foreigners and foxes and wolves

The Bird and Baby’s Tavern
Coghill — Southeastern Archenland

This room echoes with a nearly constant din as voices rise and fall in conversation. An atmosphere of warmth and cheer predominates, and the walls have been painted a dark red. There are several tables for diners; many line the wall to provide for more private discussions. A board hangs in a highly visible location; it pays tribute to the history of the dining room and includes sketches of some of its more well known denizens. A menu, written out by hand, indicates what selections are being served. If the aromas emanating from the kitchen beyond are any evidence, the food is certain to please. In the back is a smaller room where isolated gatherings can be held.

A son of adam in Calormene attire (Sehsis) enters the tavern, quickly closing the door behind himself and brushing away some of the raindrops, muttering under his breath about the annoying unpredictability of northern weather.

Lanisen sits at a table near a window, hands cupped around a hot mug of tea, weather-watching and people-watching. He glances toward the Calormene with mild interest, careful not to stare too much.

Sehsis glances around the tavern, looking for a spare table. As he does so he catches the carefully inconspicuous stare of the stranger and returns a blank one of his own.

Lanisen, caught, turns slightly red. He ducks his head in a brief, casual greeting, and turns his attention away.

Sehsis, for a brief moment, looks rather amused, as though this was the intended result of staring back. With a small shake of his head he says quietly “There is always one, even now”

Lanisen turns redder. He fidgets with his tea mug and takes another sip.

Sehsis notices and comments “No offence was taken”

Lanisen says, without quite looking at the man, “Didn’t mean to stare.” Somebody else enters the tavern, and his glance flits to the door.

Sehsis says, “Think nothing of it, I am quite used to it.”

Lanisen says, “Sorry.”

Sehsis nods “It’s alright. I do not believe we met before?”

Lanisen says, “N-no, I don’t think so.” He hesitates. “Um. I’m Lanisen.”

Sehsis says, “Lanisen. And I am Sehsis.”

Lanisen raises his mug slightly toward the other man. “Pleasure.”

Sehsis briefly inclines his head “Likewise”

Lanisen nods a few times. He takes another sip of tea to cover the awkwardness. The tavern door opens again, and he glances quickly across to see who has entered.

Sehsis glances at the door “Well, shall I leave you to whatever it was you were doing”

Lanisen says, “Oh! Er. Sorry, I didn’t mean to– I’m sorry, um.” He glances sidelong at Sehsis and tries for a disarming grin. It comes out a bit weak. “I don’t talk to many people, can you tell?”

Sehsis says, “I can tell yes. ”

Lanisen says, “…Right. Well.”

Sehsis says, “If you like, I can leave you to your ponderings, or you can consider this practice in talking to others.”

Lanisen blinks at him, then ducks his head and laughs. “Well. When you put it that way.”

Sehsis says wth some dry amusement “Well there we have it, a solution to our problem

Lanisen goes awkwardly silent again, then ventures, “You’re, uh, you’re from Calormen, then?”

Sehsis gives a nod “For some reason, people can always guess this. Yes. I am from Calormen”

Lanisen grins again, brief but genuine. “What brings you here?”

Sehsis asks, “Trade, what else would it be?”

Lanisen turns red. “Right. Of course. Stupid question.”

Sehsis gives a half shrug “Perhaps, but one that one would naturally be curious about. What is it you do?”

Lanisen says, “I tend the king’s hounds, in Anvard.”

Sehsis asks, “Then I could ask what brings you to Coghill?”

Lanisen says, “I’m travelling with Sir Colin.”

Sehsis says, “Ah…I shan’t press further then”

Lanisen blinks. “Oh. All right.”

Sehsis says, “I’m sure that it is not my buisness ”

Lanisen says wryly, “Doesn’t stop most people.”

Sehsis says, “A poet has said that ‘undue curiosity is a poison, not only for those who drink it but for everyone around it.'”

Lanisen says, frowning, “Huh.”

Sehsis offers, by way of explanation “I find it best not to mind the business of people with titles”

Lanisen thinks about this. He seems to find it funny for some reason and ducks his head to hide a grin, then nods slowly. “I won’t argue with you there.”

Sehsis says “They do say that such people can make one’s life rather difficult”

Lanisen purses his lips and raises his eyebrows. “They do say that,” he agrees, still halfway to chortling.

Abrielle walks into the Tavern, soaking wet, but looking joyful. She goes to Clift and orders a blueberry tea.

Lanisen glances toward the door again as Abrielle enters. Recognizing her, he gives a half-smile of greeting and turns back toward Sehsis.

Sehsis glances out fo the window, noticing the rain has cleared- or at least cleared enough to not make much of a difference “My apologies, I am afraid that I am rather busy today and the rains have cleared”

Abrielle takes her mug from Clift and spots Lanisen and Sehsis. She starts walking over. “Hello, Fellas.”

Lanisen says, “‘Course, yeah. Um. Thank you for the practice.”

Sehsis inclines his head in farewell “You’re welcome. It was a pleasure meeting you” To abrielle he says “Apologies Abrielle, but I cannot stay, perhaps we can talk another time”

Abrielle nods to Sehsis. “Yes of course. Have a good day, Sehsis.” To Lanisen she shoots a tentative look.

Sehsis gives them both a last farewell and leaves the inn on whatever errand it was he was busy with.

Lanisen says, “You too,” as the merchant departs. He glances uncertainly at Abrielle. “Evening, miss.”

Abrielle gives him a weak smile. “How are you, Lanisen?”

Lanisen says, “I’m–I’m fine, thanks.” He hesitates, then asks, “Is something wrong?”

Abrielle looks a bit surprised at the question so she shakes her head. “Nope….can I sit?”

Lanisen says, “Oh. Uh. Sure? If you want?”

Abrielle nods. “Sure. Why not.” She sits and puts her mug on the table. “So how has your stay been so far?”

Lanisen says, “Fine, thank you.” He jogs his knee nervously, glances at the window, and adds, “Damp. A little bit.”

Abrielle looks out the window and starts laughing. “Yea….it is a bit damp…”

Lanisen grins faintly. “How’re you?” he asks.

Abrielle pulls her laughing to a stop. “I am very good. A bit damp.” She pats her dress. “But happy. You seem in better spirits…”

Lanisen blinks at her.

Abrielle tilts her head. “Am I wrong?”

Lanisen says, more confused, “I don’t know?”

Abrielle shrugs and sips some of her tea. “Have you ever played foxes and wolves?

Lanisen looks alarmed. “…What?”

Abrielle turns her head to glance at him. “Wolves and foxes…the board game.”

Lanisen says, “Oh. /Oh/.” He lets out a breath, glancing around the tavern, and finds the object that prompted the question. “The game. Right. Ahh. It’s been a really long time.”

Abrielle watches his face, clearly confused. “Did you have a run in with some wolves or something?”

Lanisen blanches. “Of course not. There ain’t any wolves around here.”

Abrielle puts up her hands. “Right. Sorry….” She watches him and then puts down her hands. “Do you want to play?”

Lanisen, still unsettled, says quickly, “Yeah, sure.”

Abrielle nods and gets up to bring it to the table. “Do you remember how to play?”

Lanisen stares at the board for a second, frowning. “I think so, yeah.”

Abrielle smiles. “Good. Shall we begin then?”

Lanisen shrugs. “Sure. All right.”

–game within a game–

Abrielle watches Lanisen moves and doesn’t seem to catch his plan because after a few moments she slaps her knee. “Darn it!”

Lanisen turns slightly pink and ducks his head to hide a grin. “I used to play it against myself a lot, when I was bored,” he admits. “You figure out lots of tricks that way.”

Abrielle tilts her head. “You play it with yourself?”

Lanisen says, “Yeah.” He shifts the pebbles back into their starting positions. “You just switch sides and move for both. You know.”

Abrielle nods. “Yeah….it just seems lonely.”

Lanisen shrugs.

Abrielle smiles. “I garden when I am alone.”

Lanisen says, “Sounds nice.”

Abrielle snods and sips her tea before answering, “Yes. So do you have any family?”

Lanisen gives her a startled deer-in-headlights look, then very carefully adjusts the position of one of the game pieces. “Nah,” he says after a minute. “Not anymore.”

Abrielle nods and shoots him once glance. “That is….rough.” She puts a leg up onto a chair. “I only have Lewis…he is my uncle.”

Lanisen says, “Yeah?”

Abrielle nods. “My parents had to leave me. They are gone now. Lewis is….kind of my father figure now.”

Lanisen says, “That’s good of him.”

Abrielle thinks about it for a moment and then huhs. “Yeah…you are right.”

Lanisen glances at her across the board briefly. He doesn’t say anything.

Abrielle looks down at her cup thoughtfully before shooting him a quick, a seemingly fake, smile. “So what is it that you do for a living?”

Lanisen quirks an ironic eyebrow and leans back in his seat. “Worked with the king’s hounds until last week,” he answers. “I’m travelin’ with Sir Colin right now.”

Abrielle smiles. “How is that?”

Lanisen exhales, raising his eyebrows and staring at the board. He shrugs. “Fine, so far?”

Abrielle nods. “I have a hard time being around those of a higher rank. But I am sure you are accustomed to it…”

Lanisen blinks. “Wh–oh, no, no, Sir Colin’s not–he’s not like that, he’s easy to be around. He’s my best friend.”

Abrielle really smiles to this. “That is very nice. What is he like then?”

Lanisen says solemnly, “He’s the biggest doof.”

Abrielle laughs. “Really? That is not a word applied to most Knights.”

Lanisen grins lopsidedly. “Yeah, well. Sir Colin ain’t most knights.”

Abrielle smiles and leans back in her chair. “I should meet this, Sir Colin. He sounds like fun.”

Lanisen says, “Don’t tell him I called him a doof.”

Abrielle mockingly, zips her lip. “Of course. Not a word.” She winks at him and puts the chair back down.

Lanisen says, “Good. I’d wake up with frogs in my bedroll.”

Abrielle laughs. “Of course you would….maybe I shouldn’t meet him….”

Lanisen laughs under his breath. “No,” he says, “really, though. He’s great.”

Abrielle nods. “Of course. Well….” She gets up. “I should be leaving.”

Lanisen says, “Oh! Right, of course.” He rubs the back of his neck. “Thanks for the, uh. The game.”

Abrielle nods. “And thanks for making me humble.” She walks out of the door.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s