My Own Battles

In which there is anger

Gatehouse

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You stand in the Outer Gatehouse of Anvard. Its sturdy, iron-bound wooden gates loom to the east. Another pair stands open to the west. Within, you can see the busy Outer Ward, full of people coming and going from Anvard’s open air market.

Across the ward you see the inner gatehouse, Anvard’s second line of defense. To the east you can see the road leading away from the castle.
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You can go: Outside <E>, Outer Ward <W>

Contents: A daughter of eve with short, copper hair (Megren).

Megren stands on the outer side of the gatehouse. She speaks amiably with a fruit monger, inquiring about the wares being brought in before he goes on his way into the outer ward.

Haft stands opposite Megren, speaking to a man with a cartful of supplies bound for the kitchen.

Lanisen makes his way up the road toward the castle, red-faced and sweating in the bright sunshine. He pauses to let a cart pass, then dodges between another two and reaches the gate.

Megren grins at the sight of her friend. “Afternoon, Lanisen! Out with Cass?”

Haft doesn’t hear the greeting, engrossed in trying to calm the cart driver, who seems to have had a rather difficult day so far.

Lanisen turns toward the sound of his name, answering with a quick grin and coming nearer to speak more easily. “Yeah, for the morning. How’s the day been?”

Megren says, “Slowing down. We don’t get as many shoppers passing through in the afternoon when it gets this hot.”

The driver gestures broadly. “One of the wheels caught in a rut.  Took me the better part of half an hour to get moving again.”

Lanisen wipes his forehead with his sleeve and remarks, “I believe it.”

Haft says, “I’m sorry to hear it.  But you’re here in one piece, and no goods damaged, yes?  You can head on through.”

Megren keeps an ear to Haft’s situation as she asks, “How’s Cass?”

Lanisen says, “Good! Think she’s losin’ her taste for walnut muffins, the way Dranken serves ’em. Maybe she oughta work there, she could teach them a thing or two.”

The man shows no apparent haste to move on through. “Why don’t they fix the roads?  Holes like that can cost a man a month’s wages.”

Megren nods, leaning up against the cool stone of the castle wall. “That’s not a bad idea, really. Though she’d be harder to have an eye on.”

Haft keeps his voice appeasing. “I’ll make sure to pass on word that there’s a spot needs filling.”

Lanisen says, “Not so hard as all that, the inn ain’t so far.” He happens to glance at Haft, finally, and pauses.

Megren looks over her shoulder.

Haft, oblivious to Lanisen’s presence, listens as the man continues, “I’m late for my delivery because of it!”

Haft looks hopeful. “Well, I’m sure Brosie will understand.  I won’t keep you any longer.”

Lanisen says, “Um, er. Well.” He looks back at Megren. “I should prob’ly– Things. Good shift? Afternoon, see you ’round.”

The man narrows his eyes, fixing the guardsman with an irritated stare. “I should think not.  Your chatter has delayed me quite long enough on top of everything.”

Megren makes a face at him. “Aw, don’t go. I’m almost off shift anyway.”

Haft appears to be forcing a smile, and waves the man on through.

Lanisen makes a helpless grimace back, darting his eyes pointedly over her shoulder at Haft’s back. “I’ll come find you after?” he asks, already edging away, eager to be gone.

Haft watches the man leave, then glances toward Megren. His false smile falls as he sees her companion, and his jaw tenses slightly.  He turns to watch the road.

Lanisen’s shoulders hunch up a little. He dips his head to Megren and hurries away, disappearing into the outer ward.

Haft sighs and his shoulders slump.

Megren crosses her arms as she watches the road for approaching merchants and patrons, looking contemplative.

Haft mutters, “He shouldn’t have to hurry because of me.” He runs a hand through his hair, scowling.

Megren says, “Probably had some place to be.”

Haft gives her a look very near a glare, as though he doesn’t believe it for a second, before looking back to the road.

Megren releases a disappointed breath.

Haft is silent for a while.  “His sister’s in town.  I met her the other day.  Seemed nice.”

Megren turns halfway so that she can talk with him while still keeping an eye on the road. “Yeah, she came in with him. I haven’t gotten the chance to get to know her very well yet.”

Haft says, “She’s staying in Andale? Or just visiting her brother? I can’t remember if she said.”

Megren says, “I think she’s hoping to stay.” She pauses and then adds, “He’s pretty protective of her, I think.”

Haft’s head turns sharply. “Meaning?”

Megren glances at him. “Um, just that the two of you might want to get things sorted between yourselves if you think you might end up friends with her.”

Haft snorts. “I’d already figured out I should keep my distance, thanks.”

Megren pushes her mouth to the side again.

Haft grimaces. “Sorry. You didn’t deserve that.”

Megren says, “I’m just trying to help.”

Haft replies softly. “I know.  And I don’t mean to do anything to antagonize him while I’m waiting to get this sorted. It just–it’s frustrating to be powerless to fix it. I don’t like having my hands tied.”

Megren says, “Yeah. I wouldn’t either.”

Haft asks, “I don’t suppose he’s mentioned when Sir Colin might get back?”

Megren says, “He thought they’d be married in the fall, so I guess then.”

Haft says, “Months away. /Wonderful/.”

Megren says, “Maybe it’ll sort itself out before. At least… some.”

Haft asks, “When he notices I’m not jumping at him or shouting at him whenever we’re in the same room?”

Megren screws up her mouth helplessly.

Haft shakes his head. “My only option, really.”

Megren says, “I know.”

Haft says, “I’ve thought of…I don’t know, writing, maybe.  To Sir Colin.  But…”

Megren asks, “Maybe you could talk it out with the captain first?”

Haft says, “Oh, I’d definitely do that.  I’m not foolish enough to go over my superior’s head, which is what it would be if I just up and wrote.  And I’d talk to the captain before approaching him in person.  That’s not the issue. It’s the letter itself.”

Megren frowns thoughtfully. “No, I mean… maybe you could make amends without going in the kennels. If the captain thought it right. I’d be happy to feel out whether Lanisen was willing to talk at least, and then you could ask the captain if he thought it was a good idea, and then once you had that all sorted it’d be a lot easier to sort things with Sir Colin.”

Haft looks doubtful.  “I think you’re being too literal.  The spirit of Sir Colin’s order was to keep away from Lanisen.

Megren shakes her head, “I think it’s the opposite. The spirit was for Lanisen to feel safe. If there’s peace between you, the spirit’s fulfilled.”

Haft frowns. “There’s truth in that, but it’s still a fine line.  Getting the captain in trouble with the king’s nephew isn’t high on my list of goals.”

Megren says, “Let me talk to Lanisen? It won’t be you getting anyone in trouble; it’s my idea. And I’ll test it out first– if it seems like it’s not going to work out, I’ll back off before I’ve even proposed it.”

“No,” Haft says swiftly, almost sharply. “This isn’t your problem.  I don’t want you in the middle of it.”

Megren says, “I already am.”

Haft presses his lips together, frustrated. “I know, and it ain’t fair.  But that doesn’t mean I want you acting as a go-between.  I’m a grown man. I can fight my own battles.”

Megren clicks her lips together. “Well, I won’t interfere where I’m asked not to go, but that’s a childish definition of being grown. It’s not a battle, and if you think you’re sparing me, me being in the dark while two of my closest friends glower across the room from each other isn’t exactly a better alternative. And if you think you’re sparing him, I don’t imagine he prefers it either.”

“I prefer to handle my own problems, and I’ll thank you not to call me childish for it,” Haft snaps.

Megren says, “You are not a hermit. You’re part of a unit, and your problems are not your own, and it /is/ childish.”

Haft’s expression is thunderous. “No, I’m not a hermit–anymore–something I’ve been working hard to rectify this past year, whether you’ve noticed it or not, but I fail to see how this issue is affecting the performance of the guard.”

Megren looks up to the ceiling as if some sense could be found there, but, lips pressed together, she drops her argument and turns to more fully keep her watch.

Haft looks at her profile for a moment before turning angrily to mimic her posture.

Megren pretty visibly has the rest of the argument inside her own head, eyes and mouth flicking with with imagined dialogue, though she maintains her guardswoman’s posture.

Haft glances at her out of the corner of his eye a couple of times before being briefly, mercifully distracted by a couple of women approaching from the town.Somewhere on the muck, Avery has connected.

Megren cools off enough not to be visibly frustrated when Perth comes to relieve her while Haft is talking to the women

Haft glances up briefly as Megren prepares to go.  His expression is difficult to read.  Then he resumes speaking to the women, who seem to be visiting a relative in the village.

Megren disappears into the ward once Perth is settled in, not interrupting Haft’s conversation with a farewell.

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