The Splintered Axe Tavern
The Great Woods
Lanisen is sitting at one of the big stuffed chairs by the window this evening, chatting animatedly with an elderly Badger. There’s two tankards of ale on the little table between the chairs, but Lanisen does not seem to have made it through much of his yet. The Badger finishes his, drops down to the floor, and after a round of good-nights admonishes the young man to stay off his hurt foot and also to be more careful, then trundles off toward the inn.
Wintermoor enters from the inn, having slept during the day. He nods and greets the badger as he passes, before moving into the tavern itself.
Lanisen picks up his tankard and looks down into it for a moment, then sets it aside again without drinking. He looks at the window, but the sun has long since set and it’s hard to see anything other than a firelit reflection of the inside of the tavern in the glass.
Wintermoor makes his way towards the counter, nodding to son of Adam as he passes. “Good Evening, Lanisen.”
Lanisen glances around, alert, and then grins. “Evening, sir,” he answers.
Wintermoor looks to the windows. “It will be a good night for stargazing, I think.” He then turns to Lanisen. “How has your foot been?”
Lanisen makes a face. “It’s fine,” he says, in a tone that suggests he’s been answering this question a lot. “I’m bein’ good, I’m stayin’ off it.”
Wintermoor nods. “Ah. I did not mean to weary you, friend.”
Lanisen blinks and pulls his chin back, instantly remorseful. “Sorry, no. Um,” he ducks his head and offers a grimacing half-smile in apology. “Sorry, I’m, I don’t much like bein’… stuck. Even though it’s a very nice place to be stuck,” he adds hastily, glancing toward Hergel.
Wintermoor replies with understanding, seeming not to have taken offense, “All is well.”
Lanisen asks, glancing toward the door, “You’re goin’ to watch stars?”
Wintermoor nods, “I am.”
Lanisen says, “Well,” and looks again at the dark windowpane. “I won’t keep you.”
Wintermoor looks down at the son of Adam as if to determine if he would also desire too. “And would you also, Son of Adam?”
Lanisen says, “Ahh,” and hesitates briefly, obviously wanting to say yes. “I think I’d slow you down, but thank you.”
Wintermoor says, “Have no fear, Son of Adam. For the dance of stars in the heavens above, there is all the time one may need. But I will not trouble you, if such is not your desire.”
Lanisen hesitates again, pulling his lips between his teeth indecisively. “All right,” he says finally. “Um, if you’re sure you don’t mind goin’ slow.”
Wintermoor says, “Let us go then. You may rest against me if you are wearied, and I will guide you.”
Lanisen reaches for his pack and digs through it until he finds a little box of matches. He pockets this, grabs his stick, and gets to his feet, then limps to the counter and asks to borrow a lantern.
Wintermoor observes this and waits for the son of Adam to return.
Lanisen acquires a lantern and offers Hergel a dimpled grin in thanks. He sets the lantern on a table to light it, then turns back toward Wintermoor.
Wintermoor waits for Lanisen to reach him, opening the door when he does so that they may step out.
Lanisen takes a minute to light the lantern, then follows.
At the Foot of the Hills
This is a wide open space between the mountains to the south and the lower hills to the north. The ground follows a gentle slope from the east down to the west, where the valley descends and grows gradually more wooded. There is a hill a little ways north with a well-trod path leading up to the top, but the incline is not terribly steep. Immediately south, the sheer cliffs of Stormness Head tower above the valley, the peak obscured by clouds.
The ground is covered mostly by thick grass and cheerful mountain wildflowers, but there are enough loose stones and patches of gravel on the hillside to make the going tricky. A noisy mountain stream chatters downhill, descending deeper into the valley.
Wintermoor leads Lanisen along carefully in the dark, taking the surest path and watching for any roots or rocks or fallen branches that might cause his companion to stumble, warning him of what cannot be avoided. He stays close, going slow enough that the son of Adam can rest against him if he chooses.
Lanisen keeps up reasonably well, though he pauses after about ten minutes to wrap a handkerchief around his left hand, which is starting to show signs of blisters from his reliance on the walking stick. He is not so bold as to lean on his companion if he can avoid it.
Wintermoor observes this but says little, allowing his companion his own independence. They come at last to a clearing in the trees.
Lanisen follows the centaur out past the treeline. He still walks cautiously, but he looks up at the cloudless, moonless sky between steps, and takes a deep breath of wonder and satisfaction.
Wintermoor says, “Beautiful, is it not?”
Lanisen nods mutely, coming to a halt. Fireflies flicker in the knee-deep green grass and along the edges of the stream, drifting about in the faint breeze. Below them in the valley, a bank of fog softens the outlines of the trees. A nighthawk calls overhead.
Wintermoor pauses to consider this as well, “It is clear tonight. It will be a good night for stargazing.” He leads both of them to a place where the thick grass and mountain flowers will make it a comfortable place to sit or lie. The stream is not terribly far away either if it were to be wanted.
Lanisen follows him, and extinguishes his lantern once they have stopped. A moth bumps against the glass once more, then flitters away, disappointed.
Wintermoor stands looking up at the sky for some time before pointing. “There is the the Hammer. Do you see it?”
Lanisen shifts, looking up. He follows Wintermoor’s gesture. “Yes.”
Wintermoor points to another constellation. “And there is the Leopard.”
Lanisen nods silently, shifting his gaze to look. He finds both constellations easily, suggesting that they are familiar to him.
Wintermoor says, “Are these familiar to you, son of Adam?”
Lanisen says, “Yes, sir.” He glances at Wintermoor and shifts his weight before elaborating. “My best friend knows some, and there’s a– a book in the castle, we read it. My brother knew some too, he showed me.”
Wintermoor says, “That is very good. Do you know Lady Alambil?”
Lanisen glances up sidelong with a mischievous glint in his eye that suggests he’s about to make a joke, but he quells it. “Um,” he says, and scans the sky. “That– that one?” he guesses, pointing at a bright point that is approximately the right magnitude and color, but ultimately a few degrees off from the real Alambil.
Wintermoor lips twitch, which might indicate that as serious as he may seem to be, he would not mind a joke. “Nay, that is the Lady of Jollity.”
Lanisen says, “Oh!” He studies the twinkling, faintly blue point. “What’s her name, then?”
Wintermoor says, “Gaelia.”
Lanisen says thoughtfully, “Hello, Gaelia.”
Wintermoor smiles. “But look closer, the Lady Alambil is not far.”
Lanisen says, “Um,” and studies the sky again, shifting his grip on the stick. “That one?” he asks, pointing at the right one this time.
Wintermoor says, “Correct.”
Lanisen grins, glancing up at Wintermoor, pleased with himself.
Wintermoor smiles back. “Very good.”
Lanisen shifts his weight again and begins looking for a place to sit down. “How do you know their names?”
Wintermoor says, “My father and mother taught them to me when I was a young colt. ”
Lanisen finds a likely spot and sits down carefully in the grass, setting his walking stick next to him. “Where’d they learn them?” he asks, then makes a face and rephrases. “Where’d anybody learn ’em, I mean.”
Wintermoor is quiet in serious thought. “I do not know, Son of Adam.” He considers carefully. “Aslan called them into being. It maybe that He named them or charged his Servant, the first son of Adam too.”
Lanisen pulls up his right knee and loops his arms around it, watching the sky. “Maybe if he ever sticks around long enough, we can ask him,” he says after a minute.
Wintermoor nods, “Perhaps, Son of Adam.”
Lanisen goes quiet, watching the stars and the fireflies.
Wintermoor is quiet for a while as well.
Lanisen cups his hands around a firefly that drifts close to him. He opens his hands again and watches it crawl over his fingers, blinking yellow-green phosphorescence.
Wintermoor quietly observes the stars, standing as though listening to voices that are very faint.
Lanisen watches the firefly take flight and tracks it with his eyes until it is lost with the others by the stream. He draws up his other leg, a little gingerly, and looks up at Wintermoor, watching quietly.
After a time he speaks. “They say that on the night Queen Lucy entered Narnia, Lord Tarva met with Lady Alambil. It is a good sign for Narnia, always remember that.”
Lanisen looks up at the sky, frowning slightly as he searches for Tarva.
Wintermoor points to another spot in the sky. “There is the Trickster. He loves to sow discord.”
Lanisen shifts his gaze, looking curiously at the star. “How can you…” He pauses. “How can you tell what’s important, or– or what’s gonna happen, if they’re all in the sky all the time?”
Wintermoor says, “It is a good question.” He pauses and speaks again. “Not every star can be seen every night. Some, such as the Hart, do not appear except as great portents.”
Lanisen says, “Oh.” He twists to look toward where it was last visible.
Wintermoor says, “There is a story told by the Elders, a story that His Majesty, the first son of Adam, along with several other sons of Adam and a daughter of Eve saw Aslan call the stars into being.”
Lanisen draws a deep breath and nods. “I’ve read a version of that story, I think,” he answers softly.
Wintermoor nods. “It would have been a great thing, for even I have not seen all the movements of the stars in their great dance.The memories of our Elders are treasured and passed so that it will not be forgotten. And this is how we learn what portends ill or good.”
Lanisen nods again, looking back toward the Trickster star. “What do you do?” he asks. “If you know something’s comin’, what do you do?”
Wintermoor looks to the star as he considers Lanisen’s question, before turning to Lanisen “If there were an ill message in the stars, son of Adam? I would inform the elders of my Council, for it may warrant discussion. Sometimes a meaning may be uncertain, but if ill times are imminent, they will send warning to the Council.”
Lanisen pauses, considering this. “Is it ever…” He pulls his lips between his teeth and glances up at Wintermoor, hesitant to finish the question.
Wintermoor says, “Ask on, Son of Adam.”
Lanisen says, “Um,” and hesitates again. “I don’t mean any disrespect,” he says first, glancing a little anxiously up at the centaur again. “Is it ever, do they ever tell you things that are more… I don’t know. Um.” He looks up at the sky again, his eyes fixing on Gaelia. “If the Lady of Jollity was shinin’, would she tell you the joke?”
Wintermoor considers this, motioning to Lanisen that he should continue to elaborate on his thought.
Lanisen pulls his lips between his teeth. “If the stars said war was comin’,” he says, carefully. “Would you know who was gonna do the attackin’?”
Wintermoor shakes his head. “I do not know, Son of Adam. It may be that Aslan would send word through another messenger, perhaps of your kind. Do you wonder for your own Land?”
Lanisen shifts. He shakes his head. “No, it’s… no. I just wondered. Sometimes the books don’t say.”
Wintermoor shakes his head. “I do not think so. They are not fortune tellers but servants of Aslan. Do not fear, however, for you have not disrespected them.”
Lanisen nods. He’s quiet for a little while, watching the stars, then says, “I read they’re alive, like people. Is that, are they really?”
Wintermoor nods. “They sing to us in their voices; few can hear.”
Lanisen looks from the stars to Wintermoor and back, his eyebrows lifting. “Is that what you were listenin’ for earlier?”
Wintermoor says, “I was.”
Wintermoor says, “Do you hear them?”
Lanisen goes quiet, listening hard and hopeful. Finally, he shakes his head slightly.
Wintermoor hmms softly. “It is a high, cold sound that some have described to be as silver.”
Lanisen frowns, concentrating. He reaches for his stick and gets to his feet.
Wintermoor turns from his stargazing to Lanisen as he gets to his feet.
Lanisen stands for a moment, still and frowning, trying to hear past the peeping of frogs in the stream and the wind in the grass and the nighthawk still swooping overhead. He straightens suddenly and draws a small breath.
Wintermoor says, “It is like nothing else. ”
Lanisen stays very still, trying not to lose it now he’s found it. He looks up at Wintermoor with wide eyes after a moment and lets out a short breath a little like laughter, smiling with incredulous delight.
Wintermoor returns the smile with one that is much more serious, though it may be that there is pride as well.
Lanisen asks, “Is that– always?” He looks back up, trying to find the thread of the song again.
Wintermoor waits to see if Lanisen can find the thread of the song again before speaking “Is it like that always?”
Lanisen says, “Yeah…”
Lanisen takes a deep breath, his head still tilted to try to catch it. He moistens his lips and shakes his head slightly, at a loss for words.
Wintermoor is still and quiet, letting his companion revel in the experience. At last, he speaks again. “They are always there, if we have the eyes to see them and the ears to listen.”
Lanisen doesn’t move for a long while. “Thank you,” he murmurs finally.
Wintermoor simply nods.
Lanisen finds his place in the grass and sits again, his face tilted toward the sky, and listens silently.