At the Lamp-Post
Lanisen hurries through the woods, keeping to the cover of the trees and glancing up frequently. He looks like he passed a sleepless night.
Applebud scampers around the Lamp-post collecting nuts.
Lanisen veers toward her, glancing up again. “Applebud, Applebud, hey, what’re you doin’ out?”
Applebud glances up at Lanisen, holding up an acorn. “I wanted to gather some nuts for the Dragon in case he likes them.”
Lanisen says, “Ohhh boy, all right.” He drops to one knee. “If you see the dragon, I want you to hide, all right? Don’t try to talk to it. Don’t let it see you.”
Applebud looks up at Lanisen, “Why? Maybe it just wants to be friends.”
Lanisen drops his head briefly and then looks back up at her. “Maybe it does, yeah,” he agrees. “But we don’t know yet, we don’t know if it can tell Talking Beasts from ordinary beasts. Do you understand?”
Applebud nods slowly.
Applebud says, “Where you going?”
Lanisen says, “I’m goin’ to stop by Knollsted again and make sure everybody knows there’s a dragon, and then I’m goin’ to help Panacea make some remedies. Applebud, this is really important, what are you going to do if you see the dragon again?”
Applebud nods slowly, reciting. “If I see a dragon. I run and hide and I don’t let it see me.”
Applebud says, “Can I go with you?””
Lanisen says, “Good, all right.” He pauses. “Does your mum know about the dragon?”
Lanisen sits back on his heels. “Can you get her, can I talk to her?”
Applebud nods. “It’s this way.”
Lanisen stands up, ready to follow. “All right.”
Applebud leads Lanisen to a great big Oak tree. It has an opening at the bottom as well as in the bole further up the tree.
Lanisen says, “Thanks, thank you. Can you get her?”
Applebud scampers towards the homeplace in the tree, An exclamation of relief can be heard and the matron of the squirrel family makes her way out of the tree towards Lanisen.
Applebud chirps, following along, “Mister Lanisen wants to talk to you, Momma.”
Lanisen shifts his weight and waits, attentive and serious. When the Squirrel steps out, he takes a step forward and bows slightly. “I’m sorry to bother you, ma’am,” he says. “I’m Lanisen, I’m Applebud’s friend.”
The squirrel mother nods in reply to Lanisen’s greeting, turning to chitter scoldingly at Applebud who has followed along. She turns her attention back to Lanisen. “Yes. Yes, Applebud has told me all about you. Thank you for looking after her.”
Lanisen says quickly, “It’s no trouble, she’s, she’s been real fun to have around. Um–” He pauses a little helplessly. “I came by because I wanted to– to make sure… Are you, did you hear about the dragon?”
The Squirrel Matron looks most concerned, “A dragon?! But oh dear! Applebud Sciuriae, did you sneak out with a dragon about?!”
Lanisen looks very relieved by her reaction.
Applebud complains, “But I wanted to make friends, Momma.”
The Mother Squirrel turns to face Lanisen. “Thank you for bringing her back safely. Lion knows what could have happened.”
Lanisen says, “I haven’t seen it today, ma’am, I don’t know where it is, but it’s…” He hesitates and glances at Applebud, evidently reluctant to say something in front of her.
Mrs Sciuridae turns to Applebud, chittering at her and bidding her go inside. She waits still as a statue for Lanisen to continue.
Lanisen moistens his lips and takes a deep breath. “It’s not a Talking Beast,” he says after a pause. “It’s, um, I think it’s intelligent, maybe very intelligent, but I don’t know that it understands the difference between Beasts that talk and beasts that don’t. And it– it seems to like to eat squirrels.”
The matronly Squirrel gasps! “Thank you. I’ll keep them inside now and let the others know.”
Lanisen nods, rubbing at his elbow. “Thank you,” he says. “Um– I will tell you, it– it didn’t bother me, or one of the Ulfden Wolves who happened on it. If anything, it seemed almost– almost friendly? But it’s…” He draws a breath. “I don’t want anybody to get hurt. Better safe, you know?”
The Squirrel nods, “Thank you. Yes. Good to know.”
Lanisen nods again and steps back. “Thanks for– it’s good to meet you.”
Mrs Scuridae favors Lanisen with motherly smile. “And you too, son of Adam.” She bids him farewell and turns to scamper back into the tree.
Lanisen hesitates, then backs away from the tree, glancing at the sky again.