In which Haft farewells Megren
At the request of Lady Paige, Captain Garian has asked Haft to accompany Lady Avery and Lord Tyren to Narnia, due to his familiarity with the country.
Before the Gates of Anvard
]----------------------- ,%~ --[
A flat green space at the foot of the mountains opens here, sheltered by the
slopes of the northern mountains. Stormness Head looms high to the northeast,
its peak nearly always in clouds, and the double-headed peak of Mount Pire
rises over the trees to the northwest. A steep ridge like the side of a bowl
curves around from the northwest to the east, and the ground descends into
dense forest to the south.
At the center of the clear area is a small turreted castle, facing east. Its
weathered walls are built of large blocks of red granite that glitter faintly
in the sunlight, and elegantly functional ironwork graces the front gates and
portcullis. A stone cobbled road wide enough to easily facilitate the passage
of carts and carriages crosses over the broad green lawns from the castle
gates, disappearing into the trees to the east.
]-- ,%~ -----------------------[
You can go: Into the Castle , Down the Castle Road
Contents: A daughter of eve with short, copper hair (Megren) and A son of adam
who walks with a limp (Lanisen).
Lanisen says, “He seems like a good sort. Cass gets along with him, anyway.” He is sitting against the wall with Megren, his bad leg stretched out in front of him.
Megren shakes the bag of raspberries promptingly at him. “I did see a fight — or not quite a fight, but coming on one, in there once. But it was sore feelings after the battle, nothing usual.”
Darrin comes walking down the road from the direction of the castle.
Lanisen takes another berry, just one, with an if-you-insist sort of head-dip. “A not-quite fight, once,” he repeats. “That ain’t so bad.”
Megren makes a face at him and takes his left hand, opening it up to pour a few berries into.
Darrin emerges from the gates amid a gaggle of knights and squires, and appears deep in Very Serious Conversation with a particular knight with auburn hair and a contrary expression. “Certainly not!” Darrin says, loudly and indignantly. “You can’t hunt on a destrier, Sir Gavin! That is – it’s just – why-” he splutters for a moment before coming up with, “Absolutely absurd!”
Lanisen laughs under his breath, rather rueful, and murmurs a sheepish thanks. He begins to eat them slowly, savoring each berry. At the small commotion at the gates, he glances up curiously.
Haft steps out a little after the group, looking around until his eyes light on Megren.
Megren looks up at the emerging group, squinting an eye to see them through one of the rays of sun breaking through the mountains behind them.
Darrin runs a hand through his curls as Sir Gavin gives a skeptical reply, and starts talking about the unsuitability of high-strung, valuable warhorses for use in activities involving any degree of stealth.
Lanisen goes tense and still for a moment, then bows his head over the berries and tries to be part of the wall.
Megren looks like she’s going to get up, but she notices Lanisen’s posture and decides not to draw attention to herself.
Haft, seeing Lanisen, hangs back a little behind the knights and squires.
Darrin subsides when Sir Gavin concedes his point, but by the time that’s happened, the pair of them have fallen behind the main body of the group and stopped just outside the gates while the rest of the knights and squires continue on into town. Darrin rubs at the back of his neck and makes a self-deprecating comment about how growing up near stables like Coghill’s makes him a bit intense about these things. The red-haired knight laughs, and claps him on the shoulder, and then points out something behind Darrin, nodding towards Megren and Lanisen.
Lanisen keeps quiet, watching the group pass from the corner of his eye.
Megren sees Haft once the group of knights starts to clear out, and understanding crosses her features. She picks up her back of berries and rolls the edges back up so it’s suitable for carrying. The movement leads her to lean forward a bit, making Lanisen more visible but blocking his line of sight so that Haft is less.
Haft, looking resigned, calls out. “Megren, a word?”
Darrin looks over his shoulder and observes the exchange going on for a moment. He purses his lips and says something in an undertone to the other knight, drawing Sir Gavin off to the side further but staying in a position from which he can observe quite easily.
Darrin mumbles “… on … moment, Sir … There … … some…interesting exchanges … … … … like … observe, … you … …”, to Darrin.
Megren places her hand on Lanisen’s shoulder as a kind of “talk to you later”, though the gesture also serves as a comforting one. She pushes herself up to a standing position and walks over to Haft. Her eyes flick to Sir Darrin, but she finds him still occupied in conversation and not yet needing greeting.
Lanisen gets to his feet once Megren is away, still clutching his handful of raspberries, and escapes through the gates to the castle.
Lanisen gets to his feet once Megren is away, still clutching his handful of raspberries, and heads toward the gates to make his escape.
Haft glances at Lanisen, then back to his friend. “Sorry to interrupt. Just…we’re going in the morning, first thing. Didn’t want to leave without saying goodbye.
Darrin makes a face in the background and says something apologetically to Sir Gavin before he crosses over to intercept Lanisen. The other knight pauses for a moment, looking indecisively between Sir Darrin and the direction the rest of the knights disappeared. “Evening, Lanisen,” Darrin says casually as he falls in step with the squire.
Megren frowns slightly, her eyes also following Lanisen, but she rallies. “Send me a letter so I can practice my reading.”
Haft smiles faintly. “I can do that.” His eyes flick toward Lanisen. “And maybe he can start visitin’ the mess again.”
Megren hides her disapproving look by readjusting the strap of her bag over her shoulder.
Lanisen, distracted and intent on reaching the castle, startles and pauses uncertainly. “Ahh, evenin’, sir,” he replies, bowing.
Darrin asks, “And how are you faring these days?”
Lanisen says, “I’m well, thank you, sir. And– and yourself?”
Darrin sticks his hands in his pockets. “Oh, well, well, thank you.” He pauses, glances back at Megren and Haft. “Things still a bit tense there, I see. Megren mentioned as much.”
Haft shakes his head. “Funny. Never thought once I was reinstated to the guard that I’d ever go back.”
Lanisen doesn’t seem to know what to say to this. He shifts his weight and gives Darrin an apprehensive sidelong glance.
Megren pushes her hair behind her ear. “You’re packed up?”
Darrin pushes his lips sideways. “Not prying, I swear! Just…want some company, since Haft seems to have commandeered my squire?”
Haft says, “Yeah. Don’t need much. Change of clothes, my traveling cloak.”
Haft says, “You’re gonna know all there is to know about horses before I get back.”
Megren looks cheeky. “Probably.”
Haft says, “Anything you want me to bring you? There’s shops in Sted Cair, if I find a moment away from my duties.”
Lanisen hesitates. “I don’t– um– if… if you like, sir?” He glances down at the berries staining his hand red and covers his confusion with another small bow.
Megren clasps her hands behind her back. “Queen Lucy’s vial, please.”
Darrin gives the berries an amused glance and then looks back up to Lanisen’s face. “Well, where are you off to?” he asks. “I was going out for drinks with some of the other squires and knights originally, if you’d like to join.”
Haft squints at her. “Yeah, that seems reasonable.”
Megren asks, “Well? How should I know what’s in Sted Cair?”
Haft says, “That makes it easy.”
Megren asks, “Does it?”
Lanisen says, “I was– I’ve only just come back from the tavern, actually, I was– my sister, she works there, um.” He takes a breath, looking a little trapped, and says, “Please don’t let me keep you from your evening, sir, I was just gonna check in on the hounds.”
Haft says, “Yeah, reckon I can get you anything, tell you it’s special, and you won’t complain.”
Megren says, “Now I won’t believe you.”
Haft says, “That’s your misfortune.”
Darrin says, “Nonsense, the hounds are just as entertaining as a night out drinking. That is, if you don’t mind me sticking around.”
Lanisen darts a glance at Megren. “I don’t– I don’t mind, sir.”
Darrin positively beams.
Megren tilts her head in the kind of concession given by someone who doesn’t actually agree but is too polite to say.
Lanisen hesitates, then turns back toward the gates.
Darrin once more falls into step with him.
Haft offers a wry smile. “I’m going to miss your contrariness.”
Megren says, “You aren’t leaving forever.”
Lanisen walks up the road toward the Gatehouse of Anvard.
Darrin walks up the road toward the Gatehouse of Anvard.
Haft smirks. “No? Maybe I’ll meet a nice dryad and settle down.”
Megren looks taken aback, and then skeptical.
Haft asks, “Not plausible?”
Megren says, “You’re the one who said guards can’t fall in love, not me.”
Haft opens his mouth, then closes it, then tries again. “That’s…not precisely what I said.”
Megren looks skeptical again.
Haft shifts uncomfortably. “I believe my conclusion was that it would be…inconvenient for me, but not impossible, and your conclusion was that the matter was better discussed by the two who shared affection.”
Megren says, “…Anyway.”
Haft says, “Anyway, the nymphs certainly weren’t lining up last time I was there, so I’m sure you’ll be putting up with me again when Lord Tyre decides to return.”
Megren asks, “Has he said how long?”
Haft shrugs. “Not to me. Might be thinking he’ll send some of us home early if Lady Avery turns homesick…” He looks thoughtful. “I wouldn’t count on that.”
Megren says, “More likely Lord Tyre.”
Haft asks, “What? Getting homesick?”
Megren says, “Right.”
Haft says, “I’ll let you know if that happens. I don’t really know much about Lord Tyre.”
Megren takes a breath and releases it. “This was the first he’s left Chesterton in years, and not without opportunity.”
Megren says, “Lady Avery’s up here often, and they say Lady Paige half-runs Chesterton for him.”
Haft says, “Huh. Wonder what’s taking him to Narnia if he’s not so keen on travel…maybe it’s his sister’s idea.”
Megren looks like she thinks the answer to this is obvious.
Haft chuckles. “Yes, most likely. Well, it’ll be interesting to see how things turn out there.”
Megren runs her hand through her hair, looking off to the darkening east sky. “Well– try to have a good time.”
Haft says, “Thanks. You too. Have a good time learning all the things you’re going to learn. I’ll expect you to be reading proficiently and declaiming and riding and beating me at chess–that most importantly–when I return.”
Megren rubs her collar. “I’ll see what I can do about that, Haft.”
Haft frowns a little. “You all right Meg?”
Megren offers him a perfunctory smile. “Nothing worth talking about until you get back.”
Haft makes a face. “Better get it out. I’ll hate the wonderin’ more.”
Megren says, “No. You won’t. And I know what I’d better get out.”
Haft opens his mouth to protest, then closes it. “I’ll try to trust you on that then. Wish you’d trust me the same.”
Megren’s brows pull downward and her mouth peaks in more obvious offense at the passive aggressive statement than she’s shown to any of his more flagrant insults. She glances to the sky while she forms her words. “Thinking I’m withholding because I don’t trust you is, in itself, untrusting.” She lowers her eyes to his face. “You can’t do anything about it while you’re gone, so it’s not worth talking about. I can promise, if it’s still not resolved, I’ll tell you.”
Haft thinks this through. “That’s…not what I meant. Not that you should tell me as a sign of trust. I think I can guess at least part of what’s bothering you, and I wish you’d trust me to handle it in my own time, in my own way.”
Megren takes a breath in through her nose. “I really don’t have anything to say to that. I hope you have a nice time with Lady Avery, Haft.”
Haft casts her an irritated glance. “Yeah, cause that’s likely now we’re both sore.” He sighs. “I don’t want to part on bad terms.”
Megren says, “I don’t know what to tell you, Haft. Edging people out of the places that are built specifically for them to feel at home in isn’t my idea of making due, and it’s never going to be, no matter how much you talk about your own time. It’s not hard to be on good terms with me, and you’ve had lots of time to do it in.”
Haft looks incredulous. “You think I want him eating elsewhere? I’ve been eating on the other side of the room, keeping my meals brief, and not coming in for other reasons unless I see he’s not about. I can’t /force/ him to eat in the mess.”
Megren lifts her hands. “Haft, please. You know what would fix it. I know what would fix it. Let’s drop it. There’s nothing more to say. If you want our conversations to be pleasanter, either find a way to sort things out, or don’t talk to me about him.”
Haft raises his voice. “I didn’t–” he hesitates. “No, I suppose I did, just now when I said I hoped he’d be able to relax with me away for a while. I’ve been trying to avoid mentioning his absence from the mess because I haven’t wanted to fight with you–don’t think I haven’t noticed, but I wish you’d take that comment in the spirit it was meant. I’m not running away from this, but the timing’s useful, and maybe by the time I get back Sir Colin will have returned and this can all be sorted. That’s what I’m hoping for, anyhow.”
Megren readjusts her bag again.
Haft sets his jaw and looks away for a moment, then looks back. “I won’t disobey orders to win your approval, Megren. I’ll write you. I hope you’ll write me back.”
Megren’s smile cannot even be classified as perfunctory now– it is something closer to tolerant. “Try to have a good time,” she says again.
Haft looks down. “Yeah. Goodnight, Meg. Goodbye.” He turns and starts back toward the gates.
Megren passes a hand under her eyes and crosses her arms over her chest, watching him go.
Haft hesitates a moment, as though considering whether to look back, then proceeds into the gatehouse.