You Are Dead to Us

In which Haft and Megren talk it out

Outer Ward
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You stand in the busy outer ward of Castle Anvard, full of people seeing to the needs of king and kingdom. There are market stalls along the outer wall, bustling with merchants and shoppers. Grooms work in the stables, tending to the horses there, and you hear the occasional bark of a dog from the kennels. The sounds of hammer hitting iron rings out from the blacksmith shop. There are stairs leading to the gate towers on the northern and southern corners of the outer curtain. To the east is the outer gatehouse, and the road leading into the realm of Archenland, and to the west another gate, leading to the inner gatehouse, the inner ward, and the main keep of Anvard.
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You can go: Kennels <N>, Northern Market <NE>, Outer Gatehouse <E>,

Southern Market <SE>, Stables <S>, Blacksmith <SW>, Inner Gatehouse

<W>, South Stair <US>, North Stair <UN>

Contents: A daughter of eve wearing a braid (Cassandra).

Haft stands on duty by the Inner Gatehouse.  Those who know him might say he looks a bit drawn.

Cassandra comes strolling into the Ward. She looks a bit wary as she approaches some of the stalls. She glances over to Vinri’s stall and lets out a sigh of relief when she doesn’t spot the woman.

Cassandra places herself in the more busy part of the Ward, avoiding Vinri’s stall.

Haft glances away from the lads, scanning the rest of the area.  He doesn’t catch sight of anything very interesting, and his eyes wander toward the kennels, where he stares for a long moment.

Haft heaves a sigh, dragging his eyes from the kennels.  He spots Cassandra in one of the stalls and looks glum.

Cassandra catches Haft’s eye. She makes a face at him, not quite recognizing him from their previous encounter.

Haft tenses, though not very noticeably, and he nods his head toward the young woman.

Avery steps through the gate, giving a polite nod to those gathered around. A page follows closely behind her, carrying a flat, rectangular object wrapped in white linen. Avery tips her head as she observes the Guardsmen, looking for one in particular. “Ah, Master Haft. Do you have a moment to spare?”

Haft turns at the sound of his name, looking relieved, if anything. “Lady Avery,” he bows.  “How may I be of service?”

Cassandra perks up as the Lady is addressed by Haft. She watches causally, trying to appear not to eavesdrop.

Avery dips her head in greeting. She motions to the object and the page hastily unwraps it, revealing a painting of the mountains. “It’s only fair that you take some of the credit for this painting.” She holds out a quill pen, already dipped in ink. “Preferably before all the ink dries up.”

Haft makes an odd face. “What?”

Cassandra eyes what she can see of the painting before going back to looking like she isn’t prying.

Avery laughs a bit. “Your name.” She points to her own name, written in swirling letters, at the bottom left of the painting.

Haft protests. “I’ll ruin it.”

Avery spins the quill around. “That’s what you said before, but you did well. I trust you will do so again.”

Haft looks both awkward and as though he thinks he dare not refuse.  He takes the quill and prints his name in neat, even, very small letters. “As you say, Lady.”

Cassandra watches the crowds again, periodically peering over towards the Lady’s and Haft’s direction.

Avery grins as he writes his name. “/Now/ it is complete.”

Haft returns the quill with an indulgent smile.

Cassandra slips into the crowd, heading back to Andale.

Avery helps the servant carefully wrap the painting up. He bows, takes the quill and heads back into the castle.

Cassandra walks eastward toward the gatehouse.

Haft asks, “So, where’s that going then? A gift?”

Avery gently shakes her head. “Oh, no. That one is for me. I have paintings of Anvard at home, but that has become a favorite and it will replace the others on my wall.”

Haft smiles. “Well, I am pleased that it pleases you.  It is lovely work.”

Avery nods, smiling. “Thank you, but I had some help.” Her eyes sparkle. “Perhaps I should put it up in the hall at home instead. So that everyone may see it.”

Haft raises a brow. “Help from someone other than me, I hope.”

Avery laughs. “Do you know, I rarely let anyone even /see/ my work before it’s finished?”

Haft smiles wryly. “That’s cause you’re afraid they’ll take up a brush and wreck it.”

Megren enters the ward from the road, making toward the inner gatehouse.

Avery sighs and shakes her head. “No, I like the big reveal when a painting is all finished.”OOC> Avery is pretty comfortable with Haft and I don’t know why. 😛

Haft asks, “Ah. Do you stage a grand unveiling with a cloth and a flourish of trumpets?”

Megren slows up when she sees who is on her path into the inner ward. Her demeanor doesn’t change very noticeably, but she veers slightly toward the other side and the other guard on duty, eyes flicking over Haft and Lady Avery before she offers him a friendly smile.

Avery exclaims, “Cloth, yes. Trumpets, no. But now that you suggest it…” She glances away, pretending to be in deep thought. Her eyes light up when she sees Megren. “Oh, Megren. Hello!”

Haft glances past Avery at the flash of Megren’s hair, his face falling at her obvious avoidance, just before he winces as Avery greets her.OOC> Avery says, “What happened?”

Megren pauses in her conversation to look over and flash Lady Avery a smile and a bow. “Good to see you, my lady.”

Avery smiles and addresses Megren again. “You know, I was thinking you should join me for tea sometime, to catch up a bit. Of course, if you’re not fond of tea, there is always cake and who could resist that?”

Megren’s brows peak. “Oh– if you like, of course, my lady.”

Haft nods to Megren since she’s now facing him, then turns to survey the ward again.

Avery grins. “Perfect. Expect an invitation soon, then.” She glances back to Haft. “I really should let you both return to your duty, though. I’ve taken up quite enough of your time.”

Haft turns back. “It’s no trouble, my lady,” he responds, bowing.

Megren opens her mouth, and then closes it, pushing her lips off to the side in a crooked kind of smile. She bows again. “I’ll look forward to the invitation, Lady Avery.”

Avery bows her head in farewell. “I wish you both pleasant shifts, then.”

Avery walks west toward the inner gatehouse.

Haft glances after Avery before returning to his watch.

Megren hesitates, glancing across the path at Gearn, who seems pretty occupied with watching a set of girls haggling over ribbons. She pushes her lips together uncertainly and says, “I don’t have anything I’ve argued for between us that I don’t still think is true.” Her eyes flick over Haft. “But I’m sorry if I’ve hurt our friendship by saying it.”

Haft turns to look at her, taking a deep breath and releasing it.  “I’m still mad,” he says, “but this ain’t the place.  I’ll be off shift in an hour. Might be I’ll take a walk up to the north parapet for a bit.”

Megren smooths her hair, looking down at her boots. “I don’t–” She takes a breath. “That’s fine, if you like. See you then.”

Haft nods, giving her a long look before turning his attention back to his duty.

Megren trots off into the inner ward, a small frown creasing doubt into her expression.

An hour later…

Northern Parapet

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Here you stand on the upper reaches of the northern watchtower. From this dizzying height one can see for miles. There is a trapdoor in the floor and the crenelations give some protection from the wind which buffets you from every side.
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You can go: Down <D>

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

Haft stands leaning on the wall, staring northward.

Megren pushes open the trapdoor. Seeing Haft already there, she sighs and pulls herself the rest of the way up.

Haft turns his head slightly at the sound of her arrival. “‘s too hot, even up here, with the wind.”

Megren sits up against the wall. “Probably cooler in the dungeon,” she quips.

Haft snorts. “Probably is.”

Megren leans her arm on her knee.

Haft draws a breath, as though girding himself. “I don’t fault your suggestions, or your offer, Megren.  You want to make things better between two people.  That’s what you’re good at, and I wouldn’t change it.  What I take exception to is your characterization of my decision as ‘childish’, as you put it.” He looks down at her. “It ain’t the first time you’ve said something like that, and it bothers me.”

Megren says, “It’s not–” she takes a breath, “–my intention to be hurtful.”

Haft says, “Then /don’t/ be.  Don’t use demeaning terms to put down a decision you don’t agree with.” He pauses. “I know I was sharp yesterday, and that can’t have made it easy to be civil.  I wasn’t very civil myself, and I’m sorry.”

Megren presses her lips together.

Haft watches her expression.  “Is that it then? You can’t meet me partway?”

Megren says slowly, “I think… you are behaving in a way which is hurtful to yourself and others, for a bad reason, that you are wise enough you ought to see the faults in.”

Haft turns this response over in his head a few times, looking tense at first, and then releasing a long breath.  “Thank you.  That is…a reasonable and respectful statement.” He turns his back to the wall and slides down to sit beside her. He looks tired and unhappy, but no longer quite so angry or tense.

Megren only nods, not looking like she finds the situation particularly eased.

Haft runs a hand through his hair. “Go on then, get it out. What’s my bad reason? I’ll try not to explode at you, but if you treat me like a child that needs minding, I’m calling you out on it.”

Megren says, “You said it’s your problem, but it’s not. You live among others. And I’m not the only one that’s friendly with you both. It’s the problem of anyone who ends up between you.”

Haft nods slowly. “It’s clearly affecting you. Who else?”

Megren makes a face at him. “Anyone talking to one or the other of you when the second one shows up? Which is often, since you live and eat and work in the same place.”

Haft says, “Point taken.  But you said I had a bad reason for not accepting your offer.  What do you think my reason is?”

Megren frowns. “I just said it. You told me not to help because it’s your problem. Which I’ve just shown it’s not. And all I offered was to barely help by /seeing/ if Lanisen was amenable to /talking/ and leaving the rest to you. Which is something you can’t do on your own because it’s not worth asking the Captain if nothing can come of it, which you also said, so there’s no point in insisting on pushing out the one option you have to fix it some time before another half a year’s passed.”

Haft looks like he finds this a little hard to follow. After a moment he says, “I see.  That’s not what I thought you were getting at.”

Megren lifts her brows for him to continue.

Haft says, “I thought you were suggesting that I was being stubborn because I didn’t /want/ to apologize…or because I’m a stickler for rules–the latter, I will grant you, is true.  As for saying it’s my problem…” his brow furrows as he thinks this over.  “I was raised to take responsibility for my own actions and to correct them myself, where possible.”

Megren gives him the silence necessary to sort out the last bit of that statement as applied to his current situation.

“I will concede that in this instance, a mediator might be useful.  Don’t think I ain’t tempted. At the very least a part of me ‘s been wanting to ask you to reassure him that he’s…safe…when I’m around.” He looks down at these words.  “But I’m not asking.”Megren replies more gently now, “No– I’m offering.”

“I know,” he responds hoarsely. “And I’m asking you not to.”

Megren sighs, looking off to the side.

Haft says, “That’s where being a stickler for the rules comes in, I’m afraid.  Having you feel things out, talk to him on my behalf, it’s like circumventing my orders.  If I could convince myself it was acceptable, I’d just write him an apology and have it delivered and have done with it–though maybe he can’t read, I don’t know–but I ain’t willing to disregard the chain of command to deal with this.” He hurries on as if afraid she’s going to interrupt him.  “I know you think I’m interpreting the orders too strictly, but I learned the hard way what happened the last time I circumvented the rules–the last /two/ times,” he amends. “I’m not keen to try a third time.”

Megren rubs her hairline, leaning her forehead on the tips of her fingers.

Haft murmurs, “If it makes you feel any better, I’m not sure I’m right.”

Megren says, “You’re /not/.”

Haft grimaces. “Maybe not.  Is he…?” He cuts himself off.

Megren waits for him to finish.

Haft shakes his head. “Nothing. Not a fair question, and I reckon I know the answer anyhow.”

Megren nods, tapping her thumbs against each other over her knees and watching the movement.

Haft says, “I’ll make it right Meg. I will.  And if things don’t settle–if he keeps acting uncomfortable around me, after some more time passes, then I’ll try to find a way to deal with it before fall.” He sighs “Don’t imagine Sir Colin wants to deal with this while making wedding preparations anyhow.”

Megren also sighs. “All right.”

Haft opens his mouth as though to add something, but seems to decide the topic is better left as it is. “Has Sir Darrin talked to the Captain yet?”

Megren gives a half-hearted nod. “Shifts should be sorted pretty soon.”

Haft says, “Surprised he didn’t try to arm-wrestle to keep you.”

Megren says, “It’s not like I’m leaving the castle.”

Haft shakes his head, attempting a little teasing.  “No, there’s no escaping it. You’re a squire now. You are practically dead to us.”

Megren wrinkles her nose at him.You feel a little hungry.

Haft offers a faint smile.  “You’ll still be living in the barracks, though, right?”

Megren says, “Yeah, and I’ll be working the wall sometimes.”

Haft says, “Oh good. That’ll make it that much easier when winter rolls around again.”

Megren says, “What, to have a fight? I’ll be on the other side this time.”

Haft looks lost. “Huh? Oh!  The Knights and guards challenge.  Not precisely what I was thinking of.” He looks very serious. “Though that will be a critical loss on our side.  We’ll have to find someone equally devious to compensate.

Megren says, “Perth is more cunning than he lets on.”

Haft says, “Is he? I’ll have to watch out for him.”

Megren asks, “What did you mean, though?”

Haft hmms. “Oh, just that it’d be more convenient for putting coins in your boots.”

Megren gives him a punishing look.

Haft’s lips twitch, and he rises, then turns to offer Megren a hand up.

Megren takes the hand, dusting herself off when she’s risen.

“Thanks for coming,” Haft says earnestly.

Megren releases a breath. “Yeah. No problem.”

Haft says, “Nearly time for the afternoon meal.  Shall we?” He motions to the trapdoor.

Megren lifts it and drops down.

Haft follows after.

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