stance and inquiry

Fischer’s Tavern

Colin sits at the counter, nursing an ale as he flips through a book.

Lanisen opens the door. He stands hesitantly in the doorway, watching the comings and goings from the kitchen for a moment, then crosses to join Colin at the counter.

Colin glances sidelong at him and pushes a piece of pie towards him.

Lanisen murmurs, “Thanks,” and digs in. He is watchful as he eats, keeping an eye on the door to the kitchen and the door to the square.

Colin comments casually, “So your sister’s fun.”

Lanisen says absently, “Yeah.” He takes another bite of pie before it really registers, and he swallows and looks at Colin questioningly.

Colin chuckles to himself and finishes off his ale, signaling for another one.

Lanisen frowns at him, mildly uneasy. “What did you do?”

Colin shrugs a little. “Just hid her frying pan so she wouldn’t wing Loc in the face with it is all.”

Lanisen blinks. He sits back from his pie a little. “Okay,” he says slowly. “I think you’d better tell me everything.”

Colin takes the fresh tankard and sips from it before answering. “Nothing too interesting. We were just talking and Loc came in and was being ornery and she about smacked him. Held her own pretty good.”

Lanisen asks, “Ornery how?”

Colin says, “Called her Sassafras.”
Colin says, “She didn’t like that.”

Lanisen looks annoyed. “What else?”

Colin adds, “Personally I think Sassy Cassie is more fitting but I don’t want my skull cracked.” He rubs the back of his neck. “That was pretty much it. He was talking with Fischer all secretively for a bit but after Cassie left, I did too.”

Lanisen tilts his head a little, waiting for Colin to continue.

Colin says, “I think that’s about all that was interesting. Harmonia was asking after you.”

Lanisen blinks a little. “Me?”

Colin nods. “Didn’t say why.”

Lanisen says, “Oh. Huh.” He looks down at his pie, scowling distantly.

Colin says, “I was watching him.”

Lanisen says, “Yeah, this time you were.”

Colin says, “Believe me, he’s not going to cross that boundary. Especially since we’re both on to him now. And you didn’t see the look in her eye when she was practically brandishing the frying pan.””

Lanisen says nothing for a moment. “I still don’t like it.”

Colin snorts into his ale. “Me either.”

Lanisen cuts another bite of pie, frowning. “D’you think,” he says suddenly, “When we go back to Anvard, I mean, can… could Cass come too?”

Colin is in the middle of a sip and he chokes on it, sputtering.

Lanisen gives him a startled look. “Sorry,” he mumbles, and looks back at his pie. “I know. I just figured I’d ask.”

Loc enters the tavern casually and pauses for a moment when he sees the men at the bar. He hesitates, then draws himself up a little. He goes to the bar and says, “An ale Fischer.” He bows to Colin and Lanisen.

Colin is coughing too hard to responding, holding up a hand to Lanisen as if to say “Wait a minute”.

Lanisen shifts to glance over his shoulder as the door opens. His face goes stony and he turns back to the bar, eying his pie.

Loc says evenly, “Sir Colin. Squire Lanisen.” He takes his ale from Fischer with a thank you and eyes the tables.

Lanisen’s shoulders go tense at the title.

Colin wheezes out a “Hello, Loc”.

Loc frowns a bit. “Ale go down the wrong way?”

Colin nods a little. “Yeah.

Loc grimaces sympathetically.

Lanisen keeps resolutely facing forward.

Colin clears his throat and seems to have recovered.

Loc takes a deep breath and says, “I know I’m the last person you want to talk to, and I’m sure there’s a dozen ways things could have been handled better… but I’ve left out some things–and learned a few today–and I think… I think we need to talk. Because the best way to muck things up is to keep quiet ‘cuz you think it’ll help things. And then it only gets worse.” He looks down at the ale. “And we need to stop pretendin’ things are okay. Because I know they ain’t.”

Loc says, “If you don’t want to talk to me Lanisen then fine. But I at least need to speak with you Sir.”

Colin looks mildly surprised and he glances at Lanisen.

Lanisen shrugs, apparently indifferent.

Colin turns to better face Loc. “Very well then. Here or…?”

Loc takes another deep breath and then stops. “Probably a place we won’t be… overheard.”
Loc’s expression is extremely serious.

Lanisen looks annoyed.

Loc looks at Lanisen, “You don’t have to come. But you may want to hear it.”
Loc says, “There’s been enough that’s been left unsaid.”

Lanisen’s lips make a thin line. He glances at Colin.

Colin lifts his hands slightly. “Up to you.”

Lanisen considers for a moment, scowling at his pie. Finally, he pushes the plate back and slides off his stool.

Loc’s demeanor begins to falter but he draws another breath and says, “You lead.”

Colin slides off his stool, puts payment on the counter and leads the men out of the tavern.

Loc leaves the ale on the counter and straightens, although he’s not looking particularly confident.

Lanisen follows, sullenly expressionless.

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.

Colin leads them into the trees where there is a fallen log for Lanisen to sit on. “What’s on your mind, Loc?”

Lanisen doesn’t sit. He leans on a tree-trunk and folds his arms.

Loc walks silently, although as they progress he becomes more and more tense. He waits when they finally find a spot and takes a breath, looking uncertain for the first time since the converation began. He decides to avoid looking at Lanisen, “Well. It’s… about Cass. And the comment Fischer made. And… me generally being an idiot. Where do you want me to start.”

Colin’s eyebrows go up slightly. “Beginning?” He suggests helpfully.

Loc doesn’t look at Lanisen, “That’d be a couple weeks ago when I met Cass. I saw Lanny–er, Lanisen talkin’ to her and came over. I’d seen her at the tavern but we hadn’t been introduced–and then he did–and… It was awkward. Lanisen looked uncomfortable, which made /me/ uncomfortable, and then Cass got angry and stormed off. So… I figured…” He stops and takes another breath, “That long as she didn’t like me, there’d be nothing to worry about. And I can really… really make sure I fit an image when I want to.–I thought maybe that’d make Lanisen more comfortable. ‘Cuz when he gets jumpy I… I tend to be more on edge.”

Colin remains silent for him to continue.

Lanisen says nothing.

Loc says, “What you saw in the tavern with Cass today pretty much sums up over interactions–and… I can pretty much say safely I’ve succeeded.–What… I didn’t realize is that… Lanisen…” He stops and shifts uncomfortablely. He finally says, “That it could back fire. Badly… and… it has.”

Colin still remains silent.

Lanisen’s jaw is rather tight at what he hears, but his face stays impassive.

Loc positions himself so that he only has to look at Colin, “So… I’ll try to get this all in the right order, but I can’t promise it. I saw her out on the field after that. And she marched up to me, handed over some coin and said she wanted to learn how to fight–and not to go easy on her. I returned the money and said I’d teach her–Oh, right… I’d been sayin’ she had a weak punch ‘cuz she’s never been stingy with hitting me. And I told her it was fine s’long as I know it’s comin’. I don’t know it’s comin’ and I might hit back–when you… make poor life choices you tend to… hit first, ask later. And I didn’t want that to happen. Anyway, she hit me while we were looking for Lann–Lanisen because I said she had a weak punch and I almost hit her back. That was before she appraoched me about lessons.”

Lanisen stiffens.

Colin’s only change is a tensing in his jaw. “Go on.”

Loc says, “I didn’t hit her by the way… I was on the ground lookin’ fer tracks and had my back to her. By the time I was up I’d worked through who it was–and that was the only reason why. But… she wanted lessons and I said I’d supply them, free of charge. Because I meant her throw wasn’t very strong and a woman /should/ have a good punch.” He pauses, then says, “So I told her how to hold her hand and to throw three inches past the target. And showed her how to hit a target–and told her when you train someone you don’t wail on them. And maybe I said some things or smiled at her, but… there wasn’t anything behind it. She’s snappy and I always like a banter and… that was it.”

Colin nods his head a little. “So why was she ready to beat you in the head with a frying pan? That come from natural sass or something else?”

Lanisen’s eyes shift to Colin and back to Loc.

Loc says, “Well, I’m gettin’ to that. She’s always wanted to beat me–so I think part of it’s her temper–but… I think she thins I’ll hurt Lanisen. So, there was the one evening I was headin’ to the Pool and came across her in the woods. She was workin’ on somethin’–writin’. And I slipped by her and she followed me. I like to go there to think–and fish. So that’s how she found out about the Pool. And I don’t remember what we talked about, but we just talked.–And I kept my distance. She said she never knew about it and I said she was clever and would’ve found it eventually. So… it wasn’t actually all that bad. Lanisen had said to keep away if I couldn’t control myself and I can keep myself in line so… I didn’t think anything of it.”

Lanisen snorts very softly.

Colin frowns slightly as he listens.

Loc says, “The second time at the Pool I came across her when I was going to go fishin’. And things were pleasant enough–and then suddenly she said we were alike and that–” Here he falters and glances at Lanisen. He looks back at Colin, “And that she felt I understood her.–And that… well. At first I thought she might be jokin’–and then when she wasn’t… I told her that was a dangerous line of thinkin’ and we weren’t any alike… and that’s when she asked me why.”

Colin shifts his weight to his other foot as he listens.

Loc says, “She wanted to know why I did what I did. And I said that knowledge had a cost–and despite her protests that she wasn’t a little girl–I said once she knew those things she couldn’t unknow them. And then she said she didn’t care and I told her.–Didn’t use a lot of detail but enough of what happened and what went on to give her an idea. And… perhaps the /why/ I did it was more frightening than the things I did.–I figured if she felt we were so alike, that was the time to make it perfectly clear we weren’t.” He pauses, “And… then when we got to Morri she got mad and left–something about girls not being there just to flirt with or something.”

Colin’s snort is quiet.

Lanisen uncrosses his arms and recrosses them. His face is white and bloodless, but the emotion that made it so is hard to discern precisely.

Loc adds, “And I suppose it might have been selfish–but it was refreshing to have someone want to know why and not just… fill in their own blanks. And… I’d rather her hear it from me than… someone else.” He pauses, then says, “I only told her my part. Not… other’s…–She was furious when I told her I would take my frustration out on Lanisen.”

Colin says, “Naturally.”

Loc says, “And that leads us to this.” He points to the shiner. “I had it comin’ and that’s fine… Never thought the kid had it in him–and it’s… good to see him not be so afraid.” He keeps his back to Lanisen, “I hate it when Lanny–Lanisen’s afraid of me, but I can’t blame him for why. Anyway, I try to stay out of Cass’s way, but it’s a small village. And last night when I was comin’ home I tried to pass by without talkin’ but she wouldn’t take no fer an answer. And she said ‘remember how I said we were similar, well you hurt Lanisen and I’ll kill you’. I told her she’d do society a favor and just left it… And then she kept goin’ on this morning about my head and I’m not sure why.” He shrugs. “And that’s when she got all uppity at Fischer’s.”

Colin asks, “Why did you deem it your place to have a chat with Fischer about his treatment of his employee?”

Loc says plainly, “‘Cuz I didn’t want her in trouble ‘cuz a me. She’s a good girl and maybe she does have a hot temper. It’s not like I don’t deserve the fryin’ pan every now and then.” He shrugs. “I just… I don’t know. I felt I caused enough trouble already.”
Loc says, “She don’t go after other patrons.”

Lanisen keeps still and expressionless, gaze flat on the back of Loc’s head. He pushes off the trunk he’s been leaning on, his eyes shifting to communicate with Colin.

Colin’s gaze flicks to Lanisen when he moves.

Lanisen sneaks out.

Pool of the March
Western Archenland

The trail ends here, in a forested box canyon. Your steps are cushioned by the
leaves and needles that have collected over the years. Most of the western
side of the canyon is filled with a large, waterfall-fed pool. The trail
follows the narrow southern shore until it reaches the canyon’s back wall.
There is an abundance of tracks from the many animals who came here to drink.
The trail rises steeply back out of the canyon to the east.

Cassandra is sitting by the pool, her legs dangling into the water. She holds her head in her hands.

Lanisen makes his way into the canyon, breathing heavily with exertion and anger. He leans on a tree and blows out a long breath, then takes stock of the area. When he realizes it is not empty, he straightens quickly and nearly recoils back away.

Cassandra leaps to her feet when she hears crashing, whirling around. Her face pales when she sees Lanisen, her hands clutching the side of her dress.

Lanisen lowers his head, avoiding her eyes and backing away. “Sorry,” he mumbles. “Lion, sorry, I didn’t figure you were here.” He all but flees, limping quickly back up the twisting trail and out of sight.

Northern March
Western Archenland

The forest here is serene and peaceful. The ground carpeted with a thick layer
of leaves from years of autumn, to the south a rises up a steep cliff looking
difficult to scale. To the north the mountains rise up forming a forbidding
boundary to Narnia. The slope continues downwards into a canyon.

Cassandra comes rushing out of the woods, “Lanisen! Wait!”

Lanisen stops the moment she calls and turns halfway, his face painfully hopeful.

Cassandra stops as he faces her. She half chokes out, “I’m sorry.” She turns on her heel and runs back to the pool, bursting into tears.

Lanisen stands for a moment, frightened and uncertain, then limps hesitantly after her.

Pool of the March
Western Archenland

Cassandra is curled up underneath a tree, sobbing into her hands.

Lanisen picks his way carefully back down into the deeper part of the canyon, more conscious of his surroundings this time. He stops a good distance away from Cassandra, helplessly awkward. “Cass?” he calls softly.

Cassandra doesn’t seem to hear him over her sobs.

Lanisen takes another few cautious steps toward her. “Cass?” he asks again.

Cassandra jumps a bit, hurrying to wipe her face. “Oh Lanisen, hi.”

Lanisen stops where he is, leaving a large space between them. He starts several times to ask some question, then switches gears and asks instead, “Can I sit with you a bit?”

Cassandra nods mutely. She pulls herself into a sitting position, leaning against a tree.

Lanisen picks a tree near where he is standing and sinks down, maintaining the distance between them.

Cassandra remains quiet for a long time. “Maybe this is for the best.”

Lanisen looks at her quickly, then down at his knees. All he says is, “Oh.”

Cassandra doesn’t look at him, playing with a patch of her dress, “I just am going to mess up your life. Maybe you should just go home, forgot about us.”

Lanisen doesn’t answer.

Cassandra doesn’t look at him. “So you agree?”

Lanisen is quiet for a little longer. “Is that… what you want?” he asks finally, the words coming with difficulty.

Cassandra’s breath catches, “Is that you want?”

Lanisen says, “Of course it’s not.”

Cassandra rubs her temples, “I’ve causes you a lot of trouble though.”

Lanisen points out, “I’ve caused you more.”

Cassandra finally looks at him, “How so? You have been nothing but kind to me.”

Lanisen looks rather pained. “Do I gotta spell it out for you?”

Cassandra scowls a bit, mumbling, “No, if you don’t want to.”

Lanisen is silent for a minute. “If that’s– I’m tryin’ to say, if you don’t want me hangin’ about, shakin’ things up, that’s… it’s fine.” He gives her a quick look.

Cassandra startles before bursting out laughing, “Oh Lanny, compared to me, you don’t stir up anything at all.”

Lanisen half-smiles uncertainly, giving her a searching look.

In a rare display of vulnerability, Cassandra whispers, “I’m scared, Lanny.”

Lanisen says, “I know.”

Cassandra just stares at her dress.

Lanisen takes a deep breath. “I don’t care about any trouble,” he says at last, resolute. “I’m not goin’ anywhere. Unless… I mean–”

Cassandra looks up at him, also resolute, “And I don’t want you to leave. Can you forgive me?”

Lanisen says, “I’d be some kinda despicable if I didn’t, I think.” He grins at her faintly, a weary expression that doesn’t meet his eyes, and gets to his feet. There he pauses, taking a breath as if to say something else, but nothing comes out.

Cassandra watches him struggle to his feet. She looks down at her dress, “Thanks.”

Lanisen hesitates a little longer, then sighs. Without looking at her directly, he asks, “You… thought any more about… maybe talkin’ to Sir Colin?”

Cassandra freezes, “I…um…no…I…” Her voice trials off.

Lanisen nods. His shoulders sag a little, and he looks away. “All right. That’s fine, that’s… all right.” He nods again, awkward, then glances at her and offers a halfway-smile. “I’m gonna head back to the town. Don’t stay out too late, yeah?”

Cassandra nods once, “I won’t.”

Lanisen says, “All right.” He stands for a few more seconds, as if he’s not sure what to say, then nods one more time and begins up the trail out of the canyon.

Cassandra watches him before letting out a sigh and resting her head in her hands again.


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