You stand in a circular tower which serves as a sort of corridor. In the
center is a stone pillar, around which stairs are placed, rising to the
Nobles’ Quarters above. To the south is the Sewing Room. All around are
small tidy rooms, the staff quarters. To the east is the Inner Ward.
Lanisen sits against the pillar under the stairs, tucked out of sight, except for his boots. He is reading a letter.
The door to room 1 opens slowly, and a knapsack edges out first, Reina shortly after, a storage chest in her arms. Her expression is blank, unreadable, her eyes bright, though her cheeks are perfectly dry.
Lanisen peers out curiously at the noise.
Reina emerges fully, letting her door bang softly shut behind her. Turning toward the outer door, she spies a pair of boots under the stairs. Her eyebrows lift in mild curiosity, but she does not bother to look and see who is there. She simply begins trudging toward the Inner Ward.
Lanisen watches her, frowning slightly. He pulls his legs in and gets stiffly to his feet to follow after her. “What’s all this?” he asks, nodding to her knapsack and other accoutrements.
Reina stops, turning her head to look at him. She curtsies awkwardly with her chest in her arms, her eyes lowered respectfully. She opens her mouth to speak, pauses, then closes it. She shakes her head sadly.
Lanisen tilts his head at her.
Reina takes a breath, then speaks in a small, subdued voice. “Home, sir.”
Lanisen raises his eyebrows, surprised. “You’re–?”
Reina nods. “Kicked off the guard.”
Lanisen’s mouth opens at this, and he doesn’t seem to know what to say. “I see,” he says at last.
Reina nods, though does not lift her eyes. “Gardener’s assistant,” she says meekly. “Not a page. Position is gone, so home is as well. Will commute from now on. Meg…” Her voice trails off with a violent hitch, and she curtsies hurriedly and turns toward the Inner Ward.
Lanisen’s forehead furrows deeply at this, and he looks back at the door to her quarters. “Hold on, hold on,” he says, limping after her. “Did the captain tell you to clear out your quarters?”
Reina pauses instantly, turning to him, eyes down. She shakes her head.
Lanisen asks, “Did somebody else?”
Reina shakes her head again. “Was my room when I was a page,” she says quietly. “Not a page anymore.”
Lanisen moistens his lips, glancing around as if he’d really rather a real grown-up were here to deal with this. “All right, well,” he says uncertainly. “Nobody’s told you to clear out, I’d think that means you’re meant to stay where you are. Gardeners and such live in the castle too, you know.”
Reina nods, curtsying once more. “Yes, sir,” she says softly, walking toward her door and leaning against it to open it.
Lanisen reaches past her to hold it open for her. “You don’t gotta ‘sir’ me,” he says. “I ain’t a sir.”
Reina gulps nervously, nodding quickly. “I beg your pardon, squire. Thank you,” she adds as he holds her door open for her. Ducking her head even lower, she steps just far enough into her room to set her chest down in its usual place before stepping out once more.
Lanisen sighs a little, watching.
Reina steps back out into the corridor, closing and locking her door quietly behind her. She does not move though, just hovers near it as if she is not certain what she should be doing or where she should be going right now.
Lanisen asks, “All right?”
Reina nods, peeking up at him quickly before lowering her eyes to the floor once more.
Lanisen asks, “You want to talk about what that was all about, yesterday?”
Reina flinches and seems to huddle into herself as if trying to make herself smaller, shaking her head repeatedly. Her cheeks are flushed and shame is written plainly all over her face.
Lanisen backs to the steps and sits down, rubbing his shoulder absently. “I dunno, I just reckon– you’re a friendly sort, you don’t go shoutin’ at folks for no reason.”
Reina sinks to the floor in front of her door, leaning back against the smooth wood and staring at the floor. ‘He said I destroyed my family,” she says in a voice barely above a whisper.
Lanisen remarks, “That seems a bit much.”
Reina nods, wiping away an arrant tear. No more all. “‘Tis fine, squire,” she whispers. “‘Tis not the first time I have heard such. I was in the wrong, not he.”
Lanisen lifts his shoulders in a shrug. “What would you do different?” he wants to know.
Reina is quiet for a long time before answering meekly. “Ignore him. Ask him to clarify his words when I found them offensive. Not yell. Not hit. Not be rude to you all.”
Lanisen squints at her.
Reina does not notice the expression, too downtrodden even to sneak a look at him as she often does.
Lanisen turns his right hand palm-up and studies it, touching his thumb to each fingertip. “It’s all right to be angry, you know.”
Reina shakes her head sadly.
Lanisen asks, “What’s that mean?”
“It’s not,” she says in a small voice. “Not for me.”
Lanisen’s head tips to the side as he considers this. “Why is it you’re thinkin’ that?” he asks.
Reina stares blankly into space. “I become a monster.” A pause. “I become my father.”
Lanisen says nothing, but he glances at her, waiting for her to elaborate.
Reina does not speak for a long time. When she opens her mouth to at long last, it takes her a few tries before the words come out. When they do, they are stilted. Brief. As if she is afraid to say too much anymore. There is a hesitancy and resignation in her voice never there before, a tone that suggests she would rather say nothing at all. There is an air of uncertainty about her now, an air of vulnerability and frailty she never possessed before.
“When father gets angry, he hits. He bellows. He becomes mean. Never wanted to be him. Hate him. Guess it’s all I know.”
Lanisen’s eyes drop to the floor in silent understanding. He doesn’t say anything for a minute, choosing his words carefully. “Listen,” he says finally. “That was a right mess out there, I ain’t tryin’ to say otherwise, but you’re– what, eleven? Twelve? It’s– you’re, you’re a kid, I mean. You got time to learn different, and folk willing to teach you, you know? And– and you /see/ that in yourself, and that’s the start of it, of changin’ it. Understand?”
Reina appears to take in his words. She lowers her head in apparent weariness, and the sigh she releases is full of helplessness. She does nod, however. “Yes squire,” she says. “You are right.”
Lanisen doesn’t look entirely satisfied, but he nods and looks down at his hands.
Reina says nothing. There is no incessant chatter, no endless stream of questions, no outspoken prodding. There is only silence as she sits alone in the corridor, gazing down at her knees as if they both held the answers to the universe and as if she cannot quite see them at all.
Lanisen says, “Gardener’s assistant, huh?”
Reina nods. “To Mistress Sareen.”
Lanisen says, “Oh, that don’t sound so bad.”
Reina shakes her head. “She may be mean. I would not expect Captain Garian to be lenient. I will not complain though, not even if she strikes me. I deserve it.” Her last words are spoken on a resigned sigh.
Lanisen says, “She ain’t gonna wallop you. And if she does, if anybody does, you tell somebody, okay? You can tell the captain, or Megren, or me if you like.”
Reina looks up at him and there is gratitude in her expression before she clears her face of any at all. “Thank you, squire,” she says. “I will do as you say if it should happen.”
Lanisen nods, satisfied with that answer.
Reina says nothing, just pushes to her feet, looking weary and suddenly years older than her twelve summers. She curtsies respectfully to Lanisen, her gaze lowered in deference. “Thank you, squire, for your kindness,” she whispers, touching her heart in a little salute. “Thank you.” Without another word, she pushes her door open and seems to drag herself inside as if she is carrying the weight of kings on her slender shoulders.
Lanisen watches her go, pushing his mouth to the side. He stands up after a while and makes his way to the door, leaving the tower.