Haft walks into the ward from the gatehouse, still in his livery.
Lanisen leaves the kennel, his right arm out of his sling. He limp-thumps toward the inner gatehouse, absently flexing his right hand, which seems stiff.
Haft scans the ward in a habitual sort of way. His eyes light on Lanisen and he starts to make a beeline in another direction.
Lanisen slows and stops, rubbing his forearm with a grimace. He happens to look up at the same time as Haft.
Haft takes a few more steps, then runs his hand through his hair and changes direction, walking over to Lanisen. “Greetings,” he mutters, not quite meeting Lanisen’s eye.
Lanisen watches him, bewildered and wary of his demeanor. “Evening,” he returns carefully.
Haft says, “I uh…” He shifts his gaze uncomfortably. “I was rude yesterday. You were being civil and I…” He seems to be casting around for the right word. “Was not,” he finishes lamely.”
Lanisen goes from wary and confused to just confused to confused and embarrassed. “Oh,” he says, rather red. “It’s–no, it’s fine, I didn’t… sorry, I’m not–very good at people, sometimes.”
Haft says, “Oh. I thought perhaps it was just me. A lot of people don’t–” He changes tack “–um…but I guess know how you feel. I’m not very good at people either.”
Lanisen repeats uncertainly, “People don’t…?”
Haft hesitates. After a moment, he swallows and says, “I did something…a long time ago. I reckon there’s a lot of the older folks who ain’t forgotten.”
Lanisen shifts slightly. “I see,” he says, not precisely asking, but attentive.
Haft notes the curiosity. “I ain’t plannin’ on telling ya, if that’s what you’re waiting for. If you want to know ask the old bird who does the laundering for the soldiers. She remembers…I can tell by the amount of lye she left on my wash.
Lanisen recoils a little, his lip curling. “I ain’t a gossip-monger. Especially not from /her/.”
Haft’s mouth twists wryly. “Good on you then…” He changes the subject. “How’s the arm?”
Lanisen says, “It’s fine.”
Haft asks, “And the leg?”
Lanisen says, “Fine.”
Haft grunts. “Sure. Well, at least you’re resting up. Had to stop another injured man from trying to travel all the way to Carmichael, as if that would do anyone any good.
Lanisen looks startled. “Eston?”
Haft does a double-take. “Ahh…I hadn’t meant to be so obvious. I don’t like spreading gossip either. But…yes.
Lanisen points out, “There ain’t too many got hurt so bad they can’t travel. And of those there ain’t too many with reason to go to Carmichael in the middle of winter. What’s up, is his kid okay?”
Haft asks, “She’s fine. His sister’s sick. He was thinking of hitching a ride on a cart to Lancelyn Green and then…I don’t even know…/walking/ from there?”
Lanisen looks a little relieved, but still frowns. “That’s no good.”
Haft says, “We’ve made arrangements. He trusts Adeliha with the child, and she’s agreed to make the journey. She’ll stay with the sister and look after the babe, or bring the child back if Eston prefers.”
Lanisen says, “‘S good he’s got folk to help him.” He fidgets with his sling, fretful.
Haft says, “Yeah, well, Adeliha’s a good neighbor…me…my father just taught me that soldiers take care of their own.”
Lanisen nods vaguely. He glances at the outer gate, considering.
Haft asks, “Going out?”
Lanisen says, “Might do. It’s a bit of a walk to the village but I’m going spare in here.”
Haft says, “Your call. Just don’t expect me to carry you back if you fall on your face.”
Lanisen gives him an annoyed look.
Haft shrugs, looking mildly amused.
Lanisen takes a couple testing steps on his bad leg, looking conflicted.
Haft says, “I gotta get out of my uniform. Might see you in a while, if you’re headed toward the inn. Ain’t no proper place to fish around here, is there? I’ve been racking my brain. Got in the habit in Narnia, but haven’t had much success along the beach.”
Lanisen says, “Dunno. Don’t actually know this part of the country very well.”
Haft asks, “Oh? Where do you hail from?”
Lanisen says, “Er–Carmichael, originally.”
Haft asks, “That where you know Eston from?”
Lanisen says, “Um, sort of. Met him there, but I was only there with Sir Colin for a couple weeks. Ain’t actually lived in Carmichael for… seven, eight years?”
Haft asks, “Oh. But you haven’t worked in the kennels all that time…at least I think you said it was more recent. What’d you do in between?”
Lanisen goes still as he realizes what he’s gotten himself into. He straightens, looks at the ground for a second, then says, “You…” He pauses and smiles crookedly. “You might could ask an old bird.”
Haft blinks in surprise. “I /see/,” he jests. “A young ruffian, were we? No doubt traipsing from town to town breaking the hearts of the local milkmaids.” His eyes land on Lanisen’s scar and his mirth dissipates. “Angered one of their fathers, did we?”
Lanisen starts slightly and ducks his head, effectively hiding the scar. “Okay,” he says calmly under his breath.
Haft gives Lanisen a hard look, frowning. After a moment he looks away. “Well, as I said, I need to change. I might find you later, if you’re still of a mind to go out.
Lanisen takes a moment to react. He nods.
Haft strides toward the north staircase.
Lanisen rubs a shaky hand over his mouth. He glances around the ward, up at the walls, and in a decisive motion turns toward the outer gates, moving quickly.
The Narrow Gate Hall
The Hall of the Narrow Gate is brightly lit by a large chandelier, and by torches on the walls. A bar runs along the length of the south wall. Behind the bar stands Dranken, the Barman, polishing a glass. The wall behind him holds several bottles, and racks of glasses. There is also a menu offering drinks and food. The north wall is dominated by a cheerful stone fireplace.
The rest of the room is filled with tables and stools, in little clusters all over the scuffed wooden floor. An arch leads to the Anteroom to the south.
Lanisen sits at a table in the corner, his back to the wall. By the level of the soup in his bowl, he hasn’t been here very long, and there is a faint sheen of sweat still on his forehead from the exertion of the trek from the castle. There is a mug of ale at his elbow.
Haft enters the room and looks around. Seeing Lanisen he walks over and sits down, ordering some cider.
Haft says, “Good choice, corner table. Can’t stand bein’ in the center.”
Lanisen straightens slightly as Haft joins him, not looking at him directly. “Can’t say as I like it much either,” he answers. “Don’t care for sittin’ where folk can come up behind you.”
Haft says, “No…I reckon hounds don’t give you that problem.”
Lanisen says absently, “Hounds’re different.”
Haft asks, “Different how?”
Lanisen grins lopsidedly and repeats from the other day, “They don’t hold a grudge.”
Haft sits still for a moment, considering this. “I suppose every man has his secrets. Things between him and the Lion–and the old bird who does the wash.”
Lanisen lifts his mug to that.
Haft asks, “So…what did you think of Prince Cor?”
Lanisen shrugs a little. “Seemed a good sort,” he says. “Not stuck up.”
Haft nods. “That’s good. Wouldn’t expect a boy raised as a fisherman to be, really.”
Lanisen mms noncommittally. “Kid suddenly finds himself crown prince, there’s plenty of room to act stuck up there, if he wanted to. But he don’t. I like him.”
Haft says, “Good, yes. Is he like his brother? I know a bit about Corin, but less than I’d like.”
Lanisen says, “Quieter, I think. I dunno, I didn’t talk to him long.”
Haft says, “Corin seemed to do well in the battle, from what I saw.”
Lanisen blinks. “Prince Corin was in the battle?”
Haft turns. “You didn’t know?
Lanisen says, “I didn’t know there /was/ a battle until after it was over.”
Haft asks, “Oh, you were shot early on, then?”
Lanisen says, “Night before. Right after they finished the bit where they shouted at each other.”
Haft says, “I’ve been meaning to ask what happened when Rabadash arrived at the walls. Eston didn’t know.”
Lanisen says, “Well, they. Shouted at each other a little. Rabadash was there with his whole troop, but he weren’t expecting to find the gates closed so he tried to make all friendly-like.”
Lanisen shrugs. “His majesty didn’t buy it, so Rabadash gave up and started shooting.”
Haft smiles faintly. “Course he didn’t. Wish I’d seen it.”
Lanisen’s mouth twists a little at this, sour. He looks down at his hand.
Haft asks, “What?”
Lanisen says, “Nothin’.”
Haft says, “Hmm. But yes, Corin was in the battle. Not sure he was supposed to be. I was keeping an eye out during the muster, and King Edmund had words with him, though I was rather too far away to hear. He stayed well back till things were started, then he and another boy rushed in. That turned out to be Cor.”
Lanisen shakes his head. “Both lucky they weren’t killed,” he mutters, and takes a drink of ale.
Haft raises his hand to take another drink of his cider. He laughs, “Yes, they were very l–” he pauses with his glass mid-way to his mouth and his expression changes, eyes staring as if he has just realized something. He sets his mug down slowly. “Merciful Lion…” he whispers.
Lanisen looks alarmed. “What?” he asks, after a pause.
Haft releases the mug, staring at his right hand and then closing it as he would around the hilt of a sword. His expression is curious as he examines his hand, like a man reliving a memory. “Nothing,” he whispers. Then, “Everything.”
Lanisen says, “Oh.” He pushes his mouth to the side, watching Haft warily. “Glad that’s cleared up.”
Haft let’s out a laugh, a truly joyful one, as Lanisen’s comment breaks the moment. “Yes!” He says. “I think it may be.” He raises his mug. “To the Emperor’s mercy.”
Lanisen says, “…Right.” But he drinks anyway.
Haft doesn’t seem inclined to talk for several moments, just staring at his mug with a faint smile. After a while, he asks, “So when did you wake up? I think you were already awake when I came into the barracks, but I may have forgotten.
Lanisen shifts, glancing at Haft once it’s apparent that he’s come out of his moment. “Um,” he says, frowning. “I don’t know, it was sometime after. Woke up with a wolf in my face.”
Haft snorts. “They do that. Get in one’s face, I mean.”
Lanisen says, “Scared the livin’ daylights out of me.”
Haft says, “No doubt. I told you about the time I shot at one? Or was that Eston…”
Lanisen blinks. “Why would you do that?”
Haft exclaims, “Well I didn’t know better! It was fourteen years ago and I’d just been–I’d just /gone/ to Narnia. The Winter was barely over and I don’t think anyone even knew what side the Wolves were on anymore. Let alone a poor Archenlander who’d never seen aught but Men in his life. What would you have done if you’d seen a critter that size coming at you?”
Lanisen purses his lips and raises his eyebrows briefly, bobbing his head to the side. “Fair enough.”
Haft says, “Next thing I knew the bow was outta my hand and half the pack was giving me a lecture. Lotta snarls, too. Terrifying.”
Lanisen snorts, taking another long drink of his ale. “I’ll bet.”
Haft says, “Odd country all the way around, really. Never felt right there.”
Lanisen says, “Colin wants to go. I think I wouldn’t mind, if–”
Haft asks, “Hmm? If what, then?”
Lanisen says, “Um.” He picks up his spoon in his left hand. “If… if we stayed close to the mountains.”
Haft says, “Why so? South’s not much safer than the rest of the country.”
Lanisen says, “Oh, ahh. Wouldn’t like to get lost.”
Haft doesn’t look convinced by this, but doesn’t pursue it. “You should see the Stone Table. You’ve heard of that?”
Lanisen hesitates. “Yeah. Yeah, I heard of that.” He pauses, staring down at his soup without really seeing it. “That–it’s a real place? That really happened?”
Haft says, “Yeah. Year before I came there. Most everyone knew about it…thought I ought to see the place.”
Lanisen is quiet for another minute. “I think–yeah. I’d like to see that. If–if that’s allowed, I dunno if…?”
Haft says, “Allowed? Ain’t no walls around it, or guards, if that’s what you mean. Just an open place with a grassy hill. It’s quiet there…peaceful.”
Lanisen says, “Oh.”
Haft looks briefly thoughtful, then lets the moment pass. “You’d like Sted Cair too I bet. Cair Paravel’s pretty as a picture. Different sort of a building than Anvard. Fewer towers, but larger, and most with high points, and it sits right on the sea.
Lanisen mms. “Think I’ve had enough of castles.”
Haft asks, “You don’t like Anvard?”
Haft asks, “You live there, don’t you? Or do you keep a house here in Andale and just go up to the castle?”
Lanisen says, “Yeah, I live there.”
Haft says, “Oh. Well, maybe if you save up.”
Lanisen says, “Hadn’t really thought about it.”
Haft says, “My father said that a man can choose his own way. If you don’t like where you are, think what you can do to change it.”
Lanisen takes another drink of ale and doesn’t roll his eyes.
Haft says, “Well…I hope you get to visit Narnia. I’d had rather enough of it, though the Lord Peridan seems to like it well enough.”
Lanisen says noncommittally, “Maybe.” He takes a few bites of his soup, eating rather clumsily with his left hand.
Haft says, “And if you went a bit north of Sted Cair, you could see them Marsh-wiggles you didn’t believe in.”
Lanisen says, “Still on about that, are you?”
Haft asks, “On about it?”
Lanisen says, “Ain’t my fault I’ve never seen a Marsh-wiggle.”
Haft says, “Heh, s’pose it’s not. Truth be told, I ain’t seen many neither. Only takes one, though, and you’ll never forget.”
Lanisen says, “I’m not doubtin’ you.”
Haft says, “Didn’t say you were.”
Lanisen slops one too many spoonfuls of soup and switches the utensil to his right hand. “Why’d you stay in Narnia?”
Haft’s face clouds with old pain, but then he glances at his now-empty hand again. “Perhaps,” he says softly, “because there was something I had to wait in order to do.”
Lanisen glances at him sidelong, adjusting how the spoon sits in his fingers. “You can… just say you don’t want to answer,” he says reasonably. “You don’t gotta go all cryptic.”
Haft smirks. “I’m sorry. You’ve given me a great deal to think about, though you don’t know it. But it’s time and past that I headed back to the barracks. I’ve got an early watch tomorrow.”
Lanisen says, “Night, then.”
Haft says, “Night. If you’ll take some advice, don’t stay out too late. Don’t want to lose the ground you’ve gained.”
Lanisen does roll his eyes this time. “Good night, Haft.”
Haft stands and leaves the room.