Glora wanders through the ward. The afternoon crowds part before her pointed remarks, more in surprise than response, so she makes fairly easy progress, if not in any particular direction.
Lanisen steps out of the kennels, winding a scarf around his neck as he goes. A gentle snow is falling, with a heavy sky to suggest that more is on the way, and he makes his way through the crowd toward the inner gate. It takes him a moment to notice the mild commotion, and he pauses before passing through to see what is going on.
Glora chooses that moment to leap onto a barrel, crunching lightly into the pillow of snow on top. A few flakes glitter in her coat. “This /is/ Anvard, isn’t it?” she asks the nearest woman, who is holding a toddler’s hand. The woman nods, mouth slack, and the child tugs at her hand, trying to reach up towards the Cat. “Oh good. Do you know Lanisen, then?”
Lanisen circles around the edges of the forming crowd, trying to see over shoulders and between people to the center. His eyebrows fly up in surprise and delight and slight alarm, and he pushes through the crowd.
Glora’s ears perk as she sees Lanisen. Flicking her tail out of toddler-reach, she steps to the very edge of the barrel. “Well, /that/ makes this easy. Hi, Lanisen.”
Lanisen says, stepping near to the barrel, “Glora, hey, hi! You’re–” His eyes flick to the snow melting on her fur. “You look like you’re /freezin’/, d’you want to– Do you have–” He gets tangled up in questions and stutters to a rather confused halt. Realizing all at once that he’s suddenly also the focus of the crowd’s attention doesn’t seem to help either.
Glora starts to sit, but the snow is cold enough that she stands again, tail flicking. She doesn’t pay any attention to the gathering around them. “I’ve been avoiding the snow so well, and then halfway here it starts coming down again. It’s almost as cold as the pass.” She pushes some of the snow off the top of the barrel.
Lanisen says, “Oh, oh– Do you want to, there’s a fire, do you want to go inside?”
Glora half-crouches, about to leap off. “A fire sounds lovely.” She pauses when she notices that a few more small children have pushed forward to see, and are blocking most of the landing sites. “…Which way is it?”
Lanisen steps nearer, bending his head down and offering his shoulders for her to jump onto if she chooses. “There’s–” He pauses, and squints a little. “Um, the kennels, I was gonna say, but I don’t reckon you’ll want to deal with a horde of dogs just now. Um, there’s, the servants’ hall, there’s always a big fire there, it’s inside.”
Glora takes his offer and leaps onto his shoulders, careful to keep her claws sheathed. Her paws are still quite chilly, and heavy for a cat. “Mm, that one, then. That sounds good.” She perches on one shoulder, precariously wobbling back and forth.
Lanisen keeps his head down so she can use both his shoulders and carefully doesn’t move while she’s wobbling. “There’s, my coat’s thick,” he says. “You can dig in if you need to, I’ll say if you’re hurtin’ me.”
Glora settles into a more stable position. “Ooh, this is /much/ better. This market is pretty large, isn’t it?”
Lanisen agrees, “Big enough.” His eyes flick around briefly at the faces of those gathered, his head still lowered out of Glora’s way. He dips his head slightly to them and offers a quick nervous smile before he turns toward the gate. He walks slowly and deliberately smoothly to make the ride as easy as possible, one hand up to steady the Cat if she seems to need it. “She’s, um, she’s a friend of mine,” he says to the incredulous looks of the guards at the inner gate. There is a lot of shrugging and headscratching, and they are waved through.
Glora spends the ride looking at everything that passes. As more of the snow caught in her coat melts, she begins to look more damp, but distracted as she is, she doesn’t seem to mind. Every time they pass another person, she casually comments, “Hello,” and grins, tail swishing, at the astonished responses.
Lanisen narrates their route a little bit as they pass through: “That’s the Great Hall, there; here’s the kitchen; that’s Ren, who makes the /best/ scones.” He’s blushing and fighting a bad case of the giggles by the time they reach their destination, though, ducking his head to every baffled person they pass.
Glora leaps off his shoulders as they get near the fire. “Mmm, it /is/ warm in here. And this castle is /huge/. How many people live here?”
Lanisen bends down to facilitate this and sits down on the hearth. “How many– umm.” He pauses and squints thoughtfully at the ceiling. “There’s the king and everybody who attends him and the princes, and then there’s usually /some/ nobles in residence, so them and their retinue, and the guard, and then those who live and work here in the kitchens and libraries and stables and infirmary and gardens, or the kennels, like me.” He pauses, then hazards, “Fifty, I guess? Seventy?”
Glora blinks. She finds just the perfect spot on the hearth-leaving little damp pawprints to mark the identical, rejected places-and curls up. “Wow. Do they all have families here too?”
Lanisen says, “Some of ’em.” He eyes her damp fur and gets up to find a dry cloth. “Most folk with families live in the village, but there’s a couple. What do you– you just got here, are you hungry, thirsty? What are you needin’?”
Lanisen says, “There’s, the kettle’s on, I’m sure, or, or there’s milk, or–” He stops, blushing again. “I’m, I’m sorry, I haven’t got any idea what you like to eat.”
Glora mms. “Something with milk, but not all milk. What sorts of tea do you even like here?”
Lanisen is returning to the hearth, a large dry cloth in hand, talking to a familiar, rather damp Cat. “Um, all the, all the normal sorts? Spice tea, ginger tea, blackberry tea. Chamomile, mint. Chamomile with milk and honey?” he suggests.
Glora scrunches up her nose. “I’ll pass on the honey, but I’ll try the chamomile. And for food… how does that work in a castle? Do you have to wait for meals?”
Megren swings around the doorway and peers in, one hand still hanging on the doorframe and her body leaning at nearly a 45 degree angle as she peers around for someone (you know, let’s not mince it; everyone living in the castle knows by now it’s the kennel boy). Her brows draw together in surprise and then rise in delight at the sight of the cat. “Glora?”
Lanisen says, “There’s almost always somethin’ to be had between meals, if you ask nice. Bread and butter or somethin’ like that. There’s usually soup. Do you eat soup?” He offers her the cloth and glances back toward the door at the sound of Megren’s voice.
Glora reaches out a paw to hook the fabric. “Depends on the soup, I suppose. Sounds warm, though. Think there’s one with meat?” She begins to arrange the fabric in a sort of nest when she hears Megren. “Oh, hello. Fancy meeting you here.”
Megren enters the hall the rest of the way and closes some of the distance between them. “Fancy indeed! How did you get here?”
Lanisen grins at Megren, raising his eyebrows toward Glora and lifting his shoulders expressively. “In the snow is how she got here, I’m gonna go get some soup.”
Glora lets out a brief purr before nudging the cloth into the perfect heap and starting to burrow into it. “On foot,” comes her very slightly muffled voice. “Mostly, at least. A Dwarf gave me a ride up part of the pass, and there was a farmer who let me ride on her cart near that village. Andale?” Her head pokes out, one ear still covered. “She didn’t talk much. Spent most of the time looking a bit dazed.”
Megren plunks down cross-legged onto the ground. “You must be freezing?”
Lanisen, halfway back to the kitchen, throws back his head and laughs out loud, delighted. Heads turn.
Glora smiles as Lanisen laughs. Her tail, sticking out the other side of the cloth, twitches both ways. “It /was/ very cold, but I have a blanket in my pouch for when I needed it, and a scarf. Oh. I suppose that’s still in her cart. Well, that’s fine. She looked like she was planning to stay a while in that market outside. Suppose I should pick that up.”
Megren asks, “What was she selling?”
Glora says, “I think it was dried apples and a lot of jars. Jam, maybe.”
Megren says, “Oh, she’s one of the last to pack up, usually. You’ve got time.”
Glora blinks at her. “Do you know /everyone/ out there?”
Megren squints an eye, seeming to take the question seriously. “Well — back when I was guarding, we talked to all the sellers when they came in. There’s a couple new ones since I don’t know as well as I did.”
Glora says, “But there are so /many/ of them.”
Lanisen returns after a moment with soup, hot and savory with plenty of birdmeat. He sets it on the hearth near Glora’s nest and drops to the floor to sit with Megren.
Megren lifts her shoulders. “It doesn’t seem like as many when you know them.”
Glora’s head fully emerges as she smells the soup and she purrs again before lapping up some of the broth. “Mmm, that’s better. Thank you, Lanisen.” When she’s eaten a few bites, she snuggles back into the fabric. “So it looks like the last part of your trip went well.”
Lanisen squints up one eye. “Did it?” he asks Megren.
Megren looks back at Lanisen. “Hmm. We’re alive.”
Glora says, “Oh good, I was worried you might not be.”
Lanisen grins, but looks down. “Wasn’t like the trip there, for sure.”
Megren says, “It was nice to see home.”
Glora shifts around, her tail drawing under the cloth. “And everything was fine here? Nothing fell apart with you gone?”
Lanisen says, “We had to rebuild the castle from scratch.”
Megren says, “And the mountain.”
Glora mms. “You made it too tall. And if you built it up again, you really should have put a statue up. Something really impressive.”
Lanisen says, “I knew we were forgettin’ somethin’.”
Megren looks accusingly at Lanisen. “What did I say? I told you there weren’t enough statues.”
Lanisen exclaims, “Don’t blame /me/!”
Glora shakes her head at Lanisen.
Megren asks, “Who else should I blame?”
Lanisen says, “Sir Darrin, obviously.”
Glora says, “I suppose that sounds reasonable. Probably should be whoever put on the last rock, though.”
Megren looks up and straightens a little like she’s thinking of going to find Sir Darrin and give him a piece of her mind right here and now.
Lanisen pats her shoulder. “That’s the spirit.”
Glora purrs softly and pulls the soup closer.
Megren’s eyes shift to Glora and then she’s back to accusing stares for Lanisen. “Hey, where’s /my/ soup on?”
Lanisen says, “Well, you didn’t say you wanted any!”
Glora manages to look smug while eating her soup.
Lanisen asks, “Are you warmin’ up, Glora?”
Glora says, “Mhm. I like this blanket.”
Lanisen asks, “Where’re you stayin’?”
Megren sticks her tongue out at Lanisen while he’s paying Glora attention.
Glora blinks at him once. “I suppose I’ll figure that out. I only just got here. Maybe a place like Dochus’ inn.”
Lanisen shoves Megren’s shoulder casually. “There’s an inn, but it’s a bit of a walk,” he says doubtfully. “We could find someplace for you here, I bet, if you want.”
Glora keeps her expression very casual, but her ears perk. Just a bit. “Oh? That could work.”
Lanisen says, “I got quarters I don’t use much, on account of I sleep with the hounds most nights.”
Megren says, “The cats here all live in the stable or at the ends of people’s beds mostly. I bet you could sleep with — yeah, in the kennel or in any of the open servant areas; they’ve all got fireplaces and most have baskets with blankets for sitting.””
Glora looks between them and focuses on Lanisen. “If you don’t mind, that sounds nice. I’ve never stayed in a castle before; could be interesting.”
Lanisen lifts his shoulders. “I don’t mind. There’s good blankets on the bed. You’re welcome in the kennel, too, but it might be a little noisy until they get used to you.”
Glora asks, “Maybe I’ll try that tomorrow. I’ll come see it, at least.” The blanket twitches. Presumably it was the tail beneath. “Why do you sleep there?”
Lanisen says, “It’s–” He pauses, self-conscious. “I like it better, is all.”
Megren says, “It’s nice to have other people in the room when you go to sleep, even if they’re just dogs.”
Glora says, “I suppose. There aren’t many ways that /aren’t/ nice ways to go to sleep, though.”
Lanisen lifts his shoulders.
Megren grins. “Maybe. I’m always thinking of what I’m missing when I sleep.”
Glora says, “That’s why you sleep where the things are happening.”
Megren says, “/That/’s what I’ve been doing wrong.”
Lanisen grins absently. He gets to his feet. “I’m gonna go make a fire and make sure everything’s good for you in there,” he says.
Megren says, “I want to help. It’s probably all dusty.”
Glora wriggles out of the cloth. “Then I might as well come too. I need to know where it is, anyway.”
Lanisen says, “It better not be all dusty.”
Megren asks, “When’s the last time you were even in there?”
Megren says, “I could take it over as my own and you wouldn’t even know.”
Lanisen says mildly, “I put my things away after we came home and cleaned a bit.”
Glora swishes her tail. “How long ago /did/ you get back?”
Lanisen says, “Couple weeks, it’s been.” He backs toward the kitchen door. “Comin’?”
Megren hops up. “I am.”
Glora jumps off the hearth. “Sure.”
Lanisen asks Glora, nodding at her soup, “Done with that?”
Glora says, “I am, yes. It was good, thanks.”
Lanisen picks up the bowl to carry back to the kitchen, leading them on through the inner ward and to the servants’ quarters.