Lanisen is sitting on the step outside the kennel in the early evening, leaning against the doorframe, watching the temporary market stalls being broken down and their remaining wares carted out. He’s working on a half-eaten sandwich, but seems to have run out of room for his supper.
Nasrin strolls along the line of market stalls (at least those few still open) for a few more minutes, taking a look at what wares remain. Disappointed at having arrived late, she makes to leaves the outer ward before noticing Lanisen and walking on over.
Lanisen doesn’t realize she’s headed for him right away. He gets hastily to his feet when he does, brushing sandwich crumbs off his shirt.
Nasrin pauses upon realising he was not quite finished his supper. “Oh, uhm–Bad time?…”
Lanisen says, mildly flustered, “Wh– no, no! Evenin’, miss.” He ducks his head to her and looks uncertainly at the remnants of his sandwich. He sets it down on top of a barrel outside the kennel door and brushes his hands off self-consciously. “Hope you’re, hope you’re well?”
Nasrin offers a small apologetic smile to him. “Um, yes, yes. Life’s well, I just saw a familiar face and…” She pauses, not quite satisfied with her explanation, playing with a loose thread. “I’m sorry, I can just leave you to eat if you’d–?”
Lanisen says, “Oh– no, no, it’s all right, I was–” He glances at the sandwich again and grimaces back at her in a conspiratory sort of way. “Cook always makes me take about twice as much as I really want, it was, I was done.” He fusses at his sleeves and asks, “Is there, are you lookin’ for somethin’, or just, just wanderin’?”
Megren comes down the steps of the norther stair two at a time.
Nasrin gives him a guilty grimace, not quite believing his excuse. “Ah– I was just wandering, yes. I wanted to see what the market had to offer, but it seems I was a tad late.”
Lanisen says, “Oh, mm. Yeah, it’s– it’s usually nearly over, this time of day. They’ll be back tomorrow, though?”
Nasrin nods, “Yes, yes, of course. It’s not a big deal.” She looks thoughtful for a brief moment. “I still need to get used to when they open and shut, really.”
Lanisen hesitates, then ventures curiously, “Is it different, where you live?” His eyes shift past her to where Megren is coming down the steps, and his face lights up.
Nasrin says, “It isn’t until the moon is shining high in the sky they even consider shutting…” Noticing his change of expression, she looks on over her shoulder before spotting Megren herself.
Lanisen asks, “So late?”
Nasrin nods. “Yes. You wouldn’t think it though, not with the lanterns and torches everywhere.”
Lanisen asks, “Is that in, in the big city?”
Nasrin smiles. “That’s where I come from, yes. Tashbaan. I was a little surprised how big it is compared to some of the cities here, if I’m honest.”
Lanisen says, “Must be real different?”
Nasrin asks, “Rather. Have you ever visited another country before?”
Lanisen says, “No. I read about it, though. There’s a book in the library.” He pauses, then admits, “I think it’s old.”
Nasrin looks thoughtful. “Maybe I could have a read at it. It’s okay though, this is my first time. It isn’t like I’m a great explorer.”
Lanisen asks, “Are you his apprentice, or somethin’? Your uncle, I mean.”
Nasrin shakes her head. “No. I wouldn’t mind being, now that I think of it. But no, I’m not his apprentice… Perhaps it would be worthwhile asking.”
Lanisen lifts his shoulders. “He seems, he seems good at it.”
Nasrin nods. “Yes, he’s been doing it for quite a while. Not just here, but back home too. My father was also involved in the money business which I helped with before.”
Lanisen says, “So you already got some experience.”
Nasrin nods. “What about you, what do you do?”
Lanisen says, “I, er, I help with the dogs, mostly.”
Nasrin tilts her head to the side curiously. “Oh?”
Lanisen says, “The, the king’s hounds, I work for Danall, he’s the huntsman.”
Nasrin nods. “Ah. What’s that like?”
Lanisen shrugs a little, rubbing his elbow. “I like it well enough. I known about half of ’em since they were whelped, trained ’em for the hunt. They’re a clever bunch, just a bit loud sometimes.”
Nasrin smiles. “Heh, well, they are dogs. I don’t know who wouldn’t find them lovely.”
Lanisen glances at her at this, pleasantly surprised.
Nasrin nods. “Especially since you knew them as puppies. They must’ve been so adorable back then.”
Lanisen agrees, “They’re sweet when they’re little.”
Nasrin asks, “Would you ever like to have a dog of your own?”
Lanisen considers this thoughtfully for a moment, then lifts his shoulders again. “Maybe someday, if I’m doin’ somethin’ else. As it is, it’s– I mean, I– I live with ’em, I work with ’em every day, I feed ’em, they love me best. They’re all the king’s, but they don’t that. Far as they’re concerned they’re mine.”
Nasrin nods in agreement. “Yes, yes, that’s what I was thinking really. You’re the one who handles them day in, day out. They’re really just yours in all but name.”
Lanisen pauses, frowning slightly. “I mean– they /are/ the king’s, I didn’t mean to–” He screws up his face and starts over. “It wouldn’t be any different, havin’ my own, I mean.”
Nasrin smiles. “I know what you mean, don’t worry!”
Lanisen squints up one eye and rubs the back of his neck. “Sorry.”
Nasrin shakes her head. “It’s really all right. How did you get into this job then? I don’t imagine you just asked, after all.”
Lanisen’s eyes flit to Nasrin’s face, startled and guilty. “Ahh…”
Nasrin says, “Um, if that isn’t too rude to ask…”
Lanisen relaxes and lets out a breath. “No, sorry, uh. It’s a long story, is all.”
Nasrin looks at him, disappointment in her eyes, and simply says “Ah.”
Lanisen avoids her eyes, but offers in concession, “D’you want to see the dogs? I’ll introduce you, if you want.”
Nasrin promptly brights up. “What, you can show me them? Really?”
Lanisen says, “I dunno why not.”
Nasrin nods cheerily. “I’d love that.”
Lanisen says, “It’s just–” He gestures at the door and steps to open it. “Sometimes they like to try to bolt when the door’s open,” he warns her. “You might watch for ’em when you step in.”
Nasrin takes a deep breath. “I’ll brace myself.”
Lanisen laughs and opens the door a crack, squeezing himself in first, then calls back, “It’s safe.”
Nasrin slowly slips into the kennel after him, careful not to make a loud noise.
The hounds are making more than enough noise to cover any noise she might make. Lanisen is holding off the worst of the swarm until the door is shut, but the room is a din of happy welcoming baying, and at least ten hounds of the long, lean sort that hunt by coursing are crowding around, all lolling tongues and wagging tails.
Lanisen keeps a mildly anxious eye on her, watching her reaction to the cheerful chaos. He lets the yammering go on for a moment, reaching out to pat heads and tousle ears, then finally says, “All right, all right, that’ll do. Calm down, c’mon, let’s have some quiet.” He presses further into the kennel and the dogs mostly follow him, except for a couple or three that stay to investigate Nasrin. The hounds go mostly quiet.
Nasrin follows behind him deeper into the kennel, her hands softly petting two hounds on either side as her as she leads them back to the rest. “They’re so full of energy!”
Lanisen grins openly, pleased by this assessment. “Buncha ruddy oafs,” he says affectionately, rubbing the neck of a wispy-furred brindle deerhound.
Nasrin decides to give another two hounds a stroke. “Lovely oafs, you mean!”
Lanisen says, “Well, yes.” He straightens, brushing off his shirt. “You can sit, if you like.”
The room is very clean, and looks more home-like than might be expected. There is a sturdy wooden table with four chairs by the east wall, and two slightly shabby but comfortable-looking chairs face the fireplace on the west.
Nasrin thanks him and takes the closest chair, sitting down and facing a collection of hounds which decided to follow her. “Do they all have names?”
Lanisen says, “Oh, yes. That’s Sorrel, the sleek one’s Maisie. This fellow’s Tohol, there’s Kite and Elek and Auryon. That sweet girl there is Nia.”
Nasrin nods listening along to the names. “How do you remember all their different names? There’s so many of them.” She chuckles the hounds lick at her hands.
Lanisen grins, moving to sit down on the hearth. The one he named as Nia comes and puts her head on his knee. “I been doin’ this a while.”
Nasrin grins, almost hopefully. “Maybe one day I can be so lucky.”
Lanisen says, “I’ll remind you if you forget. They move kind of fast.” He is sitting on the hearth in front of the cold fireplace, talking to Nasrin, who has claimed one of the chairs.
Abrielle walks into the kennel quickly, shutting the door loudly. She grimaces and turns back to face the room she has just entered.
Nasrin quickly turns to the newcomer upon hearing the door slam.
Lanisen startles visibly at the noise, his shoulders hunching up, and his face flickers for a second with what looks like fear. He relaxes and gets to his feet as the dogs all swarm toward Abrielle.
Abrielle smiles and quickly apologizes. “I am so sorry about that. Some kids and I got into a war of sorts. They were winning. I had to retreat.”
Abrielle gets on her knees to greet the dogs.
Nasrin blinks before laughing. “It’s okay, here you’ll be safe and sound. Did I mention loved? The dogs are so kind!”
Lanisen hovers uncertainly where he stands for a moment, then sits back down.
Abrielle laughs and pets the dogs one at a time. “I feel the love!”
Nasrin exclaims, “They’re just so amazing!”
Lanisen grins slightly at this. He folds forward slightly and puts his elbows on his knees.
Abrielle looks to Nasrin. “You must have dogs back at your home.”
Nasrin nods. “Yes, we do. I don’t own any /personally/, but others do. That doesn’t make them any less wonderful.” She smiles.
Lanisen is sitting on the hearth in front of the fireplace, his elbows on his knees. “Sehsis called ’em dirty vicious beasts,” he remarks mildly.
Megren knocks three times on the kennel door, then slips inside, carrying a small brown paper bag.
Nasrin rolls her eyes. “No, he can be like that… He really has his moody moments.”
Lanisen’s attention goes again to the door at the knock, though he does not seem startled this time. He grins quickly to Megren and gets up, straightening his shirt. Dogs swarm toward her from all directions, and one sits back and howls with the excitement of three guests all at once.
(spoofed by Megren) Sehsis behind Megren shows up and whisks Nasrin away for some reason that doesn’t make sense to the Archenlanders and is vaguely amusing to the reader.
Abrielle looks up as Megren walks in and asks, “Did you see a group of troublemakers outside throwing pinecones?”
Megren flattens herself against the wall, holding the brown paper bag high and attempting to give all the dogs attention at once while also not getting sniffed at in uncomfortable places or tackled and covered in drool. She looks distractedly toward Abrielle. “Uh–? Pinecones?”
Lanisen follows Nasrin toward the door, murmuring the usual thanks-for-comin’-by, see-you-around sorts of things, then gets to work drawing the dogs away from Megren.
Abrielle nods. “Yes. Pinecones.”
Megren exclaims, “Um, I don’t– ah! /Down/. Dowwwwn. No. Down. /Maisie/.”
Lanisen brings his palms together in a loud clap that gets instant results. “Good,” he says, after he’s gotten their attention and they’ve all been quiet for a full three seconds.
Abrielle peeks out the door for a moment, notes that the coast is clear, looks to the others in the kennel. “Thanks for the hiding place! I will see you two later!” After this she runs out into the Ward.
Megren peers after the departing figure and then looks at Lanisen. “Pinecones?”
Lanisen lifts one hand to wave as she goes, then exhales and rubs his elbow, glancing at Megren.
Megren shuts the door behind Abrielle to keep the dogs in. “Well, they’re all missing out on ginger candies,” she says, lifting her bag indicatively.
Lanisen says, with great interest, “Ooh, really.”
Megren grins and picks her way through the dogs toward the table. “Really really.”
Lanisen trails after her and plops down on one of the chairs at the table. “Where from this time?”
Megren asks, “The girl from Chesterton that set up in the market most of last summer?”
Lanisen asks, “By the outer wall? Light hair?”
Megren says, “That’s the one; she’s back.”
Lanisen says, “Oh, good, hers are best.”
Megren grins, and empties out the bag of wax-paper wrapped candies onto the table.
Lanisen picks up one and unwraps it, the paper crinkling pleasantly. “Nasrin likes dogs, it turns out.”
Megren says, “She seems pretty easy to get along with in general.”
Lanisen pops the sweet into his mouth and makes a noise of agreement. “They’re not very much alike at all,” he says thoughtfully. “Her and Sehsis, I mean.”
Megren says, “I don’t know him very well.”
Lanisen says, “Me neither. We’ve spoken a few times, though.”
Megren picks up a candy and experimentally unwraps it. “He’s more reserved, I think.”
Lanisen hmms, not entirely satisfied with this assessment.
Megren sniffs it.
Lanisen thinks for a moment, folding the waxed paper in half, and then in quarters. “He’s more– he’s got more opinions, I think. And he ain’t shy about ’em, remember Reina?”
Megren says, “Oh.” She nods. “Yeah.”
Lanisen says, “In any case. She seems nice.”
Megren pops the candy into her mouth. “Yeah, I think so.”
Lanisen glances at the door and exhales contentedly, quiet falling.
Megren asks, “So what’s this about pinecones?”
Lanisen says, “Pine– I don’t, I got no idea, she banged on in like the wolves were after her, gave me a turn. She said she was losin’ a battle in the ward and needed shelter.”
Megren says, “I guess Gearn must’ve got them to disperse.”
Lanisen asks, “Did he? It didn’t sound like too much of a muchness, just a few kids.”
Megren says, “I didn’t see any on my way in, anyway.”
Lanisen says, “Maybe they gave up when she came in here.”
Megren picks up another candy. “Probably. What brought Nasrin in here?”
Lanisen lifts his shoulders, a little self-consciously. “She came up, we started talkin’, come to find out she likes dogs, so.”
Megren nods. “We met in the tavern and got to talking the other day.”
Lanisen asks, “Yeah?”
Megren pushes her mouth to the side and nods.
Lanisen’s forehead furrows a little at this, and he tips his head to the side curiously.
Megren scratches the back of her head and then says, “Did you know Sehsis trades in slaves back home?”
Lanisen sits back a little, startled. “No…”
Megren says, “I don’t — um, he was very free about it, so I’m sure the lords and other merchants have got to know.”
Lanisen rubs his arms, looking disturbed. “He’s not– tried to, here?”
Megren shakes her head. “I don’t think so.”
Lanisen is quiet for a moment, frowning and processing. “I guess it’s– it’s not so surprising, really, I just didn’t think… I don’t know.”
Megren says, “Yeah.”
Lanisen rubs his arms again, which have broken out in gooseflesh, and looks at Megren. His face is all over a sort of anxious upset, his forehead still wrinkled up.
Megren frowns, her eyes falling to his arms. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have –” she blows out a breath, “It’s just, I’m not, I’m not, it’s information I don’t know what to do with, I don’t know.”
Lanisen says, “No, it’s–” He exhales through his nose and shakes his head a little. “She was, no, I asked if she was his apprentice and she said no but maybe she ought to ask to be, and it was– um, she talked about she’d been doin’, doin’ accounts or somethin’ for her da and–” He rubs his face. “I told her she should. Ask, I mean.”
Megren says, “Oh.” Her shoulders drop a bit and she blows out another breath. “I– who knows what she would do otherwise.””
Lanisen says unhappily, “I didn’t know.”
Megren says, “She’s going to be here for a while I think; there will be time for many more talks.”
Lanisen hesitates, then lowers his head and nods.
Megren reaches across the table to squeeze his hand.
Lanisen lifts the corners of his mouth a little and squeezes back. “Thanks for tellin’ me.”
Megren says, “Sure.” She shakes the paper bag so that a few more candies fall out of it. “I’ve got to– I’ve got shield practice.”
Lanisen nods, his eyes tracking the candies absently. “You need anything?”
Megren says, “No, no, I’ve just, I can’t stay too long.”
Lanisen nods again. “All right. Good luck.”
Megren stands and squeezes his shoulder. “I’ll stop by later tonight?”
Lanisen says, “Yeah, all right. You’ll be hungry after shield, I suppose?”
Megren says, “Well, I’ve got defense class next, but then yeah.”
Lanisen says, “I’ll make sure to have somethin’ here to eat.”
Megren says, “My hero.”
Lanisen grins and gets up to see her off.
Megren taps him on the shoulder with her fist. “See you tonight.”
Lanisen echoes, “See you.”
Megren dodges Maisie and slips outside.