pick a hill

Castle Anvard

Lanisen is alone in the kennels, except for maybe fifteen hounds. They are mostly the graceful, long-legged, wispy-furred sort used to course after deer, with a few exceptions.

Nathen strides in, a lumpy sack in his arms.
Nathen slows his pace as he eyes each dog he passes speculatively.

Lanisen sits at the table, working over what looks like a report of some sort. He gets quickly to his feet when Nathen barges in. “Master Nathen,” he says neutrally.

Nathen glances at Lanisen and gives him a brief thin smile before turning back to a female dog. “How are you, Gani? I require your services.”

Lanisen glances briefly out the window. “What can I do for you, sir?”

Nathen says, “I’d like you to show me one of your spare dogs.””

Lanisen squints one eye, confused. “You’re– you need a dog?”

Nathen makes an affirmative sort of grunt. “Mmmm. Well it’s more in the service of the king really. Haft suggested we should avoid using Pire, Sorrel or any of knight’s hounds.” He pauses and looks up in thought. “Probably should discount any of his majesties beasts as well.”

Lanisen says, “Er–?”

Nathen returns his speculative gaze at the older female dog. “How about her? You’re Nia aren’t you my dear?” He asks the hound pleasantly.

Lanisen moves to stand beside the old hound. “What is it you’re needin’, sir?” he asks politely. “Could be I can help you figure out who’d serve for you best.”

Nathen looks up at Lanisen. “I want to mix a sample of each of these grocery items with their food. To test if it’s been poisoned.”

Lanisen pulls his chin back in surprise. He doesn’t seem to know what to say to this.

Nathen looks back down at Nia and nods. “Yes. I think you would do nicely my dear. Who is her owner?” he asks Lanisen.

Lanisen’s forehead furrows, incredulous and indignant, and he shakes his head firmly. “No. No. That’s not– no, it’s out of the question.”

Nathen furrows his brow as well. “Why ever not?”

Lanisen spreads his hands. “If you think somethin’s gone foul, throw it out! You needn’t bring the dogs into it.”

Nathen asks, “You want me to waste the kings money on the minescule chance that it’s been poisoned? Be reasonable.” He stands and looks around for a bowl.

Lanisen asks, “Why do you think somethin’s been poisoned?”

Nathen finds a bowl and takes it over to the table and sets his sack next to it. “Actually I didn’t. But Haft made a good case that it might have been.”

Lanisen follows him over and retrieves the bowl without a word, carrying it back to its place on the shelf.

Nathen places his hands to the small of his back. “I take it you object to my testing the food? Or just on the dogs?”

Lanisen says, crossing his arms, “Test it, if you like. Just not on my dogs.”

Nathen eyes Lanisen coolly. “I see. Perhaps on the horses? One of the maids? I’m open to other suggestions, however time is of the essence as Ren needs these ingredients soon.”

Lanisen sets his jaw and doesn’t budge.

Nathen steps toward Lanisen till he looms over him. “If I insist?” he asks in an arctic tone.

Lanisen tenses and swallows, breaking eye contact and turning his face slightly to the side, but he holds his ground.

Nathen lowers his voice but cracks it like a whip at Lanisen. “Well? You going to stop me and risk all for a mere dog?”

Lanisen flinches slightly. He swallows again, watching Nathen indirectly, then takes a deep breath. “I don’t answer to you, sir.”

Nathen twiches his lips and scowls like a storm cloud. “No you do not. But neither do I answer to you.” Turing briskly around, he digs out a pouch of sugar from the sack and moves toward Nia to offer it to her.

Lanisen takes a moment to react. “Leave it, Nia,” he calls out sharply. “To me, to me, come on, over here. To me, Tohol, Vira. Maisie, Kite, Gem, to me, over here.” He names each hound, and soon they are milling in a large, tail-wagging mass around his knees.

Nathen rises slowly to his full height spearing Lanisen with his glittering eyes. “So. You intend to stop me? Even risk you self for this gaggle of mutts?” He then steps toward the tail-wagging gaggle, the pouch of sugar held out.

Lanisen says, stepping to put himself between Nathen and the hounds, “You’ve no right, you’ve /no/ right to ask what you’re askin’, what’re you– what’s your business with food that’s maybe poisoned anyway?”

Nathen smiles briefly, a ghost of a smile that flickers to life then is gone. His hawklike gaze softens and even turns gentle. “Good for you lad. Good for you.” He reaches out to pat Lanisen on the shoulder. “Now if you’ll only stand up for yourself as you did them.”

Lanisen reacts instantly, striking Nathen’s hand away and taking a quick step back.

Nathen sniffs and composes himself back to his old self, then turns and gathers up his sack, dropping the pouch of sugar back into it. “You really should muck this place out more often. The vile stench is quite overwhelming,” he comments as he strides for the door.

Lanisen stays where he is in front of his hounds, tense and breathing quickly. He watches Nathen warily.

Nathen strides out of the kennels, one hand to the small of his back and the sack in the other arm. “I think I’ll go see if the seagulls are hungry. Good night.”

Lanisen sinks down to his knees where he is, reaching shakily for Nia.


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