What a Mess

In which Lanisen’s new dining arrangements become apparent to Haft

Off-duty Mess

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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. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

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You can go: Out to the Northern Stairwell <S>

Contents: A son of adam who walks with a limp (Lanisen) and Hearth <LIT>.

Lanisen sits in one of the chairs drawn up by the fire, pouring steaming water from the kettle into a teapot. A strong smell of mint issues forth from this vessel, which Lanisen sniffs suspiciously before settling back in satisfaction. He sets the kettle back on the hearth.

Haft enters the room, heading for the table where loaves of bread and some cheese is set out for guards between meals.  Seeing Megren, he walks up to stand beside her and breaks off a chunk of bread.  “Hullo, Megren,” he says before cutting himself a liberal slice of cheese.

Megren looks up from placing some bread and butter on a plate. “Haft!”

Haft asks, “How’s your day been?  Shift just over, or…?”

Megren glances over her shoulder at where Lanisen is sitting. “A while now.”

Lanisen puts the lid back on the teapot to let it brew. At the name, he glances quickly over at the table, then turns just as quickly to face the fire and hide his face, looking like he regrets his life choices.

Haft follows Megren’s gaze, stiffening in surprise to see Lanisen by the fire, and noticing the other man’s gesture. “Right,” he murmurs absently, looking toward the door as if considering a hasty retreat.

Megren pushes her mouth to one side, her eyes shifting between them. “You don’t have to stay,” she offers.

“I’d forgotten he’d be eating here now.  Stupid of me,” he replies quietly.  “You were sitting with him?”

Lanisen’s ears flame red.

Megren says, “I am, yeah.”

Haft nods.  “Well,” he says awkwardly.  “I’ll um…” he gestures vaguely to a table as far away from Lanisen as he can possibly get.  “I’ll talk to you later.”

Megren squints one eye, and then nods. “Sure, if that’s what’s best. I have some things to tell you when we’ve both got a moment.”

Haft searches her face, as if wondering whether these “things” include telling him off, but he just nods and goes to sit down.

Lanisen doesn’t look around. His knee jogs.

Megren breaks off to go back to Lanisen, whose bouncing knee she bumps gently with her shin. “Hey. There was jam, too. Hope you like raspberry.”

Haft focuses on his bread.  He seems to be making a conscious attempt to eat at a normal pace, but his expression is strained.

Lanisen glances up at her and smiles readily enough, though he is still red and doesn’t look her in the eye longer than a split second. “Raspberry’s great.” He clears his throat. “How long’s this stuff meant to steep?”

Megren sits across from him and spreads a generous amount on a slice and hands the slice to Lanisen. “I don’t know. Until it smells the way you like it?”

Lanisen concedes, “It does smell pretty good.” He sniffs again at the packet, with a face that indicates that he expected otherwise.

Megren wrinkles her nose at him. “I told you it’s not Kairyn’s.”

Megren says, “She grinds hers all up.”

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

Haft breaks off a small piece of cheese and chews slowly.

Lanisen says, “You didn’t either.” He takes the slice of bread gratefully and hands her back her pouch of tea.

Megren tucks it back away. “Didn’t what, tell you it wasn’t Kairyn’s? Well enough, anyway. I’m very hurt that you don’t find me a trustworthy person.”

Lanisen says, “Just bein’ cautious is all.”

Megren says, “Because you don’t trust me.”

Megren says, “Don’t try to slip out of this one.”

Lanisen points out, “Kairyn might’ve swapped it when you weren’t looking.”

Megren lifts her brows, “And now you don’t trust my guarding skills well enough to watch even my own belongings! It gets clearer and clearer, how you view me.”

Lanisen holds up his hands, laughing. “All right, all right. I apologize for my mistake.”

Megren grins, pouring herself a cup and pulling it toward her. “That’s better. Apology accepted.”

Gearn, sitting at one of the tables near the center of the room, calls out to Haft.  “Hey, you fancy a game of cubes?”

Haft looks up, startled to realize he’s being addressed.  “Some other time, thanks, Gearn.”

Lanisen takes the pot once she’s done and pours the other cup. He sniffs the steam appreciatively and blows on the surface of the hot liquid, then glances over his shoulder at the exchange, going quiet again.

Megren pushes her mouth to the side. “You need to move somewhere else?” She offers, lowering her voice a bit.

Lanisen says, shifting, “Oh– it’s– sorry, it’s fine, I’m sorry.” He hesitates, moistening his lips, then asks softly, “Should–should I?”

Megren shakes her head. “No, there’s no reason you should. You’ve got a right to be here, and you’re perfectly safe here. But if you want to anyway, I’ll go with you.”

Haft, unaware of the conversation, continues to eat.

Lanisen pauses, holding tightly to the mug. “That isn’t–I didn’t mean… that, exactly.”

Megren watches him, and then confides, “Listen, I told Haft I wouldn’t pry, so I won’t, but I also told him if you wanted to talk about it I was gonna be here for you, so, it’s all up to you. You’ve got the power here. I’ll keep bouncing between you like I don’t notice if that’s what you both want, but if you need to get it off your chest you don’t have to sit there like a bow nobody remembered to unstring.”

Lanisen gives her a quick searching look. “I only…” He winces a little, frustrated and trying to find the words. “I don’t know if I should be here, really, is all,” he finally says, very low. “He’s surely not the only one who– I don’t want to cause trouble.”

Megren shakes her head. “You come in here until it’s normal, if it isn’t already. You’re a squire and you’ve been in battle for this castle, it’s as much your mess as anyone else’s.”

Lanisen is silent. After a doubtful pause, he answers with a small, unconvinced nod, and takes a careful sip of the steaming tea.

Megren seems to find some satisfaction in this, and she finally sits back to drink her own tea, letting him have his silence for the moment.

Haft breaks off a piece of bread, but it seems to stick in his throat, and he gets up to return to the table and pour himself a mug of water.

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

Lanisen stays quiet for a while, taking deliberate, steady sips of the tea. “This is very good,” he says at last. “Thank you.”

Megren grins. “Thought you might like it.”

Lanisen gives a small grin in return and asks, “Where’d you get it from?”

Megren gives the ceiling a beatific glance. “Oh… Kairyn.”

Lanisen splutters.

Megren cracks up. “I’m kidding!”

Megren says, “You are the easiest tease.”

Lanisen coughs, pounding his chest with a fist. “That was mean,” he says accusingly.

Haft returns to his seat.

Megren says, “It was beautiful.”

Lanisen says, “I got a tea downstairs from her I’m meant to drink every night, tastes of stockings that ain’t been laundered for a year, I swear. It’s awful.”

Megren giggles behind the knuckle of her hand. “Oh, don’t tell her. She’s so proud of her teas.”

Lanisen says darkly, “I know. She gave me three.”

Megren gives him a pitying if tickled look. “Are they at least helping, even a little?”

Lanisen shrugs a little, looking down at his bad hand. “The one helps me sleep, if I’m desperate enough to drink it.”

Megren’s own hand flexes unconsciously as she follows his gaze. “You’re not sleeping?””

Lanisen colors a little, shifting and resettling his hand around the half-empty mug. “No, it’s–I mean, yes–I wake up sometimes, is all.”

Megren’s lips press together as she files this information together with what few other things he’s revealed to her. “Because of–?” she indicates his hand with her eyes.

Haft glances over toward the fireplace.

Lanisen is slightly flustered and unhappy, having divulged more than he intended. He nods, then adds, “It’s lots better than it used to be, though.”

Megren doesn’t drop the issue just yet. “Used to be like last month or used to be like right after it happened?”

Lanisen mumbles, “Right after.”

Haft looks back to his meal and finishes the last of his cheese.

Megren pushes her mouth to the side, heaving a breath. “I guess you’ve told all this to the people who need to know.”

Lanisen nods again. “I’ve got so many bottles and packets and things from Kairyn my room looks like an apothecary,” he says after a minute, trying to joke.

Megren reaches toward the hand, and then recognizes that this is probably inappropriate and pulls back, finishing her tea to hide the movement. “Then I’m sure something will work eventually. You haven’t been back here with Adrian and Kairyn for very long.”

Lanisen says, “Yeah. Prob’ly so.”

Haft chews the remains of his bread, chasing it down with the last of the water.

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

Megren still looks bothered, but she shifts into a grin. “Well, if you need to cover the awful taste you know who to go to.”

Lanisen gives her a quick grin, latching onto the subject change with grateful relief. “Yeah! Very true.” He tips up the mug again. “Oh!” he says. “Did you find the merchant in Chesterton with the ginger candies?”

Megren’s brows lift. “Oh! Yeah, but it’s funny because actually Kairyn makes them? And I had brought them for… uh–” Her eyes unfocus on Lanisen and refocus on Haft behind him for a moment before returning. “–…the kids.” She recovers, “And then I got your letter, and it turned out he had them and they weren’t a special thing to bring at all.”

Lanisen repeats dubiously, “Kairyn makes them?”

Haft contemplates his empty plate a moment longer, then rises, taking the dishes to stack next to other used ones for cleanup.  He casts one more furtive look toward Megren and Lanisen before heading for the door.

Megren nods. “She says it’s not hard.” Her eyes follow Haft for a moment, but he doesn’t look at them long enough for her to offer him any kind of farewell expression.

Lanisen narrows his eyes. “I bet she mixes beetle shells in with the sugar.” He glances over his shoulder to follow Megren’s look. He looks away quickly, but his attention remains on Haft as long as he is still in the room.

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