Megren knocks on the door to the kennel, calling through it, “Kirb? Is Lanisen there?”
Kirb hollers toward the ceiling for Lanisen.
Megren screws up her face and waits patiently outside.
Lanisen’s face appears briefly in the loft window above the door, and after a moment he opens the door, looking flustered and mildly annoyed. “Sorry,” he says, and jerks his head vaguely at Kirb. “You could’ve come in.”
Megren is holding her hands behind her back. “No, I wasn’t sure about the dogs — come out for a minute?”
Lanisen looks confused but steps out obediently, shutting the door behind him.
Megren pulls out a small clay pot from behind her back. In the center of the pot five small green poke intrepidly out of the dirt.
Lanisen’s eyes follow the motion. He takes a breath and a small quick smile lights up his face. “Are those–?”
Megren nods once, grinning broadly. “Crocus. I’ve got a window slot close near my bunk.”
Lanisen asks, “Where’d you find ’em? I’ve been lookin’, Sef said the pasture by the walls…”
Megren says, “Magda saved up the bulbs for me and showed me how to plant them.”
Lanisen says, “Oh! So you didn’t have to go diggin’, that’s handy.” He reaches out and lightly brushes one tiny green spear with a gentle fingertip. “Spring’s comin’, huh?”
Megren exclaims, “Your favorite season!”
Lanisen grins again and doesn’t contradict this. “When d’you s’pose they’ll bloom?”
Megren shakes her head uncertainly. “I think they don’t take too long once they’re poking.”
Lanisen says, “I didn’t know you could grow ’em in a pot.”
Megren says, “I never grew anything in a pot before.”
Lanisen asks, a little anxiously, “Are they all right out here? Is the cold gonna hurt ’em?”
Megren says, “No, I don’t think so. I think maybe there’s some growing in the regular dirt only you can’t see them under the snow that’s left.”
Lanisen says, “I saw– the other day, Reina was out, we found somethin’ that I thought might be but it’s hard to tell when they’re just–” He gestures at the shoots.
Megren asks, “What, really?”
Lanisen says, “Just little pokes is all, and they might not have been.”
Megren says, “Something green, though.”
Lanisen says, “Uh-huh. Did you see, some of the trees are startin’ to get buds too.”
Megren exclaims, “The one on the road right outside!”
Lanisen asks, “Is it? I saw the crab-apple in the pasture.”
Megren asks, “Want to go show me?”
Lanisen says, “If you like? It’s pretty muddy.”
Megren looks down at her decidedly rugged attire.
Lanisen shrugs one shoulder at this. “Half a second.” He steps back into the kennel, holding a brief conversation with Kirb, and emerges with his coat. “All right.”
Megren cheers, “Yes! Good.” She shifts the pot into one hand and turns to head that way.
Lanisen follows after her, still shrugging into his coatsleeves.
Megren waits for him at the stable door.
Lanisen follows her and passes through the stable to the door to the pasture. He pauses there, surveying the muddy fields, and picks a path toward the little crab-apple tree that is mostly dry.
Megren trails after him, carefully following his steps.
Lanisen stops by the tree and reaches up to gently tug down a low branch to eye-level. Several small red leaf buds are visible on the branch, and the young bark is delicate silver velvet.
Megren draws a small intake of breath. “Look at that.”
Lanisen grins, letting the branch up again and circling the tree to look at the rest. “Oh, I hope we don’t get another hard freeze…”
Megren asks, “Do you think we will?”
Lanisen says, “I dunno. It’s early yet. I hope not.”
Megren looks up at the sky. “Bet one of the farmers at the market could take a good guess.”
Lanisen says, “Prob’ly.” He reaches up interestedly to touch the silver fuzz on another new branch. “Wonder how they tell.”
Megren hakes her head. “Da’s all right at guessing a week out, but some of the farmers could rival a centaur, I bet.”
Lanisen hmms. He glances over at the waterfall, thawed and thundering again, though not yet with the full fury of the spring melt. “S’pose we could find some frozen frogs?”
Megren looks momentarily surprised, but the expression quickly changes into a game one. “Maybe?”
Lanisen admits, “I dunno where to look.”
Megren says, “In the mud, I think? That’s what my da used to say; they buried themselves.”
Lanisen says, “Oh, hm.” He looks appraisingly at the mud and pushes his mouth to the side.
Megren asks, “Too delicate for digging in the mud?”
Lanisen says, “Shush, you.”
Megren says, “Hmmm.”
Lanisen says, “Maybe if the sun comes out.”
Megren says, “Then they won’t be frozen any more.”
Lanisen says, “I guess not.” He pauses, and something uncomfortable and regretful passes over his face. “That’s all right. I don’t expect they’d like to be dug up anyway.”
Megren pushes her mouth to the side. “I suppose perhaps not.”
Lanisen backs away from the tree and turns to head back toward the castle, though not quite to the door. He makes his way along the wall, looking at the ground, until he finds a little patch of green shoots.
Megren follows along after him again, almost knocking into him when he stops.
Lanisen drops to an awkward squat to look closer, then gets back up, turning toward her. “Are they the same, can you tell?”
Megren kneels. “Um… it’s not snowdrops, those are more knobby.”
Lanisen looks between the shoots in the ground and the shoots in Megren’s pot to compare. “These ones are thinner,” he says, indicating the ground. “They look more like, like grass blades, with that point. But maybe they’re just younger.”
Megren screws up her face. “Crocus are sort of grassy. Daffodil?”
Lanisen says apologetically, “I dunno. I ain’t seen daffodils come up for–” He pauses and screws up his face. “It’s been a long time.”
Megren says, “Hm.”
Lanisen moves along a couple of steps to where more green shoots are sticking out of the dirty half-melted snow. “Reina thought these might be some…”
Megren screws up her face thoughtfully.
Lanisen inspects them carefully for a moment, then says, “These are the same, I think.”
Megren says, “It looks the same.”
Lanisen says, “I don’t s’pose they’d like to be dug up any more than frogs.”
Megren says, “I bet Sareen knows how. Or maybe Reina even.”
Lanisen pauses to consider this. “I’ll ask Sareen.”
Megren says, “Tell me what you decide.” She holds up her pot. “I thought I might plant these, if I can find a good place where the deer won’t eat them.”
Lanisen asks, “Like where?”
Megren screws up her face unknowingly.
Lanisen asks, “What do they need? Maybe Sareen’s got some ideas.”
Megren asks, “Sun I think?”
Lanisen raises his eyebrows and nods knowingly.
Megren screws up her face at him.
Lanisen grins. “I’ll ask her?” he offers.
Lanisen lifts one of his boots and looks regretfully at the sticky mud clumped on the bottom.
Megren snorts. “All right, back we go. I can get those cleaned up before you’ve got your tea steeped.”
Lanisen gives her an exasperated look, but heads toward the stable door. He pauses to scrape off the worst of the mud at the threshold.
Megren grins and troops after him.
Lanisen says rather abruptly as they pass through the stable, “Reina reckons I’m scared of her.”
Megren lifts her brows. “Yeah, I noticed she’s been saying something like that.”
Lanisen glances at her, annoyed and unhappy. “To you, too?”
Megren says, “Well, you were there the last time she did.”
Lanisen looks confused. “But /you/ weren’t.”
Megren says, “I mean… you were there the last time she said it to me.”
Megren says, “It was in the kennel.”
Lanisen says, “Oh.” He scuffs at a bit of straw in the doorway as they pass through to the inner ward. “I don’t remember that.”
Megren says, “Reina’s pretty sure she knows what everyone thinks of her.”
Lanisen snorts under his breath.
Megren asks, “It bothers you?”
Lanisen says defensively, “No!”
Megren screws up her face.
Lanisen lets out a short breath through his nose and glances briefly around the ward. “Everybody just sort of figures I’m scared of everything. It gets old.”
Megren says, “I don’t think that.”
Lanisen glances at her briefly, then his eyes skitter away. “I know,” he says, quieter. “Sorry, I didn’t mean– I didn’t mean you.”
Megren pauses outside the kennel door. “I wouldn’t bother too much about Reina. She’s got a way of figuring out how everything is entirely her fault and also not her fault at all. It’s the age, I suppose.”
Lanisen hms. He takes a breath to say something more, his expression troubled and unsatisfied, then grimaces and looks away.
Megren lifts her brows again.
Lanisen rubs his forehead and shakes his head slightly. “I don’t know. I don’t know, sorry, never mind.”
Megren says, “Well.” She gestures inside. “Let’s start with the boots and work our way up to the bigger problems.”
Lanisen says, “Haa. Boots, yeah.” He exhales and opens the door for her.
Megren slips in, lifting her knee to ward off the dog that comes running up to greet her. “Hey Tohol.”
Lanisen follows her in, dropping his hand to run it along Tohol’s wiry, tightly-curled fur while he kicks off his boots.
Megren removes her own boots and goes looking for his rag.
Lanisen carries his boots over to the fire to dry and takes the kettle down from its place on mantel.
Megren picks up one of the boots and sets to cleaning it.
Lanisen says, “Hey, stop that. I’ll clean my own boots. Do you want tea?”
Megren does not stop. “Yes please.”
Lanisen fills the kettle from the bucket on the table and carries it back to the fire. Once he has it over the heat, he tugs on his boot to try to steal it back from Megren.
Megren lets him have it but, true to her word, she’s made good progress already.
Lanisen gives her a rueful look. He grabs another rag and heads back toward the door to fetch her boots.
Megren picks up his second boot and sets in.
Lanisen huffs out a breath when he sees this, but lifts his shoulders in good-natured resignation. He sits down next to her and starts cleaning her boots.
Megren punches him in the good shoulder.
Lanisen protests, “/Owww/!” and sways away dramatically.
Megren asks, “Where’s my tea?”
Lanisen says, “Can’t make tea with cold water!”
Megren asks, “How’re you supposed to know if it’s hot if you’re over here distracted with boots?”
Lanisen says, “I /just/ put it on.”
Megren lifts her brows skeptically.
Lanisen says, “It’s a kettle. It’ll whistle when it’s ready. As kettles do.”
Megren screws up her face and returns to her task.
Lanisen makes a dimpled-up smirking face and sets beatifically to work on her boot.
Lanisen bites his lip to stop a grin when he catches this.
Megren finishes his second boot and grabs for her untouched one.
Lanisen lurches too late to keep it.
Megren looks triumphant.
Lanisen makes a face at her, but keeps cleaning, guarding his mismatched set. He sets down her cleaned boot after a moment and moves on to his.
Megren finishes this last boot by the time the kettle whistles.
Lanisen is still cleaning, but he finishes hastily and goes to see to the kettle.
Megren picks up his hasty work and checks it over.
Lanisen says without looking around, “Don’t you even think about it!”
Megren is already spot-checking.
Lanisen purses his lips on one side, but goes to get the tea down from the shelf, shuffling in his stocking feet.
Megren starts working on scuffs and older marks.
Lanisen measures tea into the teapot and pours, the good spicy smell steaming out into the room. He replaces the kettle and carries the pot over to the table, grabbing their two mugs on the way and plopping down on the bench across from Megren.
Megren makes an appreciative noise as she gives the other boots a cursory check-over.
Lanisen folds his arms on the tabletop and rests his chin on them.
Megren looks up and wrinkles her nose at him. “Look like Tohol.”
Lanisen complains, “What, what does that mean?”
Megren says, “You know.” She lifts her hands and tries to imitate the tired puppy dog look. “Like Tohol.”
Tohol, hearing his name, plods over and rests his chin on the end of the table to look at them soulfully.
Lanisen gives him a betrayed look.
Megren grins, and abandons her work at the boots to turn more fully toward the table and join them for tea.
Lanisen straightens up and reaches for the pot to pour.
Megren allows this. “Now. We did the boots and the tea. What’s the next biggest problem for tackling.”
Lanisen slides her cup over to her and leaves his own to cool, swiveling to give Tohol some attention. “Well. We could brush this fellow, and then stuff an entire mattress with what he’s shed off.”
Megren makes a disgusted face.
Lanisen roughs up the fur on Tohol’s neck affectionately, to the hound’s great delight, and when he pulls his hands away again a great tuft of light brown fur goes drifting to the ground. He watches it ruefully and shakes his head, turning back to the table and his tea. “Swear it. The fur they all shed amounts to at /least/ twice their actual size.”
Megren asks, “What /do/ you do with it?”
Lanisen says, “Sweep it into a pile and send it out with the rubbish.”
Megren says, “Surely it’s useful for something.”
Lanisen makes a face. “If somebody wants to use it for somethin’, they’re welcome to come fetch it away.”
Megren screws up her face thoughtfully.
Lanisen asks, “What would you do with it?”
Megren asks, “Keep plants warm maybe?”
Lanisen asks, glancing at her crocus pot, “How’s that?”
Megren says, “In the winter, you’ve got to cover your plants. Some of them.”
Lanisen says, “…Huh.”
Megren says, “I don’t know.”
Lanisen says, “I dunno about plants.”
Megren asks, “With sheep, what do you do so their wool isn’t all–” she pauses. “I mean, do you soak it or something?”
Lanisen asks, “You mean to get the dirt out?”
Megren says, “Yeah, I guess. With leather, there’s all sorts of treating you do so its suitable for wearing.”
Lanisen says, “It’s… I don’t know, I went to the fuller’s once but I don’t remember– there was, they used clay, I think?” He shakes his head. “We just sheared and skirted and sent it off in bales is all we did.”
Megren asks, “Bales? What, like they do with grain?”
Lanisen says, “Yeah, it was– they’d bring in the fleeces, the men would, and we’d all stand around a table and take off the parts that were all, you know, matted together or dirty, pull out all the sticks and things they picked up, and then roll it up and tie it up and that was it.”
Megren says, “Huh.”
Lanisen says, “A bale of dog-fur, that’d be a sight.”
Megren snorts half with laughter and half disgust.
Lanisen grins. He pauses a moment to try to get the worst of Tohol’s fur off his sleeves, then cups his hands around his mug and drinks.
Megren says, “You can ask Sareen that, too.”
Lanisen asks, “About the dog-fur for the plants? That’d be lovely in the royal gardens. The lord chancellor accidentally leans up against a planter and then walks away, nobody knows how to tell him there’s fur on his cape.”
Megren says, “Perfect.”
Megren says, “I dare you to ask.”
Lanisen says, “Nope.”
Megren says, “What.”
Lanisen says, “/You/ ask.”
Megren says, “That’s not how dares work.”
Lanisen says, “Ain’t you heard, I’m scared of everything.”
Megren says, “Perfect time to prove else wise.”
Lanisen says, “Fine. I’ll ask. Next fall, when it’s time to start coverin’ plants again. If that’s even somethin’ they do.”
Megren exclaims, “They do!”
Lanisen holds up his hands. “If you say so.”
Megren says, “So you’re just going to bag up all this dog hair and keep it all summer on the off chance she says yes?”
Lanisen says, “You’re right, that’s pretty silly.”
Megren says, “Better ask now.”
Lanisen says, “They’ll shed again in the fall.”
Megren says, “Hm.”
Lanisen takes another drink of tea and puts his head down on his arms again.
Megren says, “All right, I can take a hint.”
Megren says, “You need a nap.”
Lanisen hmms again, making a brief grimace of distaste.
Megren finishes off her tea. “Thanks for the clean boots.”
Lanisen says, “You’re gonna wear ’em outside again and get ’em all dirty again.”
Megren says, “That’s the thing about boots.”
Lanisen grunts, turning his face into the crook of his elbow. He pushes himself to sit up.
Megren pulls her boots on and fetches her pot of crocus. “All right, sleepy.”
Lanisen says, “I’m not.”
Megren says, “Mhm. See you later.”
Lanisen says, “See you.”
Megren sneaks out.