Deonyc nods, “The beach does get too cold in winter, and the wind dosn’t help.”
A daughter of eve wearing a blue work dress nods and looks over to Gallagher and Kaie. “I would hate for any of us to get a cold.”
Lanisen leaves the kennels in the late afternoon, huddling into his coat, fitting his hands into an unusual pair of fur-lined gloves.
Deonyc sips his tea, and watches the few market goers that are still there.
Edana holds out her hands to the fire again.
Vinri hurries into the market from the outer gate, a scarf hanging loosely over her shoulders. Her cheeks are the flushed shade of activity and chill.
Lanisen hesitates outside the kennel door, glancing at the stalls set up, a visible debate in his face. He finally aims for a stall near the archery stall, equipped with a steaming vat of some kind of stew.
Deonyc puts a few pieces of charcoal on the braizer, and then pulls out his carving and works on it.
Edana looks up and over as the man comes closer, she scoots away from the fire a bit.
Vinri catches sight of the fire as Deonyc stokes it. She aims towards it immediately, drawn by the bright, warm flames. “Good afternoon!” she calls as she gets closer.
Deonyc smiles as he sees Vinri, “Afternoon! Want to join us?”
Lanisen pays up and accepts the bowl of stew gratefully, taking a hunk of bread along with it. He cups his hands around the vessel and edges toward the fire as well.
Edana looks over at the girl and smiles, scooting closer to her husband and child. “Hello.”
Vinri nods vigorously. “Please!” She doesn’t pause until she’s close enough to the fire for it to be almost uncomfortable. “Mmm, that’s much better. ‘S quite the walk from Andale at the moment.” Holding her gloved hands a little closer to the fire, she asks, “How are you all?”
Deonyc says, “I’m alright.”
Edana smiles and nods, while her family copies. “We are fine.”
Lanisen keeps quietly to the outskirts of the little group, soaking up what warmth he can and taking small sips of the broth in his bowl. His eyes shift alertly from face to face, and he grins faintly to Vinri.
Vinri grins. “Glad to hear it! Is this your family, Edana?” Now that she’s shocked her system out of the cold, she seems to register the heat again and backs away. Lanisen’s little grin catches her attention and earns her typical, bright smile in return.
Deonyc turns to look at lanisen, “Take a seat Lanisen, you don’t have to stand.”
Edana looks over to the other man for a moment and then answers Vinri. “Yes this is Gallagher and my son Kaie.” Kaie gives her a small wave before hiding his face in his smiling father’s chest.
Lanisen shifts, looking slightly alarmed to be put on the spot. “Oh, er,” he says. “Thank you, ‘s very kind.” He hesitates, then ducks through to an unoccupied seat.
Vinri returns the tiny wave and takes a seat as well. “I’m Vinri, pleased to meet you both.”
Deonyc scoots back a bit to open up the circle a bit, and asks “Should I make some more tea?”
Gallagher nods. “You too.” Edana looks to the man and smiles and then looks to Vinri.
Vinri looks towards Deonyc. “Oh, that’d be wonderful. Thank you!”
Lanisen keeps quiet, sitting folded over with his elbows on his knees and his stew in his hands.
Deonyc fills the kettle with water and while he waits for the water to boil he gets some cups.
Edana takes Kaie and sits him on her lap, rubbing his back.
Vinri holds out her hands towards the fire again. “What’ve you all been up to today?”
Deonyc says, “Not much.” He pours a cup of tea for Vinri and Gallagher, and asks “Lanisen, would you like some?”
Lanisen darts an uncertain glance at Deonyc, then at the others in the circle. “Oh, um. No, thank you, that’s all right. Thank you.”
Edana takes her mug back from Gallagher and drinks from it, giving some to Kaie.
Vinri accepts the cup, swirling it as she lets it steep just a little longer. “What about you all?” she asks, focusing on Edana’s family and Lanisen this time.
Edana shrugs, smiling. “I was just working and Gallagher decided to come join us I suppose.”
Vinri says, “Where do you work again? I’m afraid that I’ve forgotten, if you said.”
Edana shakes her head. “Oh no worries. I work in the pottery stall.”
Lanisen tears off a piece of his bread and dips it in the stew, using it to scoop up some venison and potatoes.
Deonyc takes a waxed paper package from his knapsack and unwraps it to reveal some sandwiches, he takes one and eats it sipping on his tea every now and then.
Vinri asks, “Do you now? Do you make much of it?”
Edana smiles weakly. “Enough.” She holds Kaie close. “I love the work.”
Lanisen keeps quiet, his eyes following the conversation with silent interest.
Deonyc continues with his meal, eating about half of the sandwiches before wrapping up the rest.
Vinri takes a sip of her tea. Once she lowers it: “What’s your favorite part?”
Edana shrugs. “Well…I like creating things with my hands. Beautiful things…making raw material into something that pleases your eye.” She looks at the ground and smiles. “It is also very calming.”
Lanisen’s head tilts slightly to the side at this.
Vinri cups her hands around her mug and leans forward, head tilted. “That’s a lovely goal.”
Deonyc straightens up, and backs out of the circle, “It was nice chatting with you, I’ll see you around.”
Edana goes red with the attention. “Yes…well…” She looks to Gallagher and then back to Vinri and then to Deonyc. “See you.”
Lanisen straightens slightly. He dips his head to Deonyc and murmurs, “Evening.”
Vinri looks around and raises her mug. “Do you need this back?”
Deonyc shakes his head. “Just give them to Felwel, or leave them at the stall, I’ll get them tomorrow.”
Edana watches as Deonyc goes and then Gallagher gets up and grabs Kaie. “I think we will leave as well. Nice to meet you all.” To Edana he adds, “See you at home.” Then he leaves while she watches. After a pause she turns to the man, “What was your name?”
Vinri watches Gallagher go, calling a quick farewell.
Lanisen says, “Ahh, Lanisen, ma’am. Nice to meet you.” His eyes skitter away halfway through.
Edana nods, giving him a small smile. “Nice to meet you Lanisen. I am Edana.”
Edana smiles and adds, “If you didn’t already catch that.”
Vinri smiles in Lanisen’s direction, angling her head a bit to follow his gaze. “He’s quite the hand with the kennel dogs. Not nearly as many escape out when he’s on duty,” she adds, her grin jesting.
Lanisen grins faintly in return, his eyes shifting between the two women. “I do my best,” he answers.
Edana nods and looks to Vinri.
Vinri moves her mug towards Lanisen in a little gesture. “Your turn to tell me about your day,” she informs him, grinning.
Lanisen says, “Oh, um.” He looks down at his knees. “Nothin’… to report, really. How ’bout you?”
Vinri wrinkles her nose at him. “The whole lot of you, and no stories to tell? For shame.” Tipping her head back, she considers. “Let’s see, now… I saw a whole flock of escaped goats in the Zuiden gardens this morning, eating everything that was half-alive. Stubborn about leaving, too, it took a good ten people to prod them away before a little girl lured them off with some wrinkly apples and back to the goatherd.”
Edana glances at Lanisen and grins at Vinri’s story. “And?”
Lanisen, sitting on an overturned crate next to a crackling brazier, holding a steaming cup of stew between his gloved hands, breaks into a quick, delighted grin at this. “Least they can’t have done too much real damage, with how cold it’s been?”
Vinri lifts her cup at Lanisen again to agree. “The goodwives were laughing about it more’n anything, even thanking them for clearing out the weeds and dead things. Turns out the goatherd had fallen asleep, right against a tree. He was half-blue when they got there, but they filled him up with tea and got him warm.”
Lanisen’s eyes go sharp with alarm, but he relaxes again at the end of the story. “He’s all right, though?”
Edana keeps quiet but her eyes look worried at Lanisen’s question.
Vinri nods. “He is, I talked with him after the village was done with scolding. Best escape the goats could’ve made, for him, and all turned out well.”
Lanisen mms. “‘S lucky,” he says, looking at his stew. “‘S too cold to be sleepin’ outside.”
Haft enters the ward from the inner gatehouse, apparently on patrol duty as he surveys the ward before beginning to make a circuit of it.
Edana smiles and puts her hands near the fire again.
Vinri nods again. “Said he was up all last night with a fussy couple of kids and a surprisingly loud owl. But it’s too cold, certain.” She shivers, as if the word made her feel the weather more, and pulls her scarf up over her nose.
Edana laughs. “I can relate with the fussy child part.”
Lanisen grins again at this, glancing sidelong at Edana. His eyes shift back to Vinri, and his smile slips.
Haft continues walking, nearing the group.
Vinri’s eyes crinkles above her scarf, as if to suggest she’s smiling. Leaning a bit towards the fire, she says, “I imagine you would. How old is Kaie, then?”
Edana grins. “Three.” She drinks some of her tea and looks down at her feet.
Lanisen’s eyes don’t leave Vinri.
Vinri mms. “Sweet. I’ve heard that’s a good age from some, and a hard one from others.” Her gaze flicks toward Lanisen and she pauses as she catches his stare.
Lanisen quickly averts his eyes. He looks down at his stew.
Edana nods, but then catches the stares which causes her to get up. “Excuse me. I am going to a my stall for a quick moment.”
Edana gets up and moves to her stall.
Lanisen shifts and straightens as she departs, keeping his eyes down. “Sorry, I should– I oughta get back to the kennels.” His voice is strained, and stew sloshes out of his bowl as he stands, his hands shaking.
Vinri releases her cup with one hand and touches her scarf, right about where her mouth would be. One eyebrow twitches up, though otherwise what can be seen of her expression is almost fixed. “Hm? Oh, alright…”
Haft observes the group as he gets close, noting Lanisen’s spill.
Edana watches Laisen’s spill, expressionless. When she sees that everything is well she gathers up her paint brushes.
Vinri stands as well, setting down the mug as she does. “Mind if I walk with you? I’d like to hear about how Cassandra’s been, I’ve not heard much about her since you both came back.”
Lanisen says, “Oh, it’s– I’ve got, I’ve got some sort of messy work to get done, you don’t want to–”
Vinri glances around, noticing Haft’s approach. When she looks back towards Lanisen, her eyes narrow, once again as if she’s smiling. “Oh, I won’t need long, just a quick word would do, really. How is she?”
Haft stops close, apparently interested in a couple haggling over the price of bacon.
Lanisen can’t seem to look her in the eye. He swallows and shifts his weight from foot to foot. “She’s doin’ well, ‘s kind of you to ask,” he answers. “I’ll pass a hello along, if you like.”
Edana puts her brushes into a bag carefully, glancing at the group by the fire every once in awhile.
Vinri walks around the crate she was sitting on, to Lanisen’s side. “‘M glad to hear that! I was worried, at first. She can be so stubborn.”
Lanisen’s eyes follow her approach, though he still does not look at her face. “That’s Cass,” he answers, in a voice that rasps slightly. His grip on his stew-bowl is white-knuckled.
Edana moves a vase to a nearby shelf.
Haft moves to join the pair. “Good afternoon.”
Vinri exclaims, “Mhm. I’m just glad it stopped when it did.” She’s just gesturing towards the kennels when Haft greets them. “Oh, good afternoon! How are you today?””
Edana finishes up and leaves the stall to rejoin the group. Quietly she greets Haft and returns to her seat by the fire.
Lanisen’s shoulders untense slightly. He swallows again and ducks his head in greeting to Haft.
Haft nods his greetings back. “I’m well. And yourself?”
Vinri exclaims, “‘M well! Took the day off from the stall, so I’ve had plenty of time to chat and relax.” Her head is still angled partly towards Lanisen. “Bit of a chilly watch, isn’t it?”
Edana sits quietly by the fire but keeps her eyes on the others, watching closely.
Haft shrugs one shoulder. “That’s what scarves are for.” His own is a deep purple.
Lanisen’s eyes lift to Vinri’s face again briefly, then skitter away. He crosses one arm over his middle.
Vinri’s scarf, as if on clue, starts to slip as a gust of wind decides to flurry through the ward. She reaches up, pinning it against the side of her face and over her nose as she nods. “True, true. And I suppose you can walk about down here.”
Edana gets up and heads to the group. “I am going to head out. It was nice meeting you Lanisen.”
Lanisen starts slightly, backing a step away. “You, you as well,” he answers.
Edana smiles and waves at Haft and Vinri and walks away.
Vinri watches Edana leave, lifting her free hand in farewell. Before she returns her attention to Haft, she casts a glance Lanisen’s way, eyebrows briefly drawing low in narrow-eyed thought.
Haft glances between the pair thoughtfully, but makes no comment.
Lanisen catches the tail end of the glance and looks away quickly. He steps back, murmuring an excuse, and makes his way back toward the kennel.
Vinri waits until Lanisen is pretty much out of earshot, and then says, “Oh, I’m sorry, Haft, I forgot there was something I needed to mention to Lanisen. It was good to talk to you, Haft!”
Lanisen is sitting on the hearth, his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands as if it is hurting him.
Vinri pushes open the door, in a way that would certainly have let an escape-intent dog out, save that there weren’t any ready. She glances around as she lets her scarf fall back around her neck.
Lanisen raises his head quickly, and stands just as quickly. His hand goes briefly to the small of his back, then falls away.
Vinri, seeing that Lanisen’s the only one around, turns towards him, mouth quirking into a smile. “Sorry, I hadn’t meant to interrupt our talk.”
Lanisen’s throat convulses in a swallow, and he darts a quick wary look at her face before again settling his eyes neutrally on the ground between them. He folds his hands in front of him, gripping his right wrist with his left hand. “I, I didn’t realize there was more to say,” he answers, his voice soft and polite, for all he’s very near to shaking. “I apologize.”
Vinri glances down at her own hands. She frowns, noticing a slight shaking of her own. She dismisses it with a half-laugh exhale and a smile. “No need. I’d just hoped that maybe you had a bit more to say about Cass. She was a friend, after all.” She tilts her head, smile gone as she examines Lanisen. Her tone stays incongruously light. “Is something wrong, Lanisen?”
Lanisen looks up at her. He meets her eyes for a long moment, his own gone dark and distant, with incomprehension in his face. He closes his mouth, swallows again, and says quietly, “No.”
Vinri studies his face, expression unchanging until she curves her mouth into a smile. “I’m glad. You’ve been through enough, I’d hate to see anything else go wrong.”
Lanisen’s eyes flicker with fear.
Vinri’s smile relaxes into something more natural. “Anyway, tell Cass hello for me, and that I hope it won’t be too long before we can talk again. The tavern’s been too quiet lately.”
Lanisen takes several quick, deep breaths. His jaw tightens and his mouth twists. “You–” he manages. “You–”
Vinri tips her head.
Lanisen says finally, “You wrote the letters, you– you took my pardon–”
Vinri’s stance somehow changes, despite her not moving. It’s a stiffening, accompanied by a widening of her eyes.
Lanisen is visibly trembling now, and there are tears standing in his eyes. “Didn’t you?” he presses, and advances a step. “You, you scared Cass, you made her–”
Vinri steps back when he advances, her eyes flicking between his. “I didn’t make her do anything.”
Lanisen asks, “Did you write the letters?”
Vinri’s jaw works for a moment and her eyes narrow. Then, drawing herself up as tall as she can manage, quirking a smile, she replies, “And if I did?”
Lanisen’s face crumples and twists. He shuts his eyes for a brief second. “I want my pardon back,” he says instead of answering her question. His voice is raw.
Vinri says, “I’m afraid that’s impossible.”
Lanisen pulls his lips between his teeth. He nods slightly, tears finally spilling over. He turns toward the door.
Vinri’s hands curl over. “Where are you going?” Her voice is harsher now.
Lanisen doesn’t answer. He picks up his pace and reaches for the latch.
Vinri’s eyes widen, though her tone is controlled. “Lanisen. I wouldn’t suggest that.”
Lanisen opens the door.
Vinri takes a few quick steps forward. “Are you sure you know everything that Cassandra did? Are you sure you want to risk it?”
Lanisen’s shoulders stiffen up at the sound of her footsteps, and he almost cringes as he looks over his shoulder. He puts his hands solidly against the doorframe to prevent her passing without a fight, and looks desperately out into the ward. “Haft!” he calls.
Vinri freezes, eyes darting around points beneath Lanisen’s arm. She backs away several steps, still staring downwards as she realizes just how far out of plan this just fell.
Outside, Haft straightens at once and breaks into a run at Lanisen’s tone, crossing the ward to the kennels. “What is it?”
Lanisen lets his hands fall from the doorframe as Haft nears. His face is pale and blotchy, and he is shaking badly. “It’s, it’s her, she’s the one, it’s her.” He glances over his shoulder at Vinri.
It takes Haft a moment to process this, but his hand is on his sword hilt before understanding dawns. He stares at Vinri. “She’s the accomplice? The other one who held you?” He sounds slightly incredulous.
Vinri lets out a breathless sort of laugh, breaking her stare to run a hand over her chin and shake her head. She outright snorts at Haft’s second question though.
Lanisen backs away from the door, putting distance between himself and both Haft and Vinri. “She, she wrote the letters, she took my pardon–”
Haft frowns and addresses Vinri. “Have you anything to say to these accusations, Madam?”
Vinri looks at Haft, still shaking her head. “I at no point ‘held’ Lanisen, and I do not have his pardon.”
Lanisen insists, “She took it, she’s the one who took it, she wrote the letters, please–”
Haft doesn’t remove his hand from the hilt. “Lanisen, your evidence?”
Vinri looks towards Lanisen, taking a deep breath and waiting.
Lanisen looks between them helplessly. He takes another step back, shaking his head slightly. “I–” He rallies. “She, she threatened Cass!”
Haft narrows his eyes. His voice is calm. He stands straight and he appears to be fully in his element and in command of the situation. “Threatened her how?” he asks.
Vinri looks towards Haft now. “I didn’t threaten her. She is… was… my friend. Why would I threaten Cass?”
Lanisen says, “I– when I– I started for the door to find somebody to tell and she said that was a bad idea because she’d–” He stops, and his mouth opens slightly. He looks suddenly trapped.
Haft seems to understand the hesitation. “Cassandra is safe. Vinri said she would be harmed if you told someone?”
Vinri shakes her head. “I didn’t say that. I /wouldn’t/ say that. I asked him to say hello to her for me, tell her I missed her, and then whether they were sure they knew everything she’d done. Which I certainly /hope/ so, it’s just that it’s such a wide range.” She lifts a hand and rubs at her eye and cheek.
Lanisen shakes his head slightly, trembling. He stares at Haft in silent, desperate appeal.
Haft looks at Lanisen for a moment and opens his mouth, then closes it and turns to Vinri again, lips pursed. “And what did you say when Lanisen started for the door?”
Vinri shakes her head yet again. “I just told you, I asked if they were sure they knew everything, I didn’t know what he was about to do. Why would I expect he was going to say I was this… accomplice?”
Lanisen backs away another step, rubbing his elbow.
Haft says, “Lanisen, is that so? You indicated she made a threat.”
Vinri looks towards Lanisen.
Lanisen can’t answer for a moment. “She–” he begins, then stops, trapped. He takes a deep breath and continues shakily, “She said it like as if– like there was more that, that Cass did, that she knew and was gonna tell, if I told about her.”
Haft asks, “The way Aaron talks?”
Vinri’s lip curls, just slightly, at that suggestion.
Haft regards Vinri. “What wide range of crimes were you referring to, Vinri?”
Vinri rubs at her face again. “Poisoning, theft, apparently attacking people…” She waves a hand, as if to underscore it as self-evident.
Lanisen says, indicating Vinri, “She wrote the letters, she told Cass to do it, it’s, she’s the one–”
Haft responds seriously. “Lanisen, how do you /know/?”
Vinri shakes her head.
Lanisen says, “I remember her, in the graveyard, she came and she took my pardon and she left the candle, she’s the one, I didn’t– she put her scarf up and I /remembered/– I /asked/ if she wrote ’em and she said what if I did, it’s /her/, please, please, you have to believe me!”
Haft raises his free hand in a calming gesture toward Lanisen, then addresses Vinri. “Did you say that, Madam?”
Vinri closes her eyes and shakes her head.
Haft asks, “I see. So…you just came in here to inquire after Cassandra and extend kindness toward her brother?”
Lanisen raises his shaking hands to the sides of his head.
Vinri says, “Of course. Cassandra and I…” Again, she lifts her hand, this time to her forehead. “Lanisen, too, I thought we were friends.””
Haft continues, “And yet, by your own words, you then proceeded to ask whether those investigating had learned everything about her crimes.” He raises his brows. “Hardly a sympathetic comment to make to a concerned brother. Or a friend.”
Vinri’s hand pauses at that one.
Lanisen says, “She’s never come in here before, not, not once–”
Haft says, “I also noticed the way you pulled your scarf over your nose, Madam. If it stirred a memory in Lanisen, then it is worth looking into. I believe it would be in the best interests of the investigation if the pair of you had a talk with Captain Garian.”
Vinri lowers her hand, takes a breath, and nods. “If you think it’s necessary.”
Lanisen swallows and goes silent. He glances again at Vinri.
Haft says, “I do.” He releases his grip on his sword and steps forward to take Vinri firmly but not painfully by the upper arm. “Lanisen, would you please go to the inner gatehouse? Alert Perth that we have a possible lead on the accomplice and that we will meet the Captain in his quarters as soon as he may be found. Then join us there.”
Lanisen nods slightly, lowering his head.
Vinri lifts her eyebrows at his hold. “I’m not planning to run, you know. I think you’d outpace me, even if I tried.”
Lanisen hesitates, then slips out the door.
Knights’ and Officers’ Barracks
Vinri walks alongside Haft, stretching her stride to match his. She doesn’t struggle or try to pull away.
Haft leads her through the barracks to the officer’s quarters, not doing anything to draw attention, but not loosening his hold either.
Vinri for once doesn’t greet anyone as she’s being led along. When they get to the quarters, she looks around, then towards Haft. “Here, or further?”
Haft inclines his head. “The captain’s quarters are there, but he won’t be in this time of day. Perth will fetch him back here.”
Vinri nods. “Is there somewhere I could sit while we wait?”
Haft leads her to a stool, releasing his hold but standing directly beside her.
Lanisen follows a moment later, moving slowly and with an uncertain clumsiness to his steps. He halts in the doorway.
Vinri perches on the stool, waiting. After a few moments, a bit after Lanisen arrives, she asks, “Did your nephew like the journal?”
Haft’s response is clipped. “He did.” He looks over. “You can come in if you want.”
Lanisen hesitates. He takes a step through the doorway and another to the side, where he can stand against the wall. His face and lips are very pale.
Vinri sighs silently at the brusque answer and waits.
Perth enters. “Haft, Captain Garian’s gone into town. He’s left Magda in charge.”
Lanisen shifts, his eyes darting from Perth to Haft.
Vinri gives a faint sigh as this news is delivered.
Magda stands just behind Perth.
Haft salutes. “Ma’am, Lanisen wishes to bring charges against Vinri as the woman who aided Darius. I asked her to come up and speak with the Captain on the matter.”
Magda frowns, and she crosses to the Captain’s desk. “That is quite a charge.”
Lanisen’s shoulders hunch slightly.
Vinri nods, looking at the desk after a quick examination of this Magda.
Haft clasps his hands behind his back, observing.
Magda sits at the desk. “I can draw up the paperwork, and then I’m afraid,” she looks up, squinting at the woman. “Vinri, was it? You may need to remain in the castle until we can get these charges cleared up if the Captain has not yet returned when we have finished here. We will find you a comfortable room.”
Lanisen can’t be said to relax, exactly, but something in his stillness seems to become less rigid.
Vinri takes a deep breath and nods. “Of course. Any idea how long that’ll take?”
Magda says, “I expect him back this evening, following the dinner hour. We’ll find another authority to make the call for further holding or release if something is still keeping him by nightfall.”
Lanisen’s eyes shift to the window to gauge the light.
Magda inks a quill. She nods to Haft to indicate he may leave, and gestures that Lanisen sit in the chair across from her.
Haft takes Vinri’s upper arm gently to indicate she should rise. “There will be something free in the servant’s quarters. I can take first shift. Hopefully that’s all that will be needed before the Captain returns.
Vinri stands, gaze fixing on Lanisen at Magda’s question.
Haft guides Vinri from the room.