won’t be taken in

Room 7
Sun and Moon Inn

Lanisen pokes absently at the embers in the fireplace, more out of boredom than because the room is actually cold.

Loc is curled up on the floor, covered by the blanket he’s using.

Lanisen lifts a smallish log out of the wire basket next to the hearth and tosses it into the fireplace, resulting in a small shower of sparks. One catches him on the hand and he jerks it back with a hiss of pain. “Blast it!”

Loc says, “Careful.”
Loc says, “Next time use the tongs.”

Lanisen sucks on the burn ruefully and rolls his eyes at Loc’s advice.
Lanisen mumbles “No, really?”, to Lanisen.
Lanisen mumbles something incomprehensible to Lanisen.

Loc says, “You avoid scattering embers that way. It’s less painful.”

Lanisen says dryly, “Never woulda thought of that.”

Loc remarks, “Well, you always weren’t the brightest in the group.”

Lanisen sends him a Look and stalks over to the opposite side of the room. “Says the one who turned himself in and then changed his mind.”

Loc says, “Aye, but really the changing doesn’t count because they holed us up in here before it was enacted.” He turns onto his back. “Can you blame me for being afraid?”

Lanisen slides down the wall and plops on the floor. “Didn’t seem to bother you before,” he observes.

Loc laughs, “It’s always bothered me. Well, death not as much. Once you’re dead you’re dead. That isn’t so bad. It’s the dying part…”

Lanisen snorts. “That’s what I meant,” he says pointedly.

Loc says, “Death itself has always intrigued me. Dying has always sorta bothered me.”

Lanisen says irritably, “Quit goin’ all philosophical.” He sighs, some of the harshness leaving his voice. “You were fine with hangin’ when you went to Colin. Did you mean that then, or did you change your mind, or…”

Loc sighs, “Well. There’s a difference between knowing what’s coming or hanging over you and suddenly it being real.”
Loc says, “I /do/ want to change.–But my whole life’s been spent on surviving.”
Loc says, “That instinct runs deep.”

Lanisen is quiet as he considers this. “I understand,” he says finally.

Loc says, “Part of me isn’t so afraid. The other’s terrified.” He pauses. “You’ll probably be be allowed to live. but why should the King let me?”

Lanisen doesn’t seem to have any answer to this.
Lanisen begins, “Maybe…” He pauses, then shakes his head.

Loc says, “See? I got a /reason/ to be nervous… but the act’s nice.”

Lanisen asks, “The act?”

Loc says, “Makin’ people think you’re not afraid.”

Lanisen asks, “‘S that what that was with the innkeeper’s wife an’ all, then?”

Loc nods.
Loc says, “What they want to see is what they get.”
Loc says, “Wouldn’t matter if I was nice as pie to ’em. They’d still see me as a senseless brute.”

Lanisen snorts. “So they wouldn’ta seen a rude, uncouth nasty if they hadn’t been lookin’ for it?”

Loc says, “Lady Rosa didn’t see one. And before Astor knew who I was things were just ducky.”
Loc says, “Got him an ale. We had pleasant sorta small talk.”
Loc says, “Then he and his uppity wife come striding in here all airs and self righteous when they find out who we are.”

Lanisen hehs uncomfortably and looks away.

Loc says, “They’re so concerned with being better ‘n us that they don’t bother ta consider what brought us to such a point.”

Lanisen observes under his breath, as if he’s rather afraid of how Loc will react to his opinion, “Didn’t really do yourself any favors, talkin’ to ’em like that…”

Loc shrugs, “Think I ain’t aware of that?”
Loc says, “Fact is, I can bark all I want. I haven’t laid a hand on them. And I’ve stayed put.”
Loc says, “Actions speak louder than words. But all they do is look at the words.”

Lanisen says, “You’re just showin’ ’em what they expect to see, though. ‘S not like that’s gonna help anything.”

Loc says, “They ain’t gonna believe a thing I say anyway. So what’s the point in trying to show them I’m not the monster they think I am?”

Lanisen asks, “You sayin’ you are the monster?”

Loc says, “Don’t know /what/ I am Lanny.”

Lanisen shrugs, still looking slightly uncomfortable, as if he feels a little out of his depth in this conversation. “Reckon you get to decide… right?”

Loc says, “I’ve seen a monster. /Zan/ was a monster. And I ain’t Zan. I don’t ever wanna be. So…. Guess this means I ain’t? Right?”

Lanisen shrugs again, looking even more uncomfortable. “Guess so.”

Colin opens one eye at peers at them before closing it again.

Loc turns over to his side again. “Wonder how long it’ll be.”

Lanisen says, “Dunno…” He leans his head back and looks out the window. “Maybe they ain’t comin’ at all… maybe we’ll just be stuck here…”

Loc snorts. “Unlikely.”
Loc says, “If we’re stuck here the townfolk will just hang us themselves.”

Lanisen shifts slightly. “Think so?” he asks, his voice too even.

Loc says, “Seen ’em do it before.”

Lanisen asks, “Would the innkeeper let ’em?”

Loc laughs, “For me? in a heart beat.”

Colin keeps quiet.

Lanisen shudders.

Loc says, “But maybe not. I’m the King’s property now.”
Loc says, “My neck is his.”

You hear a click as the door leading out is unlocked.

Loc looks towards the door.

Lanisen does as well, sitting up to better see whoever it is on the other side.

One of the servants currently stationed as guards opens the door. He carries a scrap of parchment. “I’ve instructions to bring the boy directly to the Manor house.”

Lanisen blanches and stares at the guard, frozen, then looks wide-eyed at Colin. He gets slowly to his feet.

Loc sits up. He stands and goes to Lanisen, clapping a hand on his shoulder. “Good luck.” He rummages around and pulls a pouch from the satchel. He puts it in Lanisen’s hand. “Keep this. Hopefully they’re lettin’ you go. You can use this.”

Loc hands Money Pouch to Lanisen.

Colin watches without saying a word.

Lanisen blinks at the money pouch and shoves it back into Loc’s hands. “No,” he hisses in answer. “You might need it.” He glances at Colin again.

Loc shakes his head. “I can…” He stops as Simetra enters. He grunts.
Loc mumbles “If I don’t hang–which is unlikely–I’ll figure out something. Please. I’d like you to have this.”, to Lanisen.
Loc mumbles “… … … hang–which is unlikely–I’ll figure out something. Please. … … you to … …”, to Lanisen.

Simetra sets the tray on the nightstand. She looks to Lanisen, “Lady Rosalind’s time is very limited. It would be wise to respect that if you hope to be pardoned, as I know Loc thinks would be best.” She speaks rather curtly though the message seems well-intentioned.

Loc takes the time for Simetra’s message to be deliver to carefully slip the pouch into Lanisen’s pocket.

Lanisen looks at Simetra, dark-eyed and scared, and nods quickly. “Sorry, I’m sorry.” He hurries out of the room after the servant, not noticing Loc’s actions.

Entry Room
Lancelyn Green Manor
Middle Archenland

You’ve stepped into the entrance hall of the Lancelyn Green manor. There are a few benches on either side of the room, beneath numerous large tapestries, depicting the history of Lancelyn Green. A latticed window over the set of double doors leading outside filters in green and yellow light, making a pattern on the stone floor. Over a large archway in the northern wall, the Lancelyn green crest sits forbodingly. To the east of the is an impressive stairway leading up to the second level of the manor.

The servant who brought Lanisen makes certain that he is bound securely, searching him carefully. Satisfied, he guides him into the Library.

Lanisen submits to this, trembling and keeping his head down. He tests the ropes surreptitiously and darts quick trapped glances to the corners and windows and doorways of every room they pass through.

Lancelyn Green Manor

The library is lit by several orb-like lamps hanging ornamentally from the ceiling, and large bay windows in both the east and south walls. The rest of the walls are lined with books, except for a gap on the north wall which contains a large fireplace, and the doorway in the west wall. Chairs are placed conveniently around the fireplace for reading or relaxing. Two large vases stand on either side of the fire, giving it an elegant appearance, and scattered around the room in various nooks on the bookshelves other curios and vases complete the effect. The floor is maplewood here bare except for small rectangular rugs by the windows, doorway, and fireplace. Unlike several of the other rooms in the manor, this room does seem to see some use on occasion, and the servants appear to attend to the dust better. Nevertheless, there’s little doubt that the vases and curios once had a little more light playing off them, and the rugs a little more airing out.

A daughter of eve with burnished dark red hair (Rosalind) is composing a letter, seated close to the fire. When the servant brings Lanisen in, she glances up, her gaze resting on the boy for a long moment. The servant stays, a silent observer.

Lanisen follows the servant into the Library, shaken, his head lowered. His hands are bound in front of him, but this precaution does not seem entirely necessary: he has a sickly, underfed look to him, and week-old bruises in the most colorful stage of healing mark his face and neck. His throat has recently been cut, though judging by the state of the injury and the fact that he is still breathing, not deeply or purposefully enough to cause lasting damage. He stands silent and shivering where the servant leaves him.

Rosalind’s expression, though naturally serious given the circumstances, is not unkind as she approaches Lanisen more closely.

Lanisen goes very still as she approaches, keeping his eyes down and his head ducked. He bows clumsily.

Rosalind gestures for Lanisen to be seated. She takes her own chair, facing him.

Lanisen does so, albeit awkwardly. He sits on the edge of the chair as if afraid of breaking, staining, or otherwise injuring it, and stares at his bound hands.

Rosalind observes quietly, “You cannot be older than my sister Violet. What is your name?”

Lanisen hesitates, then answers in a soft voice, “Lanisen, milady.”

Rosalind furrows her brow. “Lanisen. I trust that, as you have been staying in my lord’s town without our knowledge, you are at least aware of who I am. I know it is rather unorthodox of me to ask you here, but…there are certain facts I desired to hear directly from you.”

Lanisen listens silently, not looking up. His bound hands are shaking, but only slightly – it would really only be noticeable if someone were looking for it. He nods once, his expression as blank as he can make it.

Rosalind lets out a soft sigh; clearly, this has not escaped her notice. “I do not mean to frighten you…but merely to ascertain the truth of matters.”

Lanisen nods again and shifts uncomfortably in his seat.

Rosalind rubs at the bridge of her nose. She signals to a servant, who brings a cup of tea and sets it before her. When this is done, she takes up the cup and glances to Lanisen again. “Tell me in your own words. I have already heard from your companion. Loc.”

Lanisen watches the servant from the corner of his eye. He swallows and looks searchingly back at Rosalind. He accidentally meets her eyes for the first time, and quickly averts his gaze.

Rosalind’s eyebrow lifts slightly. She takes a sip of her tea, completely composed as she waits.

Lanisen twists his wrists in the rope, very not-composed. “What… uh… tell you what?”

Rosalind says mildly, “I must write to the king concerning all of you. However, before doing so, I wish to know the truth. What Loc has confessed to…” She shakes her head. “I knew him years ago, and I cannot tell you how it grieves me to find him altered so.”

Lanisen blinks, startled enough by this to ask, “You knew Loc?”

Rosalind nods at this, the movement graceful. “I did.”

Lanisen’s forehead is furrowed. “That’s why he came here?”

Rosalind frowns slightly at Lanisen’s question. “I do not believe either of us was aware of the connection before he came here. I confess he was so changed I did not know him at first. However, that is not the current topic of discussion.” Her expression becomes solemn and her gaze fixes on the young man. “Explain to me, besides your obvious youth, why the letter which shall be dispatched to His Majesty should include some words on your behalf. This man Loc was most willing to trade his own freedom for yours, and I wish to better understand why that is. Were you not an equal sharer in instilling terror in the hearts of the citizens of this town? Did you not fully participate in theft, and worse?”

Lanisen is unable to look at Rosalind at this. It takes him a moment, but he finally says, “Ye– um, yes, my lady.”

Rosalind lets out a quiet sigh. “And you have nothing further to add in your defense? How is it you came to fall in with such men? Why stay with them, when you knew what they were about?”

Lanisen takes another moment to formulate an answer, studying the patterns on the rug. “I don’t… There wasn’t… there wasn’t anything–” He moistens his lips and shivers, though the room is not cold.

Rosalind’s eyebrow raises again. She has set her teacup aside and is listening intently.

Lanisen swallows, then finally shakes his head. “No, that’s not… I could’ve left if– I should’ve… no. I don’t have anything to… to add.”

Rosalind says quietly, “Why did you stay? Loc claims you have been sorely ill-treated by at least one of them, and if that is true…”

Lanisen goes still and does not answer.

Rosalind’s eyebrow goes up again. “And who is he, that you clearly fear him so?”

Lanisen asks, keeping his eyes down, “What’d Loc, what’d he tell you?” His voice is soft and hoarse and trembling.

Rosalind’s lips curve into a small, pensive frown. “I believe the question is, Lanisen, what will you tell me?”

Lanisen hesitates for a moment. “He’s caught,” he finally says, and shrugs. “He was caught before I was, I think, it’s, it don’t matter.”

Rosalind stirs at her tea. “Perhaps not. Unlike this man who still seems to exert power over you, captured or no, I have a feeling that you would turn down a different road in future, if the option were presented to you…” She regards Lanisen squarely as she speaks.

Lanisen manages a shaky half-smile. “You been talkin’ to Colin, by any chance?”

Rosalind looks rather amused by this. “No, nor would I. His Majesty would not look kindly on that, I am certain. If Colin has said it as well, however, perhaps there is something to it.”

Lanisen’s eyes flicker to her at this. “How come is Colin locked up too, with me ‘n’ Loc?” he asks.

Rosalind clears her throat, obviously recognizing this for the ploy it is even if she is too polite to comment on such. She begins to look uncomfortable.

Lanisen, realizing his misstep, ducks his head and draws into himself. “Beg your pardon,” he murmurs softly. “‘S none of my business.”

Rosalind says mildly, “You haven’t wondered at the change in his station? However, you are right, and it is hardly appropriate for the two of us to discuss such matters. Besides which, I simply brought you here so that I might have a clearer picture in my mind before the letter is dispatched to the king.”

Lanisen’s hands twitch in their bonds and the color drains from his face, but he doesn’t look up.

Rosalind lets out a quiet sigh. “When Lord Barron returns, it will be for him to say. However, I would be remiss if I did not take what precautions I could in his absence. The inn is secure, and I trust you will manage well enough until other arrangements are made.”

Lanisen nods slightly. He swallows, and ventures, “Thank you for– for talkin’ with me, my lady.”

Rosalind shakes her head. “I will…do my best for you, Lanisen, but I make no promises. What you have done is beyond the pale.”

Lanisen’s shoulders hunch slightly.

Rosalind glances at him again.

Lanisen swallows and focuses on the rope on his wrists again, breathing with some difficulty. “I don’t… know what I’m s’posed to say,” he admits under his breath. “Everything sounds… it’s not enough. I’m sorry, I’m so–” He stops.

Rosalind replies, something slightly dry in her tone, “It is, at least, something. Do you know what it is that your actions, and those of the men you worked for, have done here?”

Lanisen starts to answer, but then pauses. “I… I know what happened… what we did…” He shudders, then raises his eyes to Rosalind’s, desperate to get this across. “I didn’t… I did wrong, but I didn’t want anybody to get killed, I didn’t know it was– I didn’t want anybody to die…”

Rosalind’s expression softens. “For whatever it is worth, I do believe you, Lanisen.”

Lanisen looks startled. He stares at her in surprise, then remembers himself and quickly averts his eyes again.

Rosalind takes her seat again, picking up her teacup. “You have seen the consequences of those choices, but that does not mean that you acted maliciously.”

Lanisen’s surprise takes on an anxious, confused cast. He doesn’t answer.

Rosalind glances at him.

Lanisen shifts uneasily. “How come do you believe me?”

Rosalind shrugs gracefully. “Perhaps it is just that…I would prefer to believe that you acted out of ignorance. It does not change what is done, nor can it protect you from the repercussions, but still better that than wishing harm to come to the people here.”

Lanisen studies her from the corner of his eye, his forehead creasing.

Rosalind says,.”I fail to see why I should not believe you in this case. I do not think, however, that the man you worked for would have any qualms about knowingly doing harm.”

Lanisen is silent for a moment as he mulls this over. He finally says quietly, “He didn’t… he didn’t mean for anybody to get killed either, I think.”

Rosalind arches a brow at this.

Lanisen shrugs and tries to explain. “He’s… what he does is… you know. Efficient. If he really wanted to kill somebody, he would’ve done it right there, not…” He keeps his eyes down as he speaks, and his tone is low and matter-of-fact.

Rosalind furrows her brow as she considers this. “I do not know that such…efficiency is reassuring. My innkeeper tells me, however, that he brought you to the inn when you were gravely ill. Perhaps this illustrates that he, at least, is capable of some mercy…”

Lanisen glances at her briefly, his expression wooden.

Rosalind’s eyebrow raises once more at the change in his expression. “You do not consider it so?”

Lanisen just shrugs again, avoiding her eyes.

Rosalind frowns slightly, but lets it pass. “My innkeeper also tells me that your companion, Loc, has been saying that this man, Myrd, planned to be captured the entire time…that does strike me as odd.”

Lanisen’s face flickers briefly with alarm.

Rosalind’s eyes raise to meet his for a moment. “Then it is true.” She continues evenly, “And am I to understand that it is also true the Calormene woman who is currently being watched by Lord Barron’s men is not the one who partnered with him in these enterprises? That there is another female entangled in this?”

Lanisen’s forehead furrows. “Loc… told you that?” he asks uncertainly.

Rosalind replies with a small frown.

Lanisen tries to scratch his head, the action somewhat thwarted by the ropes still on his hands. He manages it anyway. “I… don’t understand why he’d say that…”

Rosalind says, “He told the Master Innkeeper, and in fact seemed eager to speak of it. He bears no love towards your leader.”

Lanisen snorts softly.

Rosalind’s eyebrow, which has never really resumed its normal position on her face, goes even higher. “You do not deny either of those statements, Lanisen…”

Lanisen doesn’t answer for a moment. “Shenzi’s the one you’re looking for,” he finally says.

Rosalind lets out a soft sigh. “How can you defend him still, after what he has done to you?”

Lanisen’s face crinkles into a bewildered expression.

Rosalind rises and walks around Lanisen, the servant taking a step forward as she does so, just in case. Her tone is infused with nothing but compassion. “Lanisen, I know you must have little reason to credit this. You are used to those who are not willing to speak with frankness, and who will use you with little care for your welfare. However, I will tell you anyway: no harm will come to you by my hand.”

Lanisen watches her indirectly, turning his head as she passes behind him to keep her in his field of vision. He’s trembling again, his shoulders hunched up and tense.

Rosalind lets out another soft sigh. She pauses, then, a slight tremor in her own hands, she loosens his ropes slightly, enough so that he at least has more freedom of movement. “I do not say that you have no reason for fearing what lies ahead. But you do not need to fear me.”

Lanisen leans slightly away from her in his chair, frightened despite this assertion. He keeps perfectly still and makes himself small so as to not present a threat to the watchful servant.

Rosalind doesn’t notice, or appear to, at least, her head still bent over her task.

Lanisen flexes his fingers very slightly as the ropes loosen, wincing as the blood starts moving again. “I don’t– I don’t understand…” he whispers.

Rosalind glances up at him. She answers simply, “You have known little kindness, and that is reason enough. Besides which, I trust that you are not about to hurt me.”

Lanisen shakes his head quickly.

Rosalind gestures to a servant, who comes over and hands her a jar with a pungent, though not unpleasant-smelling ointment. She takes a small amount of this and spreads it on those areas where the ropes have cut into his wrists.

Lanisen’s eyes dart from Rosalind to the servant to the little jar, confusion overtaken by bitter comprehension. He lowers his eyes again and turns his face slightly away from her, though he is as still as ever and he does not pull his hands away or react at all, though the unguent stings.

Rosalind glances up at him when she has finished, her expression full of kindness.

Lanisen swallows hard and resolutely does not look at her.

Rosalind takes some strips of clean, snowy-white linen and wraps it around Lanisen’s wrists, bandaging them.

Lanisen simply waits for her to finish, keeping himself as still and distant as possible.

Rosalind takes as step back from him when she has finished, looking at him squarely.

Lanisen looks up at her, but doesn’t maintain eye-contact for more than a split second. The resigned expression on his face makes him look years older, and somehow hollow.

Rosalind lets out a soft breath. She looks sad.

Lanisen, when the silence has stretched unbearably, asks wearily, “‘S this the part where you ask me what I’m not tellin’ you?”

Rosalind shakes her head and adds quietly, “I don’t believe I have to.”

Lanisen does not respond to this.

Rosalind smiles a bit. “You would not have said as much if there were something which you were not telling me. The decision, however, is yours to make.”

Lanisen says, “If there’s nothing to say, then there’s no decision.”

Rosalind arches a brow in her turn. “Perhaps. Or perhaps you think it unlikely that I will believe you, regardless of what you say. I have not always been what I am now, you know, and there is little which would surprise me.”

Lanisen doesn’t look impressed. He rests his eyes on the bandages on his wrists, turning his hands slightly to look at them. “What is this?” he asks.

Rosalind says mildly, “A salve I have made in the stillroom here. Those ropes dug deep.”

Lanisen glances briefly to the servant still hovering. “Funny how you had it handy.”

Rosalind’s lips purse slightly and her eyebrow inches upward again. “I keep a store here, for those who live in the Manor. I simply thought that you might appreciate being made more comfortable…” Her tone is still gentle.

Lanisen says nothing.

Rosalind clasps her hands together, holding her gaze on him and waiting for him to speak further.

Lanisen keeps whatever he’s thinking to himself, for the moment. He glances at the door and shifts uncomfortably.

Rosalind gestures to two of her servants. “Very well. They will see you back to the inn.”

Lanisen glances toward the servants and nods slightly, getting to his feet. He hesitates, then asks, “What’re you gonna put in the letter?”

Rosalind allows a look of sadness to cross her face once more. “I have promised that I will do what I can for you both, and I shall keep my word. As scant as my words to His Majesty will be, they will contain truth in them.”

Lanisen shifts uneasily. “What’s that mean?”

Rosalind’s eyes flit to him again. “Precisely what I have told you. As best I can, I shall tell him honestly both what you have related to me and what I have observed.”

Lanisen’s expression flickers with fear.

Rosalind’s expression softens when she notes this. “Are you certain…there is nothing else you would add? I will hear you out.”

Lanisen scoffs softly, shifting his weight. “That’s why you…” He raises his hands slightly, indicating the bandages. “So I’d… add.”

Rosalind blinks, clearly stunned by this inference. She stiffens noticeably, as if he has slapped her. “No…of course not…how can you think?” She bites her lip. “Lanisen, I did the least that I could. No matter what you have done, you are my fellow man, and if you said not another word to me, I would act no differently…it is basic compassion.”

Lanisen just looks at her for a moment, then lowers his eyes again. “You had it right there,” he says. “You knew you were gonna need it. You could’ve just told /him/,” he jerks his head toward the servant who bound him, “not to tie me so tight it’d hurt me, if you really were thinkin’ to be kind. And you didn’t set up that little moment until you found somethin’ you thought maybe I wasn’t tellin’ you all about.” He stops, looking faintly stunned, and swallows, his expression wavering between defiance and pain.

Rosalind bites her lip, her face going stark white. “I would not use you so, though I doubt I could convince you of that. There are those who will not seek only what they could gain from you, Lanisen. Surely, no matter what you have been through, you realize that.”

Lanisen’s shoulders hunch a bit. “Nobody does anythin’ nice just for the sake of bein’ /nice/, my lady.”

Rosalind extends her hands in a gesture of almost supplication. “I have no reason to do otherwise, Lanisen.”

Lanisen takes a deep breath. “Don’t you?” he asks, his voice breaking.

Rosalind’s tone is as soft as a whisper, and there is something maternal about it as well. “When I came here, I was taken in without family, without friends, without references, and cared for when I had little reason to expect the smallest scrap. What I do for you is just a pale reflection of what has been done for me.”

Lanisen looks away, his breathing uneven. He swallows and closes his eyes briefly, then glances at the servant and straightens a little, as if attempting to regain some modicum of dignity.

Rosalind rubs at the bridge of her nose. She glances up, canting her head as she attempts to sort through his words.

Lanisen, still not looking at Rosalind, murmurs, “I’m sorry.” His posture is deferential, possibly giving weight to his apology, but he doesn’t recant his perception of her actions.

Rosalind looks rueful and allows the silence to stretch. “No, Lanisen…I am sorry. I cannot expect that you would trust my actions to be anything other than what you accuse me of.”

Lanisen glances once at her. “Still shouldn’t’ve said it,” he replies. Something in his tone is wooden, as if he is reciting a correct answer.

Rosalind smiles wryly. “You believe it to be the truth. I am also more frank than I should be, and I will not fault you for saying it.”

Lanisen’s forehead furrows in what looks like bewilderment, but the expression is brief. “Thank you.”

Rosalind’s expression is, if anything, bemused. “You hardly need thank me for that. You need not fear. I will ask you no more uncomfortable questions.”

Lanisen is silent, his face closed off and half-hidden.

Rosalind gestures to the servants. “I will not bind you more tightly than you are now. I am trusting that you will go with them back to the inn.”

Lanisen nods. He pauses as if to say something further, lifting his head to look directly at Rosalind, but turns away a moment later to go with the servants.

Lanisen is escorted by a manor servant through Lancelyn Green. His demeanor is subdued, and he doesn’t look up at the people they encounter as they pass through the town.

Suddenly, without warning, the servant pulls Lanisen down a back way. He looks decidedly ill-at-ease as he does so.

Lanisen stumbles at the unexpected change in direction. He recovers quickly, glancing at the servant’s face with wide eyes, and draws breath to cry out.

The servant hisses, “Quiet, you. Say a word of this and we’re both dead.”

Lanisen stares at the servant, bewildered. He closes his mouth and swallows, waiting.

The servant’s eyes glance around the square. He is clearly nervous. “Got a message for you…from your brother. He said I wouldn’t get paid unless I told you.”

Lanisen shifts, frightened and waiting.

The servant’s words come out in a rush, obviously anxious. “He found me when he was passing through a few days ago. He said to tell you that he followed through on the plan. Don’t tell me, because I don’t want to know anything more. He also said something about a confounded woman and a ring, and that they were heading north.”

Lanisen eyes the servant intently, distrustful. “Why would you take a message to the likes of me? Ain’t that a little more than your job’s worth?”

The servant looks uncomfortable. “With what he’s paying me, I don’t need it. After I get you back to the inn, I’m gone.”

Lanisen frowns, obviously not entirely sure what to make of this. “What did my brother say about the woman, exactly?”

At this, the servant looks embarrased. “Something I can’t properly repeat. He called her a foul name.”

Lanisen blinks and looks down quickly, his face flickering with recognition and certainty. “I… see.” He pauses. “Is that all he said? Did he… did he say if I was s’posed to do something? Anything else at all?”

The servant shakes his head. “Not a word. Just that he was heading for the north. Looked like he planned to be gone some time too.”

Lanisen looks briefly crestfallen. He nods shortly. “Thank you.”

The servant doesn’t seem to care. “I’ll get my money, won’t I? I betrayed that lady up at the Manor.”

Lanisen asks, “Do I look like I got the sort of money you’re talkin’ about?”

The servant starts to look twitchy. “No. Still, you heard nothing from me. I’m not fixing to get myself in your position.”

Lanisen nods silent agreement. His eyes flit to the opening of the alley.

The servant tugs at Lanisen’s ropes, finally heading back to the Inn.


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