in which sulking can get you killed

Cell 2
Castle Anvard

Lanisen is sleeping sitting up on his cot, leaning against the wall in a somewhat-uncomfortable looking position. He doesn’t look particularly fast asleep, as his face has that tense, squinched sort of look that comes from trying to get to sleep through sheer force of will.

Tyren enters as usual after a word with a guard, and the noise of the cell door opening probably doesn’t help with the trying-to-sleep-ness.

Lanisen, sure enough, opens his eyes and regards the source of the noise balefully.

Tyren gets down to business right off the bat, as is usual. Directing the guard to deliver rations. Haven’t we been over this before?

Lanisen rather reluctantly uncurls from his warm position to stand and bow as usual, clutching the blanket around him like a cloak. “Mornin’,” he says sleepily, still sounding significantly stuffed-up. “Or… ‘s it evenin’? Or the middle of the day?”

Tyren says simply, “Evening.”
Tyren says, “Early evening, but evening nonetheless.”

Lanisen ohs. “Figured you prob’ly wouldn’t come in the middle of the night.” He yawns and rubs his eyes, stretching a bit.

Tyren asks, “Yes, well. I can’t be fully predictable, now can I?”

Lanisen agrees, “No fun in that.”

Tyren merely says, “Indeed.” He does, however, say this in a tone that makes it quite clear he finds no humor in the statement.

Lanisen glances away, tugging his blanket tighter around himself. His eyes rest briefly on a dead oak leaf that has somehow managed to find its way into the cell. “What’s it like outside?” he asks, his tone faintly wistful. “‘S it snowin’ yet?”

Tyren says, “Not yet, no.”

Lanisen asks, “But the leaves are turnin’?”

Tyren says, “Starting to, yes.”

Lanisen is still looking at the leaf, but his eyes are rather farther away. “‘S my favorite, autumn. Everything’s gold, all crunchy when you walk.

Tyren says, “Has a certain charm to it.”

Lanisen shifts and shrugs in answer, looking away from the leaf. His teeth chatter briefly, and he clamps his jaw closed, briefly chafing his upper arms.

Tyren says, “Also a time of change.”

Lanisen says, “Every season’s a time of change, ain’t it?”

Tyren says, “Rather more evident during the spring and autumn.”

Lanisen says, “Guess so. Spring, everything’s comin’ to life. Autumn…”

Tyren picks it up from there. “…is simply the change before things quiet down. And you’ve mentioned yourself the beautiful sort of change it is.”

Lanisen snorts. “Well, that’s one way to put it.”

Tyren lifts a brow slightly. “I thought you said you enjoyed autumn.”

Lanisen says, “I do. Don’t like the freezin’ to death that comes after, though.”

Tyren says, “Which seems to me as if you’re letting the thought of a potentially harsh winter, which is by no means guaranteed, destroy your appreciation of the changes you claim to like. Doesn’t make much sense, in my eyes.”

Lanisen’s head cants slightly to one side. “It ain’t… ‘s more like it makes autumn more… valuable? That ain’t the right word… It’s a sad sorta likin’. Everything’s pretty, but only ’cause it’s dyin’. I /don’t/ like winter.”

Tyren says, “It comes, whether we wish it or no. Sulking about such doesn’t seem to do much good about changing it.”

Lanisen regards Tyren levelly, narrowing one eye. After a moment, he lowers his head and replies, “S’pose not.”

Tyren says, “You seem rather fond of it regardless, at least to me.”

Lanisen asks, “Winter, or sulkin’?”

Tyren asks, “The latter. Do I have problems making myself clear with you, or something?”

Lanisen flinches slightly. “Havin’ an opinion ain’t sulkin’.”

Tyren says, “No. It /is/ possible to sulk while having an opinion, however.”

Lanisen lifts his eyebrows incredulously at Tyren, but he fixes his eyes on the ground and lowers his head quickly to hide the expression.

Tyren says, “I ask you… what does it get you? It changes nothing, after all.”

Lanisen keeps his head down, but he says, “I’m not sulking, sir.”

Tyren’s brow arches. “Your words and your actions contradict each other. And I know which I am more inclined to believe.” He starts to turn. “I see no reason, however, to waste breath on words that shall fall on deaf ears.”

Lanisen’s mouth opens, stung. “What do you /want/ from me?” He quotes in a sarcastic mutter, “‘Not here to rub salt in wounds,'” and tacks on an expletive to make it clear what horse-manure he thinks this is.

Tyren halts, turning again, and his tone is sharp as he narrows his eyes. “No, I’m not here to rub salt in wounds. Mostly because you seem /quite/ content to do that on your own. Has it not occurred to you that sometimes learning to /deal/ with your circumstances rather than sulk that you’re in them is the wiser choice? That it’s hardly ever painless? That maybe refusing to see that is part of what /brought/ you to this point?” He rolls his eyes. “In all honesty, /I’m/ not even sure why I’m bothering anymore.” He again turns.

Lanisen jumps again to his feet. “You stand there an’ talk about all your nice, tidy, /noble/ ideas–fat lot of good they are, here or out there! You can afford ’em, sure, but the rest of the world? You ever tried to /deal/ with your circumstances by yourself, in the snow, when you ain’t got food or a penny to your name? Did you just… /change your thoughts/ an’ make it all better? Your high thoughts ever fill your belly? But wait,” he scoffs, and gives the nobleman a contemptuous look, “Your belly ain’t ever /needed/ filled, has it.”

Tyren strides over, expression dark, and the icy glare he gives the young lad as he draws closer is likely as sharp as the blade at his side. “And have /you/ ever faced the struggles of a knight and nobleman? Because I assure you, they are just as terrible in their own right. Perhaps I have never suffered from an empty belly to the extent as you have. Empty heart, empty soul, empty hope? I assure you I’ve been there. You think it is easy for me to hold to my ‘tidy noble ideas’ all the time? I can assure you I have felt /many/ times that it would be far easier if I let them go.” He pauses briefly. “And if I may say so, they’re the only thing keeping me from letting my anger get the better of me and taking matters into my own hands. Still want to say they’re no good?”

Lanisen swallows and backs up several involuntary steps, his eyes flickering with alarm, obviously recognizing that he’s gone too far. He quickly lowers his head, his face going slack and passive.

Tyren takes a breath, moving a pace back himself, likely thinking perhaps he’s also gone a tad too far. There is still an edge to his tone, though it is tempered some. “Men everywhere struggle. They may manifest differently, but there is not one of us that is immune to a broken heart, an aching soul, or a shattered hope. Noblemen as well as commoners.” He pauses. “One day you’re wallowing and giving yourself up as a bandit to the end of your days, next you’re wondering how to climb out of the pit, next you’re right back to the sulking. You sit on the fence and hedge your bets. That won’t always be the case, you know. I suggest you make your choice before someone else makes it for you.” He turns and strides out of the cell, the door resounding behind him.

Lanisen’s face remains blank throughout the tirade, and his head stays bowed in self-preserving deference. He jumps as the door slams, and stands trembling a moment before returning to his cot.

Lanisen is seated on his cot with his knees up, staring across at the wall opposite. His daily rations sit next to him, seemingly untouched.

The door clangs open suddenly, admitting the Steward. Two of the guards immediately go to where Loc is sleeping to secure him. He holds himself rigid, and his normally calm blue eyes have an icy expression. One of his hands rests on the hilt of his sword, though he does not draw it yet. “The guards informed me of what transpired earlier. That was singularly unwise of you. Can you give me a single reason your life ought to be preserved after the arrogance you displayed?”

Lanisen stands immediately, his face draining of color, though he does not look entirely surprised to see the Steward. His eyes dart to Loc and the guards before returning to Dar’s face. “I’m sorry, I didn’t… I started talkin’, and it… I’m sorry!”

Dar’s sword comes loose from his scabbard with an audible sound. The way he’s holding it demonstrates years of training. His words are, like his countenance, devoid of emotion. “That is not an answer. Now. Move to the door.” Another set of guards enters, hustling Lanisen and his few belongings out of the cell. The first pair remains by Loc’s cot, in case of trouble.

Lanisen quails back, his eyes fixing on the sword. He seems frozen and does not move until the guards take him by the arms. He does not fight them, but he twists around to shoot a frightened look back over his shoulder at his cellmate.

Cell 1
Castle Anvard

Dar escorts Lanisen into another cell, which he will clearly occupy by himself. He dismisses the guards, who wait just outside, before rounding and facing the prisoner.

Lanisen’s lips are white with terror. He backs into the cell, putting as much distance as he can between the naked sword and his body.

Dar looks at him squarely. “Have you any reason to give me that would justify sparing your life? You have been given a choice, for what it is worth, and not deciding is, in effect, making a decision. What else am I to construe from your behavior? Tell me.”

Lanisen watches Dar indirectly, like one might watch a dangerous animal who might take offense from eye contact. His eyes flicker frequently to the drawn sword, and to the guards outside. He is nearly hyperventilating. “I didn’t– I’m sorry, please, I’m sorry, it, it– I didn’t mean to, please–”

Dar waits for a more coherent answer. Still, he shows no sign of relenting or of any softening emotion. “Save your pleas. You do yourself no credit by uttering them. Collect yourself, and give me an answer. I will wait.”

Lanisen takes several deep breaths, keeping his head down, and tries. “I got, I got mad, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, please, please don’t…”

Dar lets out a sigh through his nose. “I am done playing games. Let me be more succinct: why is your life worth preserving, to you?”

Lanisen swallows. His eyes dart to Dar’s face, then to the sword again.

Dar’s expression does not shift. “I seek the truth from you, nothing more, and I believe we have established that the truth is in your best interest. I am also not a man prone to shed blood without great cause. That includes yours.”

Lanisen latches on to this and swallows again. He doesn’t answer.

Dar frowns slightly as he waits. Finally, he says. “As I have told you, it is the truth I am after. Even if that means that you have no answer.”

Lanisen stares at the Steward. His face is slack with fear; he’s in no state to argue on behalf of his own life.

Dar sighs through his nose. “I could give you several reasons to speak. However, courage, like the sense of your own worth, is something which cannot be developed for you. I am sure my cousin has told you that your choice now is to face death, if it comes, as you have lived, or to find your own honor at the last and be able to hold your head up. If it were me, I know which direction I would head.”

Lanisen’s eyes drop to the sword again.

Dar meets Lanisen’s gaze squarely. He knocks on the door for the guards. “I believe I am nearly finished here.” When it is openened, he turns back towards Lanisen, his lanky silhouette framed in the doorway. His tone is deceptively casual. “Oh. I nearly forgot. My cousin and I found ourselves in the graveyard the other night, thanks to circumstances which I will not bore you with. We noted certain–irregularities about the grave of your former leader. Any light you could shed on that? I have long suspected that you know more than you are saying.”

Lanisen’s head snaps up, his eyes wide. “What’s that mean?” he asks shakily.

Dar breaks into a grim smile. “Simply that my cousin is not convinced that this man Myrd is truly dead. Is he correct in that surmise, Lanisen?” It is perhaps noteworthy that the Steward uses the prisoner’s name here for the first time.

Lanisen stares at Dar. After a moment, he shakes his head slightly. “I… the last time I saw him was… the day before… or two days before, I don’t know… they said he was… they said he was dead, they said he was dead.”

Dar eyes the prisoner shrewdly. “The last time you saw him. Yes. Perhaps so. However, you do not need to have laid eyes on the man to have word of him. When was it?”

Lanisen cringes under the scrutiny, but as he is already so visibly shaken, it hardly makes a difference. “It was… two or three days before he… got caught. I don’t know when it was; I don’t know what today is.”

Dar shakes his head sadly, turning slightly away. “Such a simple thing, the truth, and yet, you will not grant me even that. I see there is little more which can be done in your case.”

Lanisen’s face is ashen. “It’s the truth, that’s when I saw him last… I don’t know what day.”

Dar’s expression becomes grim. “And yet, that is not precisely what I asked you.”

Lanisen swallows. “You sayin’ you buried him, an’ he wasn’t dead?”

Dar’s hand rests lightly on the hilt of his sword, though he makes no movement towards the boy. “I am asking about what I know you could tell me concerning his death.”

Lanisen says, shaking his head helplessly, “I don’t know; I don’t know.”

Dar looks distinctly disappointed. “Do not take me for a fool, Lanisen. I contend that you are more aware of this man Myrd’s plans than you are letting on. Furthermore, I believe you have had word from him, perhaps at some point while you were in Lancelyn Green, since I grant that him reaching you here would be–difficult. Do you deny it?”

Lanisen takes a breath and goes still, watching Dar from the corner of his eye. He pauses a moment, then releases the breath and closes his eyes, his throat working again.

Dar frowns slightly, the most emotion he has likely shown since this interview began. “Lanisen,” he says, his tone even, “There is no reason why you should continue to shield this man. It is unlikely we will be able to discover where he has gone anyhow. I know what a difficult burden the truth can be to carry, and you have borne it alone for some time. You ought not do so any longer. Speak of what you know, and the king will hear of it as well. It will shield you, and what is more, it will free you.”

Lanisen takes another shuddering breath. He turns slightly away from Dar as if looking for some manner of escape. “He meant– he, he meant to get caught,” he says unsteadily after a moment, the words obviously each coming with great difficulty. “He was gonna pretend to be dead to get out, I don’t, I don’t know how… we were gonna get him after, an’ then… everything… Loc came back, and Colin caught me, and… you prob’ly know the rest.” He pauses a moment. “The, the message… they went north.”

Dar nods briefly, moving to shut the cell door. “Then he is alive. You have chosen wisely, Lanisen. You need not have feared being harmed, but you will find that the truth has a value all its own.”

Lanisen’s eyes go to the sword again. Oddly, he does not look comforted by Dar’s assertion. He swallows, trembling, almost certainly in some degree of shock. “He’s gonna kill me,” he mumbles.

Dar pauses, once again turning back to the prisoner. “If nothing else, you have done the right thing. Surely you see that. We will take matters from here, and you will have the protection which the castle can provide. It is, I assure you, considerable.”

Lanisen stares at him bleakly.


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