community service

Staff Quarters
Castle Anvard

Lanisen is heading through the fairly busy corridor toward his quarters, the front of his tunic held gingerly out from his body – the reason for this being that he seems to have spilled porridge or something on himself. Most likely going to clean up.

Colin clambers down the stairs, looking wide awake and ready for the day in a simple tunic.

Lanisen pauses to let a noble-breakfast-laden chamberlain pass, dodges a lady’s maid, and finally reaches the right side of the tower.

Colin starts his own dodging as he strides purposefully towards Lanisen’s chamber, only to stop when he spots the owner and heads towards him instead.

Lanisen doesn’t see Colin, focused as he is in not bumping into anybody and getting to the room with the un-porridged clean tunic in it. He makes it to his door and reaches for the handle.

Colin steps right up to him and speaks clearly. “Lanisen, just the man I’m looking for.”

Lanisen jumps, caught off-guard, and rallies himself quickly. “Uh– me, sir?” He bows hastily, glancing automatically around the busy corridor.

Colin nods. “Yes, you. I wonder if I might borrow you for the day. I have some work I need your help with. You and..” he looks around at a couple of the servants who have slowed to listen. “You. Lad.” He points at a boy not quite Lanisen’s age, who promptly skids to a halt with a surprised deer-in-headlights expression on his face. Colin motions him over to them.

Lanisen and the lad survey each other with mutual uncertain suspicion. The boy approaches anyway and bows. “My lord?”

Colin nods. “I believe today is a light day in the castle, and certain circumstances bring me to require some assistance from you lads. May I count on you both?”

Lanisen mostly looks confused, but he nods, darting another glance at the other lad.

The younger lad ducks his head, a myriad of emotions on his face as he’s thrilled yet nervous that the king’s nephew is addressing him. “Yes m’lord, of course.” He says, glancing uncertainly at Lanisen.

Colin looks pleased. “Excellent. I have one more thing to do before we set off. Meet me in the outer ward in fifteen minutes.”

Lanisen replies after a pause, “Yes, sir.” He’s obviously got all sorts of misgivings, but he glances at the lad next to him and keeps them to himself.

The other boy looks equally uncertain but respectfully only nods his affirmation and bows before he scurries off to finish his task.

Colin says, “Lanisen, have you seen Sir Tyren about this morning yet or do I have to go wake him up?”

Lanisen shakes his head. “No, sir, I ain’t seen him. Just came from breakfast, sir.” He gestures to his porridge-glopped tunic as evidence. He hesitates, glancing at Colin questioningly.

Tyren finishes up giving a few directions to a servant as he walks toward the staff quarters, who bows and hastens to go about his buisness. The knight runs a hand through his hair and lets out a breath, turning toward the stairwell, then notices the current company. He dips a bow toward Colin and a nod toward Lanisen, wordless for the moment.

Colin leaves Lanisen’s question unanswered. “Never mind, I’ll just…catch him right here.” He chuckles under his breath, returning the bow. “Sir Tyren. Busy day ahead?”

Tyren replies, “Potentially. Depends on how swiftly I can make arrangements.”

Lanisen glances toward Tyren as Colin bows. He dips a low bow of his own and steps aside, crossing his arms to hide the porridge stain on his front, and eyes the ground.

Colin raises an eyebrow. “I see. Can your arrangements wait an hour or two?”

Tyren says, “That would depend on what I am postponing them for.”

Colin smiles slightly. “A service to the people. I’ve been planning it for a few weeks and could use an extra hand if you’re willing.”

Tyren merely quirks a brow, in what might be construed as a slightly skeptical manner.

Lanisen sneaks a glance at Colin, his forehead furrowed in confusion.

Colin sighs patiently. “If you wish to join us, meet in the outer ward in fifteen minutes. If you do not wish to join then I hope your other preparations go well.” He bows.

Tyren bows slightly in return, as he says, “I’m going to need a bit more than that to go on to decide, you know. I am… not up to dealing with the unexpected lately, I’m afraid.”

Colin nods. “As you wish, Sir Tyren. If you change your mind we’ll be in Andale. Good day to you.” He bows politely once more before setting off.

Lanisen’s head jerks up at the word ‘Andale’ and he gapes after Colin, looking utterly baffled and apprehensive. He glances at Tyren.

Tyren gives Lanisen a nod, saying simply, “Go on.”

Lanisen closes his mouth and nods, bowing quickly. “Yes, sir. Morning, sir.” Still trying to hide the porridge mess, he bumps backward into his door.

Tyren remains where he is a moment, his glance shifting back out the ward. His brow furrows briefly in thought before he ventures on himself.

Outer Ward
Castle Anvard

Colin waits in the Outer Ward just as promised. The other lad has already joined him and awaits whatever comes in eager silence.

Tyren strides into the ward, making a short detour to have a quick word with a stablehand outside the stables. The stablehand nods and bows, and Tyren makes his way to Colin and sweeps a bow of his own.

Lanisen hustles through the inner gate, wearing a clean tunic, and wastes no time in joining the others. “Sorry, sir; sorry, sir,” he says, bowing to the respective sirs. He glances apologetically at the other servant.

Colin watches Tyren approach and bow, an unreadable expression on his face. He returns the bow, smiling slightly. As he rises, Lanisen hustles over. “No apologies necessary, Lanisen. We’re all here. Thank you all for taking the time. Shall we be off?”

The other servant boy gives Lanisen a sidelong glance, preparing to follow the knights.

Tyren simply nods slightly, his own expression impossible to decipher – though he does, perhaps, ease a bit at Colin’s smile.

Lanisen hangs back slightly, looking quietly uneasy.

Colin catches each one of their eyes and nods slightly before turning and leading the way.

Eastern Archenland

You stand in the heart of Andale where most of the folk who support Anvard live.  Young children play here on nice days, skipping rope, or shooting marbles, and older ones can be seen reading scrolls. Adults hurry through ontheir way from home to where their business takes them. A well with a stone wall sits on the western edge of the road.
The road here widens and splits to run toward the shops to the east, North Andale to the north and the Crossroad to the south. Short paths lead to the two settlements here; Het Noorden to the northwest, and Zuiden to the southeast.

Colin slows as they pass the Andale well, glancing at the faces gathered there. Without a word he continues on, leading them towards Zuiden.

Lanisen follows silently, keeping close, but looking around him with a sort of wide-eyed hunger. Like he’s taking in enough outside-the-castle scenery to last the next year or so.

Eastern Archenland

You stand before a row of cottages,  with thatched roofs and solid looking, white-washed walls.  There is a community garden behind the cottages and beyond the last cottage is a firepit surrounded by benches.  Often on fine evenings, story tellers and singers gather here.   The families who live here mostly serve at Anvard or in the shops of Andale.
A path to the northwest leads out to Andale, and is well travelled by those on their way to and from the well, or the castle, or the shops.

Arael is sitting on a low wooden bench to the side of the door of one of the cottages. There is a sizeable pile of raw onions on the seat beside her, and a handfull are in her lap, where she appears to be doing some sort of braidwork with their necks and a coarse length of string. She is keeping a slightly distracted eye on a pair of tow-headed lads who play with a set of well-used wooden rings nearby.

Colin leads Sir Tyren, Lanisen, and another lad into Zuiden. He leads them between the cottages. Some of the residents awake at this hour appear to know him, smiling with recognition and bowing respectfully to both him and Tyren.

Tyren nods in return to those who bow as he passes. His demeanor is quiet and reserved, though likely this isn’t particularly surprising.

Lanisen follows close behind, keeping in the shadow of the knights, glancing furtively at the people. His face, though expressionless, is somewhat pale. But he catches sight of Tad and Tadden, and almost immediately some of the visible tension lifts.

Colin stops in front of the cottage with Arael and the boys out in front. “Good day to you.” He says amiably, as if it’s normal for him to be there at this hour.

Arael’s head snaps up, and she blinks in surprise as she spots first Colin, and then those with him. She gives a hesitant little half-grin, then carefully shifts her work off her lap and stands, bobbing a curtsey. “G’day, Sir Colin. Sir Tyren. Lanny.” She spares them each another confused look.

Tad, who is facing the men as they approach, gives an exultant cry and scampers toward them.

Tyren nods in return. “Good day, Arael.”

Lanisen echoes, “‘Lo, Ara.”

The lad with the group nods his head in greeting to the unfamiliar woman, staying quiet.

Colin chuckles and greets Tad, solemnly shaking his hand and ruffling his hair. “Someone – can’t rightly remember who – informed me that there was a cottage needing whitewashed in Zuiden. Might this be it?” He asks mildly.

Tyren glances to his knightly companion while quirking a brow vaguely, though he remains wordless for the moment.

Arael returns the second lad’s nod cheerfully, then looks curiously back up at Colin. At his question, she grins ruefully and nods with a vague gesture at the four walls behind her. “Aye, Rannen’s not gotten to it just yet.”

Tad bows and grins up at Colin, then bounces up and down on his toes as he takes in the group. His brother is not far behind him.

Colin nods. “I thought he might not have. If the whitewash was made last night as someone also told me might happen, may I offer our services to your family?”

Lanisen wiggles his nose at Tad and Tadden. Not a particularly rabbity look, but quite comical.

Tadden giggles delightedly.

Tyren retains his reserved demeanor as the boys approach, though he /does/ allow a small, pleasant (and almost wistful) sort of smile in their direction.

Arael blinks and grins crookedly, looking puzzled, as she glances about at the men yet again. “If you like?” she offers uncertainly, absently brushing at the onion debris on her apron.

Colin catches Lanisen’s facial expression at the same time the servant boy behind him does. Their expressions are comically similar as each arch a skeptical eyebrow. Colin turns back to Arael and grins. “We are at your service. Two more from the village should be joining us soon.”

Tyren quirks a brow Colin’s direction again, breaking his silence. “Have to say I wasn’t expecting this.”

Colin looks slightly sheepish and contrite as he removes his sword and places it out of harm’s way as he addresses Tyren. “Sorry about that. I’ve discovered hard work is good for clearing the mind, especially when there’s a benefit to it. Been wanting to share that discovery but I haven’t been quite sure how.”

Arael, too, giggles softly as she catches sight of Lanisen’s expression, then watches quietly as Colin answers Tyren.

Lanisen is grinning quietly in the back by now, oddly elated by the prospect of the work. “Good thinkin’, sir,” he says in a low tone.

Tyren hehs faintly. “Hence my tendency to throw myself into my work when I’ve too much on my mind, as it were.” He follows Colin’s example and sets his sword aside – though he retains the dagger in his belt (which, seeing as it’s nowhere near as pristine as the rest of the knight’s equipment, would not be much affected by another smudge). “Well, as surprises go, this is considerably less… drastic than the ones I’ve had lately, so I can let it slide. I’m as good as my word, even if it’s merely implied rather than directly stated, so let’s have at it.”

Colin rubs his hands together. “Let’s get started. Arael, where might that whitewash be?”

Arael gives a quick little nod. “Around the side.” She leads the way around the corner of the cottage, still smiling a bit doubtfully, until she reaches a covered tub which sits beside the wall. “Just here,” she finishes, lifting the cover off and stepping back a little.

Colin towers over her short frame, not deliberately trying to be intimidating, but you know. “Right. Lanisen, Mel. Come help me move this please?” The servant boy named Mel gives a slight start and immediately heads over to help.

Lanisen follows, taking a grip of the tub next to Mel. “On your sign, sir,” he says, tugging at the tub slightly to test its weight.

Tyren rolls up his sleeves just past the elbows, striding over to provide what assistance he can as well.

Colin grabs a side. “On three.” he counts, and they lift in unison. He guides the tub over to the front of the cottage where it can be most easily accessed.

Arael moves out of the way and tugs Tadden back a few steps so he doesn’t get tangled underfoot. She then takes up a few brushes and follows the others back around to the front.

Lanisen staggers in that general direction, mostly just trying to keep his corner up while not impeding Progress.

Colin straightens once the tub is on the ground. “Right. Should we all work on the same side at the same time or split up?”

Tyren follows suit, then sizes up the structure and the crew. He glances to Colin. “Split up, I think. I gather you and I are going to have to handle the higher parts… might as well do that on one side while we get the rest on the others, so we’re not all trying to reach over one another.”

Arael looks vaguely amused as she as she sets down the brushes near the tub’s new position and steps back, watching quietly.

Colin glances at Arael thoughtfully, then assesses the cottage a moment before giving a nod. “I believe you have it, Sir Tyren.” He bends to pick up the brushes and holds them aloft. “Gentlemen, choose your weapons. I suggest you choose wisely because this weapon shall be your friend for the better part of the day.” He says with mock solemness.

Mel claps a hand over his mouth, squelching a snort.

Lanisen doesn’t even try to squelch his. He approaches the pile and selects a brush, then hefts it like a spear. And then like a sword. And then like badminton racket. “This one shall suffice,” he says in an affected deep voice and ridiculous accent, obviously mimicking one particular castle guard.

Tyren strides over, snort-less, and peruses the selection. He gravely chooses one out of the arrangement, looking it over and giving a firm nod. He says, with all seriousness, “This shall be my weapon. And as a noble weapon deserves a noble name, it shall henceforth be known as Stamitos.” He slips it into his belt where his scabbard was.

Arael laughs merrily at the lot of them and lifts Tad up to sort through the brushes that are left.

Lanisen tries to balance his by the ‘hilt’ on his forehead. Doesn’t work so well, actually.

Colin laughs outright at their antics, selecting his own brush. “You have chosen wisely, my brothers.” He wields his like a sword and makes a few swishy movements in the air.

Mel selects his brush, eyeing the knights warily, amusement flickering in his eyes.

Lanisen rests his brush over his shoulder, ready to get down to business.

Tad mimics Colin’s motions, and Arael steps backward quickly before he can get at anyone’s eyes. Grinning and shaking her head good-naturedly, she sets him down and straightens up again.

Tyren pulls his own out again, twirling it a bit before holding it much as he would hold a dagger – non-threateningly, of course.

Colin snickers and readies his brush, dipping it in the tub of whitewash. “Out of curiosity, why Stamitos?”

Tyren does the same, replying, “It means ‘enduring.’ That way, if the job done proves to be faulty, it’s the brush’s fault for not living up to its name rather than my own.” His stoic and serious facial expression cracks to display a small smirk.

Colin snickers, fighting to maintain seriousness. “Good choice.” He starts whitewashing the front of the cottage.

Lanisen waits for the knights to finish, then ambles forward too. He dunks the brush, watching to pick up valuable complicated whitewashing techniques, then slops the stuff onto a convenient wall.

Arael’s shoulders quiver a little as she helps Tad to spread the paint low down on the wall.

Tyren begins on the opposite side of the front as Colin, slipping back into his reserved and stoic countenance – though it seems a bit more relaxed, somehow. His handling of Stamitos proves to be precise and controlled.

Colin goes at a vigorous pace, working his way along. A drip from his brush falls and very nearly lands on Arael.

Lanisen, in an expansive mood from the warm sun, the work, and the more-or-less comfortable company, asks the servant working beside him, “So what’s your name?”

Mel glances uncertainly at Lanisen, obviously struggling a bit. However, the relaxed mood of the group seems to be making a difference because after a minute he looks Lanisen in the eye and responds. “I’m Mel. N’ you?”

Arael spares the stray paint drop a distracted glance, but doesn’t seem too much ruffled by her close scrape.

Tyren works fairly quickly himself, meeting Colin in the middle after a short while.

Colin grins sheepishly down at Arael and Tad, his eyes widening as another drop heads right for them. With a slight yelp he catches it in his hand. He looks from his now white spattered hand to the two below him and raises his eyebrows. “Er..I’ll head this way.” He chuckles, working towards Tyren. He redips his brush.

Lanisen drops to his knees to get at the bit of the wall closer to the ground. “‘M Lanisen,” he replies to Mel.

Mel grins slightly, revealing a slightly crooked front tooth that makes him appear even younger than he his. “Kinda figured.”

Lanisen hehs, his face hidden from Mel’s angle. But he says lightly, “Kinda figured you figured.”

Mel ducks his head. “Well. Y’know. Seen you around.”

Tyren dips his own brush again as well, filling in the last section between him and Colin. “Back the other way, I suppose,” he says to his fellow knight as he starts moving back the way he came from, a little lower.

Arael chuckles and moves over a little bit so that she’s not in the way. She listens idly to Lanisen and Mel’s exchange as she helps Tad guide the brush.

Colin nods, reaching towards a high spot. “Aye, suppose so.”

Lanisen shrugs and dunks his brush. He works upward this time, whitewashing as far up on the wall as he can reach. “What do you do? In the castle, I mean?”

Mel works downwards, getting as close to the ground as he can without painting the dirt. “I work in the kitchens mostly.”

Lanisen wrinkles his nose into a sympathetic grimace. “Yeah?”

Mel nods, shrugging a bit. “It’s not so bad once you get used to it. Get to taste some good stuff.” He grins.

Lanisen ehhs and nods his head to the side, conceding this. “Definitely be an up-side,” he agrees.

Arael turns back toward the tub to help Tad dip the paintbrush again. Her eyes widen and she snatches an adventurous Tadden backward just in time to keep him from getting up to his chin in whitewash.

Mel nods. “Get to hear a lot of stuff, too. You’ve noticed how they kinda forget we’re there, eh?”

Tyren continues along, taking care with his strokes.

Colin redips his brush and starts on a new section, only having to go back over his work once or twice to get the full coating on the wall. He glances back at the tub as he works and laughs. “Care for some assistance, Arael?”

Lanisen smirks mischievously. “Mighta,” he admits. “I don’t get to hear the good stuff, though.”

Mel snickers. “I do, sometimes.”

Arael glances up at him with a wry grin. “Have you got a knack for keeping small lads out of early snowfalls, then, M’lord?”

Colin pauses to think about that, his brush dripping on the ground as he holds it idle. “I can try?” He offers cheerfully.

Tyren lets out a small chuckle before he can quite stop it at this, though he continues with his section.

Lanisen dunks his brush again, then swings it back to attack the wall, splattering both himself and Mel. “Mane tail ‘n’ whiskers!”

Mel jumps back in surprise, resulting in spatters from his own brush flinging all over Lanisen. “Oops.” He says, his eyes widening as he tries desperately not to laugh.

Arael laughs a little and shrugs, ushering Tadden in his direction. “Well, then, here you are.” She watches with amusement as Tadden, easily distracted, gallops lop-sidedly toward him.

Lanisen eyes his polka-dotted tunic ruefully. “Sure am glad I changed.”

Tyren chuckles again to himself as he shakes his head slightly, still keeping (mostly) out of the way of antics for the moment, his focus on the task before him.

Colin laughs as he watches the boy. “I shall do the job justice, m–!” He declares, saluting with his right hand. The hand that contains his dripping brush. The resounding slap as he accidentally smacks himself on the forehead cuts off the rest of his sentence.

Arael gives a startled snort, clapping her hand swiftly over her mouth and watching him an expression of with wide-eyed mirth.

Lanisen turns around at the wet schlap sort of noise, then makes a snickery noise remarkably similar to Arael’s.

Tyren observes, “Quite the way to inspire confidence in your abilities.”

Colin remains standing that way for a few seconds. “Thank you, Sir Obvious.” He says drolly as the whitewash drips down his face onto his tunic. He removes the brush and slowly blinks his eye open, looking like a very strange black eye as he peers at the others.

Tyren merely continues as he simply replies, “Anytime.”

Lanisen chokes with laughter. But he goes back to whitewashing and pretends not to see anything. Pretends very obviously. With many snickering glances.

Arael’s eyes twitch a little at the corners, but she keeps from giggling until she glances down at Tad, who’s laughing merrily. Then she lets out a little chortle.

Colin wipes the whitewash from his face, shaking his head at himself and laughing. “Well then.”

Lanisen returns to his wall with vigor, very pointedly not saying anything.

Tyren chuckles, saying simply, “Well then indeed.”

Colin casually fwips some whitewash in Tyren’s general direction and gets back to work with a straight (and very white) face.

Tyren regards the sudden flecks of white on his tunic briefly, then shrugs. “Seeing as how often we make each other black and blue, might as well add another color into the mix to shake things up a bit.”

Arael’s lips quirk one last time before she straightens out her face and distracts Tad by helping him dip the brush again.

Colin nods seriously and fwips his brush again in Tyren’s direction. “Missed a spot.” He offers as explaination.

Tyren jerks slightly to avoid this one, and replies with a smirk, “Could say the same to you, though I’d think you’d prefer not to have whitewash in your eye.”

Colin lifts his chin jauntily and dips his brush, finishing his section of the wall.

Lanisen whispers to Mel conspiritorially, “Two trees on Sir Colin.”

Arael focuses quite intently on the spot on the wall that she’s helping Tad paint.

Tyren leans back for a moment to observe his work, then adds one or two more touches to his section of wall – for lo and behold, he /has/ indeed missed a spot.

Colin glances at Lanisen sharply, his eye eying him from the white splotch on his face.

Lanisen continues beatifically to whitewash. Nothing suspicious here!

Arael hums absently, nudging Tad to scoot down toward the end of the wall. She glances up to check on Tadden, who’s quite absorbed in some sort of beetle in the grass nearby.

Tyren rounds the corner to continue on the next wall, which happens to put him in fairly close proximity to Tadden for the moment.

Colin glances around at the others while he works, grinning as he watches the boys and Arael.

Mel glances at Lanisen as things quiet for a moment. “So. Where ‘re you from?”

Lanisen answers after a slight pause, “Carmichael. You?”

Mel nods, repainting a spot that didn’t get much whitewash. “My mum’s from Carmichael. I was born here.”

Lanisen grabs a convenient crate and overturns it, climbing on top to reach the higher places. “Yeah? How long you been workin’ at the castle?”

Arael watches Tad for a little longer, then nods in satisfaction and stand to fetch a brush of her own. She glances toward Lanisen and Mel with a rather curious expression.

Mel puffs his chest proudly. “Almost a year now!”

Tyren works his way along an edge, pausing briefly to re-dip his brush. He mops his brow, leaving a smudge of white there in the process, and continues.

Colin leans against an unpainted part of the wall, using one hand as a support as he paints with the other. He continues to look at the others, not really paying attention. He spots Tyren and grins the grin of a man enjoying the labor. “How are you faring?”

Tyren hehs, the rhythm of his strokes not missing a beat as he replies, “Better than I’ve been in a while, I admit.”

Lanisen asks, “Yeah?” He pauses, thinking, and absent-mindedly drips more whitewash on his tunic. “We’d’ve started at about the same time, then.”

Colin points at the tub with his brush. “Hard work. It does wonders, I tell you.” He glances at the boys, trying to help Arael keep an eye on them. He watches for a moment, accidentally painting over his hand as he does so.

Mel nods, ducking his head slightly. “Yeah, I remember.”

Tyren stifles a small snigger as he observes this, instead saying, “Don’t deny that, though that wasn’t what did it.”

Arael dips her brush and, with a glance up to be sure that Colin is still watching Tadden, ducks around the corner near where Tad works.

Colin doesn’t appear to even notice his hand, looking around once more. “Oh?”

Tyren chuckles quietly, merely saying, “Nope,” as he sweeps several strokes in succession down the wall.

Tadden begins crawling after the beetle as it scuttles off through the grass.

Colin ers. “Hold that thought.” He starts following Tadden.

Lanisen works quietly for a long moment, accomplishing quite a lot before he glances again at Mel. “This’s better’n hangin’ around the castle all day,” he comments.

Mel nods eagerly, then glances at the knights in alarm. “I like my work…it can be fun. This is fun too though. I’ve never done this for someone else before.”

Tadden pauses and puts his face down near the ground to inspect the insect more closely.

Colin stands slightly back, watching the boy warily in case he decides to eat the beetle or something. He glances back at the others and hehs before paying attention to his charge.

Lanisen grins, keeping his eyes on his brush. “Me neither. I like it.” He hops down off the crate and stands back a bit from the wall. “Looks pretty good… you see any skimpy spots?”

Mel surveys their wall with a critical eye. “Looks good to me.”

Tadden gives an indignant squawk as the beetle sudden burrows down between grass stems so that it’s out of sight.

Tyren glances to Tadden at the squawk, his tone rather less formal than it is wont to be as he asks, “Lose something?” amiably.

Colin crouches down beside the boy. “Hm, wonder where he went.”

Mel swipes a few finishing touches before standing back and looking again. “Think this wall’s done?” He asks Lanisen.

Lanisen purses his lips, then nods and swings his brush to rest over his shoulder. “Looks like it.” He bends to nab his step-stool crate.

Mel heads around the corner to help the others finish their walls.

Tadden looks up at the knights, then back down at the grass. After a moment, he answers sagely, “He’s hidin’.”

Colin comfortably gets down on his stomach same as the boy. “Well. You going to look for him or not?” He grins.

Tad strides importantly after the older boys.

Tyren chuckles. “He’ll turn up sooner or later, I’m sure. I’ve found beetles are usually fond of surprising you, once they hide.”

Colin snickers as he crawls after Tadden, combat-style. “Known many a beetle in your day have you?”

Tadden frowns in concentration as he leans back over and peers between the grass stalks.

Mel stops in his tracks and glances at Lanisen, puzzled to see Colin crawling in the grass on his belly.

Tyren says, “Oh yes. Many a day was spent crawling around in the dirt with my six-legged friends, and many a lecture did I get from my mother about it afterward.”

Colin snorts. “I can see that.”

Tyren smirks a bit, again pausing a moment to survey his work. “I’m just sure you can.”

Arael reappears after a few moments and pauses beside the paint tub, grinning in amusement as she watches Colin and Tadden.

Lanisen follows Mel, dripping whitewash behind him. He almost runs into Mel as he stops. “Wha– oh.” He snickers under his breath and shrugs at the younger lad.

Mel whispers to Lanisen, “Is Sir Colin all right in the head?”

Colin continues to shimmy along on his stomach like an overgrown caterpillar, oblivious to the others.

Lanisen watches, biting his lip and shaking his head. “Sometimes,” he says, utterly serious, “I wonder.”

Arael giggles a little freshens up her brush, then turns to go back around the corner.

Mel looks slightly alarmed and eyes the caterpillar knight warily. “He’s not…/conventional/.”

Tadden crawls along for a bit, but gets distracted by the grass itself after a few moments. He begins tugging experimentally at the stalks.

Colin almost looks disappointed, but cooperates. “We’re doing this now, eh? Having fun, Tadden?”

Lanisen snickers and shrugs again. “Nah,” he says quietly to Mel. “He ain’t. He’s Sir Colin.”

Tyren says under his breath, “Can say that again,” apparently in response to Mel’s comment, accompanied with a vague smirk.

Mel looks thoughtful. “/They/ don’t like not-conventional, but /I/ do.” The boy talks more to himself than Lanisen as he starts to finish up this other wall.

Tadden nods contentedly, poking at one grass stalk with another.

Lanisen dunks his brush, glancing again toward Colin and Tadden. “Yeah,” he says as he takes a place next to Mel, solidly loyal. “Me too.”

Colin pokes the end of a blade of grass in his mouth and chews it contentedly. He’s apparently content to watch the others while he supervises Tadden.

Tyren furrows his brow a bit as he surveys his section of wall again, adding a bit more whitewash here and there to even the coat out.

Arael moves back and forth between the whitewash tub and the far walls of the cottage now and again, checking in on Tadden as she does so.

Mel works quickly, getting the hang of things now so he doesn’t have to go back over his work so much. “What do you do in the castle, Lanisen?”

Colin pokes Tadden with his blade of grass. “Want to head back that way a bit?”

Tadden grins amiably and gets to his feet. “‘Right.”

Lanisen swipes his brush over the top of the wall in easy rhythmic movements, pausing at intervals to move his crate over or re-dunk his brush. “Do odd jobs for Lord Dar, mostly. When he lets me go I hang around at the kennels. Or the stables.”

Colin pushes himself up onto his knees and walks back across the grass that way, following Tadden.

Mel asks, “Are there lots of pups in the kennels?”

Tad pipes up, “Lots an’ LOTS!”

Arael comes around the corner again as Colin and Tadden are making their way back. She pauses near the tub. “Shall I take him back, then?” she offers.

Lanisen chuckles at Tad. “Quite a few, yeah,” he agrees. “There’s a batch of foxhounds – harriers, you know – born last winter. Almost full-grown now, still all rambunctious and stuff. Sir Colin’s hound’s one of ’em. An’ some greyhounds barely old enough to walk. Ugly little things.” He grins.

Colin shrugs, grinning at her. “We’re getting on just fine. I had to make you do my whitewashing though.”

Mel grins, finishing his section. “D’ya think…I mean, if you don’t mind…could I come with you sometime on free time?” The boy asks hopefully.

Arael laughs a little and shrugs lightly. “Likely no more than I’d have done if ’twas left to Rannen.”

Tyren stretches up to fill in the upper portions of his current section, then steps back a pace to look at it as a whole. “Much better,” he says to himself.

Colin gets to his feet and scoops Tadden up for a moment. “If the poor man didn’t fall asleep on the job.” He comments, swinging Tadden around.

Lanisen glances at Mel in surprise. “Uh… sure, if you want. I don’t– I don’t care.”

Tadden crows in delight.

Mel grins slightly. “Y’sure?”

Arael chuckles ruefully. “Well, he’s not chopped his thumb off just yet.”

Colin hehs. “See to it he doesn’t.

Arael nods with a wry grin. “Aye, ’tis rather the point of being here.”

Lanisen shrugs. “Yeah. ‘Course. If you really want to, I mean.” He glances at the other boy uncertainly from the corner of his eye.

Colin grins in response and swings Tadden up into his arms. “Don’t think I hear any complaints.”

Mel wets his brush and turns to find an unpainted spot only to be met with none. “Oh yeah, I do.”

Arael laughs at Tadden’s exultations, then shakes her head. “I meant why /I’m/ here. But nay, to be sure we’re quite in your debt.”

Colin play-tosses Tadden to Arael. “I knew what you meant.”

Lanisen steps back from the wall and surveys it for poorly-painted spots. He dabs a couple, then shrugs. “‘S fine with me, then, I guess…”

Mel gives a quick grin. “Where else we gotta cover?” He asks, wielding his brush in knightly fashion.

Arael reaches out to take him, then twirls him around once to quiet his protests.

Lanisen snickers, then gestures to one corner. “There, but I’ll get it. My fault it’s sloppy.” He drags the crate over, hops up, and coats the area a second time.

Mel walks around the cottage to find any more. He pauses at Sir Tyren and asks hesitantly, “Where can you use us, Sir?”

Colin chuckles as he watches Arael and Tadden a few seconds before he heads back to find his brush. “Where did I leave off?” he asks, surveying the cottage.

Tyren’s focus leads to a brief beat before he realizes he’s been addressed, and steps back to look at the wall he’s working on. He considers a moment, then gestures to the far side of it. “Over there, I think. Should have this bit finished up before too long, then I can give a hand myself, and we’ll have this side good to go in a snap.”

Mel nods and does as directed.

Colin sees that Tyren has things under control on this side and heads around to the other to do something useful over there. He circles back around the cottage a couple moments later. “It’s all done!” He says, surprised and slightly disgruntled.

Lanisen hops down from his crate. “Looks like it, sir!”

Arael laughs softly at his expression and turns to survey the wall in front of her. “And a fine job. ‘Twill keep the wind out nicely.” She gives a firm nod.

Tyren says, “Well, mostly,” as he finishes up the last section of his wall, assisted by Mel. “/There/ we go.”

Mel finishes touching up the last of the wall and scurries over to stand by Lanisen as everyone inspects the cottage. The boy and his tunic are spattered quite nicely, making him resemble some odd sort of leopard.

Lanisen leans his brush over the side of the tub to drip excess whitewash and steps back, stretching.

Colin grins. “Well done, my friends. It looks perfect.” he compliments his workmates.

Tyren says, “Indeed.”

Colin starts gathering brushes to clean up.

Arael takes Tad’s brush from him, holding it down out of Tadden’s reach. “A fine job, my lad.” She grins.

Tyren gathers up a few himself, aiding his fellow knight in their cleaning.

Colin turns circles a couple of times. “Hm. Water. Sir Tyren, care to follow me to the well to wash these up? Shouldn’t take but a moment.”

Tyren replies simply, “Fine by me.

Colin gathers up everything he can. “We shall return shortly.” He advises the others.
Colin leads the way.

Colin walks down the hedge lined path toward Andale.
Tyren leaves, following Colin.

Lanisen ohs. He glances at Mel and shrugs slightly, then flops on the ground to wait for them to come back.

Arael nods her understanding as they go, then sets Tadden down and follows him over toward where Lanisen and Mel are.

Lanisen plops backward onto the grass with his hands beneath his head and tilts his head to watch Tadden’s approach upside down. “Hi there.”

Tadden beams and plops down onto the grass beside him, echoing, “Hi!”

Lanisen says, still looking at things upside-down, “House looks nice. Real clean and sparkly.” He glances at Tadden. “S’pose if we painted you with whitewash you’d look all clean?”

Tadden shakes his head vigorously and protests, “Nooooo!”

Lanisen purses his lips and looks extremely puzzled. “Sure? ‘Cause it worked for the house…”

Arael laughs as she takes a seat beside them. “G’lion, there’s just no making you happy, lad. Won’t take a bath, won’t take a good painting.” She shakes her head in mock exhasperation.

Colin comes walking down the hedge lined path toward the Zuiden settlement.
Tyren arrives, following Colin.

Colin returns, looking somewhat cleaner and less like a pirate running around without his eyepatch. He carries clean brushes and leads a sopping wet Sir Tyren.

Tyren follows after, looking more than somewhat cleaner albeit more than somewhat wetter as well. Somehow, he doesn’t seem to mind this too terribly.

Lanisen picks a foxtail and uses it to tickle Tadden behind the ear. “What’re we gonna do about that, huh?”

Arael sits on the ground near Lanisen and the younger lads. She’s facing away from the path, so she doesn’t see the knights just yet.

Tadden squeals a gleeful protest and crawls out of Lanisen’s reach.

Colin pauses and watches them a moment before a strange look passes in his eyes. Running a hand through his hair, he speaks up. “I regret having to say this, but I’ve stolen enough of everyone’s time as it is with this little project. Shall we return to Anvard and return to our normal routine and get out of this young lady’s way so she can take these rowdy young lads on an adventure of sorts?”

Lanisen rolls immediately to his feet, glancing at Mel, then to the ground. “Yes, sir.”

Tyren hehs. “Duty calls, and you know how I am when it comes to that.”

Mel is at once on his feet, not looking tired at all despite the fact he sways a bit. “Ready, sir.”

Colin hehs good-naturedly. “I don’t need reminding.” He jokes.

Tyren quirks a brow, saying, “Sir Obvious, remember?”

Colin glances sidelong at Tyren with a smirk. “Always.”

Tyren chuckles faintly, then glances over to Arael. “Anything I can pass along to my wife for you, while I’m here?”

Arael grins and turns as Colin speaks up, then gets to her feet with the others. She smiles in response to Tyren’s words. “That I hope she’s well, and I shall try to be by to see her soon.”

Tyren hehs. “I’ll pass that along. We’ve got a trip to Lancelyn Green planned for the near future, but regardless how things play out you two will get the chance. I’ll do what I can to bring that about.”

Arael looks a little surprised, but she smiles broadly. “I thank you.”

Tyren merely replies, “No less than what a husband should do.”

Colin listens to the conversation quietly, gathering his things.

Arael grins a little and nods.

Mel sways a bit more, exhausted from the work.

Lanisen picks a bit of drying whitewash off his arm, waiting quietly. He glances again at the house, at Tad and Tadden and Arael, then at Mel in time to catch him swaying. “All right?” he asks in a low voice.

Colin glances at Arael and nods to her. “Good day to you, Arael. Thank you for putting up with my antics.” He says with a slightly crooked grin.

Mel nods. “Jus’ tired is all.”

Tyren picks up his scabbard and sets it back in its usual place at his side. “There we go. Felt like something was missing.” He glances over toward Mel with an expression of concern, though seeing Lanisen near him, he seems to believe the potential situation is covered.

Arael laughs lightly, looking over at Colin. “Aye, of course. And I thank you for your help, I’m sure. All of you,” she adds, looking about at the group.

Colin smiles, replacing his scabbard. “Glad to be of service. Anytime.” He says sincerely, touching his forehead with two fingers in a salute.

Tyren simply nods once, smiling a bit.

Mel waits to fall in behind the knights once more.

Lanisen grins slightly as well, shifting on his feet. He looks as tired as Mel, but he’s not wobbling yet.

Arael grins in response and curtsies to Colin and Tyren, then turns and nods to Lanisen and Mel. “G’day to you all.”

Colin walks backwards, as is apparently customary with him as he waves to the boys. “Take care!” He says before turning about right face and leading the way out.

Tad bows as he catches Arael’s curtsey, and Tadden waves happily.

Tyren says, “Pleasant day to you all.”

Lanisen echoes, “G’day!”


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