In which no puppies are cuddled 😦

Off-duty Mess
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 cornerthere 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>.

Haft sits staring at the fire, fingering Calla’s handkerchief on his knee.

Megren, just come off duty, skips into the mess, looking a little worn from the day’s work, but just as pleased with the world as usual. Seeing Haft at his usual spot, but even more gloomy than usual, she stops, tilting her head a moment in consideration, and then making toward him.

Haft turns at the sound of approaching steps.  “Hello Megren.” He sounds worn, but his tone is mild.  He folds the kerchief and places it carefully in his pouch. “Long shift?”

Megren sits near his feet, crossing her legs under her. “Little bit. That woman who’s always saying what’s she’s bought is faulty to try and get her money back finally got on someone’s nerves enough for a real spat.”

Haft asks, “Oh?  And how’d that go?”

Megren says, “About how you’d expect. Got it sorted without too many sore feeling by the end, I think, though.”

Haft smiles faintly.  “Some days the job is harder than others.”

Megren makes a noise of agreement and quips, “You’d think everyone’d learn to up and get along by now.”

Haft asks, “Well, if they did that, who’d pay us?”

Megren says, “Why the king’d put us up for the rest of our lives, in thanks for solving all his problems.”

Haft chuckles.  “I’d not say nay on those terms, though we’d have to find new ways not to get paunchy if we were to put up our swords.

Megren hmms thoughtfully. “You’re right. Best to ask everyone to keep up the arguing, then.”

Haft says, “Wait, you’ve been goin’ around asking them?  That explains so much.”

Megren grins. “Just takes a smile and a how-do-you-do. Try it some time.”

Haft pastes on a smile. “How do you do? Please argue.” like that?

Megren scrunches up her face.

Haft lifts his hands. “I’m only following your advice.”

Megren says, “We may want to work on your smiling.”

Haft looks offended. “What’s wrong with my smiling?”

Megren squints an eye at him. “I don’t believe you don’t know.”

Haft says, “That’s because you have problems trusting folk.”

Megren pushes her mouth to the side. “You’ve got me all figured out.”

Megren says, “You know me better than I know my own self, I guess.”

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

Haft says, “Well, that would be awkward.”

Megren raises her brows. “What? Why?”

Haft says, “Well if I knew you better than you knew yourself I’d have a clue why you spend so much of your time cheering an old guard and I’d probably find out it’s just because you’re hoping he’ll put more change in your boots or something.”

Megren says, “See, you do know me.”

Haft sighs. “All too well.”

Megren says, “I’m very wily. Practically cunning.”

Haft looks unconvinced. “You’re an Otter.”

Megren examines her hands in wonder.

Haft says, “There is nothing wily about an Otter.”

Megren examines her fingernails. “They are looking a bit claw-like, aren’t they…”

Haft nods. “Better get them trimmed.” He pauses. “The whiskers too.”

Megren says, “Oh I do those every morning but you know how stubborn they can be.”

Haft says, “True.  Well, we each do our best.”

Megren agrees, “With what we’ve got.”

Haft asks, “So did the woman in the ward get her money back?”

Megren shakes her head. “There wasn’t anything wrong with her vegetables, as you’d guess.”

Haft asks, “Had she eaten some of them?  What’s the point of buying something just to take it back again?”

Megren says, “Well, she wasn’t planning to give it back, just say it wasn’t any good and ask for her money.  That’s her usual go, or she haggles them down and then comes back in a few days and says they’d charged her more than they had.”

Haft sighs.  “She’s not in that dire of straights, is she?  What’s her husband do?
Megren lifts her shoulder. “She’s got a son’s grown and seems all right. I think she’s mostly bored.”

Haft grunts. “Sometimes I  wonder if boredom isn’t as great a threat to decent behavior as malicious intent.  Turns people into gossips and busybodies and…vegetable hagglers.”

Megren points out, “And excellent chess players and puppy cuddlers.”

Haft asks, “Puppy…cuddlers?”

Megren says, “You’ve never cuddled a puppy when you were bored? Oh, grandpa.”

Haft says, “Well not in the past…fifteen years or so.”

Megren hops up and tugs at his hand. “Come on, then.”

Haft stands up. “Sorry?”

Megren says, “Got to make up for lost time.”

Haft asks, “And how am I supposed to do that?”

Megren says, “There’s a whole set of sighthounds just waiting for your reluctant embrace.”

Haft’s eyes widen in understanding and he disengages his hand. “Ah.  I’m afraid I won’t be able to oblige today, Megren.”

Megren lifts her brows. “What, why?”

Haft shifts uncomfortably.  “I’d rather not say.”
Megren makes a face at him.

You ask, “What?”

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

Megren says, “It’s only puppies. There’s hardly ever anyone there, except Danall, and he won’t mind you.”

Haft says, “I’m sure he wouldn’t, but that’s nothing to do with it.”

Megren gives him another scrutinizing squint, but she drops the matter with a sigh, sitting down.

Haft retakes his seat.  “Sorry to spoil your fun.”

Megren says, “No you aren’t.”

Haft frowns.  “I’m not?”

Megren mms.

Haft asks, “And how do you judge that?”

Megren says, “If you were you wouldn’t spoil it.”

Haft’s frown deepens.  “I believe,’ he says, a touch sharply, “that you once indicated that you didn’t want ‘obedient friends’.”

Megren lifts a shoulder, unperturbed. “Nor cagey ones, but I make my exceptions.”

Haft sighs.  “I’m glad you do make exceptions, but I’m not being cagey by choice.  I’ve got my own reasons for not wanting to go to the kennels and they’re nothing to do with being surly or not liking dogs ar trying to be difficult.  They’re simply private.”

Megren actually manages involuntarily to arch a brow at this, at the cost of the opposite eye squinting quite a lot and her mouth pushing almost all the way to that side. The result is an extremely dubious expression.

Haft leans his elbow on the armrest and his chin in his palm.  “Are you very bored, Megren?”

Megren looks suspicious now. “Why do you ask?”

The corners of his lips twitch.  “Cause you’re starting to act like a busybody.”

Megren says, “Please, you ought to know by now that I am one.”

Haft says, “Tch.  Someone will have to let the Captain know we’re not keeping you busy enough.”

Megren says, “Might as well.”

Haft smiles, then watches the fire for a moment.  “So I asked you a while ago what your favorite parts of our duties are.  What parts do you like the least?”

Megren glances at him, her suspicion still seeming peaked, but she looks back to the hearth and says, “I don’t know. When things don’t work out, I suppose.”

Haft asks, “Don’t work out how?”

Megren says, “Oh, you know. Seeing the same fights crop up between the same people like they’ve never learned to tolerate each other and likely never will. Folk like Aaron getting away without you knowing whether they’ll make trouble again or when.”

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

Haft nods.  “I remember catching a pickpocket. This was years ago. At first I though he must be hungry, but it turned out he had folks.  He was real young, so we turned him over to his parents, after the money was returned.  Figured his parents would deal with him and that would be the end of it.  They didn’t do much I guess and he was caught again and again with his fingers where they didn’t belong, till he had to be punished more severely.  I heard he ran off after that.  Don’t know what happened to him.

Megren frowns.

Haft murmurs.  “There’s always loose ends in this work.  People you can’t help.  People you can’t stop.”  He shrugs.  “I love the work, but some days it’s harder than others.”

Megren folds her legs under her and makes a sound of agreement.

Haft says, “Spring’s almost over.  Be summer soon.”

Megren glances up at him. “We’re on weather now?”

Haft shrugs.  “I ran out of unpleasant things to say.”

Megren exclaims, “How about, ‘Oh, how I loathe the heat! My armor’s like an oven!’ Something like that.”

Megren says, “Two fish in one pot as the saying goes.”

Haft smirks at her.  “You just be glad we don’t wear plate.”

Megren says, “Poor knights.”

Haft says, “Some of ’em wear more chain…either way, hot as it gets, I hesitate to complain about my gambeson when I see them geared up for battle or a tourney.”

Megren says, “Good thing you brought this up or I’d never have known how you felt about your hauberk in comparison to other possible defensive accoutrement.”

Haft says, “Well, at least I don’t wear tulips.”

Megren says, “A serious flaw on your part which I look past only with a great force of will.”

Haft says, “Truly you are a study in self-mastery.”

Megren says, “Am I? THat’s very encouraging to hear.”

Haft says, “Yes.  It takes real willpower to put up with an absence of flowers…explains why you looked so peaky all winter.”

Megren says, “/Peaky/.”

Haft nods. “Peaky.”

Megren makes a noise of disapproval.

“Except when your skin turned all pink fighting the fire,” Haft adds helpfully.

Megren asks, “Oh, that was healthy, then, was it?”

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

Haft makes a face.  “Didn’t look it.  See?  It’s impossible to tell when you’re really ill.  When you’re pink you’re burnt and when you’re pale you’re pining for blossoms.”

Megren says, “Maybe I’m never well.”

Haft taps his chin.  “A distinct possibility.  How do you feel now?”

Megren says, “Phlegmatic.”

Haft raises a brow.  “That mean you got something stuck in your throat?”

Megren says, “Means I’m out of humor and apathetic. A serious affliction indeed.”

Haft says, “Sounds serious.  Best go see Adrian.”

Megren says, “I suppose.”

Haft glances at the candle that marks the hours.  He rises  “Well, I’ve a friend to visit.  I’ll see you later Megren.”

Megren says, “All right.”

Haft says, “Make sure to get that apathy looked at.”

Megren says, “I’ll have it checked.”

Haft smiles and heads out.


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