Lanisen is, as usual, still and silent, curled up on his cot, staring unfocused at the wall opposite. His face looks sunken and shadowed, washed out in the poor light.
Dar enters the cell, silent, as usual. There is something firm, resolved almost, about the set of his jaw.
Lanisen gets quickly to his feet as Dar enters and backs away from the door, sizing the man up without looking at him directly. He hesitates, made apprehensive by whatever he sees in Dar’s face, and bows.
Dar gives a brief nod in return. He pulls up a chair so that he is facing Lanisen. He gets right to the point. “You have been given the choice of two future paths here, Lanisen. You have had adequate time to think through the decision you are presented with. I would have your answer.”
Lanisen stares at Dar, or rather at the wall at knee-level to Dar’s right. He obviously did not expect this question, and obviously does not know how to answer, and he looks faintly dazed, as if comprehension takes more effort than usual. “Um,” he murmurs, and pushes against the ridge of his browbone. “I want… I want to do the right thing.” He fixes his eyes on the ground in front of Dar. “I’m not… I don’t really know /what/ the right thing /is/, but I’ll try, and… I want to be, to be /done/ with all that, with Myrd. And I want to help fix what I did.”
Dar studies the boy, giving him a long, searching look. “If that is truly so, it will be demonstrated.”
Lanisen shifts uncomfortably at the scrutiny. “How?” he asks without looking up.
Dar folds his hands in his lap. “The last time we spoke, you were deceitful until I pressed you with facts I had already at my command. You tried the same tactics with the king. If you are freed, that must end.”
Lanisen swallows, and his eyes flicker with frightened confusion at this assertion. He opens his mouth to correct Dar, but halts. He finally nods, twisting a loose thread from his sleeve nervously. “Yes, sir.”
Dar says, “There will be hard work involved, and you will have certain conditions imposed on you. However, you will keep your life, and have an opportunity to advance through honest labor. ”
Lanisen nods again, keeping silent and staring at the floor.
Dar’s tone is entirely serious. “Do you believe you can abide by those conditions, and is it your true intention to become a fully productive member of society?”
Lanisen replies quietly, “Yes, sir.” The questions he must have remain unvoiced.
Dar arches his brow. Those questions may have gone unsaid, but they are clearly not unnoted.
Lanisen shifts, and finally asks softly, “What’s gonna… happen?”
Dar states, “To begin with, you will be assigned to my keeping, and given a room in the serving quarters. You are not to leave the castle, and you are to comport yourself in all ways as fitting one who would be granted such a second chance. You are to work in the castle’s kennels, and the Master of Hounds will be directly responsible for monitoring you.”
Lanisen listens silently, his eyes down and his hands folded in front of him in passive acceptance of the the terms. At this last, he darts a startled look up to Dar, caught off his guard enough to look at the man directly. “With the dogs?” he asks, not quite daring to understand. “Really?”
Dar hehs. “I am not in the habit of fabricating my words out of wholecloth.”
Lanisen blinks several times, his eyes shifting away from Dar as he tries to wrap his head around this. “I used to have a dog,” he murmurs.
Dar rises, the key in his hand. “Prove yourself worthy of having your life restored to you. I warn you that you will be watched closely.”
Lanisen nods, his eyes fixing on the key. His whole body is trembling with expectation.
Dar gestures that Lanisen is to precede him out of the cell. “There is to be no access to weapons, even in practice. Or horses. Try to run, and the consequences will be dire. You understand that, I hope.”
Lanisen nods again. He begins to move forward toward the open door, a little unsteady on his feet. He hesitates before leaving the cell in case Dar has changed his mind, then quickly steps out. He doesn’t look back.