Lanisen is sitting behind the hay wall in the near silent kennel, coaxing Nia to eat from a bowl of choice meat scraps.

Megren knocks triply and then lets herself in. “There’s never any dogs in here anymore,” she observes as she makes her way toward the warm inner room.

Lanisen says, glancing up, “What do you expect when you come at coursing time?”

Megren asks, “How’m I meant to know when’s coursing time?”

Lanisen says, “Well. The unholy racket when they start out’s a good clue.”

Megren comes round the corner making a face. “You talk like this castle isn’t full of racket.”

Lanisen grins, not looking up from his work. He fishes another piece of meat out of the bowl and offers it to Nia.

Megren wrinkles her nose at the bowl and plunks down on the hearth. “I’m so glad I don’t do that every day anymore.”

Lanisen glances up at her, raising his eyebrows questioningly.

Megren points to the bowl of meat. “Birds are the worst, I think.”

Lanisen repeats, “Birds? Falcons and things?”

Megren says, “What? No, the meat. Pheasants and ducks and snipe.”

Lanisen says, “Oh! Ohh.” He shakes his head slightly. “Sorry, I was thinkin’ you meant the feedin’ of critters.”

Megren says, “No, I never did that.”

Lanisen says, “I was thinkin’ it was weird you didn’t mention it, if you did.” He glances down at Nia, who has not touched the scrap in his hand, and pushes his mouth to the side. He puts the scrap back in the bowl and digs for a smaller, meatier piece. “How ’bout this one, huh? This one looks good, what do you think?”

Megren makes a face.

Lanisen sits patiently, stroking Nia’s neck with his other hand, while she sniffs at it longsufferingly and finally takes it into her mouth.

Megren asks, “Does she usually wait to eat?”

Lanisen takes a moment to answer, waiting until Nia has swallowed and he has found another scrap to offer her. “No, it’s… she’s not wantin’ to eat so much, lately. It’s easier when the rest are gone, you know, less distraction.”

Megren asks, “What’s that mean?”

Lanisen says, “Means she’s old.” He glances up at Megren briefly to take the sting out of the slight shortness in his tone, then looks back down at the dog. “She’s, she was old when I came.”

Megren nods slowly.

Lanisen lifts his shoulders, not looking up from Nia as she leans away from the offered food. He drops the scrap back in the bowl and searches resolutely for a more appealing piece. “She just… needs some extra help, these days.”

Megren says, “Oh.”

Lanisen blows out a breath as Nia rejects another morsel. “That’s all right,” he says to her quietly, setting aside the bowl. “We’ll try again later. Good girl, good girl.”

Megren asks, “What happens if she tries something else?”

Lanisen says, “Sometimes she likes it, sometimes she don’t. She liked my ham the other day.” He looks down at her. “She usually goes for this stuff all right. I got some broth stuff I’ll heat up for her in a little bit.”

Megren nods.

Lanisen asks, “What’ve you got today?”

Megren says, “An hour until lunch, and then back to training.”

Lanisen nods.

Megren asks, “You’ve got to clean the dogs this afternoon?”

Lanisen says, glancing outside, “Ahh, it depends. It ain’t too muddy today.”

Megren asks, “Do they ever really come back clean?”

Lanisen says, “Well, no. But sometimes they ain’t filthy.”

Megren says, “Hm.”

Lanisen says, getting up to put the meat away and wash his hands, “This’d be your mandatory break, then?”

Megren says, “Right, that thing.”

Lanisen asks, “What’re you doin’ with it?”

Megren spreads her hands.

Lanisen asks, “Do you want to walk a bit? There’s snowdrops comin’ up by the walls in the pasture.”

Megren’s brows lift, delighted. “What, really?”

Lanisen says, “Dunno if any are bloomin’ yet, but I saw ’em yesterday.”

Megren says, “Yes, yes, all right.”

Lanisen grabs his coat from where it’s hanging over the back of a chair and hunts for his boots.

Megren hops back up. “Should we take Nia?”

Lanisen pauses, considering. “Maybe she’ll work up an appetite,” he says hopefully.

Megren nods. “Worth a go anyway, right?”

Lanisen says, “Yeah, I think so.”

Megren says, “All right.”

Lanisen calls to Nia, who goes with tail-wagging good will, and opens the door to the ward.

Megren lets Nia go first and then scoots out after.

Lanisen closes the door after them and leads Nia across the busy ward. The noise and bustle seem overwhelming to the old dog, but she stays close and they reach the stable without incident.

Megren watches Nia with concerned interest.

Lanisen keeps his hand on Nia’s neck and pushes open the heavy door to the pastures. Nia goes through first eagerly, her tail wagging slightly with happy familiarity.

Anvard Pastures

Megren stands just outside the stable and peers to see if she can find the snowdrops Lanisen’s referred to.

Lanisen says, “They’re– mm, they were just…” He trails off and wanders along the wall, heading southeast to where the ridge shades the ground near the wall for most of the day. “Here, here they are. And look, here’s one bloomin’!”

Megren skips up after him and kneels to see. “Aaaah!!”

Lanisen glances back to be sure that Nia is all right and not troubling the cattle, then drops to the ground next to Megren. “Oohh, we’ll have to come back in a couple days,” he says appreciatively. “Look at all these about to start.”

Megren pulls in her lips happily.

Lanisen bends precariously forward on hands and knees to sniff at one about to unfurl.

Megren snorts. “What are you doing?”

Lanisen says, “I want to smell it!”

Megren exclaims, “That one’s closed!”

Lanisen says, “But it’s /nearly/ open!”

Megren makes a face. “Are you trying to tell the difference between an open one and a closed one then?”

Lanisen says, “No, I’m tryin’ to be /polite/ and not get in your space.”

Megren screws up her face in confusion.

Lanisen says, “Anyway it has got a smell.”

Megren says, “Everything’s got a smell.”

Lanisen grumbles something that sounds like, “/You’ve/ got a smell,” and leans forward to sniff the maligned blossom again.

Megren sniffs her shoulder.

Lanisen says, “I wonder if they’d grow inside.”

Megren exclaims, “I bet! In a window. /Oh/ I should get one for Sir Darrin.”

Lanisen says, “There’s little pots at that stall in the ward, or maybe Sareen would loan us somethin’.”

Megren says, “Yes, oh, little pots, so we can pick out the perfect one.”

Lanisen says thoughtfully, “Maybe we should talk to Sareen anyway. I wouldn’t want to do it wrong and have ’em die.”

Megren says, “Well, no, I suppose.”

Lanisen says, “How hard can it be, though.”

Megren agrees, “They grow here without any one doing anything for them.”

Lanisen asks, “Do you want to go look for pots?”

Megren says, “Yes.”

Lanisen turns to look to see where Nia’s gotten to, and finds her very happily following a rabbit trail a little ways down the wall. He pauses. “Maybe in a little while?”

Megren’s eyes follow his and she pushes her mouth to the side. “Yeah, all right.”

Lanisen says, shifting to sit so he can more easily watch the hound, “It’s been so cold, I been afraid to take her out. And she don’t go coursin’ with the rest, so she gets cooped up more.”

Megren says, “Yeah.”

Lanisen says happily, “This’ll do her good, though.”

Megren nods, straightening.

Lanisen is sitting with Megren in the southeast corner of the pastures, where a number of snowdrops are just beginning to show their heads. A black deerhound noses along the wall to the northwest, on the other side of the doorway to the stables.

Lanisen comments, looking at the lake, “The flooding went down.”

Megren says, “A little, yeah. The path looks clearer, anyway.”

A son of adam wearing a dusty cape (Julyan) steps through the door from the stables, and peers around, as if looking for someone. He raises a hand to wave at the two people nearby. “Good day.”

Lanisen straightens slightly where he sits. He glances at Megren.

Megren looks up as well. “Oh, hello.”

Julyan looks around again, pulling his cape tighter. “I assume you’re sitting out here in the cold on purpose…” he notes dryly.

Lanisen’s eyes shift briefly to seek out the dog exploring on the other side of the pasture. “It’s not so cold,” he offers.

Megren says, “There’s snowdrops.”

Julyan nods, then seems to remember something, as he starts to root around in his satchel. “Not as cold as last week, or the week before, but cold nonetheless. I much prefer the warmth of summer. Thank goodness spring has arrived. Being a messenger in the snow is a pain.”

Lanisen pulls his knees up, watching the man.

Megren says, “I can imagine.”

Julyan flashes Megren a smile. “Too few people are as sympathetic.” He pulls a letter from his satchel. “Speaking of messenger duties…”

Megren lifts her brows.

Julyan looks down at the folded parchment in his hand. “A message for Sir Darrin. From some bigwig in Coghill, I don’t recall his name.”

Lanisen rubs a hand over his mouth to hide a small smile.

Megren lets out a little huff of a laugh and extends her hand. “Here. I’ll give it to him.”

Julyan hands the letter to Megren. “Would you? That’d be really swell, Miss.”

Megren says, “Not a problem.”

Lanisen watches, assessing the messenger curiously.

Julyan smiles and nods at the other man courteously. “The name’s Julyan,” he says in a friendly way, then nods at Megren again. “Perhaps I’ll bring everything addressed to Sir Darrin to you first. You’re rather more charming to converse with.”

Megren snorts, glancing at Lanisen. “That seems unlikely.”

Lanisen raises his eyebrows at this and can’t quite stop a delighted grin.
Lanisen mumbles “Ohh, I am going to tell him that.”, to Lanisen.
Lanisen mumbles “Ohh, I … … … … … that.”, to Lanisen.

Julyan looks between Megren and the man, somewhat nonplussed.

Megren bounces on her toes for a moment. “Well, I’ll take this to him now, then.”

Lanisen murmurs, “I’ll get Nia,” and gets to his feet, whistling for the hound.

Julyan nods to them both. “Good day.”

Megren says, “Thanks for the letter.”

Julyan says, “My pleasure, Miss Megren.”

Megren grins and starts walking backward toward the castle.

Lanisen offers the man a smile in passing, then begins to makes his way toward where the black hound has started back toward them.


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