You find yourself standing in a pretty little forested glade, surrounded on all sides by trees. It’s a quiet, peaceful glade, carpeted by thick grass and wildflowers that give off rich scents. There’s an air of seclusion here, but it’s not a lonely feeling. More of a private place, away from the bustle of the towns that exist nearby in the Great Woods.
There’s a break in the foliage to the north.
Aliyah is resting in the clearing. It is her favorite spot away from the crowds of the town and the men camped out on the beach. her eyes are closed, but she is not sleeping… Just deep in thought.
Lanisen follows the path, his footsteps nearly inaudible on the soft moss underfoot. He pauses on the edge of the trees, looking up at the dusky sky.
Aliyah has not heard Lanisen approach, but she does catch a scent and sits up quickly, scanning her surroundings. “Lanisen?” she calls, a bit of concern in her voice.
Lanisen comes back down to earth rather quickly at this. “Yeah?” he calls back, not immediately recognizing the voice, or seeing the speaker. He squints in the poor light.
Linor wanders through the forest with her hunting bag, sniffing as she goes. She smells something familiar and follows the scent over towards the wolf and human
Aliyah rises and moves a bit closer, her head tilted. “I didn’t expect to see you this far from the castle.” She offers a small smile.
Lanisen is standing at the edge of the trees in the late evening, very still and on his guard. He’s staring rather blindly into the tall grass of the clearing, tense, but relaxes immediately when Aliyah comes into view. “Oh,” he says, relieved. “I– I went to the Athenaeum earlier, I just– decided to walk around a bit instead of go straight back to the castle. Hello.”
Linor scampers over to the group. “Hello Lanisen! Hello Aliyah!” she holds up her bag. “Are you hunting too?”
Aliyah nods approvingly. “I cannot blame you one bit. It is quite a nice place with lots of history.” She looks down at the mink. “Oh hello! I didn’t see you. I was just resting here.”
Dreygan comes into view from the shadows of the forest, nose down and carefully tracking.
Lanisen startles from the sudden movement near his feet, side-stepping like an anxious horse, then laughs. “Hi,” he says. “Is that Linor?”
Linor nods eagerly. “It is! When I was little, I hunted for food and baked for fun. Now I bake for food and hunt because it’s fun”
Aliyah laughs. “Quite a change.” She spots Dreygan out of the corner of her eye. “Hey dog breath… I mean… Dreygan, good to see you.” She snickers.
Dreygan lifts his head, clearly expecting to find her there. “Can’t say the same, it’d be a lie twice over,” he retorts. “Lanisen, you’re here too, right? And the Mink who smells like sweets?”
Linor looks quite flattered. “I smell like sweets? Really?! I’m so happy to hear that”
Lanisen turns that direction, trying to find Dreygan in the dim light that makes everything look the same color and shade. “Dreygan?”
Aliyah nods absently to Lanisen before responding to Dreygan with a snort. “Just glad it isn’t bad to smell me. I took a bath today.”
Dreygan pads the rest of the way forward. “That’s me. And Aliyah… Did I ever say it wasn’t? Maybe the Mink’s just making up for it.”
Lanisen smells slightly stressed–not actively afraid, more like he’s recently been startled badly–and he seems inclined to keep quiet and stand still.
Aliyah pulls Linor closer with a protective paw. “You know ‘the mink’ is called Linor, right?” She sounds curious more than annoyed.
Dreygan flicks his ear. “Oh right, that was it. Sorry.” He sniffs at the air again, towards each of them, and walks over to one of the trees at the edge of the clearly, checking around the roots.
Linor climbs up Aliyah and drapes herself around the wolf’s neck and withers. “Is he always this grumpy?
Lanisen draws a breath and moves to sit on a downed log. His eyes track briefly after a late firefly.
Aliyah sits near another tree, reaching around to nudge Linor. “He calls it snarky.” She adds something in a softer tone.
Aliyah mumbles “I think your … is … … though.”, to Linor.
Linor giggles softly “Have you been able to discuss what you needed to discuss about the future?
Dreygan calls over, “First, I can /hear/ you. Actually this time. Also, she hasn’t met Ayden, so ‘grumpy’ hardly has context, does it?” He comes back, grinning and stepping carefully.
Lanisen asks, “Ayden?”
Aliyah shakes her head in response to Linor. “Not yet. It seems that right now, waiting requires much patience until certain individuals are free from duties.” She gestures to Dreygan and then looks back to Linor. “Have you met Ayden? He is an older wolf. He’s not all bad.”
Dreygan says, “Packmate of ours. Chronic grump, mostly bark.”
Linor says, “I don’t believe I have.” Linor said, shaking her head. “In fact, these meetings have let me meet more wolves than I normally do””
Lanisen asks, “Not usually wolves in the town?”
Linor says, “I suppose there are a few around town, but I normally don’t stay in town all that much. I hunt in the woods and I live in the castle, I normally only go to town for errends and festivals”
Aliyah would swat at Dreygan if she was closer… makes the gesture with a paw all the same, grinning. “By the rivers and in the woods, sure. Even on the beach, but we don’t care much for the town.”
Dreygan sits. “Any who lived over here would probably be rogues. Not a state we prefer, usually doesn’t last long anyway.”
Lanisen tilts his head at this. His body language is looser and more relaxed. “Just… nicer to be with others?” he asks.
Aliyah shrugs, looking at her paws. “I was one once. It was fun for a while.”
Linor says, “I don’t like being alone, it’s nice to be around other minks, but any people will suffice for me””
Dreygan lifts a shoulder. “‘s what we’re used to. Sometimes, even a bad pack can be better than none. Other times, you’re lucky enough to find a good one.”
Lanisen asks, surprised, “There’s more packs? I thought there were just the two.”
Aliyah nods to Lanisen. “There are more packs, though none besides Ulfden and winterden exist in Narnia. We all came from other places… Meaning Crenna, Dreygan and I.”
Dreygan’s muzzle wrinkles. “There’s a couple outside Narnia’s borders. Ran off after the Witch fell, gathered together as Wolves do.”
Lanisen’s forehead furrows slightly at this. “So they’re still…”
Megren walks through the aethenaeum garden, but, hearing voices to the southwest, she picks her way through the underbrush.
Aliyah looks at Lanisen, a question in her eyes. “Still what?”
Lanisen is sitting on a fallen log, talking with two Wolves and a Mink under the emerging stars. “Um,” he says, and frowns for a moment. “They’re– it’s not the same wolves now, is it? The wolves who worked for the Witch, are they still…?
Linor looks concerned, she didn’t know much about wolf topics, but she knew enough about history that talking about rogue packs wasn’t considered polite conversation with canines.
Dreygan shakes his head. “Nah. Most of them are dead. Some of their children, though. Maybe a couple ancient ones who remember bits and pieces.” He catches the scent of someone coming closer and lifts his nose, angling in that direction.
Aliyah nods to what Dreygan said. “Nonetheless, there are still some bad packs out there… Some who probably don’t even know of /her/ like the one I came from.”
Lanisen looks troubled. “They’re not stayin’ out there ’cause they think they can’t come back to Narnia, right?” he asks. “The, the children, I mean.” He pauses. “They /could/ come back, right?”
Megren emerges into the clearing.
Linor notices the movement coming from within the forest and perks up when she sees a human, jumping off of her wolf perch and going over to greet the newcomer. “Hello Daughter of Eve!”
Dreygan shrugs again. “Hey, I came. So yeah, I suppose. A lot of them don’t care to, though. That Sir?”
Aliyah looks from Dreygan to Lanisen and back again, unable to form a proper response for a time. Her expression might indicate she’s thinking letting children of evil Narnian wolves back in could be disastrous. “Dreygan, Crenna never told me your pack had some of those old wolves in it?” She nods distractedly in Megren’s direction when Linor moves towards her.
Megren exclaims, “Hello, Mink! Hello Dreygan, yes, it’s me!”
Lanisen startles slightly at Megren’s arrival, sitting straight and alert. “Meg?”
Linor gives a tiny bow. “I’m Linor, pleased to meet you
Dreygan doesn’t look like he knows what the big deal is. “Who did you think they were? One of them had what he said was a tuft of the mane from that night. Don’t think it was real, though.” Back to Meg: “What brings you out?”
Aliyah shifts uncomfortably. “I came from the wilds… Same as Virika, and none of the wolves we knew had heard of the witch, though they might as well have. I just figured it was the same with you two.”
Megren says, “Someone told me Astrid worked at the Athenaeum so I came out looking but then I heard all of you.”
Lanisen says, slightly distracted by Dreygan’s words, “She’s gone home for the night.”
Dreygan snickers. “Wait, wait… I swore by the witch and you thought I didn’t know who she was? Did you think I picked up bad habits /that/ easily? Also, Astrid? Who’s that, besides a worker at the Athenaeum?”
Aliyah clamps her muzzle shut and shakes her head, not seeming to recall this swearing he speaks of at the moment.
Megren looks reluctant to interrupt what looks like a more important conversation. “Oh, she just liked shells and I found a good one.”
Linor says, looking up at the new human, “Are /you/ here to become queen?”
Lanisen blinks a couple times and looks at Linor.
Dreygan is silent for a moment, then grins. “Queen Sir. Is that the end goal?”
Megren blinks, brows lifting. “Uh–” She laughs. “…No, no. None of us from Archenland came thinking to take your throne. It’s yours to choose a ruler for as you see fit.”
Megren wrinkles her nose at Dreygan, who can’t see it.
Aliyah watches in silence, though a flicker of amusement passes over her features for a brief moment.
Linor shrugs “Aslan says that Narnia should be ruled by a Son of Adam or a Daughter of Eve. I just figured that they would have to come from /somewhere/. Unless of course Lord Peridan becomes King. I wouldn’t mind that.”
Megren tilts her head. “Did he? I don’t recall.”
Lanisen listens, glancing at the Wolves.
Dreygan says, “Oooh, right. This was some sort of ancient history. Can’t argue with the traditional tales, Sir.”
Linor nods “I suppose it doesn’t matter in Archenland where you are all the same, but the old stories here say that Aslan set up a Son of Adam and Daughter of Eve to be King and Queen when he made Narnia.
Aliyah nods slowly. “Yet in the Waste when some of us saw him, he said we should create a new ruler as we see fit which to me does not sound like it necessarily needs to be a person.”
Linor rolls her eyes. “And some people don’t put much stock in the old tales. But I say that we do things the way that Aslan set them from the start.”
Dreygan asks, “So he can’t change his mind?”
Aliyah grins. “Fair point, oh packmate of mine.”
Linor looks concerned “Aslan changing his mind sounds too dreadful to think about to me. ”
Megren falls quiet, not willing to give an opinion on a debate not her own.
Lanisen folds his arms over his middle and leans over his knees, his eyes shifting attentively to each speaker in turn.
Dreygan, in contrast to Linor’s concern, tilts his head, grinning. “Changed his mind about leaving us to the Witch, didn’t he? Seemed to work out then.”
Aliyah sucks in a breath.
Linor shakes her head. “I don’t think He changed His mind at all then, I think He was following what he said he would do when he said he would do it.”
Linor says, “But we’ve been over this. You’re not going to change my mind and I’m not going to change yours”
Dreygan says, “So maybe he was waiting for the right time to give Narnia over to the Narnians. He took the humans away, seems pretty clear to me.”
Lanisen keeps quiet, watching and listening with slight worry.
Aliyah shifts uncomfortably. She looks at the ground, leaves, trees, and even rocks.
Dreygan, after a moment, snorts softly. He turns his head to aim between the two humans. “No offense to you two meant. I just don’t see why it needs to be so over and done that there needs to be a human on the thrones.” He grins. “Maybe they just don’t want to see an Elephant try to fit.”
Megren grins at this quip. “I mean, might be an interesting experiment.”
Aliyah snorts. “Well, that is one way to fill all four thrones at once.”
Lanisen’s face shifts into a relieved smile, but he cants his head and asks, “You’d rather it not be a human, though?”
Dreygan lifts a shoulder. “Might be better. Might be better to have something entirely different. Probably would get less comparison to the last Kings and Queens. I bet it’d be harder to look at a Beast and say, ‘why aren’t you more like King Edmund?'”
Megren cants her head in concession to this point.
Lanisen says, “‘S big shoes to fill, regardless.”
Dreygan asks, “Good thing that nearly no one here wears shoes, then, isn’t it?”
Megren says, “It’s hard to imagine filling the role after any good King or Queen. I wonder how Prince Cor thinks of it.”
Aliyah looks to Megren. “That is a fair question. He was close with Queen Susan, correct?”
Megren looks thoughtful. “I think he got on well with all the Kings and Queens. Prince Corin was very close with her, though.”
Lanisen lets out a breath, rubbing the side of his neck.
Dreygan asks, “Just plan to be better, don’t you?”
Megren snorts softly.
Aliyah looks puzzled.
Dreygan clarifies, “When taking over for a good ruler. Sure, they were good. But maybe you’ve watched. If you know what they did well, you do that. There’s no perfect ruler, so you figure out what they did poorly, you do better. You’ll make mistakes, but better than no leader at all, isn’t it? And better than doing nothing because you’re worried you won’t measure up.”
Lanisen sits back a little, and glances at Megren.
Megren says, “If he ever asks my advice, I’ll be sure to repeat that.”
Aliyah nods at what Dreygan says, a smile coming across her face.
Dreygan takes his turn to cant his head. “If you do, send word, will you? It’ll give me something to lord over this one for a couple days.”
Dreygan jerks his muzzle vaguely Aliyah’s way as he speaks.
Megren laughs. “I promise.”
Aliyah snorts, rolling her eyes. “And to think I was going to pat you on the head.”
Lanisen grins, leaning his elbows on his knees. “What about you, Aliyah?” he asks. “What do you want to see in the next person on the throne?”
Dreygan says, “Oh dear. I missed a pat on the head. My very favorite thing. Whatever shall I do.”
Aliyah moves over to Dreygan, smirking. She pats him on the head and tries to get away without being clawed or bitten. When Lanisen addresses her, she blinks, thinking. “Honestly, I do not care who… or what this next ruler may be. I care that he or she knows the ins and outs of Narnia. I think knowing what lies beyond a certain border is key, and listening to the various packs, herds, and prides will be important in fending off potential attacks as well as building new alliances if this ruler is not familiar with some groups. Furthermore, go throughout the lands. Take time to get acquainted with those being ruled over so that they will also learn to trust in return.”
Megren nods thoughtfully. “I suppose you mean to say anyone could make themselves qualified by doing these things?”
Lanisen glances up at Megren as she speaks, and then back to Aliyah.
Dreygan, besides groaning at her as she bobs him on the head, remains silent.
Aliyah shakes her head. “No, not at all. Not qualified I mean. There are plenty of world travelers. They would have to want it, and many do not. I just mean those would be good qualities in a new ruler. If communication is lacking, please step away from the castle.” She grins.
Lanisen frowns slightly, considering this.
Megren says, “What qualifies a person to you Dreygan? If one couldn’t know whether they’d use the strategy you suggested.”
Dreygan lifts his shoulder. “Do they want it. Will them being in charge protect and help the ones below them. Can they get and keep loyalty, can they deal with a crisis and keep their nose to the trail. Can they prove themselves, here and now.”
Aliyah says, “Which means there will need to be interviews and real situations to test candidates.”
Megren asks, “What sort of test would you use?”
Dreygan says, “Guess that depends on who it is. What’s their weakest point, tailor it to that.”
Lanisen remarks, “Sounds terrifying.”
Aliyah nods. “I agree with Dreygan. It would be easy enough to get others involved if needed as it would seem more individuals wish to have a say as it stands now.” She looks to Lanisen curiously. “Why is that? What is your weakest point?”
Lanisen asks, half-laughing, “Me? Ahh…” He pauses, and then laughs again, rather self-consciously. “I don’t, I don’t know that I could pick just one!”
Dreygan cants his head. “If it’s terrifying, good. Dealing with crisis, right? A leader that falls apart when things get rough is no good.”
Megren says, “I wonder how you manufacture a safe crisis.”
Lanisen glances at her.
Aliyah looks between the three of them, her gaze finally landing on Lanisen again. “I have an idea of one weak point, but I’d rather not make assumptions. If you will all excuse me though… I have an upcoming patrol and need to find the current wolf making rounds here.”
Dreygan flicks his ear at Megren’s question and gets a crooked grin. When Aliyah speaks, he says, “‘s Drune. Probably be upriver.”
Megren says, “We’ll see you again, I’m sure, Aliyah.”
Lanisen goes still at Aliyah’s words, then shifts slightly and looks down, shamed.
Aliyah nudges the other wolf. “Thanks, so basically… Look for a river rock or boulder, and it’ll be Drune. Got it.” She snorts before offering goodbyes all around and running into the trees. She looks back before she gets too far away and gives Lanisen an apologetic look. She moves slowly back to him and speaks quietly.
Aliyah mumbles “Perhaps we can discuss it later? As I said, no assumptions, and I do mean that.”, to Lanisen.
Aliyah mumbles “Perhaps we … discuss it later? As I … no … … I … mean …”, to Lanisen.
Dreygan smirks faintly at Aliyah’s comment. “Don’t fall into the river,” he calls after her.
Megren tucks her hair behind her ear, pushing her mouth to the side.
Lanisen straightens a little and nods, smiling in answer, but he doesn’t look at Aliyah directly.
Aliyah noses his forearm and then disappears into the trees.
Dreygan waits for the sound of Aliyah to fade. “What about you two? What do you think a ruler requires?”
Lanisen rubs his wrists as Aliyah trots off and stares at the ground.
Megren releases an audible sigh as Aliyah disappears. She answers Dreygan automatically, without really thinking. “Kindness.”
Dreygan nods, an acknowledgement, and waits.
Lanisen takes a moment to realize an answer is expected of him. “Um,” he says, and shifts. “I suppose– I suppose like you said, you and Aliyah, to… know Narnia, and care about the people who live here, and know ’em well enough to… go between and make peace when needed, and bring ’em together to lead ’em when that’s what’s needed, and…” He pauses, and draws a deep breath. “And to know when to be– when to be merciful to people who maybe don’t… deserve it.”
Megren pushes her mouth to the side.
Dreygan asks, “Interesting. And what’s the worst thing for a leader?”
Megren shifts. “I think probably not taking council. There’s cruelty and greed, and violence, of course, but I think King or Queen who heeded the needs of their people would be hard pressed to also maintain those things.”
Lanisen looks up at Megren at this, then lowers his eyes.
Dreygan says, “Well, hopefully a council won’t choose someone who doesn’t take council. Wouldn’t be their best move.”
Megren laughs easily. “Fair enough.”
Lanisen grins, watching the ground.
Megren says, “Perhaps my answers are too easy. I’m not sure it’s our place as Archenlanders to influence your opinions, though.”
Dreygan smirks. “Didn’t you hear the Min–Linor? I’m all set in my opinions.”
Lanisen asks, “Are you?”
Dreygan cants his head. “Am I set? Strange question. Is there some reason you think I’m not?”
Lanisen says, “No reason, just, she thinks so, and you’re not arguin’ with her. I mean, you are, but not on that point.”
Dreygan shrugs, yet again. “I think she’s wrong and I think too many Beasts agree with her. I think that limiting their options like that could be dangerous at worst and is irritating at best.” He gives another smirk. “I also think that if I argued with everything someone thought of me, I’d never have any time to breathe, but maybe this isn’t the best example for that.”
Lanisen says, “That’s fair.”
Megren looks northwest at the sound of a small commotion in that direction. She glances at the others. “Keep talking, I’m just going to go make sure everything’s all right.”
Lanisen straightens, peering that directly. “I wish I’d brought a torch,” he says, a little anxiously.
Megren jogs off in that direction.
Dreygan stands, stretching. “Doesn’t seem too bad to me,” he says with a grin. “Want help walking back? You’ll need to keep an eye out for branches, but I can promise you’ll be able to keep up.”
Lanisen gets to his feet, grinning at the quip. “If you could point me toward the path, I’d be obliged.”
Dreygan moves to Lanisen’s side, back easily at a level for Lanisen to rest his hand on. “Been a while since /I/ got to lead anyone. Should be this way.”
Lanisen says gratefully, “Thank you. I was thinkin’ it was that way but everything does look the same in the dark.”
Dreygan says, “Smells the same, too, but that part’s good.”
Lanisen asks curiously, “What do you smell?”
Dreygan says, “Right now? Linor, Aliyah, Sir. Some dumb beasts that’ve been darting through. Other humans, off in the distance. Plants. Fresh earth where it’s been kicked up from passage.”
Lanisen humms, absorbing this, then says wistfully, “I’ve always wished I could borrow a hound’s nose, or a wolf’s. Just for ten minutes or so.”
Dreygan says, “Can’t have mine, I need it. Even for ten minutes.” He’s quiet for just a moment, then says, bringing up a point that might have been forgotten, “Not sure exactly what Aliyah said to you or what she thinks she knows. But she thinks she can talk to anyone for five minutes and have them figured out down to their core, and she’s usually wrong anyway. Don’t let it bother you too much.”
Lanisen misses a step, glancing at Dreygan, then looks down. “I won’t,” he says after a a moment.
Dreygan gets to the proper path. “Convincing.”
Lanisen says, “Sorry.”
Dreygan adopts a long-suffering tone. “Don’t apologize to me, I’m used to my wise words of wisdom being ignored.”
Lanisen snorts, but he’s smiling. After a moment, he says, “She’s prob’ly not wrong. I got a lot of, of weak points. It’s not a big deal.”
Dreygan shakes his head. “Can’t relate, I’m perfect.”
Lanisen laughs under his breath. Once they’ve reached the road to town, he says, “I know the way from here, I think.”
Dreygan exclaims, “Good. If you get lost, we’ll probably find you in… oh, two, three days? Or that human village is nearby. Good luck!”
Lanisen says, “Haa, thanks.” He starts off down the road, then turns back. “Really, thanks.”
Dreygan is starting to scent off into the woods already, but pauses long enough to acknowledge with a flash of a grin over his shoulder.
Lanisen turns back toward the town.