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 sits just outside one of the larger caves, one that looks quite lived-in by now, tending a little cookfire.
Pheeobe comes running in from the East as fast as she can and catapults into the water, making a huge splash deep into the water where she doesn’t come up from right away.
Lanisen glances up and raises his eyebrows, watching worriedly. He gets to his feet, just in case.
Pheeobe pops up after a few beats and dog-paddles to the edge of the water before collapsing.
Lanisen calls, “Are you–” He circles around the edge of the pool, breaking into a run. “Pheeobe? Are you all right?”
Pheeobe’s head pops up, “Oh Lanisen!” She wiggles to get up, “I–” She sits up, arranging herself to look more dignified, “Was just having some fun.”
Lanisen exhales gustily, running a hand through his hair. “Lion’s /teeth/,” he says, and smiles sheepishly. “Sorry; I’ll let you get back to it.”
Pheeobe frowns, “Wouldn’t…” She indicates with her nose, swinging it over the water, “You know…like to try?”
Lanisen asks, “What?”
Pheeobe smiles, “To run as fast as you can and jump into the water!”
Lanisen says, “Oh! Ahh…” He glances at the water and takes a half step back, laughing a little awkwardly. “Nah, it’s, it’s a little cold for me.”
Pheeobe ohs and laughs at herself, “I suppose having fur would be helpful.” She sighs and looks around. Spotting the fire she asks, “Making food?”
Lanisen mms. “‘S nothin’ exciting, it’s just soup.”
Pheeobe sniffs the air, “Well it smells decent, if you like that kind of thing.” She grins wolfily.
Lanisen lifts his eyebrows and laughs. “Uhh, thanks? I think?”
Pheeobe laughs and shakes her head, “What have you been up to? Anything exciting?”
Lanisen says, beginning back toward his fire, “Oh, nothin’ so interesting as all that. Just gatherin’ for Panacea, still. She’s thinkin’ it won’t be long until the first frost.”
Pheeobe follows after a little, “Oh an early winter?”
Lanisen hmms? “Oh, no, I don’t think so. Just it’s gettin’ to be about that time of year where there’s frosts every now and then. It’s already gettin’ cold at night,” he adds ruefully, glancing at the open cave where he’s been staying.
Pheeobe smiles, peering inside but not too closely. “Looks like you are making yourself at home!”
Lanisen says, “Well,” and shrugs slightly. “I been here about half the year now.”
Pheeobe tilts her head, “Really? That long already?”
Lanisen says, “Well– not all at once.”
Pheeobe ahs and lays down, “The years are just flying past me. Someday soon we will be old.”
Pheeobe grins at Lanisen, “Well…I won’t be…but you certainly will.”
Lanisen opens his mouth in mock affront. “And to think I was gonna offer to share my stew!”
Pheeobe laughs, rolling her head, “I am sure I missed out.”
Lanisen relents. “Well. I’m not much of a hunter and I’m a little afraid to set snares here, so there’s no meat in it, but you’re welcome to it, if you want to try it.”
Pheeobe shakes her head politely, “Oh I think that it might not be that good for me to have veggies…but Thank you. I could bring some meat if you like as well?”
Lanisen says, “Oh! Oh, that’s not– hmm. Is there anything you need that I could trade for it, maybe? Herbs, or– or somethin’ that’s easier to do with thumbs?”
Pheeobe laughs, “Oh no! I am just happy to help. I have no need for herbs…at least now…” She think for another moment and then smiles, “Actually, I will keep you in mind in case I ever do.”
Lanisen says, “Sure, of course, though– I’ll be goin’ back east in a month or so, I reckon.”
Pheeobe nods, “Well then I will just do it out of kindness for a friend.” She picks up a paw and starts cleaning it with long licks.
Lanisen asks, “Hmm?”
Pheeobe tilts her head, “Do you have a meat preference?”
Lanisen says, “Oh, I don’t– that’s all right, that’s all right.”
Pheeobe smiles, “Are you a vegetarian?”
Lanisen says, turning red, “No, no, I just don’t want to– to take..”
Pheeobe nods, “I see. Well…It isn’t taking if it is given.” She pits down her now clean paw and sighs, “What do you like to do, Lanisen?”
Lanisen looks distressed at this assertion, and his eyes dart to her anxiously. “Um,” he says, taking a second to switch tracks. “Um– I like to, to read things I haven’t read before, I guess.”
Pheeobe nods, “Like flyers?”
Lanisen blinks. “I– I guess; I meant like books.”
Pheeobe ahs and lays down on her side, “Do you have any here to share?”
Lanisen asks, “Books?”
Pheeobe nods, “Or anything memorized so I can hear the story?”
Lanisen hmms, furrowing his forehead. He gets up and takes the stewpot off the fire, setting it on the ground nearby to cool, then reaches for his satchel. “All I’ve got is my notebook,” he says, digging it out. “I brought a book, but it was a gift for Tristran and I don’t have it anymore.”
Pheeobe ahs, still laying on her side, “I hope he enjoys it! Maybe someday he will read it to me.”
Lanisen says, “Maybe so! He’s little yet, so he’s not readin’ so much, but he’s bright. He’ll pick it up fast, I bet.”
Pheeobe smiles, “I honestly haven’t seen him much. I’m sure growing up here makes you smart quick.”
Lanisen asks, “What do you mean?”
Pheeobe shrugs, “Well this isn’t a dangerous place exactly but he is away from most of his people and it isn’t an easy life.”
Lanisen frowns down at his notebook a little absently. “No, I don’t imagine it would be…”
Pheeobe watches him for a moment and adds, “It is good to be with your people…But he will be comfortable here and loved.” She looks off, “I know making my move was good.”
Lanisen says, “Oh,” and shifts. “I don’t think– I don’t think havin’ other types of people about would be the hardest thing. Especially if it’s– He was born here, it’s all he knows; it don’t bother him any.’
Pheeobe nods, “No I know you are right but it can be comforting.” She sighs, “I suppose I mean it more for his parents…” She trails.
Lanisen says, “Adara’s adapted all right.” He pauses, debating for a moment, then says, “I think she gets lonely for other humans sometimes, though, yeah.”
Pheeobe nods, “She seems lonely…”
Pheeobe says, “But I don’t know her too well.”
Lanisen agrees, “Yeah.” He pauses, and then adds, “Not that she’d like to think people thought that of her.”
Pheeobe shakes her head, “Oh of course not. We are all very good at hiding our feelings. It is a strong defense mechanism.” She grins at Lanisen and then looks around, sniffing the air lightly.
Lanisen glances at her, lifting an eyebrow. “Reconsiderin’ that stew offer?”
Pheeobe laughs, “Do you think it would be okay for me to eat?”
Lanisen gives this some consideration. “I dunno,” he says thoughtfully. “There’s nothin’ in it that should hurt you; the dogs at home used to beg off my plate all the time, and that was fine, so long as they got their usual food too.” He glances at her quickly. “Sorry, I don’t mean to offend; you’re not alike much.”
Pheeobe smiles, “Oh no offense taken. We probably have very similar systems.” She goes to the stew and sniffs it again,
Pheeobe says, “And it does smell wonderful. ”
Lanisen says, “Well, then!” He gets to his feet and disappears inside the cave briefly, returning with two slightly dented tin bowls. He crouches next to the steaming stewpot and picks up the ladle. “Do you want to try it first, or just dive in?”
Pheeobe smiles, “I am a diver.”
Lanisen makes a tongue-clicking noise. “All right, then,” he says, and loads up the bowl. He seems to be picking out things like potatoes and squash for her bowl, rather than the greens, and he tops it with a generous splash of broth.
Pheeobe tilts her head, “Are you giving me all the good stuff?”
Lanisen glances up at her. “Hmm? Oh, no, just what you’re likely to like better.”
Pheeobe ahs and nods, “Good!” She looks to him, “Thank you!” Then, looking at the soup she dives in.
Lanisen pauses in the middle of dishing out his own bowl, watching a little anxiously to see if she likes it. It’s a very simple stew, just chunks of vegetables and lamb’s quarter with some beans, but the broth is savory and well-seasoned.
Pheeobe gobbles it all up happily, “Oh this is very good.” She pops her head up, “Thank you again!”
Lanisen grins, relieved. “I’m glad you like it.”
Pheeobe laughs, “Me too! Smells can sometimes be deceiving.” She starts to lick the bowl and then snaps up, “Well…that isn’t very dignified is it?” She laughs.
Lanisen says, “I won’t tell.”
Pheeobe shakes her head, “Better not. They already think I am bizarre and undignified.” She gets up, “Anyways…thank you for that. I need to get back to patrol.”
Lanisen gets up as well to see her off. “Sure, of course. Have a safe patrol.”
Pheeobe smiles, “Thank you. Have a good day!” She runs off, tail wagging.
Lanisen watches her go, laughing under his breath. He sits down again and dishes out the rest of the soup for himself.