Here is a wide open space carved in the rock, roughly circular and no more than twenty yards in diameter. The cliffs loom high on every side, providing shelter from wind and weather, but a great opening very far up lets in sunlight and sky. A thin jet of water, perhaps a daughter-stream of the river that pours into Caldron Pool, cascades down the western cliff face and feeds into a deep pool the color and clarity of a well-cut emerald. The ground, except for a ring of vegetation surrounding the pool, is dry and sandy. A single ancient larch tree grows tall near the north wall.
All around, the cliff face is etched and pocked with half-open tunnels and dark holes, entrances to small caves hollowed out years ago by the long work of water on stone. Some are fitted with wooden doors and appear inhabited, but many still yawn empty. Up above, ledges and crevices in the rock provide nesting spaces for eagles and hawks. In the east wall, through a wide crevice like a wound in the stone, the forests of Lantern Waste are just visible.
Aliyah points at the water. “I think it’s going to need a bath when you’re done.” She shakes her head, continuing. “Anyway, it seems he had different thoughts than I did. I said I needed to be in a place away from where my family was. My wording was off for certain as I meant where my blood family used to be. So he let out this growly noise. You know the one, I’m sure. He then said that part of growing up was figuring out who I was without my family, but I could hurt those who care about me by doing that. It’s like…” She sighs. “He thought I meant Ulfden, and maybe subconsciously I did?” She looks at Crenna for advice.
Crenna raises a paw and attempts to splash Aliyah. “Oh hush.” She leaps out, shaking out her fur before looking at her reflection, making sure that she looks semi presentable. Though how much can a drenched wolf be actually presentable. She flops a bit in the sun to dry up as she addresses her friend, “Just because Ulfden can be…different doesn’t make them any less of a family. After all, being in a pack is being in a family.” She tips her head, “Do you miss Ulfden, Aliyah?”
Lanisen steps through the crevice in the wall, accompanied by a large black hound, and heads toward one of the small caves that has no permanent resident. He pauses, looking interestedly toward the wolves, and lays a hand on the hound’s neck.
Aliyah shakes her head at the splash. “Payback will come, little wolf.” She snickers. “I understand what you are saying, and I agree with it. At the time, I was not thinking so much of Ulfden when he asked me the question as I was where my family came from. No… I don’t miss Ulfden. I miss a few in the pack, but I am content where I am. His offer stood when I clarified what I meant. Apologize to my Ulfden family as I could, and basically don’t worry about anything while the festival was happening.” Her ear flicks as the hound and Lanisen enter. She offers a nod but otherwise doesn’t move afraid the hound might be a little spooked.
Crenna opens her muzzle to speak when her eyes perk up at the noise. She rolls upright and sniffs the air, trying to scent the newcomers. Her face breaks out into a smile as she barks, “I recognize you! Lanisen, is it?” She gets up and shakes out her coat. “I would have never guessed that I would run into you here.”
Lanisen’s face lights up with recognition. “Crenna! I thought that was you!” He begins toward the wolves and the pool, and the hound with him hangs back.
Aliyah snorts. “You wouldn’t have recognized her a few minutes ago. I thought she was dinner as covered in mud and leaves as she was. it hid her scent well. Note to self… Try that move on Dreygan.”
Crenna bumps Aliyah before sitting down. In her normal friendly manner, she smiles at the hound, “Hello there! What’s your name?”
Lanisen’s eyes shift to Aliyah, and he squints one eye in almost-recognition. Behind him, the hound barks twice urgently and darts back and forth. “Oh, um,” Lanisen says, glancing between the wolves rather anxiously. “Ahh, this is Tohol. He don’t talk.”
Aliyah is more interested in the hound than Lanisen for a moment. She snaps her gaze back to him. “He’s very… different than the Narnian dogs I’ve met. Noisier maybe?” She laughs. “I don’t know if that’s possible. I got one of them to be rather quiet when we searched together. I rather like her.”
If wolves’ faces could turn pink, Crenna’s would be bright pink. She coughs to cover herself, “Oh I see. Tohol is a nice name.” She turns her attention to Lanisen, “So what brings you to Lantern Waste? The Festival?”
Tohol whines in some distress, still darting back and forth at a fixed distance from the wolves, his head held low.
Lanisen glances back at the hound and makes a small apologetic face to the wolves, stepping back into Tohol’s range of comfort so he can soothe the hound. “Sorry, he don’t know about wolves. Um, festival?”
Aliyah nods. “The feast we had just before the disappearances. I know I saw you there. Don’t think I ever asked if that is why you came though.”
Crenna nods, “That is why my packmates came.” She watches the hound and man, curious at their interaction.
Lanisen kneels down to rub Tohol’s ears and neck. “Oh,” he says distractedly. “Oh, um– No, that was, I mean, sort of, but no, it just– it just happened to work out that way.”
Aliyah gives Crenna a pointed look. “Wish you had been here. Aslan showed up again.” Her tail thumps the ground. She turns her attention to Lanisen. “Does he always travel with you?” She gestures at the hound.
Lanisen says, “N-not always, no, just– um, just when I’m alone.”
Crenna thumps her tail, “Companions are wonderful. I was wishing for one on my journey.” She smiles at Lanisen, “How do you like Narnia so far? It is your first time, correct?”
Lanisen says, “Well, second, now.”
Aliyah puffs out her chest. “See? This is why I told Lady Avery… You Archenlanders need guard wolves. Best companions around for protection.” She grins making sure not to show too much of her teeth. “Not that he’s not good protection. Sure some of the less reputable sorts would stay away.”
Crenna clears her throat, bumping Aliyah gently, “So where in Narnia have you been, Lanisen?”
Lanisen turns faintly red at Aliyah’s words. He coaxes Tohol nearer, and the hound is well-trained enough to come, though his tail is tucked and his ears are folded down and he licks his lips nervously. “Mm, I came north by way of the river,” Lanisen says. “Not so much stoppin’ to see this time.”
Aliyah hmms thoughtfully. “Business then?”
Lanisen pushes his mouth to the side. “No, not really. Just visitin’ a friend.”
Crenna smiles, “Oh wonderful! A friend is always worth visiting.”
Aliyah nods in agreement.
Lanisen smiles with a quick anxious dart of his eyes to the wolves. “Here,” he says to Tohol. “‘S not so bad, huh? See? They’re nice.”
Crenna slides down to the ground, making herself as small as possible (which is small indeed). “Hi, Tohol. See, we are friendly.”
Aliyah cocks her head to one side, Lanisen’s nervousness ever-so-noticeable to her. she speaks quietly, eyes remaining soft. “You still aren’t used to this, are you? Those of us who can talk but have fur or wings?”
Lanisen looks back at Aliyah, blinking in surprise. “Sorry?”
Aliyah says, “You seem so nervous here… Which is understandable considering we don’t talk in Archenland.”
Crenna clears her throat, looking at Aliyah.
Lanisen looks startled. He looks at Crenna a little helplessly, and then back at Aliyah. “I’m– I beg your pardon, I’m– I’m not, it’s not… No, sorry, that’s not– not at /all/. It’s different, sure, but it’s not, I’m not /nervous/ of you.”
Crenna changes the subject, “Is your friend, Megren, with you?”
Aliyah shakes her head, not appearing to be convinced. Regardless, she stays silent.
Lanisen looks like he wants to pursue the subject, but he lowers his head slightly and answers, “No, not this time, she’s got– um, she got, she got knighted, there’s stuff at home she’s got to see to now.”
Crenna looks interested, “Oh so it is just you and Tohol? What is a great adventure.”
Lanisen says, “Well, and Maestro. He’s, um, he’s the horse. He don’t talk either.”
Crenna sneezes, “Oh, excuse me.” She sniffs the air, “So what is the name of your friend? Aliyah and I might know them.”
Aliyah’s ear flicks periodically. She looks like she wants to ask a question but refrains. All the better. Crenna asked it for both of them.
Lanisen says, “Oh, it’s– She’s on the guard, it’s–” He pauses, frowning briefly. “Adara, her name’s Adara.”
Aliyah nods. “I’ve met her a few times. She’s not a big fan of mine. Seems trying to play with her kid is off limits.”
Crenna hmms, looking at Aliyah, “Adara…I am trying to think…Oh yes, I remember her.” She wrinkles her snout a bit, “I have met her a few times in passing and met her mate once though we did not exchange words.”
Lanisen asks, “You met her husband?”
Crenna nods, “I can’t recall his name.” She looks at Aliyah, “Have you ever met him, Ali?”
Aliyah nods, frowning. “I have… Auremh I think is his name.”
Lanisen hesitates. “What’s, what’s he like?”
Aliyah shifts uncomfortably. “He made me nervous… Much more nervous than Adara did. He seems rather crude. Ready to fight at the slightest provocation.”
Lanisen studies Aliyah as she answers, his forehead furrowing slightly.
Crenna just listens, having nothing to add to this.
Aliyah looks curious. “You’ve not met him, Lanisen?”
Lanisen says, “I know him.”
Aliyah asks, “So would my impression of him be correct? Or am I wary for no reason?”
Lanisen says, “I–” He hesitates, and avoids the wolves’ eyes. “It was… a long time ago that I knew him. I been– I been tryin’ to get a sense of what he’s like now.”
Crenna looks at Aliyah, picking up on Lanisen’s uneasiness. She offers, “People can change.”
Lanisen agrees, “Yeah.”
Aliyah still appears uneasy and maybe reads too much into what Lanisen has said. “And back then?” She takes a breath before continuing. “Honestly, of the three humans I have met in the Waste when I still lived here… The only one who struck me as trustworthy was Kiyon. Maybe that was because he was the only one who didn’t have his guard up so much of the time though…” She looks thoughtful.
Lanisen says, “I don’t know Kiyon.”
Crenna smiles at the mention of Kiyon, “He is very nice. One of the first humans I met here in the Waste.”
Aliyah laughs. “He’s great unless you startle him. Yeah. Learned my lesson the hard way. I was goofing around in the training cavern and snuck up on him. Fists hurt.”
Lanisen pulls his chin back in slightly alarmed surprise.
Aliyah quickly shakes her head. “It ended well thankfully. We both felt badly and apologized though really it was all my fault.”
Lanisen says, “Oh.”
Crenna hehs, “Welcome to the life of a Wolf.” Apparently, she has gotten used to the whole sparring thing. “Though sparring is a mutual exchange.”
Lanisen glances between them, a little out of his depth here. “You spar a lot?” he guesses.
Aliyah shrugs. “Depends. I haven’t had a good spar in several months now. Helps burn energy.”
Crenna says, “Some more than others.” She yawns, standing up, “Goodness me, my journey is finally catching up to me.” She shakes our her coat, smiling at Lanisen, “It was good to see you, Lanisen. How long will you be staying?””
Lanisen says, “Oh, er– Not, not long, maybe through the early summer.”
Crenna chuckles, “Well, that is longer than me.” She gives Aliyah a grin, “I’m really just here to collect my wayward Packmates.” Her brow furrows, “With everything that has gone on…it is best when the pack is together.”
Aliyah nudges her packmate as she rises. “I’ll go with you. Show you where Drune and I have been staying.” She glances at Lanisen. “Well, hopefully we will meet again, and just maybe you can tell us what you learn…” She lets the sentence die and returns her attention to the other wolf. “Not as wayward as you might think. We need to speak to Ulfden… About everything that has happened. I think at a time liike this, it is important for the packs to be on the same page.”
Lanisen nods to Aliyah, smiling, but he pays close attention to her words about the packs, and his eyes flit between them.
Crenna frowns as she thinks about this, her voice dropping low, “Why wouldn’t we be on the same page…”
Aliyah shakes her head. “I didn’t say we weren’t. But we really don’t know what they are thinking right now. It is better to be upfront. What are we thinking for that matter?” She sighs. “Another conversation for another day though. I don’t have the energy for it. Too many sleepless nights pondering.”
Crenna grows a bit quiet before shaking head, “Right, I need a rest from my journey.” She turns to Lanisen and dips her head, “I have a good eve, Lanisen. I hope we can get to know each other better while we are both here.”
Lanisen nods quickly, his smile returning. “I’d like that.”
Aliyah nods in Lanisen’s direction. “Have a nice evening.” She suddenly looks like she’s aged a few years.
Crenna dips her head, “Good eve.” She nudges Aliyah before saying, “Lead the way.”
Lanisen begins toward the cave that was his original destination as they prepare to leave.