Call to Orders (Part 2)
Location: Audience Hall, Stormholm Caer, Harkania March, Cymeria
Timeline: Mid-November 3550
"The High Lord will see you now," the Herald's voice was full of disapproval. He disliked having the day's schedule altered without due notice. The fact that Mikhael Stormdanovich had mandated he be notified anytime someone was waiting for an audience and he was in chambers did not matter. There were protocols and procedures.
Song smiled at the slender, aristocratic-looking man as he stepped aside allowing her to pass. The fact that he did not demand their weapons indicated there were Morrighan on duty. Of course, it was rare that they were not watching the High Lord's back. The Morrighan were masters of being of not being seen or heard. If Song or Aramil put a step out of place, they would likely find themselves dead before being warned.
Under the guise of looking at the audience chamber, Song also tried to locate the on-duty Morrighan to no avail. One would think it would be difficult to hide several well-armed men and women. Although the chamber was large, it was not as massive as many such rooms found in other holds, castles, and keeps. Large floor-to-ceiling windows at the back of the room allowed natural light to enter and added to the feeling of spaciousness. Large clusters of moonglobes hung on ornate chains adding to the room's light and airy feeling. There was a central aisle flanked by rows of pew-like seating. Beautifully Sidán silk tapestries adorned the walls, most depicted hunting or historical scenes. They also hid the doors that gave onto side chambers where most of the real work occurred.
At the end of the makeshift aisle was a raised platform where a long, heavy graysteel oak table stood. Comfortable chairs were arranged around it. Centered behind it was a slightly larger chair than the others, also made of graysteel oak and comfortably cushioned. Comfortable chairs for visitors were arranged just below the platform. The chamber and its furnishings always left Song with the feeling she had entered a room that was both formal and informal all at the same time. No doubt, this had been planned by the High Lord. It would put his guests at ease, perhaps enough so that they would make mistakes in his presence, or underestimate his intelligence.
The High Lord rose from where he had been seated at the massive table. A stack of documents lay to his left, held in place by a heavy stone paperweight carved into the shape of a Dikaya's head. Seated in the chair next to him was the Ryndar, Hawke Windwalker. Song nodded to the man respectfully, acknowledging the Morrighan Commander's presence. She then looked to the imposing presence of High Lord Mikhael Stormdanovich and bowed slightly from the waist before her face broke into a broad smile of greeting.
Hawke flowed up from his chair and walked up, standing to one side of Mikhael as he and Song exchanged greetings. Hawke then stuck his right palm in his left hand in front of his chest and bowed slightly to the woman. "Song, it's been far too long."
Song returned the salute, recognizing Hawke as another who practiced the Way of the Fox. She offered him a brilliant smile, "Friend Hawke, it has been much too long."
Aramil walked behind Song on her right side, taking in the large hall. He was smart enough to understand that even if he couldn't see any guards that didn't mean they weren't there. He made sure his posture and body language expressed respect. It wasn't hard, for while he had trained with nobility - The Theurgy taught sons and daughters of all of the noble houses - actually being in a High Lord's Keep was something else entirely. The awe on his face was obvious. He appreciated the approach to the keep, and it seemed things only became more impressive the closer to the High Lord they reached.
When Song reached the foot of the dais, Aramil stopped behind her and to the right, loosely clasping his hands before him. He remained silent for now, waiting for his introduction while his eyes respectfully took in the High Lord and the Ryndar. Pomp and protocol were bread and butter to the Theurgy, so the situation was not unfamiliar to him.
"Welcome to Stormholm, Song Xiang Chai," Mikhael greeted the woman, a warm smile lighting his usually cold blue eyes.
"Thank you, Highlord," Song replied, her dark eyes dancing with pleasure at seeing her old friend. "This," she gestured to Aramil, "is my Sentinel, Aramil Moonshadow. Aramil," she turned to signal him to move next to her, knowing that Mikhael had no patience for most formalities, "the High Lord, Mikhael Stormdanovich and Ryndar Hawke Windwalker."
Mikhael's lips twitched in amusement, "So the Mistress yet again assigns the Silk Fox a Sentinel. Welcome to House Stormdanovich, Sentinel Moonshadow."
Aramil was attuned enough to the social cues to understand Song's gesture. He moved forward when bid. His left forearm crossing his waist in front, his right behind, as he bent at the waist in a respectful bow. "Thank you, Highlord. It is an honor to be here." He left his comments brief as he rose out of the flexion.
The High Lord gestured at the far end of the table where the four of them could sit comfortably, easily able to see one another and speak without shouting. They had barely seated themselves when an attendant carried in a tray laden with pitchers of fruit juice and cold water. There was also a plate of cheese, fresh bread, and small meat pies. Mikhael thanked the young man and grinned at his guests, "At least no one can say they left a meeting hungry." He snagged the water pitcher and filled a large pewter mug. "The Mistress wishes the two of you and Song's partner, Brán, to take up residence here for various reasons. The main one seems to be to keep the Theurgy informed. I confess that I have reservations. The Theurgy has always been an autonomous entity. To do what she has requested would mean potentially compromising our security. Some things happen and some things that are discussed that no one should be privy to."
Mikhael reached up and pulled the narrow beaten copper band from around his head. He regarded Song and Aramil for several moments, "I will accede to the Mistress's wishes on the condition that reports are not sent until we agree that the information will not compromise those that work directly for me or the operation of our government. I will not censor the actual reports. Still, the Mistress does not need to be privy to everything as it occurs."
Song was silent for a moment. She knew quite well that the Mistress saw the Theurgy in an authority position. During High Lord Kimber's reign, the Mages and Scholars had to live with his restrictions on the teaching and use of magic. His son was another matter entirely. Mikhael Stormdanovich wanted a return to the Old Ways where the Cymry were taught the ethical and safe use of their powers from a very early age. On the other side of that coin, the Theurgy had less input regarding the rule of Cymeria and virtually no control of its current High Lord because Mikhael had trained outside the Theurgy's purview. This did not sit well with the Mistress.
The Mage glanced at her Sentinel, then to Hawke and finally, her eyes rested on Mikhael, "Our purpose should not include compromising any aspect of your rule, Highlord. Indeed, I would count it a great dishonor to ever do so. I am not sure of the Mistress's agreement in this matter."
"I will inform the Mistress of my terms, Lady Song. She will agree, or I will politely refuse her request to have members of the Theurgy housed here," Mikhael's eyes glinted with humor. "We will assume, for now, that she will agree. It is probably for the best that you do not advertise yourselves as members of the Guild." He slanted a glance at the Ryndar, "Hide them amongst the Morrighan?"
Hawke stood there and rested his elbow on his crossed arm, rubbing his chin before he finally nodded. "Actually that's probably for the best. The Morrighan aren't well known individually, and the normal uniform doesn't draw the eye unless someone knows what it means..." Hawke smiled to the two. "Welcome to the Morrighan..."
Aramil had selected a small portion of bread and cheese, enough to not seem ungrateful, but not too much. He had to admit, this turn of events wasn't quite what he had expected. Sure, he was a warrior, assigned to protect Song, but he expected to be doing more... esoteric work. Looking for shards and the like. He honestly didn't like being the Mistress's spy. It was a bit of a dilemma for him - the choice between his loyalty to the Theurgy, and his distaste for espionage. "Thank you, milords," Aramil intoned, setting his chosen juice down. "Though, I dislike being disingenuous. When will we be able to be open about our guild?"
Mikhael shook his head and laughed softly, "Sentinel, Song, I am not asking that you hide your Guild affiliation so much as not advertise it while residing in my House. Two more Morrighan will not be noted nor will they be suspect as members of that organization come and go on state business on a regular basis. They also have direct access to Hawke and to me."
Song nodded, "I think I understand. The Mistress is not always known for her discretion. And the Theurgy should not be seen as being unduly influenced by the High Lord. Just as we should not advertise ourselves as Theurgy, we will not necessarily be advertised as Morrighan either." She tilted her head and looked from the High Lord to Hawke and back again.
Aramil nodded, relaxing a little from his concerns. "I see; it's more a concern for the public image. The household will know already, but the citizens don't need to know." He leaned back slightly in his chair, rolling a small bread in his hand. Every so often he'd take a small bite of it.
Mikhael rose to his feet again which was a signal for the Herald to approach, "The Herald will find an attendant to show you both to some rooms."
Song and Aramil both stood as well. Song inclined her head in a respectful bow, "Our thanks Highlord." They turned and followed the waiting Herald out of the chamber.