Cor comes out of his tent looking poorly rested, and a little disheveled. He is warmly dressed, but still looks a little cold.
Petria rises from her place by the fire stretching and moves the greet Prince.
Bracken glances toward the prince. “There’s coffee if you want it Your Highness.”
Lanisen, sitting with his arms on his knees by the fire, rouses and straightens as Cor emerges. He gets to his feet, a little wobbly with lack of sleep, and bows.
Glora walks out of the underbrush from the direction of the Pool. She looks around the camp, tail twitching in quick flicks.
Cor rubs the back of his head and nods, possibly a response to the offer or possibly to the bowing. He sits at the fire, scrubbing at his face. “No word?”
Petria returns to the fire beside the the Prince and sniffs the air.
Bracken pours a steaming mug from the metal pitcher and holds the mug out toward Cor. “No.”
Lanisen sits back down, folding his arms across his knees. He glances out toward the edge of the camp.
Cor accepts the cup, holding it by the handle so that he doesn’t burn himself on the tin and not drinking any yet. “How long does it take for a scent to stop being trackable?”
Glora heads towards the fire, glancing the way of the prince as he talks. She sits near the flames and stares into them. Her ears swivel towards the prince and the Dwarf to listen.
Bracken shakes his head. “I wouldn’t be the one to ask.”
Cor looks at Aliyah.
Lanisen shifts, looking toward Glora with a small, wan smile.
Aliyah lifts her head from her paws even though she was not the one spoken to, having only been listening. “A trail getting cold? Depends on the area really. Water would make it impossible to track immediately if it was crossed. With that said, do they ever get off their horses during a hunt? that is what puzzles me. We could not find any places where clothing might have gotten caught, so we were not able to pick up any human scent from it. We couldn’t make much out beyond the scent left on the horses either.”
Glora looks toward Lanisen and blinks once, still listening.
Lanisen looks at Cor at this.
Bracken says, “If the trail’s cold there’s not much chance of us muddling it with our own tracks. I did wonder if the trail might pick up again farther from the horses.”
Aliyah looks at Bracken with a hint of annoyance in her expression. “The horses were everywhere. Would not a trail have branched off from at least one location?”
Cor asks, “They’ve got to — they’ve got to be /some/where, haven’t they?”
Glora’s tail twitches again, sharply, and she stands to walk next to Lanisen and sit next to him.
Petria ears flick forward and backward at the site of the cat. “But wouldn’t they have needed to dismount to ask wishes?
Glora says, “If they ever /got/ wishes.”
Aliyah nods, agreeing with Glora. “At this point, I doubt they got wishes. The horses wouldn’t have been left here and there.”
Glora blinks in Aliyah’s direction, ears briefly swiveling forward. With a twitch of her whiskers, she looks back towards the others.
Petria snorts, looking like she would like to reply to the cat when the wolf concurs.
Lanisen’s eyes shift to Aliyah. He looks down, his forehead furrowing wearily.
Bracken sighs. “Don’t get yer ruff in a twist. We’re just askin’.”
Glora’s eyes narrow when the Dog snorts.
Cor’s lips pull downward, his brows furrowing in concentration. “I think…” He closes his hands over the quickly cooling tin of coffee. “I think… we need to tell the castle. Curiate Tumnus, certainly. And the, the rest of the council. They’ll know what to do, and they’ll need to know anyway because it might mean they’ve got more decisions to make in the meantime.”
Petria says, “You don’t think somethings happened to them, do you?””
Bracken nods. “That’s reasonable. I hate to worry them when it may be only that Queen Lucy took an interest in something and the others followed, but…
Aliyah rests her head back on her paws. “She was so intent on catching that creature. Could anything have taken her interest from it?”
Cor rubs the back of his head again.
Bracken asks, “Probably not. Might be there’s something about the critter itself as would cover the tracks?”
Petria nudges the Prince’s hand, “If you need a messenger, send me your Highness.”
Aliyah frowns, growling to no one but herself. “Or something even more mysterious about it than that. It was leading us in circles until they branched out on their own. Where in the world would it… and they have gone?”
Lanisen listens to the debate without reacting much. His eyes settle distantly on Cor’s undrunk coffee.
Cor takes a breath and nods to Petria. “There was a Leopard in our company, I didn’t catch her name. You could travel with her.”
Glora watches the debate silently, though she glances at the Dog with a slightly skeptical expression at the offer, even as the Prince agrees.
Aliyah looks at the prince, a shocked expression on her muzzle. “Not to undermine you sir, but would it not be more prudent to send a bird due to speed? If the concern is that great at least…”
Lanisen stirs and gives Aliyah a frowning side-eye at this public questioning of the prince’s orders.
Glora stands, flicking her tail a couple more times as she walks off again, taking care to walk quietly and not interrupt.
Cor says, “Um, oh. Oh,” he nods, and his eyes flick upward until they land on the Chimney Swift from the night before, still gliding through the air above the camp. “Nimblewing?” He looks at Petria. “And then you could run behind with the leopard, in case.”
Petria is all eagerness to be off doing something. “Oh please send me, Your Highness. After all I am one of their Majesties messengers.”
Bracken pours another mug and nods to Lanisen.
Cor says, “I can’t think it would hurt.”
Lanisen nods slightly in agreement, glancing from the Swift to Petria.
Cor turns back to Aliyah, “Other than the stag and their majesties, is there anything else strange? I mean –” he pauses, trying to figure out his own thoughts. “I mean, is there anything we should be prepared for that you’ve seen?”
Aliyah shakes her head quickly. “No, not a thing.”
Cor looks no less burdened by this answer but he nods. To Petria and Nimblewing, he says, “Tell them we’ve not heard from their majesties since yesterday afternoon, and with no sign of what may have happened to them.” He pauses and then amends, “Talk to, talk to Aliyah and get the full story of it before you go.”
Petria nods, “Yes, Your Highness.”
Aliyah nods, her expression stoic. “I can take another trip around the area if you’d like as well?” she asks Cor. “After I talk to her, I mean.” She gestures to Petria.
Cor says, “Ah, or, you could go together, probably, so Petria can see your investigation as you talk.”
Aliyah nods. “That will be fine. I will report back if there are any changes.” She turns to Petria and motions for her to follow before heading into the forest.
Lanisen watches them go. He rubs his hands over his face and studies Cor briefly. He gets to his feet and picks his way through the camp, pausing at another fire where the occupants have brewed up a strong pot of black tea. From them he acquires a mug, then forages a bit longer until he finds somebody with honey. Finally, he returns to Cor and quietly offers him the steaming cup, brimming with the bracing, homey brew.
When it becomes clear that those are all the directions the Prince is going to give for the time being, several of those gathered around the fire disperse, talking amongst themselves in twos and threes. Cor sets aside his full cup, only to be surprised shortly thereafter by a new cup in his hands, this time full of tea. He gives Lanisen a grateful nod and brings it to his lips.
Megren appears from wherever she ended up in the camp, presumably sleeping, but given her character and the general disquiet of the party, who can say.
Lanisen is sitting at the fire, near to Prince Cor, watching all the goings-on of the camp with glassy, bloodshot eyes. A portion of his attention is on Cor, as well, and he has the alert (if weary) look of somebody waiting to be useful.
Cor looks, if not equally tired, near there. He holds a mostly empty tin cup in his hands and occasionally says a few words to some or another person that approaches him.
Megren approaches the fire, bowing to the prince before taking a seat beside Lanisen. “You both look like you could use a rest.”
Lanisen shifts, glancing at her as she sits down with a quick, exhausted smile that doesn’t go to his eyes. “Hey, you.”
Megren says, “Everybody’s awake and running about now, why don’t you both have a lie down, at least? Even if you can’t sleep, it’s better than sitting here getting smoke in your eyes.”
Cor rubs his knee uncomfortably, glancing around the camp.
Lanisen hesitates, glancing at Cor. He shakes his head slightly, looking back at Megren. “I’m fine, it’s all right. Have you heard anything?”
Megren says, “Bracken came back with the horses while Sir Darrin and I were on watch. I don’t know about the rest. Nothing new, from what I can tell.” Her eyes flick past him to the prince. “Your highness, I’ll personally wake you if there’s something that needs you, I promise it.”
Cor hesitates, looking between her and Lanisen. “Lanisen’s had less sleep than me, I think.”
Lanisen says, “I’m all right, your highness, you go on. You got more wearyin’ things to worry about, you need your sleep.”
Megren says, “I agree, but I’m hoping you’ll take less convincing than Lanisen.” She pokes the kennel-keeper in the side pointedly.
Cor frowns uncertainly, but then he nods, picking up his cup with the apparent intention of cleaning it. “All, all right. You’ll wake me, you said.”
Lanisen squirms away from the poking, his face screwing up. He reaches out to take the cup from Cor, nodding. “One of us will,” he promises, glancing at Megren.
Megren says, “I will. Lanisen’s going to sleep too.”
Cor sort of absently lets go of the cup. “All, all right,” he says again, something like a child of a rather younger age minding his mother. “Just so long as — all right.” He points to his tent, “I’ll just be, I’m just right there if you need me.”
Lanisen gets to his feet, reaching to offer the prince a hand up.
Cor stands up. “I can, I can go,” he says, a little sleepy irritability creeping into his voice.
Lanisen draws back his hand quickly. “Sorry, your highness,” he says, stepping back and ducking his head in apology. “I didn’t, um, I didn’t mean you couldn’t.”
Cor says, “Sorry, I’m sorry.”
Lanisen shakes his head quickly. “It’s all right; it’s all right. It’s been–” He rubs a hand over his face. “It’s been a bad night for everybody and you more than most, your highness.”
Cor rubs the back of his head, giving a small shake of it, and turns to disappear into his tent.
Megren tucks her hair behind her ear awkwardly, letting them talk it out and just bowing once the prince is gone.
Lanisen bows as Cor departs, then straightens. He folds one arm over his stomach and releases a long breath, his face twisting up into a self-chastising grimace.
Megren frowns at him. “You have /got/ to sleep; you look half dead. He’s fine; he’ll be fine.”
Lanisen shakes his head and says rather miserably, “I don’t think I can.”
Megren’s mouth screws up and she considers him with one eye narrowed. “All right,” she announces. “First things first, have you eaten.” It’s a question but without the inflection of one.
Lanisen asks, “Have /you/?”
Megren says, “Nope, and I’m starving. Let’s see about eggs.”
Lanisen accedes to this easily enough. He follows her a little drunkenly. “Did you sleep?”
Megren picks up his arm and loops it around her shoulders. “About four or five hours.” She finds the stash of food supplies and pulls out some boiled eggs and cheese and bread and a knife, which she uses to make them each two sandwiches.
Lanisen nods, relieved. He looks toward the path deeper into the Waste, checking for the thousandth time, then sighs.
Megren thrusts the food into his hands, “I’m betting the last you slept was yesterday afternoon, though.”
Lanisen murmurs thanks. He lifts his shoulders. “I laid down for a bit around midnight. Wasn’t any point to it, though.” He looks at the sandwich, which is trembling slightly in his hand, and says, wearily rueful, “There’s been a lot of coffee since then.”
Megren pulls him toward the edge of camp, where she has her bedroll already set up.
Lanisen trails after her.
Megren says, “Get in.”
Lanisen objects, “I’ll get crumbs in it.”
Megren says, “I’ll shake it out after.”
Lanisen looks inclined to be belligerent, but he climbs in, curling up on his side.
Megren nods, satisfied, and sits down cross-legged beside the bedroll, eating her sandwich now that she’s got him in something more like a resting position for a start.
Lanisen tries to find a good position, then finally sits back up to eat his sandwich.
Megren allows this. “What’d you do all night anyway?”
Lanisen lifts his shoulders, swallows, and answers. “Listened for news. Poured tea.”
Megren screws up her mouth.
Lanisen says, “Just helped keep the fire goin’.”
Megren gestures for him to finish eating.
Lanisen does so, watching the camp.
Megren asks, “Where were you at dinner, yesterday, anyway?”
Lanisen takes a moment to think this far back, and there’s a little guilty start when he remembers. “Just walkin’. Went on the patrol route with one of the guard.”
Megren says, “That was better than dinner?”
Lanisen confesses, “It was a longer walk than I was expectin’.”
Megren asks, “How was the walk?”
Lanisen takes another bite. “Good,” he answers vaguely.
Megren says, “What did you talk about?”
Lanisen glances at her, then quickly away. “Lot of things?”
Megren’s brows draw together. “You’re not tracking down to guard to ask about Myrd and Jana,” she says uncertainly.
Lanisen says, “No, no.” He holds out for another moment, then grimaces unhappily. “Don’t, don’t be mad, it was Jana I went walkin’ with.”
Megren’s brows lift. “By yourself?”
Lanisen says, “It wasn’t– it’s, it’s Narnia, there’s– the /trees/ talk, it’d’ve, it was fine.”
Megren says, “It was under a winter for /a hundred years/.”
Lanisen says, “It’s not now, though.”
Megren says, “It’s not, it’s not some kind of magically safe place.”
Lanisen says, “I mean it wasn’t– we weren’t alone.”
Megren says, “Trees don’t count unless they tell you they’re with you. Did one of them tell you it was with you?”
Lanisen says, “No, it’s– please, it was fine.”
Megren looks immensely uncomfortable.
Lanisen tries, “King Edmund said she’s fine.”
Megren lifts her brows disbelievingly, “He said she’s ‘fine’?”
Lanisen says, “No, he–” He exhales, frustrated. “He said she wasn’t– he said— I don’t /remember/ but what it /meant/ was she’s, she’s different, she’s changed.”
Megren still looks uncomfortable. “I — well, what, are you, what happened?”
Lanisen says, “We just, we walked. And then I came here.”
Megren blows out a long breath.
Lanisen says unhappily, “I didn’t want to worry you.”
Megren rubs her face, and her tiredness peeks through in the motion.
Lanisen watches her apprehensively.
Megren says, “I’m trying to think what’s reasonable.”
Lanisen asks, “What do you mean?”
Megren says, “You walked with her and you don’t seem any worse.”
Lanisen says, “No, it’s– she’s fine, I’m fine. We just talked. I dunno what you’re thinkin’ she’s like but you got it wrong.”
Megren says, “She purposely gave you bad water when you had no other choices.”
Lanisen pushes the heel of his hand against his eyebrow, shutting his eyes. “That’s… I don’t…”
Megren tilts her head, sticking her hand in her hair while she considers him. “I…” She closes her mouth, looking very uncomfortable. “If…” She takes a breath, “Listen, if you think she’s worth your time, then I, then maybe she is.”
Lanisen looks at her, his eyebrows lifting hopefully. “You’re not–?”
Megren says, “It’s, I’m not going to say it doesn’t make me nervous.”
Lanisen twists his hands in his lap and doesn’t say anything.
Megren says, “But it’s, you know her, and also, and also I, I trust you.”
Lanisen looks at her again, weighing this anxiously. “Thank you,” he says after a small pause, sounding surprised.
Megren says, “It’s not something you should have to be thankful for.”
Lanisen says, “I– I am, though.”
Megren releases a breath.
Lanisen picks a crumb off the bedroll and glances at her.
Megren says, “You can take care of yourself.”
Lanisen looks uncertain now.
Megren says, “You know when to –” she takes a breath. “When to… stand up, and when to run, and when to stay.”
Lanisen frowns slightly. “Are you just sayin’ that?” he asks after a pause.
Megren says, “No. Doesn’t mean it’s not easier for me to trust /my/self but that’s not probably right or fair to you or her.”
Lanisen hesitates, then nods. “I figured you’d be mad,” he confesses.
Megren says, “I’m not, I’m not mad.”
Lanisen studies her, then nods. He hesitates and moistens his lips, looking down at his hands. “What– can I do to worry you less?”
Megren wrinkles her nose. “Fall asleep?”
Lanisen grimaces. “I can’t. I’m too jittery.”
Megren says, “All right, well. Start by lying down, anyway.”
Lanisen exhales, but does so, squirming around until he’s reasonably comfortable.
Megren shifts so that she’s in a more complimentary position for talking. “Now, tell me what you talked about.”
Lanisen says, “Um,” and pauses. “Just, just stuff. Myrd, a bit. Tristran, that’s their kid.”
Megren asks, “What’d she say about Myrd, are you planning to make friends with him too?”
Lanisen says firmly, “No.”
Megren asks, “She told you not to?”
Lanisen says, “No, it’s, I’m just not.”
Megren pushes her mouth to the side.
Lanisen rubs his face. “He’s not–” he begins, and grimaces. “He’s, he hasn’t changed. He really hasn’t.”
Megren nods, quietly accepting this.
Lanisen says, “He’s–” He draws a deep breath, thumping a fist down lightly on the ground next to him. “Even, even if I thought I could, it’s– he likes scarin’ people, he likes scarin’ me.”
Megren says, “Jana doesn’t anymore?”
Lanisen says, “She’s–” He pauses. “No, not– not for fun.”
Megren pulls her head back a little, wrapping her brain around this answer.
Lanisen grimaces and rubs his eyes. “She’s kind of, um, she’s serious and she doesn’t smile much. Seriouser than she used to be.”
Megren’s lips press together a little. “Oh.”
Lanisen asks, “What?”
Megren asks, “What’s that mean, seriouser than she used to be?”
Lanisen asks, “What’s it sound like it means?”
Megren says, “Sadder.”
Megren asks, “Are you seriouser?”
Lanisen says, “I don’t know.”
Megren hmms quietly.
Lanisen rolls over onto his back, staring up at the trees above them. “Myrd made her marry him,” he says quietly.
Megren’s brow’s draw together.
Lanisen says, “Told her he’d kill her if she didn’t.”
Megren says, “Oh.”
Lanisen is quiet. After a moment, he draws up his knees under the blanket and pushes the heels of his hands into his eyes.
Megren reaches over and smoothes his hair. “She didn’t tell the authorities?”
Lanisen says, “I don’t know. I don’t know.” He drops his hands, folding them loosely over his stomach. “She’s– I asked if she could leave him and she said no, but that– that the guard would help if somethin’ happened.”
Lanisen says, “There was, there was another thing…”
Megren lets him go on.
Lanisen says, “Um, she’s– She’s worried about Tristran runnin’ off, like I did. When he’s older.”
Megren says, “Oh.”
Lanisen says, “She’s… um. She wanted to know if, if he could come to me, if that happens. If it’s, if he runs off and doesn’t have anywhere to go.”
Megren asks, “She thinks he’d go to you?”
Lanisen says, “He’s, he’s six.”
Megren says, “Right.”
Lanisen says, “It’s not… I don’t know.”
Megren asks, “What’d you say?”
Lanisen glances at her, surprised. “I said yeah.”
Lanisen says again, reflectively, “He’s little yet.”
Megren says, “Do you think you’ll write to him, then?”
Megren says, “So he’ll be comfortable with you?”
Lanisen says, “I hadn’t– I hadn’t thought of that, but it’s… that’s a good idea.”
Megren reflects, “She didn’t have anyone else?”
Lanisen says, “I don’t know. Sounded like not.” He pauses. “Or maybe she’s lookin’ for people who don’t live near her.”
Megren tilts her head in skeptical acknowledgement of this consideration.
Lanisen rubs his hands over his face again, glancing back to the camp.
Megren says, “I suppose I mean, if you had a six-year-old you thought might run off one day, is Jana the one you’d go to for help?”
Lanisen says, “No, I’d go to you.”
Megren says, “You’d go to… me, and then, Sir Darrin, or Dalia, or his majesty, or any number of people.”
Lanisen says, troubled, “Yeah.”
Megren closes her mouth uncertainly.
Lanisen asks, “Why would she ask me?”
Megren says, “Not that you aren’t a good choice.”
Lanisen looks a little doubtful at this, but all he says is, “I definitely wasn’t when she knew me last.”
Megren makes a thoughtful noise.
Lanisen concludes, “She must be really desperate.”
Megren asks, “Should we try to get her away?”
Lanisen draws a long breath and lets it go again. “I think,” he says slowly. “I think she has to want to, first.”
Megren says, “She doesn’t want to?”
Lanisen says, “I don’t know. Maybe, maybe partway.”
Megren makes a dissatisfied noise.
Lanisen sighs, frowning up at the branches overhead. “She says she won’t leave for Tristran’s sake, but she’s thinkin’ Tristran’s gonna run off when he’s older on account of Myrd. She’s so sure she’s makin’ arrangements already.”
Megren says, “Well…”
Lanisen runs his fingers through his hair and looks at her.
Megren says, “Um, if he threatened her–”
Lanisen frowns, then his face clears all at once with comprehension. “Oh.”
Megren pushes her hair behind her ear.
Lanisen covers his face with his hands for a moment and shudders.
Megren reaches over to run her hand over his hair and shoulders.
Lanisen is silent for a little while. He drops his hands and admits, “I don’t know what to do.”
Megren asks again, “Should we try to get her out?”
Lanisen asks, “Do you think we can?”
Megren says, “Surely if their majesties knew they would have done something.”
Lanisen glances out toward the camp again. He exhales. “We can, we can tell ’em when they come back.”
Megren’s mouth pushes to the side, but she nods.
Lanisen rolls onto his side again so he’s facing the fire and general activity of the camp, and goes quiet, watching people mill about.
Megren brushes her hands through his hair again, in an idle, repetitive, calming fashion.
Lanisen stays quiet and still, but he reaches out for one of her hands after a little while.
Megren lets him take it.
Lanisen folds his fingers around hers and squeezes, grateful and companionable.
Megren continues smoothing his hair.
Lanisen eventually drops into a restless sort of half-doze, his hand loosening so that she can reclaim hers without difficulty.
Megren doesn’t, but she does sit with him for a long time, perhaps hoping he’ll fall off into something deeper.
Lanisen doesn’t for quite some time. It’s nearly lunchtime when he finally manages to fall asleep, one arm curled around his head to shield his eyes from the sunlight.
Megren finds a handkerchief to drape over the upper half of his face so that he’s a little better shielded.
Lanisen doesn’t even flinch from the unexpected touch to his face.
Megren sits a little while longer to watch whether he’s going to stir before she goes to see about some lunch.