breaking eggs


Carmichael Village Square
Western Archenland


You stand in the center of a quaint little country village, nestled in the foothills of the Western Mountains. There are a few shops surrounding the square, including Isfar’s blacksmith shop to the east, which is ringing with the sound of iron-on-iron. To the southwest is a small tavern, which smells of good home-cooked food. There is a traveller’s shelter to the northwest with a sign over the door that reads “Carmichael Lodge”. There is also a shop to the northeast, and two others, to the southeast and to the west, respectively. In the midst of the square stands a a stone well.

The main road heads south toward the settlement, a collection of humble, neatly-kept homes to the southwest of the main town.


Lanisen passes through the square in the early morning, dusty from tending the horses, and heads toward the well to wash up.

Loc plods, mostly awake, down the path into the Square. He rubs his eyes, moving toward the tavern at a snail’s pace.

Lanisen splashes water over his face and arms and flings off the excess, watching Loc. When he is near enough, he calls, “Mornin’.”

Loc pauses and looks toward the sound of the voice. He gives a small wave. “Hey!” Although the tone is up beat he still sounds vaguely groggy.

Lanisen dries his hands on his shirt and heads toward Loc. “You look chipper.”

Loc chuckles softly and grins, “Yeah. You know me. Always the early bird. S’why I always slept in and got yelled at by someone or another.”

Lanisen gives him an assessing look. “I don’t remember that. On account of I was still sleepin’, most likely.”

Loc snickers a little. “Yeah. I’m surprised we weren’t just left sometimes.”

Lanisen says, “Always knew sleepin’ in was a better idea.”

Loc says, “Yeah. I am not a fan of this early morning business stuff.”

Lanisen asks, “How come’re you up so early today?”

Loc grunts, “Forgot it wasn’t a work day.”
Loc says, “And then I couldn’t get back to sleep.”

Lanisen ahhs.

Loc says, “It’s worse than being late.” He makes a face.

Lanisen says, “I hear that.”

Loc asks, “What are you doing up so early?”

Lanisen says, “Oh.” He shrugs uncomfortably. “Woke up, couldn’t get back to sleep. So I went and looked in on the horses. And…” He glances around wryly. “Turns out it’s /still/ early.”

Loc laughs and shakes his head. “Yeah. Time passes more slowly when you want it to go faster.”

Lanisen says, “Mmhmm.”

Loc says, “Least there’s time for a nap later.”

Lanisen makes a face. “Every time I take a nap I can’t sleep at night.”

Loc says, “Sometimes it’s that way for me, sometimes not. Depends on the world load and how tired I am…. ‘sides, sometimes it’s nice to enjoy the night a little.”

Lanisen makes a noncommittal noise. “You on your way to breakfast?”

Loc nods, “Yeah. I figured that since I couldn’t sleep I might as well start the day.”

Lanisen says, “Well, I won’t keep you.”

Loc asks, “You hungry?”

Lanisen gives this due consideration. “I could eat,” he decides.

Loc grins, “My treat.”

Lanisen says, “Wh–oh, no, there’s no need. Thanks, though.”

Loc says, “All right.” He starts to head toward the tavern. “Ever had a breakfast there?”

Lanisen pauses, frowning doubtfully at the tavern. “Do they even– I didn’t realize Fischer opened his doors so early.”

Loc says, “Well, not to most. But he knows some of the miners are early or late goes–depending on how you look at it. So if he knows you he’s willing to make an acception.–I talked to him about it after my fifth failure at trying to make an egg.”

Lanisen blinks at him. “Okay,” he says, “How do you mess up an egg?”

Loc asks as he moves to the tavern, “/You/ ever try cooking an egg?”

Lanisen says, “Yes? Come on, I’m not entirely helpless!”

Loc looks surprised, “I didn’t know you could cook.” He stops.

Lanisen says, “It ain’t /cooking/, it’s puttin’ an egg in hot water.”

Loc says, “You mean to make it hard boiled?”

Lanisen says, “…Or soft boiled. Either way it’s edible.”

Loc nods. “Yeah–I learned that trick later. I mean once you crack it and put it in a pan. You can scramble it, fry it, put it over easy. Usually when I tried it it burned or was too gooey.” He made a face. “It’s why I got lessons.” He goes to the door and raps three times. The door opens and he gestures in.

Lanisen follows him in.


Fischer’s Tavern
Carmichael


The tavern is completely empty and quiet. However, there is one person there, preparing for the day.

Loc calls out, “Hey Fischer! Top of the morning to ya!” He is considerably more awake than before, the air and sun working their magic.

Lanisen trails along behind Loc with the unmistakable look of somebody who isn’t at all sure that he’s meant to be here.

Cassandra spins around, glaring at the chipper voice, “Keep it down, why don’t you? It needs to be illegal to be up this early.” She stops as she sees exactly who walked through the door.

Loc halts, blinking several times.
Loc musters flatly, “You ain’t Fischer.”

Cassandra places her hands on her hip, “Nothing gets past you, does it?”

Lanisen clears his throat awkwardly. “Morning, Cass.”

Loc eyes her warily, “You can cook? You look a little young to know what Fischer does about food and drink.”

Cassandra nods to Lanisen, giving him a smile, “Morning, Lanny.” The smile disappears as Loc speaks, “I’m old enough.”

Lanisen gives Loc a look, half surprised and half indignant.

Loc looks at Lanisen and asks dryly, “Would you rather me make the snide remark that good because she’s a woman and it’s her duty to know how to cook.” He makes a face. “Just sayin’. Didn’t think /she’d/ be here this morning.”

Cassandra snorts, muttering something under her breath. She goes behind the counter, “What do you both want for breakfast?”
Cassandra mumbles something incomprehensible to Cassandra.

Lanisen’s mouth opens. He lets out a disbelieving scoff and swats Loc up the back of the head, hissing out furious words.
Lanisen mumbles “That’s my /sister/. Can you not??”, to Loc.
Lanisen mumbles “… my /sister/. Can … …”, to Loc.

Loc flinches a bit, more from its suddenness than any pain. He gives Lanisen a look volleying between scolded puppy and mifted. He mutters something back, now in a sullen mood.
Loc mumbles “I /know/ who she is. And I’m polite.–Mostly.”, to Lanisen.
Loc mumbles “… /know/ who … … … … polite.–Mostly.”, to Lanisen.

Cassandra blinks at the actions of men in front of her. She covers her mouth but her eyes are laughing. She happens to place an hand on a frying pan.

Lanisen mutters, “Yeah, well, watch your mouth.” He leaves Loc behind and crosses to the counter, half-grinning at Cassandra. “Are there any walnut muffins?” he asks hopefully.

Loc snorts, “Well I learned that cooking should be a skill everyone has. Just /sayin’/. And she /is/ young. Probably as young as you were when we met.” He misses the part about breakfast.

Cassandra nods to Lanisen. She disappears into the back, before returning to the counter. “I made it myself.” She shoots another glare to Loc, “Though I don’t know if you want to eat it seeing how I’m too young to cook.”

Lanisen gives Loc another look.
Lanisen mumbles “I’m serious. Put a cork in it.”, to Loc.
Lanisen mumbles “… serious. Put … … in it.”, to Loc.

Loc makes a face at Lanisen, sounding a tad exasperated, “/What/?”

Cassandra places a hand on Lanisen’s arm, muttering to him.
Cassandra mumbles “I can handle myself. Don’t worry.”, to Lanisen.
Cassandra mumbles “I … handle myself. Don’t …”, to Lanisen.

Lanisen gives her an unhappy look, but subsides. He breaks off a piece of his muffin and begins to eat, murmuring his thanks.

Loc takes a seat on stood at the bar, looking sullen.

Cassandra turns to the sullen man, “So, what will you be having?”

Loc asks, “What’s around?”

Cassandra leans against the counter, “Tables, chairs, a fire place.”

Loc rolls his eyes and rests an elbow on the counter, using it to prop his chin. He drawls, “I can see that. And while it looks appetizing, I meant something of the breakfast persuasion.”

Cassandra snorts, “Well, we have muffins, eggs, bread. Whatever suits your fancy.”

Loc says, “S’long as your muffians are better than the fare in Lancelyn Green… or was that Fischer’s… can’t ever remember. How about eggs and bread. With a cold cider.”

Cassandra nods, “Coming up.” She disappears into the kitchen.

Lanisen keeps an eye on them both, eating in silence. He gives Loc another disapproving look.

Loc shoots Lanisen a look. “/What./ Am I not allowed to place an order?” Something occurs, “OH! Wait… that guy at the Narrow Gate. /HE’S/ the one with the bad muffians!”

Lanisen rolls his eyes and looks away.

Cassandra comes back out, carrying a plate of eggs and bread. She sets it down in front of him. She then pours the cider in a mug and also places it in front of him. She stands there with her hands on her hips, “Well? That meet your standards?” Her tone is very sarcastic.

Loc makes a face at Lanisen and then looks at the food. He looks it over, the wheels in his mind clearly turning. With another look at Lanisen, there is a definite look that something has been decided against and he samples the food. There is a faint crunch from the eggs but he keeps a straight face. “You make the bread yourself?”

Lanisen keeps quiet, focused on his breakfast.

Cassandra begins to clean the counter, “It took me all year.”

Loc rolls his eyes, “A simple yes would suffice.” He chokes down some more crunchy eggs, keeping a straight laced exterior the entire time, although it’s now clear they are crunchier than they should be.

Lanisen is near enough to hear the crunch, and he presses his lips together very tightly. He darts a glance at Cassandra.

Cassandra keeps her back to the men, though the slightly shuddering of her shoulders might indicate giggling.

Loc eyes Lanisen and asks, “Why the sour face?” He adds something else in a lower tone.
Loc mumbles “You ain’t even had the eggs.”, to Lanisen.
Loc mumbles “… … even … … eggs.”, to Lanisen.

Lanisen’s face is very red and his eyes are sparkling. “S-sour?” he manages. “Oh… you know. Mornings.” He quickly flattens his mouth to try to keep the suspicious twitching to a minimum and ducks his head.

Cassandra turns back to the men, giving both of them a glare.

Lanisen coughs.

Loc looks between the glaring girl and her brother. He chokes down the rest of the eggs quickly and manages, somewhat difficultly, “They’re… great.” He takes a long swig of the cider, ripping the cup back as he launches into a coughing fit from it going down the wrong way.

Cassandra bursts out laughing and does so for a very long time.

Lanisen manages to keep a straight face for about three seconds longer than his sister, then he’s all but howling as well.

Loc gives Lanisen a dark scowl before he starts coughing again. He hits his chest a few times, sucking in air and getting it together. He says dryly, “I’m so glad you can enjoy my suffering.”
Loc makes a face and mumbles something.
Loc mumbles “That whole thing about cooking eggs–they ain’t supposed ta be crunchy. But I’ll spare her that as she’s your sister.”, to Lanisen.
Loc mumbles “… … thing … cooking eggs–they … supposed … be crunchy. … … spare her … … she’s … sister.”, to Lanisen.

Lanisen looks straight ahead, /delighted/ but straight-faced. For a second. “Lion’s mane,” he says calmly, then folds over onto the counter, shaking with great gales of helpless laughter.

Cassandra frowns at them as the door opens. A tall woman comes in, her face looking worn. She pauses as she sees the three before saying a bit sharply, “Cassandra. Please come here.”

Loc rolls his eyes and takes a tenative drink. “Yeah yeah. Laugh it up.”

Lanisen stops laughing immediately as the woman’s voice registers. He sits up, back straight, pulling into himself and staring down at the remains of his muffin. He does not look around at her.

Loc turns to look at the woman at the door. He observes Lanisen from the corner of his eye.

Cassandra’s amusement also goes away. She turns slowly, looking at the woman with her head tipped. “Mum, what are you doing here?” She glances at her brother a bit worried before moving closer to the woman.

Brena casts a look at her son but her focus is on her daughter, “I need you to pick up a few things from the market when you get off work. Also I will need you to cook as well, I’m working late.” She places a list on the counter, “Your father will need to be fed by sunset or he gets grumpy.” There is slight disdain in the woman’s voice.

Loc observes the interaction coolly. He sips his ale.

Lanisen stays quiet, listening closely. He shifts, then with a deliberate effort he turns his head to look toward his mother.

Cassandra grabs the list off the counter. There is suppressed anger in her voice, “Yeah, sure. I’ll take care of it.” Brena mets her son’s eyes, giving him a look. “Thank you.” She turns and exits the tavern.

Loc scowls after the woman.

Lanisen turns quickly back to face the counter, his head down. He swallows.

Cassandra crumbles up the note, tossing in the trash. She begins to bang the pots and pans and looks perfectly angry.

Loc looks between the two, giving Lanisen a sympathetic look. He asks delicately, “You gonna get in trouble for not mindin’ that note?”

Cassandra whirls around, glaring at Loc. “Why does it matter to you?”

Lanisen pushes his plate away, though the muffin is only about half gone. He puts a few copper coins on the top of the counter and slides off the stool. “Thanks for breakfast, Cass,” he says, subdued, and heads for the door.

Loc looks after Lanisen, alarmed, and turns back to Cass. “I’m a lot of unpleasant things, sweetheart, but I’m loyal. And I don’t like seein’ people I care how hurt.” He gets up and heads after Lanisen. He throws a few coins over his shoulder. They clatter on the bar.

Cassandra blinks at Loc’s words. She wordlessly collects the coins. But as soon as the men leaves, the girl throws a plate against the wall as the tears begin to fall.


Carmichael Woodlands
Western Archenland


You find yourself on a small wooded path running northward through a thin vein of woodlands. The trees here are tall, their crowns thick enough that only the occasional dappled patch of sunlight makes its way to the forest floor here. Nonetheless, the stretch of woods here is not terribly deep, interrupted to the north by the major road leading around to Carmichael proper. From here you can just make out both forest edges, but the underbrush to the north still affords a sense of wilderness here.

There is a fallen log by the wayside of the path, and a still smaller path veers off to the west toward a stream in the distance. To the south, the path leaves the woods for the garden.


Cassandra keeps up with the man. If she is tired from walking, she sure doesn’t show it. “Loc, /are/ you sure we are going the right way? If you get me lost in the woods, I’m…I’m going to punch you so hard.”

Loc smirks and says, “Yeah–like last time? Cuz that really left a mark.” He rolls his eyes and can’t help smirking. “Told ya. I know what I’m doin’. You gotta trust me. Tracking was an essential skill for me growing up.”

Cassandra whirls on him, glaring at him. “Maybe I was just going easy on ya.”

Lanisen sits alone against the bole of a tree blocking the view from the path, peeling an apple. His forehead is knit with more concentration than the simple task ought to take, and his right hand seems stiff and clumsy. He raises his head at the voices and lets out a small, tired breath before silently shifting his legs to where they’re less likely to be seen from the path.

Loc pauses, reevaluating the path. He smirks. “Hm mm. Sure. Look Cass, I been hit by a lotta girls. I know the difference between holding back and throwing a weak punch.”

Cassandra is kinda focused on Loc and doesn’t see Lanisen. She whirls around, throwing a punch without warning.
>>> Cassandra smacks Loc with her fist! Loc doesn’t appear to be too hurt by the blow.

Lanisen stiffens at the sound. He carefully hauls himself up to his feet, still keeping out of sight, and listens.

Loc seems hot on the trial when he’s blond sided by the punch. He sprawls but is back on his feet in a minute and in her face. For a moment, ther’s a rather dark expression on his face and his body is rigid and tight. He closes his eyes and draws in even breaths. He shudders a little and he opens his eyes, which are livid. He backs off and grabs a branch, snapping it. “Cass. I warned you. /Don’t/. /Do/. /That/. If I ain’t payin’ attention.” He continues breaking the stick and drawing in breaths slowly, finally disgarding the bits of wood. After the exercise he seems more at ease.

Cassandra takes a step back, looking a bit unsure now. She glances around the woods, biting her lip quickly.

Lanisen is every bit as tense as Loc, listening carefully. He jumps at the first snap of the branch and shifts silently to stand behind a thick juniper bush, where he can see what is happening without easily being seen.

Loc gazes at Cassandra, still looking displeased. “I ain’t ever hit a lady ‘cept in self defense.–And I don’t intend to start. That’s the difference tween guys like me and…” He trails off and spits, his expression sour. He does manage however, to refrain from vulgarities.

Cassandra doesn’t look at him, clutching her cloak around her. “Let’s just focus on finding Lanny.” She does keep an arm’s length away from the man.

Lanisen grimaces. He stands unhappily for a moment, then steps from his hiding place with reluctance. “I’m here.”

Loc keeps his distance from Cassandra and relief floods his features when he sees Lanisen. “Hey.” He says quietly.

Cassandra also looks relieved. She rush towards him, embracing him in a hug.

Loc hangs back, leaning on a tree. He watches the siblings quietly–and with interest.

Lanisen looks startled, but he loops his arm around Cassandra’s shoulders for a moment. “All right?”

Cassandra buries her face into his shoulder, “I’m so sorry.”

Lanisen pushes her back a little so he can see her face. “Hey, hey. What’s up?”

Loc keeps back, eyes scanning the area. He remains quiet.

Cassandra wipes her eyes, completely forgetting Loc is there. “It’s my fault. I should have never told our parents you were here or forced you to come to that dinner.”

Loc catches this and draws back a little further.

Lanisen says, “Oh.” He shifts uncomfortably and glances around. His eyes settle briefly on Loc as he withdraws, and just for a moment a rather cold and unfriendly look crosses his face before he refocuses on Cassandra. “No, it’s all right. They’d’ve… it wouldn’t have been fair to you to ask you not to…” He shakes his head. “Don’t worry about it, I mean.”

Cassandra leans her head against Lanisen, “Some sister you have, Lanisen.”

Lanisen hesitates, then lowers his voice. “Cass… ”

Cassandra pulls away from him. She leans against a tree, sliding down until she is in a sitting position. “What?”

Lanisen glances around the area, standing awkwardly. When he is satisfied that they are alone, he says in a rush, “Look, I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, but I heard all that just now and Cass you /have/ to be more careful!”

Cassandra jerks her head up, “Excuse me?”

Lanisen says, “You hit him, I heard you.”

Cassandra looks away, not meeting him in the eye. She mumbles, “He told me that I had a weak punch.”

Lanisen spreads his hands. “So?”

Cassandra turns away from him, “You don’t know what it is like.”

Lanisen lets out a disbelieving breath. “You forget who you’re talkin’ to? I knew him before he was /nice/.”

Cassandra looks back at him, glaring at him. “I wasn’t referring to Loc’s comments.”

Lanisen lets out another huff, pinching the bridge of his nose. “All right,” he says. “What, then.”

Cassandra balls her hands in her fist, “Loc is an idiotic man who is just the newest teaser. I have been dealing with this for years, Lanisen. We were the family that had the criminal. I was the daughter that needed to be the good girl but who always fell short. I never had any friends because people were afraid of me, afraid that their girls would be corrupted. Our folks never had care about that either so I had to defend myself.”

Lanisen’s face goes slack. He swallows a couple of times and turns away, breathing with some difficulty.

Cassandra also turns away from him, clutching her cloak tightly around her.

Lanisen takes a deep breath, then another, trying to steady himself before he turns back around. “I’m sorry,” he says in a low voice, not looking directly at her. “Cass, I’m so sorry.”

Cassandra still keeps her back to him, “I know but we can’t fix the past.” She sighs, “I just…the anger…I think I’m crazy.”

Lanisen is still horribly off-balance. He doesn’t seem to know what to say.

Cassandra starts to babble, indicating that she probably has never told anyone this better. “I just get so angry. A little thing can set me off. I don’t know why. It just happens. And than I lash out and get in trouble.” She finally looks up at Lanisen, “I hit Loc, a man who is a murderer in the middle of the Woods. He could of easily killed me and hid my body.”

Lanisen moistens his lips. He shakes his head helplessly. “Can’t you… walk away, next time?”

Cassandra looks at him, “Could you?”

Lanisen says, “We’re not much alike, Cass.”

Cassandra looks at her hands, “Sometimes, I wish we were.”
Cassandra says, “Be less trouble”

Lanisen says, “Don’t say that.”

Cassandra glances up at him, “Why?”

Lanisen says, “Look where it got me.”

Cassandra opens her mouth to speak but then closes it again.

Lanisen finds a tree near Cassandra to sit against. He leans back, closing his eyes for a second, then glances at her expectantly.

Cassandra doesn’t look at him. “I…we…we might have more things in common than you think.”

Lanisen asks, “Yeah?”

Cassandra eyes him before coming to sit down next to him. She remains quiet for a good awhile, “Yeah.” There is a slight movement of her hands.

Lanisen tilts his head, waiting for her to continue.

Cassandra coughs before pulling a money pouch out from behind her back.

Lanisen glances at it briefly, then back up to Cassandra.

Cassandra looks a bit sheepish as he hands it back to him.

Lanisen frowns and looks down at it. He stills, then checks his pockets.

Cassandra just looks at her hands.

Lanisen is silent for a moment. “Must’ve… dropped it on the trail, yeah? You saw it and picked it up?” There is an odd, strained quality to his voice, and the look he gives her is pleading.

Cassandra blinks a few times. She just shakes her head, “Yeah. That is what happened.” She turns away from him.

Lanisen’s hands tighten on the little coinpurse at this answer, and he closes his eyes. He is trembling.

Cassandra still doesn’t look at him. “You want to head back?”

Lanisen says, “How long.”

Cassandra looks back at him, “What?”

Lanisen gestures at the coinpurse.

Cassandra looks at him straight in the eye. “Soon after you were caught, mum lost some customers. We needed the money so I learned a new trade. Turns out, I finally found something I’m good at.”

Lanisen is struggling, and it shows in his clenched jaw and bright eyes. He won’t look directly at her. “Mum know?”

Cassandra sounds a bit sharp, “What do you think?”

Lanisen says, “How much.”

Cassandra shrugs, “Not a lot, small amounts here and there. Nothing to arise suspicions.” She pauses, “I only target the rich.”

Lanisen says, “Does anyone else know.”

Cassandra sounds sharp again, “Do you think I’m an idiot?”

Lanisen takes a deep, shuddering breath. “When was the last time.”

Cassandra rubs the back of her neck, “When you ran into me along the road.”

Lanisen takes a moment to place this. “You’re still…”

Cassandra nods once. Although she looks defiant, there is a slight uncertainty surrounding her.

Lanisen closes his eyes and shakes his head. “Why?” he asks, his voice breaking.

All defiance drops from her. She turns away from him, “Doesn’t matter.” She bites her lip, “I’m not the person you think I am, Lanisen.”

Lanisen says, “Please tell me why.”

Cassandra sighs, “Why? So you can think even more less of me than already?”

Lanisen says, pleading, “Because if I know why, maybe I can help you.”

Cassandra laughs dryly, “Stop trying to help. I don’t need help. I do it because it gives me a rush. It helps with the anger.”

Lanisen is silent.

Cassandra doesn’t met his eye, “You going to turn me in?”

Lanisen says, “I don’t know.”

Cassandra shudders a bit. “It’s your duty after all.”

Lanisen brings his hands up to the sides of his head, fisting them in his hair. “I don’t know, all right, I don’t–”

Cassandra whispers, for the first time sounding very apologetic, “I’m sorry…”

Lanisen says nothing for a moment. Then, in a colorless voice, “Promise me you’ll stop.”

Cassandra mumbles, “Yeah, I won’t anymore.”

Lanisen nods, staring unfocused at the ground in front of them. “Do you still have what you took the other night?”

Cassandra looks down at her hands, taking a deep breath. “Yes, you want me to return it?” Her defiance starts to show again.

Lanisen says, “Yes.”

Cassandra nods.

Lanisen says, “If you can’t march up to him and say, ‘Hi, this is yours, I took it,’ fine. You got it out of his pocket without him noticin’, you oughta be able to put it back.”

Cassandra looks up at him, shocked, fear creeping into her voice, “You want me to go up to him and tell him? I’ll be hanged for sure.”

Lanisen gives her a weary look.

Cassandra scrambles back, starting to tremble slightly.

Lanisen says, “Cass, nobody’s been hanged in this country for hundreds of years.”

Cassandra just ignores him, still looking at her hands.

Lanisen sighs. “You know how to plant somethin’ in somebody’s pocket without them noticing?”

Cassandra shakes her head, “I’ve never done that before.” She bites her lip, mumbling, “I suppose I could break back in and leave it.”

Lanisen looks at her quickly. “You been breakin’ in places too?”

Cassandra doesn’t answer that question but she does shift away from him.

Lanisen covers his face with both hands. When he drops them, he looks exhausted and far older. “All right,” he says quietly. “Go home. Write a list of everything you remember, folk you lifted from and how much, places you broke into and what you took, anything. If it’s stuff you still have, write that down too. Then come find me, and… we’ll… figure out what to do.”

Cassandra blinks at his assertiveness. She looks like she is going to argue but doesn’t. “Alright.”

Lanisen turns his head, looking at her directly for a long moment. “I’m glad you told me,” he says at last. “We’re gonna get this sorted out, all right? It’s gonna be okay.”

Cassandra doesn’t meet his look, “You don’t have to help. It is my problem. I don’t…want to get you in any more trouble.” Her voice goes hard, “Maybe I deserve the consequences.”

Lanisen is silent again for a little while. “Cass… I been where you’re at. You want to make this right. Trust me. Else it’ll just keep eatin’ at you. Let me help you. Please.”

Cassandra says quietly, “Okay…okay.” She takes a deep breath. “You can…you can help.” Her face twitches as she says ‘help’. She still doesn’t meet her brother’s eye.

Lanisen watches her.

Cassandra feels his eyes on her, “What?”

Lanisen hesitates. “Please don’t run.”

Cassandra finally looks up at him, “Where would I go?”
Cassandra says, “I have no one asides you.”

Lanisen relaxes. He nods, accepting this, and looks down.

Cassandra asks, “Do I still have you?”

Lanisen raises his head to look at her, startled by the question. “Oh, Cassie…” Without hesitating, he scoots over toward her, closing the distance between them, and opens his arms.

Cassandra hesitates before hugging him back. She sniffles.

Lanisen hugs her tightly. The tears that have been threatening to spill over for twenty minutes or so finally do as he closes his eyes. “I love you,” he tells her firmly. “I want to help. I don’t want you to make my mistakes. I’m still here, okay?”

Cassandra weeps into his shoulder, her voice is shaking, “Okay. I’ll…go make that list.” She whispers, “Thank you.”

Lanisen presses a kiss to the top of her head before he lets her go. “It’s gonna be okay,” he says again.

Cassandra doesn’t look quite convinced as she pulls away. She stands up, brushing her dress as she does.

Lanisen takes a deep breath and hauls himself up as well, wiping at his eyes.

Cassandra links her arm with his good arm. She remains quiet the rest of the way to the town.

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