the regular crowd

The Narrow Gate Hall
Eastern Archenland

Vinri is sitting at the bar, chin on her hand and eyes closed. There’s a cup of cider at her elbow.

Lanisen heads to the bar, craning his neck to catch a glance into the kitchen. He chooses a seat a little ways down from Vinri and hoists himself up, asking Dranken for a slice of pie.

Vinri rouses as she hears the seat shift and settle. Blinking several times, she grabs her cup, takes a drink, and looks down to see who arrived.

Lanisen accepts his pie gratefully and pays up, peering back into the kitchen again as Dranken turns away. Disappointed, he begins on his pie, nodding hello to Vinri.

Vinri grins, shifting to face him. “Afternoon, Lanisen! How’re you?”

Lanisen answers, “Doin’ well, thanks. How’ve you been?”

Vinri rub a hand over her face. “‘M well! Come to find Cass?”

Lanisen mms. “It’s a little early for her to be on for supper, but I thought I’d see.” He tips his head at her. “Long day?”

Vinri says, “Late night, more like. The day’s going by in jumps.”

Lanisen makes a sympathetic face. “I know how that goes. Drink some tea?”

Vinri wrinkles her nose. “It’s hot out!” she protests before swigging down more cider.

Lanisen allows this. “So let it cool first.”

Vinri says, “No no, lukewarm tea is…” She shakes her head, tamping a frown over her grin. “No.”

Lanisen thinks about that for a minute. “Yeah, you’re right,” he says, and takes a bite of his pie.

Vinri eyes his pie and orders some of her own.

Lanisen asks, “Why so late?”

Vinri says, “Saw a friend I needed to catch up with, and I lost track of time.” With a shrug, she begins eating her pie. “Usually I’m better at estimating things like that, but it was good.”

Lanisen says, “Oh, good. Friends’re worth stayin’ up late for, sometimes.”

Vinri grins, tapping her fork against her plate once, then nods. “That they are. So, what’ve you been about lately?”

Lanisen says, “Oh. Nothin’ exciting. Keepin’ busy at the castle, that’s about it.”

Vinri asks, “Yeah? What sort of things do you do in a day?”

Lanisen shrugs. “I’m at the kennels mostly, seems like, the pups are gettin’ to where they can start to be trained, and I’m learnin’ to look after Maestro too, much as I can.”

Vinri asks, “Who’s Maestro?”

Lanisen says, “He’s the gelding Sir Colin arranged for me to ride.” He shrugs a little sheepishly. “We get on all right, he’s older and gentle, and I never been around horses much. We had a donkey when I was growin’ up but that ain’t the same.”

Vinri gives a smile. “I’d reckon not. How long’ve you been learning?”

Lanisen says, “Since I started goin’ about with Sir Colin, I s’pose. Couple months before the battle.”

Vinri asks, “Do you like it?”

Lanisen pauses. “Yeah,” he answers. “Mostly, yeah.” He glances down at his pie and asks, “How’s business been?”

Vinri quirks a brow, but answers cheerfully, “Summer’s been good for me so far. Or maybe they’re all just getting used to me sitting around in the ward.”

Lanisen nods. He hesitates for a moment, tapping the bartop absently with one finger, then asks, “Have you… talked to Cass lately?”

Vinri’s smile grows. “Sounds like you might need to talk to her a bit more lately. I caught her at her job and, well… she apologized, of all things.”

Lanisen’s mouth opens a little in pleased surprise. “Did she?”

Vinri lifts her head, grinning widely at his expression, “She did!” Tipping her head and eyeing him: “Did you talk to her?”

Lanisen says, “I talk to her a lot.” He takes a bite of pie.

Vinri says, “Do you now? I’d started to think you missed each other half the time.” She leans on the bar and realizes she still has a little cider left. “Well, whatever brought it about, I was surprised and it seems like everything fell into place.”

Lanisen tries to smother a grin. “Good. That’s good.”

Vinri swings her heels. “Seems she likes it here a lot, too. Wouldn’t have guessed it first off, truth be told, but…”

Lanisen says, “Yeah, I think she don’t hate people as much as she thinks she hates people.”

Vinri says, “Vocal as she is about it, I think you’re right.”

Lanisen adds, “And I think it’s good for her, havin’ her own space, you know?”

Vinri heaves a sigh. “Wish /I/ got free room and board.”

Lanisen laughs. “Maybe they need another cook.”

Vinri asks, “Do you want half-baked pies and sausages with the meat forgotten?”

Lanisen squints at her. “I shudder to think what you put in instead of meat.”

Vinri grins. “Let’s try not finding out, I’d be bored to death before I even finished piecing them together.”

Lanisen says, “I’ll consider myself warned.”

Vinri sends an exaggerated glance in both directions, then leans forward and stage-whispers, “Actually, I can throw together a decent stew, but don’t tell anyone, I’ve worked hard to establish that I barely know which is salt and which is sugar.”

Lanisen tilts back his head and laughs. “I’ll take your secret to my grave,” he promises. “How much salty tea did you drink to establish that, though? I gotta know.”

Vinri covers her eyes with a hand. “It was an awful summer. Salty tea, sugar on my eggs… It took a month to get through.” She peeks between her fingers, grinning. “Well, a month and my starting to spike my brothers’ drinks to drive it home.”

Lanisen guffaws in disbelief, half-horrified. “What’d you do that for?”

Vinri waves her hand. “They wouldn’t notice! So I figured a couple cups of salty tea would help them along. And now they both volunteer any time the family wants a cup.”

Lanisen thinks about this, then purses his lips and raises his eyebrows, impressed. “Wish I’d thought of somethin’ like that,” he remarks.

Vinri agrees, “It went about perfect, once I got used to the taste.”

Lanisen asks, “They ain’t good at tea, your brothers?”

Vinri says, “Oh, they’ve gotten much better, I meant the salt. A little isn’t as bad as it sounds, truth be told. My older brother, though, he makes a good cup of tea.”

Lanisen says, “And he might never have even found that skill if you didn’t make him try.”

Vinri says, “That’s me, benevolent and helpful even when I’m hoodwinking.”

Lanisen says, “Unsung hero of the common folk.”

Vinri sighs. “I’d sing it myself but that’d give the game away.”

Lanisen says regretfully, “It’s a difficult situation.”

Vinri says, “Clearly the answer is that you should come up with one and just change my name. No one will be the wiser.”

Lanisen says, “Great idea. What rhymes with sugar?”

Vinri stares blankly at the counter for a moment before coming up with the brilliant: “Could… her?”

Lanisen makes a doubtful face.

Vinri ers, then lets out a laugh. “Add ‘can’t rhyme’ as a reason I can’t sing my own praises.”

Lanisen says, “There’s always somethin’.”

Vinri says, eyes wide with exaggerated sincerity, “That’s the only thing, though, so include it in the song so they know I’m just /almost/ perfect.”

Lanisen say thoughtfully, “What rhymes with rhyme…”

This time Vinri does manage to come up with something and volunteers, “Crime!” Then, consideringly, “Or climb…”

Lanisen takes a deep breath and holds up one finger as if he’s about to start declaiming, then blows it out again and shakes his head mournfully. “You’re gonna have to hire a bard.”

Vinri heaves a sigh. “S’pose I’ll just stay unsung forever.”

Lanisen says, “There’s no justice in the world.”

Vinri says, “True, true… At least I know one other soul knows.” Considering it, she adds, “Thinking back, though… I don’t think salting Cass’s tea would do you any favors. You’ll probably have to settle for muffins.””

Lanisen says with conviction, “No it certainly would not.”

Vinri is sitting at the bar a few seats down from Lanisen. “Were you much for pranks as kids?”

Eston walks into the tavern, his young daughter Lecie asleep in a makeshift sling across his back. He purchases an Ale and takes a look around the place while taking a long sip.

Lanisen pauses at this, and his expression flickers. “Nah,” he says after a moment, over-light in his tone. “Not me.”

Vinri’s brows draw together briefly, but her tone doesn’t change. “Not you? Does that mean a sibling was?” She catches sight of Eston over Lanisen’s shoulder and aims a welcoming grin his way.

Eston catches the grin and gives her a wave, “Wotcher Vinri, Lanisen too, seems like there’s a right proper party here”

Lanisen glances behind him, following Vinri’s look, and his face lights up. “Eston! How’ve you been?” His eyes shift to the little girl, and he gives her a broad, friendly grin.

Eston walks over and sets himself down at a spare seat near them, “Muddling along ya know? You?”

Vinri rests her chin on her hands, listening with a smile.

Lanisen says, “‘Bout the same, really. Is this your Lecie?”

Eston grins and nods, “Aye, she is!”

Vinri glances at the girl and smiles, subtely checking her cup to make sure it is empty. And moving a bit further out of already-out-of-reach.

Lanisen says, “Hello, Lecie! It’s nice to meet you.”

Lecie stirs a little, blinking blearily at Lanisen.

Eston says, “She’s a tad on the tired side now, up all day so she was,” He glances at the moved cup and gives Vinri an apologetic sort of grin, “Won’t let her spill any drinks this time don’t worry.”

Lanisen glances between them, raising his eyebrows.

Vinri tips it a little to show that there are only a few drops inside anyway and grins. “Don’t think there’s a worry for this one. She’s had a busy day, then?”

Eston nods, “Learning to walk, don’t know if that’s good or terrifying”

Lanisen remarks, “Sounds exhausting.”

Vinri eyes the girl and smiles. “I’d say terrifying, she looks like a trouble-maker.”

Eston chuckles and takes a swig of ale, “Aye you got that one right”

Cassandra enters in the tavern yawning. She hangs up her coat on the wall, sliding into the back. She reemerges with an apron on.

Lanisen misses Cassandra’s initial entrance, but he catches sight of her when she comes back out. “There she is!”

Vinri glances in the newcomer’s direction and sits up, grinning. “Cass! Hello!”

Eston follow’s Lanisen’s gaze towards the newcomer before casting Lanisen a puzzled look of enquiry.

Cassandra stops short, narrowing her eyes slightly. “There who is, Lanny?” She then smiles, “Hello Vinri.”

Lanisen says, “The queen of Narnia, who d’you think.”

Cassandra bows, “I like that title. Thank you.”

Vinri covers her mouth to hide a grin at that for some reason, then stands, leaving the crust of her pie and her empty cup on the bar. “If you’ll excuse me, your majesty, I’ve got a bit of business to deal with this evening. Until next time, friends!”

Eston says, “See ya Vinri”

Lanisen snorts out loud, then glances at Vinri. “G’night, Vinri. Good luck with the bard.”

Cassandra raises an eyebrow at her, “The bard, huh?” She then waves, “Bye. Nice to see you.”

Vinri laughs and departs with a cheerful wave, leaving Cass in the dark about the bard.

Eston nods towards the newcomer, “Don’t reckon I know you?”

Cassandra glances at the man, “I don’t know you either.” She holds out a hand, “I’m Cass. I work here in the tavern.”

Eston takes the hand and gives her a firm handshake, “Eston, nice to meet ya”

Lanisen explains, “Cass is my sister, Eston.”

Cassandra grins, “And he is quite lucky to have me as one.”

Eston oooohs and says, “Didn’t know ya had a sister”

Cassandra says, “I’m recently moved from Carmichael. ”

Eston says, “Carmichael? Our Berta’s living there, do ya know her?””

Lanisen glances at Cass at this.

Cassandra taps her fingers on her mouth, “The name sounds familiar. I think she lived a few house down from me.”

Eston nods, satisfied with this answer.

Lanisen asks, “You’re well settled here, then? I ain’t seen you since I been back, how’s everything been for you?”

Cassandra eyes both men, “Need any to eat or drink, boys?” She then eyes the bundle, looking a bit nervous at it.

Eston raises his nearly full tankard of ale, “‘malright for now, thanks!” To Lanisen he says, “Aye, been getting on alright, now me leg’s got better can do me job again which is a relief”

Lanisen shakes his head. “I ate a whole pie waitin’ for you to show up,” he informs her.

Cassandra raises an eyebrow, “Don’t blame me for your eating habits.” She starts wiping down the bar.

Lanisen says to Eston in an aggrieved tone of voice, “She makes the pies too good.”

Eston says, “Nought wrong with making a good pie”

Cassandra looks a bit proud at this as she continues to wipe the bar down.

Lanisen says, listing off in still more doleful tones, “/And/ muffins, /and/ eggs, /and/ stew.”

Eston grins, “Hey, cherish that, a good cook ain’t always easy to come by!”

Cassandra snorts, “I can let,” She lowers her voice, “Dranken make them so you will stop eating so much.”

Lanisen says, “No, no. No, no. It’s fine, it’s very fine.”

Cassandra wags a finger at him, smirking, “Then you stop your complaining, mister.”

Lanisen holds up his hands in surrender.

Eston watches all this with great amusement.

Cassandra grins, “Well, it is nice meeting you, Eston.” She jerks her head towards some customers. “I need to go do my job.”

Lanisen says, “Don’t give them all the pie.”

Eston nods, “Nice meeting ya too, expect I’ll see ya again if you’re working”

Cassandra nods, “I suppose so.” She walks over to one of the patrons and she can be heard saying, “Why, yes, I have one more pie and it can all be yours if you want it.”

Lanisen mutters under his breath.

Eston glances over, “Ya’right?”

Lanisen mms?

Eston says, “You’e muttering”

Lanisen says, “Because pie.”

Eston takes a swig of his ale, “Ya know what ya can’t beat? Pork pie with a smidge of pickle over the top”

Lanisen repeats doubtfully, “Pickle?”

Eston nods, “You know, kind of sour brown stuff made from onions”

Lanisen looks halfway revolted and halfway suspicious.

Eston looks aghast, “Ya never had pickle?”

Lanisen says, “I’ve had pickled… things.”

Eston says, “But ya never had pickle? Not even in a cheese sandwich? ”

Lanisen says slowly, “Nnooo?”

Eston looks even more agog, “What about with a ploughman’s?”

Lanisen scratches his head.

Eston just shakes his head in despair. “You’re missing out”

Lanisen says, “Don’t sound like it.”

Eston asks, “Can you at least agree on the pork pie?”

Lanisen says, “I’ll agree on the pork pie.”

Eston says, “There’s that at least”

Lanisen says, “More left for you, eh?”

Eston laughs, “Too right!”

Lanisen repeats under his breath, squinting one eye, “Sour brown stuff…”

Eston sips ale, “Like chutney only more sour? You know?”

Lanisen asks, “Chutney? That Calormene stuff?”

Eston shrugs, “Nah was ours originally, they went and nicked it off us, true story”

Lanisen looks lost.

Eston says, “Is what our dad always said and he knew about stuff”

Lanisen says cautiously, “Huh.”

Eston says, “Can’t trust them southerners, they’ll nick anything that ain’t nailed down”

Lanisen says, “Ahh. Heh.”

Eston finishes off his ale and sets the tankard down on the table, “But anyway, old lady next door makes a good pickle, can get ya some if ya like”

Lanisen laughs, alarmed. “Ahhh, that’s kind of you, but I think I’m all right.”

Eston grins at his expression, “Just to see the look on your face I reckon I just might”

Lanisen says, “Really you don’t gotta. Really.”

Eston exclaims, “Alright, alright I won’t!”

Lanisen grins, relieved.

Eston says, “That expression mind, was worth it just to see that”

Lanisen gives him a look that tries to be flat and unimpressed, but he’s still grinning.

Eston laughs and casts a glance at his empty tankard, “I reckon I could just about do with another drink, fancy anything?”

Lanisen shifts and gives the tankard an assessing look. “Nah,” he says. “Prob’ly time I got back to the castle, anyhow.”

Eston asks, “Work with the kennels am I remembering right?”

Lanisen says, “Yeah, until– Oh, I guess I ain’t seen you since. I’m squire to Sir Colin now, but he ain’t at court.”

Eston’s eyes widen, “Squire huh, well ain’t that fancy. Bet that’s paid well”

Lanisen blinks. “Oh, uh.” He shifts slightly. “I–I guess.”

Eston asks, “Gonna be a knight one day?”

Lanisen ducks his head, red-eared. “Nah, doubt it, I’m just– it’s just– he wanted me to work for him is all, and this was– I dunno.”

Eston tilts his head in confusion, “Ain’t that like saying you’s basically going to be an apprentice forever?”

Lanisen pauses, flustered and uncertain. “I don’t–know?”

Eston says, “I might be wrong I ain’t no expert but I thought a squire was an apprentice knight? ”

Lanisen says, “I–um. Maybe that’s so, I dunno, I’m just– I prob’ly won’t be.”

Eston shrugs, “fair do’s”

Lanisen says, “Anyway, I should–prob’ly get.”

Eston nods, “Was nice seeing ya again, take care”

Lanisen says, standing, “Yeah, you too. See you ’round, prob’ly.” He touches his forehead and turns toward the door, limping slightly.

Eston gives him a wave before ordering another ale for himself.


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