Lanisen dismounts in the outer ward and follows the general stream of knights and guards and servants who made up Prince Cor’s retinue on his visit to Narnia into the stables. He leads Maestro to his usual stall and begins the process of untacking and rubbing down. He’s almost gray with exhaustion and doesn’t use his right arm if he can avoid it.
Megren helps Sir Darrin dismount and get Dawn settled before relieving a stablehand of Swiftly’s rubdown.
Lanisen takes his time with Maestro. Once the gelding is thoroughly rubbed down and munching at his feedbag with a heavy blanket over his back, he leaves the stall to go find and help Megren.
Megren looks tired and cold, though not nearly so bad as Lanisen. She’s got Swiftly nearly finished by the time he ges to her stall.
Lanisen checks in with her briefly and disappears again, then returns with a blanket for Swiftly just as she finishes his rub-down.
Megren takes it and secures it over the horse. “Thank you,” she says.
Lanisen nods. He leans heavily on the stable door, shutting his eyes for a moment while she finishes.
Megren says, “Go to the kennels. I’ll meet you and I won’t grudge it if you’re already asleep.”
Lanisen says, “‘M gonna get knocked down.”
Megren says, “Gonna happen eventually one way or another.”
Lanisen considers this, then seems to decide that she’s probably right. He draws a deep breath, pushes himself off the door, and makes his way toward the ward, stopping to get his pack.
Megren finishes up with Swiftly and checks on Prince Cor’s and Sir Darrin’s horses before following after him.
Lanisen hasn’t made it very far from the door. He’s kneeling in the middle of a swarming, tail-wagging mass of hounds, trying to pet and hug everybody at once and getting his face thoroughly licked for his trouble. There is a great hullabaloo of happy yelping and baying audible all the way across the ward.
Megren looks very relieved the hullabaloo is mostly focused on him.
Lanisen seems to have revived a bit with the reunion, but when he is jostled too heavily on his right side he inhales sharply and gets to his feet again.
Megren sits and calls for some of the attention to go to her. She’s not entirely successful, but she gets a pretty good pile on.
Lanisen manages to get to the fireplace to wake up the coals. He drops both of his stones where they will heat quickly and goes for his tincture.
Megren just barely pulls herself out of the pile enough to call Tohol to her and free him to grab the bottle without major disturbance.
Lanisen takes a pull from the bottle. He shudders, his whole face screwing up with the bitter taste, then sets the bottle aside and follows Tohol to Meg’s hound-pile.
Megren has given up and is just lying helplessly.
Lanisen talks quietly to his hounds, letting Poppy flop across his legs and scritching behind Kite’s ears. He wraps his arms around Nia, and the old deerhound tolerates this with good grace, her tongue hanging out. The baying dies down.
Megren eventually extracts herself and goes to check on his stone. She seems to determine it’s not hot enough yet, so she sets some tea on.
Lanisen asks, “Are you tired? You don’t gotta stay, if you’re wantin’ your bed.”
Megren says, “I am, but–” she breathes out. “I just want to experience being home for a little while.”
Lanisen nods, accepting this. He bunts his forehead gently against Tohol’s when the big hound sidles up and presses against him.
Megren finishes with the tea and pours it to steep, then pulls out his stone and wraps it in a cloth and brings it to him. “Can I unpack your things?”
Lanisen reaches gratefully for the stone and tucks it under his jacket. “No, no,” he says. “That’s all right, I’ll do it in the morning.”
Megren asks, “Got presents hiding for me?”
Lanisen wrinkles up his nose at her.
Megren skirts dogs to get to his pack. “Good, no problems, then.”
Lanisen says, “No, leave it, there’s nothin’ in there I’ll need before the morning.”
Megren says, “I’m at least taking it upstairs so it doesn’t get torn up.”
Lanisen says, “I can take it when I go up.”
Megren drapes it over her shoulder. “Already halfway there,” she counters.
Lanisen looks exasperated, but he settles back to lay on the floor with his dogs.
Megren skips up the stairs. When she returns, she swings around the supporting pillar holding out a wine bottle. “What’s this?”
Lanisen opens his eyes and lifts his head to look. “Oh,” he says. “It’s, Jana made it.”
Megren lifts her brows and she pulls it back to her face to examine it. “Hmm,” she muses, intrigued.
Lanisen says, “She said it’s… um, honey? And apples and ginger.”
Megren asks, “Want to try it?”
Lanisen asks, “Now?”
Lanisen lifts his shoulders. “Sure, if you want.”
Megren says, “It’s yours; I won’t open it if you don’t want to try it.”
Lanisen says, sitting up, “No, it’s–” He pauses to yawn. “Go ahead, I’m curious.”
Megren pulls two new cups down from the cupboard and takes them to the table to pour.
Lanisen gets up a little stiffly and wanders over to join her. “You know what I really want right now,” he muses.
Megren lets the bottle air for a minute. “What?”
Lanisen says, “That warm floor of your da’s.”
Megren says, “Mm.”
Lanisen sits down, folding forward to rest his entire upper body on the table.
Megren reaches over and rubs the place between his shoulderblades.
Lanisen melts visibly. He turns his head to look up at her.
Megren pours the wine with her other hand and hooks her finger into the rim of the cup to pull it toward her.
Lanisen takes a deep breath and sits up, covering another yawn.
Megren sniffs her cup. “Hmm.”
Lanisen reaches for his. He hesitates briefly, then takes a small cautious taste.
Megren sips hers and screws up her face, considering it. “Hm.”
Lanisen says thoughtfully, “It’s not as sweet as you’d think, with the honey.”
Megren says, “I like it, I think.”
Lanisen says, “Yeah. It’s– it’s sweet, but not too much. And there’s the ginger.”
Megren says, “She makes it?”
Lanisen says, “She’s got a cellar, she said.”
Megren says, “Oh that’s what, we saw that, that’s what she came out of when we saw her.”
Lanisen says, “I guess so.”
Megren says, “Hm.”
Lanisen drinks again and lays his head down on his arms.
Megren reaches over to pick up a lock of his hair and scrutinize it.
Lanisen says, “Nooo.”
Megren grins and drops her own head onto her arms, facing him. “No?”
Lanisen says, “We /just/ got home, how do you have all this energy.”
Megren says, “I would not call it energy.”
Lanisen says, “You keep wantin’ to do things.”
Megren rolls her eyes affably.
Lanisen nestles his face in his elbow.
Megren pokes him in the forehead.
Lanisen jumps and makes an incoherent protesting noise.
Megren grins at him.
Lanisen turns his head so his forehead is buried too.
Megren says, “Aw, no.”
Lanisen says, muffled, “I’m /tired/.”
Megren sighs and musses his hair vengefully.
Lanisen tolerates this, but grumbles.
Megren says, “At least finish your drink before you doze off, or I’ll have to finish them both and go and Haft’ll tease me.”
Lanisen pushes himself up and reaches for his cup. He looks at the wine thoughtfully, then drinks again.
Megren takes a sleepy breath of her own and curls her arms in under her head, watching him.
Lanisen reminds her, “You gotta finish yours too.”
Megren says, “I will.”
Lanisen nods. He sits without speaking for a while, holding his cup in both hands and drinking occasionally. “Seein’ ’em again,” he says finally, nodding at the wine. “It wasn’t, it wasn’t what I was expectin’.”
Megren lifts her head and props it on her hand. “What were you expecting?”
Lanisen says, “I dunno.” He thumbs absently at the scars on his wrists, not worrying them as he usually does, just acknowledging them. “I dunno that I was expectin’ anything, really, but if I had been, that wouldn’t’ve– that wouldn’t’ve been it.”
Lanisen says, “I wish–” He stops, and drinks again.
Megren asks, “What?”
Lanisen rubs his forehead and shakes his head. “I don’t know.”
Megren pushes her mouth to one side.
Lanisen says, “I wish they weren’t so far, I guess.”
Megren says, “Maybe you both wouldn’t have gotten out of it all if you’d been closer.”
Lanisen glances at her, frowning.
Megren asks, “No?”
Lanisen says, “I don’t– What, what do you mean?”
Megren says, “You got to surround yourself with all new people and so did she, almost. If you’d’ve stayed a group, maybe it would have been easier to stay in old ways, too.”
Lanisen says, “Oh.”
Megren says, “Maybe. I don’t know; I’m not in it.”
Lanisen doesn’t answer for a moment, looking at his wine. He folds his arms loosely across his middle. “You’re probably right.”
Megren reaches over to offer a side hug. “That doesn’t mean you can’t be friends now, if you think it would be good, though.”
Lanisen sways a little with the hug, but he looks troubled.
Megren asks, “Why do you wish they were closer?”
Lanisen says, “I don’t… it’s…” He rubs his shoulder and shakes his head. “Never– never mind.”
Megren tilts her head uncertainly.
Lanisen says, “I don’t know, I don’t know, it’s only I feel like there’s somethin’ I should be able to do.”
Megren says, “You offered to take her son. I’d say that’s something pretty significant.”
Lanisen pulls his lips between his teeth, flattening his hand on the table in front of him. “If and only if matters at home get so intolerable that he runs away,” he adds on softly. “She’s expectin’ that to happen. He’s six.”
Megren says, “Well… running away’s all she’s known ’til now, as far as I can sort it.”
Lanisen says, “I guess so.”
Megren asks, “Do you want us to sort out a way to make it so she can send him to you now?”
Lanisen looks startled. “That’s– I don’t, I don’t think that’s what she wants.”
Megren says, “Are you afraid for the child?”
Lanisen doesn’t answer immediately. He reaches for his wine and takes a longer drink, then sets it down again and looks at the liquid still in the cup.
Megren takes a breath, dropping her eyes to the table.
Lanisen rubs a hand over his mouth. “I don’t know,” he says finally. “I don’t know, it’s– I, I talked to him, just a bit, and he didn’t seem like– he, he seemed well, and happy, and Myrd was– I don’t /know/.”
Megren looks down at her hands and then asks tentatively, “…Do you want to go back?”
Lanisen hesitates. “I– yes,” he answers. “Not, not to live, maybe, but–”
Megren doesn’t put words in his mouth.
Lanisen rubs his hands over his face and folds over onto the table again. “‘M too tired, I can’t, I don’t know,” he mumbles.
Megren folds him in toward her.
Lanisen goes willingly, though he stiffens up for a confused uncertain second first. “She said I could write,” he says after a moment. “‘S a good place to start, I guess.”
Megren says, “Sure, for now.”
Lanisen says, “For now.” He sighs.
Megren presses her cheek to the top of his head. “I’m sorry,” she says.
Lanisen confesses quietly, “I do, I want to bring him away.”
Megren asks, “Did you ask her if you could?”
Lanisen sits up again and rubs his hands over his face, distressed. “No, no, of course not.”
Megren lets her arm fall as he sits up, but doesn’t pull it away. “Maybe she wouldn’t be so opposed as you’re thinking.”
Lanisen looks almost more upset at this. “I don’t–”
Megren frowns, still not interrupting him.
Lanisen runs his hands through his hair, leaving it looking more unkempt than before. “There’s– what if Myrd…” He stops, then starts again. “I don’t, I don’t have– I, I sleep here, I sleep with the dogs ’cause I wake up yellin’ one night in ten, there isn’t, I can’t–” He stops again and rubs his forehead, shutting his eyes to think.
Megren fixes his hair absently.
Lanisen shivers. He takes a deep breath. “If it’s–” he begins. “If it’s not safe for him there, if he’s… if it’s bad, then, then almost anywhere’s better, but if it’s not– He don’t know me, he don’t… I can’t, I’m not– I don’t know how to look after a kid, I don’t have… I don’t want to make it bad for him, if it ain’t bad.”
Megren asks, “Does she think it’s bad?”
Lanisen says, “I don’t know, I don’t know.” He pauses. “She, she thinks it’s gonna get bad, I think.”
Megren says, “If you asked her, would she say if she thought it was bad now?””
Lanisen says, “I don’t know, I don’t know.”
Megren says, “I would help you.”
Lanisen looks at her helplessly, lifting his eyebrows. “You think I should,” he concludes.
Megren says, “I don’t know. I think — if I could go find 6-year-old you and care for him, then I would.”
Lanisen is sitting with Megren at the table, an open bottle of wine and two cups between them. His face is slightly flushed, and he looks upset and desperately conflicted. He stares at Megren, then moistens his lips and leans his elbows on the table, folding his hands in front of his mouth.
Megren says, “He isn’t you, though, and I trust your instincts. Maybe you–” she pulls in her lips. “I, maybe the right thing to do is live there a couple months and see.”
Lanisen says, “You think I should–”
Haft opens the door and enters the kennel, loosening his scarf and then stilling in surprise at the sight of Megren and Lanisen.
Megren screws up her mouth, about to say something when the door opens. She looks up.
Lanisen glances up quickly, alert and guarded despite the wine.
Haft breaks into a smile. “You’re back.”
Megren stands up, her hand slipping from around Lanisen’s back to his near shoulder. “Hi — hi, Haft, hi. Oh, I’m sorry, I should have gone up and said hello right off.”
Lanisen gets up as well. He blinks a couple of times and puts his hand on the back of his chair.
Haft crosses his arms. “Agreed. When did you arrive?”
Megren glances over her shoulder at Lanisen. “About, maybe about an hour ago? Did you, have you seen Sir Darrin and the rest yet?”
Lanisen nods to confirm her estimate.
Haft says, “No, not yet.” He frowns. “The /rest/?””
Megren says, “Um, we brought back Prince Cor and a couple people who’d gone out with him.”
Haft brightens at this news. “Be good to see him around again.”
Lanisen shifts his weight. He looks at Haft, frowning slightly, then glances at Megren.
Megren says, “It’s, um, here–” she pulls out a chair and glances at Lanisen again. “I don’t even know how to, how to say it.”
Haft asks, “Say what? Is His Highness all right?”
Lanisen takes a deep breath. He rubs the side of his face tiredly and nods. “C’mon, you’d, you should sit down.”
Megren says, “He’s, Prince Cor’s fine, or, it’s not him.”
Haft glances between Megren and Lanisen. He walks over and lowers himself to the bench. “Who?”
Lanisen goes to get another cup.
Megren runs her hand through her hair and sits down herself. She takes a drink from her cup. “Uh, um, their, the Narnian Kings and Queens.” Her eyes skitter to Lanisen again. “It’s, it’s all so bizarre, I don’t even know how to tell it.”
Haft asks, “Try?”
Lanisen sets the cup down in front of Haft and slides the bottle over to him in silent invitation. He sits down next to Megren again.
Megren says, “There was, all right, there was a hunt, because there was a stag that, a white stag? That’s supposed to give wishes? And they all went after it.”
Haft nods slowly. “All right. And…what? One of their wishes went awry?”
Megren looks at Lanisen again.
Lanisen looks at Megren. He takes a deep breath. “No,” he answers, looking back at Haft. “It’s– I’m sorry, I’m sorry, they’re, they’ve gone.”
Megren provides, “Aslan, Aslan came, he said they’re gone.”
Haft asks, “Gone? Gone where?”
Lanisen shakes his head slightly. “I don’t, we don’t know. Aslan knows but he didn’t… he didn’t say.”
Megren says, “Out of the world, I think? We don’t really know.”
Haft says, “Out of the-” He stares. “You mean they’re not coming back?””
Lanisen nods mutely.
Megren takes a big breath and releases it. She ducks her head and rubs the heel of her hand over her brow, then looks back up at him. “He said, he said they’re not.”
Haft looks between the two again. “If you’re having me on…”
Lanisen assures him, a little desperately, “We wouldn’t, we wouldn’t.”
Megren says, “I know it’s, I told you, I don’t know how to tell it, it’s–”
Haft looks grim. “So who’s next in line?”
Megren shakes her head unknowingly.
Lanisen says, “It’s– They’re meant to look for somebody, I think.”
Haft asks, “Look for somebody? Was there a prophecy?”
Lanisen shakes his head.
Megren says, “Choose somebody, I tink.”
Haft rubs a finger along the grain of the wood. “Who’s in charge in the meantime?”
Megren says, “There’s a, they’ve got some kind of council that rules when they all travel places. And Lord Peridan, he’s been doing a lot.”
Lanisen watches Haft’s face to see how he’s taking the news.
Haft nods. “That’s good. He’s got sense.” He amends, “Sometimes. When Lady Avery’s not at hand, and when he doesn’t drive himself so hard he’s falling down.”
Megren says, “Prince Cor, Prince Cor was real good.”
Lanisen nods emphatically at this.
A smile plays around Haft’s mouth. “Tell me.”
Megren says, “He was, everyone was all scattered and arguing, and he didn’t shut them up, but he pulled them together and got them to organize and stop fighting and I think he, I think he tried to make sure everyone felt useful,” she glance at Lanisen for confirmation. “He gave them all jobs and made sure they ate.”
Lanisen nods. “It was– We were, everybody was scared and worried,” he says. “Him more than most, I think, they’re, they’re his friends. But he kept it together, he– he led.”
Haft inclines his head. “He’ll be a great king one day.”
Lanisen says softly, “Yeah.”
Megren’s mouth curves upward on one side.
Haft lets out a breath. “Which doesn’t solve the current problem.”
Megren says, “No.”
Lanisen curls his hand around his cup and looks down at the remainder of his wine.
Haft asks, “Do you think they’ll try to find ties to the old bloodlines?”
Megren lifts her shoulders. “Sir Darrin said we should get Prince Cor home and tell everyone here rather than interfere with a task that wasn’t ours when we hadn’t told the King yet. And Prince Cor said the same, because Aslan told them it was their task.” She looks tired.
Lanisen nods silently.
Haft drums his fingers on the table. “It’s a two-edged sword. They need a king soon to maintain stability, but they need to be careful to choose wisely. Err to one side and Narnia could fall to outside forces. Err to the other and it will decay from within.
Megren rubs her temple.
Lanisen takes a drink of his wine. He looks exhausted.
Haft asks, “What about you two? Are you all right?”
Megren says, “It…was a long last couple of days.”
Lanisen looks down at the table.
Haft asks, “I can imagine. You rode straight from…where did they disappear? Why were you even nearby?”
Megren says, “Um, we wanted to see the lamp post.”
Haft asks, “The what?”
Lanisen lets out a small breath almost like laughter.
Megren says, “The, in the north, the lantern.”
Haft asks, “Oh, of Lantern Waste?”
Haft asks, “And you rode back all the way from there?”
Megren nods again, lips turning downward.
Haft asks, “And Sir Darrin and the prince are closeted with the king now?”
Megren says, “I think so. I’m not, that’s what they were saying.”
Haft sighs and shakes his head, then pushes himself up. “I can’t stay. I want to hear the rest but it’s almost my watch. I only came in here to see the…” He glances at Lanisen. “Well, anyway, I should go.”
Megren says, “I’m sorry I didn’t find you right away.”
Lanisen gets to his feet as Haft does, but he seems tired enough that he doesn’t notice anything odd in what he says.
Haft waves this away. “It’s all right. I imagine you’re both exhausted. Turn in soon?”
Megren says, “Yeah, we will. I’m, here–” she gets up and hugs him. “It’s good to see you again.”
Haft returns the hug. “I’m glad you’re safe.”
Lanisen stays quiet, reaching down to rub Tohol’s ears when he ambles over.
Megren just nods, stepping back. “Have a boring watch,” she quips.
Haft says, “I’ll try.” He slips out the door.
Megren just stands there for a minute.
Lanisen hesitates, watching her. “Hey,” he ventures, closing the space between them and reaching out. “What is it, are you all right?”
Megren says, “I don’t, um– it, just sort of, it just, it just hit me?” She shuts her mouth for a moment, regathering herself to continue. “I don’t know why, why now, why would it take so long?”
Lanisen’s face falls with a sort of aching sympathy. “Hey, hey,” he says, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and taking her near hand. “It’s all right, it’s all right for it to hit, you’re all right. Come on, let’s sit.” He draws her toward the fire.
Megren sinks down in front of the fire and hides her face behind her hands.
Lanisen snags a folded blanket from one of the chairs as they pass and shakes it out, not breaking contact with Megren. He drapes it over her shoulders and sits next to her, wrapping both his arms around her.
Megren rests her head against his shoulder and admits, “I’m not any good at this.”
Lanisen asks, “Not any good at what?”
Megren says, “All of it, any of it, I’m, he showed up, and I just, felt,” she shakes her head and seems to switch subjects, although it’s not clear since she isn’t being totally coherent. “I couldn’t even tell my own friend what happened, and Sir Darrin’s off telling the king or the council or someone, I’m–” she takes a breath, “–and I’m, there’s a whole country of people, and they’re mourning people I knew, people that took me in without, without knowing me–“”
Megren’s mouth shuts again.
Lanisen exhales softly, his arms tightening a little. He drops a kiss on the top of her head and then rests his cheek on top of the kiss. “I think,” he says, then stops. “Don’t, don’t think of it like that. It’s not– it’s, it’s gonna hit everybody different, it’s– there’s not…”
Megren sniffs, and just lets him hold her.
Lanisen goes quiet and doesn’t let go. He strokes her hair lightly with one hand.
Megren says, “I’m sorry, I’m–”
Lanisen says, “Shh-hh, no, it’s all right; you’re all right.”
Megren says, “I can’t be a knight, a knight can’t be like this.”
Lanisen asks, “A knight can’t be sad?”
Megren shakes her head.
Lanisen says, combing gently through a slightly tangled section of hair with his fingers, “I’m not an expert, but I think that’s rubbish.”
Megren says, “No, not, not sad, it’s, I — selfish, selfish, I mean.”
Lanisen says, “You’re the least selfish person I know.”
Megren shakes her head. “It’s not real, it’s, I just want to, to be the hero, even when it’s not the best thing, it’s always got to me.”
Lanisen keeps combing through her hair, a rhythmic and soothing movement. “That’s not what I see.”
Megren counters, “Kind, lovely people are gone, and we were talking about Jana’s son, and I’m making you talk about me.”
Lanisen’s face twists up a bit. “You’re sad, you’re hurtin’,” he says urgently. “It’s, it’s– It’s all right that you’re hurting, it’s– You’re my friend, and I’m yours, and you don’t– you don’t have to hold it together all the time, you don’t– It’s all right to be hurting, it’s /not/ selfish, it’s okay, it’s okay.”
Megren just shakes her head a little and doesn’t spend her energy on arguing.
Lanisen picks up on her disagreement anyway and lets out a long, soft sigh. “I love you very much,” he offers quietly.
Megren says, “I love you, too.”
Lanisen says, “You’ll make the very best sort of knight.”
Megren shakes her head, sniffing. “I can’t be a knight.”
Lanisen says, “Hey, hey…” His hand slips down to rub her shoulder instead. “We’re both, we’re both pretty tired right now and everything looks twice as awful as it is.”
Megren says doubtfully, “Maybe.”
Lanisen says, “I promise.”
Megren rests her temple against his collarbone and blows out a sad, exhausted breath. “I’m sorry,” she says again.
Lanisen says, “Don’t be sorry; don’t be sorry.”
Megren says, “I want to fix everything with Jana for you.”
Lanisen swallows, but says, “Not tonight, though, all right?”
Lanisen asks, “Do you want to stay?”
Megren nods again.
Lanisen resettles his arms around her and goes quiet.
Megren says, “I’m sorry.”
Lanisen hushes her again and rubs her back.
Lanisen keeps this up, content to stay put for as long as she seems to want to. He rests his cheek on top of her head comfortably.