In which there is a blot on Haft’s record
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 , Northern Market , Outer Gatehouse , Southern Market , Stables
, Blacksmith , Inner Gatehouse , South Stair , North Stair
Haft emerges from the Inner Gatehouse in his uniform. He glances around the ward for a moment, then turns to cross toward the North Gate Tower.
Megren steps through the doors of the stable out into the ward, running her hand through her hair.
Noticing the flash of Megren’s hair as he continues to survey his surroundings, he frowns a little at her gesture and changes direction toward her.
Megren sees Haft approaching her and drops her hand, giving him a smile.
Haft closes the distance between them. “How’s it going?”
Megren clasps her hands behind her back. “Short shift this afternoon. You just get off?”
Haft says, “Yeah. Quiet most of the morning. Just starting to pick up now, with deliveries and whatnot.”
Megren nods. “I like mornings on the wall, but sometimes they get boring in the ward.”
Haft says, “Well, let’s be honest, the view’s a lot better on the wall. Chickens and donkeys and marketgoers are interesting enough, but they’ve got nothing on a good sunrise.”
Megren grins, “I like chickens and donkeys and marketgoers. But when you’re sitting between market set-up and shoppers, you start seeing about drawings in the dirt.”
Haft makes a disapproving grunt.
Megren makes a face back at him.
Haft raises a brow. “We’re paid to watch. You want to be the one playing noughts and crosses in the dirt with Gearn when Lord Dar walks by? Or the king?”
Megren wrinkles her nose. “Pretty sure they know what the guards get up to when things are slow.”
Haft makes a face of his own. “Goodness I hope not.”
Megren giggles. “Why, what is it you do?”
Haft coughs. “Well…I was thinking of your cartwheels, of course.”
Megren mms skeptically. “Sure.”
Haft feigns offense. “You doubt me?”
Megren says, “Most of the time.”
Haft cocks his head. “How’d I earn that?”
Megren says, “Your face when you play chess. It isn’t readable.”
Haft says, “Well I should certainly hope not.”
Megren dips her head. “You see.”
Haft taps his chin. “I may recall one incident from the inner wall walk…”
Megren lifts her brows. “Do you?”
Haft says, “Well in my defense, it wasn’t just me…/and/ it was twenty years ago…no, more like twenty-five…”
Megren says, “Call it thirty, just to be safe.”
Haft narrows one eye, but lets it pass.
Haft says, “So there was me and…who was the other guy…Clem, I think? And we liked to make models. Catapults and trebuchets mostly, and uh…”
Megren asks, “You mean, working models?”
Haft rubs the back of his neck. “Well, yeah. We’d, ah, fire them across the mess at each other. When there weren’t officers around. But this one time we got a notion to see how far they’d fire if we took them up to the wall walk and fired them into the ward…”
Megren’s mouth opens in delight.
Haft winces. “Oh sure, you smile now. It was great fun till I aimed badly…or aimed well. Was trying for the entrance to the blacksmith’s shop…and fired just as my captain emerged. Didn’t take him long to figure out that acorns were incapable of falling out of the sky and hitting someone in the head inside a castle without special assistance.”
Megren giggles. “Aw, Captain Garian’d get a kick, I’m sure.”
Haft snorts. “I doubt that. Was one of the few reprimands on my early record. I chalk it up to youthful stupidity.”
Megren sucks her upper teeth thoughtfully.
Haft asks, “Dare I ask what the worst thing you’ve done on duty is?”
Megren pushes her mouth to the side and shrugs. “Cartwheels?”
Haft says, “And yet…I doubt you.”
Megren makes a face at him. “I don’t know. You think anything’s bad as long as it isn’t standing straight and looking mad.”
Haft cracks a grin. “That’s right.”
Megren rolls her eyes good-naturedly.
Haft says, “You’ll have to work on the latter part especially. Though frankly your posture is terrible too.”
Megren says, “You want to tease a person for something, you’ve at least got to have a base for it.”
Haft asks, “I don’t have?”
Megren says, “Or else you’ve got to pick someone who’s more doubting of themselves.”
Haft shakes his head. “Never seen anyone drape themselves all over the parapets the way you do. Leaning on ’em, sitting on ’em…
Megren says, “Well sure, but my /posture’s/ impeccable.”
Haft says, “Hmm. You still need to work on the scowl. You are extremely unintimidating.”
Megren attempts a squint-eyed, lip-pinched glare.
“Better,” Haft says. “Lower the brows.”
Megren says, “More? That’s as low as they go.”
Haft sighs. “I might have known. Well, we’ll keep practicing, but you’ll have to develop greater flexibility in your brows if you really want to be a successful guard.”
Megren pushes her mouth to the side.
Haft asks, “And what’s that supposed to be?”
Megren says, “That’s ‘I don’t know how I feel about having my eyebrows mandated’.”
Haft asks, “What, you thought this job came without sacrifices?”
Megren asks, “Can I confide something?”
Haft purses his lips. “I suppose.”
Megren lowers her voice. “I can’t move my brows individually.”
Haft glances around, then lowers his voice as well. “If that is so, I have terrible news for you.”
Megren pouts, prepared for the worst.
Haft say grimly, as though delivering a body blow, “With a condition like that, you will never be Steward.”
Megren takes a shuddery breath and despairs, “I knew it.”
Haft nods solemnly. “They tell you it’s all about position and lineage and education and competence and all that…but it’s really the eyebrows. There’s a qualifying tournament, every time the position comes open. Contestants demonstrate their versatility.”
Megren sighs. “And all this time I thought I’d get myself knighted so I could slip my way in… might as well quit the guard now.”
Haft asks, “Oh, is that what you were plotting?”
Megren says, “Lofty goals, I know.”
Haft says, “Well, much as I’d love to entertain your delusions of grandeur, I’ve got to get up to the mess and finish the last of those drawings. Book’s due today and my last sketch looked more like a woodchuck than a swordsman.”
Megren giggles. “As long as the woodchuck has good form.”
Haft says, “Yes, and might be one or two in Narnia who do…but it doesn’t serve as a very handy reference for a human.”
Megren says, “It’s the same principle.”
Haft says, “I”m not sure…do their legs bend backwards like a dog or forward like a Man’s? I never paid much attention.”
Megren squints an eye at him, “I think you’re getting away from the drawing here.”
Haft asks, “Hmm?”
Megren says, “The drawing? That you did? That looks like a woodchuck? As long as it’s got the general idea, I’m pretty sure it’s allowed to be as were-beastly as it gets.”
Haft says, “Yeah, well, I’d prefer it to look vaguely human so I can remember where to put my feet. I’d better got on it. Have a good day Megren.”
Megren says, “You too. Good luck.”