cherries and chlamash

Cair Paravel Grounds
Eastern Narnia

Megren sits cross legged under an apple tree, a half eaten basket of cherries in her lap.

Darrin sprawls next to her on his side, his head propped up with one hand.

Megren drops a cherry on his head.

Lanisen follows the little path down below, near the water. He shades his eyes to look up toward the orchard, and after a moment’s hesitation begins up the slope toward them.

Darrin rolls his head and catches the cherry in his palm, then eats it.

Megren screws up her face at the knight for spoiling her fun. She looks up to see who’s coming, and then waves him over.

Lanisen picks up his pace, his face and posture lighting up. He’s limping slightly by the time he reaches them.

Darrin spits out the cherry pit and smiles. “Lanisen!”

Megren says unnecessarily, “We’ve got cherries.”

Lanisen bows, and says, “Cherries!” He plops down to sit cross-legged facing them.

Megren pelts him with one.

Darrin says mournfully, “We won’t for long if you keep that up.”

Lanisen yelps in surprise, raising his arms to defend himself. He hunts down the cherry, blows it off, and eats it anyway.

Megren says, “See, it’s fine.”

Darrin seems appeased.

Lanisen says, “Oh, these are sweeter than the ones I’ve had. Where’d you get ’em?”

Megren says, “Cloversnout took us picking.”

Darrin reaches over to fish out a couple more cherries for himself, nodding.

Lanisen hmms. “Maybe she’ll take me if I ask nicely.”

Megren says, “I bet so. Get her talking on flowers, that’s what Sir Darrin did.”

Lanisen says, “Figures.”

Darrin clears his throat sheepishly.

Lanisen grins.

Megren drops the basket in Lanisen’s lap. “Where are you coming from?”

Lanisen takes a handful of cherries and sets the basket in the middle. “Just walkin’. It’s nice out.” The bottoms of his trousers are still damp and a little bit sandy.

Darrin pokes at Lanisen’s hem. “Looks like the beach to me.”

Lanisen protests, “That’s walkin’!”

Megren leans her head back against the tree and closes her eyes.

Darrin grins, inclining his head to concede the point.

Lanisen eats his cherries thoughtfully, taking his time with each.

Darrin arranges the rather large pile of cherry pits beside him into something resembling a tiny unsteady tower. “Have you met the Duke yet, Lanisen?”

Lanisen says, watching Darrin’s creation of questionable art, “A couple times, yeah. His companion-at-arms more.”

Darrin says, “Oh, I haven’t really spoken to his men.”

Megren listens quietly.

Lanisen asks, “Do you know yet why he brought so many?”

Darrin shakes his head, frowning faintly.

Megren says, “I have a suspicion if things were going less well for him, we’d learn why.”

Lanisen looks at Megren, startled.

Darrin wrinkles his nose.

Megren says, “It’s not enough for an attack or anything, but it is enough to make yourself hard to remove.”

Lanisen says, “Most of ’em aren’t even in the castle, though.”

Megren says, “Well, I sort of meant, from the country, not, not necessarily from the throne itself.”

Darrin says, “Ten is still a big group for an entourage inside the castle.”

Megren says, “I don’t especially think he had that in mind.”

Lanisen pauses. “If he ain’t– if they don’t pick him for king, why would he want to stay?”

Megren tilts her head to the side. “I mean, I think — to a certain type it looks… impressive? And then also maybe it’s not worth the potential fight not to choose him, especially when they’re aren’t other solid candidates.”

Darrin says, “With his claim to the throne, he could still wield a lot of influence over Narnian affairs, depending on who they do choose.”

Lanisen looks troubled. “He don’t seem like a bad sort,” he offers.

Megren says, “Might be he’s not really? I can’t imagine it wasn’t strategic, though. He’s very logical and thorough, from everything I can tell. He’ll have done it because he thought it gave him the best chance.”

Lanisen spins a cherry on its stem, frowning. “He said he only needs fifteen men to sail his ship,” he concedes, a little reluctantly.

Darrin says, “I haven’t spoken to him much, but I got the impression he was very… deliberate. He certainly talked up about his visit here before, didn’t he? As though he was trying to establish a precedent for loving Narnia and belonging here by visiting once.”

Megren nods thoughtfully, considering this analysis. “It did feel a bit like that, though I couldn’t say exactly why? You might easily say the same about me whenever I mention having been here before.”

Darrin says, “You’re not obviously angling for a position of power over an entire nation.”

Lanisen lets out a small breath of laughter. He ties a knot in the cherry stem absently, frowning.

Megren squints an eye. “Well, all right, point there.”

Lanisen says, “Wethil says he’s been gettin’ on well with folk.”

Darrin hums. “That’s something.”

Megren says, “It’s a lot, I think — how he treats servants and councilors. I’d like to know how he responds to unhappy people, though.”

Lanisen suggests, lifting his eyebrows, “Make somebody unhappy?”

Darrin makes a face. “More, I think, how he deals with conflict.” He pauses. “That’s one of the more important tests for a leader.”

Megren pulls a face at Lanisen. She pushes her mouth to the side. “Maybe we ought to have asked to let him handle Deonyc.”

Lanisen lifts his eyebrows at this, and then frowns, glancing between them. “Somethin’ new…?”

Darrin almost chokes on a cherry, snickering.

Megren says, “Oh, um… I, I sent him home.”

Lanisen says, startled, “Oh–! Oh, that’s– I see.” He pauses. “Good.”

Megren lifts a shoulder.

Darrin sighs. “That kid…” he says, ignoring the fact that Deonyc is not actually younger than him.

Lanisen nods, still frowning. “What– what happened, that…”

Megren looks uncomfortable. “Um, there were a couple of things — but I don’t think he really wanted to be here, anyway. It felt kinder all around.”

Darrin says, “I’m still not sure why he felt he had to come when he obviously did not want to.”

Lanisen glances between them and exhales. “Well,” he says. “Long as that rumor don’t take off.”

Megren looks vaguely upset. “He /did/ want to, though; he told me all about how he wanted to go not more than 2 months ago.”

Darrin raises a brow.

Megren says, “I really thought I was doing him a good turn.”

Lanisen says, “S not your fault.”

Megren looks skeptical.

Lanisen says, “He could’ve begged off, if he didn’t want to go. Sir Chal could’ve come.”

Darrin gives Lanisen an exasperated look. “I literally do not see any reason for you to blame yourself for this one, Meg.”

Megren says, “I knew he wasn’t ready and I asked him anyway.”

Lanisen says, “I don’t think you knew he was /this/ not-ready though.”

Megren says, “Even so.”

Darrin says, “Even if he wasn’t ready for this kind of a responsibility, he was way more out of line than he should have been, and that’s on him.”

Megren says, “I know that.”

Lanisen says, “It’s, it’s not that he wasn’t ready, I think– /I’m/ not, I wasn’t either, particularly. This kind of, of visit, I’ve never…” He pauses. “It’s, it’s that he /thinks/ he’s ready.”

Megren says, “Yes. But as his superior I should have recognized that and not given him the power to cause mischief by assigning him a job that he wasn’t suited for. Instead I tried to find him what he wanted and hoped he’d shape up to it.”

Darrin says, “You see the best in people. That’s generally a good thing, they just don’t always live up to your expectations.”

Lanisen says, “That’s– I don’t think that was an unreasonable expectation, though.”

Megren says, “Maybe not as a friend. But it’s poor work from a knight. Seeing the best in people shouldn’t mean not recognizing their flaws.”

Darrin says, practically, “You’re still a new knight. The leading part, from that kind of position, takes practice, trust me.”

Megren concedes, “I know.”

Lanisen says, “I mean, how dare you not do everything perfectly on your very first mission.”

Darrin gives a crooked grin and clears his throat. “Yes, excuse me, obviously that means you’re a terrible knight and you should be ashamed and haunted by your ultimately harmless mistakes.”

Megren looks vaguely irritated by this turn in the conversation. “I’m not.”

Lanisen agrees with a single nod.

Darrin suppresses his smirk.

Megren sits back against the tree.

Lanisen glances from Megren to Darrin, and his face twists a little regretfully.

Darrin is distracted by his pile of cherry pits collapsing in on itself and his attempts to fix it.

Megren says, “You haven’t got any mortar.”

Lanisen purses his lips and considers the soil.

Megren picks up a cherry and carefully eats one side and then the other so that it’s more rectangular. Still more carefully, she skins the rest of the cherry with her teeth, so the sticky part remains, then hands it to him. “There.”

Lanisen says, laughing, “Ew.”

Darrin takes the cherry pit with just his thumb and forefinger and looks at it with intrigued distaste.

Megren screws up her face punishingly at him.

Lanisen scrunches up his whole entire face.

Darrin places Megren’s cherry pit delicately at the top of his pile and considers his dilemma.

Megren’s brows draw together. “No, it’s, you don’t put the mortar at the top, it sticks them together.”

Darrin says, “I know what mortar /is/, I’m just not attached to… That…as a mortar.” He wrinkles his nose.

Megren crosses her arms petulantly.

Lanisen snickers.

Darrin builds up a little dirt wall to put the pits in and support them instead.

Lanisen asks, “You wanna make mud?”

Megren squints an eye. “…Is that like making water,” she asks with flat skepticism.

Lanisen throws a rolled-up cherry stem at her. “Why are you so /gross/,” he mourns.

Megren says, “You suggested it.”

Darrin looks between them. “There are so many possibilities of how to take that question, and you had to come up with one even I hadn’t thought of, Megren.”

Megren says, “Captain Garian always said I was very good at creatively collaborating toward a solution.”

Lanisen groans and flops on his back despairingly.

Darrin says dryly, “I don’t think this is what he meant.”

Megren screws up her mouth and shrugs disaffectedly at him.

Lanisen throws more vegetation at Megren halfheartedly.

Darrin pings her with a (dry) cherry pit.

Megren tries to catch it smoothly in the air, but just misses, and it hits her cheek instead.

Lanisen hoots with laughter.

Darrin’s lips curve, though he is clearly trying not to smile.

Megren takes up a handful of the pits he’s not yet used to rebuild with and starts pelting.

Lanisen scrambles out of the way of any flying pits, wheezing with laughter.

Darrin yelps and dives for cover, flopping on the ground and covering his head with his arms. “Mercy, mercy!”

Megren drops them one by one over his neck.

Lanisen begins to stock up on the pits that roll his way.

Darrin squirms, attempting to wriggle away.

Megren finally gets a grin back at all the wriggling. “You look like a fish,” she says as, mercifully, she runs out of pits.

Lanisen helpfully gives her one, in the form of a missile to the forehead.

Darrin peeks out from under his arms at the cease-fire, to give Megren a punishing look, and is just in time to see her get p pinged in the head. He cackles.

Megren asks, “Are you going to leave a newly minted knight under duress without assistance?”

Lanisen gets a look like he maybe hasn’t thought this through.

Darrin says, “If anyone is under duress here, I’m pretty sure it’s me.”

Megren says, “I’ll gladly help. Show me the knave.”

Lanisen looks smug.

Darrin groans and buries his head in his arms.

Megren screws up her face, seeming to have thought this was going to work out for her.

Lanisen considers his pile of ammunition.

Darrin looks back up, sticking out his tongue.

Megren tugs at his arm to try to get him up and feeling supported.

Lanisen pings Megren again.

Darrin starts moving but ducks away just in time for the cherry pit to miss him and definitely hit Megren.

Megren grabs him and pulls him in to shield her.

Lanisen scrambles to his feet, grabbing up every dry cherry pit he can easily reach (which is: about five) and circles around to a better angle for Megren-pinging.

Megren is well positioned between tree and knight.

Darrin sqwacks in protest at being so used.

Lanisen tosses his pits judiciously in an arc to land on top of Megren’s head.

Megren is also shorter than the knight shield. She had merely to duck close behind his shoulders.

Darrin consequently gets the first volley right at his face.

Lanisen, greatly daring, just steps in closer and drops the pit directly on top of her head.

Megren covers Darrin’s face with her hand and graciously takes the second volley for him.

Darrin sputters at the unexpected hand over his face.

Lanisen is not even a little bit aiming at Darrin, so any pits that hit him are entirely Megren’s fault.

Megren is protecting him though.

Darrin sinks down in an attempt to escape.

Lanisen accidentally hits Darrin in the face and goes wide-eyed, making a comically remorseful O with his mouth.

Megren moves her hand to protect the new place.

Darrin’s jaw drops indignantly and he plucks the cherry pit off his lap to pitch it back at Lanisen’s face.

Lanisen yelps and ducks away.

Megren says, “Truce, truce.”

Darrin rubs his face where he took a hit, looking rueful.

Lanisen looks sulky.

Megren releases Darrin to lick his wounds.

Darrin flops over.

Lanisen plops back down in his original spot.

Megren starts brushing off cherry leavings as best she can.

Darrin stays faceplanted for several moments.

Megren shakes his shoulder.

Darrin says, “Mmph.”

Lanisen reaches for his satchel and takes a good long drink of water. “Tarkaan Chlamash,” he says abruptly, lowering the waterskin and wiping his mouth. “He didn’t know about the battle at Anvard?”

Megren blinks.

Darrin rolls over onto his back. “Um…” he gives Lanisen a funny look. “He was /at/ the battle at Anvard.”

Lanisen goes still for a second, one eye narrowing in confusion and contrariness. Then he blinks a couple times, and his face sort of twists and flushes, and he says quietly, “Oh.”

Megren’s eyes shift between them, confused. “What made you think he didn’t know about it?”

Darrin frowns faintly at Lanisen’s expression.

Lanisen says, “He told…” He rubs the side of his face and avoids their eyes, upset. “He, he said.”

Darrin asks, “He said he didn’t know about it?”

Lanisen says, “He, yeah.” He blows out a breath. “I thought it was– I thought it was strange.”

Darrin frowns. “That is very strange.”

Lanisen says, “No, it’s… no, I think I– I think I understand him a little better now, I just…” His face twists a little again, confused and unhappy.

Megren tucks hey legs up under her and waits for him to finish.

Darrin looks confused.

Lanisen says, “Um, I… believed him.”

Megren says, “Well, why wouldn’t you, if you didn’t know.”

Lanisen runs a hand through his hair and lifts his shoulders, shaking his head slightly. “Never mind, it’s, never mind.”

Megren squints an eye. “So, sorry, what happened exactly?”

Lanisen says, “Um,” and then stops. “It’s, it’s not important. It’s not important.”

Megren says, “Well, you brought it up.”

Lanisen says, “I didn’t– I wasn’t thinkin’ he…”

Darrin looks more confused.

Megren says, “If you brought it up you must have been concerned about it.”

Lanisen says, “I thought he– I thought maybe he was– I don’t know what I thought, it was, I thought it was strange.”

Megren says, “It is strange.”

Darrin wonders, “Why would he try to imply he wasn’t there? A lot of people know he was.”

Lanisen doesn’t answer. After a moment, he shifts. “That’s– that must be why he’s here?”

Darrin says, “Yes, exactly.”

Lanisen nods, a little bit absent. “I’m,” he says. “I should– I should prob’ly head in.”

Megren’s brows draw together.

Darrin glances at Megren.

Lanisen gets to his feet and brushes off the grass. “Um– I’ll see you at supper, I suppose?”

Megren says, “…Sure?”

Darrin says, “All right…”

Megren releases a breath and tucks her hair behind her ear.

Lanisen says, “It’s, it’s all right, I’m just– I’ll, I’ll be in the library, if you need me.”

Megren nods.

Darrin says, “Well, we’ll be around.”

Lanisen says, “Thank you, sir.”

Megren says, “Enjoy the library.”

Lanisen says, “I– I will, thanks.” He bows, a little absently, and starts off toward the gate.

Megren looks at Darrin.

Darrin shrugs one shoulder at her.

Megren sighs and deflates onto his shoulder.

Darrin says, “Welp.”

Megren says unenthusiastically, “I don’t even know.” She tilts her chin to look at him. “I suppose we should mention the bit about Chlamash Tarkaan to the council, though, right?”

Darrin says, “That’s…yeah, I think so. It doesn’t make any sense to me why he would deny it, but maybe it will to them as part of some… Larger trend? I don’t know.”

Megren thinks quietly on it for a while and then posits, “I can’t imagine how it could be for any kind of real trickery — there’s too many people aware of it. Maybe he was just relieved to have somebody who didn’t know. ”

Darrin nods thoughtfully.

Megren picks up the forgotten basket of cherries and deposits it in his lap.

Darrin grins.

Megren says, “Make everyone happy and honest and nice, would you?”

Darrin exhales. “I wish.”

Megren picks up his arm and hugs it possessively, but says, “I suppose we’d better go talk to them sooner than later.”

Darrin says, “Right.”

Megren gives the orchard and quick glance and then kisses his shoulder before moving to get up.

Darrin grins goofily before rising to follow, the basket of cherries in hand.


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