Lanisen is kneeling on the rug in front of the empty fireplace with an enormous wolfhound, brushing out the dog’s thick fur. Tufts of black fur have begun to accumulate in piles around them, and the hound looks extremely content, his tongue lolling out the side of his mouth.
Haft raps on the door, sticking his head in and seeking out Lanisen as his eyes adjust to the light in the room.
Lanisen glances up. He gets quickly to his feet, brushing fur off his shirt.
Haft says, “Hey, I…” He breaks off, as though he hasn’t quite considered what he was going to say. “I’m not staying,” he assures. “Only, Meg’s up at the meadow and askin’ after you.””
Lanisen says, “Oh, ‘course.” His hand goes to the small of his back briefly, and he glances around the room, his eyes landing on a small, plain knife sitting in its sheath on the table. He crosses to fetch it and stows it away under his shirt. “What’s she, what’s she needin’?”
Haft says, “Just her friend, I imagine.”
Lanisen says, “Oh.” He glances at Haft and quickly away. “Um,” he says. “The– the pasture?”
Haft asks, “The meadow north of town. I’ve got some things to do around here. Maybe you can make sure she gets home alright on that ankle, if I don’t make it back?”
Lanisen asks, “North of, of town?” His eyes dart to the window, and though he seems abruptly uncertain he rallies. “Yeah, I can– yeah.”
Haft seems to realize Lanisen’s concern, and opens his mouth, but then sees the man steady himself, and nods. “North of the well. There’s lots of folks milling about that way.”
Lanisen rubs his elbow and nods.
Haft says, “Right.” He backs out of the kennel. “Have a good time.””
Lanisen hesitates, then follows him out.
This quiet area is known as North Andale. To one side of the gravel road is a glade of trees, mostly hardwoods, dominated by a huge White Oak. To the other side of the road is a small meadow, full of wild-flowers and there in the middle someone has placed a table and two benches, much weathered, but still sturdy. This is a favorite place for young sweethearts to pass time together.
To the south is the village of Andale and off to the east is the Range Road.
Sehsis is sat by the fire, he seems content enough to just enjoy the warmth
Nasrin says, “Would you like some of the bread, uncle?”
Sehsis eyes the stick bread suspiciously, “I suppose it can’t hurt”
Nasrin exclaims, “You might as well give it a try!”
Megren folds one leg under her and adjusts the cornflower wreath on her head, content to watch the fire for now.
Lanisen makes his way up the road from the town. He slows and halts on the edge of the meadow, watching the milling crowd. He backs up a little and looks on the verge of heading back before he catches sight of Megren.
Dalia moves from the fire to the feast table. She catches sight and waves to Lanisen. Her hair is somewhat lose from dancing and she is wearing a flower crown.
Megren sees Lanisen over the other side of the fire and raised her hand high to wave him over.
Lanisen ducks his head and hurries through to join them at the fire. He seems unsettled by the number of people present, though he does find a small quick smile of greeting for Dalia.
Megren pats the place beside her.
Dalia makes her way back over with some venison. She looks to Lanisen, “Good Evening, Lanisen!” then to Megren. “Can I get either of you anything?”
Lanisen takes the seat Megren indicates, murmuring, “Evenin’,” to them both.
Megren says, “You can come sit with us!”
Dalia takes a seat, “Thank you!”
Lanisen says, glancing at Megren, “Haft said, he said you were lookin’ for me?”
Megren says, “Yeah, I was hoping you’d come”
Lanisen asks, “Was it, were you needin’ somethin’?”
Megren says, “Oh, no, did he–? No, I’d just hoped after you.”
Lanisen says, “Oh. No, he, he did say, I just–”
Megren picks up a stick and the almost empty bowl of dough and wraps the dough around the stick, then hands it off to Lanisen. “Here.”
Lanisen takes the stick. “Um,” he says, and squints at Megren.
Megren exclaims, “Hold it over the fire!”
Lanisen says, “Oh,” and does so, glancing at the others to see if he’s doing it right.
Megren adjusts his hand a little for best cooking.
Lanisen puts his elbows on his knees and holds the stick steady. He glances out at the people milling around the meadow and the long shadows following them.
Megren says, “Just about sunset.”
Dalia looks to Lanisen, “Have you been having a good midsummers?”
Lanisen says, “Yeah, thanks. Got most of the dogs brushed down. You?”
Dalia nods, “Yes. It’s been quite a celebration down here. Father brought his instruments and played with some of the other villagers.” She brushes a stray hair that has come out of her braid behind her ear.
Lanisen asks, “Is he still here?” He glances around, looking for a man who might be Dalia’s father.
Megren looks over her shoulder as well.
Dalia points him out. “Over there, I think. By the feast table.”
Lanisen searches him out and nods. “He looks like you,” he offers.
Megren says, “Oh, I see him.” She nudges Lanisen in the side of the head a bit to get him looking in the right direction.”
Lanisen pushes Megren’s hand away. “Get offff.”
Megren says, “No, you.”
Dalia tilts her head watching the interchange between her two friends.
Lanisen wrinkles up his nose menacingly at Megren and turns his dough-on-a-stick over so it doesn’t burn.
Megren removes her crown and dumps it on his head while he’s concentrated on the bread.
Lanisen says, “What, what is this.”
Megren says, “It’s beautiful.”
Lanisen takes it off very carefully and returns it.
Lanisen does not look bothered. He rotates his bread again.
Dalia glances at Megren, “What’s it like? the bread on a stick?
Megren replaces the crown on her own head, slightly askew. “Good! There’s a little left if you want to make one.”
Dalia exclaims, “Alright!” She glances up. “What a Beautiful sunset.”
Megren looks westward. “Getting there.”
Lanisen follows their looks. He pulls his lower lip between his teeth briefly.
Megren elbows Lanisen, “You want to head back?”
Lanisen asks, “Do you?”
Megren says, “I can.”
Dalia looks ready to stand as well. “I’ll come too if you like.”
Lanisen glances between them, put on the spot and tongue-tied.
Megren says, “Or we can stay.”
Dalia offers an encouraging smile.
Lanisen says helplessly, “Um–” He shifts and lifts his shoulders finally, glancing at Megren. “I’m– whenever you want to go back; I’m, it’s fine.”
Megren’s eyes shift to Dalia and then westward uncertainly. “We’ll — sure, we’ll go back.”
Lanisen’s face is quite red now and he ducks his head a little, flustered and uncomfortable. “It’s not– I’ll be, I’ll be fine, please don’t– on my account.”
Megren says, “I was thinking maybe I’d better, if I hope to come back tomorrow with an ankle that keeps on working.”
Dalia frowns, worried. She glances to Megren as she speaks.
Lanisen says, “Oh,” and exhales all in a rush. “Sorry, I’m sorry, yeah, of course.”
Megren says, “Eat your bread first.”
Lanisen draws the bread away from the fire and blows on it to cool it.
Dalia says, “If it’s any trouble, I needn’t come. I was just thinking I ought to probably head back to the castle myself.””
Megren says, “I don’t mind either way, Dalia. Don’t let us take you from things if you do want to stay, though.”
Lanisen tears a piece of bread half off the stick gingerly. Steam curls pleasantly from the broken crust.
Megren grins at the sight.
Dalia says, “Looks delicious.”
Lanisen says, “Little hot.”
Megren says, “I’d like to try it with rosemary sometime.”
Lanisen blows on it again. “Meg, I can eat on the way if you’re wantin’ to get goin’.”
Megren glances west again, and then nods. “Yeah, all right.” She reaches for her cane.
Lanisen follows her glance. He ducks his head again and rubs the side of his face.
Megren pushes herself up. “Dalia, did you want to stay or come with?”
Dalia rises as well. “I believe I’ll come. If you do not mind?” She looks to Lanisen to see his feelings on the matter.
Lanisen lifts his shoulders at Dalia. “I don’t, I don’t mind?”
Dalia smiles. “Thanks.”
Megren says, “Yes, come.”
Megren waits until they both look ready and starts back toward the castle.
Lanisen offers Megren his arm in addition to the cane.
Dalia gives a wave to her father and family, before following Megren.
Megren accepts Lanisen’s arm without protest. She walks at a slightly slower pace than is her usual, but not ponderously slow.
Lanisen keeps close and lets her set the pace. At the crossroads, he fixes his eyes carefully on the ground and doesn’t look up until they are well past.
Dar walks with purpose through the Ward, a well-kept greyhound at his heel, following so perfectly that the pair of them seem to move as one.
Dalia follows along at Lanisen’s other side, glancing around and keeping attention to what is going on around them, as well as trying to look out for her friends as well.
Megren pauses as they get inside the outer ward. “Are you off to Lady Astera, Dalia?”
Dalia nods, “Yes.” She hesitates and then asks. Will you be alright?” looking to both of them?
Megren says, “Yes, thank you, I’m fine. Thank you for walking with us.”
Lanisen echoes Megren’s thanks and adds, “Evenin’, Dalia, be well.” His eyes flit across the darkening ward and fix first on Durant, then on Dar.
Dalia nods to both of them, “Aslan be with you.” and heads toward the inner ward.
Dar pauses, eyebrow raised when Durant suddenly stops, sniffs the air, then makes a beeline for Lanisen. The greyhound sits with all the dignity he can muster, though he is given away by the rate at which his tail whips back and forth against the ground. Dar follows after at a more leisurely pace, nodding cordially to Dalia in passing.
Megren says, “Night, Dalia.” Her brows lift at the dog. “Um, hello.””
Dalia curtsys to Lord Dar, and heads toward inner ward.
Lanisen draws in a breath. “No, no no, go on back, go on, Durant, you know better.”
Dar rests a hand on his hound’s head. Durant looks up, then shifts to maximize the opportunity for scratching behind his ears. Dar obliges. “Indeed he does, though he must have his holiday, I suppose, the same as anyone else in town.” Dar himself, of course, is dressed as soberly as ever, giving no indication that he has been involved in any of the festivities. “I have always believed that hounds never forget a kindness or the person who shows them kindness.”
Megren adjusts the crown of cornflowers on her head so that she can tuck her hair behind her ear. “Are you headed to the bonfire, Sir?”
Lanisen seems tongue-tied and only withdraws his arm from Megren’s briefly so that he can bow.
Dar folds the letter. Durant, having received what can only be considered his proper share of affection, positions himself just beside Lanisen’s boot and looks up with an expression which can only be interpreted as beseeching. “Ah–bonfire? Yes, I suppose it is nearly that time–I had not considered it.”
Megren says, “I am sure you would be welcome, Sir.”
Lanisen hesitates, glancing at Dar, then reaches down covertly to rub Durant’s ears.
Dar rubs at the back of his neck. “I suppose with all the merriment it will be difficult to accomplish much work tonight–” Durant licks the tips of Lanisen’s fingers, then returns to his place by his master’s side, sitting perfectly straight, the very picture of decorum.
Megren says, “And you’ll never hear the end of it from Sir Darrin if you don’t go. Nor Lady Honour I imagine, though I don’t know her so well.”
Lanisen keeps quiet, straightening slightly and returning his full attention to Dar and Megren as Durant withdraws.
Dar’s mouth twitches faintly. “She would enjoy it, I do not doubt. Unfortunately, she and our children are on a brief visit to Coghill. You think my brother will chide me if I do not partake, then, Squire Megren?”
Megren says, “I am quite certain of it, Sir.”
Lanisen looks like he can’t quite envision this.
Dar holds up his hands in defeat. “Well, we certainly cannot permit that–”
Megren smiles beatifically.
Dar gestures for Megren to lead the way. “Well, then, there is no help for it.” He seems dryly amused.
Lanisen glances at Megren.
Megren says, “Oh,” she makes a regretful face. “We’ve only just come back.” She gestures to her ankle. “I would go again, but I’ve been told I /will/ be dancing tomorrow one way or another, and I’d prefer it to be on my own feet.”
Lanisen is startled enough by this to repeat, “/Dancing/?”
Megren lifts her shoulders.
Lanisen looks both alarmed and doubtful.
Dar raises his eyebrows. If he was anyone else, he might look a little horrified at the prospect. “There will be–dancing at the bonfire? I–ah–”
Megren says, “I am sure there will be plenty of observing to be done by those who aren’t in for it, Sir.”
Dar allows a brief, dubious look to cross his features. “I see.”
Lanisen’s eyes fix disapprovingly on Megren’s cane.
Megren lifts a hand as if to measure a balance. “Fraternal chiding, or potential merriment? A difficult choice.”
Dar’s mouth twitches. “You forget the more serious risk of fraternal teasing. I do not believe you have seen my attempts at what I will not dignify by calling dancing.” He shakes his head. “Not for lack of trying on our tutor’s part. My brother, on the other hand–”
Megren says, “Teasing? Sir Darrin? I won’t believe it.”
Dar’s eyebrows move sharply in an upward direction.
Megren says, “I can hardly recall his last smile.”
Lanisen shifts his weight slightly and glances assessingly at Megren’s hurt foot.
Dar states quite seriously, “Are you certain you were not out in the heat overlong, Squire Megren?” He looks dangerously near to smiling himself, though he does not quite. “I trust you did not reinjure yourself through too much dancing?”
Megren says, “Dancing’s saved for tomorrow, for my part.”
Dar’s eyebrows jerk upward again, though he merely replies, “Ah.”
Megren glances at Lanisen, “I’m pretty sure you promised me hot tea.”
Lanisen squints at her, but says, “I’ll go put the kettle on, with your leave, sir.” He bows to Dar again.
Megren says, “I’m sure the festivities are impatient for you, Sir.”
Dar inclines his head to them both. “Well, then, I shall take the risk and hope that the dancing has already ended. Enjoy the rest of your evening, both of you.”
Megren smiles, and bows quickly. “Glad to hear it, Sir. You too.”
Lanisen murmurs, “Evenin’, sir.”