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 heads for the well with one of the inn’s buckets at a businesslike pace, not keen on spending more time outside in the chilly wind than necessary.

A daughter of eve with auburn hair in a milkmaid’s plait (Aryna) walks through the square with her shopping basket on one arm and struggling to hold onto her son’s arm with her other. He makes it quite difficult as he hops along on one foot for quite aways, then starts trying to skip ahead. He’s nearly the mirror image of his mother with her auburn hair and brown eyes, as well as most of his features matching hers.

Lanisen fills the bucket and turns to go back to the inn, dodging a couple market shoppers and apologizing whenever his path accidentally crosses with somebody else’s. He pauses to let Aryna and her son go first as he reaches the road.

The boy breaks free from his mother and runs up to the man and stands directly in front of him. “Hi!” he says brightly, staring up at him.

Lanisen says, “Uhhh…”

Aryna makes a swipe for him but misses and rapidly follows her son. “I’m so sorry!” She reaches for his arm again and he twists away. “How’d you get that thing on your neck?”

Lanisen backs away uncertainly, casting a quick glance around the square. “Um,” he says. He gives Aryna a quick shy smile, shaking his head to indicate it’s fine, and touches his neck in some confusion.

Aryna brushes a tendril of hair out of her eyes and apologizes once more. “I’m terribly sorry, he thinks every person he sees is his friend.” To this, her son protests, “Uh huh!” He looks at the man. “Mister, we’re friends right?” he peers up at him with extremely endearing brown eyes.

Lanisen says helplessly, “Um. Su-ure? Hello!”

Aryna sets her basket down and with determination catches her son. She looks up at the man with a slightly frazzled but triumphant look. “Again, so sorry.” she apologizes profusely, while her son waves his hand at the man, trying to shake his hand or something in a confused child way. “Hi! I’m Bern! This is Mama. Who’re you?” he demands cheerily.

Lanisen says, shifting his grip on the bucket and darting a glance at Aryna, “Er, um. Hello, Bern. I’m Lanisen.”

Aryna’s brown eyes widen in recognition and she takes a harder look at his face, allowing Bern to reach out and seize Lanisen’s free hand and shake it up and down and up and down. “Lanisen? Goodness, I hardly recognize you! You’re all grown up!”

Lanisen looks trapped. He adjusts his grip on the bucket handle with his left hand again while Bern shakes his right enthusiastically. “Um,” he says, looking sidelong at Aryna with a nervous smile. “Hello, Ary.”

Aryna gently pries her son away and makes him stand beside her. She flashes Lanisen a smile and asks, “It’s been forever, how are you?”

Lanisen takes a step back, rubbing the back of his neck. “I’m… good,” he says after a pause. “Yeah. Uh. You–you had a kid!”

Aryna waves her hand. “Nah, just found him at the side of the road one day and he won’t go away.” She reaches down and tickles Bern, who jerks away with adorable giggles.

Lanisen is startled into a laugh. “How old’re you, then?” he asks Bern.

Bern suddenly decides to be shy of all things and ducks behind Ary, who lifts her eyes heavenward. Eventually, a little hand waves around her, holding up 4 fingers.

Lanisen grins, quick and genuine, and glances at Aryna. “That many?” he asks the hand seriously.

Aryna chuckles and nods while her son peeks around her, nodding his head vigorously.

Lanisen says, “That’s quite a big number. That’s almost a whole hand!”

Aryna steps to the side to force Bern to expose himself and he finally steps around her to stand looking at Lanisen again. “How many are you?” He asks, very serious.

Lanisen says apologetically, “More than I have fingers.”

Aryna hides a laugh as Bern’s eyes widen to saucers. “Whoa…” His mother coughs and she asks, “What brings you back to Carmichael, Lanisen?”

Lanisen says, turning his attention back to Aryna, “Um, Sir Colin. I don’t know where he’s got to, though.”

Aryna’s eyebrow shoots up and a smile twitches at the corner of her mouth. “He’s here too, huh?”

Lanisen says, “Yeah, somewhere ’round here. He’ll turn up.”

Aryna smiles. “I am sure he will. I was beginning to think he wouldn’t make it out here again before the weather turned. That’s become his habit, it would seem.”

Lanisen gives her a quick, shrewd look and says noncommittally, “He likes to get his travelling in, for sure.”

Aryna nods and replies, her tone equally noncommittal, “That he does. He does his job well, from what I’ve seen. It’s always good to see him out here.”

Lanisen nods vaguely, glancing around the square. “Um. So, how have things been here?”

Aryna clasps her son and folds her hands in front of him while they talk. “Things have been well. Rather quiet to be sure but it mostly always was that way.”

Lanisen says, “Yeah? That’s… good, yeah quiet is good.”

Aryna nods. “Most of the time.” She grins. “How’ve you been? I heard you were in Anvard for a while. Ara told me she saw you a lot when she was there that year.”

Lanisen moistens his lips and looks down at the bucket for a second, mildly panicked. “Yeah, ahh. Anvard. Um. Fine, I’ve been fine?”

Aryna nods, offering him a kind smile. “That is good to hear. Ara said you were working with the hounds a lot. Are you still doing that or do you work for Sir Colin now?”

Lanisen says, “Yeah, I was, until…um, about a month ago. Now I’m just… yeah, traveling with Sir Colin. I dunno for how long, I s’pose I’ll go back to hounds after.”

Bern twists to look up at his mother and interrupts. “Mama…can I go see Papa?” He pleads. Aryna glances at the lodge and nods. “Don’t interrupt if he’s working.” With a squeal of glee, Bern pulls away from her and darts inside the lodge, letting the door slam loudly. She winces slightly and ends up shrugging. “Goodness he’s full of energy…So how are you liking all the traveling?”

Lanisen laughs under his breath, watching the little boy go. “Ahh. It’s been good?” he answers, glancing at Aryna. “It’s good to get out of the castle, change of scene.”

Aryna nods, brushing her hair back from her face. “I imagine so. Does it feel as cramped as Carmichael at times?” She says with a smile.

Lanisen laughs awkwardly. “It can,” he admits.

Aryna chuckles. “I’m hoping we get to accompany my husband to Andale next time he has business there. I envy you a little for being able to move about more freely, but I am happy you can do so.” She bends to retrieve her shopping basket and says, “I should go pry my son away before he gets underfoot. How long will you be here, Lanisen? I’d like it very much if you’d join us for dinner sometime.”

Lanisen says, “Ahhh…”

Aryna pleads sincerely with him, “Please? It would be very nice to have you. I’m a good cook, I swear.” She says with a smile. It may be now that Lanisen realizes that Bern gets his doe-eyed begging brown eyes look from his mother.

Lanisen takes a step backward, crossing one arm over his front to rub his elbow. He glances around the square. “No, I– I believe you, just… um. Are you… sure?”

Aryna nods, giving him a knowing look. “Absolutely, Lanisen.” She says with a warm smile. “Any friend of Sir Colin’s is a friend of ours. Plus, Bern seems to like you, I think my son is a good judge of character. He hasn’t been wrong yet.”

Lanisen laughs uncertainly. “Um,” he says helplessly. “I’d… I’d be glad to.”

Aryna beams. “Excellent. I’ll be on the lookout for you and we’ll do this soon, all right? Thank you, Lanisen.” She says before she’s off to the lodge.

Lanisen looks lost. He grips the bucket with both hands and says, “Thank you.”

Aryna grins at him one more time before ducking inside.


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