You stand in a clearing nestled close to the mountains and surrounded by thick brush and tangle. Scattered around the clearing in the shade of the mountain are several stone houses with carefully-thatched roofs. They are a fair size, though most consist of only one room, but they look snug and dry. Most are lit brightly as their occupants go about their daily routines, but some are dark and look like they might have been abandoned.
Lanisen makes his way down the path from the main road, walking with a slight limp. He looks from one house to another with a slightly furrowed forehead, then comes to a halt and turns in a circle to consider each of them.
A daughter of eve with a pleasant face sits on the porch playing with a play bow. Just twigs and a stick with strings, which she is tying to both ends.
Lanisen scratches his head. Catching sight of the redheaded girl, he limps toward her. “‘Scuse me, miss?” he calls, stopping a respectful distance from her porch.
Harmonia looks. “Eh? Ello.”
Harmonia sets her play bow down and rises to her feet. “You need something, mister?”
Lanisen says, “Um, sorry. Do you know Eston the thatcher, any chance?”
Harmonia ums “What’s he look like?”
Lanisen says, “Ahh…” He holds up his hand to about his own height. “So tall, blond hair? Maybe limps a bit?”
Harmonia asks, “Don’t think so. Moved here not so long ago, Paw, Ma and me. I can ask Paw iffen you like?”
Lanisen asks, “Is he about? Don’t want to be a bother…”
Harmonia nods her head bobbing like a bobble toy. “Yeah. He’s about.” She gets up and scampers to the door. “Paw!” And a man comes to the door, dusting off feathers and fletcher materials. “Yes?”
Lanisen dips a polite, shallow bow. “Er, hello,” he says. “Sorry to interrupt your work, um. I’m looking for a friend of mine, Eston the thatcher? I think he’s staying somewhere around here but I’m not sure which is his house.”
The man frowns. “I’m ‘fraid I don’t know that name. Sorry I couldn’t be more help.”
Lanisen says quickly, “No, no, that’s fine. Sorry to bother you, thanks anyway.”
The man shakes his head, “No trouble. Wish I could be more help. I’ll keep an eye out for him iffen you like?”
Lanisen asks, “Would you? I’m at the inn, will be for a while. My name’s Lanisen, I’d be obliged if you’d let him know I’m looking for him. If you happen to meet him.”
The man nods. “Lanisen,” he says consideringly. “I will do that.”
Lanisen bobs his head again. “Appreciate it.”
He nods, “Good day then, Lanisen.” and heads inside.
Lanisen answers, “G’day to you.”
Harmonia perks up, “Hey Mister, he have any kids?”
Lanisen says, “Yeah, he’s got a baby. I dunno how old.”
Harmonia huhs appreciatively.
Lanisen adds, “Way too little to play with, for sure.”
Harmonia says, “You live around here?”
Lanisen asks, “Me? No, I’m from Anvard.”
Harmonia says, “Is that the big city, where the king lives? I heard tales.”
Lanisen says, “It’s the castle, yeah. It’s not really a city, so much.”
Lanisen asks, “Where’d you move here from?”
Harmonia says, “Terebinthia.”
Lanisen blinks. “What, like the island?”
Harmonia nods, her head bobbing again.
Lanisen looks impressed. “Ain’t that a terrible long way away?”
Harmonia says, “Yeah.I guess so. Took us foreeeever to get here,” she says, exaggerating the syllables.
Lanisen makes a sympathetic face. “You don’t get seasick, do you?”
Harmonia says, “No. At least I don’t think I do. Motion sickens sometimes.””
Lanisen says, “Oh, that’s good.”
Harmonia nods. “Do you?”
Lanisen says, “Dunno. Never been on a boat longer’n a few minutes.”
Harmonia holds up her makeshift bow, “Do you like archery?”
Harmonia says, “I’m making myself a bow.”
Lanisen says, grinning, “Oh, neat. Yeah, I like it all right.”
Harmonia says, “Paw sometimes lets me shoot his bow.” She shows her where the bow has snapped her arm. “I don’t do so well yet.”
Lanisen squints at the mark. “Oh, ow. I got a few of those too when I was learnin’. Just takes practice, is all.”
Harmonia says, “Guess so.”
Lanisen says, “Just be careful where you’re aimin’ when you’re practicing. Arrows ain’t a joke.”
Harmonia nods solemnly. “I want to be a great archer someday.”
Lanisen grins. He is standing nearish to one of the houses, talking to a red-headed girl on the porch. “Bet you will be, if you keep workin’ at it,” he tells her. “Can I see your bow?”
A son of adam with a short beard and moustache walks down the road, not looking like he has a particular aim. He spies the young girl with the bow and heads her way. “Ah, practicing again today, Harmonia?”
Harmonia hands Lanisen, the play bow she’s made with a stick and a string. “Here.”
Lanisen glances at the unfamiliar man. He nods politely, then takes Harmonia’s bow. “Oh, hey,” he says, tugging gently on the string. “This ain’t half bad!”
Romney nods in approval. “More your size, is it?”
Harmonia smiles, at the complement from the man with the limp. “Thanks.”
Lanisen holds the bow up and pulls the string back, sighting, then winces and releases it quickly. He hands it back and rubs his right shoulder, his face gone rather pale. “That’s real nice.”
Romney asks, “Pull something, did you?”
Harmonia takes the bow back and looks at the stranger curiously.
Lanisen asks, “What? No, sorry, I hurt my shoulder a couple months ago is all.”
Romney frowns. “Sorry to hear it. Happen in your line of work a lot, or something else?” He looks Lanisen over, as though trying to ascertain what his line might be.
Lanisen says fervently, “Lion, I hope not.”
Harmonia looks from one man back to another.
Romney laughs. “Well, that’s clear as a the bottom of a murky well. What do you do then?”
Lanisen grins back. “Ahh, sorry,” he says. “Worked in the castle with the king’s hounds until recently. You?”
Harmonia blurts, “My paw’s a fletcher.”
Romney looks impressed. “The king’s hounds? That’s something…never tell me one of them attacked you?” He turns to Harmonia, smiling. “Yes, you mentioned yesterday.”
Lanisen says, “Attacked– oh, no. This was somethin’ else. They’re good dogs, mostly.”
Harmonia asks, “Did you see the big battle?”
Harmonia says, “Paw says there was a big battle in Anvard sometime.”
Romney opens his mouth to ask Lanisen another question, then turns to look at Harmonia.
Lanisen says, “Oh, uh.” He rubs the back of his neck and looks uncomfortable. “Not very much of it.”
Romney’s eyebrows shoot up. “You were at Anvard? Seems like that’d be a pretty hard thing to miss.”
Harmonia ohs and looks back at her bow. Paw said the Narnians and Archenlanders whooped the bad guys.”
Lanisen assures her, “They did.”
Romney grins. “Sounds about right.”
A calls from inside “Harmonia.. are you bothering the neighbors?”
Harmonia calls back, “No Ma.”
Harmonia asks, “I ain’t, aint I?”
Lanisen shakes his head. “Besides,” he says, leaning forward conspiratorially, “Even if you /were/, I ain’t a neighbor.” He winks.
Romney hehs. “Me neither, come to that.”
Lanisen glances at the man. “Where is it you’re from?”
Harmonia says, “I hope when I’m a great archer someday. I’ll whoop the bad guys too.”
Romney looks at Harmonia seriously. “Here’s hoping you won’t have to. But possibly a child-gobbling boar.” He turns to Lanisen. “I travel a lot, but my family’s in Chesterton.”
Lanisen agrees, “Boars’re bad news. Except when they’re bacon.”
Harmonia exclaims, “I like bacon!”
Romney asks Lanisen, “What about you then, if you’re from out of town too?”
Lanisen says, “Anvard.”
Romney taps his head lightly. “Stupid question, I guess, given what you said.”
Lanisen grins, broad and genuine. “Wellll, I wasn’t gonna say anything…”
Romney shakes his head, offering an open grin. “So what’s that like, then? Working in a castle?”
Lanisen says, “‘Bout like workin’ anywhere else, I s’pose. It’s all right.”
Romney looks a little disappointed. “I mean, you get to see the nobility and all, even royalty I guess. Must be some pretty fancy dogs.” His mood seems to shift and he offers a sweeping bow. “Do they have very fine manners?” he asks, offering a cheeky wink to Harmonia.
Lanisen says, “Oh, aye. All kindsa airs and graces. It’s in the water, you know.”
Harmonia asks, “Do the servants hafta drink a different water?”
Lanisen shakes his head. “It’s all the same water,” he says, sounding mystified. “I reckon it’s the cups the noblefolk drink out of. And the troughs the dogs and horses drink out of.”
Romney says, “Might pay to drink out of those troughs yourself. Develop some mighty fine manners.”
Lanisen hoots with laughter. “All right,” he admits. “I left myself wide open for that one.”
Romney laughs. “Sorry, couldn’t help myself.”
Harmonia wrinkles her nose. “I wouldn’t want to drink out of a horse’s trough.”
Lanisen asks, “Not even for airs and graces?”
Harmonia says, “Naw. Like myself the way I am.”
Harmonia asks, “Why would I wanna change?”
Lanisen says, “That’s the spirit.”
Romney says, “Ah, manners aren’t so bad. Good for business, if nothing else.”
Lanisen asks, “What is your business?”
Romney says, “Father’s a merchant. I handle the acquisitions side of the business.”
Lanisen says, “Oh, huh.”
Romney says, “Keep an eye out for good investments, things like that.” He laughs. “It’s an excuse for travel, more than anything, I’m afraid. I’m not really very good at it.”
Harmonia tests out her bow against imaginary opponents while the two strangers talk boring grownup talk.
Lanisen says, “Travel don’t sound too bad, anyway.”
Romney says, “Indeed not. But…Anvard, ain’t been there in ages. What happened at the battle?”
Lanisen shrugs. “Didn’t see very much of it. Guess there was a bit where the Calormenes shot at us and we shot back, and then they retreated for a while, and then they came back with a battering ram and that’s when Narnia showed up with the princes.”
Romney says, “Princes? I thought Narnia had only kings and queens..”
Lanisen says, “Oh, no, I meant our princes. Prince Cor and Prince Corin.”
Romney snaps his fingers. “By golly, I’m a blithering idiot today, don’t you know. I did hear about that. Of course I did.”
Lanisen says, “Be surprised if you didn’t.”
Harmonia asks, “Does the king have kids?”
Harmonia asks, “Kids like me?”
Lanisen gives her an assessing look. “Ahh, yeah. I reckon they’d be about your age.”
Harmonia asks, “Think they’d play with me?”
Lanisen looks a little lost. “Uhh–maybe?”
Romney asks, “You fancy walking up to the front gate and knocking to ask?”
Harmonia shrugs. “Sometimes I get kinda lonely here. Miss my friends back home.”
Lanisen makes a sympathetic face. “I know how that goes,” he says. “Don’t worry, you’ll make new friends.”
Harmonia looks to Lanisen, “You think so?”
Romney asks, “Where you from originally?”
Harmonia says, “‘Binthia.”
Lanisen assures her, “No doubt about it.”
Romney says, “Hmm. That is a bit of a ways, yes.”
Harmonia says, “Used ta play on the seashore sometimes, with tha other villagers kids.””
Lanisen asks, “Have you met any of the kids here yet? Bet there’s loads who’ll be your friend.”
Harmonia says, “Not really.” She looks a little shy about this.
Romney says, “I reckon there’s one or two more who might like to try their hand at archery.”
Lanisen says, “Aw, just wait for the next snowfall. They’ll be out in droves, and you’ll be all interesting ’cause you’re new and you’ve been places they never been. You’ll find yourself some friends.”
Harmonia nods at what Lanisen says. “O-kay.”
Romney addresses Lanisen. “So what brought you out here, if you work in the castle?? Family here?”
Lanisen says, “Nah, traveling with a friend. His betrothed lives out here.”
Romney says, “Oh. Well, that’s pleasant. Good you were able to take the time.”
Lanisen says, “Yeah, it’s been good. Weather’s been a bit iffy, but what can you do. Least we got here before the roads closed up for the winter.”
Harmonia says, “I gotta go for dinner now. Bye.”
Harmonia attempts a curtsy and nearly falls, righting herself and waving before heading inside, toy bow in hand.
Romney says, “Goodbye child.” He turns to Lanisen. “That does tend to put a damper on travel, yes.””
Lanisen grins, waving after her.
Harmonia grins and ducks inside.
Lanisen offers the man his hand. “Lanisen, by the by. Don’t think I caught your name.”
Romney looks after her. “Nice girl…hmm? Oh, Romney.” He clasps Lanisen’s forearm. “Good to meet you.”
Lanisen says, “Likewise.”
Romney releases his arm. “So the, uh, battle. You trying to shield her, or it just not something you like to talk about? I’d guess it was pretty rough going there.”
Lanisen says, “What? No, I just didn’t see most of it.”
Romney frowns. “How’s that?”
Lanisen says, “Um.” He turns red and shuffles a little, glancing around. “Uh. Arrows started flyin’ and I got hit right off, is all. So I missed everything after that.”
Romney’s mouth forms an “Oh.” He winces. “Sorry. That’s rotten luck. That’s what happened to the shoulder then.”
Lanisen says, “Yeah. It’s rubbish ’cause I’d been workin’ on my archery, right, and there’s a chance to use it, and before I can even get my arrow properly sighted I’m down.”
Romney asks, “Ugh. Didn’t manage to take any of them down then?”
Lanisen says, “Not even one.”
Romney grimaces, shaking his head.
Lanisen says, “Anyway. That’s why I missed most of what went down.”
Romney stares at the sky. “Yeah, I guess that would do it. Wish I’d been there. Rotten business.”
Lanisen says, “Well. It’s over now, anyway.”
Romney says, “Right. All wrapped up. Well, suppose I’d better be getting back to the inn for the night. Pleased to know you Lanisen.”
Lanisen says, “Yeah. You too. Hey, you wouldn’t happen to know Eston the thatcher, would you?”
Romney frowns, pursing his lips. “No, don’t think I do. You’ve got business with him?”
Lanisen says, “Not really, just want to check in. He’s a friend.”
Romney says, “Well, that’s good of you. I’m sure someone in town knows where he lives.” He offers a small wave. “Suppose I’ll see you around.”
Lanisen lifts a hand to return the wave. “Evening.”
Romney heads off.