The stables of Anvard are not large, but they are well-ordered and tidy. The wide alley runs parallel to the outside wall, with generously sized box stalls on either side. Many hold permanent residents, with the horse’s name on a wooden sign above the stall door, but several stand empty to receive visitors. The hard-packed dirt floor is kept well swept, and the stalls are
clean, but there is a pervading smell of horse and hay that is not entirely unpleasant.
There is a small paddock in the east corner of the stable, and the far west end is devoted to tack storage and maintenance. A door in the west wall, kept closed most of the time, leads to the smithy.
Lanisen is giving attention to a handsome chestnut gelding over the door of its stall. He quietly strokes the horse’s broad forehead and offers half an apple, which is accepted with good grace.
The door to the stable swings open and Haft enters, carrying a large sack of oats over his shoulder with a young child hanging off of the sack and shrieking with delight at the ride. Haft himself is grinning rather broadly.
Lanisen glances toward the door immediately at the commotion. He lowers his head and shifts closer to the stall door, hoping to avoid notice, but can’t help a second, bemused look.
Haft bends his knees, lowering the bag slowly to allow the boy to jump down before straightening and turning to deposit the oats near the rest of the recent deliveries. “Off you go then,” he says, and the boy scampers out of the stable.”
Lanisen watches with a sort of distant confusion, still stroking the horse’s cheek. He remembers himself, gives Haft a quick wary look, and averts his eyes.
Haft looks up from his task, catching sight of Lanisen. His smile falters slightly before he recovers. “Oh, good afternoon, Lanisen.”
Lanisen hesitates briefly. “Afternoon,” he answers.
Haft pauses too, as though wondering whether he should retreat. He looks to the horse. “He belong to Sir Colin?”
Lanisen gives him another uncertain glance before shaking his head slightly. “He’s–” He stops, frowning. “Um– he’s, yes, I suppose so.”
Haft nods. “Looks like good stock. Um…I was wondering…if you had a moment?” He looks unsure.
Maire enters the stable, leading a grey gelding. The hood of her cloak is partially covering her face, her hair appearing windblown. She croons soothingly to the gelding as she makes her way through the stable. Her pace is slow, as she limps a little, babying a knee.
Lanisen’s eyes dart to Haft’s face, guarded. He hesitates uneasily for a second, then nods slightly.
Haft moves away from the door as Maire enters, making room for her and the horse.
Maire’s eyes travel the stable carefully, her gaze landing on Lanisen and Haft. She rubs the gelding’s withers and nods a greeting. She moves past them and begins untacking the gelding. Her eyes peering around the horse, assessing them quietly.
Lanisen takes a step back as Maire passes, lowering his eyes.
Haft seems unsure as to how to proceed now that they’ve been interrrupted. He glances at Lanisen, who isn’t looking at him.
Maire lifts the saddle off the horse’s back, staggering a little step under its weight. The gelding nudges her back as she goes around him to put the saddle up.
Lanisen is silent and uncomfortable and looks slightly trapped. He dares another brief glance at Maire, then glances at Haft. His eyes shift past them both to the door.
Haft tilts his head in an invitation to head outside.
Maire comes back to lead the gelding to his stall. She looks to the two men, and catches Lanisen’s look and offers a faint smile.
Lanisen’s fingers curl into the chestnut horse’s mane. He releases his grip after a second and steps toward the door.
Haft turns to head out first.
Maire watches them leave, and releases a sigh, before she begins to brush down the gelding.
Haft heads outside, but runs his hand through his hair at the sight of the busy ward. “Are the kennels…loud, this time of day?” he asks.
Lanisen follows him, silent and apprehensive. He begins to fasten his jacket closed, shivering in the cold wind, and shakes his head slightly.
Haft says, “Maybe we could go there?” Haft says, asking permission.
Lanisen shifts. “What’s this about?”
Haft looks around, realizing there’s no way to answer the question without saying what it is he wants to say. He steps slightly closer, lowering his voice. “It’s about my behavior toward you several months ago.”
Lanisen steps back as Haft steps nearer, automatically giving ground. His eyes flicker with surprise and suspicion.
“I…” Haft clears his throat, “I behaved abominably, not like one of the king’s guard–I hope you know they’re not all like that. I hope /I’m/ not like that…but…I was that day. I was wrong and I’m sorry.”
Lanisen is silent, his face written all over with wary confusion. “Oh,” he says at last.
Haft doesn’t look like he expected much better. He looks down for a moment before meeting Lanisen’s eyes again. “I’m sorry it’s been such a long time comin’. I was…ordered to stay away, for a while, and I had to wait. And then you’d had such an awful time of it–I know you still are, but maybe there’s no good time-anyway, you don’t have to forgive me if you don’t want to. I just-I want you to know you’re safe, around me. I ain’t out to get you and I ain’t sore about anything and I’ll protect you like I’d protect any other man in this castle.” He pauses. “I guess that’s all.”
Maire comes out of the stables, her head ducked, she makes her way through the ward. She moves as quick as she can, though her speed is impaired by a slight limp.
Lanisen doesn’t seem to know where to look as Haft speaks. He rubs his elbow, his head slightly ducked, and finally nods once Haft is finished. He starts to say something, but is distracted by Maire’s hasty passage.
Haft glances in the same direction, then turns back to see if Lanisen wishes to speak after all.
Maire disappears through the gatehouse, careful not to meet anyone’s gazes.
Lanisen rubs his wrists, where the skin is shiny and white, and doesn’t quite look at Haft. “I– sorry, I’m not–” He takes a deep breath. “Thanks, thank you.”
Haft nods. “You’re welcome. I-I hope things work out…with your sister.”
Lanisen doesn’t say anything to this for a minute, and doesn’t look at Haft. He nods finally.
Haft nods in return. “Well…I’ll let you get on with your day.” He steps slowly away.
Lanisen backs away, his eyes shifting to a passing cart. He darts one more half-wary look at Haft, then nods to him and begins for the inner gate.
Haft in turn makes his way toward the northern stairwell.