taking heart


 

Kennel Loft
Castle Anvard


Lanisen is sitting beneath the only window, his back to the wall. One hand rests on the back of an aged deerhound sprawled across his lap. His head is leaned back against the wall, his mouth open slightly, and he’s obviously fast asleep.

Colin trods up the stairs with a clatter. “Puck?” He calls obliviously.

Lanisen shifts uneasily, lifting his head and scrubbing his eyes open with one hand. He seems to come awake completely a moment later, shifting aside the hound and scrambling up abruptly. He waits to see who’s coming up, his posture stiff and defensive.

Colin stops guiltily. “Bah, Lanisen. Forgive me, I did not mean to wake you.” He apologizes.

Lanisen takes a deep breath, relaxing and looking much less awake than a moment ago. “Wasn’ sleepin’, sir,” he says muzzily, dipping an unsteady bow.

Colin ahs. “I didn’t mean to disturb your break, then.”

Lanisen blinks a few times, rubbing his eyes. “Ain’t takin’ a break, ‘m done…”

Colin nods. “A good feeling at the end of the day when the work is all done, isn’t it?”

Lanisen grimaces slightly, trying to stretch out a shoulder. “Yessir.”

Colin queries, “A bit sore are you?”

Lanisen says, “Just sittin’ like that, ‘s all.”

Colin nods. “It can be bothersome.”

Lanisen nods vaguely and gives up. He pauses, frowns, then remembers, “You’re lookin’ for Puck?”

Colin nods his affirmation. “Have you seen the little small fry around?”

Lanisen shakes his head. “Not up here. Might try the yard, though. They like to sleep in the sun.”

Colin ahs. “I’ll do that.”

Colin starts to head for the stairs, then pauses. “But if I go for Puck, I’ll wake the whole lot up…” His expression conveys his dismay at the idea.

Lanisen hehs, bowing and sinking back down to his previous spot. “Ain’t avoidable, sir. Don’t worry, they like you.”

Colin snorts. “Yes, I know.”

Lanisen grins faintly, inviting the deerhound back to his lap. She obliges, but stiffly.

Colin takes a moment to crouch down and extend his hand towards the hound in Lanisen’s lap. “Hey girl…” he says quietly.

Nia bumps his hand with her nose to find it and gives it a single lick, her tail thwipping twice against the floorboards.

Colin rubs her head more. “You’ve got a sweet one here, Lanisen.” he grins.

Lanisen, as Nia leans her head into Colin’s hand to faciliatate further petting, half-smiles his agreement and strokes the wispy fur on her back.

Colin continues to love on Nia and glances at Lanisen.

Lanisen keeps his attention on Nia, not returning Colin’s look. He looks fairly haggard, even now that the sleep’s mostly worn off.

Colin is silent for a few moments. “Is there anything I can do?” He offers quietly.

Lanisen blinks at him.

Colin raises an eyebrow at him. “Not used to hearing that, eh?”

Lanisen ducks his head to avoid Colin’s look. “What’re you talkin’ about, sir?”

Colin hesitates before speaking frankly. “You’re not yourself, Lanisen. Something’s troubling you. Is there anything I can do about that?”

Lanisen looks for a long moment like he has no idea how to answer this. Finally, he settles for a somewhat lame, “I’m myself…”

Colin doesn’t speak with an accusing tone, just concerned. “Can you deny that something is on your mind?”

Lanisen doesn’t answer.

Colin says nothing to push him, waiting.

Lanisen rubs his forehead. “Did somethin’ pretty dumb today,” he finally admits.

Colin rubs Nia’s head. “Did you now?”

Lanisen says, “I– I cursed at Sir Tyren. He wasn’t s’posed to hear. Kinda figured you were someone comin’ to put me in stocks or somethin’.”

Colin’s unable to control his eyebrows from shooting up in surprise before he hehs. “Good job.” He says lightheartedly, trying to lighten the serious moment. “Might I ask what happened?”

Lanisen stares at him, then shakes his head dismissively. “Was mad.”

Colin asks, “Why?”

Lanisen’s fingers worry at a worn spot on his knee, fidgety. “Ain’t a big deal.”

Colin sighs. “Lanisen.”
Colin says, “If they’re going to come haul you away I’d like to know why.”

Lanisen asks uneasily, “Think they will?”

Colin looks at him dryly. “I can’t say, considering I don’t know what happened.”

Lanisen squirms and finally says, “Was mad at him already, honestly. Guess he picked up on it, wanted to– I dunno what he wanted, he… I think he wanted me to talk about it, maybe, but… I didn’t really want to, so I kept workin’. He got mad and yelled at me for a bit.”

Colin doesn’t offer a reaction.

Lanisen’s head is ducked, making it hard to read his expression. He shrugs slightly after a pause. “Then he left. An’ I sorta let somethin’ slip, just quiet-like, but he heard it. I didn’t mean him to.”

Colin coughs, rubbing the back of his neck. “I know I should be angry with you. I should be furious. What a way to behave towards a knight after everything you’ve gone through to get here. On a different note I doubt Sir Tyren will send cronies to haul you to the stocks for that. I’d like to think he’s more mature than that. Be thankful it was him and not someone else. You might get a rebuke or a warning.” He pauses, and coughs again.

Lanisen keeps his eyes down as Colin speaks and nods, his shoulders slumping a bit. Something about the second cough makes him glance up, however.

Colin rapidly coughs once more and rubs his chin. “After you cool off a bit it would be in your best interest to apologize to him.”

Lanisen looks appalled.

Colin says, “I didn’t say right now.”

Lanisen doesn’t look relieved by this. He studies the back of Nia’s neck, an apprehensive crease between his eyebrows.

Colin continues. “I warrant an apology for being disrespectful will blow the whole thing over.” He says nothing further.

Lanisen does not look convinced by any definition of the word. Just sick-to-his-stomach nervous.

Colin asks, “What bothers you about that? Are you afraid of him?”

Lanisen says defensively, “No.”

Colin holds up a hand. “There’s no need to get defensive, Lanisen. I’m trying to figure this out to help you avoid more trouble.”

Lanisen exhales, rubbing Nia’s ears. “Sorry, sir.”

Colin nods. “Apology accepted.”

Lanisen continues to stroke Nia’s fur, but his motions are jittery and unfocused, and after a moment the hound raises her head to nose at his hand and let him know that that is /not/ the way it is done, thanks.

Colin watches him. “I can’t help if you don’t talk to me, Lanisen.”

Lanisen shrugs, not looking at Colin. “Just not really lookin’ forward to…”

Colin sighs, and makes himself comfortable on the floor sitting across from Lanisen. He appears to be settling in as if this could take a while.

Lanisen watches him.

Colin returns the look by lifting his eyebrows.

Lanisen shifts, an expression that looks like panic fleetingly visible. “I’ll do it, I’ll apologize.”

Colin shrugs. “That’s fine.” He doesn’t move.

Lanisen doesn’t either, searching Colin’s face for a clue as to what he’s waiting for.

Colin just appears to be patiently waiting.

Lanisen swallows nervously and looks down at Nia instead.

Colin speaks up. “Lanisen?”

Lanisen looks up immediately and with relief, apparently glad to have something to focus on instead of Colin’s unnerving scrutiny. “Yes, sir?”

Colin asks, “What happened?”

Lanisen almost flinches. “I told, I told you, sir.”

Colin asks, “There’s more to it though, isn’t there?”

Lanisen takes a breath for protest, but he lets it die away again, not looking at Colin. His silence is as good as an answer, and the same haggard, bone-tired look is back on his face.

Colin prods gently. “Lanisen? Why don’t you tell me?”

Lanisen only shakes his head. “Told you… it was my fault, I was an idiot, knew he was getting’ mad, I should’ve… should’ve said what he wanted, ‘s just…”

Colin says, “What exactly did he want to hear?”

Lanisen rubs his knee, not looking at Colin. “Prob’ly why I was mad at him.”

Colin asks, “For what reason were you angry with  him?”

Lanisen mumbles that it ain’t important.

Colin shrugs his shoulders as if to say “Okay then” and just sits there watching Lanisen in uncomfortable silence.

Lanisen holds out for a moment, then sighs and gives up. “Master Danall had me groomin’ some of the dogs so they don’t shed so bad, so I was brushin’ Tohol. He’s the one who–” He raises his right arm to indicate the bite-wound. “’Cept he was kinda tangly, and he got a little jumpy and started growlin’.”

Colin nods.

Lanisen says, “So… I just left it. Figured I’d give him some time to calm down and then go back. I was gettin’ nervous too, with him like that. ‘Cept Sir Tyren was there and he made some comment ’bout how courage is… not runnin’ from fear or somethin’ like that. An’… yeah.”

Colin raises an eyebrow. “How is that relevant to the wisdom of letting a snarling dog alone for a little while?”  He says dryly.

Lanisen glances at him.

Colin adds, “There’s courage all right but there’s also downright stupidity and there can be a fine line between the two.”

Lanisen doesn’t say anything to this right away. “Guess so, sir. Thing is, I /was/ sorta… I mean, he bit me before, and I… anyway, that’s prob’ly why it… why I got mad, ’cause he was sorta right.”

Colin snorts softly. “Not the way I see it. There’s a big difference between fighting the dragon and rescuing the damsel and fighting for your country, defending your family and other things one would call courageous and… taking on a cranky dog. If one had bit me you’d bet I myself would steer clear of him and give him plenty of room. Yes, even feel a little bit of fear. Does this mean I am a coward because I do not dash up and take him by the ears? Self preservation isn’t cowardice. My father always said choose your battles wisely. I rather think I’d need my arm to take on a group of thugs and would do better preserving my courage for situations that actually relevantly CALL for it.”
Colin continues. “One shouldn’t have to prove their courage to someone else by not showing wariness over an animal who’s bitten before and has a testy temperament.” He pauses and rises, walking over to the window. “Come here, let me show you something.”

Lanisen blinks up at him, baffled, but obediently shifts Nia off his lap and stands to join the knight.

Colin motions outside to a group of boys loitering in the ward below. “You see that young lot down there? They’re really not much younger than you.”

Lanisen follows the gesture, watching them for a moment with distant jealousy. He glances back to Colin to see where he’s going with this.

Colin elaborates. “There’s a stray dog of sorts wandering the woods. I’ve seen it several times when I’m out hunting. A few weeks ago I came upon those boys in the forest and stopped to listen. Their speech was nothing but dares and taunts to chase the dog, catch the dog. One lad expressed his wishes to leave the animal be. ‘Chicken! You’re too afraid!’ Now tell me. How does chasing and capturing a stray dog prove your courage to your mates?”

Lanisen lifts his shoulders slightly, forehead furrowing. “Guess it… shows ’em you ain’t scared of a dog…” He shakes his head, obviously not understanding what Colin is saying.

Colin shakes his head. “At the end of the day, what does it prove?” He pauses, then answers. “Nothing. Perhaps it proves physical courage. Lanisen… Courage isn’t the absence of fear. It’s deciding that something is more important than the fear and doing what needs to be done, even if a thousand voices cry out against you. I would have more respect for that boy who protested the act if he had seen it through and not given in to his friends taunts. That shows me no strength and no real moral courage.”

Lanisen nods, looking back down at the group of boys. His troubled frown remains in place, though he’s obviously listened and understood.

Colin adds more for the lad to chew on. “Courage isn’t always action, either. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow. It takes courage to speak up when no one else is, and to sit down and listen when no one else is. Sometimes even to live is an act of courage. There’s a much deeper meaning to it that can be applied to every area of life, not just proving yourself brave by doing meaningless acts that do nothing to better the world and the lives living in it.”

Lanisen absorbs this in silence. After a moment, he raises his head and /looks/ at Colin, measuring his words against his expression, searching for any hint of duplicity or mockery.

Colin returns Lanisen’s look with clear honesty. “I believe every word of what I spoke.” he says firmly.

Lanisen is quiet, turning back to the window to finish thinking this over. His shoulders straighten just a bit, and though he looks faintly stunned by the whole concept of Colin’s brand of courage, he’s obviously doing his best to take it to heart.

Colin falls silent, having said his piece. He glances down through the window at the boys below and looks to the lad before him. Unseen by Lanisen, the corners of his mouth turn up ever so slightly.

Lanisen finally brings himself enough out of his musings to focus on the boys in the ward. “The dog,” he says, gesturing down at them. “’S it all right?”

Colin nods. “I intervened.”

Lanisen nods and gives Colin a quick grateful glance, then turns away from the window. He leans against the wall, staring down the length of the room, and lets out a long breath, thoughts still distant.

Colin takes a moment to pay a little attention to Nia. “Penny for your thoughts?”

Lanisen hehs, shaking his head. He kneels to give Nia the same attention. “Today’s just been… a day and a half, sir.”

Colin hehs as well. “I know what you mean.”

Lanisen strokes the hound’s neck absently. “You really think apologizin’ to Sir Tyren is gonna help?”

Colin nods and hehs quietly. “Might be a long-winded conversation but if you can survive it I think things will improve.”

Lanisen doesn’t smile or look particularly hopeful about the chances of things improving, keeping his eyes on the hound in front of him. The apprehension is obviously back.

Colin attempts to reassure him. “I’m sure it will be fine. Sir Tyren doesn’t hold grudges.” He pauses, trying to read Lanisen’s expression. “Or is there something else bothering you?”

Lanisen takes a breath and hesitates. “’S just– he was… really mad, is all. Even before.”

Colin asks, “How mad?”

Lanisen pauses uneasily. “Never seen him that mad,” he says after a moment. “Not even when Loc ‘n’ me were still in the dungeons.”

Colin raises his eyebrows. “All this only over him thinking you were mad at him?” He rubs his forehead and mutters. “Honestly… … cares … … servant … mad … … knight…? What a way … …”

Lanisen doesn’t answer.

Colin prods. “Lanisen?”

Lanisen glances up and replies almost immediately, “I– I guess so, sir. More ’cause I was bein’ an idiot about it, I think.”

Colin says, “That makes no sense, but if you say so.”

Lanisen asks wryly, looking at his hands, “You don’t think me bein’ an idiot makes sense?”

Colin shakes his head. “I said it made NO sense. I was referring to Sir Tyren’s reaction. You acting like an idiot doesn’t seem just cause for him to become as angry as you are describing.”

Lanisen hesitates. “Maybe… he wasn’t as mad as I thought he was?” he suggests.

Colin eyes him.

Lanisen shrugs uncomfortably, not looking at Colin. “Maybe I misunderstood or overreacted or somethin’. Maybe he was mad about somethin’ else too.”

Colin sighs.

Lanisen looks at him from the corner of his eye, trying to get a glimpse of what he’s thinking.

Colin looks mildly frustrated, and that he suspects there is more to the story. He falls silent however, respecting Lanisen’s obvious wishes to not talk about it.

Lanisen stands up, grimacing and rubbing his knees gingerly. He paces aimlessly for a moment, then settles again in more or less the same spot. For his part, he looks antsy and indecisive.

Colin opens his mouth and very nearly quizzes him again but chooses to remain silent.

Lanisen releases a breath. “Thought he was… he…” He pauses, then starts over, speaking slowly and carefully. “He reminded me of… of Myrd, a little. So maybe I started seein’ things that… maybe he wasn’t so mad as I thought, maybe I just thought that because…”

Colin’s eyebrows shoot up. “How did he remind you?” He asks quietly.

Lanisen hesitates a moment, then shakes his head and hehs, his whole tone and posture self-deprecating, like he knows what he’s saying is trivial. “It ain’t… he called me ‘boy’ when he was mad, is all. An’… that’s all Myrd used to call me, so it…” He shrugs. Taking another breath, he pauses, then finally admits, “He was gonna hit me.”

Colin says nothing for a moment and his expression remains fairly unchanged, save for a flicker in his eyes. If one would look closer, they would see that Colin is fairly stunned and doesn’t know quite how to react.

Lanisen shifts, looking thoroughly uncomfortable, like he’s already strongly regretting saying anything. He keeps his eyes on the ground. “It ain’t a big deal. He didn’t hit me. Sorry, I’m– forget I said anything, please…”

Colin shakes his head. “No, I’m…thank you for telling me.”

Lanisen glances at him nervously, swallowing hard and again asserting, “It ain’t, it really ain’t. I was askin’ for it, woulda deserved it, ain’t like I never been– Please don’t tell anybody I said somethin’, it’s…”

Colin holds up a hand. “Lanisen, calm. I…would like to speak with Sir Tyren about this, with your permission.”

Lanisen blanches. “No, don’t… sir, please, it’d just be…”

Colin watches him. “I won’t if you really don’t want me to but I feel it needs to be done.”

Lanisen doesn’t look at Colin, but he’s twisting the ragged edges of his sleeves, always a sign of distress. “Wish you wouldn’t.” His tone is pleading.

Colin looks closely at him, then nods. “If that is your wish then I will honor and respect that.”

Lanisen draws a quick breath and swallows again. “Thank you, sir.”

Colin speaks slowly, choosing his words carefully. “Lanisen, if something like that SHOULD occur…with anyone, not just Sir Tyren. What I mean to say is if someone should cuff you or hit you, please come to me about it? Even if you think you deserved it. Heh, probably do sometimes, I know I got my share of cuffs when I was growing up but… I’m not making sense. Just…do it, please?”

Lanisen seems somewhat blindsided by this request. He stares blankly at Colin.

Colin’s expression seems to be pleading with him to just understand and if he doesn’t to agree anyway.

Lanisen obviously doesn’t understand. But he says slowly, “I’ll… try to, sir.”

Colin says, “Not try. You will.”

Lanisen, still confused and uncertain, nods his acquiescence.

Colin nods. “Thank you. Now.” He stands up. “While we both probably will agree that it could have been handled better, it’s time to stop blaming yourself. Acknowlege your part, do apologies, and move on. If you wish me to be present I would be more than happy to.” He offers.

Lanisen stands as well, looking like he’s giving some serious consideration to Colin’s offer, then shakes his head. “Don’t want it to look like… I don’t want him to think I just ran off tattlin’.”

Colin shrugs. “Doesn’t have to be obvious. I can just be around if that would make you more comfortable. I think it goes to say that you have nothing to fear from Sir Tyren. Even in his anger he did not strike you, but I can see why that would be somewhat nervewracking.”

Lanisen nods quickly to this. “I know, sir.” He pauses, again considering. “An’ thanks, but… I think it’ll be better if I just…”

Colin nods, looking impressed and pleased though he tries to mask it. “If you say so.”

Lanisen apparently picks up at least a little of this, as his posture straightens slightly.

Colin appears to notice and he gives Lanisen a look in the eye, nodding very slightly. “You’ll be all right. Done a fairly good job of keeping your nose clean. Just keep it up.”

Lanisen, under Colin’s approval, untenses and lights up, though his expression is solemn and resolute. “I will, sir.”

Colin nods once more and glances out the window. “It’s growing late.”

Lanisen follows his glance to the darkened outer ward. “Yes, sir.” He turns back to Colin and offers a deep, heart-felt bow and an equally heart-felt, “Thank you.”

Colin nods and affectionately clouts Lanisen in a not-cuffing way on the shoulder to lighten the moment. “Anytime.”

Lanisen’s shoulders hunch up, but he’s grinning. “You came here to see Puck!” he remembers with dismay a moment later.

Colin waves a hand. “Eh. I’ll come let him torture me tomorrow.”

Lanisen says, “Guess I’ll prob’ly see you then, then, sir.”

Colin nods. “Aye, you probably will. Think you can behave until then?” He smirks slightly.

Lanisen responds cheekily, “Ain’t makin’ any promises, sir.”

Colin shakes his fist at him. “Oy. You’re giving me gray hair.”

Lanisen’s grin widens, soaking up the good-natured banter. “I do my best.”

Colin grumps his way down the stairs. “Yeah, yeah.”

Lanisen’s laughter and a cheerful, “G’night, sir!” follows him down.

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