Glora is curled in a pile of blankets in the middle of the bed, despite the afternoon hour. A few snowflakes curl past the window, but the room is plenty cozy.
Lanisen knocks on the door lightly.
Glora opens her eyes and looks towards the door. For just a moment, she curls up again and tucks her nose under her tail; then, with a yawn, she calls, “Come in.”
Lanisen opens the door a crack and peeks in. “Oh,” he says. “Should I come back?”
Glora sits up and yawns once more. When she’s done, she seems fully alert. “Mm, now’s fine. I was just about done anyway.”
Lanisen says, “Mm, all right.”
Glora stands, stretches, and walks to the foot of the bed. “What’ve you been up to?”
Lanisen says, sitting down on the chair and rubbing his shoulder, “Nothin’ very much.” He pauses. “Last year Danall and me made sort of a cave in the kennels out of haybales when it got cold, so it was easier for the hounds to find a warm spot, and it was good and they liked it, so I made one again yesterday, so I just been finishing that. That’s about it.”
Glora’s ears flick forward. “A cave made of haybales, hm?”
Lanisen lifts his shoulders. “It’s warm, and the stable don’t mind their loan, long as they got enough.”
Glora bats lightly at a corner of blanket sticking up. “Well, I was thinking of going to see the kennels today anyway. Want to show me?”
Lanisen straightens slightly, obviously very eager and very apprehensive. “Are you– are you sure?” he asks. “There’s, the dogs, they know their manners mostly but–”
Glora’s tail swishes dismissively. “I’ve met Dogs before. They’re annoying, but I’ve dealt with worse.”
Lanisen says anxiously, “These don’t talk.”
Glora says, “Then they can’t jabber on so much. Better all around.” She swishes her tail again and stares at Lanisen, eyes just a bit bigger than normal. “I’ll need to see it sometime.”
Lanisen says, “All right, well–” He pauses. “They, they do know– you can tell ’em ‘back’ or ‘leave off’ or ‘down’, they know those, and if it’s too, if they get to be too rowdy or if it’s… just, if you’re uncomfortable at all, just say, and we’ll go.”
Glora paces at the end of the bed once, then jumps off, tail straight up and ears perked. “Mhm, back, down, got it. Which way?” Going to the door, she turns around and gazes at Lanisen expectantly.
Lanisen reaches obligingly for the latch and opens the door onto the servants’ corridor.
Glora saunters out, pauses, turns around, runs back in, and goes to her retrieved pouch. She pulls a deep, forest green looped scarf from it and manuevers into it, then continues out of the room.
Lanisen waits patiently for her to be ready, then follows her.
Lanisen pauses outside the kennel door, his hand on the latch, and turns to Glora. “Do you want on my shoulders first?” he asks anxiously.
Glora hms, then crouches, ready to spring up.
Lanisen kneels down, bending his head forward.
Glora leaps up and settles on his shoulder, lying down partly for stability.
Lanisen waits for her to be settled, then carefully stands back up. “All right,” he says, and steps inside. The room initially looks very quiet, mostly clear of hounds. There is a wall of haybales built up nearly to the ceiling some distance in, and hounds begin to stream out from behind a blanket covering a doorway in the structure almost as soon as the door opens. Lanisen keeps very still.
Glora’s eyes get wide as she sees just how many of the dogs there are, and how excited they are to see Lanisen. Her feet scramble back so that she is standing perched on top of his shoulder. “Or maybe they are as yappy,” she calls over the greeting barks, forcing her tone nonchalant.
Lanisen says urgently, though it’s not quite clear who he’s talking to, “It’s okay, it’s okay–” He reaches up one hand to stabilize Glora if it seems that she needs it, and snaps the fingers of his other hand, hushing the hounds. It’s remarkably effective: though they are all eyeing Glora with intense interest, the barking mostly ceases, and nobody is making any lunges or threatening faces. There’s mostly a lot of milling and wagging tails.
Glora slowly lowers back down. Her tail lashes once or twice. After a moment of eyeing the dogs right back, she turns to look at the haybales instead. “You built that? It’s very–down!” This last is directed at a dog who, well, wasn’t really doing anything.
Lanisen grins, beginning to slowly wade forward through the crowd of hounds. “Here, look,” he says. “I wasn’t sure if you’d want to come, but this is for you…” He shows her where he has set haybales sideways, so they stick out of the wall on both sides and make stairstepping shelves the right width for a Cat to easily traverse. Between these and the storage shelves, table, and windowsill, there are a number of paths for somebody with a good sense of balance and her own jumping ability to use to get about the room without stepping paw on the floor.
Glora immediately forgets the dogs and launches off of Lanisen’s shoulder to land on the nearest of these shelves. From there, she makes several leaps to get to the windowsill, stares out for a moment, then turns to smirk down at the dogs. “This is /perfect/.”
Lanisen /glows/. “Really?”
Glora saunters and jumps along the room’s perimeter, sticking her nose into pretty much everything. “Really. How’d you come up with this?”
Lanisen says, turning in place to watch, “I dunno. I thought what I might like, if I were a cat.”
Glora pauses by one of the shelves and nudges aside some of the containers of tea. Just enough space to squeeze through opens up, and she is promptly behind the tea. They judder and shift as she crawls past. “Mm. Good thought. You’d make a decent Cat.”
Lanisen says, “Aw.” He follows her to the tea-shelf, reaching down the canisters to find a better temporary home for them. The hounds trail along too, keenly interested.
Glora turns around and peers out at Lanisen from the shelf. She intersperces watching him with casting smug looks at the dogs All the Way Down There.
Lanisen seems amused by this. “Do you want to see inside?” he asks, gesturing at the haybale structure. “It’s warmer, um–” He pauses, turning to look at the wall and the stairstepping ledges crossing it and the gap between the top of the wall and the ceiling. “I /think/ you should be able to get up and over, there’s bales sticking out on the other side too, but we’ll figure somethin’ else out if not.”
Glora crawls back out and bounds towards the steps. She’s up and squishing over almost immediately. A moment later her head pops back over the top bale. “I fit! Is this where you sleep? You said you sleep here, right?”
Lanisen follows her around and takes a seat on a haybale covered by a blanket. A brindle deerhound follows him and rests her chin on his knees. “Not normally,” he says. “Upstairs, normally, in the summer and when it’s warm enough. But it’s been cold lately, so I wanted to be closer to a fire.”
Glora comes down the bales far enough to be about at shoulder level. Lying down, she tucks her feet under herself and her legs promptly disappear. “Smart. How long did building it take you?”
Lanisen says, “Mm, most of the afternoon yesterday. Meg helped with the high-up ones.” He tips his head on one side. “There’s blankets if that straw’s too pokey.”
Glora says, “Mm, I suppose that could be nice. Never say no to a good blanket, anyway.”
Lanisen gets up to rummage for a good thick one in the stack, stepping over a couple of hounds in the process. “They’re a bit underfoot today,” he remarks ruefully. “It’s not usually so bad, it’s just it’s so cold they don’t want to be out if they don’t have to be. Danall’s takin’ ’em coursin’ tomorrow, it’ll be quieter.”
Glora asks, “Who’s Danall?”
Lanisen says, “He’s the master of hounds, he’s in charge of the hunts. I’ve worked for him these last– mm, six, seven years now.”
Glora follows Lanisen to the blankets and inspects them. One in particular catches her interest, and she pulls that out and back to the bale of hay she had been sitting on. “Do you go on hunts with him?”
Lanisen hoists up the rest of it and helps her arrange it. “Me? Nah. I don’t ride so good.”
Glora asks, “Did you walk all the way to Narnia?”
Lanisen says, “No, but that’s– um, that’s different, a little bit.”
Glora snuggles down into the blanket. Her voice has an undercurrent of purr as the warmth from the fire and fabric and fur all come together. “Why?”
Lanisen says, “Um, we weren’t, we weren’t chasing anything.”
Glora says, “Oh. Good choice. It’s a bad way to hunt.”
Lanisen pulls out another blanket from the stack and wraps it around his shoulders, sitting down with his back to the fire. “I dunno. They seem to bring back enough game when they go out.”
Glora looks unimpressed. “Maybe. But they waste so much energy running after everything. It’s much better to wait for it to come to you.”
Lanisen says, “You might be onto somethin’ there.”
Glora says, “Every kitten knows /that/ much. It only takes chasing a bird once.” Her tail flicks out of the blanket, then back in and under the folds of cloth. “Maybe you all will catch on eventually.”
Lanisen laughs out loud. A large black hound comes and circles three times in front of the hearth before flopping. Lanisen scritches his ears fondly and asks, his eyes glinting with mischief and amusement, “We’re all of us kittens, then?”
Glora says, “When it comes to hunting, you may as well be.”
Lanisen considers. “That’s fair,” he decides.
Glora somehow conveys a decisive nod with the flick of an ear. “Of course. But you do well enough at some things, I suppose. Like making… what do you call this, anyway? Cave doesn’t seem right.”
Lanisen hmms? “I dunno,” he says, glancing around the space. “I don’t think there’s a word for it.”
Glora says, “Hm. Well, I like it.” This proclaimed, she tucks her head down into the blanket. A moment later, she pops back up. “The dogs chase things down in the /snow/?””
Lanisen says, “Mm-hmm! They like snow, mostly.”
Glora casts a skeptical look at some of the hounds with shorter fur.
Lanisen says, “Long as they can get in where it’s warm again, or they’re interested enough in whatever they’re chasin’ to forget they’re cold.”
Glora says, “Well, /that’s/ believeable, I suppose.”
Lanisen says, tousling the hound’s ears fondly, “You oughta see ’em when they’re pups. They never know what to make of it, first time.”
Glora sniffs, but looks down at the dog. “How often do you have pups here?”
Lanisen says, “Oh, often enough. Once a year or so, I guess.”
Glora says, “That’s a lot of dogs.”
Lanisen says, “They don’t all stay here.”
Glora asks, “Where do the others go?”
Lanisen says, “Farms, mostly, or to hunters. We train ’em, and Danall picks which are the best for the pack, and the rest get new homes.”
Glora peers over the side of the blanket and haybale to see a couple of the dogs who are still very dedicated to seeing Who Exactly is up there.
Lanisen pushes his mouth to the side. “I’ll introduce you to Nia tomorrow, when they’re out coursin’, if you like,” he offers.
Glora asks, “Who’s Nia?”
Lanisen says, “She’s the oldest here. She’s sweet, she won’t bother you.”
Glora says, “Well… I suppose.”
Lanisen says, easily and without offense, “You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”
Glora flicks her ear. “If you like her, I can give her a chance.”
Lanisen assures her, “She’s quite old and she’s mostly blind. Very gentle.”
Glora asks, “Tomorrow, then.” Laying her chin on the blanket, she lets out a contented purr. “Where’s Megren? What does she do all day?”
Lanisen says, “Mmm, out doin’ squire things. She teaches people defense, some days, and she takes care of Sir Darrin’s horses and her horse, and she’s always learnin’ somethin’ about fighting, runnin’ about with weights on her feet and whatnot. Sometimes she picks up shifts with the guard. She’ll be by later, I’m sure.”
Glora wrinkles her nose at the mention of weights and such. “Sounds busy.”
Lanisen says frankly, “I dunno how she does it all.”
Glora asks, “Why does she?”
Lanisen says, “Some of it ’cause she’s workin’ to be a knight. The rest of it just ’cause she likes helpin’ people.”
Glora asks, “Why does everyone think you need to know how to fight to help people?”
Lanisen looks startled. “I don’t think everyone does,” he answers. “Meg doesn’t, I know, it’s just– it’s just what she’s picked.”
Glora looks skeptical. “Well, everyone’s picking it, then. Half the Beasts on the Guard are like that, too. There are /plenty/ of helpful things you can do without needing to fight and train your life away.”
Lanisen disagrees, “Meg does other things too, she doesn’t– she’s not like that.”
Glora says, “Mm. I suppose. She seems decent enough, at least.”
Lanisen says, “She’s my best friend.”
Glora says, “I figured as much.”
Lanisen pushes his mouth to the side and looks down at the dogs.
Glora’s ears twitch back. “I like Megren, too. She makes tasty fish.”
Lanisen grins at this, letting out a little breath of laughter. “That’s true.”
Glora relaxes again. “Does she practice cooking with weights on her wrists?”
Lanisen says, “I never seen her do that, but you never know.”
Glora rolls on her side and rubs her ear against the straw next to the blanket. “Do you do training things?”
Lanisen says, “A– a little bit.”
Glora rolls her eyes, but stretches her paws out in the air rather than responding to that. “You seem busy too. Is everyone here busy all the time?”
Lanisen frowns slightly, thinking this over. “While they’re workin’, I s’pose. I do my work during the day, usually, and then have the evenings.”
Glora asks, “What do you do in the evenings?”
Lanisen says, “I read, or talk with Megren, or walk in the pasture sometimes.”
Glora asks, “Where’s the pasture?”
Lanisen says, “It’s, ahh, if you go out through the ward and to the other side, through the stables, there’s a big door, and it’s behind the castle.”
Glora curls up on the blanket again. “You can show me tomorrow after Nia, it’s cold out there right now.” Despite her probable extended nap earlier and the noise of the dogs, she closes her eyes.
Lanisen raises his eyebrows at this, then looks down at the hound snoozing on his legs, grinning faintly.
Glora is soon snoozing just as soundly, only her ears flicking towards irregular sounds.