The Dogs Can Dance

In which Haft encounters Megren and Lanisen in the Outer Ward

Outer Ward


You stand in the busy outer ward of Castle Anvard, full of people seeing to the needs of king and kingdom. There are market stalls along the outer wall, bustling with merchants and shoppers. Grooms work in the stables, tending to the horses there, and you hear the occasional bark of a dog from the kennels. The sounds of hammer hitting iron rings out from the blacksmith shop. There are stairs leading to the gate towers on the northern and southern corners of the outer curtain. To the east is the outer gatehouse, and the road leading into the realm of Archenland, and to the west another gate, leading to the inner gatehouse, the inner ward, and the main keep of Anvard.


You can go: Kennels <N>, Northern Market <NE>, Outer Gatehouse <E>,

Southern Market <SE>, Stables <S>, Blacksmith <SW>, Inner Gatehouse

<W>, South Stair <US>, North Stair <UN>

Lanisen comes walking into the outer ward past the iron gates.

Haft is standing at the base of the North Stair, on duty.

Dalia walks west toward the inner gatehouse.

Lanisen leaves the kennels carrying his stick, frowning at a splintered section that looks like it got chewed on.

Haft’s eyes are immediately drawn to movement at the kennel door.  An expression of concern crosses his face as he watches Lanisen.

Lanisen makes a what-can-you-do sort of face and lowers the stick to the ground to walk it along with him. He happens to glance toward Haft.

Haft meets Lanisen’s gaze briefly before dragging his eyes toward the outer gatehouse.

Megren comes walking down the stairs to the Outer Ward.

Haft is standing at the base of the North Stair, on duty.  His face is directed toward the Outer Gatehouse.

Lanisen is passing through from the kennels on his way to the southern market. He looks quickly away from Haft.

Megren descends the north stair, and, seeing Haft down below, grins. She quiets her steps and comes up behind him.

Megren mumbles “Boo!”, to Haft.

Megren mumbles something incomprehensible to Haft.

Haft jumps as though someone has put a live ember down the back of his shirt.  he immediately reaches for his sword as he turns, and it’s six inches drawn by the time he registers who is behind him.  “Mane, girl, don’t do that!”

Lanisen turns automatically toward the rasping steel noise, his hand going to the small knife at his side.

Megren straightens, clasping her hands behind her and circling half around Haft so she’s fully descended the stair and emerged into the warn. “Just checking to see if you’re sharp.”

Haft runs his hand through his hair.  “The sword’s sharper.  Ye’re lucky it’s not through yer arm.”

Megren asks, “What, you think I’m not prepared for a little parry?”

Haft says, “Your blade’s still sheathed, so aye, I’d say not.”

Lanisen watches for a moment, then continues on, passing close enough to hear their conversation.

Megren lifts her brows. “As is yours. Seems I’m safe.” She leans against the other side of the entrance. “So, I don’t suppose anything interesting’s passed on your shift?”

Haft considers.  “Not really.  Couple newcomers, no one that drew attention.  Ain’t seen hide nor hair of Aaron, and that’s a mercy.

Megren mms, her eyes lingering for a moment on the injured fellow passing by.

Lanisen, at this, casts a quick glance around the ward as he walks.

Haft follows Megren’s look and he frowns again, then looks away.

Megren catches the movement from her fellow guard and gives him an odd look, then glances at the man again.

Lanisen passes out of conversational earshot, pausing to let a man with a cart and a balky donkey sort out his life before he continues on.

Haft says, “Are you coming on duty now?  I’m off soon”

Megren says, “Oh? Too bad. I am.”

Lanisen isn’t moving as fast as the general traffic to and from the market, but he does some dodging and fancy footwork and makes it all right. He disappears past the outer gatehouse into the market.

Haft watches Lanisen out of the corner of his eye.  “Well, that’s all to the good.  You won’t be able to entice me into another dart game.”

Megren says, “Aw, you had a good time.”

Haft tilts his head. “Perhaps,” he allows.  “Goodness knows I ain’t done anything like that in years.”

Megren lifts her brows delightedly. “Well, here’s hoping it’s a lot less ’til the next time!”

The corner of Haft’s lips twitch.  “We’ll see.”

Megren crosses her arms and leans back against the wall again. “Anyway, do you mean the darts, or the dancing, or the gossiping about…” she grins. “Lady Paige?”

Haft considers.  “Ah…’yes, mostly’. ‘Yes’.  And..’what’?”

Megren eyes him. “You must’ve drunk a lot before or after to forget Sir Darrin’s story. Or maybe you got more pressing things on your mind for silly stories.”

Haft says, “Well…oh.” His face clears.  “I thought maybe you were asking me for a story of my own.””

Megren says, “Nah, I guess if you want to tell me a story, you’ll do of your own accord.”

Lanisen returns from the market after a few minutes, carrying a wrapped loaf of sweetbread and a block of cheese precariously in the crook of his right arm.

Haft hehs.  “Well, I do remember one time.  Cook had asked me to look into some missing bacon, and it turned out Lady Avery–she was only a wee mite at the time–was smuggling it to a litter of pups in her chamber.  I had to mention it to her lady mother of course and–,” he winces “–well, it almost made me sorry I’d done it.”

Megren’s mouth forms a perfect ‘O’. “That is perfectly sweet. Lady Avery would.” Her eyes flicker to the young man, settling on his difficulty carrying the wares, but she doesn’t interfere as yet.

Haft looks over too, his amused expression fading.

Lanisen seems to have a pretty good handle on everything he’s carrying until about halfway through the ward, when the bread starts to slip. He drops his stick and catches the bread right before it falls, readjusts, and bends carefully to pick up the stick again. And then loses the cheese.

Haft murmurs something to Megren.

Haft mumbles “Help him, would you?”, to Megren.

Haft mumbles “… him, … …”, to Megren.

Megren is moving toward the man before Haft has quite managed to speak to her. Her stride is swift, but somehow still casual and friendly. She kneels to pick up the cheese. “Mind if I carry something for you? I’m terribly bored.”

Lanisen has transferred his stick to his right hand, though his grip on it does not seem to be very stable, and is reaching for the cheese with his left when the woman beats him to it. “Oh, um,” he says. “Ahh, I can get it, I’ve got a method, really–” He adjusts the bread and reaches out to take the cheese back, then loses the stick.

Lanisen mumbles something incomprehensible to Lanisen.

Haft lets out a breath of frustration through his nose at the man’s stubbornness.

Megren catches his stick. “Here, how about if I stack it for you, then?”

Lanisen says, “Er, um–I’d… be obliged, thank you, ma’am.” His face is rather red, and he is very carefully not looking in Haft’s direction.

The left side of Haft’s mouth twitches upward in satisfaction.

Megren stacks the cheese and bread neatly and securely, stepping back a moment with both hands lifted to survey her work. She nods with satisfaction, and returns the stick.

Lanisen says awkwardly, once he is resettled, “Uh. Thank you. ‘Preciate it.”

Haft glances away.

Megren asks, “No trouble. Like I said. Just about bored silly. I’ve seen you go in and out the kennels, haven’t I?”

Lanisen says, “Yes, ma’am. Um, I work for Danall.”

Haft resumes his scanning of the area.

Megren asks, “Sure, I know him a bit. You’re the one who does double between him and Sir Colin, then?”

Lanisen says, “Ahh, not really, ma’am? Um, I mean–I went with him for a couple months before the battle but other’n that I’ve just been… here.” He offers a weak grin. “No doubling.”

Megren asks, “And here I had you bouncing here and forth again.” She taps a finger to her lips. “Lanisen, then, is that right?”

Haft attends his ear to the conversation, though he keeps his eyes fixed elsewhere.

Lanisen says, dipping his head respectfully, “Yes, ma’am. And you’d, er, you’d be Megren?”

Megren asks, “Sure, that’s me. What gave me away, the freckles?”

Lanisen is startled into a genuine grin. “Oh, aye,” he answers. “The freckles, sure.”

Megren clicks her tongue and starts walking toward the kennels so she’s not just holding him up here. “Darn things get me every time. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to go undercover. Big cloak, false nose, powder in the hair, hunch in the back, and every time they go, ‘A good shot Megren, but you’ll have to do better than that if you want to sneak into this tavern again.'”

Haft tries very hard to keep a straight face, but can’t suppress a small snort of amusement.

Lanisen falls into step slightly behind and to her right, laughing under his breath. “I know how that goes.”

Megren turns a little so she can converse with him better as they walk. “Oh, cause your hair?” she says sympathetically. “Don’t worry, I’m sure a good wash’ll clear that right up.”

Lanisen’s mouth falls open a bit. “Hey!” he protests. “I wash!”

Megren squints one eye at him skeptically. “Maybe it’s those dogs, then.”

Haft glances toward the southern market stalls.

Lanisen touches his hair self-consciously. “What’re you even–” He pulls a loose bit of it around and tries to peer at it from the corner of his eye. “You’re havin’ me on?”

Megren elbows him, gently so as not to jostle him. “I’m having you on.”

Haft watches a pair bartering over a goat.

Lanisen sways to the side automatically to avoid the elbow, a bewildered grin on his face. “Oh,” he says. “Well, then.”

Megren slows as they near the kennels. “What sort of tricks can you make the dogs do?”

Haft stands silently, listening, though his watch is now past.

Lanisen says, “Um, just– normal stuff? Course, point, stay put, come back, get the hart, leave the hart?”

Darius comes walking toward you from the Outer Gatehouse.

Megren hmmms, “Seems like if you can teach them that, you can teach them more fun things.”

Haft stands at the base of the North Stair, apparently on duty.

Lanisen says, “Well, uh–” He turns a little red and casts a quick glance around the ward. “Don’t tell any of the knights but some of the hounds know how to dance on their back legs for scraps.”

Darius strolls into the Outer ward, doing his usual scan of the area. Upon quick inspection he notes Lanisen and Megren’s presence, but doesn’t quite seem to catch sight of Haft. His mouth twitching into a smile, he begins making his way over to the two.

Megren’s brow rise and her jaw drops a little in an open-mouthed grin. “I love it. You have to show me.”


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