leaving the paddock

Castle Anvard

The stables of Anvard are not large, but they are well-ordered and tidy. The
wide alley runs parallel to the outside wall, with generously sized box
stalls on either side. Many hold permanent residents, with the horse’s name
on a wooden sign above the stall door, but several stand empty to receive
visitors. The hard-packed dirt floor is kept well swept, and the stalls are
clean, but there is a pervading smell of horse and hay that is not entirely

There is a small paddock on the northeast end of the stable, and the far
southwest end is devoted to tack storage and maintenance. A door in the
west wall, kept closed most of the time, leads to the smithy.

Megren has Phantom looped to the grooming station outside the paddock, where she is giving him a good scrubbing down. She is humming to herself softly enough that only snatches of it is audible in the quiet din of the building.

Lanisen comes in from the bright ward, blinking and half-blind in the darker stable. He heads for Maestro’s stall, and can see well enough by the time he gets there to recognize Megren. “Hey!”

Megren looks up over Phantom’s withers. “Hey!” she says. “Sorry, I can’t go over there until I’ve finished with this. Phantom had a good run of it today, didn’t you bud?” The last is addressed to the horse, whom she gives a good affectionate rub on the shoulder.

Lanisen says, “‘Sall right, I can talk to you from here.” He digs an apple out of his pocket and offers it to Maestro through the open top half of the stall door. “Did you go jumping again?”

Megren makes an affirmative noise. “A little bit, and we had a good canter.”

Lanisen says, “Sounds nice. Where’d you go?”

Megren says, “Oh– I haven’t actually gone out of the paddock yet.”

Lanisen says, “Oh! Right, sorry.” He lets Maestro whuffle the last crunched-up bits of apple off his palm, then draws back and wipes his hand on his shirt.

Megren asks, “How was your morning?”

Lanisen shrugs a little. “Fine. Slept later’n I meant to, but Danall didn’t need me so it was fine.” He yawns and covers his mouth a second too late.

Megren asks, “Did you hear about Lady Honour?”

Lanisen says, “Yeah! Hall was all buzzin’ this mornin’. Twins, wow.”

Megren grins. “GIrl and a boy. Sir Tyren called them overachievers like their father on account of… being good at living in the same space I guess? Personally if that reflects anything about the family I’d say it was an uncommonly peaceable temperament.” Her eyes flick to the ceiling. “Prince Corin might care to disagree.”

Lanisen snickers. “Guess we’ll find out for sure in a few years. Wasn’t Prince Corin boxin’ folks by, what, five?”

Megren walks about to Phantom’s other side, her hand dragging along his flank to let him know where she is. “Yeah, some hothead squire as I heard it. Probably climbed right up him and wore him down with tiny-fisted knocks to the head.”

Lanisen says, “Oh no.” He snickers again, picturing it, and repeats, “Ohh no. Poor squire.”

Megren says, “Please, I’m sure he deserved it, if Prince Corin was anything then like he is now. He’s very fair-minded.”

Lanisen asks, “Are five-year-olds, usually?”

Megren lifts her shoulders unknowingly. “You see me carting a bundle of children around? Until about two years ago my experience with people was: markets.”

Lanisen squints and leans back on Maestro’s stall, folding his arms. “I don’t remember Cass at five very well,” he says. “She liked bein’ messy, I think.”

Megren says, “Well, who doesn’t.”

Lanisen says, “True.”

Megren says, “Probably Lord Dar’s kids.”

Lanisen adds, “Sir Tyren’s, too.”

Megren concedes, “All right, noble children don’t like a mess.”

Lanisen says, “I bet Prince Corin did.”

Megren says, “Poke holes in all my generalities, why don’t you.”

Lanisen says, “You’re welcome.”

Megren switches out to the grooming comb. After a moment of quietly smoothing Phantom’s coat, she says, “Oh! Sir Darrin says we’re to leave for Coghill pretty soon now that his niece and nephew are here.”

Lanisen blinks. “Coghill? Oh.”

Megren wrinkles her nose at him from over Phantom’s back. “Ah, you’ve heard of the place.”

Lanisen gives her an annoyed look. “I been there. What’re you doin’ in Coghill?”

Megren squints an eye at the annoyance, which she apparently considers undeserved. “Well, I guess he’s meant to go back for a while and keep things running along while the rest of the family is here with the baby. Babies. And he wanted to find a mount so he didn’t have to keep borrowing Gambol, anyway. I don’t think it will be for very long. Lord Shar hardly ever leaves for long, from the way they talk of it.”

Lanisen says, “Oh. Makes sense.” He frowns a little and rubs his elbow. “Are you– excited?”

Megren taps Phantom on the nose with her brush as she passes around to his other side. “Um? Yeah. It’ll be my first trip out doing real knightly things. Not like you and Sir Colin get to do, of course, but still. I mean, you can do a lot of good things here, obviously, but it’s different, you know?”

Lanisen says, “Makes sense. I’m glad, it sounds good.” He pauses. “When’re you going?”

Megren says, “About a week, I think.”

Lanisen says, “Oh, nice.” Maestro is lipping at his shoulder, so he turns away from Megren and lets himself into the stall to more easily pay attention to him, shutting the half-door behind him. “I like Coghill, it’s pretty.”

Megren watches the back of his head for a moment. “I’ll have to come up with something really good to match the amethyst from Carmichael,” she tries.

Lanisen glances back at her over the door, and gives a quick small grin that is somehow apologetic. “Aw. You don’t gotta bring me anything.”

Megren brushes this off, “I’ll figure something out. Too bad it’s not winter any longer, or I’d find a frozen toad for Sir Colin’s bedroll.”

Lanisen says, “You’d have a hike to put it there.”

Megren says, “Well, that’s what’d make it good.”

Lanisen laughs, halfway skeptical. “An unfrozen frog would be almost as good,” he remarks.

Megren sounds just as skeptical. “Maybe.” She finishes up with Phantom and unties his lead to take him back to his stall.

Lanisen runs his fingers through Maestro’s mane, absently working out a tangled spot.

Megren puts Phantom away, offering him a half an apple from her pocket. “I’ll think on it.” She glances over at Lanisen. “Coming to practice with us later?”

Lanisen asks, “What? Oh, um. Maybe, yeah.”

Megren shuts the stall door behind her. “Maybe, yes, definitely, I haven’t been able to think of anything else all day, I’m that excited?”

Lanisen makes a face at her, but is smiling. “I’ll– I’ll be there if I can,” he offers, noncommittal.

Megren squints an eye at him. “Fair enough. Can’t promise I won’t search you out if you don’t show.”

Lanisen says, “Good luck.”

Megren grins, “Fair warning so you can hide better.”

Lanisen says loftily, “If I felt like hidin’ nobody could find me.”

Megren taps her jaw thoughtfully. “Take you up on that challenge.”

Lanisen raises his eyebrows, grinning. “All right, it’s on.”

Megren lifts her finger as she starts to walk backward out of the stable. “Not today, though! Today, you show up.” She pauses, then grins, “Tonight, maybe.”

Lanisen laughs and ducks his head. “I’ll try.”

Megren nods, calling, “I’m holding you to it!” and passes out the doors back into the outer ward.


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