Outside the Castle
Lanisen and Tohol come walking up the castle road in the still, cool evening. Tohol has mud caked on his legs from the morning’s rain, but he still has enough energy to snap happily at grasshoppers along the side of the road. Lanisen looks tired.
Megren comes bounding down the steps and swings around the tower to meet him at the gate, sweeping up a small basket near where Owin stands guard.
Lanisen takes a deep breath and straightens a little when he catches sight of her, grinning wearily. He picks up the pace and is shortly at the gate.
Megren drops her basket again to sweep him into a hug, swinging him around in a circle. “Welcome home!” she says.
Lanisen says, grabbing on reflexively, “Oh, oof, hi!” Tohol bounds in a circle around them and barks once, the echo deafening in the gatehouse.
Megren pulls a handpie wrapped in cloth from her basket, still a little warm and smelling of apples, and thrusts it into his hand, putting a waterskin in his other hand. “How was the journey? Are you tired? You look tired, a bit.”
Lanisen says, “Oh, oh–” and adjusts his satchel so he can accept the pie and water, laughing a little. “Um, it was– it was fine, it wasn’t bad, we… uh, we caught a cart for a good chunk of it.”
Megren nods. “Are you hungry? I wasn’t sure if you would have eaten.”
Lanisen says, “I’m kinda hungry, thanks, yeah, I’m– ahh, I kinda want to clean up a little, first.”
Megren asks, “The kennel or your room?”
Lanisen says, “The kennel, if that’s all right.”
Megren nods, shooing him off that way. “I’ll go get real food.”
Lanisen ducks his head amiably, shifting his satchel before he begins through the outer ward.
Megren scoots off toward the inner ward.
Lanisen has left his satchel by the door and disappeared upstairs. There are a few water-splatters on the floor between the door and the stairs.
Megren sneaks in and starts setting up the table.
Lanisen comes down a few minutes later, barefoot and in fresh clothes, his face and hands and the back of his neck scrubbed pink. He scritches the back of Tohol’s neck absently and goes to see what Megren is up to.
Megren has hot thick soup on the table and half a loaf of steaming bread on the table with tea on the mantle.
Lanisen laughs under his breath and shakes his head, dropping into a chair. “Thanks,” he says, and eyes the spread, looking a little daunted. “How’re you? How’s it been here?”
Megren says, “Boring a little.”
Lanisen asks, “You’re boring?”
Megren says, “Mhm.”
Megren sits and lifts her shoulders.
Lanisen puts his elbows on the table and plants his chin in his hand. “How are you, though?”
Megren screws up her face. “Really, it’s just been training and regular things. Deonyc’s talking about joining the guard.”
Lanisen blinks. “Deonyc? I thought he was a hunter or somethin’.”
Megren says, “Yeah, that’s what I said. But then, I was too, I guess.”
Lanisen lifts his eyebrows and bobs his head to the side to concede this.
Megren says, “That’s about it.”
Lanisen says, “Well, that’s good, then.”
Megren says, “You sound like Haft.”
Lanisen squints at her.
Megren says, “‘Boring is good, Megren.'”
Lanisen wrinkles up his nose. He reaches for a bowl and dishes out some soup.
Megren says, “At least there’s soup though.”
Lanisen agrees, “At least there’s soup.”
Megren pushes her bowl toward him.
Lanisen fills it, glancing at her to see how full she wants it.
Megren lets him fill it all the way up.
Lanisen fills it to the brim and then drips just a little bit more so it’s slightly over the top, then carefully sets it in front of her, looking pleased with himself.
Megren inhales the scent happily.
Lanisen shifts, tucking his feet under his chair, and begins on his soup. He exhales wearily.
Megren asks, “Am I bothering you? Should I let you rest and sleep?”
Lanisen glances up. “No, no! Sorry, I’m… it’s, um, it’s been a long two weeks.”
Megren says, “Yeah.”
Lanisen takes a deep breath and taps the table with his thumb a couple times. “Um– Sir Colin, Sir Colin said he was gonna send a letter to Lord Dar, it’s… it’s prob’ly official by now, um. I’m not a squire anymore.”
Megren’s brows lift and she lowers her spoon, eyes flicking oer his face. “…Oh.”
Lanisen can’t quite look her in the face. He nods a couple of times, then takes a bite of soup.
Megren asks, “Are you, are you, who decided that?”
Lanisen swallows and takes a minute. “We– both, we both did, it was…” He inhales and lifts his shoulders. “It made sense.”
Megren asks, “Do…” she pauses, and then asks, “You both did how? — How did the, how did it go?”
Lanisen shakes his head a little. “It’s all right, it– it went all right, it’s just…” He takes a deep breath. “Um, there needed to be a change, I think, and… we, I think we both knew it for a long time, so it’s…” He shrugs again.
Megren asks, “Do you still want to be a knight?”
Lanisen says, “I don’t know.”
Megren says, “You can keep training with me if you want.”
Lanisen says, “Thanks.”
Megren says, “So it, so you decided together? Like, it wasn’t um, I mean, was there, um, yelling, or…”
Lanisen says, “No, no. No yelling, it was, it was fine.”
Megren’s mouth screws up again.
Lanisen glances at her, and looks away. “Sorry, it’s been– um, I kept tryin’ to write you about it but I didn’t know what to say..”
Megren says, “It’s… you don’t have to apologize.”
Lanisen stirs his soup.
Megren says, “You don’t have to apologize.”
Lanisen glances at her sidelong and nods.
Megren asks, “Are you okay?”
Lanisen says, “I’m okay.”
Megren says, “All right.”
Lanisen stirs his soup some more and admits, “I feel a little bit, um– I don’t, I don’t really know what to do with myself.”
Megren says, “Probably take care of some dogs.”
Lanisen says absently, “Yeah.”
Megren says, “Eat good food.”
Lanisen starts, “I never–” He pauses and wrinkles up his forehead.
Megren lifts her brows.
Lanisen says, “It’s just I’ve never… not had…” He lets out a slightly frustrated breath. “All this– since /Myrd/, it’s been, there’s always been somebody I report to, or have to ask if I want to do somethin’, somebody I belong with, you know?”
Megren says, “Oh.”
Lanisen says, “Except for– except for about a week, I guess, after I got my pardon.” He looks down. “It felt different then.”
Megren asks, “How did it feel then?”
Lanisen says, “I dunno. I was excited.”
Megren asks, “And now?”
Lanisen says, “I don’t know.”
Megren says, “You’re smart and kind. Those are good qualities to have in the person in charge of you.”
Lanisen is confused for a minute, then lets out a little breath through his nose and looks down.
Megren lifts a shoulder.
Lanisen sits back. “Anyway.”
Megren says, “It’s going to be a good thing.”
Lanisen says, “Yeah.”
Megren says, “For now, food, and say hello to Nia, and get sleep.”
Lanisen nods. He picks up his spoon and starts in on his soup again.
Megren does the same.
Lanisen says after a little while, “Missed you.”
Megren says, “Same.”
Lanisen dimples up. He keeps eating, but after a moment says, “Oh,” and gets up and goes to his satchel by the door.
Megren’s mouth opens.
Lanisen kneels and rummages a bit. He finally pulls a small canvas bag out of a side pocket and gets to his feet, extending it to her.
Megren takes the bag and opens it curiously.
Inside is a small charm, carved out of a reddish wood in the shape of a slightly curled leaf, polished and gleaming and smooth to the touch. It is attached to a braided cord long enough to use as a short necklace or to double up as a bracelet.
Megren draws a breath. “Oh…
Lanisen asks, a little anxiously, “Do you like it? You don’t have to wear it if you don’t like it, I just thought it was pretty.”
Megren lifts it over her head to settle around her neck. “No, I love it! It’s perfect.”
Lanisen breaks into a relieved smile. “There was, the morning market in Lancelyn Green, there was a stall.”
Megren says, “I don’t own any necklaces.”
Lanisen says, “Oh.”
Megren asks, “Does it look nice?”
Lanisen lifts his eyebrows and nods quickly. “Is it, do you not own any ’cause you don’t like ’em? Because she said it could be a bracelet too, if you’d rather.”
Megren says, “No, I just, I never really had any kind of jewelry. My da made me a necklace once when I was a girl, but I lost it.”
Lanisen says, “Oh, I see.”
Megren asks, “It doesn’t look wrong?”
Lanisen asks, “What? No, it looks like a necklace.”
Megren says, “Good.”
Lanisen says, “It looks nice on you.”
Megren gives him a wrinkled nosed smile.
Lanisen grins back, pleased, and sits back down.
Megren says, “Thank you.”
Lanisen says, “Welcome.”
Megren asks, “And Cass was good?”
Lanisen smiles slightly. “Yeah. She’s good.”
Megren says, “Good.”
Lanisen says, “Toby’s gettin’ huge.”
Megren asks, “Yeah?”
Lanisen measures out an approximate nose-to-tail length with his hands. It is, in fact, huge.
Megren asks, “How come Mew and Tiny aren’t so big?”
Lanisen says, “I dunno. Mew was the runt.”
Megren hms a bit belligerantly.
Lanisen shrugs, spreading his hands.
Megren says, “Well.”
Lanisen says, “He’s lazy though. Bet he don’t catch more’n a mouse a week.”
Lanisen adds, “Cass loves him anyway, of course.’
Megren hmms. “Well, who wouldn’t. I wonder if you can have pet bobcats…”
Lanisen blinks and pulls his chin back in surprise.
Megren says, “Do they get less tame by size do you think? But then Toby’d be a better mouser, you’d think.”
Lanisen says, “Maybe if you got ’em when they were little…”
Lanisen says, “They’re so shy, though. Do you think that’d tame out of ’em?”
Megren says, “I don’t know, I don’t know anything about taming.”
Lanisen hmms thoughtfully.
Megren asks, “Tell me what Neiklot was like? You hadn’t been before, right?”
Lanisen shakes his head, shifting a little in his seat. “Um, it’s… the house is up on a hill, so you can see a good long way. There’s gardens behind, flowers but kitcheny things too, herbs and things. It smells nice. And then on the side of the hill all the way down to the river there’s rows and rows of grapevines.”
Megren asks, “The river from Coghill, is it?”
Lanisen tips his head on one side to think. “Maybe, yeah. Yeah, it must be.”
Megren says, “It sounds nice.”
Lanisen says, “It’s nice. Lady Arael said she’s likin’ it all right.”
Megren says, “Oh, oh good. She seemed like a kind sort of person.”
Lanisen says, “She is. She asked after you, says hello.”
Megren asks, “Yeah? Should I write her?”
Lanisen says, “Hm, she’d prob’ly like that.”
Megren says, “Yeah? All right.”
Lanisen stretches his shoulders and back, grimacing. “I hate carts. I’m gonna be sore tomorrow.”
Megren gets up and reaches for their bowls.. “Here, I’ll let you rest.”
Lanisen gets to his feet to help clear up. “Tohol still needs a bath,” he mourns.
Megren says, “Uh — I’d offer to do that, but I think it’d end in heartbreak all round.”
Lanisen says, “It would.”
Megren asks, “I’ll help if you like?”
Lanisen says, “Nah.” He pushes his mouth to the side. “I might… just brush him down and leave the bathin’ for tomorrow.”
Megren says, “If you’re sure.”
Lanisen says, “Yeah. He ain’t gonna care.”
Megren says, “All right.”
Lanisen stretches again, and yawns. “Hey,” he says. “‘M glad to see you again.”
Megren pushes the stacked dishes off to the side and skirts the table to give him another hug.
Lanisen humms contentedly and tips his head against hers.
Megren says, “I’m glad to see you too.”
Lanisen says, “‘S good to be home.”
Megren says, “Good.”
Lanisen sighs, hanging on a little longer, then lets go and steps back.
Megren says, “Now, take care of Tohol and then straight to bed.”
Lanisen says, “Yes, mum.”
Megren raps him very gently on the forehead with her knuckles.
Lanisen complains, “Owww.”
Megren gives him a blithe smile and collects the dishes.
Lanisen says, “Thanks for supper.”
Megren asks, “Yeah, yeah, of course. I’ll see you tomorrow?”
Lanisen says, “I’ll be around.”
Megren says, “Good.”
Lanisen says, “G’night, Meg.”
Megren says, “Good night, Lan.”
Lanisen grins at this. He runs a hand through his hair and begins for the stairs.