You find yourself standing in the middle of a fairly well-used forest path. The main of it extends to the north, toward the river, and south toward a fairly large clearing ahead. A smaller branch winds off to the west, disappearing in the trees.
A blur of red-brown fur might be the first thing espied upon setting foot on the path, Ayla pouncing on a squirrel with single-minded determination. Capturing it between her teeth, she growls, biting down swiftly to end the creature’s life as quickly as possible before devouring it eagerly.
Lanisen, coming up the path from the north, comes to a slightly startled halt at the explosion of activity ahead of him.
A wolf with silver gray tipped ears and liquid brown eyes (Ayla) finishes her small meal before wheeling toward the sound of footsteps, falling into a crouch and slinking away from the son of Adam nearing her.
Lanisen says, “Oh! Oh, oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sneak up on you.”
Ayla paws uncertainly at the ground, eyeing the son of Adam before her warily while the tip of her tail twitches. Averting her eyes, she sniffs the ground, then peeks back at the man before her. “It’s all right,” she states after a time. “I’ve not seen a son of Adam before. You are a son of Adam.” The words come as more of a statement than a question.
Lanisen answers, “That’s right, yeah.” He seems conscious of her unease, and carefully avoids looking at her too directly. He keeps his hands where she can see them and doesn’t move too quickly when he lowers himself to sit in the grass next to the path. “I’m a human, my name’s Lanisen.”
“I’m Ayla,” the she-wolf states, keeping a wary gaze on Lanisen and settling back on her haunches well out of touching or sword range.”What brings you to Narnia, Lanisen, son of Adam?”
Lanisen says, “Hello, Ayla.” He doesn’t seem to have a sword. He folds his legs and rests his arms loosely on his knees, his hands in clear sight. “I’m just visitin’ some friends. They live up, mm, a little ways northeast of the Lamp-post.”
“Any wolf friends?” Ayla asks curiously, one paw batting at a passing butterfly for no apparent reason save that it is there. Her eyes fixate on Lanisen after her momentary distraction, watching him with a keen gaze.
Lanisen says, squinting up at the trees overhead, “Ahh, in Ulfden… Caileana? I don’t think she’s back from Sted Cair yet, though.”
Ayla lets out an acknowledging growl. “I’m an Ulfden wolf,” she admits. “But I don’t know everyone from my pack yet. I’m a bit of a recluse.” She pauses, eyes flicking rom Lanisen into the trees nearby. “At least, that’s what the centaurs tell me.”
Lanisen asks interestedly, “Are there many centaurs around here?”
“One or two on the rare occasion when I leave the den,” Ayla admits, standing and inching closer to Lanisen, though stopping, still, well out of touching range. “I suppose they’re off at the castle now, what with our Kings and Queens vanishing…”She falls silent, lowering her head mournfully. “I hope they are at least safe.”
Lanisen lowers his head slightly, his eyes going serious and sad. He hesitates, then says, “I think they must be; I think– I think Aslan wouldn’t have said… I think they must be safe; or at least, if they’re not exactly safe, they must be where they can, where they can help other people be safe.”
Ayla expels a chuffing breath. “Aslan would not lead us wrong,” she states with a finality born of deep belief. “I am just a young wolf, and I know little of the political maneuvering happening here. But even if Narnia is in chaos, Aslan must have a reason for it.” She hesitates, then, “Right?”
Lanisen says, “Oh,” and wrinkles up his nose. “I don’t think Narnia’s in chaos. Narnia’s carryin’ on about as it has been, as far as I’ve seen.”
Ayla ducks her head, though one brown eye still peers carefully at her human companion. “Like I said,” she states quietly. “I do not leave the den much. I am afraid I may not be the bravest of wolves.” Lifting her head, she peers into the sky, her lips drawing back over her teeth in a wolfish grin. “Though I will admit to loving the life Aslan has given me. Wolves do not need much to make us happy.” Lowering her head, she peers curiously at Lanisen. “Are sons of Adam the same, Lanisen, son of Adam?”
Lanisen tilts his head slightly to give this question consideration. “I suppose it depends,” he says thoughtfully. “I suppose some humans might say they don’t need much, and some would say they do.”
Ayla flicks her tail in a manner that could not be anything but dismissive. “You humans are very complicated,” she decides, snuffling along the ground before flipping over a rock with her paw, only to find nothing of interest beneath. “Things are or they are not with wolves.”
Lanisen ducks his head to hide a grin at this.
Ayla tips her head back, sniffing at the air. “Do you humans hunt, Lanisen, son of Adam?”
Lanisen nods. “I don’t, much,” he admits. “But some do, yeah.”
“How?” Ayla demands to know. “From what I’ve been told, you humans could not spy a deer if she laid her young in front of you? You really should have wolf companions while hunting,” she decides. Her conclusion lacks judgement; it is simply a stated opinion. “How could you possibly succeed alone?”
Lanisen is sitting in the grass next to the path, his body language decidedly nonthreatening, talking with Ayla. “Well,” he says, and frowns slightly. “When I was doin’ my own hunting, I mostly set snares for rabbits. Other folks, they’ll wait by the water or someplace for somethin’ to come by, and they’ll use a bow and arrow. Other people have dogs or hawks they’ve trained to help ’em.”
Ayla ponders this, pawing at the ground. She sits well out of touching range of her companion, her posture wary, but curious. “That is very smart,” she admits after a time, her nose twitching; she casts her eyes about, lowering her snout to the forest floor. “Humans are very intelligent, even if they can’t smell properly.”
Lanisen’s mouth curves up at the corners and he lifts one eyebrow. “Thank you,” he says gravely.
Pheeobe walks into along the footpath, humming and tail wagging. “Hello you two!”
Ayla inclines her head. “Well, you should be acknowledged for the things you do right. Our Kings and Queens were descended from the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve. They are so dear to us. You humans may have a horrid sense of smell and you may walk rather oddly on those two strange legs of yours, but you come from an honrable lineage if you are the same as our Kings and Queens. I’ll recognize that.” Pausing, then, “How are your ears? Your noses aren’t so great, but are your ears better?” At Pheeobe’s arrival, Ayla yelps in greeting, trotting up and attempting to touch her nose to her pack mate’s in an affectionate greeting.
Lanisen turns his head toward Pheeobe’s approach before she speaks, perhaps answering Ayla’s question. He grins as Ayla hurries past, leaning back slightly to be out of the way, and ducks his head in greeting to Pheeobe.
Pheeobe laughs at Ayla and returns the gesture, “I am sorry to interrupt, I just couldn’t resist the company.”
“Pack company is always welcome,”Ayla says warmly. She is the pack mate who tends toward exclusive behaviour, ever alone, rarely venturing out with others. Though out she is today. “You are most welcome. I was just speaking with a son of Adam. I was advising him on what he needs to do to improve his hunting prowess. Humans really are horrible hunters, Pheeobe. It is rather unsettling.”
Lanisen lifts his shoulders apologetically.
Pheeobe tilts her head, “I must say…I have only met one other Son of Adam but he was a fine hunter.”
Ayla eyes Pheeobe as if she has bestowed a piece of wisdom Ayla was not expecting. “That is new,” she admits, eyeing Lanisen with a bit more interest.
Lanisen says cheerfully, “I’m a rubbish hunter.”
“I’m going to be a great hunter one day,” Ayla states, straightening her slender wolf body. “I’m going to be such a good hunter, there won’t be any hunter better.” Minimizing this claim is the yawn that announces itself after Ayla’s words. “Though… maybe I’ll sleep first,” she amends.
Jana walks through the late summer undergrowth at an even, businesslike pace.
Pheeobe smiles widely at Ayla, “I am sure you will be a great hunter.” She sits down, wrapping her tail around.
Lanisen, sitting in the grass by the path, glances up alertly toward the footsteps. He glances briefly at Ayla, then gets to his feet to greet Jana.
Ayla seeks to nuzzle Pheeobe in thanks for her belief in the young one.
Pheeobe smiles at Ayla and then looks to Jana, bowing her head, “Evening Adara.”
Ayla turns her head toward the newcomer and bows her head in imitation of Pheeobe. “Greetings, daughter of Eve,” she states. “Though I must beg your leave before I collapse of exhaustion.”
Jana narrows her eyes slightly, nodding. “There’s another wolf out by the pool if you need assistance.”
Lanisen offers, “D’you want me to walk you there?”
Pheeobe looks to Ayla, “Or I could of course.”
Ayla dips her head in acknowledgement, then turns and snuffles a farewell in Lanisen’s direction. Baring her teeth in a wolfish grin to Pheeobe, she presses her head against that of her pack mate before trotting off, weariness slumping slender wolfy shoulders.
Lanisen pushes his mouth to the side, watching her go.
Pheeobe watches her go with concern as well,”I think she will be fine
Jana looks unperturbed.
Lanisen says, “Pups.”
Pheeobe looks at Lanisen and grins before looking at Jana, “How are you?”
Jana says, “Working.”
Lanisen asks, “Patrollin’?”
Jana says, “Heading off it.”
Pheeobe nods and sits up taller.
Lanisen, glancing at Pheeobe, guesses, “You too?”
Pheeobe shrugs, “Some but I have also been exploring a bit.”
Pheeobe looks to Lanisen, “You?”
Lanisen shakes his head slightly. “Just walkin’,” he answers. “I’m meant to be lookin’ for…” He shifts and digs a folded piece of paper out of his pocket. “Yarrow and monkshood?”
Pheeobe nods, “Ah! I might be able to help with that! I am sure we can find it!”
Jana lowers one brow. “Why monkshood.”
Lanisen says, “I dunno. Panacea uses it for somethin’.”
Pheeobe nods in understanding, “Well,” She gets up, “Did you want to find it today?”
Lanisen says, “There’s no hurry, I’ll see her again tomorrow.” He half-grins sheepishly. “I don’t think she really expects me to find it.”
Jana says, “There’s yarrow out in the northeast part of the forest.”
Pheeobe grins, “Isn’t it best to show her you can?”
Lanisen glances at Jana gratefully, and makes a doubtful face at Pheeobe.
Pheeobe smiles back.
Jana says, “Monkshood’s poison.”
Lanisen looks startled. “Oh.”
Pheeobe looks at Adara. “That isn’t good…” She looks to Lanisen, “Why would that be necessary?”
Lanisen says uncertainly, “Maybe it’s the sort of thing that– maybe only some of it’s poison and the rest isn’t, or maybe if you, if you cook it somehow…?”
Jana shrugs. “Just know its one of the ones we keep Tristran out of.”
Pheeobe shrugs, “Interesting…” She looks to Adara.
Lanisen says, frowning at the paper, “Maybe she just wants me to know how to spot it?”
Pheeobe looks to Lanisen, “Are you going to be a healer?”
Jana says, “Might be it looks like something else I reckon.”
Lanisen says, “Um,” and glances at Jana, slightly self-conscious. “I don’t– um, mostly I want to be able to, to help healers.”
Pheeobe nods, looking encouragingly at Lanisen.
Jana allows, “Useful skill, anyway.”
Lanisen looks slightly relieved.
Pheeobe glances between the two, “So shall we go get it?”
Jana says, “Ain’t know where any is.”
Pheeobe shakes her head, “We can help look?”
Lanisen says, “‘S all right, I don’t want to take you from your patrol.”
Pheeobe shrugs, “Okay but if you ever need anyone let me know.”
Lanisen says, “Thank you, I appreciate it.”
Jana says, “Well.”
Pheeobe nods. “Of course.”
Lanisen glances at Jana.
Jana says, “Guess I’ll be on if we ain’t doing anything here then.”
Lanisen asks, “Do you want company?”
Jana says, “Sure.”
Pheeobe smiles at Adara and then she gets up. “I might go for a swim.”
Lanisen says, glancing up toward the sun, “‘S a good day for it.” He half-grins back at her. “Good to see you.”
Pheeobe smiles, “And you too.” She grins at Adara and runs into the trees.
Jana watches the wolf leave and then starts eastward.
Lanisen takes a minute to realize Jana’s moving. He jogs a couple steps to catch up with her. “What’s it do, monkshood?”
Jana says, “I dunno, makes you sick.”
Lanisen says, “Oh.”
Jana says, “Don’t eat it; you’ll be fine.”
Lanisen says, “Well, I wasn’t plannin’ to.”
Jana says, “Then you’ll be fine.”
Lanisen says, “I was just wonderin’, I ain’t worried.”
Jana says, “Sounded a bit is all.”
Lanisen says, “Didn’t mean for it.”
Jana says, “All right.”
Lanisen goes quiet for a while. “How’s Tristran?”
Jana says, “Got a new one called Sir Sprit.”
Lanisen asks, amused, “Sir Sprit?”
Jana says, “Some kind of chipmunk or something.”
Lanisen grins big.
Jana says, “‘Bout time he came up with a dame chipmunk.”
Lanisen makes an approving noise. “Livin’ ’round here, I bet he will.”
Jana says, “Taking his time.”
Lanisen says, “He’ll come ’round. He’s got you for a mum.”
Jana says, “We’ll see.”
Lanisen says, “There was this lad came with us from Archenland– well,” he reconsiders, “He ain’t that much younger’n me, but he seems it, sometimes. He’s on the guard, he came with us, but then I guess he got to talkin’ about how men are better’n women at guard sorts of things.”
Jana says, “Uh-huh.”
Lanisen says, one side of his mouth twisting up, “He, uh, he got sent home.”
Jana’s brows lower. “How come?”
Lanisen glances at her, slightly incredulous. “‘Cause it’s rubbish?”
Jana asks, “He got sent home for saying men were better?”
Lanisen says, “He said it to Narnians. Female Narnians.”
Jana says, “Oh, I see.”
Lanisen says, “Anyway, there’s no call for that kind of talk, especially not when– he came here under /Meg/, Dame Megren, and he goes and tries to tell people women aren’t as good.”
Jana says, “There’s lots of men like that.”
Lanisen says, “That don’t mean it’s…”
Jana says, “You get used to it.”
Lanisen pushes his mouth to the side rebelliously.
Jana asks, “Who sent him home?”
Lanisen says, “Dame Megren did.”
Jana clucks her tongue lightly.
Lanisen looks at her, frowning.
Jana asks, “What did he think of that?”
Lanisen says, “I dunno. I didn’t talk to him.”
Jana says, “Mm.”
Lanisen asks, “What?”
Jana says, “Reckon if I said I thought unicorns weren’t any prettier’n horses and Petraverd said ‘you’re off the guard’ I’d feel like I learned less about how pretty unicorns were and more about how pretty Petraverd wanted to feel.”
Lanisen squints and thinks about this for a minute. “It’s not the same, though,” he finally says. “‘Cause that’s– you’re not… That’s not somethin’ that has any bearing on, on how, um, on how they do their job? And it’s not, you’re not implyin’ that they shouldn’t be above you because of it.”
Jana says, “Right, that’s a worse one, ’cause it don’t prove they should be above me, it just proves they’re afraid I’ll spread that they ain’t as good as they want folks to think. Why do you think Myrd cut my hair? It weren’t ’cause the things I was saying or doing were wrong. It was ’cause he ain’t wanted me spreading my attitude.”
Lanisen glances at her at this, a little cautious, and hesitates. “But it’s– I don’t know, I don’t know, I’m not… It just, it just seems to me that when it’s /that/ kind of thing, where you’re… where you’re sort of representing the whole country, just you and a few others, if one person’s representing it badly maybe that’s more important right, right in that moment than…” He frowns again, and shakes his head. “I don’t think she did wrong to send him home, even if that’s what he’ll take from it.”
Jana concedes, “Him saying it about Narnians is different.”
Lanisen says, “Yeah. Especially right after…”
Jana says, “Narnians don’t think much about that stuff, most of them.”
Jana says, “Sounds like good riddance, anyway.”
Lanisen says, “He’d done other stuff, that was just the last straw.”
Jana says, “Like what.”
Lanisen shrugs, slightly evasive. “Just stuff. Sayin’ things he shouldn’t’ve.”
Jana says, “Watch a person like that even get on our guard.”
Jana says, “Say that for Petraverd, he don’t let just anybody who walks up to the tower call themselves a guard.”
Lanisen squints one eye and glances at her. “Last time you mentioned that it wasn’t complimentary.”
Jana says, “Yeah, well.”
Lanisen says, “I’d’ve never made it in.”
Jana snorts softly. “Nah, you’d’ve just said one’a your things about what you reckon good people are like or how you’d like to know you were doing nice things and they’d go moony eyed and take you on.”
Lanisen gives her a startled look.
Lanisen says, “What’re you /talkin’/ about.”
Jana says, “I dunno.”
Lanisen says, “…All right.”
Jana says, “You got ideas about should and shouldn’t and they like that.”
Lanisen says, “Right.”
Jana says, “I ain’t like talking about them things, and they ain’t like that.”
Lanisen squints at her uncertainly.
Jana shrugs again.
Lanisen says, “Well.”
Jana snaps the head off a reed of grass as she passes.
Lanisen says, “I brought that book for Tristran like I said.”
Jana says, “Oh, good, then. He’ll like it.”
Lanisen says, making a slightly apprehensive face, “I hope so, I didn’t have very long to look for one.”
Jana says, “He likes most things.”
Lanisen says, “That’s easy, then.”
Jana says, “Yeah.”
Lanisen says, “He’s a good kid.”
Jana says, “Yeah.”
Lanisen goes quiet, watching the path in front of them, a little distant and tired.
Jana points off the path. “There’s yarrow.”
Lanisen says, “Oh! Oh, good, yeah.” He studies it and nods. “I seen that before, I just didn’t know what it was called.”
Jana says, “Yarrow.”
Lanisen says, “Now I know.”
Jana says, “I reckon.”
Lanisen grins at her sidelong.
Jana slows as the tower comes into view. “Monkshood, I don’t know about that one.”
Lanisen says, “I got the drawing she gave me. I dunno, I’ll ask tomorrow if I can’t find anything.” He looks up at the tower and draws a breath. “Well.”
Jana says, “Best get my report in.”
Lanisen nods, taking a step back. “I’ll see you ’round, I guess.”
Jana says, “Bring that book by tomorrow morning.”
Lanisen asks, “Yeah? All right.”
Jana says, “Thanks.”
Lanisen nods again.
Jana says, “See you then.”
Lanisen says, stepping back, “See you.” He pauses, then starts back down the path.