In which Haft tries to be encouraging
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= The stables of Anvard are not large, but they are well-ordered and tidy. The wide alley runs parallel to the outside wall, with generously sized box stalls on either side. Many hold permanent residents, with the horse’s name on a wooden sign above the stall door, but several stand empty to receive visitors. The hard-packed dirt floor is kept well swept, and the stalls are clean, but there is a pervading smell of horse and hay that is not entirely unpleasant.
There is a small paddock in the east corner of the stable, and the far west end is devoted to tack storage and maintenance. A door in the west wall, kept closed most of the time, leads to the smithy. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
You can go: Out to the Pastures <N>, Outer Ward <S>, Blacksmith <W>
Contents: A son of adam wearing a very thin gold circlet (Cor).
Cor walks out of the tack room, brushing his hands off on his stomach. His hair stands in a bit of disarray and sticks to his temples, and his tunic is quite dusty. There is a piece of straw clinging to the back of one trouser leg.
Haft enters the stable, looking about. He glance over a row of stalls and frowns a little before his eyes land on the prince. He bows, “Your Highness.”
Cor straightens suddenly, looking a little like he’s been caught. It takes him a moment to find the source of the address. “Uh… oh. Yes, good afternoon.”
If Haft notices anything amiss about the prince’s appearance, he gives no sign. “I was just hoping to farewell Lord Peridan and Lady Avery, but their horses are gone. I suppose I’ve just missed them.
Cor says, “Oh. Oh…” he shifts his weight from one fit to another. “I was probably meant to see them off–”
Haft opens his mouth, then closes it, considering, before offering, “If you had been, they’d have waited, I think. I wouldn’t worry.”
Cor shifts again, but he nods. “That’s – well, that’s true.” He glances left and right. “Sorry – did you need something?”
Haft shakes his head. “No, as I said, I was just hoping to say goodbye. Perhaps they’ll pass through here again on the way back to Narnia.” He bows again and steps toward the door.
Cor looks like he thinks he may have misstepped here. “Well – why, you needn’t leave on my account, though.”
Haft pauses. “I hadn’t any other business here. I don’t often have much to do with the horses. Do you…find them much harder to ride than Talking Horses, if I may be so bold?”
Cor looks a little surprised, but the expression clears quickly. “Oh. No. Well… at first. It’s almost the same, only Talking Horses, you see, they already know where they’re going. Or at least, Bree did. I only rode the one. I suppose it might be different with a very absent-minded one. Or if you didn’t want to go where they wanted to. I don’t think you ride Talking Horses normally, though. It was just because we had to.”
Haft says, “No, you wouldn’t normally. A Narnian Horse would buck the first Man to try–probably kick and bite him too, come to that. Though you make an interesting point about an absent-minded Horse…but I think most of them are fairly sensible, unless they’re well-advanced in years and growing forgetful.”
Cor says, “I haven’t met many others.”
Haft says, “I suppose I haven’t either. I mostly know what I’ve heard.”
Cor says, “The ones I know are pretty different from each other.”
Haft says, “Like people I suppose…er…like Men, rather. Of course they /are/ people.”
Cor tilts his head. “I guess. I… I can’t decide if Bree would scoff and say ‘No thank you, Sir, I am a very respectable Talking Horse and nothing else’, or agree.”
Haft smiles. “I couldn’t say.” He looks the boy over. “Did you come to visit one of the horses?”
Cor glances over his shoulder back toward the tack room, where a groom is emerging. “Just finished a lesson.”
Haft says, “I expect you’ve had a lot of those this year. I hope riding at least is an enjoyable topic. I can ride, myself, but I’m no great shakes at it.”
Cor’s eyes fix on a horse entering its stall from the pasture. “Riding’s all right.”
Haft tips his head to one side. “Do you have a favorite subject?”
Cor shifts his weight from foot to foot. “Umm…” He thinks and then says, “Maybe the sword. It’s hard, though.”
Haft brightens. “It is hard, but very rewarding. I’ve been studying since I was a lad. You’re under Sir Darrin’s tutelage, yes?”
Cor says, “Yes, Sir Darrin. I like him pretty well.”
Haft says, “He’s a good man. I warrant he’d be a good instructor. I haven’t sparred with him myself.”
Cor says, “Father says I’m improving.”
Haft asks, “High praise. Do you spar with the king, or does he observe?”
Cor says, “Oh, only watches. He gave a lesson once.”
Haft says, “He fought very well in the battle, from all I heard. An able warrior.”
Cor rubs his arm. “He’s good at everything so far as I can tell.”
Haft smiles wryly. “He’s had a lot of practice. All that seems natural to him will come to you in time, as you apply yourself.”
Cor says, “That’s what everyone says.”
Haft chuckles. “I imagine they do. No doubt you’re tired of hearing it. I’m sorry.”
Cor says, “No, I – you don’t have to be sorry. I…” He screws up his face. “I’m glad to be here.”
Haft replies quietly, “We’re glad to have you back.” He looks away. “You know, Your Highness, for all I said about applying yourself, it’s alright to be a boy too. Make sure you take time to enjoy being young, to climb a tree or visit the kennels or wrestle with your brother. You’ll be a man soon enough, and there’s time to learn.”
Cor screws up his face again. “Sir Darrin said almost the same thing.”
Haft asks, “And does it ease your mind?”
Cor says, “Um…”
Haft smiles. “Perhaps not. But I can tell you something I’m quite sure Sir Darrin can’t, and maybe that will help.” He lowers his voice conspiratorially. “For all his wisdom and grace and strength, /your father/ was a boy once too. When I entered the Guard he was the same age you are now, and I assure you he found time to slip his guards and get into scrapes and all the things that boys do–not that I’m advising you slip your guards–and he still turned out quite well in spite of all. I’ll leave it to him to tell you the details if you wish to ask…a man shouldn’t tell too many tales about his king. But perhaps that will give you some peace of mind.”
Cor says, “I – well, it’s the same as Sir Darrin, though. Um, he’d already had years to learn all these things. I’m not like them; I’m always catching up.” He reddens suddenly, and his eyes dart to Haft’s face. “Sorry I – I mean, I /am/ learning. I’m not… not ungrateful.”
Haft answers, “No one thinks you are, and you make a fair point. I’m like them too.” he looks down at his right hand. “My father put a toy sword in my fist the day I was born. You didn’t have the benefit of learning from childhood. But, as you say, you /are/ learning. It is what you choose to do now that matters, isn’t it?”
Cor looks relieved by this response. “I suppose so. Yes.”
Haft looks slightly relieved himself to have found something that resonates with the boy. “Well,” he says, a bit awkwardly, “I have a shift coming. I should leave you to your own pursuits.” He bows.
Cor exclaims, “Oh. Oh! Of course. I didn’t mean to keep you.”
Haft says, “You have not made me late, never fear. Good afternoon, Your Highness.” With that he turns and leaves the stable.
Cor says, “Good afternoon H – guardsman.”
Cor waits until Haft’s fully turned away and then scrambles toward one of the stalls to investigate a horse.