Chess and Philosophy

In which Megren and Tiny are good company

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: Hearth <LIT>.

Haft sits alone in a corner chair, not too near the fire, where the seats are more crowded.  He stares vaguely in the direction of the flickering light anyway.

Megren peers into the Hall. A little trembly orange and black shadow peers in at her heels.

Haft doesn’t seem to notice either of them.

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

Megren starts forward at the same moment Tiny does, which leads to some hasty stumbling and a little, “ooh” of mixed frustration and fear at treading on the wee beastie.

Haft glances up at the jerky motion near the door, and it apparently takes him a moment to identify the source of Megren’s clumsiness.

Megren leans down to scoop Tiny up and deposit the kitten on her shoulders before approaching Haft’s place. “Evening, grandpa,” she greets him. Tiny makes a tenacious leap for the side table and immediately begins exploring, her tail straight up in the air and quivering like an aspen.

Haft lets out a breath.  “Evening Meg.  How’s she doin’?

Megren asks, “Tiny?” She looks down at the cat. “Pretty sure the castle’s one big toy, I think. How are you?”

Haft says, “Like her brother, then. Oh…” he sighs.  “Had better weeks. You?””

Megren asks, “Well, more fond of sleeping than biting.” She reaches out her hand to redirect Tiny from peering dangerously over the edge of the table. “I’m fine. What’s keeping this particular week from ranking with the good ones?”

Haft snorts, “Darius.”

Megren’s lips press together and pout upward a little in an “of course it is” sort of way. “What is it now?”

Haft says, “More of his ribbing.  Jokes about opening doors, as if it were funny.”

Megren asks, “Are you set on cell duty?”

Haft says, “Well not every night, thank goodness.  Comes up about once a week.  With his guard trebled, almost everyone’s getting shifts down there.  This time I was there with Owin and Perth”

Megren’s brows draw together. “I can’t say I envy that. ”

Haft says, “No.  I imagine he does the same thing to anyone who gives him something to latch onto.  Of course in my case he already had something from when I was trying to ‘befriend’ him.”

Megren pushes her mouth to the side.

Haft sighs again.  “Owin didn’t know.  I guess Perth did.  He’d never said a word–you know how he is.  So I had to explain the whole thing to Owin after.”

Megren says, “Well, I can’t imagine he disapproved. You were rather clever with all that, as I recall.”

Haft’s brow furrows.  “Beg pardon?”

Megren winces as Tiny leaps into her lap, claws out for balance. “I just mean, I can’t see explaining it to Owen must have been so bad, since it’s not as if you had done anything wrong that you had to reveal.”

Haft still looks mildly confused.  “That night isn’t something I prefer to relive.  I spent too many years doing so already.”

Megren says, “Oh.” She colors a little. “You don’t mean you had to explain being friends with him.”

Haft opens his mouth, then closes it as realization hits.  “That…too.  But I meant about Bar.  He didn’t know about…my part in that.”

Megren nods once. “I see. How’d — how’d it go?”

Haft shrugs.  “Well as it could I guess. Perth came along.  That helped.  He’s a good man.”

Megren gets a rather large grin. “Perth’s the best sort of person.”

Haft says, “What makes a man the other way?  Like Darius?  Everything he says is designed to wound or to divide.”

Megren says, “Are you asking philosophically, or are you teasing that I’ll say that about whomever? Because I’ll have you know I’ve got discretion, to the second version.”

Haft frowns.  “Philosophically, I guess.  I wasn’t teasing.”

Megren nods, matching his seriousness with her own. Her fingers rub absently over Tiny’s settled head. “I don’t know. Circumstance is part of it, I’m sure, but there’s folks’ve had as bad or worse, and only come out of it kind. Prince Cor’s one, but you could give whole lists of them if you wanted.” She looks troubled by the thought.

Haft says, “I feel like I’m still in the dark about what circumstances made Darius how he is.  I gather Lanisen wronged him somehow, but I was in Narnia for a lot of this…you said in one of your letters that you had an idea.”

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

Megren says, “I — oh.” She shifts her weight a little. “What… do you know about Lanisen?””

Haft looks down.  “Only what Perth was willing to share.  I…asked him some time ago.  He said he’d been involved in a gang of robbers and a man had died.”  He looks troubled.

Megren takes a half-breath and releases it in one huff. “Yeah.” She looks down at the kitten sleeping in her lap and then up again, her eyes half-focused on the fire rather than Haft’s face. “Um, Berke, was his name. He kept shop in a grocery. He was — he was Darius’s cousin, I guess. At least, the knights say that part’s true, anyway.”

Haft’s mouth opens to form an “oh.” “That…explains a great deal,” he says slowly.

Megren hesitates uncomfortably and then says, “It — it sort of does. None of the rest of Berke’s family set about committing arson or poisoning the bandits. And… it’s, I don’t mean to say…” she pauses, her eyes flicking to the ceiling as she thinks. “I just, I think there’s a reason he chose Lanisen, not someone else. He went to Narnia, after all. He could have chosen the leader, if he’d wanted.”

Haft frowns.  “That’s an excellent point.  Was Lanisen…more responsible for the murder than the others?”

Megren says, “No. I — I don’t think he would think it was right to say less, but if it was the sort of thing you thought you could measure — well, he wasn’t in charge of anything. Berke was the reason Darius gave, but Darius /chose/ the target, and the target he chose was the one with a bad leg and a bad hand and who’s absence would send the castle scampering.”

Haft considers.  “He always seemed obsessed about the lords, and the castle.”

Megren nods once.

Haft asks, “And we don’t have any idea why?”

Megren says, “It’s for thrills, near as I can tell. It’s one thing to scare somebody weak and defenseless. He wants to see how far he can get. Can he scare a guard? A knight? The King? That’s why I jumped on him when he had Sir Colin. I don’t think he’s particularly concerned about a long plan, or even maybe his own life. He’s like… like a child dropping stones in a pond, seeing how big he can make the ripples.”

Haft says, “That must have been a hard choice.  I’m glad it worked.  But what now?  He just keeps making those ripples.  He’s claiming a guard was bribed, doing everything he can to stir up trouble and dissent.  But he hasn’t been sentenced to anything definite.  He’s a continuing problem.”

Megren lifts a shoulder. “I don’t know. It’s… attention. All I can think to compare it to is… is a long child’s tantrum.”

Haft asks, “And the best way to end a tantrum is to ignore it…or so I’ve heard.  Something the knights can’t afford to do as long as he might have information about his accomplice…who…I take it wasn’t Cassandra? Or she wouldn’t be just confined to her room?”

Megren shakes her head. “No, not her. If I’m honest with you, I think Cass is a better clue to the accomplice than Darius, though. Though –” She shakes her head. “Lanisen says she was taking him letters, which is more than I thought he knew of the accomplice. So maybe I’ve got the rest wrong, too. He just — he postures, when you ask about her. Threatens, but it’s all too vague to be anything real. Tries to turn in on to how you aren’t honorable, or good, or what have you. And /usually/ — usually if he does that, it means he doesn’t want to show a weakness. I thought — I’d been thinking it was because he didn’t know who she was himself.”

Haft says, “That may be.  It doesn’t mean he can’t still cause trouble.  Calling someone’s honor into question is laughable when it’s addressed to certain people…others with more questionable pasts, though, are vulnerable, even if they’re innocent.  I hadn’t realized that til the other night.” He takes a breath.  “He asked in front of the others if maybe I hadn’t been in league with Bar.” He spits out the words.  “If I hadn’t been in Narnia the past months, he might be able to take an accusation like that and make something more of it.  And I wonder if he’ll think to target anyone else that way.”

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

Megren nods seriously and says in considering tones, “Well, I imagine he might. It’s laughable to say such things of Sir Colin or Sir Darrin or the rest, but it still seems to have cut at them, somehow, to have cut between Lanisen and Sir Colin some, at least. But… I don’t think it’s entirely his style, not to take credit for a thing.” She pauses, and seems to be thinking aloud, now. “Not as his own idea, anyway. His accomplice… I — I think that’s exactly what she did. Doubly, even. With Maire, /through/ Cass, so we had to sort through both of them before realizing there was still another. Perhaps even with Darius himself, in a way.”

Haft asks, “How did Cassandra get the letters?”

Megren says, “I don’t know.”

Haft shakes his head.  “It’s all tangled…” he looks at the sleeping kitten.  “Doesn’t bear dwelling on, really…you fancy a game of chess?”

Megren releases a breath, and with it, most of the burden of their conversation. “I would love a game of chess,” she replies.
Haft fetches the board and they proceed to play a game which Haft ultimately wins.  He sits back.  “Been far too long since we’ve done that”

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

Megren screws up her mouth as Haft’s queen cages in her king. In the time the game as taken, Tiny has woken up, and Megren pushes the kitten’s face gently but firmly away from the captured pieces, which she tries to paw at from Meg’s lap. “Far too long since I have anyway, clearly.”

Haft says, “I haven’t played at all since I left for Narnia.  Never did find a Magpie to play with–though Lord Peridan observed that a Magpie might be more interested in the pieces than the moves, like your small ward there.””

Megren scritches between Tiny’s ears to placate her, and this works extremely well, the kitten forgetting the pieces entirely in favor of butting up against her hand and purring loudly. “Hmmm, perhaps I shall have to go and seek one out myself.”

Haft says, “A Magpie?  Hide your valuables.”

Megren says, “I did live in a forest a good while. I think I can handle myself with beasts all right.”

Haft says, “Well, but there’s beasts and then there’s Beasts…but yes, I reckon you’d manage. I’d watch that chess match.”

Megren grins. “It’d make for a more spirited game if your pieces went missing every time you looked away, anyhow.”

Haft laughs. “Is /that/ why you brought the kitten?” He eyes Tiny sternly. “I can see I’ll have to keep an eye on you.”

Tiny beeps.

Haft grins.

Megren wrinkles her nose, clearly quite taken with the small creature, and she pushes it gently off balance, allowing the kitten to leap at the offending hand.

Haft clucks his tongue.  “Baiting the poor wee thing. For shame.”

Megren’s hand is suitably admonished for the offense, and then some. “Oh please.” She looks up at Haft, a mischievous gleam in her eye, and, before he can easily protest, lifts the squirming cat to land on his knee.

Haft doesn’t protest, just moves his hand to steady the creature.  Taking in Megren’s expression, he asks, “Was this move meant to alarm me?”

Megren lifts her brows, “When have I ever tried for that?”

Haft shrugs, stroking the kitten.  “My mistake.”

Megren leans back, crossing her arms in a satisfied manner to watch him.

Haft says, “Cassandra seems quite taken with the other one.”

Megren asks, “You saw her, then?”

Haft says, “Yes.  I’ve had duty outside her room twice, and supervised Adrian’s visit.” He frowns.  “I’m not sure she’s eating.  Didn’t eat the oatmeal I brought, anyhow.””

Megren’s shoulders sag a little. “Lanisen said something about how she hadn’t eaten when he found her, either.”

Haft says, “That /is/ odd…I thought perhaps she was worried about retribution from someone in the kitchens.”

Tiny arches her back under Haft’s ministrations.

Megren says, “Maybe that, too. I’ll ask Lanisen, I think he’s been bringing her food, some. Maybe she’s eating what he brings.”

Haft says, “Good.  Well, she must be eating something.  She’d have fainted away by now if she were eatin’ nothing at all.”

Megren says, “I guess.”

Haft asks, “But…why was she working with someone against her own brother?  And if she was, why is he visiting her now?”

Megren shakes her head. “No, I — I haven’t got the full report of it, but I think they made her think Lanisen was in danger. That… that they’d hurt him if she didn’t do as they said.”

Haft says, “Ah…so Maire was partly right.  I hope that is the way of it.”

Megren pushes her mouth to the side. “I think it… I think it /is/ the way of it, but I think it’s more complicated than that, too. It’s like you said. What makes a person come out like Darius? She’s not there, but I think she… she thinks she is. And she thinks, if she is, then she can’t come back from it. And if I don’t know how Darius became Darius, then I certainly don’t have an answer to how to tell her she has the right to choose, except to say it just as that.”

Haft continues stroking the kitten.  “It’s easy to tell ourselves that we are a certain way and can’t get better.  Sometimes it makes it easier.  Lets us off easy for not doing our best.

Megren nods quietly, turning this statement over.

Haft says, “Suppose that”

Haft says, “Suppose that’s why I never turned a perfectly good sword to fighting for Narnia.  Took the rallying cry of an attack on Anvard to rouse me.  But I wasn’t past being roused…I suspect she ain’t either.  She tries to play hard and silent, from what I saw with Adrian, but she likes the kitten.  IT’s good for her.”

Megren’s lips curve. “Yeah. Good. Thank you for — thank you for saying that.” She pauses and then says, “Do you mind if I pass it on to Lanisen?”

Haft asks, “What?  That his sister ain’t too far gone to come back?  Or my bit of the story?”

Megren says, “Um… yeah. Both. He — I don’t know. He seems like he doesn’t know what to do. I think it was different for him.”

Haft considers, then nods.  “You can tell him.  He knows…about Bar, I guess.  Might not know how I ended up in Narnia so long, but…yeah.  Tell him.  If you think it’ll help. Thought he might not consider me the very best example of a…uh…reformed personality.

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

Megren nods to the first part, letting the last fall away. “Thank you,” she says again.

Haft says, “Yeah…uh…sure.” He picks up the kitten, which is attempting to climb up his shirt. “This is new-made by Adeliha, young Missy.””

Megren lifts her brows. “Is it?”

Haft says, “I /do/ buy a new shirt every now and again.”

Megren says, “Well, what do you know.” She leans back to assess him. “Looks nice.”

Haft says, “Thank you.  This one shredded holes in all your stockings yet?”

Megren says, “Mostly just my breeches. I’ve got my dresses packed up where she can’t get but I’m already set to mourn their loss. My bunk is already good and fur-lined for winter.”

Haft says, “I’ll have to remember to place a few choice cuts of fish in your boots when she gets older.”

Megren says, “Don’t be surprised if you find the favor returned.”

Haft says, “I’ll consider myself warned.” He lifts the kitten and lowers it into Megren’s lap.  “Thanks for the company, and the game.  I’ve got duty in an hour.  Should probably get into uniform.””

Megren sticks her hand under Tiny’s behind as the kitten scales her tunic up to her shoulder. “Sure. Thank you. I haven’t got so many games with the guards any more. I miss it.”

Haft says, “We don’t wander far.  You know where to find me when you want one.”

Megren nods, smiling. “All right.” Tiny stands splay-pawed on her shoulder and beeps into her ear, then again at the departing guard.

Haft chuckles.  “Goodnight to you too, little lady.  See that you keep on your own side of the partition tonight.  Owin doesn’t want to wake up to find you nested in his hose.

Megren grins, her tongue between her teeth. “I’ll keep her in line.”

Haft smiles back, “And who will keep you in line?”

Megren says, “I’ll take charge of that, too.”

Haft says, “Hmm.  Somehow I don’t feel comforted.  Ah well, a man can’t have everything.  Goodnight, Meg.”

Megren says, “Good night, grandpa.”

Haft shakes his head good-naturedly and heads for the door.

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