The lowest level of the noble’s tower is a broad, round chamber, fairly dark, but lit by sconces on the walls and a row of small, arching windows high near the ceiling. To the north, three windows look out onto the pastures at ground level, though it is difficult to see much in detail; to the east, a single wider window offers a glimpse of the comings and goings in the inner ward. Wide steps curve up around a pillar in the center of the room, leading up to the servants’ floor, and an archway to the southeast leads down a long, dim corridor toward the kitchen.
Sunk into the ground around the chamber’s central pillar is an enormous reservoir, filled with enough clean, clear water to fill all the bath-tubs in the castle, and then some. In the morning, the sunlight from the east window reflects off the surface of the water and fills the chamber with dancing light.
Lanisen sits cross-legged on the floor with his back to the reservoir wall, well out of the way of any traffic that might come through from the kitchens or tower. He has a map spread out on the floor in front of him in a pool of sunlight, and he is meticulously copying it into a little book. Around him are scattered other books and maps and Jana’s letters.
Megren comes pounding down the steps.
Lanisen lifts his head, looking toward the steps. The sunlight hasn’t progressed far enough yet to glint off the water, but the chamber is filled with a pleasant late-morning glow anyway.
Megren reaches the bottom and catches sight of him. “Oh, good. You weren’t in the kennel.”
Lanisen says, “They kept gettin’ in the way.”
Megren asks, “What are you doing there?”
Lanisen says, “Um, tryin’ to– tryin’ to get everything in order, a bit.”
Megren asks, “Can I help?”
Lanisen says, “Sure, yeah, if that’s, if you’re not busy.”
Megren says, “I’ve got the morning.”
Lanisen hmms approvingly. “I like this knight’s schedule of yours.”
Megren rolls her eyes and plunks down across a map from him.
Lanisen shifts so he has one leg stretched out in front of him and returns to carefully copying the map, penciling in the line of the Great River.
Megren says, “This looks nice.”
Lanisen says, making a face, “Thanks.” He glances critically over the books and resources he has compiled and confesses, “I’m, I’m nervous, I just want to have–I want to plan everything out, and then I want everything to happen like I’ve planned it.”
Megren scoots herself around to where she’s sitting next to him. “Well, then, you’ve simply got to plan for every possibility, haven’t you?” she says in a practical voice.
Lanisen says, “I suppose so.”
Megren says, “I bet we can do that.”
Lanisen suggests, “Dragons.”
Megren hmms seriously.
Lanisen pauses his copying and flips back in his book a little ways to show her where he’s written down his notes from their last visit to Narnia, as well as her instructions regarding food that might be poisonous, and Glora’s advice to bring a gift to Bergdale.
Megren says, “Oh, nice, yes, this is good.” She pauses to read through the instructions he’s copied down from her and holds her hand out for the charcoal after a moment.”
Lanisen passes it and the book over willingly.
Megren makes a few extra notes in the neatest hand she can muster.
Lanisen peers over her shoulder to see what she is writing.
Megren says, “You’re gonna bump me.”
Lanisen says, “I’m not!”
Megren elbows him.
Lanisen yelps in surprise and jabs his elbow back toward the wall to defend his side.
Megren looks smug.
Lanisen, once he’s sure she’s not going to try another attack, peers over her shoulder again.
Megren moves so he can read as she writes. She draws a couple of rough sketches to illustrate what to look out for.
Lanisen draws up his knees comfortably and folds his arms on top. The sunlight from the window eases onto the water in the reservoir, and the ceiling of the chamber gradually begins to light up.
Megren says, “Now for dragons… it’s going to depend what kind of ground you’re on, I should think.”
Lanisen squints. “Flat or hilly, you mean?”
Megren says, “Well, for one. I was thinking more like, how flammable is it.”
Lanisen says, “Oh! Ohh.” He pauses, considering. “Hmm. What if there’s dragons in the Great Woods?”
Megren asks, “Maybe try not to be seen? They don’t blow fire /all/ the time, do they?”
Lanisen says, “/Maybe/ they do!”
Megren says, “Hmm, so put ‘research dragon behavior’ on your list.”
Lanisen laughs. But he still writes it down.
Megren asks, “Real things, though. Where are you hoping to stay?”
Lanisen says, “The cave where we stayed before, I figured.”
Megren asks, “Have you asked Glora about weather?”
Lanisen blinks. “No?”
Megren says, “You might want to know if you need to prepare for rain.”
Lanisen says, “Oh,” and frowns. “I mean, that, that cave’ll be sheltered, won’t it?”
Megren pushes her mouth to the side. “It’s not especially low ground but it won’t drain if it floods. People live there regularly so it must not be a usual problem, though, I think?”
Lanisen pushes his mouth to the side. “I’ll ask about it,” he agrees. “And I’ll ask again when I get there if she doesn’t know.”
Megren asks, “Have you test packed yet?”
Lanisen squints at her. “Test packed?”
Megren says, “Figured out what all you want to take and put it in a pack.”
Lanisen says, “Oh. Oh, no. Is that, people do that?”
Megren grins. “I think so, yeah, if it’s places they haven’t been, or they aren’t used to traveling, or they just want to feel surer.”
Lanisen says, mildly skeptical, “/Huhhh/.”
Megren says, “Well, anyway, I’d bring your slick because I’ll bet its rainy.”
Lanisen flips to a new page to start a list, nodding.
Megren asks, “What are you planning for the trip up?”
Lanisen asks, “You mean what route, or…?”
Megren says, “And where you’ll stay and all that.”
Lanisen says, “Um,” and draws the map closer. “I figured, I figured I’d stay at that inn, the first night, and then… um, I’ll just follow the river, I guess, that seems fast as anything, and… camp along the way? Narnia doesn’t seem big on inns.”
Megren asks, “Will you set up a tent?”
Lanisen pauses. “Should I?”
Megren asks, “Are you taking Maestro?”
Lanisen says, “No.”
Megren pushes her mouth to the side.
Lanisen waits, rather nervously.
Megren says, “I think you should take Maestro.”
Lanisen asks, “Why?”
Megren says, “It’ll be easier to take a tent in case the cave doesn’t work out for some reason.”
Lanisen grimaces slightly in concession. “I don’t like ridin’,” he complains.
Megren says, “Why? You’re a fine rider.”
Lanisen makes a scrunched-nose face like he knows she’s making fun.
Megren exclaims, “I’m serious!”
Lanisen says, “I’m not!”
Megren says, “Please, yes you are.”
Lanisen says, “At a walk, sure.”
Megren says, “Well, that’s all you need.”
Lanisen says, “It makes, it makes me so sore, the jostlin’.”
Megren asks, “Your shoulder?”
Lanisen says, “It’s, it just, everything gets all up in knots.”
Megren asks, “Since you got hurt or always?”
Lanisen says, half-smiling, “I wasn’t much good at it before either.”
Megren says, “Well, I meant, that’ll happen if you’re not doing it often enough.”
Lanisen says, “Oh. No, it’s, sorry, my shoulder, yeah.”
Megren says, “Oh.”
Lanisen says, “The other kind, I know about that.”
Megren asks, “It’s worse than walking with a pack?”
Lanisen pauses and then concedes this. “Ugh,” he says, and rubs his hands over his face.
Megren tilts her head, pushing her mouth to the side.
Lanisen says, “It’ll be fine.’
Megren says, “You could take it slow, just do half days of travel.”
Lanisen says, “Yeah, maybe.”
Megren asks, “No Maestro still?”
Lanisen sighs, “I dunno.” He considers. “Yeah, maybe.”
Megren says, “It’s another thing to care for, but it’d make it easier to get from her to the cave and back.”
Lanisen says, “Yeah.” He thumbs worriedly at the top corner of his book.
Megren says, “That’s worrying you.”
Lanisen says, “The whole thing’s worryin’ me.”
Megren says, “Tell me what it would look like if you were going to do it and not be worried.”
Lanisen says, “Oh,” and lets out a breath. “I’d… know for certain that Jana wants me there, I’d know how to… not be afraid of Myrd, I wouldn’t be…”
Megren pulls in her lips to let him think it all the way through.
Lanisen closes his mouth and doesn’t finish the last thought.
Megren asks, “What wouldn’t you be?”
Lanisen hesitates a long moment and runs one hand over the back of one scarred wrist. “Alone,” he finally answers softly.
Megren blows out a breath and nods. “Well,” she says.
Lanisen says, “I’m not askin’, I’m not askin’. Please, I’m– I’m plannin’ to go alone, I been, this whole time, I’m willing. It’s just– one of those things, one of those… Maybe it’s, I need to do it so I know I can, so it’ll be easier next time.”
Megren says, “I know you’re not asking.”
Lanisen nods quickly, relieved.
Megren says, “Let’s start with the other two.”
Lanisen laughs, a little wearily, and runs his hand through his hair. “We been over the other two so many times,” he says apologetically. “We don’t have to.”
Megren says, “No, the first one’s easy. I think you do know.”
Lanisen says, “Kind of. I’m, I’m worried she’s hangin’ onto it, that she ain’t asked. I’m worried she’s gonna use it.”
Megren says, “Well, then. You leave and go enjoy your nice vacation in /Narnia/ in /spring/.”
Lanisen wrinkles up his nose.
Megren says, “I mean it. She’s told you to come in Raingiver. If she tries to turn that around, you haven’t got to let her.”
Lanisen says, “Yeah. I s’pose so.”
Megren says, “And besides that, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen Glora be less coy than she was when you brought it up, which must mean she really believes Jana wants you and was bothered that you couldn’t tell without her saying.”
Lanisen rubs the side of his face and lifts his shoulders.
Megren says, “So the next one’s Myrd.”
Lanisen glances at her.
Megren says, “I tell my defense class the best preparation is to think out what you would do if the thing you’re afraid of happened.”
Lanisen draws in a breath and goes still for a moment. “All right.”
Megren asks, “So, what are you afraid is going to happen?”
Lanisen lets out a little anxious laugh. “He’ll stab me in my sleep?”
Megren asks, “How can you prevent that?”
Lanisen says, “Sleep in a tree.”
Megren asks, “Bring a dog?”
Lanisen pauses. “I was thinkin’ about bringin’ Tohol, but that’s, a dog and a horse, that’s too much, ain’t it?”
Megren says, “Why’s it too much?”
Lanisen says, “It’s just– a lot of lookin’ after. And what if Tohol goes after a rabbit and it talks?”
Megren squints an eye. “Haven’t you got Tohol pretty well trained?”
Lanisen says, “Well, yeah, but he’s a dog, it’s in his nature. And there’s–” He pauses. “Some of the talking animals in Narnia, the smaller ones, they get, they get nervous around predator types, even the talking ones. I wouldn’t want to… I don’t want to scare anybody.”
Megren looks skeptical. “I don’t think… I don’t think it’s the same. Do they jump at Glora?”
Lanisen says, “Nooo, not when she’s up high, and they’re mostly used to her now anyway, but she’s not– I don’t know, she likes Nia all right but the rest are too much.”
Megren says, “The kings and queens had hunting beasts.”
Lanisen says, “That talked.”
Megren says, “Bring your dog.”
Lanisen pulls his lips between his teeth.
Megren asks, “What else are you afraid of from him?”
Lanisen glances sidelong at her and takes a deep breath, rubbing both hands over his face.
Lanisen says, “I’m afraid he’ll… I’m afraid he’ll hurt me, but it’s, I’m afraid he’ll see I’m afraid of him hurting me. I’m afraid he’ll… um…” He pauses, and his face creases up briefly like he’s in pain. “Oh… he’ll, he’ll make a game of it, of scarin’ me. He does that.”
Megren asks, “All right. Start with the first one. What’ll you do if he tries to hurt you?”
Lanisen says, “Do my best to stop him, I suppose.”
Megren asks, “What are some good ways of stopping him?”
Lanisen says, “Um… gettin’ away. Callin’ out for help.”
Megren asks, “How about, trying to have Tohol or someone else with you whenever you’re likely to meet him? When you are with him, knowing where the likeliest exits are?”
Lanisen says softly, “What if he hurts Tohol.”
Megren shakes her head. “That’s not the right kind of planning; that’s not going to be useful to you. What if he /tries/ to hurt Tohol, what will you do?”
Lanisen blows out a breath. “Anything,” he admits.
Megren pushes her mouth to the side. “There’s a couple things you haven’t mentioned here.”
Lanisen asks, “What?”
Megren says, “Get help from Jana or find the guard.”
Lanisen says, “I’d be puttin’ Jana in the middle of it then.”
Megren says, “She and the guard are both trained to be in the middle of it, and if anyone knows how to survive with Myrd, it’s got to be Jana.”
Lanisen blows out a breath, his eyes on the map in front of him. He looks stressed.
Megren says, “Tell me you’re going to ask for help if you end up in trouble.”
Megren watches him seriously for a moment past his nod and then drops her eyes. “All right.” She sighs. “All right. So you know what to do about poison, and you know pretty well how to hold a knife and dodge a blow, if it comes to that, and you’re bringing Tohol, and you’ll look for the exits when you get in a room with him, and you’ll not be alone if you’ll can, and you’ll report it if it gets over your head. That doesn’t give him very much room to move, if he even intends to.”
Lanisen nods again, keeping his eyes down.
Megren asks, “Then, let’s get to the other side of it. If he makes a game of scaring you, first thing is, you know how to get away, so it won’t be as easy. What else are you going to do?”
Lanisen takes a deep breath and lets it out again. His shoulders have gone hunched and tense and his hands are making small anxious movements. “Um,” he says, and shakes his head slightly. “Ahh, I don’t, I don’t know. I don’t know.”
Megren sits back and puts her arm around him. “I don’t think it’s putting Jana in the middle to tell her what’s happening, and if what you’re wanting is an honest, straight-forward relationship with her, maybe the best start is going to be to tell her when things go wrong for you. If Glora’s right and she talks the weapons right out of attackers’ hands, I can tell you from experience that she’s got skills that will make here a good ally in a hard place.”
Lanisen says, “If it’s… if she’s…”
Megren lets him sort it out.
Lanisen seems to have lost track of where he was going. He picks distractedly at a loose thread on his sleeve. “It’s… I don’t, I don’t know what she’d do if… um…” He lets out another breath and rubs a hand over his face. “Um… she’d, she won’t hurt me, I believe that, but it’s… she might, she might not stop him.”
Megren considers this seriously. “I don’t think that would be worse than if you hadn’t told her and she didn’t stop him.”
Lanisen doesn’t answer this.
Megren says, “If you don’t tell her, then she definitely won’t stop him, and you won’t know whether she’s the kind of person that would. If you do tell her, then maybe she won’t stop him, and you’ll know that about her.”
Lanisen doesn’t respond right away, but he finally nods slightly.
Megren squeezes his shoulder gently and pulls him in toward her to press her cheek against the top of his head.
Lanisen swallows a couple of times and yields, untensing slightly. “Thanks,” he murmurs.
Megren asks, “I’m sorry, I think I made you worry more. It’s — I didn’t mean to think ahead to what are all the ways you might get hurt. Just, um, just what situations might you get into, and how will you get out of them?”
Lanisen says, “No, it’s– it’ll, it’ll help, it will, I’m only– I get started, I get started thinkin’ and I can’t stop, it’s, I’m fine. Thank you.”
Megren says, “Well.” She tilts her head. “Why not plan for that, then? Maybe not just at this moment, if you’re too bound up in it.”
Lanisen asks, “What?”
Megren asks, “What will you do if you start noticing yourself heading toward a thinking spiral?”
Lanisen says, “Um…”
Megren asks, “Is there something that helps? Getting up and doing a different task maybe, or writing down your thoughts, or stopping and talking out loud?”
Lanisen says, “If I knew it wouldn’t be–”
Megren doesn’t get in the way of his sentence.
Lanisen looks down. “If I knew how to stop it we prob’ly, we wouldn’t be talkin’ about it.”
Megren says, “Sometimes you don’t know something helps until you talk it out.”
Lanisen says, “I guess.”
Megren asks, “Anyway, like I said, maybe now isn’t the easier time to talk it out. What are you going to do for food while you’re there?”
Lanisen says, “Food– I’ll, I’ll pack up before I go and get more at the inn in the woods where we stayed if I need it, and– pick some like you showed me, and…”
Megren says, “While you’re in Lantern Waste, I mean.”
Lanisen shakes his head slightly, frowning like his head hurts. “Um– bring, bring what I can, gather some, um– there’s, there’s that store, with the…” He squeezes his eyes shut. “By where the festival was, the Squirrel.”
Megren says, “Have you got the money for it? I can spot you if you need help.”
Lanisen says, “I think– I think so, um…” He rubs between his eyebrows. “Yeah, I’m all right.”
Megren pushes her mouth to the side, but nods. “Can I give you a tip for gathering?
Lanisen stirs and reaches for his charcoal, flipping through his book until he finds the right page. “All right.”
Megren says, “You can gather anywhere if you can find a local to show you.”
Lanisen nods, writing.
Megren says, “That’s it. That’s the very best advice you can have.”
Lanisen pauses, and nods. “I’ll remember it.”
Megren says, “You’re showing Jana she doesn’t have to do things alone; just remember it’s the same for you. Everybody likes to know they’re a help, and everybody likes to show off their home.”
Lanisen looks uncertain, but he nods again.
Megren says, “I’ll ask Sir Darrin still.”
Lanisen glances at her, frowning.
Megren says, “It could be a good idea.”
Lanisen says, “Ask him, ask him what?”
Megren says, “If he thinks it would be reasonable to request to go.”
Lanisen says, “Oh.”
Megren says, “Maybe it would be a way to send a knight in to help without seeming like meddling.”
Lanisen catches the inside of his lip between his teeth. “Maybe, maybe, yeah.”
Megren says, “I won’t ask if you’d rather do it on your own. I know you can.”
Lanisen says, “That’s not, it’s not that.”
Megren screws up her mouth.
Lanisen glances at her and then looks away. He shuts his notebook and smooths a hand over the cover.
Megren says, “I don’t want to ask if you don’t want me to.”
Lanisen says, “I don’t want you to ask if you don’t want to.”
Megren releases a breath and looks at her hands.
Lanisen keeps his eyes down. “It’s only– I’m afraid if you, if you do come because you know I’m havin’ a hard time with it, if you come and then realize you’d rather be here, you’ll be unhappy. I don’t want that, I don’t want that.”
Megren says, “I’m not very often unhappy.”
Lanisen bites his lip.
Megren sighs, looking unsure.
Lanisen says, “Don’t, don’t do it for me, is all I’m askin’.”
Megren watches her hands again.
Lanisen is quiet for a little while, then says unhappily, “I’m sorry.”
Megren says, “No, that’s– I wish you wouldn’t be.”
Lanisen glances at her, but doesn’t answer.
Megren says, “I just want you to feel not alone.”
Lanisen’s shoulders drop slightly. He takes a breath, then reaches out to hug her. “Thank you.”
Megren wraps her arms around him and rests her cheek on top of his head.
Lanisen says, “I wouldn’t even be able to think about goin’ if it weren’t for you, you know.”
Megren makes a skeptical noise.
Lanisen lifts his shoulders.
Megren says, “You had the idea all on your own.”
Lanisen says, “Havin’ an idea ain’t anything special.”
Megren says, “Yes, it is.”
Lanisen scoffs under his breath.
Megren says, “You had the idea and wanted to before you ever brought it up to me.”
Lanisen says, “That’s different from thinkin’ I can.”
Megren says, “Well.”
Lanisen says, “Mm-hmm.”
Megren says, “You’re brave, and I’m proud to be your friend.”
Lanisen wrinkles up his nose and tucks his chin, but says, “Not nearly so proud as I am to be yours.”
Megren says, “Well, obviously.”
Lanisen lets out a laughing breath and shoves her in the shoulder.
Megren gasps, offended. “When I’m vulnerable and hugging you!”
Lanisen tilts his nose up unrepentantly, but he draws up both his knees a moment later and settles back against her, half-sheepish.
Megren says, “I forgive you.”
Lanisen says, “Oh, good.”
Megren says, “Yes, you wouldn’t want to be in my poor graces.”
Lanisen says, “I was pretty worried.”
Megren says, “That’s reasonable.”
Lanisen grins. He tilts his head back to watch the reflections from the reservoir on the ceiling, and he reaches back with his free hand to disturb the water.
Megren eventually squeezes his shoulder and pulls away. “I’d better not stay a lot longer.”
Lanisen shifts to sit up straighter as she does. “All right,” he says. “Can I help with anything? I don’t know your new days.”
Megren says, “I don’t think so, not today.”
Lanisen says, “Oh. All right.” He reaches for his book again, flipping to the page with the half-copied map. “Supper, then?”
Megren asks, “Yeah, supper, if you don’t mind a late one?”
Lanisen says, “‘Course not.”
Megren says, “Make sure you eat something at tea, then.”
Lanisen says, “Yes, mum.”
Megren sticks out her tongue.
Lanisen dimples up unapologetically.
Megren pushes herself up and kicks him gently. “See you later.”
Lanisen topples over, flailing dramatically. “I’m slain!”
Megren says, “Wow.”
Lanisen squints up at her with one eye closed.
Megren says, “You do smell like a corpse.”
Lanisen protests, “Hey!’
Megren shrugs, and makes for the stairs.
Lanisen calls after her, “I smell like a /bed/ of /roses/!”
Megren says, “The bed’s the part that’s made from manure.”
Lanisen sits up and sends a splash from the reservoir after her.
Megren says, “Bye–”
Lanisen says, “You’re gettin’ pickled things for supper, you are.”
Megren says, “Mm.”
Lanisen dries his hand on his shirt and picks up the map again. “See you tonight.”
Megren disappears up the stairs.