Antetion Palace, Cisroe, Mercivya
The main audience hall was filled with the soft sounds of conversation between the gathered nobles of Mercivya. It had been nearly a week since the invasion, and most had been kept within their manors under watch from the soldiers of Malirid. The various nobles had been kept abreast of the talks between The Duke of Blackcrest and the leader of the barbarians by messenger, while servants were allowed to venture to the markets for food, bringing back stories and rumors of their own. Each day grew more tales, from foreign armadas filling the bay to gibbets of sacrifices being erected in the market squares, each holding an empty noose for a royal neck.
As dawn rose brilliant over the waters of Cisroe Bay pages began to arrive at doors throughout the manor district. ?Your presence is requested and directed for this afternoon by the fifteenth hour in the Halls of Antetion.? While undersigned by the Duke of Blackcrest, the wording gave many pause and new fear. But, the conclave had been called, and they were honor bound to attend. And thus, under a bright afternoon sun carriages clattered down the cobblestone streets toward the palace that dominated the northern corner of the manor district. Each was escorted by four knights of Malirid, their armor and weapons, having been reconditioned after the battle days prior, gleaming in the sunlight.
Gathering in the main audience hall, the ruling elite were able to finally talk to their peers and begin to gather nuggets of truthful news. For one, there was no armada sitting off the coast, but rather the Valorous remained on station near the mouth of the bay. The bodies of those killed during the street battles had been cleared away, and none of the reported blood madness was in evidence. Two of the barons that had been trapped within Cisroe refused to attend, and were being kept under tight house arrest. Of the nobility that had been outside the city when the battle had broken out outside only two had refused to come in the intervening days. One, Baron Clynne of Rosecliff, had already fled by galleon with what wealth he and his family could pack. The Duke of Valdell, Roger Chamberlayne, had reportedly closed himself within Valdell Keep, which was even now being surrounded by the Black Tiger clan.
Of more immediate interest were the changes to the audience hall itself. The banners that bore the crest of Urevan?s family arms had been removed, replaced by black and green-edged livery bearing a stylized armored fist clutching an eight-pointed ring. The courtyard and outer halls were guarded by the soldiers of Malirid, but the men-at-arms stationed near the door and at points along the perimeter of the room bore the same livery. In the past Urevan sat alone on the dais at the end of the hall, his wife relegated to a simple seat at the foot of the stairs, subservient to her husband?s power when allowed to attend him in court at all. Now, that gilded throne had been removed and replaced by a simpler heavy oak chair, two smaller chairs of the same material on either side.
Movement near the arched entry to the hall first gained the attention of those nearest it, and the subtle fading of conversation took hold within the room as the gathering turned toward the doors. A court page stood at attention his ceremonial staff coming down three times to call for silence. ?His Grace The Duke of Cyprien Drathwar, Leiance DeCort of Malirid and Captain Reginald Martyn of Dragons Land.? Leiance fought hard to suppress the soft chuckle at the looks as he and his companions entered the hall. To his left was Captain Martyn, dressed in the brown and white uniform of the naval arm of Dragons Land?s military and contrasting with the sky blue and silver doublet he had changed into after the battles and subsequent negotiations. Behind the two walked DeCort?s second, Commander Jarrevik DuBoise, his armor repaired and buffed to a brilliant sheen. The quartet moved down the aisle created by the gathered nobles to a spot prepared near the front, where they joined Johan Farriss.
?Greetings, Your Grace.? Johan nodded slowly as they settled beside him, the commander?s eyes flicking slowly over the subdued crowd. He looked uncharacteristically uncomfortable in the doublet he wore, a hand resting near his belt as though ready to grasp the hilt that wasn?t there. ?This should be interesting, to say the least.?
?The endgames usually are.? Leiance replied, movement spotted in his peripheral vision bringing his attention back toward the doors where the page again struck his ornate staff against the marble floor.
?The Right Honorable The Earl of Falldale Lorcain DeWil and The Lady Kitian Albaelia.? The taller of the two standing in the doorway was all black, though the well-worn leather armor had been put aside for a rich silk doublet and overcoat. Lorcain?s hair was pulled back in a ponytail that gleamed in the light coming in from the windows, a severe look that contrasted with the more conservative styles currently in fashion with the court. Kitian stood with her arm entwined with his, resplendent in a blue velvet dress, the silver trim matching her hair in the afternoon sun. While she would have preferred to be overseeing the last of the repairs to the Enyara Kuru her older brother Morguian had requested that she represent the Albaelia family for this event. Fiona and Myrialla had stepped in to help her prepare since her wardrobe on-board the Kuru was limited and Lorcain had, in his own style, offered to escort her. She now offered a soft smile to those they passed as they walked along the carpet to take their spot beside Leiance, the small group exchanging the quiet greetings of friends forged on the field as the soft murmurs again filled the hall.
?I don?t see any of the Northras.? Kitian leaned closer to Leiance while softly speaking, her eyes darting about the parts of the crowd she could see without being blatant. Leiance chuckled softly, and leaned her way, their heads almost touching.
?DeAuster thought it best that they not be here, so as not to upset the nobles unduly.? His gaze cut to the solemn Farriss as he continued. ?They have been moved to the outskirts and outside the city and Commander Farriss?s men have been brought forward to take over the duties of security.?
?All fer tha air of civility?? Lorcain grumbled softly from the other side of Kitian, drawing a raised brow from Leiance and an amused soft chuckle from Kitian who patted his arm gently. She leaned closer into him for a second, all watching the doors again as several pike-wielding men-at-arms entered and moved up the central aisle to take positions along its edge. The page rapped the butt of his ornate staff against the marble tile, glanced to the doorway once, then looked back to the assemblage.
?The Lord Marshal of Raven?s Fast, former ambassador and Bellor Perdifictor of the church of Leorn, Member of the Order of Maestelle and Orklar Okaalkec, Lord Lucius DeAuster.? The figure that stepped into the doorway started a new round of whispers, for it was not the butcher that had been widely speculated about for the last several days. The armor had been left behind in the camp outside the city, set aside for a black silk shirt and overcoat, the edges lined with the green that made up part of his heraldry. His auburn hair was pulled back and tied by a beaded leather strap, a gift from Jerrak?s wife on the eve of the battle that took the city. The one constant, however, was the great-axe slung across his back, the haft angling over his left shoulder
Lucius stood quietly for several seconds, his arms folded behind him as his steel-gray eyes flicking over the assembled as they took him in. The thought of the use of those titles and the sour taste it would bring the representatives of the religious orders amused him, and in fact was a carefully-calculated move, to impress upon the peerage gathered that each newcomer belonged amongst their number. The right corner of his mouth twitched upward in a sardonic smile as he slowly brought up his right hand to chest level, palm upward, prompting the page to speak again. ?Arch-Mage of the Eleventh Tier of Carowyn, Knight of the Obsidian Blade for the Courts of Zymire, and Marchioness of Crystalshade Coast, The Most Honorable Marchioness Fiona Juree DeWil DeAuster.? Fiona glided into view from the right side of the doorway, her gloved fingers curling around Lucius?s as she took her place beside him. Her dress was a polar opposite of Lucius?s outfit, the green velvet being offset with a fall of diamonds that, like the diadem she wore, caught the light as she moved. Lucius and Fiona shared a glance, her lips curling in a smile that held just a touch of warmth, and he brought up his left hand in mirror of the right.
?The Lady Myrialla Tamsina VasDailar.? Peach silk rustled softly as Myrialla joined Lucius and Fiona, a vibrant counterpoint to their muted colors that flowed out behind her in a train of cloth. Her smile was serene as she looked about those nearest the trio, a disarming gesture that came so easy to the woman the Northras had christened their angel. Exchanging last glance between the two Lucius looked ahead and as one the three stepped forward, moving down the aisle toward the dais. The room had quieted as they walked, and as they passed the last two guardsmen the eight turned as one to face the dais. Fiona glanced to the side as they passed their gathered friends, and the smile she wore mirrored that of her brother Lorcain.
Lucius stopped at the bottom of the dais, extending his arms as Fiona and Myrialla continued upward to stand before the two smaller chairs and releasing their hands as they turned to face the assemblage. Lucius paused for a few seconds more, then reached back and drew Drachmel from its harness, spinning the weapon effortlessly and bringing the butt of the haft down hard, sending marble chips flying as the spikes ringing the base of the haft bit deep to hold the greataxe in a standing position when his hand left it. The act was a statement as loud as it had been shouted, the same sentiments that had rang out over the myriad realms and multiverses for time immemorial:
With this axe, do I rule.