Lanisen is nowhere in sight. The door to the kennels, however, is ajar, creaking in the slight breeze. A scratching noise can be heard from the other side, and it widens just enough to permit a brindle muzzle to poke through to Outside. There is a holler from inside the kennel, and a greyhound pup squeezes through the crack to make a bid for freedom.
Imogen strides through the ward with a walk that is so purposeful it might almost be categorized as defiant (though what she is defying is unclear). She holds her chin high and gives no sign of insecurity. This is a woman who keeps herself apart; she avoids eye contact and she does not greet any of the other passers-by.
The pup, already slender and long-legged despite the fact that it still has near half its growing to do, fairly flies across the ward, demonstrating the effortless speed and grace for which its breed is known. It could put one in mind of a masterpiece sculpture given life – if one had the luxury of sitting back and appreciating it, instead of puffing and wheezing along behind it, as Lanisen is currently doing. The pup leads him a merry chase in and out of traffic, in front of stalls and over rubbish heaps, and at last to the outer gates.
Imogen frowns, her eyebrows contracting in a deep “V”. “Merciful heavens!”
Lanisen skids to a halt, calling an ineffectual warning to the guards. They gawk at him and comprehend too late: the pup flashes between the spear-butts and the legs of those entering the castle, and is gone. Lanisen stares after it, aghast.
Imogen’s head snaps up. “Young man. I trust you will display better manners and more control in future.” With this, she calls out sharply and the errant pup literally stops in its tracks, just outside the main gates.
Lanisen mostly ignores her, except for a perfuctory glance in her direction, as his attention is mostly fixed on the pup. He drops to his knees just on the castle side of the gatehouse and extends a hand, palm-down, to the pup. “C’mere,” he wheedles. “Good dog… c’mon…”
Imogen places her hands on her hips and shakes her head in a universal sign of disapproval when the pup refuses to listen.
Lanisen’s coaxing becomes increasingly desperate. “C’mon, girl, please… Sorrel, /come/!” The pup gives a dog-grin, tail wagging wildly, then bounds back toward the gate, only to stop when –heylookSQUIRREL!
Imogen tsks, then calls in a no-nonsense tone, “Sorrel. Come.” The pup whimpers, but turns and slinks back towards her.
Lanisen stands, watching rather incredulously. He finally glances at the woman from the corner of his eye, thoroughly embarrassed, as Sorrel approaches her with tail tucked.
Imogen leads the dog back to him, her plainness only emphasized by the severity of her expression.
Lanisen shuffles to meet her. “Thanks,” he mumbles to his boots.
Imogen gives a sharp little nod, peering at the boy over the top of her spectacles. “I do my duty, you can be sure.”
Lanisen bends to pick up the pup. “Yes, ma’am.”
Imogen watches, her hands fluttering sightly, two small, white birds at her side.
Lanisen adjusts his grip on the squirmy pup and scritches her ears briefly, getting a slurpy dog-kiss for his troubles. “‘Ppreciate it,” he mumbles, dipping a quick bow, and backs toward the kennels.
Imogen murmurs something about germs under her breath. “Young man. Wait.”
Lanisen pauses warily, hefting Sorrel like a shield. “Yes, ma’am?”
Imogen frowns. “What name do you go by?”
Lanisen shifts, his eyes darting briefly to the gate behind her. “Lanisen, ma’am.”
Imogen stands rigidly. “I shall remember it. I pride myself on my memory. Good night to you.”
Lanisen bows again, nodding nervous acceptance of the dismissal. He begins to turn, checks himself, and asks, “Who’re… er, what’s yours, ma’am?”
Imogen replies flatly, “Mistress Imogen of Carmichael. That should suffice.” She peers down her nose at him to better see him as she speaks.
Lanisen turns toward her more fully at the word ‘Carmichael’, studying her face with a slight frown. After a moment, he simply nods, evidently not finding what he was looking for. “Good night, ma’am. An’ thanks.”
Imogen’s eyebrows draw together again. “Was there something more?”
Lanisen starts to answer, then simply adjusts his grip on Sorrel and shakes his head. “No.”
Imogen marches off with as firm a step as she came with.
Lanisen watches her go, still with a slight frown, then sighs and turns back to the kennels.