You stand in the Anvard Stable. All around you are stalls and equipment. There are horses of all colors, but all are high caliber. The far wall is hung with saddles, bridles, stirrups and other tack. There is fresh straw in every stall and buckets for water are hung on hooks. There are several special stalls for visiting talking horses. The floor is hardpacked dirt.
Dar’s tall, lanky frame can be seen through one of the open stall doors. He is grooming a grey stallion, tall enough to be a good height for him. Dar’s back is to the door and he is focused on his work, using the curry comb to rid the horse’s coat of any traces of dirt.
Lanisen makes his clumsy, thumping way down the stable’s alley and turns to one of the stalls close to the door. The latch gives him some trouble, but he at last lets himself inside without letting the big dappled-gray gelding out, and closes the half-door behind him.
Dar, alerted by Lanisen’s halting progress, peers over the divide between the stalls, his height making this rather easier than it might otherwise be. He sets the comb aside. “Ah-”
Lanisen has already sagged against the gelding’s warm bulk, obviously thinking himself alone. At Dar’s voice, he straightens immediately, turning toward the source of the sound. “My lord,” he says after a beat, and bows, steadying himself on the horse’s shoulder.
Dar stops him by coming around the partition and offering Lanisen a steadying arm. “There is no need–you are barely recovered. I have been meaning to offer you my thanks. You displayed remarkable courage–”
Lanisen, between the horse and his walking-stick, has a pretty good handle on his balance, and he shakes his head slightly as Dar offers his help. “No, I’m–I’m fine, my lord, thank you.”
Dar inclines his head in acquiescence, instead leaning against the stall’s partition. “I ought to be the one offering my thanks. How is your convalescence progressing?”
Lanisen makes a sound that might be a laugh and might be a grunt of exertion or pain as he moves deeper into the stall. “Didn’t actually do anything, sir.”
Dar replies evenly, “You stood your ground. Sometimes that is all which is required. I suppose it does get wearying being reminded of it–”
Lanisen does indeed look weary as he lowers himself onto a stool waiting for him in the back of the stall. “Stood in the wrong place, you mean.”
Dar raises an eyebrow. “You were where you were ordered to be. That is hardly the wrong place, though the result was unfortunate. Adrian says you are making good progress.”
Lanisen looks down at his right hand, turned palm up, and says quietly, “Yes, sir.”
Dar studies Lanisen a moment. “Sir Colin asked me, you know, whether you could be released to serve as his squire. What my opinion of you was after all this time had passed–”
Lanisen glances up at him automatically at this.
Dar’s expression turns assessing. “I agreed that you should be released to him if you wished it. I ought to have consulted you directly concerning your future. I realized when he approached me how long it had been since I had made it a point to seek you out and make sure you were well settled.”
Lanisen’s mouth twists. He looks back down at his hands. “It’s all worked out for the best, sir,” he says neutrally.
Dar’s eyebrow goes up again. “Lanisen–”
Lanisen takes a quick breath. “Sorry,” he says. “I didn’t mean to–sorry.”
Dar waves a hand. “You said nothing amiss.”
Lanisen goes silent for a moment, fretting with his sling. “Thank you. For letting me go with Col–Sir Colin.”
Dar answers, “Then you did wish it. I was never sure. You earned your place with him, Lanisen. What is past is well behind us.”
Lanisen asks, “You think he’d drag somebody with him who didn’t want to go?”
Dar’s mouth twitches. “Drag? Certainly not. However, I realize that when the king’s own nephew makes a request, that request carries a certain weight with it. His offer might have been difficult to turn down–”
Lanisen actually tenses at this, not nervous but indignant. “Sir Colin’s not like that.”
Dar replies simply, “No.”
Lanisen says, “Then–”
Dar answers, “I should have done my best to prevent it if I had anything less than the utmost respect for Sir Colin, or if I thought he was, as you put it, “like that”. Still, I am pleased that the arrangement has suited you both.”
Lanisen looks at him for a moment. His shoulders drop and he glances away. “Yes, sir,” he says. “It’s been–a good couple of months.”
Dar furrows his brow slightly. “There is no reason that I see why it should not continue once you are cleared by the healers, if that is your desire. You have only to speak freely. His Majesty will be rather unlikely to deny you the place that you wish.”
Lanisen takes a deep breath, looking down at his hand. “I hope so, sir,” he says quietly.
Dar leans against the partition of an open stall where he has been speaking to Lanisen. He nods. “That I have found you hard at your work even now confirms the good opinion he has formed of you–so long as you do not push yourself beyond what the healers permit.”
Lanisen is sitting on a stool in a stall with an overly-solicitous gray gelding. He pushes the horse away as it starts whuffling hopefully at his pockets and gives Dar a confused look.
Tyre steps through the stable doors, glancing around for a stablehand and looking like he really hopes he won’t find one.
Dar half turns at the sound of someone entering, peering over the stall partition toward the stable door. “Ah. Hello–“, he greets his cousin, making a half bow toward Tyre, all that the space will permit.
Lanisen can’t see who has entered. He hauls himself up and peers over the wall, then bows toward Tyre.
Tyre bows to his cousin. “Hello…….”
Dar inquires with all sign of politeness, “Not looking for me, I trust? I only recently returned from making a delivery of supplies to the village–”
Lanisen lets out an ‘uff’ of breath and clutches at the partition as the gelding nudges him hard in the back. Once he finds his balance again, he hobbles to face the horse and offers him a piece of sugar from his pocket. “Sorry, mate,” he murmurs, and strokes the horse’s broad forehead as he whuffles up the treat.
Tyre’s eyes flicker to the injured Son of Adam at the sound. “Ahh… no I wasn’t.”
Dar turns back to Lanisen as well, making sure he needs no assistance to regain his balance. “Ah”, he replies to Tyre.
Lanisen stays standing for the moment, leaning on the horse, which is mostly interested in seeing if he’s got any more sugar in his pockets.
Tyre moves toward a horse nearby and gives it a perfunctory glance-over.
Dar leaves an apple on the vacated stool and returns to his own horses’s stall, where he begins to check Celeres’s hooves carefully.
Lanisen lets out a breath as the lords both move on. He leans his forehead on the gelding’s neck.
Tyre gives him little relief though, moving over to his stall to talk to him. “Uh, excuse me.”
Lanisen straightens quickly and turns back toward the stall door. “Beg your pardon, Lord Tyre,” he says, bowing as neatly as he can without compromising his balance.
Tyre looks as if he’s made uncomfortable by the bow, although he doesn’t comment on it again. “Ah, I was wondering if you know anything of the stablehands here?”
Dar convinces Celeres to let him examine his back hoof. He glances over as his cousin of Chesterton addresses Lanisen, a very brief expression of surprise crossing his features.
Lanisen says, “Um, maybe, sir? It–it depends what you’re needin’.”
Tyre asks, “Ahh–” he releases an uncomfortable sort of huff through his nose. “The…” another heaved breath, “horses are… well… taken care of?”
Dar raises an eybrow at this question. “Have there been complaints, Cousin Tyre? If anything is amiss, I will speak with the Master of Horse–”
Tyre says, “N…o… I’ve just been… asked. To… inquire.”
Lanisen looks surprised. “Yes, sir,” he says. “They do, very well.”
Tyre asks, “Good… foodstuffs? Combing, all that?”
Dar’s mouth forms a firm line, as if he is well aware of who might have asked this. “Ah”, is all he adds, without comment or change in expression. Tyre continues his questioning and Dar examines the third hoof, probing for stones.
Lanisen nods. “Um,” he says. “I’m not–I mean, I don’t know very much about horses, but they’re– I mean, they’re all real healthy, even the ones that are old. You can see it just from lookin’ at ’em.” He wavers unsteadily as the gelding shifts again.
Tyre glances at the horse, clearly not sure what constitutes a healthy one, but nodding as if he is sure and can see that this is the case.
Lanisen finally decides that inside the stall is not the smartest place for him to be and hobbles back to the door. The inside latch, a more complicated one made to foil clever horses, proves difficult to operate one-handed.
Tyre unlatches it for him.
Dar observes as he continues his examination of his own horse. “The mixture of grains the horses are fed is brought in specifically from Lancelyn Green and from Coghill in order to assure that the horses remain in peak condition. As we all witnessed recently, they may be needed at a moment’s notice–” A slight note of formality creeps into his tone, and he is very much the Steward by the time Tyre unlatches the door.
Lanisen makes his clumsy way out of the stall, shoving back the horse who really, really wants to come too, and closes the door behind him.
Tyre stumbles back from the oncoming horse.
Lanisen says quickly, “It’s okay, he just wants more sugar.”
Dar stands to peer over the door of his own horse’s stall in case his cousin or Lanisen requires assistance.
Tyre takes another step back anyway, just in case. “Thank you,” he says in response to Dar’s analysis, nodding uncertainly and crossing his arms over his chest as if to ward off any inquiring muzzles.
Lanisen gives Tyre a careful look, connecting a few dots. “He don’t bite, my lord. He’s gentle, I should know.”
Dar nods in response to Tyre and then begins to refill Celeres’s feed bag.
Tyre says, “Ah. Mhm. Mhm.”
Lanisen steps to the side of the stall door, tilting his head in invitation. The horse follows him, leaning heavily on the door and still trying to find more sugar in Lanisen’s clothing.
Tyre looks at Lanisen as if he’s not totally sure what’s going on here.
Dar pats his own horse’s neck, clearly in his element. Celeres nudges him with some impatience and Dar hangs the feed bag so that Celeres can eat his fill of the gran, then turns his attention to the tack, untangling the strips of leather and checking each one carefully.
Lanisen says patiently, “He won’t hurt you, if you want to come closer an’ see for sure he’s healthy.”
Tyre reaches out tentatively, gives the horse a quick brush of his palm and quickly draws his hand back.
Lanisen switches his walking stick to his right hand so he can stroke the horse’s neck with his left.
Dar rehangs the tack on the pegs for that purpose before exiting the stall and shutting the stall door tightly behind him. He watches Tyre’s progress with the horse with a perfectly neutral countenance.
Tyre’s eyes drop to the hurt arm.
Lanisen straightens a little as Dar leaves his stall, shifting upright from leaning on the stall door. His stick slips from his right hand, landing with a loud clatter on the ground.
Dar bends down and retrieves the fallen stick, handing it back to him without a word.
Lanisen takes it with his left hand, not looking at Dar. After a pause, he says quietly, “Thank you, sir.”
Tyre watches him drop the stick in one hand and take it back in the other. He looks at Dar. He looks at the horse.
Dar inclines his head, dismissing the thanks.
Lanisen shifts his weight to the stick, working the fingers of his right hand. He looks abruptly very tired.
Dar makes his way past Lanisen, careful not to jostle him in the narrow space as he does so.
Tyre gives the horse another pat to fill the silence.
Dar turns to his cousin. “Was that all the information you were looking for, Cousin Tyre? One of the grooms would be happy to assist–”
Lanisen stays quiet and distant, fidgeting with his sling.
Tyre exclaims, “Oh! No. I’m sure that’s quite… quite sufficient. Good, uh, good teeth, good feet. Hooves.”
Dar nods amiably enough in Tyre’s direction (refraining from even the slightest show of amusement at Tyre’s answer) and, satisfied that he can be of no further help to his cousin, bows to Tyre, bids Lanisen a good day with expressed wishes for continued recovery, and begins to make his way out of the stables.
Lanisen bows slightly as Dar departs.
Tyre bows in return.
Lanisen leans again on the stall door as Dar departs, rubbing his eyes with the back of the hand holding the stick.
Tyre says, “Uh, are you–” He looks at the horse again. “Do you have… some place you need to… get to?””
Lanisen says, “Wha–oh. Oh. Uh.” He straightens and bows, faintly red. “Beg pardon, sir, I’ll get out of your way.”
Tyre also gets a little pink in the face. “No –ah, no! You’re– uh, I meant– ahhhhh. I meant, do you need… helllp.”
Lanisen blinks, then turns really red. “Oh! Sorry, I’m–sorry, I thought–” He gulps and shakes his head. “I’m all right, thank you, sir. I can get around all right mostly now.”
Tyre says, “Oh– it’s just, you seemed– or, that is, if you’re sure, then.”
Lanisen says, “I’m–I’m fine, it’s fine. Um.” He glances at Tyre. “Um. Thank you. For offering.”
Tyre clears his throat and nods.
Lanisen resettles his grip on his stick, looking a little less like he’s trying to carry around an invisible weight. “I should–I told Master Adrian I’d check in.”
Tyre says, “Oh. Yes. I should, uh, reeeport.”
Lanisen nods, then ducks away as the horse whuffles at his hair. “Barmy creature,” he mutters, shoving the gelding away again. He looks back at Tyre and bows.
Tyre says, “You don’t have to– uh, when you’ve lost the cane, then you can,” he gestures to indicate the whole bowing thingie.
Lanisen looks startled. He starts to apologize again, then stops, confused, and settles on, “Thank you, sir.”
Tyre makes another weird sort of gesture that seems to mean something like “yes yes”.
Lanisen casts a brief glance toward the door to the ward. “I’ll–if you’ll excuse me, sir?”
Tyre says, “Mhm, uh-huh.”
Lanisen says, “Thank you, sir. Um. Evening, sir.” He catches himself before he bows again, hesitates, and starts thumping out toward the inner ward.
Tyre tries to exchange a last glance with the horse, but it has become disinterested and gone to investigate the trough.