Secrets

Which is pungent

Andale Crossroad

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You stand at a busy crossroad outside Andale. The main road curves up from the forest to the southwest, heading into the town to the east. A less-traveled road winds up into the mountains to the west, and a smaller track descends into a canyon to the north.

South of the crossroads is heavily forested, the main path disappearing into the trees to the southwest. At the southeast corner of the crossroads stands a tall walnut tree.

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You can go: Graveyard <N>, Andale <E>, South to the Arena <S>, Archenland Forest <SW>, Mountain Path <W>

Haft walks along the road from the direction of the castle, apparently in no particular hurry, watching the other people he passes.

Abrielle walks along the road from the forest, leaves in her hair, smiling and singing to herself. When she sees Haft she runs to his side. “Hello Haft!”

Haft looks mildly surprised and amused by the enthusiastic greeting.  “Good day, Abrielle.  Business at the castle?”

Abrielle shakes her head happily and pushes back some hair. “I was just hunting. I was in the castle earlier selling some things.” She pauses and adds in a louder than normal voice. “I got a deer /and/ a fox!”

Haft sniffs.  “That would explain the smell.”

Abrielle snorts and bumps Haft playfully. “It is a small price to pay for feeling like a beast!”

Haft blinks and asks doubtfully, “Feeling like a beast?”

Abrielle nods, clearly very satisfied with herself. “You know, something that could take anyone down! No one should ever cross Abrielle Chant! People will tell stories of my power!”

Haft waves his hand under his nose.  “It’s powerful and that’s a fact.”

Abrielle puts her hands on her hips and glares at Haft. “Oh it isn’t that bad.”

Haft’s lips twitch.  “One gets used to their own…aroma after a while, I suppose.”

Abrielle shrugs. “I suppose so…I mean,” She raises and eyebrow and the corners of her lips twitch, “we have a perfect example of that in you.”

Haft lets out an amused snort through his nose.  “I may have come from Narnia with just the shirt on my back, and I will admit it got a bit dingy beneath my uniform before I was able to order more and relegate it to the rag heap.  But since that matter has been rectified I do not believe anyone can complain of a stench.  At least not until wall duty coincides with the heat of summer and a chap can’t help it.”

Abrielle smiles. “Oh that will be fun! I cannot wait for summer now! We can just walk  around, watching as people drop like flies behind us from our stench.”

Haft says, “Well, I’ve discovered that as long as a fellow keeps his boots polished, the other shortcomings don’t get mentioned so much.”

Abrielle nods. “And as long as a girl brushes her hair…nobody complains too much.”

Haft says, “Well, there you are.  Anyway, a day of hunting is hard work.  If you’d come to me smelling fresh and carrying a hide or two I’d be obliged as a member of the guard to investigate and discover who you’d robbed.”

Abrielle raises an eyebrow but puts on her most innocent voice. “Me? Steal? Never. I am a woman of honor. I killed it myself. I shot a bow and everything.”

Haft’s mouth twitches again and this time the effect is less merry.  “That is well,” he says.  “You must be careful on the hunt.  A wounded deer can be quite dangerous.”

Abrielle looks up at Haft slyly. “And this is where the truth comes out. I had a hunting partner…but he didn’t do anything for me. Just made sure I was safe. All was well.”

Haft looks interested.  “Oh?  Who was that?”

Abrielle sighs. “Deonyc. He and I just bumped into each other…I was really just looking for rabbits.”

Haft says, “Ah.  Well, I’m glad he was able to help you.”

Abrielle nods. “I still don’t like the guy too much. I cannot forgive him for what he did to Sehsis. Not yet anyways.”

Haft sighs.  “What he did…it’s complicated,” he says, running a hand through his hair and moving slightly off the road to sit on a fallen log.  “Truth be told, Abrielle, /someone/ had to do it.  Someone needed to say there was a Calormene in your midst.”

Abrielle looks at Haft with little emotion. It might seem as if a volcano might erupt, but after a moment, she sighs and goes to sit next to Haft. “I am sure you are right…I just feel the need to be very loyal to my friends. I never would have done that.”

Haft asks, “I believe you.  And I know you don’t like hearing what I just said, but hear me out and maybe don’t judge me too harshly.  Can you hear me out?”

Abrielle looks at the ground for a moment before nodding. “Yeah.”

Haft says, “Right.  Well, try to understand, first, that it was war.  Men were going to die.  If there was a chance of someone in the castle aiding the enemy it had to be addressed. That said, it seems like they were friends of a sort, Sehsis and Deonyc.  A better friend might have recommended to Sehsis that he turn himself over to the guard at once.  If Sehsis had refused, Deonyc should then have gone to the nearest guard and made his statement.  Under no circumstance should the matter have been addressed in an awkward shout to the king, as I hear happened.”

Abrielle nods. “I can agree with that.”

Haft says, “Well, good.  To be honest, I don’t like your Calormene friend much–I spent a little time in his company in Coghill, did you know?–but the night of the battle, when the princes were restored to their father and I sat silent in the hall, if a ‘frield’ had called me out before I had my chance to remand myself to the steward’s custody…well, I’d not forget that soon.  So in this, at least, I can see the Calormene’s side.”

Abrielle looks at Haft. “Yes…” She frowns deeply at the mention of time with Sehsis. “He told me you two did not get on well…Why is that?”

Haft shrugs.  “Well for one he went about telling folk that I was a ‘disagreeable individual’.”

Abrielle nods. “He did do that…didn’t give much reason as to why.

Haft rubs the back of his neck.  “Probably because I told him the same thing I told you about calling attention to himself in the tavern here.  Not surprisingly, he shared you opinion.”

Abrielle raises an eyebrow at Haft. “Yes. I think that is, most likely, the reason. Sehsis is very proud.”

Haft grunts.  “I did get an answer, anyway, as to whether he had a weapon at the battle, since you and Deoncy didn’t seem to know and I was sure I’d seen the king present him with one.  He had, and turned it over after Deonyc called him out.  The king returned it later.”

Abrielle nods. “I am glad you got that confirmation…it seemed very important to you.”

Haft hehs.  “Just nosy, I guess.  Good thing they pay me for it.”

Abrielle laughs quietly. “Good thing.”

Haft asks, “So, have you learned what Lady Avery wished you here for?”

Abrielle smiles and kicks a rock across the dirt. “She just wanted to have a friend here I guess…nothing too special.

Haft says, “Well, nothing wrong in that.  It’s pleasant that you can have time away from the manor.”

Abrielle nods. “Yes…it really is. I try to settle down in one place but then it just feels like my soul is being crushed. I was so content back in our original village…but since moving, I can’t seem to stop.”

Haft asks, “Where did you used to live?”

Abrielle shrugs. “Just a little village North of Coghill…nothing special. Didn’t even have a name.”

Haft asks, “Where you lived with your parents?”

Abrielle shakes her head. “No. They left me there with Lewis when they had to leave. Lewis was the doctor in town…again, nothing too special.”

Haft asks, “Why did you move?”

Abrielle sighs. “Lewis was getting…a little strange…I just thought it would be better to have a few more eyes watching him.”

Haft asks, “And perhaps better not to be the doctor in town.  That’s hard.  How…” He hesitates. “…old were you when you were left with him?”

Abrielle looks out at the road. “I was five. Old enough to remember my parents…young enough to imagine them as heroes.” She looks to Haft. “I am boring you…”

Haft looks startled.  “You are not, but…” he appears to think better of whatever he was going to say.  He rises and extends his hand.  “You said you were headed back to town, yes?  Let me walk you.”

Abrielle tilts her head and asks, “What was it that you were going to say?” She takes his hand and gets up.

Haft frowns.  “I was thinking that five is very young,” he says softly.  “And perhaps I was going to ask more about the matter, but I find I’ve changed my mind.  You haven’t pressed me for my past.”

Abrielle gives him a small smile. “Only because I thought it would make you uncomfortable. I am happy to be telling you more. You can ask me anything…anytime. I am an open book. I don’t like secrets…they do not build friendships.”

Haft sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose.  “No, they don’t.”  Even so, he doesn’t ask any more questions and continues escorting her up the road.

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