In the Great Woods
West of Beruna
It’s warm out for autumn, sunshine dappling on the red and gold leaves of the trees, and only the brisk quality of the breeze to herald the upcoming frosts. Darrin holds his reins in one lax hand and lets Dawn pick her way along the path at a leisurely place.
Lanisen follows behind on Maestro, quiet and contented and a little tired. He’s picked up a perfectly shaped red leaf somewhere and is twirling it by the stem between his fingers.
Megren pulls up the rear on foot, leading Swiftly by a rope with a clip so that she can hook it onto Maestro’s saddle and duck off the path to explore when she pleases.
Darrin watches the path ahead of them and the scenery going by, but he glances back periodically at his companions.
Lanisen accepts Swiftly’s lead with good grace every time she charges off on adventures, but mostly stays put, though he drops down to walk a little every half-hour or so.
Megren comes sweeping up on one such occasion to cut off Sir Darrin on the path and point to the direction from which she came, lifting her other finger to her lips and waving that they should all go that way.
Darrin tilts his head and gives Megren a mystified look. He motions at Dawn in a gesture that’s probably meant to ask if he should dismount before following her, in deference to her shushing motion.
Darrin slides one leg over and slips down from his saddle, attaching a lead to Dawn’s bridle so he can tie her to a nearby tree. He glances over his shoulder at Lanisen.
Lanisen watches with a small interested frown and leads Maestro to do the same.
Megren waits impatiently for them.
Darrin moves to follow her once Dawn is secured.
Lanisen follows behind.
Megren motions that they should follow her footsteps as exactly as they may in order to minimize sound.
Darrin obeys wordlessly, making an effort to move as quietly as possible.
Lanisen watches the ground in order to try to keep from crunching leaves.
Megren suddenly holds up her hand for them to stop, and indicates a small clearing in front of them. There are three great stags there, relaxing nonchalantly.
Darrin draws to a stop and catches his breath, his mouth open.
Lanisen’s eyes widen. He goes perfectly still and glances quickly at Megren.
Megren grins hugely at their expressions.
Darrin looks over at her and grins back.
Lanisen swallows a couple of times and begins to move back the way they came.
Megren crouches, sitting on her own heels so that she doesn’t have to move her feet or take up more space on the ground, and watches the deer for some time, until one of them gets up to start to browse and the others begin to wander off.
Darrin stands very still while he watches, then turns to leave when Megren and Lanisen do.
Megren looks up at the sky when they reach the horses. “We should probably find a place to make camp in the next hour?”
Lanisen is the first back to the horses, glad to put some distance between them and the stags.
Darrin pats Dawn’s neck as he unties her from the tree. “Yeah, you’re probably right.”
Megren takes Swiftly’s lead from Lanisen. “Lanisen? Do you need us to go longer and try to find a barn or inn?”
Lanisen shakes his head.
Darrin looks between them.
Megren nods and looks at Sir Darrin. “Keep your eye out for a good creek then?”
Lanisen gets himself settled in Maestro’s saddle again, scritching the gelding’s shoulder companionably.
Darrin offers her a nod and a grin, swinging back into the saddle.
Megren walks ahead a while longer, a little more purpose in her wanderings this time, and eventually she comes back to gesture for them to follow her to a good camp site.
Lanisen dismounts to lead Maestro, looking ahead curiously.
Darrin does the same. “Find a stream?” he calls, following Megren.
Megren calls over her shoulder, “Come see!” She leads them to flat place that breaks off to a very small silty cliff and a pool fed by a thin creek. A cluster of shuddery aspens have shed half their yellow leaves on the south side, and tall brown oaks rise up to shelter the rest of the area so that it is relatively still. The ground is hard, but the shifting layers of leaves soften it a little.
Lanisen breathes out, “Ohhh,” as they come into view. He gives Megren a baffled look. “How’d you know where to go?”
Megren says, “I thought I saw aspen.”
Lanisen asks, “Aspen means water?”
Megren says, “It’s not always right next to it, that was lucky.”
Darrin shakes his head, looking around. “Remind me why I’ve ever traveled anywhere without you.”
Lanisen squints at the trees. “Which one’s aspen?”
Megren points to a set of white-trunked trees with small, trembling yellow leaves of a spade shape. “Aspen.”
Lanisen tilts his head to regard the trees indicated, and then just in case, says, “Hello.”
Darrin follows her gesture to the aspens, watching the leaves rustle in their distinctive way in the breeze.
Megren grins. “They always do that,” she says, referring to the quivering leaves. “But they might be listening too.”
Lanisen lifts his shoulders.
Megren walks over toward a pair of chestnut trees. “I think the horses under the aspens and us here, with the fire out,” she moves a few steps away from the trees, “about here so it won’t catch anything else.”
Darrin loosens his grip on the lead so Dawn can nose about at the ground. He nods to Megren.
Lanisen watches attentively and nods, drawing Maestro and Swiftly toward the aspens.
Megren lets Lanisen take care of Swiftly so that she can get started on the fire.
Darrin follows Lanisen and sets about untacking and hobbling Dawn.
Lanisen does the same while Maestro and Swiftly whuffle and browse interestedly at the fallen leaves and vegetation underneath.
Megren goes about gathering wood and digging a pit and putting up a wind barrier in case it should pick up, and all the other small tasks of setting camp.
Darrin brings his bedroll and pack over by the firepit when the horses are taken care of.
Megren points to the place she’s cleared near the wind barrier. “There’s for sleeping.”
Lanisen finishes up with Maestro and Swiftly and follows, going back for Meg’s things once he has dropped his own.
Darrin changes directions at the last second, with a tiny about-face, dropping his things by the wind barrier instead.
Megren grins, and crouches again to finish working on the fire.
Lanisen veers to the side to not run into him.
Darrin clears his throat and shoots Lanisen a half-apologetic grin.
Megren asks of whoever may be attending her, “Get some water for heating?”
Lanisen kneels to rummage for a pot.
Darrin sees Lanisen rummaging and wanders to Megren’s side. “What can I do?”
Megren pats the ground beside her to indicate he should sit there.
Lanisen finds the pot and goes for the water.
Darrin plops onto the ground where indicated.
Megren hands him a stick with which he may poke at the fire.
Lanisen returns, walking carefully to avoid sloshing.
Darrin crinkles his nose at her and then shrugs and pokes away happily.
Megren has set up some damp and hardy sticks from which to hang the pail by the time Lanisen has returned.
Lanisen hands it over to let her do her thing.
Darrin pokes the fire so it’s burning evenly enough to create a nice layer of coals for cooking over.
Megren gets the water heated and everyone a cup of tea before she fetches more water to set a relatively simple soup cooking with the food the castle has provided them. She passes out the bread while they wait.
Lanisen flops down next to the fire and eats his bread a little at a time. He looks back at the aspen grove, interested by the motion of its leaves.
Darrin takes his portion of bread and thanks Megren.
Megren releases a contented breath, looking rather at home.
Lanisen tugs his bedroll closer to himself so he can use it as a pillow. He leans back and watches the clouds drift.
Megren passes out tins of soup when it’s ready.
Darrin glances over at the horses, grazing away, as he takes his tin.
Lanisen sits up again to eat, murmuring thanks to Megren.
Megren says when it looks like they’ve about finished eating, “I think there’s meant to be singing in this sort of situation.” She looks at Sir Darrin expectantly.
Darrin feigns innocence. “Why, pray tell, are you looking at me?”
Megren says, “You nobles have all that fine training.”
Lanisen grins, lifting his soup to his mouth to sip the broth.
Darrin flushes and makes a pained face. “I bet between you and Lanisen you have some songs I’ve never heard of, though,” he protests.
Megren says, “Well, songs people don’t know aren’t any fun. That settles it then; it’ll have to be you.”
Lanisen lifts his eyebrows and his shoulders at Darrin in a can’t-be-helped sort of way.
Darrin exhales loudly, defeated. He suggests the title of a relatively well known drinking song where the singer is lured to jolliness by Bacchus.
Megren simply lifts her brows expectantly.
Lanisen grins, glancing between them, but doesn’t seem to recognize the song.
Darrin makes another face at the lack of verbal response, and he starts singing in a mellow baritone.
Megren rests her hands on her crossed ankles, looking /very/ pleased with herself.
Lanisen hugs his knees and tries /really hard/ not to laugh at the look on Megren’s face.
Darrin finishes the second verse with, “…and had it been a gallon pot, by Jove I’d tossed it up.” He pauses and squints between them. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the point of campfire songs the singing /together/ thing?”
Megren hmmms? “Oh if you wanted that, you only had to ask.”
Lanisen announces, “I don’t know it.”
Megren says, “He just sang it, so you do now.”
Lanisen says, “I have some bad news for you.”
Darrin lets his forehead drop ungently into his palm and announces, “Lanisen picks the next song.”
Lanisen asks, “Do I look like somebody who knows songs?”
Darrin glances him over. “Two ears, a mouth, obviously intelligent…” He smiles beatifically. “Yup.”
Megren says, “You look like somebody who goes in libraries and looks up songs about Narnia and memorizes them on his off hours.”
Lanisen turns red, but all he says is, “You can’t learn /tunes/ from books!”
Darrin leans over towards Megren and stage whispers, “Are we just all gonna pretend we don’t know he sings to the hounds?”
Megren looks well and truly satisfied with all her good work.
Darrin takes a large spoonful of soup from what’s left in his tin and swallows it all at once.
Megren tries, “Teach us some words, Lanisen, and Sir Darrin will make the tune.”
Lanisen pushes his mouth to the side.
Darrin blinks his wide-eyed, innocent agreement.
Megren lifts her shoulders and looks to the knight. “I guess it’s all up to you after all.” she concludes apologetically.
Lanisen sips his broth, well relieved.
Darrin sets his tin aside and says, “All right, what do we want, drinking songs, sailing songs, love songs…?”
Lanisen comments, “Ooh. /Categories/.”
Megren makes a thoughtful noise. “I liked the ones you sang in the forest that once, but I suppose the occasion calls for something more spirited.”
Darrin hums. “Those were sea shanties, if I recall correctly.”
Lanisen wonders, eyeing the bottom of his soup tin, “Is Bacchus real?”
Megren’s attention is easily diverted. “Hmm?”
Darrin says, “There have been numerous written accounts of sightings over time, though I haven’t heard of any in our lifetimes.”
Lanisen hmms thoughtfully. “Is he a man?”
Megren asks, “In Archenland?”
Darrin says, “I’ve always understood him to be more like the Narnian Wild Peoples. And most sightings have been in Narnia.”
Megren hums thoughtfully. “I wonder how you call for him.”
Lanisen hmms again.
Darrin shrugs both shoulders.
Lanisen says, “Maybe there’s somethin’ in the library at Cair Paravel.”
Megren makes a loud musical call.
Lanisen starts in surprise and then doubles over with giggles.
Darrin looks thoughtful at the mention of the library, though his thoughts are obviously derailed by Meg.
Megren tilts her head as if listening for approaching revelry.
Lanisen says, “Maybe do it again.”
Darrin makes a noise of agreement.
Lanisen covers his mouth and wheezes.
Megren tilts her head again. “I don’t think it worked,” she observes with disappointment.
Lanisen says, “‘S just as well. He might be cross if he knew we were laughin’ on his account.”
Darrin furrows his brow and gives Lanisen an incredulous look.
Megren inquires, “Shouldn’t he be glad of it?”
Lanisen says, “/I/ don’t know. Should he?”
Megren leans back, her expression indicating she thinks she ought not to be held responsible for the offense of a god. “/I/ certainly wouldn’t be cross.”
Darrin says, “I mean, he’s supposed to be a jolly sort, so I don’t think he’d be put off by any sort of laughter.”
Lanisen pushes his mouth to the side doubtfully, but doesn’t argue.
Megren asks, “Shall we try crying and see how that does?”
Darrin shrugs one shoulder and seems amenable.
Megren screws up her face. “I’m less good at that; someone else will have to start us off.”
Lanisen says, “Sir Darrin can have a go.”
Megren gives the knight another expectant look.
Darrin wrinkles his nose and admits, “I’m not sure I can do a convincing fake cry to be quite honest.”
Megren tilts her head thoughtfully. “… Good to know.”
Darrin doesn’t seem to be able to decide if he’s revealed a weakness, after that response.
Lanisen says, “Nobody’s got a horn, I suppose.”
Megren picks up a piece of grass and places it flat between her thumbs, so that it is running up and down parallel to them. She blows between her thumbs, which just sounds empty and a little wet at first, but then the grass whistles in a way vaguely reminiscent of a horn.
Darrin looks impressed.
Lanisen asks, greatly interested, “How’d you do that?”
Megren shows him her thumbs.
Lanisen hunts about for a suitable blade of grass and copies her as best as he can, without a whole lot of success.
Megren says, “No you have to lay it flat and then you make a hollow behind it? Here–”
Lanisen complains, “What.” He sits forward to see how Megren does it.
Darrin watches with amusement, without attempting his own. After a moment, he remembers the stick at his side and pokes the fire with it.
Megren tries to show him again.
Lanisen makes another attempt, resulting in a sad spluttery sort of noise. He huffs a breath and drops his hands.
Megren sounds surprised at his forfeit. “What, you almost got it!’
Lanisen says reproachfully, “I didn’t get it even a little bit.”
Megren argues, “Sort of close.”
Lanisen makes a face at her.
Darrin says, “I pretty much fail at those too.”
Lanisen says, “Meg’ll just have to be the one to whistle for Bacchus then.”
Megren makes a valiant effort.
Darrin sets the stick aside and chinhands.
Lanisen tilts his head, making a show of listening.
The wind seems curiously in harmony with the sound of her continued efforts.
Lanisen twists to look over his shoulder into the darkening forest.
Megren doesn’t notice the change at first, but when she does she closes her mouth rather abruptly, looking surprised.
Darrin gets a slow, wide grin.
Lanisen turns to look back at Megren, his eyes wide, half fearful and half excited.
Megren whistles experimentally and a little hesitantly.
Darrin holds his breath.
Lanisen looks back toward the trees, trying to look everywhere on the perimeter of their camp at once.
The wind seems to echo the tune.
Megren very softly tries a line from one of the more Narnian songs Sir Darrin has taught her.
Lanisen sets down his empty soup tin and shifts to sit straighter. He’s shivering faintly.
The brook bubbles and the aspens rustle, and this time it is not an echo that seems to come together it off the noise but in fact the melody of the next line.
Megren flushes bright red.
Darrin flaps a hand. “Do it again,” he whispers.
Lanisen folds his hands in front of his mouth, his eyes very wide and dark.
Megren shakes her head at the knight, suddenly shy.
Darrin makes a face at her and looks around at the trees intently.
Lanisen hesitates. He clears his throat, then sings out, rather shakily, the next line of the song.
The brook and trees join in.
Darrin claps both his hands over his mouth.
Lanisen falters a little, but keeps going. His voice is pleasant enough, soft and on-key, though the nervousness isn’t doing him any favors. His eyes dart from the trees to the brook and back again.
Megren softly joins back in, slowly getting up as she does so.
Darrin slowly lowers his hands and starts singing along, his voice soft.
The sound around them grows, still barely traceable as something separate from the usual forest noise, yet more clearly something else now that each of them have recognized it as such, as if it emits both in the real and surreal and they have somehow tapped into the second without meaning to.
Lanisen rubs the side of his face with a shaking hand and stands, taking a tentative step toward the brook, still singing.
Megren slips into the colony of aspens.
Darrin stands, his voice rising. He wanders towards the trees, placing a palm on the nearest trunk.
Megren disappears more quickly than might have been expected.
Lanisen kneels at the edge of the brook, looking into the water. After a moment, he reaches out and lets his fingers skim the surface.
The water splashes up to meet his hand before his hand reaches the surface.
Darrin glances over after the others, looking a little surprised not to see Megren anymore. He turns his attention back to the trees, tipping his head back to look up into the branches.
Lanisen flinches back in surprise from the splash. His mouth curves into a wondering smile and he dips his fingers into the icy water.
The water curls up around his forearm and then falls away again.
Lanisen draws a shaky, delighted breath and looks over his shoulder to see if his companions saw.
Megren is still nowhere to be seen.
Darrin isn’t looking at Lanisen, still looking up at the motions of the leaves. His voice goes quiet again and his song changes to a simpler, haunting melody.
The brook and leaves pick up the tune, and the wind joins them, howling softly as it might through an old house.
Lanisen withdraws his hand, reluctantly, from the brook and straightens, searching for Megren. He starts toward the aspens.
Darrin grins, running his fingers up and down the tree trunk like he’s petting it without realizing.
Megren emerges from the oaks on the other side of the clearing, though when they first set out to make camp the trees did not seem close enough for a person to circle the site without being seen.
Lanisen hesitates on the outskirts of the aspen grove, having not yet seen Megren behind him. He steps cautiously between the trees.
The trees shift, and he does not have to take many steps before he is coming out the way he came in, facing Megren from across the encampment.
Lanisen halts and blinks, disoriented. He looks at Megren, then turns back to look at the trees, and then looks back at Megren, entirely lost.
Megren lifts her shoulders, lifting her countenance to look upward.
Oak leaves swirl down around her.
Darrin peeks behind him again at the sound of movement, in time to catch the leaves around Megren.
Lanisen stays where he is, quiet now that he has run out of song, overwhelmed.
Megren pushes her hair behind her ear and then reclasps her hands in front of her, one boot scraping behind the other and tapping the toe against the other’s heel.
Darrin’s singing fades to a soft hum, and he turns around to step back towards the others.
Lanisen seems frozen for a moment, but he blinks a couple of times and swallows, and he moves back toward the campfire and his friends.
The clearing seems a little smaller now, a more comfortable size, with less exposure to the wind — though it’s not clear what’s actually changed.
Darrin bounces on his toes with delight.
Megren rubs her arms and moves back toward them slowly. She wrinkles her nose as another sprinkle of leaves fall, this time around Sir Darrin.
Lanisen looks around the changed clearing, his eyes oddly bright, and rubs his elbow, breathing out shakily.
Darrin holds out a hand and catches a crimson leaf by the stem.
Megren veers toward the knight to pull him back toward the campfire.
Lanisen stays where he is, just outside the circle of firelight, looking out into the trees. There is gooseflesh on the back of his neck.
Darrin lets himself be drawn to the fire, twirling the leaf he caught between his fingers.
Megren looks up when they return to the camp, a thought presenting itself in her face. “Is that all right?” she asks, nodding at the fire and looking up.
The trees rustle in a way that does not seem disapproving.
Lanisen looks back out toward the brook.
A spray of water springs up around a boulder, in what looks very briefly like a fall of oak leaves.
Darrin settles back down besides the fire.
Megren lets go of his wrist and rests her hand back on her knees. “Remind me not to joke about summoning anything I don’t really want to meet,” she laughs, a little nervously.
Lanisen starts back toward the brook.
The brook suddenly turns almost impossible calm.
Lanisen pulls his chin back in surprise and interest. He kneels carefully on the edge again and picks up a leaf, curled up slightly at its edges so it could form a passable boat. He sets it very gently on the still surface.
The leaf lies still.
Lanisen hmms softly, suspicious. He reaches out and prods the leaf with one finger.
The leaf spins gently.
Lanisen whispers hopefully, “Still there?”
Lanisen’s knees get wet.
Lanisen makes a startled noise and scrambles quickly to his feet.
The leaf begins to float down the brook at the expected pace. The sound of the flowing water is oddly like laughter.
Lanisen lets out an indignant, laughing scoff. He steps back a little and watches until the leaf is out of sight, then turns back toward Darrin and Megren.
Darrin elbows Megren in the side. “Duly noted,” he says, with no solemnity.
Megren glances up at the boughs that hang over them.
Lanisen returns to the fire, brushing damp leaves and bracken off his knees ruefully.
Darrin says, as Lanisen comes back, “Tricksy. I think I like that brook naiad.”
Megren’s eyes flick over Lanisen’s wet knees and she grins. “Made a friend huh?”
Lanisen makes a face somewhere between peeved and delighted.
Darrin grins at him.
Megren pats the ground for him to come sit near them.
Lanisen takes his seat, a little stiffly. He tries to soak some of the damp out of his trousers with his jacket.
Darrin crosses his legs and looks up at what he can see of the stars.
Megren says, “I’ve got an extra pair of trousers is you want them.”
Lanisen looks doubtful.
Darrin looks between them and offers, “So do I.”
Megren leans await from Sir Darrin to try to reach her pack without getting up and pull it toward her.
Lanisen says, “No, no, it’s fine, it’s just a little water.”
Megren says, “You’ll spoil everyone’s time if you catch cold.”
Lanisen asks, “Cold in my kneecaps?”
Megren finally catches the strap of her pack and pulls it toward her, looking up to give him a disparaging look.
Darrin clears his throat and gives Lanisen a helpless look, both eyebrows raised, as if to convey that Lanisen would be best off giving in.
Megren pulls out the pair of trousers and throws it at him.
Lanisen ducks to the side, squinting up his face, and catches them. “It’s two little wet patches!” he protests. “It’ll be dry in ten minutes anyway.”
Darrin, helpfully, picks up the poker and prods the fire into casting greater heat in Lanisen’s direction.
Megren looks skeptical but she doesn’t scold him further. A helpful blanket of leaves wafts down and settles on his head and shoulders.
Lanisen startles and bats away the first unexpected leaf, then laughs, glancing up at the tree.
Darrin leans his elbows on his knees and side-eyes the tree, his eyes crinkling at the corners.
Megren admires laughingly, “Like a king’s mantle.”
Lanisen sits up straight and puffs out his chest grandly.
Darrin also gets a mantle for that.
Megren makes an offended face.
Darrin beams, sitting carefully so as to preserve said mantle.
Megren screws up her mouth at him.
One single leaf lands squarely on her head.
Lanisen tilts back his head to look at the tree again. “What’s your name?” he asks in the musing sort of tone that means he doesn’t /really/ expect an answer.
As expected there is no answer, though few friendly leaves do scatter around him.
Lanisen picks up a leaf and looks at it, as if he’s expecting to find the name written on it.
It’s just a leaf.
Lanisen keeps it anyway, twirling it between his fingers.
Darrin scoops up a few leaves that have fallen off him despite his best efforts and arranges them with the other one like a crown on Meg’s head.
Megren ducks her head a bit too allow this, scrunching up her face at him in an embarrassedly pleased sort of way.
Lanisen grins, watching them. He averts his eyes after a second and studies the leaf in his hand.
Darrin pulls back his hand to study his work, giving a satisfied nod.
Megren lifts her brows for approval when he pulls back to survey his work, careful not to move her head too much and disturb it. She picks up his stick to poke at the fire, bringing her into closer proximity, then glances at Lanisen. “We’re never going to be able to drag him home,” she confides to the knight in a loud whisper.
Darrin glances at Lanisen and shakes his head mournfully.
Lanisen glances at them and ducks his head, turning red in the firelight.
Darrin grins triumphantly at Megren.
Megren grins as well. “We’ll visit,” she offers generously.
Lanisen snorts. There’s an odd expression on his face for a moment, but it doesn’t last.
Darrin picks up a leaf and throws it, ineffectually of course, in Lanisen’s direction. “No we won’t, we’ll either have to move here or actually drag him home,” he says, melodramatic and pouting.
Megren amends, “/I’ll/ visit you.”
Lanisen squints at this, grinning, but he does not seem entirely at ease with the thread of conversation.
Darrin stares down at his knees sullenly at this loss of support.
Megren, seeing his expression, apologizes, “I’m joking.”
Lanisen says, “No, I– I know, it’s all right.”
Darrin rubs the back of his neck.
Megren’s mouth pulls to the side uncertainly, but she allows him to dismiss the topic. “All right, everyone say the best thing so far.” She glanced upward and says concilatorily, “Besides the trees, that’s obvious.”
Lanisen adds, “/And/ the brook.”
Darrin says, “Can’t forget the brook.”
Megren says, “Sorry, brook, you too.”
Lanisen looks satisfied.
Darrin says, “Those roses were good.”
Megren grins and rolls her eyes. “Of course the roses.”
Lanisen confesses, “I don’t know how to pick.”
Megren offers, “Best three.”
Darrin tilts his head at Lanisen.
Lanisen hmms, pushing his mouth to the side. “The wolves,” he says after a moment. “Sittin’ in the woods in the morning. The athen-whatsit.”
Megren says, “Oh.” she nods. “I liked that too. And the Badger, what was his name — Honeysnooze? …drowsy, Honeydrowsy.”
Darrin says, “I would’ve liked to meet that fellow.”
Lanisen says, “Honeydrowse, wasn’t it?”
Megren says, “That’s right, drowse. I liked him. And quince.”
Darrin says, “Megren’s reaction to the fauns.”
Lanisen says, “Megren’s reaction to /everything/.”
Megren gets a rather perturbed expression. One of the leaves falls out of her hair.
Darrin grins hugely.
Lanisen makes a snorty giggling noise, folding his hands in front of his mouth to sort of hide it. “Love you?” he offers, not entirely apologetic. Not really apologetic at all.
Megren screws up her face. “You do not,” she scolds.
Darrin says, “It’s been pretty entertaining, you have to admit.”
Megren frowns. “I don’t see how it can have been any more entertaining than either of your faces.”
Lanisen says practically, “Well, we can’t see our own faces, can we.”
Darrin makes a ‘duh’ face, tucking his chin in close to his chest, lifting his eyebrows and pursing his lips.
Megren narrows her eyes.
Megren concludes, “Well they’re very nice faces. Even if they are both under silly hair.”
Darrin gasps at the affront to his Hair, a hand flying to his chest.
Lanisen says accusingly, “You did this hair!”
Megren does not appear to feel any remorse.
Darrin is Truly Wounded, judging by how big his eyes are.
Megren reaches up on either side of her and musses them both. It isn’t an especially effective mussing, since her attention is split, but the intent is there.
Darrin wrinkles his nose.
Lanisen reaches over to return the favor.
Megren ducks quickly, forgetting her leaf-crown, which largely scatters.
Darrin gives a half-hearted, “Nooooo…” under his breath at the loss of leaves.
Lanisen says, laughing, “Oh no, oh dear,” and helps to gather them up.
The wind helps pile the leaves rather more neatly into Lanisen’s hands than is quite natural.
Darrin blinks at the casual wind display, for the first time mildly discomfited.
Lanisen says, “Thanks,” and then pauses, looking at Megren and Darrin. “What’s the wind called? If it’s dryads for trees and naiads for water, what’s in the wind?”
Megren’s brows draw together. “Is there a wind one? I was thinking that was still the trees.”
Lanisen asks, looking back up at the trees above them, “Is it?”
Darrin says, “I… have no idea.”
The rather large pile of leaves that has gathered around Lanisen floats into the air as by a gust, though it is not especially windy. For a moment, they almost seem to form a figure, and then they fall to the ground again, inert as any leaf in the forest of Archenland.
Lanisen scrambles to his feet.
Darrin says, “Did that mean tree, or wind? I’m confused.”
Megren blinks, frowning a little, her eyes on the pile of leaves.
Lanisen reaches out tentatively to wave his hand through the space where the leaf-figure was.
Darrin looks torn between intrigue and alarm.
There seems to be nothing where Lanisen’s hand is.
Lanisen looks disappointed. He retracts his hand and returns to his spot by Megren.
Megren’s eyes stay on the leaves.
Lanisen lays back this time so he can watch the boughs overhead, careful not to crush any of the recently-animated leaves.
Megren moves her gaze back to the fire, but she shifts protectively nearer to Lanisen and her hand creeps very close to Sir Darrin’s.
Darrin stretches out his legs and ventures, “At least, they’re obviously friendly.”
Lanisen’s attention shifts to Megren as she moves. His forehead furrows and he sits back up, questioning and half-wary in response to her body language.
Megren pulls in her lip and says, “I feel as if we ought to sleep before it gets too cold to, but I’m not tired yet.”
Lanisen says, “I am, a little, if…” He looks at Megren again, uncertain.
Megren says, “If you’re both ready, you should, then, and I’ll sleep when I can.”
Darrin says, “Sure? I can stay up for a while.”
Lanisen says, “Me too, really.”
Megren pushes her mouth to the side, but nods assent.
Darrin takes the poker back to prod the fire a bit. He nods.
Megren takes a breath and blows it out.
Lanisen leans sideways to bump shoulders with Megren in a checking-in kind of way.
Megren offers him a smile and pokes Sir Darrin in the side, “Gives us another song,” she requests, less buoyantly or demandingly this time. “One we all know.”
Lanisen scoots a little nearer so he doesn’t have to lean for contact. He shivers as though chilled to pretend it’s for his benefit.
Darrin asks, “Any preferences?”
Megren tucks Lanisen’s arm under hers. “The one about the fox and the goose girl.”
Darrin looks to Lanisen to see if he knows this one.
Lanisen lifts his shoulders. “I’ll pick it up.”
Megren lifts her brows at the knight.
Darrin shrugs. He brushes some hair off his forehead and sits up straighter before starting in on the first verse.
Megren pulls up her knee and hugs it with her free arm, joining in at the chorus. Her gaze mostly stays on the usual things — Sir Darrin’s face, the fire — but occasionally she seems to monitor the perimeter of their encampment.
Lanisen makes a small sound of recognition as Darrin starts the chorus. He joins in for the last couple of lines.
Darrin closes his eyes periodically as he sings, though he also glances at Lanisen and Megren. He sings the final chorus an extra time.
Megren seems a little easier after this, though she still has Lanisen’s arm under hers. “Sir?” she says, and then before he can answer shakes her head to dismiss whatever she had been thinking to say.
Darrin looks confused.
Megren screws up her face. “Sorry.”
Lanisen looks back up at the trees. He seems quite comfortable to let Megren keep his arm, but he covers a yawn.
Darrin catches Lanisen’s yawn and suggests, “Bed?”
Lanisen glances at Megren.
Megren looses his arm.
Darrin pokes Megren in the arm. “You still not sleepy?”
Megren shakes her head. “It’s all right.”
Darrin tilts his head. “Hm, wake me up when you’re ready to sleep? I’ll take second watch.”
Megren nods, seeming to take comfort in some part of this. “Sure, I will.”
Lanisen says, “Wake me up when you’re wantin’ to sleep, sir.”
Darrin nods, covering his own yawn. “Will do.”
Megren shoos them. “Go, go.”
Lanisen grumbles under his breath, but finally gets up rather reluctantly from Megren’s side. He goes about laying out his bedroll sleepily, with frequent yawns.
Megren covers her own mouth with the back of her hand, managing to keep her lips shut over her share of the yawning.
Darrin obediently relinquishes the poker and follows Lanisen over to the sheltered spot to lay out his bedroll and crawl into it.
Megren says, “Sleep well, please.”
Megren says, “I expect to hear everyone’s good dreams.”
Lanisen gets himself set up, but asks before he settles in, “Do you need anything, Meg?”
From Darrin’s bedroll, snickering can be heard. “Goodnight,” his muffled voice says.
Megren has her chin on her knees by this time, but she manages to wag her head from side to side in response to Lanisen. To Sir Darrin she offers a scowl of only the best will.
Lanisen tucks his hot stone into his jacket pocket and himself into his bedroll.