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Old 11-21-2004, 03:33 PM   #41
Novnarwen
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Boots

His own words roamed furiously around inside of his head. What in the almighty Rea's name had he been thinking? The moment he had seen Korak, he should have left the 'merry' company, containing Zamara, the elf and himself. He should have excused himself, and left, before that rude scoundrel had approached him and called him 'Priest'. It was his real title true enough, but the elf didn't know that. Or at least, he hadn't, before that twit had managed to ruin it all.

"Lord, Korak, what a pleasure. I'm sorry, but I think I'll have to see you by and by, as the King and the Queen have just been announced, and I am anxious to get to know this Emissary!"

How stupid was that; a pleasure to meet Korak? Such men as Korak were never a pleasure to meet. Korak had without a doubt humiliated him in front of the Elf! It was outrageous! It was absolutely devastating! The thought of him being the possible future King made the Priest want to curse loudly. As a Priest though, it was his duty not to forfeit the good opinion of others, and therefore Tarkan restrained himself for doing anything not suitable. Holding his head high, he decided not to lose his self control. He would deal with this Noble man later, if it was the last thing he did. Due to the latest events, the meeting with Korak, Tarkan didn't dare look at Zamara, who was currently sitting next to him; not after what had just happened. She was probably having the time of her life, enjoying it. She would probably take advantage of it as soon as possible, but he would be prepared. A woman would not break him. Instead of looking her way, he let his gaze wander cautiously. He recognized half the party that was gathered here, but few had he actually talked to.

The male priest sat uneasily on a soft cushion, cross-legged. He tried paying attention to conversations that were taking place in the room, as he kept still himself; he didn't really have anyone to talk to. At the time none here, except the King and the Emissary interested him. He caught a word now and then, sometimes sentences coming from the various tables surrounding him. Some whispered, meanwhile other talked loudly; some giggled to themselves, others shared their laughter with everyone. Everything was just a blur; it was downright annoying. The Priest would have gone crazy, if he hadn't realised that it was probably best to focus on someone, and not the whole room at once. He tried focusing on the conversation that was probably the most interesting yet. Glancing over at the King's table, which was just in front of him, he discovered that Faroz was busy teaching the stranger how to eat. By this, the Priest was fairly surprised. The stranger, he realised now, was not at all as he had imagined. He could not quite explain what it was, but there was something unusual about him. Unusual is probably not the best word for it, the priest thought to himself, studying every movement the stranger made; 'rare', is probably the best way to describe him. The feeling of interest and eagerness to get to know this man, this Emissary, rose violently from his chest. In his eagerness, he grew quite forgetful of the recent events, and suddenly he found himself asking the High Priestess how she thought the Stranger appeared.

"I shall see when I talk to him. For now, I will observe," she answered. By the look of her, she was just as eager to follow the man with her piercing eyes as he was. Agreeing with her, he gave a faint smile, as if thanking her for her honest answer.

Last edited by Novnarwen; 11-22-2004 at 01:26 PM.
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Old 11-21-2004, 04:47 PM   #42
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As King Faroz engaged in a rather silly display and conversation, designed to teach the Emissary how to eat figs, Morgôs was munching on similar fruit, which he delicately picked from a clipped vine that lay curled into a small bowl which sat before him at the decadent royal table. He shifted uncomfortably on his cushion, still trying to hoist his elaborate garb about him so that it did not get so much in the way of his movements. He was looking, involuntarily almost, upon the Emissary, out of the corner of his eye. He sensed strange things as he saw the man, and knew already that he was not alone in this feeling. His wife, Arlomë, was also unsettled by his gait and presence, and she had seemed jolted when the Emissary greeted her. Morgôs still bore a gnawing feeling in him, from the resonating shock that had come from her. Now, he did not wish to look on, or to speak with the Emissary. He had already been foolish enough. He had addressed the Priest Tarkan as a High Priest, which he was not, as revealed to him by Lord Korak, the suitor of the King's daughter, inadvertantly. The Prince, Siamak, seemed less noticing of the elder General's shortcomings, and for this, Morgôs was thankful. If there was anyone in the court of Pashtia who he thought he liked, it was young Siamak. Now, he did not dwell on his awkwardness in social matters, and ate instead, even though his appetite was small.

He heard the King and the Emissary speaking, more noisily than was appropriate, perhaps, and very jocundly at the table near him. He glanced at his wife again, subtly, trying to ignore the blather that filled his ears, streaming in from the other direction. He did not even hear a comprehensible word of the King’s conversation until his name came up, and he spun about as he heard it, to see King Faroz looking past the Emissary, at him, with a look that could be worn by any clever tempter.

“Morgôs, be not so silent. Come, talk with us.” He gestured merrily, directing Morgôs to lean closer ad join in their energetic, jovial session of talking. “As you wish, your majesty,” said Morgôs, somewhat begrudgingly, but with a typical bow of respect, “but I think I have nothing to contribute, save to listen in awe to what our mutual friend has to say.” The Emissary let his thin mouth, which was currently twisting around some variety of unknown fruit, cracked a little smile, that was meant to make Morgôs more at ease with the circumstances, and induce contentment in the General of Pashtia, but it only served to irk the military commander, though he masked his mild annoyance with a feigned smile of his own.

Faroz spoke then, and, as he did, he seemed nearly drunk off the knowledge he’d gained, and far more jovial than Morgôs had seen him in a long time. “I have told the Emissary of you, Morgôs. You need not be so hesitant in speech. The Emissary is very curious about you.” Dutifully, Morgôs scooted around the circular table, so that he was closer to the Emissary. The table was too wide for him to position himself opposite the Emissary, so he was forced to hunch over, dropping his overly clothed elbows onto the table, encircling the bowl that contained his light meal.

“So,” said the Emissary looking at him from below, for, even sitting, the Elf was a tall, prominent figure, “you are one of the Avari. I have heard of your kind, but not met one in your division, except, of course, for your lovely wife. The Elven-kind where I come from do not mingle so among simple mortals.”

Morgôs did not react to this, on the outside, but within, his heart skipped a beat, jumping for a moment. It had been a great long time since he had heard of Elves mentioned that were not Avari. At first, in his hasty decision-making, he could not conclude what elves the Emissary was speaking, or who he meant in this context. He had some vague memories of the elves in what was called, in Pashtia, the Before-Time. Histories in Pashtia, those contained in educational documents and libraries, did not entail the ‘myths’ that some of the elder Avari spoke of, and some claimed was accurate to a fault. The stories told by Elves about the Before-Time fell into the genre of religious mythos, and were not historical. Morgôs himself no longer knew if his own snippets of memory from the time before Pashtia’s rise were accurate, or simply had developed because of the myths that his people believed in. Those myths did speak of other Elves, and in those myths, those Elves were called Dark-Elves, because, it was said, they were taken away into the darkness by horsemen from the west.

This seemed ironic, at the moment, to Morgôs, since the Emissary and his men were horsemen from the west, but the Avarin myths spoke differently, and described all the circumstances far more mystically. Those legends spoke of demons and gods, but also held the roots of the adopted religion of Pashtia, that religion that was centered on Rea and Rhais. Priests and theologians studied records taken by both the first Pashtians and the Pashtian Avari first taken into mannish society. Either way, Morgôs’ curiosity was piqued, and a blink of light glinted in each of his starry eyes again, and he said to the Emissary: “Now you touch upon a thing that interests me, sir.”

“The Elves in my land, you mean?”

“Yes, that is it.” Morgôs said, nodding emphatically, “In Pashtia, we are not concerned with other Elves, and, I myself did not know that many remained on this world alive. I had…” he hesitated here, thinking on the myths that he had considered and the ideals they contained, in comparison to what this proud Emissary before him was saying, “…other perceptions of their fate when they left here and removed to the west, led by strange hopes and schemes stranger still. If they live in the west, I fear my curiosity about them will not be quelled. Tell me of them.” He looked eager to learn, just as King Faroz was, and the Emissary looked ready to please, but Morgôs had a mind that saw past the look of imparting wisdom on the Emissary’s face. He saw a speck of hesitation and of quick thinking in the Emissary’s eye, the kind of quick thinking that must be employed when one has to lie.

After very little time, the Emissary spoke. “I think that would take far too long, and is not a light topic for our meal.” He looked sorry, and was apologetic in the way he spoke, but a glimmer of suspicion very briefly aroused in Morgôs, but it was soon quelled by the sheer mildness and kindness of the foreigner’s attitude as he said, “You seem as if you know more than me of them, for, from what you say, you knew of them before I told you?” He blinked and leaned forward, not really curious, but certainly possessed of some interest, small as it might be. His mind was arranged in a manner that made it hard for Morgôs to probe it further, so he ceased trying.

“Yes, but that is also too long a tale.” Morgôs replied. He was disappointed at not gaining the information he desired, as a passionate need for it has risen and fallen in him. Now, it was but a fleeting thought, but a thought locked into place inside the Elven General, and would not leave him unless appeased. So, pressing the matter further, Morgôs said to the Emissary, “But, I beseech you; tell me of them another time. I am very interested.” The Emissary smiled again, and gestured dramatically, bowing. “I would not dare turn down the mighty General of Pashtia.” He did seem hesitant still, as if the matter of the Elves was not one he would ever relish speaking of, no matter the situation.

Faroz laughed, not loudly, but loudly enough, and then, as if he’d hit upon something, pursued the Emissary’s words. “Here is something we can discuss. Morgôs,” he exclaimed, with excitement in his royal voice, “tell the Emissary some tale about Pashtia’s wartime epics, I know you have enough stories in your mind to fill more volumes than the royal archives could bear.” The Emissary just tilted his head a little, instead of bowing his head or nodding. “Such things are more intriguing, General.” He said then to Morgôs, though the General looked hesitant, “Have you a victory song to sing, perhaps?”

“My voice is not a musical one, sir.” The Elf objected.

“Now that is strange.” Said the Emissary, frowning, “In my land, Elves sing often, and an Elf would be hard-pressed not to sing often, for it seems to many men that they were born with songs on their lips.” Faroz did not laugh, but pursed his lips and awaited a retort from the Avari, with a mere curl of his kingly brow in further curiosity. “Regardless of that,” Morgôs said, very firmly, “I am no singer, nor am I much of a talker.”

“You are talking now, are you not.” The Emissary shot back, as if he had joined a playful argument.

“When spoken to, it is polite to speak back, in Pashtia.”

“A most respectable custom indeed.”

“Respectable, yes, but it does tend to prolong conversations and wear out the voices of Pashtians. Perhaps that is why Avari do not sing; too much talking has denied them the talent.”

At this, Faroz laughed aloud, and the Emissary chuckled. After this repartee, Morgôs felt as if he was, in earnest, caught in the conversation, and might enjoy it just a bit. He was not a clever being, of wit or of tongue, and he guessed that the Emissary was the silver-tongued one at the table, and not he, but he felt good to be speaking to the man, in spite of the strange sensation he felt when he looked upon him. Faroz clapped his hand upon the table, nearly upsetting a filled-to-the-brim cup that sat near him. “That, General,” he said, “is a merrier tune you speak of now. Come, let us talk more.”

Letting his hesitation go to the stray wind, Morgôs did just that.

Last edited by Kransha; 11-21-2004 at 05:05 PM.
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Old 11-21-2004, 04:59 PM   #43
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Tolkien

Shortly after Arlomë had left, Arshalous had stood up abruptly and strode to the priests' table, where she selected a low seat that gave her a fair vantage point to watch the Emissary.

The king was trying to teach him how to eat a fig, and she smiled a little as she watched the pair. Even the king seemed happier in the man's presence. She traced the rim of her wine goblet as she stared into his blue grey eyes. What kind of country did he come from? What customs did they have? And...why, did such a country so far away care about little Pashtia? The question bothered her...she didn't know why. She took a quick swallow of her wine and savoured the sweet poignant flavour....how different it was from Korak's wine, she thought with bitter distaste.

A troup of musicians filed into the hall, and struck up a soft tune. Men beat a slow rhythm upon fish skinned drums, while girls played upon wooden flutes. Though the musicians did not dance, their bodies swayed to the rhythm of the music like bulrushed played by the wind upon a lazy river.

Arshalous flicked her eyes back to the Emissary as she took a small sip of wine. Did he like the music they played for the entertainment of the guests? She sincerely hoped so....it would not due to offend the Emissary, even if the offense was trivial.

The Emissary and the King had actually coaxed Morgôs, the Pashtian general, out of his usual taciturn mood. She leaned forward slightly and strained her ears so that she might hear snatches of their conversation, all the while silently cursing the merry chatter of voices around her.
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Old 11-21-2004, 07:37 PM   #44
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The King was enjoying himself immensely. It had been years since he had enjoyed any meal so much, not since the early days when he had been still but a young warrior, enjoying the sparse rations of a military campaign with the other young men that he had gone to war with. Those days, with their simplicity of existence, had long remained in his imagination and grown with the years to become as the thought of a distant land in which he had been happy, but would never return to again. But Ashnaz had somehow managed to recapture that time and that place for him. He felt lightheaded as though he had drunk too much wine, but he had hardly touched the cup before him, so engaged was he by the words and manner of his fair guest. He could see that he was not alone in his regard, for many about the table and within the hall looked at him with admiration. Some there were who regarded him with more caution, his General amongst them. Such a reaction did not surprise him, for it was understandable. Ashnaz had been in their company less than a day and already he had become friend and confidante to the King. Faroz knew that there were many in the hall, Lord Korak among them, who would be greatly envious of this intimacy. There were people who had spent years trying to win his favour…to see it now so liberally bestowed upon one but new to the realm would surely gall them.

The thought pleased the King greatly, and elevated his spirits.

Despite the height of his emotions, he remained attentive to the true nature of the banquet. It was his first chance to see how his people regarded the Emissary, and to gauge thereby their feelings toward the offer of alliance from the Lord Annatar. Faroz was anxious to know the opinions of his nobles, and of the religious leaders, but he did not relish the idea of asking them directly – nor did he have to. Faroz had not acquired his reputation as a strong and wise leader for nothing. Long ago he had learned the art of reading the mind in the face, and had been able thereby to determine people’s opinions without having to stoop to discuss it with them as equals. Even now, as he laughed and spoke lightly with Ashnaz, his careful eyes noted who approved of this intimacy and who did not. What he saw convinced him that he would need to be cautious in how he proceeded; there was regard for the man, but concern, distrust even, of his mission. Faroz shared the feeling. Of Ashnaz there could be no doubt; but of the Lord Annatar, there remained many things that needed answering. Thus far, the Emissary had put off the King’s inquiries, and he had been content to let that rest for the time being, for as well as being a careful observer, the King was patient. He noted Ashnaz’s reluctance to speak of the Elves in his land. Such a strange response, for he had spoken of them quite openly this afternoon. Faroz could see that the tension between his General and the Emissary was upon the point of breaking into the open, so he distracted the Elf with a request for light conversation.

“What would you have me speak of, my King? I am little versed in the niceties of the court, nor am I much involved with the intrigues of the realm. I am afraid that without knowledge of either I am sadly out of place here.”

“No more than I, Morgôs,” replied the King. “There is no-one in Kanak with less idea about the real goings on in the realm than I. Why, just as we were coming in I had to ask my son to tell me the gossip.” He looked to where Siamak sat, and he could see the boy blushing at the notice.

“Are you very much aware of the gossip, Prince?” the General asked. “I had not thought that such things were much on your mind. I see that I must increase your training at arms. If you have so much time for gossip, then surely you have more time to learn how to use a blade.”

The Prince flushed even more deeply but smiled, for there was a genuine friendship – of a kind – between himself and the Elf. “No, please, I assure you. I have more than enough training already. The only gossip I hear comes to my ears from…the servants.”

“That is still too much,” the Elf replied, not unkindly. “The lives of mortals are too brief to be wasted in idleness.”

“Now there speaks the tyrant of my youth,” Faroz exclaimed to the Emissary. “For nine generations has Morgôs trained the Princes of Pashtia, and in that time I swear he has grown more dour and strict rather than less. I remember well the hours I spent in the yard, practising over and over again my strokes with a wooden blade, before ever I was allowed to use the real thing.”

“There is no use in wielding a thing, my King, until you know how,” the General said.

“Perhaps that is why you do not sing, nor speak overmuch,” the Emissary said to the Elf with a slow smile. “You lack the ability of your tongue, and thus leave it sheathed.”

The Elf bowed stiffly from the waist. “It is as you say, Emissary.”

Ashnaz smiled thinly at the General, but turned his attention then to Siamak. “I see now why you are so afraid of gossip, my Prince. With such a teacher, I would avoid all things that did not meet his approval. But fear not, when you are King you shall be as free of gossip as is your father.” There was a slight shudder in the conversation of nearby tables as the Emissary’s words spread. Many, including the boy’s mother, looked to Siamak, who was now staring at his plate. Others sought out Gjeelea to see if she had noticed the Emissary’s first real misstep.

Faroz quickly moved to smooth out the situation, saying, “I am afraid, my friend, that the situation in Pashtia is not quite so clear as you have explained is the way in your land. Here, the son does not automatically follow the father. I must choose my heir from among my family. Siamak has an older sister.”

The Emissary appeared neither flustered nor embarrassed by what had happened. He bowed his head to the King in acknowledgement of the lesson and then toward the Prince. “My apologies, my Prince. I am new to your realm and not yet familiar with your ways. I meant nothing by my comment, and I hope that neither you nor your sister will hold it against me.”

Siamak returned the bow and made a fair response, but Faroz was barely listening, for Ashnaz’s words had given him an idea…
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Old 11-22-2004, 02:44 PM   #45
Amanaduial the archer
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Silmaril Zamara

Catching Arlome's eye, Zamara smiled and nodded her head to the elf. She was unsure of the elves in general - their familiarity the immortals seemed to have with Rea and Rhais seemed to verge on blasphemy sometimes - but Arlome herself had been a devout worshipper for as long as Zamara could remember - longer, in fact. It made the High Priest feel slightly awed, that she held her position over one who had worshipped the goddess through thick and thin for many times Zamara's own lifetime, far beyond the time when she herself first even heard of the earth goddess and was captivated by her. But then, maybe that was the problem with the elves: there is only so much strength that rapture can hold over so many years. Arlome's husband, the General Morgos, was not, to Zamara's knowledge, a regular worshipper at either of the temples, or at the Black Oblisk and smaller shrines scattered over Pashtia - the gods had grown tired for him, Zamara guessed, as they became for many Pashtian Avari. Arlome worshipped regularly, and she knew the High Priestess quite well, having been around Rhais' Temple since Zamara was a child; but the Priestess thought now that maybe if it was to become her occupation, after more than the usual lifetimes of men, worship would lose it's flavour, perfection, wonder that made it so special for Zamara herself. It was a revelatin, the priestess thought: that everything could be tired of eventually, once the urgency of mortality was taken away.

But Arlome was certainly not jealous of Zamara's position: she was beyond such things. Unlike some. Zamara’s dark eyes flickered towards Tarkan, the movement disguised by the thick dark kohl around her eyes, and lingered momentarily on the Priest, who was pre-occupied with conversation to one of the nobles. But even so, his eyes were dark and some thought moved in them that was not, she mused, entirely caused by the other man’s conversation. She swirled the thin red wine thoughtfully (in the heat of the desert, unwatered wine was simply unpractical) and looked away from the Priest again.

"Thank you, High Priest, but you're too kind.”
“Tarkan will do for tonight, kind Sir."


The false modesty in the Priest’s voice tasted strange in Zamara’s wine as she took another sip at her glass. She did not dislike the Priest: they were as different as earth and sky, but there was a mutual respect between the two of them. But Tarkan’s reaction to Morgos’ words…He had not refuted the title: he would take it all too easily and if she had not been there, Zamara was sure he would have kept up the title as his own. The thought, more of a fact, did not upset her: but in the light of the possible building of a new temple to Rea, and the selection between Siamak and Gjeelea as heir, it nagged a little at her mind. There was more power in the balance here than she had suspected.

Arlome was still watching her, she noticed, and as Zamara returned her gaze, the elf tipped her head to the side, discreetly beckoning the High Priestess over. Zamara was slightly puzzled, but Arlome’s eyes slid over towards the Emissary where he was talking with her husband and the king. Zamara nodded and, excusing herself, she picked up her staff and unfolded herself from her kneeling, reclining position, and made her way over to the Royal Table. It was time, after all, for her to pay her respects to the Western Emissary – and to allow him to pay his respects to Rhais.

“…apologies, my Prince. I am new to your realm and not yet familiar with your ways. I meant nothing by my comment, and I hope that neither you nor your sister will hold it against me.”

The Emissary’s smooth voice sent a shiver down Zamara’s spine, although she couldn’t have said why: the comment, the tone, the light ripple of quiet, smiling laughter around the table – it was all light and innocent, no need for worry out of context. She had no time to consider it though, for, smiling, the King looked up and saw Zamara standing nearby the table, modestly waiting. She bowed deeply to him and, rising, the king replied in like, allowing the High Priestess to advance towards the monarch. Reaching towards Faroz, she touched his the top of his head lightly, saying a prayer under her breath, her eyes closed. Opening her eyes once more, she nodded her head respectfully. “Rhais bless your house, King Faroz.”

“It seems she has tonight, High Priestess,” Faroz smiled, gesturing at the merry guests. Arlome and her husband made a little space and Zamara knelt beside them, giving the elf woman a grateful smile. The nobles around the table nodded courteously to the Priestess and she murmured her thanks and greetings, before catching especially the gaze of the Emissary. He had not bowed or even inclined his head to her, a fact that was glaringly obvious; and although his grey eyes were innocent, Zamara was fairly sure it was not lack of knowledge of Pashtian customs that was stopping him from showing respect to Zamara and her goddess. But in his eyes there was a sort of respect – an admiration for the mysterious Priestess of a foreign land. She was nothing like others he had seen, and his lord had not told him of any like this: young and undoubtedly striking, the light flickering across her dark skin and in her eyes, the white strikes on her cheekbones and between her eyes and dark eye makeup making her seem strangely ethereal. And outdated, he added with a cruel inward smile. She was harmless in herself, he thought, but she commanded a lot of power over these people, especially the women, and even the elves. Religion, then, was a very certain way in…

“Good evening, priestess,” the Emissary said silkily. Zamara did not flicker at the exclusion of her full title – she barely noticed it. A server topped up a flute of wine as she laid down her staff beside her. “Good evening indeed, sir: welcome to Pashtia. I hear you were learning something about our customs?”

“And your monarchy too, Priestess.” The Emissary gave a slightly rueful smile that did not fit well on his sharp, smooth features. Zamara inclined her head with a small smile but beyond that did not slip into informality, and did not offer her own name: she had decided that to keep a more formal stance with the Emissary. He continued. “You are the priestess of the gods of Pashtia?”

As his eyes flickered up to hers, Zamara felt what seemed like a shot of lightning along her body, and her hand jerked by her side. Arlome turned quickly, her expression concerned, but Zamara did not look back at her, simply shaking her head with a considerate smile although under the table she squeezed the elf’s hand gently, and a bond of understand passed between them. At the edge of the conversation, Siamak stood inconspicuously with a few murmured words and started towards the door of the hall. Ignoring the goosepimples that suddenly adorned her bare shoulders, Zamara replied to the Emissary. “I am the High Priestess of Pashtia – I serve Rhais, the goddess of the earth. The Priest Tarkan –” she gestured towards Tarkan. “–is the Priest to Rea, the god of the sky.”

“Just 'Priest'?”

A flutter of stillness fluttered across the table and Zamara felt her fingers stiffen against Arlome’s. “What do you mean, sir?”

The Western Emissary paused, his oddly still eyes fixed on Zamara’s, then he shook his head, shrugging lightly as he took another sip of wine. “Oh…nothing, High Priestess. I merely wondered as to the difference between Rea and Rhais.” Noting Zamara’s unsure hesitation, the Emissary shook his head and rolled his eyes good-humouredly. “’Looks as if I’ve slipped again – I apologise if I have offended you, Priestess: I still have much to learn about Pashtia.”

Zamara smiled, her warmth returning to her smile. “Where the Goddess is concerned, sir, I would be glad to help you to learn. If you will all excuse me, please – I would just like to step out into the outside air for a few moments.” Picking up her staff, she followed Siamak out of the doors. She had wanted quite urgently to talk to the young prince, and this was a better time than ever to ask about Siamak’s opinion about the Emissary. First a slip up over the monarchy, now over the gods…how naďve is this Westerner, really?

Last edited by Amanaduial the archer; 11-23-2004 at 02:12 PM. Reason: Editting out 'Ashnaz' reference(s), and a little grammatical change.
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Old 11-22-2004, 04:38 PM   #46
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After the Emissary’s slip, Siamak had largely remained quiet, his thoughts whirling. For a moment, he had allowed himself to engage in the light-hearted banter about the low table. He had forgotten his mistrust of the Emissary, becoming comfortable. This foreigner was entirely to easy to become comfortable with, his silky-smooth voice enchanting those who listened for too long and chilling those with suspicions. His error had thrown the situation back into sharp relief, however, and Siamak’s wariness had returned tenfold. He now readily understood how his father had become so taken with the Emissary. A chill ran up his back as Siamak realized how close he had come to being in the same boat as his father. This Westerner needed to be watched closely.

Siamak looked up as the High Priestess Zamara approached their table. If Siamak had been wary before, then he was certainly uncomfortable now. He held all priests and priestesses in high respect, almost fear, especially the High Priestess. They were entirely too close to Rea and Rhais, and Siamak was of the firm belief that it was best to know only as much as necessary about all religious aspects. He certainly worshiped regularly and prayed for their blessings - it would be no good to have them angry at him, after all. In some ways, priests and priestesses were as bad as nobles - worse, maybe: at least Siamak understood nobles. Siamak shifted uneasily, paying little attention to the introductions and the exchange between the High Priestess and the Emissary. When it became apparent that she intended to stick around, Siamak felt he could not handle this situation. No one was paying any attention to him, so he rose from his cushion, saying that he needed some fresh air and would return in a moment. It came out as a mumble, but he didn’t think that anyone had noticed.

He headed for the nearest exit, attracting little notice from the guests. He had walked into one of the public gardens, and he stopped just outside the door, leaning against a wall and laying the side of his head on the cool marble. It was the relief that he had needed, and he was soon ready to return to the hall. Before he could move, however, he became aware of someone else’s presence nearby. He heard rather than saw the person, and he guessed it to be a woman by the light step. She had some kind of staff, as well, judging by the irregular pattern of footfalls. He remained where he was, hoping not to be noticed.

“Prince Siamak?” There was nothing he could do but turn around after being addressed directly, and he did, coming face to face with precisely the person he had been trying to escape: the High Princess Zamara. Apparently his exit had not been so inconspicuous as he had thought. He did not let his sinking feeling show, and instead put a pleasant look on his face. Having the High Priestess upset with him would be nearly as bad as having Rea and Rhais annoyed with him.

“Good evening, High Priestess,” said Siamak, inclining his head respectfully. “May I help you?”

“Yes, actually,” she replied. Siamak waited expectantly, wondering what might be coming. “I have been wanting to speak with you. I would like to ask you about your opinion of the Emissary.” Siamak immediately went on the defensive. He had expected the question tonight, though not from the High Priestess herself. He did not answer right away, trying to decide what to answer. He knew many nobles who would have tried to wheedle the answer out of him, dodging the precise question and beating around the bush. Siamak admired her direct manner, and it was because of this that he was seriously considering answering her honestly. He put the question aside for a moment, raising his gaze to meet her eyes.

“Why would you like to know?” he asked her. It was asked as a simple question, holding no subtle innuendoes.

“Well, you are the Prince, and I would value your opinion,” she answered. He quirked his eyebrows. It was the answer that some noble would give, and while the High Priestess certainly wasn’t inept at politics, he suspected there was more to it than that. Surprising himself at his own boldness, and to the High Priestess no less, he pressed her, “Why?” Perhaps it was because she asked of a matter that touched him deep that this new streak had opened up in him, combined with the absence of judgmental eyes. There was something about this woman that had she not been the High Priestess herself, he would have felt comfortable in her presence.

It was her turn to look him over, now, before she replied, “I seek to understand this Emissary and who he is, that I might better serve Rhais and perform my duty as High Priestess.” Siamak allowed himself a small smile. That was more like an answer he would expect from a priestess, and he was satisfied that it was the whole truth.

“Very well, then,” he said. “I will tell you, though I ask that you do not spread my words around. I prefer not to speak my opinions on most matters to nobles before I am certain.” She readily agreed and Siamak continued. “Quite honestly, I do not trust this Emissary, and even less the Lord Annatar who sent him. I have no proof on which to base my opinion; it is only a feeling. He has been nothing but courteous and generous since arriving, and my father is certainly taken with him - I found out recently that the two have spent the entire afternoon in each other’s company. I am hoping to find out more about the Emissary tonight, but so far he has done nothing to confirm my opinions, though I have become increasingly suspicious. There is something... sinister about the man.” Siamak smiled at her. “Have I sufficiently answered your question?”

“Yes,” she replied, looking thoughtful.

“Good,” he replied warmly. “As long as we are out here, I would ask your own opinion of the Emissary. Since I requested your reason, I will give you mine. I want to know if my mistrust is unfounded, and whether I should be more open-minded of him, for though my opinion is strong I do not like to make unfounded decisions.”

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Old 11-22-2004, 04:51 PM   #47
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Korak's face darkened as Tarkan departed. What impudence, what rudeness, to excuse himself in such an impolite way! And for the sake of meeting a foreigner. That was why he disliked Tarkan. So proud, and noble-looking, yet so cunning and rude. And yet, that was why he liked Tarkan. He could not keep back a chuckle, for he felt he had upset the Priest in some way, and it pleased him. Such people were always amusing.

The Royal Family had entered, and many were anxious to meet the Emissary. Lord Korak approached the 'Royal table' and bowed sweepingly to the King, with some humble words. And then he approached the Princess, fully aware of what a handsome sight he was that evening, and from the folds of his cloak he brought forth the gift, still wrapped, and presented it before her. "My Princess, I beg you allow me to give you some small token of my respect and affection for you," said he, and placing it into her hand, he gave another bow and departed, for he did not want to be introduced to the Emissary.

He went to his mother, and noticed with disgust and contempt that he was placed so he would sit directly opposite his Lady cousin. His mother was pleased at this arrangement, and a blush that was almost youthful was upon her cheeks, for the Lady cousin looked much like the dear sister of old. Morashk glowered when he heard of how they were to sit, and he skulked away, saying he was desirous of seeking company elsewhere. Lord Korak sat wrathfully, thinking that banquets were foolish things indeed.

"Son," said his mother, leaning towards him and speaking softly, "I beg you be at your best behaviour." He scowled defiantly, and with some tone of annoyance in her voice she added, "Perhaps the King shall see your dark face and think he should not like his daughter forever gazing upon such a face."

Lord Korak smoothed his brow, and tried to appear pleasant.
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Old 11-22-2004, 09:15 PM   #48
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“It is a lovely gift, and it suits you, my lady!” Akim admired Gjeelea’s necklace. The princess nodded her thanks as the other younger ladies of court agreed with Akim. The silly grins on the faces of the young nobles stretched to show their teeth in misleading flattery. Gjeelea knew the motion well, for she had given false smiles often, to her parents as well as the petty nobles that so often spoke to her and her family. Akim tilted her head slightly to the right; her eyes focused on something behind Gjeelea’s head. Turning, the princess saw that Akim’s gaze had landed directly upon where Lord Korak sat, opposite of the Lady Arshalous. “You are very lucky, if I may be so bold, princess.”

They think I am so lucky…Gjeelea hid her smirk as thoughts ran through her head and contempt flashed for just a single moment through her eyes. They know nothing of Lord Korak but his lovely face and his soothing speech. They see no further than his dark skin and luring eyes. Silly girls.

“I am indeed very lucky; it is as you say,” Gjeelea lied bluntly to her companions (she would no sooner call them friends than she would call Korak loving) as they smiled and nodded their agreement.

Suddenly, a light wave of hushed murmurings made its way across the room. Person by person the message began to lose its meaning and truth. Every second that Gjeelea waited for the gossip to reach her circle made her more certain of the lack of credibility.

“He said that Siamak should be made King!” Majran’s voice came in heated whispers to the small circle of dignified ladies. All the eyes widened except for Gjeelea’s, who had been expecting some kind of news, and questions quickly arose from the gaggle of petty ladies.

“Who said that?”

“What?”

“The Emissary! He said that Siamak would be the next King!” Majran answered the questions with a squeal. Some of the ladies looked immediately to the princess while others cast wild looks about the room, trying to see where the Emissary was. Gjeelea did not speak until the impressionable young noblewomen had calmed into silence.

“This Emissary has many lessons to learn,” Gjeelea paused for effect, and soon all ladies in her circle turned their eyes attentively to her. Where is Siamak when I need him? She had meant to look to her brother also, to add meaning to her words, but he was nowhere to be found. “Our good Emissary shall soon learn the lesson that the son of the King is not always fit to be the next ruler. Now, if you will excuse me, I would like to find my brother.”

It was another lie, but it quelled the questions in the faces of her companions as Gjeelea left the group and went to find another. Although the princess did not seek out her brother, she did wonder where he had gone off. Her brother always seemed to disappear – the siblings never saw or spoke to one another unless absolutely necessary – and sometimes it made Gjeelea wonder what the young prince was up to.

Instead of searching for Siamak like she had told the girls, Gjeelea joined the table of her mother. There she saw her father and others speaking with the Emissary. His dark hair fell in waves – something Gjeelea was not used to seeing – and his face awkwardly clean of hair. The princess watched the Emissary and waited until there came a pause in the conversation.

“Good Emissary,” Gjeelea began, her alto voice silky and falsely hesitant. She forced out a smile. “I do not mean to interrupt. I have seen you, sir, but I do not believe we have formally met.”

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Old 11-22-2004, 09:57 PM   #49
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Tolkien

Arshalous stifled the scowl that struggled to her face when her cousin plopped, frowning like a toddler, into the seat opposite her. He, clearly, was not happy about the seating arrangements either. She saw her aunt lean over and whisper something into Korak's ear -- she yet again cursed the noise that hid the voice from her ears -- though she could have sworn that she heard the word "daughter." With a last sigh Korak's frown disappeared and he plastered a false smile on his face.

Arshalous leaned across the table, smirking. "Lies ill become you, Cousin Korak."

The aunt sighed and hid her eyes in her hand.

"Of course," Arshalous said, tilting her head upwards, brow raised, and finger poised on her chin, "I couldn't possibly tell you how the truth becomes you for the truth is not part of your wardrobe." She leaned back in her chair, gazing with some satisfaction through half closed eyes.

Korak glared at her but struggled to keep his calm demeanor.

Arshalous, about to taunt him further, stopped as she heard a flurry of whisperings around her.

He said that Siamak should become king! The Emissary said that the Prince should become King!.

A smile fluttered across her lips as she gazed once more at the Emissary. His wavy dark hair hid his face as he politely bowed to the Princess. A smirk poisoned the smile -- the Princess surely would not be happy with the Emissary's sentiments.

She wondered why the Emissary thought that the Prince should be king. Was it because he was keen in perception and knew him to be the better child? Or was it a tradition in the West that declared that the throne passed to the son? Of course it must be the latter, yet she hoped that a bit of the former played into his statement.

Turning back to her cousin, who was a bit pale, she said, "At least this Emissary has some sort of sense."
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Old 11-23-2004, 02:08 PM   #50
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Silmaril Zamara

Zamara mused on Siamak's dark opinion and nodded, satisfied. So it is not just me who feels there is something wrong around this man...

"As long as we are out here, I would ask your own opinion of the Emissary. Since I requested your reason, I will give you mine. I want to know if my mistrust is unfounded, and whether I should be more open-minded of him, for though my opinion is strong I do not like to make unfounded decisions."

Zamara laughed quietly, but not mockingly, and her eyes glittered in the moonlight. "You ask the advice of the High Priestess? Unusual for yourself, Prince Siamak," she replied softly. Siamak blushed slightly and looked away, but only for a moment, and when he looked back his eyes were serious once more. He is taking it seriously - he is taking the Emissary quite seriously, and myself. I wonder would Gjeelea do the same?

Zamara sighed softly and pirouetted her staff around on the stone floor of the courtyard corridor as she looked out above the garden to the sky above it, her expression thoughtful, but still made distant, almost alien, by the strange makeup. Siamak was a regular worship, but she guessed that he went more out of duty than devotion: he didn't seem to feel ties to either deity, and went more to the shrines or the Oblisk than to the great temples. Unlike Gjeelea: Tarkan had already made the point to Zamara several times that the Princess was a worshipper of Rea over Rhais, and worshipped at the sky god's temple rather than Zamara's own. She realised she was subconciously stacking up the two royal children against one another and cleared the decks. She had not meant to test Siamak. Well, only a little... "I am sorry if I made you uncomfortable," she apologised, her voice sincere but warm as she flicked her eyes over towards him. "As for the Emissary…” she looked back out at the stars uncomfortably. “I am not sure I am comfortable with him either, Prince Siamak, in the same way as you. I find him hard to understand – but then, the nobles…I live in a different world much of the time; I am sheltered from political life, although that does not mean I do not know enough about the realities of it.” She saw Siamak raise his eyebrows, evidently surprised. She smiled secretively. That is right, young prince, I am not utterly cut off from the real world because I worship the Goddess… She continued. “But there is indeed a, how did you put it, a ‘sinister’ air about him. He has slipped up, yes, and this is easily forgivable, for who knows what it is like in the West – but I cannot help but feel that maybe his mistakes are not as accidental as he would have us believe. And your father…”

A sudden breeze stirred up the leaves around Zamara’s feet and she stepped back suddenly like a shying horse, surprised by the sudden movement. She would not have thought much about it, had it not been for the topic of conversation – and after all, they were at the edge of an enclosed courtyard. A chill crept up her neck and her bare arms goose-pimpled once more as she fought the sudden urge to look around. Siamak noticed and, gentlemanly, he stepped forward, reaching a hand out to her shoulder. “Priestess, it is chilly outside: maybe we should return to the company if you are cold.”

Zamara felt strangely pleased by the way the boy reached considerately towards her, but as she turned towards him he recoiled slightly, as if afraid of touching her. Zamara smiled sadly: he was still half afraid, unsure of the Priestess’ unworldly side that lay with the gods. She jutted her chin up determinedly and her eyes glittered brightly, caught between moonlight and lamplight, and the blue in them was brought out behind the silver and orange fire. “My interest must lie with the gods, Prince Siamak, but you must remember the gods are tied in with everything in Pashtia, as well your mother knows and respects. And when the Emissary entered the city, despite the splendour and obvious magnificence and importance of the statues of Rhais and Rea…they paid them no heed whatsoever.” Her voice was soft, almost a whisper, as she spoke furtively with her face close to Siamak’s. “I am not sure it bodes well.”

With a quick nod in his direction, Zamara clutched her staff tightly and left briskly, back towards the great hall where the guests feasted, leaving Siamak to follow or to muse on his – and her – thoughts.
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Old 11-24-2004, 09:43 AM   #51
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The Emissary bowed slightly from the waist and returned the Princess’s greetings. “I am honoured to speak with you, lady, and happy for the opportunity to apologise in person for my misstep. As I explained to your brother, I am not yet familiar with the ways of your land.”

Gjeelea inclined her head somewhat but remained icy. “Familiar or not, I do not think it wise for an ambassador to try and make policy in a strange land.”

The Emissary’s brow knitted but he did not respond at first. When he did, it was clear that he was unsure of what was happening, but that he was determined to try and carry it off as well as he could. “I assure you lady that I did not mean to make policy. I misspoke from ignorance only. I did not mean to express any preference on my part or on the part of my Lord Annatar. Far be it for me to do so, who am but new to the place!” He could see that his words were a little better received by the Princess, but that she remained coldly, politely hostile. He was not aware of the corrupted version of his words that were making their way through the hall.

As the Emissary and his daughter spoke together, Faroz took the opportunity to have a few quiet words with his wife. “Well my lady,” he said quickly, casting his voice into a lower register to avoid being overheard by those nearby, “what think you of the Emissary now?”

Bekah’s eyes strayed quickly to the man and she paused for a moment in thought before answering. When she did, Faroz could tell that she was keeping at least some portion of her opinion to herself. He was disappointed by this, for in the past his wife had always been open with him; their relations, always so formal, had at least been honest and frank. He had never understood until now how much that had meant to him. “I still think it too early to judge him fully, my lord. His manners and bearing are fair and pleasing, and he seems only to wish our friendship and goodwill.”

“And yet…” he prompted her, hoping for the full truth.

Again she looked at the Emissary, worried perhaps that he might overhear. Faroz was not concerned about that, and had in fact chosen to speak with Bekah now rather than later as he sensed already a growing silence and secrecy in the court as pertained to Ashnaz. There were too many whisperings and hidden glances already for the King’s liking. There was a time and a place for such conduct, but for the moment he wished to pierce the veils that his people were attempting to hide behind. He saw now how unwise it had been to become so openly intimate with the Emissary this day, for it had driven his people away from him. It had done nothing but foster jealousy and mistrust, and was preventing honest and open discussion of the man and of his mission. It was in part for this reason that he had turned to his wife now, as he had thought that he could depend upon her for a clear statement. He was frustrated that he had not received it immediately. “And yet,” Bekah said slowly, echoing Faroz’s words, “He seems almost too interested in garnering our good opinion, my lord. He speaks often, but does not say much about his Lord Annatar, or why he should seek to ally himself with us. I would know this before I speak further of his mission.”

Faroz nodded and, looking into his wife’s eyes as though to search them out, said, “You are offended by his words to Siamak. You do not like that he has made your son uncomfortable and driven him from the hall.” Faroz struggled to keep the disapproval that he felt at this retreat from his voice. “He is your favourite, and, I think, would be your choice for my heir, but you do not relish the idea of the Emissary’s having put our son forward in such a manner.” As he spoke, Faroz’s finger once more found its way into the folds of his clothing where he stroked the gold ring given him by Ashnaz. As he did so, his voice took on a new tenor, and he saw Bekah shiver slightly, as though a chill wind had crept into the hall and now curled its way about her.

Bekah returned his gaze. For a long moment there was a silence about them alone as the rest of the hall seemed to drop away. “Majesty,” she began formally, “I do not presume to choose the next heir to your throne,” and she inclined her head somewhat, but her eyes remained locked on his.

Faroz leaned forward, as though to kiss her once more, but instead he spoke so quietly and closely that she felt the flutter of his breath upon her brow. “The time may come, my Queen, when you will have more say in such matters than you suppose.” She looked at him in surprise, but Faroz had already turned his attention back to the hall. The sounds of the banquet came over them both once more, and they were aware of the people about them. “Where is my son?” the King asked the Chamberlain Jarult.

“He is in the courtyard, Majesty. Shall I fetch him?”

“Yes,” Faroz said. The Chamberlain disappeared but soon returned with the Prince. Faroz had seen his son departing, quickly to be followed by the High Priestess. The girl had returned alone, but Faroz had known that she had gone after Siamak to speak with him. It was an interesting thing to observe – an intimate relationship with the High Priestess could be extremely beneficial to his son.

Soon, Siamak was back at the table. He bowed to the King and resumed his seat upon the cushions but did not say anything. Faroz raised his voice to capture the attention of those about him. He did not seek to claim the attention of the entire hall, but he could tell that most of the people there were watching as he spoke. “Now that the Prince has returned and the Princess is with us, I would like to ask you all to here witness the burden of choice that I shall place upon them. You all know why my friend the Emissary has come to us. His master, the Lord Annatar, wishes to ally himself with us. I have spoken with the Emissary this day and I find him to be an honourable man, and for his part I would offer up our friendship unreservedly. But the alliance is not with him, but with his king, and it is not an alliance that I alone make, but one that I must choose for all Pashtians. It seems to me, however, that this is a choice that will be made on the behalf of those not yet born, for as the Emissary has told me, there are no wars in his land, and we ourselves are – for the time being – at a state of tranquility. Since this will be a decision that will affect the future of our realm, let it be made by the harbingers of that future. My children, to you do I give the choice of accepting or rejecting the alliance of the Lord Annatar. Take whatever counsel you wish, but be patient in doing so. When you have reached your decision you shall announce it at the court, and so shall our country be governed.”

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Old 11-24-2004, 09:22 PM   #52
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Siamak reeled. He had not seen this announcement coming, for though he had been listening, he had still been considering the High Priestess’s words to him in the garden. He knew his own expression must be a reflection of those around him, sharing their shocked expressions. There was, of course, one major difference in the way it affected him and them; that being that he was the Prince, and this monumental decision was now up to himself and his sister. He supposed he would probably be having some lengthy discussions with his sister in the very near future, a task he did not look forward to. Already he could feel the weighty burden of this choice upon himself; it was one thing to distrust this offer of alliance, but quite another to actually be the one to accept or turn it down.

He turned to his sister, curious at how she was taking the news. Though surprised, she also looked immensely satisfied. He would not be surprised if she had already made up her mind, since she was so inclined to quick thinking and hasty decision making, while he would spend a few hours making up his mind on anything of even medium importance, considering all options. Undoubtedly, she thought he could simply be cowed into following her choice - he seldom stood up to her. Not in this, though, he vowed to himself. He would not let any decision be made unless he felt it was for the best.

He noticed how quiet it was in the large hall, and realized that the nobles were probably expecting some kind of acceptance from either himself or Gjeelea. She understood this at about the same time, and spoke up before he did, which was something of a relief to him. He was not sure he could put together any comprehensible sentences at the moment.

“We will not take this burden lightly,” Gjeelea announced in her sickly-sweet voice. “And I am sure I speak for my brother in this as well. We will consider all possibilities before reaching a decision that I’m sure will benefit Pashtia in years to come.” Siamak simply nodded, having nothing to add. He wondered if she meant what she said; though she always sounded sincere and her speech was certainly proper, he had learned not to listen to closely to her. All around the room burst into amazed chatter, discussing the king’s announcement.

Siamak turned to his own table. His father was smiling at him and Gjeelea, pleased and confident in his choice to let the two of them decide. The Emissary was alternating watching the king and the siblings, a look of intrigue upon his face. Other than general surprise, Siamak had difficulty surmising the precise opinion of each of the others. To his father, he said, “I am honored that you would entrust this decision to myself and Gjeelea, though I must admit I am rather overwhelmed. You certainly threw the entire royal court through a loop, as well,” Siamak added with a grin.

“That he did,” murmured the Emissary. It seemed as if he wanted to add more, but refrained. Siamak wondered if he had missed something while talking to the High Priestess; it did not seem like the Emissary to still his tongue if he had something to say. The Emissary was now looking slightly discomfitted. Siamak could almost hear him wondering whether such a decision on the part of the king was normal in Pashtia or wise, and Siamak found it highly likely that many of the nobles were wondering about the latter themselves.

Siamak soon recognized another responsibility that this burden would entail: in addition to discussions with the princess, there would also have to be conversations with the Emissary himself. Siamak both eagerly awaited and dreaded these visits. He would be prepared, now, for the enchanting quality of the Emissary, and he would be properly wary, so that was not a concern. He was also very curious about the Western lands, and wanted to hear what the Emissary might tell about them. In fact, he should have looked forward to these meetings very much had it not been for the warning of his intuition - always there was that.

Tentatively, he asked the Emissary, “Would tomorrow afternoon be a good time to meet? I should like to know more about your proposal of alliance before making any decisions.” He figured that the afternoon would be an ideal time, because he would have time to talk to some others first, namely his sister.

“Tomorrow afternoon would be fine,” was the Emissary’s courteous reply. Siamak realized he had left his sister out of these plans, though he wasn’t sure it mattered as she would do as she liked anyhow, and he hastily added, “Gjeelea, I trust this will be a convenient time for you as well?” She nodded impatiently. “Yes, yes, fine.” Siamak dropped out of the conversation for the most part, content to listen. His thoughts were too busy jouncing around, now that he had finally wholly grasped the enormity of the choice before them. There is something... sinister about the man. They paid the gods no heed - I am not sure it bodes well. His lord wishes only for friendship with us. When you are king...
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Old 11-25-2004, 10:34 AM   #53
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The strange, wafting chill which had accompanied Faroz's private discussion with her had disconcerted Bekah. For some reason she had momentarily recalled those few minutes in the garden. The chill had been dissipated only by the fluttering of Faroz's warm breath as he whispered to her before he rose to address the assembled guests. She was relieved he had understood, though, that mistrust and jealousy were spreading because of this Emissary. She was but little surprised at his announcement, however irregular it was, for she had long thought both their children needed a specific focus for their actions. Faroz had misunderstood her over that; it was not the Emissary she was annoyed with, but Siamak himself for failing to take up the conversation with the General and, once again, running out. Perhaps later she would clarify that with him. Meanwhile, while Faroz spoke, Bekah had watched the Emissary closely for his reactions.

The man's look had been keen, polite, courteously interested. He was clearly a sophisticated, even suave courtier who understood much of courtly interactions. His lord Annatar had obviously chosen one skilled in negotiation. Yet she felt this man was also accustomed to winning his own way. It had been the slightest of suggestions until Bekah had seen the jawline harden and the eyes glint at the news he must deal with others besides the King. As Faroz had announced the precedures his children should follow before making their decision known at court, the Emissary had looked away from the King, his eyebrows signaling his dissatisfaction, until his eyes found Bekah's upon his. Scorn and derision flashed over his face for the merest second and he whispered, "This is your doing." His anger startled her but it gave her her first substantive reason to mistrust this man's mission.

"My lord makes his own decisions, Emissary, yet he takes counsel from all who understand the needs of the country." A turn of his thin lips suggested the Emissary was not impressed with such policy.

"You seem not to expect women to play a role in policy, Emissary? Does your Lord Annatar allow only men at his court?"

The Emissary had not replied to this question. As quickly as his anger had appeared, he had replaced it with a bland mask of indifference towards her.

"You misunderstand me, lady. I merely seek to understand Pashtian customs. I was not aware of the role the Queen plays in ruling the country."

"My role, Emissary, is to support the King and provide the best counsel I can to ensure the country continues prosperous and peaceful."

"Which she does droitly," interrupted Faroz, when he had returned to the table, with some interest, after observing his Queen and the Emissary in the tense, private conversation.

The Emissary gave a low and formal nod with his shoulders to the words of the King and withdrew all attention from the Queen. Faroz sought his place beside Bekah, sitting so closely beside her that her hand nearly touched the folds of his clothes which held the ring. He would know what this had been about.

"You disapprove?"

"No, Majesty, on the contrary, I believe it valuable to give the Prince and Princess such a close look at the intricacies of making decisions for the nation."

Bekah turned to the Emissary. "You see, Emissary, my Lord now seeks to know my opinion of his decision."

Faroz looked questioningly at the two of them, but the Emissary was saved from a direct reply by the arrival of Siamak and Gjeelea at the table. Bekah watched closely at the faces of her children. They had handled the surprise withe composure and for the first time she felt she could see some sense of maturity and responsibility in their faces. She listened as Siamak addressed the Emissary and made plans for meetings and she tried to read the Emissary's face at his requirement now to deal with at least two others. Then she turned to Faroz.

"My Lord, the Emissary had believed I had something to do with your decision and he spoke of his surprise that the Queen would be involved in matters of state. I assured him I had not, as your words just now have proven. His land must be very different from ours. Can we not hear from him some features of his country, which he shared so eagerly with you this day?"
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Old 11-25-2004, 12:19 PM   #54
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The words of the King presented a great surprise to all in the room, though some pretended not to be flustered, and feigned full understanding. Morgôs did not need to pretend for, even though he was taken aback by Faroz’ statement, his nature did not reflect his surprise. He looked, to the wandering eye of others, to be as calm and collected as any man would be on an average day, with naught to do but be calm. Inwardly, he was reeling, his mind racing. This proclamation by the king was more than controversial, it was dangerous. Faroz, even in his ‘naďveté’ as he and the Emissary had discussed, was not inept or witless. He knew that his daughter was no firm rock in a tempest sea, nor was she any bastion of safety. Her decision might well be too wistful, too passing and fleeting, not befitting of such a crucial decision. Decisiveness was something Morgôs valued, but he always had the time to consider options, a perk of immortality. Being overly decisive was a sure path to dissolution. It was not a healthy idea to place the crown so early on his children’s head before an heir had been chosen.

Faroz’s parents had been rash as well, and Morgôs remembered his severe rejection of their choice to marry young Faroz to the heiress of Alanzia. A silly political scheme it had been, one meant to sway the fickle hearts of commoners. This was the same, a ploy, nearly condescending to many, but Morgôs saw through it. Truly, Faroz was an honest man, if not a cruelly efficient one, and this plan would work to his advantage. A transfer of regency to his children would do more than just decide the matter of the Emissary, but it would allow Faroz to glimpse his two offspring making an important decision, and how they went about it, which would help him make his own decision about who his heir would be. Also, as dank as the thought he entertained was, this might also be an easy method to shift some responsibility from the shoulders of Faroz, leaving him in power, but effectively removing the blame for any wrongness of his youthful children. But, Morgôs knew the King better than this. That was not his keenest motivation.

Either way, the situation gravely troubled General Morgôs. He trusted Prince Siamak, from what he’d heard, but did not fully allot that trust to Gjeelea, who might hold greater sway over the decision at hand because of her commanding air and strength in the court. She had the nature of a youthful woman, full of folly, as Morgôs had been told. The Elf wished that he knew more, that he had met one of the two royal progeny on one occasion, but he had not, and he regretted his avoidance of social functions. He knew too little of those who would someday rule, and did not have the time to learn, as he had with the Kings of yore, Faroz’s forefathers.

Faroz had spoke of earlier of Morgôs career, truthfully, as if the General were an antique of great value to him. Since Faroz was a boy, Morgôs had trained him in the ways of war, so that he might learn the ways of strategy, tactics, and of the military essentials that one might need to govern. Nine generations of Pashtian kings had been trained by Morgôs in those ways, tutored by him. This would be the first generation in two centuries that would not place a ruler on the throne who he intimately knew. He had not taught either Siamak or Gjeelea, and though they were both more than a decade old, he had met neither of them formally until this very night, and only knew them from hearsay, and the reports of courtiers in the King’s halls. Morgôs had not offered to tutor young Siamak, because of the long-running debate as to whether he would be King or not, and he had some qualms about teaching Gjeelea. He supposed that, whenever the King chose an heir, he would have to teach that one at least a little, to prepare him or her for the throne. He admitted that he would've liked to train Siamak, if only to know him better, but Siamak seemed gravely hesitant, which effected Morgôs adversely.

Now, Morgôs did not feel at ease with the situation. He worried for the present, and the choices that would be made. He had long hoped to secrete some manner of alliance between himself and the young Prince, who he had just now met, and this seemed a perfect time to distill a drop of his influence in the boy. The Elf fleetingly decided what he would do, a swift endeavor, hasty for him, but a promising one as well. Studiously, he leaned forward against the table’s edge and directed his gaze at Siamak. “Prince Siamak,” he said, as Queen Bekah, Faroz, and the Emissary talked of other things nearby, “may I speak with you after the banquet? I have a matter which must be discussed to speak of.”

Siamak looked at first flustered, but, after a pensive second, nodded, and looked with just concern to his father, who was mulling over a question from his wife. “If my father allows it, I would be honored.” Said the Prince, shy, but obviously interested in the prospect. He seemed to have taken to the General right away, which was a definite bonus. Without polite hesitation, Morgôs whipped around in his seat to the King and interrupted his conversation. “Your majesty?” He said, assuming that the King had heard the exchange. He had, as the Avari quickly learned.

“So long as you do not enchant the mind of my son with your sly mind, Morgôs.” Faroz said, smiling, interjecting the words as a side-note to the General before he prepared to resume his other dialogue. The General realized the nature of his rudeness, severing the King’s train of thought with his terse words. “I could not, milord.” He said quietly, not meaning to disturb the King, with an apologetic gesture, “I am too enchanted myself to attempt such a feat.” Faroz turned to him again, very patient despite the continual interruptions of his Elven commander. “I cannot control my son’s conversations, General.” He said then, “You need not gain my permission.”

With a simple motion, the Elf bowed his head, “You are as judicious as you are wise, you majesty.”

“I need not flattery from you, Morgôs,” said Faroz in response, “it does not suit you.” The king the turned to his wife and the Emissary, to resume where they’d left off, but, before he did, Queen Bekah leaned towards him and whispered something silently into his ear. He shot a glance at Morgôs as she spoke to him, and the General could not help but wonder what she said, but tried not to think of the suspicions the Queen held, or the praises, or whatever it might be that she now told the King. With a disquieted look, Faroz began to answer the question that the Queen had asked a minute ago, and Morgôs looked sharply at the Prince, who returned the look, confirming that they would parley after the festivities had concluded.

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Old 11-25-2004, 11:00 PM   #55
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What was her father thinking? Gjeelea inwardly tried to calm her immense shock, disgust, and horror at the announcement her father had given. She wondered if King Faroz wanted his children to strangle each other, for surely that was the only thing that could possibly come of the two trying to work together. Gjeelea did not even know how many times she and her brother Siamak had gotten along, but she knew that if she remembered the times, they could be counted with the fingers of one hand.

On the outside, Gjeelea kept her face calm, accepting, and smiling. Her inner turmoil could never reach the outside; the princess would not allow such weakness to be shown to so many people that might manipulate her. By keeping how she really felt on the inside, her enemies saw only what she wanted them to see. Gjeelea knew all to well that her father was making some kind of test out of giving this decision to both of his children. The princess wondered at how her father needed to go to such extremes to help him decide who would be his heir.

When Siamak set up a meeting between the Emissary and the two royal children, Gjeelea wanted so badly to scowl at her younger brother. Whatever decision she made – and she would make it quickly with the grace and ease she felt any ruler should have – Gjeelea felt that she would have little trouble convincing her brother to bend to her opinion. Of course Siamak had his voice in the matter, but Gjeelea also knew how often Siamak actually used his voice to begin with. The princess had often used her brother’s introverted nature against him, much to her own advantage; this occasion would be no different.

Instead, Gjeelea nodded and hastily agreed to the time arranged, and then left the company of her meek little brother. The desert snake that hunts with cunning and craft will be sure to return home with a meal first, she thought as she lost sight of Siamak. Pashtia needed a ruler who did not need to think long to make the right decision; Siamak always seemed to need some modicum of time to mull over any kind of matter, simple or complex. Time was precious, and Gjeelea saw no point in wasting it by comparing and contrasting for the right answer.

The only weight that Gjeelea could feel holding her back when people questioned her ability to rule was the need for her to marry. Her betrothed would become king, and that gave Pashtians – most importantly King Faroz – another person who’s worth and ability needed to be contemplated. Gjeelea had doubt in the general view of Lord Korak; her father was not like the silly girls at court who fawned over his good looks. King Faroz knew deeper than appearance, as did many other important figures that would help decide who became the next ruler of Pashtia. Gjeelea had no doubt in her ability to keep great influence in matters of state if Lord Korak should become king. He was stupid and blind of intelligence. She counted on the dense folly of her future husband, even, for if she did marry someone more admirable and intelligent, she would certainly have less say in how Pashtia was ruled.

All these things pushed to the forefront of Gjeelea’s mind as she weaved through the crowds trying to find the betrothed that counted for so much in her hopes to become the ruler of Pashtia. She needed to portray a happy picture to her parents and to the court, no matter how she really felt about Lord Korak.
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Old 11-26-2004, 03:11 PM   #56
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White Tree Evrathol

Evrathol was, as everyone else, stunned by Faroz's decision. Twice, he had looked back and forth as his mother and father; His eyes were about to pop out of his head, and the worst part was that Evrathol hadn’t been aware of that such looks might seem rude and inappropriate. Morgôs, his father, had been just as surprised as his son, or so Evrathol had thought. His mother however, hadn't really shown any signs of disagreement to Faroz decision, nor had she seemed overenthusiastically. Evrathol offered Gjeela a smile as their eyes met, but he couldn't help himself thinking that the choice the two siblings were going to make, would end up like a total disaster. The two of them were as different as two siblings could possibly be, both of were young and a bit immature; Gjeela, a young lass, was sharp tongued and much enchanted by everything that could be called “gossip”. Simiak, who Evrathol favoured over Gjeela, was most likely to be oppressed by his sister as he was often seen as weak and not very confident. This meant that Simiak would probably not have much to say in the decision the two of them had to make. Evrathol concluded that the final word would be Gjeela's. Evrathol couldn't see how Faroz had placed such a decision on any of them. However, if it was the Majesty's decision and therefore it was definitely final. Evrathol accepted it and respected it, but he didn’t have to understand it or agree on anything whatsoever.

After more thought, however, Evrathol figured that this could make things even more interesting. Maybe Faroz was going to choose his heir based on the decision his children made.

Thinking about His Majesty and his announcement, he eyed the Priest Tarkan. Evrathol saw that Tarkan was watching him. Evrathol was embarrassed because he had forgotten to greet him and the High Priestess. How un-thoughtful of him. Leaving the table for a moment, smiling at his mother, he went over to Tarkan "Good evening," Evrathol said awkwardly, but not in a way that Tarkan, or anyone else for that matter, would notice it. Tarkan smiled weakly, greeting the elf. "I can see you and your family have found your way to the King's table," Tarkan muttered. Evrathol was a bit surprised over the remark of this, so he nodded humbly; "Well, Her Majesty insisted. And to be quite frank; The King and the Queen are excellent people, and I am indeed honoured to sit at their table tonight, with the Emissary himself."

Tarkan didn't respond to this. Evrathol wondered what the Priest was thinking. It was hard to say. Tarkan was indeed a hard person to read, and since Evrathol, himself, hadn't met him or spoken to him too many times, it was ever harder. They had, however, occasionally exchanged words. "So, you have met His Majesty's guest?" The priest asked Evrathol. "Barely," Evrathol muttered. Evrathol had only greeted him, nothing more. "But, your father seems to be establishing an acquaintance with the Emissary, is he not?" the priest replied immediately, looking over to the King's table; Morgôs was currently not speaking to the Emissary, but he had done so earlier that evening. "Well, I wouldn't put it that way..." Evrathol said, moving his eyes from Morgos to the Emissary. In fact; Evrathol could not tell whether his father, Morgôs, was impressed by the Emissary, nor could he tell if Emissary was impressed by his father. "What way would you put it then..?" Tarkan then continued. Evrathol shrugged. It wasn't in his nature to shrug, because he usually knew what to say, but the situation required such an action as he had no idea where Tarkan wanted with these questions. "Oh, forgive me, son; I've treated you unjustly - asking you all these questions. This is a celebration and my questions surely are inappropriate," Tarkan then said, smiling at Evrathol. Yet again, Evrathol didn't know how to respond;" No, please sir. We're all interested in the Emissary and his business here. I can't imagine another way to find out without asking questions!" he said laughing softly. The Priest joined him soon.

A woman was moving towards them; her head just visible above Tarkan's shoulders. Evrathol recognized her; it was the High priestess Zamara. "My good lady," Evrathol said politely, bowing. Zamara nodded while she smiled. "Greetings to you as well," she said looking back and forth at Tarkan and Evrathol.

"Zamara," the priest muttered.

"Tarkan," Zamara then said, nodding once again.

Evrathol had only met the High Priestess a couple of times. He would consider himself more acquainted with Tarkan than Zamzara, but it would be a good time now to expand his contacts.

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Old 11-29-2004, 08:03 PM   #57
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Siamak was intensely curious about the General’s wish to speak with him. Obviously, he wanted to talk in private or else he would have spoken his mind during the banquet. He supposed it would probably be about the Emissary, as the General had brought it up so shortly after his father had made the announcement, but it could be something else, though Siamak did not know what it could be. Nevertheless, Siamak schooled his expression as if it were only a matter of business and turned his attention to the present. He listened with interest to what the Emissary was saying, though he was having trouble processing everything so quickly. He contributed to the conversation as necessary or when the opportunity presented itself. The hour became late and so the banquet began to draw to a close.

The ensemble of musicians who had been the entertainment for the evening wrapped up for the night and guests began to trickle out of the banquet hall, though some of the nobles lingered, chatting. Servants began to inconspicuously clear away the plates of food, many of them being empty by now. Siamak waited for as long as was proper and took his leave, bidding those remaining at the table a good night.

“General Morgôs,” he said, getting the Elf’s attention. “Take your time to finish up anything you need to here, and meet me in the courtyard.” The General nodded, and Siamak departed from the great hall. The night air was refreshingly cool, though not chilly, and the stars twinkled above. The courtyard was dimly lit with torches and the light spilling out from the banquet hall, and Siamak saw that there were a few people gathered to converse here rather than inside. He selected an out of the way location to wait for the General, and it was not long before General Morgôs emerged from the hall, spotting the prince almost immediately. After greeting each other, Siamak spoke.

“Would you prefer someplace where we could be alone to speak, or is the courtyard fine?” he asked.

“Somewhere private, if that is all right,” General Morgôs replied. Siamak nodded. “Certainly. Come with me.” He led the General through a side gate of the courtyard, silently passing through the public gardens into one of the more private ones. Like the courtyard, the only light was a few torches and the slight light of the crescent moon. The sound of trickling water attested to the nearby fountains, and night bugs were chirping.

“No one will disturb us here,” said Siamak. Unable to suppress his curiosity any longer, he asked, “Now, General, what is it that you wish to speak to me about?”

Last edited by Firefoot; 11-29-2004 at 09:46 PM.
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Old 11-29-2004, 09:28 PM   #58
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The Emissary smiled at the Queen and reclined at length upon his cushions. His eyes narrowed, but in a measured way rather than a menacing. He paused in contemplation of her like that, and remembered the sight of her kneeling before her useless idol earlier. His smile grew thin. “What would you like to know, Majesty?” There was the slightest emphasis upon the final word that sent shivers up Bekah’s spine.

“Given your mistake, I would be interested in hearing about the women of your land,” she replied evenly. “Particularly the role of your Queen.”

“My Lord Annatar has no wife,” the Emissary replied quickly, a brief glimpse of distaste appearing on his features.

“Oh?” the Queen queried, “that cannot be a good policy. Not unless he plans on living forever.”

This time the Emissary did not even try to hide his smile, but it was unreadable to her. Faroz, turning from his General, had heard the last exchange and now joined in. “Indeed,” he said to the man, “your lord should take a wife. I admit that I sometimes do not give my Queen the credit and acknowledgement that she deserves, but without her I daresay I could not run the kingdom.”

“Indeed,” the Emissary replied, his eyes never leaving the Queen’s. “If I might be so bold, my King, that would seem to me an unwise policy. While I am sure that the people are well served by such a pair as yourselves, is it not better for there to be one ruler? One alone whom all obey?”

Bekah pounced on this. “At last, I think I see something of your land. Your Lord Annatar is a monarch of great power, I deem. One who does not believe in sharing that power with family or nobles.”

“Where there is wisdom and strength, Majesty, there can be little need for sharing power.”

“And is your Lord Annatar so well endowed with both that he needs no help?” the Queen replied.

Faroz stepped in once more, for the tone of the conversation was becoming heated and heads were beginning to turn. “My friend,” he began. “You must forgive us, for we are a proud people – proud of our land and of our way of doing things. The ways of others, even those who are neighbours to us, seem foreign and strange.”

“And yet,” the Emissary replied, “you would know so much of your neighbour’s ways, having married your former enemy.”

Even Faroz fell silent at the audacity of the comment, and for a second it appeared as though the Emissary had finally overstepped all bounds. But with a happy laugh and a sudden movement that brought him upright, the man said, “I am sorry, Majesties, but you are not alone in your difficulty with foreign ways. I admit, that in my land women do not enjoy the power of rule as is apparent here. Nor are they partners in the King’s power. But also we do not use them to make political alliances, marrying them to an enemy for the benefit of ourselves. I do not judge, nor do I seek to offend, I merely speak as you have bid me. . .of our ways.”

“We take no offence,” the King replied before his wife could. “But perhaps we could speak of something else for the time. You said somewhat of the Elves in your land this afternoon, perhaps you could tell us more. You mentioned that there was strife between Men and Elves…?”

The Emissary’s face fell. “Indeed,” he said quietly, “it was all an unfortunate and lamentable mistake on all sides. The Elves believed that there were Men who wished to have their land, and the Men, for their part, had become distrustful of the Elves. It is said that some of the Elves who had brought the Evil from over the Sea were seeking to rebuild their kingdoms, and so perhaps there was some truth to the bad feeling felt against them.”

“What evil?” the Queen asked.

“In long ages past, my Queen, the Elves left for the West to enjoy an eternal peace, but some returned to make war on the powers of Middle-earth. For centuries they fought over a hoard of treasure that they made false claims to, and in the end they and all their works were destroyed in a mighty cataclysm that changed the face of the earth itself. It is said that some of those who fought in that war linger yet in Middle-earth and that they desire still to have vengeance upon their enemies. In their mistaken pride, they hold all Men to be their enemies.”

“All Men?” the King asked. He had heard none of this, this afternoon.

“There are some,” the Emissary replied, “who the Elves trust. But they are themselves more Elvish than Men, for in years past the Elves took into their keeping some humans and…bred with them. It is a long tale, and not a happy one.” He fell silent, and it was clear that he would say no more on the topic this night. He turned his eyes upon the Queen. “I fear I have not told you much, my Queen. . .at least, not what you were hoping to hear. What can I say that will assuage your concerns about my Lord? What assurance do you crave that he is in earnest in his request for friendship?”
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Old 11-30-2004, 12:50 PM   #59
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The Emissary's words of emnity between elves and men soured any and all attempts he made at polite expressions of friendly alliance, at least with Bekah. It brought back to her mind all the tales of perfidy and mistrust and hatred with which she grew up, once again making precarious her efforts to assimilate the Pashtian attitude towards elves. First his arrival had strangely changed the King's behaviour, making his people jealous and mistrustful of the strange western man. Then he had made one or two social gaffes, statements which a seasoned courtier might not have made unless he wished to sew some discord. And now his story of strife between men and elves went straight to the heart of unrest here in Pashtia against the elves and outright hatred against them in her homeland. The food which she had eaten that evening sat heavily in her stomach, making her wish she had not eaten.

"You misunderstand my interest, Emissary," she replied calmly. "I did not ask about your country in order to evaluate your Lord Annatar's claim of friendship. As a child raised in Alanzia--as you clearly point out, having learnt that fact very soon upon your arrival--and an adult who has learned the ways of Pashtia I am interested in the great variety of cultures and societies which our earth seems to hold. Cultures as well as people influence each other and so I merely wished to enquire about the ways in which your country might influence us."

If the Emissary was blandly dissuaded by her disclaimer, Faroz was not. He was too astute at understanding how his Queen sought out information from a variiety of sources to believe that she would not use the Emissary's answers to frame some kind of opinion about this unusual request.

"Yet the night wears on and I have not paid greetings to our other guests here. My Lord, and Emissary, I leave you to your conversation. I will bid good night to others and take my leave." Bekah held her hand out to Faroz, which he acknowledged with a formal display of touch, and rose from her cushions, leaving them to their thoughts.

Bekah first sought out the High Priestess and the Priest, bidding each a goodnight and marking in their eyes their thoughts at the evening's events. Tarkan, she thought, showed a keen glint whenever he spied her daughter. It would not surprise me, she thought to herself.

"Zamara, a company of weavers have delivered to me carpets which they are anxious to be displayed in the temple. Would you wish to see them tomorrow? Come in the afternoon to my quarters, after my public hour of audience."

The Hight Priestess was not often summoned to the Queen's presence and her look showed her surprise.

"Oh, I do not mean to ignore Tarkan. You will join us, also, will you not?" asked Bekah as she turned to the Priest.

"Majesty, my taste is but humble and I believe it best to leave such decisions to those who understand such matters. If you would excuse me."

Bekah made no effort to hide her smile, which, indeed, was almost a sardonic twist of her mouth.

"You follow your own counsel, of course, Tarkan. Zamara, then, shall I see you?"

The Hight Priestess, more wise to the ways of court manners, understood that more might be discussed than mere carpets. She nodded agreement. Belah placed her hand upon the Priestess's staff and bowed her head in the formal courtesy due to the woman, but at the last moment she found it hard to maintain a serious or respectful face.

Out of the corner of her eye she had glimpsed the Lord Korak with a face as dark as waters under storm of the eastern wind. She had often wondered what family alliance had prompted Faroz to offer their daughter to him in infancy. As far as she could tell, the elderly Lady Hababa had been close with Faroz's family. Whatever reason, Bekah had always made a special place in her affairs for this family, so it was not unusual that she would make a special acknowledgement of the old woman.

"Lady Hababa, I am pleased to see you looking well and so spry this evening," she crooned as she arrived at the table and took her place on some cushions beside the old woman.

"Well, I wouldn't want to miss the wedding," was the rather strange reply.

"None of us would, I'm sure," replied Bekah quickly, quite aware of the older woman's confused memory, and anxious to smooth away the look of utter disdain the Lord Korak showed towards the woman's frailty.

"The music was nice. Almost like it was when I was young, but I could not hear all the speeches."

"Nothing of any great portent was said, Mother," replied Korak, clearly wishing to cut off his cousin from any kind of retort. She, however, had stopped her tongue with the arrival of the Queen, for the Lady Arshalous could see little use in displaying family discord in front of a member of the Royal family.

"You calm your mother with unction, my Lord Korak, but I would have thought you in particular would be intrigued by the King's annoucement."

"Oh, he was, Majesty, he was," interjected Arshalous, beginning to see that some fun could be had at her cousin's expense.

Bekah allowed herself a small laugh inside as she sat back and watched the family struggle to maintain some composure while masking their animosity. It was perhaps not entirely kind of her, but this family was so hypocritical that she could not resist occassionally drawing them out. Yet she felt sincere fondness for the older woman, for the Lady Hababa had been one of the first court members to show her acceptance when she had first arrived. It was always with gentle sadness that she tried to steer the woman's conversation away from her fears of forgetfulness. Yet, after some time, Bekah found the cousins would not this night relinguish any thoughts about the Emissary or the King's decision.

"You will come to see us soon, Majesty," the elderly woman said. "Nobody comes to see me anymore."

"I will come as soon as my schedule permits, my Lady Hababa, for you are one of my favoured members of the court." Bekah tried hard not to catch the impatience in the eyes of the cousins as she bid the family a goodnight and rose to withdraw from the banquet.

Bekah signalled her attendants to escort her out, leaving the Chamberain with her request for her children. "Tell Siamak and Gjeela that I wish to see them midmorning in my quarters."

For all the captivating nature of the banquet, the feast, the scented aromas, the entertainments and music, Bekah left the affair with greater mistrust of his Emissary than she had when she arrived. Every where he placed his words, he seemed to strike some kind of discord, almost provoking controversy under a suave manner of politeness. She shivered, recalling her courtyard empty of any guards. Yet he spoke of one voice, one authority. In her heart, she worried about the King's announcement to leave the decision to their children. She wondered if they were astute enough to understand the role which had been thrust upon them. With that thought, she wound her way through the passageways to her quarters.

Last edited by Bęthberry; 12-02-2004 at 09:34 PM. Reason: adding bit with Arshalous, Korak and the Lady Hababa
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Old 11-30-2004, 05:44 PM   #60
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With a thankful word to the King and Queen, and assurance to his wife and son, Morgôs left the great hall, still abuzz with noise despite the late hour. Still, the King and Queen spoke with the Emissary, but the festivities had wound to a near close when the Elven General whisked himself out of the regal palace, and into calm tranquility from whence he’d come. His lengthy robe swinging like a great mantle about him, he glided into the courtyard, his Elven eyes, sharpened and keen, saw the Prince and was greeted, and immediately pressed to the present. He did not know, as he stood, how to phrase this question he had been considering for over a year. The circumstances of the gala evening had not been what he had in mind to clarify his intentions, but he would have to make do.

“Prince Siamak…This must seem…very strange to you, and I apologize for my forwardness in this matter." Morgôs bandied his words about before he spoke, pacing in front of the Prince, who followed the Elf's movements carefully, almost studying him. "I had hoped" Morgôs went on, "to be able to speak with you informally several times before I had to address you thusly, but the fetters of our duties have withheld that option. Therefore, I must approach you now, mere hours after our first meeting, about a graver matter than I had hoped. Again, forgive me, but, in light of the Emissary’s coming and your father’s wishes, I must take counsel here.” There was no response from the Prince, but Siamak did not slowly, understanding the General’s dilemma, and curious about what he had to say. The Prince was sharp, but did not catch the flash in Morgôs’ eye as he realized he had hooked the lad.

“Long have I heard of you, young Prince. Your father may have told you of me, but I do not trust to hope, for I cannot fathom what the king tells you or your sister. Either way, I know of you somewhat, enough to know that you are a sensible lad, and one with a mind that is perhaps keener than those of your father’s courtiers. Of your sister, the Princess, I know enough as well to have chosen a favorite among the two. Many of those warriors who serve under my command know upon whom my favor shines, but you do not. Ever since your birth, I have felt, nay, known that I, as General of Pashtia, had an obligation to favor you or your sister. I dislike politics, with all my heart, but dare not evade it, for it is to me as a serpent, waiting to strike unless it is appeased, and my time has come to appease it, in what feeble way I can. So, tonight, my decision is made, and I come to you, the favored Prince.”

The Prince said nothing. Morgôs could tell that, just as he thought, Siamak was not an avid speaker. Morgôs was not either, but his civic stoicism took over, and this new political underside he’d never known he had was now exposed, intriguing him. Feeling a verbal vigor overcome him, the Elf continued, carefully exercising tact, as well as his own mischievous military strategies refashioned to apply to this conversation. “Now,” he continued brusquely, “with the Emissary from the west so close in our midst, the time has come for your decision. I am an Elf bound to my duties, and would never disobey, or question my king, but, I can set into motion events that might seat a noble son on the throne, one whom I know, and need never question. Your father, like his father before him, is a good, true, and mighty man, but I cannot say that every order given me has been relished in its carrying out, though all are fulfilled. You, Siamak, are the next gem in Pashtia’s crown.”

Siamak, at last, interjected as Morgôs paused, patience half-gone from his shaded face. “Such words would sound treasonous to most, General Morgôs.” Siamak said, not scathingly, but with more seriousness in his tone than before, though still one of great interest, “I sense your true meaning is not underhanded, but I advise you, show more care with what you say. My father is still king.” But Morgôs waved his hand, as if to brush aside such thoughts, and said, “Never, Siamak, would I question your father, or the royal family, but I must impress upon you the importance of this meeting, and what I seek from you: alliance, Prince, and unity between you and another front that could win your father’s favor. Your sister has friends in court lackeys and the petty oligarchs of Kanak, but you can have more, if you grasped that power which is rightfully yours. Grasp it with the hand of a king. Your sister is not yet married; you are in your prime. With all these choices to be made-”

Suddenly, Siamak cut him off. “And what of those choices, General?” he said quietly, apparently pensive about the General’s proposal, but wary. “Do you have some ‘wisdom’ to share with me relating to my decision about the Emissary?”

“I would not impose my wishes on you, Prince Siamak. I wish only for alliance and the chance to provide some wisdom for the man who may someday be king of this land. I only suggest that you be firm, and be the first to make your choice known. When the time comes to make the decision, step forward and force your hand, be counted. Then you shall see what the King favors in an heir. But, that is for another day. On this festive eve I must have one answer and one alone. As a delegate of Pashtian Avari, I have placed my favor, even if your father has not. Will you accept my fealty?”
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Old 12-01-2004, 11:38 AM   #61
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“Your Queen, I fear, distrusts me Majesty,” the Emissary said as Bekah left. Faroz remained silent. “I hope, however, that her opinion has not swayed your own. You did call me friend today.”

“I did,” the King replied, “and so I will continue to call you. But I also have said that while I trust in you, I must take thought to your Lord’s purpose. I must admit that having heard of the discord between the Elves and men of your realm, I am more…reluctant now than previously to undertake an alliance with your Lord. Not that the decision is mine to make anymore! Did I do well, do you think, to leave it to my children?”

“That is not for me to say.”

“On the contrary, as I have asked you it is your duty as my guest to speak your mind.”

“Very well, Majesty. I am not convinced that you have done wisely this night. I am as yet unfamiliar with the ties between your people, but even I could see that your decision has caused confusion and even doubts among your people. It would have been better, I think, to make the decision yourself.”

“Ah, but then the doubts would not have been about my decision to leave the choice to my children, but of me. My people are not used to me having friendships with foreign strangers, and they are already cautious of you and your mission for the sake of the time that we have spent together this day. Were I to rule in your favour now, they would, I fear, distrust you even more, and doubt my ability to judge soundly. This way, a decision can be achieved that is best for the kingdom and in which no blame or doubt can be raised against me.”

“You assume, my King, that your children will choose as you would.”

“I am sure that they will,” he replied, “if they come to the decision as I would – by seeking the opinions of the people, and take into account the feelings of all involved.”

“Including their mother’s?”

Faroz’s eyes narrowed somewhat and he looked away from the Emissary. For the first time, he appeared to put some distance between them. “It displeases me how you and she do not get along. I do not expect my family and my friend to enjoy one another as I do, but I would hope that all could be upon kindly terms.”

“Of course your Majesty,” was the courtly reply.

Faroz stood and motioned for the Chamberlain to attend. “Jarult,” he said to the old man, “Please see the Emissary back to his villa.” He turned to the man. “My friend, I cannot tell you how I have enjoyed this day but I fear it has come to an end. Tomorrow, perhaps, you will be able to join me for an hour or two in the courtyard before the midday meal? I would speak with you about the gift of your Lord.”

Ashnaz stood and bowed elegantly. Looking significantly at the Chamberlain he said, “May I have a quiet word with you, my King, about that before I depart?” Faroz’s eyes narrowed once more, this time with inquisitiveness. He motioned for Jarult to stand off, which the old man did with his disapproval written on his face. The dark man leaned close to Faroz, so close that his breath ran across the King’s cheek as they spoke. “Do not put on the Ring in company, my King,” he said. “It is a…special thing that my Lord has sent to you, one endowed with many powerful gifts. It would be well if you were to put it on when you were alone.” Faroz leaned back and looked at his friend and nodded wordlessly, now filled with wonder and curiosity. Ashnaz bowed once more and took his leave.

* * *

The King wandered out into the courtyard, and once more his fingers sought out the ring beneath his clothes. He had wondered about it throughout the day, and his friend’s strange words only added to this feeling. He was not surprised that it was more than merely a piece of jewellery, that much had been obvious from the beginning. But the precise nature of the gift remained a tantalising mystery. The King longed to be alone and hidden from the eyes of his people so that he could put on the ring, but he had important business to attend to first. He walked toward the hidden garden where the attendants had said that his general was speaking with his son. What they had to say to one another was not entirely beyond his imagination, for he assumed that they were speaking of Ashnaz and the new responsibility that had been placed upon Siamak. Their manner when he found them, however, was odd, for as he emerged from the shadows it appeared as though Morgôs had just put some question to the Prince that had yet to be answered. The Elf’s manner was unperturbed but his son’s more open countenance flushed instantly. Faroz noted this but betrayed nothing with is own expression. He would have to keep an eye on his son and his general.

“General Morgôs” he said, “I am sorry to intrude but I need to speak with you on a matter of some importance. I am afraid that in my pleasure with the Emissary this day I have neglected to speak with you on the matter of guarding our guests during their stay here.” The unspoken matter of protecting the palace from these guests was left hanging in the air between them.

“Of course, Majesty,” the Elf replied. “I will see to it immediately. Within the hour I will have a squad of my best troops positioned throughout the palace. Would you like me to assign them guard duties to the guest’s quarters?”

Faroz thought for a second before answering. “It might be for the best. But make it clear to our new friends that this is being done for their own protection, and not to constrain their activities. They are to enjoy the full freedom of the palace and the city.” The general nodded. Faroz nodded to his son and then prepared to leave, but then turned back as though thinking of something. “Oh, I just recall that my Queen told me that she saw no guards in her private garden earlier this evening. Perhaps you could see to that? And increase the guard around the Queen herself for the time being.” The general’s eyebrows lifted ever so slightly, but again he nodded. Faroz departed, but wondered what it was that his son and his general were talking of. Not for the first time in his rule did he wish to remain and yet be unseen.

The night was beginning to advance and the moon, although only a crescent yet, shed a full clear light upon the gardens. The King moved through the complicated paths without paying attention to the paths for he had lived in the palace his whole life and knew its ways intimately. It was with surprise, then, that he found himself outside his wife’s doors for the second time this day. He would have walked off immediately, but as this would have caused even greater wonderment to the guards he indicated instead that they should knock and announce his presence. He was admitted to the Queen’s presence immediately. She had removed her head-dress and other ornaments, but other than that had not yet made ready for bed. She took one look at her husband’s expression and dismissed her attendants briefly. Faroz sat upon some cushions by the balcony.

“I am sorry for how this evening went, my wife. I was not as attentive to you as I should, nor did I give you your full due with the Emissary.” The Queen was visibly taken aback by his manner, and even Faroz was surprised by it. He clutched the ring as he proceeded. “You were quite right about the lack of guards, you know, and I have spoken with General Morgôs of the matter. He has said that you and all your places will be well guarded in the future.” He let the matter rest there.

“Thank you, my husband. But surely you have not come simply to tell me this?”

Faroz smiled mirthlessly. “How well you know me.” And then suddenly he said, “How many years have we been married? Twenty-three?”

“Twenty-four.”

“Twenty-four years,” he echoed her quietly. “I will not ask if you have been happy, for I do not think you could answer that question, even if you would do so honestly. I imagine that you have been content, for you are intelligent and adaptable, and have ever sought to help me in my rule. I wanted you to know that I appreciated that.” For a moment it seemed as though he would proceed, but then shaking his head he rose once more and, as though he were taking off a mask he put away the manner that had come over him. “You must forgive me, my wife. The Emissary has put me in an odd mood, and it is late.” He strode to the door and left without another word.

In silence he found his ways through the smaller passages to his own apartments. As soon as he arrived there he dismissed his attendants for the night and put out all the oil lamps in his room. In the dark he removed his finery and put on in their place a simple garment of white cloth that hung about him in loose folds. Taking the ring in his hand he walked out into the moonlight on the balcony. It was one of the few points in the palace that looked out from the walls rather than in toward the courtyard. It stood upon a corner at the highest level of the palace and commanded a full view of the palace grounds to the east of the Palace and, beyond them, the city stretching away into the dark. At this time of night, all that was visible were the faint lights of lamps and candles kept alight by those who watched through the night. Far off, upon the edges of sight, was the slight phosphorescence of the might river, against which he could dimly make out the silhouettes of hundreds of small ships, laden with the cargo of this kingdom. It was in moments such as this that the King felt small, and powerless. His entire world – over which he held sway – lay at his feet, but the immensity of it, the riches that it contained and – most of all – the sea of peoples that filled it overwhelmed him with a sense of his own insignificance. It frightened him that so much would look to him for guidance and control. All eyes were upon him, and all regarded him with a mixture of hope and fear, no matter how tempered with respect or admiration. Faroz had no illusions about the nature of his rule; he was neither beloved as a man nor worshipped as a demigod – that had been his father. He was just a man to his people, a powerful man, a wise man, perhaps, even a good man, but a man just the same: fallible and capable of making mistakes. There were times when he wished for his father’s presence and reputation. He had been regarded by friend and foe alike as a figure of myth more than as a person, and his failings, of which there had been many, were ignored by everyone but for those closest to him. And yet how Faroz longed to enjoy the simple humanity that set him apart from his father’s greatness. He he wished he could, for even a moment, lay aside his mask as the King and sit down to a meal as a man among men. He sighed heavily and leaned against the balustrade for support.

As he put his weight on his hands he became aware once more of the ring. He opened his fist and gazed upon it openly for the first time since that morning. Even in the wan illumination of the moon it seemed to shine with its own lustrous light. Taking it carefully in one hand he held it aloft where the red gem glowed in the starlight like a drop of fresh blood, liquid and beautiful. His own words came back to him: it is a precious gift. “Indeed it is,” he muttered under his breath, and he slipped it onto his finger.
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Old 12-01-2004, 01:43 PM   #62
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Silmaril Zamara

Having bid those guests she was closer to a goodnight, until the next morning when she would see some in the temple, Zamara picked up her staff and rose, and asked one of the servants if he would be able to see to Tayfar and Sedaar. The man bowed respectfully and Zamara smiled her thanks, making her way to great doorway of the palace. Standing in the porch, the priestess hesitated, looking down the cool, stone corridor towards one of the private courtyards where she had talked to Siamak earlier.

"I do not trust this Emissary, and even less the Lord Annatar who sent him. I have no proof on which to base my opinion; it is only a feeling. He has been nothing but courteous and generous since arriving, and my father is certainly taken with him - I found out recently that the two have spent the entire afternoon in each other’s company." The prince had told Zamara something interesting with that, although he might not have noted it at the time. The king certainly was very taken with the Emissary then - but Siamak was right. Maybe they were both judging too quickly, but there was something 'sinister' about the man.

Zamara shivered, rubbing her dark upper arms with her hands and finding them suddenly goose-pimply. Not thinking anything of it, she bid her thanks to the servant as Tayfar and Sedaar greeted her, and together they passed out of the palace. The night air was cool and fresh, with hints of jasmine and sleep dozing lazily in it, and as they passed the palace walls, Zamara took a moment to close her eyes and breath deeply the flowery scent of the night that Rhais blessed the air with. Tipping her head back, she looked up at the stars. The night was clear, as was usual near the desert at this time of year, and the stars, like jewels studding the clothes of Rea, shone and winked down at the Priestess. She smiled lazily, and her gaze drifted up above the palace walls to the apartments of the king and queen. She had not been able to say goodnight to them before she left, as both Bekah and, shortly afterwards, Faroz, had retired from the banquet, taking away the Emissary at the same time. For some reason, Zamara's eyes lingered on the windows of the palace that clear night, and as she watched she saw something extraordinary-

Giving a cry, Zamara took a step sharply backwards, her hands over her mouth and her tinted eyes wide and bewildered. The two acolytes immediately stepped towards her, Tayfar steadying her arm as Sedaar stepped protectively in front of her, looking around for what had caused their Priestess to take fright so. Tayfar hushed her quietly, patting Zamara's bare arm comfortingly as she stared, concerned into the woman's dark eyes, before she followed their path with her own. Zamara immediately looked away, changing the direction of her gaze to the ground before Tayfar could focus on her eyes' target: King Faroz balcony.

"What is wrong, High Priestess? What has stung you?"

'Stung'? The scorpion of my sight, Tayfar, the wasp that bites through the use of tired eyes to confuse the weary wanderer... Zamara blinked several times, hard, and glanced across at Tayfar, laying her own hand on the girl's as she steadied herself and took a deep breath. "Stung? I..I do not know, Tayfar. Some...I do not know, the insects of the night..." She shook her head and winced a little as she put weight on her foot. She hated the pretence, but it worked. Tayfar gave a small concerned noise and glanced sympathetically at the Priestess's feet. "Oh, High Priestess - I will bathe the sting in oil when we return to the temple, to prevent any inflammation. It would hardly do to have your feet swelled up when you visit Her Majesty Queen Bekah tomorrow..."

Zamara remembered the appointment with a start and wondered how this chance sight could affect her - the Queen was a stunningly astute woman especially for an older woman. Surely she would notice if anything came of this by tomorrow - no, it was probably just Zamara's own tired eyes...surely... "No, thank you Tayfar, but I...I think it will be fine. It merely startled me - I am tired."

Tayfar nodded, relief showing in her young eyes and with a few more words, the trio started off once more towards the temple, this time the two acolytes notably staying closer to Zamara's side. But the High Priestess could not help letting her eyes dart fleetingly up to Faroz's balcony for a split second, trying to re-affirm what she had seen: but it was empty now.

To all mortal eyes.
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Old 12-01-2004, 06:36 PM   #63
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Faroz’s arrival in the garden could not have been more timely, in Siamak’s opinion. It gave him a few moments to think, short though they were. He paid minute attention to his father’s exchange with the General - just enough to get the gist of the conversation.

He was torn by the General’s offer, and quite surprised. Morgôs wanted to swear fealty to him? His largest objection was that he did not know if it was really right, being that his father was still king. Should one swear fealty to another who was not king? He could be king, though, someday, and he supposed that changed things. Assuming that it would be right (if not quite proper), having the support of the General of the Pashtian army would be a huge advantage over his sister. He had vowed that his sister and her inept fiancé would not gain the throne, and this would be a step in achieving that goal. He did not entertain the possibility that the General could swear fealty to him yet his sister be named heir. There would be no good in worrying about it. He nodded to himself, his mind made up. He had no other reasonable choice than to accept.

His father left shortly, and the General turned his attention back to the prince. “Well? Do you accept?”

In a voice more steady than he felt, Siamak replied, “I will.” Siamak could see that Morgôs was pleased with the decision. The Elf knelt down on one knee and said, “I, Morgôs, General of the Pashtian army, do so swear fealty and service to Prince Siamak of Pashtia, to support him and to be in alliance with him.”

“And I, Siamak, Prince of Pashtia, do so accept the fealty of General Morgôs of the Pashtian army, and this alliance with him.” The words felt awkward in his mouth, but he did not regret it. He felt a new kind of feeling inside of him, a new insight to the workings of palace life. In the past, he had stayed away from formal alliances with nobles, and a new sense of direction had been awakened in him. In this one night, he had experienced many new things, and the foremost of these was his newfound ability to take matters into his own hands to shape his own future. Being named the heir to the Pashtian throne had become more than a dream; it was a reality.

Morgôs rose, the formalities having been completed, and Siamak said, “I should like to speak with you in greater depth sometime soon, tomorrow or the next day. It is late now, and tomorrow will be busy, I think. We both know that these coming days will tell many things of the future of this country, for better, or for worse.” The last was said quietly, and Siamak felt a feeling of foreboding. If he (and his sister - he could not forget her) chose ill, the entire kingdom of Pashtia could be in shambles. He hoped it was an exaggeration, but feared it was not. The responsibility was crushing, suffocating.

Morgôs nodded in both assent to meet and agreement with Siamak’s statement. “There is much that we might speak of, but, as you say, that is for another day.”

“There is. That will be all, then, for the night?” he asked. The General responded that it was, and Siamak walked with him back out to the courtyard.

“I will look forward to meeting with you again, General,” said Siamak. “Good night.”

“Good night,” replied the General. “Until we speak again.” And so they parted. Siamak entered the palace to head to his quarters for the night, but he was intersected and stopped by the Chamberlain.

“Prince Siamak, the Queen has requested that you and your sister go to speak with her in her quarters mid-morning tomorrow,” said the Chamberlain, relaying the queen’s message. Siamak did not have to wonder what it was that they would talk about - unless he was completely mistaken, it would be the Emissary and their decision.

“Thank you, Chamberlain,” answered Siamak. “Good night.”

“Good night,” Jarult replied, and then hurried off, presumably to find Gjeelea. Siamak continued on to his rooms without further interruption, his mind fully occupied with thoughts of the day. These coming weeks would indeed tell many things of the future, and a certain sense of power that was as yet uncomfortable had come over him with the knowledge that he had the ability to determine the outcome.
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Old 12-03-2004, 12:31 AM   #64
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Shortly after the King and Queen had retired, Arshalous, with a courtly (almost mocking bow) to her cousin, had slipped from the court, mounted her horse, and had trotted back to her own palace.

Collapsing onto the bed, she stared fixedly at the ceiling...staring at the mosaics that glimmered softly in the candle light. It showed details of King Faroz's father -- the man that had stepped from the musty pages of ancient myths and legends to rule with wisdom in Pashtia. He had been before her time, yet her own father (long dead from wars) had loved his king...Arshalous wondered if the King had done well in letting his children decide. Besides the obvious fact that they were as sunlight and moonlight, was it wise have let them decide on something so....weight as this alliance?

And then the Queen had come to their table to speak with Lady Hababa...Arshalous flinched as guilt pricked her. Nobody comes to see me anymore... The words echoed in her mind and she wished that she could stop remembering the wistful lines that creased Aunt Hababa's pale cheeks, the limpid eyes that had glanced sadly at herself...the Queen herself had promised to make time while her schedule allowed it...yet she could not be bothered to come, prefering the company of books to her aunt?

She rolled onto her stomach and clutched a scarlet cushion. Was it she who had scathingly denounced the shallow ways of courts, the giggling gaggles of girls who cared only for the current gossip, the courtiers of Korka's ilk that only strived to impress...how was she any better than them? Was it because she thought that she was wise and clever? How was she any different when all she cared about was her books and riling her cousin?

She curled into a tight ball and shivered, then sneezed. Her throat was sore...and she suspected that she had caught herself a small sickness. Semra padded softly in, tucking two warmed flat stones between the blankets at the foot of Arshalous's bed. "Is there anything wrong, my Lady? You look sad...distressed and thoughtful..." she added tentatively.

"Nothing is wrong," she said softly. "Go to bed and get some rest, Semra..."
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Old 12-03-2004, 11:45 AM   #65
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With the dawn came a new day and a new sense of purpose. Slipping from his canopied bed and stretching his limbs out to remove the night from his joints, Faroz smiled easily at the reflection of himself in the long polished silver mirror that hung from his wall. The emptiness of that same mirror from the night before was almost hard to believe now, and the bright light of the sun as it streamed through the arches from the balcony seemed almost to make unreal what had happened. More from a sense of mischievous play than any real concern to test the reality of his memory, Faroz slipped the Ring from the light chain about his neck and put it upon his finger once more. As had happened last night he felt suddenly more solid, more real, even, than his surroundings. The very stone of the Palace became insubstantial and distant, as though seen through a fog, whereas he was bright and tall, almost terrifying in his naked presence. And yet in the mirror there was only his bed and beyond it the rich tapestries that adorned his walls. He removed the Ring and put it back on its chain before calling to his servants.

As he was being dressed and brushed, his mind wandered back to the journey of the night before. He had been startled, at first, by the High Priestess’s cry, and – not knowing what had happened and feeling only that he was the most visible being in the world – he had recoiled from the balcony. The feeling that the Ring gave him had been oddly disconcerting, and he was upon the verge of removing it when he glanced in the mirror and had been forced to stifle a cry of his own. Only then had he looked down at himself and seen nothing but the air. It had come to him in a flash what the gift of the Lord Annatar was, and what it meant. What is the King’s greatest enemy? his father had asked him, so many times that it became something of a ritual with them. The answer, so perplexing that first time the question had been posed came to Faroz as easily now as it had in all those morning lessons: secrets and lies, he could hear himself saying in his youthful voice. He looked down at where he hands should be once more and smiled. Who could keep a secret from one that walks unseen? And what lies were safe from a man who could look anywhere for the truth?

Motivated by the newfound power that was suddenly his, the King had slipped from his room and, moving through the moonlit corridors of the Palace like a spirit, he went to the apartments of the Queen. The doors were closed when he arrived and there were guards about, but he had made a noise to attract them and when they approached he had slipped in behind them and entered the room. He moved past the sleeping forms of the servants and sought out his wife’s bed chamber. He had known that she would not be sleeping, for she was restless at all times, but doubly so when she had matters to consider. And so he had found her pacing about her room in little more than a simple shift, and while her eyes had been open and aware, she had not seen him, although as he moved nearer to her she shivered and pulled a shawl about her shoulders, glancing about the room as though looking for the source of a chilling breeze.

Faroz returned to the present and dismissed the servants, bidding them send in Jarult for there was much business to be done this day. He had been dressed in simple robes of silk, for there were no official occasions this day, only private appointments. He ordered that his morning meal be brought to him in his apartments, and the food arrived just before the Chamberlain. At the King’s command they sat down to their meal together. They spoke of court matters as they ate the meal of bread and cold grains left over from the banquet. The cooks had taken the vegetable dishes, mixed them with yoghurt and reseasoned them with mint. Faroz, made hungry by his night, worked his way through three pieces of flat bread as he tore pieces to scoop up the dish. As they ate the fruit which concluded the meal, the Chamberlain told the King of his day’s appointments. “This morning, Lord, you are to meet with a delegation from the harbour guild. They have raised a great sum of money for a new wharf but would like to borrow funds from the treasury as well so that they might construct a new warehouse complex.”

“Didn’t we already pay to build a large warehouse last year?”

“Indeed, Majesty, but trade is good.” The Chamberlain spoke as though this were a troublesome fact of life. He was a decidedly old fashioned man, much like Faroz’s father, and while he grudgingly acknowledged the importance of trade to the health of his kingdom, he did not think highly of those who engaged in it. Nor did he relish the idea of having to spend time dealing with it. Because of this, his heart fell when the King said that he should meet with the guild members himself. “But my King,” he protested as mildly as he could, “they will want to speak with you themselves about the need for funds. Should we deny it to them, it will have more import coming from you.”

“You believe that we should deny them the funds, which is why you say this. Jarult, do not look down upon the traders and the guilds, for without them we may as well surrender to Alanzia today! I have read their petitions and seen their reports for the future and am inclined to advance a sum to them of approximately two-thirds the amount that they have asked. You can just as easily tell them of this decision as I.” The old man began to protest once more but the King raised a hand to forestall him. “I have a more important matter that needs attending to, and I am eager to see it done. This afternoon I am to meet with those whom I put off yesterday, and I am engaged for midday to speak with the Emissary, so this morning is all the time I will have for this.”

“May I ask what this matter entails?”

“I am considering the request of the nobles for a new temple, if you must know Jarult. I am somewhat inclined to build it, but there are people I must speak with on the matter before I decide.”

“You will want to speak with the Priest and High Priestess then,” the Chamberlain said, and he prepared to leave.

Faroz put out his hand to stay him. “Not yet, Jarult. Before I involve them I need first to speak with those whom this new temple will more directly affect.”

The Chamberlain’s face took on a look of wonder as he replied, “Who could possibly be more affected by a temple than they?”

“Well, my wife, whose piety is much greater than my own, would undoubtedly say that it would affect the people and our gods! But I was thinking of matters far less lofty. If we are to have a temple to Rea then we will need the money to build it. The royal treasury is already taxed at the moment by the demands of the military, and this new harbour project will not yield new revenue for some years at least. Besides, the people who want the temple are the nobility, and should thus be the ones to pay for it. The Lord Korak and Lady Arshalous are both wealthy and, I think, can be persuaded to support the project. For his part Korak has been voluble in his support of it, although I doubt he understands the issue fully. The Lady Arshalous is not, I think, as favourably inclined toward it, but I believe we can convince her.”

“I have heard that she is opposed to the project entirely, Majesty. Why not seek out the support of one more…amenable?”

“Would it not be more effective to have one initially opposed to the temple agree to fund it?” the King replied. “More than that, would it not be pleasing to our people for a Lady to support the new temple, as well? It might also help me quell any problems with the High Priestess Zamara. Besides, the Lady Arshalous is powerful and rich, but she remains a single woman, and an insecure one at that. It shouldn’t be hard to convince her of the…benefits of cooperating with us.” A slow smile crossed the Chamberlain’s face. He had never been overly fond of the Lady Arshalous, to whom he was distantly related through marriage. “Go Jarult, and send for the Lord Korak and Lady Arshalous. Bid them join me in my apartments within the hour.”
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Old 12-03-2004, 04:40 PM   #66
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Dark clouds loomed over the countryside. Green fields changed shades with the rolling clouds or bright sunlight. Morning mist still hung in the air – dewdrops still clung to their blades of grass. She felt the fresh, crisp air hit her face and whip unmercifully at her tightly wound little braids. Gjeelea’s eyes flashed as she ran through the fields, with the colors of the sky and of the ground damp and dreary. The princess had never felt such lush, green grass beneath her feet; she reveled in the strange feeling and painless itch of flimsy blades beneath her toes and heels. She wondered where exactly she was, and just as the thought fluttered through her mind, a colorful little insect fluttered past her vision.

The butterfly could not have known it was doomed.

Gjeelea skipped lightly through the fields, chasing the funny little winged thing, wishing she could touch it. When the yellow butterfly decided to take the risk of resting on a nearby moss-covered rock, Gjeelea took her opportunity. She leapt after the butterfly, grasping for it as she landed hard and heavy on the rock. Gjeelea groaned for a moment, waiting for the pain of the landing to wear off. Then, smiling in a faint manner, she opened up her cupped hands just a sliver so that she could see what waited inside. She could feel the soft velvet of delicate wings; she knew she had caught the butterfly.

Her smile wilted when she saw the broken body and tattered wings of the dead – or dying – insect. She had crushed it.


“Life is a series of little deaths…out of which, princess, more life always seems to emerge,” Gjeelea heard the voice behind her, a deep, low-pitched voice that spoke to her softly, meekly…hesitantly. Turning around Gjeelea saw a young man, with thick dark hair and big, innocent eyes of the same color innocently staring up at her. The taller being looked so familiar; Gjeelea recognized the person...that much she knew. Still, she could not place a name to the calm, quiet face that stared directly back at her. His calm demeanor and quiet disposition reminded her of Siamak. Eyes of the deepest brown flicked up to meet Gjeelea’s own hazel eyes, startling Gjeelea as she grew disgusted holding the remains of the dead insect in her palm. The boy blinked suddenly. Upon reopening his eyes, the color had changed to the palest shade of blue that the princess had ever seen, not unlike the eyes of the foreign soldiers.

Before Gjeelea could think to say anything, another person joined them. This person Gjeelea recognized immediately; she knew her father’s face well enough, even in dream. In his presence, Gjeelea looked over at the young man and now knew the face for sure; it was indeed Siamak. The head of Faroz was bare, and in his hands the princess saw the familiar silver crown that had so often adorned her father’s head. Faroz moved closer to the two younger people and lifted the chaplet high up into the air. He let it hover in the air above the boy next to Gjeelea. After this pause he let the crown rest in the space above Gjeelea’s head. A confused look came over the king’s face, and Gjeelea wondered if he was deciding who deserved the crown more.


“Me," Gjeelea thought to herself, though Faroz lowered his gaze to hers like he had heard her hope. Instead of placing the crown on either child’s head, Faroz lowered his crown and dropped it into the grass. Then the king turned on his heels and walked away. Instead of dropping to get the crown, both children looked to each other, directly at each other, and smiled.

Shooting up from her bed quicker than the eye could blink, Gjeelea laboriously heaved air into her lungs and wiped the sweat from her brow. She fleetingly flicked her gaze about the room, and shook her head violently to clear her thoughts. The dream troubled her greatly, for she did not know the meaning of it. Why had Faroz not chosen? Why did he walk away? Most importantly, why did she and Siamak not fight or argue for it? She pondered these questions as she got ready for the day. Gjeelea had more to do than usual; she had two meetings to attend, one with her mother and one with her brother and the Emissary. Gjeelea also planned on making a visit to the temples.

Things had been set in motion by the arrival of the Emissary, that much was completely certain now to Gjeelea. She knew very well now that the question of who would be the heir to the throne was at the forefront of many people’s minds. She knew even better that Siamak was also aware of that fact.

Gjeelea fully realized her need to stay one step ahead of her brother.

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Old 12-03-2004, 10:28 PM   #67
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Siamak woke with a yawn and a stretch in a pleasant mood. Something... important had happened yesterday, he recalled. In a few moments, the previous day’s events came crashing back to memory, and Siamak shut his eyes again and pulled the light coverlets over his head with a groan, as if to undo the entire time sequence that had been yesterday. The Emissary, his new responsibilities and power, and Morgôs’ oath to him could all go away and life would be normal again. The last, which had seemed like such a good idea last night, now seemed immensely foolish, though he remembered full well his reasons. What if his father found out? The decision that he made last night had been easy enough, but now he had to live with it.

A bird twittering away outside the window caught his attention. Siamak thought that he might like to be a bird - what did they have to worry about anyhow? It seemed like a very easy and appealing life right then.

Siamak knew that he could not escape reality, however, and resignedly rose from his bed to begin the day. Soon he would have to go and meet with his mother, but there was still plenty of time before then.

About that time Okarid slipped in through the door, saying, “M’lord Siamak? Oh, good, you’re up.” He held a covered tray with Siamak’s breakfast on it and set it down on a table in the front room.

“Unfortunately,” Siamak muttered. Out loud, he said drearily, “Yes, and I will be meeting my mother sometime this morning, and the Emissary in the afternoon, and possibly General Morgôs later on.”

“Busy day, then,” said Okarid. “The General Morgôs? I was unaware that you were acquainted with him.” Okarid began to move about the wardrobe and bedroom, selecting Siamak’s clothes for the day.

“I wasn’t... until last night. After the banquet we spoke. The General offered fealty to me, and... I accepted,” informed Siamak. Okarid raised his eyebrows, clearly surprised, but otherwise took the news in stride.

“I see,” was all he said before changing the subject. “I heard about the King’s announcement - what are you going to do?”

“Good question. Once I figure it out I’ll get back to you.” Siamak sighed. By this time he was dressed and Okarid had begun to comb his hair and carefully braid his beard. “I still don’t trust the Emissary, though. Something’s wrong.”

“I caught a glimpse of him last night,” said Okarid conversationally. “He is very... interesting. He comes across as a strong personality.” Siamak nodded mutely - both descriptions matched the Emissary perfectly. Siamak did not try to continue conversation, and Okarid took the hint. There was too much to think about for idle chatter.

Siamak was soon ready for the day and Okarid had no more tasks for the morning. Ordinarily, he would have stuck around until Siamak was ready to leave his quarters, but this morning Siamak preferred solitude and Okarid left him to his breakfast. Siamak barely tasted it, concentrating instead upon his brooding thoughts. The heightened confidence he had felt late last night had fled, along with any eagerness he had to shape his own future. He should not have expected them to remain - they weren’t really part of him, he supposed, and he could only be who he was. But who am I, really? he wondered. He was Siamak, lacking confidence and wishing to be free of duty. But he was also the Prince, a title that entailed certain responsibility. Which was he? Was it possible to be both? He did not know, and felt most unqualified to be the latter. For that matter, was Gjeelea qualified to be princess? Princess, maybe, but not queen - no more than he felt he should be king. It had to be one of the two, of course, but which? Did qualification really have anything to do with it? He wished to be free of his duties, but would not that make him even more unqualified? His station was one thing he could not change, and he supposed that meant that he would have to do the best that he could. Meaning that he would have to take charge and voice his opinions more often, and now he had come in a complete circle.

All of these thoughts were rather disturbing, and Siamak did not know whether any of it mattered, nor whether he had accomplished anything. He hoped his appointments this day would make his mind clearer, for now it was a muddled mess. He knew he had to make some decision soon, in order to have any say at all in the matter. Otherwise, his only say would be in name, and the choice would ultimately belong to Gjeelea. No good.

Siamak felt that he must surely be going insane from anticipation. He only wished that it were not quite so early; otherwise he could just head over to meet his mother already. He was fidgety; he needed something to do. Seeing no readily available activities, he sprung up from his seat and began pacing, counting steps just for something to take his mind off the present situation.

He did not know how long he paced, but after a while he became aware that it was finally late enough for him to go to his mother. He might be a little bit early, but certainly not too early. He took his time in the hallways, allowing some extra time to pass, though not much, since the way was not long. The guards let him through with a word of announcement to the Queen. Gjeelea was not there yet, nor had he expected her to be, and even though he had decided not to let himself be intimidated by her, he was still relieved by her absence.

“Good morning, Mother,” he said pleasantly.
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Old 12-04-2004, 09:13 AM   #68
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The sky, as it always did in Pashtia, brightened quickly once the sun sought the horizon. A clear strong blue all the way to the mountains, over which Bekah could see the usual tumbling mass of clouds. The white light of the sun caught roof tops and towers, directing a hard edge to every building in the city and then turning the very sands of the desert into a shimmering mirror which trapped all sight, blinding even from this distance. Bekah had always hated the directness of the sun, its forceful rays harshly cutting into eyes and blinding personal perception, crushing any chance for enlightenment by insisting upon its own being. Sun and lightening, she had always thought, were cruel agents of power.

[i]What has brought those thoughts to my mind now?[/i} she wondered. It had been a long, long night with all chance of sleep fled with the soft wind which brought continual whispers to her ears. Twice in one day Faroz had come to her chambers. Twice! And when had she last seen him here? Years it had been. Had she met him correctly? Had she done what was right? What was he seeking? Bekah had nearly followed him out, or held him back, to ask him what thoughts were prompting his actions. She had even toyed with the idea of seeking him out in his quarters, something unheard of. Would he have allowed it? What would have happened? She shuttered, once again fearful.

Yet something was unfraying the carefully wrought tapestry of their life and realm. All the strands seemed to be slipping out of place and wanting attention, needing mending.. That chll she felt last night, here in her very room, so like the chill in her courtyard and momentarily at the banquet. What was it? Not even her shawl could save her from it.

A knock at her bedroom door brought her out of her thoughts and Homay entering, calling her to her bath. This was her bath, for her day, not the ceremonial preparation for the formal audience with the King. She slipped into the waters and allowed Homay to scent the bath and pour more water over her. It was cooling and calming and she stretched her tired muscles through the water, feeling each pore awake to the soft sensation of the water.

It was then Bekah decided that she must not allow the Emissary to make an enemy of her. He must not come between the King and his country or between the King and his Queen. Yet she feard damage almost insurmountable had already been done, in a mere day.

Homay dried her hair and dressed her, simply in a robe of turquoise and called the other servants in with breakfast. She ate quietly with the old servant, enjoying the cool yogurt with its flavouring more intense than last night and the fruits. The bread she tore into little pieces, more to fidget with it than to eat it.

"You are quiet this morning, my Lady."

"There is much to consider."

"The new stranger has brought strange decisions and discord." It was a statement, not a question.

"Yes, Homay, he has. Or perhaps he arrives merely at the time when we have much to consider and he adds something unknown to the questions. I of all people should beware of making unfair assumptions about strangers."

"Yet you have, even knowing what you know. Perhaps you are not wrong."

"Perhaps. Still, Homay, I must guard against pushing him away before I understand him. Or rather, before I understand what he means to the King."

'I have news from your brother."

"You have? How fairs he?"

"He is well and his lady. He sends you his regards and a message."

"Written?"

"No, lady. He says he speaks to his sister with courtesy and kindness and hopes she is well. He thanks her for her gifts for his latest child and bids her know that he has chosen from the Alanzian court the child's oath-guardians."

Bekah thought quietly about the news. "So he chose not to accept me or Faroz. He is either leary of peace or unwilling to pursue it."

"I know not, Lady."

Off in the distance they could both catch the voices of the choir at the temple singing the morning' s praises. "I wish both my half-brother and my husband could listen to song. I wonder if the Emissary does," mused Bekah allowed

Homay made no reply, but had the sevants clear the breakfast away. Bekah returned to her balcony, where she watched the slow rise of the heat of the day as the noises of the markets now could be heard. She wondered what Faroz was doing and wished she could see him, privately, when they could talk, without formalities. Her thoughts were broken by a voice not unwelcome, however.

"Hello Mother"

"Siamak! Good morning to you!" Bekah greeted her son with a light caress of each side of his head and a kiss upon his forehead. "Have you slept well? Do you need refreshments?"

"No Mother, I just ate. And it was easy to sleep after a long banquet."

"It was? Ah, yes, the sleep of youth comes easily. I fear we should begin our talk with your sister. Come, see some of the tapestries we have and give ourselves over to pleasant thoughts while we wait for her."
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Old 12-04-2004, 11:13 AM   #69
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Boots On an unexpected visit . . .

Tarkan

Finally the Priest had dozed off and lay silently on the cold stone floor fast asleep. He had been awake all night, sitting quietly by himself, enjoying the tranquillity, thinking. The banquet had not been what he had hoped for. He'd not taken advantage of this feast to talk to the Emissary, or approach him in any other way. Naturally, he regretted this. It bothered him that he could not yet form a fair opinion of him, as he did not yet know what he thought of him; on which ground could he trust or distrust him? He had wondered. The whole night through, he had reproached himself of not contacting with the Stranger. He could have, but he hadn't. Instead, Tarkan had watched Zamara taking the initiative he should have taken and headed over to the royal table, exchanging a few words with the newly arrived man. He himself had sat still on his cushion, as if glued to the floor.

In his dreams the images that roamed around in his head were the same; Zamara rising briskly, clutching her staff in one hand, walking with stern steps to greet the Emissary. The face of the Emissary glowed in an odd light, being surrounded with some queer figures he could not make out properly. The King, his half-brother, was talking and listening attentively to every word the stranger said, his eyes widening as soon as something of interest was being said. His body grew tense due to the curiosity; what were the King and the Emissary talking about? The image of Gjeela made him relax; she had been stunningly beautiful at the banquet. He had watched her whenever had had the chance to. He had rested his eyes on her charming face, of where her hazel brown eyes dominated. The sapphire blue robe she had worn had fitted her perfectly and the confidence she reflected was admirable. Would the King let him, the Priest, have her?

A smile passed his lips, as the rays of the sun pierced through the thick velvet curtains and woke him up. Quickly, he concluded that it was early morning, which meant that he hadn’t slept long. He rose hurriedly; he was still wearing his fine clothing he had worn at the banquet the evening before. Therefore, he sought out the dressing room where he could find something suitable for today's events. Finding a dark purple mantle, a pair of dark trousers and a white shirt, he dressed. In addition to this, he put on his finest pair of shoes; black leather boots, which nearly reached him to his knees. The priest watched himself in the mirror, tall as a tree, pale as the moon, but proud and lit with new energetic life. He blinked, seeing the reflection do the same. He did not know what it was, but he felt as light as a feather. It seemed to him that everything surrounding him was a long distance off; he was either too hungry to pay attention to anything around him, thus everything seeming so odd, or he was too tired to even realise that everything was the same.

Seeing that everything was to his satisfaction, he turned and left his apartments.

The first thing, or person, he sought out was Pelin; a man who also served at the temple, who hade become a good assistant and friend. Tarkan tasted the word 'friend', much astounded that he dared use it. Was Pelin a real friend, or was he just an asset he chose to use whenever he needed to? He frowned, not knowing the answer. Curious about this, it struck him that he didn't have any friends, or at least not any whom he knew of. Did Pelin think of him as a friend? Furthermore, what was a real friend?

He halted, stood silent for a few seconds, listening carefully with his ear glued to the door in hope to hear the sound of Pelin being awake and thus able to come with Tarkan. His eyes narrowed. He imagined hearing footsteps. Smiling faintly, he knocked excitedly at the door. Tarkan waited impatiently, soon hearing someone approach the door.

"Tarkan?!"

"Pelin, you're up!" The Priest said happily, stepping inside, pushing the man aside, slamming the door shut and locking it. "How wonderful," he continued, ignoring the expression Pelin bore in his face. (He looked immensely surprised by the unexpected visit.) Tarkan clapped his hands together, found his way to the biggest room of his 'friend's' apartment and settled down on the floor on one of the softest cushions. He looked at Pelin questioningly, expecting the man to do something. "Well . . ." he said, grinning;” get dressed! Hurry! Aren’t' you hungry?" Pelin nodded quickly, looking quite relieved that nothing seemed to be wrong. "Hurry then!" With that, the young man obeyed the Priest, but not without being slightly hesitant. It could be read in his eyes that he was greatly surprised by the Priest's behaviour. He had never shown up in Pelin's apartments like this before; it had always been the other way around, and if the priest had paid him a visit, something he almost never did, it had certainly not been this time of day.

Seeing Pelin off to get dressed, Tarkan took the advantage of this opportunity and got up from the cushion. He looked around. The young man seemed to own more than him, but even so he did not look wealthier. By the look of his furniture, tables, shelves, cushions and so forth, the man who lived her had a lack of taste. The room, and the furniture, reflected no elegance at all. Things were stowed away in the corners, as if hidden, but it was still visible for everyone's eyes to see. He made a grimace, curling his lips in distaste.

"Are you well?"

The sound of Pelin’s voice rung in his ears. The priest, busy walking around, picking up items and thinking of the man's poor taste, had not seen that Pelin had approached him. He smiled gently, not knowing what to say. Pelin's way of living was none of his business, and for a moment he wondered why he cared at all. Was this friendship, perhaps?

"All is well, Pelin. I'm just hungry," came the reply. "I see you are dressed! Excellent! Now let us leave!"

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Old 12-04-2004, 02:09 PM   #70
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Gjeelea's light sandals shuffled along the tile floor of the hallway as she walked briskly to her mother's apartments. She could hardly concentrate on going the right way, for she was too busy wondering why her mother had called her and Siamak to her rooms. Gjeelea made several wrong turns, careless mistakes that she did not realize she had made until she found herself in a completely different wing than the one she meant to go to. When she finally did find her mother's apartments Gjeelea was still wondering why it weighed so heavily on her mind.

Big doors loomed in front of her, and guards stood around them with looks of complete and utter boredom on their faces. They let Gjeelea through, and the princess knocked on the polished wood, passively eyeing the intricately inlaid gold trim on the doors as she waited for it to be opened. When it finally was opened, Gjeelea was welcomed by Homay, her mother's maid. With a tight smile Homay opened the doors wide for Gjeelea to enter. The princess gave a smile in return, a smile as honest as she could make it as she stepped into the quarters of the queen. Homay led her away, and Gjeelea listened half-heartedly as the kind old woman informed her where Siamak and her mother waited for her.

Standing with her brother in the corner looking at tapestries, Gjeelea could hear her mother explaining something about the difficulties of weaving to him. Her lovely, though rather simple turquoise robe rustled with the slightest movement. Gjeelea had learned many things from her mother, and spent more time with her than she had ever spent with the king.

"Good morning, Mother," Gjeelea promted, and she watched as both her mother and brother turned from their conversation to look at her. Siamak certainly looked more like Bekah, for reasons Gjeelea could not quite place. Something about her brother reminded her of her mother, and it bothered Gjeelea that she could not figure out why. His eyes? Maybe it was his smile. The princess looked to the younger sibling. "And to you as well, dear brother."
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Old 12-04-2004, 03:42 PM   #71
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Fealty in Pashtia, and the swearing of it, was simple, but important. Unlike in certain nomadic tribes’ political structures, Pashtian fealty did not mean boundless loyalty, it simply meant “alliance” with some noticeable perks. Swearing fealty was the equivalent of promising to back someone, sponsor them financially and with what power was available. An officer of the army swearing fealty meant that he would use his power and rank to support the recipient of his fealty in his endeavors. Siamak, though, would have to be careful. He had probably not had many important persons extend their favor to him yet, since no one wanted to risk giving fealty to the child who might not be heir. According to old customs, he was not supposed to make his supporters publicly known. It was an odd custom, but one that seemed to make sense. Until the heir was chosen, all those who favored Siamak would contribute what they could to him: money, training, teaching, and whatever they could give, rather than announcing their loyalty. By the time the heir was chosen, the King’s choice might be swayed by the experience and wisdom, as well as newfound wealth, of his son – and chose him as the rightful heir. Swearing allegiance to Siamak, Morgôs was risking a great deal. If Gjeelea became Queen, he could not change his alliance, and Siamak would have to publicly implicate all of his supporters. Morgôs would be stuck as the acolyte of a bereft lord, doomed to be second to his sister, and the Queen would hold his preference against him as long as she lived. But, Morgôs knew that his strength, and tutoring, could make a man of the prince. Siamak would be king.

Suddenly, he felt underhanded. He was loyal, staunchly, to his king, but he felt as if, in some subtle way, he was manipulating the spectrum to suit his devices. He swore fealty not to the new king, but to a man who shared his opinions, and he planned to elevate in power. From what he’d heard, Gjeelea was not in favor of the Avari, generally, and he suspected Korak was not either. Siamak, on the other hand, extended his favor to men and Elven-kind alike. He could be trusted not to distance Pashtian mortals from immortals, as his mother or sister might desire. Similarly, Gjeelea seemed most untrustworthy, and everything Morgôs heard about Lord Korak implicated dissolution in the nobleman, a kind that should not be seated on a throne. If Gjeelea and Korak became the rulers of Pashtia, it would mark, almost definitely, the end of Pashtia’s golden age. For years after the death of Faroz’ father, Pashtia had been nowhere near its former heights. The father of Faroz, former king, had indulged expansion and cultivation of his land. He’d been worshipped, thought by some to be the sired child of Rea himself, but those were myths. That king, like Faroz, had supported Morgôs’ endeavors but, unlike the present monarch, he had spurred him to marvelous conquest…though Morgôs did not particularly relish conquest.

The throne could not afford a blow like this; a corrupt lord and a gossipy girl vying for it. No, it needed a strong leader, one who knew that denying the Avari there rightful place was folly, and that things had to be done, great things. Morgôs was no hound of war, no vainglorious philosopher, but his loyalty to Faroz was only dented by his dissatisfied attitude towards the man. He had enough angst to dwell on without nostalgia, and, although war was not a good thing, making too many alliances might place Pashtia in a precarious situation. The next king would need the backing of the Avari and of the army as well. Siamak could be that man, like his grandfather, but not necessarily as haughty or ambitious. Perhaps, if all went well, Morgôs could train Siamak further – not only in the ways of war. It was a manipulative, covetous thought that ran through the Elf’s mind, one which was uncharacteristic in the extreme and it soon left him but, again, he felt the bizarre pleasantry of it, and felt as if he needed to think more thoughts such as this one.

But, he was preoccupied. He instead thought of his wife and son. He had not seen them in some hours. Ever since last night’s banquet, he had been out and about, only able to bid his family farewell and wish them good night. He had ridden all through Kanak to get to the headquarters of the capital’s guards and put together a slapdash squad that was to guard the Emissary’s villa, and a small unit that was designed to guard the queen, stationed in her lavish gardens. He had then ridden, with the first squad, to the guest villa of the westerners, and explained, as King Faroz had told him, the necessity of these guards. Now, he was again riding, this time to the expansive training fields on Kanak’s western fringe. The training exercises of the Pashtian Foreguard had never been completed the day before, because of the Emissary’s arrival, and they had been rescheduled to this morning. So, Morgos was obligated to attend.

It had been trendy to be seen riding a noble beast in Kanak, a horse of good breeding, but that fad went out of style after the conclusion of the Pashtian conquests, when the alliance with Alanzia was made. The walking fashion had diffused over Kanak from Alanzia. Queen Bekah and her train did not use horses. Faroz, being polite, did not do so either, and soon, no one was. Morgôs, on the other hand, required a swift mount, as his duties took him all around the city, and outside of it, on almost a daily basis. Horses, though, were not as long-lived as Elves. Mortal soldiers might bond with the steeds that bore them through thick and thin, but Morgôs could develop no attachments. He’d ridden more than twenty steeds in all of his days, who were named in records somewhere or other. At the Battle of Keldoraz, he’d had one shot out from under him, impaled with Alanzian shafts, and another stricken while he rode through the thick of battle, the carcass of the creature nearly crushing him at the time. His current transportation was a more regal steed, groomed for speed and grace rather than war. This horse had never worn the pitted battle armor of a general’s mount, except once, four years ago, at a rather pompous parade marking the twentieth anniversary of the formation of the Pashtian-Alanzian alliance. It was a thin creature, but its mane and hide shimmered with a gentle sheen that nearly glowed in the light of the morning sun, and its head was proud, neck arched upward to the sky. It was a pretty horse, certainly, but wouldn’t last a minute in pitch battle.

Kanak was a brilliant sight to see, but not for the Elven general. He had seen things greater and more terrible. The grandeur of the city waned, though, as Morgôs reached the outskirts. The walls lowered, the roofs lowered, and the sun seemed to go higher in the sky as thick tiled streets gave way to cobblestones, covered with a few meager weeds. At last, the cobblestones became dusty dirt, with makeshift paths, and the buildings disappeared behind, leaving small structures that cluttered the fringes of Kanak. Then, new structures sprang up, with high pointed roofs that swayed, with banners and pennons fluttering in the warm Pashtian wind. Pavilions and tents, filling the eaves of the city, fenced in by a low, thin stone wall. Past the many tents lay an expansive field, also walled in behind the thick outer walls of the city. The field was composed of dirt and some patches of grass, the whole area roughly a quarter league square, huge and barren. Upon it, soldiers mulled and mustered, marching, running, and meandering to and fro across it. They were preparing for the training exercises of that day.

Morgôs easily reined his steed in as his horse pulled through the gates of training ground walls and onto a path of flattened stones, into which several other paths converged. These roads led throughout the camp og the Pashtian army. Morgôs, as his braying horse trotted neatly to a stop, was greeted by a number of armored guards, whose plated pauldrons glistened in daylight. “General, welcome.” Said one, as the other two took the reins of Morgôs’ mount and helped him from it, “The exercises will not resume for a little while yet.” The General swung himself nimbly from the horse’s back, landing with Elven grace on the earth, and moved towards the guard. “Then I am early?” he said, hopefully.

“Yes, General, but not unlawfully so. Captains Aysun, Iskender, Memnon, and Adbullar are waiting in the strategic pavilion on the training fields, and they have sent word that you should meet with them. They have an issue to discuss with you, one relating to the Emissary from the west.” Morgôs knew the guard was referring to his seconds, the various commanders of the army. They usually had something to discuss with him, so this was not unordinary. Succinctly, Morgôs followed behind the guard who, taking cue from the General, hurried off towards the commissioned officer’s strategic pavilion, which was nearby.

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Old 12-05-2004, 01:40 PM   #72
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Lord Korak paced restlessly up and down, scowling darkly here and there, kicking at the rugs, and releasing his anger in any other way he found possible. His mother did not flinch when his fist came down heavily upon a table he passed, but she sat gazing at him with eyes full of sorrow, and she was as still as a stone, save her hands, which fumbled at the folds of her clothing. He cast a look at her face once, and paused for the briefest moment at her sad and gentle face, and he felt some regret at her unhappiness. A memory of sitting by her knee and letting her hand stroke his hair flitted through his mind, but he rallied himself and scowled at how sentimental she was, and he continued his pacing.

There was a silence, and then he stopped and flung his arms in the air in complete abandonment to frustration. "What a family I am cursed with!" he cried. His mother did flinch this time, and he felt a quick pang of anger towards his own self for having said such a thing in her presence. "I do not mean you, Mother," he said, hastily, and moving towards her to take her hand. "I speak of the Lady Arshalous. She has no other aim in life but to torment me with her sharp words and cunning glances. She has injured me, she has injured my most trustworthy servant, and she has injured you, too, my mother, for I see the lines of sorrow upon your face."

Lady Hababa stroked her son's hand with great tenderness. "Oh, son, my injuries are inflicted by you, not by her," she murmured.

He drew himself up stiffly, and said sharply: "What do you mean, Mother? What have I done to harm you?"

"Truly do you speak when you say that I am pained by your cousin's behaviour towards you, but it pains me more to see my son speak bitter words and laugh in cruel mockery at the daughter of my sweet sister." A tear rose to her eye, but she did not brush it away, for with both hands now she had gripped his own, and she stared earnestly into his face. "It is hard, my son, so hard to live amongst those whose only pleasure is to harm those who should be nearest and dearest to them. Do you think I do not notice how much hate fills you? I grow old, son, but wiser and keener, and yet more prone to be wounded by foolish hatreds."

"Be that as it may, Mother," said Korak, and he pulled his hand away from her, "my cousin is a poisonous snake, and I cannot help but hate her who hates me." He saw that she opened her mouth to speak, so he moved quickly to the door, saying: "I intend to go out riding, Mother, and try to calm myself with the fresh air."

"You will return to me in a better mood, I hope," she said, but there was the smallest hint of a question in her words.

He stopped at the door, and felt much annoyance that she should suggest that his mood was ill, and he turned with a sharp reply upon his lips. But his eyes fell upon her face, and he saw not only the sorrow and weariness but the maternal love in her expression, and so he replied, though with reluctance: "Yes, Mother." And then he left the room. She bowed her head and let the tear in her eye fall.

Morashk was skulking about just outside the door, and the Lord Korak turned on him with a scowl, for he had been taken by surprise by the figure hiding in the shadows. "I am going out riding, Morashk," he said. "You will stay here and be carekeeper of this home while I am gone. If the Lady Arshalous calls, as she might to spite me, tell her I am away, and send her up to my mother."

Morashk grimaced at the mention of the cousin's name, and his long, clawlike fingers curled into fists. Yet he nodded smoothly to the order, and promised obedience to fulfill them. He followed his master through the halls of magnificent stonework, and then to the stables to help him prepare his steed. Lord Korak waved aside any assistance, and saddled his horse himself, and likewise refused help to mount. He directed his mount away from the city and towards the country-land, and averted his face so it could not be seen by his servant when he said: "Morashk, I also bid you watch after my mother, and take care that she does not grow too lonely." And then he spurred his horse, and rode hard away from his home and away from his city.
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Old 12-05-2004, 05:20 PM   #73
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Arshalous was not surprised when Morashk opened the door with a slight bow and a cunning glance. "Lord Korak is out...you will have no one to loose your venom upon."

She gave him a withering glare. It was pathetic how Korak looked to Morashk for aide in the cat fights that took place between the two of them. It was...Arshalous sought for a word that would describe it....it was weak....almost, but not quite, cowardly. "Then it is good that I have not come to bandy words with Korak," she said shortly, stepping into the dim lit atrium. "No, I have come to visit Lady Hababa."

"I hope you will not wither her spirit," Morashk said snidely as he lead Arshalous into Hababa's chambers.

"Then I would be an ill niece, wouldn't I?" Arshalous said sharply. With an imperious wave of her bejeweled hand, she said, "Leave us."

Arshalous turned and saw her aunt reclining in a low couch beside the crackling fire. Her soft white hair was tied neatly into a mist green scarf and fine needle work dangled from her hands...

Kneeling beside her aunt, Arshalous gathered the small wrinkled hands into her own, kissed them, and said, "Good day, Aunt."

"Arshalous! It has been long since you have come and visited me! And so formal too!" she added, as she wrapped Arshalous in a loving embrace. "The daughter of my beloved sister," she said, putting her hand against Arshalous's cheek.

"You praise me too highly," said Arshalous softly.

"Do tell me what have you been up to?" asked Hababa, her brown eyes twinkling.

What have I been up to Arshalous repeated to herself. "Oh...nothing...of importance," said Arshalous vaguely. She didn't want to talk about the Emissary no matter how admirable she thought she was because that would be politics...and she did not want to talk about the snares of Politcs with her aunt. She was too old to care for such things anyway...

The Lady Hababa smiled softly and said, "Korak is not that bad of a man..."

Arshalous smiled politely.

A loud whinny echoed through the room and Hababa said, "Are you still riding a horse?"

Arshalous managed to snort delicately. "I am not going to quit my riding habits just because the royal family has decided to."

Hababa shrugged slightly and said with a wink, "Korak still rides as well."

That surprised Arshalous. She would have thought that he would have quit riding just to suckle up to the throne. Maybe her cousin did have a backbone after all...

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Old 12-05-2004, 05:20 PM   #74
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The strategic was the largest pavilion on the grounds, larger than all the personal tents and yurts erected for soldiers or officers. The pavilion had several stem-off rooms, and was held up by strong cords. It was the temporary strategic headquarters, for informal occasions, of Pashtian generals. The actual War Room of the captains was a marble complex, which also held munitions, supplies, training facilities, and the other necessaries, which was built integrated into the training ground walls. The strategic pavilion was large, made from the strongest, thickest cloth, the color of stone and marble, streaked with purple stripes and adorned with many regal banners bearing symbols and motifs. The inside of the tent was strangely dark, the floor carpeted with fine fur, and held many tables, cushions, and racks of weaponry, maps, scrolls, or other similar objects.

Inside the pavilion, the first to greet Morgôs was Gyges, who he’d seen the night before, his adjutant lieutenant. With a bare grin, he saluted the General properly, and Morgôs returned the gesture. Nearby, seated on a cushion beside a long, broad slab of polished wood that acted as a table, was Lieutenant Adbullar, who promptly rose and saluted as well. Adbullar was the commander of the Foreguard of the Pashtian army, the frontal cavalry division that was the forefront of all Pashtian forces in battle. Beside him sat Memnon, captain of the unit known as the Midguard, in Pashtia, which was always the focal point of the Pashtian line, a division that was also consisted primarily of cavalry, fast moving, horse-riding spearmen and lancers who backed up Pashtia’s famed cavalry archers. Captain Aysun, who was hunched over the table across from Morgôs, was the Rearguard commander, whose horse-swordsmen covered the back and flanks of the Pashtian forces. Last was Iskender, who stood to Aysun’s left, the wizened captain of the entire Pashtian infantry, units of pikemen to fend off enemy cavalry, most efficient against dealing with nomadic enemies. The only captain missing was Nesryn, who was the commander of the Pashtian artillery and an Avari like Morgôs.

“General Morgôs, I am glad you’re here.” said Adbullar, gesturing for Morgôs to sit at his appointed place at the table. He was a middle-aged mortal, stern and talkative, but intelligent enough not to be thought a fool. He was not the epitome of a man, but looked as if his lot in life should have been that of a lord in Faroz’s court. “Likewise, Adbullar.” Morgôs said solemnly and made his way to the cushion offered to him. He was still wearing his elaborate court garb, whereas his captains all wore varying military uniforms, tasseled and adorned with medals and pins of a sort, their finest probable, Self-conscious because of this, Morgôs sat in the billowing length of his robe and leaned forward onto the table as the others sat down, taking their places around the circular slab. “Now,” said the General, his voice cold, “what urgency requires my presence?”

“Nothing so pressing, sir: simply some minor repercussions.”

“Repercussions of what?” Morgôs questioned, curious and disconcerted by the way Adbullar spoke. “The westerners, General.” The captain said in reply, “Not often is the Desert of Ardűn traversed by far-wanderers. Activity such as the coming of the Emissary and his train attract attention in the Burning Sands, and from the peoples who move there. The few sedentary people will take no notice, but hostile tribes might have followed the Emissary towards Pashtia, attracted by the look of them. In the past, this has occurred many times.” Morgôs halted him here, chiding him deftly: “There is no need to remind me of the past, Adbullar, I know it better than you. Tribal warlords and their primitive minions are no match for Pashtian walls and blades. This matter should not require my attention.”

“No, sir, it should not, save for aesthetic benefits of the situation. Word has it from scouts that some overtly organized tribesmen mass in some numbers, perhaps over a hundred men but not much more, just beyond the northwestern walls of Durvelt. Their minds are unperceivable, and we can only guess that they plan to raid Durvelt in an attempt to catch up with the Emissary in Pashtia and plunder his goods as well as sack the town. Of course, even the militiamen of Durvelt could hold out against tribesmen. But, this gives a magnificent opportunity. The political situation in Kanak is one of unsettlement and, in some respects, volatile with the Emissary’s coming, but it can be soothed. An all-out military victory over the tribesmen, witness by the King, his family, and the Emissary, could prove to be the perfect salve.”

“It is overkill.”

Precisely!” blurted Adbullar, “Instead of throwing some grand parade or military exhibition, we can take the Foreguard of Pashtia to Durvelt within the week, with the royal family and the Emissary in tow, and make a fine exhibition of our victory. The Emissary could get a glimpse of our military prowess, the troops morale would be raised, the King would be impressed, and perhaps allot more funding to the army. No matter what, we can benefit from a full-scale attack and overwhelming of the raiders on the border. ”

There was an unsteady silence. No captain spoke for a few moments, and all eyed were fixed upon Morgôs Elrigon. Soon, a deeper, thicker voice spoke up in agreement. It was Memnon’s. “General;” said the Captain, “it is indeed an efficient plan, and Adbullar is right about the benefits.” Morgôs looked at him, almost as a man betrayed, but then became curious again. “So,” he said quietly, rising in a somber fashion from his seat, “you wish for my permission.”

“No, General,” said Iskender, swiftly cutting him off as the last syllable of the General’s sentence fell from his lips, “we want you to lead the Foreguard to victory. It is no great victory, but a spectacle it shall be all the same, one that will fill Pashtia with the pride it has lost.” Morgôs waited no time before pointing out the initial flaw. “That is Adbullar’s duty.” He said, but Adbullar quickly stood, snapping to attention, and said, “I will accompany you as a lieutenant, rather than lead in your place.” Next Aysun stood up. “As will we all.” He said, “We should all be present with the present courtiers; docents for the Emissary.”

“The Captains of Pashtia reduced to tour guides?” Morgôs objected, irritated. This endeavor seemed like a flashy attempt at securing more glory for the Pashtian armies, and a waste of money for the kingdom. He looked, as if for advice, to Gyges, who had been standing conspicuously silent throughout the dialogue. Morgôs wondered about this, since Gyges was often talkative, and eager to join in conversations of this sort, but he was considering something else, something distracting. Morgôs was nearly distracted as well, if Adbullar’s voice had not snapped him back to the immediate present. “No, not so.” He said, doing little to assuage the fears of the General, “This is to procure political stability, not to make us look like fools.”

“But,” Morgôs said, “what wil it achieve.”

There was a painfully uncomfortable silence that filled the air then. The Captains had been dealt a defeating blow with this question. They could reiterate what they’d said before, but the stern wisdom of their general’s voice told them that repetition would not be a suitable reply. Instead, they stood, all risen now from their seats, pondering, searching for an answer. The wind blew gently against supple cloth that made up the pavilion, causing it to undulate gently above them, creating the sound of whispering that filled their ears. Still, all was silent – until Morgôs himself broke the tenuous calm. “It shall be done soon enough, a week perhaps.” He said, startling all of his commanders immensely, “I must sort things out in the court. The situation with the Emissary has made things…more complicated. I will try to make the proper arrangements. In the meantime, Adbullar, select squads of the Foreguard to go to Durvelt, and all of you appoint a squad of your respective commands to be representatives of their divisions, which will accompany us there.”

Again, a long silence came. Nervously, Iskender spoke up. “It is a good choice, General.”

“For now, it is.” The General acknowledged icy cold.”

Luckily for all, the uneasy conversation was closed when the voice of a lieutenant issued through the tent-flap of the pavilion. “General, Captains,” said the officer, “today’s exercises are about to begin.”
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Old 12-05-2004, 07:08 PM   #75
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Lady Hababa looked tenderly down upon her niece, but the sorrow still lingered upon her face, for whenever she mentioned her son, Arshalous' face filled with spite and hate. But the Lady spoke no words to show her sorrow, and the only exterior manifestation of the sorrow was the expression upon her face. Instead she tried to speak lightly, as if no troubles came to their family. "How beautiful you looked last night at the banquet," she said. "The feasting and the music reminded me of the days when I was young and pretty. I met my husband at a banquet, you know, my dear. 'Twas the first banquet I had ever attended; before my parents always kept me at home, for the hours were too late for one so young as I. That night I went for the first time, but my mother was ill and my father determined to stay home with her. I was quite frightened and timid when I arrived at the Palace, for I did not know how to behave. My husband was a young and handsome nobleman, and full of gallantry. He was introduced to me, and allowed me to follow him about through the evening and rely on him for help."

Arshalous smiled, with some encouragement, for Lady Hababa's cheeks flushed rosily and her eyes brightened when she spoke of her husband, and a youthfulness returned to her face that grew wrinkled. "I am glad you enjoyed yourself," said Lady Arshalous.

"I did enjoy myself," said Hababa, "but, dear niece, I wish you and my son would strive to be better towards each other. I do not know how this hatred between you arose, for you were close companions when you were children, but it is a painful thing to see."

"Speaking of your son," said Lady Arshalous, airily, and avoiding an answer to her aunt's plea, "how does he take to the Emissary's words of last night? When he said that the King's son should be King?"

"He did not care overmuch," said the Lady mother. "He was upset at first, though he did not show it at the banquet. He was sulky when we came home, but he told me it does affect him much. The King's word, he says, is all that matters, and not the Emissary's own suggestions." She paused thoughtfully, and then broke out with a vehemence, but with also a deep and desparate longing. "I hope with all my heart that my son does not become King! He grows more corrupt and power-hungry each day, and if the power is given to him I fear there shall be no hope for him, and I have so longed for him to become again the gentle boy he was as a child, who loved freely. At least I hope he will not have the opportunity to inflict the actions of his faults upon the people. He has pained me enough already without extending harm to others."
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Old 12-05-2004, 09:34 PM   #76
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As Arlomë stepped from the palace entrance out into the city, she shaded her clear blue eyes with one slender hand taking in the hustle and bustle of Kanak in the morning. With her morning tasks for Queen Bekah completed, she wished to spend some time in the temple. The walk to the temple would be a short one, and the elf welcomed the warm sunlight on her cheeks. The wind rustled her deep purple robes and carried the voices of the people that filled the streets to her ears. Kanak was particularly busy this morning as the citizens of Pashtia still had words of the previous evening’s banquet on their lips, and they brought their activities to the market to pass along the rumors heard the night before.

As she strode gracefully along the street, Arlomë paid the human’s idle chatter no heed for she had more pressing matters traversing her mind. The King and Queen had had a heated discussion with the Emissary at the banquet. The three were so emersed in conversation they had forgotten the elven woman was so close, and Arlomë’s keen ears heard almost every word. The Emissary had spoken about the Elves of his land, and even though she had not worried about the other Elven kindreds, what he said startled her and her heart had quickened within her chest. She sorely wished Elrigon had come home after the banquet as she wished to share what she had heard with him, and she hoped she might see him coming around a corner on his noble steed. The Emissary had clearly not wished to share the turmoil between the mortals of the West and the Elves, and what was this evil the Elves brought. Arlomë shivered despite the sun’s warmth as she remembered the touch of the Emissary’s lips to her hand.

Lost in her thoughts, Arlomë was surprised to find herself at the temple’s entrance, and unfortunately no Elven General had crossed her path. The elf paused before the large wooden doors, and then slowly pushed them apart. Light streamed into the dim building from the growing crack between the doors, and the elf delicately slipped through as she watched the dust filled air dance in the rays. After letting her eyes adjust to the dimness, Arlomë shut the tall doors and walked carefully toward the sanctuary for Rhais. As she approached the beautiful statue of the goddess, she noticed the form of the High Priestess crumpled in her humbleness before Rhais. Arlomë halted, momentarily, feeling slightly uncomfortable at seeing the private moment. Silently, she stepped forward and knelt before the statue.
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Old 12-06-2004, 06:01 AM   #77
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"And to you, dear brother."

Gjeela not lost the art of sarcasm with her newly-granted responsibilities, that much was sure. Bekah had always marvelled how her daughter was so much more verbally sharp than her son. Her children were of equal intelligence, but such different personalities! Gjeela had always been fidgity, active, sometime flighty as her attention had been drawn from one stimulating object or idea to another. Siamak had been the reserved one, sitting calmly for long periods of time and quietly observing things. Bekah had soon learnt he was not passive, for he would always later ask questions about events and things he had seen.

"Gjeela, it is time for you--and Siamak--to leave behind your private feelings for each other and assume your royal duties."

"Mother, why do you assume I have not already?"

"Because," replied Bekah, not without some sense of irony, " I know how dear your brother is to you. In all the forms of courtly and public courtesies, where civillity and politeness are essential, you must be careful never to make a statement that is an outright lie."

"Courtiers do that all the time. And don't you, Mother?"

"Gjeela, are you going to pick a fight?" interjected Siamak.

"Of course not, dear brother. You are the better one at that than I."

"Gjeela, it is true that I often hold back my personal feelings, but that is because there are often times when my personal feelings are not what is required for the good of Pashtia. You and your brother are beginning your first public steps into the dilemma of royalty. In your person you are the country, and you must learn to speak for the country and not yourself."

"Is this why you called us here, Mother?" spoke Siamak, anxious to try to smooth things over.

"Indeed, it is, my son. Come, let us find a place where we can sit comfortably and talk. Homay, please see to the arrangment for this afternoon's affairs." With thoss words, Bekah guided her children into her private room, where a low table had been prepared with fresh fruits and water. It was close enough to her window to look out upon the city beyond the palace, but no so close that their words could be heard from the balcony. The very wind, Bekah knew, had ears to carry their conversation. Not that what she had to say was conspiratorial, but that she simply wished privacy for her children.

"So will you tell us to accept this alliance?" Gjeela asked.

"No, my daughter. I will not tell you what decision to make."

"So why are we here?"

"Impatient one! Listen and reflect and make that conclusion yourself when we are done."

Siamak would have interjected had Bekah not given him a warning glance. She did not favour him, but it is true that she more often found herself embroiled in arguments with her daughter.

"I wish to hear you discuss how you might go about making this decision, what kinds of points you might consider, who you might consult."

"I am already consulting with General Morgôs," replied Siamak, "and in fact,..."

"Find, that is good to know," quickly replied Bekah. "But I want you first to think about some of the history you have learned. Your father was always unhappy that I taught you so much of Alanzia's history. He assumed I was making you too friendly to his former enemy, but he misunderstood my purpose."

"And what was your purpose, Mother?" Gjeela asked.

"I wanted you to know how another culture thought, what its true values were, where those valuse differed from what sometimes the people think they are. I wanted you to understand that when dealing with other countries and cultures you must not assume they are like yours and will react as you do."

"Why was this important?" Siamak asked. "Couldn't you simply have told us what Alanzia was like?"

"Yes, but then that would deny you the opportunity to make your own reflections."

"Do you miss Alanzia, Mother?" asked Gjeela, suddenly.

"I did, much at first, but one important factor finally made me understand something very important about my new land."

The two children looked at her and at each other. Bekah remained silent.

"You won't tell us?" inquired Siamak. She shook her head. "Tell me what you remember about Alanzia."

"It is a strongly centrally controlled government, with all authority held closely by the King," he replied.

"The Avari are under pain of death if they enter it. Justice is swift."

"Indeed. Can you imagine what would have happened had I been a Pashtian princess sent to become a Queen of Alanzia?"

"You would have been mistrusted."

"Worse."

"Worse, Mother?" asked Gjeela.

"Worse, my daughter."

"You would have been removed once your usefulness was over, once you had born children, or the country decided you were no longer a guarantor of peace?" deicded Siamak.

"Yes. You understood your history lessons well. I wish your father could know this."

"And so what are you telling us, Mother?" Gjeela inquired, impatient that Siamak had made a deduction she had not seen.

"I am suggesting you think very hard about what the values are of your country, and learn as much as you can of the Emissary's land and purpose. Tell me, now, What do you understand about alliances between countries?"

Bekah leaned back into the cushions, chewing thoughtfully on some grapes while she waited for her two children to reply. Was she helping them grow to a royal role? She hoped she was.
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Old 12-06-2004, 04:23 PM   #78
Amanaduial the archer
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Silmaril

Zamara, her hands held up crossed at the wrists in front of her as she prayed silently, heard the doors of the temple open and someone enter. The massive doors may have been well-oiled, but they were nonetheless heavy, and the High Priestess knew the temple well enough to detect every noise of movement inside it. And as for the newcomer, well, she knew instantly who that was as well - none could tread the stone floor quite so silently as one.

Finishing her prayer, Zamara bowed her head for a second, then unfolded herself from her kneeling position, rising smoothly to face the statue. She leant forward and flicked a small bell between the goddess's feet with her long nails and it chimed clearly throughout the temple. "Good morning, Arlome," she said, without turning around.

There was a pause. Zamara turned around and smiled at the elf, kneeling at the bottom of the steps to the statue, and Arlome returned it, still looking slightly mystified, but strangely satisfied as well, as if she was pleased that the High Priestess had known it was her. Zamara approached her and laid her hands on the elf's head, apparently confidently, and murmured a blessing on her. As she did so she seemed to get a strange shock off the elf, as if her touch was charged, and she almost jerked back in surprise, her fingers tingling, but forced herself not to, keeping her hands still and steady as she blessed Arlome. When she was finished, she offered her hand to the elf and helped her to rise. "Good morning, High Priestess."

"Arlome. You did not come this morning to the service?" It was a friendly inquiry rather than a reprimand. "Were your duties to the Queen more longsome because of the Emissary?"

A cloud passed across Arlome's face and she seemed about to speak before her flecked eyes flickered fleetingly around the dimly lit shadows behind the pools of light in the temple. Zamara shook her head, but for some reason lowered her voice anyway. "There is no one here, except Tayfar and myself. Come, I would speak with you..."

"Tayfar...." Arlome nodded slowly as they began to walk, taking one of the side corridors out towards a small courtyard: she recognised the name. The elf had a greater understanding of the temple than Zamara had thought, as her next question showed. "You intend to train her as a Priestess, don't you?"

Zamara looked across, surprised, at the elf, her eyes wide, startled.

In the temple of Rhais, there was the High Priestess, of course, and then five younger priestesses of approximately the same rank. One of these would be more closely related with the High Priestess, and was often previously an acolyte. And when the time came for the title to be passed on, it was by the High Priestess and her prime priestess that she was chosen. Indeed, if young enough, the position sometimes fell to the prime priestess, so favoured was the position. Zamara blinked a few time, still surprised at Arlome's perceptiveness. "I had thought of...well, she is young still, she had not yet seen thirteen summers, it is maybe too soon to be thinking about-"

She stopped suddenly as brisk, light footsteps approached along the stone corridor, and Tayfar herself appeared, her simple, light robes gleaming slightly in the bright sun of the courtyard. She bowed her head to Zamara and gave Arlome a respectful, slightly scared smile - she was in awe of the graceful elven woman who worked with the Queen. Zamara requested that she bring them some tea and fruit - she did not eat before the morning service and had been finishing off at the temple in the hour or so since it had ended, and suspected that Arlome had not eaten either. As Tayfar scurried off to comply, Zamara took a seat with the elf and gave her a small, curious smile as she said...

~*~

"How is it that you would guess that, Arlome? Why not Sedaar? I believe she is the one who some have guessed me to linger over for the fifth priestess."

The High Priestess's graceful voice was tinged with an edge of curiousity that, along with the mention of a familiar name, made Tayfar stop, melting into the shadow. She was naturally curious - it came normally to a girl living in a close community like the temple. The immortal who the Priestess sat with gave a short laugh that sent a shiver of delight down Tayfar's spine. "I have nothing against Sedaar. But she is not the one you rely on the most, who prepares you for feasts; the one you have spent the most time on and tutored yourself..."

"I understand, fair enough." There was the sound of a smile in Zamara's voice. Maybe...maybe I am caught here, but I will say nothing definite. I can trust you, I know. But ...well, she is still young, as I said, not yet thirteen summers - it is maybe too soon to be thinking about such things."

They are talking about me! Tayfar did a little skip-jump dance in the corridor, grinning madly. The sudden revelation, almost too good to be true, surely, for an orphan from a poor family, caused such fireworks to go off in Tayfar's stomach that she almost missed the elf's next words.

"Too soon? Priestess, everything is too soon if you are to look at it that way - your lifetimes pass 'so soon' for myself. I have seen many High Priestesses - and indeed a few High Priests - go past, but you have shown an unusual understanding of...well. I trust you will make the right choice."

"You would choose Tayfar yourself! And talking of which, have you eaten yet?" Tayfar started suddenly, remembering her bidding to fetch breakfast and she bolted silently away, a skip in her undignified half-run as the voices of two women faded to a hum behind her.

~*~

Unaware of her eavesdropping protege, Zamara continued. "And talking of choices..." she paused, her eyes flicking away from, then back to Arlome's. "I trust you are as worried as I about this Emissary?"

"You are worried also?" Arlome nodded, apparently slightly comforted by the thought. Zamara tilted her head onto one side, hesitating. It is the choices Faroz has given to his children that worries me the most...and the implications of a male-dominated alliance to Rhais. She sat back in her chair and looked out over the pleasant courtyard in front of them. "Tell me, Arlome: what do you think? And your husband? Has he said anything of immortals, of his lord's knowledge of elves?"
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Old 12-06-2004, 04:58 PM   #79
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"I hope with all my heart that my son does not become King! He grows more corrupt and power-hungry each day, and if the power is given to him I fear there shall be no hope for him, and I have so longed for him to become again the gentle boy he was as a child, who loved freely. At least I hope he will not have the opportunity to inflict the actions of his faults upon the people. He has pained me enough already without extending harm to others."

Arshalous blinked in surprise at her aunt's outburst. So many mothers were blinded wth love for their sons, yet Lady Hababa wasn't. "And that is why I don't like him," said Arshalous softly, as she kissed her aunt's cheek.

Lady Hababa just stared sadly at her niece. Arshalous bit her lip...but it was the truth. How could her aunt wish for her to make amends with her little power hungry mongrel of a cousin? The thought was absurd, ridiculous even.

Arshalous kneeled beside her aunt's bed, and whispered in her ear, "My Lady Aunt...I swear to you that I will do my utmost to keep Korak from the throne. I am powerful, I have lands, and soldiers that will march at the snap of my fingers." She could feel her aunt's mouth open in protest, but she layed her finger over her lips and murmured, "I know that that is not what you wish, but I would rather be enemies with Korak forever than have him upon the throne rather than the Prince."
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Old 12-07-2004, 02:49 PM   #80
Fordim Hedgethistle
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The King scowled darkly at the air of his chambers as he thought of his soon-to-be son-in-law. The prospect of a meeting with Korak was never a pleasant one, but distasteful a duty as it might be, a duty it remained. No other noble had the money and the position to support the construction of a new High Temple, and more importantly, if he were to become King some day, he would need to gain at least some sense of how to deal with matters more important that selecting the finest silk for a new robe. Not for the first time, Faroz hoped that some misfortune would befall the man. And not for the first time his mind flitted to the idea that as King, he could see to it that some misfortune would seek him out. But he dared risk nothing against Korak, not even something secretive and dark…not yet. He was a fool, but a cunning fool. And in matters such as these, cunning and bravery could match wit and power – for a time.

He toyed with the idea of consulting Ashnaz on the matter of Korak, but rejected the idea. Some secrets were not for anyone to know, no matter how dear a friend. But at the thought of Ashnaz, Faroz remembered the Ring. With a flash a new idea occurred to him. A slow smile marred his features, and had his wife been there, she would have known that the King was contemplating something cool and terrible.

~*~*~*~

Jarult went first to the home of the Lord Korak with the idea of summoning him and sending on one of the servants there to bring the Lady Arshalous, whom he disliked with the intensity reserved for an unreasoning disapproval. So it was with no small measure of distasteful surprise that he was ushered into the presence of the Lady Arshalous and the old madwoman Hababa. He stood in the doorway, trying to look important, despite the fact that he had been sent as a messenger – a task that he felt to be far beneath the dignity of the Chamberlain. He tried to assuage himself with the reminder that his King considered this meeting to be of the utmost importance.

“Jarult!” the old woman said happily, obviously remembering the days – long past – when they had been on good terms in the court of the former King. She had been there much in those days, and he had cultivated her good opinion. Indeed, it had been one of the factors that had seen him successfully elevated to his present role. But his feelings toward her had always been self-serving rather than warm. A consummate courtier, he had always been able to fool her of the contrary.

The Lady Hababa rose and came to him, with the Lady Arshalous immediately behind. “What brings you to see me?” she asked. “Why, first Arshalous and now you, I am becoming popular.”

“I am sorry, lady, but I am not here for pleasure. My King has sent me to bid your son and, as it happens, the Lady Arshalous to attend upon him in his apartments this morning. He has a matter of some importance that he needs to discuss with them both.”

“What matter could that be?” the Lady Arshalous asked, looking faintly alarmed.

“I do not presume to speak for the King, my Lady,” the Chamberlain replied coolly.

“Of course,” the Lady replied, flushing. “I will come immediately, of course, but my cousin is gone this morning for a ride.” The Chamberlain frowned at this, as though at the rebellious behaviour of a miscreant servant.

“That is no problem,” the Lady Hababa put in. “I shall send Morashk to seek him out. My son is not very imaginative and always rides along the same route. He will soon be found. In the meantime, I will attend upon the King in his place.” And she smiled beatifically as though she had solved an intricate problem with great subtlety.

Last edited by Fordim Hedgethistle; 12-07-2004 at 02:54 PM.
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