Ugly

In which Haft makes an unexpected confession

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 a red streak in her brown hair (Abrielle); A

daughter of eve with short, copper hair (Megren); A son of adam with laughing

blue eyes (Darrin); Dranken, the Barman; Pricelist; Sign — Rooms, 500 coins

per day; and Wolves and Foxes Game Set.

Darrin smirks a bit, and then glances at the woman Megren just waved at curiously.

Abrielle smiles at Megren and comes over. To the man she curtsies. “Hello, Sir. Megren. How are you?”

Haft steps into the hall, face guarded.  he searches the room until his eyes land on Abrielle, though he hangs back when he notices whom she is in company with.

Megren smiles. “Hello Abrielle,” she says again, letting the knight answer the question first.

Darrin dips his head politely. “Good evening,” he says, subdued for only a moment before he goes back to his usual wide smile. “We’re well. Or, I should say, I am. Don’t want to speak for Megren here.” He elbows her, for no apparent reason than that it seems the logical thing to do.

Abrielle smiles and looks to Megren, waiting for her answer.

Haft steps to one side of the door, waiting.

Megren bends away from the elbow, not entirely successful. “It’s been a very trying day. Half the guard’s been sent to the infirmary with watery eyes because someone’s been trailing flower dust all over the mess.”

Darrin gives Megren a pointed look to the effect of ‘geez, I wonder who that could be.’

Abrielle nods and looks to the flower at the knight’s chest. “That is a very nice bunch of tulips there, Sir.” She smiles. “Watery eyes ruin everyone’s fun.”

Megren obviously has no reason to find this a pleasing response, and her facial expression perfectly reflects that fact.

Haft makes a face and steps forward, striding toward the group.  He bows to Darrin.  “Sir, Meg.  Abrielle, might I have a moment?”

Abrielle turns to Haft. “Oh Haft! Of course.” She moves off to the side and says in a quieter voice. “What is it?”

Darrin gives a modest shrug at the attention to the makeshift boutonniere of tulips and greenery he’s wearing for no apparent reason. “Why thank you!” He says to Abrielle. He gives Megren a precursory studying glance and then dips his head to Haft. “Evening, Haft,” he says in a friendly tone.

Haft nods to the knight’s greeting and joins Abrielle, speaking low.

Megren smiles at Haft in greeting, but seeing that he and Abrielle need to converse, she doesn’t interrupt them with words of her own, instead turning a little to give them some privacy.

Haft mumbles “Sorry to bother you but the innkeeper said you’d come in here.  I, uh, was walking by the shore and I saw Lewis…”, to Abrielle.

Haft mumbles “Sorry … … … but the innkeeper said you’d come in here.  … … … walking … the … … I … …”, to Abrielle.

Abrielle raises an eyebrow and mumbles something back.

Abrielle mumbles “Is he okay?”, to Haft.

Haft mumbles “Well yes.  It’s just, I think I might have seen him talking to a gull.  He ain’t like to jump in if it tells him to, is he?” to Abrielle.

Haft mumbles “… yes. … … … I … … … have seen him … to … …  He … like to … … … … … … … … he?” to Abrielle.

Darrin arches a brow at Haft and Abrielle, looking predictably interested for a few moments before he too politely stops listening. “So! Said flowers have been…appearing in my…well, everything. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?” he asks Megren.

Megren looks baffled by this question. “Flowers in your everything? You’ll have to be more specific.”

Abrielle lips twitch. “Like the bird or the hole in the land?”

Haft looks puzzled. “Sorry?”

Abrielle asks, “Was it a seagull or like…a gull?”

Darrin starts ticking off on his fingers. “First in my tack,” he gives her a pointed look, both brows raised. “Not the blossoms you brought back, other ones. Then in my rooms after they’ve been cleaned. And, most recently, in my food. I was dining with Calormen’s ambassador and his Majesty when my salad came adorned with violets and theirs did not. The edible kind, fortunately. But still. Most…peculiar.” He looks more amused than perturbed, if a bit flummoxed.

Haft corrects gently. “I believe that is called a gulf.”

Megren nods seriously, pursing her lips in concern. “That is very troubling. I am glad you came to me to investigate the matter.”

Abrielle ahs and mumbles back.

Abrielle mumbles “Well…I don’t think he will be jumping into anything anytime soon…Do you think I should go check on him?”, to Haft.

Abrielle mumbles “Well…I don’t … he … be … … … anytime … … … … … … … on …”, to Haft.

Darrin nods seriously, lips quirking. “Quite so.”

Haft shrugs. “I guess you would know better than I.  I just thought you should know.”

Megren coughs, and waves a finger vaguely at his tulips. “And so that explains the, uh…?”

Darrin says, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”

Darrin says, “These were from today’s bouquet, on my washstand.”

Abrielle nods. “Thank you Haft. I will go check on him.” She gives him a smile and walks out of the Hall.

Megren says, “How resourceful.”

Haft glances around uneasily before following.

Herberg Road

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The Herberg Road leads to Herberg’s public house, The Narrow Gate, a huge building that sits in a clearing to the east of the road. It’s obvious that rooms on the eastern side of the building overlook the beach and ocean. Clumps yellow of fruit trees shade the walls of the Public House and hardwoods line the lane.

The lane to the west leads the shops of East Andale, and continues north toward the Beach Road.

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You can go: Beach Road <N>, East Andale <W>, The Narrow Gate <E>

Contents: A daughter of eve with a red streak in her brown hair (Abrielle).

Haft hurries out of the inn after Abrielle.

Abrielle hears Haft following behind. “Where was he exactly?”

Haft says, “This way.  I’ll show you,” he says, leading her to a spot with several rocks that are handy for sitting.

Abrielle nods and follows after. Lewis sits on one of the rocks.

Haft hangs back, watching.

Abrielle comes and sits next to Lewis. “Uncle,” she looks around trying to find what he is talking to, “who are you talking to?” Lewis looks at her, eyes watering. “Your father is here…don’t you see him?” Abrielle frowns. “No. I do not…I think you need some sleep.”

Lewis shakes his head. “I see him. Something is wrong.”

Haft frowns in concern.

Abrielle sighs. “Lewis, let me take you to bed.” Lewis nods sadly. “I think you should write to them…promise you will.” He looks up to her. She nods. “I will.” She looks concerned as she leads him to the inn. To Haft she calls over her shoulder. “I will be right back.”

Haft nods, then follows at a distance.

Abrielle goes into the inn, arm around Lewis.

Abrielle comes back out after a few moments. “Thank you…he was in a rough state.”

Haft’s brow furrows. “Does that happen often?”

Abrielle nods sadly. “Yes. Usually in our cottage though…”

Haft says, “That must be hard.  I am sorry.”

Abrielle nods. “It is manageable.” She sighs, thinking for a moment before pulling her smile back on. “Would you like to go back to the tavern? I was surprised to see you there in the first place actually.”

Haft shrugs. “I came for you.  I don’t let the past keep me from doing what needs to be done.”

Abrielle nods. “Yes. Of course.” She looks up at the building. “Care to go back in?”

Haft hesitates.  “I hadn’t been planning on it.”

Abrielle looks at Haft. “How long are you planning on never going in there?”

Haft raises his brows in surprise, then glances at the door, and finally slumps with a sigh.  “Point taken.  You were about to eat?”

Abrielle shrugs and rubs her belly a little. “I could do with some food.”

Haft says, “Then I’ll sup with you.  Not like anyone’s gonna make a fuss with a knight and several guards in there.” He eyes her. “And if they do I fully intend on crawling into a hole and counting on you to cover for me.”

Abrielle smiles at Haft. “I am a beast and I would totally cover for you.”

Haft says, “then let’s go in.”

Haft leads the way, holding the door for her.

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); A son of adam

with laughing blue eyes (Darrin); Dranken, the Barman; Pricelist; Sign —

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

Abrielle comes walking into the Hall of the Narrow Gate from the Anteroom.

Darrin clears his throat and unfolds his arms, crossing his leg over his knee. “Aren’t you glad I’m here, then?” he asks, smirking.

Megren asks, “Yes, wherever else should I have found tulips in the middle of spring?”

Haft pauses as they enter.  He whispers to Abrielle.

Haft mumbles “Why is Sir Darrin wearing a flower?”, to Abrielle.

Haft mumbles “… … Sir Darrin … a …”, to Abrielle.

Abrielle smiles at Haft and whispers back.

Abrielle whispers, “I can only guess that it is for style. I appreciate it.” to you.

Darrin says, “Well, presumably a lot of places outside, but I’m happy to not dissuade you of the notion.”

Haft asks, “Ah, well, where did you want to sit?”

Abrielle looks around and walks to Megren and the Knight. “So sorry to leave so suddenly. Would you mind it very much if Haft and I can and joined you two?”

Megren begins to respond when Abrielle approaches them again. She nods her assent to the other woman. “Is everything all right?”

Darrin waves his hand at the stools next to them in invitation rather than responding verbally.

Abrielle looks to Haft and sits down before answering Megren. “Everything is resolved now.”

Megren raises her brows, this response not appearing to assuage her concern.

Haft takes a seat as well.

Darrin picks up his long-forgotten mug from the bar and takes a sip.

Megren looks distractedly at Sir Darrin’s mug and then gives Dranken a guilty look for taking up his barstool so long without ordering, and indicates that he should bring her something as well.

Haft calls for a cider.

Darrin says, “So…”

Darrin asks, “Why snowdrops, exactly?”

Abrielle raises an eyebrow and looks to Megren.

Megren blinks, and a bit of color comes into her cheeks. “Oh! Um…” At this moment, Dranken appears to distribute their asked-for beverages, giving the conversation a pause while drink and coin are exchanged. She crosses her legs, holding her in both hands. “Well, I like them, I suppose,” she says, and sips from it.

Haft takes a drink from his mug, studiously not staring at the flowers adorning Sir Darrin’s chest.

Darrin hides his unduly pleased expression at Megren’s flustered appearance behind his own mug. He hmms noncomittally before taking another drink.

Megren asks, “How was your duty today, Haft?”

Abrielle looks between the Knight and Megren for a moment before copying Haft.

Haft says, “What?  Oh, it was well.  Very quiet day, really.  No squabbles in the ward, nothing to report when my shift ended.”

Megren nods. “Mine was dull, too.”

Haft looks as if he finds something in the statement amusing, but merely takes another sip.

Abrielle shrugs and looks in the direction of the window.

Darrin rubs at his face and lets out a yawn.

Megren confides in the others, “We’re boring the young knight.”

Haft says, “Well, have you told him of your adventures in the wider world?””

Abrielle looks at Haft and Megren.

Darrin pffts and protests, “For once, not bored actually. Just tired.”

Megren clucks her tongue, making a pitying noise. “Tulips took the punch right out of you, huh?”

Haft coughs awkwardly as if his drink caught in his throat.

Abrielle lips twitch up in a small kind of smile.

Darrin wrinkles his nose. “Yeah…the tulips. Must be it,” he says sarcastically.

Megren eyes her cup critically, then tilts her head back and finishes it off, hopping off the stool and waving for him to do the same. “Back to the castle with you then, come on.”

Darrin takes a last drink and sets his payment on the bar before shuffling off his stool. “Yes’m,” he says, grinning cheekily.

Megren frowns punishingly for this.

Haft appears to be trying hard to keep a straight face.

Abrielle looks at Haft, a smile in her own eyes.

Darrin snickers. Or maybe giggle would be the better word.

Megren wrinkles her nose and heads off their expedition, offering Abrielle and Haft a wave of farewell. “Don’t do anything that doesn’t make for a good story,” she calls.

Haft turns to Abrielle. “A good story is the kind that puts you ta sleep, isn’t it?”

Abrielle nods to Haft. “Yes.

Haft says, “Good, cause I don’t intend on any other kind tonight.”

Abrielle looks to Haft. “They are cute.”

Haft asks, “Beg pardon?”

Abrielle sighs. “Never mind…I don’t want to assume anything.”

Haft frowns.  “You mean the flowers?”

Abrielle shakes her head. “No. I mean Megren and the knight are rather close.”

Haft shrugs.  “They’re friendly.  He’s still quite young, younger than a lot of the knights residing at Anvard just now.  Makes sense that he’d seek a laugh or two with folk his own age.  And there ain’t any better’n Meg for a laugh.”

Abrielle nods, smiling. “I have never really gotten that from her. I worry that she does not like me.”

Haft frowns.  “What makes you say that?”

Abrielle shrugs. “It is just something I feel.”

Haft shakes his head.  “I can’t imagine that’s so.  I never seen anyone who was better putting others at ease.  I mean, she got me talking on one of the worst days I can remember, and I didn’t even know her proper then.”

Abrielle nods. “I understand that…I just have not felt that ease.”

Haft frowns into his mug, having no answer for this.

Abrielle frowns. “Sorry. I just am thinking of what Lewis said…”

Haft asks, “And what’s that?”

Abrielle says, “About my dad.”

Haft says, “He said something was wrong.”

Abrielle nods. “Yeah. He thinks that he is in trouble…he is out of his mind but it was enough to worry me.”

Haft stares at his mug.  “Does this concern of your uncle’s only come on him in his madness?  Or has he other reasons to doubt your father’s welfare?”

Abrielle shrugs. “I do not know. I would like to know…but there is no way to do that.” She sighs. “I think Lewis is sensitive…”

Haft says, “That is nothing I can speak to.  What I can say is that parchment is easily come by, and ink.  Write a letter and ease your heart.”

Abrielle nods. “Yes…you are right…maybe it will get to them…sorry.”

Haft asks, “I have found the couriers to be fairly reliable, barring the appalling mess regarding the letter I sent my sister.  Do your parents travel a great deal?”

Abrielle nods. “Constantly…but I will try. It won’t get to them most likely but I will try.”

Haft says, “What…” He hesitates. “do they do for a living?””

Abrielle shrugs. “They hunt…live off the land from what I know.”

Haft nods.  “It is a rich land.  I think I told you that before.”

Abrielle nods. “Yes. You did.” She smiles to Haft. “What is it about me that makes you feel uncomfortable?”

Haft’s brow furrows.  “Sorry?”

Abrielle sighs. “You just say that you told Megren about your darkest days…and I see us as friends…but there is something that holds you back from me. Maybe I am just being crazy….”

Haft looks utterly perplexed.  He looks at Abrielle and then looks at his mug for a moment before setting it aside.  “We can’t have this talk in a crowded hall, Abrielle, and certainly not this one.  You want to walk a bit?”

Abrielle nods. “I understand. Of course.”

Abrielle gets up.

Haft rises, heading for the door.

Abrielle follows after.

Andale Beach

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At the bottom of the slope, the beach spreads, a mixture of sand and gravel. Seagulls scream overhead, and small crabs scuttle about between pools and bits of driftwood. There are a few larger rocks as well, slowly being eroded by wind and water. The Eastern Ocean seems to go on forever, the gray green waves stretching out to the horizon.

A path leads up the slope to the west toward the Beach Road.

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You can go: The Beach Road <W>

Haft leads Abrielle out and onto the beach.  He doesn’t say anything for quite some time.

Abrielle follows alongside Haft quietly.

Haft folds his arms across his chest as a cool breeze blows in from the sea.  The gesture looks defensive.  “First off, I should clarify what I said.  I didn’t say I told Megren about my darkest days…though there’s truth in that too.  I said I talked to her on one of my darkest days.  She didn’t know what I’d just faced.  I was torn wide open and facing my own failings and I ran up to the wall.  And she was just there.  We’d never really talked before.  And we didn’t talk of anything important then.  Was just a distraction, and I needed it badly.”

Abrielle nods, looking a little chastised. She breaths in some of the cool breeze. “I see…” She waits for him to go on.

Haft says, “Other things she knows,” he continues, “she knows because of what happened in the hall those months ago, with Sehsis.  I didn’t volunteer my story until she’d heard me called such despicable names that the truth was better than what else she mighta come up with.  I don’t talk about it.  It’s…” he shakes his head, his voice becoming tenser and more hard with every word.  “You don’t want to know it all.  I don’t want you to know.  If you think Meg’s special to me then you’re right, cause she puts up with me even knowin’.  Well it ain’t the kind of privilege you need.”

Abrielle frowns. “Why not? If you are trying to protect me or think that I won’t like you because of your past…you are wrong.”

A flash of anger crosses Haft’s face.  “Really?” he says scathingly.  “I disagree.  If you knew what I was you wouldn’t like me Abrielle.  I can say it with utter surety.  And I wouldn’t even have to go back as far as all those folks remember to find something you could hate me for.”

Abrielle gets a little fired up at this. “Then you must not know me very well. My parents are thieves, pirates, horrible people by everyone’s standards. I love them! I think I have shown you friendship…I have told you my concerns. I would never do that if I didn’t think you were worthy! I forgave you for Sehsis. I do not hate my friends! For anything! I see you as my friend, Haft. Hate it if you want…but I do.” She puffs for a moment before her eyes soften. “I just wish you felt the same.”

Haft’s jaw tenses.  For a moment he looks like he wants to soften in response to her expression, but then some part of her words catch up.  “You ‘forgave’ me?  For what?  Making sure that crowd didn’t brutalize him?”  He snarls, “Truly, I appreciate that.”

Abrielle waves a hand and turns away. “I don’t want to force you to do anything…I just…I don’t know….I didn’t mean to say I /forgave/ you…I am sorry…I just…” She moves towards the waves.

“But you did say it, Abrielle,” Haft snaps.  “People tend to say what they mean.”

Abrielle sighs and throws her arms down. “I said it because I am angry…I know now that you were defending him. But still you talk of Southerners as bad people in general. You did it with Eston!” She looks at Haft. “I just want to protect my friends…even if it is irrational! I can’t help it.”

Haft scowls.  “What are you talking about?  What did I do with Eston?”

Abrielle sighs and wraps her arms around her body. “You said you didn’t trust them…and I understand that…I do, but I cannot…” She looks to Haft. “Forget it…You don’t want me to know. You think I will hate you. I have disagreed with you but I have never hated you or doubted your integrity. I will not pressure you to share…I just wanted to know what made you hesitate. I know now.”

Haft is nearly shouting.  “No you don’t understand Abrielle.  You don’t understand because it ain’t about Rabadash.  I made up my mind about Calormenes long before Rabadash.  The Southerners stole this country’s soul.  They broke my king’s heart.  And I–” he breaks off, running a hand through his hair.  “And if you think I ain’t telling you because you’re part Calormene, it ain’t that either.  You’re not like them and I know it.”

Abrielle goes quiet, watch as Haft shouts. She pauses for a moment before lowering her voice to a whisper. “Why are we fighting about this again….I know that the baby was stolen…I know that…”

Haft looks shaken and turns away.  “I’m just like Deonyc,” he says flatly, changing the subject.  “You want a reason to hate me?  You should know that I am exactly like him.”

Abrielle’s eyebrows furrow. “I do not want a reason to hate you…why do you say that?”

Haft stares out at the ocean.  “Remember how he called Sehsis out?  Reported him to the king?”  He turns to face her.  “I was more discreet.  When I learned you were the daughter of exiles I went to Lord Peridan and asked him if your loyalty was secure.  A girl I’d barely met.”

Abrielle head falls and for a moment she looks let down but then she lifts her head to look in his eyes. “Okay.” It is all she says. Her eyes wander out to the sea. “Do you still have doubts about where my loyalties are?”

Haft stares at her.  “You and I…define loyalty rather differently.  I do not think you are a threat, no.  How can it matter what I think?”

Abrielle stares back at Haft. “Because…you matter to me…no matter what you do.”

Haft shakes his head.  “I shouldn’t.”  He seems to rally a little.  “I should, however, apologize to you,” he says formally.  As a soldier of Narnia at the time, and as a guard now.  My behavior was wrong, and I would not like you to think that either the king or the commander would instruct his men to behave in such a way.  Or to worry that any inquiry was raised into the matter.  In fact, the commander told me not to jump at shadows.”

Abrielle shakes her head. “I don’t want an apology. You have explained to me a couple of times now that a guard, or any man, should feel obligated to warn others of their fears…especially in times of war.” She sighs and moves to sit down on a nearby rock. “As for caring…you think I shouldn’t care because you think little of yourself because of your past. I don’t know your past…but nobody should feel as if they do not matter.” After this, she puts her head in her hands.

Haft sighs heavily.  “I should apologize on my own behalf as well.  You confided in me and I betrayed that.  And afterwards you were so kind to me, after the despicable thing I did.  And I never told you why you shouldn’t be kind.  That’s why I shouldn’t matter.”

Abrielle looks at Haft. “I forgive you. Will you forgive me for holding onto the past and for not being there for you as much as I have been there for Sehsis?”

Haft looks a little perplexed and nods at her stupidly.

Abrielle tilts her head at his nod but keeps quiet.

Haft finds the words.  “I…forgive you.  If there’s anything to forgive.”  He pauses, then continues.  “I ain’t ready to go into my past.  Not just now.  Maybe not ever.  And I hope if I do someday you won’t regret knowing me.  But if you did, I’d understand.”

Abrielle nods. “There is something.. I have hurt you.” She gets up and brushes off her dress. “I will not regret knowing you by the way. I don’t need to know your past to know that I like your current you.” She comes to his side. “I should go.”

Haft says, “I don’t always like the current me.  I was harsh with you tonight.  Ugly.”  He hesitates, then offers his arm.  “C’mon, I’ll walk you back.”

Abrielle takes his arm. “Not everyone can be as attractive as me all the time…I can forgive you for that.” She gives him a small smile. “We are all in need of letting it out sometimes…and we are both pretty strong willed…”

Haft releases a breath that is almost a laugh at the first statement.  “Yes,” he says.  “Both strong-willed.”  He doesn’t seem to feel the need to add to this, but walks her back to the inn before turning his steps back toward Anvard.

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