Megren sits on a boulder at the edge of the pool to wait for Lanisen, wrapping her cloak tight around her.
Darrin perches on the corner of the same boulder, his gaze drawn to the falls.
Lanisen and Cor come walking together down the path from the campsite. Lanisen has his shoulders hunched up a bit against the chill and his hands in his pocket, and he is keeping a covert eye on Cor.
Cor’s arms are crossed tight over his chest and he looks white and tired and a little sick.
Darrin looks over when the other two come into view and gets up immediately to go to the Prince. He grips Cor’s shoulder in a gesture meant to be comforting. “You look dead on your feet, Highness.”
Megren rises also, trailing a little ways behind.
Cor says, “I’m, um.” His eyes lift to the knight’s face. “They’re not coming back,” he says, and the words seem to echo hollowly.
Darrin gets these little grief lines graven about his mouth and wraps his arm around Cor’s shoulders to pull him close. “I know, lad.”
Lanisen shifts and seems about to reach out, but Darrin moves first, and he draws back. He looks at Megren.
Cor allows himself to be embraced, limply at first, but he returns the gesture momentarily. “I wish my father was here,” he says in a quiet voice.
Megren rubs her upper arm, eyes on the ground.
Darrin glances at Megren and Lanisen. “I expect we’ll be heading back soon now, Your Highness. The Narnians will, will be the ones to take up the work now.” He rubs his face with his free hand. “Want to see if we can get something warm to drink at the inn?”
Lanisen looks distressed at this notion. He scuffs a clump of dry dead grass with his toe, distracted.
Cor steps back. “I don’t, I don’t want to leave them if; they’re gonna need help.”
Lanisen looks more troubled by this. He studies Cor, his forehead creasing.
Megren glances at Lanisen uncertainly.
Darrin licks his lips, taking a moment before he answers. “It’s nothing we have to settle on tonight.”
Cor screws up his mouth like he’s looking to argue, but then he nods reluctantly, eyes dropping.
Darrin looks at Lanisen and Megren again, perhaps looking for feedback.
Megren says, “I think — I think we could all use a rest. Why don’t you three go back to the basin and get a fire going, and I’ll fetch everyone’s bedrolls and a pot for tea or something.”
Darrin says, “Sure, all right. Do you need a hand, Meg?”
Megren glances between Cor and Lanisen and then concludes, “–Yeah, yeah. Good idea.”
Darrin gives Cor another squeeze and lets go, moving to follow Megren.Lanisen nods agreement to this plan and steps nearer to Cor. “Have you been to the basin, your highness?” he asks. “It’s pretty, kinda hidden. There’s a pool who’s a naiad there, but Glora says she don’t talk much.”
Cor lets himself be shuffled around. “I haven’t seen it,” he answers, without really seeming to think about the question or the answer.
Lanisen says, “Well, we stayed there a couple nights, and it’s lovely.” He gestures south down the path.
Cor nods distractedly and starts walking that way.
Lanisen leads him quietly to the basin, standing aside at the gap in the stone so he can enter first.
Cor’s gaze flicks curiously around the basin despite his general demeanor.
Lanisen lets him look for a moment before he slips in behind him, crossing to a ring of stones and ashes in front of a cave opening.
Cor trails after him, crossing his arms against the cold.
Lanisen shows him where they have left a little stack of dry firewood inside the cave and begins the work of building up a fire, keeping an eye on the prince. “How’re you doin’?” he asks quietly.
Cor helps him with the fire wood. “Um,” he says.
Lanisen glances at him, then focuses on striking the flint, sending white sparks into a little heap of dry larch needles and giving Cor space to decide if and how he wants to answer.
Cor says, “They were, they were the first Narnians I ever met. I mean, besides — Narnians who’d been living in Narnia, I mean, who — they took care of me.”
Lanisen nods, his forehead knitting. He gets the little blaze going and feeds it into real flames. “I’m glad you got to know ’em.”
Cor sits and rubs his palms on his knees.
Lanisen asks, “What were they like, to you?”
Cor looks up, surprised. “Um…”
Lanisen says, “You don’t– If you don’t want to talk about it just yet, that’s…”
Cor seems almost more upset by this. “I–”
Lanisen looks alarmed. He shuts his eyes briefly, wincing and apologetic, and elects for the moment to not muck things up further.
Cor says, “Sorry, I don’t, I don’t think they knew–”
Lanisen pauses. “That they were leavin’?” he asks gently.
Lanisen says, looking at his hands, “I don’t think they knew either.”
Cor scrubs his hands over his face.
Lanisen doesn’t say anything for a moment. “I’m so sorry, your highness.”
Cor digs the heels of his palms into his eyes.
Lanisen’s shoulders drop unhappily. He reaches out hesitantly to put a hand on Cor’s shoulder.
Cor says, “Sorry; I’m sorry.”
Lanisen says, “No, don’t be, don’t be.”
Cor ducks his head so his forehead is resting on his hands and his face is hard to see.
Lanisen doesn’t say anything else for a moment. “It’s…” he begins. “It’s harder, isn’t it, ’cause… this is Aslan, it’s Aslan’s work, so it’s– it’s meant for good, for theirs and ours and Narnia’s, and knowin’ that… you feel guilty, almost, don’t you, for feeling sad.” He stops. “But I don’t think that’s– It’s, it’s not wrong to be hurt and sad. It’s not wrong.”
Cor says, “I don’t, I don’t feel guilty.”
Lanisen says, “All right.”
Cor says, “They were my friends.”
Cor pulls off his crown and sets it on his knee so that scrub his head.
Lanisen asks quietly, removing his hand, “What can I do?”
Cor says, “I think we have to, I think we have to go home.”
Lanisen swallows, but nods. “What needs to happen to– what can I, how can I help, your highness?”
Cor looks up. “What?”
Lanisen says, “There’ll be use for an extra pair of hands when it’s time to pack everything up, I guess?”
Cor says, “Oh. Um, yes, of course.”
Darrin leads the two horses into the basin.
Cor and Lanisen sit near the firepit, which has a small blaze in it.
Darrin looks over and heads towards the fire.
Megren takes the other two leads so she can secure the horses.
Lanisen glances up as they lead the horses into the basin. He taps Cor’s shoulder again lightly and gets to his feet to see where the kettle and tea are in their luggage.
Darrin lets Megren take the horses and follows to help get Swiftly untacked.
Cor looses a breath and gets up to go help. His eyes are pretty red.
Lanisen waves him back.
Cor hesitates, and then steps backward and seems to decide his job must be making sure the fire is tended.
Megren lets him take care of Swiftly while she does Cor’s horse. She is unusually quiet.
Darrin moves their supplies from Swiftly to around the fire with silent efficiency.
Cor lifts his head and nods when Darrin comes near him, standing to take the items and lay them out as best he can.
Lanisen locates the tea and brings all three little tins to Cor to choose from, and carries the kettle to the waterfall to fill.
Cor picks one and sets the others aside with some of their other accumulating supplies.
Megren moves on to Dawn.
Darrin sets the last of their things down and comes back to tend to Swiftly.
Lanisen brings the kettle back and gets it heating. He glances across at Megren and Darrin, checking surreptitiously to see how they’re doing.
Megren is trying very hard not to be sullen and while she’s not entirely unsuccessful the effort is showing.
Darrin comes over to the fire when he’s satisfied with his work on the horses. He is more subdued than usual, but that’s all there seems to noticed from his demeanor. He smiles faintly at Cor and Lanisen as he settles in by the fire too.
Cor has some hard rolls out that he’s trying to figure out how to warm by this time.
Lanisen goes back to see what other kind of foodstuffs there might be in the packs and saddlebags.
Megren is still finishing up with the horses, as Swiftly in particular has given her a lot of trouble.
Darrin shifts closer to the fire and draws one knee up to his chest.
Cor offers him a roll.
Darrin says, “Thank you.”
Lanisen moves to help Megren, mostly by keeping Swiftly entertained so she can finish.
Megren says, “Thank you.” Her works goes somewhat more quickly with the help.
Cor nods silently. He’s removed his circlet, and it is hanging loosely from his knee. His eyes are still a little red, but he mostly just looks tired.
Lanisen asks quietly, “How’re you doin’?”
Lanisen’s forehead pulls down unhappily, but he doesn’t press it. He scritches under Swiftly’s chin absently.
Megren looks up over Maestro’s head and pulls herself together a little. “How are you?”
Lanisen glances up. His eyes skitter away, and he answers, “I’m all right.”
Megren frowns, and she skirts around Maestro so that they aren’t talking over the horses. “There wasn’t anything we could do,” she offers.
Lanisen agrees, “No.”
Megren’s brows draw together, and she pauses in her work to consider him.
Lanisen looks back at her.
Megren takes a breath and returns back to her work. “Sir Darrin says we need to take the prince home.”
Lanisen nods, unsurprised. He glances back at the prince and confides, lowering his voice, “He’s takin’ it hard. I dunno what to say to him, but it’s– I don’t want to leave him.”
Megren glances over at where the prince and the knight are sitting. She screws up her mouth, expression softening a little.
Lanisen hesitates, still stroking Swiftly. “Do you think we might come back, once we’ve seen him home?”
Megren says, “I will, if the king will let me. Sir Darrin says it ought to be knights though.”
Lanisen’s face falls.
Megren says, “Maybe they’ll let us go with.”
Lanisen says, “Yeah, maybe.” He glances at her thoughtfully, then smooths his hand over Swiftly’s broad cheek.
Megren seems to notice this, and her brow furrows as she considers him in her turn — but she still has a whole other horse to get to.
Lanisen gives Swiftly one last pat and moves down to help with Dragondawn. “You got a look,” he comments.
Megren says, “You’ve been acting different and I can’t put my finger on it.”
Lanisen pauses. “Oh.”
Megren lifts her brows inquiringly.
Lanisen says, “I dunno what you mean.”
Lanisen pushes his mouth to the side uncertainly, but doesn’t push it.
Megren says, “Sorry, I don’t, I couldn’t say exactly — it feels like, secrets? But we don’t usually have secrets, and if you don’t know what I mean, then it must not be that. It’s probably –” She screws up her face and lifts a shoulder. “There’s been a lot going on.”
Lanisen says, “Oh.”
Megren says, “Sorry, it’s been — there’s been a lot going on.”
Lanisen says, “Yeah.”
Megren takes a breath like she’s going to say something more, but then just releases it exhaustedly.
Lanisen pauses. He pulls his lips between his teeth and says, “I’m sorry.”
Megren looks up, startled. “What? No, you don’t have anything to be sorry for.”
Lanisen makes a face. “I don’t mean for you to feel like there’s secrets.”
Megren says, “It’s, Jana, and their majesties; I’m — I think it’s me, I’m out of sorts, it’s not you. Sir Darrin and I fought; we never fight.”
Lanisen’s eyes flick to her face. “I’m sorry,” he says, and glances toward Darrin. “Is it, are you all right now?”
Megren says, “It’s–” she takes a big breath and releases it. “It’s, it’ll be fine; I’m mad and I shouldn’t be, and I’m madder about knowing that than I am about not staying.”
Lanisen looks like he understands this. “You’ll be comin’ back, anyway, I’m sure,” he ventures. “We just gotta see his highness safe home.”
Megren screws up her mouth, but gives a little nod and finishes with Dawn. “He’s doing bad?” she asks.
Lanisen says, “Not–” He winces and looks up at the sky briefly. “I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t say bad. He’s doin’… real well, under the circumstances. But it’s, I mean, he’s just lost four people he loves and everybody’s lookin’ to him for answers, those’re the circumstances, and he’s… he’s just a kid.”
Megren nods. “I guess I hadn’t thought about him being close with them yet.” She rubs her forehead and tucks her hair behind her ear, both gestures which hide her face a little.
Megren rubs her arms and sighs again. “Well, I guess it’s time to get some food and make some plans, then.”
Lanisen says, “Yeah.” He draws and releases a deep, tired breath and begins back toward the fire, rubbing his shoulder.
Megren glances at him at the movement, and her face turns from tired to sad.
Cor looks up from where he’s and Darrin are sitting silently over their hot cups of tea. He gives a small jerky sort of nod, and hands out two more cups.
Lanisen resumes his seat on Cor’s other side and accepts his cup gratefully.
Megren does the same, sitting next to Sir Darrin and squeezing his wrist momentarily before letting silence and reflection truly fall over the camp.