In which there is a hound with a squint
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. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
You can go: Out to the Northern Stairwell <S>
Contents: A daughter of eve with short, copper hair (Megren) and Hearth <LIT>.
Megren sits cross-legged on a bench at one of the long tables in the mess. She has a book open in front of her and a little to the side and a piece of parchment with charcoal next to it.
Haft walks over with a bowl of soup in his hand. “Mind if I join you?”
Megren looks up and says brightly, “Oh, hello.” She scooches a bit in implied invitation.
Haft takes a seat. “Thanks. What are you working on?”
Megren pushes the volume over for him to see. It’s the children’s book of animals she had been studying before they left for Chesterton. “Just copying things down for practice.”
Haft hehs. “I see you’re still in the librarians good graces, or did you ever take it back?”
Megren says, “Oh, I left it back with them while we were gone. Saw that elusive prince while I was picking it back up, you might be interested to know.”
Haft asks, “Oh yes?”
Megren nods, setting her charcoal aside. “I think my existence might give him heartburn.”
The fire flickers, casting dancing shadows all over the walls.
Haft laughs. “I thought Sir Darrin’s letter said all the diplomatic issues were sorted out. How much longer does he plan to darken our door?”
Megren shakes her head. “I think it’s just the pressing things are done, so the council aren’t so hard pressed as they were.”
Haft pulls a face. “Better them than me.” He starts on his soup.
Megren grins. “I don’t know, it’s a little fun.”
Haft says, “Anything that involves perturbing Prince Roshan would be…not sure that’s what you meant.”
Megren says, “That’s what I meant.”
Haft’s eyes crinkle in amusement. “Good. Oh, I mean to ask you. What was going on with Sir Darrin and the flower the other night? I had a feeling I was missing something, but Abrielle thought it was just fashion.”
Megren grins effusively. “Well.”
Haft tilts his head. “Oh, I see. Well go on, let’s hear what you’ve done now.”
Megren narrates, “Well, you remember about how he asked for the flowers in that letter — and you should have seen how excited he was when I brought them to him. Practically forgot I was there.”
Haft says, “Missing home that much? Or…” Haft shrugs, bemused.”
Megren nods, momentarily sober, “I think so.”
Haft says, “It’s not that far. I wonder why he doesn’t visit.”
Megren says, “Well, the king’s been needing him, and now his family’s all here because of Lord Dar and Lady Honour.”
Haft says, “Oh right. Well, I ain’t in a position to judge a man for bein’ homesick, considering the way I handled it. But I think you were about to tell me something funny.”
Megren straightens. “Right! So, I’ve been planting flowers in all his things. Got a couple servants in on it with me so it comes in with his fresh laundry and Cara even got his meal to him covered in violets while he was dining with the king and one of the ambassadors.”
Megren looks downright gleeful.
Haft stops with his spoon halfway to his mouth. “All right, I gotta confess that I’m torn between scolding you for embarrassing a man in front of the king and dying to know if His Majesty thought it was as funny as you plainly do.”
Megren nods, unbothered by the threat of scolding. “I think he did. Said something about one of the kitchen girls having a liking for him.”
Haft grins broadly. “And has our good knight figured out who his tormentor is?”
Megren nods, making a mock regretful face. “One flaw in having a reputation for fun is that everyone suspects you when the fun is had.”
“That is your greatest peril,” Haft agrees. “Perhaps you should aspire to be more like me. No one ever expects a joke from this quarter.”
Megren mms, contemplating this prospect with a studious expression.
Haft says, “In fact I believe it was Sir Darrin who was taken aback the first time he realized I had a sense of humor. You could fool him easily if you went about it the right way.”
Megren lifts her chin, narrows her eyes, and pouts her lips into a frown, which is apparently her attempt at being Haft-like.
Haft raises a brow. “You look like a hound with a squint.”
Megren tilts her head thoughtfully, and then nods in satisfaction. “Good, perfect.”
Haft snorts. “Well-played.”
Megren grins. “The path to success lies wide open ahead of me.”
Haft taps his lower lip with his spoon. “Possibly. Of course you realize this tendency of yours to get blamed for everything also leaves you wide open to be blamed for the deeds of a quiet guardsman who would never be suspected of playing a jest on a knight.”
A log on the fire shifts, sending a column of sparks flying upwards.
Megren says, “No, no. I’ll be so serious, no one will ever suspect me again. They’ll suspect Lord Tyre before me.”
Haft asks, “Sir Darrin should suspect him anyway. Isn’t he the one you said likes flowers…was that you?”
Megren says, “Well, Sir Darrin says he does, anyway. I suspect all the lords of harboring a secret fascination with horticulture by now.”
Haft shrugs. “I guess it’s got its uses. Herbal lore does, anyhow.”
Megren shakes her head. “Oh no, Sir Darrin is pretty rubbish at that. I mean he can tell what a carrot looks like, that’s about as far as it goes.”
Haft says, “Well it’s a relief that he doesn’t confuse them with turnips, I guess. That’d just be embarrassing.”
Megren asks, “What would the Calormenes say?”
Haft asks, “Does anyone actually care?”
Megren says, “About carrots? I’m sure I don’t know. It’s probably detailed in the treaties somewhere.”
Haft says, “And not for the first time, I’m thankful not to be a lord.”
Megren asks, “What, you never envied your sister’s gardening?”
Haft asks, “Well, I meant more having to detail things like carrots in long, boring negotiation sessions. Do we even export carrots?”
Megren says, “I’m sure I don’t know. I’ll ask Sir Darrin next time we go riding.”
Haft asks, “Riding?”
Megren’s brows rise. “Oh.” She nods. “He’s teaching me.”
Haft looks interested. “Really? How are you taking to it?”
Megren says, “He says I’m doing well. But I think he’d say that if I was slipping off every time the horse moved.”
Haft says, “Doesn’t sound like he’d be doing you much of a favor if he did. You’d have to weigh the benefit of flattery against the increasing number of bruises.”
Megren tilts her head. “That’s fair. He’s a good teacher, though. It probably wouldn’t matter, I’d just learn by being in the same general area.”
Haft nods. “There’s some truth to that. We become like the people we spend time with. I’ve found my own speech shifts depending on who I’m talking to.”
Megren looks up at the ceiling, thinking, and then nods. “It does, doesn’t it.”
Haft says, “A bit. I speak more formally to a noble than I do to, say, Eston. Part of it’s just slipping into a more comfortable way of talking when I’m more relaxed, I guess. And part of it is that the nobles expect castle guards to have fairer speech than most townfolk. I reckon talking to you and most of the guard, my speech falls somewhere in between.”
Megren nods. “I don’t think mine changes.” she pauses, thinking. “Subjects though. And levity, too. Some people make you feel more serious.”
Haft says, “Yeah. Lord Dar, for instance. I know he’s got a sense of humor, but can be hard to catch him at it. And makes me hesitate to make a jest in front of him.”
Megren says, “Sometimes he’s hard to read.”
Haft finishes his soup and pushes the bowl away. “So, do you have further plans to bedeck Sir Darrin with blossoms?”
Megren’s delighted grin returns, even less calculated than usual. “Got any ideas how to top diplomatic meals?”
Haft leans back in his chair, stroking his beard. “You did set the mark high, didn’t you?”
A log on the fire shifts, sending a column of sparks flying upwards.
Megren glows with this praise. “I think maybe we taper off now and save it for when special opportunity arises.”
Haft says, “Perhaps the best course. Let him get complacent.”
Megren says, “And then /attack/.”
Haft says, “With garlands and posies and petals falling from oh high.”
Megren covers her mouth in an unsuccessful attempt to stifle her giggling.
Haft says, “Gentler than acorns, you must admit…though possibly no less prone to getting you in trouble with the captain.”
Megren waves a dismissive hand. “The captain loves me.”
Haft asks, “Whatever gave you that idea?”
Megren makes a contemplative noise. “We’ll blame Perth, just in case.”
Haft snickers. “Truly, a well-thought-out plan.” He lets the front legs of the chair fall onto the floor again, then pushes away from the table. “Can’t stay longer. Need to see about some sleep before my shift. Now that I’ve filled up the corners I should drift right off.”
Megren pulls the book back toward her. “Sleep well. We’ll plot more later.”
Haft says, “Sounds like a plan. Good eve.”
Haft turns and walks from the room.