Megren’s Father’s Hut
By the time Lanisen wakes, the lantern has been blown out and the door left slightly ajar. Megren’s bed has been rolled up and her book put away. Faint breakfasty sounds can be heard behind the building.
It’s not terribly late when Lanisen emerges, but he’s definitely slept in later than what is usual for him. He comes out and around the corner of the hut to investigate what Megren is up to, still yawning with his hair all a sleepy mess.
Megren is heating some kind of morning gruel by the time he arrives. A dirty bowl already sits on the ground beside her. “Your hair’s a sight.”
Lanisen says, “You always say that.”
Megren says, “Well.”
Lanisen makes a sort of half-hearted attempt to put it straight, combing it through with his fingers, then gives up. “What’s that?”
Megren says, “Oats. Hungry?”
Lanisen says, “Mm. Starvin’.” He glances at her bowl.
Megren pulls his bowl out of the little dish hatch and hands it to him. “Fill up.”
Lanisen murmurs thanks and scoops porridge into his bowl. He takes a seat across from her. “How’dja sleep?”
Megren says, “Just fine. You?”
Lanisen has to yawn at this very second, but he makes several inarticulate noises and gestures meant to communicate that he did sleep very well.
Megren laughs. “Hm.”
Lanisen turns his coat collar up and gets to work on his porridge. “How long you been up?” he asks between bites.
Megren says, “Not long. Enough to get breakfast done.”
Lanisen comments, “And ate.”
Megren corrects, “Enough to get breakfast done and ate.”
Lanisen grins. He glances at the stove. “Is my stone in there?”
Megren pulls the stone out with a pair of fire-tongs. “Here.”
Lanisen sets his bowl aside and quickly fishes out one of his gloves from his pocket. He slips his hand into it and takes the stone, tossing it up and down in his palm to cool it to a usable temperature faster. “Thanks.”
Megren nods. “Is it hurting you?”
Lanisen shakes his head, touching the stone lightly with bare fingertips to check the temperature. “‘S not bad.”
Megren nods again. “Good.”
Lanisen slips the stone into its pocket and shuts his coat over it, picking up his porridge again. He does a few stretching sort of movements with his right arm, trying to wake up the stiff muscles.
Megren says, “I thought we’d go sit out by the creek today and see if anything comes to drink, if you’re not too stiff for it.”
Lanisen asks with interest, “What sort of anything?”
Megren says, “Deer and foxes mostly this time of year. Maybe a rabbit or a stoat. Once I saw a wolf, but they don’t usually live out here. I think it must have been outcast from its pack. Maybe a bear.”
Lanisen raises his eyebrows at this last. “A bear?”
Megren says, “Sometimes.”
Lanisen says, “Sounds exciting, long as it stays away.”
Megren says, “It won’t bother us if we don’t get in its way.”
Lanisen says, “I’m very all right with not getting in a bear’s way.”
Megren grins. “Thought you might be.”
Lanisen gives her a squinty suspicious look at this, then shrugs. He takes another bite of porridge.
Megren gets up to go back around inside.
Lanisen looks interested, but doesn’t follow. He hurries to finish his breakfast.
Megren comes back out with two cups and a packet of flowers. “Chamomile’s all we’ve got.”
Lanisen says, “Oh! I brought ginger, too. And the rest of Danall’s Calormene stuff.”
Megren says, “Ooh, maybe ginger and chamomile together for me, then.”
Lanisen wrinkles up his nose doubtfully at this, but says, “I’ll go get it.”
Megren says sweetly, “Thank yo-ou.”
Lanisen snorts under his breath and goes, grinning and shaking his head. He returns a moment later with the packet of ginger tea.
Megren has already got the water heating by this time. “Anything else you were hoping to do?”
Lanisen says, “Oh.” He shrugs. “Not really. I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Whatever you’re wantin’ to do is fine with me.”
Megren says, “All right. We’ll decide as we go along.”
Lanisen nods amiably, offering her the packet of tea.
Megren puts it into her cup and pours the steaming water. She extends Lanisen’s empty cup to him.
Lanisen accepts the cup and watches her prepare her own. “Chamomile and ginger,” he repeats, shaking his head dubiously.
Megren sticks her tongue out.
Lanisen makes a rabbit-like face at her in return, crinkling up his nose at the bridge.
Megren laughs! “You look like a little bunny.”
Lanisen retorts, “Well, you look like… like a little grass snake!”
Megren’s brows furrow up. “What??”
Lanisen sticks his tongue out in demonstration.
Megren makes a skeptical clicking noise.
Lanisen says obstinately, “One of those little brown ones.”
Megren clicks skeptically again.
Lanisen adds, “Anyway, I don’t look like a rabbit.”
Megren says, “A little.”
Lanisen looks unimpressed. He holds out his empty mug for some hot water.
Megren pours obligingly.
Lanisen takes the ginger tea packet and shakes a little into his cup. “I wish I’d brought a pot,” he mourns, watching the floating tea.
Megren says, “Sorry.”
Lanisen says in overwrought tones, “I’ll survive, I guess.”
Megren asks disbelievingly, “Will you?”
Lanisen makes a face that suggests it’s a pretty tenuous chance.
Megren says, “I will bury you with due ceremony.”
Lanisen says, “I appreciate that.”
Megren says, “Least I can do.”
Lanisen nods gravely. He blows on the top of his tea, sending the floating bits of ginger swirling.
Megren sits back on her heels to drink hers.
Lanisen sips his tea and tips his head back to follow a cardinal’s path as it flashes through the trees overhead.
Megren looks up.
Lanisen says, “It’s so…” He waves a hand vaguely. “/Quiet/. But so loud, too.”
Megren laughs. “You’ve been out traveling before, haven’t you?”
Lanisen says, “Yeah. But not, I dunno. It’s always been ’cause there’s someplace I gotta get to or somethin’ to be done.”
Megren nods, giving the trees around them another glance. “Well. Welcome to the first 18 years of my life.”
Lanisen glances at her and grins. He drinks again and asks, “What was your favorite part?”
Megren says, “This, maybe. Waking up early for a hot drink and maybe to see something new. Or going into town to sell, I always liked that, too.”
Lanisen asks, “Did you have friends in town?”
Megren shakes her head, “Not really, not like now. People I /liked/, who I was friend/ly/ with, but I didn’t — I didn’t know them, if you know what I mean. It wasn’t like you or Perth or Haft or Sir Darrin.”
Lanisen’s forehead furrows a little. He looks at his tea and nods. “Was it lonely for you?”
Megren pushes her mouth to the side. “I don’t know how to say… surely it would have been lonelier to have had those friends and been gone from them all the time. But I knew I wanted to live among people, so it must have been, a bit. More when I got older and knew how to take someone else’s circumstances and imagine myself in the same place, maybe.” She lifts her shoulders. “But now sometimes I miss this. It’s hard to know someone well when there are a hundred other people shouting at you to be known, too. Da and I knew each other perfectly for a long time.”
Lanisen nods slowly. “D’you miss him a lot, when you’re at the castle for a long time?”
Megren says, “Sometimes. A lot at first. Now, it’s mostly only when he’s gone hunting or there’s something that’s keeping me from my visits.”
Lanisen nods again. He’s quiet for a minute, then says, “Thanks for bringin’ me out here.”
Megren says, “I’m glad you decided to come.”
Lanisen lets out a little huff of breath through his nose and lifts one side of his mouth in a rueful smile. “Sorry for… makin’ a muchness of it.”
Megren lifts her shoulders. “It means different things to you than it does to me. I understand that.”
Lanisen half-smiles again and looks down at his hands. “Thanks.”
Megren asks, “You really slept all right?”
Lanisen raises his eyebrows briefly. “Yeah, it was…. yeah.” He takes a deep breath and lets it out again. “I was pretty tired, prob’ly didn’t hurt, but…”
Megren says, “If you’d rather not stay a second night, we can head back in a couple hours.”
Lanisen asks, “Do you want to go back?”
Megren shakes her head once.
Lanisen says, “Then I’m… I think I’d like to stay.”
Megren says, “All right.”
Lanisen drinks again, more deeply now that the tea has cooled enough. He picks up his dirty porridge bowl and reaches for hers as well.
Megren pulls it out of his reach.
Lanisen says, “What, hey! You cooked!”
Megren says, “You didn’t let me wash yours before.”
Lanisen says, “‘Cause you brought the food.”
Megren squints an eye at him.
Lanisen raises his eyebrows at her.
Megren extends the bowl defeatedly.
Lanisen grins and takes the bowl, stacking it on top of his.
Megren makes a noise of disapproval.
Lanisen says, “Don’t make that noise at me!”
Megren makes it again, grinning this time.
Lanisen rolls his eyes and shakes his head, getting up to head toward the stream, still holding his half-full teacup in his other hand.
Megren checks the stove, making a few adjustments to it before she follows after.
Lanisen kneels on the streambank to do the washing, glancing up and down first in case of bears. “Is there good fishin’ in this stream?” he calls once Megren is close enough.
Megren says, “Not really. Too small, I think.”
Lanisen looks mildly regretful, but says, “I didn’t bring a pole anyway.”
Megren scrunches up her face at him. “Since when did you fish?”
Lanisen says, “I used to fish!”
Megren says, “Well, I never knew about it.”
Lanisen says, “It’s been years is why.”
Lanisen says, “I just thought if we’re gonna be sittin’ and waitin’ for things to come by and drink we might as well have a line in.”
Megren says, “I’ve never been.”
Lanisen asks, “What? You?”
Megren says, “There’s not a lot of big creeks out this way.”
Lanisen says, “Guess not. Still. Never once?”
Megren lifts her hands.
Lanisen says, “We gotta go fishin’ sometime. Spring or summer, maybe, it’s not so fun when it’s cold.”
Megren says agreeably, “All right.”
Lanisen finishes up the washing and gets up, heading back to the hut to return the dishes.
Megren lets him go on his own, finding a relatively dry spot while he’s gone and laying out a leather over it for them to sit on.
Lanisen returns after a moment, working his right hand absently. He says, “Oh, you planned this,” when he sees the leather.
Megren says, “Always have one on hand in this weather, if you can help it.”
Lanisen says, “Makes sense.”
Megren settles on the leather, leaving a space for him.
Lanisen plops down next to her, scanning the streambank curiously. He takes a moment to work out some of the stiffness from his shoulder and resettle his stone.
Megren says, “Let me know when you need to go back up and be in the warmth for a while. It can get pretty cold sitting out here.”
Lanisen says, “All right.” He finds a comfortable way to sit and sighs contentedly. “Where’s a good place to watch?”
Megren points to a shallow bend in the river. “That’s where the deer usually come.”
Lanisen angles himself that direction. He folds his right leg underneath him and stretches out his left.
Megren crosses both legs under her and rests her hands on her knees contentedly.
Lanisen asks, “How’re things with Sir Darrin, lately?”
Megren says, “Getting harder. We started shield training, did I tell you that? So now I’ve got combat at least twice every day.”
Lanisen says, “That, sounds exhausting.”
Megren says, “Yeah, a little.”
Lanisen asks, “How’re you holdin’ up with it?”
Megren nods once. “All right. It’s a lot different with a shield, I feel a bit like I’m starting over.”
Lanisen asks, startled, “Ain’t it easier? ‘Cause you can’t get hit so much?”
Megren says, “It’s /heavy/.”
Lanisen looks like he hasn’t considered this before.
Megren says, “I’ve only got a buckler just now, but it’s still as if all the old instructions are wrong.”
Lanisen asks, “It changes things in the other hand too?”
Megren says, “Well, it changes your balance, right? And if you’re meant to be parrying with the hand that’s usually behind you, you stand all different, and you need the sword out of the way for the parry. And then, you can attack with your shield, too.”
Lanisen purses up his lips on one side, mildly horrified.
Megren wrinkles her nose at him.
Lanisen says, “Good luck.”
Megren says, “Thanks, I’m sure.”
Lanisen grins and glances up and down the stream to see if anything is thirsty.
A few cardinals and other birds flit nearby, but no major wildlife has ventured near yet.
Megren asks, “How do you feel now Sir Colin’s been gone a while?”
Lanisen glances at her, and then away, lifting his shoulders. “It’s–” He rubs a hand over his face. “It’s fine, it’s not been bad. I keep… I keep wonderin’ if I did wrong, is all, but it’s, either way it’s done.”
Megren asks, “With Cass you mean?”
Lanisen says, “Cass, with… everything, I shouted at him after he came back from Narnia…”
Megren pushes her mouth to the side. “A friendship that’s ruined by one day’s shouting or by calling for other loved ones doesn’t seem like it can have been a very strong one to start with.”
Lanisen takes a small unhappy breath.
Megren says, “I mean… If it was strong, it stands to reason it’ll recover, then.”
Lanisen is silent for a moment, then nods. He blows out a slow breath. “Everything was so… I dunno. After, after I came back, I mean. It was so strange, it’s like he was a– a different person all of a sudden?”
Megren says, “It was hard, what Aaron did. Harder than the battle in some ways, I think. He scared people because they couldn’t read him. He brought out the bad.”
Lanisen looks down at his hands. He touches the faded scars on his left wrist with his thumb. “Colin… scared me,” he says finally in a low voice. “Not, not the same way, of course not, it– I couldn’t, I couldn’t talk to him, he wouldn’t tell me things, he was actin’… I couldn’t tell what he’d do next.”
Megren glances at him, her face softening. “I’m sorry,” she says quietly.
Lanisen says, “I’m– I wish he’d… I wish when he’d left it hadn’t been so… I dunno. I wish we’d parted on better terms, or, or that I’d gone with him, even, but I’m glad he’s gone away. I’m really glad he’s gone away.”
Megren’s eyes flick over his face for a moment, and then suddenly she is hugging him tightly.
Lanisen goes tense for a second, drawing a quick startled breath, but then eases. He returns the hug as well as he can.
Megren repeats, “I’m sorry.”
Lanisen murmurs, “‘S none of your doin’.”
Megren says, “That doesn’t mean I can’t be sad with you.”
Lanisen drops his head against her shoulder for a moment, silently grateful.
Megren holds him for as long as he seems to need it.
Lanisen exhales and straightens, rubbing his forehead. “I dunno when he’s thinkin’ to be back. I hope Aaron’s gone away by then.”
Megren nods. “We’ll hope for it.”
Lanisen goes suddenly alert and still, looking at the opposite bank some distance upstream. A wildcat with ghostly silver fur is just bending to drink.
Megren stills also, hers a more quiet kind of stillness, almost easy.
Lanisen glances quickly to Megren to see if he should be alarmed, then looks back at the wildcat.
Megren doesn’t seem bothered, though she is leaning a little forward like she would be read to get up quickly if she needed to.
Lanisen keeps still and silent, watching the cat with wary fascination. He is shivering.
Megren glances at him and quietly picks up his bad hand to keep it warm between both of hers.
Lanisen spares her a quick, brief glance before returning his attention to the wildcat. His hand, though chilled, is not particularly cold, and his shivers seem mostly to be from nerves.
Megren pushes her mouth to the side when her movement draws the cat’s glance.
Lanisen holds his breath. The cat stares at them for a brief, still moment, then vanishes into the underbrush as silent as it came.
Megren breathes, “Sorry.”
Lanisen lets out his breath. He glances at Megren and laughs a little shakily, his eyes wide.
Megren grins. “About what you were going for?”
Lanisen says, “I didn’t think– I didn’t– I never seen one of those before!”
Megren says, “They’re very shy; I’m surprised we did.”
Lanisen holds his hand out in front of him, palm down, fingers spread, and laughs again to see it shaking.
Megren squints up one eye.
Lanisen asks, “Let’s go back?”
Megren says, “Sure.”
Lanisen gets to his feet, turning in a circle to see if there are any more random wildcats.
Megren giggles at his behavior and gathers up the leather.
Lanisen bends to grab the other end and help fold it up.
Megren drapes it over her arm. “I’ve got biscuits for lunch so we can start a stew for dinner now and have it good and ready when we want it.”
Lanisen says, “Sounds good.” He pauses to look up toward where the wildcat disappeared again, just in case, slightly wistful.
Megren says, “We can stop back after we’ve warmed up and got the soup started.”
Lanisen says, “Yeah, all right.”
Megren trudges back up the hill.
Lanisen follows after her, sticking his hands in his pockets.