Knights’ Practice Room
Megren sits on a bench in the practice room, leaning forward with her leg straight out into a stretch.
Lanisen opens the door and squeezes through, setting his lantern on a table. “Mornin’,” he says, his voice a little sleep-blurred.
Megren asks, “Did you eat?”
Lanisen squints at her. He rubs one eye. “It ain’t breakfast time yet.”
Megren makes a face at him and produces a waterskin and a small serving of roast potato from the bench beside her. “Here. If you faint on my watch I’ll never hear the end of it.”
Lanisen protests, “I’m not gonna faint.” But he sits down next to her and accepts the potato without any further argument. “Thanks.”
Megren nods, drinking a little from the waterskin herself.
Lanisen eats quietly, yawning every few bites. After a few extra minutes of waking up, he is with it enough to ask, “How’re you?”
Megren says, “Good. Was up a little late. You?”
Lanisen finishes the potato and stretches sleepily. “‘M good. ‘S early.”
Megren says brightly, “A little warmer this morning though.”
Lanisen grunts ungraciously.
Megren grins and sways to nudge him with her shoulder.
Lanisen makes a face at her. He stretches again, rolling his right arm back and forth to try to loosen it up. “Mmk.”
Megren gets up to fetch them both practice swords. “What rules do you want to set?”
Lanisen gets to his feet as well and stands a little awkwardly. He rubs his elbow. “I don’t–” He pauses. “Sorry, I don’t know what’s… What do you mean?”
Megren says, “Well, I figure we’ll both go left hand. Then you’ve got to say any handicaps you want, and where you’re allowed to hit – torso, limbs, head, that sort of thing, and also if there’s any kind of hits you want outlawed, like maybe you only want thrusts today.”
Lanisen hesitates. “Not– not my shoulder,” he says, glancing at her quickly. “Um. That’s… I dunno what else.”
Megren pushes her mouth to the side. “All right. We’ll do torso only and not your shoulder and no whips.” She demonstrates what she means by a whip, a nasty flicking swing of the sword from the side or above. “End match on the third valid hit received by one party?”
Lanisen looks relieved, and nods consent to these terms.
Megren hands him his sword. “Anything else?”
Lanisen takes the sword and settles his hand on the hilt. He shrugs, giving her a small, nervous smile. “I guess we’ll find out.”
Megren grins and steps into place. “So we salute,” she says, bringing the blade swishing upward so that the hilt is at her lips and the swishing it back down. “And then the first step is yours.”
Lanisen copies the motion, though with less grace and certainty. “I… start?” he asks to be sure.
Megren nods, a look of concentration already settling over her face.
Lanisen swallows and hesitates, his weight on the balls of his feet. It’s all too clear when he makes his first move, a jab at her right side, that he doesn’t actually want to hit.
Megren doesn’t even bat the sword away, moving her back foot behind her a bit and leaning easily away from his sword instead. She shakes her head. “Mm-mm,” she says. “Like you mean it.”
Lanisen presses his lips together, but he nods and tries again.
Megren steps out of his way again, tapping his sword this time. “Better.”
Lanisen acknowledges this with a quick glance and steps back so she can take her turn.
Megren laughs, “What are you doing?”
Lanisen pauses. “It’s your turn, ain’t it?”
Megren asks, “In real life, you ever gotten turns?”
Lanisen says defensively, “I dunno how this works.”
Megren drops her sword tip for a moment, her face taking on a serious cant. “Listen — the first thing a new guard learns is a respect for life, and a respect for not taking it. You’ve already got that.” She nods to his weapon. “So tell me, what’s that for?”
Lanisen hesitates again, as if he’s not really sure what answer she’s looking for. “Defendin’, I guess,” he finally offers.
Megren nods. “It’s for Darius. And Myrd. It’s for when you’re up against someone who doesn’t respect even life — yours, or Cass’s or a little boy who was in the wrong spot at the wrong time — whomever’s. When you’re up against someone who’s not going to give you turns unless you take them.”
Lanisen looks at the floor between them as she speaks, shifting. He pulls his lower lip between his teeth and nods.
Megren lifts her sword again. “All right. So, I’m — Aaron. Or — ah, whoever you want me to be, anyway. Don’t let me take the edge.”
Lanisen grimaces, uncomfortable, but he nods. He brings up his sword, hesitates, then attempts a cut in from the side.
Megren parries and moves in toward him with a riposte.
Lanisen successfully strikes her blade away, but he simultaneously gives ground with several skittering backward steps, his face wincing up.
Megren nods to acknowledge his success and presses forward.
Lanisen continues to parry and back away, defending. He raises his right arm unconsciously to guard his middle.
Megren jabs lightly at his middle, just below his back hand, and says, “Keep your other arm back and down a bit more so you don’t throw off your balance.”
Lanisen tries to spin away from the jab, but isn’t quite fast enough. He lets out a small startled grunt as it connects and smacks it away with his forearm a second too late.
Megren frowns and pushes forward when her does this so he can see that defending with his weak and unweaponed arm opens up his body for further attack and brings his sword outside her own body, making it basically useless, especially given that her reach is a little shorter so she can still attack at a distance where his sword is more in the way than not.
Lanisen doesn’t know what to do with this and continues to back away, slightly frantic. He attempts to bring his sword back up to a useful position, but his first impulse still seems to be to guard with his right arm.
Megren eases up a little, if not entirely. “What are you defending with?”
Lanisen’s eyes stay on her sword and it takes him a second to split his attention enough to reply. “My– my sword,” he answers, and drops his right arm guiltily.
Megren nods once with a small but concentrated smile. “It’s like an extension of your arm. You can use it as much as you would your hands and as deftly, but since its longer and tougher than your real hands it can keep me away from your body.”
Lanisen makes a face at this. He finds himself backing into a wall and switches direction quickly to avoid being cornered.
Megren pushes her mouth to the side and makes a second jab at his middle.
Lanisen gasps and doubles over slightly. He uses his sword to shove hers to the side, his blade connecting near the hilt, and makes an attempt to cut in toward her side on the return.
Megren breaks into a grin. “Better!” She parries the cut. “What’s the stronger part of the blade, the tip, or near the hilt?”
Lanisen replies with some certainty, “Near the hilt.” He’s beginning to be breathless, and his limp is showing.
Megren nods, “So when you push my sword away with your tip?”
Lanisen says, distracted, “It won’t… work as well.” He brings up his right arm again for a second, then remembers and drops it behind him again.
Megren moves for another thrust, slowly this time.
Lanisen lurches to the side, just barely avoiding it, and swats her sword down toward the floor with his own.
Megren lets her sword drop with the swat.
Lanisen backs away quickly, choosing to claim some space rather than follow up with an attack.
Megren asks, “About done?”
Lanisen lowers his sword and swipes at his forehead. He nods gratefully.
Megren drops hers as well. “Pretty good, ” she pronounces.
Lanisen gives her a slightly wry look, but he says, “Thanks for the spar.”
Megren says, “My first one I dropped my sword three times.”
Lanisen squints at her, crossing to return his sword to the rack. “Maybe they hit harder,” he guesses.
Megren says, “Couldn’t remember to keep my pommel against my wrist.”
Lanisen absently rubs his stomach where he got jabbed. “Oh, right. That. Get you every time,” he agrees. He glances at her sidelong with a small sheepish smirk.
Megren sticks her tongue out.
Lanisen takes a seat on the bench, still out of breath, and rests his elbows on his knees. “I’ll do better next time,” he says, guiltily apologetic.
Megren says again, “It was good. We’ll get there.”
Lanisen looks slightly doubtful, but he nods. “Thanks,” he says again.
Megren squints an eye at him pleasantly. “So, time for real breakfast?”
Lanisen considers. “I could eat,” he admits.
Megren grins. “Good. I’m half-starved.”
Lanisen sprawls bonelessly back against the wall for a second to demonstrate that he is entirely knackered and can’t possibly move, then gets to his feet.
Megren grabs him around the middle to throw him over her shoulder and carry him down, given he’s so tired.
Lanisen says, “What’re you– /Meg/!”
Megren giggles, putting him back down.
Lanisen straightens his shirt, flustered and slightly shaken, avoiding her eyes.
Megren’s expression drops a bit, and she looks a little regretful. “Come on,” she says. “We’ll see if there’s not any ginger tea to be had.”
Lanisen nods quickly. “Ginger tea, that– that sounds nice.”
Megren moves toward the stairs a little ahead of him.
Lanisen follows her quietly.
Megren reaches for his hand to lead him more companionably after they’ve gone a little way. When they get to the servant’s hall, she lets go. “You stay here while I see about tea.”
Lanisen says, “I can– All right.” He rubs his elbow, glancing around the room, and sits down at the near end of one of the long tables.
Megren disappears, returning after a decent length of time with a pot and a few cups.
Lanisen grins faintly in appreciation and sits on his hands. “Found some?”
Megren sets the cups down first and fills first his and then he own with the golden liquid. “They said there ought to be molasses cookies somewhere around here, too.”
Lanisen says with keen interest, “Molasses cookies, really?”
Megren waves him off, “It’s your turn, go look.”
Lanisen gives her a sad betrayed look, then grudgingly gets to his feet and slinks into the kitchen to hunt down the cookies.
Megren sits happily, smelling her tea.
Lanisen returns in short order, successful and reasonably pleased with himself.
Megren grins. “Success!”
Lanisen snorts and sets the plate down between them, resuming his seat. He shivers and cups his hands around the cup of tea, hunkering down over it to breathe the good smells.
Megren asks, “What do you have today?”
Lanisen shrugs. “Kennels. Cass. ‘S about it.”
Megren nods. “She’s got a week more?”
Lanisen says, “‘S right, then she’s done.”
Megren nods, “Good. Toby’ll be glad.”
Lanisen says, “Yeah, Toby for sure.”
Megren’s brows lift.
Lanisen asks, “What?”
Megren says, “And you too?”
Lanisen says, “Well. Obviously?”
Megren nods. “Okay.”
Lanisen takes a deep breath. “I’m worried,” he admits. “But it’s all– there’s nothin’, really, you know?”
Megren says, “Yeah.”
Lanisen says, “It’ll be all right, it’s just the waitin’.”
Megren nods and says again, “Yeah.”
Lanisen says, “Anyway,” and takes a sip of his tea. “What about you, what’s life got for you today?”
Megren tucks her hair behind her ear, “Sir Darrin’s got lessons with the prince this afternoon and then some meeting, so I thought after I did the horses I’d go into town to see da.”
Lanisen nods, raising his eyebrows with interest. “How’s he doin’?”
Megren says, “Not as stocked up as I’d like, but he’s not bad. He’s been out to see to Reina’s family a lot.”
Lanisen asks, “They’re doin’ all right too, I hope?”
Megren lifts a shoulder. “I think better for having him around anyway.”
Lanisen asks, “She still helpin’ in the gardens?”
Lanisen says, “Good, that’s– it seemed like a real good place for her.”
Megren says, “I think so, anyway. I think she’s seeing her self more as a gardener than a guard, and that makes me a little sad, for selfish reasons.”
Lanisen tilts his head at her slightly. “She’s little yet,” he says. “She might change her mind.”
Megren nods, and says, “I’m happy to know she feels she belongs — anywhere. It’s only that I miss the guard a little, sometimes.”
Lanisen pauses. “I didn’t know that.”
Megren’s brows lift, and then she shrugs. “It’s — only a little. Squiring you don’t get… it’s not the same. It’s been nice to help a little with Cass, and the defense classes.”
Lanisen nods, and looks at his tea as he listens. “Not so much you’d rather go back?” he asks after a moment.
Megren says slowly, “No…” then again more firmly, “No. If I thought it would be like this forever, then I would, but it’s training. It’s so I can be better when I go back, or I’m a knight.”
Lanisen’s forehead furrows a little somewhere in the middle of this, with worry or confusion or a mix, but he doesn’t push further.
Megren says, “It’s — I like to help /people/, not a person. and people that really need it, people that couldn’t easily have muddled through on their own. Squires are all about knights and lords, people in the castle that already have lots of help. It’s — it’s not always so clear what I’m doing here, why I’m needed.”
Lanisen nods slowly. “Makes sense,” he offers.
Megren shrugs, and glances at the ceiling self-consciously. “Anyway.”
Lanisen nods again and looks down at his tea. He pauses, then gestures at the greenery hanging in garlands from the walls, fixed to the sconces. “Whatcha think of all that?”
Megren grins. “Somebody gave Haft charge of it, if you’d believe that.”
Lanisen says, “I know, he roped me into it too.”
Megren says, “He did!”
Lanisen gestures vaguely and sheepishly at the greenery on the walls.
Megren says, “It’s nice!”
Lanisen swings one leg under the table. “He did most of it, I just… sorted stuff into piles, mostly.”
Megren says, “Well, well-sorted, then.”
Lanisen squints at her to see if she is making fun.
Megren lifts both her shoulders and her brows and sips mysteriously from her tea.
Lanisen looks at her suspiciously, then picks up a cookie.
Megren sticks out her tongue and picks up a cookie, which she bites into with relish.
Lanisen makes quick work of his cookie and picks up his tea again, giving a considering look to the kitchen door.
Megren hugs her tea between both hands, looking like the morning sleepiness is finally hitting.
Lanisen asks, “Are you hungry?”
Megren says, “Maybe a little, yeah.”
Lanisen says, “I think there’s porridge.”
Megren asks, “Raisins?”
Lanisen says, “Prob’ly. Might be apples.”
Megren nods to indicate this would also be acceptable.
Lanisen gets to his feet and ambles off to fetch it.
Megren makes a catlike mumbling noise and lays her head on her elbow, hugging her cup close.
Lanisen returns a few minutes later with two bowls. The porridge is thick and hearty, with cinnamon and large chunks of dried apple mixed throughout and honey and butter on top. He pauses as he gets close, stooping with exaggerated uncertainty to see if she’s awake. “More for me if you conk out,” he decides, and plunks both bowls down.
Megren squints a punishing eye at him, but she lifts her head and reaches for the bowl.
Lanisen sits down across from her, and despite his teasing he leans his elbow on the table and his face in his hand to eat, also sleepy.
Megren wrinkles her nose amicably at his sleepy countenance and picks at her own bowl, perking some once she’s got some real food in her. About halfway though the bowl she glances down the table to see if anyone is in hearing distance.
Lanisen eats steadily for the first few minutes, then loses momentum. He stirs the porridge idly.
Megren says, when she is pretty sure there is no one listening, “I talked to Sir Darrin.”
Lanisen looks up. He gives her a quick searching look, then asks uncertainly, “Yeah?”
Megren glances at the ceiling. “He says not Lord Dar.”
Lanisen pauses. “Oh.”
Megren says, “I wondered…”
Lanisen glances at her, listening.
Megren pushes her mouth to the side.
Lanisen hesitates a moment, waiting to see if she will say anything else, then suggests, “What about his da?”
Megren colors and says, “Um, he says if he tells his family they’ll take it serious and I won’t be able to… to get out of it.”
Lanisen sits back a little. He raises his eyebrows briefly. “Just… like that?”
Megren lifts her shoulders uncomfortably.
Lanisen frowns distantly down at his porridge. He shifts and shakes his head slightly. “That’s not– I don’t understand, you’re meanin’ they’d look on it as courtin’ and expect…?”
Megren says, “I don’t know; I don’t know.”
Lanisen says, “Sorry, I’m sorry– It’s only, that… it doesn’t seem right to me?”
Megren nods, eyes flickering as she considers this reaction.
Lanisen says, “When Sir Colin, with Ara… it wasn’t, it wasn’t just–” His face winces up with frustration as he searches for the right words to make his thoughts clear.
Megren says “You didn’t think he should talk to Lord Dar either.”
Lanisen’s eyes flick up to her face and then skitter away. “I didn’t… say I thought he should, or shouldn’t either, I only wondered if, if he could, if it was…” He shrugs uncomfortably and rubs his right wrist. “I don’t know Lord Dar, not like Darrin would.”
Megren picks up his near hand in hers. “Sorry. I know.”
Lanisen lets her have it. He stares at their hands distantly, his eyes gone out of focus. He still looks troubled.
Megren says, “I — I’ll talk to him again.”
Lanisen glances at her. “Did he say…” He pauses, a puzzle-solving look on his face. “If his family’s all gonna just– assume you’re betrothed right off, did he say if there was somebody else he could talk to?”
Megren says, “That’s… sort of why I brought it up.”
Lanisen’s mouth opens slightly, and he looks suddenly apprehensive.
Megren says without actually having voiced the request, “I’ll talk to him again.”
Lanisen says, “I–I’m sorry.”
Megren says, ” No, you shouldn’t be.”
Lanisen says, “Um–” He shakes his head slightly and fixes his eyes on the table between them. “Um, was it– was it your idea or, or his?”
Megren screws up her face, ” It really, it’s all right; he thought of Sir Gavin too, and you’re right about his family, and it’s not your — you shouldn’t have to.”
Lanisen says, “No, I– um.” He takes a quick breath. “If you want me to, I’ll– try.”
Megren looks unsure.
Lanisen rubs his face with his free hand, distressed. “I didn’t, I’m sorry, it’s– I don’t know him that well, is all, I only know him at all ’cause of you, and he’s–”
Megren says, “I’ll talk to him again.”
Lanisen’s shoulders hunch a little. “I’m sorry,” he says miserably.
Megren squeezes his hand. “No, please don’t be. You’ve already done so much for me.”
Lanisen says, “No, no…”
Megren says, “Yes, really.”
Lanisen says, “You never, this is the first thing you’ve– asked…”
Megren says, “I shouldn’t have. I meant for it to be easier to say no.”
Lanisen looks up at her at this.
Megren says, “Really, it’s, it’s fine.”
Lanisen lowers his head again and nods. “Thanks,” he adds softly after a minute.
Megren leans to press her lips against his temple. “Please don’t ever feel obliged to put yourself out of order for my sake, will you?”
Lanisen brings his shoulders up around his ears, not uncomfortably. “I ain’t out of order.”
Megren pulls back, “Well, good.”
Lanisen turns his hand slightly so he can squeeze hers in return.
Megren smiles at this.
Lanisen asks, “Will he be able to talk to Sir Gavin, do you think?”
Megren says, “Yeah, I think so. And you’re right about his father, too.”
Lanisen hesitates. “Does it– are you worried, on account of what he said about his family?”
Megren chews her lower lip. “Yes? But also… also it doesn’t matter. It’s not, I don’t think it’s good to, to ball something inside you. It gets all turned around so you trick yourself. And he’s always saying how he doesn’t like how knights get sent away when they’re young because he’d like to be closer to his family and, well, this is a good chance to make lost up time, don’t you think?”
Lanisen looks a little unsatisfied, as if this wasn’t exactly what he was asking, but he nods.
Megren says, “I can say no when I need.”
Megren says, “It’s, I feel a lot better about it now you know. And I’ll, I’ll muddle through about the rest.”
Lanisen hesitates, glancing at her to assess the validity of this statement. “I’m glad.”
Megren stands up, taking his bowl and pecking his temple again.
Lanisen dimples up at this, his shoulders hunching slightly again.
Megren musses at his hair and goes to put their dishes away.
Lanisen gets up to follow, trying to put his hair back to rights.