day’s end

Southwestern Archenland

Arael walks along one of the garden rows with a bouquet of late summer flowers tucked into her arm.

Lanisen and Colin can be seen walking in the vineyard down in the valley in the early evening, strolling between the rows in no particular hurry, talking. It’s still enough that their voices can be heard for some distance, but the words are unclear.

Arael tracks their progress, stopping to rise up on her toes and peer down into the valley from time to time.

They reach the end of the row and stay there for a while, the sort of lingering that means about to wrap up the conversation but not quite ready. At last there is a handshake, which turns into a back-thumping hug, and they part ways. Colin turns down the next row of grapevines to walk back down into the valley, and Lanisen begins up the hill to the house.

Arael observes this and then turns and bends over a flower bed, smiling to herself.

Lanisen reaches the garden. He rubs the side of his face, then exhales and sinks down on a bench.

Arael watches him sit. When she is finished with the flowers before her, she straightens and makes her way toward him.

Lanisen glances up. He straightens and gets to his feet, bowing.

Arael grins at him in greeting. “Had a nice walk?”

Lanisen straightens, rubbing his elbow. “Yeah, um… yeah.”

Arael sits down near where he was sitting and tilts her head in invitation. “The vineyards are good for that.”

Lanisen sits down again, glancing at her from the corner of his eye, and then briefly back out toward the rows. “Yeah, it’s… it’s a real nice evening.”

Arael rests the flowers in her lap and begins to arrange them. “You’ve been enjoying your stay?” she asks.

Lanisen says, “Yeah! Thanks, thank you. It’s… This, this place is beautiful, it’s…” He waves a hand vaguely to encompass the house and the gardens and the vineyards. “And I’m glad to see you all, it’s been, it’s been too long.”

Arael glances up at him with a grin. “Aye, it has. We’ve missed you.”

Lanisen glances at her with a small uncertain grin. He brushes at his knees. “How’s it been, this summer?”

Arael nods her head off to the side. “It’s been nice. Quiet. Quieter than Anvard, anyway. And ’tis different than when you live in a place with mostly fields to be planted, so I’ve had all that to see.”

Lanisen asks, “Good quiet?”

Arael says, “I’d say so. We’ve had enough to do, but not too much.” She looks back up at him. “How have things been at the castle?”

Lanisen says, “Good, it’s been good. Um. Quiet there too, really. ‘Specially with Cass gone.”

Arael picks up two flowers and switches their places. “Have you heard how she’s liking it at the inn?”

Lanisen nods, watching the flowers. “I stopped in on the way here. She’s doin’ all right. Got the cook there wrapped around her little finger, some reason.”

Arael grins. “I knew she could do it.”

Lanisen grins, the corners of his eyes crinkling up. “Oh, yeah,” he says confidently.

Arael says, “It’s good she’s close, if she couldn’t be /right/ there.”

Lanisen says, “Yeah. We write a lot. It’s been, it’s workin’ out well so far.”

Arael asks, “And what have you been doing when you’re not writing?”

Lanisen says, “Um, I been– I’m workin’ with the hounds again, mostly. Readin’, when I got time. Sparrin’ with Meg, sometimes.”

Arael grins. “Who wins?”

Lanisen snorts. “She does, obviously. Every time.”

Arael laughs. “She’s getting on toward being a knight, I think you said?”

Lanisen nods. “I dunno when she’ll be knighted, but it’s… she’s gotta be gettin’ close.”

Arael grins. “How are Sir Darrin and the rest?”

Lanisen says, “Doin’ well. Sir Darrin’s got the biggest collection of critters goin’ on, he’ll prob’ly have a goat by the time I get back.”

Arael laughs. “Wants a farm, does he?”

Lanisen says, “Dunno ’bout that. He just makes friends with everything.”

Arael’s eyes twinkle. “Does he sing to them, like in the stories?”

Lanisen says, “I wouldn’t put it past him.”

Arael suggests, “You should try to catch him at it sometime.”

Lanisen snorts.

Arael inspects one of the flowers. “Have you settled on how much longer you’ll be staying?”

Lanisen shifts. “I shouldn’t… Prob’ly not, not too much longer.”

Arael looks a little disappointed, but nods. “I suppose they’ll be needing you in the kennels?”

Lanisen says, looking at his hands, “Yeah.”

Arael waits a moment, then asks softly, “You’re all right, though, you two?”

Lanisen draws a deep breath and straightens a little, then nods, not looking at her. “I think so, I think– Better, anyway. Um.” He grimaces and looks down. “Um, I’m not– I’m not his squire anymore.”

Arael nods, watching him. “Is that… all right? With you, I mean.”

Lanisen hesitates, then nods. “Yeah. Yes. Sorry, it’s…” He waves one hand. “I’m just– tryin’ to get my head around it, is all.”

Arael grins a little. “It’s all right. As long as you’re both all right, you don’t have to explain it to me.”

Lanisen ducks his head. “Thanks.”

Arael grins. “And I /might/ still try to make you visit now and again if we haven’t seen you in too long.”

Lanisen glances at her, half-searching, then grins and looks down. “I’d like that.”

Arael gives a satisfied nod. “Once I’ve learned all there is to know of grape harvests you’ll have to come for one so I can show off.”

Lanisen laughs. “Yeah, all right. Haven’t you learned it all yet, then?”

Arael grins. “Nearly, of course, but I’ve only seen the one.”

Lanisen says, “By this time next year you’ll be an old hand at it.”

Arael nods firmly. “Giving out orders as neat as you please.”

Lanisen grins at this, but looks at her with his head tilted a little. “How’s it been?” he asks. “Bein’ Lady Ara, has it been all right, all that?”

Arael looks down at the flowers in her lap with a little smile. “Aye. It’s something to learn, that’s sure, but aye.” She looks back up at him. “Of course, I wasn’t at Anvard long enough to really know how it will be there, but here ’tisn’t so much of a change as I would have guessed.”

Lanisen nods a few times. “Good,” he says. “I’m glad.”

Arael shoots him a grateful smile and then glances off at the horizon. “I suppose we ought to be heading in.” She grins. “Then I can Lady Ara you some tea.”

Lanisen wrinkles up his nose at her and begins to get to his feet. “Sounds nice.”

Arael gathers up her flowers and stands. “I’d have thought I knew plenty about tea before I came here, lady or no. But /then/ I got to know Lord Sten.”

Lanisen tilts back his head and laughs out loud. “He had somethin’ to say about the tea to be had in Anvard, I remember.”

Arael giggles as she begins making her way toward the house. “I’ve already started to think if something’s the matter, maybe we ought to have some tea to fix it, and I’ve not even been in the family a year.”

Lanisen says, falling into step with her, “I dunno, seems a reasonable solution.” He reaches ahead to open the door for her, stepping aside so she can enter first.

Arael says as she steps inside, “It’s never made things worse, anyway.”


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