Argument

In which there is snow, a discussion of dog names, and an unpleasant conversation

Inner Wall Walk

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You stand on Anvard’s Inner Wall Walk. From here you have a view of both the Inner and Outer Wards. A cool wind ruffles your clothes. A glance down into the Outer Ward reveals the bustle of people going to and from the market stalls, or off to various duties throughout the castle. In the Inner Ward you see nobles and staff, mingling happily or going about their own business. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

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You can go: Toward the Trapdoor Opening <N>, Southern Watchtower <S>

Haft stands with his hands on the wall, looking out over the Outer Ward.  He wears his brown shirt under a woolen cloak, and looks rather inordinately pleased about something.

Megren skips up onto the walk. Seeing Haft there, she comes up beside him. “You look like the bear just found an abandoned honeycomb.”

Haft lets out an amused snort at her choice of phrase.  “It snowed,” he says, indicating the dusting atop the crenellations.

Megren perches on the wall, pushed up against the rise in the stonework so he still has room to view the ward. “Well, goodness me, so it has.”

He looks up at her.  “Can’t tell you how long it’s been since I saw snow in Anvard Megren.  Crisp and clean and, well…wonderful”

Megren makes a half turn, drawing her leg under her so that she can see the ward. “It’s pretty,” she agrees.

Haft asks, “So what brings you up here?”

Megren lifts a shoulder. “Got bored of sitting in the mess. Thought I’d see who I could find.”

Haft says, “Well, it’s certainly warmer in the mess.  But the view’s better from here.”

Megren mhms. “That’s why you’re here?”

Haft turns his head.  “That’s why I’m here.”

Megren asks, “Have you heard from your sister yet?”

Haft blinks at the apparent change in subject.  “No.  I only sent the letter two days ago.  There was rather a lot to explain.”

Megren nods. “And it’ll be a few days more with the snow.”

Haft says, “Aye.  Well, can’t be helped.  Just hope they find her is all.  And I’ve got another letter to compose tonight to Lord Peridan.”

Megren asks, “In Narnia?”

Haft says, “Yes.  Lady Avery offered to have it delivered with some of her family’s correspondence.  I need to thank him, you know, for recommending me for the post.  I’m delayed too long in doing so already.  Well, I’m not much for letter writing, as you’ve probably figured out.”

Megren looks cheeky. “More than me.”

Haft snorts.  “Well, there you are.  Excellent reason not to learn.  No one will expect letters.”

Megren says, “I think… I might actually rather like that part.”

Haft asks, “What?  Writing letters?”

Megren nods. “A lot of people pass through the castle. It’d be nice to talk to them.”

Haft looks a little doubtful.  “I suppose…”

Megren says, “Well, I don’t pretend to say everyone’d like it.”

Haft asks, “So you’re…what?  Thinkin’ of learning?”

Megren looks at the sky for an answer, “Um–”

Haft says, “Only works if the folks who pass through can write, you know…or at least can hire someone to read for them”

Megren says, “Well, I mean, most of them can. Knights, and squires, you know.”

Haft asks, “You have a lot of friends among the kights and squires?”

Megren lifts a shoulder. “Well, Lanisen’s gone right now, isn’t he? If I could write I could tell him how Sir Snuffles bit Renard the Bold on the ear.”

Haft looks perplexed.  “That didn’t answer my question…and I refuse to believe His Majesty’s kennels have graced their beasts with such appalling titles.”

Megren lifts her brows with a pleased sort of mock-offended look. “I’ll tell Sir Darrin you agree with me about his naming skills.”

Haft says, “Oh Sir Darrin.  Well, that explains a great deal.”

Megren says, “Sir Darrin is among His Majesty’s most trusted knights. I find your logic circular.”

Haft asks, “‘Circular’?”

Megren says, “Mhm.”

Haft says, “How?”

Megren says, “You express that the names would be such a disgrace as to be unbelievable, yet you find it natural that they would come from one of the best respected lords in the castle.”

Megren says, “It is at the very least contradictory.”

Haft says, “Hmm.  I believe what I am saying is that Sir Darrin has a good sense of humor.  Still doesn’t mean they’re acceptable name for any self-respecting hounds.”

Megren laughs. “Somehow I don’t think a pack of dogs are liable to have their prides wounded.”

Haft barks a laugh.  “Tell that to some o’ them Wolves up north.”

Megren lifts her chin in agreement. “And if these ones start speaking up, I’ll be sure to ask their opinions on the matter.”

Haft says, “Well, Renard’s not too bad a name, I suppose.  Sir Snuffles, however, must be reconsidered.”

Megren says, “I suppose you have an objection to High Chancellor Snooze-ums as well.”

Haft says, “Don’t be ridiculous.  ‘Chance’ is a perfectly acceptable name.”

Megren says, “Well, I’m quite glad you aren’t in charge of the naming, then.”

Haft eyes her.  “Has the Lord Chancellor Cole been made aware of Sir Darrin’s penchant for naming dogs after him?”

Megren furrows her brows at him. “He’s not named after Lord Cole. Then he’d be named High Chancellor Cole. Keep up.”

Haft says, “How many High Chancellors can there be?  It seems a very busy castle to require two of them.”

Megren says, “Well, he’s not High Chancellor of Anvard, is he? He’s high chancellor of Houndvard.”

Megren seems to find this all very amusing, barely able to keep a straight face.

Haft appears to be having trouble with this last volley as well.

Megren giggles, “And he delegates nap-sharing policies with a just and temperate paw.”

Haft asks, “And who rules Houndvard then, oh Knowledgeable Guardswoman?”

Megren gives him a chastening look. “Why Vira, of course. She is their mother.”

Haft says, “Ah.  I take it this is the new litter of pups then, not some poor elderly beasts Sir Darrin has taken to insulting.”

Megren exclaims, “Oh! Yes. Five weeks old or so. Just about ready for training, Lanisen says. I’m to help, on account of how naturally they’ve taken to me.”

Megren gives him an angelic grin.

Haft says, “Hmm, well, I guess they’re a good judge of character.”

Megren says, “Why, Haft. I do believe you are beginning to grow fond of me.”

Haft scowls.  “Just don’t know anyone else who can get Gearn to lend me his cubes set.”

Megren says, “I have found that a valuable skill.”

Haft says, “Yes, well, makes you the most valuable person in the mess.  Well, after Gearn.”

Megren clucks her tongue. “Always one step ahead of me, that Gearn.”

Haft says, “Certainly thinks he is anyway.”

Megren says, “Oh, he’s not so bad.”

“No,” Haft shrugs.  “He’s just…Gearn.”

Megren tilts her head at him. “Something happen?”

Haft purses his lips.  “Oh, not really. Likes to tease is all.  Said something to Lady Avery today about me making the rest of the guard look bad.  And the other day he was asking if I wasn’t interested in Abrielle–you met her?  She’s less than half my age.”

Megren blinks, and then makes a face.

Haft says, “Yes, quite.  But there’s no real harm in him, just a bit of ribbing.”

Megren says, “Still.”

Haft asks, “Hmm?”

Megren says, “Not very nice for Abrielle.”

Haft says, “Well, he didn’t say it so she could hear.”

Megren looks genuinely disapproving. “Still.”

Haft shrugs.  “Well, I didn’t think much of it either, but I gave him a look and he didn’t say it again.”

Megren swings her leg over so that she is fully facing the ward, leaning against the stonework. She crosses her arms close over her stomach, and says after a moment of reflection, “I’ll talk to him.”

Haft frowns.  “You will not.”

Megren says, “I will. She should be able to talk to a man the age of her father without people speculating about her romantic prospects.”

Haft says, “Her romantic prospects are settled.  She’s courting.  And if you talk to Gearn he’ll know I told you.  I wish I’d never said a word.”

Megren says, “That’s worse.”

“What’s that mean?” Haft snaps.

Megren asks, “She’s got prospects, and she still can’t talk to other men without it? What’s he saying about all the unattached women in the castle?”

Haft says, “The courting just started, and Gearn wouldn’t know, not that that’s the point.  She only just told me yesterday, and what Gearn said was before that.”

Megren looks frustrated with the side-explanations. “Either way.”

Haft returns the exasperation.  “You do realize Gearn is on rotation with me?  I’ve got group duty and I can’t get away from him.  You make an issue of this I’ll be putting up with the ramifications of that for months.”

Megren opens her mouth, and then closes it firmly again. It’s not clear what this means.

Haft turns sharply to stare out over the ward again.  “Let it go.  I told you, it was one time.  It’s done.”

Megren takes a breath and slips off the stonework inside the wall.

Haft eyes her warily.

Megren seems further agitated by the look. “You’re right,” she concedes. “It’s not my place to talk to him. But it is yours.”

Haft opens his mouth to offer a retort, then closes it again and narrows his eyes.  “I’m listening.”

Megren pulls at the ends of her sleeves and steps past him, turning to face him to respond, but seeming ready to make her exit. “That’s all. He talked to you. It’s your place to speak back, especially when he’s being rude about others. You want to prove him wrong about who’s an asset to the guard, that’s what you do.”

Haft looks confused.  “What do you mean ‘an asset to the guard’?”

Megren rubs her hairline. “You said he’s talking about who makes the guard look bad. So — don’t. Tell him to knock it off.”

Haft appears perplexed for a moment.  Then understanding seems to dawn and he turns back to the battlements with a curious expression on his face.  His shoulders heave, but after a moment it becomes apparent that he is shaking with ill-concealed laughter.

Megren takes a breath, releases it, and trudges off toward the tower.

Haft steps after her.  “Megren, wait.”

Megren says, “I — really — need to go cool off.”

Haft shakes his head.  “You can do that.  But hear me out, because it /is/ funny.  Megren, Lady Avery asked me if I was enjoying being a guard.  Gearn told her that I was making the rest of you look bad because I don’t complain about the long hours standing.”

Megren turns around. She takes a breath and says in sincere if measured tones, “That’s really nice, Haft.”

Haft watches her, concerned.  “Why does it bother you so much, what he said about Abrielle?”

Megren says, “I just said.”

Haft says, “And you want me to talk to him.”

Megren sucks the inside of her lip. “You have to do what you think is right.”

Haft considers, eyeing her as though she might catch fire.  “It’s been at least ten days since he said it, and I think it was fairly clear to him how I felt at the time,” he answers slowly.  “In truth such jests are things I’m familiar with in the guard.  However, it is also on us to defend others, and perhaps what was said was not for the best.  Therefore if he makes such a comment again, I will discuss it with him.  Is that acceptable?”

Megren takes a breath and releases it. “Fine,” she concedes. She takes another breath. “Do you… mind if I go now?”

Haft shakes his head, but he looks worried.  “No…of course not.”

Darrin emerges from the southern watchtower.

Megren says with more of her regular kindness, “See you on our next rotation,” but she makes off toward the southern tower and is distracted enough that she nearly walks right into Sir Darrin.

Haft looks after her, noting the appearance of the knight.

Darrin notices Megren’s approach in time to step neatly out of the way. He gives her a perplexed look and reaches out to touch her arm as he steps aside. “Now, I know I don’t have the stature of my brother, but still, I’m normally not /quite/ so invisible,” he says, lips quirking.

Megren steps backward, bumping against the crenellation. Her face grows red and she gives a swift bow, stunted by the small space between them. “Sorry, I — didn’t see you, Sir.”

Haft watches the exchange from a distance, not able to make out the words.

Darrin arches a brow, his hand dropping to his side. He opens his mouth like he’s going to say something, frowns like he’s rethinking it, and then comes out with a simple, “Indeed.” He tilts his head. “You all right, Fritter?”

Megren glances off to the side for an answer. “I–m–” she looks down the wall at Haft and schools her features, “–fine, Sir.” She cants her head and explains, “It’s a little cold. I thought I’d go inside and warm up.”

Haft returns the look, then takes a breath and turns back toward the outer ward, resting his arms on the wall and not looking nearly so pleased as he did earlier.

The brow goes back up, and Darrin sends a look in Haft’s direction that is, at the very least, displeased. He rubs at the back of his neck, looking back to Megren. “Would you like some company?”

Megren, seeing this, looks guilty, too. “Um,” she shifts, thinking. “Sure. If, um– sure, that’s fine.”

Haft looks up toward the sky, as if wondering if there’s any more chance of snow.

Darrin studies her for a moment as if ascertaining the believability of this acceptance, and then he nods. He goes and opens the door to the tower. “After you, then,” he says, offering a smile.

Megren rubs her arm and passes him to go into the tower.

Megren walks south into the Southern Watchtower.

Darrin walks south into the Southern Watchtower.

Haft remains on the wall a good deal longer, until he is quite chilled.  After a while, he sees Megren and Darrin pass out of the castle.

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