Dar reclines against the far wall of the upper room, at his ease. Durant rests curled up next to his master, his nose across Dar’s knee. Dar absently strokes the hound’s ear, deep in thought.
Lanisen climbs the stairs at the other end of the room, able to be heard a few seconds before his head can be seen above the floor. He obviously does not expect to see Dar there, and is visibly startled.
Dar’s gaze is once more focused on the room in front of him, though he does not yet rise, apparently not wishing to disturb the slumbering hound.
Lanisen bows immediately and steps back down one step. “Sorry, sir, I didn’t realize… ‘scuse me.”
Dar puts a hand on Durant’s head when the hound stirs slightly, whimpering in the grip of a dream, and Durant quickly goes back to sleep, content to have his master near. Dar rises and straightens to his full height. “No. Come in, Lanisen. I wished to speak with you. It is why I am here, not that I do not enjoy Durant’s company.
Colin walks up the stairs. “Lanisen?” he asks as he comes up. “Ah there you are…and Lord Dar! You have returned.” he says, bowing.
Lanisen has paled, but he steps to the top of the stairs immediately. As Colin enters, he quickly bows, then stands straight and a little apart from him, his eyes darting from one man to the other.
Dar raises an eyebrow. “Indeed I have, Sir Colin. Though I would imagine you did not expect to find me here, just as I did not expect to see you. This is for the better, though, since we can easily clear up certain rumors which have reached my ears.”
Colin hehs, and nods the affirmative. “That is a good idea, Lord Dar. I had hoped to catch you the moment you arrived but…circumstances interfered.”
Dar replies in a wry tone, “As they so often do. Need I explain what I am referring to by bringing up the reports I have received?”
Lanisen shifts his weight, glancing back to the stairs. He swallows and fixes his gaze on a section of floor a little ways ahead of where he is standing, and crosses his hands behind his back.
Colin glances at Lanisen. “I don’t think either of us need reminded.” he says dryly.
Dar continues. “Very well. Lanisen has been assigned to my keeping, and I would rather hear the truth from the lad directly.”
Lanisen glances to Dar for a split second, then back at the floor. He swallows and takes a deep breath, then lets it go again. “I… prob’ly everythin’ you heard is true. I did… I got drunk.”
Colin remains silent for the time being.
Dar frowns slightly. Given the Steward’s taciturn nature, this speaks volumes. “Yes. You were observed by some of the kitchen staff. What possessed you to forget yourself so?”
Lanisen takes a moment to respond. “I… don’t have a good reason… sir. I’m sorry.”
Colin’s forehead furrows at that response.
Dar lifts an eyebrow. “I believe we have covered the notion that I prefer the truth, Lanisen, no matter how distasteful.”
Lanisen shifts again, studying the floorboards as if they can provide a suitable answer. “That is the truth, sir.”
Dar sighs through his nose. “Then share with us the reasons you do not consider to be good.”
Lanisen glances up to Dar again, then to Colin. “I…” He shakes his head helplessly, unable to answer. “I’m sorry…”
Colin returns the glance, then looks to Dar, clearly frustrated with Lanisen.
Dar’s expression is solemn. “As am I.”
Lanisen blanches. He glances behind Dar to one of the sleeping dogs, then returns to watching the floor.
Colin says nothing, waiting to see what Lord Dar has to say to Lanisen.
Dar fixes the kennel boy with a look expressing deep disappointment. “Questions remain–what is to be done with you, and how are we to ensure that there is no repetition of your thoughtlessness.”
Lanisen nods quickly, keeping his eyes down. “It won’t–” he rasps, and clears his throat. “It won’t happen again, sir.”
Dar replies firmly, “It must not. For now, you are relived of your duties with the hounds. For the week, at least–”
Lanisen closes his eyes briefly, then slumps in relief at the word ‘week’.
Colin remains silent for the moment.
Dar keeps his gaze on Lanisen, waiting patiently for the lad to absorb his words.
Lanisen takes a breath and nods. “Thank you, sir,” he says quietly.
Dar’s mouth twitches faintly. “You have not heard the end of it.”
Lanisen closes his mouth, some of the relief leaving his posture, and nods again to indicate that he is listening.
Dar explains, his expression of studied calm never leaving. “You will work in the kitchens during that week, performing without question or complaint whatever tasks Brosie sets for you. I cannot say you will find the employment pleasant, but it will keep you occupied. I do not wish to hear even the slightest hint of trouble.”
Lanisen absorbs this in silence. A faint rueful grimace twitches at the corner of his mouth, but it is gone almost before it can be seen, and overall he looks relieved. As Dar concludes, he bows and repeats, “Thank you.”
Dar’s eyebrow inches upward.
Colin coughs quietly.
Lanisen straightens, glancing at the both of them uncertainly.
Dar also glances to Colin. “Do you have anything to add, Sir Colin?”
Colin shakes his head. “I believe your decision is fair and just.”
Lanisen glances again at one of the dogs, shifting his weight. “Do I… uhm, go there now?” he ventures. “Or tomorrow, or… what?”
Dar nods. “Gather your belongings.”
Lanisen says cautiously, “All my stuff’s back in my room in the servant’s quarters…”
Dar says, “Then collect it. You will be rooming above the kitchen with the rest of the staff for this week.”
Lanisen ohs, understanding. “Yes, sir.”
Dar says, “You are dismissed, then. We will say no more about it unless it happens again.”
Lanisen nods quickly, bows yet again to both of them, and glances at Colin before heading down the stairs.