Dancing Distracted

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>

Haft enters the mess, pink-cheeked, and heads straight to the food table, ladling hearty stew into a bowl.

Megren sits cross-legged on the ground in front of the fire, a book open on her lap, Tiny resting on her shoulders.

Haft scans the room and heads in their direction. He looks relieved when another guardsman leaves an adjoining chair to depart, and gratefully sinks onto it.

Megren looks up when Haft comes into her periphery. “Hello,” she smiles.

Haft asks, “Hey, Megpie. How’s the reading coming?”

Megren lifts the book, careful not to jostle Tiny. “Nathen let me take a history.”

Haft asks, “Did he? History of where?”

Megren says, “Archenland, around when the witch was taking Narnia.”

Haft asks, “Yeah, what did that look like?”

Megren extends the book to him. “I’m not very far,” she admits.

Haft asks, “Still, you understand what you’ve read so far?”

Megren says, “The first three pages? Sure.”

Haft says, “Well, you couldn’t read at all when we met. I’d call that good progress.”

Megren wrinkles her nose.

Megren says, “Thanks.”

Megren wrinkles her nose. “Thanks.”

Haft asks, “So how’s the rest of it coming?”

Megren asks, “The rest of training you mean?”

Haft says, “That’s right.”

Haft tucks in to his stew.

Megren says, “All right. Sir Darrin says I’m doing well. I’m getting more comfortable.”

Haft asks, “That’s good. Remind me what else you’re learning besides fighting and reading?”

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

 

Megren says, “Well, riding. I’m supposed to practice swimming; I don’t know if it counts as learning. And the same for tracking and forestry and all that. I sit in on Sir Darrin’s meetings so I can see how council works.”

Haft asks, “Been sitting in on the ones about the Narnian problem?”

Megren says, “Only a few.”

Haft asks, “How’s that going?”

Megren says, “There’s not a lot to discuss at this point, we told them we’d stay out of it except our embassy unless they request more, so now it just seems like a lot of postulating.”

Haft looks surprised. “Not sending anyone?”

Megren says, “Well, they sent the embassy.”

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

Haft says, “Think I missed that. Can’t have sent many.”

Megren says, “No, just a couple of knights.”

Haft makes a face. “Won’t do much to keep the peace if trouble breaks out. Their own military’s holding up?

Tiny’s tail curls up at the end.

Megren lifts her shoulders. “I don’t think they’re really looking for a coup, anyway.”

Tiny protests the movement of her resting place and Megren nudges her impatiently until she hops off.

Haft says, “It’s the most successful ones you don’t expect, the way I reckon it.”

Megren says, “Well I certainly wouldn’t want to have the military ruling civilians because of a philosophy like that.”

Haft makes a face. “Not what I said.”

Megren says, “Kind of.”

Haft says, “At all.”

Megren shrugs again.

Haft says, “I’m saying I’m glad if their military isn’t falling to pieces without their rulers, and that it would be stupid for their council to ignore the possibility that some group might not have their own ideas about how things should be run. A little vigilance doesn’t hurt.”

Megren says, “I’m saying don’t think the proper form of vigilance is sending a bunch of soldiers from another country.”

Haft looks irritated. “Which, again, ain’t what I said. At least, as long as the native Narnians have everything well in hand.

Megren says, “I said a couple of knights, and you said that won’t do much to keep the peace.”

Haft says, “It won’t. But sounds like they don’t need our help with that, from the bits you’re telling. Tadpoles, Meg, you’d think I was planning an invasion.”

Megren says, “Well, they chose it that way especially so it wouldn’t feel like one, that’s all.”

Haft says, “That’s fine.”

He looks down at his forgotten stew, then shovels in another mouthful.”

Megren says, “Sorry.”

Haft shrugs, tilting his head and eying her as he swallows. “All right.”

Megren drops her book back into her lap. “Dancing, that’s the other one.”

Haft grins. “How’s that coming? You were improving, if I recall.”

Megren says, “Well, I don’t expect I’ll ever be a natural. Lady Astera always looks so graceful when she does it, and I think I probably look quite stiff. But it’s mostly just memorizing what foot goes where when, and memorizing I’m not too bad at.”

Haft says, “Like swordplay. Enough practice and you’ll forget you ever didn’t know how, specially if yourself across from a handsome chap.”

Megren squints an eye, “I think that usually makes me forget more.”

Haft chuckles. “Oh really now?”

Megren blinks, and then colors. “People, I mean.”

Haft asks, “Makes you forget people?”

Megren says, “People forget.”

Haft shakes his head, eyes merry. “You said ‘me’. When’s the last time you danced with a handsome fellow anyway.”

Megren rolls her eyes dismissively still quite pink. “I don’t know. When’s the last time I danced with you, Haft?”

Haft laughs. “And you forgot the steps? I don’t remember that.”

Megren lifts her shoulders, grinning a little.

Haft snorts. “Your face is red.”

Megren feels her cheek, which grow redder with the comment, her mouth pushing upward protestingly. “It’s not,” she says, against evidence.”

(Missing…)

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