ghost stories

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 sits in the sun on a bench outside the tavern, left ankle on his right knee, studying a small book carefully and occasionally making new marks on the pages.

Loc plods into the Square, covered in dust and sweat. He wipes his brow and gestures, in conversation with one of his fellow miners. “Yes, Gimbor. Some of that ruffage actually goes make for a good, strong ale.”

Lanisen glances up at the familiar voice, then grins. He doesn’t call out, but he watches, amused.

Loc rolls his eyes and shakes his head, “And yes… it does add more flavor to meat. Who’d have thought right?” He smirks.

Lanisen snorts under his breath and glances back at the book, forehead furrowing.

Loc asks, “Anyway, it’s been a day and I’m parched. Let’s get a drink.” He heads for the tavern and spies Lanisen. Immediately he lights up. Once they’re closer he gives a hearty, “Afternoon!” to Lanisen.

Lanisen, sitting outside the tavern on a bench with Colin’s book of notes and maps, shifts so both feet are on the ground and grins up at Loc. “Hey,” he answers, then glances at Gimbor and gives him a polite nod of greeting as well.

Loc motions for Gimbor to head inside. The dwarf gives a nod to Lanisen and heads in. Loc grins, “Nice day, ain’t it? Good to see you again.”

Lanisen mms affirmation, glancing at the brilliantly colored trees. “Don’t imagine we’ll get too many more of these this year,” he remarks.

Loc shakes his head, his smile waning a bit. “Nope. All the dwarves are sayin’ early Winter this year–and a hard one.”

Colin appears on the edge of town, walking in from the direction of the path that leads to the forest.

Lanisen asks, “How do they know?”

Loc shrugs, “Dunno. They talk about the thickness of their beards and the way the rocks move and the animals hunt and stuff. But I’ve never quite gotten it.”

Lanisen says, “The… thickness of their beards?”

Loc shrugs, “Something like that. I don’t get it myself.”

Lanisen says, “Huh.”

Colin approaches the center of town. Recognizing Lanisen, he heads in his direction and appears by his side. “Afternoon.” he says, to both of them when he realizes there is also Loc in the vicinity.

Loc turns and nods, “Afternoon.” When he catches who it is, Loc also gives a small bow.

Lanisen stands to duck a bow, conscious of the other people passing through the square. “I stole your book,” he informs Colin.

Colin looks down at Lanisen’s hands. “I see that.” He comments. “That bored, were you?”

Loc gives a small ‘tsk’ noise, but grins at Lanisen.

Lanisen explains, “I didn’t fix your map of the caves behind the waterfall yet.”

Colin chuckles and folds his arms across his chest. “Are my map skills that repulsive?” He asks, before turning to Loc. “I can’t take him anywhere.”

Loc laughs softly, “Into cartography, are you sir?”

Lanisen says patiently, “It’s fine, sir, just you weren’t even there that long.”

Colin shrugs a shoulder. “Basically a simple, poor attempt to keep track of a few things.”

Loc says, “Good skill to have.”

Lanisen’s head tilts slightly and he gives Loc an appraising look, one eye narrowed. “Were you with us when we camped in the caves?” he asks. “North of town behind the waterfall, you know? I can’t remember.”

Colin patiently allows Loc to answer.

Loc’s smile tightens a little and he lowers his voice, “You mean… four years back?”

Lanisen’s expression blanks slightly. “Um,” he says, glancing guiltily at Colin and lowering his voice in response to Loc’s discomfort. “Um, yeah. Four… probably closer to five by now.” He pauses. “Um. Sorry. I didn’t… Sorry. I shouldn’t have brought it up, you don’t gotta…”

Colin steps to Lanisen’s aid. “We’re just used to speaking somewhat comfortably on the topic between each other, sometimes it’s easy to forget it is uncomfortable for others.”

Loc says, “Somtimes four-five years don’t seem that far off… others… it’s like an entirely different life time.” He gives Lanisen a particularly knowing look ad shrugs, rolling his shoulders to relax. “It’s fine. And yeah… I was there.” He pauses, then says, “You don’t remember me walkin’ on the edge talkin’ ’bout death and all that?”

Lanisen blinks, pulling his chin back. “Uhh. Nooo?”

Colin listens for the moment.

Loc says, “That’s okay. I try to block most a my time with Myrd and Zan out too–I’ll also add Jana to that mix.” He makes a face. “Wasn’t a good time fer me. I knew the game we were playin’–thought for sure it’d end in a noose.” He seems to be speaking more to Colin than Lanisen. “But closer in my mind isn’t the time behind the waterfalls as the time beside it.”

Colin asks, “Beside it?”

Loc’s voice becomes very low and his expression tigthens. There’s a dark glint in his eyes. “Yeah. Right ‘fore I turned myself in and went fer Lanny.”

Loc says, “The last time I ever saw Jana.”

Lanisen looks lost. He glances at Colin.

Loc’s body has become rigid and he looks between them curiously. “You’d been captured already by Colin, Lanny. Myrd was rottin’ in the Castle. It was just… the three of us left.” He looks at Colin, “Didn’t I ever tell you ’bout that?”

Colin hms thoughtfully. “I don’t remember ever hearing that one. I was on my way to the tavern for a meal…would you care to join us and tell the story?” he offers with a glance at Lanisen.

Lanisen nods quickly. He’s gone quiet and is watching Loc.

Loc nods and gives a half grin, “Food and ale in a tavern’s the best setting for stories, ain’t it?”

Colin chuckles and nods his affirmation, motioning with his hand for them both to walk with him and he leads the way into the tavern.

Fischer’s Tavern

Lanisen follows Colin and takes a chair, quietly returning the notebook.

Loc follows the men in quietly. Instead of joining a lot of dwarves in the corner, he choses the table where Colin and Lanisen sit.

Colin talks with Fischer a moment and allows the other two to order anything before he settles in at the table and looks at Loc expectantly.

Lanisen asks for a cider and passes over the coins. He leans back in his chair, glancing at Loc.

Loc signals Fischer for an ale and takes a long swig, becoming quiet for a few moments as he gathers his thoughts. He glances at Lanisen and says, “I can’t exactly remember how it all fell apart. I just remember coming back from a long stint in Andale… and Myrd not being happy I was back. And then Morri had to go and….” He cuts off the rest of the sentence with another swig. His voice remains low. “Well, Myrd had a plan and got himself caught–after throwing Morri in that hole. Jana never said what the full plan was–the two of them never told us the full plan by that point…” He sighs. “Lanny… how’d you get caught again? All’s I remember is you suddenly were in the care of Sir Colin….”

Colin looks at Lanisen. “Was that when you broke my nose or was that a different time?”

Lanisen says, looking down at his mug, “Yeah. Yeah, it would’ve been.” He shrugs. “I was goin’ into town for supplies was all, he was on the road.”

Loc’s eyebrow arches, “Ya broke his nose?”

Lanisen says defensively, “No need to sound so surprised! I /can/ fight a little, you know.”

Colin grins. “And I’m quite proud of the ridge in my nose so it worked out for everyone.”

Loc snorts a little, “Not so much the fightin’ as the breakin’. That’s serious stuff.” He smirks a little. “Especially him being noble and all.” He looks to Colin, “and it does give some nice character.”

Colin’s smile is amiable. “Guess he’s lucky it was me, then.”

Lanisen says, “It ain’t hard breaking a nose. You want I should show you?” He raises a fist and an eyebrow, half-grinning.

Loc flashes a rather dark smile, “I know plenty about messin’ up noses Lanny.”

Colin takes a swig of his ale. “Wait til after the story, Lanny.” he says with a joking grin.

Lanisen holds up his hands palms-out. “Sorry, sorry.”

Loc says, “I vaguely remember Jana talkin’ about you being captured and Colin and all that mess. Jana wanted to clear out and move… so we left Morri in the pit and went to camp by the falls up north and west a town.”
Loc continues after another swig of ale.

Colin nods to indicate he is listening, drinking some of his own ale.

Lanisen goes still, all the mirth fading from his face. He looks ill.

Loc’s mood sours and his face becomes grave. He takes a long draught, looking down into the glass. His voice is deathly quiet, “And… that’s when it /all/ fell apart.” he says finally.

Colin glances at Lanisen’s face and says nothing for the moment.

Lanisen stares down into his cider, tense and unmoving. On the table, the fingers of his left hand fold slowly into a white-knuckled fist.

Loc continues to stare into the mug, his expression twisting into one of anger and hatred. “Can’t remember what night it was… but I… I /hated/ him. More than Myrd. Myrd was a snake. Cunning. Hard. Calculating. But Zan? There weren’t nothing nice or human ’bout him. Like that nasty creature the South men worship.” He spits onto the floor. “Didn’t trust him a lick, but… I couldn’t stay awake. Jana seemed confident in the plan and I didn’t feel right about Morri and then Lanny was gone and… it was all just a mess. The trek was tirin’ and no matter how hard I tried… I couldn’t stay ‘wake. ‘n Jana told me to sleep. That I’d need it…” Loc’s fingers tighten around the mug handle. “But I knew… I just /knew/…”

Colin listens carefully, his brow furrowing as Loc goes on. “Knew what?”

Lanisen stays quiet.

Loc’s throat tightens and his voice becomes a raw growl, “He was gonna do sumthin’. He kept looking at Jana… like the kinda look a wolf gets before it attacks.” He breaths in and out slowly, then takes a few hard gulps of ale.

Colin faces looks positively ill for a brief moment.

Lanisen’s eyes flick up to Loc briefly.

Loc’s lips pull back over his teeth although he doesn’t snarl and for a very brief moment, there is a terrible resemblence on his face to his worst days of crime. “Shoulda ust put a knife in his back–or throat… but I didn’t. I trusted her. And I let my guard down.” He runs his free hand across the ceramic of the mug. “And that… /creature/ musta known when I was asleep… because next thing I know it’s dark and the fire’s low and I hear screaming.”

Colin winces, shooting a look Lanisen’s way.

Lanisen listens, this story new to him.

Loc unleashes a terrible tiriade of black oaths, unintentionally being a bit louder than he’d wish. His chest heaves and his eyes are lit by a dark fire. The oaths are mostly incoherent and he finally falls silent, draining the rest of his mug.
Loc slams the mug on the table with enough force to shatter it.

Colin starts backwards when some of the ale hits him.

Lanisen, watching Loc with growing alarm, jumps at the unexpected noise and raises an arm to shield himself from the pieces of ceramic that fly his way.

Loc shakes his head and runs his hands through his hair, glancing about. He squirms under the attention of the other patrons. When Grimbor rises he gestures away and says, “Sorry Fischer. I’ll… replace it. Sorry… sorry.” He coughs and uncomfortably rubs the back of his neck, slowly letting out a breath. He looks at Colin and Lanisen, genuinely apologetic. “Sorry.” His voice is a quiet grunt.

Colin gives Fischer a nod and then focuses his attention back on Loc and Lanisen. “That’s all right…it happens.” he says calmly.

Lanisen looks uneasily at the shattered mug.

Loc falls silent when once of the tavern girls comes over. Loc stands and takes her towel, waving her off. “I got it, I got it. Go on…. thanks.” He begins to carefully clean up his mess, taking care of it swiftly and efficiently. Once they’re alone, he sits again and sighs. “I… I still hate thinking ’bout it.” His voice is barely audible. “It’s why I was so… bristly when I turned myself in….”

Colin comments, “Not that I knew you too closely but you seemed fine to me….”

Lanisen has nothing to add here.

Loc grunts softly and looks down, as if automatically going to take a drink. He frowns a bit when he realizes that he no longer has one and settles for a shrug. “Well… I suppose Astor and his wife might not have thought so…” He swallows hard, his voice low. “I suppose I should… just say it. What happened next ain’t pretty.”

Colin glances at Lanisen and says nothing for the moment.

Lanisen says, “Jana killed him.”

Loc’s mouth draws in a tight line. His face becomes cold and stony. He replies evenly. “Yes.” He looks at Colin, opening his mouth but turns his gaze back to Lanisen and snaps his mouth shut. He considers something, then says, “Yes.”
Loc mumbles “… may he … in … … … … … prison … … fer folks like him ‘cross the sea.”, to Loc.

Colin may or may not look slightly relieved for unknown reasons as he quietly takes a sip of ale. “What did you do then? Is that when you came to find me?”

Lanisen turns his mug in a circle absently.

Loc pauses, then says, “Well…” He looks at Lanisen, hesitates, then says, “Yes.” The answer is abrupt and perhaps hurried. “Jana just said that she’d get Myrd and I should leave. She wanted me to be free and now I had a chance.–But I didn’t feel right leavin’ Lanny ta take the blame… or Morri in that pit.” He looks down at the table. “I had a lotta thinkin’ ta do and I just… I wanted to do this right. Maybe I shoulda just grabbed Morri and ran but… I didn’t want ta run forever. Didn’t think I could so… I went ta find you.”
Loc leans over and lowers his voice.
Loc mumbles “I … want Lanny ta … when … was … pushed … … … … … Figured … … … the … it was me.”, to Colin.

Colin nods, fiddling with the handle of his ale tankard. “I remember you saying that when you showed up.”

Lanisen looks between Loc and Colin, annoyed and frowning.

Loc gives a weak smile and says, “And here we are… guess it turned out… mostly.” He frowns a little.

Colin stares into his ale, something dark flickering over his face before he masks it and nods. “As far as you two are concerned, it definitely could have been a lot worse.”

Lanisen shifts in his seat. “Um,” he says after a pause. “I only asked because, er, I wondered if you could look at the map of those caves and see if we missed anything.”

Loc looks at Lanisen and his cheeks flush a deep crimson. “I’d… I’d like that.” A look of determination settles across his face before it becomes more nuetral. “I’d like to look, tho I don’t think Sir Colin would miss anything.–Were you able to map the area to the… other cave?”

Colin nods and motions for Loc to take a look at the pages of the book, laying it out before the three of them. “Lanisen helped me a lot with that one. Added some important details.”

Lanisen says, “I know that one pretty well, I think it’s all right. If you see anything we missed, though.”

Loc leans forward and looks at the map intently.

Colin scootches the book closer to give him a better angle.

The map of the underground river and the caves there is quite accurate and very detailed, but the map of the caves is far less informative.

Loc’s jaw tightens and he points to the cave, “There.” He points. “You can hear people camping below when you go into this area. And you need to be careful here because it can get a bit slick… and there’s a rock here just right to catch a rope so you can get yourself up.”

Colin turns himself sideways to look at it from the correct angle. “Very handy to know.”

Lanisen asks, “Was it this passageway that was dry enough to sleep in, or this one?”

Loc chews his lip in thought, then points. “That one. Supplies were left up there too–some crates or barrels or what not. Guess it was tradition ta leave something behind for the next residents.”

Colin nods. “We found several things up there. Weren’t sure how long they’d been there.”

Loc nods, “Some had been there when we were.”

Lanisen says, nodding, “A satchel, some rope. Nothing valuable, of course.” He pauses. “I wondered if it was somebody’s stuff Zan or someone cleaned out.”

Loc grunts and a dark look flicks across his face briefly. “We burned Zan’s stuff.”

Colin comments, “Guess it was someone else’s stuff then.”

Loc points to a spot and says, “And if you follow the cliff face from the pool a ways in this direction… and go a bit into the wood…” He stops himself and then shakes his head. “Nevermind.”

Lanisen says, “What?”

Colin seconds Lanisen’s question. “What?”

Loc says, “There’s a… unnaturally cold spot there.” He looks at Colin. “Least that’s what the local’s say. An’ animals hate it.” He gives a small shrug. “Chief don’t like it when I bring it up ‘cuz some a the miners get… notions and all that. they’re suspcious folk and have some pretty wild stories.”
Loc says, “Ain’t no one that likes that area at night tho.”

Lanisen blinks, raises his eyebrows, and looks /delighted/. “Really!”

Loc gives Lanisen a surprisingly cold look. “/Really/.”

Loc keeps his voice low and there’s a small edge to it, “Don’t get any ideas about messin’ with that sorta stuff Lanny. Ain’t good for a body.”

Colin glances first at Lanisen, then Loc. His expression remains unreadable as he listens.

Lanisen quails slightly, but he still gives Colin a sidelong please-can-we-go look.

Loc says in an equally low and uneasy voice, “‘sides… if there was a spirit there… it’d be as dark as those that served the Witch they talk about in all those Northern fairy tales. And we ain’t got a Lion to drive it out.”

Colin takes another swig from his tankard. “Well…He may not reside in our country but He’s always looking on us kindly for being good neighbors to Narnia when all things were right and well there.”

Loc asks quietly, “And what about the kinda neighbors we were when things weren’t right there? He okay with that too?”

Lanisen looks a little baffled by the references. He side-eyes them both.

Loc asks, quite genuinely, “I mean… does He really exist? their Lion?”

Colin nods and answers the first question. “We couldn’t take that woman out /but/ we helped and harbored where we could. As for the latter…I believe he does. Queen Lucy and all them say they saw him with their own eyes, and the winter ended, didn’t it? I’ve met the kings and queens, and they don’t strike me as crazy or the type who’d lie.”

Lanisen fidgets with his mug and takes a drink of cider.

Loc kindly accepts an ale from a tavern wench and nods to Gimbor gratefully before smirking a bit. “Well. Maybe not lie. But they were kids. A talking Lion.” He chuckles a little and sips the ale. “The Miners are divided on the issue. As for me? I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Lanisen says, “Talking lion ain’t that farfetched. There’s other stuff that talks, why not a lion?”

Colin offers a half smile. “What if someone else sees it? Would you trust them? Like me, or Lanny? Or do you have to see it yourself?” He gives a nod at Lanny’s question as well. Good question.

Loc considers this. “Guess I’d believe it if you or Lanny saw it. But I spent years tryin’ ta get the local dogs ta talk ta me in Chesterton and never was able to make anything of it.–And maybe it ain’t far fetched–But a talking Lion who brings Spring and kills Witches and shakes the earth with a roar? That’s… a pretty tall order if you ask me.”

Lanisen says, “Um. If any lions show up, talking or otherwise, I’m heading the opposite direction.”

Loc lifts his class in agreement and grins, “I’ll drink to that and agree wholeheartedly.”

Colin takes a drink of his ale and looks at Loc with a speculative look on his face. “Well. About as tall an order as the King’s nephew sitting at the same table with two old bandits as his comrades?” He says with a thoughtful smile.

Lanisen chokes on his cider and smacks the table with his fist.

Loc snorts into his drink and grins, “Hey. I ain’t old. Just… dusty.” He grins.

Colin lifts his tankard to both of them with a grin and tips back once more. “Just sayin’.” he says meaningfully.

Lanisen drags the book closer to his side of the table and starts marking in Loc’s notes, along with a little arrow pointing to where he said the cold spot was.

Loc says, “Well. Maybe someday that Lion will come down here and settle the debate for us.” He takes another swig.
Loc spies the action and his smile falters.

Colin grins. “I’d like that very much, Loc. If not, maybe I’ll get over to Narnia some day and see him and tell you.”

Lanisen shakes his head. “You,” he says, still scribbling edits to the map, “are both insane.”

Loc chuckles softly and grins at Colin, “I’d like that. If you ever meet him, tell him hello for me.” He rolls his eyes and smirks at Lanisen, “And yet you keep our company.”

Colin drains his tankard and eyes Lanisen with a cheeky grin. “I think he likes us. He’s our friiiiend.”

Loc says cautiously, “Careful with those notes Lanny… you never know what you might find.”

Lanisen accidentally kicks Colin. Whoops.

Colin jumps, knocking the table slightly. “Ow.”

Loc slides back a bit, eyes widening a moment. Then he laughs.

Lanisen snickers under his breath. To Loc, he says, “You fret too much.”

Loc looks at Lanisen a moment, giving a wry smile. He takes a sip of the ale and says, “I got reasons ta fret. I know what ghosts are real enough.” He keeps his gaze Lanisen, his look meaningful. “Sometimes… the past just needs to stay dead… you know?”

Colin’s mirth dies away and he starts to say something before he changes his mind and stays quiet.

Lanisen eyes him for a minute, then shakes his head and turns back to the map. “Sakes,” he mutters. “You always gotta be all morbid and sideways-talkin’.”

Loc facepalms with his free hand. “Sakes yourself boy. That’s why you ain’t ever made a proper rogue. You never learnt ta read between the lines and the cant.”

Lanisen cusses him out amiably.

Colin comments, “Sometimes that’s all right.” he glances sidelong at Lanisen. “You better not do that when ladies are present.”

Lanisen says, “I don’t see any ladies.”

Loc glances at a few of the tavern wenches looking in their direction, “Well, there goes any chances of you getting /their/ attention then.” He laughs.
Loc mumbles “You gonna … ‘im?”, to Colin.

Colin answers Lanisen without missing a beat, “Ara’d box your ears if she heard you.”

Lanisen says, “Good thing she ain’t here, then.”

Colin kicks Lanisen under the table. Whoops. He glances at Loc and lifts a shoulder.

Lanisen threatens, “I will put sand in your bedroll.”

Loc leans back–making sure to stay out of kicking range, and drinks as he watches the conflict unfold.

Colin retorts, “I know where you sleep.”

Loc says, “He could also put frogs in your bedroll.”

Lanisen says darkly, “Sand /and/ frogs.”

Colin says, “Do it and a snake’ll be in both of yours.”

Loc chokes on his drink, “Hey now! I’m just an innocent bystander here.” Loc laughs heartily.

Colin says, “Sure you are.”

Lanisen says, “Talk, talk, talk. Good luck finding a snake this time of year.”

Loc flashes a brilliant grin, his green eyes dancing with mirth. For a moment the dirt and grim fade and he would almost pass as charming. “Just a decent, honest, hard workin’ guy who is enjoying his drink… and the though of sand and frogs in a bedroll.”
Loc says with devious mirth, “‘sides, I can help him find spiders and toads and lizards too.”

Colin snorts. “Might want to pick a side and stick with it, Loc.”

Lanisen finishes up the details on the map and pushes the book back toward Colin. The little arrow is still in place.

Loc smirks, “I have a side–my own.” He nods and lifts his glass to Colin. “And that means whatever is most convinent for me–and most advantageous.” He laughs.

Colin snorts into his ale. “We need to find you a woman to straighten you out.” he declares jokingly. “It does wonders.”

Loc laughs heartily. “Land’s sakes… I can’t imagine life with a woman.” He keeps his grin but it doesn’t reach his eyes. He shakes his head, “I thin I’ve had my fill of that nonsense. No Sir. I am a bachelor–and a happy one at that.”

Lanisen looks at Colin and casts a quick assessing glance at the level of his ale.

Colin hms and keeps his comments to himself.

Loc smirks, “I’ve found all a woman is is a heap a trouble.”

Lanisen starts doodling on the table.

Colin’s eyes slide to glance at Lanisen before replying. “Right one is worth it.”

Loc’s mirth decreases, although he keeps his smile. He sips his ale. “Yeah… well. There… there was a good one once. But a guy like me ain’t gonna have a shot at a gal like her.–She’s probably married by now anyway.” He looks into his mug. “An’ I hope she’s happy. Don’t blame anyone for…” He shakes his head and downs more ale. After rubs his sleeve across his mouth. “A’int many folk wantin’ their girl to be around a guy with a history like mine. I understand. If I hada girl, I wouldn’t either.”

Colin comments, “I’ve heard of stranger things. But yeah… I know what you mean. Mind if I ask who she was?”

Lanisen’s doodle starts to look like Loc.

Loc’s smile disappears completely and he becomes very quiet. After a moment he looks at Colin over the rim of his mug. “Her name’s Evey–well, properly it’s Evette. But she was always Evey ta me growin’ up.” He can’t resist a genuine smile at the name and his eyes light up.

Colin nods, growing more serious on Loc’s behalf.

Lanisen’s doodle of Loc begins to look extremely twitterpated.

Loc says, “Well. She’s probably married now… like I said. She was sweet. Fiery. /Good/. She was called off to Lancelyn Green to be with her sister… and I ain’t seen ‘er since.” He pauses, then says genuinely, “whoever he is, he’s lucky–and I hope she’s happy. She deserves to be.”

Colin happens to glance down at Lanisen’s doodle and snorts ale out of his nose.

Loc glances at Lanisen’s doodle and catches himself right before drinking. He grins and begins to laugh, putting down the mug.

Colin motions for an ale refill. “Lanny, you missed your calling.”

Lanisen starts to put down some lines that look suspiciously like Colin as well.

Loc mutters as he sips his ale, “Better artist than Armel ever was.”

Colin takes another swig of his ale and simultaneously elbows Lanisen. “Arwho?

Lanisen gets charcoal smeared on his hand. He considers it, then casually wipes the black smudge onto the shoulder of Colin’s shirt.

Colin looks down at the smudge. “This is my favorite shirt.”

Lanisen says, “It’s improved.”

Colin says, “You know I liked this shirt.”

Loc chuckles into a deep quaft of ale.

Lanisen says, “Too bad you don’t have another.”

Colin swats him. “Favorite. Shirt.”

Lanisen yelps and ducks away, snickering.

Loc snickers, sipping his drink.

Colin tries to wipe at the smudge and gives up, downing more of his–third? Fourth ale? “You’re doing the laundry this week.”

Lanisen says, “Sand.”

Loc says with a smirk, “Here we go again.”

Colin points to the smudge pointedly. “Shirt.”

Lanisen holds up his hand, still faintly black. “I could make the other side match,” he offers.

Loc chokes as some of the ale goes through his nostrils.

Colin picks up the book and holds it threateningly at Lanisen. “I will use this.”

Lanisen says, “You won’t, it’s the only copy.”

Loc says, “Copies can be redone.”

Colin points at Loc without taking his eyes off Lanny. “Yup. That.”

Lanisen hmms doubtfully.

Loc nearly jumps out of his seat when Gimbor taps his shoulder.

Colin thumps Lanisen on the shoulder with the book before he notices the dwarf at their table.

Loc listens to what the dwarf says and nods. He stands and gives a small nod, “I shall let you two gentlemen continue your debate, but I am reminded of how fast dawn will come and the unpleasantness of working all day without a proper night’s rest, especially when we draw so close to the time of delivering the tribute.” He gives a small bow. “I hope to see you both soon.”

Lanisen cringes, laughing, and tries to snatch the book. He straightens and sobers quickly as the dwarf speaks to Loc.

Colin ehs and stands up, nearly returning the bow out of habit but forgetting what he’s doing in the middle of it as he holds the book out of Lanisen’s reach. “Good point. Good seeing you, Loc. I hope to be talking to you again soon.” He says, tone slightly emphasising the last sentence.

Loc’s smile flickers and he nods. “Evenin’ gents.” He follows Gimbor out of the tavern.

Lanisen watches them go, frowning slightly. He glances back at Colin.

Colin is still holding the book raised up as he notices Lanisen’s frown. “S’wrong?”

Lanisen shakes his head. “Nah, nothin’, just.” He looks out the window at the road. “I dunno. He’s. I dunno.”

Colin hms. “Yeah, I know. Tomorrow?” He prods Lanisen’s shoulder, trying to get him to move.

Lanisen says, “Tomorrow what?” He moves obligingly.

Colin keeps holding the book up like a dingbat while prodding Lanny with the other hand. “We talk tomorrow. Colin’s tired.”

Lanisen ughs and keeps moving. “Colin’s talking about himself like a prodigious great dafty,” he grumps.

Colin’s intelligent retort is “You’re dafty.”
Colin says, “And prodigious.”

Lanisen swipes at the book.

Colin baps him on the head with it and runs through the door.


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