The Library of Anvard rises around you. Reddish wooden pillars like twisted tree-trunks support the roof at even intervals, long bookcases in rows between them. The room is warmly lit by a multitude of round hung lamps, like globular fruit. The air is heavy with the sweet and musty smell of books, old and new. Hundreds of volumes line the shelves, and a few spaces between trunks have been left open for tables at which to reading and write. Thick pillar candles can be used to bring a little more yellow light to late-night researchers in these places.

The room appears to be well-dusted and well-kept, its contents carefully maintained and repaired throughout the years.

Dar is seated at one of the back tables, almost obscured by the moutain of paperwork in front of him. Despite the volume, the stack looks fairly organized and he seems to be making some progress wading through it.

Lanisen pauses just inside the door, glancing around the massive room and looking vaguely perplexed. He makes his way on in, poking around corners and into nooks, then halts on discovering the pile of paperwork. He edges to an angle where he’s slightly more visible and bows, standing without interrupting.

Dar glances up, his expression turning serious. He beckons for Lanisen to approach and have a seat, then moves some of the papers to make it possible to look at one another across the table.

Lanisen does so, glancing briefly at the papers on the desk as if they will clue him in before returning his attention to Dar.

Dar frowns slightly as he indicates one parchment with a long finger. “From Narnia.”

Lanisen hesitates. “Yes, sir?”

Dar raises an eyebrow slightly. “Would you care to read it yourself. It might be of concern to you.”

Lanisen pauses a moment, looking warily at the Steward, then nods.

Dar slides the document forward so that Lanisen may read it if he wishes. The language is highly formal and details the detainment of two former Archenlanders in the castle dungeons.

Lanisen leans forward, squinting down at the script. He reads the first line or so, mouthing the words as he goes, then slows and stops, glancing over the hopeless amount of long words in tiny handwriting left to decipher. He straightens, letting out a breath through his nose, and the helpless look he gives Dar holds a hint of reproach.

Dar says quietly, his tone in no way belittling Lanisen’s efforts, “I thought you might not trust my explanation. It concerns your two former associates. The kings and queens have them under arrest. It was in my mind that you might wish to know.”

Lanisen is silent, his forehead furrowing. He looks at nothing in particular, his glance skidding over the general debris on the desk to settle somewhere on the floor to his right. “Oh,” he says after a minute.

Dar’s brow furrows, and he studies the younger man intently.

Lanisen looks back up, still frowning. He’s obviously come up with some sort of conclusion that makes sense and doesn’t look terribly thrown by the news, but he’s still confused. “Thank you for tellin’ me, sir,” he says, the words a hinted question.

Dar’s eyebrow raises significantly this time. “Do not fear to ask what you wish to know.”

Lanisen shifts, ducking his head slightly in apology. “Why’re you tellin’ me, sir?” he asks without hesitation, looking directly at the Steward.

Dar replies simply, “Because you knew them well, I presume. Were they associates of mine, I would wish to know their fates. If there is anything you wish the Narnian court to know pertaining to their defense, I will see that it is passed along through diplomatic channels.”

Lanisen is quiet for a minute, thinking, though his expression remains neutral. “What happened?”

Dar replies with no shift in expression, “They are accused of breaking the terms of their parole by leaving Sted Cair without permission. The man Myrd was caught outside of Bergdale, just over the northern pass.”

Lanisen stares. “The pass north of Carmichael?” he asks to clarify.

Dar nods in confirmation. “On the Narnian rather than the Archenland side.”

Lanisen asks, “He was… he was tryin’ to get back?”

Dar replies, again without expression, “I cannot comment on his motives. I simply bring the facts to your attention.”

Lanisen shifts position in his chair, rubbing a hand over his mouth. “He didn’t– no, that would be… Loc, is Loc all right?”

Dar frowns slightly. “As far as Narnia informs us, there is no evidence that he crossed into Archenland. My sister has sent no word that anything untoward has happened to Loc either.”

Lanisen lets out a breath and swallows. “Does he know? Did anybody tell him?”

Dar’s brow furrows. “I–do not believe so. I have only just received this information myself. You believe that this man Myrd poses a danger to him? He knows that if he crosses into Archenland his life is forfeit.”

Lanisen stills, staring anxiously at the parchment on the desk. “I ain’t– I don’t know, he… I don’t know.”

Dar’s frown deepens. “Go on.”

Lanisen glances up and tries haltingly to explain. “He… ‘s just he said some stuff, Loc did. When we were in Carmichael. I don’t… I didn’t understand what he meant, he wouldn’t…”

Dar rubs at the back of his neck. “I will not force your confidence, Lanisen. However, I hope I have merited your trust in some small measure during these past months. If there is some information we ought to have concerning them, I urge you to tell me.”

Lanisen is silent for a long time. “I don’t know what he meant,” he finally says, looking up at Dar. “But he was… I think if Myrd could kill him he would, an’ Loc knows it.”

Dar looks grave. “Then let us be thankful he will not have that opportunity.”

Lanisen says nothing.

Dar’s eyebrow inches upward in unspoken question.

Lanisen stirs, not looking at the Steward. “What’s gonna happen to Myrd and Jana, sir?”

Dar furrows his brow. “I cannot be certain what is in the High King of Narnia’s mind–“, he states carefully.

Lanisen waits quietly.

Dar lets out a breath. “There is a slim chance they may retain their lives. Narnian justice is fair, but it is not unmindful of the greater consequences. To their son, for insance.”

Lanisen takes a quick breath, processing this. It takes a moment for the final bit to sink in. “Sorry?”

Dar’s face reveals no flicker of expression. “We were also given the information that the woman, Jana, was delivered of a child some months ago. A boy.”

Lanisen sputters for a minute before finding his voice. “They had a /kid/?”

Dar’s mouth twitches faintly. “If this report is accurate.” He indicates the parchment to Lanisen again.

Lanisen shakes his head, looking like he’s trying to get water out of his ears. “/Jana/ and /Myrd/?” He eyes the parchment. “They didn’t just… pick one up somewhere?”

Dar’s eyebrow raises. “I do not know of any markets where one could buy a child”, he says dryly. “It is to be assumed the infant is theirs.”

Lanisen still looks stunned. “Well… ‘s the kid got a name?” he asks weakly.

Dar gestures to the parchment again. “I did not see one mentioned, though I would assume they named him.”

Lanisen leans forward to peer at the writing, biting his lip. “Where’s he now? If Jana and Myrd are…”

Dar replies simply, “I cannot say. He is not with them, or it would have been mentioned in the report.”

Lanisen stares absently at the parchment. Finally he lets out a long, troubled sigh and settles back in his chair. “Sorry… have you heard anything — anything at all about Loc since we got back?”

Dar’s eyebrow raises even higher, but he does not press Lanisen. Instead he says, “No. However, I suspect that to be positive in this case.”

Lanisen says, “Guess so.” He glances at Dar and asks hesitantly, “Is– is somebody gonna tell him, sir?”

Dar reminds him, “This is not information which should be bandied about freely, Lanisen. It represents important diplomatic concerns. I intend to write to Lord Ast, so that he may keep watch on the Carmichael side of the pass–”

Lanisen says, almost belligerently, “You told me, sir.”

Dar nods. “I did. You would have me keep that information from you?”

Lanisen is silent for a minute and looks down. When he speaks again, it is with less challenge and more respect. “No, sir, sorry. But he’s got as much reason as me to know. More, really– he was with Jana a long time longer’n I was with Myrd an’ Zan.” He pauses and adds more quietly, “And he’s close to the pass.”

Dar considers this. “You may write to him, if you wish. Be discrete. I do not wish a general terror. And I will insist upon seeing the letter before it is sent.”

Lanisen looks startled, but he blinks a couple of times and says, “Thank–thank you, sir. I will.”

Dar inclines his head. “I may see fit to make changes, you understand. That is the risk.” He rubs at the bridge of his nose. “There is more. You did not ask me what I suspect brought the man Myrd to the pass.”

Lanisen sobers quickly, watching Dar with some apprehension. “Guess I didn’t, sir.”

Dar speaks a single word. “Amnesty.”

Lanisen makes no response to this, instead watching intently to see what the Steward’s opinion is.

Dar continues, “I believe he wishes to seek a way to return here safely, for the sake of his son. He sent a messenger to Sir Tyren. Obviously, his present circumstances prevent a decision.”

Lanisen looks slightly ill, but he says nothing, still focused on Dar.

Dar’s eyebrow raises. “Given his past, I have difficulty believing any such request would be granted, even given his being freed from the Narnian dungeons.”

Lanisen nods once and seems to sag slightly, releasing a breath.

Dar studies him, trying to read what he can from the lad’s features.

Lanisen rubs his forehead. “How come would he want amnesty?”

Dar replies, “You know him far better than I do.”

Lanisen lets out a soft snort. He is quiet for a minute, then asks, “Why is it you think that?”

Dar’s eyebrow raises sharply. “I have had one conversation with the man. You passed some time in his company. The inference is evidence.”

Lanisen shakes his head quickly. “No… that he’d want amnesty. How d’you figure that, sir?”

Dar furrows his brow, reluctant to begin. “He sent a messenger to Sir Tyren”, he states simply. “That is also being told to you in confidence.”

Lanisen’s eyes sharpen with quick comprehension. “The fox?”

Dar’s eyebrow lifts again. “You saw him.”

Lanisen shakes his head. “No. Heard about him. Figured they were makin’ stuff up.”

Dar asks, “They?”

Lanisen says, “Couple other servants. Somebody said there was a talkin’ fox hangin’ around. That sorta thing gets around fast.”

Dar hehs. “Much as I wish that were not the case. Those servants were speaking the truth, and the fox is here.”

Lanisen hehs. “From Myrd.”

Dar inclines his head. “You are not to seek the fox out or have contact with him. Do you understand?”

Lanisen blinks. “Yes, sir,” he says slowly.

Dar asks mildly, “Would you care to take issue with those instructions?”

Lanisen shakes his head mutely, but it’s clear he has questions.

Dar’s eyebrow arches upward. “Ask. I will answer if it is fitting for me to.”

Lanisen rubs the back of his neck. “Why?” he asks baldly.

Dar places his hands on the table. “Why would he send the fox?”

Lanisen asks, “To bring a message?”

Dar points out, “He could not precisely come himself without risk of his life.”

Lanisen nods, frowning. “But he still tried?”

Dar reminds him, “There is no evidence that he attempted to cross. His parole would not prevent him from sending a message.”

Lanisen frowns, more confused. “I thought he broke his parole when he left…”

Dar tries to explain. “That is alleged. The only firm information we were given is that he was not permitted to cross the border between our countries without facing judgement.”

Lanisen slides down in his chair a bit, thoroughly baffled and slightly sullen about it. “How come’d they arrest him, then?”

Dar pauses, equally baffled though better able to hide it. “The charges will no doubt be explained in greater length with the next communication.”

Lanisen eyes him doubtfully, then remembers his original question. “How come can’t I talk to the fox, sir?”

Dar asks in turn, “Why would you desire to?”

Lanisen is thrown for a moment. He shrugs. “He was with Myrd and Jana. Maybe he knows more’n it says in there.” He gestures to the letter. “‘Sides, I never talked to a critter before. Not the kind that talks back, anyway.”

Dar’s eyebrow jerks upward slightly. He sounds surprised. “You are suggesting that you be allowed to question him?”

Lanisen flushes slightly. “No, that’s, I didn’t mean–”

Dar asks, not sounding irritated, merely curious, “What precisely did you mean?”

Lanisen hunches his shoulders. “Just curious,” he mumbles, abashed. “Didn’t mean anything like that, just wanted some news, honest, sir.”

Dar rubs at the back of his neck. “I suppose there is no harm in having news. I will report to you anything further which comes to light.”

Lanisen perks up slightly. “Yeah?”

Dar inclines his head. “I am a man of my word. I pledge as much and I cannot in honor do otherwise. My instructions still stand, however. Send nothing without my consent, and you are not to communicate with the fox directly.”

Lanisen grimaces briefly. “Yes, sir.”

Dar eyes Lanisen. He nods once, indicating that he is accepting this answer as sincere.

Lanisen asks, “Was there anything else, sir?”

Dar replies, “You are dismissed to fulfill your other duties.”

Lanisen stands and pushes in his chair. “Thank you. Evening, sir.” He bows.

Dar dismisses him, his mind clearly already half returned to the other papers in front of him. “Good Evening, Lanisen.”

Lanisen leaves quietly, glancing back over his shoulder.

Dar resumes what looks to be a long night of work.


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