Megren stands in the middle of the ward, dressed in her full hauberk, gambeson, and half-plate, the crest of Archenland emblazoned on her tabard.
Cantil stands to the side in Coghill blue, talking quietly with Tern as they wait. He glances toward the Chancellor’s tower and straightens slightly as Lord Cole emerges.
Sir Darrin emerges from the noble’s tower dressed equally formally, the blue tabard over his chainmail bearing his personal standard of eagle and flowers, and his decorative sword on his hip.
More knights and squires gather, among them Sir Oweyn and Sir Chal.
Cantil, along with the other squires and knights assembled, bows toward the noblemen. The low hum of conversation falls silent, leaving an attentive, anticipatory quiet in the ward.
Megren watches the people gather, her hands clasped behind her back. Someone near her may see her outer thumb rubbing the other, but she is otherwise well-postured and still. When everyone expected has assembled, she bows her head for a moment, and then turns toward the outer ward.
Lord Cole follows after her, and then Sir Darrin, and the others fall in loosely arranged by rank.
Cantil and Tern bring up the rear, keen-eyed and serious.
The guards at the inner gate stand at attention as the procession passes through.
Megren exchanges a look with Perth as she passes him at the inner gate. She makes a turn toward the north tower once she’s entered the outer ward.
Lanisen stands outside the kennel door, waiting quietly. He straightens and draws in a breath as the procession begins through, pulling his lips between his teeth.
The procession follows Megren to the tower, a solemn air about them all, and yet there’s something celebratory about the whole ceremony.
Megren’s eyes shift to the side when she passes Lanisen, and her solemn facade is broken for a brief moment as she lifts her brows and pulls in her lower lip.
Lanisen looks glowing love and pride back at her, his dimples deep. He wraps his arms around himself, shivering slightly.
Megren doesn’t let her step falter, and it doesn’t take her long to reach the tower and ascend the stairs.
Darrin and Lord Cole, and those following them, climb the stairs behind her until they emerge onto the wall.
Megren reaches her assigned place and turns to look at those assembled. She bows to Lord Cole, who clasps her wrist and returns the gesture with a deep, respectful nod.
Cantil and Tern keep well back, watching with silent, intense interest.
Darrin, at Cole’s elbow, seems to be having a hard time keeping his face as solemn as it should be, which mostly is evidenced as the crinkles around his eyes deepen.
Lanisen, down in the ward, steps back to the inner wall, his head tilted back to watch the proceedings above.
Megren does the same with Sir Darrin next, her eyes meeting his and her grip on his wrist a little tighter.
Darrin bows his head to Megren as he clasps her hand, smiling briefly before he straightens again.
Megren pulls in her lower lip and then releases his hand and moves on down the procession.
Cantil and Tern at the end are last, each taking her hand with the appropriate gravity. Except for Cantil, who winks cheekily.
Megren’s lips curve and she winks back.
Cantil grins, then glances up the line toward the noblemen and steps back, bowing his head.
Megren turns to face the forest and road, clasping her hands behind her back again.
One by one, the knights and squires step forward to face the road as well, lining up along the wall in a line of silent solidarity. They keep watch with Megren for the first moments of her vigil, and then, at a signal from Lord Cole, they file back the way they came.
Lanisen waits quietly below for about ten minutes, watching the knights and squires file down from the outer wall. When the darkening ward is clear, the members of the procession gone about their own business, he stirs and steps briefly into the kennel. He emerges after a moment, dressed in more warm layers and carrying a basket, and slips silently up the steps and out along the wall to join her.
Megren stands close to the centralmost outside crenel, her hand not so much resting on her sword pommel as gripping it.
Lanisen sets the basket down quietly on the walk against the opposite wall and straightens, stepping to stand with her.
Megren glances toward him and smiles briefly.
Lanisen grins back, sticking his gloved hands in his pockets. He doesn’t break the silence.
It is almost dark when Megren finally says, “I don’t usually get to be up here when it’s setting.”
Lanisen glances at her, raising his eyebrows.
Megren shrugs apologetically.
Lanisen asks, “Why’s that?”
Megren shrugs. “It’s not a time most people want to trade.”
Lanisen hmms softly, considering the view. “I can understand that.”
Megren says, “Yeah.”
Lanisen says, half-turning to look at the basket, “I brought– there’s water and some bread and an extra cloak if you get cold.”
Megren glances at him again with a wrinkled nose. “I did tell you to take care of food.”
Lanisen shrugs and grins at the road, looking mysterious and self-satisfied.
Megren blows out a breath.
Lanisen glances at her again. “What’re you thinkin’?”
Megren says, “I’m not even an hour into the night yet.”
Lanisen says, “Ohh, you’re savin’ the thinkin’ for later.”
Megren laughs, “No, that’s what I was thinking.”
Lanisen grins, resting his arms on the wall. “Did you do this sort of shift when you were on the guard?” he asks curiously. “The all-night sort?”
Megren shakes her head. “Guard shifts are never this long. It’s usually two short ones.”
Lanisen hmms, pulling his chin back reflectively. “I wonder why it’s so long for this one.”
Megren says, “Well, the guard shifts are because if we did that all the time we’d get tired and not do as well. Doing it once isn’t so bad.”
Lanisen says, “I s’pose so.” He glances at her. “You gonna be able to stay awake all right? I can get tea.”
Megren says, “I think I’ll be all right.”
Lanisen nods and goes quiet again, watching the first stars come out.
Megren says, “It’s going to get cold. The sky’s clear.”
Lanisen nods again. He glances at her speculatively, eyeing the armor with his mouth pushed to the side.
Megren asks, “What?”
Lanisen asks, “Are you gonna be warm enough?”
Megren says, “I’ve passed colder nights.”
Lanisen says, “Well, me too; doesn’t mean I care to do it again.”
Megren says, “I think I’ll be all right.”
Lanisen looks not entirely satisfied, but says as a compromise, “I’ll run for somethin’ hot if you need it later.”
Megren says, “I wouldn’t mind a cup of tea before you leave for the night.”
Lanisen says, “All right.”
Megren goes quiet again, watching the last of the market sellers filter out of the gate and make their slow ways back toward their various homes.
Lanisen watches with her, his arms folded on the wall. The silence stretches comfortably, but after some time he touches her elbow and points at where an owl is swooping low over the trees, just visible against the nearly-dark sky.
Megren whispers, pointing. “There’s another in the tree over there.”
Lanisen squints. “Where?”
Megren says, “It’s, near the road? Here,” she tugs him closer so he can follow her finger better. “About a third of the way down.”
Lanisen frowns, trying to see. “That… the tall one, next to that evergreen?”
Megren says, “No, it’s the evergreen.”
Lanisen stares for a long moment, then makes a face and shakes his head. “It’s too dark, I can’t see.”
Megren says, “Well, it’ll swoop for a bat soon, I bet.”
Lanisen says, “I’ll watch for it.”
Lanisen takes a deep breath and lets it out again. It fogs faintly in the cold air.
The silhouettes of bats begin to flit past the torch lamps along the road, and, true to Megren’s prediction, the owl swoops down to scoop one up.
Lanisen says, startled and delighted, “Oh–! Oh! There it went!”
Lanisen mourns, “We didn’t find any owls to ask about hoots when we were in Narnia.”
Megren says, “…Hoots?”
Lanisen says, “Mm, when we were out that one time? We were tryin’ to figure out if talking owls still used hoots to talk from far away.”
Megren says, “I have no memory, but now I want to know.”
Lanisen waves a hand vaguely. “There were owls, and then Haft came.”
Megren says, “All right.”
Lanisen makes a face at her. “It happened, I swear.”
Megren says, “I didn’t say it didn’t!”
Megren pulls a face. “You can ask when you go up in Raingiver.”
Lanisen says, “If I go.”
Megren says, “You probably will, though.”
Lanisen shrugs. “She ain’t wrote back yet.”
Megren tilts her head in dismissive concession.
Lanisen shivers and pulls up his hood.
Megren glances at him. “You don’t have to stay,” she says apologetically.
Lanisen raises his eyebrows at her severely. “As if I’d leave.”
Megren says, “You’re cold.”
Lanisen says, “Nah, I’m all right.”
Megren gets a skeptical expression. There is a call from the guards below, and they begin the work of closing up the gate.
Lanisen leans out over the edge of the wall to try, ineffectively, to see.
The procedure takes nearly a half an hour, as it involves checking the ward for stragglers and calling confirmations from one guard to the next.
Lanisen watches with interest, his attention shifting from one guard to another as they do this. “It’s different from up here,” he remarks.
Megren makes an agreeable sound.
Lanisen is quiet until they have finished. “What are you gonna miss about bein’ a squire?” he asks finally.
Megren says, “Probably having my opinion asked without pressure to be right.”
Lanisen blinks and raises his eyebrows.
Megren glances at him when he doesn’t respond, and makes a face.
Lanisen says, “That’s not somethin’ I’d thought of.”
Megren says, “Sir Darrin would tell me it’s not really like that; people should be talking to multiple sources and you can say you don’t know when you don’t — but it’s /more/ like that than being a squire is.”
Lanisen nods, quiet and thoughtful.
Megren’s gaze settles on the trees.
Lanisen says, “I s’pose that’s one of the things that would be nice about bein’ a knight too, though.”
Megren says, “Mm?”
Lanisen lifts his shoulders. “People listenin’ to what you’ve got to say.”
Megren says, “Oh. Yeah.”
Lanisen asks, “What else are you lookin’ forward to?”
Megren says, “Not having to ask every time I want to take a day to see my family.”
Megren says, “Getting to be part of council sometimes.”
Lanisen mms, nodding. “I’d be terrified,” he admits frankly. “But you’d be good with that, I bet.”
Megren says, “Well, I probably won’t speak up too much right away.”
Lanisen says, “Well, no.”
Megren says, “Maybe I could be friends with the king.”
Lanisen laughs at this.
Megren says, “What! He likes Sir Darrin, and Sir Darrin likes me.”
Lanisen says, “No, yes, that’s just it. He likes about everybody, don’t he?”
Megren says, “Well, maybe, but that’s not the same as being friends.”
Lanisen concedes this with a little tip of his head.
Megren says, “Anyway, I think I’d like that.”
Lanisen nods. He’s quiet for a minute. “I used to be so afraid of him,” he says reflectively. “Rightly, of course, but it’s– it’s funny to think on now.”
Megren nods quietly.
Lanisen says, “I wonder how you get to be like that.”
Megren asks, “Like what?”
Lanisen says, “Like… I don’t know.”
Megren asks, “Like the king?”
Lanisen says, “Yeah.”
Megren says, “Probably by being king.”
Lanisen huffs out a little laugh.
Megren asks, “What part of like him, though?”
Lanisen rubs the side of his face, thinking. “I don’t know, I don’t know how to say,” he confesses. “Just… there’s…” He stops again. “Some, some people, some important people, they… like you to know they’re important, they– they like you to be scared, a little bit, maybe they wouldn’t ever do anything to run you over but they like you to remember that they could, you know?” He glances at her before he goes on.
Megren says, “Oh.” She nods.
Lanisen says, “And then– um, other important people, they sort of, if they want you to feel at ease they–mm, they set being important aside, a little bit. Sir Darrin does that sometimes, Sir Colin does it. He did it almost all the time for a while, I think he didn’t know what to do with the, the importance. But the king doesn’t do either of those things, he doesn’t… He makes you know you’re not about to be run over, but he doesn’t make himself… less.” He pauses and wrinkles up his nose. “That’s not– I don’t know, that’s not all of it, but I think it’s as close as I’m liable to come.”
Megren tilts her head thoughtfully. “Did the Narnian kings and queens do it?”
Lanisen pauses. “Yeah,” he says. “In, in different ways, I think.”
Megren nods. “Prince Cor?”
Lanisen squints up one eye. “That’s harder to say.”
Megren nods again.
Lanisen says, “I think– yes, I think so. He’s comin’ into it. He’s never made me feel he could squash me if he wanted to.”
Megren snorts. “No, I can’t picture him doing that.”
Lanisen grins, looking out over the road. After a moment, he sighs. “I dunno, I’m not sure what I’m tryin’ to say, it falls apart more the more I think on it.”
Megren says, “It’s like, he does his job, and his job gives him a lot of power over you and lots of others, and he doesn’t pretend like any of that isn’t so, but he doesn’t seem to see you as a game piece to move around on a board, or a pet, or anything but another person, just like him, who has your own job, that he expects you’ll be just as invested in.”
Lanisen pauses to consider this. “Yeah,” he says. “That’s… yeah, that’s a good part of it.”
Megren says, “I hope I can be like that.”
Lanisen glances at her confidently.
Megren returns the glance with a small grateful smile.
Lanisen draws and exhales a breath, beginning to droop a little bit. He catches himself and straightens, stepping back from the wall briefly to wake up more.
Megren glances at him. “Want to fetch some tea maybe?”
Lanisen says, “Hmm, yeah.” He stretches out his shoulders, yawning a little, and asks, “Is there anything else you want while I’m down there?”
Megren shakes her head.
Lanisen says, “All right.” He makes his way along the wall walk, shuffling a bit with sleepiness, and descends into the ward below.
Megren watches the road.
Lanisen returns in about ten minutes, carrying two mugs carefully. The one he hands to Megren is brewed strong, rich and sweet with honey and cream, and smells of spices.
Megren cups it in both hands and inhales gratefully. “This smells amazing.”
Lanisen looks pleased. “Pol had it last week, I been savin’ it.”
Megren says, “Aw.”
Lanisen resettles into his previous place, holding his cup close to his chin. The moon is starting to come up, just a little sliver of white visible over the tops of the trees.
Megren shifts her feet against the cold.
Lanisen glances at her, a little worried.
Megren says automatically, “I”m all right.”
Lanisen says, “There’s an extra cloak in the basket…”
Lanisen lets it be, looking back out to watch the moon.
Megren crosses her arms.
Lanisen glances at her again.
Megren admits, “It’s a bit cold.”
Lanisen sets his tea down on the wall and turns to dig out the cloak. “Here,” he says, shaking it out of its neat tight fold. “I won’t tell anybody.”
Megren takes it and pulls it around her spaulders, tying the front close so that it best envelops her.
Lanisen picks up his tea again, standing a little bit closer to block some of the wind.
Megren lets her eyes drift shut for a full second, and then sips at her tea.
Lanisen pushes his mouth to the side sympathetically.
Megren looses a breath.
Lanisen sways to the side to nudge her gently. “Hey,” he says. “You’re doin’ good. You done so good to get here, I’m so proud of you.”
Megren says, “Thank you.”
Lanisen asks, “Are you doin’ all right?”
Megren says, “Yeah.”
Lanisen asks, “Really, though?”
Megren says, “I am.”
Lanisen says, “All right.”
Megren says again, “You needn’t stay if you’re tired or want sleep.”
Lanisen says, “I’ll stay.”
Megren says, “All right.”
Lanisen reaches out to link arms with her.
Megren leans into him just a little.
Lanisen tips his head briefly to rest his cheek on the top of her head, then goes quiet, waiting for the watch to end.
Megren releases another quiet breath. She stays that way for sometime, eventually moving so that she can get some feeling back into her feet and stay awake.
Lanisen withdraws his arm from hers easily as soon as she does, standing quietly next to her. He looks tired, but not terribly sleepy. There is a basket with a waterskin and a wrapped loaf of bread sitting on the walk behind them, and two mugs of tea indicate recent refreshment.
Darrin approaches along the wall, having shed his chainmail from the earlier ceremony and donned a warm blue cloak and gloves. He carries a thermos of more tea.
Megren glances down the walk at the glimpse of movement that way.
Lanisen turns as well, straightening slightly and lifting the corners of his mouth in a tired smile of welcome. He bows.
Darrin smiles warmly when he draws closer, but he’s a bit squinty-eyed and doesn’t look very awake. “Hello you two,” he says, voice rougher than usual.
Megren wrinkles her nose amicably, bowing before she returns her attention to the road. “Hello, Sir.”
Lanisen says, with a conscious irony, “Mornin’.”
Megren says, “No whining.”
Lanisen laughs under his breath.
Darrin grumbles, “‘m not.” He holds up the thermos, glancing at the two mugs already present. “More tea?”
Megren says, “Yes, please, it’s cold.”
Lanisen draws a deep breath and takes a step back, glancing between them.
Megren says, “Go sleep, Lanisen.”
Darrin busies himself pouring the tea and glances at Lanisen to confirm, “We’ve got this.”
Lanisen’s mouth quirks up at the corners and he ducks his head, rubbing his elbow. “Do you need anything?” he asks first.
Megren says, “I’ll be all right.”
Darrin hands Megren’s refilled mug back to her.
Megren closes her fingers around it. “Ah, thank you.”
Lanisen nods, his eyes darting to Darrin briefly. “Don’t neglect that bread too long,” he says, and after a small hesitation, begins back down the walk toward the tower.
Darrin glances at the bread curiously and nods to Lanisen. He gives him a little wave as
Lanisen heads away.
Megren looks at the basket and then at the knight.
Lanisen disappears into the tower and descends the stairs. A moment later he can be seen crossing the inner ward toward the kennels, but he turns and waves toward the wall before he quite disappears.