how not to trust your gut

East Andale
Eastern Archenland

The lane here widens to form a square of sorts and has several carts sitting at nearby buildings. People hurry back and forth between the two busy shops. Handel’s Mercantile dominates the north half of the square, and the smaller shop, Verloren’s Found and Lost, sits to the south. There are several benches here for those waiting on shoppers and horses hitched to posts.

Darius strolls easily along the lane, satchel slung over his shoulder and sword still hanging loose at his side. His eyes bore into the ground as he looks lost in thought.

Lanisen passes through the town, headed for the tavern on the east side. He catches sight of Darius and gives him a second searching look, a confused, uncertain expression on his face.

Vinri is walking somewhat behind Lanisen, a large satchel tucked securely against her side.

Darius continues head towards the heart of Andale, eyes never leaving the ground.

Lanisen continues to watch him as their paths begin to close in on each other.

Vinri tears her gaze from a few other people passing by and focuses on Lanisen. Her mouth opens, about to call a greeting, when she catches his expression and follows his gaze. She looks at the other man, then carries on with a cheerful, “Hello, Lanisen!”

Darius is suddenly ripped from his thoughts at the sound of the greeting, eyes shooting in the woman’s direction before darting over to Lanisen. Flashing a bright smile, he slows and turns to meet him.

Lanisen averts his eyes from Darius quickly at the smile, too late to avoid being caught staring, and turns toward Vinri. “Afternoon,” he answers, finding a quick grin for her.

Vinri reaches Lanisen’s side, giving her head the type of toss that would shift her hair, should it have been down. “And a fine one at that. Afternoon to you, too,” she directs at the man she doesn’t know, offering an easy smile.

Darius catches Lanisen staring at him and allows a flicker of concern to cross his expression, though it is gone just as fast as it appeared. Looking quickly over to the Daughter of Eve, he smiles. “Afternoon, Milady. ”

Lanisen glances back at the man as he nears. “Afternoon,” he echoes, a little subdued.

Vinri’s eyes flick towards Lanisen, though she doesn’t turn her head. When she speaks, though, it is still at the stranger. “‘Milady?’ I’m flattered! Vinri works just as well, though.” She shifts her weight to one foot, supporting the satchel with her hip. With another smile: “Yourself?”

Darius smile brightens. “Well, Vinri, it is a pleasure to meet you. ” he dips his head to her. “Darius is the name. ”

Lanisen watches the interaction, his eyes lingering on Darius’s face.

Vinri exclaims, “Pleasure to meet you, Darius!” She looks towards Lanisen, flicking a finger between them. “You two were talking last night over in the Hall, weren’t you? You know each other?”

Darius looks to Lanisen, still smiling. “Ah, no… We just met yesterday. Lanisen was kind enough to show me to the Inn. ”

Lanisen shifts and smiles, nodding to confirm this. “Darius is from Narnia,” he says. “Just came in last night.”

Vinri raises her eyebrows. “Really? Cass would love to talk with you, I’m sure. What brought you from there?”

Darius hehs, eyes flickering to the ground. “Come back to see some family. ”

Lanisen asks, “In… Coghill, you said?”

Vinri tips her head, listening attentively.

Darius nods slightly. “Coghill indeed. ”

Lanisen asks, “Big family?”

Darius shakes his head. “No, only a brother and sister. ” he frowns slightly.

Lanisen ahs.

Vinri asks, “I imagine you must’ve missed them while off in Narnia. How long were you there?”

Darius runs a hand through his hair, briefly lifting his bangs. “Been a number of years now. ”

Lanisen watches his face as he does so, scrutinizing his features.

Vinri’s brows lift again. “Really now! What made you go? Doesn’t seem like the most common of choices.”

Darius asks, “Go to Narnia?”

Vinri exclaims, “Mhm!”

Darius shrugs, shifting from one foot to another. “Had a rather large disagreement with my parents that led to me leaving.” He frowns. “I ran from my problems, but now… I am looking to mend those wounds back at home. ”

Vinri mms sympathetically. “Parents can be difficult.”

Darius nods. “Yes, they can be, but I am mostly to blame for the wounds. ”

Lanisen tilts his head slightly at Darius.

Vinri readjusts her satchel strap, looking briefly towards Lanisen before asking Darius, “You said only a brother and sister in Coghill, though?”

Darius nods. “Indeed, only the two… ” he sighs. “Haven’t seen my brother in ages though. He left even before I did. ” he frowns. ” We are quite the broken family. My brother was… troubled. ”

Lanisen raises his eyebrows a little, frowning.

Vinri frowns herself, just for a moment or two. Her voice is still sympathetic. “I’m sorry to hear that. He’s come back, though, if you’re off to try to make things right?”

Darius shakes his head. “I know not. ”

Lanisen asks, “So it’s only your sister in Coghill, then?”

Vinri’s mouth turns up in a wry sort of ‘that’s what I was gonna ask’ expression before she returns to attentiveness.

Darius shrugs. “As far as I know. Along with having not seen them in some time, I haven’t heard from them in just as long. ” he shakes his head, frown deepening. “I am not sure what I will find when I reach coghill.”

Lanisen makes a small sympathetic twist out of his mouth.

Vinri’s expression mimics Lanisen’s, but she asks anyway: “What will you do if they’re not there?”

Darius shrugs. “Look for work in the area, or perhaps head back to Narnia. ”

Vinri asks, “Come all this way and then not even search them out?”

Lanisen looks down.

Darius shrugs. “I am not even sure were I would look after that. ” he frowns, glancing down.

Lanisen nods, as if he understands that.

Vinri doesn’t join them in examining the ground, instead tilting her head back and tapping at her lips. “Well, it’s a far shot, but if you gave us their names, or asked around in Coghill, you might hear something.”

Darius nods. “Well, if I don’t find a trace of them there I will come back and ask of you. ” he smile back to the woman, eyes growing brighter. “My thanks for the offer though.”

Vinri quirks a brow, then smooths it into a smile. “Of course!”

Darius looks between the two, shifting a bit. “Everyone here has been so helpful. ”

Lanisen half-smiles faintly. “That’s Andale.” He looks at Darius again, with the same keen, anxious look.

Vinri grins. “That it is.” She catches sight of Lanisen’s expression and looks at him more fully, tipping her head.

Darius smiles, nodding slightly and letting his eyes wander the area.

Lanisen says, rather suddenly, “Well. I’m meant to be at the tavern, so.”

Vinri’s brow creases before she smiles. “Off to see Cass?”

Darius nods slightly, glancing between the two. “Indeed, I must be off myself. Need to attend to preparations for the rest of my journey. ”

Lanisen says, “Thought I’d see if she’s on shift.”

Vinri nods. “Well, I won’t keep either of you, then. Best of luck on your journey, Darius, if I don’t see you again before you head out!”

Darius dips his head to Vinri, smiling. “My thanks Vinri. ” he nods to Lanisen. “Farewell to you both. ”

Lanisen nods to to them both, and turns away toward the inn. He walks slowly, however, and lingers, glancing back occasionally.

Vinri waves cheerfully towards Darius and follows Lanisen towards the inn, adjusting her satchel again.

Lanisen, once he is satisfied she is not staying in Darius’s proximity, continues on toward the tavern.

Darius’s gaze flickers to Lanisen as he leaves, before heading for the heart of Andale.

The Narrow Gate Hall
Eastern Archenland

The Hall of the Narrow Gate is brightly lit by a large chandelier, and by torches on the walls. A bar runs along the length of the south wall. Behind the bar stands Dranken, the Barman, polishing a glass. The wall behind him holds several bottles, and racks of glasses. There is also a menu offering drinks and food. The north wall is dominated by a cheerful stone fireplace.

The rest of the room is filled with tables and stools, in little clusters all over the scuffed wooden floor. An arch leads to the Anteroom to the south.

Lanisen has taken his usual seat at the far end of the bar. Cass is nowhere in sight, but he is quietly eating a walnut muffin.

Vinri comes into the Hall, looking around with her brows drawn a bit. Spying Lanisen, she walks directly towards him and slips onto the stool next to him.

Lanisen jumps a little as she joins him, dropping a few muffin crumbs. “Oh,” he says, looking at her, and swallows his mouthful of muffin apologetically. “Sorry, I didn’t know you meant to come here too, I’d have walked with you.”

Vinri waves her hand, dismissing that. “I didn’t say. Figured I wouldn’t intrude on you and your sister chatting.” She eyes the menu, pushes her mouth to the side, and orders some cider. “Everything all right?”

Lanisen says, “Yeah, yeah, sorry. Everything’s fine.”

Vinri shoots him a glance, one brow a little higher than the other. “Alright. You just seemed a little on edge.” She gives him an apologetic glance.

Lanisen says, “Oh, sorry.” He looks down at his hands, which are busily making crumbs of the muffin.

Vinri rests her elbows on the table, interweaving her fingers in front of her face. “Had a mostly good day so far?”

Lanisen says, “Yeah! Yeah, it’s been real nice. Not too hot, you know. How about you?”

Vinri wrinkles her nose. “It was quiet at the stall, so I thought I’d pack up a bit early. But it’s a nice day for that, anyway.”

Lanisen says, “Good, good. Business been good?”

Vinri says, “It has it’s ups and downs. Some other peddlar came in recently, he’s been selling some of the same things.” She shoots him a grin. “Not half as nice as mine, of course, but not everyone cares enough to tell.”

Lanisen says, “That scoundrel.”

Vinri exclaims, “Isn’t he though? It’s as if he doesn’t know this city is mine!” Freeing her hands to pick up her mug, she asks, “How’re the dogs?”

Lanisen shifts. “Fine, most of ’em. They brought down a boar yesterday and one of ’em– Tohol, he got–” He stops and moistens his lips. “But he’s, Danall’s thinkin’ he’ll be fine, give it a few weeks.”

Vinri’s expression gets sympathetic instantly. “I’m sorry, I reckon that’s hard anyway.”

Lanisen says, “Yeah, it’s.” He takes a deep breath. “It happens every so often, you don’t really get used to it.”

Vinri nods. “I’m glad he’s pulling through, at least,” she offers.

Lanisen says, “He’s a spirited one, he’ll be fine. We’ll be fightin’ to keep him down, wait a week.”

Vinri smiles. “Sounds like a full time job,” she agrees. “Better see Cass as much as you can before then.”

Lanisen says, giving a quick grin, “‘S why I’m here.”

Vinri grins back. “Then again, I could tell her to join you. One spirited dog, a spirited woman… they’d be a good match!”

Lanisen’s grin broadens enough to form a dimple in his cheek, but he looks down. “There we go.”

Vinri tips her head to be at the same angle as his, if sideways. “Bet she wouldn’t mind it, either.”

Lanisen says, “Prob’ly not, I wouldn’t think so, no.”

Vinri glances at the crumbled muffin. “Want another?” she asks, nodding at it. “That one’s better suited for bird feeding now.”

Lanisen looks down at it, startled. “Oh!” he says, and laughs. “Stars. Don’t let Cass see.”

Vinri grins. “It’ll be our secret. Both know one, now, so I reckon we’re even.”

Lanisen squints at her, confused. “What’s yours?”

Vinri grins. “Now should I tell you if you’ve forgotten, that’s the question. Hmm. Had to do with salt in tea and stew.”

Lanisen says, “Oh!” He laughs, and leans back a little. “Right! Of course! How could I have forgotten that.”

Vinri rests her chin on her hand. “Good, I didn’t like to think I was /that/ forgettable.”

Lanisen grins and rubs his hands over his face. “Sorry. I’m just distracted today, I s’pose.”

Vinri traces a finger around the rim of her cup with her free hand. “If you need to talk, I can be half-decent at listening.”

Lanisen says, “Nothin’ in particular. Just was a long night last night, with Tohol. And–” But he stops there, the breath still held in like he hasn’t decided yet if he wants to use it.

Vinri raises her gaze to look at him, eyebrows lifting in a prompting sort of way.

Lanisen closes his eyes briefly and shakes his head. “Nothing, it’s nothing.”

Vinri’s mouth twists, just a little, as Lanisen doesn’t elaborate. By the time his eyes are fully open again, she’s just nodding. “It sounds like you’ve had quite the day.”

Lanisen says, “Sorry, I’m prob’ly not great company right now.”

Vinri lifts a shoulder, her normal grin returning. “Well, I’m not the one you came to see, anyway.” She pauses for a moment. “I could give you some space, if you need.”

Lanisen says, “Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean– I mean, I don’t want to keep you, but–” He flounders a bit, red and embarrassed.

Vinri picks up her cider and takes a drink. “In that case, I’ll stay for a while. Lord Dar himself probably wouldn’t approve if I didn’t savor this cider right.”

Lanisen agrees wryly, “He’s got somethin’ to say about everything, for sure.”

Vinri exclaims, “And not a word of it untrue, apparently!”

Lanisen pulls his lips between his teeth, trying not to smile.

Vinri, on the other hand, smiles a bright, overly-innocent sort of smile.

Lanisen glances around the tavern just in case.

Vinri gestures towards his muffin again. “Offer still stands, by the way.”

Lanisen breaks into a smile. “‘S nice of you, but that’s all right. I’m not really that hungry.”

Vinri says, “Then we /should/ give the crumbs to the birds. Dispose of the evidence and all that.”

Lanisen says, “Maybe I will.”

Vinri grins, swirling the last quarter of her cider around her cup.

Lanisen asks, “How’s your family?”

Vinri wrinkles her nose. “Oh, missing me, if the letters read right. Rial doesn’t do half so well at keeping numbers, Vin hates minding the shop, but they’re all healthy as ever.”

Lanisen says, “Good, good.” He glances at her. “You miss them?”

Vinri hesitates, one finger tapping her cup, then nods. “I do, at times. But I love being here, too, and I think they’re better suited where they are.”

Lanisen nods thoughtfully. “I know what you mean, I think.”

Vinri smiles. “I’ll probably have to make a trip home… sometime soon. I reckon Father might rather hear the summer’s report in person. But there’s some time left.”

Lanisen asks curiously, “Do you only go once a year?”

Vinri lifts her chin long enough to wave her supporting hand. “This year, at least. I didn’t want to leave for too long when I’m just getting settled.”

Lanisen says, “Ahh, yeah. That makes sense.”

Vinri says, “Besides, I’m not all that fond of the trip. Just a bit too long for my taste.”

Lanisen guesses, “Three days?”

Vinri considers. “Was it only three days? I suppose that’s about right. Felt longer, though.”

Lanisen says, “Three days is plenty long.”

Vinri agrees, “Especially when sitting on a wagon that whole time. You’d think that I’d be able to find a cushion to make it better, with my wares, but…” She shakes her head with a sigh.

Lanisen winces. “I’ve only ever walked it,” he remarks. “I think a wagon might be worse, for all you’re sittin’ down.”

Vinri nods vehemently. “I’d not suggest it.”

Lanisen grins, and lets a silence fall. He pushes at the plate of crumbs, looking down at it absently.

Vinri watches the crumbs roll about and suggests, “Need a change of scenery for a bit? Maybe Cass will be about later.”

Lanisen says, shifting, “‘S not a bad idea.” He heaves a deep breath and looks around the tavern.

Vinri hops off her stool. “Any place you’d like to go?”

Lanisen says, as he follows suit with less hop and more slide, “Oh, um.” He frowns. “I dunno. I don’t really– I don’t know.”

Vinri hmms. “There’s the beach, but I don’t know how you feel about sand all over. Or the ward, I suppose, but that’s just returning to scenery, not finding anything new.”

Lanisen points out, “You don’t /have/ to get sand all over at the beach. There’s berries, if you like that kind of thing.”

Vinri blinks. “I must’ve walked right past those.”

Lanisen says, “Meg showed me where they are, they’re just by the road that way.”

Vinri considers. “How thorny are they?”

Lanisen says, “I dunno, she did the pickin’. I don’t like blackberries.”

Vinri asks, “Then there’s no reason to go picking them. I’m not wanting to deal with thorns, anyhow.” She gives a little laugh, tapping a finger to her chin. “You’d think I’d have a few more ideas, I’ve been here long enough. Maybe if we start out we’ll find somewhere?”

Lanisen agrees, “I’m game.”

Vinri grins and heads toward the door. “Let’s be off, then!” She pauses to briefly glance at the crumbs, then shrugs, continuing on.

Eastern Archenland

You stand in the heart of Andale where most of the folk who support Anvard live. Young children play here on nice days, skipping rope, or shooting marbles, and older ones can be seen reading scrolls. Adults hurry through on their way from home to where their business takes them. A well with a stone wall sits on the western edge of the road.

The road here widens and splits to run toward the shops to the east, North Andale to the north and the Crossroad to the south. Short paths lead to the two settlements here; Het Noorden to the northwest, and Zuiden to the southeast.

Vinri slows some as they approach the well, looking at the people still around even though it’s getting towards evening.

Lanisen stuffs a handful of crumbs into his pocket before they leave the inn and trails after Vinri. He slows as she does, glancing about to see what has caught her attention.

Vinri looks towards Lanisen. “I always rush by here, feels like. Off to the ward or back to the inn. It’s a nice place.”

Lanisen looks around again, taking it in with new eyes. He watches the people, and looks at the colors of the buildings, and the wildflowers that grow between them, and he agrees, “It is nice.”

Vinri oohs and bends down, picking up a marble out of a plant that is pushing its way out from the road.

Lanisen asks, “What is it?”

Vinri holds it up, showing off a small, reddish aggie. “Looks like someone lost it.”

Lanisen says, “Aw, I had a set like that.”

Vinri glances around, checking to see if anyone seems to be looking, then holds it out to him. “Care to start again?” she asks with a grin.

Lanisen says, “Finders keepers.”

Vinri pockets it. “Anywhere-” She cuts off, noticing a middle-aged woman walking nearby. “Oh… Lanisen, I’m sorry, I agreed to meet with Adeliha this evening, just for a while.”

Lanisen turns to see what she’s looking at. “Oh! All right. See you ’round, I s’pose.”

Vinri offers an apologetic smile. “Sorry, I dragged you out for a walk and now I’m off. See you soon!” She starts after the other woman, waving over her shoulder.

Lanisen makes a no-problem sort of gesture, but she’s already turned away. He looks back at the ground, scuffing about with his toe to see if there are any more escaped aggies.

Darius saunters into the center of Andale, eyes flickering over thinning crowd. Spotting Lanisen, his eyes flicker around him, attempting to make out anyone else he might recognize. Not seeing anyone, he moves forward, a kind smile now plastered on his face.

Lanisen crouches down to pick up something shiny.

Vinri starts talking with the woman, glancing Lanisen’s way occasionally as they begin to move out of the main part of the town.

Darius finishes his approach, calling out to the man. “Lanisen!”

Lanisen raises his head at the sound of his name. He stands with a slight wince, looking around until he finds Darius. His eyes go sharper and wary, but his voice is pleasant enough when he replies, “Evening.”

Darius nods to him. “Evening to you as well. I trust all is well with you thise eve?”

Lanisen says, “Well enough, yeah, thanks. You?”

Darius nods. “Good. I was just finishing my preperations for the last leg of my journey. ” he releases a contented sigh, glancing skyward. “Thought I might grab a drink at the inn before making my way in the morning though. I would really enjoy the company… ” he tilts his head. “And I would have no problem picking up the coin. ”

Lanisen hesitates, and doesn’t answer right away.

Darius shrugs, a flicker of disappointment crossing his eyes. “You sure? I certainly enjoyed the company last night. ”

Lanisen shifts, looking around the square. “No, it’s– I just came from there is all,” he explains lamely. “Um. I s’pose if it’s– I mean, I don’t mind.”

Darius’s eyes flicker with excitement. “Great! As I said, no need to worry about the coin. I will pick that up. ” He begins turning in the direction of the inn.

Lanisen hesitates again, then makes a small self-chastising grimace and falls into step after him.

Darius moves at a good pace in the direction of the Inn, the bright smile never leaving his face.

The Narrow Gate Hall
Eastern Archenland

Darius leads Lanisen into the hall, moving over to one of the tables and motioning Lanisen over.

Lanisen starts automatically for his usual seat at the bar, but he shifts his course obligingly and takes the chair closer to the door.

Darius settles in to his seat, looking ready to relax before remembering the drinks. “Ah, goodness me, I forgot the drinks. ” he shifts, looking around the semi-crowded bar and frowns, looking as if he doesn’t want to shout at the barman. “Ah, I’ll just be a moment. ” At that, he stands and move towards the bar.

Lanisen says, “Oh, er– I’ve got coin–” He digs in his pocket and pulls out his coinpurse.

Darius waves him off before turning to Dranken and motioning for two of the ales. A few moments later Dranken hands him to large mugs and he turns back to the table. Moving a few paces into the crowd, he suddenly slows to a stop and his eyes bunch up as if a sneeze has begun to catch him. Quickly, setting down the mug in his right hand on a nearby table, he takes a few deep breaths before pulling up his right arm to cover his face, and letting loose a large sneeze. If one one to be incessently observent they may have noticed Darius’s right hand brushing past a flap in his tunic and the smallest of viles being tipped into the drink in his left hand. Recovering from the sneeze, he lets his hand drop past the flap once more before grasping the mug and moving back towards Lanisen.

Lanisen asks sympathetically as he returns, “Hay fever?”

Darius groans, setting the mug in his left hand down in front of Lanisen. “Indeed, I get it the worst this time of year. ” he sniffles, settling back into his own stool and releasing a soft sigh before taking a swig.

Lanisen mms. “There was a boy worked in the kennels for a while, got it around dogs. He had to leave. Think he’s a…” He pauses and looks at the ceiling. “Think he apprenticed to a scribe now, or somethin’. I dunno, it was a while ago.” He takes a drink of his ale, and slides the coins across the table to Darius.

Darius looks down at the coins with a raised brow before letting out a heart laugh. “I think not, Lanisen. Consider this repayment for your kindness. ” At this, he shoves the coins back to him.

Lanisen says, “No, no, please. Let me, you’re travelin’. My lord’s good to me, I can handle it.”

Darius smile brightens a bit, though he groans. “Ah, my friend, really. I can’t. Your generosity knows no bounds. ” he releases a soft sigh, eyeing the coins for a few moments. “And, in turn, I must /insist/ you keep those coins of yours. ”

Lanisen’s demeanor flickers at the odd emphasis, and he gives Darius a narrow look. He covers it with another pull of his ale.

Darius leans forward, taking another swig of his ale. “So, I know you mentioned that you worked in the Castle. ” He swirls the drink in his cup, staring into it. “If I may be so bold, in what capacity?”

Lanisen says, “Oh, er.” He shrugs. “I work with the hounds, mostly. I’m squire to Sir Colin, too, but that don’t mean much when he’s away.”

Darius looks up at the mention of being a ‘squire’. “Squire you say? That /is/ a noble profession. I take it Sir Colin is the Knight you are under?”

Lanisen says, “‘S right, yeah.” A faint rosy flush is beginning to show on his cheeks. He takes another drink.

Darius asks, “And where might he be at the moment?”

Lanisen waves his hand vaguely. “Away. Traveling.”

Darius ahs. “Did he indicate how long he might be away? As you said, a squire without his Knight can be a bit tough. ”

Lanisen shakes his head. “Nah. It’s fine, he don’t need me right this minute, it’s–” He blinks several times and rubs at his eyes, squinting around the tavern.

Darius’s tilts his head, a flash of concern crossing his face. “You alright, friend?”

Lanisen blinks again and shakes his head a little as if punch drunk. “Yeah, just went– just went a little wibbly there. Didn’t get much sleep last night,” he adds in explanation.

Darius begins to stand. ” Well, how about I help you back to the Castle then. ”

Lanisen scrubs at his eyes again with the heels of his hands. “I might should get goin’,” he admits ruefully. “I’m real sorry, this is–” He stops, and looks down at his fingers with an odd expression.

Darius’s eyes widen with concern. Forgetting his drink at the table, he moves over to the man offering her an arm. “You are in no condition to travel alone, let me help you. ”

Lanisen says, “What? No, I’m fine, I’m just– just sleepy is all.” He stands, and his eyes go unfocused for a second, but he draws away from Darius. “I’m fine, I’m fine… I’ll– good travels to you, evening.” He turns toward the door and reels, grabbing for the doorpost.

Darius quickly follows him, putting a hand on his back. “I insist Lanisen, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself leaving you to stumble your way back. ”

Lanisen says, “It ain’t far, I’ll get there fine– oh, lion–” He puts a hand on his stomach and swallows hard.

Darius opens the door for him, wincing as he sees the hand shoot to his stomach. “Here, come on out. I’ll at least accompany you.”

Lanisen looks at the door, then pushes off the frame and lurches out into the cooler night air.

Darius follows along quickly after, shutting the door behind him.

Andale Crossroad
Eastern Archenland

You stand at a busy crossroad outside Andale. The main road curves up from the forest to the southwest, heading into the town to the east. A less-traveled road winds up into the mountains to the west, and a smaller track descends into a canyon to the north.

South of the crossroads is heavily forested, the main path disappearing into the trees to the southwest. At the southeast corner of the crossroads stands a tall walnut tree.

Lanisen has revived a little in the cooler air, but he is stumbling and weaving by the time they reach the crossroads.

Darius follows along quickly, slowing a bit as he observes Lanisen’s movement. “Lanisen, let me help you. ”

Lanisen mumbles, “‘M fine, ‘mfine…” A second later, he drops to his knees, dry-heaving by the side of the road.

Darius glances around the dark crossroads. A smirk tugging at his mouth as he realizes they are pretty much alone. Quickly moving over to Lanisen, he grabs him firmly by the shoulders in an attempt to lift him up. “Here, friend… let me help you. No fighting it now, you aren’t fit to move much less make you way to the castle alone. ”

Lanisen’s head lolls drunkenly as Darius hauls him up. “I don’ know what’s– what’s happening,” he slurs. His breath comes in straining wheezes. “What’s, what’s, my hands’re– somethin’s– somethin’s wrong– somethin’s real—”

Darius hehs, keeping both hands firmly locked on his shoulders. “Aye, it’ll all be okay soon /friend/. Just a quick nights rest and you will be right as rain. ” he begins moving towards the graveyard. “This way now.”

Lanisen blinks several times, trying to focus. “N-no, that’s not, that’s not the way,” he protests. “It’s th’other, other way.”

Darius chuckles softly. “I assure you, Lanisen, it /is/ this way. ” He begins moving Lanisen a bit faster.

Lanisen begins to push back, trying to twist away. “It’s not, that’s the– that’s the wrong road, it’s– stop it, stop!”

Darius brings both arms around in a bear-hug of sorts, pulling Lanisen tight as he means to drag him the rest of the way into the graveyard.

Lanisen draws a wheezing gasp, now struggling in earnest. He tries to jab back with his elbow.
>>> Lanisen smacks Darius with his fist! Darius is bruised!

Darius blinks, releasing the man from his grasp before coming around with a fist of his own. Only this one is aimed at Lanisen’s head.
>>> Darius smacks Lanisen with his fist! Lanisen doesn’t appear to be too hurt by the blow.

Lanisen stumbles back, raising his arm to defend himself. His left hand goes to his belt.

Darius takes a half step back, eyes flashing in a mixture of anger and frustration. Quickly giving the area a once over, he unsheathes his sword and puts the tip of it within inches of the man. “Move, boy.”

Lanisen’s unfocused eyes manage to fix on the blade. He raises his hands slowly away from his sides, and looks up at Darius’s face. “Aaron.”

Darius snorts, that familiar grin plastering itself to his face. “Darius, /actually/. Aaron is no more. ” he moves the sword a hair closer. “Now /move/.”

Lanisen flinches back, eyes back on the blade. He takes a wavering step backward.

Darius loses all sense of humor in his expression. “Move, before I decide it better to drop you where you stand.”

Lanisen takes a deep, shuddering breath. He nods, just a small motion of his head. “Gonna turn ’round,” he says, asking permission.

Darius motions with the sword. “Turn. ”

Lanisen turns, slowly, and begins walking. He is unsteady on his feet and shaking badly, so his progress is slow.

Darius keeps the sword steady on his back, his eyes shifting back and forth as he watches for any signs of people.

Lanisen keeps his hands away from his sides as they go.

The Andale Graveyard
Eastern Archenland

The canyon widens into a would-be meadow here. Above you great mountains block out most of the light the sun might provide, and before you stones rise from the ground, approximately the same distance from each other yet somehow scattered. Some of these are great statues, finely carved, expertly detailed. Others are mere misshapen markers, the stubborn overgrown grass obscuring them until they are nearly underfoot. Flowers in various states of decay cluster around a few of the graves, but most seem quite abandoned. Indeed, the roots of a great oak tree have nearly overturned several of the markers near the back of the graveyard. Near these forgotten hallows a wide pit gapes darkly. Within it lie the remains of centuries of brigands. Although the bodies have been enclosed in wooden coffins to protect them from the elements, it is evident that some creature has unearthed a meal by prying at the weakest wood. From these broken coffins yawn the skeletal remains of Archenland’s greatest enemies.

To the south, projecting from the canyon wall, stands a large stone building. Like the rest of the necropolis, it is solemn and forboding, but unlike the broken graves and ravaged pit, this building has not been forgotten. Its great shape casts a heavy shadow over the grasses and stones, the stone richly carved with the Royal Family’s crest. Here, it seems, is where the ancestors of the noble families lie.

Darius keeps close to Lanisen. “Hold. ” he orders before flicking his sword to the northeast. “In there, now. ”

A small sepulcher looms here, set apart from the rest of the graves.

Lanisen follows the sword point until he sees the dark doorway. He wheezes a shuddering breath and begs, “Please– please– what’re you, what d’you want, why’re you–”

Darius grumbles. “/Move/!” he commands, the frustration in his voice becoming evident.

Lanisen only stands, frozen and trembling. His eyes dart around the area, looking for escape.

Darius puts the point of his sword into the man’s back. Not hard enough to draw blood, but certainly hard enough that he should feel the point of the sword. “I will only tell you once more. /Move/ or I drop you where you stand.”

Lanisen stumbles forward, broken out of his trance, and continues all the way forward to land on his hands and knees.

Darius moves to the door, careful to keep the point of his sword on Lanisen. Opening it it quick, he pulls his sword back, and grabs Lanisen by the back of the collar before attempting to drag him in.

Lanisen cringes away, but the drug has made him too weak and dizzy and unfocused to put up much resistance.

Darius pulls him the rest of the way in before slamming the door shut.

Eastern Archenland

The darkness here is complete and stifling. There is an echoing quality to the space, and any footfall or breath seems loud. The floor is stone, and there is a faint smell of must and decay.

A few steps in is a stone structure, about waist-high. The top is glassy-smooth, carved with ridges that seem to be letters or ornamentation.


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