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.

Jana shoots a piece of fruit through the air-gap.

Lanisen startles, apparently sleeping and not expecting to get pelted with random pieces of fruit. He hunts in the passageway for whatever hit him, disoriented.

Jana sinks down to the ground outside the barricade where he can’t see her and surveys herself in her handmirror.

Lanisen succeeds in locating the fruit and holds it up to the faint light to see what it is. He peers out briefly, then disappears again behind the wall.

Jana says, “Thank you would be the appropriate response.”

Lanisen mumbles something that sort of vaguely sounds like a thanks.

Jana pulls out her knife and cuts a few pieces of hair, evening it out some.

Lanisen’s face reappears in the gap, intrigued by the odd noise. He presses his face up to the hole, trying to see, then gives up and asks, “What’re you doing?”

Jana says, “Cutting my hair.”

Lanisen blinks. “What?”

Jana asks, “I said cutting my hair. Got rocks in your ears too?”

Lanisen says, “Thought you said you weren’t sure if you were gonna do the man disguise…”

Jana says, “I ain’t doing it.”

Lanisen frowns. “Oh.” He mulls this over for a minute, then asks, “Well, why’re you cuttin’ your hair, then?”

Jana asks, “Think it stays all nice like this by itself?”

Lanisen shrugs. “It /is/ nice. Was. Whatever. Can I see it?”

Jana says, “Later.”

Lanisen is apparently bored enough to wheedle. “Promise?”

Jana says, “Unless Myrd kills you I figure so.”

Lanisen says, “Ha, wow. Thanks.”

Jana asks, “Sorry. Did you want me to gloss it over?”

Lanisen is silent.

Jana says, “He ain’t gonna kill you.”

Lanisen says, “Easier to believe that on that side, pretty sure.”

Jana snorts. Her voice is confident. “He ain’t gonna kill you.”

Lanisen is quiet for a minute. “How do you know? He say so?”

Jana says, “Cause he hasn’t killed me.”

Lanisen’s voice is startled. “‘Course not. Why would he kill /you/?”

Jana does a startlingly good imitation of Myrd’s voice. “Infernal meddling woman.”

Lanisen pffts. “He calls everybody names. Doesn’t mean he’s gonna kill you.”

Jana says, “You don’t cut a woman’s hair unless you plan on her killing you or you doing worse. And I don’t think he plans on getting killed any time soon.”

Lanisen asks, “/Myrd/ cut your hair??”

Jana responds with a repetition, “He ain’t gonna kill you.”

Lanisen lets that rest for the moment. “What /happened/? Did he… hurt you? Did you hurt him?”

Jana says, “Ain’t nothing that won’t heal or grow back.”

Lanisen asks, “What needs to heal?”

Jana asks, “Why’re you so interested?”

Lanisen asks, “Why shouldn’t I be?”

Jana says, “Cause it don’t make me like you so much.”

Lanisen, ignoring this, asks, “Why’d he cut your hair?”

Jana says, “Cause he thinks it makes him look more powerful.”

Lanisen doesn’t say anything to this for a moment, then offers, trying to joke, “Sure he ain’t secretly aspirin’ to be a barber?”

Jana mms. “You’ve got it. Why didn’t I think of that?”

Lanisen says, “Bet he shaved his pet puppy bald when he was a kid.”

Jana sets her mirror down and resettles herself. “More likely shaved his pet toad.”

Lanisen goes quiet.

Jana says, “So he ain’t gonna kill you.”

Lanisen says, “Might just leave me in here.”

Jana says, “Might.”
Jana says, “Better than some other things he could do.”

Lanisen makes no answer to this. He leans his head against the raw-dirt wall of the passageway behind him.

Jana twirls her mirror idly, “For instance, he could unload a host of rats in there.” She pauses, “Or snakes.”

Lanisen draws an uneasy breath. “He wouldn’t do that…”

Jana’s voice holds no conviction. “Probably not.”

Lanisen says, “He’d have to– He’d have to catch them first. Too much trouble.” He doesn’t sound particularly certain of his own logical argument.

Jana hms. “That’s probably true. And why take the trouble of getting one of his contacts to do it?” She wonders aloud.

Lanisen laughs nervously. “He’s got contacts to catch snakes for him?”

Jana says, “I usually just figure Myrd’s got whatever he needs to do whatever he wants.”

Lanisen pulls his knees up to his chest.

Jana lets out a frustrated sound as she tries to figure out what to do with her hair.

Lanisen asks, “We don’t got any /poisonous/ snakes around here, do we?”

Jana says, “Don’t know. Not a snake expert.”

Lanisen falls silent, thinking this over.

Jana says, “Wouldn’t worry about that though… Myrd’s very resourceful.”

Lanisen says, “Right, yes, resourceful.” He sounds faintly ill, not to mention apprehensive.

Jana says, “Probably won’t leave you in there as long, or with as many deadly creatures if you stop whining and start humbling.”

Lanisen says defensively, “I have not been whining.”

Jana snorts derisively.

Lanisen says, “Hey, have I said /anything/ today about being stuck in a dark cramped hole in the ground that could /possibly/ be construed as whining?”

Jana replies simply, “Yes.”

Lanisen snorts. A few minutes later, he begins sullenly throwing dirt clods out the air-gap.

Jana yelps. “Warn a body before you start doing that!”

Lanisen smirks. “Oh, I’m /sorry/.”

Jana tosses Myrd’s disgusting river-sodden shirt into the hole.

Lanisen says, “Oh, thaaat’s nice.” He uses the stick to pick it up and fling it back out.

Jana is out of the way this time.

Lanisen gives it about two minutes, then starts throwing dirt clods again.

Jana says, “Ain’t making things any better.”

Lanisen points out, “‘S making me less bored. That’s better.”

Jana says, “Smaking you more trapped.”

Lanisen says, “Missing your meaning.”

Jana says, “More dirt you put outside your little hole, the more dirt blocks your exit.”

Lanisen says, “Just have to throw it harder, in that case.”

Jana says, “Good luck with that.”


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