Here There be No Dragons

In which we learn why Andale is bereft of dragons

Outer Ward

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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.
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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>

Contents: A daughter of eve with mid-back length hair (Dalia) and A daughter of

eve with short, copper hair (Megren).

Megren smiles at Dalia as she passes.

Dalia spies Megren as she wanders amoung the stalls and waves, heading her direction.

Haft steps out of the North Gate Tower followed by Gearn.  They make their way toward the Inner Gatehouse.  “Anything interesting Megren?” Haft asks.

Megren gives Dalia a little wave just as Haft and Gearn are arriving. She shakes her head in response to his question. “Slow day.”

Haft nods.  “Well, that’s the kind we want, I guess.”

Megren says, “I like days with problems to solve so long as they get solved.”

Gearn makes a face.  “He likes being bored, so help me.”

Dalia says, “Hello Megren,” she says as she draws near. “Hello Haft.” ”

Haft says, “I like watching kids chasing chickens and folks haggling about their business.  Petty thieves and other things I could do without.”

Haft inclines his head.  “Hello Dalia.”

Megren smiles at Dalia. “Hello! I was just getting off duty. Unless you needed anything from me?”

Haft shakes his head.  “Just here ta relieve you.  Have a good break.”

Megren nods, and looks to Dalia for her response.

Dalia looks about to say something than shakes her head. “No…Another time perhaps.”

Haft converses with Gearn.

Megren’s brows peak, and she takes a step toward Dalia, away from the guardsmen to whom she gives a friendly farewell. “Now’s fine, if you like. Got nothing else to do, really.” She grins.

Dalia asks, “Perhaps somewhere private?”

Megren nods. “Sure. Upstairs in the kennels, maybe?”

Dalia nods, “alright. It won’t won’t take long.”

Megren gestures with her head for the other Daughter of Eve to follow, and she saunters on toward the kennels.

Dalia leaves, following Megren.

Haft stands on duty with Gearn near the Inner Gatehouse.

Avery walks out of the gates, a book open in her hands. She seems to know her surroundings very well and barely looks up as she passes the Guardsmen.

Gearn says to Haft, “So then Owin couldn’t figure out why his sheets were so cold!”

Haft smiles faintly.

Avery pulls her eyes away from her book, glancing at the men. She smiles lightly toward Haft, closing the book. “Perhaps Owin’s sheets were so cold because it’s positively frigid.” She shrugs, looking to Gearn.

Haft straightens, looking a little awkward.

Gearn say, “More likely cause I took them and hung them out a window till just before he was off duty.”

Haft clears his throat.  “Not sure Lady Avery wants to hear barracks talk, Gearn…”

Avery tucks the book beneath her arm and pulls her cloak tighter. “On the contrary, Master Haft. Any discussion other than trade agreements and manor business is welcome.” She arches a brow, addressing Gearn once more. “At least you were kind enough not to dip them in the well beforehand.”

Gearn raises his eyebrows, looking impressed.  “Bears consideration, and that’s a fact.”

Haft says, “Sometimes the lads like to play tricks upon each other…specially in the colder months when it’s not so nice outside.”

Gearn says, “Right.  Just ‘the lads’.”

Haft coughs.

Avery’s lips curve up. “It’s the best time. Nothing quite surprises someone like a bit of snow in their boots or slippers.”

Gearn grins.  “Haft prefers cold coins.”

Haft looks sourly at the younger man.  “Cause coins don’t melt and mess the leather.”

Avery hmms. “Cold coins, you say…”

Haft shrugs.  “Just, uh…lay ’em on a windowsill…or in the snow.”

Gearn chuckles.  “Bet Megren loved that.”

Haft rubs the back of his neck.  “Well…”

Avery looks curious. “Oh, do tell.”

Haft doesn’t look inclined to elaborate.  “Um…”

Gearn seems to have no such qualms.  “She marched into the mess in naught but her stockings.  Tried to convince Haft here that her boots had been ruined.”  He sniggers.  “Backfired on her though.  Lord Dar turned up, and there she was in sock feet.”

Avery parts her lips as her eyebrows raise. “Lord Dar. Of all people.”

Haft grimaces.  “Felt bad for her.  I’d have been…well.”

Gearn rolls his eyes.  “She had it coming, after tying bells to your scabbard.  Coins /had/ to be less humiliating than you trying to get those off wiith the rest of us howling at you.”

Haft scowls.

Avery hides a giggle behind a raised hand. “I thought I heard bells…”

Haft says, “From your quarters?  Doubtful, milady.”

Avery laughs. “You are right. But now I wish I had.”

Haft gives a longsuffering sigh.

Avery smiles once more. “If ever I find myself longing to play a joke on another, I know where to go.”

Haft says, “Megren?  Yeah, I reckon she’d be accomodating.”

Avery nods. She nudges a bit of snow with her shoe. “I wanted to ask you…if you’ve received any sort of reply to your letter? If you don’t mind me asking, of course…”

Haft says, “The one to Lord Peridan?  Ah, no, I have not.  But then he is a very important and busy man…and uh, well I wasn’t trying to strike up a correspondance, just express my thanks.”

Avery says, “Of course. I know that our courier hasn’t delivered anything of the kind. I just wanted to make sure that if there was a reply, it was properly delivered to you.”

Haft says, “No.  But it’s fine.”

Megren troops out of the kennels with Dalia.

Avery nods once, glancing away for a moment. “I will keep an eye out, just in case.”

Haft says, “I’d be obliged.”

Megren heads back toward the inner ward, grinning at Haft and Gearn on her way, waiting for Lady Avery to acknowledge her before bowing.

Dalia curtsys upon seeing Lady Avery and waits to be acknowledged

Avery turns slightly as the other two women approach. She nods to both of them, smiling. “Hello, Megren, Dalia.”

Dalia smiles, “Hello Lady Avery.”

Haft nods to Megren.

Megren bows. “Hello, Lady Avery. I hope everything is well for you?”

Gearn’s lips twitch.  He appears to be trying to keep a straight face.

Haft elbows him in the ribs.

Gearn grunts.

Megren gives Gearn a Look.

Gearn puts on a very innocent face, which is thoroughly unconvincing.

Dalia eyebrow raise and settle curiously, though she says nothing watching the whole encouter.

Dalia glances back towards Lady Avery.

Avery glances at each of the Guards in turn. She says to Megren, “Everything is well, thank you.” She smiles. “I hope you are both keeping warm. Seems to get colder each day and I find myself bundling up. You can really feel the cold in your feet at night…”

Megren glances at Haft and Gearn. “It’s not too much bother for me, but I’ve got my slot blocked up with a sheet during winter to keep out the cold air.”

Megren glances at Haft and Gearn. “It’s not too much bother for me, but I’ve got my slot blocked up with a sheet during winter to keep out the cold air.”

Gearn snickers further at mention of the sheet.

Haft glowers.  “That’s effective sometimes.”

Megren wrinkles her nose punishingly at Gearn.

Avery nods. “I see.” She looks toward the castle. “I can arrange for a few blankets to be sent over, if you like.”

Megren laughs, “That’s so kind! Captain Garian takes care of us very well, though.”

Haft nods in agreement.

Avery quickly says, “I didn’t mean to suggest that you weren’t taken care of!” She waves a hand. “I am sure you are, but a few extra blankets never hurt anyone.”

Megren looks at Haft. “I suppose not, given they aren’t needed elsewhere.”

Haft shrugs.  “I was lucky last fall.  Got a bearskin on my own bed.  But yeah, there’s always a few folks as get colder than others.”

Avery nods. “I will see to it when I return in a little bit.”

Megren runs her hand over her mouth, and then looks at Lady Avery again, offering her a cheeky grin. “I’m afraid I’ve a bone to pick with you, Lady Avery.”

Dalia listens quietly.

Haft tils his head in interest.

Gearn eyes the exchange.

Avery lays a gloved hand over her heart, looking surprised and then amused. “With me? Whatever for?”

Megren says, “Why, your brother has informed me that when you spoke of the swans in your home you entirely neglected to regale us with tales of the /peacocks/.”

Haft rolls his eyes heavenward.  “And we’re back on animals again.”

Dalia asks, “Peacocks?”

Avery grins. “Oh, the peacocks. Such visions of color. Quite a magnificent sight.” She looks to Dalia. “In the Aviary, Dalia. Has Lady Astera never shown you?”

A page approaches, bowing to Lady Avery. “Milady, your presence is requested by the Lady Paige.” He clears his throat, glancing at those gathered. “As soon as is convenient.”

Megren nods. “Oh, we aren’t anything pressing.”

Avery nods to the page, frowning slightly. “Oh, yes, I will come directly.” She turns back to the others. “We’ll have to pick this bone another time. I’ve already turned down two tea invitations from my Mother, I’m afraid…Better not do it a third time.” She shrugs, chuckling.

Haft bows.  “Have a pleasant time.”

Megren laughs and bows. “Enjoy your tea.”

Gearn bows as well.

Avery nods. “Good day, all.”

Avery walks west toward the inner gatehouse.

Haft looks between Megren and Dalia.  “You two have a nice chat?”

Megren says, “Yeah. Saw the pups.”

Dalia shifts her position uneasily, but nods. “Indeed. I have been there since….well.. the fire I suppose.”

Haft says, “Must be gettin’ pretty big by now.”

Megren nods. “It’s only the runt in the box now.”

Haft asks, “What was it called again?  Sir Snuffles?”

Haft asks, “Lord Chubless?”

Dalia giggles.

Megren makes a face at him. “The runt’s called Licorice.”

Haft frowns.  “Pretty sure you didn’t mention him before.”

Megren says, “Well there’s more than /three/ of them.”

Gearn says, “Megren only mentioned the important ones, obviously.”

Dalia snorts chuckling.

Megren says, “Licorice is very important. Only I didn’t know as much right off.”

Haft asks, “And what makes him special, then?”

Megren says, “/She/ is adorable and clever is what.”

Gearn chuckles.  “You mean you think she’s like you.”

Haft cuts his eyes at Gearn with a frown, as though trying to work out whether this comment is entirely appropriate.

Megren screws up her mouth at Gearn. “What’s that even mean?”

Dalia coughs politely, “If you will excuse me, I must be seeing to Lady Astera.”

Gearn hesitates.  “Uh…that you’re smart and uh…” He trails off, looking embarrassed.

Haft relaxes marginally.

Megren looks at Dalia and her brows lift a little. “Oh, I’m sorry Dalia. Sure, of course.” She shoots Gearn a squint-eyed look.

Haft nods.

Dalia also makes look Gearn’s way, before turning back Megren’s way.

Dalia says, “Aslan keep you all.”

To Megren she says, more quietly “Thanks for listening.” before waving and heading into the ward.

Megren nods to Dalia, smiling. “See you around.”

Haft looks after Dalia, then turns back.  “So, where were we?  Talking about puppies, or watching Gearn blush?”

Megren asks, “Who says they don’t go together?”

Gearn shifts uncomfortably.  “I’m gonna freeze your sheets, Haft,” he mutters.

“Try it,” Haft says.

Megren grins. “I can help with that.”

Haft snorts.  “Hardly original.  He’s already done it to poor Owin.”

Megren says, “Aww, no.”

Megren says, “Don’t do that to Owin, he won’t retaliate. It’s no fun.”

Haft says, “She’s got a point.”

Gearn shrugs.  “Well I wasn’t gonna do it ta Haft after he near took all our heads off, was I?  Suppose I might try some of the others, couple of them are real light sleepers though.”

Megren furrows her brows at him. “You did it while he was sleeping?”

Haft chuckles.  “That /would/ take talent.  Which Gearn here ain’t got.  Nah, he hung the sheets out a window and put em back just before the end of Owin’s shift, when he’d be comin’ in ta sleep.”

Megren clicks her tongue disapprovingly.

Gearn shrugs.

Gearn sticks out his lower lip.  “Not sure why you get to take me to task when you done stuff ta Haft here.”

Megren looks at Haft, as if expecting him to answer.

Haft tilts his head.  “He makes a good point,” he says, waiting for her response.

Megren frowns at Haft this time. “Because Haft strikes back. It’s an even game.”

Haft bites his lip a moment, considering, then seems to decide against arguing just now.

Gearn huffs, “If by strikes back you means yells at the whole barracks, then yeah.”

Haft speaks quietly.  “I apologized.”

Megren says, “He apologized. And then he put coins in my shoes. And anyway, the bells were a joke between us already.”

Haft looks lost.  “They were?”

Megren blinks at him. “Yeah. With the wanting to know when our friends were coming? That’s the whole reason I did them.”

Haft says, “Friends?  Heh, I think it was wanting to know when /Aaron/ was coming, wasn’t it?  Or…nah you’re right, the joke grew from there.”

Megren crosses her arms. “Thank you, it did.”

Gearn glances between the two.  “Well, I enjoyed it, for my part, until the shouting.”

Haft sighs.  “This is going to be a long watch if you keep harping on that.”

Megren pauses, and then adds, “Sorry if it was out of line.”

Haft shifts uncomfortably.  “S’all right.  Just, uh, don’t like the sword fiddled with.  Gotta be ready to draw it if there’s an alarm…but I told you that, and it ain’t a problem.”  He looks like there’s something he’s not saying, but whatever it is, he keeps it to himself.

Megren glances between them, then nods slowly. “All right.”

They are interrupted by a courier requiring attention before he can pass into the gatehouse.

Megren steps out of the conversation and then, seeing that the courier is going to take a while, gives the other two a silent little friendly wave and slips off to do some of her afternoon’s chores.

Later

Off-duty Mess

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This is the place where off duty soldiers and sailors can relax and eat. There is a small cookfire and hearth and a few tables set up nearby. On one wall is a dart board, and on a small table in the corner there is a chess set. Someone has left a pile of parchment with sketches of his fellow knights on another table. This is a comfortable, casual room. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

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You can go: Out to the Northern Stairwell <S>

Contents: Hearth <LIT>.

Megren sits on the ground near the hearth, her legs crossed under her. She has a piece of paper set before her, which she appears to be studying.

Haft walks over to the hearth, taking the nearest chair.  “Hey,” he says amiably.

Megren looks up. “Oh, hello.” She tucks the paper away. “How was the rest of your shift?”

Haft says, “Not bad, once Gearn stopped talking.  We were busy most of the time so there wasn’t time for it anyway.”

Megren nods, leaning back on one hand so that she can see him more easily.

Haft says, “What we talked about though, about him teasing Owin and you teasing me, it made me wonder…”

Megren rubs her hairline and nods for him to continue.

Haft says, “Well, how’d you know I’d retaliate?  You didn’t know me so very well, and what you did know doesn’t seem all that…uh…lighthearted, as I remember it.”

Megren tilts her head. “Oh. I guess I didn’t, for sure. But it was a joke special to us, so it didn’t feel mean. And I was ready to say sorry if it came to it you didn’t like it after all. It’s just that I don’t see Gearn going around apologizing, nor making jokes because he thinks the target will find them as funny as he does.” She pauses, then says, “It could be he does and I haven’t seen it.”

Haft says, “Well, mostly folks do find the jokes funny, when they get over the initial annoyance.  Though I agree, Owin was probably a poor choice of victim.  Don’t think Gearn meant any harm by it though.”  He takes a breath.  “Reading anythign interesting?””

Megren says, “Something Perth wrote out for me.”

Haft asks, “Oh?  To help you learn your letters?”

Megren nods. “It’s just short things, not really stories or anything.”

Haft says, “Ah.  My father used to make me do lines over and over and over again.  Was the worst thing on a summer day when I wanted to be outside slaying dragons.”

Megren asks, “Did you slay many dragons when you weren’t reading, then?”

Haft asks, “Lots.  Didn’t you ever wonder why there weren’t any in Andale today?”

Megren says, “I /did/ wonder.”

A log on the fire shifts, sending a column of sparks flying upwards.

Haft nods in mock solemnity.  “That’s why I wear a beard.  Gotta cover up the scorch marks on my chin.”
Megren says, “Perhaps that will be my next project.”

Haft says, “Growing a beard?  Don’t think you’re got the talent for it really.”

Megren says, “It would be especially impressive though, wouldn’t it? But no. Shaving yours. In your sleep. So I can see the proof of these slain dragons.”

Haft says, “If you want your head shaved to your scalp, by all means attempt it.”

Megren’s brows rise delightedly. “I’ll bet I have a very nice head-shape, don’t you think?”

Haft asks, “What’re you comparing it to?  Old, bald men?”

Megren lifts her hand to her hair and feels around. “Mhm, I think it’s probably nice.”

Haft says, “Well, I’m content with not finding out unless pressed.  But you’re entitled to your delusions.”

Megren says, “Yes, we’ll leave them as suppositions for now.”

Haft smiles and stares into the fire for a bit.  When he speaks again, his tone is more serious.  “Talked to the courier today.  The one in town, not the one who came to the gatehouse.”

Megren glances at him and says tentatively, “Oh?”

Haft nods.  “Says he passed on the letter to my sister to another messenger in Coghill.  Should have reached in in no more than two weeks, and taken no longer than that to come back, once she sent a reply.”  He pauses.  “Been six weeks now.”

Megren mms quietly. She watches the fire for a moment, and then says, “Will you go to her?”

Haft says, “I…don’t know.  Was thinking I might try another letter, in case the first one’s only gone astray.  It’s impossible to know, with it changing hands in Coghill, whether the second courier simply couldn’t find the house, as opposed to, well…””

Megren nods. “It might be worth a try. You still have my offer if you want it, though.”

Haft asks, “To break down her door and make her invite me to supper?”

Megren asks, “You don’t have faith I could manage it?”

Haft smiles faintly.  “Aye, I rather think you could.  If anyone could.”

Megren says, “Only if you want me, though.”

Haft looks at the flames a while longer.  “I’d be grateful,” he says.  “I just-I don’t want to pull you away from your duties here if it’s not necessary.  But to have to wait a whole other month…even to pen another letter…mane, that was hard.”  He lowers his voice.  “‘Greetings Brigid, I’m not dead but I lost the crown prince and you may not know about that or you may, and I was exiled for fourteen years, only not really. Mind if I drop in for a cuppa?'” He runs a hand through his hair.

Megren lifts her knees to hug them. “I guess it’s as hard to know how to respond. How long did it take you to compose it?”

Haft says, “Bout three days.  Kept burning it.”

Megren nods. “And longer before, thinking on it, I suppose?”

Haft says, “Yeah…well, you remember you prodded me a bit.  I kept putting it off.”

Megren nods again. “Maybe it’s as hard for her. I don’t know.”

Haft says, “Can’t be easy.  I think…”  He takes a deep breath.  “I think I’ll talk to the Captain.  See if the both of us can get some time off, if you’re willin’ ta go with me.  I’d rather not walk that road alone…or back alone, if it comes to that.  But at least, if I can find her, I’ll know, one way or another.””

Megren nods. “Yeah.”

Haft says, “And maybe we can make that detour, see if we can check in on Eston.  Been real worried about him and Lecie.”

Megren exclaims, “Oh! I inquired, actually. I guess they went to stay with a relative, and neither Eston nor his sister are too bad off. Well enough to care for Lecie, at least.”

The fire flickers, casting dancing shadows all over the walls.

Haft blinks in surprise.  “Thank goodness.  But…inquired how?”

Megren says, “I’ve been dictating letters to Merken to bring to Lanisen.”

Haft says, “And you had him check?  Thank you Meg.  That’s a relief.”

Megren nods. “It’s no problem. I’m sorry I didn’t say earlier.”

Haft asks, “How long ago did you find out?”

Megren says, “Well, it took him a while to find Eston. I guess his sister sort of keeps to herself. Maybe a week ago or a little more. By the time he’d found him, I’d forgotten I was inquiring on your behalf and not my own.”

Haft shakes his head, though he doesn’t look angry.  “If you weren’t half my size I’d cuff you on the arm.  But I’d probably break it.  Well, it’s all come out all right now.

Megren frowns, looking at her arm. She says, “Anyway. Now they know where he is, I suppose you could write him yourself if you wanted.”

Haft says, “Yeah maybe.  As long as they’re all right.  Little one looked so fragile.  I’m glad to hear she’s well in hand.  Wonder when they’ll be back.””

Megren nods. “I don’t know.”

Haft says, “Well, thanks for finding out.  I really appreciate it.”  He rises.  “I’ll leave you to your studies.  And I’ll talk to the Captain as soon as may be.”

Megren nods. “Let me know. Whether it’s you and me or only you, or neither can be spared for now.”

Haft says, “Right.  I will,” then turns and heads out of the mess.

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