last morning in the woods

In the Great Woods
Southeastern Narnia

Dreygan walks along one of the somewhat clearer paths through the woods. There are several leaves caught in his pelt, particularly across his back and one side. Despite the crisp air, his legs are wet, as if he’s been wading recently.

Lanisen is sitting on the step again, a mug of fragrant coffee cupped in his hands.

Dreygan pauses and sniffs as the scent of the coffee drifts towards him. He tips his head, then walks that way. “What’ve you got this time?”

Lanisen answers, shifting where he sits, “Coffee. I never had it. It smelled good.”

Dreygan wrinkles his muzzle. “Smells strong, is what it does. Noticed it before, but usually from inside.”

Lanisen says, “It doesn’t taste like it smells.”

Dreygan asks, “That mean it tastes bad?”

Lanisen wrinkles up his nose and considers the cup. “Haven’t decided yet.” He takes another sip and shudders slightly. “How’re you?”

Dreygan sniffs again and wrinkles his muzzle again, though the tilt in his head suggests some measure of intrigue. “Finally got piles of leaves, so patrol’s not quite as dull. You?”

Lanisen asks curiously, “Leaves make it less dull?”

Dreygan says, “Of course. ‘s much better when you can roll in some leaves every now and then.” He’s got a bit of a smirk that suggests that might not be the full story. “You should try it sometime.”

Lanisen laughs out loud, not unpleasantly. “Maybe I should,” he agrees.

Dreygan grins. As Lanisen speaks, Dreygan noses at the ground. Apparently satisfied, he drops onto his side. “You’re not much like the other humans I’ve met.”

Lanisen is sitting on the inn steps with a cup of coffee, talking to Dreygan. He squints uncertainly. “Oh.”

Dreygan is lying on his side, bits of leaves (and a few whole ones) clinging to his pelt. “‘s a good thing, don’t worry.”

Lanisen looks more uncertain at this. “Thanks, then, I s’pose?”

A wolf with a faded scar down the length of her side pads through the trees from the west.
Dreygan’s ears perk as he catches the sound of paws. He turns his head and grins, sitting up. “Hey.”

Lanisen sees Dreygan’s reaction before he sees the other wolf. He straightens a little, watching the newcomer with interest.

Caileana gives her fur a shake and offers a toothy smile as she draws closer to the inn. “Good morning,” she greets, glancing over the strange Son of Adam with interest.
Dreygan asks, “Up early today. How’re you?”

Lanisen answers, dipping his head politely, “Mornin’.”

Caileana sits down, fluffing her tail and wrapping it about her. “I’m not used to this much inactivity,” she explains. “I needed a run.” She turns to the Son of Adam, dipping her head in return.

Lanisen looks down at his cup and grins slightly.

Dreygan says, “Oh, well, if you’re that bored, you can have a few of my patrols. How about the long mountain ones with Aliyah? I’ll make that sacrifice for you.”

Caileana snorts, loudly and whacks him with her tail. “Thanks, but no thanks, oh generous one.”

Lanisen asks curiously, “Patrols?”

Dreygan angles his head Lanisen’s way. “Walking around, sniffing at things, then coming back here and saying ‘everything is still fine’. With the occasional ‘there’s some strangers at the inn’ every now and then.”

Lanisen laughs, taking another cautious drink of his coffee. He makes another face. “You’re doin’ that now?”

Caileana says, “It’s a Wolf thing, I suppose, making sure all is well in our territory. Especially in the Waste, where we’re actually on the border.”

Dreygan lets out an exaggeratedly pitiful sigh. “It’s a hard life.” He pauses. “I mean, we’re on the border too. But our invaders drink coffee and ask how your day was rather than rampage.” To Lanisen again: “You could try a bit harder, make it a bit more interesting.”

Lanisen says humbly, “I beg your pardon, I’ll do better next time.”

Caileana snickers. “I’m Caileana, by the way.”

Dreygan nods, mock-solemn, in Lanisen’s direction. “Good.”

Lanisen grins broadly. “Lanisen,” he answers Caileana. “Nice to meet you.”

Caileana says, “Well met.”

Dreygan says, “He’s got some mysterious companions as well, apparently. Haven’t met them yet.”

Lanisen says apologetically, “They exist, I swear.”

Caileana tilts her head.

Dreygan asks, “What do you think, Cail? You believe him?”

Lanisen accuses Dreygan, “You scented ’em, you said!”

Dreygan says, “Clearly faked. Must’ve used some sort of plant from Archenland or something.”

Lanisen clutches his chest. “I am discovered. What is left for me now but to flee.”

Dreygan exclaims, “Look, Cail, I just got you something to chase! Now you can run with a purpose!”

Caileana grins. She climbs to her paws and brushes past Lanisen up the steps to sniff at the inn door. “Dunno, Dreygan, seems awfully faint.” Turning at Dreygan’s words, she looks Lanisen up and down, her muzzle scrunching up dubiously.

Lanisen leans a little to the side to let her pass, but doesn’t seem bothered by her proximity. He returns her scrutiny with his eyebrows lifted.

Caileana steps closer and sniffs the human skeptically, as if this will prove to her whether or not he’s actually worth chasing.

Dreygan misses the entire silent exchange there, grinning when Caileana backs him up.

Caileana looks over at Dreygan for a response, her ears perking, and then she shakes her head at herself. “Seems kinda scrawny, Dreygan,” she announces.

Lanisen ducks his head slightly as she sniffs him, scrunching up his nose good-naturedly. “Hey!” he objects.

Dreygan pffts. “That’s just his cover, like his fake companions.”

Caileana grins at Lanisen, wagging her tail. She goes back and plops down again by Dreygan.

Lanisen clicks his teeth. “Again I am found out,” he announces.

Dreygan sighs and complains in Lanisen’s direction, “Every time I try to do something nice for someone…”

Lanisen laughs.

Caileana flops onto her belly and lifts her muzzle. “Eh, what nice thing?”

Dreygan prods at her with a paw. “Giving you something to do, obviously. But noooo.” He grins as he flumps down as well.

Lanisen says consolingly, “It wouldn’t be a very long chase, anyway, I’m not very fast.”

Caileana says, “I rather thought not. But we can’t /all/ be fast.” She nods sagely.

Dreygan rests his chin on his paws. “Fine, that’s fair enough. There’s me, the fastest, then Cail, then the rest of you.”

Lanisen snickers, glancing at Caileana to see how this is received.

Caileana asks, “You’re just aiming to test that, aren’t you?”

Dreygan is lying next to Caileana, the both of them fairly near the entrance to the Inn and talking with Lanisen. He smirks. “Nah, don’t need to test what I already know.”

Caileana huffs indignantly.

Lanisen is sitting on the inn steps, a mug of coffee in his hands. He takes a drink to hide a grin.

Dreygan shifts his head without lifting it to angle his own grin a bit more towards Caileana in response.

Caileana drops her head onto her paws. “Cheeky.”

Lanisen asks, “How many are in Winterden? Seems I keep meeting more.”

Dreygan responds, “Always.” To Lanisen, he tips his head. “Oh? Who besides Crenna and me?”

Lanisen squints and says, “Well, Caileana.”

Caileana says, “Actually, I’m from Ulfden, up in Lantern Waste.”

Lanisen says, “Oh! I’m sorry, I shouldn’t’ve– oh, you said, earlier, didn’t you, about the Waste, and patrolling. I’m sorry!”

Dreygan’s ears twitch at the level of the apology. “Ah yes, how dare you forget a single word Caileana has said. Truly unacceptable.”

A rabbit with cinammon fur and soft brown eyes hops into the clearing, sniffing the air and pausing. Her ears twice back and forth.

Caileana grins at Lanisen, shoving at Dreygan lazily with a paw. “Nah, don’t worry about it, I’m the one who didn’t make it clear. I’m just here for a visit with Winterden.”

Lanisen lifts one shoulder defensively and starts to answer Dreygan, but his attention is caught by the Rabbit. He bites his lip and grins, and calls, “Mornin’.”

Dreygan rolls more than the push warrants, flopping onto his other side. He lifts his head to sniff just as Lanisen calls out to the Rabbit.

Caileana gives Dreygan an amused look, and then lifts her head to look over at the Rabbit.

Canela says, “Mmm. Good m-morning, human.””

Lanisen scoots to the side a little on the inn’s step so that he is not blocking the way inside, in case that is where the Rabbit is headed. “Beautiful day.”

Dreygan comments to Caileana, “Not a good morning to us, though. Only Lanisen. Guess we’ll have to make do with a ‘mostly alright’ one.”

Caileana mock-pouts.

Lanisen says modestly, “It’s ’cause of my dashing good looks and charm.”

Canela sniffs the air cautiously again, “Mmmm, good m-morning to you as well.” she replies, taking in the two wolves as well.

Dreygan replies to Lanisen, straight-faced, “I see it.”

Lanisen chokes on his coffee.

Caileana lifts her head from her paws to study Lanisen. She says to Dreygan, in a stage-whisper, “I haven’t the faintest idea what Humans constitute as good looks, anyways.” She tells the Rabbit, “Good morning.”

A wolf with piercing eyes and a scar along her shoulder pads quietly through the woods. Her ears perk at the sound of voices, and she turns with her nose in the air heading towards the group. “Hello!” she calls, still a distance away.

Dreygan, at the same volume, replies to Caileana, “Just have to take his word for it then. Base all future judgements on this right here.” He angles his muzzle towards his packmate when she calls out. “Hey, Aliyah.”

Lanisen says sagely, “That’s prob’ly best.” He looks again at the rabbit and starts to say something else to her, but is distracted by the new wolf.

Caileana pricks her ears and looks off and over at Aliyah, nodding to her.

Canela scampers to the safety and security of nearby trees at the approch of another wolf.

Aliyah nods to them all and sits near enough to Dreygan to bonk him with a paw… only if needed. “How are all of you?”

Lanisen’s attention is drawn back to the Rabbit. His forehead furrows slightly and he looks a question at Caileana.

Caileana tells Lanisen, “Natural order of things. The prey types are a little leery of the predator types.” She sniffs. “Not that I would /ever/ eat a Talking Creature.” She grins, showing off her sharp teeth. To Aliyah she says, “Well, thanks.”

Dreygan continues to laze about comfortably. “‘S true. And fine, Aliyah. Just interrogating this suspicious invader from the south.”

Lanisen looks a little taken aback by this, confused and oddly disappointed. He looks back at the Rabbit, and after a small hesitation scoots to the side again and gestures at the step next to him in invitation.

Aliyah has to stop herself from snorting at Dreygan’s comment. All the same, her body jolts a little with silent laughter. “Always fun to interrogate those who dare to enter the territory of… Winderden.”

Caileana says, “Your suspicious sort seems like a great big softy to me, Drey.”
Caileana watches Lanisen gesturing at the Rabbit.

Dreygan says, “But I thought humans didn’t have much fur.””
Dreygan says, “So it must be an act.”

Aliyah tilts her head in Caileana’s direction. “He is awfully fluffy,” she says, as she reaches out and pats Dreygan. “I thought he might make a nice rug, but he refuses to remain at the den entrance. Then I tried to use him as a pillow. He moves too much.” She sighs dramatically.

Canela straightens, sniffing the air, tentatively hoping forward.

Lanisen shifts his attention back to the wolves, leaving the rabbit free to accept or decline his invitation as she chooses with no pressure. “Sorry?” he asks, picking up the thread somewhere in the middle of Dreygan’s commentary on human fur.

Caileana tells Aliyah, “Mm, yes, too squirmy.”

Dreygan lazily bats at Aliyah’s paw, sits up and stretches. “And that’s my cue to leave before she decides to try again.”

Aliyah smirks. “How about… The day I beat you in a spar, I get to try again, hmmm? We both know how much you like winning. That should be motive enough.”

Canela sniffs and hops forward again, taking advantage of the wolves distraction to steal closer to the human son of adam, but still far enough away to flee if she feels threatened.

Caileana curls up and licks at the strange patch of fur on her shoulder, settling the way her it lays against her coat. Her ears are pricked to the conversation but she seems to be pointedly ignoring the Rabbit’s approach.

Dreygan gives the sort of grin that’s a bit too sharp and not really at all what might help Canela, though fortunately it’s more in Aliyah’s direction. “So never, is what you mean. Sounds good.” He hits both the other Wolves lightly with his tail as he starts off. “Don’t pine away from missing me.”

Lanisen says, “Mornin’, Dreygan.”

Aliyah thumps the ground with her tail. “All the more reason to work harder,” she whispers at his retreating back. She then turns and flops onto her stomach, peeking out at the rabbit from the corner of one eye.

Caileana says, “I’ll do my best.”

Canela stops at the wolf’s movement, twitching ear back and forth.

Lanisen glances at the rabbit from the corner of his eye. “Hi,” he says once Dreygan is out of sight, his tone easy and friendly. “My name’s Lanisen.”

Canela lifts her ears attentively, standing on her hind legs. “H-hello.”

Lanisen asks, “What’s your name?”

Caileana uncurls just slightly, still making herself rather small where she lays.

Canela says, “Canela.” She tentitively makes cautiously makes her over to the human.

Lanisen says, “‘S nice to meet you, Canela.”

Aliyah sniffs the air, her head not moving from her paws. She speaks softly to the rabbit. “I believe we met before… When Queen Lucy was present?”

Lanisen draws up his knees a little and tucks in his elbows as Canela approaches, politely not watching her directly.

Canela turns her ears towards the wolf. “Mmm, yes. That’s possible.”

Caileana offers, quietly, “I’m Caileana.”

Aliyah nods. “Near the castle, I believe.” She falls silent, drifting into thought.

Canela says, “Yes. I believe so. Rosewood was there and the faun.” She hops forward and sniffs at Lanisen’s shirt. “Mmm. Are you new here, son of adam?”

Caileana rolls to her paws, slowly enough as to not startle the Rabbit. “I should be off on the hunt for my breakfast. A pleasure to meet you, Lanisen.”

Lanisen keeps still as she does this. He probably smells of horses, mountain air, Hergel’s cooking, and very faintly of dog. “Just visitin’, with a couple friends.” He straightens as Caileana gets to her feet. “You too,” he answers. “Good luck huntin’.”

Caileana dips her head, to Lanisen and the others, and pads off into the trees.

Canela says, “Mmm, good day, Caileana,” she says, standing on her back feet.

Aliyah watches the interaction between the rabbit and human closely… appearing to be intrigued.

Lanisen looks back at the other wolf with interest, but remembers himself and lowers his eyes before he accidentally communicates a challenge. “I didn’t catch your name, I don’t think, miss.”

Aliyah allows the briefest of smiles to flicker across her muzzle at the change of his gaze. “My apologies. I am Aliyah.”

Lanisen answers, “Lanisen. Nice to meet you.” He glances after Dreygan and Caileana. “Are you with Winterden too?”

Aliyah nods. “I am.” She starts to say something more but thinks better of it, clamping her mouth shut.

Lanisen says, “It must be pretty close, then, where you all live. Seems there’s always wolves about here.”

Aliyah jerks her head west, in the direction of the den. “It’s not incredibly far. It’s nicely hidden as well. I love the quiet environment here. I used to live in Lantern Waste, and there was always something or someone chattering. This has been quiet the change.”

Lanisen says, “I’ve heard it’s busier there.”

Aliyah exclaims, “And dangerous! The rocks try to trip you constantly.” She laughs.

Lanisen blinks. “Are they– they’re not alive, are they? The rocks?”

Aliyah tries to keep a straight face but fails. “We are still trying to figure that out.”

Lanisen lets out a gusty breath of relief.

Aliyah says, “Perhaps like much of this place, they are magical in some way.”

Lanisen hmms softly.

Aliyah tilts her head. “You are not from around here, are you?”

Lanisen cracks a smile. “What gave it away?”

Aliyah grins. “For starters, most know where the wolf pack lives… or thereabout. What has brought you here?”

Lanisen says, “Visitin’ with some friends. Been wantin’ to since the battle.”

Aliyah’s ears perk. “Ah, you were there as well. There are many I would like to see again too, but the matter of when I will be allowed to return to Archenland is another story.”

Canela settles down beside Lanisen. “Hmm. Yes. the battle. We heard about it, quite frightful. And if those Calormenes should have reached Narnia.” She thumps one of her feet.

Lanisen asks, straightening a little, “You were there?”

Aliyah smiles in Canela’s direction. “So true,” she says, her gaze flicking to her left shoulder and back to Lanisen. “Indeed. I’ve the scar to prove it as well. For much of it, I fought alongside one of the leopards.”

Lanisen’s eyes shift to her shoulder and his mouth opens slightly. He seems to not know what to say for a moment. “Thank you,” he says finally. “Thank you for, for comin’, we were… Thank you so much, I’m, I’m sorry you were hurt.”

Aliyah nods. “It was no problem… I will admit I went for the wrong reasons initially.” She frowns at this. “But those were corrected over time… Once I saw what we were all fighting for and fighting against.” She gestures to the scar. “That is nothing. It could have been worse and would have been had Lady Avery not introduced me to a healer.”

Lanisen takes a deep breath and nods.

Canela sniffs and twitches the her ears back and forth.

Aliyah stretches, rising slowly. “I better be off. I need to take over patrol duty for a bit. Canela, nice to see you again.” She offers a smile in the rabbit’s direction. “And nice to meet you, Lanisen… If you happen to be looking for anyone specific and need help, let me know.”

Lanisen nods quickly. “I will, thank you. Nice to meet you.”

Canela says, “Mm yes. Good to see you again. Pardon me, I had forgotten our last meeting.”

Aliyah shrugs. “Oh no worries at all!” She turns and lopes away at a brisk pace, tail waving slowly behind her. “Have a nice day.”

Canela hops off into the grass to nibble some, after the wloves leave. “I haven’t met many humans. But mm, you seem very nice.”

Lanisen blows out a breath, looking down at the rabbit by his side. “Thank you,” he answers, grinning. “You seem nice too.” He pauses, watching her with a small frown, and seems about to say something else.

Canela asks, “Come from a long way, yes?”

Lanisen says, “Just Anvard. It’s not so far.”

Canela bobs her head.

Lanisen asks, “Can I ask?”

Canela stands up, on her back feet so she can see Lanisen better. “Hmm? ask what?”

Lanisen says, “You seemed– Is everything all right? You seemed nervous just now. Are you all right?”

Canela says, “Mm. Yes. I am quite well.” She drops to her feet again. “Mmm, are you?” ”

Lanisen pushes his mouth to the side, but says, “Yeah, thank you.” He is sitting in the late morning on the front step of the inn, a tepid barely-drunk cup of coffee next to him.

Crenna comes padding through the trees, nose scenting and ears flicking back and forth. Upon hearing voices, she turns to look at the source. She smiles as she changes courses towards the others, “Good day Lanisen! How do you fair?”

Lanisen straightens at the voice and grins, though he glances at Canela briefly. “Hey, Crenna.”

Canela’s nose wiggles, as Lanisen replies. However at the approach of another wolf, she scampers back into the step besides Lanisen.

Canela looks at the wolf, curious but cautious.

Crenna dips her head to the Rabbit, “Hello there, I don’t think we have met. I am Crenna, healer of Winterden.” She remains close enough to talk comfortably but gives the others their space.

Lanisen shifts a little and glances at Canela.

Canela says, “No. No. I d-don’t suppose so. C-canela.”

Crenna smiles again, “Nice to meet you, Canela. Are you too visiting or do you reside in the woods?”

Lanisen considers his coffee and tries another sip.

Canela says, “Mm.. yes. I live upstream.”

Crenna sits down, “Oh, some times my patrol routes go by there. It is a lovely area.”

Canela says, “Mmm yes.” She still looks cautious, however.

Lanisen asks, “How’re you, Crenna?”

Crenna dips her head, “I am well. It is a beautiful day out and I like to stroll the forest. Even though I have lived here almost two winters, I find new places every day it seems.” She smiles at Canela, “And meet new faces too!”

Lanisen asks, “Where did you live before that?”

Crenna’s ear flattens a bit as she says, “I come from the wilds of the North. A very dangerous place and I shall never go back. Narnia is my home now. It did take me a few months to journey down here into these woods but I ended up here in Winterden with a pack that accepted me.” Her tail wags a bit.

Lanisen shifts. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to ask somethin’ unpleasant.”

Crenna shakes her head, “Oh no, I don’t mind talking about it at all. It is part of what makes me the Wolf I am today.”

Lanisen says, “Even so.”

Canela shudders. “I have heard terrible things live there. Didn’t King Peter go north to fight the giants?”

Crenna nods her head, “Yes, he did. I heard that they were victorious and he is back now. Or on his way back, I am uncertain.” She chuckles, “You sometimes never know if what you hear is fact or rumor.”

Lanisen glances between them, listening with interest.

Canela says, “Indeed, indeed.”
Canela says, “Pardon my skittishness. I came upon this human and two wolves today soon joined by a third. I forget sometimes of the free Narnia we have now.”

Lanisen glances at Crenna, confused.

Crenna looks at Lanisen to explain, “A few years back, before I arrived to Narnia, the border up north in Lantern Waste had a series of attacks by giants. Some of my friends were actually harmed though no one was killed, Thank the Lion. So to my understanding, King Peter formed an army and went to the border to fight them and push them back. It has been a longish campaign but they are home now.” She turns to Canela, “It is quite alright. I know that some Wolves can be intimidating. But I assure you that we are friendly here and would never raise a paw against a fellow Narnian or Visitor.”

Lanisen says, “I heard a little about that, yeah.”

Canela says, “The Lion has blessed us greatly with their majesties.”

Crenna nods her head, “Indeed. Their Majesties are wise but also kind. Queen Lucy herself introduce herself to me even though I looked a quite fright.” She chuckles, “I was along the beach and all sandy and her majesty just came up and spoke with me.”

Lanisen loops his arms comfortably around his knees to listen.

Crenna also gets settled to tell the rest of the story, “Let’s see, it was awhile back. I think I was still just an apprentice healer. Our pack goes across the river to hunt for food and I was taking a break on the beach. I love just watching the water and listening to it crash along the shore. I had decides to run along the beach.” She chuckles, “I don’t know how much you two ever run along the beach but it makes a mess. So here I was, sandy and panting from running. And the Queen was there! Oh my, I am pretty sure she could see my ears turn pink.”

Canela says, “That must have been quite something”

Crenna nods her head, “Oh but she was so gracious and kind. Even invited me to the Castle to learn from the healers there if I so choose!”

Lanisen looks interested. “Did you go?”

Crenna shakes her head, “Sadly, I have not gone yet.” She hehs, “I would be so afraid to go.” She admits.

Lanisen asks, “Why’s that?”

Crenna looks at the man, “Well, it is the royal castle.” She dips an ear, “I wouldn’t want to intrude.”

Lanisen is still sitting on the step, his coffee gone stone cold by now. He mms and makes a sympathetic face.

Canela says, “Mmm. yes. Hmm. But she invited you?”

Crenna nods her head, “At least, told me that I could come and learn if I wanted.”

Dreygan sniffs his way back towards the inn from the west. His ears perk when he hears Crenna’s voice.

Canela says, “It sounds like quite an opportunity. I, myself, have never met Her majesty.”

Crenna nods her head. Her nose twitches and she turns to look at where Dreygan has appeared, “Hello Dreygan!”She calls out.

Canela says, “Mm, but I must continue my foraging, or I shall have nothing to eat today. It was good to meet you son of Adam. And you Crenna.”

Lanisen says, “You too, Canela.”

Crenna turns her head back to Canela. “It was very nice to meet you. If you ever need anything, please, let me know.”

Dreygan pads closer and sits next to Crenna, bumping into her lightly. “Hey, White Paw.” His ears angle towards the Rabbit and he snorts, very softly, at Crenna’s words.

Canela says, “Yes. Yes, thank you.””

Crenna bumps Dreygan back, “Hello Scarface.” She says jovially before yawning and looking at Lanisen, “So, are your friends settling okay?”

Lanisen says, “They are, yeah, thanks. They oughta be startin’ to move around here pretty soon,” he adds, glancing at the angle of the sun.

Dreygan gives an exaggeratedly skeptical ‘hmm’. “And what sort should we be expecting to meet?”

Lanisen says, “Well, the one’s got two heads and the other’s part snail.”

Crenna perks up, “Oh, well hopefully we can meet them.” She rolls her eyes at Dreygan and then bursts out laughing at Lanisen’s comment, “Both would be equally better than Dreygan.” She smirks.

Dreygan snorts. “Please. I could talk the two-headed one in better circles then they could manage on their own, and the snail one couldn’t keep up either. Just be a slow bunch all around, if Lanisen’s to be believed.”

Lanisen is sitting on the front steps of the inn, a cold cup of coffee on the step next to him, chatting with Dreygan and Crenna.

Crenna snorts, “Ain’t that the truth. Dreygan, you could talk to a stone and make it run away with your nonsense.” She sits comfortably in front of Lanisen but isn’t crowding him.

Dreygan dips his head modestly. “It’s a gift.” Pause. “To the rest of you, of course. Just natural talent on my end.”

Lanisen snickers.

Crenna smirks, “Can I return the gift?”

Dreygan says, “‘Course not.” He flops to the ground. “That’d be rude, and I’m already the rude one.”

The door to the inn opens to reveal another pair of humans, a man and a woman. The man, slightly more well-dressed than the others, blinks as he crosses the threshold and sees the small crowd of Talking Beasts gathered around Lanisen.

Crenna is about to respond to Dreygan but her ears catch the sound of a door. She looks to see the two in the door way and she dips her head, “Greetings! You must be Lanisen’s friends.”

Lanisen glances behind him and quickly gets to his feet, accidentally knocking the rest of his coffee over. He retrieves the empty cup, not looking too bothered, and bows to Darrin.

Dreygan’s ears angle towards the door and he sits up. “So which of them has two heads?” He asks after sniffing at the air.

Megren tries to step out of Lanisen and his coffee’s way and looks between the Wolves. “You’d have to ask him for confirmation on that,” she responds to the she-Wolf, grinning.

Darrin nods to Lanisen. “Good morning, Lanisen,” he says cheerfully. “And to the rest of you, as well.”

Lanisen says, “Mornin’, sir. Um, this is Dreygan and Crenna, they’re both from Winterden.” Turning to the wolves, he says, “These are my friends Sir Darrin and Megren. Meg’s Sir Darrin’s squire. And look, they’re real.”

Crenna ohs and gets up to dip her head, “Good to meet you, Sir Darrin and Megren. I am Crenna, healer of Wintered and this is my cousin, Dreygan of Winterden.”

Megren lifts her brows. “I never thought of a Wolf healer. Are there many like you?”

Dreygan continues to lie on the ground in casual contrast to the other two. When the Daughter of Eve speaks, he swivels an ear towards her. “Are you Darrin or Megren?”

Megren looks delighted by the question and replies, “I’ll answer to either.”

Dreygan grins. “In that case, you’ll be Sir.”

Crenna chuckles and responds to the Daughter of Eve, “I have not met another Wolf healer so I am uncertain of our number.”

Lanisen pffs and his shoulders shake with undisguised glee.

Darrin covers his mouth with a hand to muffle his laughter.

Megren clasps her hands behind her back and looks at Sir Darrin. “This knighthood thing is much easier in Narnia.”

Darrin says, “Apparently!”

Dreygan crosses his paws in front of himself. “Glad to help.”

Megren asks, “What do you do in Winterden, Dreygan? Crenna is a healer, I suppose you are the den chandler?”

Crenna bursts out laughing at that as she settles down to let the others banter.

Lanisen glances at Dreygan, grinning. He stays standing while Darrin and Meg stand.

Dreygan says, “Oh, better. I’m the den’s sculptor. Studied with the Dwarves for a few years, do lots of fine detail work.””

Darrin leans against the post next to the stairs. “Impressive,” he says, voice dry.

Megren says, “We shall have to see some of your work.”

Dreygan replies to Darrin, “I really am. Ever tried holding a chisel with paws? It doesn’t go well.” To Megren: “Oh, you’ve walked past a few already.”

Megren puts her hands on her hips and turns a circle.

Crenna snickers, “Please ignore everything my cousin says.” She gets up, shaking out her fur, “Well, it was very nice to meet you both. If you ever need anything, we at Winterden will be most happy to help. Please excuse me, but I must go on patrol.” The smaller wolf says her goodbyes before departing.

Lanisen says, “Mornin’, Crenna.”

Dreygan lifts his head, indignant. “How dare you! I carve a very realistic boulder, and quickly too!” He pauses. “…Ah well.”

Megren’s eyes land on the nearest boulder. “Ah! Very believable.”

Darrin bids Crenna a good morning as she goes. “Boulders, eh?” He asks Dreygan.

Dreygan nods. “Of course. They’re rocks, what else are they supposed to be?”

Lanisen shifts his weight and folds his hands behind his back.

Darrin smirks.

Dreygan flicks his ear when he gets no response to that. “I’m going to assume you’re all shocked silent by my skill. Thank you. But to answer your question, Sir, I also guard the den and patrol. Crenna does, too, though. Pretty much all the pack pitches in there.”

Lanisen asks, “Did the rest of your patrol go well?”

Darrin asks, “So, you all work as guards, then, in some ways?”

Dreygan lifts a shoulder, rather dismissive to Lanisen’s question. “Didn’t have much farther to go, but yes.” Angling his head towards Darrin, he nods. “Sure. At the den, if you can’t manage the borders, but most can do either.”

Megren asks, “What does that consist of? Do a lot of people visit the den?”

Dreygan says, “A few. Most keep a bit of a distance, since there’s usually someone asleep there. Nicer grass to sit on down here, anyway. Mostly just means waiting around for others to check in from hunting and patrols and whatever else they’ve done through the day.”

Megren asks, “Oh, more like being prepared if a report comes in, then?”

Dreygan says, “Or give a howl if something did crop up, yes.”

Lanisen asks, “What sorts of things do you watch for?”

Megren glances at Sir Darrin. “Sounds like wall duty.”

Dreygan stretches his paws out in front of himself, far as they can go. “Patches of mud to cover with leaves and trick unsuspecting packmates into, things crossing up from down south, things from across the marsh, pretty sure Drune mostly watches the waves… should ask him, though, because he’s much more certain there’s something to see.” Flicking an ear towards Megren, he comments, “Sounds like a grand old time.”

Darrin hums, nodding to Megren.

Megren says, “Tricking packmates into mud, that /definitely/ sounds like the guard.”

Dreygan says, “Oh? Do tell.”

Darrin says, “Yes, Megren, do tell.”

Megren crosses her arms to regard the knight. “Am I the only one to wake with a pillowful of leaves, then?”

Lanisen raises his eyebrows, rubbing his elbow.

Darrin says, “More like a miniature forest in the hall.”

Lanisen coughs and rubs a hand over his mouth guiltily.

Megren’s lips curve smugly.

Dreygan smirks. “What, not enough forest back home? We’ve had a few beds of fish. Leaves wouldn’t be much of a change.”

Megren says, “Bells on our shoes and the like, too… most of them seem to involve clothes or bedding, which might make for poor pranks in a den, I suppose.”

Darrin lifts both eyebrows in surprise at the cough and gives Lanisen a betrayed look, clutching at his chest.

Lanisen lifts his eyes innocently to the sky.

Dreygan lifts a shoulder again. “Just gotta know what days to volunteer for night watch.”

Darrin says mournfully, “Devious, the lot of you.”

Lanisen asks Megren, “What’s he talkin’ about?”

Megren says, “Sure I don’t know.”

Lanisen says, “Weird.”

Dreygan grins at the exchange.

Darrin gives a long-suffering sigh.

Megren says, “I heard there was an ocean cliff somewhere.” She glances between her two companions, “I’d like to see it before we leave.”

Lanisen says, “Oh, Crenna showed me where it is.”

Megren looks at Dreygan. “Are there any other secret wonderful places we ought to know?”

Dreygan pushes himself to sit up. “Everywhere’s half-secret here, until you get used to it. Few more places across the river.”

Megren asks, “Hmm, which is the best, then?”

Dreygan says, “Depends who you ask. Drune’d say the cliff you’re talking about. Kari’d probably think the clearing, just past the human village. The beach is the best, but not secret.””

Darrin says, “I vote we visit the beach, too.”

Megren asks, “Where’s the village?”

Lanisen asks, “Who’s Kari?”

Dreygan switches his attention from one to the next as they speak. “If you’re crossing the river, you’d have to have to miss the beach on purpose to avoid it. Northern one is better, though. The village… never caught its name. ‘s between Sted Cair and the marshes. And Kari’s a Pup who thinks she’s a wolf, but don’t let her howl near you or you’ll be half-deaf for the rest of the day.

Megren rubs her lips with interest.

Lanisen glances at Megren and Darrin, raising his eyebrows.

Darrin grins with delight. “We are duly warned.”

Megren asks, “How far is the river from here? You don’t mean the creek, out by the twisted tree?”

Dreygan snorts. “That little thing? Hardly. I mean the Great River, good few miles north. Sted Cair’s across it. Not a hard day’s travel, but enough that you don’t generally want to make it twice.”

Megren glances at the others again.

Darrin nods his affirmation.

Megren asks, “Are we still leaving today?”

Lanisen stays quiet, watching his companions to see what they want to do.

Dreygan tips his head. “Might want to get to the cliff if you’re going to do that, then. Hear it’s nice in the mornings.”

Megren grins. “Yeah??” She looks at Sir Darrin as if for permission.

Darrin says, “Probably best.” He looks at Megren and grins. “With stops for some sightseeing, it sounds like.”

Dreygan says, “Can’t say sightseeing is my sort of pastime, so I’ll leave you to it.” He shakes himself, fluffing up his fur. “I’ll come check later today, though, and make sure you haven’t all gotten lost. Have fun.”

Megren grins again. “We’ll be sure to check in on you on our way back.”

Darrin says, “That’s kind of you, Dreygan.”

Lanisen pulls his lips between his teeth, quietly excited. He glances at the inn.

Megren asks, “Meet back in the stables in a quarter hour?”

Dreygan smirks. “Yes. Kind. That’s definitely what it is. Wouldn’t laugh about it at all.” He lowers his head, sniffs around to orient himself, then starts walking west. “Enjoy.”

Lanisen says, “Quarter hour, all right.”

Darrin nods. “I’ll go and settle up with the innkeeper.”

Megren wrinkles up her nose. “Thanks, Sir.”

Darrin flaps a hand dismissively and turns to head back inside.

Megren moves to do the same.

Lanisen hesitates, his eyes darting between them. “I’ve, I’ve got coin,” he says, jogging a couple steps to catch up. “I’ll meet you.”

Megren makes a face at Lanisen to indicate this is a fruitless path.

Lanisen ignores it.

Eventually, Darrin reemerges from the inn, his satchel thrown over a shoulder.

Lanisen has beaten him to the innkeeper and paid for his part. He’s waiting in the tavern, eating a scone.

Megren has caught on to Lanisen’s plan and followed his lead.

Darrin looks mildly disgruntled, his nose scrunched.

Lanisen offers him a scone.

Megren swings her feet carelessly.

Darrin takes it and sticks out his tongue.

Lanisen hoists his satchel over his shoulder and starts for the stable.

Megren scoots off her stool and swings by the knight to bump his shoulder genially.

Darrin follows. “Mutiny in the ranks,” he grumbles good-naturedly under his breath.

Lanisen turns back to grin cheekily. He pushes the door open and stands aside to let them go first.

Megren grins as well, bumping him again and then running ahead.

Darrin follows Megren to the tack room, pausing to rub Dawn’s nose when she sticks it out into the aisle and whickers.


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