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Here is a valley that is broad and green and sunny, but sheltered. The rocky
ridge of the northern mountains surrounds the area in a wide, impassable curve
from east to west, while the high red walls of castle Anvard close off the
southern mouth of the valley. There is no way to leave the valley without
passing through the castle or scaling the sheer face of the ridge.
Stone walls fitted with wide wooden gates divide the valley into three separate
pastures of lush grass and wildflowers. These are occupied by the castle’s
cattle and horses, and a fair number of sheep share space with them. Accessible
to each pasture is a long, narrow lake of clear dark water on the north side of
the valley, fed from above by a rushing mountain stream. The dark entrance to a
cave is visible behind it, and a broad path leads to it from the easternmost
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You can go: Behind the Waterfall <N>, Into the Castle <S>
Contents: Darrin; Megren; and Waterfall.
Megren leans her hip against the stone wall and crosses her arms. “If you gossip to each of us about the other, we’ll start to catch on.”
Darrin, seated on the wall next to Megren but facing away from her, says indignantly, “I would never!” He scratches under Gambol’s chin when the stallion pushes his nose into Darrin’s chest again.
Megren points at Sir Darrin with her forefinger, shaking her head disapprovingly at the horse in search of camaraderie with it.
Haft enters the pasture from the stables. He looks surprised to see it already occupied.
Darrin dares a glance over his shoulder at Megren, catching her look at his horse. He exhales noisily. “I can see I am outnumbered, here.”
Megren says, “A battle you could not have won, Sir.”
Haft asks, “Has he besmirched your honor, Megren?”
Megren turns at the voice. “Please, as if anybody could do that as well as I could. Hello, Haft.”
Darrin swivels so he’s sitting astride the wall rather than atop it and calls, “Haft! Just the man we need to settle the manner.” He grins crookedly, pushing his hair off his forehead and then setting that hand on Gambol’s neck, to forestall any kind of further tomfoolery. “On the contrary, my squire accuses /me/ of being inconstant, a grievous insult, I’m sure, as Gambol here appears to concur.” He shoots a reproachful look at the stallion.
Haft lists a brow. “Inconstant…to your horse? You do have two, I believe…or are there more?”
Megren says, “You see, Sir?” To Haft she adds, “Three.”
Darrin clears his throat and fields another attempt from Gambol to push him off the wall. Finally, he squints at Gambol and clucks his tongue, guiding him closer and then swinging onto the stallion’s bare back. He takes hold of Gambol’s mane to steady him in place and says, “In my defense, I have tried hunting with this troublemaker, and he’s entirely too headstrong to be much good for it.”
Haft asks, “What on earth do ya need three horses for?”
Megren squints an eye as she watches him mount the horse. She moves to take his place perched on the wall and lets him answer the guard.
Darrin pats Gambol’s neck. “Onyx and Dawn are Coghill horses. I guess Onyx because I wanted a steady warhorse to replace the one I lost in the battle – he’s a destrier, bit of a giant of a horse, bred for battle, really. And Dawn is a palfrey, for riding and hunting – she’s got a calm temperament and a smooth gait and she listens well. This one…” Darrin looks down at the blood bay stallion between his legs and shrugs. “He was supposed to be a temporary mount, one of the King’s warhorses, but he’s a handful and he’s taken to me, in his own way, so I’ve just…kept riding him, when I can.” He looks faintly embarassed by his sentimentality, if not the least bit regretful, getting twin spots of color high in his cheeks.
Megren supplies, “A couple of the other knights have spare warhorses, anyway.”
Haft says, “Aye, sounds faithless to me. You raise his hopes, tell him you’ll show him the world…and here he is still, just waiting for your return.”
Darrin leans forward to murmur confidently into Gambol’s ear, which twitches back at him. “Don’t listen to the big mean guard, boy, you know I love you.”
Haft asks, “‘Big mean guard’?”
Darrin shrugs one shoulder, his lips twitching.
Haft considers this carefully, then nods. “At least I’m conveying it properly.”
Megren says, “Forgot old.”
Darrin walks Gambol in a circle and shoots Megren a look. He also coughs lightly.
Megren makes a face. “What are you out here for, anyway, Haft?”
Haft says, “…Air.”
Darrin asks Megren conversationally, “Did I hear a hesitation there? I think I heard a hesitation there.”
Megren looks at Haft, “Don’t tell me you were planting a surprise and we spoiled it.”
Haft asks, “Planting one? Like what, a dryad?”
Megren asks, “Can you plant dryads?”
Haft says, “I have no idea…”
Darrin says, “I really don’t think that’s how that works.”
Megren says, “Maybe if you were very close with one, it’d let you.”
Haft asks, “I kinda figure they grow from seeds their folks…plant? Or…can’t be from cuttings, right?”
Megren says, “I thought that was hamadryads.”
Haft says, “Uh…might be. I never did pay much attention, and those took longer to say.”
Megren says, “Well, you’d know better than me, I guess.”
Haft says, “And don’t you forget it.”
Megren says, “As if I’m ever able.”
Darrin, silent for a few moments with a thoughtful look on his face, finally says, “I believe, given that some of our ancestors were purported to be dryads, they reproduce in the same manner humans do.” He wrinkles his nose and adds more quietly, “Perhaps Dar would know.”
Haft says, “You should ask him.”
Megren says, “I’d like to hear.”
Haft asks, “What, now?”
Megren screws up her face at him. “No, after he asks.”
Darrin nods and Gambol shifts in place. “I’ll look into it, because now I’m curious.” He scratches his head. “I didn’t meet any dryads when I was in Narnia, or perhaps I would have an idea.”
Megren says, “None?” She looks a bit disappointed. “I suppose I had pictured them everywhere.””
Darrin says, “The Talking Beasts are the ones that are everywhere, really.”
Haft says, “Underfoot, overhead, in the trees, along the riverbanks…”
Megren says, “Sounds hazardous.”
Darrin just chuckles and shakes his head.
Haft says, “Makes you aware of where you’re waking when half your neighbors are shorter than your waist, I guess.”
Megren says, “So, it’s a whole country like the kennels.”
Haft says, “More or less.”
Haft says, “Just don’t tell Lord Peridan I said so.”
Megren squints at Sir Darrin on Gambol’s back. “Are you just going to stay up there?”
Haft says, “It’s the only way he can look down on the big mean guard.”
Megren lifts her brows.
Darrin says, to the kennel comment, “Delightful, isn’t it.” He tilts his head at the question and looks at Gambol, asking the horse something quietly under his breath. Apparently the head toss and antsy sidestep he gets satisfies him, because he shrugs and slides off Gambol’s back to the ground.
Haft asks, “Forgiven you, has he?”
Darrin mumbles “… … … … … you … … … enough of my … … … …”, to Darrin.
Haft tilts his head.
Darrin pats Gambol on the rump and the horse trots off. He watches him go and then wanders over and climbs back on the wall next to Megren. “For now.”
Haft shakes his head. “You’ve wooed him with sugar cubes and empty promises.
Megren says, “If only we were all so easily persuaded.”
Darrin says, “Hey now, I spice it up with apples and carrots on occasion. Though not too frequent an occasion. He gets tyrannical if I spoil him too much and he thinks he can get away with it.”
Haft says, “Three horses. You really oughta settle down, Sir. Find yourself one nice one to spend your affections on.”
Megren wrinkles up her nose.
Darrin sniffs delicately. “You say that as though my affections are finite, Haft.”
Haft leans against the fence, crossing his arms comfortably. “If horses are anything like women, they must have something to say about your infinite affections.”
Megren says, “Out of the three of us, I think maybe I’ve got the best ground on speaking for women.”
Haft asks, “Can you speak for the horses?”
Darrin glances at Megren and says, “Point.”
Megren says, “Between the two I think the horses are getting the kinder end of the comparison.”
Haft says, “The only comparison I made was that women appreciate constancy. I didn’t say women look like horses or nothin’.”
Megren screws up her mouth.
Darrin seems to be making a point of not speaking.
Haft says, “I didn’t. And that not being a fault, I don’t see how the comparison can be unfavorable.”
Megren takes a breath. “Anyway. Gambol doesn’t seem too bothered.”
Darrin shakes his head. “Nope, same old ornery self, that one.”
Haft asks, “With a nice name like Gambol?”
Darrin kicks his feet idly against the wall. “It is rather apt, though I can’t take credit for it.”
Haft says, “If he’s so ornery, maybe you should have named him Killer.”
Megren’s lips crack into a grin.
Darrin lifts both brows. “Who, /Gambol/?” He makes a dismissive noise. “He’s not malicious in the slightest. Just high spirited.” There’s an indignant note to the declaration, like this is an argument Darrin has had before.
Haft asks, “Ohh. I see. Was Prince Rabadash highly-spirited, too, would you say?”
Megren takes her turn to keep her mouth shut.
Haft says, “I mean, since we’re discussing equines.”
Darrin frowns at him. “Prince Rabadash had his due, by Aslan’s will, and it does not befit us as Archenlanders to mock even our enemies, Haft.”
Haft straightens. “My apologies, Sir.”
Darrin inclines his head.
Megren pushes her mouth to the side, lips quirking at the corner slightly, not unkindly. She glances between the men. “Anyway, my two favorite cubes partners here, and yet we aren’t playing cubes.”
Haft glances at her.
Darrin grins. “Well, it is about mealtime, I suppose, if you wanted to adjourn to the mess?”
Megren clasps her hands and gives him a winning look. “/One/ round before dinner.”
Darrin says, “I’m game.”
Megren smiles beatifically.
Darrin looks down at the dusty clothes he’s wearing and makes a face. He hops off the fence. “I’ll just have to freshen up first.”
Haft says, “We can meet you there, Sir.”
Megren nods, scooting off the wall as well so that she can bow. “We’ll — yes, that.”
Darrin nods. “Sounds good.” He trots off, giving them a wave before he reaches the stable doors.
Haft watches the knight leave, then turns to Megren. “After you.”
Darrin walks into the castle stables.
Megren clasps her hands and starts toward the stable. “You /will/ play too I hope.”
Haft says, “Hmm. I suppose.”
Megren’s grin reappears.
Haft asks, “Why? Have you thought up something particularly humiliating?”
Megren muses, “Hmmm, what would humiliate the big scary guard….”
Haft says, “Mean.”
Megren asks, “Well, do /you/ have a good one?”
Haft says, “No, I meant I’m the ‘big /mean/ guard’, not the ‘big scary guard’.”
Megren exclaims, “Oh! Sorry. Mean, of course.”
Haft says, “Better.”
Lanisen comes walking out of the castle stable.
Megren says, “Ah, I know. We should team up against Sir Darrin. Pool our embarrassing questions.”
Haft gives her a strange look. “You expect me to antagonize Sir Darrin right /now/?
Megren says, “Well, then, feed all yours to me and /I’ll/ antagonize him.”
Haft winces. “I’m sure you can come up with a few on your own.”
Megren says, “I promise I’ll take all the credit.”
Lanisen strolls out through the open stable door, turning left to walk along the west edge of the pasture.
Haft says, “You do that.”
Megren gestures for him to proceed, therefore.
Lanisen shades his eyes to peer toward Haft and Megren, but continues on his path. He seems to be watching the ground for something.
Megren catches sight of Lanisen and slows her steps, tilting her head curiously.
Haft follows her gaze and slows his pace accordingly.
Megren elbows him. “Come on, you’ve got to have something. I’ll never tell it came from you. I promise. If it does slip, I’ll owe you a favor. One of your kind of favors.”
Lanisen stoops and peers at the ground. He backs away after a moment, then removes a bundle of something green and leafy from his pocket and sets it down on the ground, then begins the walk back.
Megren draws in a breath, forgetting her conversation. “It’s the rabbits!” she exclaims in hushed tones.
Haft asks, “What’re my kind of fav–huh?”
Megren glances at him. “Lanisen, he found baby rabbits.”
Lanisen sticks his hands in his pockets, nearing the stable door.
Haft asks, “No mam?”
Megren exclaims, “The mothers go away from the nest for long periods so predators don’t notice it.” She waves Lanisen over and he moves toward them. “Lanisen!”
Lanisen pauses slightly, then ducks his head a little and changes his course. “Hey,” he says once he’s close enough, glancing between them.
Megren asks, “Rabbits?”
Haft watches silently.
Lanisen says, “Rabbits.”
Megren opens her mouth delightedly.
Haft asks, “How many?”
Lanisen says, “I think– mm, seven or eight, maybe. Ain’t exactly dug through to count.”
Megren asks, “We’re thinking of good questions to ask Sir Darrin in cubes, got any ideas?”
Lanisen squints at her. “You know I’m no good at cubes questions.”
Haft says, “Ask him if his folks have started working out a marriage match for him yet. Let’s see if he blushes.”
Megren sucks in her lips and closes an eye, tilting her head. “…Maybe not that one.”
Haft says, “Why? You know something I don’t? Don’t tell me they’ve already picked one and he doesn’t fancy her.”
Lanisen’s eyes dart to Haft, and then to Megren.
Megren wrinkles her nose. “Sir Darrin’s… pretty unhappy with the idea of arranged marriages.”
Megren says, “For himself, anyway.”
Haft asks, “What? Why should he be?”
Megren lifts a shoulder and runs her hand through her hair, then drops it to grasp her opposite elbow. “I think he likes where he’s at. A lot of things come with a marriage — Sir Tyren’s always seeming torn between family and work, and Lord Dar, too, in a different way. If I were going to have to do that, I’d want it to be because I chose it.”
Lanisen pulls his lips between his teeth and considers a blooming patch of white clover at his feet.
Haft nods slowly. “I guess so…I always thought having a guardsman for a husband would be hard on a wife, so my parents didn’t press me…but he’ll have to marry sooner or later.
Megren screws up her mouth. “I don’t see why. The family’s already got three successors. Lord Tyre isn’t married and doesn’t seem to be looking, and he’s got a lot more reason, politically.”
Haft says, “I suppose…but he’s an important man in the kingdom, and rising. Be odd if none of the noble houses pursued a match.”
Lanisen glances at Megren again, and then away. He keeps very quiet.
Megren sucks in her upper lip and glances at Lanisen just as he’s looking away. “Yes, that’s…” She nods. “That’s true. You might be right. Or,” she takes a breath, “The Narnians, even, maybe.”
Haft asks, “The Narnians might be right? About…oh, you mean one of the queens?”
Lanisen’s eyes dart to Megren again at this. He finally speaks up, rather suddenly, and suggests, “Ask him how come he trains without his shirt on.”
Haft blinks. “Cause he ain’t yet figured out that’s it’s more menacing when your opponent don’t know how many scars you have.
Megren pushes her mouth to the side, about to respond when Lanisen speaks up. Her attention flicks to him and she looks thrown off-balance for a second. “His–? Oh.” She colors, then laughs. “I never thought of that,” she replies to Haft.
Lanisen says, “Oh, huh. Is it?”
Megren says, “I don’t know. Shows how much you’ve made it through. I always assumed he just didn’t like sweat on his clothes.”
Haft says, “He can afford spares. That’s what he’s doing right now after all. Freshening up.”
Megren lifts a shoulder. “We’ll have to ask.”
Lanisen pushes his mouth to one side.
Haft says, “Definitely.”
Megren gestures with her head toward the stable door. “Lanisen, want to come with? Dinner after.”
Lanisen asks, “Come where?”
Megren says, “Cubes.”
Haft says, “In the mess.”
Lanisen says, “Oh.” He shifts his weight. “That’s, that’s all right, I gotta– There’s kennel chores I gotta…”
Megren says, “I’ll come after, maybe, and help.”
Haft frowns. “Your chores can wait till after supper, mayhap?
Lanisen says, “No, it’s– the hounds gotta get their supper too, you know how it is. Um.” He shifts again, both guilty and anxiously apologetic. “Let me know how the game goes?”
Haft glances away. “Right. Sure.”
Megren taps him gently on the shoulder with the side of her fist. “Sure. I’ll come by after, yeah?”
Lanisen looks a little startled by Haft’s reaction, and more guilty. Distracted, he steps quickly to the side, out of Megren’s way, glancing back at her. “That’s, that’s fine, sure, if you want.”
Megren says, “All right. Give Maisie an extra rub for me in the meantime.”
Haft says, “Well, have a pleasant evening.” He then turns and heads into the stable.
Megren squeezes Lanisen’s good shoulder and follows after.