At the Fork
The path divides here, one fork curving west toward Anvard and the other continuing to the northeast toward Andale. The trees are very thick here, with dense patches of thorny briar filling in the gaps between trunks, and it is impossible to see very far down the road in any direction. Sweet raspberries can be found in the thickets on either side of the path in summertime, and the forest is noisy with wildlife.
Lanisen walks along the road toward the castle, well-bundled against the mild spring chill and a bit disheveled. He’s carrying a small, shallow basket of the type used to carry herbs, which is full of daffodils, crocuses, and snowdrops, with a few sprigs of early cherry blossoms on top.
Ianto is currently sitting down on the ground, against a tree, book in hand. He appears to have brought one of his cows out for an outing – there’s a calf meandering around just ahead. Ianto looks up now and then to make sure the cow hasn’t wandered off too far. Ianto hears someone approach, and turns to offer a friendly wave. “Well hi there!”
Lanisen sees the cow and calf before he sees their minder and slows uncertainly. He startles to the side at the greeting, but offers a quick rueful smile a second later and ducks his head. “Mornin’,” he answers.
Ianto puts his book back in his satchel and stands, brushing fallen leaves off himself. “Glorious day, isn’t it?” Ianto takes a deep breath. “Don’t you mind me one bit. You’ve got business to attend to, go right ahead.” He grins. “I’m just out here watching Luna and Pipsy.” He gestures to the cows. “They give better milk when you don’t keep ’em cooped up all the time, ya know?”
Lanisen’s eyes follow the man as he stands, slightly watchful. “Oh, huh. That’s not– I didn’t know that.” Pipsy wanders toward him, interested in the basket and its contents, and he grins despite himself.
Ianto gives Pipsy the calf a little pat as he strolls by towards the stranger. “They’re friendly-like, don’t worry none. I mean there’s no science or nothin’ that says you should take ’em outside, at least in none of the book I ever saw. But.. I think it helps.” Ianto wipes his hand clean on his trousers before extending it towards the stranger. “Name’s Ianto. I’m in charge of the milk and cheese and whatnot for the castle and town.” He grins proudly. “You?”
Lanisen shifts his basket up higher where Pipsy’s interested nibblings can’t reach the fresh blooms. He seems at ease with the calf, though he shifts back slightly as Ianto approaches. Nevertheless, he takes Ianto’s hand and shakes it politely, answering, “Lanisen. I seen you about the kitchens.”
Ianto nods. “I figured as much. I see all sorts o’ people, but I’m sort of a dummy when it comes to rememberin’ ’em.” He lets out a little embarrassed laugh. “Pipsy! Don’t you eat this nice man’s daffodils.” He laughs some more. “I do feed ’em, I promise.”
Lanisen says, “Ahh, I can spare a couple, if they won’t hurt him.”
Ianto shakes his head. “Flowers aren’t good nor bad, one way or another. Best if you keep ’em, though – Pipsy’s just a wee lad right now, you give him one, he’ll eat the whole basket.” Ianto gestures towards the other cow. “Luna here’s his momma, as you can see she’s much more well behaved.” Ianto beams with pride. “Gotta take good care of my cows. Happy cows give us happier food.” He smiles. Dim-witted, it seems, but genuinely sweet.
Lanisen’s mouth curves up at the corners and he scratches under Pipsy’s chin, to the calf’s evident delight.
Ianto gestures back towards the basket. “So, what’re the flowers for?” Ianto grins mischievously. “Special girl, perhaps?” He laughs. “Sorry. Sorry. I do forget my manners when all I ever talk to is cows.”
Lanisen says, “Ahh,” and turns rather red, scuffling his toe in the dirt of the road. “No, not– I mean–” He stops, glancing at the basket. “Um, they’re for– Squire Megren’s knightin’ is today, they’re for– Dalia or somebody will do her hair up pretty , these are for that.”
Ianto grins brightly. He was right! “Well of course. Can’t have a dancin’ party without fancy hair.” He laughs. “I’ve got four sisters. I know a thing or two about that.” He shakes his head wistfully, remembering the days of flowers in hair and parties and garden dances. “I’m sure I know ’em, Megren ‘n Dalia, but like I said before, terrible with faces to names.” He laughs. “I can prob’ly name you ever cow in Andale, but people?” He throws up his hands in pretend exasperation. “Who knows.”
Lanisen says, laughing, “I didn’t figure there was anybody left in Archenland who didn’t know Meg. Um, Dalia’s maid to Lady Astera, she’s about the kitchens some too, sometimes. She’s got real long hair.”
Ianto nods, listening. “I mean I’m in the castle near to every day. So, like I said – I’m sure we’ve said ‘ello and whatnot.”
Lanisen says, “Meg’s the one who was on the guard up until a couple years ago.”
Ianto nods. “Yeah, name sounds familiar. You said he’s getting knighted? Tonight?”
Lanisen says, biting his lip to stop a grin, “Er, she. Tonight, yeah.”
Ianto laughs. “She! Of course. Sorry for the confusion.” He smiles. “That sounds like fun. I hope everyone has a nice time.”
Lanisen grins, but looks down at the flowers again. “She’s worked hard for it.”
Ianto gathers his cows towards him, nodding. “I’ll bet!” He nudges Pipsy and Luna back towards town. “Well, if you’ll excuse me, I need to be gettin’ these two back. Enjoy the knightin’, and the party!” He smiles.
Lanisen says, “Ahh, ‘course, yeah. I should get these in water, anyway.” He dips his head to the man and begins back toward the castle.