portraits and shaky ground

Cair Paravel
Eastern Narnia

Lanisen has found an alcove in which to tuck himself away under one of the windows on the north wall. The early afternoon sunlight slants down onto the pages of his book and reflects onto his face from underneath.

Avery enters the library, holding a leather-bound book and a small, thin wooden box. Her steps are quiet, but there are little clacking sounds coming from the box.

Lanisen looks up at the soft weighty sound of the door closing again. He straightens slightly where he sits, alert, and gets up to bow.

Avery catches the motion. “Oh, Lanisen.” She dips her head. “Hello.”

Lanisen answers, “Morning, my lady.” He glances at the window and pauses, slightly disoriented. “Afternoon?”

Avery waves a hand back to the window seat. “Please. Be comfortable.” She smiles. “I do believe it is afternoon now. That must be a very good book if you’ve lost track of time?”

Lanisen doesn’t hesitate long before he follows the directive. “It– it happens a lot, my lady,” he admits a little ruefully.

Avery chuckles very lightly. “I do the same. More often than I’d like to admit.”

Lanisen asks, shifting, “Yeah?”

Avery nods. “Indeed.” She holds up her drawing materials. “If I start drawing or painting…All hope of keeping track of time is quite lost.”

Lanisen grins, dimpling up. He’s sitting on the edge of a comfortable seat beneath a window on the north wall, a book open on his lap. He looks rather easier today, more relaxed, like a weight’s been lifted.

Avery moves toward a nearby table, arranging her things. “Are you enjoying your time in Narnia?”

Lanisen lowers his head slightly. “Yes, my lady. Very much. Thank you for lettin’ me come.”

Avery smiles. “Good. I’m glad to hear that.” She sits down. “I always feel at home here…”

Lanisen pauses, giving this consideration, and then nods in silent agreement.

Wethil flies through the door and to one of the shelves, as if aiming for something in particular. She grabs at the shelf, hanging from it by her thumbs as she scans the titles.

Lanisen straightens at the familiar sound of shifting air from Wethil’s near-silent wings and cranes his neck to see where she’s landed.

Avery glances toward the door as she hears the flap of wings. She smiles as soon as she sees the Bat. “Hello, Wethil.” she calls out cheerfully.

Wethil twists to look over her shoulder. She hesitates just a moment when she sees Avery, but with Lanisen and a new day to bolster her, she finds a smile and pushes off from the shelf, flapping over to the two humans. “Hullo, Lady Avery, Hullo, Lanisen!”

Lanisen has a half-full teacup next to him on the little table by his chair, but there’s an additional unused shallow drinking bowl with it. The still-steaming teapot smells of chamomile and honey, and he pours to fill the bowl as Wethil approaches.

Avery watches the Bat. She opens her sketchbook and selects a pencil from her box.

Wethil says, “Mm, thank you, yes yes…” She settles on the bench by the table, a little awkward on the seat, but not uncomfortable. She peers with interest at the sketchbook. “What, mm, what’s that, Lady Avery?”

Lanisen slides the tea nearer to her. He glances across at Avery and tilts his head in invitation, lifting the teapot slightly. “I can run and get another cup, if you’d like some,” he offers.

Avery holds up the book and shows the strokes to Wethil. No image is clearly seen yet. “I think it shall be a portrait of you, if I may?” At Lanisen’s offer, she gently shakes her head. “No, thank you.”

Wethil blinks a number of times, as if taken aback. “Oh! Oh, mm, mmm, of course, if, if you’d like. Mm, mmm, do you, do you need me to pose? Or, mm…” She sneaks a glance at Lanisen, then looks back to Avery. “Or anything?”

Lanisen lifts his eyebrows and glances back at Wethil, a small pleased smile curving up the corners of his mouth.

Avery shakes her head and laughs. “You do not need to.” She shrugs. “Unless you would like to, of course.”

Chlamash enters the Library, his leather shoes tapping out a soft beat as he walks. Upon the company, he hesitates before heading towards one of the nearby shelves.

Wethil says, “Mm, mmm, I suppose I, I won’t then…” She takes a long sip from the tea. Her eyes are crinkled in a delighted sort of way.

Lanisen is equally delighted. He takes a drink of his tea, watching Avery work with interest. The sound of the door catches his attention, though, and he leans forward to see who has come. “Oh!” he says, and taps the tabletop with his knuckles. “Pardon me, I’ll be right back.” He gets to his feet and crosses the room toward Chlamash, his face lighting up.

Avery looks up from her drawing, her eyes landing on Chlamash. She allows Lanisen to greet him first.

Wethil also looks that way, smiling when she sees Chlamash.

Chlamash turns from his browsing of the shelves to see who is making his way over. There is a pleased sort of expresion as he notes Lanisen, inclining his head to the others beyond. “Greetings, Lanisen.”

Lanisen ducks his head in a polite bow. “I was hopin’ I might see you.”

Avery sets her pencil down and stands, curtsying respectfully.

Chlamash inclines his head to Lanisen, offering a formal bow to Avery when she rises. “Indeed? Such is gratifying to hear. It has been some time, I think, since we last spoke.”

Wethil continues to enjoy her tea for the moment.

Lanisen says, “Yes, sir. Six– six months or so?”

Avery takes her seat once more. “How do you fare, Tarkaan Chlamash?”

Chlamash shakes his head in the negative in reply to Lanisen’s question. “I do not recall.” He turns at Avery’s question to reply to her, “I am well, Milady. I pray that such is the case as well for Milady.”

Lanisen turns toward Avery as well as she speaks. His face goes a bit slack with uncertainty, and then embarrassment. He rubs his elbow and steps back, out of the way.

Wethil follows Lanisen’s movement, looking a bit confused.

Avery says, “Quite well, thank you.”

Chlamash nods, “You are most welcome, Milady.” He turns to regard Lanisen, before turning back to Avery. “May I join your company, Milady?”

Lanisen pulls his lips between his teeth and bows again, withdrawing to rejoin Wethil.

Avery looks up. She nods, glancing at Lanisen and Wethil. “I have no objections. Lanisen? Wethil?”

Wethil shakes her head. “Of course not, no no. Hullo, Tarkaan!”

Lanisen shakes his head quickly, offering a smile. He doesn’t sit just yet.

Chlamash takes a seat that close enough to speak, but far away enough to observe politeness and propriety. “Good day, small one.” He replies to Wethil and turns to motion to Lanisen to sit.

Lanisen does so. His hands curl around each other in his lap.

Wethil, when she’s not being addressed, nudges Lanisen gently with her wing and looks at him questioningly.

Lanisen startles slightly, then gives her a quick lopsided smile.

Avery looks up at the two and then down at her page. “Hmm,” she says, mostly to herself.

Chlamash seems to observe Lanisen’s discomfort as well and turns to Lanisen when he is not in danger of ignoring Lady Avery, “Tell me Lanisen what has transpired since we last spoke? You are well I trust?”

Lanisen straightens slightly. “Yes, sir, thank you,” he answers. “And– and yourself?”

Wethil’s eyes are drawn to a middle-aged female Faun who has just appeared in the doorway. She smiles and sips down the rest of her tea.

Chlamash nods, “The gods have been most gracious to one such as I. And your friends? Have they journeyed with yoy?”

Lanisen says, glancing briefly at Avery, “Yes, sir, they’re– they’re here.” His eyes shift to the Faun as well, and he glances at Wethil.

Avery listens quietly as she draws.

Wethil exclaims, “Mm, if you’ll all, mm, excuse me, a friend of mine is waiting, yes yes.” She takes off, circling around the table once to say, “Thank you, thank you for tea and, mm, company, mhm!”

Chlamash glances to Wethil when he observes her drinking down her tea and then sees the Faun in the door, “Good day, Small one. ”

Lanisen says, more quietly, “See you later, Wethil.”

Avery smiles. “Good afternoon, Wethil. I’ll finish up your portrait and show you later?”

Wethil says, “Thank you, yes, thank you!” She flies out to meet the Faun.

Lanisen folds his arms across his middle, his eyes darting again between Avery and Chlamash.

Avery closes her sketchbook. “If you both will excuse me, I should attend to a few things before dinner.”

Lanisen gets quickly to his feet to bow.

Chlamash nods, likewise getting to his feet to bow.

Avery curtsies. “Good afternoon Lanisen, Tarkaan.” She crosses to the east end of the library, disappearing through the southeast door.

Chlamash seats himself once more when Avery has left the room, turning his glance to Lanisen to observe him. “I pray I have no offended you, my friend.”

Lanisen says, “N– no, of course not, sir.”

Chlamash nods, “I am glad. I was uncertain perhaps I had caused you uneasiness by my conduct, for I must tell you that I am glad to see you.”

Lanisen says, “No, I–” His face flushes red and he covers his cheeks with both hands. “I’m sorry, sir, I beg your pardon, I got– I forgot the, the proper way to act.”

Chlamash makes a small motion with his hand. “Fear not, You have no offended.”

Lanisen lowers his hands, still blushing furiously. “Thank you, sir.”

Chlamash opens the book he has brought with him from the shelf and turning his attention to it, perhaps so that his companion might not suffer more unease.

Lanisen sits awkwardly for a little while while Chlamash reads. Finally, he reaches for his own book and settles in to read.

Chlamash reads for a short while before turning to his companion, “What do you make of the Duke and his party?”

Lanisen stirs and lowers his book. “Um,” he answers carefully. “I don’t– I don’t know that I know enough about ’em to have an opinion, sir.”

Chlamash nods, “Likewise has been my own impression. I spoke briefly with him though he did not reveal much.”

Lanisen hesitates. “If I can ask… what did you think, sir?”

Chlamash says, “To speak plainly, I am not certain of his intentions. He was pleasant of course, but in Calormen there is a saying “Look for the serpent among the flowers.”

Lanisen considers this silently, his eyes on the marble-tiled floor between them.

Chlamash says, “Think you, that such is dishonorable conduct, not befitting a Lord?”

Lanisen asks, “I’m sorry?”

Chlamash makes a dismissive motion with his hand, “I have often wondered whether my judgments might not be impaired, I am yet new to Narnia and her customs. Yet I have lived long enough near to the Tisroc to know that, at least in my own home country, one does not rise to power without keeping one’s eyes open and one’s ears attentive to the the language of all that may surround him.”

Lanisen nods thoughtfully. He pauses, then asks, “Can I ask you a question, sir?”

Chlamash raises an eyebrow questioningly, but nods to Lanisen to continue.

Lanisen hesitates, and then asks, “How did you come to be here, sir?”

Chlamash stiffens visibly, as if surprised and it might seem to one that several emotions may be seen flicking in his eyes. Shame, anger, regret, and perhaps pity. He is silent for a time as if considering the words to say, if any at all.

Lanisen straightens, his eyes flicking over Chlamash’s face. “I’m sorry,” he says instantly, straightening and drawing back. “That was– I shouldn’t have asked, I’m sorry.”

Chlamash shakes his head slowly, suddenly weary. “It is not your fault, Lanisen. It is my own. I have often wondered that some might not find my position curious.” He pauses, as if to consider his next words.

Lanisen says, “You don’t– sir, you don’t have to tell me.”

Chlamash nods and speaks again and this time emotion is evident in his voice, “Seek if you will my tale from Lord Peridan. For I cannot tell it just now, even as well as King Edmund his own….”

Lanisen says, “No, no, it’s– I don’t need to know. I don’t need to know.”

Chlamash nods, “You have my thanks.” He replies turning his attention to the book before him, saying softly “I should hate to gain the enmity of a friend.”

Lanisen’s forehead furrows in incomprehension.

Chlamash doesn’t look up, and therefore doesn’t see Lanisen’s expression. His head normally held high, droops more than necessary for reading and everything about his manner betrays a heavy weight. Guilt or something else.

Lanisen hesitates. He looks down at his wrists and rubs at the scars there, then says, “Sir, I– King Edmund told his story to, to both of us, there’s…” He takes a deep breath. “I’ve got, I’ve got things I’m ashamed of too.”

Chlamash looks up from his reading which hasn’t gotten very far to his companion beside him as Lanisen speaks.

Lanisen says, “I don’t– I don’t need to know. But you’re not, it’s not just you.”

Chlamash nods, looking knowingly at Lanisen.

Lanisen averts his eyes from Chlamash’s look. “Um,” he murmurs, and rubs his palms on his knees. “Um– anyway.”

Chlamash nods, “Indeed.”
Chlamash says, “Perhaps you might assist me in another search?””

Lanisen glances up. “What kind of search?”

Chlamash says, “I have been searching for information on the line of Narnia’s first King and his line.”

Lanisen asks, “You mean– you mean for the duke?”

Chlamash says, “I have… been pursuing the interest for myself.”

Lanisen says, “No, I mean–” He stops and glances toward the door, lowering his voice. “To, to check?”

Chlamash nods, “Indeed.”

Lanisen hesitates, then nods. “I’ll help if I can.”

Chlamash offers the tome he’s been reading to Lanisen and rises for another

Lanisen reaches to accept it, setting his own aside, and settles in to read.

Chlamash goes to the shelf, searching for a few moments before returning with several other tomes.


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