Loc snarls, “I traded in my freedom out of some misplaced sense of concern. And while people can throw me in a mine and tell me ta avoid people and the like, they can’t tell me how ta feel!”
Cassandra may flinch briefly but it is barely noticeable. She stands in front of Loc and a chair with a hole in the back of it. Her voice is hard, “First of all, you will pay for that broken chair. Second of all, Who is telling you to avoid people? Third of all, I have about had it with you, Loc.”
Loc seethes, working furiously to contain his anger. “And I’ve about had it with you. You think you know everything. You think you’re tough. And you may be clever and pretty, but so’s a lot a girls out there. And one day you’re gonna push the wrong person far enough and…” He takes a breath, and says, “Lanisen won’t tell you to keep away from me ‘cuz he knows you won’t listen, so he blames it all on me! Well, I’m /tired/ a bein’ the one ta blame for everything! I’ve had enough a both a you!”
Loc growls, “You don’t like it when people tell you how ta live, well, neither do I!”
Lanisen steps through the door, heading for the counter. He slows halfway there, looking around for his sister, and stops short. He stands where he is, watching in silence. His eyes rest on the ruined chair for a moment.
Bjorn decides that now is a good moment to be silent and observe, preferably over the top of an ale tankard.
Cassandra stands her ground. She pulls herself up to her full height, her hands on her hips. “GET OVER YOURSELF! You want people to view you differently then stop acting like a ruddy victim. The past is the past and you can’t change it so stop /moping/ and move forward!”
Loc snorts, letting his temper cool. “You think it’s so easy huh? I’ve admitted what I’ve done. I’ve made a nice life in the mines–I am respected there. But this village… people talk. They condemn. They only /see/ the past. I haven’t had anyone to watch my back and defend me. The nobles even said as much when they left me here. And I don’t know why a dwarf’s word isn’t as good as a man’s, but apparently their gems are worth more to these villages than their personalities and identities.”
Loc adjusts Marina and begins to stroke her head gently.
Lanisen steps nearer, coming quietly to an angle where Cassandra might see him, if she looks his direction. He leans on the back of a chair and glances around the tavern at the people watching.
Cassandra growls herself, “Who says a dwarf’s word isn’t as good as a man’s?” By this time, Fischer comes up behind Cassandra and grabs her arm, “Outside.” He then firmly but gently yanks her outside.
Loc turns at the sound of the movement. His jaw tightens when he sees Lanisen.
Bjorn grimaces slightly, though he seems focused on his ale, it’s rather clear that he’s listening in on ever word being said.
Lanisen straightens, meeting Loc’s eyes. He lets his eyes drop to the broken chair, then looks back at Loc.
Loc takes a deep breath and says, “I got words for ya.” He straightens, “You know I wasn’t always kind to you, I’ll admit that. But I wasn’t Myrd-I’m /not/ Myrd. So stop actin’ like I’m some kind of monster. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve owned them. Or have you forgotten that of the whole lot I was the only one who turned myself in-for /you/. Because I felt /bad/ for /you/. Had I known you’d practically be adopted by a noble, maybe I’d have just run. I could have blended in and made a living-I did before on the road, but I didn’t run. And I’m tired a runnin’ and hidin’. I’ve spent six years in the mountain-not a castle with some hounds and a noble lookin’ out fer me-but a /mountain/ with a town who despised me and dwarfs who didn’t trust me. I had to fight many long hours in the darkness, tight places to prove my worth-and you know what?”
Loc says, “I did it! And I didn’t need any noble there to protect me! I paid my dues to become one of them and I am /proud/ of the work I do. I have shared in their joys and sorrows. I’ve been there for their triumphs and their failures. I have laughed as we celebrate the good, and I have wept and /bled/ with them during the bad. I’ve seen beauty emerge from cold stone, almost as real as a new life and I have been at a man’s side as he draws his last breath as the mountain claims its share. I’ve know fear and pain and suffering-and maybe I don’t got a pardon but I have served my time well! I am /not/ the man you knew six years ago. You didn’t even really now me then. And you have /no idea/ who I am /now/. So maybe before you judge me you remember you were /just as guilty/ as I was!”
Loc ends with, “And maybe I won’t ever be in a battle or see the Lion but I have done /plenty/ to show that I was sorry for what I did. And I’m tired a lookin’ to others to see that. If you can’t see it, that ain’t a lack a sight on my part-it’s a lack a sigh on yers.” He pauses, then looks at the entire tavern with, “And that goes for the lot a /all/ of you in this town!”
Several patrons gasp, others quickly go back to their drinks. A soft murmur sounds.
Lanisen listens. Then he turns silently and walks away, not contributing to the spectacle. He looks at Loc again as he opens the door, his head tilting slightly, maybe in invitation, maybe not. Then he walks through and leaves the tavern.
Carmichael Village Square
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.
Cassandra is sitting on the ground, her face in her hands. Fischer has since gone back into the tavern and she is all alone.
Lanisen closes the door behind him with a quiet ‘snick’ as he steps outside. He waits at the door for a moment, listening, then glances at Cassandra. “You okay?”
Cassandra doesn’t lift her face and mumbles.
Cassandra mumbles “Swell, Everything … … … just … … job is …”, to Cassandra.
Lanisen listens. He looks at the ground, letting out a small breath. “C’mon,” he says quietly, and offers her a hand up.
Cassandra finally looks up, glaring at him but she just seems more angry in general than with him. “Why?”
Lanisen says, “‘Cause it don’t look comfortable sittin’ there.”
Cassandra looks like she is going to argue but thinks better of it. She takes his hand, still looking at the ground.
Lanisen asks, “You want to talk someplace?”
Cassandra gives a half shrug, “I guess.” She still looks miserable.
Lanisen says, consolingly, “Hey. It ain’t the end of the world.” He pauses. “The… that chair… What happened there?”
Cassandra looks at Lanisen, “Loc hit it because I slapped him upside his head.” She growls, “I just couldn’t listen to it anymore.”
Loc follows Bjorn out of the tavern. He keeps the kit close to his chest.
Lanisen closes his eyes briefly, half weary, half disgusted. He turns toward the tavern door as it opens, facing Loc.
Cassandra stands behind Lanisen, not quite looking up. She looks miserable.
Loc’s eyes flicker to Lanisen briefly. His jaw tightens but he remains quiet. He keeps pace with Bjorn as they head for the road for the mines.
Lanisen speaks softly to Cassandra, without looking away from Loc.
Lanisen mumbles “He been drinkin’?”, to Cassandra.
Lanisen mumbles “… … drinkin’?”, to Cassandra.
Cassandra shakes her head, replying.
Cassandra mumbles “Just the normal ale.”, to Lanisen.
Cassandra mumbles “Just the … …”, to Lanisen.
Loc keeps walking, his shoulders straight.
Lanisen says absently, “Hmm.” He watches Loc.
Cassandra shifts her gaze to the passing Man and Dwarf.
Loc continues on the road until they’re out of sight. Loc never looks back, nor does his somewhat defiant posture change.
Lanisen stays watchful until he disappears down the road. Then he looks at Cassandra. “What happened?”
Cassandra rubs her arms, looking guilty. “I, uh, lost my temper again.”
Lanisen asks, “Why’d you hit him?”
Cassandra gets a defensive posture, “well, he was talking about how you are putting on airs and acting all fancy and how you don’t want to be friends with the likes of him. And I got mad because you have been nothing but nice to him and he shouldn’t be talking about you like that.”
Lanisen’s turn to look guilty. “Ahh,” he says slowly.
Cassandra plops back down on the ground, “And I blew it. I don’t even have a job anymore.”
Lanisen says distantly, “If it’s any consolation I bet Fischer don’t want Loc in there either…”
Cassandra looks up at him with a look that says ‘not helping.’ “Look at me, Lanisen. I’m a failure. I can’t even keep a normal job.”
Lanisen looks at her and winces a bit. “I’m sorry,” he says gently. “I really am. You doin’ all right?”
Cassandra says, “Swell.”
Lanisen pauses, as if not sure what to say, then says cautiously, “It ain’t the worst thing that could happen. It really ain’t.”
Cassandra sighs, “I suppose not.” She clutches her head again, “Why do I have such a temper? Loc’s right, I’ll push the wrong person one day.”
Lanisen doesn’t answer this.
Cassandra looks back up to him, “By the way, what did Loc mean when he said that you didn’t tell me to stay away from him?”
Lanisen pauses, blinking. “I… expect he meant I didn’t tell you to stay away from him.”
Cassandra shoots him a glare but just sighs, “I guess I shouldn’t get too mad that my big brother makes to protect me.” She mutters, “It is nice to have /someone/ care at least.”
Lanisen looks relieved.
Cassandra asks, “Should I apologize?”
Lanisen says, “That’s up to you, I reckon.”
Cassandra grumbles, “I hate apologizing but I want to be able to see Marina too.”
Lanisen repeats, “Marina?”
Cassandra smiles, “Marina. She is the fox kit that Loc saved in the forest. I have been watching her while he works in the mines.”
Lanisen looks baffled, then disgusted. He turns away to hide it. “Right. The fox kit.”
Cassandra says, “I guess I should also tell him that I won’t be at the tavern anymore.”
Lanisen shrugs a little.
Cassandra looks at her hands, trying to make a decision.
Lanisen says carefully, “I won’t ask you to keep away from him. But…” He shakes his head. “Please… please be careful.”
Cassandra rubs her shoulders, “Yeah, I will be.” She shudders briefly, “Will you come with me?”
Lanisen asks, “To…?”
Cassandra stands to her feet, “I’mma going to go talk to him.” She takes a breath, “Could use your support.” There is a brief pause like she is struggling to ask.
Lanisen looks at her searchingly. “All right, yeah,” he answers after a moment. “I’m not… it might not help. But I’ll come, if you want.”
Cassandra slips her arm into his, “Thanks.” She begins to make her way to the settlement.
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.
Cassandra comes walking arm in arm with Lanisen, looking determined and slightly annoyed.
Lanisen, for his part, is quiet and slightly apprehensive.
Loc is sitting on the front step, danging a small leather strap over a kit who is on her back and has the other end between her tiny teeth, wiggling back and forth. He laughs softly. “Yeah, look at you. Fierce little thing.”
Cassandra blinks as Loc is outside his house, frowning slightly. She turns to Lanisen, muttering to him.
Cassandra mumbles “Stay here.”, to Lanisen.
Cassandra mumbles something incomprehensible to Lanisen.
Lanisen nods slightly. He folds his hands in front of him, watching.
Loc doesn’t take notice of the others in the settlement. He continues to play with the kit. He reaches over and gently scratches behind Marina’s ears.
Cassandra takes a breath, her fists at her sides. She walks straight up to him and says quickly and a bit forced. “I’m sorry for hitting you but you won’t have to worry about it anymore. I’m no longer employed at Fischer’s.” Here the words sound a bit recited, “And patrons can now eat and drink in peace.” With that, she begins to turn on her heel.
Lanisen closes his eyes briefly. He looks away.
Loc glances up at the approach of footsteps. Seeing who it is, any mirth disappears. He frwowns as she talks and his gaze gravitates to Lanisen before moving back to her. He says, “Ah.”
Cassandra replies, “Yeah. Thought you should know so you don’t show up with Marina tomorrow.” She begins to walk back towards Lanisen.
Loc says matter-of-factly, “Wasn’t planning on it. Takin’ her with me ta work.”
Loc adds, looking at Lanisen, “Which is what I shoulda done in the first place, I suppose.”
Cassandra stops her walk, tensing up slightly before movement forward again. She calls back, “I suppose.” By this time, she is next to Lanisen, muttering to him.
Cassandra mumbles “I’m going home. See you later.”, to Lanisen.
Cassandra mumbles “… … … … you …”, to Lanisen.
Lanisen nods to her, watching Loc.
Loc’s focus moves to Lanisen and he sets his jaw. He doesn’t take his eyes off Lanisen as he says to Cass, “You shouldn’t apologize for something you’re not sorry for.”
Cassandra begins to make her way home ignoring Loc completely.
Lanisen watches her go. He doesn’t move from where he’s standing.
Loc’s gaze reminds on Lanisen. He gives the occasional tug to his end of the leather strap to make Marina happy.
Lanisen waits until Cassandra is safely inside before he turns his attention back to Loc.
Loc watches Lanisen from the step.
Lanisen considers for a moment, then limps toward Loc’s cottage. He stops a little ways away from the doorstep, and waits.
Loc stands slowly, scooping up the kit. He goes to the door, unlocks it and goes inside for a moment before returning. He closes the door and locks it behind him. He leans back against the doorframe and looks at Lanisen.
Lanisen asks, bluntly, “You got more to say?”
Loc crosses his arms over his chest. He says evenly, “No.”
Lanisen shifts his weight off his bad leg. “Then might be you could say where all that came from.”
Loc blinks and looks a little surprised. “What?”
Lanisen says, “You know what I’m talkin’ about.”
Loc frowns, “The bit with Cass came from her hittin’ me from behind when I didn’t think anyone was there. Been sparrin’ with Bjorn and he was talkin’ ’bout axes and said some things that brought up some things I’d rather not think about. She’s lucky I realized halfway through my swing who it was or it’d have been real bad. Bjorn and I were having a quiet conversation away from everyone. She didn’t need to put herself into it.”
Lanisen stares at him for a moment. He turns away and begins to limp back up the path. “Forget it.”
Loc watches Lanisen and sets his jaw. Finally, he says, “I’m sorry for being a coward–I shouldn’t a taken out my anger on you, when it was Myrd I wanted to beat.” He swallows. “And I’m sorry I didn’t do more to protect you.” His voice is calm but the words don’t come easily. He pauses, adds with great difficulty, “And I’m sorry I can’t seem to ever be the kind a friend you deserve.”
Lanisen slows and stops, his shoulders going rigid. “No,” he says. “No, no, /no/, you do /not/ get to do this, you don’t get to turn this all around like you’re the one bein’ all reasonable and sane and friendly here and I’m the one ‘puttin’ on airs’. Lion, Loc. You think that’s what this is about? Really?”
Loc says, “I don’t think I have a clue what this is about and I ain’t good at guessing.”
Lanisen turns around, giving him an incredulous look. “I asked you for /one/ thing,” he says, his voice trembling. “I asked you to be civil to my sister. I asked you to respect her, to not hurt her, to not scare her. And you can’t even a little bit manage that. /That’s/ what this is about, you /idiot/.” He pauses and looks down for a moment, then adds, “But, you know, I think you knew that already. I think that’s why that whole scene in the tavern just now, you’re just wantin’ to make yourself feel better about it, ’cause you’re feelin’ all sorts of guilty and the best way to get over that is to set somebody /else/ up to be the bad guy.” He gestures to himself at this last.
Loc frowns, pushing himself off the door post. “I have been as civil as I can towards her. If she’s been scared, it was intentional. And I’ve done everything I can to avoid hurting her. I’ve honestly tried not to set her off–sometimes I even succeed. And I’ve tried keepin’ away much as I can, but I live here to.–And you’re not the bad guy. no one’s a bad guy here! I’m just tired a always feelin’ like there ain’t two sides ta every story.”
Lanisen says something rude under his breath and starts up the path again.
Loc scowls after Lanisen. “Fine then. What do you want me to say?”
Lanisen mumbles “You could quit actin’ like you’re the only one who’s had it hard, for one thing.”, to Lanisen.
Lanisen mumbles “… could … actin’ … you’re … … one … … … … for … thing.”, to Lanisen.
Loc waits a moment, then sprints off the path after Lanisen. It doesn’t take long to catch up.
Loc repeats, “What do you want me to say?”
Lanisen’s shoulders hunch up at the rapid footfalls behind him and he turns quickly to face Loc, wary and belligerent.
Loc stops some feet from Lanisen. He still frowns, although his features aren’t as harsh or defiant as before. He studies Lanisen for some time. He says slowly, “You’re right. I haven’t been as civil as I could be. I’ve scared her. I’ve been–” He begins to list a good number of unpleasant things, including some vulgar terms known on the road and adds a few new creative terms learned from the mines. “And I’m sorry for that.” He pauses, then says, “And when you see him, tell Sir Colin I’m sorry. ‘Cuz jealousy is a mighty ugly thing… and it ain’t right to resent someone for somethin’ that ain’t their fault.” By the end, any pretense of defense or fight has gone out and the tone is sincere. Loc remain composed but can’t quite look Lanisen in the eye.
Lanisen looks away somewhere in the middle of the vulgar list and doesn’t respond for a little while after Loc has finished. “I never asked you to turn yourself in,” he says abruptly. “I /never/– I /lied/ for you, I told Colin a fake name so you could get away clean, even though I was so scared I couldn’t hardly think straight, don’t you… That’s, that’s on /you/, that was your choice and if you don’t like it you still don’t get to pin it on me.”
Loc looks surprised at the information. He says quietly, “I know it was my choice.–Sometimes I wish I’d got the noose, thought I would for sure–woulda been much easier… but I just… I always liked you, even when I was a beastly. I always…” He stops and for a moment he’s quiet. “I always wanted a little brother. And I guess… I had to go back because you had family and you were the closest thing to a little brother I’d ever get.”
Loc shrugs, “Figured if I hung and got your neck outta the noose it’d have been worth it.”
Lanisen says, shaking his head, “Stop it, shut up. I’m /not/ your brother, you don’t get to, you don’t get to try and–” He grabs a fistful of his hair with each hand and turns away from Loc for a second, then drops his hands. “You like to /say/ this stuff when you been– it don’t /mean/ anything, /stop/.” He takes several deep breaths. “That ain’t– I don’t care /why/ you did it, not now, I care that you’re usin’ it to try and make me–”
Loc looks at Lanisen, genuinely hurt. “I don’t apologize for things I ain’t sorry for.–And I’m trying to be more… honest ’bout all that feeling stuff and intentions. I /am/ sorry because…” He pauses, then shakes his head. “This was a mistake.” He turns and starts walking back toward his house.
Lanisen lets out a small, frustrated breath, his face twisting. “It ain’t fair what you said. That’s all I’m tryin’ to say.”
Loc pauses, then turns. “Maybe it ain’t fair ta say it /now/, but that don’t make it less true.” He pauses. “I wish it’d a been under better circumstance. Wish a lota things with us were under better circumstances.”
Lanisen is confused for a second, but only a second. “In the /tavern/.”
Loc looks confused. “What about the tavern?”
Lanisen stares at him. “You know what,” he finally says, turning away wearily. “Go to the desert. I’m finished here.”
Loc turns and heads for his house. He unlocks the door and enters, locking it behind him.
Lanisen limps back up the path toward town.