Here is a wide open space carved in the rock, roughly circular and no more than twenty yards in diameter. The cliffs loom high on every side, providing shelter from wind and weather, but a great opening very far up lets in sunlight and sky. A thin jet of water, perhaps a daughter-stream of the river that pours into Caldron Pool, cascades down the western cliff face and feeds into a deep pool the color and clarity of a well-cut emerald. The ground, except for a ring of vegetation surrounding the pool, is dry and sandy. A single ancient larch tree grows tall near the north wall.
All around, the cliff face is etched and pocked with half-open tunnels and dark holes, entrances to small caves hollowed out years ago by the long work of water on stone. Some are fitted with wooden doors and appear inhabited, but many still yawn empty. Up above, ledges and crevices in the rock provide nesting spaces for eagles and hawks. In the east wall, through a wide crevice like a wound in the stone, the forests of Lantern Waste are just visible.
Lanisen is perched alone on top of one of the rocks surrounding the pool, watching the afternoon light reflecting off the water and onto the basin walls. Surrounding him are several articles of clothing in various states of dampness, spread carefully out on the rocks to dry, including his shirt. The pants he is wearing also seem slightly damp in the got-doused-a-few-hours-ago way, especially on the left side. There’s a letter unfolded on the rock beside him, but he seems to have set it aside.
Ayla pads quietly into the basin, her nose to the ground, clearly following a scent. Lifting her head, she yelps softly in greeting, padding toward the rock upon which Lanisen sits, though pausing several feet from it and settling back on her haunches. She looks rather pleased with herself, perhaps for finding him in his secluded place.
Lanisen startles slightly and looks around. “Oh,” he says, and quickly reaches for one of the more-dry shirts. “Hi, hello.”
Appearing more concerned with the grass beneath her paws than with Lanisen’s partial Son of Adam un-clothed-ness, Ayla paws at the ground before glancing to Lanisen. “Greetings, Lanisen,” she says quietly. “I hope tracking you here does not cause you distress?”
Lanisen has turned partially away to squirm into the damp shirt, hiding a scarred shoulder and some visible ribs. “No, no,” he says, tugging the hem down, slightly flustered and red-faced. “Nobody’s– nobody’s been around all day, you just surprised me, it’s all right.”
Tilting her head, Ayla watches Lanisen squirming into his garments with a perplexed air; it is clear she does not understand this hurriedness of humans, nor does she seem too interested in it. “Have you eaten today?” she asks. “I just killed a squirrel if you are hungry.”
Lanisen says, “No, no– I mean, uh– yes, yes, I’ve eaten, thank you.’
Pheeobe walks into the basin, humming to herself. She seems a bit distracted as she makes her way.
“You are welcome,” Ayla remarks, lying down near, if not too near, the rock upon which Lanisen has sequestered himself. Resting her nose upon her paws, she gazes into the water, seeming contented by the depths at which she must gaze to espy what lies within. At the sound of the humming, however, her ears prick, her head swivels, and she releases a welcoming little yip toward her pack mate.
Lanisen takes a moment to check the rest of his clothing, which are mostly damp and laid out on the rocks to dry in the sunshine. At the yip, he glances up.
Pheeobe looks up at the greeting, “Oh Ayla! Hi!” She runs up and affectionately greets her packmate and then sees Lanisen. “Hello Lanisen! How are you?”
Lifting her head, Ayla bumps her nose affectionately against Pheeobe’s, lips peeling back in the brief flash of a wolfy grin before she flops to the ground near the rock, a fair distance away from the pool. Remaining silent, she seems more than content to allow Pheeobe to carry the conversation at present.
Lanisen says, dipping his head, “Well enough, thanks. How’re you?”
As is Ayla’s wont, she seems very much content to let others converse while she buries her nose in the grass, sniffing for those things a wolf might find interesting here. She is happy enough not to elucidate, however, swiveling her head only as far as comfort permits; clearly she has no intention of abandoning her comfortable position as of yet.
Pheeobe smiles, “I am very good. Thank you.” She tilts her head, “Did you take a swim?” She jumps away from Ayla and runs to the waters edge.
Lanisen says, reddening further, “Not, not exactly, no, Kala, um, Kala splashed me.”
Pheeobe frowns, “Oh…did you not like it?”
Ayla eyes the water warily, a silent affirmation provided in the stiffening in her posture that she herself would be no fan of splashings.
Lanisen says, ducking his head and smiling sheepishly, “Ahh– I wasn’t expectin’ it. Laundry day came a bit early.”
Pheeobe rolls her eyes playfully and smiles, “What a pain…” She pokes at the water a bit and looks to Ayla, “How about you?”
“I am very happy right here,” Ayla declares, eyeing the water warily. “I am no fan of water. I keep away from naiads if I can.”
Lanisen cants his head at her, slightly surprised.
Pheeobe shrugs, “Everyone has their thing.” She looks around and up at the tree, “I like climbing trees, and that one gives you a particularly pretty view.”
“Didn’t you hurt yourself climbing a tree?” Ayla remarks with some amusement, pawing idly at a patch of grass that does not appear to be all that different from the other patches of grass nearby.
Lanisen looks rather alarmed at Pheeobe’s assertion.
Pheeobe laughs, “Yes. I am still grounded after the last incident.”
“Still?” Ayla queries with some surprise. “That was before I got here. That’s quite a long gronding.”
Lanisen asks cautiously, “Howww far did you fall?”
Ayla pricks her ears, interested.
Pheeobe shakes her head, “It was a long fall…I was copying a squirrel. It doesn’t work.”
Lanisen stares at Pheeobe, half horrified and half impressed.
Pheeobe lays down.
Tilting her head, Ayla gazes at Pheeobe with something akin to interest tempered by incredulity. “Why would you ever do that?” she quries, half interested, half amused.
Pheeobe laughs at Ayla and shrugs, “For the joy! Haven’t you ever done anything like that?”
Lanisen pushes his mouth to the side.
Letting her lips part over her teeth in a wolfy grin, Ayla shakes her head. “I’ve never been much of a risk taker,” she allows, sounding half relieved, half apologetic.
Pheeobe laughs, “Neither am I. I just happen to be clumsy and have bad luck.”
Lanisen looks even more disbelieving at this assertion by Pheeobe. He glances at where he was sitting and crosses to pick up the letter and fold it away.
“I should say you have rather good luck, surviving as well as you have,” Ayla comments after a long moment of silence. Pushing herself to her feet, she yelps toward Lanisen in farewell, then to Pheeobe. “I fear the day is catching up with me, and I must walk, then sleep,” she laments. “I spent a long night holding vigil.” She does not seek to elaborate on this, merely pushes herself toward the entrance to the pond, tail lashing idly through the air behind her.
Lanisen, as Ayla prepares to leave, makes a quick sympathetic face and says, “‘Course, yeah.”
Pheeobe smiles back at Ayla, “Good bye, friend. See you at the den.”
Ayla yelps warmly. “I shall be there.”
Pheeobe sits up and watches her leave before looking to Lanisen, “Are you enjoying your life here so far?”
Lanisen says, trying to find a dry pocket to tuck his letter into, “Ahh– yes, thank you; I always enjoy my time here.”
Pheeobe watches him put away the letter but doesn’t ask, “Is work going well?”
Lanisen says, lighting up somewhat, “Yeah, it’s– I’ve been enjoying it. It’s been– it’s been a lot of gathering, she says I came at exactly the right time for that. She’s wantin’ to stock up on things before the frosts, you know.”
Pheeobe nods, “And did you find your monkshood?”
Lanisen says, shifting, “No, but it’s– she showed me some, and how to dig it up safely.”
Pheeobe smiles, “Oh good! Now you will know for the future.” She goes to stand and shakes out, “I believe your work must be very important. I know it was for me when I was healing.”
Lanisen’s eyes shift to her leg. “From the– from the fall or the giant or somethin’ else?”
Pheeobe laughs, “The fall. I sometimes think it was worse than the giant…” She watches him and then laughs, “I sure hope you don’t think I am tough or anything. I like having a good time, maybe too much.”
Lanisen blows out a breath, shaking his head in not-quite-disagreement.
Pheeobe laughs and rolls on her back, “So when do you plan on going home? Or is this your home now?”
Lanisen pauses, looking down at the letter. “Um– before the winter, for sure, I’ll be headin’ back to Sted Cair before then.”
Pheeobe rolls back on her feet, “That isn’t too long from now.
Lanisen makes a back-and-forth gesture with one hand. “Got a good month yet.”
Pheeobe grins wolfily, “I sure hope we don’t drive you crazy before then.”
Lanisen scuffs his bare foot along the sandy soil, grinning with his head ducked. “I don’t think there’s too much danger of that.”
Pheeobe laughs, “I am glad you think so!” She then jumps up onto a rock along the pool. “So any plans for adventure while you are in the Waste?”
Lanisen says, “Ohh, I’d just as soon spend the month quietly, I think.”
Pheeobe jumps down, “Tell me about Archenland and Sted Cair. What do you love most about those places?”
Lanisen says, “Oh,” and considers for a moment, rocking back on his heels. “The libraries.”
Pheeobe smiles, “Are they big or small? I have never seen one.”
Lanisen says, “They’re both, they’re both fairly large. The one at Anvard is bigger, but that’s only– the collection at Cair Paravel, you know, they had to rebuild that.”
Pheeobe nods, “I see. And do you like reading?”
Lanisen says, “Very much, yeah.”
Pheeobe tilts her head, ” And what is your favorite story about?”
Lanisen says, lifting his eyebrows briefly, “Oh, oof, um…” He pauses. “I read, I read a lot about the first kings of Archenland, and, um… King Frank the Sixth? He was king of Archenland during, um, when the, when the White Witch was takin’ over, here. He took in a lot of refugees.”
Pheeobe smiles widely, “What a good man. King Frank…you know…I heard about him before I believe.”
Lanisen says, “Yeah, he was– he was a good king. I think somebody else might’ve closed the borders in case the Witch tried to take over Archenland too, but he kept ’em open right to the end, right until /she/ closed ’em. And then he found places for the people that made it, and gave ’em a home.”
Pheeobe listens closely, laying on her legs.
Lanisen trails off, a little self-conscious, and rubs his elbow. “Anyway, that’s, that’s one of my favorites, I s’pose.”
Pheeobe grins, “I like it. I would love to hear more sometime, I am sure you know a lot. The quietest people have the loudest minds.” She sits up again, “I don’t know who said that but I always appreciated it.” She looks around and shakes out again, “Anyways…I must be going. It was good to see you again.”
Lanisen squints uncertainly at this observation. “Oh,” he says as she gets up to leave. “Sure, all right. Um, it was good to see you.”
Pheeobe smiles and heads off through the crack.
Lanisen turns back to his scattered laundry, checking to see if anything’s dry. (It isn’t.)