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.

Jana sits on a makeshift bench, eyeing a skirt critically, sewing things spread out beside her.

Lanisen scrambles up and over the uneven rocks farther upstream, attempting to entertain himself. He stands up as far as he is able on a particularly high slab of rock and reaches up to a stalactite, just managing to brush it with his fingertips. He sways, nearly loses his balance, and tries again, this time managing to break the thing off and catch it.

Jana’s attention is successfully diverted. She watches him warily.

Lanisen slides down the slab of rock with surprising grace and sits against it to examine his treasure curiously.

Jana’s brow wrinkles in calculation and she continues watching, her interest somewhat aroused.

Lanisen turns the broken stalactite over in his hands, frowning with interest down at the odd shape and unusual texture. He catches a glimpse of Jana watching him and blinks at her, nonplussed. “What?”

Jana observes disinterestedly, “You’re very graceful.”

Lanisen uhhs, furrowing his forehead. “Thanks?”

Jana nods, and returns her gaze to the skirt at hand, but her eyes keep darting up to Lanisen, and she doesn’t seem to really have done anything with the skirt.

Lanisen eyes her, then returns to examining the stalactite. He pokes gingerly at the end with one finger, then uses it to draw a limestone scribble on the stone. “Hm.” He lays it carefully aside and returns to clambering over the rocks.

Jana calls after him, “About how tall are you, sunshine?”

Lanisen hollers back indignantly, “/Sunshine/??”

Jana rolls her eyes, “About how tall are you, handsome?”

Lanisen shoots an exasperated scowl at Jana over his shoulder. “Dunno. Five-six?”

Jana appears to think this an overshoot, but this probably isn’t clear from
Lanisen’s distance. “Got an extra set of clothing or is that the only one?”

Lanisen pauses to frown at Jana. “Um… I have another shirt,” he offers doubtfully. “Why?”

Jana replies, “Need it. Can you bring it here?”

Lanisen slides down off a boulder and squints warily at Jana. “Why?”

Jana asks, “Got a job to do and I need a man’s outfit. Any other stupid questions?”

Myrd approaches from the west, their arrival hard to hear over the sound of the water.

Lanisen blinks. “A man’s outfit?” He looks at Jana doubtfully. “Why you gotta use /my/ shirt?”

Jana asks, “You’re a man, ain’t you?”

Myrd says, “Aw, now Darlin’, he’s only a real man if you really stretch the definition.”

Jana turns to see him. She sucks her teeth, irritated.

Lanisen scowls darkly at Myrd and returns to climbing over the rocks. “Make Myrd give you one of his.”

Myrd snorts. “Ain’t happening. She ain’t able to be that convincing.”

Jana says, “I ain’t that stupid is what I ain’t.”
Jana says, “Anyway, he’s too big.”

Lanisen says, “Loc, then.”

Jana says, “Can’t.”

Lanisen says, not /quite/ whining, “Why not?”

Myrd glances between the two. “Reckon somebody best start explaining right quick.”

Jana says, “He’s too prissy. Ain’t messing with that fancy stuff.”

Myrd smirks at this. “Ain’t that the truth.”

Jana looks at Myrd innocently. “I’m just following orders, boss.”

Myrd scowls darkly. “Which orders would those be, Darlin’?”

Jana says, “The keep Loc out of here without using my normal tactics orders.”

Lanisen finds a high corner of one boulder and perches. “Keep Loc out of here?” he repeats, raising an eyebrow.

Jana asks, “Yeah. That motivation enough to go get me a shirt?”

Myrd crosses his arms, looking thoughtful. He carefully keeps all traces of approval out of his voice when he tells her, “He’d recognize any shirts of ours. Might be able to fix that, though.”

Jana shakes her head. “He can recognize, long as nobody else does.”

Lanisen wrinkles his forehead, shakes his head, and asks, “/What/? What’s dressin’ up like a man got to do with Loc?”

Myrd, without saying another word, throws a shirt which can only be described as filthy if one is being polite in her direction.

Jana catches the shirt and eyes it scrutinizingly. She doesn’t squirm at the filth. “Suppose that’ll do. Wouldn’t have to take it in so much if it were one of Sunshine’s.”

Myrd snorts. “You said you needed a man’s shirt. Reckon I’m the best qualified to provide that.”

Jana breaks into a fit of laughter.

Lanisen curls his lip sullenly at the nickname, but is too busy trying to figure out what exactly is going on to make much of it.

Myrd scowls darkly at her. “Shut up before I make you.”

Jana stops with a telltale smirk and begins ripping seams out of the shirt.

Myrd eyes her, his jaw clenching. He doesn’t, of course, ask her what she thinks she’s doing.

Jana finishes ripping seams with expert speed, then starts measuring the width and height of the shirt with a knotted rope, marking her measurements with pins.

Lanisen watches, making a face at the ripping noises, and yawns, clearly bored with the domesticity of it all. He slides down the rock and heads off to wander further downstream.

Myrd pulls out his knife and begins carving a piece of wood. He makes a great show of ignoring her.

Jana, having finished this, begins to sew up the sides to the smaller size that is more fitting to her own figure. She does not make a great show of ignoring Myrd; it’s just a force of habit apparently.


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