touring the waste

Outside the Twin Oaks Inn
Lantern Waste
Western Narnia

A large clearing opens here, surrounded on all sides by dense forest. Massive oaks loom on the east and west sides, their great spreading branches providing a pleasant shade to the area without entirely obstructing the sky. Clover and thick grass carpets the ground, but a path curving up from the south to the northeast is trampled bare by frequent passage.

A small greystone inn sits to the west of the clearing. Its peaked roof is golden thatch, and its windowframes are charmingly whitewashed. There is a sturdy wooden bench outside the front door, and the path that branches off from the main route to the inn’s door is pebbled with smooth river rocks and bordered by marigolds.

Lanisen sits on the bench just outside the inn door, his right ankle resting on his left knee. There’s a cup of tea steaming gently on the bench next to him, and he seems to be writing a letter.

A cat with brilliant green eyes saunters through the trees, tail and chin high. When she reaches the path, she turns, starting to head along to the northeast. She gives a passing glance towards the Son of Adam, keeps walking, then pauses and looks back at him. “/You’re/ not a Faun.”

Lanisen glances up quickly at the voice. He shifts, putting both feet on the ground, and sets his letter aside, and grins once he finds the speaker. “No,” he agrees.

Glora looks along the path she was headed, then walks towards the inn, which was clearly her plan all along, though not too fast, of course. Pausing to brush up against a tree, she asks, “Who are you, then?”

Lanisen pauses just briefly. “Lan,” he answers. “I’m Lan, I’m visitin’ with a couple friends. They’re not up yet.”

Glora says, “Mmm. So they’re the smart ones.” She comes close enough to examine his mug and sniff it.

Lanisen says seriously, “Very true.”

Glora wrinkles her nose at the tea and backs up a step or two. She sits, curling her tail around herself. “Why are you visiting?”

Lanisen pulls his lips between his teeth and ducks his head to hide a grin at her reaction. “‘Cause we wanted to,” he answers. “It seems nice, this place.”

Glora says, “It’s nice enough, I suppose.” She lifts a paw and makes a point of examining it. “As long as you don’t mind the occasional belligerent Dwarf and hordes of Wolves, at least.”

Lanisen asks, “Hordes, huh?”

Glora flicks an ear at Lan’s lack of reaction. “Mhm. Always prowling about. Or, excuse me, ‘patrolling.’ But they’re boring. Where are you from?”

Lanisen says, “Anvard, across the mountains.”

Glora says, “That’s a bit far, I suppose.”

Lanisen agrees, dimpling up, “A bit.”

Glora asks, “What’s it like?”

Lanisen asks, “What, Anvard? Mm, it’s a castle, it’s got… walls and towers and things. Lots of people all the time, the market’s there, you know.”

The inn door opens and a redhead peeks out.

Glora says, “Like Beruna, then?” Swishing her tail, she adds, “We get festivals that get crowded.”

Lanisen says, “Yeah, sort of. Only everything’s closer together and there’s walls all around.” He glances up as the door opens and grins. “Mornin’.”

Megren rubs the top of her head, still a bit sleepy. “Morning.”

Lanisen says, “I made tea, there’s still some in the pot. You want me to get you some?” He gets to his feet without waiting for an answer.

Glora totally knew Megren was there. She absolutely was not surprised by seeing someone at the door, and her tail definitely did not puff when she saw. Thus it is with supreme indifference that she says, “Oh, hello,” and swishes said tail to her other side. “You must be one of the friends.”

Megren says, “One of the friends, that’s me.” She gives Lanisen a grateful look. “I don’t mind–”

Lanisen says, nodding, “This is Meg, she’s one of my best friends.” He pauses, then squints apologetically at the Cat. “I didn’t ask your name, I’m sorry.”

Megren grins brilliantly at her epithet.

Glora says, “You can call me Glora, I suppose. ”

Lanisen offers a polite little bow. “Nice to meet you, Glora.”

Megren exclaims, “Hello, Glora!”

Glora blinks slowly at Lan as he bows and shifts herself to sit up straighter. “Pleasure. How many of you are there?”

Megren says, “Oh, hundreds.”

Glora says, “Ah yes. Hundreds. All inside Dochus’ little inn. I’m sure.”

Megren says, “It’s like a tin of sardines.”

Lanisen snorts, rubbing a hand over his mouth. “‘Scuse me,” he says, gesturing toward the inn, and ducks inside for Megren’s tea.

Glora’s whiskers twitch at that. “Sounds cozy.”

Megren says, “Bit smelly though.”

Glora smiles at that one, then stands and stretches in the way that only a feline can. “And not as good for breakfast, I’d suppose. Speaking of which, I’ve a breakfast promised to me I plan to enjoy.”

Megren exclaims, “Oh, well, can’t keep you from that. It was nice to meet you! I’ll give Lanisen your farewell.”

Glora blinks at her. “Lanisen, hmm? If you want. Enjoy seeing things.” She saunters off, following the path northeastward.

Megren tilts her head, a little surprised by the cat’s surprise.

Lanisen steps out again after a moment, holding a second mug. “Oh, did she go?” he asks, disappointed.

Megren says, “Yes, sorry. Something about breakfast. She said goodbye, though.”

Lanisen hands over the mug and sits down again. “‘S too bad.”

Megren takes the mug and brings it close to her face happily. “She seemed nice.”

Lanisen grins, entirely delighted.

Megren asks, “Are we to go gallivanting about the woods today?”

Lanisen says, “Oh! Um. Yeah, if, if you like.”

Megren says, “Only we can’t find the lamppost without Sir Darrin or he’ll be sore about it for a full week.”

Lanisen grins, but asks, “Which way’s the lamppost?”

Megren says, “Dunno. Not the way we came.”

Lanisen hmms.

Megren asks, “Maybe north?”

Lanisen glances along the path going northeast and agrees, “Yeah, all right.”

Megren squints an eye at him. “Is that yeah, all right, it’s north, or yeah, all right, we should go north?”

Lanisen pauses. “…How about we ask the innkeeper where it is, and then pick another direction until Sir Darrin’s with us.”

Megren rolls her eyes, “Oh, /thinking/’s what we’re doing now.”

Lanisen says primly, “I can’t help I’ve been up longer and had my tea.”

Megren says, “You ask, I’ll drink.”

Lanisen laughs and gets up obligingly, tipping up his mug to finish his cooling tea. He disappears inside and returns again after a moment, mugless. “He says it’s west,” he reports.

Megren says, “East then. Or north.”

Lanisen says, “You pick.”

Megren tilts her head from side to side.

Lanisen waits.

Megren settles on, “Too sleepy. You pick.”

Lanisen considers. “Northeast,” he declares.

Megren points to him. “Smart.”

Lanisen says, “Tell that Cat.”

Megren says, “Will do.”

Lanisen leans back against the wall of the inn to wait for Megren to finish.

Megren drinks her cup at a leisurely pace.

Lanisen doesn’t seem to be in any rush. He watches the leaves drifting in a steady fall from the oak trees across the clearing.

Megren’s eyes follow his. “It feels peaceful here.”

Lanisen nods. He’s quiet for a minute, then says, “I liked the castle, but I think I like bein’ out where there’s trees even better.”

Megren makes a thoughtful noise. “They’re different likes.”

Lanisen mms. “S’pose so.”

Megren says, “I liked the castle.”

Lanisen asks, “If you could pick one place to stay, so far?”

Megren asks, “To live?”

Lanisen nods.

Megren says, “The castle, I suppose. And travel out to the woods and the mountains and the river and the beach.”

Lanisen mms softly, still watching the tree.

Megren finishes her tea. “You?”

Lanisen says, “In a house in the woods, near the wolves. Maybe go and visit the brook and trees from the night before Beruna sometimes.”

Megren laughs. “Why do you like the Wolves so well?”

Lanisen lifts his shoulders, turning faintly red. “They were nice, is all.”

Megren says, “That’s true. Their majesties were terrible.”

Lanisen says, exasperated, “No, come on.”

Megren grins at him, and gets up to return her mug to the inn. “Need your cloak?”

Lanisen gets up as well, glancing at the sky. “Mm. Yeah, prob’ly.”

Megren says, “I’ll get it,” already heading inside.

Lanisen sits back down agreeably.

Megren returns after only a little while, his cloak over her arm. “Ready?”

Lanisen gets back up again, nodding. His eyes rest briefly on her sword as he reaches for his cloak, and he checks with his other hand to be sure that his knife is in place.

Megren catches this movement and she lifts her brows as if to ask if he’s sure.

Lanisen nods again.

Megren nods back and offers him her arm. “Sir Darrin’s made best friends with a Skunk,” she confides.

Lanisen laughs under his breath. “Did he?”

Megren says, “He’ll be useless for a couple hours I expect.”

Lanisen clicks his tongue. “We’d better go see who we can make friends with.”

Megren says, “Not a competition I plan to lose.”

Lanisen says, “I never doubted you for a second.”

Megren grins and pulls him up the north path. “Northeast… we’ll have to get ourselves lost a bit.”

Lanisen balks a little bit. “Should we get a map?”

Megren says, “Definitely not.”

Lanisen chews the inside of his lip for a moment, then lifts his eyebrows and his shoulders and follows her.

Megren claps his far shoulder and leaves her hand there, guiding him along down the path with an eye for deer trails they can wander off onto.

Lanisen follows alongside, mostly at his ease, if more guarded than on previous rambles.

Megren leaves go off his shoulder as the brush gets denser. She rests her hand on the hilt of her sword instead, a casual motion, but not one she is prone to.

Lanisen lowers his head slightly in acknowledgment, though he doesn’t look at her. He inhales and deliberately straightens his shoulders. “Smells good,” he remarks, looking at the leaves underfoot. “Smells like autumn.”

Megren says, “I suppose it’ll be one of the last temperate days before we start getting real frosts. More leaves on the ground than on the trees, now.”

Lanisen hmms softly, a little regretful.

Megren steps in front of him and peers down a thin, barely visible path. “Do you suppose this was made by Talking Beasts or dumb ones?”

To the west, the crackle of footsteps can be heard, and shortly thereafter Darrin appears.

Lanisen doesn’t answer immediately, taking a moment to consider the path. “I dunno. D’you think Talking Beasts would need different sorts of paths than–” He breaks off at the sound of footsteps, stopping abruptly.

Megren straightens at the distinct sound of human steps, but her face brightens almost immediately. “Sir!” she grins. “Even Skunks couldn’t keep you from us, hm?”

Darrin neatens his tunic. “Well, even skunks have their own business to attend to, you see.” He grins crookedly.

Lanisen exhales softly and bows to cover his relief.

Megren reaches out to wave him closer and close the space between them. “We were just considering going off-path, only it’s hard to tell what the path /is/ out here.”

Darrin peers upwards at his hair, going somewhat cross-eyed in the process, and reaches up to pluck a twig out of his curls. He looks disgruntled as he flicks it away. “You know, I consider myself a fairly sure-footed fellow,” he begins conversationally, “but I have nearly turned my ankle on these rocks,” he kicks at a few for emphasis, “more times than I can count.”

Lanisen suggests, “We might go look for the lamp-post, since we’re all here.”

Megren screws up her face at him. “That’s going back the way we came.”

Darrin says, “And is rather easy to find, as I recall, so we could do that at any point.”

Lanisen concedes this agreeably.

Megren says, “I do want to find it /soon/ though.”

Darrin agrees, “Of course, – Meg,” with an awkward sort of pause before Megren’s name in which he seems to have stopped himself from saying something

Lanisen’s eyes flick between them.

Megren steps back onto the deer-path. “Let’s try this one, then,” she says. “Maybe we’ll find a herd of elk.”

Darrin moves to follow, looking very slightly red.

Lanisen falls into step behind them.

Megren’s path takes them through one patch of heavy brush, but then it opens out onto a small stream, beyond which is an open, somewhat cultivated place.

Darrin concentrates intently on his footing as they walk.

Megren halts at the stream, regarding it and the clearing beyond with a tilted head.

Lanisen pauses on the streambank, looking with interest down at the water to see if it’s going to show any signs of life.

Megren says, “… Somebody lives here, I think.”

Darrin quirks an eyebrow at Megren.

Lanisen glances at Megren, and then out over the land. “People?” he asks uncertainly. “Human people, I mean?”

Megren looks unsure. “Um… something human sized probably? Look, you can see where they go down to the stream.”

Darrin studies the area she points out and then looks over at the meadow past the stream. He chews on his lip.

Lanisen looks, and begins to back toward the trees. “Let’s, let’s go around.”

As he’s saying this, a dark haired woman appears across the clearing. She does not appear to be heading toward them, instead crossing a small corner of it with the purposefulness of someone well used to the area.

Darrin glances at Lanisen, nodding a little, and does not immediately notice the other woman.

Lanisen’s eyes fix on the woman. He stops just short of the treeline, frozen.

Megren also catches sight of the woman, and she shifts to move them back the way they came, but not before Lanisen has seen her. Megren places a hand on his forearm and gently pushes to indicate he should turn, her eyes searchingly on his face.

The dark haired woman stops and crouches, unearthing a handle to a trapdoor in the ground.

Lanisen shifts his eyes away from the woman, focusing on Megren instead. He swallows a couple of times and closes his mouth, then turns away hastily and makes for the deeper cover of the trees, raising a hand to his forehead so as to shield his features from view as he does so.

Megren indicates with her eyes that Sir Darrin should go next, and quickly.

Darrin flicks his eyes towards the woman, then back to Megren. He nods, and hastens after Lanisen.

The woman disappears down the hatch without making a sign that she’s seen them. Behind them is the sound of a child calling out gleefully.

Lanisen looks back over his shoulder to be sure Megren is with them.

Megren is looking over her own shoulder in turn, but only for the briefest moment before she catches up behind them and the brush obscures the group from view of the clearing.

Lanisen slows and stops, listening.

Darrin flanks Lanisen and watches him with concern.

Megren comes up beside him in short order, resting her hand on his arm again, not exactly with urgency, but something close to it.

Lanisen asks, “Did they see, did they see?”

Megren shakes her head. “I don’t think so.”

The woman’s voice comes muted through the trees in the familiar tones of one calling after a child.

Lanisen nods, drawing a shaky breath. He raises his head at the call and looks back, alarmed, then quickly plunges onward.

Megren pushes through the brush after him, closing her hand over Sir Darrin’s wrist to pull him after her.

Darrin follows them at an equal pace.

Lanisen slows and stops once they’ve gone a reasonable distance. He is out of breath.

Megren asks, “Was that her?”

Lanisen nods.

Megren asks, “Are you sure?”

Lanisen is given pause by this. He looks at Megren, abruptly doubting himself. “I thought– I guess I didn’t really– I didn’t get a good, a close look, maybe not, maybe it isn’t?”

Megren glances at Sir Darrin. “I could… go introduce myself.”

Darrin says, “I don’t remember there being very many humans in this part of Narnia.”

Lanisen draws a small breath at this and shakes his head very slightly, pleading.

Megren closes her mouth and nods in acceptance of his response.

Darrin looks back at the direction they came and folds his arms across his chest, thoughtful.

Lanisen looks between them, wary.

Megren says, “We should go back to the inn, then.”

Darrin agrees, “That might be best.”

Lanisen nods, relieved.

Megren pushes him gently in that direction.

Lanisen moves along. He glances behind them one more time, alert.

Darrin takes up the rear, his hand resting easily on the hilt of his sword.

Megren puts her hand on Lanisen’s back to urge him to stop looking and continue forward.

Lanisen does so. He moves at a rapid, urgent walk, not running.

Darrin glances behind and around them as they go, but keeps up.

Megren points southward when they break through the brush back out onto the more structured path. “The inn’s that way.”

Lanisen nods and steps out onto the path, relieved.

Megren says, “I’ll bet there’s a kettle already on.”

Lanisen nods again, exhaling when the inn comes into view. He glances back.

Megren crosses her eyes at him.

Lanisen doesn’t even notice.

Megren prods him in the shoulder with her forefinger. “Hey.”

Darrin stops next to Megren, watching.

Lanisen jumps and apologizes with a wince.

Megren says again, “Tea.”

Lanisen says, “Yeah, tea.”

Megren pushes him gently toward the inn.

Lanisen ducks his head and goes inside.

Megren glances at Sir Darrin.

Darrin makes an appreciative noise about tea.

Megren’s lips quirk upward a little, though her eyes remain worried. She follows Lanisen inside.

Darrin nudges her arm as he follows.

Megren’s hand closes very briefly over his wrist before she draws away to talk to the innkeeper, shooing the men toward Lanisen’s room.

Lanisen goes. Once he reaches his room, he goes to the window and adjusts the curtains, standing a little to the side so he can keep an eye on the path without being in direct view.

Darrin follows him, closing the door behind. “All right, Lanisen?”

Lanisen nods, glancing back toward Darrin briefly. “Yes, sir, fine, I’m sorry.”

Darrin comes to stand behind him, right in front of the window. He knocks shoulders with Lanisen and says softly, “You’ve nothing to apologize for.”

Lanisen is quiet, still watching out the window. He crosses his arms over his stomach.

Darrin is still for a moment; then, “She’s written you, hasn’t she?”

Lanisen asks, “Sorry?”

Megren pushes the door open with her hip, carrying a pot in one hand and three cups in the other.

Darrin says, “I hear the King’s reports on all the Archenland exiles.”

Lanisen looks lost. He shifts and glances at Megren as she enters.

Darrin frowns at this look and seems to be thinking carefully for a moment before his expression clears. He says instead, “There have been nothing ill in the reports for some time.”

Lanisen swallows and nods.

Megren sets the pot on Lanisen’s nightstand and sits on the edge of his bed to pour.

Darrin makes a face at himself in the window and moves over to help Megren.

Lanisen stays where he is.

Megren looks up when he approaches her, a little surprised. She hands him a cup and offers, “We know where they live now.”

Darrin nods. “It’ll be a little easier to avoid them, I should think.”

Megren says, “Lanisen?”

Lanisen glances back at them. “Yeah,” he agrees quickly.

Darrin brings the cup of tea in his hands to Lanisen.

Megren skirts the bed, sitting again, this time on the side of it where Lanisen stands. “Are you all right?”

Lanisen accepts the tea with murmured thanks. “I’m fine, it’s, I’m all right,” he says. “Sorry, it’s– I’d just like to watch a little while, is all.”

Megren’s lip pulls down and to the right, but she nods.

Darrin brightens. “Sounds like a convenient excuse for bird watching.”

Lanisen either doesn’t hear or doesn’t register the words as something he needs to answer. He sets his tea down on the windowsill, leaving his hands cupped loosely around the mug.

Megren watches Lanisen uncertainly. “She looked like a– was that her child?” she asks, glancing at the knight to see if he can shed some light on this.

Darrin nods.

Lanisen says, not looking away from the window, “I always forget they have a kid. I can’t think of ’em havin’ a kid, it’s…”

Megren rubs the back of her head.

Darrin says, “He’s just a couple of years younger than Hart. Their son.”

Lanisen taps his fingertips on the windowsill.

Megren asserts, “I don’t think she saw us.”

Lanisen nods. He watches a little longer, then turns away from the window and sits down on the bed next to Megren.

Megren’s posture relaxes a little when he’s finally done this.

Darrin says, “No, I don’t think so; she was still some way off.”

Lanisen rests his elbows on his knees.

Megren lifts a hand and runs it over his back silently.

Darrin pulls over a chair and sits in front of them both.

Lanisen sets his tea down on the floor to cool. He rubs both hands over his face.

Megren takes a breath and releases it. “Do you want to go back to the Dwarfs?”

Darrin takes up a cup of tea for himself.

Lanisen glances at her. He hesitates, then shakes his head slightly. “We know where they live now.”

Megren nods. “What do you want to do?”

Lanisen says, “Stay out of their way.”

Darrin looks at Megren.

Megren asks, “How do you want to do that?”

Lanisen gives her a blank look.

Megren says, “Isn’t there a guard or someone we can ask to talk to them?”

Darrin says, “We can avoid their house and be careful in the more populated areas, but I don’t think we can be guaranteed to not see them as long as we’re in the Waste.”

Lanisen says quickly to Megren, “No, that’s– please don’t.”

Megren looks at Darrin.

Darrin tells Megren apologetically, “I don’t know that that would be appropriate. This is their home now and Jana is a member of their guard, the Northern Watch. We’re the ones who are visitors.”

Megren gets a rather contrary look.

Lanisen looks relieved. He looks down at his hands.

Megren says, “Well, we’re not shutting ourselves up in here the whole trip.”

Darrin shrugs helplessly at Megren. “Besides which, she has aided in battles against the Giants from the North and generally been a constructive citizen here. It would be remiss of us to curtail her or her family’s life because of her actions in another country.”

Lanisen picks up his tea, hunching over it unhappily.

Megren frowns, but she nods reluctantly.

Darrin looks at Lanisen. “But you’re not alone here, Lanisen.”

Lanisen says, “Thank you, sir.”

Darrin smiles warmly at him.

Megren tucks her hair behind her ears. “Well.”

Lanisen asks, “Myrd’s still livin’ here?”

Darrin says, “They live together, but I hear much less about him, truthfully.”

Lanisen nods. He rubs a hand over his mouth and looks down at his tea.

Megren asks, “…Do you want to find the lamp post?”

Darrin gives Lanisen a hopeful look.

Lanisen glances between them. His face twists up briefly, but he nods, setting his tea aside. “Yeah, all right.”

Megren hugs his shoulder. “Yeah, good, yes.”

Darrin smirks at some private joke.

Lanisen asks, “Now?”

Megren says, “Yeah, yes, if you’re up for it.”

Darrin stands up, pushing his chair back against the wall.

Lanisen gets up, leaving his tea undrunk. His eyes stray to the window again.

Megren follows suit and tugs him toward the door. “Sir, you know how to get there?”

Darrin thinks for a moment and then nods. “It’s not far.”

Lanisen rubs one wrist and checks his knife in its sheath. His face is slightly pale, but set.

Megren asks, “Shall we all troop out holding hands and singing then?”

Darrin says dryly, “That’s certain to not attract attention.”

Megren concedes, “Just holding hands, then.”

Darrin can seem to find no objection to that.

Lanisen moves toward the door.

Megren hurries after him so that she can hold it open.

Darrin sets his cup on the table and moves to follow them.

Lanisen steps out of Megren’s way and then sort of apologetically darts through the door once he figures out what she’s up to.

Megren rolls her eyes when he turns to look at her from the other side.

Darrin presses his lips together to hide his amusement.

Lanisen rubs his elbow and waits for them.

Megren waves for Darrin to go.

Darrin takes the ideas lead out of the inn.

Lanisen glances up the north path again. “West?” he asks.

Darrin nods.

Megren grabs both their hands and starts pulling them in that direction.

Lanisen stumbles a little before he catches up to her intent.

Darrin is pulled along.

Megren keeps stopping to investigate anomalies to regular forest foot(/hoof/etc) traffic, not actually letting go of their hands even when investigation requires kneeling or stepping into brush.

Darrin casts a glance over her head at Lanisen upon one such occasion of kneeling, looking fondly exasperated.

Lanisen follows along without protesting, but stays standing when possible, quiet and guarded.

Megren cuts down on the investigations when she notices they don’t seem to do much to aid Lanisen’s state of mind.

Darrin keeps quietly watchful, both of his companions and the general area.

Lanisen glances between them, seeming to realize he’s being a wet blanket. “Um,” he says. “Why don’t– sorry, I’m sorry, how about I go back to the inn and you two go on and find the…”

Megren’s brows draw together. “What? No. Anyway we’ve got to be nearly there haven’t we?”

Darrin nods to Megren. “And I would feel better if you were not alone, Lanisen,” he confesses.

Lanisen says, “Oh.”

Megren says, “Come on.” She starts out again, looking at Darrin. “This way?”

Darrin says, “Yeah.”

Lanisen hesitates, but follows.

Megren says, “Look, I think I see a light.”

Darrin pushes a few low-hanging branches aside and holds them out of the way for Megren and Lanisen’s passage.

Lanisen pulls his lips between his teeth, peering forward with interest. He waits for the others to go first.

Megren lets go off their hands so she can duck under the branch more easily.

Darrin nods Lanisen through lest he get smacked in the face when Darrin releases his hold on the branches.

Lanisen ducks through obediently.

Megren bounces on her toes on the other side.

Darrin follows, grinning a little at Megren. He moves towards the lamppost, now visible.

Lanisen halts, and then walks a full circle around the lamppost before he goes nearer, standing on his tiptoes to see into the chamber. “What’s it burning?”

Megren says, “It’s not like any lamp I’ve ever seen.”

Darrin says, “I would say oil, except that it seems to never run out.”

Lanisen asks, “Is it alive? Like the trees?”

Darrin touches the post, shaking his head no, and then stops. “I… don’t know,” he amends.

Megren kneels to look at the base. “It does seem to have come out of the ground.”

Lanisen drops down next to her to look too. “I wonder how far down it goes.”

Darrin says, “There is a legend that says it grew out of the ground like a tree.”

Megren looks sorely tempted to dig and find out.

Lanisen reaches out and brushes some dirt away from the lamppost’s base. “I read that,” he says, nodding and looking up at Darrin. “What kind of a seed do you plant to get a lamppost?”

Darrin jokes, “Lampseed, of course.”

Megren rises, running her hand along the length of the post as she does. “It’s iron, though,” she protests.

Lanisen says, “Ohhh, lampseed.”

Darrin says, “It’s certainly magical – who knows what the original magic called for.”

Megren gives him a dissatisfied look.

Lanisen straightens up again. “Listen,” he says, as the noise in the leaves dies down for a second. A soft hissing can be heard from behind the lamp’s windows.

Darrin holds his breath to listen.

Megren looks upward.

Lanisen looks closely at the side of the lamp facing south. There seem to be hinges on one side of the pane.

Darrin says, “It does sound like something’s burning, doesn’t it?”

Megren says, “It’s like if a castle grew out of the ground.”

Lanisen asks, “Is that a latch?”

Darrin peers up where Lanisen is looking. “There?” he asks, pointing.

Lanisen nods.

Megren says, “Let me on someone’s shoulders. I’ll see.”

Darrin says, “Looks like.” He grins at Megren, kneeling to offer his shoulders.

Lanisen backs away to let them have the better spot for looking.

Megren clambers up to sit on his shoulders. “Are you sure you can hold me?”

Darrin grasps her thighs with his hands and stands carefully. “Such little faith.”

Lanisen hovers a little, raising his hands just in case extra support is needed.

Megren steadies herself with one hand on top of his head. “I think I can reach it,” she says, sounding a little doubtful.

Darrin schooches a little closer to the lamppost.

Lanisen says anxiously, “Don’t get– be careful…”

Megren steadies herself on the pole, then reaches out and tugs at the little door. “It’s stuck.”

Lanisen looks a little disappointed. “I s’pose,” he agrees reluctantly. “If it’s been here as long as they say.”

Darrin makes a face up at it.

Megren tugs harder.

Lanisen makes a worried face and positions himself behind them in case everything comes tumbling down.

Megren raps the hinges with her knuckles to try to loosen them.

Darrin does his best to steady her.

Lanisen holds up his hands just in case but doesn’t interfere.

Megren tugs hard, and this time the little door opens, sending her backward with the impact, as predicted.

Darrin staggers backwards, his own balance not so thrown off – that is until he reaches up automatically to keep Megren from falling.

Lanisen takes a quick breath and reaches up to help, bracing Megren’s back with both hands.

Megren grips Darrin’s shoulders unhelpfully.

Darrin catches his balance, one hand thrown out to steady himself and the other reaching up to steady Megren. He gives a short, relieved laugh.

Lanisen shifts one hand down to Darrin’s back. “All right?” he asks, a little breathlessly.

Megren announces, triumphantly if unnecessarily, “I got it open!”

Darrin grins up at her.

Lanisen asks, dropping his hands once everybody’s stable again, “What’s in there?”

Megren taps Darrin’s shoulder for him to step forward again.

Darrin obediently does so.

Lanisen follows, standing on his tiptoes to poor effect.

Megren reaches inside and then pulls her hand quickly back. “Ah!” she exclaims, sucking her fingers.

Darrin draws in a sharp, sympathetic breath. “Careful,” he warns, rather belatedly.

Lanisen says, “Oh, oh no, did it burn you?”

Megren says, “I didn’t expect it to be hot.”

Darrin says, “…it’s a lamp, though?”

Megren makes a face and vengefully musses up his hair. “It’s magic! It grows out of the earth!”

Lanisen asks, “Are you all right? We can– there’s that stream, cold water…”

Darrin makes an affronted noise at the messing up of his hair and says sullenly, under his breath, “Light usually means heat.”

Megren says, “Shh, you’re right already.” She flaps her hand in the air but says, “It’s fine, I don’t even think it burned.”

Lanisen says, “Let me see it?”

Darrin looks at Lanisen and seems to agree with this sentiment. “Do you want to look inside once more before I let you down?” He asks, stressing the word ‘look’.

Megren seems entirely unconcerned. “Yeah, yeah, I want to see what’s fueling it.”

Lanisen asks, “Can you see?”

Darrin looks up at her.

Megren places her fingers on the edge of the lamp for balance, more carefully this time, and leans forward to peer in. “Oil, i think.”

Lanisen asks, “What’s makin’ the noise?”

Darrin hums with interest, both hands on her thighs again as she leans forward.

Megren says, “Steam maybe?”

Lanisen squints. “Steam?”

Megren says, “I don’t know, I can’t see anything. There’s some metal bits in here.”

Darrin says, “Quite unlike anything we have in Archenland, the magic of it aside.”

Lanisen shifts. “Is there anything else like it in Narnia, even?”

Megren says, “It can’t come from a seed or there would be more.”

Darrin says, “I don’t think so.”

Lanisen suggests, half-grinning, “Grafted?”

Megren says, “All right, Sir, you can carry me back, now.”

Darrin snickers, both at Lanisen and at Megren, and takes a couple of steps back before kneeling in a somewhat wobbly fashion.

Megren closes the latch before he steps back, and once he’s got low enough she hops off, placing a hand across the middle of his shoulders for balance as she does so.

Lanisen reaches out to help as this tricky maneuver is performed.

Darrin holds still until she is safely on her own two feet.

Megren leans the heel of her free hand, the injured one, on Lanisen’s fingers, and steps back out of the way for Darrin to stand back up.

Lanisen says, “All right, where’d you burn?”

Megren makes a face at him, pulling her hand quickly back and tucking it under her opposite arm.

Darrin hops back to his feet and sidles over next to Lanisen, giving Megren an expectant look.

Lanisen whines, “Me-eg.”

Megren says, “La-an.”

Lanisen says, making a beckoning gesture, “Come on, let us see.”

Darrin folds his arms over his chest and mock-glowers at her, nodding as Lanisen speaks.

Megren starts walking back toward the inn.

Lanisen throws up his hands and follows her.

Darrin hurries to catch up, groaning something under his breath that sounds like “stubborn.”

Megren smiles in a self-satisfied manner.

Lanisen says, “She’ll drop off eventually and then we’ll get her with the salve.”

Darrin grins, gesturing his approval of this plan.

Megren turns to walk backward and fix them each with a glare.

Lanisen asks, “Seriously, is it blisterin’?”

Darrin looks unrepentant.

Megren rolls her eyes and holds out the hand, not stopping for the task. Her first two fingers are pink across the tips but otherwise unharmed.

Lanisen reaches out to take her hand for a better look. He makes a sympathetic face and lets her go again. “Let’s go find some cold water.”

Megren says, “It’s /fine/. It’ll last ’til the inn.”

Darrin says, “Might blister otherwise.”

Lanisen says, “Blisters’re nasty.”

Megren says, “It’s not blistering!”

Lanisen says coaxingly, “Humor us.”

Megren tucks her hand back up under her arm.

Darrin sighs loudly.

Megren gives him a haughty, unrepentant look, and turns back around.

Lanisen says, half-wheedling, “We love you.”

Darrin offers, “And care about your well-being?”

Megren says, “I don’t believe it.”

Lanisen clutches at his heart, wounded.

Darrin looks hurt, which is to say, wide-eyed and pathetic.

Megren is not looking at them, making her quite impervious.

Lanisen gives up. He troops after her, pausing to look back at the lamppost again before it’s out of sight.

Darrin’s face is in danger of getting stuck like this.

Megren makes the mistake of looking over her shoulder. She gives the knight a punishing look.

Darrin grins in boyish fashion, ruining the effect.

Megren wonders, “What else is there to see here?”

Lanisen says, “Somebody wanted to see unicorns.”

Darrin says, “The Caldron Pool, perhaps.”

Megren asks, “Which way are those?”

Darrin points to the west.

Megren looks up at the sky. “Hmm, we should have packed a lunch.”

Lanisen asks, “Is there a tavern?”

Darrin says, “Just the inn. There is a general store though, north of a nearby settlement – might be we could find food there.”

Megren says, “Good enough for me. Maybe they’ll have something for my hand… it’s killing me.”

Lanisen pushes her shoulder.

Megren breaks into a grin.

Darrin covers his face with a hand and groans.

Lanisen shakes his head indulgently. “Where’s this store?”

Megren looks at Sir Darrin expectantly.

Darrin says, “Northwest of here.” He gestures.

Megren says, “Lead us, good knight.”

Darrin bows and does so.

Lanisen asks, “When were you here?”

Darrin says, “There was a, a gathering of suitors for Queen Susan, a tournament and the like a few years back. Before we knew Prince Rabadash’s true colours.”

Lanisen says, “Oh! Right, of course, I wasn’t thinkin’ that was /here/, here, I thought it was at the castle.”

Darrin says, “We started at the castle but the actual tournament was here in the Waste.”

Megren brushes a hand across her neck under her hair. “And you won the whole thing, I suppose, and made best friends with every Narnian you met besides.”

Darrin says, “Ah. Well. I had only been recently knighted, you see.”

Megren says, “Even more devastating.”

Lanisen grins.

Darrin says, “Rabadash fought rather splendidly, as I recall.” He shrugs. “But I did get to meet lots of very interesting people!”

Megren screws up her face.

Lanisen asks, “Where was the fightin’?”

Darrin says, “There’s a dwarven-made cavern of the Lists over by the western cliffs, just west of the main gathering place.”

Megren asks, “What sort of tournaments were there?”

Lanisen looks west as if to try to see the caves.

Darrin says, “A series of duels among the suitors, winners progressing until the two strongest fought, and then later a general melee for all the Narnians.”

Megren lifts her brows. “A melee tournament.” She tilts her head and narrows her eyes, looking intrigued.

Lanisen remarks, “Sounds, mm, chaotic.”

Darrin agrees, “Much like the chaos of a true battle.”

Megren says, “Sounds interesting.”

Lanisen lifts his eyebrows briefly.

Darrin says, “I can’t decide how much true strategy and skill play in such a fight, or if it is more down to luck and who lasts the longest. Though I suppose there are elements of both in any combat.”

Megren says, “I’d like to try my hand at it.”

Lanisen says, “I’ll watch and shout.”

Darrin laughs. “We’d have to persuade a number of people to participate in order to achieve the proper effect.”

Megren says, “We’ll start that up now, then.”

Lanisen snorts.

Darrin’s expression indicates this reaction was expected.

Megren asks, “What sorts of people did they get to join in?”

Lanisen glances at Darrin.

Darrin says, “All sorts. Unicorns, wolves from both packs, Narnian fighters of every kind, really.”

Lanisen pauses. “Sparring with a unicorn sounds dangerous.”

Megren pauses, “That is… not untrue.”

Darrin gestures at his forehead solemnly.

Lanisen winces.

Megren says, “How could you win against one?”

Darrin suggests, “Be faster than it?”

Megren looks extremely skeptical.

Lanisen says, “Cheat.”

Darrin says, “Horn and hooves… oh, and teeth. I should think it would be pretty much impossible,” he nods to Lanisen, “in a fair fight.”

Megren screws up her mouth.

Lanisen asks, “Are there many unicorns here?”

Megren asks, “Are they mean?”

Darrin says, “There’s a herd, I guess.”

Lanisen squints at Megren.

Megren says, “I mean, should we, are you /likely/ to meet one in battle?”

Darrin says, “Not really – I don’t think many of them are actually fighters. There’s one, the captain of the Watch… Petraverd, I’ve heard, who’s quite skilled. But most of them seem very noble and peaceful. And I’ve never, ever heard of one going Evil, so I don’t think we’d ever make an enemy of them.”

Lanisen is quiet at this, his forehead furrowing a little in thought.

Megren nods, looking a little relieved. “We may be glad of that.”

Darrin nods fervently.

Lanisen asks, “Would you rather fight a unicorn or a centaur?”

Darrin looks alarmed by these choices. “Neither??”

Megren says, “A centaur.”
Megren says, “There was one at the castle who showed me a few tricks.”

Darrin says, “What kind of tricks?”

Megren says, “They’re much more creatively dexterous than horses, but they haven’t got the same balance or speed when they’re surprised. And they’re, well they’re /big. aren’t they? I’ll show you when we train next.”

Darrin looks intrigued.

Megren pulls in her lip. “I wonder if any Unicorns would show us things.”

Darrin says, “I’d like that. It’s surely good to learn from different creatures.”

Megren nods thoughtfully.

Darrin looks back at Lanisen. “I’m not sure I could bring myself to fight either of those noble creatures in earnest, but I do have to agree with Megren, the centaurs might be the slightly less deadly of the two.”

Lanisen squints. “But they’re so /huge/.”

Darrin says, “They seem far more likely to be scholars and philosophers than fighters, however.”

Lanisen says, “Even so.”

Megren says, “Easier to hide from big things.”

Darrin grins.

Lanisen hmms doubtfully.

Megren asks, “Have you ever fought a boar? It takes a whole party. And a Unicorn would be smarter and quicker and its horn is meant just for that, not like tusks.”

Darrin says, “Not to mention much bigger than a boar.”

Lanisen says, “Well.” He pauses to think about this. “Hmm.”

Megren lifts her brows, “Aren’t they like horses?”

Darrin says, “Essentially. They’ve got cloven hooves, though, like goats.”

Megren says, “What, have they?”

Darrin nods.

Megren taps her lips thoughtfully. “I may need more data.”

Lanisen asks, “Where do they live, the unicorns?”

Darrin says, “Uhm. Southern side of the river and Pool somewhere.”

Lanisen asks, “Pool?”

Darrin says, “Caldron Pool? Where the Great River has its start?”

Lanisen says, “Oh! Ohhh. Sorry.”

Megren says, “That’s where we’re headed after the shop, right?”

Darrin nods. “It’s definitely the grandest sight to see in Lantern Waste.”

Lanisen says, “Let’s get goin’, then.”

Megren asks, “Grander than the Lantern?”

Darrin says, “It’s pretty impressive. Less magical, I suppose.” He quickens his pace.

Lanisen scans the path ahead on either side as they go, and keeps an eye out behind them as well.

Megren speeds up to match his pace. “Are you sure you know where we’re going?”

Darrin says, “Brackentree mentioned where it was, but I haven’t actually been there.”

Lanisen ducks his head and scratches his nose, definitely not grinning.

Megren accuses, “We are going to get so lost.” She doesn’t seem terribly disappointed by the prospect though.”

Darrin screws up his face. “We should be there soon.”

Lanisen says, “Says she who wouldn’t stop for a map.”

Megren declares, “/I/ don’t mind being lost.”

Darrin says, “It does seem like a pleasant place to get lost, if it comes to that.”

Lanisen says, “As long as there’s lunch.”

Megren says, “We’ll search out some leeks and fresney.”

Darrin’s lead eventually brings a little building in sight that is clearly the store, set just west of the path.

Lanisen says, “Oh, good.”

Megren doubts aloud, “Are we even still in Lantern Waste? That could be anything.”

Darrin sighs, put upon by all this skepticism.

Megren offers a sweet smile as recompense.

Darrin, seeing no other recourse, shakes his head and proceeds to the building. He holds open the door.

Lanisen follows behind, looking at the structure with interest.

Megren clasps her hands behind her back and follows.

Inside, Darrin pauses to let his eyes adjust to the dimmer light and pauses a beat longer to stare at the swift-moving squirrel who seems to be the proprietor.

Lanisen pauses outside the door to glance around and behind them, then follows his friends inside.

Megren ducks in between the others and peers around curiously.

Darrin moves to the main counter slowly, looking about.

Lanisen takes a moment to let his eyes adjust to the darker room. He glances around, paying more attention to the structure of the store and the shelves than to the wares: it’s definitely built for a Squirrel proprietor.

Megren, in her turn, seems quite interested in what sort of wares a definite Squirrel proprietor might hawk.

Darrin engages the Squirrel in conversation, and has to suppress a smile when he is informed that the proprietor’s name is Snitch.

Megren discovers a whole shelf of Shiny Things.

Lanisen follows her over, peering over her shoulder with great interest. “What’s that one for, do you reckon?”

Megren screws up her face. “Looking at, maybe?”

Darrin nods to Snitch and wanders back to Megren and Lanisen. “Something simple like bread and cheese all right?” he asks, peering at the shelf they’re examining.

Lanisen says, “Yeah, ‘course.” He reaches out and picks up a small oddly shaped rock that catches the light and throws it back strangely.

Megren says, “Yes, sounds good.”

Darrin oohs at Lanisen’s rock quietly. “Do we want anything else?”

Lanisen sets the rock back down and picks up instead a little bead made out of blue glass. “Think Dalia’d like this?”

Megren tilts her head, considering it. “Yes,” she concludes. “Very much.”

Darrin says, “It’s pretty.”

Lanisen turns to the Squirrel to inquire about the cost.

Megren fingers through the other things on the shelf of treasures with interest.

Darrin gets distracted by a display of dwarven-made knifes.

Lanisen barters half-heartedly, ends up paying probably more than the bead is worth, but seems very pleased with matters anyway. He pockets the bead and his coinpurse.

Megren comes up by Sir Darrin’s side to see what he’s looking at. The display and space are small enough that this requires a certain degree of closeness.

Darrin picks up a small dagger probably meant to be contained in a boot or forearm sheath.

Lanisen pauses and then turns away to look at something else, leaving them their space.

Megren’s eyes flick over the dagger, and then to the other knives on the display. “Haft would like these,” she muses.

Darrin’s eyebrows raise. “Hm, which one do you think he would like?”

Megren shakes her head uncertainly. “They’re probably expensive, anyway.”

Darrin opens his mouth and then closes it again, reconsidering. Instead of whatever he was going to say, he offers, “I could go in on it with you.”

Megren looks unsure, though not entirely resistant.

Lanisen glances over his shoulder at them.

Darrin sets down the dagger he’s holding and runs his fingers over another thoughtfully.

Megren shakes her head finally. “I don’t think he’d like it.”

Lanisen seems to come to the conclusion that he’s not interrupting anything. He wanders back over to join them.

Darrin wrinkles his nose.

Megren says, “We’ll find something else.”

Lanisen asks curiously, “What’re you lookin’ at?”

Darrin glances over his shoulder and scoots to the side so Lanisen can see a bit better. “Megren suggested Haft might like one of these,” he explains.

Lanisen says, “Oh, hmm.” He glances at Megren.

Megren shakes her head. “It’s too much.”

Lanisen asks, “Too expensive?”

Megren nods.

Darrin bites his lip.

Lanisen pauses, pushing his mouth to the side.

Megren says again, “There’s lots of time; we’ll find something else.”

Lanisen hesitates another second, then offers, “I’ll pitch in, if you like.”

Darrin looks to Megren.

Megren looks bothered now. “No, I, what if I brought you back something expensive?”

Lanisen says practically, “If it’s split up it’s not as expensive.”

Darrin appears to think he’s unqualified to offer an opinion on the matter.

Megren squints an eye.

Lanisen pushes his mouth to the side. “All right, let’s… remember where it is, then.”

Megren lingers uncertainly.

Darrin nods. “We can always come back for it.”

Megren says after a moment, “All right.”

Lanisen asks, “Anything else we need, since we’re here?”

Megren lifts her shoulders.

Darrin looks between them, and then, when no other needs are voiced, goes back to Snitch to purchase their lunch.

Megren browses the rest of the shop, but she’s ready by the time he’s done.

Lanisen drifts toward the door.

Darrin comes back with some wrapped cheese, a loaf of bread, and some sort of dried meat – venison, most likely.

Megren opens the door for them both. “Now do you know how to get to the pool from here?”

Darrin points south with a nod.

Lanisen pulls out the blue bead to look at in the sunlight.

Megren starts in that direction.

Darrin follows.

Lanisen pauses, looking back to Darrin to see what direction to go.

Darrin matches pace with Lanisen, heading south, and says, “It looks even prettier in the sun.”

Lanisen says, “Maybe I’ll get a ribbon or somethin’ for it before we go back.”

Megren says, “You could make it a ring with a piece of wire.”

Lanisen considers it. “It’s not too big?”

Darrin peeks over Lanisen’s shoulder to study the bead. “I don’t think so.”

Megren lifts her shoulders. “I’d wear it, so long as I wasn’t fighting.”

Lanisen hmms doubtfully. “It’d get in the way, I’d think. Catch on things.”

Megren tilts her head. “Hmm.”

Lanisen says, “We’ll see.”

Darrin deviates from a directly south route to lead the way through what looks like a small orchard.

Megren shuffles through the orchard so that her steps kick up as many leaves as possible.

Lanisen follows along behind, glancing up at the trees to be sure they don’t mind their leaf-shuffling.

Darrin moves west once they’ve exited from among the fruit trees and continues towards the Pool, his steps light but his posture alert.

Megren veers off path frequently enough to make their journey an obnoxiously long one, if admittedly one full of tiny adventure.

Lanisen mostly follows Megren, except when he’s found something more immediately interesting.

Darrin acts as an amused, benevolent shepherd as they both wander off and return.


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