life of the party


Outer Ward
Castle Anvard


Abrielle continues sketching, the scene in the Ward, looking more frazzled as time passes.

Haft stands on duty next to Gearn at the base of the south gate tower. For the most part the two men stand in watchful silence.

Lanisen passes through on his way back from the market, carrying a tunic and inspecting a mended section on the sleeve.

Abrielle glances up as Lanisen passes but doesn’t do much else.

Haft scans the crowd for any signs of trouble, but there doesn’t seem to be much going on beyond a slight dispute about the price of eggs.

Lanisen detours to avoid the egg debate, glancing at the irate customer uncertainly. He ducks his head politely in Abrielle’s direction as he passes.

Abrielle gives Lanisen a small smile and then quickly adds a woman (in the shape of an angry, clucking, hen) to her paper.

Haft notes Lanisen’s exchange with Abrielle as he eyes the discussion in that part of the ward, then continues to survey the area.

Lanisen makes his way on through, watching faces as he goes. He looks to have lost weight, and his eyes are rather bloodshot, as if he hasn’t been sleeping so well.

Abrielle does a double take at Lanisen, actually putting down her work for a moment.

Haft searches the ward as the discussion about the eggs is finally resolved and the customer moves on.

Adeliha comes walking into the ward, her faithful dog by her side. She carries some cloth though her gaze is more focused on the people passing by.

Lanisen stays carefully out of peoples’ way, keeping his head down. He carries a folded tunic from the seamstress under his arm and makes his way toward the kennels.

Haft stands on duty next to Gearn by the base of the South Gate Tower.

Abrielle finishes up the clucking lady and sets her work completely aside as the dog enters the Ward.

Colin steps out into the ward, making a cursory glance around the area before heading toward the kennels.

The people seem to be thick where Adeliha is walking and soon she is jostled, dropping her cloth on the ground. She lets out an exasperated sigh, bending down to pick up her cloth.

Lanisen opens the door to the kennels, shoving aside an excited deerhound, and passes through.

Haft’s eyes pass over Sir Colin before moving on to rest on Adeliha.


Kennels
Castle Anvard


Colin sees Lanisen up ahead of him and breaks into a run, catching the door before it shuts and following him inside before the dog gets out.

Lanisen’s shoulders hunch up at the sound of the running footsteps close behind him. He whirls, fumbling to draw his knife.

Colin holds up both hands as the door closes. “It’s me! It’s me!”

Lanisen stares at him for a beat and says, rather stupidly, “Oh.”

Colin’s forehead furrows as he looks at Lanisen, taking in the bloodshot eyes and the skinnier frame. “You look like death warmed over.” says the man with shadows under his eyes.

Lanisen lets his hand fall from his knife handle, which he didn’t manage to get drawn in time, and gives Colin a tired, annoyed look.

Colin lays a hand on his friend’s good shoulder. “I’m not joking…you don’t look so good.”

Lanisen shrugs it off. “I’m fine.”

Colin looks at him for a moment. “Lan…I know you’re having a hard time. You’re not alone in this…I’m struggling too. I’m not going to push you because Lion knows it drives me crazy when people do that to me. But I want you to know that I know, and that you aren’t alone. And I’ll do whatever it takes. Need me to pretend everything is okay? I will, but don’t think for a second I don’t notice. You’re one of my closest friends.” he says quietly.

Lanisen’s shoulders slump a little and he leans on the back of a chair, staring at the ground. He nods silently.

Colin watches, asking him, “Can’t eat?”

Lanisen asks blankly, “What?”

Colin says, “You’re skinnier. You don’t have much to lose.”

Lanisen frowns. “I’m not,” he says uncertainly. He looks down at himself.

Colin nods a little. “I haven’t felt like it much either. Maybe we should do something about it.”

Lanisen asks, “What are you talkin’ about?”

Colin says, “Eating. Something we both have been neglecting. We should fix this.”

Lanisen says, “Oh.”

Colin looks thoughtful. “Wait here.” he eases out the door and is gone for a few minutes.

Lanisen shrugs a little as Colin goes. He puts the folded shirt up on a high shelf where it’s at minimal risk of dog-furring, and heads in back to start the process of cleaning out the pens. There don’t seem to be many dogs about today, for whatever reason, and the silence in the building is unnatural.

Colin soon returns and stands by the door waiting. Soon there’s a knock and he opens it and a servant comes in with a tray. He thanks the servant and once they depart he puts the tray where dogs can’t reach it and goes looking for Lanisen. “Hellooooo?”

Lanisen says from behind a pen, “Back here. Just a minute.” He finishes sweeping the pile of old wood shavings into a bin and limps back out front.

Colin asks, “Ready for a break?”

Lanisen shrugs. “Sure?”

Colin shoos Puck away, who is circling around the source of the smells. Retriving the tray, he takes the cloth cover off of it to reveal two slices of pie, two glasses of milk, some spiced wine, and some savory looking venison stew with potatos and carrots. There’s even some sliced bread on the side. “I cut a deal with the cook…” he offers as way of explanation.

Lanisen looks a little daunted, but he doesn’t argue. “Impressive,” he says instead.

Colin nods. “I haven’t eaten today…and cook said she’ll give me whatever we want as long as you start eating more regularly. Think of the possibilities here!” He picks up a bowl of stew and a slice of bread, putting the bread in the side of the bowl to soak up some of the juices.

Lanisen gives him a quick look at this, bewildered and guilty. He moves slowly to follow Colin’s lead, taking the other bowl of stew.

Colin takes a bite out of the piece of bread, then points it at Lanisen. “No guilty.” he mumbles around his food. “It’s okay.”

Lanisen says, “Didn’t think I was– Didn’t mean to… worry anybody, or–”

Colin points to the pie that has delicious looking red berries oozing out the sides. “Raspberry pie, even. People care, Lanisen. It’s okay. We worry cause we love ya, for some reason.” he grins, taking a bit of the wine and drinking some before he takes a few bites of stew.

Lanisen is confused and quiet. He looks down at his stew and begins working his way through it.

Colin continues to eat steadily. “How’ve things been in here?”

Lanisen says, “Um. All right. More–more /people/ than normal, feels like. Just because the puppies prob’ly, it’ll calm down when they’re big and not as cute, but…”

Colin nods. “Ah, puppies. They can bring a lot of disruption.”

Lanisen says, “Ain’t their fault.”

Colin says, “Yeah, I know.”

Lanisen keeps working on his stew, glancing at the window as somebody passes outside.

Colin ventures on another topic. “Hey Lan…if we were to go outside the castle. You and me. How would you feel about that?”

Lanisen says, “All right.”

Colin asks, “Thought of Aaron maybe around doesn’t scare you?”

Lanisen shrugs, scooping up a chunk of potato. “Aaron’s scared of you, pretty sure,” he says matter-of-factly.

Colin shrugs a shoulder. “Yeah…maybe. Probably.” he chews on a piece of meat for a minute before speaking again. “Supposing I got my hands on a cart…or one of the carriages. Do you think jostling around would hurt you again?”

Lanisen gives him a mildly exasperated look. “It’s been more’n a month, I ain’t gonna fall apart.”

Colin lifts a hand defensively. “Hey, don’t blame a guy for wondering.” he throws a crust off his bread at him.

Lanisen leans to the side to dodge it. Puck goes trotting after it, all business.

Colin grins and pops the last bite in his mouth. “So…”

Lanisen says, “So what?”

Colin drags out his words. “Howwww do you feel about Carmichael?”

Lanisen says, “Carmichael?”

Colin asks, “Yeah. Would you object to seeing the place again?”

Lanisen looks down at his stew and laughs silently through his nose. “I been talkin’ myself out of beggin’ you to let me come with since you got back,” he admits. “Wasn’t sure you’d want me taggin’ along. Lion, no, I wouldn’t object.”

Colin uses his spoon as a catapult to fling a piece of meat over Lanisen’s head. “Never be afraid to ask. I missed you tagging along. So you’ll go back with me?” he asks hopefully.

Lanisen ducks reflexively and glances from the elated Puck back to Colin. “Yeah. ‘Course, yeah. I’m goin’ crazy in here.” He already looks like he’s suddenly lost a heavy load.

Colin looks relieved as if a bit of his own load has lifted and he grins as he sets aside his empty stew bowl and grabs a slice of pie. “This calls for celebration! Back on the road again.”

Lanisen snorts under his breath, still working on his stew. “Like you need an excuse to eat pie.”

Colin almost looks offended. “Always.”

Lanisen snorts again. He continues to glance periodically out the window as people pass, likely not even realizing he’s doing it.

Colin watches him as he shovels pie. “Cole’s tearing the country apart, Lanisen.”

Lanisen glances at him. “After Aaron?” He is sitting with Colin, a rather alarmingly large and nutritious meal on a tray next to them.

Colin shoves the last piece of pie into his mouth, rendering words useless so he nods in reply.

Lanisen keeps eating for a minute. “He seemed pretty keen.”

Colin lifts his eyebrows in an ironic expression and nods, swallowing enough to say, “That’s Cole.”

Lanisen says nothing more. He pushes chunks of potato and venison from one side of the bowl to the other, distracted.

Darrin enters the kennels from outside, his hands shoved in his pockets and whistling to himself.

Colin looks up as the door opens. “Hey, Lord Darrin.” He gets to his feet to bow.

Lanisen straightens immediately as the door opens. He sets his bowl aside and stands to bow.

Darrin’s whistle cuts off abruptly when he notices the pair. “Good evening, folks!” He says in a chipper tone.

Colin shakes his head, chuckling a little. “What brings you out here?”

Darrin sidles over to Sir Colin and throws an arm over his shoulder. “Well, see,” he begins, sounding a bit conspiratorial. “/You/ are always here, so I figured this would be a good bet. And, I’m bored. And in need of a drink. So what say we go out to the town for the night, eh?” He turns his head towards Lanisen. “You’re invited too, of course, Lanisen.”

Lanisen says, “Um,” and glances uncertainly at Colin.

Colin stumbles a little with Darrin’s added weight but he quickly adjusts, a slow grin forming on his face. He looks to Lanisen and nods eagerly. “Come on, let’s.”

Darrin slaps him on the back enthusiastically, a deviously smug look crossing his face before being subsumed by a wide grin. “That’s what I like to hear!”

Colin eyes Darrin.

Lanisen says again, “Um.” He shrugs.

Colin shoots Lanny a look that says something like “Don’t you /dare/ abandon me” before he looks at Darrin. “Sure excited about this, you young rogue.”

Darrin smirks and then whines, “I’m boooored. Please don’t leave me to suffer through another book in silent agony.”

Lanisen stays quiet, watching Darrin with a mildly perplexed expression.

Colin puts on a long suffering look. “All right, you big baby. Lead the way.” He motions hopefully for Lanisen to come with.

Darrin might be bouncing a little bit on his toes as he heads out the door. Maybe.

Colin opens the door for them and peers at Darrin skeptically as they go.

Lanisen stops long enough to cover their food and put it up on a shelf where the dogs can’t reach, then follows reluctantly.


Andale
Eastern Archenland


You stand in the heart of Andale where most of the folk who support Anvard live. Young children play here on nice days, skipping rope, or shooting marbles, and older ones can be seen reading scrolls. Adults hurry through on their way from home to where their business takes them. A well with a stone wall sits on the western edge of the road.

The road here widens and splits to run toward the shops to the east, North Andale to the north and the Crossroad to the south. Short paths lead to the two settlements here; Het Noorden to the northwest, and Zuiden to the southeast.


Darrin leads the way into Andale, his arms swinging by his sides and a bounce in his step.

Megren walks into town from the village to the south. She is not wearing her usual livery, but instead a clean and simply cut dress.

Colin follows with Lanisen, simultaneously looking amused at Darrin’s antics and glancing at him skeptically.

Lanisen follows behind, far less effervescent.

Darrin catches sight of Megren through the various folk out and about at this hour and does a double take. “Little Fritter!” He calls out, his face lighting up. He bounds to her side.

Colin blinks in utter confusion, looking from Darrin to Lanisen and back again.

Megren looks around, caught off guard by the nickname, and then her easy grin spreads across her face. She curtsies to the knight. “Gracing the town, are we?”

Lanisen mouths at Colin, “Fritter?”

Darrin catches her hand and spins her around swiftly. “Look at you!” he crows. “I didn’t know you owned a dress.” He then seems to realize this might be a bit rude and he drops her hand and grins, rubbing at the back of his neck. “That is, you look very nice.” He colors for about half a second and then forges ahead with, “And yes!” He motions back at Colin and Lanisen and leans in to murmur something in a lower tone.

Colin shrugs in confusion at Lanisen before heading in Darrin and Megren’s direction. Apparently the gazelle bounded quite far. He watches Darrin, raising an eyebrow.

Darrin mumbles “Thought … get those … out … get some drinks … … maybe cheer them up … …”, to Megren.

Lanisen blinks at the little he manages to overhear, glancing at Colin again.

Colin looks at Lanisen and mouths, “Think they planned this?”, a suspicious look on his face.

Megren looks a little embarrassed by the fuss about her dress as well, and covers it by crossing her arms. She raises her brows to the quieter words. “Do you know, I was just thinking I might like to stop at the inn before heading home.”

Darrin grins wider. “As usual, you read my mind effortlessly, madam.” He offers a partial bow and then holds out his arm to her.

Lanisen lifts his shoulders a little, shaking his head to indicate he has no idea.

Colin nods his head in greeting to Megren as she joins their little group and he looks at Darrin with misgivings in his eyes.

Megren accepts the arm. “We’ll have to work on that.”

Darrin chuckles, the skeptical looks he is receiving from Lanisen and Colin only seeming to fuel his good mood.

Lanisen shuffles a little, resigned.

Colin looks about as resigned as Lanisen at this point. “Shall we?”

Darrin falls in by Sir Colin once again, bobbing his head.

Lanisen limps along behind.

Colin makes sure the pace stays easy enough for Lanisen, walking slowly and keeping an eye on him as they go.


The Narrow Gate Hall
Andale


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.


Darrin stakes a claim at a table in roughly the center of the room.

Megren pauses when they enter the hall to extract her arm and exchange with Dranken a familiar sort of greeting and some unremarkable, if probably amusing, small talk.

Colin just follow Darrin’s lead at this point, taking one of the seats at the table.

Lanisen trails along behind Colin, slightly to his right. He sits, but hesitantly, glancing at Darrin.

Darrin doesn’t sit down right away, instead leaning both hands on the table and glancing between Colin and Lanisen. “First round’s on me!” He announces. “What do you two want?”

Colin looks at Lanisen before saying, “Ale’s fine for me.”

Megren’s conversation with Dranken includes her indicating the center table with her head.

Lanisen blinks. He shakes his head quickly, mumbling under his breath that he’s fine, thanks.

Darrin looks like he might argue with Lanisen, but he shrugs. “Suit yourself, for the moment,” he says. He ambles up to the bar and orders a tankard of ale and a flagon of wine before looking to Megren. “Fritter, what do you want? I’m buying this round.”

Megren narrows her eyes thoughtfully, and then replies with a conspiratorial grin, “Surprise me.” She nods at Lanisen and says, “He wants something heavy or his belly will cave in beneath his ribs.”

Darrin tilts his head at her thoughtfully and then orders her a cider. He grins. “Right, so ale for him, you think?”

Colin leans over to say something to Lanisen.
Colin mumbles “Feels like a couple of parents circling…”, to Lanisen.
Colin mumbles “… … a couple … … circling…”, to Lanisen.

Megren nods, “Suppose.”

Lanisen gives Colin a small sidelong grin at this.

Darrin nods, and Draken goes for another ale. Darrin slides the cider to Megren and then balances the other three drinks in his hands in a triangle formation and heads back to the table, setting the two ales before Lanisen and Colin. He hooks a foot around a chair to pull it out for Megren and then plops down into a chair of his own with his wine.

Megren eyes the knight before sitting in the chair, between Lanisen and Sir Darrin.

Lanisen’s eyes go a little wide. “Oh, um.” He glances helplessly at Colin, then back at Darrin. “Thank… you, sir?”

Colin watches Darrin with a skeptical raise of his eyebrow and he looks at Lanisen, mouthing “Sorry.”

Darrin says cheerily, “Don’t mention it!” He tilts back in his chair, the front legs coming off the ground, and takes a sip of his wine.

Colin stares at Darrin’s chair. “Are you trying to break your neck?” He finally says uncertainly.

Megren rubs the length of her nose.

Darrin makes a face at Colin. “Spoilsport,” he accuses. He straightens in his chair but this seems to be just for the purpose of reaching across to nudge Colin’s mug closer to him.

Lanisen turns his mug and wraps his left hand around the handle, glancing around the tavern.

Megren widens her eyes to indicate the hopeless nature of the person on her left and leans forward on her elbows, turning to Lanisen on her right. “How’s Vira?”

Colin gives Darrin a Look and squints down into the mug. “What’d you put in it?”

Darrin innocuously reaches over and slides his elbow under Megren’s closest one, upsetting her leaning but without glancing in her direction. He assumes an affronted expression at Sir Colin. “Put something in it? Why, I’m insulted. I would do nothing of the kind, I assure you!”

Colin mmhmms and tests the taste with his finger before shrugging in a what the hey manner and taking a sip.

Lanisen says, half-watching Colin and Darrin with a confused furrow between his eyebrows, “Uh, she’s fine, thanks. ‘Bout the same as she was yesterday.”

Megren falls forward, sitting up again and giving Sir Darrin a look before returning her attention to Lanisen.
Megren mumbles “All right. How much did he have in the mess before this?”, to Lanisen.
Megren mumbles “… right. How much did … … in … … before …”, to Lanisen.

Darrin pretends not to notice the look and only glances at Megren from his peripherals when she has turned back to Lanisen. He grins to himself.

Lanisen shakes his head and shrugs.

Colin seems content to observe for the moment.

Megren sucks her teeth and raises her brows as if giving in to the strangeness. She indicates the table with a circle of her finger.
Megren mumbles “Do you and Sir Colin do this kind of thing often? Stare sadly across the table at each other?”, to Lanisen.
Megren mumbles “Do you … Sir … do … kind … thing often? … … … the table … … other?”, to Lanisen.

Darrin looks like he’s on the verge of saying something when Megren starts whispering to Lanisen again. With a shrug, he leans over to speak with Sir Colin.
Darrin mumbles “… about you, but … … … … … bit … out, …”, to Colin.

Colin has started to take a sip of his ale, which he promptly chokes on and proceeds to have a coughing fit as he cracks up.

Darrin pats him heartily on the back and starts making vaguely reassuring coos. “There, there.”

Colin bats at Darrin’s hand, trying to get him to stop the back patting. He clears his throat noisily and takes a sip of ale to ease the sudden dryness. “Were you always a joker like this, Lord Darrin?” he chuckles raspily.

Lanisen blinks at Megren, and then Colin decides ale is for inhaling. He ducks his head to hide a grin.
Lanisen mumbles “Oh yeah. Twice a week at least.”, to Megren.
Lanisen mumbles “… … Twice … week at …”, to Megren.

Darrin blinks, looking genuinely baffled. “Is that a trick question?”

Colin says, “Never.”

Megren giggles at Lanisen’s response. “I have only ever known Sir Darrin to be quite serious, Sir Colin.”

Lanisen takes a drink of his ale, glancing at Megren doubtfully over the top of the mug.

Colin mutters something as he drinks some more ale.
Colin mumbles “… he … Sir … …”, to Colin.

Darrin sips at his wine and says, “In that case, I’m really not sure how you missed it thus far, Colin.” He smirks over his tankard.

Colin informs him, “I can be pretty oblivious.”

Megren gives the knights a humble tilt of her head. “If I may suggest, my lords, I think the /usual/ custom when gathered to stare forlornly into one’s drink in the middle of a tavern is for the least dazed one to suggest a game that distracts from the awkwardness of it all?”

Lanisen scratches his nose.

Colin rubs his nose awkwardly.

Darrin arches a brow. “Noooooo, you don’t say,” in a dry tone to Colin. He then glances at Megren and grins. “I’m open to suggestion. More darts, perhaps?” He smirks.

Megren points to Lanisen, “Yes. Scorekeeper over here.”

Colin protests. “I–darts, no, I’m bad.”

Megren says, “That is the best way to be when you play with us.”

Lanisen mumbles “Darts while drinking?”, to Lanisen.
Lanisen mumbles “… … …”, to Lanisen.

Colin groans, emptying his tankard.

Darrin gestures to Megren with his tankard. “Truth.” He gets up to go collect the darts from the board. “Megren, you wanna explain the rules?”

Megren taps her cup, “It’s very simple really. One toss per round. The two best tosses ask a question or form a challenge for the worst toss. He or she must either answer the question, or perform the challenge.”

Colin motions for Dranken to bring another ale over and he eyes Megren. “Too complicated for me.”

Megren looks to Sir Darrin to convince his fellow knight, not prepared herself to challenge the king’s nephew on his choices.

Darrin takes a long drink of his wine and then sets it on the table. “Perhaps a demonstration would suffice?” He grins.

Megren says, “I’ll agree to that if Sir Colin cares for it.”

Lanisen stays quiet, listening. He glances at Colin.

Colin ers, rubbing the back of his neck as Dranken sets another ale in front of him. “Sure?”

Darrin nods, handing a dart to Megren and Colin and taking one for himself, the rest going on the table. He stands in front of the board and throws casually, his dart landing just ouside the center ring.

Colin looks down at the dart in his hand and looks at Lanisen.

Lanisen gives him two thumbs up.

Colin fakes like he’s throwing the dart at Lanisen.

Megren looks Sir Darrin over, rises from her chair, and covers her eyes with one hand, throwing the dart blind. It lands squarely in the second ring.

Darrin whistles in appreciation. “Not bad for blind,” he says.

Colin stares, his mouth open a little. “You didn’t say we had to do it without looking!”

Lanisen takes another drink of ale to hide a grin.

Megren looks perfectly angelic. “Why, Sir Colin. You may do it however you like.”

Darrin says, “But you /are/ up.”

Colin looks at Lanisen for help.

Lanisen gestures at the target.

Colin finally steps up and makes a halfhearted fling at the dartboard, where the dart miraculously lands in the bullseye. He looks very confused.

Megren raises her brows at Lanisen, “He’s playing us and you didn’t warn me?”

Lanisen smirks.

Colin exclaims, “He didn’t warn me either!”

Darrin flops back into his chair and lifts his glass. “That’s you, Megren. So, you can tell us about the first person you kissed, or Sir Colin can come up with something embarrassing for you to do instead.” He smirks over the wine at her.

Lanisen blinks, glancing quickly from Darrin to Megren and back. He frowns at Darrin.

Colin looks mildly terrified and grabs his ale and takes a long swing.

Megren mms very seriously. “Name of Elek.”

Darrin waves a hand as if to say, ‘do go on’.

Lanisen chokes.

Colin nearly snorts some of his ale again.

Megren says, “Very hairy, kind of narrow face. Utterly unpleasant.”

Lanisen squeezes his eyes shut, his shoulders shaking silently.

Darrin shudders at the image. “Yeck. Whatever possessed you?”

Colin makes a face, looking at Darrin.

Megren tilts her head at him, widening her eyes. “What /do/ you think of me? It was quite unsolicited. Lanisen can tell you. He was there.”

Colin’s eyebrows shoot up and he looks at Lanisen now.

Lanisen is in danger of falling off his chair.

Megren covers her mouth to keep from giggling.

It is now Darrin’s turn to sputter. He looks at Lanisen quickly, looks back to Megren, arches a brow and rather shockingly looks for once lost for words.

Colin takes another long swig and claps his hands, rubbing them together. “Wellll who’s next?”

Lanisen clears his throat, straightens, and takes another gulp of ale.

Megren is not entirely capable of speaking further at the moment. Her face is quite red, and her hand still over her mouth.

Darrin runs a hand quickly through his curls and coughs a few times. “Right.” He goes over and collects the darts, and tosses first again. This time he’s apparently distracted or embarrassed or something because his dart lands on the outermost ring, very nearly off the board completely.

Colin drains his tankard once again and retrieves one of the darts from Darrin, taking a bit more care with his aim this time. His dart lands barely inside the second ring.

Megren gives Lanisen a not entirely insincere betrayed look, but she recovers from the question well enough to take up her dart and land it closer in than Sir Darrin’s, if not quite as nicely as Sir Colin’s.

Darrin gives a small smile and bows in a rather sacrificial manner, waiting for the verdict.

Colin looks to Megren for help with this one.

Megren sniffs and tilts her head sweetly. “Sir Colin, you may ask the question. I shall think up the challenge.”

Colin taps his chin thoughtfully, peering at Darrin through narrowed eyes as he thinks. “What is the stupidest challenge you have ever done?”

Lanisen watches. He tips his mug up, considering the level of the ale left.

Darrin wrinkles his nose and tilts his head to think about this one. He glances at Megren.

Megren perches on the table edge, “Order another wine, finish it, then answer the question, and the answer can’t be ‘this one’.”

Lanisen raises his eyebrows.

Colin gives Megren an impressed look. He looks back to Lanisen and mouths “I like her.”

Megren grins audaciously.

Darrin grins broadly. “Now that’s more like it.” He wanders over to the bar and orders another wine, comes back and sets it by his other one before flopping into his chair. He raises his first glass to Megren in a toast and throws the rest of it back.

Megren watches him with a look of shrewd triumph.

Colin watches, quietly ordering another ale while he waits for Darrin to fall over or something.

Darrin coughs a bit before setting that tankard down and reaching for the other one. “This is a terrible way to drink wine, I’ll have you know,” he says with a look of snobby distaste. He lifts the second tankard to his mouth and drains it.

Megren looks like she agrees.

Colin makes a bit of a face as he watches. Once the wine is down, he prompts. “All right. The question?”

Darrin sets the tankard down and scrubs the back of a hand across his mouth, then drops his hands flat on the table and leans forward. There are two twin spots of color high in his cheeks. “All right, the story. Well, the one that comes first to mind, anyways. I’ve done my fair share of stupid things, no question about that. So this one time. I was a kid, eh, maybe eleven? twelve? Emperor, I don’t know. There’s a feast, right, out on the manor lawn, for what was it, I think the winter solstice?”

Lanisen finishes off his ale and sets aside the mug, listening.

Megren rests her elbow in one hand and her chin in the other, the picture of listening etiquette.

Colin presses his lips together, hiding a grin as he listens.

Darrin starts gesturing with one hand, a bit wildly. “There’re these village boys, you know, and it’s not like I’m the unfriendly sort, so I wander over there, and they don’t notice me at first, so I hear what they’re talking about before they see me. And they’re talking about my cousin Avery. Well. You can imagine, I’m sure. I’m young, I’m brash, I don’t take kindly to that kind of talk, you know. I get all up in the face of the biggest one there – he must’ve been five stone bigger than me, a half head taller, but that doesn’t sway me of course.”

Colin drinks a good amount from his tankard while he listens, watching Darrin wave his hand around.

Megren’s brows draw together a little.

Darrin says, “He says what one says in this situation, ‘Why don’t we take this elsewhere?’ And he proposes we meet up back behind the stonemason’s guild in a few days. And I go, of course.” He makes a face, touching his lip like he can feel the split lip from that encounter still. “Stupid.”

Lanisen winces a little.

Colin does too, perching on the edge of the table.

Megren glances at Lanisen, looking a bit regretful. “I’m sure it was very noble, Sir,” she says stoutly.

Darrin laughs. “Nothing noble about getting beat up in a stoneyard, Fritter. You can imagine my parent’s weren’t too pleased. And what my father said after, that’s always stuck with me. He said a gentleman doesn’t always have to use his fists to defend his honor. And he was right.”

Megren shifts, and then moves toward the dartboard, “A final round?”

Colin goes to stand from where he leans on the table and jerks to the side, off balance a bit. “Yeah..sure.” he squints at the dartboard.

Lanisen’s eyes sharpen as Colin stumbles.
Lanisen mumbles “You all right?”, to Colin.
Lanisen mumbles “… … right?”, to Colin.

Darrin gets to his feet unsteadily. “Somebody else’s turn to get the darts,” he declares.

Colin gives Lanisen a thumbs up.

Megren pulls the darts off and helps Sir Colin to rather a closer position than before, offering him one.

Colin takes the dart, grins at Megren and focuses on the dartboard for a solid three minutes before he throws. His dart hits the outermost ring and falls out, hitting the ground. He frowns at it.

Lanisen snickers.

Darrin ambles over to stand behind them while Colin throws. When his dart hits the ground, he makes a noise that is decidedly close to a giggle.

Colin turns to glare at Darrin.

Darrin claps a hand over his mouth and giggles some more, his shoulders shaking and brown curls flopping into his eyes at the movement.

Megren places a dart deliberately in Sir Darrin’s hands, closing his fingers around it and lifting it to approximately the appropriate position before backing out of the way.

Colin looks at Lanisen and jerks his thumb toward Darrin, shrugging his shoulders.

Lanisen eyes the dart, eyes the number of empty wine tankards around Darrin’s seat, and eyes Darrin with some alarm.

Megren stands behind him and slightly to the side so that she can catch any stray flying objects.

Darrin snickers and takes the opportunity to brush his fingers across hers. “Not so hot today, Little Fritter,” he says, sounding warm and pleased as he focuses on the target. He closes one eye and throws, the dart landing a few rings out from the middle, but not a too terrible shot, all things considered.

Megren gathers her hands behind her back in a slightly more business-like manner than usual.

Colin squints at Darrin and peers at the dartboard.

Lanisen watches Megren and Darrin, his forehead wrinkling a little.

Darrin backs away and perches on an unoccupied table, gesturing between Megren and the dartboard.

Megren takes up the last dart, tossing it neatly so that it lands on the centerside of the second ring. She returns to the table, where her drink is. “Lanisen, you and Sir Darrin give Sir Colin his choices.”

Colin drains his tankard and turns to face them like a doomed man.

Darrin looks to Lanisen. “You want the question or the action, Lanisen?”

Lanisen says, “Ahh, neither, I think I’ll stay out of this one, thanks.”

Darrin hops off his table and wanders back over to the group’s table, giving Lanisen the puppy eyes he uses without realizing whenever he’s pouting.

Colin snickers at Lanisen.

Megren takes a breath, considering Sir Colin, and then says, “Very well. Then, Sir Colin, I would like to know what you love most about Neiklot, and what you love most when you are away.”

Darrin gives Megren a look that says he doesn’t find these questions particularly amusing. “Or, alternately, do your best impersonation of each of us, and we have to guess who you are.” He lifts his eyebrows at Colin.

Megren takes a sip of her drink, not seeming bothered by the look.

Colin chuckles at Darrin and answers Megren. “I love the way the sun comes through the vineyards, and the smell of the dirt when it’s been turned. And when I’m away….good people like you folk, good friends like Lanisen. And the lovely dark haired maiden I shall soon call my wife.” He grins, raising his tankard and finishing it off for good.

Megren’s brows rise, and she glances at Lanisen for confirmation of this.

Lanisen just grins.

Darrin grins a bit as well, nodding.

Colin takes a step and wobbles a little. “I…think it’s time to call it a night.” He laughs, holding both arms out as if that might help him with his balance.

Megren says, “Well, I’ll drink to that,” and finishes her cider.

Lanisen snorts. He stands up, pushing his chair back, and offers Colin his shoulder for support. “If you fall I’m leaving you where you land.”

Colin says, “I feel the love.”

Darrin chuckles. “Cruel, cruel,” he says.

Megren rises, “Maybe we’ll just all walk in the same general direction at the same general time and see what that does for us.”

Lanisen says, “That’s maybe a good idea.”

Darrin nods.

Colin waves to Dranken and begins making his way out, glancing to see if anyone is following him.

Megren pauses at the counter to confirm with Dranken that he’s been fully paid before rejoining the group.

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