[spy music playing in the distance]

Fischer’s Tavern
Western Archenland

You are in Fischer’s Tavern. A tall lanky man is standing behind the bar with a towel in one hand and a grin on his face. In front of him there is a nice hardwood bar about four feet high. Quite a few glasses and bottles stand on it waiting for a order. The barkeep motions towards a stool, “Name’s Fischer. Have a seat, what can I get ya to drink?”

Colin sits in the tavern absently sipping a mug of cider, looking around at the few patrons. He scans their faces and dismisses them when he does not recognize who he’s apparently looking for.

Lanisen opens the door and gives the room a quick glance without coming in. Once he finds Colin, he enters and closes the door behind him before crossing to join him. “Wondered where you got to,” he remarks, taking a seat.

Colin lifts his mug at Lanisen in a salute type thing before taking another swig. “Not really much to do in Carmichael.” He grins.

Lanisen says, “Ain’t all bad.” He gives Colin’s cider a considering look, then flags down the barkeep to ask for his own.

Colin fiddles with the handle on his tankard. “Sleep well?”

Lanisen shrugs.

Colin asks him, “Was that a yes shrug or a no shrug?”

Lanisen looks annoyed. He glances up as Fischer sets a mug of cider in front of him, thanks the man, and takes a deep swig before admitting, “Not great.”

Colin watches him a second before taking a drink of his own cider. “Sorry about that.” he says, not pressing the issue.

Lanisen shrugs again.

Colin taps his tankard thoughtfully. “Got anything you want to do in particular today?”

Lanisen says, “Um. I don’t know.” He thinks for a minute. “Could show you the hide-out here,” he offers. “It ain’t like the other one.”

Colin brightens slightly. “I’m all for exploring caves and hiding from people.”

Lanisen asks, “How’d you know it’s a cave? You know about it already?”

Colin looks slightly bummed. “It’s not a cave? I thought all the best hideouts were caves.”

Lanisen says, “No, it is a cave is what I’m saying. How’d you know?”

Colin drains his mug. “Cause all the best hideouts are caves.” He declares.

Lanisen snorts under his breath. “Sure.”

Colin sets his empty mug down on the table. “Well. None of the people I need to talk to are available today. Show me this headout.”
Colin corrects himself. “Hideout.”

Lanisen says, “What, now?”

Colin raises both eyebrows in an innocent expression. “What? I said hideout.”

Lanisen frowns and repeats, “Now?”

Colin ohs and looks at Lanisen’s mug. “Well, eventually. Sometime today. Preferably before it gets dark. Although–” he lifts a hand up. “That could make it even more interesting.”

Lanisen glares at him. “No rock-climbing in the dark,” he says severely.

Colin lifts both hands this time. “It was just a suggestion.”

Lanisen says, “Well, consider it un-suggested.” He takes another long drink of his cider and says, “I’ll be quick.”

Colin glances around the room again and says, “Eh. Take your time. Cider is meant to be enjoyed, not gulped. Most days, anyway.”

Lanisen shrugs, guzzling. He sits back, wiping his mouth. “Need rope for this.”

Colin reaches down and pats his pack that’s laying by his chair. “I’ve learned over the past years to never leave home without it. I also have candle, dagger, all sorts if we need.”

Lanisen says, “Candle, good. Dagger. Umm.” He taps his fingertip on the table. “I think… yeah, I think that’s all we’ll need.”

Colin checks his bag once more. “Flint’s still in there, too.”

Lanisen says, “Let me settle up.” He gets out of his chair and stands for a second, blinking and swaying, then laughs awkwardly. “…Drank that too fast.”

Colin laughs and gets to his feet. “I’m going to look around and see if there’s anyone who’d buy this boar hide around here. I’ve been lugging it for nearly a week. You finish up and I’ll meet you in the town square. If you can find it.” He says with an ornery grin.

Lanisen says, “I hate you.”

Colin shoots over his shoulder as he heads out the door, “Does my heart good to hear you talk like that.”

Carmichael Village Square
Western Archenland

You stand in the center of a quaint little country village, nestled in the foothills of the Western Mountains. There are a few shops surrounding the square, including Isfar’s blacksmith shop to the east, which is ringing with the sound of iron-on-iron. To the southwest is a small tavern, which smells of good home-cooked food. There is a traveller’s shelter to the northwest with a sign over the door that reads “Carmichael Lodge”. There is also a shop to the northeast, and two others, to the southeast and to the west, respectively. In the midst of the square stands a a stone well.

The main road heads south toward the settlement, a collection of humble, neatly-kept homes to the southwest of the main town.

Lanisen leaves the inn about ten minutes later, chugging resolutely from a waterskin and halfway through a generously sized portion of bread.

Colin leans against the well, pretending to be asleep.

Lanisen kicks him awake.

Colin yelps and hops away from him, looking quite indignant. “Took you long enough.” He huffs.

Lanisen eyes the boar hide he’s still carrying. “You’ve clearly been productive.”

Colin says, “No one here buys hides is why. I’ll have to cart it with us when we head back. Coghill, most likely.”

Lanisen says, “Talk to the whole town in ten minutes, did you?”

Colin gestures towards the buildings. “Have you seen the size of this place?”

Lanisen says, “…Fair enough.”

Colin says, “Thought so.”

Lanisen takes another long drink of water and gestures with his head toward the road.


Pool of the March
Western Archenland

The trail ends here, in a forested box canyon. Your steps are cushioned by the leaves and needles that have collected over the years. Most of the western side of the canyon is filled with a large, waterfall-fed pool. The trail follows the narrow southern shore until it reaches the canyon’s back wall. There is an abundance of tracks from the many animals who came here to drink.

The trail rises steeply back out of the canyon to the east.

Lanisen halts at the eastern end of the canyon, hanging back a bit and watching the cliffs. “Okay,” he says quietly. “This one ain’t like the other one, it ain’t as secret.” He resettles his dagger carefully and glances up at Colin.

Colin quirks his eyebrow at him. “What do you mean?”

Lanisen hushes him. “I mean,” he says, “When we were here there was stuff left over from when folks were here before, and probably there’ve been folks here since. And noises carry up to that cliff there so lion’s sake keep your voice down.”

Colin eyes the cliff shrewdly and nods, awaiting instructions.

Lanisen digs out his coil of rope from his pack. “I’ll go first? You keep an eye out?”

Colin nods. “I can manage that.”

Lanisen nods. He steps down into the canyon and approaches the cliff, considering several jutting spurs, and throws the rope. It takes him a few tries, but the loop catches at last and he glances back at Colin with a pleased grin on his face. He tugs the rope a few times to make sure it’s secure, then begins the ascent.

Cave Entrance
Western Archenland

You stand on a narrow ledge overlooking the pool below. A cool breeze blows off the spray of the waterfall, though it also makes the ledge quite slippery and dangerous. A narrow trail, littered with dirt and pebbles, goes behind the waterfall. The trail leads to a dark hole and looks to have been well travelled once upon a time.

Colin scales up behind him, holding onto the rope for dear life as he climbs into the cave. “Woww..” he says as he looks around in awe. “This is something.”

Lanisen is winded from the climb, but he’s trying to breathe very quietly. “/Quiet/,” he hisses, pointing at a satchel and a small pile of somebody’s belongings.

Colin fortunately wasn’t too loud or blaring as he winces and clamps his mouth shut. He looks at the pile of stuff and raises his eyebrows.

Lanisen signals that he’s going to move into the cave. He slinks behind the waterfall, picking his steps carefully and keeping close to the wall.

Cave Passageway

The light here completely dies. All you can see is a glimmer of light back at
the entrance.

Colin follows him, moving as silently as possible. He keeps his footsteps as lightly as possible, stepping carefully so as not to crunch any gravel or scrape stone.

Lanisen stops very near the entrance to wait for Colin. “Candle,” he whispers, and indicates the stub in his hand just visible in the dim light. “You got your dagger?”

Colin lifts his hand to show the bared blade, nodding silently. He takes a moment and as quietly as possible pulls out another candle. Just in case. No repeats this time.

Lanisen nods. He hesitates, then strikes his flint. It takes a few tries, but the wick catches.

Cave Passageway

The dark, damp stone of a cavern passageway surrounds you. The walls drip
water to the pebbly surface of the floor, making for slippery walking. Some
light filters in from the cave entrance to the east, but not much. From here,
you can go back out to the ledge, or continue down the dark passageway to the

Colin strains to listen outside of the noises they are creating, staying close to Lanisen’s side.

Lanisen drops the flint back in his satchel and draws his dagger as soon as the candle is lit. He holds the light high, scanning the cave.

Colin takes a moment to look around, peering at the walls and into the shadows.

Lanisen, though this chamber appears unoccupied and shows no sign of recent habitation, is still tense and watchful. He nods toward the west, where the cave continues.

Cave Passageway

The dark, damp stone of a cavern passageway surrounds you. The walls drip
water to the pebbly surface of the floor, making for slippery walking. There
seems to be a sort of crossroads here, created by two intersecting passageways.
The passageways continue in each of the cardinal directions.

Lanisen continues to move quietly, though the candlelight kills any real chance of secrecy they might have had to begin with. He follows the north passage, keeping close to the wall.

Cave Passageway

The cavern makes a bend here, turning toward the east and beginning to rise.
Walking is slippery as water drips to the pebbly surface of the floor, much
like the rest of the cavern. You can continue to head east or return to the
south and the main passageway.

Colin crouches lower and examines the cave ground, looking for any signs of other people in the dim candlelight.

Lanisen presses on, anxious to get the sweep over with.

Cave Passageway

You are in a sort of open deck. The rock on one side has been chisled away,
exposing a stunning view of the waterfall and pool below. It seems to be a
sort of lookout station.

Lanisen breathes out as they step into the sunlight. “Okay,” he says quietly, pinching out his candle and bracing his hands on his knees for a minute. “Okay.”

Colin puts his dagger on his belt for the time being. “I’m rather glad it was empty…” He says, keeping his voice very low.

Lanisen sits down, giving Colin a wry you’re-telling-me-buddy look. “I want to take a look at that pack,” he says instead. “But. In a minute.”

Colin crouches down on the ledge to look around the area. “I’ve half a mind to clean this place out to see what happens… Sort of is my job after all.”

Lanisen says, “Clean out what, the bats?”

Colin snorts. “No, the stuff.”

Lanisen says, “Oh.” He frowns. “I wonder–”

Colin asks him, “What?”

Lanisen stands up, nodding back into the cave. “Let’s go look. I bet it’s just castaway stuff but I want to see.”

Colin nods, rising back up to his feet. “I’m curious myself.”

Lanisen nods, lighting the candle again, and leads the way back into the cave.

traveling through the cave–

Cave Entrance

Colin blinks in the light as his eyes readjust to more normal lighting.

Lanisen blows out the candle and approaches the abandoned pack. “Heh, yeah,” he says, examining it critically and lifting it to show where mildew and rot has eaten away at the leather touching the damp cave floor. “This has been here a while.” He gingerly lifts the flap to peer inside. “No money pouch, nothing valuable, just a candle and flint. Yeah, I bet this is just somebody’s dumping ground. I wonder…”

Colin crouches down beside him, peeking inside the pack and looking around at the other items. “Wonder what?”

Lanisen lets the flap fall back down and stands up, wiping his hands. “If Zan left it here.”

Colin frowns in thought. “Which one was Zan?”

Lanisen says, “The big mean one.”

Colin says, “Don’t remember if I ever saw him.”

Lanisen says, “You might not have. Jana killed him.”
Lanisen amends, “That’s what Loc says, anyway.”

Colin ahs. “I remember Loc saying that….”

Lanisen says, “He had it comin’. He was a nasty piece of work.” He goes silent for a minute, staring at the satchel, then shrugs and looks away. “He went off on his own for a while, month or so before you caught me and everything fell apart. Always wondered where he went to.”

Colin huhs. His expression is quite thoughtful as he continues to look around.

Lanisen sighs and finds a seat that isn’t too damp, glancing around. “I liked this one,” he confesses. “Not that there was much time for likin’, but.”

Colin continues to look around. “Why did you all leave?”

Lanisen snorts. “Have you been here? There’s nothin’ to do in Carmichael. ‘Sides, we did a job and Myrd wanted us out of the area.”

Colin pokes at the rotten leather. “What did you all do?” He asks curiously.

Lanisen frowns, rubbing the back of his neck thoughtfully. “Do you know, I’m not really sure. There was a pickaxe, Myrd had me sneak it into somebody’s house, but I don’t remember why. The dwarfs, something to do with the dwarfs…” He squints and shakes his head. “Thing with Myrd was he never really told you reasons.”

Colin huhs again. “I never heard anything about that…”

Lanisen says apologetically, “I don’t know what came of it.”

Colin shrugs. “That’s all right. It was a long time ago.”

Lanisen says, “Yeah.”

Colin muses, “I wonder how many other people know about this place?

Lanisen says, “I dunno. I never seen anybody else up here, not besides them I was with, anyway.”

Colin nods. “I’ve certainly never heard of it.”

Lanisen grins lopsidedly. “Glad to be useful.”

Colin chuckles and leans his back against the cave wall. “I think I should start keeping an eye on places like this…just in case. I wonder how many others there are.”

Lanisen considers. “Dunno. I only know about this one and the–uh, the other one.”

Colin nods. “That’s probably good at least…. You were the most notorious group we had to my knowledge.”

Lanisen snorts out loud. “Wow. Notorious.”

Colin laughs. “Well what would you call it? Obnoxious? Annoyance? Thorn in Archenland’s side?”

Lanisen says, “Notorious is good.”

Colin says, “I don’t know, I think I’m starting to like the sound of thorn in the side.” He leans back and runs his hands through his hair. “Man….Thinking back there’s a lot I would have done differently.””

Lanisen asks, “Yeah?”

Colin nods.

Lanisen says, “Like what?”

Colin’s expression flickers with something dark and he rubs his hands over his eyes to hide it. “Oh, I don’t know. Would have been more aggressive than nonchalant about following those I was suspicious of and made some actual progress instead of sitting in the woods hoping the group would adopt me.”

Lanisen says, “Yeah that was never going to work anyway.” He pauses thoughtfully. “Well, Myrd might’ve eventually bought it, actually.”

Colin glances at him. “Think so, huh? He never would have trusted me not to run to Lune.”

Lanisen says, “/Jana/ never would’ve trusted you. I dunno about Myrd.”

Colin shifts to make himself more comfortable. “That’s what /my/ plan was, anyway. That’s why we did the whole banishment ruse, to try to have good reason to join up and infiltrate the group. Things…didn’t exactly go as I’d planned. I wish they’d had.” The last sentence is quiet.

Lanisen says, “Yeah, and what were you gonna do once you got in? Tag along on heists, help smack folk around, maybe rob a townsperson or two just to prove you’re really with us?”

Colin nods. “Return property later when I was able. Interfere on any other situations that appear will result in a death.” he releases a sigh. “I doubt it would have gone that far. Once I had seen what he did…”

Lanisen says, “You’d’ve had to hurt folks.”

Colin rubs his forehead. “Let’s be honest, Lanisen. I’d have ended up killing Myrd and probably would have had Zan and Jana after me.”

Lanisen swallows and shifts a little in his seat. “That’s extreme,” he comments evenly. “Think you could’ve taken all three of ’em? Plus me and Loc?”

Colin shrugs. “I’d have killed Myrd for what he did to you so hopefully you wouldn’t have been keen on my demise. Doesn’t sound like I could have survived Zan. Jana…never saw her. Dunno about that one.”

Lanisen darts a startled glance at Colin. “I see,” he says after a pause.

Colin absently pulls his dagger out and starts to fiddle with it, pulling a rag from his pack to work some of the dirt off. “How did he get away?”

Lanisen says, “Not sure.”

Colin asks another question. “Any idea why Dar and Tyren let him go when he came /back/?

Lanisen lets out a little snort through his nose. “Okay, first off, if you think I know why either of them do anything, I got a bridge in Chesterton to sell you.” He frowns a little, thinking, then admits, “And honestly I’m… pretty foggy on what actually happened, you know? I was kinda busy being isolated and scared of everything at the time.”

Colin nods slightly, relenting. “Makes sense.” He comments.

Lanisen says, “I didn’t even know he’d been back to Archenland until Loc told me last week or whenever that was.”

Colin ahs. “So that’s why you asked me if I knew.”

Lanisen says, “Yeah. I was gonna be mad if you knew but didn’t tell me.”

Colin comments, “I’m rather mad that /they/ knew and didn’t tell me.”

Lanisen laughs under his breath. “Well. Yeah. That too.”

Colin works at a stubborn spot of rust on his blade, a little aggressively.

Lanisen watches. He stretches his shoulders and leans back against the cave wall after a moment, looking down at the pool. Abruptly, he says, “Sir I’m sorry for losing it the other day, in the cave. It was pretty… I’m not gonna let it happen again.”

Colin shakes his head, looking up and squarely at Lanisen. “It’s all right. Really. I mean it. It’s not your fault…and it wasn’t your fault. Sometimes really bad things affect us for years. I’ve seen it in other knights. If it happens again, I don’t want you blaming yourself.”

Lanisen looks at his hands. “I don’t know why it…” he mumbles. “I mean, I was down there after– I’ve been down there since, and nothin’… I don’t know why now.”

Colin responds, “Sometimes it takes a while, too.”

Lanisen closes his eyes briefly and rubs a hand over his face. “I guess.”

Colin opens his mouth to say something, then closes it. He silently continues to work on shining up his blade.

Lanisen says after a moment, “Myrd put Shenzi in there too. After me.”

Colin nods. “That’s where Loc and I got her from when he took me to the hideout.”

Lanisen glances up, then nods. He goes silent for a long few moments. “I wish I’d got her out,” he says quietly, staring at his hands. “I really, really wish… I snuck her food and clean water when I could, but I left her in there.”

Colin’s tone is quiet. “Why’d Myrd put her in there?”

Lanisen says, “She killed the squire.”

Colin rubs the back of his neck. “The timeline isn’t making sense….. hadn’t she already killed him long before?”

Lanisen hesitates. “You might be thinking of the grocer.”

Colin asks, “Who was it in Lancelyn Green….head injury. I went for help, went the wrong region and he died because of it.”

Lanisen says quietly, “That was the grocer.”

Colin sighs. “Right. I’d gotten things mixed up. It was a long time ago. How’d that one happen?”

Lanisen asks, “The grocer?”

Colin nods.
Colin asks, “Was that one planned?”

Lanisen lifts his shoulders, staring at the ground. “I don’t… I’m not sure. I mean–we picked the place. He wasn’t… he wasn’t supposed to die, nobody said anything about killing, it wasn’t…” He shudders.

Colin quietly asks, “Who was responsible?”

Lanisen says, “We all hit him.”

Colin says nothing in response to that one. After a minute he asks, “Myrd plan that one?”

Lanisen shrugs again, shaking his head. “I don’t know. I don’t remember. Prob’ly.”

Colin once again allows a long pause before asking. “Why’d Shenzi kill the squire?”

Lanisen says, “Myrd told her to cause a distraction. I don’t know why. I dunno why she took it that far.”

Colin rubs his hand all over his face with a sigh and lets it rest on his neck. “Things got pretty out of control.”

Lanisen says absently, “Yeah, they did.”

Colin says, “Sorry to ask so many questions. Even after everything there were a lot of gaps in my knowledge.”

Lanisen shifts. “Sorry I’m not more help.”

Colin shrugs. “Nothing wrong with that.”

Lanisen says, “Even so.”

Colin says, “I don’t need to know every detail and you don’t need to recount everything.”

Lanisen says, “Thanks.”

Colin nods, finally finishing his blade and putting it away.

Lanisen gets to his feet and paces around, trying to work out his shoulders and arms. “Ain’t used to climbing like that,” he remarks. “Lion, I’m sore already.”

Colin chuckles. “I think after all I’ve been doing the past few years, I’m used to being sore all the time.”

Lanisen grumbles, “Well, /I’m/ not.” He rubs his upper arms briskly, trying to massage some of the stiffness out of them.

Colin stands and gathers his stuff. “We should probably head back. Take it easy the rest of the day.”

Lanisen groans out loud. “I don’t want to climb down,” he says plaintively.

Colin grins mischeviously at him. “I can help you down.”

Lanisen looks suspicious. “I don’t like that sound of that.”

Colin reminds him, “There’s a nice pool down there.”

Lanisen reminds him, “I know where you sleep every night.”

Colin retorts, “Same here.”

Lanisen eyes him, then adjusts his satchel and takes hold of the rope to let himself down the cliff face.

Pool of the March

Colin shimmies down the rope and lands with a plop next to Lanisen. He tugs the rope several times before he gathers it up and shoves it in his pack.

Fischer’s Tavern

Colin grabs a free table amongst…all the free tables and plunks himself down. “What’re you hungry for?”

Lanisen considers the pricelist, chafing his arms to warm himself up after the walk back. “Soup,” he says decidedly. “Prob’ly he could just bring out a whole cauldron, that’d be fine.”

Colin takes a deep breath to inhale all the aromas and declares, “Pie. I want pie.”

Lanisen says, “Yeah, all right. Pie too.”

Colin asks, “Blackberry or plum?”

Lanisen says, “Um, plum. What kind of a question is that. Shame on you.”

Colin looks at him with an incredulous expression. “What, may I ask, is wrong with blackberry pie?”

Lanisen says, “It crunches.”

Colin stares at him. “So does raspberry but I don’t see you turning your nose up at /that/.”

Lanisen counters, “Raspberry actually tastes good between the crunch though.”

Colin retorts, “So do blackberries.”

Lanisen says, “Plum.”

Colin accuses, “Blackberry hater.”

Lanisen says, “Fine, you get blackberry and I’ll have the plum pie myself.”

Colin says, “But I don’t want blackberry.”

Lanisen says, “What are we even talking about then?”

Colin replies, “The fact that you hate blackberries.”

Lanisen says, “Why are we talking about that when we could be eating pie?”

Colin shrugs and leans back in his chair. “Beats me. You’re the one who’s causing trouble.”

Lanisen scoffs and orders his soup and pie.

Colin orders just pie. A lot of it.

Lanisen goes quiet for a while, except for noisy slurpy noises. The soup disappears in record time.

Colin tucks away two pieces of pie in nothing flat.

Lanisen finishes off his soup and sits back, well satisfied and warmed up. “Hey,” he says suddenly. “We gonna keep doing this through winter or are we goin’ back to Anvard or someplace?”

Colin answers, “Depends. Unfortunately I try to leave Carmichael before winter fully sets in because it’s so hard to get out of. I generally end up back in Anvard or some place like Coghill.”

Lanisen says, “Makes sense.” He begins on his pie, eating slowly now that the edge is off his hunger.

Colin catches himself glancing at the tavern door a few times as he works his way through a third slice.

Lanisen frowns after a few of these, turning slightly to follow Colin’s glance. His face clears with understanding a moment later, and he asks with sly innocence, “Who you watchin’ for?”

Colin shovels a big bite of pie into his mouth and shrugs. “People.”

Lanisen says, “Ah yes. People.” He takes another bite of pie and asks, waggling his eyebrows, “You, uh, you stopped by People’s house to say hi yet?”

Colin frowns in apparent confusion at him over his pie. “Told you all the people I need to talk to are busy today…” He mumbles, ordering some coffee.

Lanisen snickers, but makes an apologetic and sympathetic grimace at Colin.

Colin tries to give him an innocent expression but fails miserably. “How long have you known?” he finally asks.

Lanisen snorts. “Please.”

Colin’s eyebrows shoot up.

Lanisen says, “Have you /seen/ you? It’s pitiful.”

Colin’s eyebrows go back down and he looks quite uncertain. “Howso?”

Lanisen glances back up and snorts again, laughing silently over his pie. “Calm down,” he says when he’s able. “I know you is how, it’s fine.”

Colin asks, “What do I do, exactly?”

Lanisen thinks about this for a few bites of pie. “Well, you get that soppy look on your face when you mention her, for one thing.”

Colin asks, “What soppy look?”

Lanisen puts his head on one side, makes his eyes go dreamy and unfocused, and gapes a goofy grin.

Colin stares at him. “I don’t look like that…” he says, his tone begging.

Lanisen nearly falls off his chair laughing.

Colin grabs at him urgently. “No, Lanisen, you don’t understand…I’ve got to play this carefully or everything’ll be ruined.”

Lanisen sobers up. Mostly. He gives Colin a fondly exasperated look. “You’re not listenin’. I know because I know you, you’re not obvious, it’s fine.”

Colin asks, “You’re sure?”

Lanisen says, “I promise.”

Colin sits back in his chair and puts his head in his hands for a minute before running them both back through his hair.

Lanisen watches him. “Hey,” he says. “Hey. You all right?”

Colin hehs. “Just…stressed.”

Lanisen asks, “You need anything? Ale? More pie? A carrier pigeon?”

Colin gives him an odd look. “Pigeon?”

Lanisen says, “Don’t they carry messages?”

Colin nods.

Lanisen says, “I guess you could train some other kinda bird to do it for you but that don’t seem too efficient to me.”

Colin hehs, chuckling a bit. “Don’t have any messages to send. I’ve started to prefer face to face communication.”

Lanisen says, lower and more serious, “Can I do anything?”

Colin shakes his head. “No. Ye..kinda. Just…keep me sane and keep me from doing anything stupid related to…what we were talking about.”

Lanisen admits, “I dunno what stupid would be. I dunno what you’re afraid of, honestly.”

Colin glances around the sparsely populated tavern before replying. “I…I gotta be careful. With me being…well, me, and all that, if I don’t play my cards right I’ll ruin everything. One word from my Uncle and it’s all over. I need to do things the right way if there’s to be any hope–and I get all stupid sometimes. Can’t think straight, especially around..well. Her.”

Lanisen’s forehead furrows with confusion, but he nods. “I don’t know what you’re thinking of as the right way,” he says uncertainly.

Colin releases a shaky breath, his expression slipping just a moment to reveal how stressed out he really is. “Talking to my uncle first before anything and convincing him…and if I do something dumb or he hears rumors he’ll get angry at me and I won’t stand a chance.”

Lanisen’s frown deepens and he watches his friend with concern. “Hey,” he says. “Hey. You’re not gonna do something dumb, it’s okay. And I bet it wouldn’t even be as bad as you’re thinking if you did. Which you won’t.”

Colin nods slowly and shoves his unfinished pie away. “Yeah..ok..sorry.” he takes a deep breath. “Sorry…sometimes I think too much…”

Lanisen shakes his head. “You’re okay,” he says. “Take it easy. It’s gonna be okay.”

Colin slowly stands up and puts his chair right. “We should turn in. Long day.”

Lanisen glances at the uneaten pie and nods, standing as well. He claps Colin on the shoulder–a little awkwardly, as if he’s not used to doing it but suspects it’s probably the thing to do.

Colin returns the clap on the shoulder and offers him a grateful half-smile before they head out the doors.


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