In the Archenland Forest
A mountain forest surrounds you on every side. Gazing over the trees to the north and south, you see the snowcaps rising, though you can still continue a bit further before the foothills impede your progress. The wide valley you stand in runs east and west between them, a gently rolling, hilly place, covered mostly with grass and the rare flower.
It is an crisp early morning, the type that makes you want to just stay in bed. Everything is peaceful except Cass is no where to be found.
Colin rolls over, slowly waking up. He rubs his eyes and starts to sit up, glancing at the dying embers of the fire.
Lanisen is fast asleep, his blanket over his head.
The birds begin to tweet as they wake up.
Colin grabs a stick to poke at the smoking ashes and glances at the other two bedrolls…seeing only one is filled.
Lanisen doesn’t even stir.
Colin gets to his feet and looks around the campsite and around the edges of the trees nearby. “Cass?” He croaks, his voice still half asleep.
Lanisen shifts a little under his blankets.
There is a bit of rattling in the bushes before Cass appears with filled water skins. She doesn’t look like she has slept at all.
Colin looks at her and runs a hand through his hair, blowing out a breath.
Cassandra doesn’t meet his eyes. She goes over to the supplies and drops the water skins off before going to her bedroll. She begins to pack.
Colin watches her a moment, then crouches by the fire to stir it up. “Want to eat before we go?”
Lanisen’s reaction to the movement so near to him is to curl up in an abrupt, startled motion. He pulls the blanket off his face, blinking in the light, and sits up, disoriented and frowsy.
Cassandra backs up to give Lanisen space, “No sir. Thank you.”
Colin glances over at Lanisen’s movement, watching him. “Hey Lanny…it’s morning.” He says, trying to help him orient himself.
Lanisen blinks a few more times and rubs his eyes. He pulls the blanket up over his shoulders and goes from wildly startled to slumpy and sleep-grouchy in about two seconds flat.
Colin presses his lips together to hold back a smile and he begins to pack a few things while silence falls.
Cassandra begins to roll up her bedroll, not looking at either one of them.
Lanisen sits still for a minute to wake up. He reaches over to his pack and pulls out his ointment.
Colin takes his dagger and slices some bread and cheese.
Once done rolling up the bed roll, Cassandra leans back and just picks at her nail beds.
Lanisen scoops out a generous amount of the ointment and begins to rub it into his shoulder, testing his range of motion as he does so.
Colin watches out of the corner of his eye and offers bread and cheese to Lanisen when he’s ready.
Lanisen shakes his head a little, resettling his shirt. He gets stiffly out from under his blankets and begins the process of packing up.
Colin quietly packs up the food in a separate bundle to make it easier to access later.
Cassandra stops picking at her nail beds. She just wrings her hands and stares off into the trees. There is a split second where it looks like she may bolt but just remains sitting.
Colin rolls up his bedroll and ties it with two leather pieces.
Lanisen combs absently through his hair and closes his pack.
Cassandra doesn’t move.
Colin finishes packing the food and his bedroll and rises to his feet. “I’m going to go get Coalblack…I’ll head back this way. If you two manage to get going by then just stay on the path to town and I’ll meet up with you.”
Lanisen nods acknowledgement and begins to roll up his blankets.
Cassandra stands to her feet, dusting off her hands on her trousers.
Colin shoulders his pack and walks off into the brush, glancing back at them before he disappears.
Lanisen finishes. He sits down next to the fire, holding out his hands to warm them over whatever heat might be left, and glances to Cassandra.
Cassandra stares at the fire.
Lanisen finally asks, his voice still raspy, “Sleep well?”
Cassandra ignores the question, still staring into the fire. “Now that he is gone, I will say this once and only once. I’m doing this solely for you and only you. I will give up whatever they want, do whatever they want, say whatever they want. But I will not change.”
Lanisen shifts, turning more fully toward her. “I don’t understand,” he says slowly after a hesitation.
Cassandra shrugs once, going silent again.
Lanisen says, more insistent, almost fearful, “Cass, what’re you sayin’, I don’t understand.”
Cassandra finally looks at him, “What part don’t you understand?”
Lanisen says, “I thought–”
Cassandra just gives him an empty stare.
Lanisen goes silent. His fingers fret at a ragged spot on his sleeve.
Cassandra glances around the campsite, just waiting.
Lanisen finally stands. He pours water over the mostly-dead fire, which hisses into steam, and shoulders his pack.
Cassandra picks up her and turns to follow Lanisen.
Lanisen glances at her once anxiously. He lowers his head, turns toward the main road, and doesn’t look at her again.
In the Archenland Forest
You stand on a well-worn path running through the trees. To the north and west, purple mountains separate Archenland from Narnia. The trees on either side of the path provide ample shade for an enjoyable outing. Alongside, you occasionally spot a small cluster of flowers in some delicate color. The path continues on through the forest to the south and the east, while to the west it begins to wind through the plains.
Colin rides along the path from town, mounted on Coalblack. His gear is all strapped to Coalblack’s saddle and trailing behind them on a lead is a chestnut gelding with a saddle on his back for the other two.
Lanisen and Cassandra are on the path, moving east, but not in any particular hurry.
Cassandra keeps her eyes on the ground the entire way.
Colin urges Coalblack into a slow canter when he spies the figures up ahead to quicken their approach. “Ready to ride?” He calls out as they get closer. “You two will have to share…sorry.”
Lanisen steps off the path automatically at the sound of hoofbeats, turning back. He frowns at the extra horse, and glances in some surprise at Cassandra.
Cassandra blinks as she looks up. She pats Copper, whispering to him.
Cassandra mumbles “… too, …”, to Cassandra.
Colin tosses Lanisen Copper’s reins.
Lanisen steps closer to the horse to take the reins. He looks up at Colin, wordlessly grateful.
Colin winks briefly at Lanisen and gathers Coalblack’s reins up, waiting patiently.
Cassandra looks at Lanisen, waiting to see if he needs help.
Lanisen gestures for her to mount.
Cassandra nods wordlessly. She mounts, still ungracefully but by wearing trousers, she is able to get up on the horse without falling. Copper stamps a hoof as he is semi reunited with his old master.
Coalblack swishes his tail and prances, anxious to be on his way.
Lanisen hands her the reins once she’s up. He looks around, then takes Copper’s bridle and leads him to stand next to a fallen log. He steps up, wobbling a bit, then clambers awkwardly up onto Copper’s back behind his sister.
Cassandra gathers Copper’s reins and sets him on the path behind Sir Colin. She stares straight ahead.
Colin watches them a moment before urging Coalblack forward, leading them on the path to home.
Before the Gates of Anvard
A flat green space at the foot of the mountains opens here, sheltered by the slopes of the northern mountains. Stormness Head looms high to the northeast, its peak nearly always in clouds. A steep ridge like the side of a bowl curves around from the northwest to the east, and the ground descends into dense forest to the south.
At the center of the clear area is a small turreted castle, facing east. Its weathered walls are built of large blocks of red granite that glitter faintly in the sunlight, and elegantly functional ironwork graces the front gates and portcullis. A stone cobbled road wide enough to easily facilitate the passage of carts and carriages crosses over the broad green lawns from the castle gates, disappearing into the trees to the east.
As they approach the castle, Cass looks momentarily sick. She crosses her stomach with her arm before taking a deep breath. Lanisen may feel her entire body go rigid as she squares her shoulders and loses all form of emotion in her face.
Colin keeps looking over his shoulder to check on them, his face concerned as they get closer. He continues in silence.
Lanisen watches what little of her face he can see from this angle. He breathes out, looking at the castle.
Cassandra’s eyes do not dart left or right. They just stare blankly ahead.
Colin urges Coalblack forward in a walk.
Colin rides through the gates on Coalblack.
Cassandra is astride Copper with Lanisen sitting behind.
Arael stands next to where Dalia is sitting, in a good position to see the comings and goings within the ward. She smiles a little in response to something that the other woman has said. “Aye, we’d a letter just yesterday.” At the sound of hoofbeats, she turns absently to look toward the gate.
Lanisen follows behind on the back of a chestnut horse, riding double with Cassandra. He looks pale and anxious.
Dalia nods, “Thank you. I…I’ve just been worried…you know with all the-” she glaces up at the sound of hoofbeats, her face loosing it’s worried look, (and perhaps maybe brightening a bit at the sight of the three riders? Or maybe it is only the light.)
Colin leads the other two riders towards the stable and dismounts from Coalblack. He begins to take his things off and hands the stallion off to a groom.
Arael’s shoulders relax and a look of relief crosses her face, followed by a cautious smile, as she, too, takes in the sight of the three of them. “Oh–/or/ you can see for yourself.”
Lanisen slides down to the ground, landing with a wince. He holds the reins so Cassandra can dismount as well.
Cassandra dismounts, her eyes going to the ground.
Colin directs a groom to take Copper inside once the other two have dismounted.
Lanisen seems to not notice the other people in the ward, really only paying attention to his sister.
Arael turns back to Dalia for a moment. “I’m–if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go.”
Cassandra pulls on a sleeve, her face impossible to read. Her eyes do not flick up.
Colin motions for the two of them to follow him across the ward.
Dalia nods, glancing back between her and the others concernedly, “Oh. um alright…”
Lanisen hovers behind Cassandra anxiously.
Cassandra follows wordlessly.
Arael smiles reassuringly at her. “‘Tis all right. I’ve just got to tell the family that they’re back.”
Colin glances around as they walk prepared to keep most people from approaching before they walk through the gates.
Lanisen follows a few steps behind Cassandra.
Cassandra’s eyes are glued to the ground.
Arael gives Dalia a little wave and turns to make her way toward the inner gates. She’s some distance behind the new arrivals.
Colin leads them through the gates into the castle.
Dalia watches for a few moments longer before gathering up her stitchery and following after Arael towards the gates.
Colin leads Cassandra to her old room. “I’m going to keep you in here until I can speak to the council. I’ll be posting a guard. We’ll bring your food and anything you need, all right?”
Cassandra looks very surprised that she is not being led to the dungeons. “Yes, sir.”
Lanisen looks surprised as well, and profoundly relieved.
Colin says, “Lanisen, you’ll be allowed in to visit. Anyone else needs to have me or a guard around, and provide a good reason for me to clear them for a visit.”
Cassandra just waits silently.
Colin opens Cass’s door and goes inside to do a quick search for any weapons.
Lanisen glances at Cassandra.
Colin stands in the doorway with confiscated knitting needles. “Anything else in your satchel I need to be aware of?”
Without a word, Cass reaches down into the satchel and pulls out the stolen ruby necklace from Vinri.
Colin sighs and takes the necklace from her with a quiet thank you.
Cassandra waits for further instruction.
Colin motions for her to step into her room. “I’ll have some food and tea sent up, and extra blankets. The nights are colder. Any questions for now?”
Cassandra shakes her head, “No sir.” She enters without a backward glance.
Colin steps out of her way and quietly closes the door. He rubs his forehead, and glances at Lanisen uncertainly.
Lanisen stays where he is, his weight on the balls of his feet as if he hasn’t decided yet if he’s going to try to follow. He draws a deep, shuddery breath.
Colin motions towards the door. “You can stay with her for a while if you’d like.”
Lanisen stares at the door, pulling his lips between his teeth. He looks horribly indecisive, but finally takes a step forward and follows Cassandra into the room.
Cassandra is sitting on the floor, her back against the wall. Her room is in the disarray that she left it a few weeks ago. Her knees are drawn up in her chest and her hands are over her head.
Lanisen steps into the room, closing the door softly behind him. He leans on the wall next to the door.
Cassandra looks up before just looking down again.
Lanisen asks, “You all right?”
Cassandra looks back up, “What do you think?”
Lanisen doesn’t answer.
Cassandra covers her head again.
Lanisen is miserably quiet for a moment, then ventures, “You want anything?”
Cassandra says, “No.”
Lanisen nods. He hesitates, as if to say something more, then reaches for the doorknob and slips out into the corridor.
As soon as Lanisen leaves, Cass rams the back of her head against wall.
Arael is walking quickly through the tower toward the staircase.
Colin comes back down the stairs minus his pack and gear.
Megren jaunts into the chamber just a little behind Arael. She has a small pack slung over her shoulder and also seems headed for the stairs.
Lanisen leaves Cassandra’s room, closing the door quietly behind him. He heads for the door to the ward, his head down.
Colin reaches the bottom of the stairs and shoves his hands in his pockets, starting to walk through the tower. He glances up at the right time. “Ara…” he says to get his betrothed’s attention.
Arael looks Colin’s way and grins–a little, but still–as she curtsies and continues toward him. She hasn’t spotted the others just yet.
Megren is just abreast of Cassandra’s room as he emerges and she spins on her heel to meet him instead. “Lanisen!” she breathes in relief.
Colin reaches out to put his hand on Arael’s elbow. “We’re all home and safe.” He says, sounding weary.
Arael nods and answers quietly, “Aye, I saw. I was just on my way to tell your parents while you got everything sorted.”
Colin runs a hand through his hair, offering her a tired smile. “Thank you. Are you well?” he asks her.
Lanisen takes a step to the side automatically to dodge the person approaching, then realizes who it is. He turns fully to face her, reaching out. “Meg– Meg! She’s here, she’s back, she’s come home, everything’s–” But he stops there and his breath catches.
Megren takes his wrists in her hands, ready to respond when she hears the others on the stairs and looks up.
Arael says, “Aye, nothing’s happened here since yesterday, we’re all–” But she stops here and turns her head at the sound of Lanisen’s voice.
Colin looks where Arael’s gaze goes, spotting Lanisen and Megren. He frowns slightly and offers his arm to Arael to lead her towards them.
Lanisen follows Megren’s glance. He turns half toward Colin and Arael, apprehensive.
Arael smiles and takes his arm, though she more pulls him that way than the other way around.
Colin allows Arael to tug him towards the others and he tips his head in a nod towards them, saying nothing for the moment.
Megren bows to the lord, her eyes shifting between the three to try and gauge the silence. “My lord,” she says in greeting.
Colin acknowleges Megren’s greeting with another silent nod.
Lanisen remembers to bow as well. He swallows.
Arael ignores the silence. She flashes a smile toward Megren and reaches out to place her free hand lightly on Lanisen’s arm, just above where Megren’s hand is. “You’re /back/,” she sighs, relieved.
Colin notices Megren’s pack and motions towards it. “Going somewhere?”
Megren drops Lanisen’s hands and shakes her head. “I was meaning to look for Lanisen, but–” she gestures to the person in question.
Lanisen ducks his head in answer to Arael, smiling weakly. He can’t meet her eyes for long.
Colin raises an eyebrow slightly, but just nods.
Lanisen’s eyes shift to Megren’s pack. His mouth opens slightly and he looks instantly back at her, startled and guilty.
Lanisen mumbles “I’m sorry… the last couple days, I forgot, I’m sorry.”, to Megren.
Lanisen mumbles “… … … last couple … I … I’m sorry.”, to Megren.
Colin’s eyes flick between them at their exchange. “I take it you also knew Lanisen was leaving, Megren?” his voice is neutral.
Arael blinks and glances around the group.
Megren inclines her head once. “Sir.”
Colin just nods wordlessly.
Lanisen looks back at Colin, watching him uneasily.
Arael clears her throat and ventures, “How was the journey? I didn’t expect you back so quickly.”
Megren takes a step back, trying to get out of the way of the conversation, but not leaving, as she is not dismissed.
Colin answers her, “The journey was fine, just a bit chilly. Our paths crossed in Lancelyn Green, I didn’t have to go all the way.”
Lanisen starts to answer, but only nods confirmation. His eyes shift to Cassandra’s door.
Arael nods her understanding. She follows Lanisen’s gaze and asks quietly, “And Cass? She’s all right? I couldn’t see much when you all came through.”
Colin glances at Lanisen. “Bit of a cough. She caught cold, but she’ll mend.”
Lanisen, again, doesn’t elaborate further than Colin’s answer. He rubs his wrists.
Megren’s eyes catch the action, and her mouth shifts to the side.
Arael looks at Colin, then at Lanisen. “That’s good, I’m glad,” she says, but her tone is uncertain.
Colin sighs. “Well, it appears to be time for me to take my leave. Ara, I’ll go let Father know I’m here.”
Lanisen bows wordlessly.
Arael blinks and straightens up. “Oh, I–are you sure? I can still go, if you’ve got other things you need to see to.”
Colin squeezes her elbow. “It’s all right. I’ll catch up with you soon?”
Megren bows as well, her expression submissive.
Arael nods and curtsies to him. “Aye, of course.”
Lanisen gives Colin a quick, searching look before he goes.
Colin bows to Arael and nods to the other two before he heads for the stairs.
Megren’s mouth moves off to the side again.
Lanisen’s shoulders hunch up slightly as Colin leaves. He draws a breath and lets it go again, rubbing a hand over his face.
Arael watches him go, then turns back toward the other two.
Megren glances at Lanisen. “I guess you need to go rest?”
Lanisen shakes his head. “I was– need to fetch some things for Cass…”
Megren glances at Cass’s door and then up the stairs. “She’s not–? She’s–?”
Lanisen hurries to explain, “She’s– Sir Colin told her she’s not to leave, he’s seein’ about a guard.”
Arael lets out a breath.
Megren nods once in to indicate her understanding. “I’ll stand outside if you want to get her things, then.”
Arael asks, “Should you like some help? I could go and fetch something to eat, or…” She shrugs.
Lanisen says, “She’s got her things, it’s only– aye, food–” He glances at Arael. “It’s, it’s all right, I’ll do the runnin’, you needn’t…”
Arael hesitates. “If you’d rather. I can, though. You’ve got to be tired.”
Megren moves to stand against the wall near Cass’s door.
Lanisen says, “It’s all right, it’s all right, I ain’t, I’m not that tired. Um.” His eyes shift to Megren, and back to Arael, and he dips a small, uncertain bow.
Arael smiles lopsidedly. “All right. I’ll see you later, when you’ve had a chance to rest. Just let me know if you need anything.”
Megren’s lips turn upward appreciatively at this kindness, though it is not extended toward her.
Lanisen nods mutely. He glances at her again, and looks like he wants to say something else, but he only takes a step backward.
Arael waits a moment more, then turns toward Megren and smiles again. “Good day, Megren.”
Megren nods, giving her a little truncated bow similar to Lanisen’s, if less uncertain. “You too,” she says in a slightly subdued tone.
Arael nods and heads for the stairs.
Lanisen looks back to Megren and turns for the door to the ward. He returns a little while later, carrying a meal on a plate: tempting fare, but the sort that can sit for a while before it’s eaten. There is a pitcher of water in his other hand. He slips into Cassandra’s room, and emerges again a few minutes later.
Megren is sitting by the time he returns, one knee hugged to her chest.
Lanisen stands for a moment outside Cassandra’s door. He looks, despite his protestation, very weary, and after a moment he lowers himself to the floor to sit with Megren.
Megren slips her arm around his shoulder and squeezes gently.k
Lanisen shifts to return the gesture. He pulls up his knees and loops his free arm around them, quiet and troubled.
Megren leans back a little to assess him. “What, um– what happened?”
Lanisen takes a moment to answer, working through the right words. “She went to Carmichael, um, to the house where we lived when we were kids, it’s, there’s nobody livin’ there now, so it was…” He lifts his shoulders slightly.
Megren lifts her brows in wait for him to continue, as this is fairly obviously not really the answer she is looking for.
Lanisen says, “Um, we talked, and she ran off, and then she came back, and we talked some more, and she decided she wanted to talk to Sir Colin, so we, um, we wrote to him, and then she decided she wanted to just come back, so we left, and we met Sir Colin in Lancelyn Green, and then we came back today.”
Megren absorbs this quietly, eyes flickering. She nods once at the end and says after a moment, “Good.”
Lanisen rubs his eyes and doesn’t answer.
Megren asks, “But you and Sir Colin are still–?”
Lanisen shakes his head a little, lifting his shoulders. “I don’t know.”
Megren murmurs understanding.
Lanisen says, haltingly, “I don’t– even know if, if it’s done any good, I don’t know if…” He shakes his head and knits his forehead, and confesses in a lower voice, “I’m really tired.”
Megren nods, slipping her arm around his shoulder again. “You should sleep.”
Lanisen says, “Prob’ly.”
Megren says, “I’ll sit with you if you want to sleep here. Gearn came by while you were inside and said he was on duty, but I told him he could get something to eat first.”
Lanisen exhales. He rubs the side of his face, then says after a delayed pause, “No, I should– I thought I’d go to the kennel, I ain’t checked in yet since we been back.”
Megren nods. “Sure.”
Lanisen says, “I’ll stay until Gearn’s back, though.” He shifts to a better position, sitting up straighter. “How’s Tiny?”
Megren smiles. “Adorable. Perth’s charmed.”
Lanisen grins wearily. “What, she ain’t won over the whole guard yet?”
Megren says, “Haft’s wary.”
Lanisen lifts one eyebrow briefly. “He would be.”
Megren grins. “He’ll be her favorite before he knows it.”
Lanisen looks doubtful. “Keep me posted.”
Megren says, “She sleeps on anybody.”
Lanisen half-grins at this mental image. His eyes shift to the door as it opens to admit Gearn, and he begins to get to his feet.
Megren gets up as well.
Lanisen moves away from Cassandra’s door to let Gearn take his post. He doesn’t look directly at the guard, or the door, but his face settles into a sort of distant, bewildered, this-isn’t-real horror.
Megren slips her hand in to his.
Lanisen shifts and looks at her. He takes a deep breath and nods and turns away.
Megren drops his hand and hugs her upper arms uncertainly.
Lanisen hesitates and turns back. “If, um, if she asks for me,” he says to Gearn, “I’ll just, I’ll be in the kennels, I’ll come right away if she needs me.”
Gearn nods, rubbing the back of his head awkwardly and then dropping his hand.
Megren glances up the stairs. “Want a friend to walk you to the kennel?”
Lanisen seems to feel that he’s overstepped. He backs away from Gearn, rubbing his wrists. “If– um, if you like,” he answers, turning back toward Megren. “You don’t gotta, if you’re… busy, or, anything, it’s…”
Megren scrunches her nose at him. “Well, I thought I’d be on the road about now. Though Sir Darrin’s maybe looking for me if he didn’t hear from the ward you’re back.”
Lanisen says, “I’m– really sorry, I didn’t mean to worry you.”
Megren shrugs it off. “I guess you probably had more pressing things in mind.”
Lanisen says, “Even so– I sort of, I had it in my head we’d be back before the three days was up.”
Megren says, “I’m glad you’re back now.”
Lanisen nods and subsides. He rubs his elbow self-consciously and glances at the stairs.
Megren glances up the stairs too, then gestures out of the tower. “There’ll be time to sort it in the morning. No use losing sleep now and having a foggy head when the proper time comes.”
Lanisen lowers his head, conceding the wisdom of this, if not the likelihood, and begins toward the door.
Megren follows him out, seeming liable to monitor him in order to ensure by her very presence that he rest.