The stables of Anvard are not large, but they are well-ordered and tidy. The wide alley runs parallel to the outside wall, with generously sized box stalls on either side. Many hold permanent residents, with the horse’s name on a wooden sign above the stall door, but several stand empty to receive visitors. The hard-packed dirt floor is kept well swept, and the stalls are clean, but there is a pervading smell of horse and hay that is not entirely unpleasant.
There is a small paddock in the east corner of the stable, and the far west end is devoted to tack storage and maintenance. A door in the west wall, kept closed most of the time, leads to the smithy.
Lanisen sits outside Maestro’s stall with his back to the door and his stick at his side. His sling is off, and he has the book about Narnia open in his lap, braced against his updrawn right knee. On one page, if one is close enough to see, is a beautifully illumined painting of Aslan.
Colin slips inside the stables, looking over his shoulder for a brief moment before relaxing and striding down the aisle between the stalls. Coalblack whinnies a greeting to him as he approaches.
Lanisen glances up quickly as the horses start making happy greeting noises. He relaxes on seeing that it’s only Colin. “Hey.”
Colin lifts a hand in greeting. “Hey there. How you feeling?” He rubs Coalblack’s ears.
Lanisen closes the book, rubbing his forehead. “Cooped up.”
Colin chuckles quietly. “That does tend to happen when healing…Want some company?”
Lanisen says, “Sure, yeah. If you’re not busy or anything.”
Colin sits down on a bale of hay nearby. “So uh…”
Lanisen glances at him.
Colin rubs the back of his neck. “Had a fun chat with Cole last night…”
Lanisen asks, “Yeah?” His eyes widen a second later. “Oh. /Oh/!”
Colin rubs his chin, maintaining a straight face.
Lanisen asks, “Well??”
Colin starts to respond but cuts off when the doors open.
Lanisen is sitting on a box outside a stall with a book in his lap, talking with Colin.
Peridan opens the door, leading his war horse. There is a grin on his face, as he leads Adair to his stall, “Adair, have I ever told you your the best Horse a man can have?” The stallion snorts, bumping the man, “Alright, alright, I will get you an apple.” He pauses as he sees the two man, “Ah, Greetings, my good fellows.”
Colin rises and bows. “Hello there, Lord Peridan. Did you enjoy your ride?”
Lanisen murmurs a greeting and bows from where he is sitting, then proceeds to expertly fade into the background.
Peridan leads Adair into his stall, “Indeed, I finally was cleared by the healer to go. Nothing like a good ride in the countryside to lift a man’s spirits.” He disappears into the stall and begins to take off saddle and bridle. He calls out into the hall, “I didn’t mean to disturb you.”
Colin takes one look at Lanisen, clearly enjoying torturing him with the unanswered question. “Oh no trouble at all.”
Lanisen mouths, “I hate you,” at Colin.
Once done, Peridan steps out into the hall, glancing at the two, “How do you two fare this evening?” He makes no intent of leaving anytime soon.
Colin gives Lanisen a winning smile before maintaining a normal expression. “I’m doing pretty well myself. How about you?”
Lanisen looks annoyed, but he seems to have gotten his answer from Colin’s mood. He can’t help grinning silently down at his knees.
Peridan nods, “I am well.” His gaze falls on Lanisen, “How are you, Lanisen?”
Colin can’t help grinning as well at Lanisen’s expression.
Lanisen seems rather startled that he has not succeeded in melting into the background. “Um,” he says. “Uh, I’m well, thank you, sir.”
Peridan gives him a reassuring smile, “That is good to hear, I was hoping to catch you.”
Lanisen asks uneasily, “You were?”
Colin’s expression flickers with curiousity. “Would you like me to leave, Lord Peridan?”
Peridan shakes his head, “No no. It is nothing serious.” He looks around and spotting a stool, begins to drag it over to the two men. Once settled, Peridan sits down, “I wanted to see how you were doing, Lanisen. I take this was your first battle?”
Lanisen gives Colin a betrayed look. “Uhh–yes, sir.”
Peridan nods once, “A first battle is always the hardest. I remember my first battle, I was so scared I kept dropping my sword.”
Colin hehs at that, rubbing the back of his neck.
Lanisen glances between them. He doesn’t seem to know what to say, and he settles on, “Yes, sir.”
Peridan continues, “I was terrified. And then mad at myself for being terrified. I thought I was a coward.”
Lanisen says, “I think I understand that, sir.”
Peridan gives him an nod, encouraging him to speak.
Lanisen hesitates uncertainly, then shakes his head. “Um–I’m sorry, sir, I– I wasn’t in the battle long enough to realize it even started, really.”
Peridan says, “But you were in the battle and you got wounded. That affects a man whether he thinks it does or not. I just want you to know that it is okay to feel those emotions but it is also important to remember that they don’t define you.”
Lanisen says, “Yes, sir. Thank you.”
Peridan gives a smile, “You are welcome, Lanisen.” He turns to Colin, “So, Cousin, do you have anything to add? If I remember correctly, you always did have a ready reply.”
Colin smiles and with a glance at Lanisen says, “Nothing for the moment, actually.”
Peridan chuckles, “Well, I hate to be long winded and do all the talking.”
Colin’s expression is innocent. “Some one has to. Lion knows I’ve done my fair share.”
Lanisen kneads idly at his hurt shoulder, flexing the fingers of the associated hand. “Ain’t that the truth,” he murmurs.
Peridan says, “Well I am glad to fill in. After all, that’s a part of my job, filling in when needed.”
Colin grins. “And I’ll take over when you aren’t able to fill in.”
Lanisen raises his eyebrows at them both, fitting his arm back into its sling.
Peridan grins, “Well, I am glad that we have each other’s back. Though if we aren’t both here to help, I guess that leaves Lanisen to fill in.”
Lanisen asks, “By talkin’ to myself, sir?”
Colin bursts out laughing, clapping one hand onto his knee. He fights to swallow the laughter, schooling his features.
Peridan also holds back a laugh. He runs his hand over his mouth, covering a smile and says with as much as a serious tone as possible, “Exactly, You understand nobles. If no one is there to listen to us, we have to make ourselves listen.”
Lanisen grins, re-knotting his sling. “Think I’ve seen that a couple times,” he murmurs.
Colin asks, “Only a couple?”
Lanisen says, “A couple or three.”
Peridan says, “Oh really? Pray tell.” He pushes the stool against the wall, leaning against it, completely relaxed. “I am curious to learn about what has been going on. 14 years is a long time to be away.”
Colin looks at Lanisen, lifting both eyebrows in an amused expression.
Lanisen finishes with his sling and resettles his arm. “Couldn’t say.”
Colin snorts. “Well…there’s a lot that’s happened over the years but it depends on what you want to know.”
Peridan shrugs, still leaning against the wall, “Whatever you think I should know. For all I know, having Calormene attack is a normal occurrence that happens every third month…we don’t get many reports from Anvard.”
Colin hehs. “Well, I can assure you, that’s not normal.”
Peridan replies quickly with a grin, “Well that is good, I would hate to think that I have missed the past 14 years worth of Calormene battles. I would be strongly put out with myself.”
Colin laughs. “Outside of all the battles we haven’t been fighting…I can’t think of what to tell you. Weddings, children…the usual fare.”
Lanisen glances at Colin with an arched eyebrow.
Lanisen mumbles “Weddings on the brain, sir?”, to Colin.
Lanisen mumbles “Weddings … … brain, …”, to Colin.
Colin’s arm reflexively whaps Lanisen on the uninjured arm.
Peridan watches the exchange with amused eyes, “Weddings can be fun, feasting and dancing. I guess I have not missed either one of your weddings.”
Lanisen hunches his shoulders and ducks away, laughing under his breath.
Colin makes a choking noise in the back of his throat. “No, you can still look forward to those in your schedule.” He says, keeping a straight face.
Peridan grins, “Oh good, I will look forward to it. I expect to receive an invitation when the event occurs.”
Colin says, “Your name is on the list.”
Lanisen keeps his head very carefully down, biting his lower lip hard to keep from laughing.
Peridan places his hands behind his head, “Good.” He eyes Lanisen, stilling grinning, “I guess I’m not invited to your future wedding then, my good sir.”
Lanisen rubs the back of his neck, giving Peridan a wryly incredulous look.
Peridan laughs at the look Lanisen gives him, “It is okay, I was merely jesting. You don’t have to invite me if you wish.”
Lanisen says, “Ahh, I didn’t mean–”
Colin looks at Lanisen with raised eyebrows. “Am I invited?”
Peridan says, “Maybe he doesn’t want to invite due to the fact that we are both long winded? ”
Colin rubs his chin. “My toast might last a while now that you mention it…”
Lanisen has to laugh at this. “Yeah,” he says. “That’s it exactly.”
Peridan laughs, “Tell me, how did you two meet? I have not laughed like this in a long time.”
Colin looks at Lanisen.
Lanisen looks at Colin.
Peridan looks at the both of them, maybe a bit confused.
Colin begins carefully. “Well…we bumped into each other in what was it, Lancelyn Green? Four, five years back. We didn’t get on at first…” he says with a slight grin.
Lanisen snorts under his breath and raises an eyebrow at Colin. He says nothing, waiting to see how far his friend will take this.
Peridan notices the change of atmosphere but he listens quietly.
Colin raises his eyebrow at Lanisen in a silent question, clearly asking him for some feedback of how far to take it. “Aye…he broke my nose.” Here he taps his slightly crooked profile. “And I gave him this–” He points to the scar on Lanisen’s neck. “And we’ve been best friends mostly ever since.”
Lanisen says quietly, “More or less.” He’s grinning slightly, but also keeping half an apprehensive eye on Peridan to see how he’ll react.
Peridan chuckles, “That /is/ an interesting start, though I am glad that it worked out. It seems that you two are best of friends which can be rare but worth its weight in gold.”
Colin glances at Lanisen appreciatively. “Too true, Lord Peridan. We didn’t have the normal start a lot of friends have but life has sent us both through the wringer together and things like that draw people together.”
Peridan says, “That is all one can ask for.” He stands, pushing the stool back to its original spot. “I hate to cut your story short, but it seems that my side is telling me to go rest. I will leave you two friends.” He pauses and with a slight smile, “I hope I won’t find you both in the infirmary tomorrow if new wounds.”
Lanisen rubs his shoulder again, quietly amused by Colin’s carefully edited story. He opens his mouth to fill in the blanks, but Peridan stands first.
Colin grins. “I don’t think we have any plans to. Rest well, Lord Peridan.”
Lanisen says, “Evening, sir.” He pauses. “Thanks again.”
Peridan nods, ” I shall like to hear the rest of the story some other time.” He bows to them, “Have a good eve.” He then walks out the door.
Colin looks to Lanisen. “How was that?”
Lanisen asks, “How was what?”
Colin says, “Too much? Not enough? I’m not really sure how much is all right to say.”
Lanisen says, “Oh.” He shrugs, looking thoughtfully at his hands, then admits, “I’m not either.”
Colin asks, “What are you comfortable with?”
Lanisen shakes his head. “No, that’s what I mean, I don’t know.” He chews his lip for a minute, then shrugs again. “It ain’t exactly a secret. It don’t matter, you don’t gotta leave stuff out.”
Colin nods slowly, expression full of thought. “If anything…it’s something to be proud of. Your life has come a long way from when I first met you.”
Lanisen snorts slightly, leaning back and giving Colin a rather weary sidelong look. “It’ll blizzard in the desert before I’m proud of anything about those days.”
Colin says, “I’m not saying you have to be. But…you survived. All the things you went through, a lot of it wasn’t your choice. You made it through everything thrown your way and you allowed your downfall to change things for the better. Regardless of the past, I’m proud to have you as a friend, Lanny.”
Lanisen goes quiet and still for a long minute. “No,” he says at last. “No, that’s not true. I made my own choices, sir. I wasn’t some kind of victim. I need you to understand that.”
Colin nods. “I know that. I don’t know the things that led to you choosing to join up with M–that man. I don’t think you chose what happened in the hideout, or other things that happened. You chose to stay, granted. But…That’s what I meant..saying some of the things weren’t your choice.” he fumbles, rubbing the back of his neck.
Lanisen repeats simply, “I chose to stay.”
Colin says, “And look where you are now. Look where we are. I don’t think we can say for sure what may have happened or not happened, but your choices–all the good and the bad–have led you here. Right here, right now. ”
Colin adds, “I’m convinced good comes from the bad, if you allow it.
Lanisen laughs silently. “/You/ led me here, you dafty.”
Colin grins crookedly at him. “You may regret it, but I sure don’t.”
Lanisen grins back. “Never,” he answers. “Now come on, tell me what happened with your brother before somebody else walks in.”
Colin says, “Thought you figured it out already, smarty pants.”
Lanisen says, “Tell me or I swear on the nearest mountain I will put a whole brood of tadpoles in your waterskin next time we set out.”
Colin stares at him. “You’d have me belching up frogs? For /this/?”
Lanisen warns, “I’ll think up worse if you don’t hurry up.”
Colin feigns a mock gasp. “Not the snake in the bedroll.”
Lanisen scoffs. “Child’s play.”
Colin says, “I know where you sleep.”
Lanisen says, “Come onnn.”
Colin grins, trying to keep his demeanor casual. “If the king grants it…my brother fully supports it.” he says carefully.
Lanisen takes in a breath and leans back against the stall door, grinning in quiet, bone-deep satisfaction. “I’m glad,” he says. “I’m very, very glad.”
Colin puts his hand behind his head and leans against the wall. “For a moment I didn’t think it would go that way…the entire conversation was like slowly pulling out teeth. Every single one.” a pause, then a fake cheery “Talking to Uncle Lune’s going to be /fun/!”
Lanisen says, “Hey,” and bumps Colin with his shoulder. “C’mon. Courage. You’re most of the way there.” He pauses, then adds with a shrug, “And after His Majesty you’ve only got to ask Ara, which is only three times as scary, right?”
Colin simply says, “Her father.”
Lanisen says, “Her fa–oh. Sorry, I’ve never proposed to a girl. I don’t know how it’s done.”
Colin says, “Never ever forget the father.”
Lanisen says, “…Right. ‘Cause it’s him you’re marryin’ after all.”
Colin snorts. “He’s a nice fellow but…”
Lanisen asks, “Who else? Her father, her great-aunt, her nephews prob’ly, any other extended relations?”
Colin says, “Oh Tad and Tadden must give their approval for sure. And I probably have to fight my way through Aryna and Bern now that you mention it…”
Lanisen says, “Can’t forget the neighbors.”
Colin says, “I should make a list.”
Lanisen says, “His Majesty’ll be a piece of cake compared to all them. Dunno what you’re frettin’ about.”
Colin chuckles as he rises from his hay bale. “I feel better all ready.”
Lanisen asks, “Heading in?”
Colin nods. “It’s been a long week….I’m going to savor every moment of sleep I can from now on. You want to join me, or you want to stay out here longer?”
Lanisen considers, eyeing his leg. He makes a face. “I think if I stay out much longer I won’t be able to get back inside. They’ll have to come scoop me out with the muck in the morning.”
Colin offers him a hand. “I don’t think that’s the way you want to go.”
Lanisen tucks his book under his bad arm and takes Colin’s hand with the other. “Not so much.”
Colin helps him to his feet, handing him his stick.
Lanisen takes a couple test steps, wincing. “Ain’t half stiff,” he gasps. “This must be what it’s like to be old.”
Colin says, “Just think, it only gets worse from here.”
Lanisen says fervently, “/Lion/ I hope not.”
Colin pats him on the uninjured shoulder as they head out, choosing to say nothing further on the matter.