown's Refuge stands, the Crown's Refuge Palisade is a testament to the accomplishments that Talus Kahar has achieved in shaping the sovereign outpost into something greater than the sum of its parts.
The Palisade itself is a fortification consisting of a strong fence made of numerous fifteen-foot stakes driven into the ground, with the purpose of this being to surround Crown's Refuge with a wall in order to fortify its position atop Refuge Bluff. Combined with the advantage of height, and the craftsmanship of the palisade wall itself, this is a purpose it accomplishes well.
Six watchtowers have been built into the Palisade wall to add extra security to the township it protects, with four being situated at the "corners" of the township's boundry, and two flanking the main gate that leads both in and out of the township within. A walkway is set around three-tenths below the top of the palisade, allowing people to patrol or walk around the outskirts of Crown's Refuge, and serving as a vantage point for archers to pepper animals and Wildlings with arrows from behind protection should the need arise.
It is this gate that you stand at now; the path leading back down Refuge Bluff resting to the south, the Palisade stretching off to the east and west as they circle the hill, and Crown's Refuge itself only a few more steps to the north, across the threshold of the Palisade gate, and beyond the aegis once more.

Upon the clothes behind the tenement,
That hang like ghosts suspended from the lines,
Linking each flat, but to each indifferent,
Incongruous and strange the moonlight shines...

It is a perpetual pale light which races down from the clear and frosty heavens. Perpetual from the six moons that dominate the sky, claiming dominance over an ocean of darkness populated by speckles of divine light from sources that those below cannot even begin to comprehend, let alone understand. Stars that have forged their own place in the mythos of all people, holding a magic based on mystery rather than power, but just as potent in the hearts and dreams of those who look upon them than even the mightiest touch of the Shadow.

It is below this field of stars, watched by the moons that hunt each other through the celestial darkness, that Serath Kahar can be found, leaning upon the edge of the Palisade as ice-blue eyes watch the dark and ominous shadows that dwell within the Verdigris forest at the base of the hill. Rapiers - as much as he dislikes them - sleep in the scabbards at his flanks, the arrows in the quiver upon his back rustling in complaint of the breeze that flows through their fletching while he himself cares little.

The twice lost Prince is not alone on the Palisade this eve. Quite often, another figure, heavily cloaked against the chill air, moves slowly past, attention held upon the surrounding land as well. A constant guard against unseen, but always present, threats.

And it is upon one of these passings that the figure pauses, and instead of continuing the walk, moves to stand aside Serath. "What do you see?" asks Vhramis.

"Shadows of promises, and blossoms of regret." The Prince of the Blood whispers in reply, keeping his gaze firmly upon the concealing forest below, bathed in sylvan shadows, that offers no answers. "But nothing of any substance." he admits, before finally looking upon his companion of the Palisade, smiling warmly in following. "Yet."

"In times like these, I'd prefer that, to be truthful," Vhramis murmurs, leaning against the wood and staring into the darkness. The ranger is silent for a moment, the chill clouding his breath in small puffs of vapor, before they drift away. "I'm sure all too soon, there'll be more than I can handle." He considers the darkness for a moment, before glancing to Serath. "Though, if you really wish for something, I can show you where a rather peculiar bush grows."

Blinking once or twice at offer, the Prince of the Blood can only tilt his head a little in reply, form the foundation of one comment... and then decide against it, form another... and then, ah, just shakes his head, really. "Vhramis," he notes, stifling the makings of a snicker, "You know... rather peculiar bushes... just, don't really do anything for me."

He glances back towards the forest at that, for maintaining eye contact with his friend really isn't doing much to help him remain serious about the matter. But, sadly, it's just no good; for after one or two seconds of serious silence pass between them, Serath just can help but burst into a fit of light laughter.

"I'm sure... it's a very... nice bush... though." he chokes.

The expression on Vhramis' face turns a bit odd as he stares at Serath in a bit of confusion. Almost like he's unaware of how his previous comment could be so wrongfully misinterpreted. Or that it was misinterpreted at all. "...uh?" he responds naively.

It takes a few moments, but Serath finally manages to compose himself, though not without suffering a few wary glances from other guards out on the Palisade tonight. Still, one might get the impression that the Pathfinder hasn't had the chance to laugh at many things over the course of the last year, so anything - as they say - is better than nothing. With a few light coughs to clear his throat after the unexpected bout of mirth, the Prince finally manages to look back upon Vhramis in all seriousness...

...and then breaks down into light snickering again, which doesn't last long. So, after a second take at composure, he really /does/ manage to remain casual this time, though shakes his head a little all the same. "Bushes. So, when did you become a Herbalist, Vhramis?"

Well, they're on the topic again, to the Ranger's apparent relief, and though he begins to answer, he still fixes Serath with the same odd look. "I don't know all that much of herbs. Just what I've picked up here and there from experience. But one wouldn't really need to know much of botany to appreciate this plant." He shrugs and gestures in a vague direction into the darkness.

"I doubt you'd miss it, if you saw it. Rather gangly and thorny, and though you wouldn't know just by looking at it, it's rather quick." Odd that he's talking about a bush.

"I'll... ah..." Serath coughs, looking away as a somewhat feral smile sweeps across his enduring visage quicker than wildfire through dry brush, "...have to take your word for it." A lone leather-gloved hand swiftly rises to cover his mouth, and it isn't long before the Wildcat is snickering into his palm, attempting to stifle the makings of yet another bout of mirth.

Vhramis pauses as Serath's battle for self control rages, the half-blood watching patiently, if still not a bit confused. "It grows bright purple berries on it's branches," he continues after a moment. "And though I'm told by those about here that they're particularly sweet, it's offset somewhat by the fact that the plant would enjoy eating you."

"All I can say, Vhramis," Serath purrs, rubbing the bridge of his nose with the hand that only a few moments ago was covering his mouth, "Is that I thank the Light that you're just talking about a plant."

He takes a deep breath, lets it out, and adopts the stance he held when Vhramis first arrived in his vicinity; a feline waiting to pounce upon the prey it hasn't seen yet, but /knows/ is near. “A carnivorous plant, at that. I've probably seen it before."

"What else would I be speaking of?" Vhramis asks, though he promptly shrugs away the question. Some people never fully grow up, apparently. "We'd have cleared it away by now, except that it provides us with a bit of natural defense, being as it's fairly large," he continues.

"What else indeed?" Serath mutters behind a naturally disarming smile, but then casts away the source of the much needed mirth and decides that, in hindsight, it really shouldn't have been that amusing, even though it was. Starlight magic. "Regardless, if you know about it, then the Wildlings probably do as well. I'm not sure that keeping it around is /quite/ the best option, but..." the Wildcat shrugs, "Crown's Refuge is... nothing quite like I expected it to be."

"One less avenue for them to attack from is one less thing for us to worry about," Vhramis answers with a shrug, glancing over his shoulder as another patroller walks by. He's silent until the man is most likely out of hearing range, before he begins to speak again, voice a bit more quiet. "What did you expect of it?"

"After all I've seen out here," the Prince whispers, he too watching the patroller walk out of range, "I'm not quite sure. Everything and nothing." He shakes his head, this time in denial of his own thoughts and feelings that churn within.

"We all expected the greatest of evils and the darkest of Shadows, as told by the Church of True Light." he begins, the doubts and denials surfacing in words that start off shallow, but soon begin to take upon the strength of the Kahar the speaks them; the Wildling Hunter, and so much more. "Instead we find a forsaken people, guilty of nothing yet lacking innocence, just attempting to carve a life out of a land that owes them nothing, and gives them little quarter. Of Wildlings that just wanted a place to belong to. Of others that can't accept that one Wildling's nature can be any different from their own.

"Sometimes," he whispers once more, "I wonder if we're any better than the Dark Wildlings. I wonder that, in our hunt of the Shadow, we don't mirror them as they hunt their own for reasons that are as different as they are the same."

"And I shouldn't."

Vhramis considers Serath passively as he turns his mind over the unexpected answer. He's never quite been opened up to in such a manner. And by the Prince, of all people. "We're all products of our environments," he murmurs in response, turning to peer down from the wall, though not into the night, but into the sleeping settlement.

"And we only know what we experience. It's hard to imagine that, two years ago today, I was an aimless vagabond, with barely two Kahars to rub together." He pauses at that, a faint smile lifting the corners of his mouth. "Well, perhaps that's somewhat the same today, but, I've met...Shadowed individuals, and all my conceptions, all I've been taught to know as fact, were proven false. I was not devoured. Nor turned into a shriekweasel. Or a mindless puppet!"

"I believe in the Light." Serath notes, softly, casting the gaze of the Imperial Line - a gaze shared by Emperors both past and present - towards the ethereal glow of the moons above as he stands there. "But I cannot deny that which I have seen. Nor can I forget that, for all the evils I have witnessed in these forsaken lands, I have seen far greater darkness within the walls of the Aegis." He sighs; a forlorn sound that speaks of battles raging within, as vicious as any that the Prince has fought in himself. "I wonder if this is how Talus felt as this refuge was built up around him."

"I wonder if this is how Rowena felt when the walls of Light's Reach fell around her."

"Leaving her behind was more painful than any wound from battle, Vhramis." he states, changing the subject a little as Rowena enters his thoughts, his already soft voice now barely above a whisper, "Sharper than the bite of an arrow. Deeper than the fall from that bluff. Colder than the ice of the river beneath." The wildcat takes a deep breath, falling into silence for a few eternal seconds. "When you leave everything behind, and are then hunted by the shadow of the fear that you may have lost it all, you can give your fate the Light and the Shadow, or... you can resolve to take action, and follow that dream back to reality."

"And so I shall."

"She waits for you, even now," Vhramis replies in a whisper, picking out a particular darkened house amongst the buildings; his current home. "She knew you weren't gone...and she keeps faith in you. You still have time. We can leave for Fastheld soon...everyone here knows what to do while I'm away. Sometimes I think they hardly need me, so I'm sure they'll be just fine. We'll follow the river. It will be the easiest going."

Serath nods softly in that, and then repeats the gesture; except, the second time, the softness has been replaced with firm resolve, eyes flashing with hope and determination. "Indeed we shall." he affirms, and then smiles all the same, "Once we're ready. And once we remove that last name of yours. It's hardly fitting."

"Skinner or Kahar, I'm still the same man," Vhramis answers with a faintly amused look. "Though, I suppose it could be just a bit amusing to show up at formal functions covered in mud and smelling of animal urine."

"Quite." Serath states, quirking a brow as he regards his compatriot. Now it's his turn to look a little wary. "But that's not what I had in mind. Now, I know that we're a vast distance away from Fastheld, and I know that these people have no idea who I am, but my blood is still Imperial, and I'm still royalty." He pauses, and then adds, "At least, I think I am. Regardless, I was thinking of something a little more suitable than the title of "Skinner". Something like..."


"Wolfsbane," Vhramis murmurs, tasting the name, before chuckling quietly. "My encounters with wolves are the stuff of legend, I suppose. Especially when they sit on me." All the same, he's grinning. "Though, it does have a bit of a... weight to it."

The Prince of the Blood nods in affirmation, placing a gloved hand upon the hilt of the Rapier that sleeps by his right thigh and drawing it in one, swift, fluid motion; a motion that speaks volumes of the skill he has with such weapons. Without asking Vhramis to kneel, he promptly (and carefully) places the flat of the Rapier upon the Ranger's left shoulder, a regal smile caressing his features.

"In which case, as Prince of the Imperial Blood, and Scion of the Imperial House, I strip you of the title of "Skinner". From this point on, under the Light, and as the Moon and Stars as my witness, I name you Vhramis Wolfsbane, Pathfinder Ranger, and Honored Friend."

And the ranger's eyes drift closed as the rapier touches him, the weapon weighing on his shoulder in ways that surpass the physical. Another name. Another mantle. Responsibility seems to find him easily these days. But those are the consequences of having a concience. "Thank you, Serath," Vhramis Wolfsbane responds, opening his eyes to consider the man.

"May you find it worthy of your honor." Serath notes, retracting the blade and sliding it back into its scabbard with all the experience of a thousand such motions. "And my respect."

Return to Season 4 (2006)

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