necessary conversations

At the Base of the Watchtower
Lantern Waste
Northwestern Narnia

Lanisen sits at the base of the watchtower, his hands folded on top of his knees.

Jana comes walking toward the tower looking vaguely put out.

Lanisen looks up at the sound of footsteps. He gets to his feet.

Jana nods to him curtly as she nears.

Lanisen lowers his head and looks at her anxiously. “I came to– I came to apologize,” he offers.

Jana says, “Ain’t got to.”

Lanisen says, “Well.” He moistens his lips. “I’m sorry.”

Jana says, “All right then.”

Lanisen says, “It wasn’t– it wasn’t you.”

Jana says, “All right.”

Lanisen nods a couple of times, his eyes on the ground between them.

Jana says, “Were you hoping to talk about it.”

Lanisen takes a small startled breath and rubs his elbow. “I was– I was hopin’ for you to not be mad at me,” he says, offering a small worried smile.

Jana sucks her teeth.

Lanisen swallows and looks down. “It wasn’t you,” he says again. “I’m– I’m really sorry, it won’t… I won’t, again.”

Jana shrugs.

Lanisen stands awkwardly, like he hasn’t really thought past making the apology. He nods again and takes a step back. “Sorry, I’ll get– I’ll get out of your hair, I just wanted to– sorry.”

Jana says, “I just got to report in, then I’m on tower watch.”

Lanisen says, “Oh.”

Jana says, “You can watch if you like.”

Lanisen says, “Oh, all– all right. If that’s, if you want.”

Jana shrugs

Lanisen says again, “All right.”

Jana goes in to report.

Lanisen stays where he is, glancing out into the forest.

Jana returns after a short while, looking further annoyed.

Lanisen lifts his eyebrows at her uncertainly.

Jana gestures toward the stairs with her head and then goes that way without waiting.

Lanisen trails after her meekly.

Battlements of the Northern Watchtower
Lantern Waste
Northwestern Narnia

The view here is breathtaking. You stand above the forests, able to see far and wide into the surrounding countryside. Far to the west lie the cliffs of the western border and to the northeast lie the moors stretching out into the horizon. You could shoot a fair ways from here, too, through the arrow slots provided in the stone walls. There is a trapdoor leading into the tower.

Jana finds a good spot and settles in against the May wind.

Lanisen hovers a little bit before he follows suit. “How was the patrol?”

Jana says, “Wolves.”

Lanisen asks, “Yeah?”

Jana says, “Bunch’ve ruddy arrogant upstart would-be revolutionaries.”

Lanisen’s eyebrows go up and then draw down in concern.

Jana says, “They ain’t gonna do nothing. Not for a while yet, anyway.”

Lanisen asks, “You think they will eventually, then?”

Jana says, “If they can stop picking at each other long enough to get a following.”

Lanisen nods absently. “Is that–” he begins, then pauses to consider his words. “Do you think that’s likely? Is it– are there people here who would listen?”

Jana says, “Dunno. If they got scared.”

Lanisen nods.

Jana says, “If they get fed up they might try to strong arm people into following them.”

Lanisen asks, “Would it work?”

Jana says, “It’d make a job for the guard.”

Lanisen says, “I s’pose.”

Jana says, “Ain’t say I understand how Narnians work beyond that.”

Lanisen nods thoughtfully, frowning. “None of the wolves I met…”

Jana gets a Look.

Lanisen blinks at her.

Jana says, “Well, anyway.”

Lanisen subsides. He glances out over the top of the battlements and offers, “Pretty view.”

Jana says, “Trees.”

Lanisen mms happily.

Jana looks unimpressed.

Lanisen looks back at her. He pushes his mouth to the side and looks down. “How long’s your watch?” he asks to change the subject.

Jana says, “Til Skarlieth shows up.”

Lanisen glances up.

Jana says, “Gonna be a while yet.”

Lanisen ohs.

Jana looks out boredly.

Lanisen draws and releases a deep breath. “What can I do while I’m here?” he asks.

Jana says, “I dunno.”

Lanisen glances at her.

Jana says, “If you ain’t want to bump up against Myrd.”

Lanisen reflects. “Do you want me to avoid him?”

Jana shrugs.

Lanisen bites his lip. “Please say,” he asks without looking at her.

Jana says, “I don’t know; I said I don’t know.”

Lanisen glances at her, then lowers his eyes and nods. “All right.”

Jana scowls.

Lanisen says, “I’ll stay out of his way until you know.” He pauses. “I’d rather– I think I’d rather, anyway, especially if there’s no reason for him to know I’m here.”

Jana is silent.

Lanisen pauses, silently debating, then asks tentatively, “Does he still– does he still get angry like he did?”

Jana says, “You’re talking about a lifetime ago. I don’t remember what’s changed exactly or how. He still gets angry; everybody does.”

Lanisen says, “It wasn’t so long.”

Jana says, “I got a different name and a different country and a different job, and a husband and a kid and a goat and a house since.”

Lanisen asks, “And him?”

Jana says, “He got all them things, too. Except the husband.”

Lanisen asks, “Did he change?”

Jana snaps, “I told you I don’t know how to answer that.”

Lanisen withdraws immediately. “Sorry, I’m sorry.”

Jana says, “Everyone gets angry. That’s not a real question.”

Lanisen says nothing.

Jana scowls and shuts up.

Lanisen rubs his wrists and studies the ground. “I don’t mean to– to ask what I shouldn’t.”

Jana says, “I ain’t said that; I said you ain’t asked anything.”

Lanisen says, “I don’t know how else to say it.”

Jana shrugs with an unconvincing nonchalance.

Lanisen picks at a rough ridge of scar on his wrist without seeming to notice what he’s doing. “Does he–” he hesitates. “Does he make you– when he gets angry, does he make you afraid of him.”

Jana purses her lips, but after a moment she says honestly, “No. I got places to go and he knows it. And he don’t like to think I’m afraid either.”

Lanisen exhales softly.

Jana says, “If he ain’t getting his way enough, he just pinches out. Like a candle.”

Lanisen looks up at her, puzzled by this.

Jana says, “After we got out of the cells he just lay in his bed for months, with no money and a new baby.”

Lanisen’s eyes shift away from her, and his forehead furrows. “I can’t picture it,” he admits after a moment.

Jana merely purses her lips again.

Lanisen is quiet, still frowning over this. After a moment, he shifts and looks at her. “But he’s– he doesn’t try to make you afraid, or Tristran either?”

Jana looks annoyed, and she just shrugs her shoulders.

Lanisen watches her.

Jana doesn’t do anything else of interest.

Lanisen looks away.

Jana becomes no more interesting, except she maybe looks a little more annoyed.

Lanisen asks, “How long’s your watch up here go?”

Jana says again, “Until Skarlieth comes.”

Lanisen says, “How long until then, though?”

Jana shrugs. “An hour, I don’t know.”

Lanisen says, “All right.

Jana says, “You ain’t got to stay.”

Lanisen says, “I don’t mind stayin’.”

Jana says, “That’s fine, then.”

Lanisen nods. He shifts and leans his forearms on the wall.

Jana’s posture, meanwhile, is about as businesslike as it gets.

Lanisen, realizing, straightens again.

Jana doesn’t seem to take much note.

Lanisen isn’t used to standing still for long periods of time and it shows in his posture and little movements. He rubs at his shoulder a couple times.

Jana, without a word, drags a crate over and leaves it beside his right knee.

Lanisen glances at her guiltily.

Jana gives a small, dismissive, and (perhaps surprisingly) nonjudgemental shake of her head.

Lanisen hesitates, then shrugs slightly and sits down on the crate.

Jana takes a breath and releases it.

Lanisen asks, “All right?”

Jana looks surprised by this question.

Lanisen glances up at her.

Jana says, “What?”

Lanisen asks again, “You all right?”

Jana says, “Yes?”

Lanisen says mildly, “All right.”

Jana leaves it.

Lanisen fusses at his scars absently, then folds his arms over his knees.

Jana says, “Ain’t that noticable if you’d just stop picking at them.”

Lanisen glances up at her, startled, then pulls his sleeves down. “I don’t mean to,” he says after a moment.

Jana says, “Bad habit, then.”

Lanisen says, “Sorry.”

Jana says, “Ain’t apologize to me.”

Lanisen closes his eyes briefly and looks down. “Right,” he agrees.

Jana glances down at his wrists. “Wanna talk about it?”

Lanisen looks back up at her, questioning.

Jana nods at his wrists.

Lanisen says, “Oh.” He looks back down at his wrists and lifts his shoulders. “Sometimes it… feels like there’s still rope, is all. ”

Jana says tonelessly, “Sometimes I wake up with Zan’s face in my head.”

Lanisen looks up at her. His eyes slip to the side and he nods with a sort of tired understanding.

Jana says, “… The cellar…”

Lanisen goes still.

Jana pauses and says, “Was that — that’s my,” she clears her throat, her lips pressing into a thin line, and her eyes lacking their usual shrewd quality in favor of a refusal to look anywhere near him. “That’s my fault I reckon?” She asks, her voice carefully neutral.

Lanisen folds his arms across his stomach, sitting slightly hunched, and doesn’t answer for a moment. “We all done stuff we shouldn’t’ve,” he finally says. “I don’t… I don’t blame you for it.”

Jana shuts her mouth, her lips pressing together again.

Lanisen is quiet for a moment, an anxious, oddly guilty sort of quiet. “It ain’t all– it’s been, it’s been worse these last couple years, it ain’t all from…”

Jana says abruptly, “I’m sorry.” She scowls. “That don’t mean nothing and I know it but I reckon it ought to be said all the same.”

Lanisen goes still again. “It’s not nothing,” he says finally, very quietly.

Jana says, “It ain’t enough.”

Lanisen moistens his lips. “Thank you for it.”

Jana shrugs unhappily.

Lanisen swallows again, still hunched up, not quite looking at her. “We all– there were…” He draws and releases a deep careful breath. “You sat with me, you didn’t– you didn’t leave me alone. I ain’t forgot that.”

Jana gets a look.

Lanisen says, “You could’ve left me alone, there was the boat, you could’ve gone but you didn’t. I was so afraid you would.”

Jana says, “I had orders, way I recall it.”
Jana says, “Anyway, I could’ve got you out.”

Lanisen says, “Myrd would’ve killed you.”

Jana says, “I could’ve gave you food. You asked enough. He wouldn’t known.”

Lanisen drops his eyes.

Jana says, “Don’t tell yourself bad people are good. That’s gonna land you in the same place you were then.”

Lanisen shifts and frowns.

Jana glances at him without fully lifting her eyes.

Lanisen pauses. “You think you’re a bad person,” he concludes.

Jana shrugs.

Lanisen says nothing for a long moment. “I don’t think that’s so,” he says finally, glancing up at her briefly and then down at his hands.

Jana says, “I definitely been one.”

Lanisen says, “Both of us.”

Jana shrugs again.

Lanisen says, “I think– I think you’re a strong person. I think you took somethin’ bad and dark and pulled somethin’ good out of it, somethin’ to help other people.”

Jana says, “Something that kept me safe.”

Lanisen says, “You and other people too.”

Jana pulls a neutrally disagreeable expression.

Lanisen glances up at her and looks away, swallowing. He rubs at his wrists again before he remembers and drops his hands to the top of his knees. “I’m grateful for everything you did for me then, and it’s– what you didn’t, what you couldn’t, that’s– I forgive it.”

Jana releases a breath and is quiet for a long moment. Finally, she says, “All right.”

Lanisen nods a couple times and breathes out.

Jana falls silent.

Lanisen says after a little while, “I’m sorry for my part in– in everything that happened.”

Jana says, “I dunno why.”

Lanisen frowns at her.

Jana doesn’t elaborate.

Lanisen says, “I was there too, I had– I had a knife, I used it, I stole from people.”

Jana says, “Yeah.”

Lanisen nods a couple times.

Jana leaves it there.

Lanisen shifts and tucks his hands under his elbows, sitting as though chilled.

Jana says, “There’s blankets on the floor under us.”

Lanisen says, “I’m, I’m fine, thanks.”

Jana lets him be then.

Lanisen says, “I’m sorry about the cellar.”

Jana says, “Ain’t your fault, I guess.”

Lanisen lifts his shoulders.

Jana says, “Sorry I ain’t thought of it.”

Lanisen says, “You couldn’t’ve known.”

Jana says, “I guess.”

Lanisen says, “I didn’t know even for a long time after, you couldn’t’ve.”

Jana says, “All right.”

Lanisen goes quiet again, frowning absently at the floor.

Jana frowns at the shape of a large predator bird in the sky.

Lanisen starts, “Does Myrd–” but he catches sight of the bird and stops.

Jana says, “That’ll be Skarlieth.”

Lanisen nods.

Jana waits until the eagle arrives and exchanges a few words before turning to Lanisen. “That’s that then.”

Lanisen gets to his feet as Skarlieth alights and stands politely to the side. “That’s that,” he agrees with a half-smile, and follows her out.


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