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 has raised the floor and ceiling of the passageway enough to be able to rest his head next to the air-gap and breath fresher air. His face is semi-visible in the hole, grubby and sweaty, with greasy strands of hair hanging down over his eyes, and asleep. His expression is tense and almost pained, as if he’s having trouble getting all the way asleep.
Jana walks in from the storeroom and scowls on sight of him. She moves over to her workbench and attempts to be quiet so she won’t wake him.
Lanisen shifts and frowns before opening his eyes. He watches listlessly for a moment, then asks, “Jana?”
Jana freezes, looking caught. She looks up after a second’s hesitation. “What?”
Lanisen’s voice is a little hoarse and he coughs to clear it. “Um,” he hunts behind the barricade for a second, then holds up the empty waterskin. “Can… could you… please?”
Jana stalks over and snatches the skin from him, filling it with the rancid water of the river. She tosses it back in carelessly.
Lanisen reaches out to catch the waterskin and says without irony, “Thanks.” He sips cautiously and grimaces, nearly gagging at the taste. He glances over to Jana and hesitates.
Jana doesn’t look behind her. She moves back to her workbench.
Lanisen watches, assessing her mood. He apparently decides he’s better off not asking for better water, and takes another swallow from the waterskin. He does gag this time, coughing wretchedly.
Jana says absently. “Don’t drink so much until you get your stomach used to it or you won’t have nothing in your stomach.”
Lanisen wipes his mouth, hand shaking slightly, and shoots Jana an accusing look.
Jana doesn’t lift her eyes to him, and so she manages to avoid seeing just how pathetic he looks.
Lanisen leans back against the wall of the passageway and closes his eyes tightly. He reaches up and touches the ceiling with one hand, then curls up next to the air-gap again.