(Definitely have been working on this over the past few days. I have a very large chunk that is about to connect with this scene, but I’m still fiddling with some lines. Ne’ertheless, I wanted to put something up and cut it where it seemed appropriate.)
Gideon took a moment to greet each member by name as they approached. He knew them well from Jaster’s descriptions brought back from his frequent visits to Barrow, and took a short moment to clasp hands with each as they approached. Sebastien, the Conclave’s chief, a broad man with blacksmith hands and a face well accustomed to laughter and troubles. Carrigan of Peak’s Pass, hair streaked with frost. Pontificus the Exegetic, his hands even now flecked with bits of ink. Rigel of Bandersnatch, sword at his side and an ever-present spring in his step. Lorelai the Tacit and Fair Mercedes of Ubique rounded out the group. Six of the eight members of the Conclave were present – but there was an extra that Jaster had never mentioned.
She was a Western woman with her vivid green hair wrapped in a charming gray scarf. Warm brown eyes and an otherwise pleasant face thinned by time and strife would not have made her distinguishable on the streets… Except he knew that face, those eyes, the few strands of emerald that slipped from beneath the grasp of her scarf.
To his credit, Gideon contained his surprise with the exception of staring at her fairly intently.
The chief of the conclave, Sebastien, noticing Gideon’s particular attention, addressed him quickly. “Gideon, I speak for us all when I say what an honor it is to meet you in person. May I introduce our Lady Jocelyn, formerly of the West, who has come down for a few days from headquarters in Castleguard. I trust that she will be welcome for this meeting?”
Gideon’s tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. “Forgive me, my lady – were you not formerly the princess of the West?”
She nodded, bristling slightly. “I was, until my foolish brother decided that speaking the truth was a banishable offense.” The irritation in her voice was so familiar – except Gideon was used to it being directed at him.
“I was not aware that you were now laboring for the Northern resistance.” Gideon replied, a wave of weariness washing over him as he realized what he would have to do.
“It’s not that unusual. What happens in this kingdom affects my kingdom as well. If you would prefer that I not be present for this…” Jocelyn replied, furrowing her brow at his withdrawal.
Shaking his head, Gideon sighed – a low, mournful noise like the wind in the night. “No, my lady. This concerns you more than anyone. Please, let us sit.”
They filed around the table, Gideon taking the seat with his back to the fire. His face was cast into shadows, firelight gleaming in his choppy silver hair.
To the Conclave, he was an enigma. The hue of his hair and his demeanor of fatigue implied age and maturity, yet he was a solidly built and tall for a Northerner, with footsteps soft as a cat. His voice was slightly muffled by the mantle, yet still came through as strong and even. He projected an image of agelessness and confidence, yet his conflicted expression put them on edge. If even their mysterious benefactor was troubled by this news…
Gideon leaned forwards, scanning the eyes of each member of the Conclave as he mentally strung his words together, speaking steadily and earnestly. “Thank you for gathering so quickly. I hold each of you in the highest regard for all your sacrifice all these years. I know that you only have heard of me through deed and reputation.
“You don’t know that I love this nation with every fibre of my being, and that I seek not to restore this land to its former glory but to improve upon that, and for that cause I would not only die but live, live long and hard and cruel because to me these people, this land is worth it. You don’t know who I am just yet, but I must ask you to trust me, and to judge me by all I’ve done these past few years.”
He was silent for a moment, allowing his message to sink in. “The news I bear is dark; its implications darker still. I believe we might be able to prevent the intended consequences, but we must act quickly, while there is still time.”
“What foul message do you bear, Gideon?” Sebastien asked cautiously, folding his great arms over his chest.
Gideon knew no gentler way to say it. “The King of the West is dead.”