in bad times

Castle Anvard

Megren sits hidden at a small one-person table near a lesser-used row of shelves in the library, writing in a notebook. There is another book on the table, but it is closed.

Lanisen slips into the cool room, shutting the heavy door behind him, and goes straight to the shelves containing books on Narnia with a look of purpose.

Megren’s row is just behind the one Lanisen is aiming for. At the sound of the library doors, she closes her notebook and opens her book, the pages shuffling as she finds a particular spot.

Lanisen unshelves one, and then another, and adds a third one to the top of the pile on reflection, then steps deeper into the rows to find an empty table.

Megren looks up when he rounds the corner, and then looks surprised. “Lanisen,” she says.

Lanisen actually startles. “Meg! Haa, hi. I didn’t know there was anybody in here.” He shuffles his stack of books.

Megren slips the notebook under the reading book without looking at it. “I was just, um, training started back up but I hadn’t finished this one so I figured I’d better before I turn it in.”

Lanisen’s eyes follow the notebook but he doesn’t comment. “How’s it been so far? Trainin’, I mean.”

Megren’s mouth pulls into a regretful line. “Fell behind.”

Lanisen asks, “Who’re you racin’, then?”

Megren makes a face at him.

Lanisen lifts his shoulders.

Megren explains, “It’s, myself, I fell behind where I was before.”

Lanisen says, “You ain’t been back at it long, you’ll get it back.”

Megren lifts a shoulder, not denying this assertion, but not ready to be pleased about the circumstances just yet either. “What are you here for?” she asks, switching tack.

Lanisen’s eyes drop a little guiltily to his books. He shrugs again. “It’s hot in the kennels.”

Megren says, “Oh. Yeah.” She moves her books so there is a little more room on the small table. “Do you want to sit?””

Lanisen hesitates, his eyes flicking again involuntarily to where the notebook is hidden. “If you’re in the middle of somethin’ I don’t want to interrupt…”

Megren says, “I don’t mind.”

Lanisen hesitates again, then nods and takes the other chair.

Megren says, “I’m surprised you didn’t go to the reservoir.”

Lanisen shrugs a little. “People comin’ through.”

Megren says, “Oh, yeah, true.”

Lanisen says, “And it’s cloudy out, so it’s not so nice.”

Megren peers at the window. “Maybe there’ll be thunder later.”

Lanisen’s forehead furrows and he follows her glance. “Do you think so?”

Megren says, “Could be.”

Lanisen purses up his mouth on one side at this, but sighs and looks back at the table. “What’s your book about?”

Megren says, “Timing.”

Lanisen repeats, “Timing?”

Megren nods. “If a thrust is one beat, then a lunge is one and a half, sort of thing. Then once you think on all that you can start to think about how you and your opponent are expecting each other to time things and how you can subvert it.”

Lanisen blinks, and squints, and then puts his elbows on his knees and leans forward. “You mean like– if the fight was a dance?”

Megren tilts her head to the side. “Ummm, sort of, I guess. You just settle into a rhythm, if you aren’t paying attention, so it’s trying to figure out how to pay attention to everything, even the rhythm.”

Lanisen thinks about this for a minute. He shakes his head a little. “So it’s–” He pauses. “How does it, what does it do for you in a fight, if you can do that, pay attention?”

Megren screws up her mouth. “It hard to explain, exactly, except, except it means you can be surprising. Right, so, take your dance example, falling into the rhythm there is good because then you and the other dancers predict each other and you always end up where the other one is not, sort of thing. And if you /don’t/ fall into rhythm, right, you, you step on toes maybe, or crash into one another. In a fight you want to — well, you want to do neither. You want the control and prediction of the rhythm but you also want to make the unexpected contact. If it’s all rhythm then neither of you makes a hit. If it’s no rhythm then you’re not really in control.”

Lanisen looks like he isn’t entirely sure what to make of this explanation, but he nods anyway.

Megren says, “Sorry, it’s hard to explain.”

Lanisen says, “Maybe it’s the sort of thing you have to– maybe you have to do it first to understand it?”

Megren says, “Maybe. The book explains it better.”

Lanisen tilts his head to see the title.

Megren closes the book so he can see.

Lanisen reads the title and nods, politely ignoring the little bit of notebook that is visible now. “I’ll read it sometime.”

Megren says, “Sure. I’m almost done.”

Lanisen says, “No rush.”

Megren asks, “What are you reading?”

Lanisen says, “Um,” and looks down at his books. “Um, it’s, they’re both stories and poems from Narnia, I’m… comparing.”

Megren asks, “Comparing? Like, looking for what’s history, sort of thing?”

Lanisen says, “Yeah. That sort of thing.”

Megren guesses, “The witch?”

Lanisen says, “Um, some of it.”

Megren says, “That’s what I’d want to know.”

Lanisen glances at her, tilting his head a little bit to invite her to explain.

Megren says, “How she got in, how she, how she got the way she was, how she got people to follow her, you know?”

Lanisen looks down at the top book and nods. “A little at a time, I guess,” he says absently.

Megren asks, “Are you hoping to find something particular, or just sort of… collecting?”

Lanisen shifts a little cagily and answers without looking directly at her, “Just– just sort of, I like to find the little changes.”

One of Megren’s eyes narrows at the caginess, but she accepts the answer at face value anyway, for now. “Have you found any interesting ones?”

Lanisen asks, “Interesting changes?”

Megren says, “Right.”

Lanisen says, “Um– nothin’ big, not that I’ve found. Just some songs have extra verses sometimes, or… um, there’s a song in this one–” He pulls the second book in the stack out. “That matches up with a song in this other one, but it’s– they’re different sorts, they’re about the same thing and they even use some of the same words but one of ’em’s for singin’ and one of ’em’s for… it’s longer, I think it’s for tellin’.”

Megren says, “Oh! Like maybe the song came out of the story?”

Lanisen says, “I think maybe, yeah.”

Megren says, “Huh.”

Lanisen lifts his shoulders. “It’s somethin’ to do, while it’s so hot you don’t feel like doin’ anything at all.”

Megren says, “It /has/ been a bit much this last week, hasn’t it.”

Lanisen says, “Maybe if it rains it’ll break it up a bit.”

Megren says, “I’m hoping.”

Lanisen says, “We should go somewhere.”

Megren’s brows lift. “Somewhere? You mean like, a parapet, or like, the Narnian coast?”

Lanisen asks, “Is the Narnian coast nice?”

Megren says, “I couldn’t say.”

Lanisen says, “We were gonna go somewhere, come spring, we should go somewhere.”

Megren says agreeably, “Okay.”

Lanisen asks, “Where should we go?”

Megren says, “Narnian coast.”

Lanisen wrinkles his nose at her.

Megren grins.

Lanisen asks, “Really?”

Megren says, “Yes, if you want to! Might have to drag Sir Darrin along if you’re thinking right off. But if we just went over the mountains, we could do, we could do just a couple days, even.”

Lanisen asks, “Would he mind?”

Megren asks, “Coming? I guess he’d probably like to, actually, if he can take the time.”

Lanisen nods slowly, considering. “I’d– I should write to Sir Colin first and get– get permission.”

Megren says, “Okay.”

Lanisen pulls his stack of books closer, hugging them to himself. “I’ve–” he starts. “Um– I’ve only written him a couple times, since–”

Megren asks, “You want help writing it?”

Lanisen takes a deep breath. “No, that’s– it’s all right, I’ll, I can do it, it’s just…” He shrugs uncomfortably.

Megren screws up her face sympathetically.

Lanisen rubs the side of his face. “Myrd’s in Narnia,” he says a little distantly, looking at the top book.

Megren says, “Supervised, and Sir Darrin and I will be there.”

Lanisen shifts. “No– yes, I mean–” He pauses. “Sir Colin might say no.”

Megren says, “Oh.”

Lanisen pauses, and then says again, “I’ll, I’ll write him.”

Megren says, “I’ll ask Sir Darrin.”

Lanisen says, “All right.”

Megren asks, “You still want to be a squire?”

Lanisen looks at her quickly, startled and guarded.

Megren asks, “I just wondered.”

Lanisen doesn’t seem to know how to respond. He moistens his lips uncertainly and pushes the heel of his hand against the side of his forehead.

Megren pulls her lips on regretfully and reaches for the offending hand with both of hers. “Forget it, I’m sorry, forget it.”

Lanisen drops his hand immediately, shaking his head at her quickly, though he avoids her eyes and looks unmoored. “It’s not– It, it doesn’t matter if– It doesn’t matter,” he says, and seems to draw some steadiness from articulating this. “I said I would, I said I would.”

Megren still takes his hand in both of hers anyway., her brows lifting. “You don’t want to, then?”

Lanisen looks distressed. He nearly pulls back his hand when Megren takes it, but stops. He is tongue-tied for a minute, then answers, “I don’t know, it’s, it doesn’t matter; I don’t know.”

Megren says, “Forget about if it matters for anything except to me. It matters to me.”

Lanisen shakes his head jerkily. “I don’t, I don’t /know/, it’s– please, I’m sorry, I don’t /know/!”

Megren says quietly, “Okay.”

Lanisen shuts his eyes for a beat and exhales. He turns his face to the side and pushes with his free hand between his eyebrows. “Sorry, I’m sorry.”

Megren says, “It’s fine. I shouldn’t have — maybe, I shouldn’t have pushed.”

Lanisen swallows a couple times. His shoulders are hunched up and he avoids looking at her, but he doesn’t pull his hand away. “I want–” he starts haltingly, and bows his head and fists his hand in his hair. “I want– for him to come back, and be well, and– I want for things to just… to be the way they were, it wasn’t– it wasn’t supposed to be like…”

Megren moves to the edge of her chair so that she can be a little closer to him.

Lanisen says, “I don’t know; I don’t know.”

Megren says, “I have… some thoughts… but I don’t know if they’re actually good, or useful, and I don’t have to say them now or here.”

Lanisen’s shoulders tense up slightly. He takes a deep breath and straightens a little, and then nods.

Megren’s lips press together a little and she doesn’t say anything more.

Lanisen glances at her when the quiet stretches and she doesn’t say anything, half-searching.

Megren asks, “You want me to say it now?”

Lanisen hesitates uneasily, then asks, “Is it– do you want to say it now?”

Megren’s lips pull a little, and then she shakes her head. “Sort of now, but, not really here.”

Lanisen watches her, trying to decipher this.

Megren says, “Nathen’s probably here somewhere, and… It’s not really a good place for a private conversation.”

Lanisen sits back a little, glancing around. He nods.

Megren asks, “You want to stay here for the heat though?”

Lanisen hesitates again, rubbing his forehead. “The, the cave,” he says. “In the pasture, it’ll be cool there. If it’s, if you want, you don’t have to.”

Megren says, “Sure, we can.” She shifts her book aside and tucks her notebook into the satchel slung over the back of her chair.

Lanisen says, “Were– You were in the middle of somethin’.”

Megren says, “No, um, no, nothing important. I mean, we can talk later if you’d rather, though.”

Lanisen says, “No, it’s– I don’t, I don’t want to take you away from somethin’, is all.”

Megren pushes her hand through her hair, shoving it behind her ear. “I’m fine.”

Lanisen asks, “Would you say, if you weren’t?”

Megren makes a punishing face at him.

Lanisen says, “Sorry.”

Megren asks, “Did you want to keep hold of your books?”

Lanisen looks down at them. “No, it’s, I can leave ’em and come back.” He glances around for Nathen, then stacks them neatly on the table. “I’ll come back before he cleans up.”

Megren scoots back her chair. “All right.”

Lanisen gets up, rubbing his elbow.

Megren asks, “You’ve eaten?”

Lanisen says, “Yeah, yeah. Did you?”

Megren says, “Uh…”

Lanisen asks, “Go see Ren first?”

Megren accepts meekly, “Okay. Do you want anything too?”

Lanisen shakes his head slightly. “‘M not hungry.”

Megren asks, “You want me to meet you?”

Lanisen rubs his temple and nods gratefully. “All right.”

Megren hesitates, and then grabs his hand to pull him toward her for a very brief embraces and a peck on the side of the head before she moves off toward the kitchen.

Lanisen returns the hug, then takes a deep breath and follows her out the door.

Behind the Waterfall
Castle Anvard

Megren comes up to the cave not too long later, her sack more bulging now.

Lanisen has found a spot to sit near the doorway to the larger cave. He has his knees drawn up loosely and one arm wrapped around them, and is drawing in the cave-floor dirt with a piece of a stick.

Megren settles beside him. She pulls out a pair of hasty sandwiches, but made with good bread and cheese. She lays the second one atop the sack where he can reach if he likes.

Lanisen leaves off with the stick and shifts as she joins him. He offers her a white clover blossom in return, commonplace but pleasantly fragrant.

Megren accepts it, sniffing the flower with a small smile, and the tucking it up behind her ear.

Lanisen loops both arms around his knees.

Megren blows out a breath, crossing her ankles underneath her. “Hm,” she begins.

Lanisen lifts his shoulders slightly. Before she begins, he says, like a disclaimer, “You don’t have to fix it.”

Megren pushes her mouth off to the side.

Lanisen says, “Sorry, it’s not, it’s only– it’s a mess, and it’s liable to stay a mess, and– I don’t, I don’t want it to… to drag you down. You know?”

Megren asks, “Drag me down?”

Lanisen says, “I don’t know, I’m sorry.”

Megren pauses, and then says, “Sir Colin is friends with all of us. I wonder if we wouldn’t all do better for a bit of talk.”

Lanisen nods mutely.

Megren says, “You said you wished it was how it used to be.”

Lanisen says, “It didn’t used to be like this.”

Megren asks, “How did it used to be?”

Lanisen shakes his head a little. “It was, we were– we were friends, we could talk, he didn’t think I was too…”

Megren asks, “What did you talk about?”

Lanisen says, “Anything, um– stupid things, important things, it was just– it was like us, sort of, not really, but we were, we were /friends/.”

Megren releases a quiet breath.

Lanisen rubs the side of his face. “I don’t know,” he mumbles.

Megren says, “I think–”

Lanisen is quiet.

Megren says, “He was, it was scary to join him, right? At the beginning. Just, less scary than where you’d been.”

Lanisen hesitates. “By the time it got scary it was… um, I didn’t really, it wasn’t really my choice anymore.”

Megren nods slowly, looking more disheartened than surprised.

Lanisen says, “It was, I was caught, I mean.”

Megren says, “I think… you had a very particular kind of relationship. One you probably, probably both needed, maybe, maybe even dearly, for a while.”

Lanisen stares at his knees. “I dunno what I’d’ve done without him.’

Megren says, “Yeah.”

Lanisen exhales and rubs one eye tiredly.

Megren says, “You needed somebody who could tell you what to do and take care of you. I suspect — I, he’s your friend — I suspect he needed some one to take care of, who would tell him he was a good man, with good instincts, integrity, I mean. I guess he probably had better instincts than anyone you’d been around in a long time, anyway.”

Lanisen says, “He is a good man.”

Megren says, “Who doesn’t always do good things. Like any good man.”

Lanisen says, “He tries to, though. That’s all anybody can ask, isn’t it?”

Megren tilts her head and licks her lips.

Lanisen looks away unhappily.

Megren says, “You remember that night, just, maybe a month after the battle, you, and Sir Darrin, and Sir Colin and me all went out down to the tavern and had a game of darts?”

Lanisen says, “Yeah. I remember.”

Megren says, “Sir Darrin was kind of a, kind of a bit of an ass that night, I don’t know if you remember, or, or noticed maybe.”

Lanisen pauses uncertainly and shakes his head. “I don’t remember that. What, what did he do?”

Megren scratches the back of her head. “I don’t — I don’t remember it all, anymore. He talked about Lady Avery like–” she screws up her mouth. “–like she was a favorite idea someone could insult, not like she couldn’t defend herself but like it would never occur to anyone she had a right to. And, some other things.”

Lanisen shifts, frowning. “I don’t remember,” he says finally, shaking his head.

Megren says, “Well, after, I talked to him about it, but, you know, only a little, because, well he’s a knight, and everything, and I didn’t mean to be disrespectful. And he could’ve let it go because of that or he might’ve said ‘oh, well, I was drinking’, or ‘this is how I am, and if you don’t like it, there isn’t much to be done’, or ‘you’ve misunderstood me, what I said was good and you didn’t see it right’. He stopped, even though it was late and everyone was a bit tired, and he said, ‘if it bothers you, I want you to say.’ If –” and now her tones changes a little, seeming to indicate that she is no longer quoting but still speaking from what she thinks is Sir Darrin’s perspective, “–If I’ve done something wrong, I want to know, and I want to fix it.”

Lanisen listens. He glances at her when she finishes, and then looks down at his knees, rubbing his forehead. After a moment, he says, “But that’s not– He’s /not/ good at that, you’re right, but it’s– there’s other things, that by itself doesn’t make him not a good man.”

Megren says, “No, I’m not saying that. But you said ‘that’s all you can ask’, and I’m saying no, I don’t agree.”

Lanisen is silent. He fidgets with a loose thread in his sleeve, winding it around his fingers, then finally shakes his head a little. “He’s my friend and I miss him,” he says quietly.

Megren releases a breath through her nose, and says, “I know. I’m sorry.”

Lanisen says finally, “If Aaron hadn’t…”

Megren screws up her mouth.

Lanisen tries to find the right words for a moment, then sighs.

Megren says, “I think… eventually? you still would have needed someone less and less, and he still would have needed to be needed. It wouldn’t have been… it wouldn’t have been as bad. Maybe it wouldn’t have been bad at all.”

Lanisen shifts back and glances at her, frowning.

Megren says, “I don’t know, I don’t know how to do ‘what if’s really.”

Lanisen asks, “You think that’s what happened, though? I stopped needin’ him?”

Megren says, “I don’t know.” She pauses to reflect, and then says in an uncertain voice, “In the, there was a meeting, you know? With a lot of knights, and Haft was there, and Bracken, that Dwarf that goes with Sir Peridan sometimes, just a lot of people, talking about, what do we do about Aaron, and you weren’t there, and I asked why, I thought — well, I thought, shouldn’t you be? They wanted to, to let him out, to try and lure Vinri toward us and it seemed, well, risky, at the very best, and I thought, it would be right in any circumstance, to consult the victim on something like this, but even more than, than that, you seemed to… to feel powerless, and it would have given you a voice, made you feel a little more normal, like you were contributing again.”

Lanisen is silent for a moment. “Sir Colin didn’t want me to know about it,” he concludes, and sighs again.

Megren says, “He didn’t, he didn’t just — they, they sort of threw me out for even… even asking.” She hesitates, and then, in an attempt to be fair, corrects, “They didn’t throw me out, he asked if I thought it would really be effective to ask you and would it not cause you to panic, and I said yes I thought it would be effective, if you were actually told everything instead of just little pieces that you couldn’t make use of, and, I don’t, there was, sort of, sort of some, umm,” she pauses uncomfortably. “I suppose there was some arguing, and Sir Tyren…. asked me to be quiet, and Lord Dar asked me to leave.”

Lanisen straightens, looking at her in surprise and regret. “That was– you got in trouble on /my/ account?”

Megren says, “It wasn’t — it was just, it seemed like, like the right thing to say, like, I mean, I don’t really understand why no one else was saying it. Haft thought so too, and that was even when you and he weren’t in a very good place with each other.”

Lanisen is quiet for a minute, thinking over this. “I’m sorry,” he says finally. “And, and thank you.”

Megren’s brow furrows, the conversation having gone a different direction than she intended it to, and the strategizing to reroute it back slows down her response a bit. “It’s, it’s fine. It’s, I just meant to say, I don’t know if you.. stopped /needing/ him exactly, but you, what he was giving you stopped being what you needed, yes. I don’t know if that’s how things always were between you or not. Him only telling you pieces and sort of, of, um, of feeling like he was pro–protecting you from the rest.” She looks uncomfortable even with using such phrasing.

Lanisen agrees, looking at his knees, “He kept shuttin’ me out, on– it’d been goin’ on a while.”

Megren gives a small shrug.

Lanisen says, “But it was still– he didn’t /always/ do that, it was just–” He stops, and his face clears with comprehension.

Megren’s brows draw together and upward and she doesn’t interrupt.

Lanisen says, “After… we went to the cave, in Lancelyn Green, and I– he, he found out about Myrd, that’s when it…”

Megren frowns, “Sorry, you mean… you mean to apprehend Myrd?”

Lanisen says, “No, it– um, it was just a couple years ago, we were… on the way to Carmichael, I think, I don’t remember, but we stopped in Lancelyn Green for the night and he asked me to show him the, where we hid.”

Megren pulls in her lower lip, debating a response. She settles on, “He didn’t know already?”

Lanisen says, “Loc took him there, I think. He– he wanted to check on it, make sure nobody else was usin’ it.”

Megren asks, “He didn’t know about the– with the cave?”

Lanisen hesitates, then shakes his head.

Megren pauses again, and then says, “What happened?”

Lanisen says haltingly, “It was– We, we went on down, and I was, it was fine, but it… /smelled/, and–” He shakes his head, his face creasing up. “It was fine but we got across the river and it was, it was still there, all the rocks and the hole and I couldn’t– um…”

Megren rests her hand on her near knee, palm up so he can grasp it if he chooses.

Lanisen says, “He– um, he got me out, he knew somethin’ was, somethin’ was wrong. But then after he was wantin’ to know what, so I told him, and he–” He glances at her. “He went, he sort of went away, I told you about that, he started shuttin’ me out, but that’s– that’s where it started, that was the first time.”

Megren frowns. “Why? Why would that, why would that help?”

Lanisen says, “‘Cause it– he’d just seen me– I fell apart on him, I was fine and then I wasn’t and he didn’t… I think he didn’t want it to happen again, is all.”

Megren’s lips press gently together at some new understanding. Finally she says, “I sort of… lectured him, that night when he fought Aaron in the cell and you were upset. It was, he — afterward, he said I was telling him to stop appraising you of things, and he was mad that, having supposedly said that, I would then ask him to let you participate.”

Lanisen pauses. “After he told me about– about Berke.”

Megren says, “Yeah, I guess.”

Lanisen is silent for a minute. “I would’ve wanted to know,” he says. “I’m glad he told me, I only– I needed to– get /away/, I couldn’t– Haven’t you ever, hasn’t somebody ever told you somethin’ and it’s, you can’t breathe, it feels like, or it… it doesn’t feel like it could be real and you need to just go /away/ for a little while until it… until you can sort of start thinkin’ about it bein’ real, do you know what I mean?”

Megren pulls in her lips, clearly trying to think of an analogous circumstance from her own experience, wanting to say yes, of course.

Lanisen says, “I made it worse, I think, it’s– I’m glad he told me, it was–” He pauses. “It wasn’t good to hear, it was, um, it was kind of horrible to hear, actually, but I wouldn’t… I’d rather know than not. But I had to go away when he told me and I think I made it worse.”

Megren looks at the waterfall rather than him, and her voice is apologetically detached, “No. Or, I, maybe. But I must’ve, I must’ve made it a lot — a lot worse.”

Lanisen turns his head to look at her, frowning. “How’s that?” he asks, skeptical.

Megren gets the sort of frown that says the wearer is trying very, very hard to have a neutral expression, and is not at all succeeding. “I, I told him if you… I told him if I thought he, if it happened again, if you were like that again, and I thought it was something he said, then I, I told him I’d, I’d let the king know. What was, um, what was happening.”

Lanisen’s mouth opens a little, and then shuts. He looks uncertain and worried, and finally he says, “I must’ve… I must’ve scared you.”

Megren says, “The closest I’d ever seen you like that was when we found you in that basement.”

Lanisen looks a little disturbed. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I didn’t– I’m sorry, I should’ve held it together better.”

Megren looks at him, “No,” she says, drawing out the “o” with surprised placation. “No, I don’t think, I, a person doesn’t get like that if he’s in a place to, to hold it together. I don’t think, I don’t think that helps, to, to think of it like that.”

Lanisen says, “It was just, I couldn’t think of it bein’ real right then, and– I couldn’t, I couldn’t look at Colin, knowin’, and knowin’ he knew. That’s all it was, I just needed to get away.”

Megren says quietly, “I’m sorry if I made it worse between you.”

Lanisen ducks his head. He is quiet for a long moment, thinking, and then shakes his head slightly. “I don’t think you did. I don’t think you could’ve.”

Megren glances at him again.

Lanisen lifts his shoulders. “It didn’t start with Aaron,” he says matter-of-factly. “It started a long time before you told him off.”

Megren absorbs this, and then nods quietly, recalling aloud, the words becoming more and more to herself as the memories gather, “He, he told me he wasn’t going to tell you everything, he, I heard him tell Aaron he’d killed Berke, in the, when he got hurt he said it, and I said to him I wondered if you’d approve, and he said he didn’t care, and then he, um, he tried to–” she screws up her face. “He tried to get me to go to Lancelyn Green? To, I don’t know. Maybe to check? But he wouldn’t tell me everything, and he said what he did tell me I wasn’t allowed to tell you, and I said, I said, if you want me to do something for you, you can’t tell me in halves, and then you showed up and I never heard the rest of it ” She pauses, then says in revelation, “– he didn’t even want me to /get/ you when he was hurt. His, his best friend, he didn’t want you to know and he wouldn’t tell you what happened when you asked, he kept answering Sir Tyren sort of, and not you, and I, I remember, I remember, /then/ we left and came back and you, I don’t remember, you were gone for some reason, and he was so, that was why I spoke up, it wasn’t /just/ that night it was, he kept not telling people things, going places alone, even Sir Tyren didn’t like it, but especially you, you couldn’t know anything. When I, when I said that about the king, he just said “you don’t know what you’re talking about” and he wouldn’t, he wouldn’t /let/ me know.”

Lanisen says, “He didn’t want to tell me about Berke. He kept…” He pauses and rubs the side of his face. “He kept sayin’ we should go to Narnia, we needed to leave, he… he said there was… he said somethin’ was comin’ and he couldn’t protect me, I thought– I don’t know what I thought.”

Megren says, “There wasn’t anything coming.”

Lanisen frowns and shakes his head. “No, he meant– he meant about Berke, I think, he meant… he meant what /did/ happen, it was– it hurt to hear, he couldn’t protect me from that.”

Megren asks, “…so you… needed to leave?”

Lanisen spreads his hands.

Megren says, “That’s not, I don’t understand.”

Lanisen shakes his head helplessly. “I couldn’t– I couldn’t /look/ at him, I couldn’t hardly look at /you/, I– it’s–” He stops, and he pulls a shaky, stuttering breath. “I can’t, I can’t /tell/ you what it’s like, knowin’ that…”

Megren says, “No, I know — I mean, I don’t know, and, I don’t think, I’m sure he doesn’t know, and, I’m just, saying, I wouldn’t… I’m saying I wouldn’t say ‘hello, my face is bloody, someone’s after you, let’s go to Narnia, by the way, by the way, Darius, Darius knows.”

Lanisen is silent and uncertain, staring at the wet floor in front of the waterfall. He rubs his wrists.

Megren says, almost indignant, offended, “He’s a /knight/, he’s, you don’t say ‘I can’t protect you’ you, you, /find a way/. It’s /your job/. You, it was his /job/ to make you feel safe and you, he was sworn to make you feel safe.”

Lanisen looks distressed. He shakes his head slightly. “He– How was he s’posed to– he couldn’t’ve, he couldn’t’ve.”

Megren asks, “Really? Did I make you feel unsafe after? Did I, when we went down to the cell together, you felt unsafe? When I told you we hadn’t found Darius, that we didn’t have Cass with us, you didn’t go like that, it wasn’t like that, those were /bad things/ I had to figure out how to tell you but I told you, and I, I /found a way/.”

Lanisen raises both hands to the sides of his head. “It wasn’t, it was different, it was different…”

Megren registers this and her face turns regretful. She hesitates, and then lays a hand on his arm.

Lanisen swallows a couple of times and lowers his head, lacing his fingers over the back of his neck for a moment. “If I– When I get to thinkin’ about it I /still/ want to go away, I can’t–” He takes a deep breath. “I still sometimes can’t look people in the face, I can’t, I get the stammers, it’s been… it’s been close on a year. Meg, there’s– no way he could’ve told me that I wouldn’t’ve run away.”

Megren’s chest sort of collapses. She shifts her hand to his back and just concedes, “Okay.”

Lanisen says, “I’m sorry; I’m sorry.”

Megren says, “No, don’t be, you don’t, I don’t want you to be sorry, I– I’m sorry, it, I’m angry, I’m still angry, and–” she takes a breath. “He’s your friend. I… barely knew him.”

Lanisen says, “You knew him at a bad time. I wish you knew him in better times.”

Megren nods, looking down. “Yeah. Me too.”

Lanisen rubs at his forehead with his thumb. “I’ll, I’ll write to him tomorrow. About Narnia.”

Megren pulls her hand back into her own lap and nods quietly.

Lanisen drops his hand and looks at her, a little tired. “Thanks. I’m sorry.”

Megren says, “We’re okay.”

Lanisen says again, ducking his head, “Thanks.”

Megren lifts her shoulder. She picks up the uneaten sandwich and extends it to him.

Lanisen asks, “Ain’t you hungry?”

Megren says, “Well, I ate half.”

Lanisen says, “That’s only half, though.”

Megren lifts the sandwich to her mouth, takes a big bite, and extends the rest to him.

Lanisen says, “Well, /now/ I don’t want it.”

Megren drops her still-full mouth open in offense.

Lanisen snorts and ducks his head, his shoulders shaking.

Megren closes her mouth and pouts.

Lanisen says, “Your face’ll stick like that.”

Megren makes the face, even harder!

Lanisen snickers under his breath and rubs his forehead again.

Megren finally swallows and brings the sandwich back to herself for another bite.

Lanisen folds his arms on top of his knees and rests the side of his head on top of them.

Megren leans back against the cave wall and blows out a breath.

Lanisen asks, “What if I didn’t want to be a squire anymore?”

Megren says, “Then we’d figure out how to make you not one. Sir Darrin’d probably know where to start.”

Lanisen takes and releases a slightly strained breath. “Just… just like that.”

Megren says, “If you wanted to be a squire and not Sir Colin’s squire, then, that’s it’s own thing.”

Lanisen rubs the bridge of his nose.

Megren says, “It’s, what you want — I’ll help you figure that out if you want help figuring and I’ll help you get it when you have.”

Lanisen swallows a couple times, looking like he feels sick. He finally shakes his head slightly and says, “I can’t… think about that, I can’t think about it yet.”

Megren says, “Okay.”

Lanisen says, “Maybe I should–” and stops.

Megren glances at him.

Lanisen says, “Maybe I should go to Nieklot.”

Megren says, “Oh.”

Lanisen shakes his head and sighs, “I don’t know.”

Megren says, “If you think you should, then I’ll… I’ll cover for you here, or whatever it is you need help on.”

Lanisen glances at her at this with quick grateful acknowledgement.

Megren gives him a short nod and a small smile.

Lanisen is silent a little longer. “I dunno what I’d do when I got there,” he admits finally.

Megren nods again.

Lanisen says, “I’d want to… say somethin’, and I don’t think I can say it yet.”

Megren nods again.

Lanisen says, “This’ll all be figured out someday, right?”

Megren says, “Yes.”

Lanisen says, “All right.”

Megren nods one more time.

Lanisen nods in answer and doesn’t say anything else.

Megren releases a breath. “Think anybody would notice if I just fell asleep until it stopped being hot?”

Lanisen smiles slightly. “I won’t tell.”

Megren droops onto her side.

Lanisen reaches over and pulls her bag to where she can use it as a slightly-less-hard-than-actual-rocks pillow.

Megren makes a sleepy happy sound and rolls out so that no part of her is touching any other part of her.

Lanisen asks, “You need anything?”

Megren says, “A tinier sun.”

Lanisen says, “All right.”

Megren crows, “Thank youuu.”

Lanisen grins on one side of his face. “Anything else, or just that.”

Megren says, “Only that.”

Lanisen says, “I’ll do my best.”

Megren says, “My hero.”

Lanisen says, “Go to sleep.”

Megren shuts her eyes and screws up her face obediently.

Lanisen scoots back a little so he can put his back against the cool stone wall. He stretches out his legs in front of him and exhales.


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