Cor seems to have got very good at knowing when no one is about the dogs. Danall seems to have gone to bed and the fire is low in the hearth, and Cor sits near it, tossing a rag back and forth for one of the dogs to jump at.
Lanisen lets himself quietly in, limping rather badly. He shuts the door behind him, fastening the latch, and sags wearily against the doorframe for a second before he registers that he is not alone. “Prince Co–” he starts, then decides to play it safe and go with, “Your highness?” instead.
Cor looks up, caught for the severalth time, probably just in the last day. “Oh, hello. It’s Cor,” he provides. “Thought you were off for the night.”
Lanisen says, “Um, er.” He bows, having more difficulty with it this time than last. “I–I mean, I am. I come here even when I’m off, a lot. Er–d’you want me to go, your highness?”
Cor blinks, “No, of course not. I just wanted to check on them. Are you all right? You don’t have to bow if it hurts. Not like I’m used to it anyway.”
Lanisen asks, “What? No–no, it’s okay, I’m all right, thanks.” He leans for another second, then pushes himself off the wall, plants his stick, and thumps toward the stool by the hearth with determination. He can’t quite stop a small breath of relief once he’s seated. “There.”
Cor rests his rag playing as the dog hurries away toward the injured man. He watches them quietly for a moment.
Lanisen leaves off kneading his hurt leg as the hound prances at him. He tousles the dog’s ears and strokes her neck, making much of her. “There’s a girl, there’s my sweet girl, what’ve you been doin’ tonight, hey?”
Cor says, “Sorry, are you sure you’re well? It seems worse today.”
Lanisen leans back, releasing the dog to return to her previous occupation. He grins a little sheepishly. “Walked to the town tonight,” he admits, half rueful and half proud. “It’s all right.”
Cor tosses the rag-rope for the dog. “Oh! Why, that’s very good, isn’t it?”
Lanisen stretches out his leg, wincing. “Well, Master Adrian might scold me tomorrow, but I’m glad I did it.”
Cor falls back on one of his hands when the dog leaps at him, licking his face. He laughs, tolerating it for a long moment and finally batting her away from his face. “What did you need to go to town for? Oh– if you don’t mind me asking, I mean.”
Lanisen grins wearily as he watches, pleased with what he sees. “You can ask, your highness, I don’t mind,” he says quickly. “Ah… I ain’t left the castle since before the battle, is all. Just wanted a different view for a while.”
Cor nods. “It’s nice to have a change sometimes. I used to… –er, well, I used to like a chance to get away from home and go to market when I could. Now, of course, I’m pretty well allowed to go wherever I like, so long as I’m about for lessons.”
Lanisen hesitates a minute before he asks tentatively, “You– Are you gettin’ along all right, your highness? If it ain’t– sorry, that’s prob’ly impertinent is what that is.”
Cor says, “Im–? Oh, I guess I don’t mind so much. Everyone’s very nice here. Most everyone, anyway. I don’t suppose I’d have a place to complain, even if I wanted.”
Lanisen nods, looking relieved. He leans back against the wall behind him, then glances into the back of the kennel building as another hound emerges to come say hello.
Cor scratches between the dog’s ears as she settles her head on what seems to be becoming her customary spot on his lap. “Am I keeping you from resting?”
Lanisen asks, as the old black deerhound comes near and lays her head on his knee, “Me? No, no. I’ll, um…” He glances at the stairs to the upper level and winces a bit. “I’ll head to the castle in a bit here, with your leave.”
Cor follows his gaze. “I could help you make a bedroll in here if you wanted.”
Lanisen says, “Er, that’s all right, your highness. I camp out here some nights but I don’t think I can manage the stairs tonight. And anyway there’s a real bed in my room. Thank you, though, ‘s very kind.”
Cor looks confused for a moment, then tries to cover it with a nod. “Oh, sure, if that’s better.”
Lanisen gives him an uncertain look, catching the confusion. “Sorry, you–” He pauses, rewinding the conversation, and understanding dawns. “–meant here in this room, huh.”
Cor nods slowly, not looking certain anymore whether this was an appropriate suggestion. “I guess your room’s nicer though, if it’s not too much trouble to get there.”
Lanisen laughs wearily, scrubbing both his hands over his face. “Sorry, your highness. I’m pretty tired, things ain’t makin’ sense so much. Um.” He drops his hands and glances around the room, wavering. “Nah,” he says at last. “No, it ain’t that far, I’m gonna–” He gives the old deerhound one last pat, grabs his stick, and stands up before he can think about it too much.
Cor gets up, too. “I’ll help you.”
Lanisen says, still testing how much weight his leg is willing to bear tonight, “No no no no, it’s okay, it’s okay–” He takes a few careful steps. “I’m not at all sure that I’m not going to fall, you see,” he says, a little joking and also a little breathless. “And falling ain’t so bad, a body can survive falling. But if I fell and squashed the crown prince, I might perish from embarrassment.”
Cor exclaims, “Nobody will see!”
Lanisen says, finding his stride, “/You/ would. /And/ you’d be squashed.”
Cor looks like he thinks this is some nonsense reasoning, but he acquiesces, “I’ll walk next to you ’til we part ways for our rooms, then. A body apart. Just to be sure you make it.”
Lanisen says, “Are you going back now too, your highness?”
Cor says, “Someone’ll come looking if I don’t soon.” He screws up his face. “Got letters in the morning.”
Lanisen says, “Ahh, letters.” He makes a brief sympathetic grimace, then gives the door a look. “All right,” he says, sounding like he’s trying to talk himself into it. “All right. Now.” He makes his uneven, clattering way toward the door.
Cor gives Sorrel a quick last pat and then hurries to beat him to the door and open it.
Lanisen gives him a quick grateful grin but can’t spare the concentration for anything more. He heads out, moving at a determined pace through the outer ward, the gatehouse, and the inner ward.