In which Haft makes a last minute addition to his packing list, and he and Megren arrive in Coghill
Northern Wall Walk
You stand on Anvard’s Northern Wall Walk. From here you have a view of travellers approaching from the north and northeast. 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.
You can go: Gate Tower <E>, Outer Wall Walk <S>, Watchtower <W>
Contents: A daughter of eve with short, copper hair (Megren).
Megren sits cross-legged on a crenel, her shoulder and head leant up against the merlon to her right, facing the outer ward.
Haft steps onto the wall walk and approaches his fellow guard. “Hey Megpie.”
Megren sits a little suddenly up, the movement more like one of someone who has just been woken up than someone who has been startled. She looks over her shoulder. “Oh, is it time?”
Haft says, “Asleep on duty is a punishable offense, ya know.”
Megren lifts her chin. “I wasn’t asleep, nor on duty.”
Haft smiles as if he knew both things perfectly well. “Well, that’s all right then. You packed?”
Megren nods, swinging her legs onto the inside of the wall with one last glance over her shoulder into the ward. “Just got to fetch my things.”
Haft says, “Right. I’ve got to grab one last thing in the market and I’ll meet you in the ward.”
Megren says, “Sounds good.”
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>
Megren sits on an overturned crate near the outer gate, her leg tucked under her, and a small but well packed satchel against her other ankle.
Haft emerges from the blacksmith’s shop with an equally full satchel, and one last-minute addition: a pair of wooden swords slung over his back.
Megren’s brows lift a little at the sight of the swords, and she grins, rising to meet him.
Haft looks only slightly abashed. “Well, I figured it would work for any number. If there’s just one, he–or she–can have a few whacks at me or their father if there’s a spare. And if there’s two, it’ll be one for each, and if it’s more, well, you can only spar two at a time anyway, and they’ll figure out how to share ’em.”
Megren says, “It’s a grand idea.”
Haft nods. “And Sef gave me some lily bulbs. Said they’re real easy to grow. Did you get the shells?”
Megren says, “Shells, and stones, and I dug up some snowdrop bulbs from the foothills yesterday, in case you couldn’t catch Sef.”
Haft laughs. “We’d best not fall in a quagmire on our way to Chesterton, or we’ll sink straight to the bottom. Brigid’s garden’ll be right fine if we make it though.
Megren looks skeptical but not entirely unconvinced. “There’s quagmires between here and there?”
Haft casts his face into a somber expression. “Oh indeed. Bog around every corner, I imagine. And with the rain lately, we’re sure to be drowned.”
Megren wrinkles her nose at him. “Please.”
Haft lifts a brow. “You don’t like my marsh-wiggle impression? No, I don’t think there’s any quagmires between here and Chesterton.”
Megren says, “Good. I don’t want to be held back on account of you spending hours on your boots.”
Haft snorts good-naturedly. “Gotta spend hours on something in the barracks. Shall we?”
Megren looks out across the ward, tucking her hair behind her ear, and just a spark of uncharacteristic nervous energy flashes through her countenance. “Yeah,” she says. “Better make the best of the time we got.”
============================================================================== The lane rounds a little bend and meets a fork here. To the south, it widens into a well-kept road, lined with trees on either side, with chimney tops and brightly painted wood peeking through here and there. To the northeast and southeast, wilder forms of life begin to creep in as the trail passes through the forest.
Roughly west, a narrower path shoots off of the main road and begins winding in among the trees. It bears the marks of many hooves, some of which look fresher than others. ==============================================================================
You can go: Toward the Glade <NE>, Into the Forest <SE>, Coghill Square <S>, Hoof Path <W>
As they approach Coghill, Haft asks, “So, any ideas on how we should proceed with inquiring about Aaron?”
Megren skitters along down the path beside him, occasionally distracted by trying to locate the source of a birdsong or scrutinize a plant, but easily keeping up, and quietly enough not to disturb most of the wildlife. She chatters sometimes, but also seems content with walking in silence. When Haft speaks up, she comes up beside him from where she’s stopped to examine a rodent’s home with her toe and gathers her hands behind her. “I suppose start at the inn, and with the steward in the manor, though unless anything very recent has happened I imagine he would have sent word to Lord Shar and the others.”
Haft asks, “The only problem with asking in an inn is that as soon as you do it, everyone knows your business. And if anyone’s listening who’s friends with our man, Aaron will know we’re there almost at once. Think we might want to be more discreet about it, at first?”
Megren’s brows draw together. “Well, if he’s in town, he’s probably in the inn, right? So we wouldn’t have to even ask, just look.” She frowns. “He knows what we look like, so I’m not exactly sure how discreet we can be.” She makes an attempt to look up at her hair, going a bit crossed with the effort. “Maybe you could manage it better than me.”
Haft frowns. “Doubtful. He knows me plenty well. The only advantage I have is that my head ain’t lit up like a beacon. But yeah, I guess you’re right. I don’t hold out much hope that he’s here, honestly. But he has to be somewhere, so…” He shrugs.
Megren nods. “He must be.” She glances at him. “We could pull up your hood and rub dirt in my hair. Too bad it’s so early in the season, or we could try blackberry juice.” Her brows lift. “Ink! Do you have any? And you can pretend to be very jolly, and I shall be very dour.”
Haft stops walking and closes his eyes for a minute, as if this suggestion is rather too much and he isn’t quite sure if she’s joking. “I do not have ink Meg. And I’d say you could wear my cloak but I think it would dwarf you.”
Megren grins, indeed teasing, if only just. “We aren’t /such/ different sizes.”
Haft turns to her. “I may not be as tall as Lord Dar, but I guarantee you if you you put this on it will drag the ground.”
Megren squints at him but concedes the point. “What do you propose?”
Haft sighs and removes his cloak. “Try it on.”
Megren lifts her hand, “No, I believe you! I’m just saying, if we aren’t going in all disguised, then what should we do?”
Haft says, “Same thing I did in Narnia.”
Megren gathers her hands behind her back. “Ah. Yes. Of course.”
Haft says, “Find the darkest, quietest corner and sit there and watch everyone.” He frowns. “And see if the walnut muffins are any better than what Dranken serves.””
Megren grins, “Yes! And pull up our hoods and smoke pipes and mutter in mysterious old men’s voices at each other over a game of wolves and foxes.”
Haft says, “Uh…if you want everyone staring at you while they wait for the wolves and foxes set to be available, you could do that, yeah.”
Megren sighs laboriously. “All right, we’ll nix the wolves and foxes part.”
Haft says, “We’ll have ta skip it all, I guess. No point in me putting my hood up if I walk in with you. That’d just alert Aaron that we’re tryin’ ta be cagey. Well, we’d best go ahead and see what there is ta see.”
Megren sighs again, acquiescing graciously.
They head to the tavern.
The Bird and Baby’s Tavern
============================================================================== This room echoes with a nearly constant din as voices rise and fall in conversation. An atmosphere of warmth and cheer predominates, and the walls have been painted a dark red. There are several tables for diners; many line the wall to provide for more private discussions. A board hangs in a highly visible location; it pays tribute to the history of the dining room and includes sketches of some of its more well known denizens. A menu, written out by hand, indicates what selections are being served. If the aromas emanating from the kitchen beyond are any evidence, the food is certain to please. In the back is a smaller room where isolated gatherings can be held. ==============================================================================
You can go: Foyer <NE>, Kitchens <S>, Out to the Courtyard <SE>
Contents: A son of adam with a swarthy complexion (Sehsis); A daughter of eve
with short, copper hair (Megren); Clift, the Tavernkeeper’s Assistant;
Pricelist; and Wolves and Foxes Game Set.
Haft enters the tavern just in front of Megren, glances casually around the room, and heads in the direction of a corner table with a view, though it’s not terribly well lit itself.
Megren follows him. For all her talk of antics, her movements are discreet, if somewhat marked by a curious sort of gaze as she takes in the new surroundings.
Haft glances at the offerings. “Looks like we won’t have the chance to compare the muffins. You want anything?”
Megren says, “Not hungry since our last stop, but I can’t say I mind us ordering a round of cider or rum.”
Haft waves the tavernkeeper’s assistant over and orders rum for Megren and cider for himself. “Cider’s cheaper here than Anvard,” he observes. “Wonder if the quality’s as fine.”
Megren closes both hands over the drink when it’s brought to her, warming her fingers. “Verdict?”
Haft takes a sip and savors it for a moment. “Good as anything in Andale. Might come from the same orchards.”
Megren grins. “Taste of home.”
Haft smiles faintly, but doesn’t look at her, preferring to scan the room over the rim of his mug.
Megren looks over the room, too, the movement of her gaze looking very natural for a curious girl away from home for the first time, and the more serious purpose of the glance benefits from not needing to hide her interest.
Haft asks, “See anything interesting?”
Megren shakes her head, saying in a low but casual voice, “A fellow over there with twitchy fingers you probably don’t want to go near with your purse out, but nothing we’re really looking for.” She takes a sip of her drink and squints at it with surprise.
Haft nods, taking another drink. “Where would you have gone, if you were him?”
Megren continues eying the drink thoughtfully, and takes another more cautious sip this time. “Well, if it was me, I’d hole up in the forest or the mountains for a while, but… or, well, maybe I’d book my way onto a ship off to the islands. Someplace my face wasn’t known and I could lay low. Funny thing is, he doesn’t seem the laying low type, does he? He was so tickled by ruffling feathers, I have to admit to being surprised he managed to slip us.”
Haft mutters, “Makes me uneasy, that he was clever enough to pull that off. He had something in mind when he came around Anvard, and I’ll wager it was more than setting a house on fire. That…that’s the work of a madman…I don’t think he is one.”
Megren raises her brows. “You think someone else did it?”
Haft turns to look at her. “No. I just mean he’s more than a village lunatic who torches his own bed because he thinks the flames are pretty. There was something else going on. Maybe the lords know his game…that letter he sent to Sir Colin might’ve said something, but if they do, they haven’t shared it.
Megren makes a thoughtful noise, and then says, “…Well. I’m sure they’d tell us if it was something we needed to know.”
Haft says, “I reckon they would. What bothers me is that he seems to have left Andale without…getting whatever he might’ve been after. Unless he meant to burn down the whole village to…I don’t know, get at someone? And then maybe he saw his plan didn’t work out and went to ground, and that’s all? But I feel like he didn’t finish whatever it was he set out to do, and I worry that there’s more.”
Megren nods. “That seems close to it, to me. Only, I sort of figure he was trying to get at someone, and then he kind of,” she screws up her face. “I don’t know. Realized it had gotten out of hand? He liked so to be in control. I’m not sure it was so much about failing as it was maybe he scared himself off.” She gets a kind of distant look, recalling the scene, then shrugs off the next thought with not-quite-a-shudder. “No sign he was in the house, anyway.”
Haft asks, “Yeah. Yeah, that’s somethin’. Well, wherever he is, he ain’t in the room at the moment. I guess that means we stick around a few days, ask some questions, and keep an eye out. You know anybody from here?”
Megren shakes her head. “No, but I promised to bring Cantil’s family a few things, so I’ll have to look for them. He described the house pretty well; I don’t think it should be any trouble.”
Haft says, “I just know Abrielle, I think. And that Calormene merchant. Remember, from the inn that night? He does trade here I guess.”
Megren sips her drink again, seeming to have grown accustomed to it now. “Oh. I would have thought Chesterton.”
Haft says, “Yeah, me too, but someone said he’d likely be about. Oh, Dalia, when I got the bulbs.”
Megren rests her chin on her hands, which are in turn rested on the lip of the mug. “Dalia comes here too?”
Haft says, “Sounds like she’s got a whole passel of family out here. I forget who all.”
Megren says, “I wonder what landed her maid to Lady Astera. Seems like Coghill’s about the only town she and Sir Tyren don’t have direct ties to, between them.”
Haft says, “Don’t know. Seems like some folks come by their jobs in strange ways. I mean, I always just knew what I was going to be and what to do to get there. And I never set foot farther than Andale either till my sister got married.”
Megren nods. “Never would have occurred to me to try somewhere else.”
Haft says, “Well, now you’re off to see the world. Hope it impresses you.”
Megren grins at him. “First go at buttered rum’s a good start so far.”
Haft finishes off the last of his cider and sets down his mug. “Well, we ain’t been here long, but I could do with calling it an early night. It’s been a long day.”
Megren says, “I think I might take a walk about town before I turn in.”
Haft nods, rising. “G’night then.” He heads out to the foyer.