The Beach near Sted Cair
Eastern Narnia

Lanisen is sitting in the shadow of a heap of boulders a little ways from the shore, his waterskin by his side and a book in his lap. He can see most of the beach from his seat.

Leon strolls along the beach, admiring the view. He takes no notice of Lanisen for the moment, so engrossed in the view is he.

Lanisen raises his head from his book as the Faun comes into view. He doesn’t call out or disturb him, but he doesn’t return immediately to his book either. He reaches for his waterskin and takes a drink.

Leon continues gazing out to see for several long moments, before turning… and pausing abruptly. “Oh, oh my,” he says, noticing the son of Adam for the first time, “I didn’t notice you there, Sir Lanisen… Pardon my intrusion…”

Lanisen replaces the cap on his waterskin and sets it aside. “‘S no trouble,” he answers. “And I’m not– I haven’t got a title, it’s just Lanisen.”

Leon hums, nodding. “I see. I say, this is a very good spot for reading, Mr. Lanisen. Great view. It’s fairly secluded…”

Lanisen agrees, “It’s very nice, yeah.”

Leon smiles, nodding. “I like to come out here and let the sea inspire my music… A perfect spot, really.”

Lanisen lifts his eyebrows. “I see.”

Leon asks, “Oh yes. Are you a musician yourself, Mr. Lanisen?”

Lanisen says, “Ahh…” and smiles, a little apologetically. “Can’t say that I am.”

Leon nods. “Ah, well, not all are. I’m sure you can appreciate good music, though… Have you ever heard faun music?”

Lanisen says, “A couple times, yeah. I saw the dancing this last Raingiver in Bergdale.”

Leon perks at that. “Ah, you’ve been to Bergdale? What did you think of it?”

Lanisen says, “It’s, it was lovely. The peach trees were bloomin’ when I was there, it was, everything smelled so good.”

Leon nods. “I’m pleased you enjoyed it. We fauns are justly proud of our home.” He smiles, though it’s somewhat sad. “The peach trees have not been quite themselves of late, unfortunately.”

Lanisen blinks. “What do you mean?”

Leon frowns slightly. “Since the Hunt… The trees haven’t been quite themselves since it happened…”

Lanisen sits in the shade of a rocky outcropping near the shore, talking with Leon. He has a book in his lap and a waterskin by his side. “Oh,” he says, realizing. “Of course, yeah. I’m sorry.”

Dreygan meanders through the sand, occasionally breaking into a few steps of running or a leap or some other burst of motion, sending sand into the air and, when he gets too close to the waves, a few splashes of water.

Leon hrmms. “Yes, the Naiads and Dryads are less playful than usual… But what can we do?” He sighs.

Lanisen considers this, tilting his head slightly to one side. His eyes shift to the Wolf coming down the beach, and he tracks the movement curiously for a moment before he breaks into a grin. He cups his hands around his mouth and calls, “Dreygan!”

Dreygan finishes a stiff-legged landing. Panting, he turns his head towards the call and scents at the air. Then he grins and starts a high-stepping lope towards them, apparently unconcerned with the risk of tripping at the moment. “Hey.”

Lanisen asks, as Dreygan nears, “What’re you up to, then?”

Leon looks to the wolf and offers a friendly wave as well. “Greetings, friend. Having a good day, I hope?”

Dreygan says to Lanisen, “Beach is one of the best places for me to get some energy out. At least, parts of it.” To Leon, he grins. “Making it one, yeah.”

Lanisen considers the uncluttered stretch of beach and makes a noise of comprehension and agreement. He’s sitting in the shade of a rocky heap near the south end of the beach, near Leon and Dreygan. “Is there anyplace like this in the woods you can go to run?” he asks curiously.

Leon nods. “I am glad to hear that, friend wolf. And a glorious day it is, indeed.”

Dreygan jerks his muzzle as if to say ‘sorta’. “There’s a few places without too many roots or rocks. Soft enough grass. You get used to a bruise or two after a while, anyway. And just so you know, my name isn’t ‘friend’. It’s Dreygan.”

A ferret with brown eyes and chocolate-point fur (Keska) scampers out onto the beach, then skids to a stop, spraying sand about her.

Lanisen gets a rather mischievous look when Dreygan corrects Leon, and pulls his lips between his teeth to stop a smile. Catching sight of the ferret down the beach, he shades his eyes to watch.

Leon says, “Oh, yes, Dreygan… Aliyah has mentioned you before, numerous times…”

Dreygan says, “Oh? Do tell.”

Keska lifts her paws one after the other. Then she turns her head to stare out at the sea, her eyes going wide. She sniffs the air, padding closer to the water. Ducking her head a little, she dips her head to the water, flicks her tongue at it, then jumps back. She then just stands there, looking around in bewildered wonder, as if she’s never seen a beach or the ocean before.

Lanisen, still watching the Ferret and her discovery of the sea, grins and catches his lower lip between his teeth, absolutely charmed.

Leon peers over at Keska. “You shouldn’t dri…” Too late. He shrugs, then turns to Dreygan once again. “Oh, the usual things, really… Your name comes up… Usual wolfy stuff, you know… You’re from Winterden, or am I mistaken?”

Dreygan looks confused for a moment when Leon starts, then sniffs at the air and catches a whiff of the Ferret. He angles his head that way. “‘s that all? For numerous times? Huh. And yes, that’s my pack.”

Keska stands mesmerised. It is rare for any Ferret to stand so still for so long, but she just has to stare, smell, hear. “It’s so…. big,” she squeaks at last. “And I am…. so…. small!”

Leon crosses his arms. “Hey, she mentions Drune and Crenna, too, with equal measure. All we really ever do is small talk, really. I’ll ask how Winterden is doing… It’s not like she’s spilling your darkest secrets.” The faun laughs.

Lanisen dimples up at the Ferret’s observation.

Dreygan’s ears lay back as an expression of horror crosses his face. “Wait, wait, wait… she let you know about /Drune/?”

Mateo walks down the beach, as he does he picks up a stone which he skips over the water. He does walk over to the group though as he sees them.

Leon says, “Why shouldn’t she mention Drune? He is a wolf, is he not? He is of Winterden, is he not? ”

Keska is about to go over to the others when she sees the one human skip the rock. She just blinks, starting between the water and the Son of Adam. She flicks her nose over her whiskers, then moves to pick up a smaller stone. She whirls, trying to throw it, and only manages to drop it on her tail.

Dreygan shakes his head, mouth slightly open as if he’s been struck speechless. “She… I can’t believe she’d…” The stone skipping passes him by entirely, lost in the sound of waves and conversation.

Mateo arrives next to the group in time to see the ferret drop a rock on her tail, “Hello ther– Are you ok?”

Lanisen’s attention is drawn away from the Ferret by Dreygan’s affected horror. He raises his eyebrows, glancing between Dreygan and Leon.

Leon asks, “Really, did I say something offensive?”

Keska winces, then shakes herself. Her tail is all bottle-brushy, and she gives a little nod. “I’m, I’m fine. Fine, fine. Stings a little. But… but that. *That*.” She waves a paw at the ocean.

Dreygan finally lets it drop with a snort. “Nah, you’re right. Drune’s just a hunter.” He turns his head quickly towards the new voice and sniffs.

Mateo gives the ferret a look of concern, “Are you sure?” he looks over to the ocean, somewhat confused.

Leon stares at the wolf for close to a minute. “Now I possibly will have to get Aliyah to tell me your dirty secrets…”

Lanisen snorts under his breath.

Dreygan says, “Good luck with that.”

Keska nods her head. “I’m sure, sure.” She still remains standing where she is, overwhelmed, it seems, by the beach and the sea. “The sky goes on forever. The Sea…. it’s just so very…. much of all of it….”

Mateo nods a little, “Yes, yes it is”

Lanisen glances back toward the Ferret, only now registering the man who has joined her. He freezes up for half a second, then eases again.

Mateo raises his eyebrows at Lanisen questioningly.

Leon looks out toward the sea again, before setting himself down on a rock. “Greetings, son of Adam. Mateo, I believe? We met a couple days ago in the square. How goes thy day?”

Mateo asks, “Yes that’s me, I’m doing fine and you…Leon wasn’t it?”

Dreygan sits, head moving between the different speakers.

Keska finally shakes herself, and she gives a sigh. “Well. Now I have seen the Sea. I can understand now, why they say Aslan comes from over it. She rubs her paws over her face.

Lanisen offers Mateo a quick smile of greeting as he nears, the startled-deer expression entirely gone. He lifts his eyebrows at the Ferret, his smile widening. “First time?” he guesses.”

Keska nods, slipping off her little pouch. “First time, yes.” And then, it’s almost as if a spell is broken. She flops down in the sand and just wriggles and rolls briefly in ferrety delight. “Ohhh…. I needed that!”

Mateo asks, “First time of what?”

Leon nods in return to Mateo’s question. “I am Leon, yes. You quite admired my music, as I recall. Offered me some suggestions for the end of a song I was composing…”

Lanisen says to Mateo, watching Keska with amusement, “First time seein’ the sea.”

Dreygan cocks his head as he listens to the Ferret playing around in the sand. His ears angle back just a little as the others speak.

Mateo says, “Now that’s something I can’t imagine”

Leon asks, “Hmm?”

Mateo says, “Never having seen the sea”

Leon ohs. “Why, I never saw the sea until my 14th year…”

Mateo says, “I don’t even know when I first saw it, I was that young.”

Dreygan flashes a brief grin, though he remains silent.

Keska stands up again, shaking sand from her fur, nose-tip to tail-tip. And then she laughs softly. She uses her paws to smooth down her fur. “I was born in Lantern Waste. Never seen a lot of things before I came here. But the Sea…. is something I never even dreamed of.”

Lanisen asks, “What brings you here?”

Leon says, “I visited Lantern Waste a few times. Not too bad, but Bergdale is better.”

Keska licks her muzzle, and then finally waves a paw to Leon. “I… well. I wanted to see new things, travel, find a place to settle down…” She giggles softly, bobbing her head. “But… an idea. An idea about leaders. About how to choose. So. I came.” She looks at Leon, her whiskers quivering.

Dreygan tips his head. “And what idea is that?”

Mateo says, “An idea?”

Leon says, “Yes, do tell us, Friend Keska.”

Lanisen raises his eyebrows, interested and attentive.

Keska finishes grooming herself, and then rises on her two legs. “A quest. To lead Narnia, to *be* Narnia, well. One would have to be willing to… to give one’s whole self to Narnia. Some people might want to lead for power, or family honor, or to hold her like a possession. But to lead is to protect and guide and give. To be a best self for Narnia. To be there to serve, not to command. A quest to prove all this.”

Dreygan asks, “Oh? And what quest would that be to prove all this?”

Mateo asks, “What would the quest be?”

Leon hmms, quirking a brow a this. “A quest, you say? Not actually a bad idea, provided what the quest actually *is*.”

Lanisen draws up his knees and loops his arms loosely around them, listening quietly.

Keska rubs her paws together. “I haven’t figured that out yet. But sometimes when I am trying to think things, well…. I try to make songs of them. And when I was walking through the woods, I thought…. find the Heart of Narnia. And then, when I was drying off after falling in the river, I thought, find the Strength of Narnia. Here on the beach, I thought… find the Soul of Narnia. And then, you will find them in yourself. But I still… don’t know what sort of a quest that would be.”

Lanisen squints a little at this and looks at Dreygan.

Dreygan says, “So… the kind you could do without ever leaving the nice, comfy warmth of your home.”

Mateo says, “Seems kind of philosophical.”

Leon looks at Dreygan sharply.

Dreygan snorts as he stands and shakes himself off. “Narnia’s supposed heart, soul, and strength shouldn’t be ‘inside’ one person, or it’s not much of any of them. Particularly not some random human who happened to drop by. But have fun with your song, sounds cute.” He pauses a moment, sniffing at the air, then backs out of the circle until he’s sure he’s cleared all of them and heading along the water.

Lanisen looks rather exasperated, but he says nothing as Dreygan pads down the beach.

Keska blinks. “I’m not sure what fisfolokical means,” she admits. She regards the wolf thoughtfully, then sighs. “The Kings and Queens were all that. Had all that. And Aslan…. is at the heart of all. But…. Well.” She drops to all fours, deflated.

Lanisen looks back at Keska, his mouth twisting a little sympathetically, and looks down.

Leon says, “Oh Keska, don’t listen to him. Your idea isn’t bad at all, honestly.”

Keska shakes her head. “Maybe he’s right. I’m just a young, ignorant ferret, after all. Not wise like Centaurs or learned like Fauns nor educated like Sons of Adam. I just know…” She shrugs. “It was probably a stupid idea.”

Mateo says, “Hey hey don’t put yourself down like that.”

Leon nods. “Yes, don’t sell yourself short, friend Keska.”

Lanisen frowns.

Keska swallows hard, then bobs her head. “I just wanted to help. When it came to me like that, I thought, maybe it’s like I’m hearing Narnia or… something. And…. Well. THat probably *is* silly. But I still believe it’s what is needed. No matter how stupid it is.”

Mateo says, “If that’s what you believe then that’s fine”

Lanisen looks at Mateo at this.

Mateo says in response to Lanisen’s look, “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion right? And that’s hers, she shouldn’t feel stupid for it”

“Indeed not,” agrees the Faun

Keska nods, falling silent and looking out sadly at the sea

Lanisen says, “No, of course not.”

Mateo nods with a smile, “Therefore, it’s fine, right?”

Lanisen lifts his eyebrows and nods.

Leon looks at the two men.

Mateo says, “Well, I ought to be heading back, it was nice running into you all, bye”

Leon looks to Lanisen. “That Mateo seems a decent sort.”

Lanisen agrees, watching him go, “He’s not bad.”

Leon looks out at the horizon. “You ever been to sea, Mr. Lanisen?”

Lanisen says, flushing slightly, “It’s really– it’s just Lanisen. Um, no, I never been on a ship.”

Keska turns her head. “What’s a ship?” she asks softly.

Leon says, “A ship is a big boat that folks sail on the sea with.”

Lanisen says, slightly surprised, “It’s a–” He looks out at the peninsula, shading his eyes. “You can’t, you can’t see it from here, but if you go down on the other side of the castle, you’ll see a couple in the harbor.”

Keska blinks, licking her nose. “Ermm… what’s a boat?”

Leon blinks. “Why, a boat is… It’s a thing people get into to go on water, so they don’t have to get wet.”

Lanisen looks suspiciously at Keska.

Keska tilts her head, snuffling briefly at the son of Adam. And then her eyes light as she turns to Leon. “Oh! So it’s rather like a raft, then?”

Leon nods. “Precisely! A ship is a REALLY BIG raft.”

Lanisen reaches over to sketch the shape of a boat in the sand between himself and Keska. “More like, mm, a bucket. But like this, instead of round.”

Chlamash makes his way down towards the beach from the castle, a guard following him closely. He is some distance yet from the others so he doesn’t notice them as of yet. He turns to the ocean watching the waves as they flow in and flow out.

Leon chuckles. “Ah, that is more correct than a really big raft, yes…”

Keska rubs at the back of her ears. “So… a… a bucket-raft, then? Looks like a bucket, acts like a raft?” She scratches some of the sand away.

Lanisen says slowly, “Nnoo, acts more like a bucket. You ever seen a bucket when it’s floatin’ in water?” His eyes slip down the beach toward the other man and his guard, and he goes tense and startled for another split second before he recognizes the Tarkaan.

Leon glances at Lanisen. “Are you alright?” He looks in the direction of Chlamash, then back to Lanisen. “You seemed tense again.”

Keska shakes her head. “I never saw a bucket float before, no. Though we used it as a sled once. *That* was fun. Until mother caught us.” She shrugs, then glances over at more Men.

Lanisen says, “I’m fine, thank you.”

Leon grins at the ferret. “That sounds quite fun, actually.” The faun waves to the approaching Tarkaan. “Hail, Chlamash,” he calls out.

Lanisen gets to his feet to bow as Chlamash comes nearer.

Keska chuffs softly. “It was worth the week of no desserts. And then Father made us a sled. But he made it look rather like a bucket. Because it was best to have a thing to hold onto. Hello, other Son of Adam,” she adds as the stranger approaches. She does not bow.

Chlamash makes a comment to his companion, as they walk along but other than that seems to be completly focused on the sea. His hair blows around his face with the sea breeze, and his tunic seems to be somewhat worn as well. He glances up as his name is called observing the company. “Hail, Leon. Lanisen and to you as well, small one.” He replies, nodding to each in turn.

Leon chuckles at Keska. “Sounds like a good trade, indeed.” He looks up and enquires of Chlamash, “How goes thy day?”

Lanisen murmurs, “Afternoon, sir.”

Keska tilts her head. “Hello.” She steps closer, looking at his clothes, then the others. Her whiskers twitch, and she circles him, sniffing.

Leon asides to Lanisen, “I don’t think she’s ever seen a Tarkaan before.”

Chlamash releases a breath. “It is as the gods have decreed it to be. I cannot speak ill of their judgments. And of yours?” He nods to Lanisen, “Afternoon,” before turning his attention to the Ferret sniffing around him.

Lanisen watches Keska, a bit bemused, and looks back at Chlamash to see how he is reacting to the inspection.

Keska shakes her head. “No, never seen nor smelled a Tarkaan before. Nor heard the voice. And what gods have decreed what?” She sits up on her hindlegs, peering up at the Tarkaan with wide eyes. Even her ears twitch.

Leon looks to Chlamash, curious at the answer himself.

Chlamash seems to take this inspection with good grace or at the very least longsuffering, as if this is to be expected in the land he is now residing in.

Lanisen’s eyes glint with mirth, and he has to duck his head.

Leon looks on the verge of chuckling, but refrains. “Ah, my friend Chlamash, I told my uncle of your desire to try our tobacco. He was much enthused to offer some for your needs.”

Lanisen wrinkles up his nose.

Chlamash says, “The gods of the world and of man’s destinies, the gods of my homeland, though you have different ones here, I am come to believe,” he replies to the ferret, turning to Leon as he speaks.

Leon shows no outward reaction to Chlamash’s talk of his homeland’s gods, instead smiling mildly.

Chlamash doesn’t seem as enthused with Leon’s reply as he may have other days but offers a polite reply none the less. “He is most gracious, I pray you will convey to my most grateful thanks to him.” He seems somewhat fatigued actually.

Keska blinks. “We…. we have Aslan, son of the Emperor-Over-the-Sea,” murmurs Keska, her voice somewhst shocked. But then it turns warm and compassionate. “You poor, poor son of Adam! Is that why you came to Narnia? That you might find Aslan and his wisdom and kindness? Because without him, what good are fancy clothes and jewels and shiny things? Even really pretty shiny things? Though maybe they give comfort to you. You poor man. Welcome to Narnia.” And the little ferret tries to hug him, wholly misunderstanding everything.

Leon blinks, and looks down at Keska. “Ah, err…”

Lanisen bites his lip and makes a slightly apologetic face at Chlamash.

Chlamash glances down to the small creature trying to attach itself to him. Emotions simmer in his eyes beneath his expression, but they do not rise to the surface. He glances between Leon and Lanisen, before returning his gaze which has mellowed to the small creature. “I thank you for your welcome, small one, but I fear you are mistaken.”

Keska trills softly. “Keska. My name’s Keska. And it’s all right. You’ll see. Everything will be all right now.” She chuffs softly to herself. “You don’t have to be afraid, especially not about mistakes I make. I usually don’t make the same mistakes twice. Usually. But really, I mean, I have never *met* Aslan, but I know he’s good and kind and…. well. There’s no mistaking that.” She looks to Leon and the other human here, maybe a little confused.

Lanisen stands near the end of the beach, where the sand turns to rocks and boulders, with two Narnians and Chlamash. He’s worrying his lower lip and looks uncomfortable.

Leon says, “It’s alright, Keska. I *have* met Aslan, and you’re quite correct, He is all that and more, my friend Keska.””

Darrin comes into view, his feet bare and trousers rolled up, boots in hand, walking just at the edge of the waterline.

Lanisen blows out a breath. His eyes dart watchfully to the new figure walking down the beach and he goes still for a moment, then relaxes, brightening up.

Chlamash is silent for a moment, face purposely schooled to impassive as he tries to make sense of the small creature’s words. He seems very much relieved when the creature releases his leg and he turns to follow Lanisen’s glance, content to let the talk of Aslan and ‘gods’ lie for right now.

Leon is pleased to let the matter drop as well, and he waves toward Darrin in a friendly manner.

Keska takes a step back. “Thank you Leon. I was beginning to worry I’d said something horribly wrong.” Then she chuffs softly. “Don’t you worry, Tarkaan. We’ll feed you up right in Narnia, and soon you won’t need all the shiny things to keep you happy.” Though, being a ferret, she can’t help staring at the pretty shinies.

Darrin catches sight of the group, and Leon’s wave. He waves back, and wanders their direction.

Lanisen makes a rueful face at Keska’s words and shifts his weight, stepping backwards slightly to widen the circle for Darrin’s arrival.

Chlamash raises an eyebrow elegantly high at the ferret’s words, “Indeed. Is that all there is to it, friend?” There is a kinda of bitterness behind his words while still veiled by courtesy.

Leon glances sideways at Chlamash, but says nothing. He looks down at Keska. “Did you know there are islands far out across that sea?” he asks her quickly, trying to abruptly steer the conversation in a different direction.

Keska thinks a moment, and then she shakes her head. “No. No. Happiness…. it isn’t about things. But it isn’t just about eating well. it’s not about being comfortable. Happiness…. is about being comfortable being yourself. But it’s more than that, too. Happiness is *peace* inside. It’s being compassionate and generous and decent and just…. oh. I don’t have all the words for it. It’s one of those things that just *are*, deep down. Like spring dew on the grass or sunrise through mist and spiderwebs. It’s….” Her voice trails off, and she glances towards Leon, though the lure of the shinies is so very, very strong. “Islands?”

Lanisen murmurs quellingly, “Miss Keska…”

The guard behind beside Chlamash shifts position, bowing to Darrin as he approaches, and motions for Chlamash to follow him. “Alright, Tarkaan, Let’s keep moving.” He nods to those gathered and waits for Chlamash.

Darrin comes into hearing range in time to catch the tension in the conversation. He bows to Chlamash. “Chlamash Tarkaan, good day,” he says, acknowledging the other lord first, with courtesy. “And to you all as well, Lanisen, Leon, Keska.” He nods.

Lanisen frowns at the guard and deliberately bows to Chlamash. When Darrin joins them, he bows again, and says, “Evening, sir.”

Leon inclines his head. “Good eve, Sir Chlamash.”

Chlamash’s face goes impassive again at the approach of Sir Darrin. He bows to him. “Good Eve, Sir Darrin.” He nods to all gathered before turning and making his way down the beach, his guard following.

Keska settles herself in the sand, making sure to be out of the way of all the feet coming and going, and the humans they’re attached to. She waits patiently to hear of the islands, though as the Tarkaan leaves she cannot help but murmur, “What a strange man. Poor thing.”

Linor walks onto the beach with a carefully carried bag of cookies. She sees Keska staying off to the side and goes over towards here

Lanisen levels a serious look on Keska, sitting down on a boulder. “Chlamash Tarkaan deserves respect more than pity, Miss.”

Darrin offers a smile to the Tarkaan as he straightens from his bow, but seeing the look on Chlamash’s face, the smile fades, and disappointment flashes across Darrin’s face when Chlamash has turned away. The expression is so brief as to be barely noticeable before Darrin is back to his usual largely cheerful mien. He glances between Lanisen and Keska.

Linor says, “I rather like Mr. Chlamash, and he was a special guest of King Edmund, so if Edmund thought he was worth having around, I think that that makes him above pity myself.” she said before pulling a cookie out of her bag and handing it towards Darrin. “Megren said she wanted to try some sugar cookies, so I brought these with in case I saw her today”

Keska tilts her head. “I respect everyone,” she answers truthfully. “So what you’re saying doesn’t make much sense to me. But I don’t understand why I should not also pity him. He didn’t seem very happy.” She glances to Linor and waves a paw.

Leon nods agreement. “Lanisen is correct, Keska. Chlamash is a proud son of Adam, a noble, I believe… And I am proud to consider him a friend. You meant no harm, Miss Keska.”

Oren walks down the beach from the direction of his ship, ambling toward the group.

Lanisen looks unsatisfied with Keska’s answer, but he says nothing more. He glances at Darrin.

Darrin accepts the cookie from Linor with a wide grin. “Oh! Thank you, Linor, that’s very kind.” He takes a bite and makes a pleased noise, giving Linor an appreciative look before tuning back in to the conversation. “Tarkaan is a nobleman’s title, of equal status in Calormen to Archenland’s ‘lord,'” he confirms. “As a matter of nobility, Chlamash Tarkaan outranks me, in fact.”

Lanisen blinks. “…I didn’t know that.”

Darrin lifts both shoulders. “I am a second son and have a rather minor title in comparison to my father,” he explains.

Linor looks happy that Darrin looks happy with her cookies. “I didn’t know that either. I probably shouldn’t call him Mr. Chlamash then, he is very proud, but he’s always been rather kind to me, he didn’t even correct me on his title.

Lanisen squints, but glances around the gathering and doesn’t ask further.

Oren joins the group, apparently having caught Darrin’s last comment. “Sir Darrin, good day. What is you father’s role, if I may ask?”

Keska shakes herself. “Imagine…. imagine having to always be wearing that hot, uncomfortable clothing, and walk about with people with…. swords who are, I guess protecting you, so that your life is never fully safe, and you always have to appear proud nd powerful, and can’t ever go out and just run barefoot in the dew or in the sand.” Then she looks at Darrin. “But I’m Narnian. And not a Son of Adam or Daughter of Eve. I will give him the same respect I give anyone else, for that is right and just. But he does not outrank *me* unless he has title here in Narnia.” She fluffs herself. “Which doesn’t make him any less deserving of respect. But I won’t treat him as *more* than any Narnian because of that.

Linor shrugs. “I suppose it’s different for Chlamash Tarkaan because that’s how he grew up. I would think that a son of Adam would think it rather hot to have all of my fur, but I grew up with it and I rather like it. I don’t treat Chlamash Tarkaan with extra respect because he’s nobility, I treat him with extra respect because he’s a guest of the castle and I work in the castle.”

Lanisen startles when Oren joins them, having apparently been too distracted by Chlamash’s departure to see the Duke’s arrival. He folds his arms over his middle and draws a breath.

Darrin bows to the Duke. “Good day, your grace,” he says, giving Oren a smile. “My father, Lord Shar, is Lord of Coghill, one of the mountainous regions in Archenland. We are most known for our horses, and our stonemasons and quarries. My elder brother, Lord Dar, is the Steward to King Lune, a position I am to inherit when my father steps aside and leaves his duties to Lord Dar.”

Oren returns the bow. “The position of Steward is a venerable one and nothing to take lightly, though your title may not reflect its value.”

Darrin says, “Well, my actual title is Master of Stonevale Hall, my property in Coghill, but I don’t reside there because of my duties at court, and make little use of the title, really. As Steward is not yet my position, and my real duties lie in the work I do within Anvard and as a close advisor to King Lune, I prefer mostly to go by my occupation of Knight, and my title of Sir.”

Leon turns to the newcomer. “Greetings, son of Adam. A pleasure to have you join us,” he says, utterly unaware of the man’s identity.

Oren turns. “Well met, my good faun. Might I have the pleasure of your acquaintance?”

Keska shakes her head. “I didn’t treat him with disrespect, so I don’t understand at all. Maybe I’m just not cut out for life beyond Lantern Waste.”

Leon smiles. “Certainly. I am Leon, from Bergdale. And to whom do I have the pleasure of addressing?”

Oren says, “Duke Oren of Lapidos in Terebinthia.”

Linor exclaims, “You’re welcome here, Keska! I admit that it’s more complicated here with all of the sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve, and all of the politics of so many animals and creatures living together, but it’s rather enjoyable once you get used to it. I don’t know where I’d ever be able to bake in a kitchen so fine.” She looks over to Oren, but doesn’t say anything as he’s introducing himself to Leon”

Darrin glances at Keska, tipping his head. “Ah, if you are referring to Calormene garb as hot and uncomfortable, my friend, I must correct you there. Calormen is largely a desert country, and as such their clothing is designed /not/ to be stifling. The cloth breathes more than one might expect.”

Leon inclines his head. “Well met, Duke Oren of Lapidos. I have heard talk of your visit in town. Allow me to extend a welcome to Narnia.”

Oren says, “My thanks.”

Leon smiles. “I hope your visit has been most enjoyable?”

Keska flicks her ears. “I suppose….” She sighs. “But….” And then she closes her eyes and shrugs her shoulders.

Oren says, “Very much so. It’s good to set foot in Narnia again.”

Lanisen glances at Oren at this.

Leon perks his ears. “Ah, this isn’t your first visit to our land?”

Linor tilts her head at Keska’s discomfort and pulls another cookie out of the bag. It’s a sugar cookie with vanilla frosting and red colored sugar with yellow sugar in the image of a rampant lion on it. “Would you like a cookie?”

Oren says, “No, I visited perhaps five years ago and have longed to return since.”

Leon ahhs, and nods. “I think I can understand that feeling. There is no other land like Narnia anywhere.”

Oren asks, “Have you yourself travelled then, Leon?”

Leon nods his head. “I have, with my uncle when I was younger. He used to be something of a seafarer, in his younger days, and took me along on a voyage once. That was close to a decade ago now…”

Oren looks delighted. “Where did you travel?”

Lanisen keeps quiet, standing beside Darrin and a half-step behind, though he glances from speaker to speaker.

Leon says, “Ah, we traveled around the Lone Islands, thereabouts…””

Keska nods her head. “Yes, I’d like a cookie. Thanks.” She licks at it, then begins to nibble at it. “But… well… I don’t suppose I’ll be needing to deliver my idea anymore, so….”

Oren looks impressed. “Quite a voyage!”

Linor asks, “Oh? What idea were you going to deliver?”

Leon glances to Keska at this, but stays quiet, instead replying to Oren, “Oh yes, you should meet my Uncle Cornelius. He’s “retired” now, and doesn’t go traveling like he used to, but he is still rather active in Sted Cair…”

Oren asks, “Did you stop at any of the other isles on your way?”

Keska fluffs her fur. “About how to find a new leader for Narnia. For *all* Narnians.” She sighs softly. “Instead of getting told who, apparently, I have to respect more than others. I….” She sighs. “I’m sorry. I should go.”

Lanisen lifts his eyebrows, then narrows one eye at Keska.

Oren glances toward the ferret, brows drawn slightly together. “Are you well, Madam?”

Linor says, “You don’t have to go, what was your idea? ”

Leon shrugs. “I believe we sailed past a few other islands… They didn’t look all that hospitable… None worth landing on, really.”

Keska sighs miserably. “A quest. But the Wolf already thought it was stupid, and one of the Sons of Adam thought it was too fisoflosical, but I don’t know which of the sons of Adam are even Narnian….” She shrugs. A quest for the ruler to find the heart and strength and soul of Narnia…. in Narnia… and in him or herself.” She turns to the new human who spoke to her, and she nods her head. “I am well…. well-ish. Thank you. But I’m not any title such as madam. Just Keska.”

Lanisen rubs his forehead.

Linor exclaims, “Ooooh, a quest!” Linor says, perking up. “I actually rather like that idea. One to show how brave and clever any potentual ruler would be.””

Megren comes walking up the beach, hair damp, hands in her pockets.

Darrin glances between himself and the other humans present, as if not sure how to take the implication that they all resemble each other inherent in this statement. “Um,” he says. “That’s not a very concrete goal, Keska. What does that even mean – the heart and strength and soul of Narnia? Would there be a test? And how would you determine who had truly found it if you can’t quantify exactly what ‘it’ is?”

Leon turns to the Duke. “Tell me, sir, you are from Terebinthia, correct?”

Linor becomes distracted when Megren comes onto the beach. “Dame Megren!” she exclaims before grabbing her bag and scampering towards her before pulling a sugar cookie with vanilla frosting and decorated with red and yellow sugar crystals in the shape of a rampent Lion. “I made the Christmas cookie! Though I tried to make them look a little more like Summer cookies.”

Lanisen’s eyes follow Linor’s scampering with some surprise. He bows toward Megren.

Oren answers Leon. “Ah, yes.” He then responds to Keska and Darrin. “I tend to agree with Sir Darrin, though I think the answer to the riddle is clear.”

Megren gets a cheery grin at the sound of her name, which only grows bigger when the Mink comes bounding toward her. Her brows lift with delight at the site of the cookie. “Linor! This is beautiful. It must have taken hours to get the details so well.”

Darrin spreads his hands. “By all means, please enlighten us, your grace,” he says, offering a smile to make it clear this is a truly curious request, rather than a demand.

Keska rises on her hindpaws. “You can’t quantify Aslan either. No. Yet he brought the Royal Children, and *they* found the Heart and Soul and Strength of Narnia and held it within themselves. You can’t quantify *Narnia* either. Oh, you can plot borders, but that’s not all Narnia is. Try to reduce Narnia to quantify and all you have is a pretty bit of land with dumb beasts and silent trees. No. There *is* a heart. A soul. A strength. And even if I don’t have the right words for it, it doesn’t mean I can’t feel them like I feel the wind change before a storm.” She shakes her head. “Look deeper. To lead Narnia is to have that heart and strength and soul in you too.”

Linor looks rather proud “It did when I first made the design on parchment paper, but then all I had to do was lay the lion cut out on top of the frosting and sprinkle the red sugar and then I took off the parchment paper and added the yellow sugar.” she looked at her paws. “Sometimes having tiny paws is good for small works like adding yellow sugar”

Lanisen blinks at Keska a little uncertainly.

Megren exclaims, “Oh! Isn’t that clever?”

Leon claps. “Well said, Keska!” He turns to the Duke, another question on his mind, but he waits to ask until the son of Adam speaks.

Linor swishes her tail and tries to look humble. “I’ve had a good teacher. And I think it’s rather smart that you’re a lady knight. Do you shoot arrows like Queen Susan?”

Megren exclaims, “I do! Though I’m sure I can’t claim to be as good as she was — her skills were renowned even in Archenland. But my father was a hunter, so I’ve been shooting since I was about half-sized.”

Linor nods “No one could ever be as good of a shot as Queen Susan, but I’m sure that you are still a very good shot, after all, being a guard is your job, you don’t have being queen getting in the way of your practicing. Her Majesty loved parties and her queenly duties, but I know that she also relished having some time alone to practice her aim.

Megren says, “I suppose you must have gotten to know her quite well, working in the castle.”

Darrin looks distinctly uncomfortable. “I don’t think – well, I am not Narnian, and while I have a great affection for this country, I won’t try to tell you how to describe your own nation. However, as for my own country… Archenland, it is true, is more than its borders and the land within them, but I wouldn’t say you can’t quantify what it is that makes Archenland, Archenland. It’s quite simple, really – the people are what make the country. From the people of Streamwood Settlement in my home, to the ebb and flow of the marketplace in Anvard, what unifies the country is the soul of its people. A love of one’s people, that’s the most basic element to leadership there is, the first lesson I was taught. It is what makes King Lune a great King of Archenland, the way he loves our people and does what is best for them in all things. It is, I believe, a large part of what made the Kings and Queens of Narnia great.”

Lanisen breathes out in satisfaction at Darrin’s answer and nods slightly.

Oren looks a little disgruntled as Keska cuts in before he can respond. “I should have said Aslan is the obvious answer to your riddle.”

Leon nods as well. “Words of wisdom, Darrin.”

Eimear comes down to the beach, eyes growing wide at seeing everyone who is gathered here. She almost turns away but doesn’t and walks slowly over.

Leon turns and spots his fellow faun. “Eimear! I’m so pleased to see you!” Then he turns back to Oren. “Speaking of Terebinthia, Bracken just told me the other day he was trying to do some historical researching involving Terebinthia…”

Darrin inclines his head to Duke Oren, conceding the point with a faint smile of approval.

Keska turns to Leon and offers him a brief, grateful look. And then she turns to Darrin. “And that is *part* of the Heart of Narnia. But Aslan…” She looks to Oren and shakes her head. “Begging your pardon, Son of Adam, but Aslan is the Ruler above out rulers. He it is that gave the Kings and Queens leave to rule, as it were. But he told us to choose. Aslan… he cannot be here all the time. So. Maybe he wants us to choosebecause he thinks that we…. we have grown too. And maybe that is also…. why we have to learn *how* to choose. So. Maybe *my* answer doesn’t make sense to you. But that doesn’t make is any less valid.” And her whiskers twitch firmly, as if to say, so there.

Lanisen pushes his mouth to the side.

Eimear gives Leon a smile and comes over to his side, looking at the others questioningly. She turns to Leon and asks, “What is going on here?”

Linor exclaims, “Oh, I’d best get back to the kitchen myself!” Linor says with a little bow towards the lady night. “I hope that you have an enjoyable evening!” she said to the group before walking back towards the castle, intentionally leaving behind the bag of cookies”

Darrin’s brow furrows and he clasps his hands, along with the one holding his boots, together behind his back. His toes sink into the sand.

Megren calls, “Oh — good evening then!” She starts to stop the Mink to hand the bag back, but it doesn’t take her too long to figure out the intention, and she picks up to bring it toward the group instead.

Leon says to Eimear, “Ah, we’ve been conversing at length for several hours. And now cookies, it seems…”

Keska’s whiskers droop, and she turns away, walking to the water’s edge. She looks up to the sky and goes still again, letting the waves lick at her paws.

Eimear nods and crosses her arms, watching the conversation.

Megren tilts her head, watching the Ferret leave the group just as she’s about to join it. After half a moment’s decision-making, she splits off after Keska and extends the bag of cookies. “Hello,” she says, and jostles the bag a bit by way of offer.

Lanisen steps back a little from the group to watch Keska go, his forehead furrowing. He starts to go after her, but pauses when Megren does so first.

Darrin looks over at the newcomer. “Hello there,” he says to the faun, with a smile.

Keska turns her head. “Hullo,” she says, her voice hard to hear above the surf. “Thanks, but I’ve had one already. And one is big enough for me.” She brushes her paws over her face, perhaps wiping sand or sea-spray away. “Don’t mind me. I just… right.”

Leon looks down at Keska with concern.

Megren plunks down in the sand with her legs straight in front of her, the surf washing up past her hips when it comes in especially far. She makes sure to leave the bag a little higher up where it won’t get wet. “It is a /lovely/ sea,” she observes.

Keska sinks down in the sand, letting the water wash over most of her. Her claws keep her anchored. “It *is* lovely. And yet…. lonely, too.” Her ears flick towards Megren. “Or maybe that is me. I’ve never not-belonged somewhere before.”

Leon asks, “Ah, Miss Eimear, how was your day?”

Eimear nods her head and smiles at the Son of Adam who greeted her. Then to Leon she grins, “I have been well. I was able to finish my work early. How are you?”

Megren tilts her head. “I think it’s easy to feel small when there’s lots of bigness. But there’s also lots of different kinds of bigness? I grew up in the woods and they’re big and scary to most of the people I know, but they’re close and comfortable to me. Anvard was big and scary, but when I stepped back and decided I wanted to learn from all the different people I met and new things I was encountering, it got more exciting than lonely. Now I’m a knight, and I live along again, and I have all sorts of new rules to learn and new things I have to do, and sometimes it feels so much larger than anything I could possibly handle. But I think your sea metaphor is a good one, because if you want to enjoy the sea, you don’t /handle/ it, you ride it. You don’t shape it, you just learn how to follow it in a way that gets you going the general direction you were hoping for.” She squints up an eye. “Maybe that’s /too/ metaphory.”

Leon smiles warmly. “I am doing *very* well myself. It has been a most glorious day.”

Darrin walks further away from the water’s edge to sit down and put his boots back on.

Eimear smiles back and takes a tie from her arm to pull her hair back. “I am glad it has been good for you.”

Oren appears distracted for a moment, but then turns to respond to Leon. “I beg yor pardon? You had a question regarding Terebinthia?”

Lanisen sort of trails after Darrin.

Darrin glances at Lanisen as he wipes some sand from the bottom of one foot. He raises both brows at him in what seems like a commiserating sort of expression.

Keska shakes her head. “It’s more like parts of the sea are trying to tell me how to live on the land. And… I like the sea and I don’t want it to go away…. but…..”

Lanisen murmurs, “Heavy talk.”

Leon smiles at the other faun. “I wonder if I could invite you to tea tomorrow? Or something similar…?” His attention turns to the Duke again, and he nods. “Yes. Bracken was, ah…” He looks at everyone around, then lowers his voice a bit, “He was asking if my Uncle Cornelius might know anything of a Narnian prince who married a Terebinthian noblewoman…”

Eimear grins at Lanisen quickly.
Eimear nods at Leon. “Sure. I will be free.”

Lanisen ducks his head and smiles back at the Faun.

Megren tilts her head, trying to parse what’s happened to the metaphor here.

Oren tilts his head slightly. “Bracken?”

Darrin nods to Lanisen.
Darrin mumbles “Indeed.”, to Lanisen.
Darrin mumbles something incomprehensible to Lanisen.

Leon claps. “I look forward to it, Miss Eimear!” To the Duke he responds, “He’s a dwarf, friend of mine.”

Eimear moves to go sit by the sea.

Darrin rolls his trouser legs down to their full length when his boots are back on. He says something quietly to Lanisen.

Keska’s ears flick back as she catches some of what Leon is saying. And she gives a little hiccup of surprise, then shakes her head. “No.” she murmurs. And then, more coherently, “Excuse me. I should go. I… I have said what I needed to say. Now is the time to be going home. Thanks for offering the cookies.” She sighs and starts to wriggle herself out of the sand and the surf.

Darrin mumbles “Perhaps a strategic retreat is in order, since it would be more diplomatic to stop offering my opinion.”, to Lanisen.
Darrin mumbles “… a … retreat is in … since it … be more diplomatic to … offering … …”, to Lanisen.

Lanisen glances at him, then looks back at Megren and Keska before he answers.
Lanisen mumbles “Can I walk with you, sir?”, to Darrin.
Lanisen mumbles “… … walk … … …”, to Darrin.

Leon says, “Oh, good night, Miss Keska. Sleep well.”

Darrin says, “Of course.”

Megren says, “Oh… sure, all right. I hope the sea gets happy for you again.”

Eimear sits down by the wet sand, sinking her feet in.

Lanisen says, “Thank you.” He crosses to pick up his waterskin and his book from where he left them by the rocks, then returns to Darrin. He looks very tired.

Leon moves to sit nearby. “Have you ever traveled, Eimear?”

Darrin bows to Duke Oren and bids the group as a whole a quiet farewell, before starting up the beach towards the castle.

Eimear looks to Leon. “Sadly I have not. You said you had been to Narnia, right?”

Oren asks, “I don’t believe I’m familiar with him. Why was he researching that?”

Lanisen follows after Darrin.

Leon says, “Good evening, Darrin, Lanisen…”

Keska sighs. “Maybe it will. Somewhere far from here, though.” She turns to look at Leon and her eyes are over-bright. “I’m not going to sleep. I’ll be catching supplies for a journey. You’ve been kind. And you,” she adds to Megren. “THank you.” She frees herself from the sand with a plop.

Eimear says goodnight to those who are leaving.

Leon nods to Eimear. “I visited Archenland one time, yes.” He looks back to Oren. “He works at the Castle, I believe… As for why, he didn’t say.” The faun smiles at Keska. “I hope to see you again.”

Megren pushes herself up out of the sand and water and dusts the mud off her behind as well as she can, which is not very. She watches Keska depart for a moment befor going to catch up to her fellow Archenlanders.

Eimear nods at Leon and looks out to the sea.

Darrin gives Megren a smile as she falls into step with them.

Lanisen glances over his shoulder as Megren catches up, and smiles and steps apart from Darrin so she can walk in the middle.

Megren slips in easily between them and immediately starts chattering as they disappear down the beach.


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