until lambs become lions

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 can be seen leaving the square at a walk, leading a big gray gelding down the path out of town.

Loc is entering town with a piece of paper. He pauses as he sees Lanisen and gives a wave, “Hey.”

Lanisen glances up from the road in front of his feet. “Oh,” he says, and grins faintly. “Hey.”

Loc slows as he approaches, keeping a little distance and looking from Lanisen to the horse. “Didn’t know you had a horse.”

Lanisen reaches up to the gelding’s neck and strokes it companionably. “He’s not exactly mine,” he says. “I just ride him.”

Loc says, “Ain’t that as good as yours?”

Lanisen says, “Um. I don’t think so.”

Loc asks, “She Sir Colin’s then?”

Lanisen grumbles, “/He/, thanks plenty. And no, he’s not, he’s the castle’s.”

Loc looks at the horse again, “He? Oh.” He says, “He’s… um… pretty. I guess.”

Lanisen says, scritching the horse’s forelock affectionately, “Aye, and he knows it too, ruddy vain rascal.”

Loc hehs and gives a faint grin, “Well, humility and good looks rarely go hand in hand. And can ya blame ’em for it?”

Lanisen says, “Surely can’t.” He looks at Loc, tilting his head a bit at the piece of paper. “What’re you up to?”

Loc says, “Was going ta run an errand. Some of the jewelers wanted higher grade monocle’s.”

Lanisen says, “Oh. Huh.”

Loc says, “Once you get more experienced you can use more complicated ones.”

Lanisen says, “Makes sense, I guess.”

Loc nods. He looks at the horse, Isfar’s, and then Lanisen. “You leavin’?”

Lanisen asks, “Huh? No, just walkin’ a bit.”

Loc ahs. He pauses, then asks, “Can I join you?” He adds hastily, “After…” He motions to the smithy.

Lanisen says, “Hmm? Sure, if you want. I’m not goin’ anyplace in particular.”

Loc says, “All right.” He dashes off to Isfar’s and returns a few minutes later.

Lanisen stands patiently, letting the gelding browse at the new green grass while they wait.

Loc takes swift strides to rejoin Lanisen. “All right. Orders delivered.”

Lanisen says, “Good, good.” He clicks his tongue at the horse and nods toward the road south out of town.

Loc falls into step beside Lanisen, keeping pace.

Northern Trail
Western Archenland

The forest here is surprisingly open and park like. The ground is dry and
rises slightly to the south. The trail winds in and out among the trees.
Light shoots down in between the leaves of the tree canopies above and gives
the forest a cool peaceful feel. To the west the mountains rise up forming a
forbidding boundary to the western wilds and to the north the trail winds
into the trees. The trail continues to the south and north.

Lanisen leads them down the trail into the woods outside of town at a lazy, meandering pace.

Loc follows at a leisurely pace. He’s rather quiet and takes in the sights.

Lanisen seems content to walk in companionable silence. Besides the birds singing for evening and the occasional rustle in the underbrush, only the muted sounds of their footsteps break the silence.

Loc pauses every so often to watch the wildlife–the squirrels racing through the branches, the butterflys wafting along, the occasional rabbit. He finally asks, “Was it always like this?”

Lanisen mmms confirmation. “Get away from the town a little bit, yeah.”

Loc says, “It’s nice.”

Lanisen agrees, “Reckon so.”

Loc asks, “When you grew up here, did you live in town or more in the woods?”

Lanisen says, “Neither. My dad farmed sheep, we lived a ways south of town.”

Loc ahs and falls quiet again. “You ever take ta exploring the woods–when you were a kid I mean?”

Lanisen says, “Oh yeah. Every chance I got.”

Loc says, “I think that’s my favorite part a bein’ here. Getti’ ta be in the woods when I can. There’s always a new place to see or a path to follow.”

Lanisen says, “It’s pretty country, for sure. Was a good place to grow up.” He glances around, distantly regretful.

Loc pauses, then asks very hesitantly, “So… why’d ya leave?”

Lanisen says, “Oh.” He shrugs uncomfortably. “I was a kid. You know how it is.”

Loc gives Lanisen an odd look, “Um… I guess?”
Loc asks, “I can’t exactly imagine Myrd ever bein’… /nice/. And guys like Zan always gave me the creeps.”

Lanisen grimaces a little. “No, I didn’t meet them ’til I’d been on my own a good while.”

Loc asks, “So you ran away from home and wound up fallin’ in with them?”

Lanisen says, “Yeah. More or less. I started pickin’ pockets to get by that first winter, you know, and then one night I picked the wrong pocket.”

Loc shudders and says quietly, “I think I get it.” He pauses, “Was it Myrd or Zan?”

Lanisen says, “Zan.” He pauses, his mouth twisting a little. “He wasn’t best pleased.”

Loc visibly shudders. “Lion’s mane Lanny… even I wouldn’t a tried something so stu–” He cough and says, “Yeah… I bet.” He pauses, then adds, “Then they just sorta… kept you?”

Lanisen says, “Myrd did. Think he was impressed that I got Zan’s wallet, figured I could be useful, maybe. Zan just–” But he stops there.

Loc pauses, then asks, almost with a growl, “What’d Zan do?”

Lanisen snorts. “Ruddy nearly took my ear off, before Myrd stopped him,” he says ruefully. “I didn’t touch anybody’s coinpurse for a good long while after that.”

Loc looks for a moment like he’s in a foul mood than shakes his head. “Yeah. I wouldn’t a either. I always wondered when we traveled together how I woke up in the mornin’.”

Lanisen says nothing more. He watches the ground as they walk along, looking distantly troubled.

Loc watches a rabbit hop by. He says idly, “You know… there were times I considered asking you to ditch that lot, ‘specially when I started to get Jana wasn’t interested in leavin’. We’d had a fine time in Chesterton.”

Lanisen gives him a rather skeptical look, but only says, “I wouldn’t’ve gone.”

Loc says, “I didn’t think ya woulda.–Didn’t exactly present myself as someone to be trusted.” He pauses. “And I knew that if anyone tried to leave….” He grimaces.

Lanisen gives this a moment’s thought. “Yeah,” he says at last. “I dunno. It wasn’t that so much, but yeah, there was that.”

Loc says, “You know… when Myrd put in Andale for a while… I thought for sure he’d come back–or send Zan–after me.–I knew he hated me. Not /entirely/ sure on why, though I got some ideas.”

Lanisen says, “He figured you could get yourself killed or caught without his help, is why. Then he wouldn’t have to deal with Jana bein’ upset.”

Loc says with some annoyance, “I didn’t mean I wondered why he didn’t come after me.” He smirks, “Proved I was smarter than he thought tho. I /told/ him I could manage. Pfft. Clearly he didn’t think a Chesterton street rat knew stuff.”
Loc adds bitterly, “And it ain’t like Jana’d have cried much had he killed me outright.”

Lanisen says, “Can’t speak to that.”

Loc grunts, his jaw tightening a little. “I can.”

Loc mutters venoumously. “Hope she’s happy. Hope they’re /both/ happy.”

Lanisen says nothing for a moment. “I heard they’re free. Both of ’em. Just livin’, nobody watchin’ ’em.”

Loc looks sullen again. He say bitterly, “Yep. Have a kid too.”

Lanisen says, “I knew that. Knew it ages ago, Lord Dar told me. I didn’t know they were free.”

Loc says, “Yeah… when Lord Tyren came back from that trip he told me.” He looks disgusted. “That’s Narnian justice fer ya I guess. And I’ll hate it till I die.”

Lanisen says, “It ain’t. It’s mercy. Justice is we all swing.”

Loc says, “Point.” He says, “Still. /Free/.” He makes a face. “Don’t care if it makes me a hypocrite. I don’t like the idea of Myrd runnin’ ’round where he pleases.”

Lanisen is silent. He winds the gelding’s reins around his wrist, staring at nothing in particular down the trail. His face is haunted.

Loc looks at Lanisen and his expression softens a little. “Well. He’s got everything he wants now. And I heard if he shows his face anywhere here at least he’ll lose his freedom.–And even if he does risk it, you’ll probably have a two or three day warning.”

Lanisen says softly, “Wouldn’t count on that.” He shifts his posture, straightening a little as he walks, and adds, “But he ain’t come after me this far. I don’t reckon he ever will.”

Loc says, “I don’t think he’d go after you, ‘specially being a squire and all.” He pauses, then asks, “You… gonna train at all?”

Lanisen gives him a wry, bitter look.

Loc’s expression becomes determined. “You know… you still got yer other hand, genius.”
Loc says, “I’ve seen it done before.”

Lanisen asks, “You ever try it?”

Loc says, “A little. Still better with my right.”

Lanisen says, “I can’t barely manage a spoon full of soup in my other hand without makin’ a fool of myself.”

Loc grimaces and says, “Well. It ain’t easy. But I knew a man who did it. Just takes practice.–And hittin’ is a good deal easier than managin’ smaller utensils and stuff.”

Lanisen says, quellingly, “We’ll see.”

Loc backs off the subject, falling quiet.

Lanisen says, “Anyway, this hand might go back to normal.”

Loc asks, “You workin’ with it?”

Lanisen says, “Yeah.”

Loc nods, “Good.”

Lanisen shrugs.

Loc quietly searches for another subject. He finally asks, “So, what are sheep like?”

Lanisen gives him a startled, incredulous look, then scoffs. “Okay,” he says. “Chesterton street rat you might be, but you can’t tell me you ain’t ever been near sheep.”

Loc looks at Lanisen and makes a face, “Unless it was food or clothing I didn’t really go near them. And while I learned lot of the forest, I ain’t a farmer or herder.”
Loc asks, “Why do you think this is stuff I should just know?”

Lanisen says, “‘Cause it’s stuff everybody knows.” He pauses, then adds, “Sheep are smelly and stupid.”

Loc makes a face and tries not to sound too resentful, “Well /I/ don’t know it.”

Lanisen says, “Well. There you go, then.”

Loc asks, “Ok, smelly and stupid.” Suddenly makes a face. “/Oh/. I get it now…”

Lanisen eyes him.

Loc asks self consciously, “And lambs… they’re the little sheep right?”

Lanisen says, “…Yes. Lambs are little sheep.”

Loc grunts softly.
Loc hesitates, then asks, “And lambs… they’re used for food while the big sheep are used for the wool?”

Lanisen says, “Some of ’em.”

Loc asks, “So do they use a big sheep for chops and stuff too?”

Lanisen says, “Yes. That’s where mutton comes from.”

Loc ohs. “/That’s/. Ah.”

Lanisen gives him another incredulous look.

Loc shoots him an annoyed look. “/What/.”

Lanisen says, “Come on.”

Loc kicks a stone. “So I’m ignorant. I get it.”

Lanisen says, “I honestly can’t tell if you’re pullin’ my leg right now or not.”

Loc gives Lanisen a look.
Loc turns a little red.

Lanisen shakes his head. “/Lion/.”

Loc says defensively, “You want to talk about cows and leather–I know a bit a that. Or the worms that make silk, I can even manage a bit a that… but I learned a lot the hard way.–And how ta fake lookin’ smart.”

Lanisen’s eyes glint a bit and he takes a breath as if to say something, but he presses his lips together tightly and /doesn’t/.

Loc gives Lanisen a resentful look. “Go ahead and /say it/.”

Lanisen says, “Can’t do it.”

Loc says, “Go ahead. You ain’t the first. You ain’t gonna be the last.” He spits and says acidically, “Jana said it enough–and when she wasn’t sayin’ it I could read it in her look.”

Lanisen gives him a quick, startled look, his barely concealed amusement vanishing.

Loc kicks another rock and falls silent, looking at the ground. His mouth is a tight line but he keeps his face composed.

Lanisen watches him closely.

Loc looks at him and asks sourly, “What?”

Lanisen shakes his head, immediately looking away.

Loc sighs and looks out into the woods. He says bitterly, “I know. Amazin’ I lived this long, huh.”

Lanisen says, “Maybe we should head back.”

Loc looks at Lanisen a moment, opens his mouth and then closes it. He shrugs, “Sure.”

Lanisen turns the gelding. The horse’s bulk is between him and Loc, hiding his expression, and he says nothing as they resume walking back toward the town.

Loc keeps a little further from the horse, his pace lagging a little. He looks at his feet and watches the trail as they return.

Lanisen says after a moment, “Sorry.”

Loc asks quietly, “For what?”

Lanisen says, “For…” He shrugs, uncomfortable and uneasy. “I didn’t– I wouldn’t’ve made fun if…”

Loc gives a shrug, “Ain’t yer fault.”

Lanisen goes quiet again, not looking at Loc.

Loc keeps his eyes and head down. “I was told… it didn’t matter what I knew as long as I could present myself well. Learn ta talk a little things. Read faces. Read emotions. If you don’t got a clue, fake it. Smile and nod enough to carry a conversation. And don’t overstay your welcome. Get the goods and then go.”

Lanisen keeps the returning pace a little faster than the lazy stroll that brought them here.

Loc stops and says, “Why don’t you go ahead. I think I’d… I’ll just…” He shrugs and turns heading back toward the woods without another word, keeping his pace casual.

Lanisen halts as Loc breaks off, watching him go. Once he’s out of sight, Lanisen glances around the darkening woods and leads the gelding on, limping quickly down the path toward town.

Carmichael Village Square
Western Archenland

Lanisen leads his gelding through the darkening square at a rapid pace, his limp distinct in the gloaming.

Cassandra walks out of the tavern, waving goodbye to someone inside. She clutches her cloak about her, bent on making her way home quickly.

Lanisen heads straight for the inn’s stable.

Cassandra sees Lanisen head towards the stable. She follows him inside.

Lanisen leads the gelding back to his stall, removing the bridle clumsily. He is breathing quickly, probably from walking so fast

Cassandra follows him quietly. She watches him, concern on her face. “Lanny?”

Lanisen jumps, turning toward the door, holding the bridle in both hands. “Cass,” he says, and lets out a breath.

Cassandra takes a step forward. “What’s wrong?” There is a subdued manner about her.

Lanisen says, “Nothin’, I’m fine, it’s fine. I’m…” He rubs a hand over his face. “I’m not gonna be very good company right now, I’m sorry.”

Cassandra sounds downright worried now. “Lanny? what’s wrong?” She moves closer to him.

Lanisen shakes his head quickly, slipping into the stall with Maestro to gain some space and composure. “It’s not, it’s fine, I promise.”

Cassandra follows him into the stall.

Lanisen won’t look at her. “Cass, please,” he says to the gelding’s back. “I just need a minute. Please.”

Cassandra looks like she is about to argue but silently turns on her heel. She exits the stall, shuts the door, and disappears from the line of sight. There is a loud thunk as she slides down the door of the stall.

Lanisen lets out a breath. “Thanks,” he says quietly after a pause. He doesn’t emerge for a little while, during which the sounds of the gelding being brushed down can be heard. When he does, he looks more settled. He shuts the stall door, gives the gelding a last pat on the neck, and at last turns to face Cassandra.

Cassandra’s hood is pulled over her head and she is oddly quiet. Her feet are crossed over the ankles, with one of them moving up and down.

Lanisen says, “I’m sorry.”

Cassandra shrugs her shoulder, still not pulling the hood off her head. Her arms are crossed as well.

Lanisen crosses one arm across his stomach, regarding her anxiously. “Are you… You okay, Cass?”

The foot stops briefly before moving again. “I’m fine.”

Lanisen hesitates. He carefully lowers himself to sit next to her against the door of Maestro’s stall. “What’s goin’ on?”

Cassandra shrugs again, “Just processing, I guess.”

Lanisen asks, “Processing what?”

Another pause of the foot, “I talked to Loc last night.”

Lanisen frowns, narrowing one eye as he reassesses. “Yeah?” he asks.

Cassandra takes another minute, “He told me some of the details of your…gang. So I’m processing.”

Lanisen takes a breath at this, his chin raising a little with comprehension. “What did he tell you?” he asks neutrally.

Cassandra replies neutrally as well, “About the grocer, the kidnapping and…cutting off the nose of the painter, the dwarfs, and how Morri killed someone with her bare hands.” She looks down at her hands, “And how the gang treated each other.”

Lanisen closes his eyes briefly. When he opens them, his jaw clenches tight for just a second. “I see,” he says quietly. “What else?”

Cassandra says, “That is all I stayed for. He…made me mad and I…walked away.” She does sound a bit proud of hereslf.”

Lanisen says, “Good. Well done.” He takes a deep breath and looks at her. “Are you okay?”

Cassandra nods once, finally pulling the hood down from her head.

Lanisen asks, “What are you thinkin’?”

Cassandra shakes her head, “I’m just trying to process it all. I didn’t know all the details.” She looks up at him quick, “I’m not mad at you, you know that right?”

Lanisen blinks a little, like the thought hadn’t crossed his mind. “Oh. No, I just…” He rubs a hand over his face and shakes his head. “I wish… that’s not, it’s not stuff I would’ve wanted you to hear, I’m… /lion/.”

Cassandra sniffs, “I knew what I was getting into. I’m old enough to handle the truth. I’m not a little girl anymore, you know.”

Lanisen’s jaw clenches again, and he looks down.

Cassandra for once doesn’t look defiant, “I’m sorry.”

Lanisen is quiet for another minute, struggling. “Is there anything you’re wantin’ to talk about?” he asks at last.

Cassandra blinks, slipping her hand on his arm, “No, I…I don’t want to know anymore. It is in the past and that is where it will stay.”

Lanisen nods slowly, giving her a careful look. “All right,” he says at last. “Good.”

Cassandra turns to him, looking him in the eye. “So now, what is wrong?”

Lanisen shifts, his eyes flickering to hers and quickly away. “I…” he says reluctantly. “I made Loc mad, and it gave me a turn. That’s all.”

Cassandra’s eyes narrow considerably, “What happened?”

Lanisen says, “Um.” He frowns and shakes his head. “It was– we were talkin’ about somethin’ stupid, it was sheep. He asked if the little ones were called lambs and I was laughin’ at him, ’cause, lion’s mane, what rock has he been livin’ under, only he got… really mad, and I didn’t realize. I didn’t mean to make him mad, I didn’t even think he was serious, really.”

Cassandra stiffens, “I see.”

Lanisen looks at her and says quickly, “He didn’t do anything.”

Cassandra begins to shake angrily, “Yet.” She pulls away from her brother, wringing her hands as she looks off against a wall.

Lanisen pulls a quick breath. “Cass, listen. Stop. He didn’t do anything, okay? He didn’t– okay.” He closes his eyes for a second and tries a new angle. “You said– in the tavern, a couple weeks ago, you said I was scared, remember that? This is, it’s, that’s one of the things that scares me, people bein’ mad, especially people like… like Loc, you understand? It’s not Loc’s fault, he don’t even /know/, prob’ly, and it’s okay for him to be mad. I just needed some time. It’s all right, it’s all okay. I /promise/.”

Cassandra looks back at him, “It would’t be the first time though. That he hurt you.”

Lanisen goes silent and shocked, staring at her.

Cassandra looks away from him, “If…he hurts…I’ll.” She shakes her head, jaw clenched, “I’ll kill him.”

Lanisen is at a loss for a moment, floundering for words. “Okay,” he says again in a lower voice. “I don’t… know how you heard about that, but it’s over, it’s in the past. I’m not afraid of him hurting me. We’re… we’re friends, most of the time. But I need you to promise me… don’t, even if… /don’t/ go after Loc, all right? If there’s somethin’… if somethin’ goes wrong, or if somethin’ needs done, go to Sir Colin. All right?”

Cassandra blinks at him, “I don’t need a knight in shining armor to come to my rescue, Lanny. I can take care of myself and my family.”

Lanisen says, in a sharper tone that he normally uses with her, “Cass, this ain’t about how capable you are. /Promise/ me.”

Cassandra flinches a bit at the tone but says nothing.

Lanisen says, deliberately softening his tone, “/Please/, Cass.”

Cassandra sighs, “Fine.” She takes a breath, “I promise that if I need help or things get out of control, I will seek out Sir Colin.”

Lanisen narrows his eyes at potential loopholes. “If you think something’s going on with anybody, not just Loc, don’t go after them yourself. At least not unless you’ve learned to fight properly first. Promise?”

Cassandra nods, “Of course, Why do you think-” She cuts off, “Fine, I’ll only fight them if there is no one else.”

Lanisen looks suspicious, but he sighs and looks away. “Good enough, I s’pose.”

Cassandra stands to her feet, dusting her dress. “I probably should get home.”

Lanisen says, “All right.” He rolls to his feet and stands with an effort. “Walk you back?”

Cassandra helps him up as best as she is able, “Lanny, do we need to get that arm looked at?”

Lanisen says brusquely, “It’s been looked at.”

Cassandra makes a show of looking at it, “Sure has.”

Lanisen shrugs.

Cassandra snorts but actually keeps quiet for once in her life.

Lanisen offers her his arm.

Cassandra takes his arm and walks back with him, resting her head on his arm slightly.

Fischer’s Tavern

Lanisen sits at the counter of the nearly empty tavern, an untouched ale in front of him. He seems deep in thought.

Loc enters the tavern with a satchel that is nearly bursting at the seems. He calls out cheerfully, “Hey Fischer! I got–” His voice dies as he sees the person at the counter and he lingers near the door.

Lanisen glances up at the voice. He takes a small sip of ale and sets the tankard down, slipping off his stool, then crosses the room toward Loc. “A word?” he asks quietly, nodding to the door.

Loc looks a little uncertain and says slowly, “Yeah… sure…” He removes the satchel and gives it a heafty toss. “Hey Fischer if you don’t mind, uh, just use it to pay off my tap?” The satchel lands on the counter and the bar keep nods. Loc looks at Lanisen, looking a little uncomfortable and gestures. “Kay.”

Lanisen steps out the door, evidently expecting Loc to follow.

Carmichael Village Square
Western Archenland

Loc lingers by the door for a moment before quietly following Lanisen outside. He hangs a few steps back and keeps his gaze low.

Lanisen waits for him to join him, his expression neutral. “Well?”

Loc gives Lanisen a stange look, looking uncomfortable. He doesn’t quite meet Lanisen’s gaze. “Well what?”

Lanisen lets out a short breath through his nose, and his face twists very briefly with contempt and fury. With no more warning than that, he draws back his fist and aims a punch directly at Loc’s jaw.
>>> Lanisen swings his fist at Loc, grazing him. Loc doesn’t appear to be too hurt by the blow.

Loc blinks and stumbles back, more from the shock than the actual hit. He rubs his jaw and stays back, looking at Lanisen, “That’s not bad actually… it’ll leave a mark tomorrow.”

Lanisen nearly snarls. He lunges forward, catching Loc’s collar in both his hands, shoving him back toward the tavern wall. “What is /wrong/ with you??”

Loc tenses and blinks, caught off guard. He keeps his hands down and doesn’t move. “Um. Do you want the short list or the long?”

Lanisen pushes him back against the wall as hard as he possibly can and slugs him again. “SHE IS SEVENTEEN YEARS OLD,” he roars.
>>> Lanisen smacks Loc with his fist! Loc doesn’t appear to be too hurt by the blow.

Loc puts his hands up in defense and manages to catch most of the blow. At the ‘she’ Loc blinks and a look of realization crosses his face. He keeps his hands up in front of him and says, “I ain’t touched her!”
Loc says, “And I’m bein’ polite.”

Lanisen curses at him, lengthily and eloquently, using the best and the worst of the vocabulary gleaned from years with Myrd and Zan. “She’s a ruddy KID, you Tash-forsaken /scum/ball!” he shouts once he’s run out of other insults. “What in /flames/ were you thinking? Give her all the nightmare fodder at once? Maybe make her feel sorry for you a bit? Lion, you’re /disgusting/!”

Loc listens quietly, looking at his feet. He says with some bitterness, “Oh, she don’t feel sorry for me Lanny. I made sure a /that/.”

Lanisen says, “Oh, you’re tryin’ to make this about /you/ now?”

Loc says, “No. But you said–nevermind.” He rubs his jaw. “So. She told you ’bout the talk we had at the Pool. Bet she also told you I was teachin’ her how to fight.”

Lanisen laughs, voicelessly and mirthlessly. “You stay away from my sister.”

Loc says evenly, “No problem. But how about you tell her to keep away from me then.”

Lanisen hits him again.
>>> Lanisen smacks Loc hard with his fist! Loc is bruised!

Loc’s head bounces against the wall and he yelps a bit, putting covering the eye. He winces.

Lanisen is breathing hard, his eyes sparking dangerously. He shakes out his hand. “We understand each other yet?”

Loc rubs his eye, which is already starting to swell. He grimaces. “I think so.”

Lanisen says, “Good.”

Loc remains against the wall of the tavern, nursing his jaw and eye. His body is tense and he avoids looking at Lanisen.

Lanisen warns him, “I’m happy to revisit this conversation any time your memory slips.”

Loc says evenly, “Noted.”

Lanisen finally steps away. He takes a few deep breaths and straightens his clothes, then walks away without another word.

Loc watches Lanisen depart, and then turns back toward the settlement.


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