Here is a wide open space carved in the rock, roughly circular and no more than twenty yards in diameter. The cliffs loom high on every side, providing shelter from wind and weather, but a great opening very far up lets in sunlight and sky. A thin jet of water, perhaps a daughter-stream of the river that pours into Caldron Pool, cascades down the western cliff face and feeds into a deep pool the color and clarity of a well-cut emerald. The ground, except for a ring of vegetation surrounding the pool, is dry and sandy. A single ancient larch tree grows tall near the north wall.
All around, the cliff face is etched and pocked with half-open tunnels and dark holes, entrances to small caves hollowed out years ago by the long work of water on stone. Some are fitted with wooden doors and appear inhabited, but many still yawn empty. Up above, ledges and crevices in the rock provide nesting spaces for eagles and hawks. In the east wall, through a wide crevice like a wound in the stone, the forests of Lantern Waste are just visible.
Megren sits near the fire when Lanisen awakes. She is braiding a handful of long needles three at a time and then tossing them into the flames to watch them crinkle.
Lanisen begins stirring after about an hour. He stretches and tugs the blanket away from his face, blinking in the light, but doesn’t get up right away, seeming inclined to be lazy. He watches Megren’s needle-braiding with sleepy interest.
Megren lifts her eyes a few times when he stirs, not catching it immediately when it is the real wakeful one. When she does notice his eyes are open she lifts her chin and says cheerily, “Good morning.”
Lanisen frowns and looks up past the cliffs at the sky to check, just sleepy enough to be disoriented.
Megren grins a little. “It’s only been maybe an hour,” she relents.
Lanisen says, “Oh.” He yawns, and says mid-yawn, “Good.”
Megren says, “Sir Darrin was off talking to his noble friends at the other camp. He said they offered we could camp out there with them if we wanted.”
Lanisen says, “Oh, mm.” He pillows his head on his forearm. “You want to?”
Megren says, “I don’t mind either way. This place is beautiful. I like them all, though.”
Lanisen nods, his eyes straying past her to the pool and the waterfall and the old larch tree.
Megren asks, “You want to stay I suppose?”
Lanisen asks, “Mm? No, I don’t mind. I’m glad to have come here but I don’t mind movin’ if you want to.”
Megren says, “We won’t be here much longer anyway. They’ll be needing us back home.”
Lanisen does seem regretful at this. He draws and releases a breath, then pushes himself up to sit.
Megren says, “Oh, Dalia wrote. I got it yesterday while Sir Darrin and I were training.”
Lanisen asks with interest, folding up his blanket, “Did she?”
Megren says, “She said Kirb let the dogs out into the ward but the new girl had her head on straight and got it sorted in no time.”
Lanisen looks worried at first, but grins smugly at this news. “Did she! I knew she had a good head.”
Megren nods. “Sounds it. It sounded like they’re needing us, though.”
Lanisen looks down, but nods. He takes a deep breath and sets the blanket aside, running a hand through his hair halfheartedly to try to straighten it again. “Tomorrow, then, or the next day?”
Megren says, “Yeah, I’d think so. Whatever Sir Darrin says.”
Lanisen nods again. He yawns, then asks, “S’pose they’ve caught the stag yet?”
Megren says, “Might have done. Sounds like they’ve been at it for days. I’ve a feeling it only gets caught if it wants to.”
Lanisen grumbles, “‘S not fair, the makin’ folk tired thing.”
Megren says, “I think that’s how running works.”
Lanisen says, “No, I mean the– how it makes you… /you/ know, like the other day.”
Megren asks, “What, sort of, quiet and dreamy you mean?”
Lanisen says, “Yeah! I was pretty far back today, it didn’t, I didn’t feel it so much as when it was close, but it’s the only reason I could keep up half the time, I think.”
Megren says, “Well, it hasn’t seem to make them tired, has it? Karidea said they saw it all the way down by the Fords and had been chasing it all since.”
Lanisen says, “When they were close, it did, I think.”
Megren asks, “Oh.” She tilts her head. “How /does/ anyone catch it, then? Someone must have. Perhaps with a lure? What does a magical stag eat I wonder?”
Lanisen says, “/Does/ a magical stag eat? It must be hundreds of years old, if it’s the same one as in the stories.” He stretches out his arms and gets to his feet.
Megren lifts her brows. “Do you think they are /different/ stags, then? Then every one would have a different way of being caught, maybe. Or maybe, different magics. This one makes you dream, another makes you hunger, and another makes you forget how to do knots.”
Lanisen squints at her. “Knots?”
Megren says, “So your horses keep running off and your bowstrings are all loose and your pants keep falling off.”
Lanisen says, “A most devastating magic.” He tilts his head toward the opening to the Waste. “Come on, let’s go find some news.”
Megren says, “Sure. Sir Darrin said we’re invited to have dinner up there, either way.”
Lanisen asks, “At the festival?”
Lanisen corrects, “No, at the camp?”
Megren says, “At the camp, right.”
Lanisen considers. “That’ll be nice. Prince Cor’s here, did you know?”
Megren says, “Yeah? He must have come up after we left Cair Paravel.”
Lanisen says, “I didn’t know he was goin’ to, just saw him with the hunt yesterday.”
Megren says, “I’d like to see what he was like here.”
Lanisen suggests, “Want to go find out?”
Megren asks, “Mm, yeah, only,” she eyes their fire. “I might, I might like to pack up some of our things in case we /do/ leave tomorrow, and then I can take my time about putting this out properly. Go ahead and I’ll join you in a little?”
Lanisen asks, “You sure?”
Megren says, “Yeah, yeah, I’m sure. I won’t be very far behind.”
Lanisen pushes his mouth to the side, but nods. “Don’t bother with my things, I’ll get them tonight.”
Megren says, “Sure, all right.”
Lanisen says, “See you in a bit, then.”
Megren picks up a pine needle. “See you in a bit,” she says cheerfully.
Lanisen makes his way out toward the waste, still limping a bit.
The best word for this spot might be grandiose. To the west water roars from a fall, where a river somewhere in the western wilds crashes over Narnia’s western border-cliffs to form the great, churning Caldron pool, deep and cold. The path at the edge of the pool forks three ways: east, to follow along the bank of the Great River, north, toward the Gathering Circle and the forest homes, and south fording the relatively small ‘river’ where it continues curving around to the southern side of the pool.
Myrd is sitting on a rock watching a young boy, his miniature copy, look for intriguing stones or anything else that catches his fancy. Myrd’s expression is open and unguarded and dare we say…indulgent.
Lanisen comes up the path from the south, crossing the stream with care and limping slightly. He sees the boy before he sees Myrd, and grins.
Myrd glances up and responds with vague interest to the stick his son shows him.
Lanisen slows, catching sight of Myrd. Realization dawns, and he halts altogether, glancing back the way he came.
Myrd’s son hands over the treasure and goes back toward the pool. Myrd calls after him. “Ain’t get too close to that water, youngster. Too ruddy cold out for that.” The little boy nods and takes off again, giggling.
Lanisen hesitates, then presses his lips together, checks his knife, and continues north up the path, keeping his distance from both Myrd and his child.
Myrd scowls when Tristran gets curious about a piece of glass, rubbed smooth by the churning water, and grabs for it, almost slipping. “Careful, Tristran. Told you not so close.” Tristran obeys and spots Lanisen. “Who are you?” he trills. Myrd mutters something that sounds like, “trouble”.
Lanisen shies away slightly from Tristan’s notice. He doesn’t answer, instead looking to Myrd, wary and assessing.
Myrd’s expression is cool. Wary.
Lanisen seems to not want trouble. He carefully avoids looking directly at Tristan.
Myrd snorts. “Best tell him if you’ve a mind. Emperor knows his ma and I ain’t get no peace from the questions.” He looks at his son. “Youngster, there’s some folks ain’t take kindly to them as they don’t know asking about their business.”
Lanisen doesn’t say anything just yet, but he shifts his weight slightly and looks from Myrd to the boy, equally assessing, if less wary.
Myrd shakes his head with a mix of exasperation and fondness as Tristran holds out his smooth glass for Lanisen to inspect. “He ain’t learned yet how cruel the world is.”
Lanisen hesitates slightly, giving Myrd a narrow look, then drops to one knee to see the glass better. “That’s real nice,” he tells Tristran. “What do you reckon it used to be?”
Myrd remains where he is, though it is obvious that he is watching all of this closely.
Tristran beams up at Lanisen with a toothy grin. He looks like what Myrd might have once upon a time if he had not fallen into bad company. “Not sure”, the little boy answers.
Lanisen suggests, pointing at the curve of the glass, “A bottle, maybe?” He keeps Myrd in his line of vision and glances toward him frequently, wary.
Myrd tosses one stone after the other into the foam at the edge of the water, where each lands precisely in the same place. “Tristran, ain’t bother him, now.” Tristran then asks why the glass is smooth.
Jana saunters north along the path, walking the usual patrol route of the Northern Guard.
Lanisen answers, his eyes darting back to Myrd at each toss of a rock, “The water makes it so, I guess.” He gets back to his feet, carefully not making any sudden moves.
Myrd’s head jerks up. “Reckon that’s so”, he confirms. Noticing his spouse, he calls out, “Darlin’, you see who’s showed his face again? Ain’t forgotten his old friends, it seems.” Tristran runs over to show her his smooth glass.
Jana frowns. “What’d mama tell you about talking to strangers,” she chides the boy.
Lanisen steps back, rubbing his elbow and flushing slightly. He looks between Myrd and Jana with a sort of still apprehension.
Myrd retorts, “Ain’t the only one said that. Wonder where the youngster gets his stubborn streak.” Tristran explains that he asked the stranger’s name first. Myrd interjects, “Reminded him not to pester folks with questions too.” Tristran gives Jana a hug, clearly glad to see her.
Lanisen watches the interaction silently.
Jana crouches and kisses the boy’s cheek. “What’d mama say about strangers,” she says again. Tristran answers in a very quiet, reluctant voice. She nods and holds out her hand so that he can show her the glass.
Myrd eyes Lanisen. “Seems you ain’t done so badly for yourself since we parted ways. Youngster ain’t the only one to talk when he shouldn’t.”
Jana eyes Lanisen’s scars like she’s not sure what “not so badly” means.
Lanisen regards Myrd uncertainly and offers no response to this.
Myrd catches his wife’s gaze. “Taken in by that ruddy castle. Seems Lanisen here used to squire for one of them fancy knights. Ain’t no more lean times for Lanny. You ever thought it?”
Jana says, “Ain’t look like a good master to me.”
Lanisen flinches slightly at this assessment. “That’s not true,” he says, looking at Jana.
Myrd’s eyebrows raise. “Seems the pup’s grown teeth. It ain’t? Then tell the right of it.”
Lanisen says, “Don’t talk down to me.”
Myrd smirks. “Ain’t flatter yourself. Reckon I talk down to almost everyone.”
Jana rolls her eyes. She hands the glass back to Tristran and lets him run off in search of another one.
Myrd’s wolfish look almost dares his spouse to contradict the truth of this assertion.
Lanisen says nothing to this, though his eyes flick between them again.
Jana crosses her arms and surveys the younger man. “You’re eating?”
Myrd drawls, “Reckon he looks like a strong wind will snap him in two anymore, Darlin’?”
Lanisen’s face registers surprise at the question, but he nods after a small pause, ignoring Myrd’s comment.
Myrd looks Lanisen straight on. “It’s like I told you the other day. Ain’t saying I understand it.”
Jana lifts her chin at Myrd. “He’s gettin’ food, that’s better then when he was followin’ you.”
Myrd’s jaw clenches. “Always take care of my own.”
Lanisen snorts softly and looks down.
Jana squints an eyes, but she merely crosses her arms and nods subordinately.
Myrd’s eyes narrow. “Ain’t one of them as lives any better than his band, and we ate. Weren’t fancy, but I shared equal. Bad as you think you had it when we was a band, there’s plenty worse.”
Lanisen regards Myrd levelly, disbelieving.
Jana’s eyes shift to their child, still in earshot, and she says nothing.
Myrd’s mouth sets in a narrow line. “I see how it is.” He gestures around. “Think this would be my lot if I’d been siphoning off from you lot? Ain’t my dream. Man who set me on the path went by the name of Bar. It always can get worse.”
Jana says, “Ain’t said you were siphoning.”
Lanisen glances at Jana, and then at Tristran. He closes his mouth.
Myrd gives her a hard look.
Jana frowns, and says again, “Aint said you were siphoning.”
Lanisen’s eyes shift to watch Myrd.
Myrd acknowledges this with a curt nod. “Ain’t gone easy on you, and I know it, Lanny.”
Lanisen says, “Lanisen.”
Myrd grins, a little of the wolf creeping in. “Lanisen.”
Jana shifts, and then begins to walk northward. “I got work to do,” she says dismissively.
Lanisen swallows, watching Myrd. As Jana moves, he steps backward, off the path and out of the way.
Myrd calls Tristran to him and the boy obeys. He moves to follow his wife. “Ain’t nobody ever as much of a hero or a villain as they’re built up in other folks’ minds.”
Jana says, “Think how much worse in their own, then.”
Lanisen keeps back and still, his arms loose and ready at his sides, and doesn’t look at Myrd directly as he passes.
Myrd shrugs. “Could be, I suppose. Ain’t much time for philosophizing more though when I got that blasted goat to contend with.”. He slips into the woods, giving Jana a kiss in passing.
Jana moves so he can get past her and branch off toward their home. She gives his back an especially sour expression, muttering something that looks like it has the word ‘poetry’ in it.
Lanisen watches her. His shoulders tense slightly at the little he picks up, and he looks away quickly, rubbing a hand over his mouth.
Jana glances over her shoulder to see if Lanisen is still standing there. Seeing that he is, she frowns, crossing her arms over her ribcage and turning to pick up her path where she left off.
Lanisen, before she is quite out of speaking range, says, “Jana–”
Jana takes a few steps past when he’s said it before stopping. She takes a breath and turns around. “Need somethin’?”
Lanisen looks stuck for a moment, like he’s not thought ahead. His eyes shift to where Myrd and Tristran passed out of sight, and then back to her. He swallows, and finally asks without quite looking at her, “Are you– are you all right, here.”
Jana says, “I got the guard.”
Lanisen nods, but there’s an unsatisfied furrow between his eyebrows, as if this wasn’t exactly what he meant to ask. He looks at her again, and quickly away.
Jana hesitates and then says in a slightly hard voice, “Can come walk patrol with me if you want.”
Lanisen pauses. He glances after Myrd again, then steps up to join her without a word.
Jana starts walking again once he’s come up beside her.
Lanisen puts his hands in his pockets and watches the ground as they walk. He moves with a slight limp.
Jana asks after a long quiet, “They done all that to you?”
Lanisen glances at her.
Jana nods at his leg.
Lanisen says, “No, no, ‘course not, that was– it was somethin’ else.”
Jana asks, “And the wrists, and your neck?”
Lanisen says, “That wasn’t– no, that’s– They been kind to me, that wasn’t…”
Lanisen tugs at his sleeves in a fidgety sort of way. “The neck’s my fault, everything else’s– other, other things.”
Jana eyes his wrists, but she doesn’t push it further.
Lanisen says, “Your, your kid, what’s his name?”
Jana says, “Tristran. He’s 6.”
Lanisen nods. “Friendly,” he offers.
Jana says, “Yeah. Everyone’s his friend. Ain’t ask me how that come about.”
Lanisen grins, looking at the ground.
Jana glances at him.
Lanisen’s grin slips after a moment. He watches the path in front of them.
Jana says, “If he– sometimes when they get older they don’t get on so well.”
Lanisen glances at her questioningly.
Jana crosses her arms and squints up at the sky, pressing her lips together. “It’s, you don’t got any reason to be friend to me,” she dismisses.
Lanisen says, “Nor you me.”
Jana doesn’t say anything to this.
Lanisen stays quiet. He hunches up his shoulders against the chill of the breeze and closes his coat. “You looked after me back then,” he says finally. “I ain’t forgot.”
Jana snorts. “Threw at cat at you.”
Lanisen snorts as well, looking down. “Well,” he says after a moment. “Not a very /big/ cat.”
Jana says, “It’s easy to make someone feel cared after when they don’t know what care looks like.”
Lanisen lifts his shoulders.
Jana says, “You’re here now, by choice, though.”
Jana says, “How come.”
Lanisen says, “You invited me.”
Jana says, “In Narnia.”
Lanisen doesn’t answer for a moment. “It’s just– just somethin’ I wanted to do. To know that I could. And my, my friends, they wanted to come too.”
Jana says, “What kind of friends.”
Lanisen says, “Good friends. Real friends.”
Jana sucks her teeth. “What are those like.”
Lanisen glances at her. “You don’t got friends in the guard?”
Jana says, “I want to know what yours are like.”
Lanisen takes a deep breath. “Meg, I known her longer, she’s… um, she used to be on the guard at Anvard, now she’s a squire. She’s, she’s really good with people. Sir Darrin too. He laughs a lot. They’re both, they’re kind, and clever and funny, and I trust ’em. They’re, um. They’re safe.”
Jana says, “There was a woman in the castle.”
Lanisen glances at her.
Jana says, “I think we were friends.”
Lanisen asks, “Before?”
Lanisen asks, “What’s her name?”
Jana says, “It was — she’s dead.”
Lanisen glances at her, startled, and then comprehending. He opens his mouth, and a brief moment passes before he says, “I’m– I’m sorry.”
Jana’s lips press together and it takes her a moment to say, “Me too.”
Lanisen asks, “When–?”
Jana says, “Four years.”
Lanisen is silent for several steps, watching the ground. He finally asks tentatively, “What was she like?”
Jana drops her hands, letting them slip into the hidden pockets of her voluminous skirts. “Calormene. There was a thing that lived up north. Myrd got restless and let himself get under its thumb. She’d worked for it before and then changed sides and gone under the castle instead. She brung him in when he tried to blackmail her for it.”
Lanisen listens silently. “A thing?” he asks when there is a pause.
Jana says, “I don’t know, a monster.”
Jana is quiet for a long time, and then she glances at him, as if sizing him up.
Lanisen looks back at her, attentive if guarded.
Jana looks back to the path, her eyes diverting to a noise in the brush, but then dismissing it with a quick, practiced confidence. “She’d been a slave.”
Lanisen straightens slightly, surprised but not shocked, and takes a moment to absorb this. “She must’ve been…”
Jana lets him finish.
Lanisen takes a moment. “She must’ve been made of strong stuff.”
Jana frowns and says nothing.
Lanisen glances at her to see if he’s offended somehow.
Jana just says, “Oughtn’t be dead, anyway.”
Lanisen turns his eyes toward the path but doesn’t focus on anything in particular. “I’m sorry,” he says again, low and genuine.
Jana is quiet again for awhile, and then a little irony creeps into her voice. “When I asked to join the guard, I said it was because of her and they said ‘you need a better reason’.”
Jana seems to think that statement stands well enough on its own.
Lanisen makes a small unconscious movement as if to reach out, but catches himself and draws back, briefly disoriented. To cover it, he says, “They let you join, though?”
Jana says, “Looks like, don’t it.”
Lanisen accepts this, letting it drop.
Jana asks, “How about you.”
Lanisen glances at her to see what she is asking.
Jana says, “That knight made friends and gave you everything you ever wanted, I suppose.”
Lanisen says, “I did my time.”
Jana looks upward and says nothing.
Lanisen seems to have been slightly stung by her words and says nothing for a moment. “Sir Colin’s the one who caught me,” he says finally. “He stuck around, gave me a reason to stay out of trouble.”
Jana says, “And now you’re squire to the one you’re following around.”
Lanisen says, “No.”
Jana says, “Who, then.”
Lanisen says, “I’m not a squire.”
Jana glances at him, briefly surprised. “Loc said you were.”
Lanisen says, “I was. I’m not now.” He pauses. “Loc’s been here?”
Jana says, “No.”
Lanisen says, “Ah.”
Jana says, “Apparently getting drunk makes him write letters.”
Lanisen raises his eyebrows briefly at this extraordinary statement.
Jana lifts her shoulders. “It only happened once, and he took it all back when he got a reply.”
Jana glances at him.
Lanisen provides, “I was in Carmichael a while back, where he’s at.”
Jana says, “That’s how he knew about the squiring then I reckon.”
Lanisen pauses to think back, then nods.
Jana says, “Ain’t liked it?”
Lanisen doesn’t answer right away. He rubs a hand over his mouth and lifts his shoulders. “It didn’t work out.”
Jana looks at him.
Lanisen avoids her eyes uncomfortably.
Lanisen says, “It just wasn’t–” He stops and pulls his lips between his teeth, trying to get his words in order. “Stuff– stuff happened, and everything went a little bit, um, a little bit sideways. It ended up not bein’…”
Jana walks silently beside him.
Lanisen says, “It was, it’s fine now.”
Jana says, “All right.”
Jana says, “Dogs.”
Lanisen nods, grinning fondly at the ground.
Jana says, “You should’ve been the one living in Narnia.”
Lanisen lights up a little at this. “It’s somethin’ else,” he agrees. “The– the trees that talk to each other, the water. There’s a /Bat/ in Cair Paravel, she’s a messenger or somethin’.”
Jana says, “There’s pretty near all the animals you can think of somewhere or another.”
Lanisen says blissfully, “I know.”
Jana glances at him and gives a little huff of a laugh.
Lanisen glances at her, a full broad grin on his face. “Oh,” he says, remembering. “We went to the garden, like you said.”
Jana nods once.
Lanisen says, “It’s…” Words seem to fail him here, and he just nods several times, approvingly.
Jana says, “Thanks.”
Jana says, “Felt good to knock something down.”
Lanisen lifts his eyebrows at this, intrigued.
Jana glances at him and defends herself, “It was a bad place.”
Lanisen says, “No, I– I know. How’d you do it?”
Jana says, “All us guard did it together. It was already falling apart, but there was magic in it and things that still wanted to get at that magic.”
Lanisen asks, “What kind of things?”
Jana says, “I don’t know. Monsters.”
Jana says, “Raistlana went there once and it did something to her.”
Lanisen pulls back his chin, slightly horrified.
Jana lifts her shoulders.
Lanisen says, “They’re gone, though, yeah? They don’t come around anymore?”
Jana says, “Yeah.”
Jana says, “Anyway.”
Lanisen agrees, “Anyway.” He rubs his elbow absently, his face shadowing briefly.
Jana glances at him once again.
Lanisen asks abruptly, “Do you know about Aaron?”
Jana frowns. “Who’s Aaron.”
Lanisen says, “Um–” His face creases up a little in distaste or discomfort or both. “Um, I don’t know that that’s his name, he’s gone by Aaron and Darius both. Did anybody tell you about him?”
Jana says, “Oh, him. He came up and tried to join the guard. I kicked him in the gut.”
Lanisen looks startled and more alarmed than this assertion would warrant. “Did he hurt anybody?”
Jana says, “No. I just didn’t like him. Heard he’s in Cair Paravel now for something he did in Archenland. Nobody comes up to Narnia unless they’re running from something.”
Lanisen exhales. He nods to confirm this. “If…” he begins haltingly. “He’s, he’s in the dungeons and I don’t reckon he’ll be out soon, but– um, if, if he should…” He lets out a breath that has gone slightly shaky. “He’s, he’s the grocer’s cousin. The one from, from back then.”
Jana’s brow furrows for a moment, and then her scar goes white, and her lips press together. “Oh.”
Lanisen nods. He rubs his wrists, a fidgety, compulsive sort of motion.
Jana says, “What’s he runnin’ from, then.”
Lanisen says, “Um,” and frowns a little, distracted. “He’d, he’d set his house on fire, before he came here.”
Jana narrows her eyes.
Lanisen says, “I dunno. It was to make a point. And then there were people after him, so he came here, I guess.”
Jana says, “A point about the cousin?”
Lanisen says, “No, it was–” He screws up his face and rubs his forehead. “It’s been a couple years, um– He’d been, he’d been hangin’ around the castle, bein’ suspicious, makin’ folk nervous. He got told off, then came back anyway, and, um– Sir Colin said somethin’ about he didn’t want to see smoke signals from him, even, so he set the fire just to thumb his nose, I think.”
Jana says, “Oh.” She smirks a little.
Lanisen says, “And then he came back last year and he’s– now he’s in the dungeons.” He glances at her and says, a sort of serious urgency in his voice, “He’s dangerous, Jana.”
Jana looks unimpressed by this. “He’s in a dungeon you said.”
Lanisen says, “So were we, once.”
Jana shrugs. “I disarmed him in less than the time it takes to cut up an apple.”
Lanisen looks ahead, visibly troubled. He catches his lower lip between his teeth and draws a breath, but seems unwilling to say whatever it is.
Jana keeps walking.
Lanisen follows her, closing his mouth. His silence is rather subdued.
Jana finally says, “How come you’re scared.”
Lanisen says, “I’m not.”
Jana says, “You come here, so you ain’t scared of Myrd, and you ain’t telling me Myrd’s dangerous, so you ain’t think you know better’n me on him, either.”
Lanisen presses his lips together, glancing to the side to avoid looking at her.
Jana says, “So, you reckon he’s worse than Myrd.”
Lanisen crosses an arm over his stomach, his face creasing up briefly with distress. “He’s, he’s different from Myrd.”
Jana says, “He done something worse than wall you up?”
Lanisen’s silence is telling.
Jana frowns, and then just says, “All right.”
Lanisen draws a breath. “Just… look after yourself and yours if…”
Jana says, “I’ll do that.” She pauses. “Thanks for saying.”
Lanisen nods, still avoiding her eyes.
Jana says, “You ain’t had to.”
Lanisen shrugs slightly, looking at the path. “You got a kid.”
Jana says, “If–”
Lanisen does glance at her at this.
Jana says, “If, you ran off when you were a kid, right, sometimes kids, sometimes kids do that.”
Lanisen nods slightly, not entirely sure where this is going.
Jana looks upward, at the canopy. “If he, if he’s looking like he and us aren’t going, like if he and Myrd stopped getting on–” she scowls, her gaze moving off to the side now. “Just, if something happened would you, could he have a place to go.”
Lanisen looks startled, and oddly vulnerable. He stares for a moment, then blinks a couple times and shuts his mouth, nodding quickly. “Yeah, yes, of course.”
Jana glances at him quickly to see if this response is real. “Don’t just say.”
Lanisen shakes his head.
Jana frowns, untrusting.
Lanisen looks at her, then ducks his head, understanding. “If– um. There’s a, at the castle, if there’s a kid with nowhere to go, they… the guard takes ’em on as pages, teaches ’em the trade, makes sure they got food and clothes, gives ’em a place to sleep. If he’d rather.”
Jana says, “He needs somebody watching him. Kids are dumb if they don’t got that.”
Lanisen says, “Yeah.”
Jana says, “I just wanna know if he went off to Archenland he’d have somebody. I can’t get anybody to tell me he’d have somebody.”
Lanisen nods, looking at her seriously. “I’ll watch for him,” he promises. “And I’ll do my best to look after him if he shows up.”
Jana watches him a long moment, and then finally nods, looking forward again. “All right.”
Lanisen says, “If it’s– you can write me, even, if… I can, I’ll go look for him, if you don’t think he’d come.”
Jana frowns, nodding.
Lanisen says, “Megren, too, and Sir Darrin, they’re both– they wouldn’t let a kid go it alone if they could help it.”
Jana says, “I don’t know them.”
Lanisen pauses, as if he’s about to launch into assurances of the quality of their characters, but he nods instead, accepting this.
Jana concedes, “Good you found people that watch your back.”
Lanisen nods. “You too?” he asks.
Jana says, “Suppose.”
Lanisen pushes his mouth to the side.
Jana says, “Ain’t the way you’re describing things, but there’s folks that look out for me if they think there’s something wrong. Sometimes got different ideas on wrong.”
Lanisen nods, lifting one corner of his mouth. He’s quiet for a moment, then asks, “Myrd?”
Jana glances at him, unsure if this is referring to the something wrong or to the folks who look out for her.
Lanisen asks, “Is it– Are you… are you all right with him?”
Jana sucks her teeth.
Lanisen glances at her sidelong very briefly, then averts his eyes, still listening.
Jana says, “He said we should get married, I said know. He said he’d rather see me dead than not his wife, I said all right.”
Lanisen’s face goes slack with shock.
Jana says, “I’m not dead.”
Lanisen raises his eyebrows briefly at this. His face twists up for a second and he shakes his head. “You can… you can leave him, I reckon?” he asks, looking at her.
Jana says, “Nah.”
Lanisen presses, “If you wanted to, could you? If you had to?”
Jana says, “Tristran.”
Lanisen exhales and lowers his head.
Jana says, “If something happened the guard would help.”
Lanisen glances at her. He nods, relieved. After a small pause, he says, “I heard– I started hearin’ a little about you and him, here, about… you know, how you live, what you’re doin’. I heard about Tristran a few years ago. I figured, they got off scott-free, they’re livin’ happy, they can do whatever they want, and here I am.” He pauses again. “I got it, I got it real wrong. I’m sorry.”
Jana lifts a shoulder. “Something’s wrong with your hand. We all got something.”
Lanisen turns his hand palm-up to look at it, then drops it again, dismissive.
Jana says, “Thanks. Sorry about the cat.”
Lanisen says, straight-faced, “I never been the same since that day.”
Jana glances at him to check if he’s serious, and then her lip quirks up into a smirk.
Lanisen grins back companionably, then looks forward to the path ahead.
Jana looks that way too. “Got a ways left before I’m at the tower again. Path back the way we came gets touchier from here though.”
Lanisen asks, “You want me to head back?”
Jana says, “Ain’t mind if you keep on, but I can’t walk you back.”
Lanisen pauses. “I’ll go with you,” he says. “If that’s all right.”
Jana says, “It’s fine.”
Lanisen accepts this. He puts his hands in his pockets and keeps walking, peacefully quiet.
Jana doesn’t disturb the silence again.