building walls


Carmichael Village Square
Western Archenland


There is a small parcel on Loc’s doorstep in the morning. It contains a folded piece of paper and the jeweler’s monocle, carefully wrapped to keep it from being damaged.
The paper reads simply: “I don’t feel right keeping this. Best wishes, Lanisen.”


Loc works carefully to fill a waterskin at the well.

Lanisen passes through the square in the early evening, on his way back to the lodge from the general store. He misses a step on seeing Loc, then continues with his head lowered.

Loc doesn’t look up, “You don’t have to skulk about with your head down every time you see me.” He finishes and caps the waterskin off. “Things like this happen.”

Lanisen stops. “I’m not skulking,” he says after a moment.

Loc says, “Then quit dropping your head.” He uses a finger to send the bucket back down the well.

Lanisen says nothing. He watches Loc.

Loc finally looks at Lanisen. “Well. You don’t think you’ve done anything to warrant me bein’ mad. And I can’t quite regret /everthing/ I said–tho most a it was to the others.” He shrugs. “So… that’s that.–Ain’t it?”

Lanisen is silent for a minute. “That’s how you remember it, huh?”

Loc sighs. “I’m tired of tryin’ to read minds and say the right thing. I was angry. I was havin’ a conversation with Bjorn and then suddenly I’m being hit in the back of the head and bein’ yelled at–for expressin’ an opinion in a private conversation. And if anyone hits me my first instinct is to hit back–so I picked the next best option. My blood was runnin’ and I was angry–and then it snowballed and /that’s/ what I remember.”

Lanisen lets out a small breath through his nose and looks away, wearily frustrated.

Loc leans against the well. “Have at it if you want.”
Loc says, “I’ll listen. Only fair.”

Lanisen says, “I said my say. You didn’t.”

Loc considers this. He shrugs, “I guess… even when you were yellin’ it was easier to take then when you were trying to avoid me.”

Lanisen says, “I got no idea what that’s meant to mean.”

Loc looks at Lanisen, a bit incredously. “It means exactly what it means. You don’t think I’d notice when you’d try to shuffle past like I wasn’t there? Or the way you get skittish when we talk? Geez Lanny–Lanisen. I’m not blind. If I wanted to hurt someone I’d have done it. Why does everything I say have to have a double meaning?”

Lanisen says, “You keep tryin’ to make things my fault. I ain’t /skittish/, I’m /mad/.”

Loc says, “All right.” He pauses. “I don’t…” He pauses again. “How long ya been mad and about what exactly?–I took you bein’ as bein’ skittish. And you were avoidin’ me and I didn’t get why. That made me mad. And it seemed like every time I talked about the past and said I moved on you’d say I need to own it, and then when I owned it I was playin’ the victim. And I’d get mad at that. And then you’d act like any time Cass went off at me or /hit/ me that it was always just /my/ fault and that made me mad. Then I see you with Sir Colin and…” He draws a breath. “And that ain’t your fault. That’s all on me. But if you’re mad and I don’t know why, then… I can’t exactly apologize. Is it more than what happened with Cass?”

Lanisen stares at him, increasingly bewildered and increasingly angry. He shifts to face Loc more fully. “Are you being serious right now?”

Loc refrains from sarcasm. His reply is blunt, “Yes.”

Lanisen stares at him for another minute, then looks down. “Okay,” he says calmly. “Then how ’bout you think back a bit, ’cause I told you I was mad and I told you real clear /why/, and if you can’t figure it out from that I’m thinkin’ you ain’t gonna figure it out if I tell you real clear again.”

Loc says quietly, “I remember you bein’ real made ‘cuz I’d scared Cass. And you’d asked me to keep away–and I didn’t. And that she was young and things I was sayin’ would give her nightmares.” He pauses. “And to treat her civil.”

Lanisen says, “/Well/ done. Good start.”

Loc’s jaw tightens a little. He goes on after a beat, “And it bein’ your fault whn it ain’t.–And you sayi’ I’m tryin’ to make you the bad guy.” He pauses, “But I don’t see you as the bad guy. I don’t want you to be the bad guy–I don’t want there to be a bad guy at all.”
Loc says, “And then you said you didn’t want me makin’ sense and tryin’ to…” He shrugs and gestures, “Sound rational.–Probably because you were angry too.–Are angry.”

Lanisen shakes his head a little, completely lost. “/What/?”

Loc sighs, rubbing the bridge of his nose muttering something suspeciously like ‘I hate this feelin’ stuff’ but says, “After… I lost it at the tavern.–When I said a lot a stuff that was all in my head and meant more for the folks here than you.” He looks at Lanisen, “You said I was tryin’ ta make you the bad guy and then that I didn’t get to be the rational one or something.–And that it was unfair to say–stuff. After everything I’d said in the tavern.”

Lanisen says, “That is /not/ what I said, quit puttin’ words in my mouth.”

Loc frowns a little. “All right. I’m sorry. Then what did you say?”

Lanisen says, “And, and that’s not what /you/ said, either, you keep /sayin’/ that, that you were only talkin’ to the other folks in the tavern and not me, but you were lookin’ at me when you said it! You were yellin’ at /me/, not them, you were yellin’ at /me/ for stuff that– that wasn’t even my /fault/! I didn’t pick how things were gonna go, I didn’t /choose/–!” He takes a deep breath, and when he continues he’s a little steadier. “Now. You can tell yourself that you weren’t yellin’ at me, maybe that makes you feel better, maybe you even believe it. But you can’t try and tell me that. I was /there/.”

Loc says quietly, “I know–I was mad at you–but… not for the things I was yelling about. I out stuff on you that wasn’t your fault. And that was not the time and the place. And… I’m sorry.” He pauses. “And… in that regard… it’s like it was six years ago. And I am sorry for that.”

Lanisen does not look mollified.

Loc says, “And that was my fault.”

Lanisen says, “You say that now. When you can’t get out of it.”

Loc shrugs, “Better than not ever sayin’ it.–Or meaning it. But I do.”

Lanisen says, “Yeah. I don’t believe you.”

Loc shrugs, “Can’t make you. And can’t blame you.”

Lanisen snorts faintly and looks down. “You… you like to make yourself out to be the victim,” he says at last without looking at Loc. “Don’t blame you for that. It’s easier, innit? But it ain’t how you keep friends and it ain’t how you keep trust, twistin’ everything around as it suits so you’re never the one at fault. Right now you’re gonna be all sad and noble ’cause I don’t trust that apology one bit, ain’t that right?”

Loc says, “I ain’t sad. And I certainly ain’t noble.” He shrugs. “Bjorn is helpin’ me work on self aware. And there’s a lotta scary things I’m learnin’ and seein’.” He pauses, “I see… patterns now. Things I didn’t before.–And it /is/ easy bein’ a victim. But it also ain’t fair to take the blame for everything–” He gestures, “This situation aside, I mean.” He pauses. “I realized something the other day about some of my reactions. And I didn’t like it, but it… will hopefully help me avoid mistakes in the future.”

Lanisen says, “I got no idea what you’re talkin’ about.”

Loc explains, “You said it’s easy to play the victim–and you’re right it is. Bjorn, a dwarf, says to move on you got to have self control and self awareness. And I’m workin’ on both. There’s things I see now that I didn’t before about myself. Patterns. Behaviors. That kind a stuff. Things that can change. Things I aim to. I don’t want to play the victim or be a victim anymore. And I ain’t going to be noble when I’m not. And I ain’t going to be sad.”
Loc says, “You’re right. Friendship is based on trust and respect. And I’ve not done anything for you to have either in me.” He speaks in an even, matter of fact tone.
Loc says, “Ever.”

Lanisen gives him a tired, disgusted look and turns away. “Stop. /Stop/.”

Loc frowns. “It’s true isn’t it?”

Lanisen says, “You’re doing it again. Just… /stop/.”

Loc asks, with some exasperation, “Doing /what/?”

Lanisen says, “You know as well as I do that we been friends.”

Loc says flatly, “Well. Yeah. But I know I ain’t been a good one.”
Loc says, “A good friend wouldn’t ta caused the mess I did.”

Lanisen says, “And you’re just sayin’ that now ’cause if I don’t back down and say somethin’ like aw by the /mane/ of /course/ you’re a good friend, that makes me the awful unreasonable one. You /been/ a good friend, I know that as well as you do, but you ain’t bein’ one now and I’m—I don’t want to play this game.”

Loc looks a little surprised at first. He finally says, “I want to… I just want things to go back to how they were before they got weird.”

Lanisen says, “That’s nice.”

Loc shrugs, “Maybe that ain’t possible. Just thinking out loud.”

Lanisen still doesn’t look at Loc. He hesitates, then begins to walk away.

Loc says, “Look. I can say I’m sorry. And I can say it’s my fault. And I mean both. It might not make you any less angry. That’s fine. I ain’t ever felt like a good friend to you–and that ain’t your fault.” He pauses. “And… it meant a lot to hear that.–I’d like to… try to be friends again. And on my part, better than before. If you don’t want to that’d okay. And maybe… you don’t want to now, but… sometime…” He pushes himself off the well, deciding to shut up. He heads for the road to the settlement.

Lanisen’s shoulders tense up, but he doesn’t stop moving.

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