You stand in the barracks belonging to the Army of Archenland. Here is where the men reside when not on campaign. There are many bunks along the walls and at the foot of each bunk is a foot locker. The barracks is neat and tidy. Arrow slot windows facing out allow for defense and provide light.
Colin enters with another one of the men, who is helping him carry a wounded but very much awake Lanisen into the barracks.
Lune is working alongside several soldiers to tend to the wounded and get them situated comfortably. There are comparatively few wounded, all things considered, and the castle healer and his underlings exude quiet competence. The room is an urgent bustle, but orderly.
Lanisen has his jaw clenched tight and his eyes squeezed shut, trying to distance himself from the pain as Colin and the other soldier carry him in. His breathing is ragged, and he is deathly pale.
Colin and his companion get Lanisen to an empty cot, where they lower him slowly and carefully. Colin motions for the castle healer and makes it clear that he should look at Lanisen as soon as possible. While the other man returns to the battlements, Colin parks himself there for a minute, helping Lanisen stay as comfortable as possible and helping where he can elsewhere.
Shar descends the stairs and enters the barracks, seeking out the other knights and nobles.
Lune gets a wounded soldier settled, claps his shoulder gently, and turns toward his lords. He looks at each of them, searching for injury.
Lanisen settles into the cot, the hand of his unwounded shoulder clenched white-knuckled around a handful of his gambeson.
Colin takes his helmet off and runs his hand through his damp hair. There’s dried blood on his armor and face from his friend’s wounds, but he displays none of his own other than a bone-tired weariness.
Shar moves toward his two sons. “You are both whole. There is something to be thankful for in that.” His eyes move to the visible mark in his youngest’s armor.
Lanisen asks Colin, “Sir, what’s happenin’? Did we win?”
Dar comes to stand alongside Darrin. He eyes his brother’s armor as well. The fact that he allows his concern to register in his expression speaks volumes. “One of us, at least–“, he says in answer to his father’s statement.
Darrin glances between Shar and Dar with a similarly assessing glance before he cracks a half-smile, raising a brow at his brother. “Am I to take it you’re wounded in some hard-to-see place, then?” He brushes his fingers over the dent in his armor unconsciously but looks on the whole rather unharmed.
Colin looks down at Lanisen and crouches at his side. “For now,” he says with a slight smile that doesn’t quite chase the grimness away. He looks about the room at everyone present.
Lune asks, “Has word been taken to those in the hall?”
Tran slips into the barracks, making an unobtrusive bow to the nobles before taking a position nearer to Shar.
Tran mumbles “Cole … taken … for me. Have … missed … important?”, to Shar.
Shar takes his youngest son’s shoulder, looking to give him a sort of stoic pat, but drawing him into a not-quite-crushing embrace instead. He speaks over his son’s shoulder to Tran.
Shar mumbles “… Has word yet been … … the …”, to Tran.
Tran shakes his head and replies to Shar quietly, “I do not know. Are there more we should send for in this council?”
Darrin returns the embrace after a moment of surprise, moving to pat Shar on the back.
Shar releases his son. “We should at least send for the healer.”
Tran’s brow raises. “The healer has not been sent for yet?” He moves immediately to the door and has some words just outside.
Dar raises a brow even higher in return, his expression mirroring his younger brother’s. “You cannot be seriously injured if your quips are still that sharp, Darrin. Only my pride, perhaps, at not taking the arrow in your place, and that is trifling enough that it will bear the injury. You will have the scar and the story to tell to go with it.” His words are light, but his relief at finding Darrin not seriously harmed is palpable. When his father releases Darrin, he clasps his brother tightly on the shoulder in his own version of the embrace.
Darrin’s nose twitches slightly. He says, “I’m fine, truly,” but doesn’t object when one of the healer’s assistants bustles over and guides him to sit on a cot. He gives a small sigh at the examination and then smirks at Dar. “Now you get the idea. Though I doubt, honestly, there will even be much of a scar.”
Tran returns a moment later, shaking his head when he spots the healer already in attendance. “Well, that’s a relief,” he shares with Shar with a private smile.
Colin stays silent in all the going ons, taking advantage of the moment to catch his breath.
Dar’s mouth twitches. “There are easier ways to convince Master Doel to let you out of sparring practice, little brother.” He hands the healer’s assistant a clean cloth when requested and stays nearby, distracting Darrin as the healer probes, examines, and cleans the injured area.
Shar sees that his son is well cared for, and then moves to his king.
Lune waves off a healer’s attendant. “You all,” he says, turning to make eye contact with each of the wounded, “have comported yourselves admirably this night. I thank you.” And he dips his head in respect.
Darrin sends Dar an amused look and then hisses when the wound is prodded a particular way. He grits his teeth for a moment and grips the edge of the cot. A second later he’s visibly relaxed again and he says, “Ah, but where would be the fun in that?” At Lune’s words, his expression sobers marginally and he offers a half-bow that has the assistant clucking at him in vexation.
Tran’s gaze dips, looking somber as he surveys the wounded.
Colin sits with his arms on his knees, watching the healer quietly and carefully tend to Lanisen while he listens silently to his uncle the King.
Dar straightens to his full height and turns his attention back to his king when Lune begins to speak, his features returning to their typical seriousness.
Shar’s eyes flick toward his son at the audible pain.
Lune turns to regard his lords. He lets out a breath. “It has been long since the lords of this country came together in a council of war,” he says softly. “But we have always known that we must be ready, and so I must call on you now.”
Lanisen stays very still, silent and rigid on the bed as the healer works. He stares fixedly at the ceiling, and tears of pain leak from the corners of his eyes.
Tran holds himself a little straighter, nodding silently as if his commitment could ever be in doubt.
Shar says, “I find it a strange assault, your majesty. If they have drawn off because they expect aid, we will have many more wounded before our gates are safe.”
Lune says grimly, “We can expect no such aid.” He paces, rubbing a hand across his beard. “Would that we could warn Narnia…”
Darrin’s expression settles into a more somber one as he listens, the healer’s assistant finishing with the bandaging.
Dar considers. “It might be possible to send word–“, he states quietly. “It could be attempted, at least.”
Lune glances at Dar, listening. “Go on.”
Shar looks to Dar.
Colin lifts his head a bit to listen.
Lanisen goes limp with relief as the healer moves on without doing anything too terrible. He stays quiet, trying not to move.
Dar continues, “A coded message, perhaps. You were right to point out, Your Majesty, that Tashbaan could have ranged a much larger force against us. They cannot have expected to reach Narnia without resistance, and once there, Prince Rabadash is not such a fool as to think that the Kings of Narnia would allow their sister to be taken without great loss to anyone making the attempt. Either he has come north without the Tisroc’s knowledge or–” More slowly now, he adds, “We are meant to think that is the case. The Tisroc could then deny knowledge of Rabadash’s actions without risking retaliation. Either explanation means that Rabadash cannot summon aid from Calormen without revealing himself to the Tisroc or without revealing the Tisroc’s complicity to us. He has suffered injuries among his ranks. If we offer basic aid as a gesture at ceasing hostilities–and, I might add, as a show of your magnanimity, Sire–it would be possible to smuggle out a message in the process, if it was done carefully.”
Tran looks dubious. “It’s possible, although I should point out your Majesty that the forces I saw today were rashly commanded and deployed. Some of their commanders were downright vicious, and eager for quick victory. This venture that you suggest Lord Dar bears the risk that this dog will simply snap up any treat offered to it, and the hand along with it. If we proceed, I would also suggest that we prepare a frontal attack of our own. The Calormenes have already begun siege preparations, and I cannot swear to it but I thought I heard them speak of trying to ram our gates. We might not be able to afford to wait for any aid that might come.”
Shar says, “That is what I fear, Lord Tran. Should they appear next with ladders or ropes we will need all our men and a sharp command with sharper eyes.”
Darrin puts his elbows on his knees and props his chin in his one hand. “If the Calormenes are even inclined to accept aid of any sort in the first place,” he says, nodding after Tran speaks. “Judging from their remarks today, I’m uncertain as to whether their pride would even allow such a thing from us ‘barbarians.'” He says the word with distaste.
Colin adds his voice to the mix. “What if our attempt at getting a messenger out was discovered and foiled? We’d ruin any further chance at attempting to deceive them if the opportunity presents itself. And who do we risk sending and losing? We need every man we have.”
Dar asks, “But will they? We saw nothing today that suggests they brought with them any ladders or seige equipment. And do we not also have an obligation to warn our Narnian allies of what may be coming against them, if it is possible to do so without depleting our own forces? It is precisely their assumptions that we are, as my brother has put it, barbarians, that we can use to effect. We must consider what they will not expect from us–”
Lune listens carefully, his brow knit, and seats himself on the end of an unoccupied cot. “We will speak of aid and good faith when they have laid down their weapons and not before,” he says quietly. “We will not open the gates.” He glances at Dar. “How long can we withstand a siege, by your reckoning?”
Tran purses his lips, conceding some of Dar’s logic.
Dar calculates. “Given the number currently sheltered within the castle, we can hold out without difficulty for at least a fortnight. During which time, of course, they may determine the castle is too difficult to overcome and turn their attention to some of the neighboring cities.” He glances to his father at this.
Shar says, “Surely 200 could not sustain such an attack.”
Darrin frowns at the mention of attacking towns, but remains silent for the moment.
Lune says, “We cannot know that this is the only force sent.” He rubs his forehead and sighs, then drops his hand. “How many men can still fight, and how many horse?”
Dar shakes his head in response to Shar’s statement. “I think they cannot outlast us, should we dig in here. Their plan depends upon reaching Narnia before a warning can be sent. They must act, and act swiftly. Provided that they are not expecting aid, but the Tisroc cannot openly support Rabadash unless he wants war, either with the lords of Archenland or with Narnia. He is far more subtle than that. I am convinced that Rabadash has to be here without the Tisroc’s consent or that the Tisroc will withdraw his backing of Rabadash if it becomes costly.” He turns back to Lune. “Fifty at last review, Sire, and perhaps mounts for half of those in fighting condition.”
Tran nods to Dar’s assessment and turns to regard the king. “And most of those men in fresh condition, Sire, ready to mount whatever defense is required.”
Shar says, “I think we may need to meet them on the field on our terms. Before they do call in reinforcements. It will be sore for us if we estimate the Tisroc’s dedication wrongly.”
Darrin says, “I agree, particularly if, as my brother says, there is a chance they will attack the surrounding countryside and those who were not evacuated in time.”
Lune says, “Were it not for those left defenseless in the keep should we fail…” He shakes his head. “But no matter, if they do mean to bring a ram to bear.”
Lanisen falls at last into a fitful sleep, his breathing quick and shallow.
Colin stays silent, listening to the exchange.
Dar’s gaze once again seeks out his father before he says to Lune, resoluteness in his voice, “Even were I not bound by honor, Sire, I would, upon your word, take up arms to defend this land and your person. I am a man of words, as you know, with little love for battle, but I will fight to the last.”
Shar says, “As shall we all, if it comes to that, your majesty.”
Colin nods his agreement.
Tran says, “So say we all!”
Darrin straightens and nods, his eyes flashing.
Lune holds the gaze of each man, then nods slowly. “So be it, then,” he murmurs. “Whatever the morrow holds, gentlemen–I am honored to have you at my side.”
Tran maintains his grave expression and bows to King Lune from the waist.
Shar dips his head in a bow as well.
Colin rises to his feet, helmet still held in hand as he bows to his uncle respectfully. “I’m honored to fight with you all…be you knight or common man. I consider you all my brothers at this time.”
Dar stands straight and unwavering as Lune’s gaze falls upon him before making a deep, courtly bow to his leige. “For Archenland and King Lune, long may he reign”, he states somberly. “And for those who are not here to stand with us.”
Darrin bows his head, aborting an attempt at any deeper of a bow as the healer’s assistant still hovering nearby sends him a sharp glance.
Lune smiles faintly, weary but proud and unbent. “Take what rest you may,” he says. “I shall have need of you all tomorrow.”
Shar lifts his head and turns to assist his sons in preparing their cots.
Colin turns back to the dozing Lanisen and motions for the healer, whom he starts to discuss things quietly with.
Darrin turns his attention to his brother and father as the council disperses.
Dar sees that Lune’s cot is made as comfortable as possible before returning to his own. His mouth quirks upward into a very faint smile when he sees that Shar has already seen to that for him, giving his father a grateful nod. He produces one of his many ubiquitous pieces of parchment from the pocket of his tunic, along with a quill pen. Attempting to make his tall frame fit comfortably into the narrow cot takes a few moments. “I thought I would write a few lines to Honour and to mother as well–” He does not add the ‘just in case’, but it is there beneath the surface of his words.
Shar returns the words with a quiet nod.
Darrin eyes the sudden appearance of parchment and says, “Always prepared.” His tone is softer than usual, however, lacking it’s usual undercurrent of mirth.
Dar wordlessly extends a few of the sheets, along with his spare quills, toward his father and his brother in case they wish to join him. “You do know me”, he replies to Darrin.
Lanisen shifts in his sleep, jostling something that shouldn’t be jostled, and starts back to full wakefulness with a cry.
Colin’s hand shoots out to touch Lanisen’s uninjured shoulder. “It’s all right. Healer’s here. We’re gonna take care of those arrows.” He says in quiet tones.
Darrin gives a shrug with a ghost of a smile and takes the proffered parchment and quill thoughtfully.
Lanisen, disoriented and hurting, repeats, “More–more arrows? How’d I–” He breaks off, moaning.
Shar takes the parchment offered him with some visible hesitancy. This is not where his strength most lies.
Colin reassures Lanisen. “It’s all right. You don’t have more..just the ones from before.” He looks at the healer. “Can we give him something to help?”
Adrian nods and instructs one of his assistants to put together some type of herbal concoction and bring it over when it is ready.
Lanisen’s left hand wanders to his right shoulder, feeling at the bandage over the wound.
Dar bends his head over the parchment in front of him, his quill moving rapidly as his thoughts form. He lingers a few moments over the letter he has composed to his wife before signing it and, as soon as the ink is dry, folding it and putting it into his tunic pocket. “Sometimes there are simply not words enough”, he concludes.
Shar sets aside his writing unfinished, instead going to Sir Colin’s side. “How fares our friend?”
Colin watches Adrian administer the concoction when his assistant brings it. The healer holds Lanisen’s head and helps him drink some of the herbs. Answering Lord Shar, he says, “Not too well…we’re going to remove the arrows. He’s hurting.” He clenches his jaw slightly
Lanisen objects to the draught and pushes away the glass weakly. “What’re you–what’re you doing?”
Shar looks to Adrian for sign of the boy’s chances.
Darrin twists the quill in his fingers for several minutes before he composes a short note, only a few lines. He frowns at the words and then lets out a breath, deeming them sufficient. It appears he is resisting the urge to doodle in the margins while he waits for the ink to dry. When Dar speaks, Darrin glances at him and offers a quiet, “Hm.” He sets the quill aside finally and looks over at the group around Lanisen, fingering the edges of the bandage around his middle.
Colin does what he can to help. He kneels down on the ground and gets close, right where Lanisen can see him. “Hey, you need to drink this. It’ll help. We’re right here, I’m not gonna let anything else happen to you. We need to get you sewed up.” he explains, hoping that Lanisen can understand in his state of mind.
Dar runs a hand through his hair, glancing up to consider his brother. “Adrian can get you something to help with that”, he says evenly, “if you are in pain–”
Darrin blinks and looks back to Dar. “What?” he asks, brows drawn in confusion and then rising again when he notices his hand on the bandage. He frowns and drops his fingers to the blanket underneath, shaking his head. “No – it’s not bad. I’m fine.” He pauses, then adds, “Lucky.”
Lanisen blinks at Colin a few times and up at Adrian, focusing. “I’ll drink it myself, please,” he says, clearer. “Help me sit up?”
Colin nods and clasps Lanisen’s good arm to help him.
Shar says, to Colin, in case the young man may be intimidated by so much attention, “Many would not bear it so well.”
Dar inclines his head, accepting Darrin’s words as stated. “You have grown”, he observes. At the mention of luck, he glances over toward where Colin and his father are seeing to Lanisen. “Indeed–“, he adds quietly, ready to assist if necessary but not yet moving to do so.
Lanisen has gone white with that little motion. He bends his head down, breathing rapidly, then reaches with his left hand for the glass.
Darrin’s eyes wander toward the King and he adds, “In any case, I should prefer to remain clear-headed.” The only sign
Dar’s compliment is heard is a small upward flick of Darrin’s lips as he returns his gaze to his brother.
Colin nods his agreement, helping hold the glass steady so Lanisen can drink the herbs without dropping them.
Lanisen stops about halfway through, gagging, but he perseveres and at last pushes away the empty glass. He takes several deep, shaky breaths and nods.
Dar nods again. “We will all have need of clear heads come the morning. You kept your own thoughts close during the council, Darrin. What do you make of Rabadash’s plans, from what we know?” The look he gives Darrin conveys respect, a recognition of equal to equal rather than elder brother to younger.
Colin sets the glass aside and helps him lay back down. After a little bit, Adrian is able to address the wounds without hurting Lanisen so much.
Shar, seeing he can be of no further help, turns away from the injured man, laying his hand for a moment on Colin’s shoulder.
Darrin rubs at the back of his neck and considers this. “He mentioned Queen Susan,” he says. “Two hundred men is a small force to besiege a castle, but plenty with which to surprise a small honor guard of Narnians. I don’t think we are his primary target, else he would have been more prepared. What that means for us, I am unsure. It depends on how long the man is willing to linger here, how long we can hold him off, and what his reaction will be. He is a proud man. I doubt he will abandon this attack easily.”
Colin looks up at Lord Shar, giving him a grateful nod.
Lanisen stays still, watching Adrian work with groggy apprehension.
Dar indicates his agreement with another nod. “Yes–he is committed now. And he is willing to risk a great deal for the chance. There was the visit that the Narnian royals made to Calormen–” Dar’s brow furrows in thought. “You met Rabadash when you went to Narnia for the tournaments, did you not? What sort of man did he strike you as? Everything we know about him may help to predict his actions–”
The healer Adrian and his assistant work quickly and carefully to remove the first arrow from Lanisen’s shoulder. Colin assists by holding Lanisen as still as possible.
Shar moves back to his cot, sitting to remove his boots. “Do not stay up so late discussing tactics that you have no strength when your minds are more needed,” he advises his sons.
Darrin nods, his expression betraying his dislike. “He is…slippery. All flowery words and carefully constructed statements and veiled intentions. At least in conversation. In the melee, he fought well. Still, this attack would betray a certain…lack of foresight, I would say.”
Dar considers the information his brother provides intently. He is so wrapt in contemplation that he looks a little guilty when his father returns. “Leave it to Father to have the wisest words of all in this matter–“, he says to Darrin, his mouth twitching ever-so-slightly upward as he removes his own boots to follow Shar’s advice.
Lanisen, herb-fuddled but more than sufficiently aware, grips Colin’s arm with his good hand, trying to brace himself against what is to come. He screams and arches when the healers work the first barbed arrowhead free.
Darrin chuckles, a noise that is abruptly cut off when Lanisen screams. His lips draw together tightly and he casts a glance at Lanisen and Colin, a vaguely haunted look appearing and disappearing rapidly in his eyes. “Aye,” is all he says when he turns back to Dar and Shar. He starts preparing for rest himself.
Colin’s mouth makes a thin line as he assists the healers, leaning across Lanisen to hold him. He keeps talking quietly to him, trying to distract from the pain as Adrian moves on to the second arrow to be done with it.
Colin mumbles “Hang in there. Almost through. You’re doing great. I’m so sorry..so sorry…they’re almost done, just one more.”, to Lanisen.
Colin mumbles “… in there. … through. … doing great. I’m so … sorry…they’re almost … just one more.”, to Lanisen.
Dar is halted by the scream as well, right boot still raised above the floor. His countenance growing grave and the same haunted look appearing in his eyes, creating, for just an instant, a sympathy between the brothers’ dissimilar appearances.
Shar, more used, perhaps, to the sounds of soldiers after battle, lies back, though his face is grim.
Lanisen struggles despite himself, crying helplessly. “No no no, please wait, not yet, not yet–” he begs when he feels them begin on the second arrow, then breaks off with a muffled scream, biting down on his own sleeve.
Colin grits his teeth, holding him down with his weight. “Be over soon.” He watches Adrian closely and when that last wretched arrow is removed he lets up, hand still clamped on Lanisen’s shoulder.
Darrin lies down on his back, which, judging by the ginger way he folds himself, may not be his preferred sleeping position. Or perhaps the wound is a tad more painful than he lets on. Either way, he lets out a breath and stares up at the ceiling stoicly.
Dar’s mouth is set in a firm line as he sets the boot on the floor beside its fellow and stretches out, his feet and ankles still protruding over the edge of the cot despite his best efforts.
Lanisen’s head falls back with relief once it’s over. He squeezes his eyes shut and covers his face with a shaking hand so he doesn’t have to watch them wrapping the bleeding wounds.
Darrin shifts in an attempt to get more comfortable, but it is still some time before he falls asleep.
Dar has similar difficulty. It is some time before his breathing evens out, and even then, he only sleeps lightly.
Colin watches as the healers make quick work of cleaning, stitching where needed, and bandaging. He squeezes Lanisen’s shoulder, keeping his voice low to not disturb those who are falling asleep. “Guess what, they’re done.” he says, his tone reassuring (and a little shaky at this point).
Lanisen nods. He swipes at his nose and tries to breath properly. “/Lion/,” he whispers, still trembling.
Colin nods, acknowledging his friend’s intense pain. “I’m so sorry, Lanisen.” He says after a time.
Lanisen takes deep breath after deep breath and shakes his head. “‘S not, it’s not–”
Colin squeezes his shoulder, running a grubby hand through his yechy hair. “What can I get you? extra pillow? Blanket? Water?”
Lanisen shakes his head, closing his eyes, then changes his mind. “Water’d be nice,” he admits in a rasp. “‘S herbs’re gonna give me dragon breath.”
Colin goes to fetch some water from a nearby pitcher. “Yes…well…I desperately need a bath, so we’re even.” He pours a glass and offers it.
Lanisen takes it and very carefully sips a little at a time. He closes his eyes, the adrenaline crash and the herbs starting to get to him. “Guess I’m–stuck here a while, huh.”
Colin nods. “We’ll have you moving about soon though…something Adrian said…the wounds are in your arm and your leg, so in a day or two they’ll want you doing some moving around. Apparently it helps the healing. It now makes sense why whenever I’d get busted up they wouldn’t let me laze around for days on end.”
Lanisen opens his eyes at this, wearily interested. “Meant the castle,” he says after a pause. “Stuck in the castle.”
Colin hehs. “Ah–well, that depends. We’ll see what happens. I don’t think it’ll be for very long at all.” He says, his tone bright and hopeful.
Lanisen frowns slightly, eyes slipping shut again. “Really, really don’t like this,” he mumbles.
Colin squeezes Lanisen’s shoulder again, his expression wavering when no eyes are on him. “We’re gonna get through this.”
Lanisen asks, “Tell me ’bout the battle? What happened?”
Colin hehs, moving a bit closer so he can keep his voice low. “Well. We were sighting, and shooting a few arrows, and then suddenly there was this odd weight on my side as you flopped against me. Ever heard the expression “my heart was in my throat?” Well….that’s a real thing. I nearly choked. Shar got you out of the way and safe and tended to you and yelled at me to keep firing. So I fired, a lot. Got a couple of nice dings in my armor. I honestly have no idea if I landed any good shots. Tran’s an amazing archer, he felled several. I wish I had devoted enough time to training my archery skills…I think that’ll change soon. We split up and were in the towers for a bit, shooting enough that the army started hiding in the trees. It made them really hard to hit, but we kept going, and they retreated. It…sounds like they’re calm for the night.” he says nothing further.
Lanisen goes gradually sleepier, listening to Colin’s voice. “Didn’ even get to fire any arrows,” he mumbles, slurred and exhausted. “Practiced ‘n practiced, didn’ get to…” And he’s out.
Colin pats his shoulder gently so as not to wake him. “Yeah…mate if we get out of this mess, I’ll take you bear hunting.” he sits back, watching him sleep for a little bit, before he restlessly rises and leaves the barracks for a little while. After nearly a half hour or so, he makes his way back in a bit cleaner than he was before. Removing some of his armor, he sits against the wall by Lanisen’s cot and is asleep before he knows it, sliding to the floor as the night goes.