Do You Love Him?

Kennels

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Anvard’s kennel is a spacious room, longer than it is wide. It has two large windows in the north wall that serve well for light during the day, and lamps are suspended from the ceiling where they cannot be knocked over by rowdy hounds. A row of pens can be seen along the far wall, likely used to isolate dogs that are sick, injured, or in need of further training, but most of the castle pack is allowed to roam freely about the room. There is a door at the south end of the east wall with a hound-sized hinged flap on the bottom that leads out to the hounds’ yard. Behind a door in the back wall is a set of wooden steps that lead up to the second level, and a door in the west wall opens onto the private quarters of the master of hounds.

The room is kept very clean, and it has a comfortably shabby lived-in sort of feeling. The smell of dog, while present, is not overpowering, and small bundles of fragrant dried herbs are hung at intervals from the ceiling. There is an ancient, heavy wooden table across the room, and two overstuffed chairs face the enormous hearth on the east wall: all slightly gnawed and ragged, but sturdy. Cupboards and shelves on the west wall hold the sorts of liniments,herbs, and bandages used to treat the more common hound ailments, but they also hold tins of tea, dishes, a plate of biscuits or sweetbread, candles, books, and other accoutrements of pleasant evenings.

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You can go: Outer Ward <N>, Huntsman’s Chamber <W>, Up <U>

Megren says, “Maybe. I wouldn’t hang my decision on that.”

Lanisen pulls his knees in tighter and curls his hands around his neck as if to warm them. He and Megren both are out of sight from the door, hidden behind a high wall of haybales which certainly wasn’t there yesterday.

Megren falls silent, reaching out to rub his back.

Haft enters the kennels carrying a small bag in one hand. He looks around and, seeing no one, proceeds toward Danall’s sleeping quarters.

Tohol, in front of the fire, raises his head with his ears perked. He lets out a low ‘BOOF’ sort of noise and leaves the warmth of the haybale structure to investigate.

Megren looks up uncertainly, and starts to rise to follow Tohol out.

Lanisen unfolds, straightening slightly, and gets up to go with Megren.

Haft raps on Danall’s door.

Megren peeks around the corner of the haybale room and lifts her brows. “Evening, Haft.”

Lanisen blinks. His shoulders drop a little in mild relief, and he sits back down.

Haft starts and turns. “Oh, didn’t know anyone was here.” He lifts the pouch. “This got left at one of the market stalls. Owner reckoned it was Danall’s.

Megren asks, “Oh, he’s out. Lanisen?”

Lanisen says, looking up, “He’s, he’s at home, he’ll be in tomorrow sometime.” He raises his voice a little to reach Haft past the barrier. “I can see that it gets to him if you like.”

Haft glances at the pouch, then at the haybales. “Yeah, allright,” he says, passing it to Megren.

Megren squints an eye, but plays along and circles around to bring it to Lanisen.

Lanisen gets up again and steps out from behind the wall to carry the pouch to the shelf. He sets it up with the tea, where it won’t be forgotten, and glances at Haft. “Thanks.”

Haft nods. “Of course.”

Megren asks, “Are you off for the evening?”

Lanisen glances between them, stepping back politely toward the bales.

Haft asks, “What? Oh. Yeah, I am. Why?”

Megren snorts. “Because that’s how you make conversation?”

Haft lowers his brow. “Disappointing.”

Megren asks, “What answer did you want?”

Haft says, “You might have been planning a game of darts or a dip in the pool or some festive carols and you just want to make /conversation/.”

Lanisen grins faintly, looking down. He crosses his arms over his stomach.

Megren says, “Oh.” She glances over at Lanisen. “Hmm–”

Haft offers a small smile. “He can come.”

Lanisen says, glancing up briefly to both of them, “That’s, that’s all right, I’m, I’ll stay in. Go ahead, I don’t mind.”

Megren looks unsure.

Haft stops smiling. “You two were talking. I didn’t plan to drag her away.” He glances between the two of them, then at the hay bales dividing the room. “Come up when you’re done, maybe. Either of you, or both.”

Megren nods. “Sure — sure, that would be nice.”

Lanisen says, looking at Megren, “It’s all right, it’s all right. I don’t mind, really.”

Haft clears his throat. “Right, later then.” He’s out the door in a matter of seconds.

Shortly thereafter…

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>.

Megren comes walking into the Off-duty Mess.

Haft is standing in front of the dart board, alternating turns with Perth.

Megren peers in, not very far behind Haft’s departure.

Haft glances toward her as Perth takes his turn. “That was fast.”

Megren lifts a shoulder. “He said to go.”

Haft makes a frustrated face and tosses his own dart, missing and hitting the wall. “I said you could stay.”

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

Megren says, “I know. Our, I think maybe he needed to think.”

Haft asks, “Think?”

Megren asks, “Um, he, did I tell you we met Jana and Myrd in Narnia?”

Haft frowns and turns to Perth, offering a word before leaving the game to address Megren properly. “Myrd? I’ve heard that name a few time…he was a suspect in Lanisen’s kidnapping, as I recall, some sort of bandit?”

Megren says, “Ha, um.”

Haft asks, “Um?”

Megren tucks her hair behind her ear. “Here, why don’t we find somewhere to sit.”

Haft grins. “For ‘conversation?'”

Megren says, “Yeah.”

Haft says, “Well, if we must.”

Megren casts around until her eyes land on a pair of chairs left empty because they are under a window. She grabs some blankets from near the fireplace and carts them over.

 

Haft accepts one gratefully. “Good of you to consider my old bones.”

Megren says, “My bones will thank me for it, too.”

Haft says, “Likely true. So, about Myrd…”

Megren says, “Um, right. I’m not sure — I mean, it’s all, most people pretty much know most of it, but I don’t want to tell a story that’s not mine to tell, so you’ll, you’ll forgive me if there’s holes.”

Haft says, “All right…”

Megren says, “Myrd’s, Myrd’s the one that led the little band with Lanisen and the rest of them.”

Haft pulls the blanket tighter. “Charming.”

Megren says, “Yeah. Lanisen was, I don’t think he was a lot older than Reina, it was, um, you know, they get the young folks who are in some kind of trouble — anyway.”

Haft says, “Yeah, I’ve seen it. Less often near Anvard, but I can imagine.”

Megren says, “Anyway, I guess they got married and had a kid, Myrd and Jana, only it’s not, she’s in a spot of trouble about it, and now Lanisen’s worried about the child and I, I think he might go and see if anything can be done.”

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

Haft frowns. “What kind of trouble? With the man?

Megren says, “Yes. I guess he’s — I’m not sure. Sort of got her shut up, and he takes care of the son but he doesn’t let them — I don’t know. She said he doesn’t let them have friends.”

Haft asks, “Does he strike her?”

Megren looks a little sick at the thought. “I don’t know.”

Haft asks, “Was he involved in that death? Darius’ cousin?”

Megren says, “Yeah.”

Haft asks, “And her? She was part of this band?”

Megren says, “Right.”

Haft says, “And she went off and married the leader.” He rolls his eyes skyward. “People do stupid things for ‘love’.””

Megren says, “I think he didn’t really give her a choice.”

Haft’s face darkens. “Wasn’t aware that was even legal in Narnia. So, now she’s got a kid and he’s keeping them locked up…and Lanisen…?

Megren says, “Not… exactly locked up. She, she asked Lanisen if the child could run to her, if he ever ran away.”

Haft’s eyes widen. “That’s a long run. What’d he say?”

Megren says, “He said yes, of course he did.”

Haft asks, “How old’s the boy?”

Megren says, “Six.”

Haft shakes his head, the guardsman in him wanting to solve the problem. “If the child’s in enough danger to need that, aren’t there local authorities charged with protecting him?

Megren says, “I think he’s not — I, I don’t know. It sounds like a mess. She works for the guard; she’s said they’ll help if something goes wrong. But Lanisen thinks it’s already wrong.”

Haft says, “If the guard’s helping, she shouldn’t need Lanisen’s aid. He’s too far away. And…to be blunt, he doesn’t /usually/ show much spine.”

Megren wrinkles her nose, frowning. “I — well, anyway I think he wants to get to know the son, so then the son will really have someone to go to instead of a stranger.”

Haft asks, “Let me see if I’ve got this straight: Lanisen…/Lanisen/ wants to go to Narnia, and stay in Narnia for an extended period of time, on a kennel-worker’s savings, and then he wants to spend time with the son of the outlaws who corrupted him to begin with, against the father’s wishes?”

Megren frowns. “It’s a noble thing to do.”

Haft nods. “It is. My respect for his character has just improved immensely. It’s his sense I’m concerned about.

Megren says, “Well, he hasn’t decided yet. He’s not going to choose it unless he thinks it’s right.”

Haft says, “Keeping a child safe is always right. Putting himself back into bad company and provoking the father makes him the wrong man for the task.”

Megren says, “I don’t get the impression there’s anyone who wouldn’t provoke the father.”

Haft asks, “How did Myrd react when you two ran into him?”

Megren squints an eye. “Um.”

Haft asks, “Well?”

Megren says, “I didn’t like him. Lanisen handled him as well as you could expect.”

Haft asks, “How well?”

Megren says, “He wasn’t cowed.”

Haft asks, “All right…it’s a start…you think he could keep it up?”

Megren says, “I think he’s capable, and I think when he cares about someone he’s still more capable.”

Haft asks, “And Myrd? If his wife’s worried he’d hurt his own child, how volatile is he?”

Megren says, “I think she’s worried the child will run.”

Haft says, “Yeah, you said that. What I’m asking is whether Lanisen is safe from Myrd if he goes and meddles where he’s not wanted.”

 

Megren says, “I don’t know. I don’t know.”

Haft reaches out to lay a hand on her arm.

Megren releases a breath.

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

Haft says, “I’m not saying it’s not commendable, and it sounds like someone needs to act. I’m not sure he’s the someone I would choose.”

Megren asks, “Who would you choose?”

Haft says, “I’m not sure. A member of the Narnian guard, a woman or a creature of another species if he’s a jealous sort. Someone who has a patrol in the area on occasion, but can be located easily if the boys needs him or her.”

Megren releases another breath.

Haft asks, “And this is what he needs to think about?”

Megren nods.

Haft says, “That’s hard. It ain’t a request that can go unanswered. If he can’t help her himself, then other help must be found.”

Megren says, “Yes.”

Haft says, “He got any idea how he’d live over there? Granted, it’s not a hard land, but humans got needs the Beasts don’t.”

Megren says, “He’ll join the guard.”

Haft raises his brows. “He got the skills for that?”

Megren says, “She said she could get him on it.”

Haft nods slowly. “All right…that’s a start anyway. He’d have people to miss him if he didn’t turn up, and food to eat.”

Megren nods quietly.

Haft asks, “What about you?”Megren says, “I don’t want him to go.”

Haft looks relieved at this. “Thought maybe you were thinking of going with him.”

Megren’s eyes flick away from him toward the fireplace a little distance away. “No. I wish but– it would be, it would be selfish.”

Haft asks, “How so?”

Megren says, “I would be giving up working toward helping our whole country just so I could help my one friend.”

Haft punches her lightly in the arm. “You’ve got at least two friends.”

Megren’s eyes flick back to him and she rolls them, one side of her mouth quirking upward a little.

Haft smiles. “You don’t have to save the kingdom, Meg. I’m not trying to say that you can’t make a difference. We both know that the fate of Archenland can hinge on the actions of one. I’m an example of that. Cor is a better. But neither of us planned to bear that weight, and you needn’t either.”

Megren asks, “You think I should go with him?”

Haft says, “I didn’t say that. And I’m not saying you shouldn’t count the cost. There are a number of things I think you /should/ consider.”

Megren’s brow furrows.

Haft says, “Sir Darrin, for one.”

Megren’s unhappy, resigned expression indicates she’s already thought of this. “He couldn’t leave that long and it would break his heart.”

Haft asks, “To leave Archenland or lose a promising squire?”

Megren says, “Well, either, I suppose. But he couldn’t leave, for lots of bigger and better reasons than mine.”

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

Haft says, “Yeah, being invaluable to king will do that. Anyway, you’d want his blessing, since you’re under his authority.”

Megren says, “If I, if I really thought I ought, he’d, I think he’d give it. If I really thought I ought.”

Haft says, “But right now you’re not even sure that Lanisen ought.”

Megren agrees, “No.”

Haft leans back in the chair, letting his head fall back. “I was right. Ice dipping would have been simpler.”

Megren concedes, “Probably.”

Haft sits up again. “It’s a big change to make, even for a friend.”

Megren says, “Lanisen’s thinking to do it, and I wouldn’t call her his friend.”

Haft says, “There’s the child. It’s different.”

Megren nods.

Haft asks, “So you, if you go, are you going for Lanisen, or the child?”

Megren says, “I, I don’t know. Lanisen. I’m not afraid for the child right now. I think he needs to get out, but I think he has time.”

Haft pinches the bridge of his nose. “You do realize this is a ridiculously far-sighted plan?”

Megren asks, “Because he’s still safe now?”

Haft says, “No. Because the whole idea revolves around spending years engendering trust on the off chance that a boy /may/ run away sometime in the future.”

Megren screws up her mouth. “Lanisen ran away, and Cass ran away, and I get the feeling Jana did, too…”

Megren says, “And anyway, he should have a safe place to go even if he doesn’t run.”

Haft sighs. “Sometimes they don’t run, Meg, even when they should. Blood binds, and some sons stay to protect their mothers.

Megren says, “She should have a safe place, too.”

Haft runs both hands over his face. “I find myself wishing she’d find one now.”You feel a little hungry.

Megren says, “Yeah.”

Haft says, “And you, would you join the guard? You might finish up your knighthood here first if Sir Darrin would allow it. I imagine they could use some more trained knights just now in Narnia.”

Megren says, “Maybe, yeah. If I could get my knighthood first that would, that would make it easier. K–kind of.”

Haft tilts his head, encouraging her to elaborate.

Megren says, “At least I wouldn’t be abandoning my training.”The fire flickers, casting dancing shadows all over the walls.

Haft says, “Yes. You’ve come a long way to stop now. Even so, I can’t help but think this isn’t the best answer.”

Megren says, “I’m not, I’m not planning on it. I’m not sure Lanisen would even let me.”

Haft asks, “Since when does anyone ‘let’ you?”

Megren wrinkles her nose.

Haft asks, “Have you told him you don’t want him to go?”

Megren nods. “But I also told him if he thought he should then he had me to help.”

Haft makes a face. “Of course you did.”

Megren says, “Well.”

Haft asks, “May I suggest an alternate approach, if you two decide you don’t want to leave civilization and run off to live with the beasties?”

Megren lifts her brows.

Haft says, “Let me write a letter to Lord Peridan. Not just now, but when thing in Narnia have settled. He can contact the head of the guard and ensure that precautions are set in place to safeguard mother and child if needed.”

Megren pulls in her lower lip and nods. “I’ll ask Lanisen.”

Haft asks, “Has he…I don’t know, set a deadline to decide?”

Megren says, “I don’t think so.”

Haft says, “Well, I guess I hope he doesn’t drag it out. You don’t want to be wondering. Though…you can make your decision before he does, you know.”

Megren says, “Yeah. I don’t… I can imagine Lanisen living in Narnia. He loves it there.”

Haft looks surprised. “And you?”

Megren shakes her head.

Haft asks, “And him?”

Megren asks, “Hm?”

Haft clears his throat awkwardly. “Do you love him enough to follow him?”

Megren blinks. “I…”

Haft tucks his chin, looking like he wants to make himself disappear into his chair.

Haft says, “Am I reading it wrong? I, um…”

Megren asks, “You mean, you mean– do you mean like Lord Peridan and Lady Avery?”

Haft looks extremely uncomfortable. “I…no? Maybe?”

Megren says, “Oh, oh, all right. Good. Sorry.”

Haft pulls another face. “That’s…’no’…then?”

Megren looks a little off-kilter. “I, um… I don’t know–”

Haft’s eyes widen and he looks away.

Megren says, “No, I mean, not like, um — I don’t know how to say it.”

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

Haft rubs the back of his neck like he’s not entirely sure he wants her to try, but he doesn’t stop her either.

Megren scrubs her hand through her hair. “N-no, when you put it like that it seems, it doesn’t feel right.”

Haft loses a bit of his tension. “Friends then.”

Megren says, “I’m, yes.”

Haft says, “Well.” He takes a deep breath. “Good.”

Megren says, “Do you– haaa.” She pushes her hand through her hair again. “Yeah. Good.”

Haft says, “For what it’s worth I’d kind of like you to stick around awhile so I can get in trouble for forgetting to address you as ‘Lady Megren’.”

Megren looks perhaps /more/ surprised and vulnerable for a moment, and then her expression clears. “Oh, oh, right. Haha.”

Haft relaxes further into his chair, apparently deciding the alarming part of the conversation is past. “The guard’s going to win the next snowball fight, you know.”You feel hungry.
Megren clears her throat. “What? Oh. Which, which side are squires on?”

Haft purses his lips. “Think it depends how many knights are in residence and willing to participate.”

Megren says, “That’s fair.”

Haft says, “We try.”

Megren says, “I’ll be on the winning team one way or another.”

Haft asks, “Because victory hinges upon just one person?”

Haft grins.

Megren lifts her shoulders. “Morale boost.”

Haft says, “Same thing, Meg. You’re good to have around.””

Megren wrinkles her nose. “Thanks.”

Haft says, “Any time.”

Megren says, “Listen, I should,” she looks a little awkward still. “Um, I feel like I ought to check on Lanisen.”

Haft says, “By all means. I’ll see if Perth’s up to humiliating me at darts again.”

Megren says, “I can’t imagine he’ll protest.”

Haft says, “Night, Meg.”

Megren gets up and gathers up her blanket. “Night, Haft.”

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