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Night had fallen only an hour before Zaniel had finally called it quits in the flooded mines. One of the newest silver veins that had been discovered had pushed progress in the mines a little too far, resulting in the rupture of a underground spring in one of the shafts. For the miners this was bad news- it put work on hold, put the coin they earned on hold, and over all set back any time schedules the higher ups had planned on keeping. For a Hydrokinetic like Zaniel, however, a ruptured spring was coin in his hand. He had been hired on less than a day after the spring had been hit. With his abilities and the control he possessed over them he was the ideal candidate to help clean up the mine shaft. He had spent the entire day in the flooded mine, willing the spring waters out of the mine as a team of carpenters and hire-ons fashioned troughs to carry the water out of the mine from it's source. The work of the men took the longest, if the spring water had merely been a pocket Zaniel's work would have been done with the first day.
As it was the spring was fed by an underground brook, one that no doubt was fed by the melting snow caps of the mountains higher up, one that likely wove into the very stone of the castle at some point. Until the men could manage to control the water levels without the aid of a gifted person, Zaniel would continue to get paid for his work. In the past two days he had managed to pull the water from the mine enough that the other men could begin their work, a task that, while not nearly as trying as summoning up a particularly large rain storm, did well to tire the young man out by the end of the day. This is where the time found him- Resting in The Copper Cup Tavern. It was well kept as far as taverns could be considered, a stone structure near the heart of the mining town. It stood two stories tall and boasted several rooms for rent, be it temporary or otherwise. Clean beds, a maid on call to draw up baths and bring hot meals to the rooms for an extra fee.
Despite it's grey, rough exterior the interior of the tavern was snug and welcoming. The main area was crowded with tables and stools, two fireplaces so large a grown man could lay within them comfortably. A bar in the back where the workers filed in and out to tend to their patrons. It could be costly to reserve a room for too many nights in such a spread, but Zaniel had been paid well and he was tired. Zaniel had tucked himself against the left wall of the tavern, sitting at a table that was otherwise empty. The tavern wasn't absolutely full with a patron at every table, but as the night carried on Zaniel knew more would filter in as they came up from the dark mines when their eyes were too sore to see by lantern light.
In front of him sat an empty plate, dirty with crumbs from his nightly meal, and two cups. One half empty with ale and the other a smaller cup with a much stronger alcohol within it just waiting to be knocked back. His right hand idly tilted the smaller of the cup just enough that the firelight glinted off it's contents while Zaniel watched the liquid dance within. It wouldn't take a master detective to guess where Zaniel had been all day- his clothes smelt of used lantern oil, dust from the mine work had settled onto his shoulders and in his hair. He was tired, and it showed on his face. His hair was pulled back into a stubby ponytail to keep the majority of it under control, though it was wet a few stray strands had clumped together as his bangs had begun to dry. Though he was gifted his clothing did not reflect the work of an Argent- instead the Alchemic symbol for water was embossed into a leather shoulder pad on his right shoulder, painted in with a deep blue stain to stand out against the dark brown of the leather.
Abruptly, the tavern door swung open. Those who sat nearest to it fell silent as a soldier wearing Royal armor marched through. After a brief survey of the room, that same soldier motioned to someone else outside the doorway, and a few more guardsmen entered. They were followed by the Queen herself, who raked her sharp gaze around the room before inclining her head toward a table near Zaniel. As she passed, tavern patrons leaped to their feet. The monarch was here! The Queen of Geheim! They dared not show her the disrespect of remaining seated while she herself stood.
Emelia Echtheit passed each table, seemingly without being aware of the presence of anyone else. Some of the guardsmen that trailed in behind her broke away from the main party. Two remained by the entrance, one headed for the kitchen, and another went up the stairs to check each of the inn's bedroom for threats. Meanwhile, the woman herself took a seat. She seemed displeased with her surroundings for a split second, and then a cool, calm expression settled over her face. She gazed at Zaniel and his empty plate.
"You there," she gestured at him with her chin. "What do they serve here?"
Just as Zaniel had begun to lift the smaller of his two cups to his lips, the tavern door swung open and brought with it a stiff breeze that ruffled the hair of tavern goers closer to the doors. Soldiers stepped in- Zaniel had to squint in the warm dim light to make out the Royal insignia on the soldiers' chests. Guards, then. Royal guards. The first served the area and in return many of the patrons looked the Royal guard over in return, or looked away uncomfortably under the man's glances. Zaniel chose to watch as more guards filed in one by one before being followed by the Queen herself. Like the other patrons he stood, though his motion to stand couldn't exactly be called a quick hop.
He had set the small cup down and stood slowly, one hand resting on the table top. The Queen's gaze moved in his direction, her feet soon following. For a moment Zaniel wished he had the ability to melt into the darkness like some mages could, lowering his gaze respectfully as the woman found her preferred table, one so close to his own, and took her seat. And then she addressed him. He lifted his eyes from his empty plate and met the Queen's cool gaze with a calm, confident one, "Roasted fowl, M'Queen." His voice was strong if not a little hoarse from having been exposed to various kinds of dust and soot that day while down in the various mining shafts. "Veal, for a much higher fee, vegetable stews and fresh bread." For today's menu, at least.
Veal, fresh veal, would have cost a pretty penny. It was quite likely something even this tavern offered only rarely. They hadn't the land to support much in the way of cattle around this part of the Kingdom after all.
While he had met her gaze Zaniel had to admit that the Queen was a beautiful woman, though the unpleased expression that had crossed her face momentarily had given her a cold expression. She had, as one might say, Resting Bitch Face.
Not to mention a reputation that would support that.
Upstairs the guards would find no threats, nor anything more threatening than an escaped quail in the kitchen, dropped by a surprised kitchen boy.
Hmph. Veal. Well, at least the Queen wasn't going to have to suffer through a meal of plain boiled turnips and baked pigeon. The very thought made the corners of her mouth tug downward just a bit. She leaned back, spoke to one of her ever-present guardsmen on the subject of acquiring a suitable portion of the freshest available veal, and then righted herself as the guard in question hurried off to join one of the others in the kitchen.
Now there were only two men accompanying her at the table, but their presence was enough to ensure that a wide circle had been cleared around them, with the Queen as the center. It seemed that none of The Copper Cup's patrons were brave enough to keep their nearby seats, or else they worried that the Queen would find their presence distasteful. In either case, they were smart for having moved away. The Queen most likely would have ordered them to other tables, especially if she caught a whiff of the body odor they'd accrued over the course of a day's hard work.
While she waited for her supper to arrive, Emelia turned her gaze upon Zaniel once more, and saw that he was covered in mine dust. "You work in the mine," she said. A statement of truth, rather than a question. "Who is your superior?"
One of the only people either brave enough (or perhaps stupid) to stay in such a close proximity had been Zaniel. Thankfully he wasn't so close that the Queen would have to worry about smelling him- besides, working most of the day in water would have diluted any sweat of his by great lengths. If anything he'd smell of wet stone than give off a body odor. As the guard received his orders and hurried to the kitchen, Zaniel had considered taking his seat again, or better yet, his leave.
He didn't even have a chance before the Queen's gaze was upon him once again.
"I am commissioned by Lord Amsel, my Queen," Zaniel replied.
Lord Amsel owned several mines of various ores and even a bit of land further south from the city. A noble of old blood and high esteem. No doubt the Queen would know the name, he was one of her loyal supporters. The fact that Zaniel was commissioned by the Lord himself meant that he was not a mere mine worker and he must have had a skill beyond swinging a pick axe. He answered to Lord Amsel himself, not the mine foreman or any other over seers.
With each of his replies Zaniel had become aware of how quiet the tavern had become. None of the other patrons spoke or if they did their voices were so low between themselves that he couldn't pick even a murmur out above the sound of the two fires that crackled loudly within their stone prisons. His voice had carried loudly even without raising it, even with the hoarseness that slowly began to subside the more he spoke.
He likely stood out from the other patrons of the tavern- most were clean in appearance, Merchants or skilled workers whose trades kept them out of the mines during the day. There were a few miners dotting the tables, however they appeared to have cleaned up previous to their meals. The tavern was one of the more expensive ones within the city after all. It kept out most of the lower class that didn't have the coin to spend.
"Lord Amsel." Repeating the name ensured that Emelia had the correct person in mind, which she thought she had. There were so many Lords and Ladies at Court, it was difficult to keep track of them all the time. "And how does Lord Amsel run his mines?" Notably, she hadn't asked Zaniel his name. Even if she had asked for it, it was likely the woman would never remember. Zaniel was just a man. He had no title, he was covered in dirt, and he was an employee rather than an employer. In other words, she considered him not worth remembering.
"Would you say he treats his miners fairly?" There had been an uprising of mine workers while Emelia's husband was still alive, and while they had managed to get him to agree to better working conditions for every miner, Emelia had resented the fact that he hadn't simply posted guards in every mine and beaten the workers into submission. She was keeping up appearances with these mine inspections, but many of the Lords who had been forced to adhere to new standards were slowly reverting to their old ways after old King Echtheit had passed away.
Inwardly Zaniel sighed. The last thing he had planned on doing this evening was standing before the Queen with the eyes of Merchants and Miners alike on him, waiting to hear how he would spin the tale of Lord Amsel's mines. They hadn't been necessarily bad, but there had been certain things neglected. Canaries, for one, had not been present within the time Zaniel had spent in the mines. He had inquired after one, not wanting to be caught unaware for any escaping toxins or, as some miners swore, invisible demons that could be warded off by the tiny song birds. Air spirits as the guardians of the Miners, against Centuries old, stingy Earth Spirits, or what have you. Zaniel wasn't sure he agreed with the idea of spirits, demons, or even that the idea that angels existed and had blessed people like himself with their gifts, despite that he had been raised in the ways of religion his entire life.
But he did understand that something in the mines would cause the yellow birds to die, and if a man did not exit the mines soon after the bird had perished, he would no doubt follow it into the after life. It had been passed as a law, by the Dead King Echtheit, that each active mine should have a Canary where the men worked the deepest, to ward off these demons.
Now, before the Queen, Zaniel had to make a choice. Reveal that Lord Amsel had allowed his miners to be put in danger, or lie and say that all had been up to par within the mines. The Queen would, at the very least, have to make a show that Lord Amsel had not followed the laws and would be reprimanded in some way. If any of his workers were within the tavern at the time, if no reprimand ever came, rumor would likely spread that the Queen had not taken action. If he lied, and someone else within the Lord's employ was within the tavern, Zaniel would likely lose favor with them and blemish his own reputation he had so far established within the city.
Damned if he did, Damned if he didn't, right?
He didn't let his thoughts absorb him for very long, keeping the Queen waitting wouldn't have done him any good. Outwardly the struggle of his conscience did not show, "All appeared well, during my time within the Lord's mines. I had not seen a single Canary, though I could not say if one had been present before my arrival." His hands rested at his sides, shoulders remained relaxed. He didn't sound or appear nervous to be standing before Emilea, but he did not appear so relaxed that it would be decided he was not showing respect. He had no intentions of pissing this particular woman off that evening; his description would give Lord Amsel time to convince the Queen (if he even needed to), that there had been Canaries on site. It also kept him from losing too much favor with any miners present-- how could he have known if there had really been a Canary on site, or not? It wasn't like he had asked for one going in. In hindsight Zaniel had assumed the mines safe, minus the water, since other miners had already been going in and out of them.
He would likely purchase his own Canary the next time he entered the mines.
"We appreciate your honesty," the Queen replied, and would say no more on the subject. She could not, would not, publicly declare whether or not Lord Amsel was within his rights. If she sided with him, there may very well be some sort of uprising among the miners and other patrons of the tavern. If she chose to speak against Lord Amsel - and then later learned that the man had been following the law and her words were spoken rashly - the peasantry would become enraged when Emelia 'failed' to punish him. Therefore, silence on the matter was best.
Instead, the Queen changed the subject. "You are a citizen of Erzstadt?" This seemingly innocuous question could prove difficult for Zaniel if he was an outsider. If he could not produce the appropriate papers permitting him to work within the mines in this city, he could find himself rotting away in the Queen's rather damp dungeons in a trice. While she waited for him to respond, a guardsman brought food from the kitchen himself. Having watched it being prepared, he could vouch for its safety - but it would still need sampling from a third party. When the platter was laid before her, Queen Emelia gestured for another of her guardsmen to take a bite. He did so, and once the food was pronounced free of toxins, the Queen herself began to eat.
"No, Your Majesty," It was the truth, "Formerly of Velpe." Velpe had been a small village, Zaniel could hardly remember much of it himself, to be honest. He had been so young that the only impressionable things to stick with him over the years had been the nuns who had raised him and the fire that took nearly half the village; the same fire that triggered his gifts to manifest earlier than usual. He would have been surprised if the Queen knew where the village had been, or even that it had existed at all. Some Tax Collector out there knew it existed and that was likely the important part, right? Velpe had held no strategic advantage, no major mines that filled the Kingdom's coffers or supplied it's troops. Nothing memorable, except maybe the fire.
By the second the drink of hard alcohol left on his table was looking better and better.
"Velpe," the Queen repeated, with a forkful of food poised halfway between her plate and her mouth. She took the bite and chewed, thoughtfully. It seemed that the excitement Emelia had hoped for wasn't going to happen today. The peasants were behaving themselves, this man across the table had answered her questions without a hint of disrespect, and no one had done anything to earn themselves some time spent in the stockade, or one of Emelia's infamous outbursts of temper. Bah.
"You may be seated, then." Oh, she could have made a show of demanding to see the man's papers. Could have demanded to know why he traveled all the way to Erzstadt for work when he could probably have found something to do somewhere else. The simple fact of the matter was that Emelia was tired of wading around among this city's filth, and was ready to head back home to the luxuries of her Palace. The rest of the meal continued, at least for Queen Emelia, in silence. And when she was finished, she simply stood, turned on her heel, and left the tavern without so much as a word to the tavern keeper or his staff. The last guard out of the door slammed it shut, and that was that.
When told he could be seated, Zaniel was relieved. Nothing would have ended his day in the worst of ways as offending the Queen and being tossed into the dungeons for it. He seated himself after bowing respectfully.
It wasn't until after the Queen had left that Zaniel knocked back his drink and stood away from the table, slipping up the stairs while the rest of the Tavern erupted into whispers at the Queen's departure.
Emeria is rated 3/2/2 by the RPGRating.com system. This rating means that, in addition to less intense scenes, we also permit the use of foul language, and some kinds of graphic violence and sexual scenes. But don't worry, that doesn't mean that that's all you'll find here! Threads which surpass a PG rating will be marked as such, which will prevent any accidents. However, we do request that all of our members are at least 16 years of age before joining.
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