Lanisen is alone in the kennel, kneeling in an empty pen in the back, his sleeves rolled up. There is a bucket of soapy water next to him, and the floor is shiny-wet. He looks nearly finished.
Dalia knocks softly on the Kennel door, “Lanisen?”
Lanisen straightens, brushing hair out of his face, and looks toward the door. “Hey,” he answers, a watchful tension leaving his posture when he recognizes Dalia’s voice. “C’mon in.”
Dalia opens the door and enters. “I’m not keeping you from anything, Am I?”
Lanisen gets to his feet, stepping a little stiffly. “No, no,” he answers. “Just about finished here. How’re you?”
Dalia nods. “Good. Good. I’ve been well. And you?”
Lanisen heads over to wake up the fire and make the room a little more hospitable, rubbing his shoulder. “Been…” He pauses, then nods. “Good.”
Dalia nibbles her lip, “It hasn’t been to cold for you?” She offers tentatively. “I hope.”
Lanisen admits, “I’ll be glad when it’s spring.”
Lanisen asks, “You?”
Dalia says, “Father’s home for a little while from his travels…It’s been nice to have everyone around.””
Lanisen asks, “Yeah? He a merchant?”
Dalia says, “Um…no. He’s…He’s a minstrel…”
Dalia says, “He…he writes songs and um…sells them sometimes…”
Lanisen says, “Oh, huh. Sounds like an interestin’ life.”
Dalia nods, “We’re very proud of him.”
Lanisen asks, “But he’s away a lot?”
Dalia nods. “Quite a fair bit.”
Lanisen glances at her sympathetically, straightening from the fire.
Dalia says, “So it’s always nice to have him home again, especially if he’s got a new tale or song.”
Lanisen agrees, “I bet.”
Dalia offers Lanisen a small container with a little handtied bow on it, “They’ve been baking up a storm at the house, Mum and the family.”
Lanisen asks, looking down at the container, “What’s this?” He glances up at her again, then unties the bow.
Dalia says, “Just some Christmas cookies.”
Lanisen bites his lower lip and dimples up at the sight of the cookies. He looks at her again and grins. “Thanks,” he says sincerely. “Thanks for thinkin’ of me.”
Dalia grins, sincerely pleased. “Merry Christmas.”
Lanisen says, “Yeah. You too.”
Dalia smiles. “Thanks.”
Lanisen asks, gesturing at the kettle, “You want a cup of tea?”
Dalia says, “If it’s no trouble?”
Lanisen says, “No trouble.” He shakes it to check that there’s water in it, then swings it over the fire to heat.
Dalia says, “Oh. Alright then. Thank you.”
Lanisen says, a little apologetically, “It’s just mint that I got, that all right?”
Dalia nods, “That’s fine.”
Lanisen adds, digging around on the shelf, “Or there’s this stuff, it’s got– some sort of flowers in, I think roses, maybe; they’re sort of, pink?”
Dalia nods, “Mint is lovely”
Dalia says, “It always makes me think of winter, I think.”
Lanisen abandons the other canister obligingly. “All right.” He carries the mint tea back to the hearth and shakes a small heap of the dried green leaves into the pot. “Winter, huh?”
Dalia says, “I don’t know. Maybe it’s silly… I think perhaps it’s the way it tingles, you know in your mouth?””
Lanisen considers. “Yeah,” he agrees. “I could see that. Maybe ginger’s summer, then?”
Dalia says, “I hadn’t thought of that.” She nods thoughtfully, “but it makes sense.”
Lanisen asks, gesturing at one of the chairs facing the fire, “You want to sit?”
Dalia takes the seat offered, gratefully.
Dalia says, “I suppose then, would Cinnamon be fall time? Like the leaves when they turn color and everything is such vivid color?””
Lanisen grins. “Yeah, maybe.”
Dalia says, “I wonder what spring is?”
Lanisen says, “I dunno. Somethin’ with flowers, I s’pose.”
Dalia says, “I suppose so.”
Dalia says, “Maybe Rose tea or something.”
Lanisen says, “Maybe.”
Dalia says, “Did…did you ever have a favorite season?”
Lanisen reaches to touch the kettle and see if it’s hot enough. He taps his fingertips twice against the hot metal, then swings the hook off the fire and wraps his hand in his sleeve to lift the kettle down and pour the water into the teapot. “Um.” He pauses, watching the water stream. “Autumn, I like autumn.”
Dalia says, “I’ve always loved the Autumn colors.”
Lanisen agrees, “The colors, yeah.” He sets the empty kettle aside.
Dalia says, “A good season to be inside with tea instead out in the rain.”
Lanisen says, “Does always seem to be rainin’.” He turns to fetch some clean cups, stored upside-down on a high shelf. “What about you, what’s your favorite?”
Dalia says, “As a little girl, I could never decide whether I liked Winter, Spring or Summer better. Winter could get pretty cold, but there was always the fire, and Summer there was no schooling, but it also got plenty warm. I’d think I’d chose winter, then I’d get too cold and wish for the warmth again. Spring though, you could have warm days and then sometimes still have that bit of cold. Nearly perfect.”
Lanisen glances at her, tilting his head a little to listen better. “Spring’s nice,” he agrees. “We had these… oh, they were purple, I dunno what they’re called. They’d pop their heads up and get to bloomin’ before the snow even melted. Always loved that.”
Dalia offers “Crocus?”
Lanisen says, “Yeah! Crocus, that’s, I think that’s right.”
Dalia says, “Sounds right at least.”
Lanisen says, “My mum knew what they were called, but I ain’t heard the name for a lot of years.”
Dalia says, “Did she love flowers?”
Lanisen nods slightly. “Still does, I reckon.” He busies himself pouring the tea, and the liquid splashing into the cups is the only sound for a moment.
Dalia grows quiet, nibbling her lip as she watches.
Lanisen carries one cup over to her, refreshingly fragrant and steaming.
Dalia takes the cup in her hands, breathing in the scent before taking a sip. “It’s very good.”
Lanisen cautions her, “‘S hot, don’t burn yourself.” He takes up his own cup and goes to sit on the hearth, his back to the fire.
Dalia nods, blowing across the surface of cup before taking a smaller sip. “Thank you.”
Lanisen suggests, “Bet those cookies would go real good with tea.”
Lanisen raises his eyebrows, grinning back, then fetches the cookies from the table where he set them. He holds the tin out to Dalia first.
Dalia takes one, thanking him as she does.
Lanisen returns, “Thank /you/,” and helps himself to one as well before setting the tin down between them, where they can each reach easily for more.
Dalia takes a bite of her cookie, than a sip of tea. “Mmm. They are good.”
Lanisen munches as well, making a small satisfied noise. “/Mmm./ These’re good.”
Dalia grins, seeming extremely pleased. She nibbles off another bite, a few crumbs dropping into the tea.
Lanisen says, “Oh, look out,” as a hound pads interestedly over to investigate Dalia’s cookie. “Tohol, no, leave it, boy.”
Dalia lifts the cookie out of the hound’s reach, but smiles at him none the less “Not for you. I’m sorry but cookies aren’t for hounds.”
Lanisen snaps his fingers at Tohol, and the hound sullenly tucks his tail and scurries off. “He knows better,” he says apologetically to Dalia.
Dalia says, “No harm done.” She replies, untroubled. She takes couple more swallows and finishes her cookie. “I should go see if Lady Astera needs anything.”
Lanisen says, “Oh, sure, ‘course. See you ’round?”
Dalia says, “Yeah. See you ’round. And thank you for the tea.”
Lanisen says, “Thanks for the cookies.”
Dalia says, “Merry Christmas”
Lanisen gets to his feet to see her off. “You too,” he answers.