The Narrow Gate Hall
Eastern Archenland

The Hall of the Narrow Gate is brightly lit by a large chandelier, and by torches on the walls.  A bar runs along the length of the south wall.  Behind the bar stands Dranken, the Barman, polishing a glass.  The wall behind him holds several bottles, and racks of glasses.  There is also a menu offering drinks and food. The north wall is dominated by a cheerful stone fireplace.

The rest of the room is filled with tables and stools, in little clusters all over the scuffed wooden floor.  An arch leads to the Anteroom to the south.

Lanisen stands near the north wall, a badly-burned muffin in one hand. He stares down at the game set on the table in front of him, forehead furrowed, and absently (and unwisely) takes a bite of the muffin. He coughs a bit and manages to choke it down.

Myrd stalks into the tavern, his expression radiating cold fury. “Get up, boy.”

Lanisen wipes his mouth and turns away from the game set, raising an eyebrow at Myrd’s expression. He doesn’t point out that he /is/ up.

Myrd scowls. “I didn’t mean hours from now, boy. Move. Before that infernal woman shows up.”

Lanisen stuffs the uneaten muffin in his pocket and raises his hands defensively. “All right, all right…” He blinks belatedly and asks, “Jana’s here?”

Myrd lets out a rather impressive string of profanity at the mention of Jana’s name.

Lanisen grimaces, glancing around at the heads turning their direction. “Sheesh, don’t hold it in. Let us know how you really feel.”

Myrd backhands him. “Shut up and move, you idiot.”

Lanisen cringes. His eyes flick around the crowded tavern as the few people watching them find a reason to look away.

Jana slips silently into the tavern and finds a discreet and relatively invisible position to watch the other two, allowing the bustling patrons to hide her position from any eyes that weren’t directly looking for her.

Myrd does catch sight of her, letting loose with a particularly foul word. He tries to sneak around her, Lanisen in tow.

Narrow Gate Anteroom
Eastern Archenland

You stand in the Anteroom of the Narrow Gate. Sconces on the walls hold several torches, lending a flickering dim light to the room, a light which makes shadows dance on the grey stone walls and rough stone floor. A door on the west wall leads out to the Herberg Road. An open arch to the north leads into the Hall, with the sounds of eating and drinking and singing and story-telling. Another arch, to the south, leads to the much quieter Common Room. To the east a staircase leads up to the private rooms.

Jana mostly just looks peeved at having been seen.

Myrd looks peeved that she’s there at all. “I told you, boy. She ain’t welcome right about now.”

Jana emerges more fully. “Don’t have to talk as if you don’t know I’m here.”

Myrd continues to ignore her, shouldering his pack. “We’re leaving tonight.”

Lanisen glances between them, bewildered.

Jana’s jaw sticks out.

Myrd clenches his jaw stubbornly.

Lanisen raises his eyebrows and steps back, out of the explosion range.

Jana stalks into the other room as if she hadn’t spoken, nor even noticed the other two at all.

Lanisen glances to Myrd as Jana stalks off, silently questioning.

Myrd snorts. “You’d reckon she’d figure out I didn’t want her meddling when I took the only boat. Confounded woman.”

Lanisen shrugs and says mildly, “Bein’ as there’s only one boat, you didn’t really have much of a choice.”

Myrd mutters another oath under his breath.

Lanisen watches him.

Myrd broods. “Confounded woman. She picked now to start following after me.”

Lanisen hmms and takes another bite of muffin.

Myrd scowls. “You got something to say, boy?”

Lanisen blinks at Myrd and shakes his head, mumbling something incoherent through a full mouth.

Myrd stubbornly looks away from the direction Jana disappeared. “She can just fend for herself.”

Lanisen inspects the last few bites of the muffin, using his fingernails to pry off the worst of the charred portion. “‘M sure she can,” he agrees.

Myrd’s jaw clenches again.

Lanisen glances up at Myrd. “We gonna just leave her, then?” he asks matter-of-factly.

Myrd rubs at the stubble on his chin. “We do that and she’s liable to sell us out from spite. Ain’t about to go after her either, though.” His eyes harden. “You do it.”

Lanisen nearly drops the last bite of muffin en route to his mouth, startled into a laugh. “Serious?”

Myrd snorts. “You want me to show you how serious I am?”

Lanisen coughs to clear his throat. “Um. Just… you really think that makes a lot of sense?”

Myrd slams his fist into his open hand.

Lanisen flinches and backs away a step quickly. “No, really!”

Myrd growls out, “I ain’t a patient man. And I don’t waste words. Find her, and don’t screw it up and make her think I’m asking her to come.”

Lanisen scratches the back of his neck. “‘Cept… you are! What am I s’posed to say that would make it /not/ look like that?”

Myrd snorts. “I don’t need her. I just don’t want her in a position to run her fool mouth off. You’d better think of something, boy, and make it good. I shouldn’t have to spell everything out to you.”

Lanisen swallows, looking completely nonplussed. “Um. Right.”

Myrd shoves him back towards the inn. “Before I change my mind and leave you behind too.”

Lanisen starts toward the door, then shakes his head and turns back around, looking a bit helpless. “Uhn-uh… ain’t no way. Don’t know what’s goin’ on with you two, but I’m not gettin’ in the middle of it.”

Myrd scowls and reaches for his dagger. “You picked the wrong night to start getting squeamish, boy.”

Lanisen backs away another step, watching Myrd warily. His hand twitches toward his own dagger by reflex, though he corrects the action hastily. He makes no move to go.

Myrd advances towards him, dagger at the ready. “You really are pathetic if you let a woman scare you. What she might do to you is far less to worry about than what I’m going to do if you disobey.”

Lanisen’s chin raises a bit, and he bumps against the wall. “Ain’t afraid of her,” he replies, his voice even except for a traitorous squeak at the end. “Just don’t fancy the idea of gettin’ stuck between the two of you.”

Myrd snorts. “Little late for that. Don’t make me tell you again, boy.” He presses the point of his dagger against Lanisen’s shoulder, hard enough that the boy would likely feel it through his tunic.

Lanisen stiffens, looking from Myrd’s face to the dagger and back. He swallows and glances to the door leading to the hall, still relatively full of patrons.

Myrd doesn’t blink or release the pressure he’s putting on the dagger.

Lanisen doesn’t move, except to shrink against the wall, away from the dagger point, as much as he is able. His breathing is strained.

Myrd says coldly, “Now, move.”

Lanisen stays still a moment longer, then lowers his head, face flushing with humiliation.

Myrd’s eyes glitter dangerously as he draws back the dagger. “Smart decision, boy.”

Lanisen rubs at his shoulder and ducks toward the door, not meeting Myrd’s eyes.

Narrow Gate Hostel
Eastern Archenland

You find yourself in a large, dim room. There are cots and bedrolls scattered throughout. From the darkness you hear the sounds of sleep, sighing and snoring. The only light comes from the door behind you. There is a door to the north leading out into the Anteroom of the Narrow Gate.

Jana is sitting in a corner brooding, her legs and arms crossed ominously.

Lanisen steps into the hostel, taking a moment to lean against the wall before squinting around the room to find Jana.

Jana sees him enter and mutters a small profanity to herself.

Lanisen finds her. He swallows and ducks his head, apologetic and shaken.

Jana’s eyes flit over him, disdain for Myrd evident on her features. “He sent you to do his talking, huh.”

Lanisen widens his eyes and shakes his head in almost desperate denial. “No! No, not at all! He… um…” He stops. “No, it wasn’t, it wasn’t him; he wasn’t involved at all. I, um, I just wanted to tell you I don’t want you to leave.” The last bit comes out in a rush, and he squints sideways at her without much hope to gauge her reaction.

Jana hides a rising smugness with pretty good success, raising her brows as if her disbelief is due to surprise and not his poor acting. “You don’t want me to leave? I wouldn’t worry abou that, seeing as I plan on staying /right/ here while you two go on gallavanting about.”

Lanisen’s color deepens. “No, I mean…” He blows out his breath in a huff and glances back over his shoulder toward the door, as if pondering escape. His shoulders slump as he turns back to Jana, looking thoroughly trapped.

Jana’s eyes flit to the doorway as well, and she leans back as if thinking. Finally, she looks at Lanisen. “Alright, here’s the deal. I’m tired of being played like as if I were Myrd’s harpsichord. But my quarrel ain’t with you. I got nothing to say to you that’s gonna get me anywhere and all sending you back empty-handed will do is give you a new scar to show off to the other two. So you help me figure how to get him to lay off, and I’ll help you keep your skin intact.”

Lanisen lets out a shaky breath of relief and sags, though his color rises again with humiliation. “Thanks,” he manages, and swallows. “Um… he wants to make sure you ain’t gonna rat us out.” He glances sidelong at Jana, sheepish.

Jana smirks. “That so.” She sticks the tip of her forefinger in her mouth and bites it thoughtfully. “Think that’s really the case, or he’s just saying that?”

Lanisen shrugs. “How would I know? ‘Druther stay far, far away from whatever’s goin’ on with you two, to be quite honest…”

Jana frowns at him. “I would recommend expressing your sentiments in a way that did not pair me with him.”

Lanisen goes still. “I’m sorry.”

Jana is silent another several moments before she abruptly arises. “Stand up.”

Lanisen blinks, startled. He does so, looking at her warily.

Jana moves toward the doorway. “Follow my lead.”

Lanisen follows more slowly. “A hint?” he begs.

Jana smirks. “I promise you’ll catch on.”

Narrow Gate Anteroom

Myrd crosses his arms, smiling with insufferable smugness when he spies Jana emerging with Lanisen.

Jana’s shadow darkens the doorway of the hostel and she materializes out of the darkness, leaning against the doorframe with crossed arms, looking thoroughly put out.

Lanisen follows Jana out of the hostel, doing his best to keep his chin up.

Myrd scowls at the boy. He feigns aggravation. “Told you to leave well enough alone. She can fend for herself. It’s what she’s always saying, isn’t it?”

Lanisen’s jaw drops, and his face is the picture of indignant betrayal. He starts to protest, but glances at Jana and stops short.

Jana scowls. “He didn’t say much. Just didn’t feel like waking with a blade between my shoulders, so I decided to keep my eye on the prime suspect. Oh, and he missed me.” She smirks.

Lanisen looks incredibly Not Pleased with the situation, but he very wisely keeps his mouth shut. For once.

Myrd snorts. “Finally something halfway intelligent sounding from you, woman. And I ain’t responsible for the boy’s taste. Or lack of it.”

Jana frowns again, looking re-peeved. “Let’s get a move on already. This musty place gets on my nerves.”

Myrd shoulders his pack, that smug look returning.

Jana straightens from the doorframe, looking like a dog that’s just been reprimanded and is moodily obedient.

Lanisen shuffles into place behind Jana, still silently fuming.

Myrd, apparently feeling that he can be generous after this victory, gestures for Jana to lead the way.

Jana does not appear to think this generous in the slightest, but she brushes past him, moving at a quick pace in silent rebellious attitude.

–traveling from Andale to Lancelyn Green–

In the Archenland Forest
Middle Archenland

You stand at the edge of the Archenland Forest, where it begins to give way to the Archenland Plains to the west. The trees here are widely spaced, though to the north you can see rather more of them, shading the grassy turf. To your south and east, you see the low mountain range that separates you from the Southern Desert.

Jana makes it a good way into the forest before it is clear that she’s lost.

Myrd smirks. For once, though, he doesn’t rub it in her face. Looking rather pleased with himself, he says, “Home sweet home’s just a little ways west of here. Can’t wait to make Zan jealous he wasn’t with us.”

Jana looks frustrated. She quickly gets her bearings and heads westward.

Southern Forest
Middle Archenland

You stand on the edge of an imposing forest, one that has seen the rise and fall of many lesser forests, and will likely continue to do so for millions of years. Here, though, on the edge of the Archenland Plains, the woodlands are slightly tenuous. The trees are more thinly dispersed, as a concession to other forms of foliage that may wish to take root here, and there is a vibrant array of bushes and flowers and greenery fighting for any available soil. As the forest continues to the west, though, these plants become increasingly scarce, as the thick cover of leaves above blocks the necessary sunlight from reaching them. Also to the west the path can be observed, occasionally now interrupted by a desperate plant or fallen log. To the east it appears more well-maintained, as it casually winds its way through the plains.

Jana hesitates again.

Lanisen silently steps forward to take the lead, shooting a faintly contemptuous look at both of them.

Jana blinks and looks humiliated and angry.

The Underground Riverbank
Middle Archenland

The banks of this swollen river are rank and smell decidedly foul. The waters are as black as obsidian in the dim light, and the river appears to flow down from a bubbling stream issuing from a cleft in the rock. Countless little eddies and currents swirl in their courses. It is partially due to the water’s work that this room of earth has been hollowed out, but judging by the broken trowels, picks, and other implements stuck in the fetid mud, the construction is not entirely natural. Strange marks have been carved into the earthen walls, just where several twisted roots hang down from the ceiling. It is impossible to make out their content in the gloom.

Myrd rubs his hands together as the trio descends into the darkness of the underground chambers.

Jana stands a little apart from the other two, arms crossed. She watches Myrd cautiously.

Lanisen watches the other two, snorts softly, and heads for the coracle, exhausted and angry.

Myrd leans back against the wall. Again, he does not take the opportuniy to deride Jana.

Jana hesitates before following Lanisen, keeping her eye on Myrd as she does so.

Lanisen stands near the coracle and crosses his arms as he waits for Myrd.

Myrd saunters into the boat.

Jana lets Lanisen go in first before she follows him.

Lanisen shoves off from the bank and hops in, displaying none of his former reluctance regarding the boat.

Across the River
Middle Archenland

The spray rising up from the waters of the tributary obscures the far bank until one is actually standing upon its uneven ground. Great slabs of stone are scattered pell-mell along the rise leading to a vast, natural chamber enclosed by walls of rock. Jagged stalactites dangle in eerie formations from the far distant ceiling, and what scant illumination there is reflects up off the waters and casts shadows on the walls. To cross back over the river here looks to be dangerous, to put it mildly. The skeletal wrecks of several small, wooden boats tossed on the shore serve as a grim warning. Up ahead, the path divides, both forks leading further downward.

Myrd says nothing to either of the other two as he steps onto land again.

Jana stumbles as she steps out of the boat, just keeping herself from colliding with her fearless leader.

Lanisen follows them out of the boat and stalks off down the tunnel.

Jana instead brushes Myrd’s satchel in her attempt to regain balance, and immediately steps back away from him, looking further chastened by humiliation.

Myrd takes better hold of his satchel. “What do you think you’re playing at?”

Jana’s brows furrow.

Earthen Chamber
Middle Archenland

At the end of a narrow corridor is a tiny room, formed entirely of earth. If not for the tangled network of roots holding the sides of the cavity together, it would likely have collapsed in on itself long ago. Adding to the sense of claustrophobia, standing upright here is nearly impossible. The gutted-out ends of candle stubs, along with the rotting strips of what may once have been blankets, testify that this shelter was at some point inhabited. Beneath you, the earth has been scraped out in a futile effort to make it seem less cramped. Even the air in this niche is stale, as if it has not been stirred for some time.

Lanisen is sitting against the scooped-out wall of the room, moodily tossing clumps of dirt against the wall opposite and then smashing them with the toe of his boot. He doesn’t look up as Jana enters.

Jana glances behind her once she’s entered the tiny room before approaching Lanisen. She pecks him on the cheek, a gesture she appears to consider “normal approving behaviour”. “Thank you. That was perfect.”

Lanisen looks away, obviously fully intending to continue brooding. The peck throws him off-kilter, and he blinks at her, nonplussed.

Jana pats him on the cheek and rises, moving to the other side into the slightly separate hollow she’s deemed her own.

Lanisen shifts uncomfortably and resumes slaughtering dirt-clumps.

Jana doesn’t say anything further, apparently settling in for the night.

Lanisen glances over to see her settling in and stands up (as much as he can in the limited space) to exit into the passageway.

Jana watches him, but makes no comment.


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