research buddies

Castle Anvard

The Library of Anvard rises around you. Reddish wooden pillars like twisted tree-trunks support the roof at even intervals, long bookcases in rows between them. The room is warmly lit by a multitude of round hung lamps, like globular fruit. The air is heavy with the sweet and musty smell of books, old and new. Hundreds of volumes line the shelves, and a few spaces between trunks have been left open for tables at which to reading and write. Thick pillar candles can be used to bring a little more yellow light to late-night researchers in these places.

The room appears to be well-dusted and well-kept, its contents carefully maintained and repaired throughout the years.

Megren stands at a bookshelf toward one end of the library, her finger running along the spines of the books.

Lanisen slips in through the door, pausing there to strip off his gloves and stomp the snow from his boots, craning his neck to look carefully down the rows of books to see who might or might not be present in the library. Once he has wiped his feet he begins to make his way across the room toward Megren.

Megren’s finger lands on a particular slim volume and she pulls it down, paging through it. She is more absorbed than usual, and does not seem to even notice anyone else has entered the library.

Lanisen steps up lightly behind her, peering over her shoulder.

Megren startles, the book closing in her hands, but not before he can see that it is a book of music. “Hello,” she says in recovery of herself. “What are you doing here?”

Lanisen’s entire face crinkles up with a delighted grin at the successful sneak. “Hi yourself,” he returns, tipping his head curiously at the book. “Nothin’, I just had some time and there’s usually nobody here around now.”

Megren says, “Ah, I ruined your plans.”

Lanisen says, “Completely. Whatcha readin’?”

Megren says, “Oh, I, uh, it’s music. I was just looking for a song.”

Lanisen asks, “Yeah?”

Megren says, “I don’t really know what I’m doing, though.”

Lanisen asks, “What song?”

Megren asks, “I don’t know. It had dryads?”

Lanisen asks, “Dryads? Is it from Narnia?” He tilts his head to a better angle to read the cover of the book.

Megren says, “That’s what Haft guessed, too. I guess it might be.” The book in her hands is one of nursery songs.

Lanisen asks curiously, “Where’d you hear it?”

Megren opens the book again to find the contents and see if she can’t recognize the title. “It’s, my mother used to sing it.”

Lanisen draws back a little at this, glancing quickly at her face to see if he’s perhaps stumbled into something too personal.

Megren’s face is a little closed, and she doesn’t look up from the contents, but she elaborates, “Haft told me there were a lot of music books in here. I just thought it was worth a look.”

Lanisen nods slowly. He shifts his weight and hesitates, then offers, “If it’s– If it’s Narnian it might be… um, there’s a book with rhymes and poems, I don’t think they’re all songs but some are, maybe it’s in there?”

Megren glances up to the bookshelves. “The children’s section?”

Lanisen says, “Yeah, it’s in with the storybooks– I can…” He trails off, already turning to go find it.

Megren watches him go for a moment, then replaces her book on the shelf and follows after.

Lanisen pauses about halfway down the row, scanning the shelves a little below eye level. “It’s sort of– it’s green…” He goes silent, his forehead knit.

Megren kneels to examine the shelf below his.

Lanisen makes a satisfied noise and tugs out a small book in green leather.

He hands it to her, shrugging hopefully.

Megren takes the book and moves with it toward a table.

Lanisen pulls his lower lip between his teeth, watching, then shifts down the row to the section concerned with histories. He paces back and forth for a little while before he chooses a book.

Megren remembers herself. “What are you looking for?”

Lanisen glances up from the book, shaking his head dismissively. “Nothin’ in particular.” He pauses, then gestures at the Narnian book. “You wantin’ to read by yourself?”

Megren asks, “Um,” she looks down at her book, and then starts to rise. “Maybe I’ll read it later.” She comes up to his shelf. “What unparticular thing are you looking for?”

Lanisen shakes his head again quickly. “No, really, I’m just passin’ time. Go on, go read. I’ll be over there for a while.” He gestures down another row to a small nook out of sight from Megren’s table.

Megren hesitates a moment, then nods and goes to sit again with her book.

Lanisen turns and heads toward the nook, disappearing between the stacks. The shufflings and scrapings of him getting settled are faintly audible for a moment, then silence.

Megren can be heard turning pages for a long time.

Lanisen’s page-turns are less frequent. He is otherwise entirely silent, except for the occasional shift.

Megren finally closes her book. She returns it to the shelf before seeking him out.

Lanisen is reading peacefully with his head propped on one fist, his back and shoulders in a truly horrendous slouch. He seems engrossed, one foot bobbing to an inaudible tune, but he straightens and sits back as Megren approaches. “Hey,” he greets, asking without asking.

Megren shakes her head and pulls a chair up beside his. “What’d you end up with?”

Lanisen’s face falls a little, and his mouth twists unhappily for her. “Um,” he says, and looks down at the current page. He pauses there, like he’s not quite sure how to explain.

Megren looks at the page.

Lanisen moves his hand aside so she can see. The script is dense and hard to follow with a casual glance, but it seems to be an account of the reign of King Frank the sixth.

Megren leans forward to try to decipher it. “History?”

Lanisen says, “Yeah, it’s– yeah.”

Megren glances up at his face. “Do you read history a lot?”

Lanisen says, a little uncomfortably, “Sometimes. I dunno.”

Megren looks back at the book and her eyes land on King Frank VI. Her mouth closes thoughtfully.

Lanisen glances at her face, and his eyes skitter hastily away, settling on the page again. “Um,” he says, speaking a little quickly. “I started, after the battle I read about Calormen a lot, and about Narnia, and about– um, about Aslan, I read about Aslan, and it’s–” He stops and moistens his lips before he continues. “If it’s, if you’re scared of something, and that’s all you know, that you’re scared of it, then it’s– you just go on bein’ scared of it, but if you learn about it then sometimes…”

Megren’s mouth pushes to the side as she lifts her gaze back up to him, and then she nods. “So, what are you learning?”

Lanisen lifts his shoulders a little, avoiding her eyes. “He was, um.” He thumbs at a corner of the page. “He was a really good king, it turns out, that’s why he’s– got his own, um, his own…” He loses momentum there, but rallies. “He was king when the witch took over, in Narnia, he– I guess she tried to come south, over the mountains, but he kept her out.”

Megren looks back to the book so he has some privacy to have whatever expression he may need. “Wow,” she says. “I can’t imagine what that must have been like.”

Lanisen nods, his eyes tracking along a line of text. “He– there were a lot of people comin’ south, the witch was tryin’ to kill off all the humans, he took ’em all, everybody who made it here, he found places for them, him and his lords. Until she closed the passes, and then nobody could get through either way.”

Megren says, “My grandmother used to say her grandmother was Narnian.”

Lanisen glances at her.

Megren lifts a shoulder. “She was kind of a strange lady; I don’t know if it was true.”

Lanisen looks down again and grins faintly.

Megren wrinkles her nose at him.

Lanisen closes the book, which takes both hands, because it’s large and heavy, and folds his arms over the top of it. “Was she your mum’s mum or your da’s?”

Megren says, “Oh, my mum’s. I never knew my da’s.”

Lanisen ventures, “That’s where the song came from, then?”

Megren says, “Might be, unless her da sang it to her.”

Lanisen mms. He’s quiet for a second, then glances briefly at her. “I’m sorry I couldn’t help you find it.”

Megren lifts a shoulder. “I never even thought of trying until a couple months again, anyway, and then I didn’t think of how until Haft said about the library.”

Lanisen nods. “Your da doesn’t know it?”

Megren says, “I mentioned it to him once and he said she had a lot of songs.”

Lanisen nods again, looking down.

Megren’s eyes drift to the window and then back to him. “I have to see that Dawn is ready for tomorrow.”

Lanisen asks, “You’re goin’ on the hunt?”

Megren tucks her hair behind her ear. “Yeah, I expect so.”

Lanisen’s eyes follow the motion. He chews the inside of his lip, but doesn’t comment. “Good luck, if I don’t see you before.”

Megren stands up. “Thanks. I’m sure you will.”

Lanisen adds, “Be safe, too.”

Megren pulls the side of his head up to her stomach as mothers do with children, and gives his hair a good staticky rub. “If you say so.”

Lanisen makes an exasperated noise and tries to put his hair to rights.

Megren grins. “Enjoy your reading.”

Lanisen says, “See you.”


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