what’s next

Colin’s Suite
Castle Anvard

Arael sits in a chair near the window. One foot is tucked up under her, and she is squinting at the page of a book that is open in her hands.

Lanisen is quite still, curled up on his side on the floor near the hearth. He is cocooned in a vast warm blanket, even his face covered, and has taken a cushion from a chair for a pillow. As the morning passes, he begins to shift and stir, restless.

Arael looks up from her book and watches Lanisen for a moment each time he stirs, but then returns to reading when he makes no sign of being awake. She makes slow progress through her book, but the pages do turn now and again all the same.

Lanisen’s breathing picks up, as if he is in some distress, but a few minutes pass before he makes a sudden uncoordinated, flailing motion with his arm and rolls quickly to his hands and knees.

Arael sits forward quickly and sets her book aside when his breathing changes. She reaches out with one hand as if she means to go to him, but then she hesitates, poised on the edge of her seat and watching.

Lanisen seems disoriented for a moment, but the moment he remembers where he is and what events brought him here is clear on his face. He sags, all the tension and fight leaving his body, and shifts to sit, drawing the blanket up around his shoulders. He starts visibly when he sees Arael.

Arael offers him an apologetic half-smile and lowers her hand when he spots her, but she remains sitting straight upright on the edge of her chair. “Sorry to startle you,” she says quietly.

Lanisen stares at her, then shifts to draw the blanket more fully around himself. He takes several deep breaths and lowers his head, squeezing his bad shoulder with the opposite hand as if it is hurting him.

Arael presses her lips together and frowns in an expression of sympathy, but she remains quiet. She looks down and takes a moment to re-arrange the folds of her skirt.

Lanisen asks, not raising his head, “Is there any news?” His voice is raspy and very quiet.

Arael looks back up and shakes her head, even though he’s not looking. “Nay, I’ve not heard anything new,” she answers, voice soft.

Lanisen nods a little. He drops his hand and lets it lie with the other in his lap, staring at them distantly. After a moment, he draws another deep breath and combs through his sleep-mussed hair with his fingers, then gets stiffly to his feet, leaving the blanket behind. The tunic he is wearing is too big on him, sewn for a more broad-shouldered man, and makes him look even more diminished.

Arael rises as well and moves toward the door. “I’ll send for some tea. If you’re hungry, there’s some bread and butter here–fresh stuff, I mean, from this morning.”

Lanisen shakes his head. “I’m all right.” He rubs his eyes and stares blearily around the room. When he finds his own tunic hanging on the back of a chair, he limps over to fetch it.

Arael opens the door a little anyway and murmurs something to the guard standing outside. After a moment, she closes the door again and turns back to face the interior of the room.

Lanisen looks from his tunic back to Arael and goes to hide behind the privacy partition before he changes.

Arael busies herself tidying up the table and making a little room for the tea things.

Lanisen emerges, putting the borrowed tunic with the rest of the things to be washed. He combs through his hair and gathers it back with his left hand, but when he raises his right hand with the tie to secure it, he seems to have some difficulty with the necessary range of motion. He tries a couple of times, then gives it up and pockets the tie.

Arael steals brief glances up at him as she moves things around. After a moment, she offers, “Sir Colin’s just over in his family’s rooms. We didn’t want to wake you with too many people in and out.”

Lanisen says, “Oh.” He looks briefly unmoored, as if he has lost his focus and can’t remember what he was doing.

Arael nudges one of the chairs back from the table and suggests quietly, “Are you sure you won’t have a little breakfast?”

Lanisen says, “I’m not, I’m not hungry.”

Arael nods reluctantly. “Aye, all right.”

Lanisen goes and picks up the blanket he slept under, folding it neatly and draping it over the back of a chair, then replaces the cushion. He straightens the rug too for good measure, fussy and restless.

Arael takes a seat at the table and watches him as he moves about. She tucks an errant strand of hair absently back into place.

Lanisen glances around the unnaturally tidy room and rubs his elbow, looking lost. “I’m, I should, I’m gonna… look in on the hounds.”

Arael swallows and nods. “All right. I’ll say that’s where you are, in case there’s any news.” She hesitates, then adds, “Unless you’d like some company.”

Lanisen says, “I’m, it’s all right, it’s all right.”

Arael nods, and she smiles at him, though her expression is sad. “I’ll see you later, then.”

Lanisen nods, not looking at her directly. “Yeah, all right.”

Arael rises again and moves back toward the chair where her book is, though she half-watches him as she goes.

Lanisen opens the door just slightly, scanning the corridor before he slips out and shuts the door softly behind him.

Arael retrieves her book, then pauses and bites her lip, casting a worried look toward the door. After a moment, she sighs, bends to pick up her work-basket, and follows him out into the corridor.


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