avoiding a mess


Knight’s Practice Room
Castle Anvard


After a length sparring lesson, Megren steps back when it’s clear Lanisen’s strength is flagging. She huffs and wipes her brow. “You’re getting better.”

Lanisen is breathing heavily and slightly shaky, but he keeps his practice sword up and guarding in case she’s not finished.

Megren drops her own sword and moves into attention so she can salute. “I think that’s probably good for the day.”

Lanisen copies her, bringing the hilt to his lips. He lowers the sword and lets his shoulders droop, trying to catch his breath.

Megren goes and grabs his waterskin for him.

Lanisen follows after her, limping slightly. He wipes his forehead with his sleeve and goes to return the practice sword to the rack.

Megren takes a drink from her own waterskin and then follows him.

Lanisen says, as he says every time, “Thanks for sparrin’.”

Megren nods. “You too. You’re getting better with your wrist.”

Lanisen flexes it experimentally, looking at his left hand. “You think so?”

Megren nods. “Your parries.”

Lanisen says, “If you say so.” But he seems pleased.

Megren asks, “Calls for a reward of some kind, I think. I’ve got two hours or so, want to do something?”

Lanisen says, “If you like, I don’t mind.”

Megren asks, “Food, game, or walk?”

Lanisen shakes his head a little. “You pick, I don’t care.”

Megren says, “I always choose game and you always bow out.”

Lanisen says, “What? I don’t either.”

Megren says, “Do too, always.”

Lanisen says, “When?”

Megren says, “Charades, at the Yule festival.”

Lanisen splutters a little bit. “That was– there were other people, and it was /one time/.”

Megren says, “Any time we play cubes or darts.”

Lanisen says, “I play cubes! I’m no good at darts.”

Megren says, “Well, you don’t like cubes, then, at least.”

Lanisen says defensively, “Just not in a crowd.”

Megren asks, “How else are you meant to play a game?”

Lanisen says, “I’ve played it with just you and with you and Sir Darrin, so there.”

Megren says, “Me and Sir Darrin was in the mess.”

Lanisen asks, “So?”

Megren says, “That’s a crowd.”

Lanisen says, “You know what I mean.”

Megren asks, “You mean you don’t want to play with more than three, then?”

Lanisen says, “What? I–” He shakes his head a little, as if this has gotten away from him. “Um, no more than three, yeah.”

Megren makes a thoughtful noise. “All right, that’s fair. Change and meet in the mess for cubes, then.”

Lanisen asks, “The mess?”

Megren asks, “Or, where?”

Lanisen says, “I don’t– I dunno, sorry. It’s fine, the mess is fine.”

Megren pauses and lifts her brows. “It’s all right if it’s not.”

Lanisen ducks his head a little. “No, it’s fine.”

Megren asks, “All right. Change first though?”

Lanisen says, “Yeah, ‘course.”


Off-duty Mess
Castle Anvard


Haft sits at a table with a mug of cider beside him and a book open before him. He leans his chin on one hand.

Lanisen pauses just outside the doorway to check who’s in the mess, and how crowded it is. His eyes settle on Haft, and he rubs his elbow and hangs back for a second before he slips through the door and to an unoccupied table.

Haft glances up from his book, which doesn’t seem to be very engrossing. An expression of mild surprise crosses his face before he returns to it.

Megren skips in a little while later, a handful of cubes in hand. She plunks them down on Lanisen’s table. “Want something to drink?”

Lanisen looks relieved as she joins him, but still very much like he feels out of place. His eyes skitter across the room. “Um. No, no, I’m fine. Thanks.”

Haft turns a page.

Megren says, “Well, I’m going to get something.”

Lanisen says, “All right, yeah.”

Megren swings past Haft’s table on the way. “Mug looks a little low there, grandpa, need someone to refill it?”

Haft looks up. “You offering?”

Megren says, “Course.”

Haft says, “Then yes I need someone to refill it.”

Megren grins, and picks up his mug.

Lanisen folds his arms on the table and hunches over them.

Megren swings back and sets Haft’s mug back on the table for him. “There you are guardsman.”

Haft says, “Thank you kindly, Squire.”

Megren asks, “Reading something good?”

Haft says, “Some uninspired poems about shepherds and trolls.”

Megren says, “Sounds like a good evening.”

Lanisen picks at a splinter sticking out of the wooden tabletop, stealing glances around the room from time to time.

Haft grimaces. “Not really. I was looking for something I read a long time ago. Can’t find it. Wading through drivel.”

Megren hmms. “Well, good luck, I suppose. It’s games for Lanisen and me.”

Haft says, “Oh.” He lowers his voice. “Wondered what got his nerve up to come in here.”

Megren makes a face at him and heads off in Lanisen’s direction, calling over her shoulder, “Enjoy your book.”

Haft calls back, “Enjoy your game.”

Megren exclaims, “We will!”

Lanisen shifts and straightens slightly as she returns.

Megren asks as she approaches, “Bored without me already?”

Lanisen says, “I’m not.”

Megren says, “Aw.”

Lanisen says, “What’re, what’re we playin’?”

Megren asks, “You want regular old boring cubes, or something with challenges or confessions, or both, or something new entirely?”

Lanisen says, “Um.” His eyes shift to the door as somebody else comes in, distracted. “I dunno, you pick.”

Megren pushes her mouth to the side. “You want to move to the kennel?”

Lanisen glances at her and then guiltily away. He moistens his lips and shakes his head slightly. “Only, only if you’re wantin’ to.”

Megren makes a face at him. “No, you made me choose the activity; you’ve got to decide the place.”

Lanisen says, “You wanted to– I thought, didn’t you? You wanted to come here?”

Megren says, “Laaanisen.”

Lanisen says, “Sorry.”

Megren asks, “Do you want to be here?”

Lanisen doesn’t answer for an unhappy pause. “If you do, I’ll stay,” he finally offers in a low voice.

Megren says, “You don’t want to be here.”

Lanisen lifts his shoulders uncomfortably, not looking at her.

Megren asks, “What do you think is going to happen if you say it?”

Lanisen lets out a small frustrated breath like a little huff of laughter.

Megren lifts her brows.

Lanisen presses his lips together. He shuts his eyes briefly and swallows, then opens them again and says in a low voice that won’t carry to the next table, “I don’t want to be here.”

Megren nods once and gets up. “Kennels?”

Lanisen lifts his shoulders and stands, a little clumsily. “Sure.” He avoids looking at anybody else in the room and keeps his eyes on the floor instead.

Megren picks up the cubes and her cup. She gives him a friendly nudge with her elbow. “After you.”

Lanisen moves toward the door.


Kennels
Castle Anvard


Lanisen stops inside the door, rubbing his elbow, unhappy and ashamed. He doesn’t look at Megren.

Megren sits at the table and drops the cubes back down. “Do you still want to play?”

Lanisen says, “Sure.”

Megren makes a face at him.

Lanisen goes to the table and sits across from her.

Megren sighs and pulls a piece of brown wrapping paper from her pocket. “How about just a standard game, then. Have you got a charcoal?”

Lanisen says, “Um.” He gets up again. “Prob’ly, somewhere…” He turns in place and heads for the shelf to look. “D’you want some tea?”

Megren says, “No, I’m all right.””

Lanisen finds a tiny stub of charcoal in a tray of other such oddments and returns, offering it a little apologetically.

Megren picks it up and sets it by the parchment paper, which is a little stained, so the two make a good set anyhow. “You first.”

Lanisen picks up one of the cubes, then pauses. “I dunno how to play,” he confesses.

Megren says, “Oh.” She quickly draws up a scoring chart and explains each kind of point he may earn. “It’s a little complicated, I’ll help you as you go.””

Lanisen looks increasingly lost as she explains, but he nods at key points.

Megren says, “It’s easy, I promise.”

Lanisen nods. He picks up the cubes and cups them in his hands, then tosses them across the tabletop.

Megren helps him choose which to keep and which to throw again for the best score before taking them and throwing her own set.

Lanisen does as she suggests, murmuring thanks for the instruction. He pays keen attention to the score paper.

Megren lets him have mostly free rein after a few rounds, pointing out advice when he gets a couple of important rolls.

Lanisen unwinds as the game progresses, concentrating on the cubes.

Megren loses soundly.

Lanisen cranes his neck rather suspiciously to look at the score paper for himself.

Megren shrugs. “Sometimes they just don’t love you.”

Lanisen sits back once he is satisfied and gives her a sidelong half-sheepish half-gloaty grin.

Megren snorts. “You look like a dog covered in mud.”

Lanisen says, smirking faintly, “No call to be impolite.”

Megren says, “What, you’re saying I’ve lost and I’ve got to put a smile on about it, too?””

Lanisen says, “I don’t /think/ that’s what I said…”

Megren says, “Sounds like it.”

Lanisen asks brightly, “Want to go again?”

Megren says, “If it’s fast. I’ve got shield in an hour.”

Lanisen considers. “I bet this one won’t take so long, now I’ve got the rules.”

Megren says, “All right. Speed round.”

Lanisen says graciously, “You can go first this time.”

Megren says, “How kind.”

Lanisen gives her a beatific grin and waits for his turn.

Megren soundly wins this round.

Lanisen slouches with his chin in his hand and his elbow on the table and sulks mightily.

Megren grins. “Tiebreaker when I get back.”

Lanisen says, “You’re on.”

Megren says, “So long as Gearn lets me have the set back.”

Lanisen says, “What, you ain’t got your own?”

Megren teases, “I look like the kind of squire who’s got cubes money lying around?”

Lanisen purses his lips on one side. “All right, rematch later.”

Megren says, “You’re on.”

Lanisen says, “Have a good practice.”

Megren grins and disappears around the barrier.

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