This end of the Royal Garden apparently serves as a growing place for fruit, herbs and vegetables to serve Cair Paravel’s kitchen. The soil must be rich, because these things are growing in great abundance. Grapevines cling to a lattice against the wall, huge bunches of fruit peeking out from under the broad leaves. An apple tree laden with pomes dominates the corner, and all around the path every other kind of good thing to eat is growing too.
A wooden door in the east wall leads into the Cair Paravel kitchen. The path curves delicately through the garden, the north end leading toward the middle of the Royal Garden. The west end heads back into the courtyard.
Avery is sitting on a low stool, seeming to be in conversation with a Mole gardener. She holds a bunch of grapes in one hand. As she listens, she nods, amused.
Lanisen steps through the door from the kitchen, ducking under the hanging grapevines, and follows the path. He hesitates on seeing Lady Avery, and bows quietly once he’s near enough.
Avery looks up when she hears the footfalls. She smiles, nodding. “Hello, Lanisen.”
Lanisen says, ducking his head as he smiles, “Afternoon, my lady.” His eyes shift to the Mole next to her, and he grins. “Hello, Clodsley.”
The Mole turns and waves a little at Lanisen. “Evening, Lanisen!” He bows to the Lady, “I’ll need to get these to the kitchen…Excuse me.”
Avery smiles and bows her head. “Of course. It was nice talking to you.” She looks to Lanisen as the Mole waddles off. “How are you, Lanisen?”
Lanisen shifts to the side to let the Mole pass, glancing back at Avery. “Doin’ well, my lady,” he answers, bowing slightly again. “And you?”
Avery stands, careful not to drop any loose grapes. “I am very well, thank you.”
Lanisen steps back slightly, mindful of her space. “I’m glad to hear it.”
Avery holds out the bunch toward him. “Grape? Clodsley told me these are from the sweetest vine.”
Lanisen says, “Oh! Er–” He hesitates, glancing at her face watchfully. “Thank you, my lady,” he says, and reaches to take one.
Avery smiles encouragingly. “They are rather delicious. I’ve eaten far too many already…”
Lanisen eats the grape. He chews slowly, an appreciative look spreading across his face. He looks back at Avery, delighted.
Avery nods, popping one into her own mouth. “Told you.”
Lanisen says, “That is… possibly the best grape I have ever had.”
Avery laughs. She plucks off a section of the bunch and holds it out for him to take. “I have yet to be disappointed by any of the fruit from this garden.”
Lanisen takes it, with another uncertain little sidelong glance. “The gardeners know their business,” he agrees. “I suppose it makes a difference, when the trees can tell you themselves what they like.”
Avery thinks on this a moment and nods. “I suppose you’re right.” She plucks a grape. “You know, when I was younger, I used to peel all of my grapes, because I didn’t like the skin of them…”
Lanisen asks curiously, “Really?”
Avery nods, chuckling. “There would always be a pile of grape peelings beside my plate…”
Lanisen says, “That seems like a lot of work.”
Avery says, “Oh, for sure. Which is probably why I eventually gave up and stopped caring about the skin.”
Lanisen laughs under his breath.
Avery laughs too. “I suppose we all have or had our quirks…”
Lanisen purses up his lips and offers in return, “I hate blackberries.”
Avery nods in agreement. “I must agree. I like strawberries and blueberries, but I cannot tolerate blackberries…”
Lanisen says, “It’s the /crunch/.”
Avery grimaces. “Very unappetizing…”
Lanisen hunches his shoulders up around his ears and shudders dramatically.
Avery laughs. “A proper display of blackberry dislike.”
Lanisen snorts, dimpling up.
Avery grins. “Do you still mind the kennels at Anvard?”
Lanisen says, “Well,” and rubs the back of his neck. “I been gone for three months.”
Avery asks, “Gone?”
Lanisen says, “Yes, my lady, I been– well, I was in Lantern Waste from Raingiver to the beginning of this month, and I was only back about a week before I left again.”
Avery looks surprised. “Oh, I was not aware. May I ask why you were there?”
Lanisen says, “Um,” and hesitates.
Avery holds up a hand. “I am sorry, I should not pry.”
Lanisen says, “No, no, I’m just– tryin’ to figure out where to…”
Avery asks, “Oh. Were you visiting friends?”
Lanisen says, “Yes, my lady, it was… um…” He rubs the side of his face. “It was a woman I knew from– from before I came to the castle, she lives up in Lantern Waste now. She’s part of the guard.”
Avery nods. “I see. Did you enjoy your time up there?”
Lanisen says, “Yes, my lady. Her kid, he’s real sweet.”
Avery smiles. “How old is he?”
Lanisen tilts his head slightly. “Six, I s’pose?” he hazards. “Seven?”
Avery says, “I am glad you were able to visit your friend. It does the heart good to see old friends.”
Lanisen considers. “I suppose so.”
Avery hmms. “So you were barely home before traveling again. What an adventure.”
Lanisen says, grinning, “I suppose so.”
Avery says, “I’ve wanted to visit Narnia again for some months now, but I could not see the possibility while I was still in Chesterton. But I was very happy the opportunity came up when I came to Anvard for the festival.”
Lanisen says, “It was good timin’, then, sounds like.”
Avery says, “Indeed, it was.” She shrugs a bit. “It is good for us to be here, too. Our show of support has been very encouraging, I believe.”
Lanisen asks, “Has it? Oh, good.” He pauses, plucking another grape off his bunch, and glances briefly around the immediate area. “What– can I ask what you think of the Duke, my lady?”
Avery seems surprised by this question, but she answers without hesitation, “I had tea with him the other day. I find him to be kind and honest. He speaks his mind and opinions, but not in an offensive way. He cares very much for his children.”
Lanisen nods thoughtfully.
Avery asks, “Have you spoken with him?”
Lanisen says, “A– A little, my lady.”
Avery asks, “And how do you find him?”
Lanisen says, “Um,” and lifts his shoulders and his eyebrows. “He doesn’t seem like a bad sort, though…” He pauses, and glances at her with a small frown. “Um, Wethil said she stumbled on the two of you the other day, accidentally interrupted?”
Avery says, “Oh, um, yes. But I did not consider it an interruption.”
Lanisen nods, slightly relieved. “She was–” He hesitates again. “She was a little bit upset.”
Avery frowns. “Upset? Oh…”
Lanisen asks, “Did the Duke say something, or…”
Avery tugs on a ringlet, thinking. “Um. I remember he offered to help her…and he did ask me if she worked here…Perhaps she took offense to that? I really do not know…”
Lanisen says, “Oh,” and pushes his mouth to the side. “Offense, that’s a strong word. She, um, she felt like she made a bad impression, she thought she gave the impression that she was bad at her job.”
Avery ahs. “The plum. We noticed her because a plum fell to the path. We offered to help her, but I assure you that it came from no doubt of her ability to collect fruit.”
Lanisen’s expression clears. “All right. That’s, I’m glad to hear that’s…”
Avery looks down. “I will assure Wethil that she was not a bother if I see her again.”
Lanisen says, “Um– She didn’t, she didn’t ask me to talk to you, my lady.”
Avery says, “I would not mention you, but if you think it is better to keep silent, I will.”
Lanisen says, “It’s not, I don’t mind either way, but I just– she didn’t come complainin’ or anything, she was just upset and I happened to run into her before she got it hid away properly.”
Avery frowns. “I am very sorry to hear this…It was never my intention, nor the Duke’s, to upset her.” She sighs.
Lanisen glances at her and offers a quick half-smile. “She’s a kind soul, she won’t hold it against you for a moment.”
Avery nods. “I am sure of that…She does seem very kind.”
Lanisen pauses, biting his lip for a moment before he abruptly turns the conversation back to its source. “Did– did the Duke say why he brought so many men?”
Avery says, “No…I did not ask and he did not supply any information on that part. He appears to come in peace, but that amount of men /is/ odd…”
Lanisen says, “It’s… He said he only needs fifteen men to sail his ship, and he brought, what, almost forty?”
Avery tips her head slightly. “I could ask him.”
Lanisen glances at her uncertainly.
Avery catches the look. “I am curious is all.”
Lanisen admits, “Me too.”
Avery laughs. “And quite often, people are very generous in the information they give to me.”
Lanisen lifts his eyebrows at this, smiling. “That’s useful.”
Avery says, “To be sure.” She laughs. “I suppose appearing to be simply be a silly girl of court has its advantages. No one ever suspects me.”
Lanisen squints at her, and then makes a soft ‘hm’ sound.
Avery waves a hand. “Anyway, not to say I’m suspicious of the Duke at all, but I am curious.”
Lanisen says, relieved, “Yeah. Yeah, exactly.”
Avery says, “There is much I wish to know about him and where he comes from.”
Lanisen says, “I been readin’ books on the islands, but it’s, you know. There’s only so much you can get from books.”
Avery nods. “Very true.” She crunches the empty grape bunch in her hands, bending the sticks. “I thank you for the talk, Lanisen, and eating the grapes, but I should be going. I have some letters to write.”
Lanisen says, “‘Course, yeah.” He steps back and bows. “Thank you for, for talkin’, my lady.”
Avery bows her head and walks down the path.