You stand in a spacious, dimly-lit room. It is quite plain, furnished almost solely with cots, and plenty of them at that. There are several people sleeping here, but it is rather dark to try discerning precisely who. Seems to be a comfortable enough place to sleep, by the steady breathing and occasional snores coming from the people resting on the cots.
There is a door to the north leading into the Anteroom.
Colin is sitting on a cot. Because they are inside, he is wearing his cloak with the cowl drawn over his head. His arms are folded across his chest, as if trying to make himself more invisible.
Lanisen is asleep, the early morning light falling across him from the window. He’s on his back, his limbs flung out all akimbo: unguarded, in contrast to his usual tightly coiled posture. As the morning passes, he draws into himself, rolling from one side to another, his face registering pain and fear, but he doesn’t seem to fully waken.
Colin looks over at him, watching him toss and turn.
Lanisen stills after some time, and it looks for a while as if he’s managed to fall back into deep sleep. His breathing deepens and slows, and the little of his face that is visible seems to relax. In another minute, though, he rolls back onto his side and sighs heavily.
Colin continues to watch. After a while, he asks in a quiet voice, “Is your neck hurting?”
Lanisen stiffens. He opens his eyes and sits up quickly, disoriented and alarmed. He gets to his feet, clutching dizzily to the bedpost, and stares around the room. He touches the cumbersome bandage on his hurt throat in confusion, then his eyes fix on Loc in the next bed.
Colin follows his gaze. “Did he tell you?”
Lanisen starts, turning to look at the hooded figure, and seems to remember all at once. His posture goes tense and defensive; his hand goes to where his knife used to live, and his eyes flick past Colin to the door. However, as he has no knife and no strength for another tussle, and Colin isn’t making any threatening moves, he slowly half-relaxes, and finally shakes his head.
Colin leans his back against the wall. “Well. Right now the plan is to have you two escorted back to Anvard. There will be an appeal to the king on both your behalves, considering the story I’ve heard. I think it’s warranted.”
Lanisen’s hand tightens on the bedpost. He sits down again after a moment and rubs his eyes, the gesture momentarily hiding his face from Colin. When he drops his hand, his expression is more or less blank, though pale. “What… happened?” he asks, indicating Loc.
Colin’s face can’t be seen through the cowl, which is probably good, considering he probably looks rather sympathetic for the lad. “He came to me, and turned himself in. He asked me to let you go in his stead.”
Lanisen’s eyebrows shoot up. He looks up at Colin, bewildered. “He what?” he asks doubtfully.
Colin repeats it.
Lanisen stares at Loc, trying to assimilate this. His expression, unguarded, flickers between fear, distrust, wonder, and flat-out confusion. He glances back at Colin guiltily, wary of what he must now know.
Colin speaks quietly. “It’s all over, Lanisen.”
Lanisen flinches at the sound of his name and goes very still, watching from the corner of his eye to see if retribution for the lie is coming.
Colin pulls his cowl back slightly so Lanisen can see his face better. His expression is non-threatening. “How did you end up with this group?”
Lanisen shrinks back slightly against the headboard at the movement, then relaxes a little. He shrugs in answer. “M-Myrd–” He seems still to be having difficulty actually saying the name. “Uh… met him and Zan in Chesterton last winter.”
Colin asks, “And what of your family?”
Lanisen glances quickly at Colin. “What about ’em?” His voice is almost harsh.
Colin sighs quietly. “I’m not after them…” he looks at the lad and decides to be frank. “Honestly, I’m wondering what drove you to leave them and take up stakes with that scum.”
Lanisen picks at a ragged spot on the cuff of his sleeve. He is quiet for a long time before answering simply, “Wasn’t anything for me there.”
Colin asks, “What do you mean?”
Lanisen answers, quickly and irritably, “I mean there wasn’t anything for me there. Please,” he adds, turning his head to look at Colin. It’s clear the irritation is born of an old pain. “It’s not… I’d rather not…”
Colin falls quiet for a little while before he speaks up again. “What are you going to do?”
Lanisen wraps his arms around his knees. “Figure that’s out of my hands at this point.”
Colin is sitting on a cot near the door, his cowl drawn up mostly over his head. He speaks in low tones with Lanisen so as not to wake the other sleepers.
Morrigan stirs slowly, sitting up weakly and clutching her legs to her chest, sitting flat against the wall.
Lanisen glances over, catching the movement out of the corner of his eye. He startles and unfolds his knees, shifting to sit on the edge of the bed, having evidently taken Shenzi to be just another sleeper in the hostel. He glances back at Colin, baffled, and then to Loc, and understanding flickers across his face.
Colin looks over at the woman and he noticeably becomes more guarded. “Hello there.”
Morrigan toys with the edge of her braid, looking up when she is addressed. Instead of responding, she sort of grunts, and turns her gaze determinedly away.
Lanisen stares at her, wary and assessing. “You’re not sick,” he ventures after a moment.
Colin stays quiet for the time being.
Morrigan slowly brings her attention around to Lanisen, frowning slightly. “I’m perfect,” she ended up saying, clearly sarcastically.
Colin folds his arms across his chest and leans back against the wall. “Feel well enough to travel?” he says with no emotion.
Morrigan raises an eyebrow, her face stoic. “That depends, where would I be travelling?”
Lanisen looks down.
Colin says, “The only place you’re going is a dungeon in Anvard.”
Morrigan grunts, settling back down. “Then I feel terribly weak.”
Colin says, “Well that’s just too bad.”
Lanisen looks briefly startled by her impertinence, but quickly ducks his head to hide a half-scared grin.
Morrigan swirls her braid about her fingers, still frowning at Colin. “I suppose so.”
Colin says, “I’m supposed to ask you why you killed the squire.”
Morrigan frowns at this, tilting her head almost thoughtfully, even if she still had one arm looped around her legs, holding them close. Figuring she had nothing to lose anyway, she shrugs, without looking at Lanisen. “I was told to cause a distraction. That is a good distraction, where I come from. He wasn’t very good,” she added dryly, almost as an afterthought.
Lanisen scoots to the far end of his bed to lean against the headboard. He loops his arms over his knees again and quietly watches the proceedings, not interrupting.
Colin says, “You have a knack for picking distractions that draw more attention to yourself.”
Morrigan shrugs loosely, dropping her other arm to her legs, as well. It was supposed to make you think the bandits had moved here, instead of where we were.”
Colin says, “And then you all came back here. Very brilliant.”
Colin’s tone is sarcastic.
Morrigan frowns; “They turned on me, and knocked me out, and dragged me back. I was safe where I was. They’re the idiots.”
Colin shakes his head. “You /all/ are.”
Morrigan asks, “Why?”
Colin says, “It’s one thing to take advantage of the hard work of others and steal it for yourselves. It’s another thing entirely to take a life.”
Morrigan seems to consider this…for a minute. “It is how I survived at home, and no one has extended any other option to me since. It is what I am good at, and what I do to survive. It is not my fault I am stronger than your men.”
Colin exclaims, “He was just a boy!”
Colin exclaims, “BOTH of them were!”
Morrigan asks, “Have you opened your eyes? I am just a girl by your standards. Who is both?”
Colin points at Lanisen, and the sleeping Loc. “You’re all too young to be doing this. And you… even you could have had a chance if you hadn’t killed that boy. The king won’t just slap your hand and tell you never to do that again.”
Morrigan shrugs; “I will face the death your King undoubtedly wants to send me too, with my head high. I lived how I wanted to, and nobody bundled me into a dress and told me to cook. I made mistakes, but at least I lived to make them.”
Lanisen keeps quiet and keeps his head down, not looking at either of them.
Colin lets his head fall back against the wall with a thump, also for lack of anything to say.
Morrigan watches the other two for a moment, shaking back her head and pushing loose dark strands back, before settling back against the wall with a loud exhale.
Lanisen glances covertly at Shenzi again, but says nothing.
Colin heaves a sigh. “I’m sorry for you, Shenzi. I don’t know why but I am.” He falls silent again, his expression dark.
Morrigan frowns, again, turning her gaze back toward Colin. “I don’t want pity.”
Colin says, “Well, too bad.”
Lanisen snorts softly.
Morrigan takes a moment to scowl at Lanisen, raising an eyebrow. “Yes?”
Lanisen shakes his head.
Colin pulls his cowl up further, withdrawing from the conversation.
Morrigan watches Lanisen for a moment, still scowling. “So. Any reason why you’ve robbed and killed your way?”
Lanisen’s shoulders hunch up. He doesn’t look at either Shenzi or Colin. “You’re prob’ly hungry,” he says after a moment. It’s a statement rather than a question.
Morrigan frowns. “That is not an answer,” she points out the obvious here.
Lanisen says quietly, “I don’t answer to you.”
Morrigan rolls her eyes, resting her chin on her kneecaps, looking her age for once. “It’s not like you have much to lose.”
Lanisen regards her levelly. “Do you want something to eat?” He again avoids the question.
Morrigan hesitates, obviously going to push it, before rolling her eyes. “Sure.”
Lanisen glances at Colin for permission, nodding in the direction of the tavern. “Can I…?”
Colin allows a small nod. “You know what’ll happen if you run,” he says, clearly in a dark mood.
Lanisen hesitates, watching Colin uneasily, then swings his legs over the side of the bed and heads toward the doorway, glancing back as he goes to see if this is truly allowed.
Colin is still sitting on the cot, silent.
Lanisen returns through the door in a short time, carefully carrying a bowl of stew in both hands. He pauses in front of Colin as if to say ‘here I am’, then approaches Shenzi warily, offering the stew.
Morrigan looks down at the stew, shifting her weight to balance it on her waist. After a moment, she begins to eat it, suddenly realising how hungry she is.
Lanisen watches silently, then returns to his bed. His expression is unreadable.
Colin stays silent. What else is there to say, really?
Lanisen waits quietly for her to finish, watching from the corner of his eye.
Colin appears to have fallen asleep.
Lanisen stands wordlessly and takes the bowl as soon as she’s done. He glances at Colin, considering, then says quietly to Shenzi, “You’ll get more later, but you probably shouldn’t eat any more now…” He half-smiles wryly. “Trust me.”
Morrigan nods quietly as she allows him to take the bowl. “Good idea,” she agrees dryly; “But I don’t want to know how you know.”
Lanisen avoids her eyes. He glances again at Colin, then slips quietly from the room with the bowl.
Colin suddenly speaks up, clearly not asleep. “Why’d they lock you up?”
Morrigan scowls darkly at this. “Don’t ask ME. They’re obviously insane.”
Colin asks, “How long did they /keep/ you locked up?”
Morrigan shrugs; “Lost track of time.”
Colin says, “Oh, that must be it.”
Colin lifts his head from where it rests on the wall and looks to the doorway, his brow knitting.
Morrigan follows Colin’s gaze, raising an eyebrow. “I’d check to see if he hasn’t made a run for it, oh great guard.”
Colin stands deliberately and if he were more childish might have thrown something at her. “Stay here,” he says evenly.
Morrigan rolls her eyes, but says nothing.
Colin walks back into the anteroom.
Morrigan raises an eyebrow. “And?”
The road wends gently along the edge of the open and scattered woodlands that can be seen encroaching upon the eastern part of this region. To the west, the more open country of the plains can be seen rolling gently in low hills,
and you can make out the telltale rooftops of the town of Lancelyn Green. The road here turns toward it.
The Sun and Moon Inn can be seen to the east here, neatly nestled into the trees. The structure looks to be quite old, but it has the proud gleam of a structure reclaimed and refitted, and it appears to be a pleasant place to pass the night. You can smell the pleasant aroma of something cooking in the pub. The road continues north to the Northern Path here.
Lanisen is sitting in a shady spot against the Inn’s wall, his elbows on his knees and his head supported by the palms of his hands. All the same, there is nothing particularly obtrusive about his presence there.
Colin steps out of the Inn and doesn’t see Lanisen right away. He looks down the road, then back behind himself, uttering an uncharacteristic oath.
Lanisen raises his head from his hands at the voice and regards Colin for a moment before saying matter-of-factly, “I’m here.” His expression is haggard.
Colin jerks to face him and his shoulders slump just a notch. For a very brief moment his expression appears almost sorry to see Lanisen. But it disappears too fast to be sure. Probably wasn’t even there anyway. He draws a breath and approaches. “What… are you doing?”
Lanisen pauses, tensing up and watching Colin’s face uncertainly. “Sitting.”
Colin asks, “Why are you sitting?”
Lanisen says, slightly impudent, “Because it was either that or standing.”
Colin asks, “Why are you out here?”
Lanisen shrugs, not looking at him.
Lanisen asks, “What’s gonna happen to her?”
Colin looks at the door, and takes a seat on the ground where he can still see it and talk to Lanisen. “She’ll… have to be punished.”
Lanisen continues to avoid looking at Colin. “Punished?” he repeats quietly, questioning.
Colin’s expression is unreadable. “I can’t see anything less than execution for her,” he finally says.
Lanisen just nods, as if he expected this. He bows his head and folds his hands at his nape.
Colin appears to be having a hard time as well, for reasons unspoken into the air. “I’m sorry,” he says simply, rubbing his forehead.
Lanisen glances at him and quickly away. He nods his acceptance of Colin’s sympathy, though he seems to be having difficulty actually formulating words at the moment. His breathing is ragged and shallow. “And…” He stops.
Colin looks at him. “And?” he prompts.
Lanisen says, “What’ll happen to… to…” He stops again.
Colin asks, “To you?”
Colin runs a hand through his hair. “The king is just. You’re just a youth… he’ll let you live.”
Lanisen shakes his head quickly. “No.” He pauses, then gives up. “To… Loc. What’ll happen to Loc?”
Colin shakes his head. “I don’t know.” he answers honestly, after a moment. “I… the king will be spoken to, on his behalf and yours.”
Lanisen nods silently, then covers his face in his hands again. After a moment, his shoulders begin to shake.
Colin refuses to look at him for a few minutes.
Lanisen keeps his face covered until he is fairly recomposed. He finally lowers his hands and uses his sleeve to scrub his face dry.
Colin says, “I… wish I could tell you everything is going to be all right.”
Lanisen says wearily, “Nothing’s ever all right.”
Colin looks around. The area is fairly quiet, but he moves restlessly. “Let’s take a walk.” he stands, and motions for the boy to follow him.
Lanisen blinks up at him suspiciously. “What about Loc and Shenzi?”
Colin says, “She’s too weak to run. Loc’s not going anywhere.”
Lanisen considers this for a moment, then shrugs and stands, rubbing again discreetly at his eyes.
You stand along the Northern trail of Archenland. The vast plains of the country open up before you in a beautiful display of golden grasses and wildflowers. The sun glows softly giving the scene a warm feel and homey look. The trail winds southeast here through the grass and also Northwest to the woodsy northern March.
Colin walks along the trail with him. “How long have you been away from home, Lanisen?”
Lanisen glances at Colin, apparently not having expected this question. “‘Bout a year, two years, I s’pose…”
Colin asks, “Do you miss it?”
Lanisen’s expression darkens. He hesitates briefly before answering carefully, “I miss my sister.”
Colin gives an acknowledging nod. He turns to face the boy, his face contemplative. “When you’re taken to Lune… if he offers you a chance, to change, to lead a better life. Will you take the chance?”
Lanisen asks, “Think I’d have a choice?”
Colin says, “Answer the question.”
Colin says, “You DO have a choice. The question is, which way will you choose? Which way do you WANT to choose?”
Lanisen scuffs the gravel with the toe of his boot. “I don’t want to go home,” he answers finally, his voice low. “I don’t know what I want.”
Colin sighs quietly. “I hope when the time comes you’ll know.”
Lanisen shifts miserably, aware that his answer wasn’t the right one. He turns away from Colin and continues along the trail, testing the edges of his boundaries a little.
Colin follows at a slower pace, keeping him in sight. After a moment he speaks again. “Do you realize what a position you’ve placed me in?”
Lanisen slows and stops. “What d’you mean?” he asks. “You’ll turn us in… that’s all there is to it.” There’s no bitterness in his tone.
Colin folds his arms and looks at him. “It was easier to do when I still thought you were vicious murderers. Not a couple of messed up kids involved with the wrong people. You weren’t… human to me.” He snorts and points to the mountains. “Do you know how easy it would be for me to let you go?” he falls silent, his thoughts inward for a few moments.
Lanisen follows Colin’s gesture to the mountains, uncomprehending. Hope briefly flickers in his eyes a moment later, then just as quickly is hidden. He lowers his head and waits for Colin to continue.
Colin confirms the doused hope with a slow nod of his head. “I’d have to lie. Not only to my uncle, but to my king. I… can’t do that, Lanisen. No matter how much you affect me.” Running a hand through his hair, he lets out a breath. “But I will say this… I’ll do everything in my power to see His Majesty hears your story, and that you’re given a chance. You may not deserve it… and if you’re manipulating me I’ll just be more the fool for it. But… there’s hope for you. Heh.” He gives a small, mirthless laugh. “Maybe it will put an end to this senseless decay.”
Lanisen absorbs this quietly, his eyes fixed on the ground some distance ahead of them. He wraps his arms around his ribs in a small self-comforting gesture and doesn’t respond.
Colin starts to lead the way back. “Is there a trade that interests you? Wouldn’t do to give you a chance to reform and toss you right back where you were.”
Lanisen’s eyes widen slightly and he looks up to Colin, drawn after him despite himself. “You mean.. I could learn somethin’? Have a job an’ a house an’ all that?”
Colin says, “Perhaps. You’d have to work hard.”
Lanisen ducks his head. He looks a little dazed and shakes his head slightly, then the corners of his mouth turn up in a tiny hopeful grin.
Colin notes the grin. He looks carefully away, pretending not to have noticed. But he has, and it has been noted.
Lanisen darts a nervous glance at Colin and takes a deep breath. “But… the king wouldn’t…”
Colin simply says, “You just leave him to me.” He pauses and looks at him. “I’ll do my best. That I promise you. And if you tell him what you told me.. and have shown me. Well.” he says meaningfully, before leading them back down the trail.
Lanisen looks confused and rather frightened, but he trails after Colin, ensnared by this little hope.
Colin almost apologetically leads him back inside, his expression becoming grim.
Colin pulls up his cowl and heads into the hostel.
Lanisen glances at Loc and Shenzi and sighs, then settles back on his bed, rubbing his forehead. He curls up and falls silent, picking at the edges of the bandage on his throat.
Colin glances to make sure Shenzi and Loc are still with them. He silently sits on his cot.