the cavalry’s here

Castle Anvard

Lanisen is sitting on the floor near the hearth with his back to the wall, reading a book. There is a very small puppy, not more than two or three weeks old, asleep on his chest.

Darius slips in through the door before closing it behind him, making no effort to hide his presence. Giving the room a quick sweep, he notes Lanisen near the hearth. “Lanisen. ” he drolls, smile audible in his voice. “So -good- to see you again. ”

Lanisen closes his eyes briefly, then closes the book and sets it aside. “Lion,” he mutters. “Are you /serious/?”

Darius extends both of his arms, chuckling. “Is -that- any way to greet me?”

Lanisen says, “What are you doing here.”

Darius takes a few steps into the room. “Ah, just decided to see the new litter once again. ”

Lanisen stiffens, and he shifts his hold on his little handful of dog. “They ain’t for gawkin’ at.”

Darius exclaims, “No? But I thought the kennels were open to us free folk… ” he moves towards one of the pens, grinning wide. ” And who wouldn’t want to gawk at these cute little pups?!”

Lanisen stares flatly at Aaron. He settles the puppy in his right arm and begins to get to his feet.

Darius moves towards the man quickly, extending a hand as he begins getting up. ” ‘ere. Let me help you. ”

Lanisen ignores the hand, finding his feet without assistance. He straightens and looks at Darius, his left hand brushing against the knife at his belt. “What do you want.”

Darius pulls his hand back slowly, his eyes falling to the man’s dagger. “Nice knife you have there. ” he comments, now smirking.

Lanisen says coldly, “Thanks. It’s useful. What do you want?”

Darius shrugs his shoulders, slowly beginning to make a tight circle around the man. “What do -I- want… ” he pauses, tapping a finger on his lips. “Well, I want a lot of things in life Lanisen. But that is not of your concern. Right now, all I want to do is talk. ”

Lanisen’s lips press together with frustration and contempt. He darts a glance at the front door, then lets out a short breath through his nose. “All right,” he says. “About what.”

Darius says, “About you. How did you, with your past, end up in such a position? ”

Lanisen says shortly, “They caught me, stuck me in a cell for a while, then decided to give me a second chance is how.”

Darius clasps his hands together. “What exactly were your crimes? ” he asks, finishing his circle around the man before moving in the direction of the door.

Lanisen retorts, “Sounds like you know those well enough already.”

Darius waves a hand back. “Sure, sure… but the village gossips -say- a lot of things. I’d like to hear your side of the story. ”

Lanisen says, “Like as if you’re not as bad as they are.”

Darius spins back around, leaning back against the wall beside the door. “Ah, once more you -wound- me Lanisen. ” he grins. “I was SIMPLY looking out for the best interests of the Castle. How was I supposed to know you had already had all of yer past dealt with? ”

Lanisen narrows his eyes with irritated disbelief. “Get lost in the desert.”

Darius places a hand over his stomach, laughing heartily. “Well that wouldn’t be any fun, now would it?” he releases a heavy sigh. “Lanisen. What IS it about me that drives you to such anger?”

Lanisen says, “Surely couldn’t say.”

Darius crosses both his arms and legs. “No?”

Lanisen says, “You try to make trouble for me, then you show up here all sunshine and daisies? Keep comin’ in here even though you know you ain’t wanted? What did I ever do to you?”

Darius smiles softly, eyes glinting with confidence. “As I said, I was looking out for the best interests of the Castle. You wouldn’t want a murderer residing in her walls without their knowledge, now would you? ” he snorts. “Now, lets be reasonable here. Did I come and accuse you of these things? Did I make you a public spectacle? No, I didn’t do any of these things. I simply did what any honest citizen should do, I told one of the guards. ” His eyes narrow thoughtfully. “Now, if all were truly well here and you had been completely cleared of your crimes, I don’t see what the issue is – Nothing should have come of it. ”

Lanisen says, “The guard, and a couple or three folk you found in the tavern, sounds like.”

Darius snorts. “Ah, yes… well it was those three folk whom -told- me of your crimes. It wasn’t exactly news to them. ” His brow furrows. “Can’t quite be sure WHY it was news to Haft though, him being one of the guard an all. ”

Lanisen mutters, “He ain’t been in the castle long.”

Darius hmms, nodding at this. “Actually, now that you mention it, I do believe you are right. He did tell me of some unforunate happens in his past as well. ” he hehs. “Opening a door for a Lord Bar and all. Banished for opening a door! Hah! Whom has ever heard of such a thing. ”

Lanisen stares at him, disgusted. “There you go again.”

Darius feigns innocence. “What?!”

Lanisen says, “With the gossipin’. What’s your problem?”

Darius’s eyes widen. “You’re telling me you didn’t know of Haft either?!”

Lanisen gestures wildly with his free hand. “You’re just tryin’ to stir up as much muck as you can, is that it?”

Darius’s brow quirks. “This information was -offered- to me. If you don’t know about the people you practically live with, that is -not- my problem. ”

Lanisen says, “The whole ruddy castle knows, Aaron.”

Darius shoots him a confused look. “Then what is this about gossip?”

Lanisen says, “You. Trying. To. Stir. Up. Trouble.”

Darius laughs. “But -WHY- would I want to do that?!”

Lanisen lets out a breath. “Forget it,” he mutters, and turns away.

The brightness and confidence in his expression vanish as Lanisen turns his back on him. “Y’know, fer a man involved in murder, ye sure don’t seem the type. ” his gaze hardens, eyes searching. “Who were the other two brought to trial with you?”

Lanisen says, “That’s not even a little bit your business.”

Darius says, “Didn’t ask if it were my business. I asked ya who they were. ”

Lanisen says, “Why would I tell you something that ain’t your business?”

Darius presses. “Who were they?”

Lanisen tells him something extremely rude.

Darius frowns daggers into the mans back. “Fine then, if ye won’t tell me their names, what ‘appened to ’em?”

Lanisen lowers the puppy back into its pen, ignoring Darius.

Darius’s gaze goes from hard to dark. “I asked ya a question ya stubborn fool. ”

Lanisen turns back around to face Aaron, crossing his arms. “Aye. I heard you.”

Darius holds the mans gaze with an icy glare. “Yer answer then?”

Lanisen repeats the rude instruction.

Darius doesn’t flinch, his gaze darkening further. “Yer answer. ” he repeats.

Lanisen says nothing.

Darius remains still, his jaw clenching at the silence.

Lanisen just waits it out.

Darius continues the stare down, his left hand fidgeting incessantly with the hilt of his dagger.

Lanisen watches, his expression not very impressed. His eyes flick significantly to the door.

Darius follows the mans gaze to the door, the ice never leaving his eyes. Shooting a suspicious glance back at Lanisen, he moves over to the window and peers through it. Seeing Megren just outside, he grumbles and deflates. A moment passes before he once more spins around, the change in his expression stark. What was once ice, is now warmth and what was once darkness, is now light as he smiles to Lanisen. He begins walking towards him.

Lanisen straightens slightly at Aaron’s change in demeanor, tensing. “Don’t come nearer,” he says quietly.

Darius continues forward as if not hearing, his left hand resting easily on the hilt of his dagger and his right reaching for the man’s shoulder. “As always, it -WAS- a true pleasure Lanisen. But, I fear my time here is drawing to a close. ”

Lanisen’s eyes follow Aaron’s reach, his shoulders hunching. At the last minute, his left hand snaps up to strike Aaron’s hand away.

Haft steps into the kennels, scowling. He sees the man reaching and snaps out at the same time Lanisen moves. “Aaron!”

Megren stands in the doorway right behind Haft. She frowns as she takes in the scene, looking at-the-ready, but not yet making any action.

Darius flinches as the man snaps his hand up, his left hand tensing on the hilt of his dagger and his right swiftly catching Lanisen’s in a vice-like grip. His mouth twitches between anger and a grin as he hears Haft behind him, loosing the man’s hand slowly before muttering something to him. Then completely letting him go, he spins around, bright eyed and smiling. “Ah, Haft and Megren. SO good to see you but… ” he nods, beginning to make his way towards the door. “If you both will excuse me, I need to be going. ”
Darius mumbles “We aren’t through here”, to Lanisen.
Darius mumbles “… aren’t through …”, to Lanisen.

Lanisen wrenches his arm away the second Aaron’s grip is loose enough to allow it, backing quickly away. He watches him go, white-faced.

Haft moves to block the door. He looks Lanisen over quickly for signs of injury, then focuses on Darius. “I think,” he says, voice cold but steady, “that I made if perfectly plain you were not to harrass this man.”

Megren doesn’t move from the doorway.

Darius proceeds to attempt and sidestep Haft, ignoring his words for the moment. Seeing Megren blocking his exit, he smile softly, dipping his head to her. “If you please, M’lady, I need to be going. ”

Megren says, “Sure, just as soon as you’ve finished your talk with Haft, over here.”

Lanisen watches, backing unsteadily to where his stick leans against the wall. He picks it up, left hand clenching white-knuckled around it.

Haft give Darius a pointed look, raising one brow.

Darius takes a few more steps forward, coming within a foot of Megren. “M’lady. ” he continues, voice soft. “I really do need to be going. ”

Megren’s face is as open and friendly as ever. “Better wrap it up quick then, I guess.”

Lanisen stays silent where he is, watching Aaron warily. He pulls his dagger from its sheath with some difficulty and grasps it awkwardly in his stiff right hand.

Haft’s mouth parts in surprise, and he holds out a staying hand toward the younger man. “Lanisen? What’s happened?”

Darius’s eyes widen a hair at the short, but familiar sound of rasping metal. Turning quickly towards the sound, his right hand whips over the hilt of his dagger and his whole body tenses as he looks ready to yank the dagger out. “Pulling a dagger on me while my back is turned? ” his voice is low and gaze flickering dark.

Lanisen is standing a good distance away from the door and from Aaron. He says nothing, and doesn’t apologize for the dagger.

Megren asks, “Peace. You seem tense. If Lanisen here misread the situation, give him reason to see it’s so. What’s got you bothered?”

Haft keeps his voice low and even, addressing Lanisen. “Put the dagger away. You won’t need it.”

Darius eases up, flashing Lanisen an impish smirk as Haft addresses him. Turning back to the lady, he smiles, any hint of tension gone from his features. “I imagine you would be tense too if someone drew their knife as you left your back to them. ” he releases a soft sigh, nodding. “I admit I am not -completely- without fault though. I was wishing Lanisen here a farewell and went to give him a pat on the shoulder. Something, I now see, could be misinterpreted. ”

Megren glances to Lanisen for his reaction to this explanation.

Lanisen keeps his hold on his knife, though it is held low and in an unthreatening position. His eyes flicker to Megren for direction instead of Haft. As Aaron gives his account, his mouth forms a thin line.

Haft frowns, then slowly steps across the room toward Lanisen, keeping his movements easy and unthreatening.

Darius’s brow raises a bit at Megren. “M’lady, if you please… ” He gestures towards the opening. “The door. ”

Megren pushes her mouth to one side, still not moving. “You know, I have to admit. Something seemed a little off to me, too. You two aren’t just talking puppies in here, I suppose.”

Lanisen shifts slightly as his attention is split between Aaron and Haft. “Stay back,” he says quietly.

Haft halts and nods his acceptance. He keeps his voice quiet, though it can still be heard by the others. “Clearly something has happened. You don’t have to explain it to me. I’m going to call the Captain.” He turns back to Megren. “Don’t let Aaron leave.”

Haft makes his way toward the door.

Megren’s eyes flick for just a moment to Haft when Lanisen speaks, but she nods approvingly at Haft’s proposal, then looks back to Aaron for his response, moving just enough out of Haft’s way that he can get through.

Lanisen relaxes slightly as Haft departs. He swallows, adjusts his grip on his knife with the help of his left hand, and watches Aaron.

Darius takes a step to the side, shifting so that he can observe the interaction between Haft and Lanisen. “As I have told nearly everyone here. I came here to view the litter of pups. It just so happened that Lanisen was in here as well. ” he gestures towards Lanisen. “Now, being the man I am, I decided to strike up a simple conversation. Nothing more. ” he returns. “Now, the door. ” he presses, brow raising in exasperation.

Megren screws up her mouth regretfully, closing the door behind her and getting full back in it’s way. “I gotta respect my elders.”

Lanisen stays quiet and watchful, returning his left hand to his stick.

Darius shifts. “And what is the meaning of this?” he asks, voice not unkind.

Megren shrugs. “Between you and me, the old fellow’s gone even older in the head. But an order’s an order.” She leans her back against the doorframe, her foot braced against the other side. “So, what were you two chatting about?”

Lanisen says nothing.

Darius shoots Lanisen an innocent glance. “I just asked him how he was. ”

Megren says, “Aw come now. I never saw a fellow so clammed up, and Lanisen over here and I are good friends, so I know it’s not how he usually acts with his buddies. You’re taking me for a ride.”
Megren stands in the doorway with her back braced against one post and her foot against the other. It’s a relatively casual position.

Lanisen is standing in the back of the room, tense and silent, a small knife in his right hand and his walking stick in his left.

Darius stands a few feet from Megren, positioned in such a way so he can observe the two without having to turn. He shrugs. “Talk of the past came up, other than that… ” he shakes his head, his eyes wide with innocence.

A son of adam with a scar running over his left eye and cheek begins to open the door from the outside but finds something from behind prevents it. He pauses and knocks, allowing whatever–or whoever–to move before entering.

Megren moves, and opens the door for the captain and her guardmate. “Hey! We were just talking about you.”

Darius’s eyes narrow a bit as he examines the people entering the door. He takes a step back, clasping his hands behind him.

Garian nods to Megren, his demeanor relaxed. His expression is serious but not unkind and he carries himself with a more authoratative walk. He pauses, stepping aside to survey what is taking place. He greets Megren in a polite manner, “Guardswoman.” He nods to Lanisen, “Master Lanisen.” His eyes then turn to the man in the red tunic. He says politely, “Sir.”

Haft steps to one side, out of the way near the door.

Darrin steps through the doorway several paces behind Garian and Haft.

Darius nods to the man whom addressed him, his expression revealing little.

Lanisen goes, if possible, more tense and still as more people pour into the kennels. He is standing near the back, his small knife in his right hand and his walking stick in his left. His eyes flick from Aaron to guard to guard to guard and back.

Darrin steps up beside Megren, somewhat out of the way and cracks a grin. “Seems I missed the announcement about the party in the kennels,” he says, not overloudly, but loud enough that most everyone hears the comment anyways.

Colin enters the kennels from outside, screeching to a halt when he sees the kennels occupied with so many bodies. His face goes stony as he immediately looks at each one in turn to assess the situation, hand going to the sword at his side. His clothes are dusty from travel and he smells like horse.

Garian moves to stand near Lanisen and murmurs something.
Garian mumbles “You’re safe here now, Lanisen. You can put it away.”, to Lanisen.
Garian mumbles “You’re … … … Lanisen. You can … it …”, to Lanisen.
Garian’s tone is quiet and kind.

Megren trades a grin with the knight, though she looks uncertain at the size of the company. She offers him a nod of her head instead of a bow, given the circumstances.

Lanisen doesn’t let him get too near, edging away step for step as he approaches. His face is rather pale, and in the chaos he doesn’t immediately notice Colin.

Haft watches the scene gravely.

Darius’s eyes continue scanning the entrance as more people pour in. He shifts, looking a bit uncomfortable, but reveals little else as he stands in silence.

Colin blocks the doorway, standing just inside. As he looks around the room, his eyes rest on Lanisen, taking in his facial expression and the knife in his hands. When he sees the man in the red tunic standing with the guards rather close to him, his eyes narrow and his expression turns deadly. And he’s looking right at Aaron. “Someone fill me in.” He says, his voice quiet yet somehow booming at the same time.

Garian turns to Colin and speaks evenly, “We were just about to discuss the situation here Lord Colin. I am glad you can join us.”

Megren gestures with her brows for Haft to talk to Colin, moving toward Aaron herself, and perching on the back of a chair near him.

Lanisen’s head snaps up at Colin’s voice, his eyes going wide. He sags a little, breathing quickly with glad relief.

Haft meets Megren’s eyes, but holds his peace.

Garian clears his throat and proceeds in a somewhat methodical maner, “You sir-” He looks to the man in the red tunic, “I do not believe I’ve caught your name and you are not familiar to me. Kindly make an introduction and explain to me–clearly–what brought you to this current position.”
Garian’s voice remains even and calm.

Darrin takes a moment to reassess who exactly is around him and then moves to lean a shoulder casually against the wall. He crosses his booted feet at the ankle and waits merely in case he is needed, reaching down to scratch between the ears of a nearby hound.

Darius moves from clasping his hands behind him, to clasping them in front of him. He takes another step back, his back almost hitting the wall as he does so.

Megren twists to look at Aaron, as he is now a little behind her. She gives him a sympathetic “shoulda talked to me when you had the chance” kind of look.

Lanisen finally begins the clumsy process of resheathing his knife with his stiff and shaking right hand. This proves difficult, and he finally sets his walking stick down to just do it with his left hand.

Haft’s eyes flick to Darius, waiting for his response.

Darrin drums the fingers of his free hand on the hilt of his sword and in the meantime continues petting the hound at his feet.

Megren gets up so she’s not in the way of Aaron and Garian’s conversation, moving back near Sir Darrin.

Darius looks to the man with the scarred cheek and dips his head. “Of course, Sir. My name is Aaron. ” he sucks in a breath, glancing at Colin as he speaks but continues without missing a beat. “As I told the other guards, I simply walked into the Kennels to see the new litter. I saw Lanisen and, being the man I am, decided to strike up a conversation. ”

Garian hrms softly and nods, “I see. Continue.”

Lanisen’s attention returns to Aaron. He stays quiet, absently massaging his right hand with his left.

Darius nods, glancing around the room briefly. “One thing led to another… and, regretablly, the past came up. I fear I may have touched upon a sore spot of Lanisen’s. After that I went to give Lanisen a pat on the shoulder, another apparent mistake and he moved to smack my hand away. Realizing my error, I turned to leave, at which point he drew his knife on me as my back was turned. ”

Colin reaches out, clamps a strong hand onto Aaron’s shoulder and not so gently shoves him against the wall, pinning him. “No more silver tongued words. Lanisen felt threatened enough to draw his knife and that is enough evidence for me for you to spend a night in the dungeons.”

Haft clears his throat softly.
Haft says, “Lanisen did not draw it on the man’s back, I should say. He was across the room, and Aaron was by the door, though he had turned, yes.”

Megren blinks, frowning a little and glancing at Sir Darrin for his reaction.

Lanisen calls out sharply, breaking his silence, “Sir!”

Garian looks rather surprised by this.

Darrin arches a brow rather severely at the accusation of not-quite back-stabbing and straightens abruptly, his hand closing around his hilt. He makes no move to stop Colin, just yet.

Haft adds, “Nor did Lanisen make any move toward the man.”

Garian keeps his voice calm and says cautiously, “Milord… perhaps we should… wait before pronouncing a judgment just yet–and hear all sides of the story first?”

Darius eyes turn into saucers as he is shoved backwards, letting out a loud grunt as he smacks into the wall. “Aye! ” he shouts, his hand instinctivly dropping to the hilt of his dagger and the other clasping Colin’s arm. “I was leaving when the man drew his weapon on me! Ask the guards! ” he exclaims quickly.

Lanisen shouts urgently, limping forward toward the chaos, “Sir he’s armed!”

Colin’s hand grasps Aaron’s wrist to remove it from his dagger. “That is not what I have been receiving word of.”

Garian takes a step back, although he frowns somewhat. He motions for Megren to follow the order.

Darius’s arm flexes as he holds it on the dagger, still making no move to draw it. His breathing heavy, his grip on the man’s arm tightens further. “Sir, I have not drawn my weapon once, please, release my hand. ” he swallows hard.

Haft’s glance flicks between Lanisen and the two men in conflict over the dagger.

Lanisen comes to a halt a few paces away from Aaron and his friend, watching anxiously.

Garian clears his throat and says calmly as he observes the situation, “Aaron. Please remove your hand from the dagger.” He steps back so that he can see Lanisen and Aaron at the same time, making no move to pull Colin away from the man in the red tunic. “Lanisen, please tell us what occured. If you would like a smaller audience to do so, I will hanve that arranged.”

Lanisen gives Garian a brief, distracted glance.

Colin keeps a firm grip on Aaron’s wrist. “Do as the guard says so we can get this all sorted out.” He looks to Lanisen. “Lanisen. Has this man ever at any time made you afraid for your life? Has this man at any time caused trouble, turmoil, fear, or distress for you?” he asks, his words clipped.

Darrin says, “Right, yes, just taking up space and air over here, feel free to shoo me away at any time, Guard-Captain.”

Lanisen hesitates, his eyes darting to Aaron.

Darrin adds, “It appears Sir Colin, er, has the matter…in hand.” He smirks faintly, but his blue eyes are sharp and more serious than his tone.

Megren presses her lips together, definitely not smiling, for sure.

Darius eases slowly away from his dagger, swallowing hard. His breathing is finally steady, he looks to Lanisen as he awaits his answer, expression turning neutral.

Garian glances at Darrin and the corners of his mouth tug upwards for a moment. “I concur but your presence is always welcome Lord Darrin.”

Lanisen says slowly, speaking to Colin, “Not–not for my life, sir.”

Colin says, “Explain.”

Lanisen shifts uneasily, glancing around at all the people.

Colin asks, “Lanisen, would it help just to talk to me?”

Megren pushes herself off from the wall and takes the initiative to head toward the door, looking to her captain in case he should protest.

Colin looks at his friend earnestly.

Darrin inclines his head to Garian. “At your service,” he says. When Lanisen starts looking uneasy, he motions to the door, “Perhaps I’ll wait just outside, then. Make a bit of ruckus and I’ll be right back.”

Haft glances to his captain, awaiting and indication of his wishes.

Garian moves to Colin and places a hand on his arm, “I will take Aaron to the guard house with my guards, accompanied by Lord Darrin. Then you can hear Lanisen out–if it is your will, milord.”

Megren nods to this, and just slips right on out the door and out the way.

Darius watches as the Captain places a hand on Colin’s arm. At this, he slowly releases his own hand and lets it hang by his side.

Darrin nods at Garian’s proposal. “Right,” he says. He slips out after Megren to wait just outside.

Lanisen nods, the faintest motion of his head.

Colin nods his consent to Garian and he steps aside, still coiled tight as a spring.

Garian says firmly, “Follow me Aaron. But first I ask you relinquish your weapon.”

Lanisen watches Aaron without looking directly at him.

Darius eases off the wall, rubbing the spot Colin had grabbed before slowly following after the Captain. He approaches the Captain and slowly draws his blade. He frowns, turning the blade so that it points to him and the hilt points to the Captain before extending his hand.

Haft watches the man, tense.

Garian takes the blade’s hilt and says, “Please proceed behind my guardsman.” He nods to Haft to go.

Lanisen dares a quick glance at Aaron’s face.

Haft nods smartly and steps from the room.

[Haft, Darius, and Garian all leave]

Colin watches them go, visibly relaxing as he turns to face Lanisen. “Are you okay?” he asks, finally allowing concern to show on his formerly stony face.

Lanisen, once the door is shut and the kennels are quiet again, takes several deep breaths. He nods, rubs a hand over his face, stares at it ruefully when he realizes it’s shaking, and backs to a chair. “What’re you even… what’re you doin’ here?”

Colin watches Lanisen’s demeanor, rubbing his face as he composes himself. “Surprise?”

Lanisen bends forward, resting his elbows on his knees, and scrubs his hands over his face again. “I didn’t think to see you for… is Ara here?”

Colin shakes his head. “She’s still in Carmichael. I got a letter that said you might be in trouble…” he offers as brief explanation.

Lanisen asks, “What did she say?”

Colin says, “She read the letter and agreed I should return and have a look. She’s worried about you.”

Lanisen says blankly, “What?” He frowns at Colin. “Not about /that/.”

Colin looks at Lanisen with equal confused blankness. “Oh. She said yes. /Lanisen/. What has been going on? Are you all right?”

Lanisen, pale and weary as he is, grins. “Good,” he says. “That’s… ‘sgood. I thought she might.” He laughs silently, delighted.

Colin gives Lanisen a look. “All right, you domnoddy. Tell me what’s been going on? Tell me I didn’t just tick off some secret diplomat and I actually have a reason to pin him with something.”

Lanisen takes another deep breath, seeming somewhat settled. He folds over again, rubbing his forehead. “I don’t… want him in here. I don’t want him here.”

Colin asks, “What’s he done? Or not done. Why has he been hassling you? /Has/ he been hassling you?”

Lanisen says, “Yes. I don’t know why. Please don’t say I-told-you-so, I’m not feeling up to it right this minute but I swear I’ll hit you for it later.”

Colin looks at Lanisen, looking him in the eye. “I swear. I will not say I told you so. I’m not looking at this as a joking matter, Lanisen. Give me what I need and I’ll see to it he never comes near you again. Well, after I’m finished with him he won’t dare anyway, but I’d really like to lock him up or get him banned. At the /least/. Has he threatened you or made you feel threatened in /any/ way?”

Lanisen says, rather wearily, “You can’t lock him up, he ain’t done anything you lock folk up for.”

Colin waves a hand. “All right then. Take all threats to his well being off the table. This is me, Lanisen. I won’t laugh at you or question your sanity or motives. Clearly he frightened you. That’s good enough for me, but I want to know if you are all right and what happened.”

Lanisen says, “I know, sir. I’m okay.” He blows out a long breath, thinking, then shakes his head a little. “Um. I been tryin’ to figure out his game, I dunno, it’s…” He pauses. “He found out about me somehow, I dunno–I didn’t tell him. How I came to be here, I mean, and, you know, before. And he’s been tellin’ folk. He told Haft and Eston for sure, I dunno who else. Eston was nice about it.”

Colin looks at him sharply. “And Haft wasn’t?”

Lanisen says, “No. It’s all right, though, that’s cleared up. Um.”

Colin asks, “All right. What else?”

Lanisen says, “Um.” He shakes his head again. “He’s just been… here. All the time. He won’t leave until he’s good and ready, plays with his dagger the entire time. Every time the door opens anymore I get to feelin’ sick.”

Colin rubs his forehead. “Oh lion….Lanisen, I’m so sorry you’ve been dealing with this. Have you been able to talk to /any/one before I came?”

Lanisen shakes his head slightly. “Um–the king came, about Haft. We talked a bit. But I didn’t… think to mention Aaron.”

Colin nods a little. “Good man, my uncle…”

Lanisen says softly, “Yeah.”

Colin looks at him for a moment, thinking.

Lanisen rubs his right hand, quiet for a moment. “Never been so glad to see you in my life,” he adds frankly after a bit.

Colin grins a little at him. “Miss me?”

Lanisen says, “Uh-huh.” He takes a deep breath, wiping his palms on his knees, and glances sidelong at Colin with a lopsided grin. “Like a dog misses fleas, sir.”

Colin says, “I love you too.”

Lanisen laughs noiselessly, then subsides and covers his face. “Lion,” he whispers. “It’s been such a week.”

Colin hehs. “What can I do?”

Lanisen shakes his head. “You’re here.”

Colin nods. “Could you say how many times he has come in here? Has he ever followed you?

Lanisen says, “I dunno. Four? Five times? He’s followed me in a couple times, even when I shut the door in his face.”

Colin says, “And not counting him causing trouble with other people.”

Lanisen says, “I dunno if he’s caused trouble for other people.”

Colin says, “I meant causing trouble with other people who’ve pestered you on his behalf. Probably without knowing they were instruments.”

Lanisen says, “Oh.” He shrugs a little, looking tired. “There’ve only been the two.”

Colin says, “Still.”

Lanisen sighs, “Still.”

Colin asks, “What else can you think of?”

Lanisen says, “What? I don’t know.”

Colin reaches out and grasps Lanisen’s shoulder. “You all right?” he asks quietly.

Lanisen says, “Yeah.” He pauses. “No. Lion. I don’t know.”

Colin tells him. “He won’t bother you again. I’ll see to that.”

Lanisen gives him a tired, grateful look. “I’d settle for him not coming in the kennels again, I think,” he says, stretching out his shoulders. “Him and Haft both.”

Colin nods. “I’ll see to it.”

Lanisen asks, “What’re you even doing back?”

Colin gives him a little smile. “A concerned party told me you needed my help.”

Lanisen frowns. “Who’s that?”

Colin shrugs. “Not sure if I can say yet. But know this, people care about you.”

Lanisen shifts slightly, uncertain. “Well,” he says after a pause. “Tell whoever it is I’m obliged, I guess.”

Colin nods. “I’ll pass it on.”

Lanisen says, “Thanks.” He looks down at his hands, working the right absently.

Colin gives him a brotherly side hug. “How’d the hand?”

Lanisen holds it up, watching it with detatched interest as he flexes it as wide as it will go. The third and fourth fingers stay curled, and the rest seem stiff and slow to respond. “Dunno why they were all so worried when I had the knife drawn,” he says musingly. “Couldn’t’ve done a thing with it.”

Colin gives him a sad smile. “I’m sorry mate.” He runs a hand through his hair with a sigh. “Okay….I’ve got to go join the others. Deal with this …viper.”

Lanisen drops his hand back to his lap. “Right,” he says after a pause. “‘Course.”

Colin squeezes his good shoulder. “Talk later, all right? Go get some rest. You’ve done well, my friend.”

Lanisen says rather bleakly, “I don’t think so, sir, but ‘s nice of you to say.”

Colin says, “It’s the truth. But more on that later. I’ll be seeing you. Gotta go do the knight thing.”

Lanisen snorts out a soft breath of laughter. “Right. See you.”

Colin touches two fingers to his forehead and ducks out.

Lanisen watches him go. After a little while, he stands from his chair and goes to put another log on the fire.


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