Trials and Tribulations

In which Haft tries to do the right thing, only to have his past flung in his face.  Featuring Fionna, Sehsis, Megren and Ye Angry Crowde!


The Narrow Gate Hall

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The Hall of the Narrow Gate is brightly lit by a large chandelier, and by torches on the walls. A bar runs along the length of the south wall. Behind the bar stands Dranken, the Barman, polishing a glass. The wall behind him holds several bottles, and racks of glasses. There is also a menu offering drinks and food. The north wall is dominated by a cheerful stone fireplace.

The rest of the room is filled with tables and stools, in little clusters all over the scuffed wooden floor. An arch leads to the Anteroom to the south.

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You can go: The Anteroom <S>

Contents: A daughter of eve wearing a rough woven brown shawl on her shoulders;

A son of adam with a swarthy complexion; Dranken, the Barman; Pricelist; Sign

— Rooms, 500 coins per day; and Wolves and Foxes Game Set.

Fionna squints against the sight of the fading light of the taven as she bends down to speak with her nephew. “I don’t know…Lad. Don’t know why he’d show the likes of himself here again after all that happened.”

Sehsis takes a quick sip of his drink in an attempt to steady his nerves.

Haft steps into the hall, glancing around for a table, then seating himself in a dark spot in the corner.

Another guest somewhere down the bar glances down at Sehsis. “I hear tell there were some spies running about the day of the battle.” He says to his friend before glancing down Sehsis’ way, “You wouldn’t have heard anything about that would you?”

Sehsis still not catching anyone’s eye says, “There weren’t any spies…”

Haft calls to Dranken for a mug of mulled cider.  Dranken stops cleaning his glass, and serves it up directly.

Fionna hahs to her self at the mention of spies. “More than likely” she mutters to herself.

Setting his mug down he looks at Sehsis in surprise. “No indeed? Fancy that. I was sure I heard tales of spies running about. They say they even slipped in under the gates.”

Sehsis says in that same low voice, “Unless one of your own was a spy there were none…”

Haft looks up from his table at mention of the word “spies”, though he can’t make out the response of the other man clearly.  His eyes narrow at the Calormene.

The dissenter from before speaks up. He is turned to his friend but is speaking loudly enough for others to hear. “Hah. More than likely there was Calormene spies. You think Calormen and all them other countries just hand over information and plans just as nice as you please? Hah. Fool.”

Several of the men nod agreeingly.

Sehsis falls silent, hoping against hope that they would get distracted by something- or someone- elste.

Haft follows the mood of the room carefully.

“Ye all know how I feel.” mutters one embittered old man. “You can’t hope that treaties can replace my boy.”

Sehsis doesn’t seem to be able to take this anymore, he leaves his unfinished drink and quietly slips off his chair, backing towards the door.

Another man speaks up. “Shouldn’t we be looking to our own borders then? But a few weeks ago there was a strange man about the castle then a fire starts in Het Noorden. Shouldn’t we be looking to our own instead of picking fights with our neighbors?”

A man near the door leers at Sehsis.  “Leaving so soon?”

Sehsis freezes and backs away from the door, “I ah…”

Haft frowns, then rises, walking around the table.  “I reckon he can leave if he wants to,” he growls.  “Or finish his drink.  What do you reckon?”

At the bar, the conversation continues and several heads nod, “And there were the tales of bandits but a few years back.”

The man by the door sneers.  “You think I’m frightened by you?  I know who you are.  And what you done.”

Several heads nearby turn towards Haft and the leering man.

Sehsis backs away from them both and hits the wall where he freezes and watches the two men cautiously.

Haft’s expression turns murderous, but his voice is controlled.  “Good.  Then you know I’m a member of the Guard.  And I will not tolerate a man being bullied from an establishment who has fairly paid for his drink.”

The leering man leans forward, placing a hand on the door frame, “Yeh? And what’re ya gonna do about it?”

A tense, excited murmur spreads through out the crowd.

“I think,” Haft says coldly, “the question is, what are you going to do?  Do you mean to prevent this man from leaving if he wishes it?” He nods toward the man’s hand on the door frame.

Fionna finds her attention drawn towards an altercation beginning by the door.

The man shoots the Calormene a look of sheer hatred. “Aye. I am. That southerner ain’t answered for what happened.” He shoots Haft another leer. “Though I ain’t surprised you’re sticking up for him.  Traitors look after their own eh?”

Another murmur moves throughout the crowd.

Haft grits his teeth in a snarl of rage, but manages to master himself.  “What do you mean, ‘answer for what happened?'” he says lowly.  “What has this man done?”

Several patrons from the bar even turn around to watch.

The man leans against the door frame, arms folded, “Well I ain’t never seen that one before but our people died that day, my own brother among them, and they’s all the same if ya ask me. Rotten to the core the lot of them, so I reckon he’s just as guilty as any other.”

Several “Aye!”s ring out from nearby.

Haft shakes his head.  “I am sorry for your loss, but unless you have evidence of–” Haft turns at the other voices.

Sehsis stands frozen against the wall, eyes wide and wishing very much that he could vanish into thin air.

Haft raises his voice.  “The king himself has welcomed Calormene guests to his court.  There is an embassy in the castle even now.  Do you dare gainsay him?”

The man’s eyes narrow, “In this case, aye. I do.”

A quite mutter moves throughout the crowd.

If Haft’s expression before was dark, the change that comes over him now is frightening.  He stares at the man intently, fists clenched.  “You question him, yet dare to call me a treacher,” he breathes.

The man doesn’t flinch; instead he gives a dark laugh, “Voicing an opinion is not treason, letting the crown prince be stolen, that is treason.”

There is an audible gasp among those assembled.

Another man stands. “King Lune grows old, Master Haft. He has much on his mind. How can we trust that this thing will not happen again? That we’ll all not wake to knives at throats? The Calormenes are not to be trusted!”

Haft falls back slightly at the bald statement of his crime.  He turns at the comment about the king’s age, addressing the new man.  “How dare you?  Do you think your king does not care for your well-being?  Do you not know who lost the most of all of us at the hands of the Calormenes?”

The man [by the door] says in a sing song voice, “Lost most of all~” he leers, “He got his son back, which is more than can be said for those of us who’s family died.”

Haft grits his teeth, unable to find a response to this.

With a triumphant grin, the man by the door says, “The traitor is silenced.”

Furious whispering takes place.

Haft’s shoulders shake with suppressed fury.

Sehsis has gone very, very quiet and very, very still. By his defeated demeanor he seems to have resigned himself to the worst.

Haft stands with his back to the door, and the eyes of the entire room are upon him.  He appears to be shaking with fury.

Megren walks up to the tavern entryway and tilts her head at the townsman standing there. She taps him on the shoulder with her finger.

Haft snarls, “I am not a traitor!  Maybe you have forgotten who it was alongside you when the fire broke out in Het Noorden.”

The man gives a little start and being prodded in the back and turns to face the newcomer, stepping aside briefly to let her in before turning his attention back to Haft. “One good deed don’t make up for a far worse one.”

Haft whirls to face the man at the door.  “I meant your king!

Haft pales on seeing Megren.

An older man stands with the help of a cane and his son. “You all should be ashamed of yourselves. Bron? What would your father say of you?”

The man by the door–now identified as Bron–shrugs and says, “He ain’t here right now, is he?”

Megren tilts her head and puts herself in the awkward position of standing directly between Haft and Bron. She wrinkles her nose, “What’s all this, then, Dranken? Forgot to cut people off?”

Haft steps back, understanding Megren’s movement, and frowns in response.

The old man says, “You shame your father. You shame your king.” Unfortunately, despite his attempt to defend Haft, he has to sit down suddenly.

Bron frowns and says, “I don’t believe this: defending traitors and criminals.” He spits in the direction of Haft and the Calormene, “This ain’t your squabble ma’am.”

Haft looks livid at the insult as the man spits.

Megren gathers her hands behind her back. “Forgive me, but as I’ve stumbled into the middle of it, I suppose it sort of is. What’s the problem here?”

Fionna’s daughter glances worried to her husband and then to her mother.  She holds her daughter close and makes ready to cover her eyes.

Bron nods towards the Calormene and then towards Haft. “That southern’s existence and that traitor’s refusal to give us justice.”

Haft subdues his temper, speaking at the same time.  “This man,” he indicates Bron, “was blocking the door, refusing to–” He stops at Bron finishes.

The man who had questioned the king’s judgment earlier steps closer, meaning to speak to Megren. “Ma’am, you ought to step away. Bron doesn’t differentiate when he’s angry,” he says, the last part rather quietly

Megren glances at Haft. “Traitor?” She tilts her head to the side and giggles. “Oh, I see, there’s been some misunderstanding.” She moves to Bron’s side, placing her near hand on his arm, the better to show her allegiance to his sense of well-being and justice. “I know he looks sour, but do you know, he lived in Narnia the last 14 years, and yet, as soon as he heard Prince Cor’s call for defense, Haft here made no hesitation in volunteering to defend his home country, though he knew not whether he would live or die?”

Bron doesn’t look mollified at this, “Don’t change the fact he did it and it don’t change the fact he’s defending that southern scum who ought pay for the crimes of his country.”

Haft turns to address her directly.  “There’s no misunderstanding, Megren,” he says, meeting her eyes with a look of pain and rage.

Several ayes resound in agreement to the last bit of Bron’s statement.

Megren mms, “Well, it’s true, one deed doesn’t change another,” she concedes. “But while I can’t speak to what he may have done to offend you, I can speak to the second part. What is your occupation, friend?”

Bron folds his arms and narrows his eyes, “I’m a farmer. What of it?”

A murmur moves through the crowd

Megren ahs! “I know nothing about farming, would you believe? That is, I could have a good guess telling you wheat from alfalfa, but what you do with chaff and all that?” She gestures to the Calormene with her head. “This fellow’s presence here is the business of the knights and the guard. If they’ve allowed him to be here, they’ve done so informed.”

Another murmur ripples through the crowd.

Haft stares at a spot on the wall, letting Megren handle the man for now.

Bron grits his teeth, “Well then they made a fool’s error in trusting them people.”

Megren raises her brows in surprise. “Oh? Has he put someone in danger?”

“He was sitting at the bar having a drink,” Haft growls.

Megren says, “Let the man speak. Perhaps he observed something concrete which everyone else has missed.”

Megren looks at Bron expectantly.

Sehsis says very quietly, “I didn’t do anything…”

Bron gives a short laugh, “It’s only a matter of time though, innit?”

Megren mms. “Poetic. For whom can the same not be said?”

Bron takes a few steps away from the guards and towards the Calormene, “I just about had enough of this! I ain’t gonna sit here when you lot spit on the memories of our folks who died ’cause of them by defending them!”

Haft steps between Bron and Sehsis.

Fionna watches with interest.

Sehsis stares towards the door, wondering if he’d be able to reach it if he ran.

Megren steps toward him again, again taking his arm. She motions with her eyes for Haft to get the Calormene out of the room now that the door is fully free. “Then may we not have more violence come of it. All of us grieve. A friend near to my heart lost the use of his fingers.”

Bron says in a low growl, “And my brother lost his life. I should avenge him.”

Haft gestures to the Calormene.  “This way.”

Sehsis nods slightly and follows the guard without question.

Haft leads Sehsis toward the door and outside.

Megren brings her hand down to hold Bron’s in both of hers. The grief on her face is sincere. “I’m sorry. What was his name?”

Bron’s anger seems to turn to sadness at the memory of his brother, “Broderick…That was his name.”

Megren tugs gently to try and get him to sit at a table with her, motioning for Dranken to bring them both something to drink. “Tell me about him?”

The fight seems to have left him as Bron allows himself to be led to a table, “He was just a few years younger than me, funniest person you’d ever meet…” He shakes his head, unable to continue, “I reckon I just want to be left alone now…”

The altercation all broken up, many patrons turn back to their own business and conversations. A few pay up and leave but not too many.

Megren’s brows draw together and upward, and she doesn’t take her hands from his. She nods a little, lips turned down and pressed slightly together. “Of course. Please find me if you ever need someone to talk to. Megren. My father lives here in town.”

Bron just nods, looking the very picture of defeated misery.

Meanwhile, in the Anteroon, Haft is conversing with Sehsis.

Narrow Gate Anteroom

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You stand in the Anteroom of the Narrow Gate. Sconces on the walls hold several torches, lending a flickering dim light to the room, a light which makes shadows dance on the grey stone walls and rough stone floor.

A door on the west wall leads out to the Herberg Road. An open arch to the north leads into the Hall, with the sounds of eating and drinking and singing and story-telling. Another arch, to the south, leads to the much quieter Common Room. To the east a staircase leads up to the private rooms.

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You can go: The Narrow Gate — Upper Floor <U>, Narrow Gate Hostel <S>, The Hall <N>, Herberg Road <W>

Contents: A son of adam with a swarthy complexion.

Haft lead Sehsis into the anteroom.  “You all right?” he asks stiffly.

Sehsis doesn’t quite catch Haft’s eyes as he speaks, “Well as I might be…Thank you”

Haft says, “Don’t thank me.  It goes with the job.  Besides, I know what it is to be the most hated man in a room.”

Sehsis says quietly, “I suppose I ought to have seen it coming…”

Haft looks at him frankly.  “You didn’t?”

Sehsis shakes his head, or nods it, something in between anyway, “I did. I just…Well, what choice did I have? I could not stay anywhere else since I do not live here. I didn’t want to come back here but I have obligations to my clients.”

Haft’s eyes flick over the merchant’s attire.  “Yes.  Sometimes there isn’t a choice.”

Sehsis sighs and rubs his forehead in an attempt to dispel the growing headache. “Ye gods…If you and that lady had not been there…”

Haft takes on a distasteful expression at the mention of ‘gods’.  “Megren is very good at what she does.  Me?  I made things worse.”

Sehsis says, “Yet I must thank you anyway.”

Haft shrugs.  “Fine, you’ve thanked me.  We done?”

Sehsis says, “Yes.”

Haft says, “Good,” and strides out onto the road.

Haft stands outside for a while, listening for any noise from the inn that might indicate the situation inside has deteriorated.  After several minutes he steps back inside to make sure Megren has everything in hand.

Haft walks into the Hall of the Narrow Gate.

The Narrow Gate Hall

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The Hall of the Narrow Gate is brightly lit by a large chandelier, and by torches on the walls. A bar runs along the length of the south wall. Behind the bar stands Dranken, the Barman, polishing a glass. The wall behind him holds several bottles, and racks of glasses. There is also a menu offering drinks and food. The north wall is dominated by a cheerful stone fireplace.

The rest of the room is filled with tables and stools, in little clusters all over the scuffed wooden floor. An arch leads to the Anteroom to the south.

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You can go: The Anteroom <S>

Contents: A daughter of eve with short, copper hair (Megren); Dranken, the

Barman; Pricelist; Sign — Rooms, 500 coins per day; and Wolves and Foxes

Game Set.

Megren rises from a table at the back of the room, a full tankard still sitting there. Bron is nowhere to be seen.

Haft slips into the hall as quietly as possible, glancing around to make sure things are settled.  His eyes light on Megren and he starts to withdraw again.

Megren stops at the bar to speak quietly with Dranken, offering him a small and pleasant grin, though her manner is more subdued than usual.

Haft turns and heads back out of the room.

After checking on Megren, Haft begins walking back toward Anvard.

East Andale

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The lane here widens to form a square of sorts and has several carts sitting at nearby buildings. People hurry back and forth between the two busy shops. Handel’s Mercantile dominates the north half of the square, and the smaller shop, Verloren’s Found and Lost, sits to the south. There are several benches here for those waiting on shoppers and horses hitched to posts. toward the Herberg Road.

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You can go: Handel’s Mercantile <N>, Verloren’s Lost and Found <S>, Andale <W>, Herberg Road <E>

Megren comes walking down the lane from the Herberg Road.

Haft walks westward, looking weary.

Megren walks along the path at a slightly spryer pace, though subdued. Seeing him, she hesitates.

Haft doesn’t hear her, or change his pace.

Megren stops in her path, contemplating him for a moment, and then she picks up her pace to catch up with him. “Hey,” she says as she comes to his side.

Haft stops and turns.  “I checked back a few minutes ago,” he offers, as if justifying.  “You seemed to have matters well in hand.”

Megren puts her hands behind her back. “…Oh. Thank you.”

“I didn’t start it,” Haft says, defensively.  “At least, I didn’t mean to.  They were muttering about Calormenes and spies.  He got uncomfortable and tried to leave, and that Bron blocked his path.”

Megren’s brows lift. “Oh, I– these things happen.”

Haft presses his lips into a grim line.  “I tried to step in, but I made it worse.  I can’t afford to let ‘these things happen’ Megren.  I’ve got too much to lose.”

Megren blinks at him. “…What?”

Haft says, “Since I got back I’ve already been in trouble once.  You caught a whiff of that the night we caught Aaron antagonizing Lanisen in the kennels.  I can’t risk another black mark.  What if this had descended into a brawl, tonight?  I could have been off the guard.  It’s all I have.”

Megren huffs a breath between her lips, letting him talk.

Haft doesn’t seemed much inclined to continue in that vein.  His jaw works a moment.  “You have questions?”

Megren tilts her head. “Well, after a fashion. I wanted to make sure you were all right.”

Haft looks at her.  “Do I look all right?”

Megren ums.

Haft looks around.  “This isn’t a good place to have this conversation.  You heading back to the castle?”

Megren rubs her hairline. “Uh–”

Haft waits for a response.

Megren drops her shoulders. “Mhm.”

Haft looks at her doubtfully.  “You weren’t.”

Megren says, “It’s fine.”

Haft waves a hand.  “No, go on.  It’ll keep.”

Megren says, “Are you sure? You seem rattled.”

Haft frowns.  “That man just called me a traitor, Megren.  I should be rattled.”

Megren wrinkles her brow a little. “He was grieving, and you’re not one. And I’m not saying you shouldn’t be– that’s why I’m offering to stay.”

Haft looks at her a long time.  “You don’t know what I am.  But if you want to hear it I’ll tell you what I wouldn’t the other night.  But not here.”

Megren takes a breath. “Sure, fine. Where do you want to go?”

Haft shrugs.  “One of the parapets…the beach or the range maybe, if you want to stay in town.”  He pulls his cloak tighter around him.

Megren says, “The forest would be warmer, and more in between.”

Haft nods.  “The forest then.”

At the Fork

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The path divides here, one fork curving west toward Anvard and the other continuing to the northeast toward Andale. The trees are very thick here, with dense patches of thorny briar filling in the gaps between trunks, and it is impossible to see very far down the road in any direction. Sweet raspberries can be found in the thickets on either side of the path in summertime, and the forest is noisy with wildlife.

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You can go: Toward the Town <NE>, Toward the Castle <W>, Forest Path <S>

Contents: A squirrel.

Haft leads Megren into the forest, stopping just below the eaves, and leans up against a large oak, folding his arms over his chest and staring at the ground.

Megren walks quietly along at his side, watching her feet as she steps over sleety leaves.

“So,” Haft says quietly, “You know I lived in Narnia fourteen years.  But not why.”

Megren tucks her hair behind her ear.

Haft says, “I lived in Narnia because I couldn’t come home.  I was in exile.”

Megren finds a trunk to lean against as she listens quietly.

Haft sighs.  “At least…I thought I was.  The result was the same.  I couldn’t come back.”

Megren looks down at her hands, glancing up at him long enough to see if he expects interruption or to continue explaining.

Haft meets her eyes, waiting for the question.

Megren tucks her hair behind her ear again. “I’m sorry.”

Haft’s brow creases.  “‘Sorry?’  Aren’t you even going to ask why?”

Megren says, “Um. I figure you’ll tell me if you want.”

Haft runs his hand over his face.  “I don’t want.  I’d give anything if no one knew.  But half of Anvard does, and Andale, and you’re gonna hear it eventually, from someone like Bron if you don’t hear it from me.”

Megren wrinkles her nose a little. “Haft, I–have to be honest with you. If the king isn’t bothered, then I’m not likely to be. Whether I know what it is or not.”

Haft drops his head onto his chest, wrapping his arms tightly around himself.  If her words register, he doesn’t show it.  “I lost Cor,” he says.

Megren asks, “Um?”

Haft draws a shaky breath.  “I was on duty outside the nursery the night Bar kidnapped the boy.”  The rest seems to come out in a flood.  “I didn’t know he’d been dismissed, but I had orders to let none but the king and the queen pass.  He said the children were requested in the Great Hall, and instead of checking, I did what was expedient.”  He whispers, “And I lost him.”

Megren releases a quiet breath, coming up to his side and placing her hand on his shoulder.

Haft doesn’t acknowledge the touch, but he doesn’t shake it off either.  “Lune didn’t order the exile.  There was a mistake.  A few misplaced words from my former captain.  I wasted fourteen years.  And then when the call to muster came, I had to choose to disobey my king to fight for my country.”  He sounds like every word costs him.

Megren’s eyes flicker over him and she tilts her head a little to try and meet his gaze without forcing it. “But you’re here now, and come to find the shame was not yours to bear alone as you had, and the grief allayed.”

Haft meets her eyes.  “Who else would bear it Meg?”

Megren’s brows draw together. “Lord Bar, for one. You can feel no more shame for trusting him than you would put on His Majesty himself.”

Haft sighs.  “The king said as much.  That as far as I knew, Bar spoke with his voice.  I still disobeyed orders.”  He pinches the bridge of his nose.  “He forgave me.  He called me ‘friend’.”

Megren taps his arm lightly with her free hand. “You see? Two friends, at least. And a friend to the King is really a friend to the whole country.”

Haft shakes his head.  “Less than a month back and I disappointed him.”  He rubs his forehead with the heel of his hand.  “Through my own stupidity and wickedness.  Mane, I can’t even tell you what that was like.  And I am trying so hard to do better, and something like this happens.”

Megren tilts her head. “I… think you are borrowing guilt.”

Haft turns to regard her.  “Meaning?” he asks, and it sounds like there would be an edge to the question if he weren’t so exhausted.

Megren says, “You helped a man out of a dangerous situation tonight. You did not rise to the bait when another man spoke ill of you in hope of a fistfight. What happened tonight was not about you, and you need not make it so and feed your own self-reproach.”

Haft tilts his head, allowing this.  “Possibly.  I certainly didn’t think I had the strength to hold my temper as long as I did.  I am…not a temperate man.  If you had not come in when you did…I don’t know.”

Megren pulls slightly away now that he seems to have calmed some. “I am sorry for your trouble, Haft, but you are not in the guard to redeem mistakes already forgiven, nor to restore your name to anyone who might still disregard it. You are in the guard to keep the peace.”

“I’m in the guard,” Haft contradicts, “because Lune is a far better man than I thought.  As for keeping the peace, I made things worse tonight.  I couldn’t…I can’t think of any way to have prevented what happened without ignoring the situation entirely, but…” he shrugs.

Megren rubs her hairline. “That is what counsel I have for you. It’s yours to take or leave.” She looks out to the road, shifting weight from one foot to the other. “I’m sorry, I hoped to go to my father’s house, and I don’t want to have to wake him–”

Haft nods.  “You should go.”

Megren tilts her head. “If you wish to discuss it further another time–”

Haft tilts his head toward her.  “I’ll know to ask you and not Bron,” he says, though he doesn’t smile.

Megren glances at the forest canopy, and then chooses to nod rather than give any kind of verbal response to this remark. “See you later, then.”

Haft continues leaning against the tree.  “Goodnight.”

Megren disappears down the path to the northeast.

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