In the Northern Woods
The dense and varied woodland of the Northern Wood has been broken up a little here, and a real glimpse of the sky is finally visible. The oak and white pine trees still dominate the area, but a small plot of land has been cleared for a sort of garden-meadow. A goat stands in a pen near the edge of the clearing, and a deep well has been dug there as well, walled up so that no one will stumble in. Set back into the trees and brush, where it would be almost hidden if it did not have the goat pen to mark it, is a small cottage-like house. Because of the thick undergrowth, it’s rather hard to see any distinct paths
leading out of the clearing.
Jana stands in her garden, pulling up late summer carrots.
Lanisen follows the path from the watchtower, alone this time, no horse or hound to carry his things or announce his arrival. He looks thinner than he did, but his hair is neatly trimmed and he looks like he’s been getting a healthy amount of sun.
Jana straightens, rubbing her back. She squints at the figure, frowning, and drops her carrots in a basket before making her way over to him. “Lanisen?”
Lanisen hesitates, glancing at the house briefly before he crosses to meet her. “Hi,” he answers.
Jana says, “You’re out here early. Myrd’s out on the river with Tristran.”
Lanisen says, “Oh, oh, good.” He unslings his pack from his shoulder and rummages for a moment, offering her a little jar of peaches preserved and spiced with ginger: from Bergdale this time, not Archenland.
Jana says, “Oh.”
Lanisen pauses uncertainly.
Jana says, “You don’t have to bring presents.”
Lanisen says, “No, it’s– I know, they just, they looked good.”
Jana says, “Oh. Thanks.”
Lanisen asks, “How’ve you been, how’s the summer?”
Jana says, “Been getting on. You ain’t look so good.”
Lanisen looks slightly startled, but he shrugs noncommittally and gestures at the carrots. “Want help?”
Jana says, “If you like.”
Lanisen sets his pack down against a tree and turns toward the garden, rolling up his sleeves.
Jana points out the rows left to be picked and moves on toward weeding.
Lanisen settles to the work, going quiet. He glances up at the path toward the river from time to time, but the cool air is still and noises carry, and he seems at his ease.
Jana makes quick work of the weeding, and dumps it and a bucket of table scraps into the goat’s feed.
Lanisen is slower, but he reaches the end of the second row and sits back on his heels, glancing up at her.
Jana says, “Just take the basket into the house, then.”
Lanisen gets to his feet and picks up the basket, heading toward the house. “Just on the table?” he calls back.
Jana says, “In the front room.”
Lanisen nods and sets the basket down in the front room just to the side of the door. He backs out again, rubbing his elbow.
Jana asks, “You staying for supper?”
Lanisen says, “Ahh…”
Jana asks, “Yeah, I reckoned. Back to them caves again, then?”
Lanisen lifts his shoulders. “S’pose so.”
Jana says, “Got a place in the tower if you want it.”
Lanisen rubs his elbow again.
Jana begins lowering the bucket into the well.
Lanisen asks, “How’s Tristran?”
Jana says, “Keeping on with the knights and horses.”
Jana starts pulling the bucket back upward. “Thought you were all stuck up at that castle for a while.”
Lanisen says, “The rest are still there.”
Jana narrows her eyes shrewdly. “Ah.”
Lanisen says, “They knew I’d be comin’ back here come autumn.”
Jana says, “It ain’t autumn.”
Lanisen says mildly, “It’s Treeturn.”
Jana says, “…Yes.”
Lanisen says, “It’s comin’ on autumn. Nights’re gettin chilly.”
Jana says, “Got a month yet ’til anything starts turning.”
Jana says, “Well.”
Lanisen says, “It’s…” He shifts. “I’m, I’m meanin’ to stay on at the castle and work there,” he confesses. “There’s somebody here I’m meant to be learnin’ from while I’m here, so it’s– it’s not like just sittin’ around waitin’ to be useful this time. It made sense to come while there’s still– um, it’s plants, is what I’m meant to be learnin’, how to find herbs and things when they’re out, not in a garden, so it’s still early enough in the year to find ’em.”
Jana says, “Ah.”
Jana says, “You’re staying with them then.”
Lanisen asks, “Sorry?”
Jana says, “Are you staying with your master, then.”
Lanisen asks, “…Here?”
Jana says, “Yes.”
Lanisen says, “Oh– oh, no, it’s– I don’t, I haven’t met her. I got a letter I’m meant to give her when I meet her, but it’s, I don’t reckon it’ll be… um, if she agrees to teach me I don’t reckon it’ll be more than a few days a week.”
Jana says, “Who is it.”
Lanisen says, “Pan, Panacea? She’s a faun?”
Jana says, “Oh her.”
Lanisen asks, “You know her?”
Jana says, “Sure, she comes through here seeing if Tristran’s getting on all right sometimes. Ain’t gonna be a bother to you.”
Lanisen relaxes slightly at this. “She’s nice?”
Jana says, “She’s fine, yeah.”
Lanisen says, “Good, all right.”
Jana says, “I got to start supper.”
Lanisen glances quickly at the sky. “Right, of course,” he says quickly. “I’ll, I’ll get out of your hair.”
Jana says, “You can stay for supper if you want but I ain’t reckoning you do.”
Lanisen hesitates, glancing down the path to the river again. “Is he…”
Jana says, “Should be.”
Lanisen says, “Um,” and smiles nervously. “I don’t– is that, is it a good idea?”
Jana says, “Not if you’re going to be making faces like that.”
Lanisen covers his face with his hands and says, “What, like what?”
Jana says, “Nervous and covering your face with your hands.”
Lanisen drops his hands hastily.
Jana says, “You ain’t got to stay, I’m just saying I ain’t making you go.”
Lanisen says, “Maybe– maybe not tonight?”
Jana says, “Sure.”
Lanisen says, “All right.”
Jana says, “Thanks for the peaches.”
Lanisen says, “Yeah, ‘course.”
Jana asks, “Come by tomorrow?”
Lanisen says, “Sure, yeah, sure. You still got the same shift at the tower?”
Jana says, “Yeah.”
Lanisen says, “I’ll stop by.”
Jana says, “Good, then.” She nods northward. “Panacea lives up that way. There’s a bear can help you find it.”
Lanisen says, “All right. Thanks, I’ll, I’ll head that way.”
Jana says, “Sure.” She pauses. “Good to see you.”
Lanisen glances at her at this, a quick wary look to verify, and then he answers, “You too.”
Jana nods again and then heads inside.
Lanisen picks up his satchel and slips off into the lengthening shadows between the trees.