uncertain ground

Outer Ward
Castle Anvard

Cassandra slips through the ward, her shawl wrapped around her shoulders.

Lanisen leaves the kennel, squinting in the brilliant fall sunshine, and rubs the bridge of his nose. He gives a stall selling large, braided-up pretzels an assessing look.

Cassandra side steps through the crowd, aiming for the gates.

Lanisen touches his pocket where his coinpurse is kept, then starts for the stall. His path intersects Cassandra’s.

Cassandra runs smack dab into him and falls down. She mutters, “Watch it!”

Lanisen staggers and skitters quickly to put his back to a parked wagon and face whoever plowed into him. His hand is at his back, though he doesn’t draw. “Cass!” he says after a startled second, exasperated, and offers her a hand up.

Cassandra glares at the person who is in her path before realizing that it is her brother, She glances at his hand before grabbing it. She wipes her hands on her skirt.

Lanisen gives her an assessing look, and there’s a small, heavy hesitation before he asks, gesturing at the stand, “Pretzel?”

Cassandra shrugs, “Only if you are buying.”

Lanisen shrugs a little in return and steps up, asking the woman for two. He counts out the coins and hands one pretzel to his sister.

Cassandra begins to nibble, eyeing him out of the corner of her eye.

Lanisen asks, “Where you off to?”

Cassandra says, “Out.”

Lanisen asks, “Can I come?”

Cassandra peers at him, “I thought you didn’t want to leave the castle?”

Lanisen shrugs and scuffs at a pebble with the toe of his boot. “Could use a change of scene.”

Cassandra gives him a doubtful noise before shrugging, “I wanted to go to the beach.”

Lanisen says, “Bit cold, ain’t it?”

Cassandra gives him a look, “I ain’t going swimming.”

Lanisen says humbly, “Sorry.”

Cassandra indicates the gates, “So…..”

Lanisen nods and takes a bite of the pretzel, starting in that direction.

Cassandra takes a quick glance around the ward before following after him.

Lanisen glances back at her, and a sort of anxious concern settles in his face before he turns back toward the gates.

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.

Cassandra makes her way through the crossroads, being a silent companion for the moment.

Lanisen lets her take the lead. His eyes stray toward the little path to the graveyard.

Cassandra glances up at him, “You okay?”

Lanisen draws a breath and turns his attention deliberately back toward the road. He nods.

Cassandra darts a quick glance to the graveyard before continue on their way.

Herberg Road
Eastern Archenland

The Herberg Road leads to Herberg’s public house, The Narrow Gate, a huge building that sits in a clearing to the east of the road. It’s obvious that rooms on the eastern side of the building overlook the beach and ocean. Clumps yellow of fruit trees shade the walls of the Public House and hardwoods line the lane.

The lane to the west leads the shops of East Andale, and continues north toward the Beach Road.

Cassandra glances at the tavern as she approaches. She frowns.

Lanisen tears off another bit of his pretzel, watching her from the corner of his eye. “/You/ okay?” he asks, bumping her arm with his companionably.

Cassandra shrugs, “I miss it is all.”

Lanisen is quiet for a moment, glancing past her at the tavern. “You wantin’ to go back?” he finally asks.

Cassandra shrugs, “No. I’m needed in the castle.”

Lanisen points out, “They got along all right without you before.”

Cassandra snorts, “When I said ‘it’, I wasn’t meaning just the tavern.” She continues on her way.

Beach Road
Eastern Archenland

The trees, so pervasive everywhere else in this region, come to an end here. They are replaced by low brush, including some Blackberry Bushes. The road begins to gently slope downward to the east, where the plants thin further.

The Beach road continues for a few miles to the east, and the southern leg leads to the Herberg Road.

Lanisen asks, “What was it you were meanin’?”

Cassandra waves her hand, “Like it was when I first got here. Where you and I didn’t have to constantly look over our shoulders. Where everything was semi-normal.”

Lanisen goes quiet, staring at the road.

Andale Beach
Eastern Archenland

At the bottom of the slope, the beach spreads, a mixture of sand and gravel. Seagulls scream overhead, and small crabs scuttle about between pools and bits of driftwood. There are a few larger rocks as well, slowly being eroded by wind and water. The Eastern Ocean seems to go on forever, the gray-green waves stretching out to the horizon.

A path leads up the slope to the west toward the Beach Road.

Cassandra walks in silence until arriving at a small quiet spot on the beach. She settles herself down, her back against a rock.

Lanisen finds a place next to her and lowers himself to the ground. He finishes off his pretzel and brushes his hands on his knees, glancing at her sidelong.

Cassandra doesn’t look at him, “What?”

Lanisen shakes his head a little. “Nothin’.” He considers for a moment, then asks quietly, “You gonna tell me what’s eatin’ you?”

Cassandra says, “Nothing is eatin’ me.”

Lanisen looks away.

Cassandra grabs her skirt, “I’m sorry, Lanisen.”

Lanisen says, “No, it’s…” He takes a deep breath. “You’re– you’re jumpy, and you’re lookin’ over your shoulder all the time, is… what’s goin’ on, are you okay?”

Cassandra looks at the ground, not responding to his questions, “I’m sorry I wasn’t there…”

Lanisen asks, “Wasn’t–?”

Cassandra looks up at him, rage and fury in her eyes, “He /attacked/ at the tavern. I. wasn’t. there. I could have, I would have,” She stands and kicks a small stone, “I WASN”T THERE!”

Lanisen’s mouth opens in surprise. He watches her, half-fearful, and reaches out to take her hand when she shouts. “Hey, hey, hey…” he says weakly. “C’mere, come down, sit with me.”

Cassandra lets him pull her down as she shivers with rage.

Lanisen scoots closer to her as soon as she is sitting again, curling his arm around her shoulders and not letting go of her hand. “Okay,” he says. “Listen up, all right? Listen to me. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.”

Cassandra rests her head on his shoulder.

Lanisen closes his eyes briefly and tips his head to rest on top of hers. “Nobody was there,” he says quietly after a moment, his voice level and rational. “Nobody was there. And that ain’t anybody’s fault, you hear me? He planned it that way, he waited, Sir Colin was gone, and Meg and Lord Darrin, and you, everybody who might’ve noticed and made a fuss, he /planned it that way/, it’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.”

Cassandra lets out a breath, “I’ll kill them.”

Lanisen asks, “Kill who?”

Cassandra says, “Whoever is behind this.”

Lanisen says, “You won’t.”

Cassandra pulls away from him, “Right.”

Lanisen keeps hold of her hand, and looks at her. “You /won’t/,” he repeats, desperation and intensity in the words. “That ain’t– that ain’t how you fix things.”

Cassandra meets his gaze, a bit dead look in her eye, “Sure.”

Lanisen grips her hand more tightly, pleading. “Promise you ain’t gonna try.”

Cassandra looks away.

Lanisen begs, “Cassie, please.”

Cassandra looks at him and just nods.

Lanisen pushes, “Promise me you’ll stay out of it, please, please don’t get involved.”

Cassandra looks at him, “I promise.” There is a bit of flicker in her eyes.

Lanisen stares at her, his eyes flickering betwen both of hers. “What is it you ain’t tellin’ me?”

Cassandra meets his gaze, her jaw tightening, “Nothing.”

Lanisen stares at her a moment longer, then shuts his eyes and exhales, angling his body away from her. He bows his head.

Cassandra pulls away from him as well. She mutters.
Cassandra mumbles “… … … … stayed … Carmichael.”, to Cassandra.

Lanisen draws a breath and holds it, open-mouthed. His eyebrows lift and pull together, and his eyes dart away to the side, unfocused. There is a kind of dawning horror and resignation in his face that ages him.

Cassandra just glances at hi before looking at the ground.

Lanisen lets out the breath and shuts his eyes, then takes another and nods a little, and begins to get to his feet. His motions are clumsy and overstated, as if he’s not quite in control.

Cassandra helps to pick him up, looking a bit scared, “Lanisen?”

Lanisen pulls away, not quite looking at her. “It’s fine, I’m fine.” He brushes sand off his shirt.

Cassandra glances around, “Let’s, Let’s get you back.”

Lanisen says, “I’m /fine/.” He does seem to be, though he won’t meet her eyes.

Cassandra takes a step back, her face going blank, “Okay.”

Lanisen finally glances up at her when she withdraws, though he can’t look at her longer than a second. His shoulders are hunched up in what looks like shame, and he rubs his wrists without really seeming aware of what he’s doing.

Cassandra looks at him, “Lanisen…What is it?”

Lanisen says, “I shouldn’t’ve… asked you to leave Carmichael.”

Cassandra blinks at him before just laughing and laughing, “Are you serious? Lanisen, I would have left as soon as I could.”

Lanisen isn’t laughing. He watches her, silent and confused.

Cassandra spreads her hands, “If anything, I am glad to be here. At least, I am paving my own way.”

Lanisen says, “You just said…”

Cassandra waves her hand, “I say a lot of things.”

Lanisen looks lost. He rubs his elbow, watching the sand as if maybe it’s got the answers. “Um–” His face squinches up and he shakes his head a little. “Um, I’m– sorry.”

Cassandra grabs his arm, “You know, I say things out of anger. Just ignore my words.”

Lanisen says, “I know, I’m– you didn’t mean it, I’m sorry.”

Cassandra shrugs, “You don’t need to apologize.”

Lanisen says, not looking at her, “Sorry.”

Cassandra asks, “Want to go back?”

Lanisen says, “I– yeah, if you want.”

Cassandra takes his arm, “I guess we should go back.”

Lanisen is resistant for a second, but he follows.

Cassandra keeps him in the corner of her eyes.


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