Gracing The Town

Kennels
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The kennel of Anvard is a fairly spacious room, well-lit by the windows in the south wall looking toward the Outer Ward. It is immediately obvious that the hounds housed here are quite well-treated: the floor is kept clean-swept; the blankets padding the dogs’ wooden beds are thick and warm; and the hounds themselves have a certain sleek, well-fed look. Several pens can be seen toward the back of the room, likely used to isolate dogs that are sick, injured, or in need of further training, but the majority of the castle hounds are allowed to roam freely about the room.

A fireplace, lit on cold days, is set into the east wall, opposite the door to the quarters of Danall, the Master of Hounds. A set of wooden stairs leads up to a second level.
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You can go: Up <U>, Outer Ward <S>, Huntsman’s Chamber <W>
Contents: A son of adam who walks with a limp (Lanisen); A son of adam with a strong build (Colin); Kirby the Houndkeeper; Loaf of Bread; Loaf of Bread; Loaf of Bread; and Loaf of Bread.

Lanisen glances at him. “After Aaron?” He is sitting with Colin, a rather alarmingly large and nutritious meal on a tray next to them.

Colin shoves the last piece of pie into his mouth, rendering words useless so he nods in reply.

Lanisen keeps eating for a minute. “He seemed pretty keen.”

Colin lifts his eyebrows in an ironic expression and nods, swallowing enough to say, “That’s Cole.”

Lanisen says nothing more. He pushes chunks of potato and venison from one side of the bowl to the other, distracted.

Darrin enters the kennels from outside, his hands shoved in his pockets and whistling to himself.

Colin looks up as the door opens. “Hey, Lord Darrin.” He gets to his feet to bow.

Lanisen straightens immediately as the door opens. He sets his bowl aside and stands to bow.

Darrin’s whistle cuts off abruptly when he notices the pair. “Good evening, folks!” He says in a chipper tone.

Colin shakes his head, chuckling a little. “What brings you out here?”

Darrin sidles over to Sir Colin and throws an arm over his shoulder. “Well, see,” he begins, sounding a bit conspiratorial. “/You/ are always here, so I figured this would be a good bet. And, I’m bored. And in need of a drink. So what say we go out to the town for the night, eh?” He turns his head towards Lanisen. “You’re invited too, of course, Lanisen.”

Lanisen says, “Um,” and glances uncertainly at Colin.

Colin stumbles a little with Darrin’s added weight but he quickly adjusts, a slow grin forming on his face. He looks to Lanisen and nods eagerly. “Come on, let’s.”

Darrin slaps him on the back enthusiastically, a deviously smug look crossing his face before being subsumed by a wide grin. “That’s what I like to hear!”

Colin eyes Darrin.

Lanisen says again, “Um.” He shrugs.

Colin shoots Lanny a look that says something like “Don’t you /dare/ abandon me” before he looks at Darrin. “Sure excited about this, you young rogue.”

Darrin smirks and then whines, “I’m boooored. Please don’t leave me to suffer through another book in silent agony.”

Lanisen stays quiet, watching Darrin with a mildly perplexed expression.

Colin puts on a long suffering look. “All right, you big baby. Lead the way.” He motions hopefully for Lanisen to come with.

Darrin might be bouncing a little bit on his toes as he heads out the door. Maybe.

Colin opens the door for them and peers at Darrin skeptically as they go.

Lanisen stops long enough to cover their food and put it up on a shelf where the dogs can’t reach, then follows reluctantly.

Andale

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You stand in the heart of Andale where most of the folk who support Anvard live. Young children play here on nice days, skipping rope, or shooting marbles, and older ones can be seen reading scrolls. Adults hurry through on their way from home to where their business takes them. A well with a stone wall sits on the western edge of the road.

The road here widens and splits to run toward the shops to the east, North Andale to the north and the Crossroad to the south. Short paths lead to the two settlements here; Het Noorden to the northwest, and Zuiden to the southeast.
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You can go: Het Noorden <NW>, North Andale <N>, East Andale <E>, Andale Crossroad <W>, Zuiden <SE>

Contents: A daughter of eve with short, copper hair (Megren); A son of adam who walks with a limp (Lanisen); A son of adam with a strong build (Colin); and Andale Well.

Darrin leads the way into Andale, his arms swinging by his sides and a bounce in his step.

Megren walks into town from the village to the south. She is not wearing her usual livery, but instead a clean and simply cut dress.

Colin follows with Lanisen, simultaneously looking amused at Darrin’s antics and glancing at him skeptically.

Lanisen follows behind, far less effervescent.

Darrin catches sight of Megren through the various folk out and about at this hour and does a double take. “Little Fritter!” He calls out, his face lighting up. He bounds to her side.

Colin blinks in utter confusion, looking from Darrin to Lanisen and back again.

Megren looks around, caught off guard by the nickname, and then her easy grin spreads across her face. She curtsies to the knight. “Gracing the town, are we?”

Lanisen mouths at Colin, “Fritter?”

Darrin catches her hand and spins her around swiftly. “Look at you!” he crows. “I didn’t know you owned a dress.” He then seems to realize this might be a bit rude and he drops her hand and grins, rubbing at the back of his neck. “That is, you look very nice.” He colors for about half a second and then forges ahead with, “And yes!” He motions back at Colin and Lanisen and leans in to murmur something in a lower tone.

Colin shrugs in confusion at Lanisen before heading in Darrin and Megren’s direction. Apparently the gazelle bounded quite far. He watches Darrin, raising an eyebrow.

You mumble “Thought I’d get those two out and get some drinks in them, maybe cheer them up a bit.”, to Megren.

Darrin mumbles “Thought … get those … out … get some drinks … … maybe cheer them up … …”, to Megren.

Lanisen blinks at the little he manages to overhear, glancing at Colin again. Colin looks at Lanisen and mouths, “Think they planned this?”, a suspicious look on his face.

Megren looks a little embarrassed by the fuss about her dress as well, and covers it by crossing her arms. She raises her brows to the quieter words. “Do you know, I was just thinking I might like to stop at the inn before heading home.”

Darrin grins wider. “As usual, you read my mind effortlessly, madam.” He offers a partial bow and then holds out his arm to her.

Lanisen lifts his shoulders a little, shaking his head to indicate he has no idea.

Colin nods his head in greeting to Megren as she joins their little group and he looks at Darrin with misgivings in his eyes.

Megren accepts the arm. “We’ll have to work on that.”

Darrin chuckles, the skeptical looks he is receiving from Lanisen and Colin only seeming to fuel his good mood.

Lanisen shuffles a little, resigned.

Colin looks about as resigned as Lanisen at this point. “Shall we?”

Darrin falls in by Sir Colin once again, bobbing his head.

Lanisen limps along behind.

Colin makes sure the pace stays easy enough for Lanisen, walking slowly and keeping an eye on him as they go.

The Narrow Gate Hall
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The Hall of the Narrow Gate is brightly lit by a large chandelier, and by torches on the walls. A bar runs along the length of the south wall. Behind the bar stands Dranken, the Barman, polishing a glass. The wall behind him holds several bottles, and racks of glasses. There is also a menu offering drinks and food. The north wall is dominated by a cheerful stone fireplace.

The rest of the room is filled with tables and stools, in little clusters all over the scuffed wooden floor. An arch leads to the Anteroom to the south.
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You can go: The Anteroom <S>
Contents: A son of adam who walks with a limp (Lanisen); A son of adam with a strong build (Colin); Dranken, the Barman; Pricelist; Sign — Rooms, 500 coins per day; and Wolves and Foxes Game Set.

Darrin stakes a claim at a table in roughly the center of the room.

Megren pauses when they enter the hall to extract her arm and exchange with Dranken a familiar sort of greeting and some unremarkable, if probably amusing, small talk.

Colin just follow Darrin’s lead at this point, taking one of the seats at the table.

Lanisen trails along behind Colin, slightly to his right. He sits, but hesitantly, glancing at Darrin.

Darrin doesn’t sit down right away, instead leaning both hands on the table and glancing between Colin and Lanisen. “First round’s on me!” He announces. “What do you two want?”

Colin looks at Lanisen before saying, “Ale’s fine for me.”

Megren’s conversation with Dranken includes her indicating the center table with her head.

Lanisen blinks. He shakes his head quickly, mumbling under his breath that he’s fine, thanks.

Darrin looks like he might argue with Lanisen, but he shrugs. “Suit yourself, for the moment,” he says. He ambles up to the bar and orders a tankard of ale and a flagon of wine before looking to Megren. “Fritter, what do you want? I’m buying this round.”

Megren narrows her eyes thoughtfully, and then replies with a conspiratorial grin, “Surprise me.” She nods at Lanisen and says, “He wants something heavy or his belly will cave in beneath his ribs.”

Darrin tilts his head at her thoughtfully and then orders her a cider. He grins. “Right, so ale for him, you think?”

Colin leans over to say something to Lanisen.

Colin mumbles “… … a couple … … circling…”, to Lanisen.

Megren nods, “Suppose.”

Lanisen gives Colin a small sidelong grin at this.

Darrin nods, and Dranken goes for another ale. Darrin slides the cider to Megren and then balances the other three drinks in his hands in a triangle formation and heads back to the table, setting the two ales before Lanisen and Colin. He hooks a foot around a chair to pull it out for Megren and then plops down into a chair of his own with his wine.

Megren eyes the knight before sitting in the chair, between Lanisen and Sir Darrin.

Lanisen’s eyes go a little wide. “Oh, um.” He glances helplessly at Colin, then back at Darrin. “Thank… you, sir?”

Colin watches Darrin with a skeptical raise of his eyebrow and he looks at Lanisen, mouthing “Sorry.”

Darrin says cheerily, “Don’t mention it!” He tilts back in his chair, the front legs coming off the ground, and takes a sip of his wine.

Colin stares at Darrin’s chair. “Are you trying to break your neck?” He finally says uncertainly.

Megren rubs the length of her nose.

Darrin makes a face at Colin. “Spoilsport,” he accuses. He straightens in his chair but this seems to be just for the purpose of reaching across to nudge Colin’s mug closer to him.

Lanisen turns his mug and wraps his left hand around the handle, glancing around the tavern.

Megren widens her eyes to indicate the hopeless nature of the person on her left and leans forward on her elbows, turning to Lanisen on her right. “How’s Vira?”

Colin gives Darrin a Look and squints down into the mug. “What’d you put in it?”

Darrin innocuously reaches over and slides his elbow under Megren’s closest one, upsetting her leaning but without glancing in her direction. He assumes an affronted expression at Sir Colin. “Put something in it? Why, I’m insulted. I would do nothing of the kind, I assure you!”

Colin mmhmms and tests the taste with his finger before shrugging in a what the hey manner and taking a sip.

Lanisen says, half-watching Colin and Darrin with a confused furrow between his eyebrows, “Uh, she’s fine, thanks. ‘Bout the same as she was yesterday.”

Megren falls forward, sitting up again and giving Sir Darrin a look before returning her attention to Lanisen.

Megren mumbles “… right. How much did … … in … … before …”, to Lanisen.

Darrin pretends not to notice the look and only glances at Megren from his peripherals when she has turned back to Lanisen. He grins to himself.

Lanisen shakes his head and shrugs.

Colin seems content to observe for the moment.

Megren sucks her teeth and raises her brows as if giving in to the strangeness. She indicates the table with a circle of her finger.

Megren mumbles “Do you … Sir … do … kind … thing often? … … … the table … … other?”, to Lanisen.

Darrin looks like he’s on the verge of saying something when Megren starts whispering to Lanisen again. With a shrug, he leans over to speak with Sir Colin.

You mumble “Dunno about you, but I’m starting to feel a bit left out, here.”, to Colin.

Darrin mumbles “… about you, but … … … … … bit … out, …”, to Colin.

Colin has started to take a sip of his ale, which he promptly chokes on and proceeds to have a coughing fit as he cracks up.

Darrin pats him heartily on the back and starts making vaguely reassuring coos. “There, there.”

Colin bats at Darrin’s hand, trying to get him to stop the back patting. He clears his throat noisily and takes a sip of ale to ease the sudden dryness. “Were you always a joker like this, Lord Darrin?” he chuckles raspily.

Lanisen blinks at Megren, and then Colin decides ale is for inhaling. He ducks his head to hide a grin.

Lanisen mumbles “… … Twice … week at …”, to Megren.

Darrin blinks, looking genuinely baffled. “Is that a trick question?”

Colin says, “Never.”

Megren giggles at Lanisen’s response. “I have only ever known Sir Darrin to be quite serious, Sir Colin.”

Lanisen takes a drink of his ale, glancing at Megren doubtfully over the top of the mug.

Colin mutters something as he drinks some more ale.

Colin mumbles “… he … Sir … …”, to Colin.

Darrin sips at his wine and says, “In that case, I’m really not sure how you missed it thus far, Colin.” He smirks over his tankard.

Colin informs him, “I can be pretty oblivious.”

Megren gives the knights a humble tilt of her head. “If I may suggest, my lords, I think the /usual/ custom when gathered to stare forlornly into one’s drink in the middle of a tavern is for the least dazed one to suggest a game that distracts from the awkwardness of it all?”

Lanisen scratches his nose.

Colin rubs his nose awkwardly.

Darrin arches a brow. “Noooooo, you don’t say,” in a dry tone to Colin. He then glances at Megren and grins. “I’m open to suggestion. More darts, perhaps?” He smirks.

Megren points to Lanisen, “Yes. Scorekeeper over here.”

Colin protests. “I–darts, no, I’m bad.”

Megren says, “That is the best way to be when you play with us.”

Lanisen mumbles “… … …”, to Lanisen.

Colin groans, emptying his tankard.

Darrin gestures to Megren with his tankard. “Truth.” He gets up to go collect the darts from the board. “Megren, you wanna explain the rules?”

Megren taps her cup, “It’s very simple really. One toss per round. The two best tosses ask a question or form a challenge for the worst toss. He or she must either answer the question, or perform the challenge.”

Colin motions for Dranken to bring another ale over and he eyes Megren. “Too complicated for me.”

Megren looks to Sir Darrin to convince his fellow knight, not prepared herself to challenge the king’s nephew on his choices.

Darrin takes a long drink of his wine and then sets it on the table. “Perhaps a demonstration would suffice?” He grins.

Megren says, “I’ll agree to that if Sir Colin cares for it.”

Lanisen stays quiet, listening. He glances at Colin.

Colin ers, rubbing the back of his neck as Dranken sets another ale in front of him. “Sure?”

Darrin nods, handing a dart to Megren and Colin and taking one for himself, the rest going on the table. He stands in front of the board and throws casually, his dart landing just outside the center ring.

Colin looks down at the dart in his hand and looks at Lanisen.

Lanisen gives him two thumbs up.

Colin fakes like he’s throwing the dart at Lanisen.

Megren looks Sir Darrin over, rises from her chair, and covers her eyes with one hand, throwing the dart blind. It lands squarely in the second ring.

Darrin whistles in appreciation. “Not bad for blind,” he says.

Colin stares, his mouth open a little. “You didn’t say we had to do it without looking!”

Lanisen takes another drink of ale to hide a grin.

Megren looks perfectly angelic. “Why, Sir Colin. You may do it however you like.”

You say, “But you /are/ up.”

Colin looks at Lanisen for help.

Lanisen gestures at the target.

Colin finally steps up and makes a halfhearted fling at the dartboard, where the dart miraculously lands in the bullseye. He looks very confused.

Megren raises her brows at Lanisen, “He’s playing us and you didn’t warn me?”

Lanisen smirks.

Colin exclaims, “He didn’t warn me either!”

Darrin flops back into his chair and lifts his glass. “That’s you, Megren. So, you can tell us about the first person you kissed, or Sir Colin can come up with something embarrassing for you to do instead.” He smirks over the wine at her.

Lanisen blinks, glancing quickly from Darrin to Megren and back. He frowns at Darrin.

Colin looks mildly terrified and grabs his ale and takes a long swing.

Megren mms very seriously. “Name of Elek.”

Darrin waves a hand as if to say, ‘do go on’.

Lanisen chokes.

Colin nearly snorts some of his ale again.

Megren says, “Very hairy, kind of narrow face. Utterly unpleasant.”

Lanisen squeezes his eyes shut, his shoulders shaking silently.

Darrin shudders at the image. “Yeck. Whatever possessed you?”

Colin makes a face, looking at Darrin.

Megren tilts her head at him, widening her eyes. “What /do/ you think of me? It was quite unsolicited. Lanisen can tell you. He was there.”

Colin’s eyebrows shoot up and he looks at Lanisen now.

Lanisen is in danger of falling off his chair.

Megren covers her mouth to keep from giggling.

It is now Darrin’s turn to sputter. He looks at Lanisen quickly, looks back to Megren, arches a brow and rather shockingly looks for once lost for words.

Colin takes another long swig and claps his hands, rubbing them together. “Wellll who’s next?”

Lanisen clears his throat, straightens, and takes another gulp of ale.

Megren is not entirely capable of speaking further at the moment. Her face is quite red, and her hand still over her mouth.

Darrin runs a hand quickly through his curls and coughs a few times. “Right.”

Darrin goes over and collects the darts, and tosses first again. This time he’s apparently distracted or embarrassed or something because his dart lands on the outermost ring, very nearly off the board completely.

Colin drains his tankard once again and retrieves one of the darts from Darrin, taking a bit more care with his aim this time. His dart lands barely inside the second ring.

Megren gives Lanisen a not entirely insincere betrayed look, but she recovers from the question well enough to take up her dart and land it closer in than Sir Darrin’s, if not quite as nicely as Sir Colin’s.

Darrin gives a small smile and bows in a rather sacrificial manner, waiting for the verdict.

Colin looks to Megren for help with this one.

Megren sniffs and tilts her head sweetly. “Sir Colin, you may ask the question. I shall think up the challenge.”

Colin taps his chin thoughtfully, peering at Darrin through narrowed eyes as he thinks. “What is the stupidest challenge you have ever done?”

Lanisen watches. He tips his mug up, considering the level of the ale left.

Darrin wrinkles his nose and tilts his head to think about this one. He glances at Megren.

Megren perches on the table edge, “Order another wine, finish it, then answer the question, and the answer can’t be ‘this one’.”

Lanisen raises his eyebrows.

Colin gives Megren an impressed look. He looks back to Lanisen and mouths “I like her.”

Megren grins audaciously.

Darrin grins broadly. “Now that’s more like it.” He wanders over to the bar and orders another wine, comes back and sets it by his other one before flopping into his chair. He raises his first glass to Megren in a toast and throws the rest of it back.

Megren watches him with a look of shrewd triumph.

Colin watches, quietly ordering another ale while he waits for Darrin to fall over or something.

Darrin coughs a bit before setting that tankard down and reaching for the other one. “This is a terrible way to drink wine, I’ll have you know,” he says with a look of snobby distaste. He lifts the second tankard to his mouth and drains it.

Megren looks like she agrees.

Colin makes a bit of a face as he watches. Once the wine is down, he prompts. “All right. The question?”

Darrin sets the tankard down and scrubs the back of a hand across his mouth, then drops his hands flat on the table and leans forward. There are two twin spots of color high in his cheeks. “All right, the story. Well, the one that comes first to mind, anyways. I’ve done my fair share of stupid things, no question about that. So this one time. I was a kid, eh, maybe eleven? twelve? Emperor, I don’t know. There’s a feast, right, out on the manor lawn, for what was it, I think the winter solstice?”

Lanisen finishes off his ale and sets aside the mug, listening.

Megren rests her elbow in one hand and her chin in the other, the picture of listening etiquette.

Colin presses his lips together, hiding a grin as he listens.

Darrin starts gesturing with one hand, a bit wildly. “There’re these village boys, you know, and it’s not like I’m the unfriendly sort, so I wander over there, and they don’t notice me at first, so I hear what they’re talking about before they see me. And they’re talking about my cousin Avery. Well. You can imagine, I’m sure. I’m young, I’m brash, I don’t take kindly to that kind of talk, you know. I get all up in the face of the biggest one there – he must’ve been five stone bigger than me, a half head taller, but that doesn’t sway me of course.”

Colin drinks a good amount from his tankard while he listens, watching Darrin wave his hand around.

Megren’s brows draw together a little.

Darrin says, “He says what one says in this situation, ‘Why don’t we take this elsewhere?’ And he proposes we meet up back behind the stonemason’s guild in a few days. And I go, of course.” He makes a face, touching his lip like he can feel the split lip from that encounter still. “Stupid.”

Lanisen winces a little.

Colin does too, perching on the edge of the table.

Megren glances at Lanisen, looking a bit regretful. “I’m sure it was very noble, Sir,” she says stoutly.

Darrin laughs. “Nothing noble about getting beat up in a stoneyard, Fritter. You can imagine my parent’s weren’t too pleased. And what my father said after, that’s always stuck with me. He said a gentleman doesn’t always have to use his fists to defend his honor. And he was right.”

Megren shifts, and then moves toward the dartboard, “A final round?”

Colin goes to stand from where he leans on the table and jerks to the side, off balance a bit. “Yeah..sure.” he squints at the dartboard.

Lanisen’s eyes sharpen as Colin stumbles.

Darrin gets to his feet unsteadily. “Somebody else’s turn to get the darts,” he declares.

Lanisen mumbles “… … right?”, to Colin.

Colin gives Lanisen a thumbs up.

Megren pulls the darts off and helps Sir Colin to rather a closer position than before, offering him one.

Colin takes the dart, grins at Megren and focuses on the dartboard for a solid three minutes before he throws. His dart hits the outermost ring and falls out, hitting the ground. He frowns at it.

Darrin ambles over to stand behind them while Colin throws. When his dart hits the ground, he makes a noise that is decidedly close to a giggle.

Colin turns to glare at Darrin.

Darrin claps a hand over his mouth and giggles some more, his shoulders shaking and brown curls flopping into his eyes at the movement.

Megren places a dart deliberately in Sir Darrin’s hands, closing his fingers around it and lifting it to approximately the appropriate position before backing out of the way.

Colin looks at Lanisen and jerks his thumb toward Darrin, shrugging his shoulders.

Lanisen eyes the dart, eyes the number of empty wine tankards around Darrin’s seat, and eyes Darrin with some alarm.

Megren stands behind him and slightly to the side so that she can catch any stray flying objects.

Darrin snickers and takes the opportunity to brush his fingers across hers. “Not so hot today, Little Fritter,” he says, sounding warm and pleased as he focuses on the target. He closes one eye and throws, the dart landing a few rings out from the middle, but not a too terrible shot, all things considered.

Megren gathers her hands behind her back in a slightly more business-like manner than usual.

Colin squints at Darrin and peers at the dartboard.

Lanisen watches Megren and Darrin, his forehead wrinkling a little.

Darrin backs away and perches on an unoccupied table, gesturing between Megren and the dartboard.

Megren takes up the last dart, tossing it neatly so that it lands on the center side of the second ring. She returns to the table, where her drink is. “Lanisen, you and Sir Darrin give Sir Colin his choices.”

Colin drains his tankard and turns to face them like a doomed man.

Darrin looks to Lanisen. “You want the question or the action, Lanisen?”

Lanisen says, “Ahh, neither, I think I’ll stay out of this one, thanks.”

Darrin hops off his table and wanders back over to the group’s table, giving Lanisen the puppy eyes he uses without realizing whenever he’s pouting.

Colin snickers at Lanisen.

Megren takes a breath, considering Sir Colin, and then says, “Very well. Then, Sir Colin, I would like to know what you love most about Neiklot, and what you love most when you are away.”

Darrin gives Megren a look that says he doesn’t find these questions particularly amusing. “Or, alternately, do your best impersonation of each of us, and we have to guess who you are.” He lifts his eyebrows at Colin.

Megren takes a sip of her drink, not seeming bothered by the look.

Colin chuckles at Darrin and answers Megren. “I love the way the sun comes through the vineyards, and the smell of the dirt when it’s been turned. And when I’m away….good people like you folk, good friends like Lanisen. And the lovely dark haired maiden I shall soon call my wife.” He grins, raising his tankard and finishing it off for good.

Megren’s brows rise, and she glances at Lanisen for confirmation of this.

Lanisen just grins.

Darrin grins a bit as well, nodding.

Colin takes a step and wobbles a little. “I…think it’s time to call it a night.” He laughs, holding both arms out as if that might help him with his balance.

Megren says, “Well, I’ll drink to that,” and finishes her cider.

Lanisen snorts. He stands up, pushing his chair back, and offers Colin his shoulder for support. “If you fall I’m leaving you where you land.”

Colin says, “I feel the love.”

Darrin chuckles. “Cruel, cruel,” he says.

Megren rises, “Maybe we’ll just all walk in the same general direction at the same general time and see what that does for us.”

Lanisen says, “That’s maybe a good idea.”

Darrin nods.

Colin waves to Dranken and begins making his way out, glancing to see if anyone is following him.

Megren pauses at the counter to confirm with Dranken that he’s been fully paid before rejoining the group.

Outer Ward
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You stand in the busy outer ward of Castle Anvard, full of people seeing to the needs of king and kingdom. There are market stalls along the outer wall, bustling with merchants and shoppers. Grooms work in the stables, tending to the horses there, and you hear the occasional bark of a dog from the kennels. The sounds of hammer hitting iron rings out from the blacksmith shop. There are stairs leading to the gate towers on the northern and southern corners of the outer curtain. To the east is the outer gatehouse, and the road leading into the realm of Archenland, and to the west another gate, leading to the inner gatehouse, the inner ward, and the main keep of Anvard.
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You can go: Kennels <N>, Northern Market <NE>, Outer Gatehouse <E>, Southern Market <SE>, Stables <S>, Blacksmith <SW>, Inner Gatehouse <W>, South Stair <US>, North Stair <UN>

Megren watches the knights with an apprehensive eye as they walk home.

Darrin lags behind, not as wobbly on his feet as Sir Colin, but still not all that sober.

Megren, seeing that Lanisen has Sir Colin well in hand, hesitantly chooses to fall back with Sir Darrin.

Darrin rubs the back of his neck and watches the other two. “Well. That took rather more work than I was expecting, but still, I’d call it a success.”

Megren says, “They seemed to have a good time.”

Darrin smiles, looking pleased. He nods.

Megren glances at him with uncertain, appraising eyes. She clasps her hands behind her back.

Darrin watches Lanisen and Colin until they are out of sight, then looks back to Megren. He picks up on the uncertain look in her eyes right away and blinks a few times, his expression turning befuddled. He tilts his head at her.

Megren says in a cheerful tone, “Did you know about Sir Colin and never said a word to me?”

Darrin uhs, looking a little guilty. “Well, he hasn’t /told/ me yet, not explicily, so I didn’t figure it was my place to say. He just made a mention of a fiance when he was all angry at Aaron one time. And, of course, it’s Arael, I’m sure. His feelings for her are fairly obvious.” He scratches his head and offers, “She’s a good match.”

Megren asks, “Arael? I haven’t seen her about since–” she pauses, thinking. “A fortnight or more, I suppose. They’re apart, then?”

You ask, “I understand she’s in…what was it, Carmichael?”

Megren watches a young child run into the village at his mother’s call as they pass through the town center. “I see.”

Darrin nods. “Yep,” he says cheerily. “Don’t know why he’s so…” he waves a hand at the direction Colin departed vaguely, “If he’s just got engaged. But. Maybe I can get him alone some time and get him to tell me about it.” He grins.

Megren says, “All this business with Aaron. It has people unsettled. And it’s been especially hard on Lanisen, of course.”

You say, “Right. That’s true. Still, you’d think…” He shrugs. “Eh, I don’t know.”

Megren nods, acknowledging, “You would think.”

Darrin glances at her and grins, looking grateful that she got what he was not talking about, as it were. He nods.

Megren falls silent, occasionally glancing at him to assess the steadiness of his steps.

Darrin squints at her. “I’m fiiine,” he says, drawing out the word and making it a bit sing-songy. “And it’s your fault I’m sort of drunk, anyways. Two glasses of wine doesn’t usually do me in when I don’t drink it that quickly.”

Megren says, “Much as I may like to take credit, you are very much in control of your own actions, Sir.”

Megren says, “I wouldn’t stoop to imply otherwise.”

Darrin groans. “How very practical and realistic of you. Not too mention un-fun. I like to blame others for my predicaments when I can, see. It makes things more interestin’.”

Megren says, “Very well, Sir. I admit it. The entire evening was orchestrated by me.”

Darrin frowns. “Okay, well, and now that’s just taking things too far. You’ve got to give me a *little* credit for rousting those two from the kennels.”

Megren says, “You are very difficult to please.”

You say, “Got to keep you on your toes.”

Megren says, “With respect, Sir, I was under the impression that was Captain Garian’s job.”

Megren offers him a small grin.

Darrin chuckles. “Maybe I like to change it up. Maybe I’ve even got a secret understanding with the good Captain. You didn’t think of that, didja?” He elbows her.

Megren says, “Of course. How could I have overlooked it? You two are so alike, anyone could see you were very close.”

Darrin nods sagely. “But of course.”

Megren says, “I’m… sorry to have made you talk about your fight, Sir.”

Darrin blinks. “Why?” He asks. He shrugs. “I’ve probably done more foolish things in my life. Just couldn’t think of them on the spot.”

Megren says, “Still it… wasn’t my aim to make you dwell on an unhappy memory.”

You say, “Nah, it’s not exactly an unhappy memory. More like a cringeworthy one. Partially. I gave near as good as I got. And I learned from it. That’s not a complete loss, I don’t think.”

Megren frowns slightly, but she nods rather than say anything further.

Darrin cocks his head. “What?” He smiles faintly and prods, “Out with it!”

Megren’s eyes flicker toward him, and then away. “Forgive me, Sir, but perhaps I dwelt more on the implications for Lady Avery, that her honor was thought to be of a kind only defendable with fists.” She pauses, adding, “I realize that was not the point of the tale.”

Darrin says, “Ah.” He falls silent, chewing on his bottom lip for a moment. “I think…I’ve learned not to dwell on that, over the years. Honor is a funny thing. The dignity of a name – some hold it very dear, above everything else, and I don’t argue that it’s important to be honorable. But I think one’s honor is what you make of it. There’s picking your battles, and there’s also deciding what’s personally important to you. People are always going to talk, no matter what one does, and if that bothers you, you avoid the things they’re bound to talk more about. But for me…I don’t know, I suppose I don’t mind being thought ridiculous most of the time. I’m just a man. Nobility doesn’t entitle me to arrogance or aloofness or propriety, just to what’s right. Everything else…well, let them think I, or my cousin, or whomever, are not as honorable as we might be.”

Darrin rubs the back of his neck. “But I am a little drunk. Does that make any sense at all?”

Megren doesn’t speak right away. When she does, she says, “Perhaps it is a conversation better kept for someone more versed in philosophy than I, Sir.”

You say, “Oh, I don’t know. I’m curious about your opinion. But,” he looks up at the sky, “might be a better conversation for another time.”

Megren walks him through the gate house into the inner ward. “If you would like, Sir.”

Darrin shrugs. “I am fairly easily pleased. So, whichever you prefer.” He pauses just outside the staff quarters and turns to face her.

Megren’s features flicker with something keen, but the expression is gone as quickly as it arrives. “Very well, Sir. Do you want someone to walk alongside you up the stairs?”

Darrin snort-laughs. “Thank you, but no. I’m sure I’ll be fine, Megren.” He starts to bow, catches himself, and nods to her instead. “Good night,” he says affably.

Megren offers him a perfectly innocent smile. “Good, because I really didn’t relish the idea of having to catch you.” She curtsies. “Good night, Sir Darrin.”

Darrin pats his stomach and offers her a wry smile. “Can’t say I blame you.” He nods once more, still smiling, and then turns on his heel and heads off, mostly steady on his feet.

Megren watches until he’s out of sight before turning to go to the barracks.

Truth or Dare, Anvard-Style

Inner Wall Walk
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You stand on Anvard’s Inner Wall Walk. From here you have a view of both the Inner and Outer Wards. A cool wind ruffles your clothes. A glance down into the Outer Ward reveals the bustle of people going to and from the market stalls, or off to various duties throughout the castle. In the Inner Ward you see nobles and staff, mingling happily or going about their own business.
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You can go: Toward the Trapdoor Opening <N>, Southern Watchtower <S>
Contents: A daughter of eve with fair hair.

A daughter of eve with fair hair is seated on the ground with her back pressed against the wall. She’s far away from any of the guards and quite along as she has a large leather volume resting on her drawn up knees that she is very carefully drawing in. A little basket of dried and fresh plants is to the side and one of the plants is on the opposite page of which she is drawing on. It appears to be that she is making a replica of the plant. Her spectacles perch on the end of her nose and occasionally she peeks out into the wards to watch the happenings.

Darrin emerges onto the wall walk at a slow pace and ambles towards the wall, his hands in his pockets. He looks tired, but not unhappy, since unhappiness is a relatively rare state for him.

A daughter of eve with fair hair begins to write something painstakenly below her little drawing, her tongue poking out between her lips in concentration. She fails to notice Lord Darrin’s approach right off.

Darrin himself appears a bit distracted. He lifts his head, closes his eyes and breathes deeply, the breeze ruffling his hair. As a result he doesn’t notice Kairyn either, but his feet continue moving till he practically trips over her feet.

A daughter of eve with fair hair starts and draws herself into a smaller space, caught off guard by his sudden presence. She blinks up at the very tall him above her small self and she whispers a very timid, “Sorry, m’lord.”

Darrin opens his eyes as he finds himself suddenly caught off balance and rights himself quickly and fluidly before he actually falls over. He peers down to find out what he tripped over and then Kairyn’s quiet apology reaches his ears. “Oh! Oh, your pardon. I am SO sorry, I did not see you there. Emperor! Are you all right?” He studies her a bit anxiously, twin spots of color appearing in his cheeks, and then something appears to occur to him. “…Kairyn, isn’t it?”

A daughter of eve with fair hair lays aside her things and pulls herself up on the wall to drop a proper (if timid) curtsy. “Yes. I’m so sorry I was in your way.” She says, her eyes on her shoes. She peeks up at him before focusing on the ground again.

Darrin lets out a rather undignified snort and waves a hand. “Please. /I’m/ the one who nearly trampled you because I wasn’t watching what I was doing, not because you were in any way in the wrong here.” He draws a bit closer, giving a wide, self-deprecating grin. “Go on, call me an oaf, I deserve it.” He pauses, rubs at the back of his neck, and studies her with a quick glance. “…You’re sure you’re all right?”

A daughter of eve with fair hair’s eyebrows raise and she looks at him in shock when he refers to himself as an oaf. Words fail her as her mouth drops open slightly and she just stares at him.

Darrin arches a brow sharply in the family fashion, one side of his lips quirking in amusement. “My. I *have* done it now, haven’t I. Struck her speechless. Well done, Darrin. It seems I must apologize, again.” He sketches a quick bow. As he straightens, his face tightens as if the motion pains him somehow, but the expression is quickly forced away like he’s hiding it.

A daughter of eve with short, copper hair comes walking toward you from the trap door opening.

Kairyn places her fingers on her lips as she lets out a short, quiet laugh. “No–I–I don’t–talk. Much.” She blinks her blue eyes in confusion when he winces, her forehead wrinkling with furrows. “Is–is your injury still bothering you, m’lord?”

Darrin ahs. “Oh, well then. That’s all right. I shan’t pressure you to come forth with a plethora of words in response to my own, never fear. Though I’m sure many would say I rarely stop talking, myself.” He rubs at the back of his neck again and gives a little grin which fades when she picks up on his grimace. “Ah…well, not as such. It…twinges a bit, now and then. Nothing I can’t handle.”

Kairyn leans back against the wall slightly where she stands facing Lord Darrin, assessing him with a little frown. “You never came back into the infirmary to have it checked after your sutures were removed….you were supposed to do that.” She says in a chiding tone, then her eyes grow wide and she puts her hand to her mouth again. “Oh..sorry. That’s Adrian’s job.”

A daughter of eve with short, copper hair emerges from the watchtower onto the walk. She gives Kairyn a small smile, familiar with her habit of coming up here some times, but looks a little more surprised to see Sir Darrin, to whom she gives something a little between a curtsey and a bow– there is a bend at the knees not usual to bows, but she dips her head lower than women usually do in a standard curtsey.

Darrin folds his arms over his chest and assumes a mournful expression. “I’ve been found out. Should’ve expected that, I suppose. I didn’t think another visit was necessary, really, though from the look on your face, it seems you disagree.” He looks amused by her wide eyes. “Considering you were the one to apply the aforementioned sutures, I should think it falls under the domain of your job as well, unless I’m wrong. I don’t claim to be any sort of expert on these things.” He leans against the wall, glancing towards Megren as the door closes behind her. He bows his head to her with his ever-ready smile.

Kairyn’s voice sounds small. “I meant his job to scold.” She notices Megren’s movement out of the corner of her eye and turns to fully face her, returning the smile.

A daughter of eve with short, copper hair comes into their general vicinity, standing so that she may keep one eye on the ward. “Are you scolding Sir Darrin, Kairyn? Shame,” she says with mock sincerity.

Darrin chuckles. “Oh, I am no stranger to scolding, never fear, Kairyn. Though if you prefer to leave such a dastardly activity to others, I shan’t dissuade you.”

Kairyn’s blue eyes widen at Megren’s words and she shakes her head. “Oh no..well…yes I suppose I was. When it comes to the art of healing–I…well. Get a bit feisty.” She stammars, turning pink and looking down again. She pauses a bit when she sees the man walking down in the Outer Ward.

Megren grins easily, “And where would we be without that, I wonder.” She glances down into the ward as well, and a small frown of thought crosses her features.

Darrin arches a brow. “I do believe your definition of ‘feisty’ may in fact differ from my own,” he says dryly, blue eyses glinting in amusement.

Kairyn offers him a small smile at that comment but fails to respond as her eyes are drawn back out to the outer ward. “That’s Aaron…” she says almost inaudibly, and as if she is speaking to herself. When the other guard comes into the ward her expression grows very somber indeed and she says nothing further, just watching.

Megren glances at her, and makes a quiet signal to Sir Darrin that he may also wish to pay attention. “We’ve been briefed to keep aware of the well-dressed young man in red. Aaron, he’s called.”

Outer Ward> Darius is leaning with his back against the outer wall. His arms are crossed and head on a swivel as he scans the Ward.

Darrin’s brow arches higher when Kairyn grows quite serious. He turns slightly to better look down into the Ward and then shoots a glance back to Megren. “Aaron, you say? What seems to be the trouble with him?”

Outer Ward> Haft walks into the Outer Ward in ordinary dress. He scans the ward once, almost missing the all-too-familiar flash of crimson, due to the angle. He heaves a deep sigh, then continues toward the North Stair.

Outer Ward> Darius’s eyes catch Haft as he walks into the ward, his gaze follows him as he heads towards the stair. A grin tugging at his mouth, he makes no move forward.

Megren says, “I can’t say I quite understand it. Only that Haft reports him to be ‘false’ and to take an interest in the inner castle. He says that Sir Colin and Sir Peridan also found him disturbing.”

Kairyn glances at Megran when she says this, looking perhaps a tad relieved and she nods. “Aye, that’s him. I’ve met him..twice. He’s…it can’t be described in a way that makes sense. He’s not…hm. Consistent. And he hasn’t done anything wrong that I’ve seen..but he does give one an unsettled feeling. I feel better I’m not the only who feels that way.”

Outer Ward> Haft hesitates at the base of the tower, then walks wearily upwards.

Darrin purses his lips. “Peculiar,” he observes. “I’d not heard of him.”

Outer Ward> Darius shrugs off of the wall as he sees Haft enter the stair. Making no effort to hide his movements, he makes his way over and walks into the Kennels.

Megren watches Haft’s progress. “I’m of a mind to speak to him myself.”

Kairyn watches the man walk across the ward, frowning a little. “He goes into the kennels a lot… And I’ve seen him trying the gates often.”

Megren asks, “…Trying the gates?”

Kairyn nods, biting her lower lip. “I’ve seen him…the other day he walked to and fro into the market, the kennels, the stables. When he first got to the ward he walked up to the inner gates and the guard turned him away…then when he finished walking all about he tried again before leaving.”

Darrin frowns. “That IS odd. Whatever could interest him in the Kennels, anyways?”

Kairyn’s voice is quiet. “The boy…man who works in the kennels. Lanisen? Saw him follow him in the other day. Others saw it too…the man did not look happy that Aaron was there.”

Megren says, “Perhaps he thinks that an easier entrance.”

Darrin taps his upper lip in thought. “Lanisen? Hm.”

Kairyn glances at Megren. “The kennels?” She asks, surprised. “But anyone can see it doesn’t lead inside…”

Megren rubs the length of her nose with a finger. “Ah– I meant the man. Lanisen.”

Kairyn ohs.

Darrin frowns again. “Sir Colin’s squire, yes?”

Megren’s brows rise. “Ah. That’s how I know the name.”

Kairyn nods. “Sir Colin’s…something. I haven’t met him personally. They seem to be good friends.”

Darrin also nods. “Don’t know him myself, but he seems a decent sort, especially if Colin is friends with him.” He casts his gaze back down into the Ward and scans it carefully to see if the man in question is still there.

Megren says, “Well, he seems to have gone into the kennel now, unchecked. Perhaps I might… happen upon him, and see whether he is with Lanisen or the houndmaster, or alone with the dogs.”

Kairyn nods, clearly trusting Megren’s judgement on the matter.

Darrin turns back to the guardswoman and arches a brow. “Perhaps you might happen to not be alone, if it please you,” he offers.

Megren smiles. “If you do not mind, Sir Darrin.”

Kairyn draws backwards to allow them room to pass by her, dipping a quick curtsy to Lord Darrin.

Darrin bows to Megren. “My pleasure,” he says sincerely. He spares a glance and a smile to Kairyn. “Your scolding has been taken to heart, Kairyn. I’ll stop by the infirmary for a check-up soon, hm? Though,” he pauses, puts a hand over his heart dramatically. “My pride insists I assert I still find the extra concern unnecessary.” He smirks, clearly trying to play this last statement off as a joke.

Kairyn purses her lips at him to hide her amusement. “I’ll be seeing you when you stop in, sir.” She says pointedly.

Megren responds with a small roll of her eyes, somehow so good-natured as to hardly seem impolite. “After you, Sir Darrin.”

Darrin chuckles. “But of course,” he tells Kairyn before making his way towards the kennels.

Kennels
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The kennel of Anvard is a fairly spacious room, well-lit by the windows in the south wall looking toward the Outer Ward. It is immediately obvious that the hounds housed here are quite well-treated: the floor is kept clean-swept; the blankets padding the dogs’ wooden beds are thick and warm; and the hounds themselves have a certain sleek, well-fed look. Several pens can be seen toward the back of the room, likely used to isolate dogs that are sick, injured, or in need of further training, but the majority of the castle hounds are allowed to roam freely about the room.

A fireplace, lit on cold days, is set into the east wall, opposite the door to the quarters of Danall, the Master of Hounds. A set of wooden stairs leads up to a second level.
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You can go: Up <U>, Outer Ward <S>, Huntsman’s Chamber <W>
Contents: A son of adam wearing a red tunic; A son of adam with a stern face; and Kirby the Houndkeeper.

A son of adam wearing a red tunic stands a few feet away from Haft. He crosses his arms at this, looking a little -too- confused. “I don’t have a -clue- what you mean! I came in here to see the new litter! ” he returns, smiling brightly.

A son of adam with a stern face is standing stroking a hound.

Darrin enters the Kennels with Megren in tow, his hands loose by his sides and a casual set to his shoulders. He laughs at something she said.

Megren has a small smile on her face, left over from whatever the conversation had been, but it falls away into a slightly more serious, if nonthreatening, expression as they enter the kennel. She gives Haft a small nod.

A son of adam with a stern face nods back, then bows to the knight.

A son of adam wearing a red tunic spins on one heel to face the two as he hears the laughter. Sizing them both up quickly, he chooses silence for the moment, taking a couple steps back.

Darrin gives a half-bow to Haft in return, including the other man in the greeting. “Good day, folks,” he drawls cheerfully.

Megren moves to sit on a chair, calling one of the hounds to her with a certain familiarity. The dog comes running and she rubs between its ears. “Didn’t expect to find the kennels so full,” she smiles, then corrects, “of people, anyway.”

A son of adam with a stern face chuckles. “Indeed not. Well, I don’t often spend much time here myself. I was curious to see whether Lanisen was about.”

A son of adam wearing a red tunic looks between the three before nodding back to Darrin. “Aye, I do believe it is a -good- day.” He returns, now smiling wide. “But! I do believe it would be a better one if I was granted the privlage of knowing both of your names!”

Darrin squats near Megren, shifting his sword so it doesn’t drag too much on the ground in its sheath, and then holds out his hands palm first to the hounds sniffing around his boots in friendly fashion. Once licked, he sets about petting the nearest. He looks up. “Oh! Your pardon. I am Sir Darrin, of Coghill.” He bows his head. “And your name?”

Megren holds out a doggy hand for the fellow to shake. “Megren,” she says, not elaborating further so that he may reply to the knight’s question.

A son of adam with a stern face says, “Sir Darrin, I don’t believe we have been properly introduced either. Haft, of the guard.”

A son of adam wearing a red tunic takes a few purposeful steps forward before clapping his hand to Megran’s, grasping it firmly and giving it a good shake. “A true pleasure!” Then looking back to Darrin, his eyes widen a bit, brightness in his eyes increasing – if it were even possible. “Sir you say? Well! ” He crosses his arm over his torse and lets the other hang down as he gives the man a short bow. “Aaron is the name! “

Darrin gives a quick nod to Haft. “A pleasure, Haft. Believe I’ve seen you about.” He turns to Aaron, arching a brow severely. “Good to meet you, Aaron,” he says, lips quirking just the smallest bit. “Though I’m afraid I’m hardly so glamorous as your enthusiasm might indicate.” He smirks.

Megren grins easily at Sir Darrin’s remark. “If you want to hero-worship me, on the other hand–,” she quips. “Where are you from, Aaron?”

Haft leans back against the wall, resuming stroking the dog’s head.

A son of adam wearing a red tunic laughs at Megren’s response, crossing his arms. “Here… there, a bit of everywhere I suppose. ” he grins, looking amused at his response. “More here currently than anywhere else though.”

Darrin scritches behind his hound’s ears and chuckles at Megren’s comment. “Yes, by all means, worship the ground she walks on. We all do,” he says with a smirk. The look he gives Aaron is rather a bit more directly assessing, though amusement still clings to his features.

Megren raises her brows at Sir Darrin, not looking unflattered. “What sort of business leaves a man without a place to call his home?” she asks Aaron.

Haft gives his attention to the hound.

A son of adam wearing a red tunic shrugs. “I imagine it is a wanderers heart that keeps me from clinging to any place one might call home. The only thing that keeps me here is the opportunity for work. ” he chuckles. “Wanderer may be what my heart wants, but my stomach certainly needs a bit more to survive. Plus! ” he gestures towards Haft. “I have had the -immense- pleasure of getting to know a few of the incredibly hospitable residents of Andale. All said, it is enough to keep me around for some time. ”

Darrin grins openly at Megren and slides down into a cross-legged position, the over-enthusiastic hound climbing into his lap. To Aaron, he says in a dry, sarcastic tone, “We aim to please.”

Megren seems to find amusement in the movements of the hound. “I understand perhaps more than some the need to find a stable income,” she says sympathetically. “It is good you have found something for the time you are here.”

Haft scratches his dog under her chin, then says, “Nice that you’re settling in well for now, yes.”

A son of adam wearing a red tunic chuckles, nodding. “It is indeed nice! ” he returns, waving a hand. “But, alas, you all will need to excuse me. I need to be off. ” he smiles and before any can answer of stop him, he is at the door and on his way out.

Darrin watches him go, still roughing up the dog squirming in his lap. “Hmm.”

Haft cocks his head, heaves a deep sigh, and meets Megren’s eyes as if to say, “And there you have it.”

Darrin pats the hound one last time and rises to his feet. “I see what you mean, Megren,” he observes.

Megren releases her hound as well, although the dog is reluctant to lose attention. “He certainly implies a number of things.”

Haft’s mouth goes into a grim line. “He likes to stir up trouble, if he can, from what I’ve seen. And he spends quite a bit of time in here.

You say, “And yet without saying anything of substance. ”

Darrin looks to Haft. “What kinds of trouble? And I’ve heard he seems to have an interest in Lanisen?”

Haft says, “When first we met Sir Colin and Lord Peridan were already concerned about him. I let him think me an idiot and tried to draw him out. He kept going on about how the volunteers from Narnia weren’t properly paid. Ridiculous notions.” He hesitates at the mention of Lanisen.”

Megren blinks. “Paid?”

Darrin rubs his hands down his legs to get the hound hair off them and then rubs at the back of his neck. He arches a brow at this statement, glancing to Megren at her question. It seems his confusion centers around the same idea.

Haft shrugs. “He was trying to stir up malcontent, or find someone already discontented, in my opinion.”

Megren says, “I can’t say I don’t… well, it seems likely he pinches a little coin on the side, with the traveling life he professes and the quality of his clothes.”

Darrin thinks about this. “But what would be the point of stirring up such discontent, if he’s a cutpurse on the side? You’d think anonymity would benefit him.”

Haft says, “I was told by a man in the village that a woman’s brooch has gone missing, but she’s mislaid it before. He didn’t seem to think anything else was amiss.”

Megren asks, “Perhaps he simply… takes joy in mischief?”

Darrin taps his lip. “Feasible. Which makes him more harmless than he…well, feels.”

Haft presses his lips together.

Megren nods a kind of agreement to this assessment.

The dog at Haft’s side whines, forgotten.

Darrin crosses his arms across his chest. “He bears more watching until we have something more…concrete, to go on, I think.”

Haft nods. “Regarding Lanisen, I am personally concerned. Aaron comes here often…I find a grown man so obsessed with seeing a litter of puppies…well, he is being disingenuous, shall we say?”

Megren says, “Were it the only thing in which he took great interest I might disagree, but given his other behavior–”

Darrin looks down as the hound he was petting butts under his hand insistently. He grins, reaching down to muss up the dog’s ears, momentarily distracted from the conversation.

Haft lets out a breath. “Do either of you know the names of the dogs?”

Megren points out two dogs. “Auryon and Pire are His Majesties and Prince Corin’s.”

Darrin takes note of the two. “I know I’ve been properly introduced to a few of them, but for the life of me, I can’t remember any names at the moment.” He looks down at the hound he’s petting and says in a softer tone that he would vehemently deny being a coo, “Terribly sorry, mate. Yes, I know, it’s very rude of me.”

Haft says, “And which one is Sorrel? Lanisen told me she has…good taste in humans.”

Megren shakes her head. “I only know the others because of their owners. I’m sorry.”

Darrin continues petting the hound.

Haft shrugs. “Doesn’t matter.” He quips, “Perhaps we could’ve given her a whiff of Aaron and see what she did.”

Megren’s brows lift. “Sounds unpleasant,” she muses.

Darrin chuckles. “While I’m sure the dogs are an excellent judge of character, that still doesn’t give us any real proof of him doing anything wrong, even if she had reacted poorly.”

Haft says, “No. Actually I am told she favors Prince Cor. I was curious.” He considers something for a moment. “I should go. I have an…obligation to fulfill.””

Megren glances at Darrin. “I suppose we should, too, now that the hounds are safe from ill humors.”

Darrin pats the hilt of his sword. “A success, then. Ill humors should be terrified when we are on the job.” He winks, then gives a bow to Haft. “Very good. A pleasure to make your acquaintance officially, Haft.”

“Yours as well, sir,” Haft says, returning the courtesy. “If you will both excuse me.” He turns and makes his way to the door.

Megren rises as the man departs, wiping her hands of general dogginess on her thighs. “Well,” she says.

Darrin raises a brow. “Well?” He echoes, turning it into a question.

Megren glances at him, processing for a moment before deciding to openly speak her thoughts. “That Haft’s a bit of an odd sort, too.”

Darrin glances out the kennel door after him and gnaws on his lip before nodding. “Aye, I’d had that thought. He seems to be a decent sort, mostly, though.”

Megren nods, “Oh, I think so. Just a bit… private, perhaps.”

Darrin chuckles. “Well, you’ll find that among my vast repertoire of skills I have a lot of experience in dealing with private, reserved types. Relatives, and such. They’re just different, is all.”

Megren grins. “Yes, I suppose you would.”

Darrin says, “But then, when you have my loquaciousness, it never becomes *too* much of an issue.” He smirks.

Megren’s grin widens, “I believe that. Perhaps we can make a challenge of him. We’ll trade revelations.”

Darrin raises both eyebrows and the grin he gives is positively delighted. “Megren,” he says, with an exaggerated bow, “thou art a woman after mine own heart.”

Megren gives a firm, very pleased nod. “It’s a game, then.” She gestures with her head to the door. “Meanwhile, I suppose it’s back to the walls for us.”

Darrin nods. “You’re on.” He gestures to the door. “After you?”

Megren gives one of her dipped bows and takes the offer.

Inner Wall Walk
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You stand on Anvard’s Inner Wall Walk. From here you have a view of both the Inner and Outer Wards. A cool wind ruffles your clothes. A glance down into the Outer Ward reveals the bustle of people going to and from the market stalls, or off to various duties throughout the castle. In the Inner Ward you see nobles and staff, mingling happily or going about their own business.
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You can go: Toward the Trapdoor Opening <N>, Southern Watchtower <S>
Contents: A son of adam with a stern face (Haft).

Haft is standing by the wall, looking out over the Outer Ward, still dressed in his casual clothes.

Megren ascends the staircase of the southern tower slightly ahead of Sir Darrin, making her way back to the inner wall. She smiles at the sight of Haft there, and steps out of the way so that Sir Darrin can see. “We meet again, Haft,” she says with a certain delight.

Haft turns. “Ah, yes,” he says pleasantly.

Darrin gives a boyish grin. “What a pleasant coincidence,” he says with perhaps too much enthusiasm, drawing out the word ‘pleasant’.

Megren asks, “Thinking again?”

Haft gives Darrin an inquiring glance, then turns to address Megren’s question. “Constantly. It’s very tiring, if you want to know. I think I might like to give it up.”

You say, “The secret is, whenever you get tempted to think too much, you go and dismantle a training dummy, see.”

Megren taps her lip. “Violence, violence, violence, Sir Darrin!” She tsks and reprimands, “Training’s daily fare, it’s not to be controlled by the whim of personal reflection. No, I prescribe…” she thinks. “A game with your guardmates. And maybe a drink, but only if it’s fine enough.”

Haft purses his lips. “I’m with Sir Darrin on this one, but I fear I rather wore out my welcome with Doel when I first came back. But I’d not say no to a game.”

Darrin straightens until he’s standing at loose attention, both eyebrows lifting just slightly in an expression that says he is impressed. “I stand corrected, ma’am,” he says, lips twitching.

Megren grins at the acceptance, and even more at Sir Darrin’s concession. “Where to, then? The barracks or the mess?”

Haft says, “Mess, I suppose.”

You say, “That was going to be my suggestion, as well.”

Megren gestures with her hand to the tower, bowing a very little over it and saying, “Sirs?”

Haft says, “Ladies first.”

You ask, “Who am I to argue with such reasoning?”

Megren cants her head. “As you wish.”

Off-duty Mess
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This is the place where off duty soldiers and sailors can relax and eat. There is a small cookfire and hearth and a few tables set up nearby. On one wall is a dart board, and on a small table in the corner there is a chess set. Someone has left a pile of parchment with sketches of his fellow knights on another table. This is a comfortable, casual room.
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You can go: Out to the Northern Stairwell <S>
Contents: A daughter of eve with short, copper hair (Megren) and A son of adam with a stern face (Haft).

Haft eyes the room for a quiet table. “So, what’re you looking to play then?”

Megren says, “I chose the activity; I led the group– one of you must take this one.”

Darrin looks about. “Well, ordinarily I would suggest chess, but as there are th
ree of us…” he motions at the dart board. “Darts?” His blue eyes light up. “Lo
sers required to submit to a dare or question each round?”

Haft looks doubtful.  “I…suppose.”

Megren breaks into a grin. “I’m up for it.

You say, “Drinks first? ”

Darrin rings for a page.

Megren nods, and sits on a nearby bench. “Haft first.”

OOC> Megren says, “1-2 is outer ring  3-5 is middle maybe, and 6 is bullseye, yeah”

Haft stands up. “Right.” He takes aim and the dart flies straight into the bull’s eye. He has the decency to look mildly surprised. “Glad to see I can still do that.”

Darrin takes a goblet of wine when the page returns and sips at it while Haft throws. He looks impressed. “Nicely done,” he says, stepping up to throw next. His dart lands a hair away from Haft’s, also on the bulls-eye.

Megren toasts them both, taking a drink before she rises to throw. Her mark is less good, and she hits the line between the outermost and second ring.

Haft grins at Darrin’s throw and shrugs at Megren’s. “Let’s see then…you can tell us the worst nickname you ever had as a child or…” he casts around for an idea, then gestures for Darrin to make a suggestion.

Darrin hms, tapping a finger against the outside of his goblet. “Or…I don’t know, sing the most ridiculous song you can think of.”

Haft says, “Loudly.”

Darrin grins. “Loudly.”

Megren squints one eye at Sir Darrin. “As if I wouldn’t do that of my own accord. The nickname is easy, though, since it was only my father and me most of the time.” She smirks and lifts her chin. “Your choice: Little Fritter, Meggy-Bird, or Nutmeg.”

Haft says, “Oh ‘Fritter’, definitely.”

You say, “Where does Little Fritter even come from? I get the other two, but that one…”

Darrin shakes his head.

Megren lifts a shoulder. “Pet names, who knows.”

Haft rises again to take aim at the dart board. He manages to land just outside the center, gives a nod of satisfaction, and sits down.

Darrin takes Haft’s place and throws more carelessly this time, perhaps overconfident from his last hit. His dart lands on the outermost ring. He tsks, shaking his head mournfully, and steps aside.

Megren clicks her tongue. “Sharp, Haft.” Her toss lands similarly close, on the other side. She twirls, a big grin ready for the victim. “Sir Darrin, hard luck.”

Haft gestures for Megren to offer the question.

Darrin spreads his hands. “Have at me, then,” he says, eyes twinkling.

Megren comes to sit back down and strokes her chin studiously. “Hmm… traditional this early in the game, I think. Most embarrassing thing you’ve done.”

Haft tries to think of something for a dare. “Ah…you have to take off your shoes?” he offers?

Darrin laughs. “Oh, but Megren, there are *so many*. How to choose just one?” He smirks. “I would take off my shoes and gladly but I fear the stench would overwhelm us all, therefore…” He pauses to think. “Ohhhh, there was that one time as a boy when I apparently was sleepwalking in, ahem, rather less than suitable attire. Frightened the poor wits out of my Aunt Paige. Well, frightened is rather not the correct word.” He winces. “I believe the more embarrassing part of all that was the dressing down I received from her nearly every waking moment for the rest of her visit. Embarassing oneself in front of my aunt? Not recommended, I can tell you that much.”

Megren claps her hand over her mouth, shoulders hunching up with laughter.

Haft smiles, possibly indulging his own memory of Lady Paige.

You say, “Oh yes, laugh it up. It’s funny NOW. I was rather not amused at the time.”

Haft walks up to the board and removes the thrown darts, aims with confidence from his first two tosses-and manages to strike the outermost edge.

Haft grimaces and resumes his seat, passing on the darts.

Megren keeps giggling well into Haft’s toss.

Darrin shakes his head at her in irritation, the lie of which is given away by the way his lips twitch in amusement. He takes a dart and manages to make it only just slightly closer to the center than Haft.

Megren’s dart lands near Darrin’s, not a good toss, but enough to keep her in safety. “Look at us, taking turns.”

Haft spreads his hands, inviting the inquiry.

Megren looks at Darrin for the question.

Darrin thinks briefly. “Oh! Describe the strangest dream you ever had.”

Haft tenses slightly.

Megren squints one eye at the knight, not seeming to think this particularly interesting. “Or… dance a jig out in the ward.”

Darrin gives Megran a challenging look, planting his hands on his hips and raising a brow.

Haft winces. “My strangest dreams don’t bear repeating,” he says grimly, rising from the table. “Will you join me in the jig Megren, or must I look a right idiot all on my own?”

Megren’s face falls a little, and she gives Sir Darrin a glance. She nods. “Sure, I’ll dance with you.”

Haft’s lips twist wryly. “Right then.” He offers his arm.

Darrin’s expression dances between smug and a bit sympathetic. He gives Haft a scrutinizing look.

Outer Ward
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You stand in the busy outer ward of Castle Anvard, full of people seeing to the needs of king and kingdom. There are market stalls along the outer wall, bustling with merchants and shoppers. Grooms work in the stables, tending to the horses there, and you hear the occasional bark of a dog from the kennels. The sounds of hammer hitting iron rings out from the blacksmith shop. There are stairs leading to the gate towers on the northern and southern corners of the outer curtain. To the east is the outer gatehouse, and the road leading into the realm of Archenland, and to the west another gate, leading to the inner gatehouse, the inner ward, and the main keep of Anvard.
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You can go: Kennels <N>, Northern Market <NE>, Outer Gatehouse <E>, Southern Market <SE>, Stables <S>, Blacksmith <SW>, Inner Gatehouse <W>, South Stair <US>, North Stair <UN>
Contents: A daughter of eve with short, copper hair (Megren) and A son of adam with a stern face (Haft).

Lanisen comes walking into the outer ward past the iron gates.

Megren takes his arm gaily enough and walks with him out into the ward.

Lanisen leaves the kennel building, shoving back an overly enthusiastic deerhound who really really wants to come with him. He turns to cross the ward toward the inner gatehouse.

Darrin follows along behind the arm-in-arm Haft and Megren, blue eyes dancing.

Haft glances around the ward, which is mostly empty, but he doesn’t really take note of faces, just the number of people likely to see. “Well, you’ll have to keep time for us, Sir Darrin.” He takes a deep breath, bows to his partner, and takes her hands.

Megren curtsies neatly.

Lanisen limps along the outskirts of the ward, watching faces and keeping his head down.

Darrin grins. “Right,” he starts tapping his foot until he gets a good rhythm going and then eventually he adds in clapping his hands. “Whenever you two are ready, then.”

Haft taps his foot a few times in rhythm with Darrin, then begins a rollicking jig, humming a common tune.

Megren follows along, not very good, but making up for lack of skill in dedication.

Lanisen glances toward the source of the music. He pauses midstep, looking like he’s not entirely sure he believes what he’s seeing.

Darrin hums along with Haft, though it looks like he’s barely restraining himself from bursting into laughter. His keeping time falters momentarily and then resumes.

Megren, not a very good follower, puts a few extra leaps in there for good measure.

Haft leads Megren through the steps of the jig a for another couple of turns, then releases her hand and bows to her with a good humored smile. As he rises his eyes catch Lanisen across the ward and his expression fades. He straightens quickly and turns toward Darrin.

Megren smiles, giving him a deep, polite sort of curtsy, followed by a hard pat on the shoulder. “Sign of a good soldier,” she says.

Darrin bursts into loud applause. “Bravo, bravo, an exceptionally well-danced jig, you two.”

Megren curtsies to Sir Darrin as well.

Haft coughs.  “Ah…yes.  Thank you.”

Lanisen scratches his head and continues on.

Darrin grins widely.

Megren nods encouragingly at the older man. “It was well done.”

Haft says, “Yes…well, I think perhaps I’ll retire for the evening. I enjoyed the company.” His smiles, though his eyes look vaguely troubled.

Darrin offers him a bow. “As did I. A good night to you, Haft.”

Megren’s brows draw together a little, and then she nods. “Get some rest, then,” she smiles.

Haft nods and heads for the stairwell.

Darrin looks thoughtful. “Not bad for an evening,” he muses.

Megren watches the man disappear. “You see, though. I think… he’s sad.”

You say, “It certainly seems…a more self-imposed isolation than simple preference for solitude.”

Megren mms agreement. “I call us zero to zero. No– half a point to each, for getting to agree to play,” she gestures to herself, “and a /great/ choice in game rules,” she points to him.

Darrin flashes a grin. “Sounds fair. I *thought* it was rather a fantastic idea, myself.”

Megren says, “I can see I’ll have to keep on my toes against you, Sir Darrin.”

You say, “I like to present a challenge, it’s true.”

Megren puts her hands on her hips. “You’ll not find I give up easily.”

Darrin raises a brow and smirks. “Oh, I’m counting on that.”

Megren gives a business-like nod, crossing her arms seriously. “That’s what I like to hear.”

Darrin chuckles. “For now, though, I suspect I should bid you a good night. The hour grows late.”

Megren glances up at the first twinkling stars which have begun to come out. “Yes, I suppose so.” She gives him an official sort of bow. “Until we next head-off, then.”

Darrin bows in return. “Indeed. Try not to have *too* much fun without me, now.”

Megren gives a little smile and rolls her eyes upward. “We’ll see.”

Darrin shakes his head slightly, looking wounded and trying not to smile. He heads off towards the noble’s quarters.

Megren trots off toward one of the watch towers.

Cousins in the Library

Library
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You stand in the Library of Anvard, a room well-lit by a multitude of wall sconces. The air is heavy with the unique, but pleasing smell of books, old and new. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of volumes line the shelves from top to bottom, and a number of tables have been provided for reading and writing. The room appears to be well-dusted and well-kept, its contents carefully maintained and repaired throughout the years.
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You can go: Hallway <W>
Contents: A daughter of eve with honey-colored ringlets (Avery); A son of adam wearing a chain of office (Dar); A son of adam wearing spectacles (Tyre); and A Row of Bookshelves.

Avery opens her book, flipping the pages to her last drawing, a partially finished drawing of a horse. She hmms and picks out a charcoal pencil. She catches a figure out of the corner of her eye and she looks up. Upon seeing Dar, Avery smiles. “Cousin, good eve.”

Dar sketches a bow and makes his way over. “Good Evening, Cousins. I leave to attend a meeting and I return to find you both here. The situation has improved, from my perspective.” The corners of his mouth are turned very slightly upward. “Unless you do not care for company this evening–” This is said with a glance toward Tyre.

Tyre’s gaze rests on Avery all the while she is setting her things out at his table. He is just returning to his work with a small released breath when she addresses Dar. He looks up again to absorb his cousin’s greeting. Pushing his glasses up his nose, his eyes blinking slowly behind them, he gestures to the filling surface area with his other hand, “By all means.”

Darrin appears at the door.

Avery glances at her brother as well, one side of her mouth lifted. Standing, she curtsies. “My brother is very used to interruptions, at least from me. I do it quite often, but I think he secretly enjoys the company.” She takes her seat again, with another amused glance toward Tyre.

Tyre has already made a renewed attempt at studying a particular line item.

Dar leans himself against the wall adjacent where he can speak to them comfortably. As Tyre rearranges the work he brought with him, Dar allows sympathy to register in his expression. “Sometimes, Cousin Avery, ones responsibilities must come before the pleasure of conversation, even yours–I, however, have not yet looked in my dispatch box, as full as I know it must be, and therefore I am at perfect liberty to be interrupted as often as you please.”

Darrin steps further into the room, remarking glibly, “But of course he secretly enjoys your company, Lady Avery – how could one not?” He smirks, sketching a bow of his head to his brother and his cousins as recompense for his unannounced appearance.

Tyre peers over his glasses. “My care for my sister is no secret.”

Dar turns back to Tyre. “No question of that, Cousin Tyre.”

Avery says, “Ah, I enjoy pleasant conversation, Lord Dar, but I am also quite content to sit in silence with Lord Tyre. I enjoy his company, even when we’re not conversing.” She smiles at Tyre. She is about to say something more, but Darrin walks up just then. She curtsies once more. “Ah, Cousin Darrin. Good to see you.”

Darrin smiles. “Evening,” he says simply.

Tyre’s head is bowed again over his work. “Good evening, Sir Darrin.”

Dar rubs at the back of his neck, his attention still on the elder of his cousins. He turns to his brother at last and inclines his head in an abbreviated bow. “Ah, just in time to hear me express that I can, in fact, be sociable on occasion–“, he says, the corners of his mouth turning up a touch. “There is no getting out of it now.”

Avery returns to her drawing, “No, I think not.” She darkens a few lines on the page. “How do you both fare tonight?”

Darrin says, “That’s me, popping out of the woodworks to hear your heartfelt confessions and document them. No getting away from it, I’m afraid.” His lips quirk. He drops into a chair and tells Avery, “Well enough, for a man of action currently forbidden from taking much action. Luckily I hear I’m to be a free man within a few days. I hope.”

Dar coughs to conceal what could not possibly be a laugh coming from him. He raises an eyebrow in his brother’s direction. “What news?”

Avery looks at her younger cousin, but says nothing for the moment.

Darrin shrugs. “Oh, nothing unexpected. Wound’s healing well; I’ll not die in agony and likely will be able to get back to a more regular training schedule soon.”

Dar ahs. “I am glad to hear Adrian thinks that your recovery is progressing.” To Tyre, he observes, “We could have used your voice on the Small Council tonight, Cousin Tyre. In fact, we may not be your only interruption. His Majesty mentioned that he plans to send for you when he is at liberty.”

Avery chuckles, her eyes on her book. “Well, I am thankful that you will not ‘die in agony’, dear Cousin…” She gets a thoughtful look on her face. “I hope those who were wounded as you were or worse are healing just as well…”

Tyre replies to his elder cousin, “At which time I shall respond.”

Dar inclines his head in response to Tyre’s words. “Of course”, he replies evenly.

Darrin sobers at that statement from Avery, the small crease between his brows perhaps indicating he takes the matter more seriously than he affects to. He says, “From what I have seen and heard thus far, that is the case, cousin. A fact for which which to be grateful, I think.”

Avery nods, smiling. “I have seen recovery in a few, yes.”

Dar runs a hand through his hair and turns his attention away from Tyre so his cousin can return to work. “The reports are favorable, certainly”, he observes, “Including Sir Colin’s squire, who I am told is much improved.”

Avery smudges some of the charcoal, “Also Aliyah the Wolf and Lord Peridan.” A faint smile appears on her lips.

Tyre gaze flickers upward.

Dar’s eyebrow raises a touch. He also gives Avery a considering look.

Darrin arches a brow. “Lord Peridan was injured as well, was he?” His lips twitch.

Avery looks up with a blush. “Y-yes. I have…heard him mention it.”

Tyre makes a sort of hmming sound.

Dar falls silent, his expression unrevealing as Avery continues.

Darrin drums his fingers on the table before him a few times. His lips twitch, but he doesn’t comment on Avery’s blush. “The point being, I suppose, that I haven’t heard of anyone *not* recovering well.”

Avery takes a deep breath, nodding and looking a little relieved. Her eyes fall to her paper once more. She tugs on a tendril of hair and says, “Yes. Very good news…”

Dar remarks simply, “Indeed.”

Darrin crosses his legs and nods.

Avery applies the charcoal to the page again, sketching in silence for a few moments before remarking, “Tyre, have you heard any word from our Mother at all?”

Tyre says, “I expect to shortly. I wrote her the day after the battle.”

Dar inquires, “Do you expect that she will wish to make the journey here, Cousin Tyre?”

Darrin looks to Tyre curiously.

Tyre says, “I, ah, expect so. Her time is, of course, ah, her own.”

Avery chuckles. “Yes. It certainly is. A visit from her would be a most welcome thing.”

Dar nods in reply. “Particularly while she has the chance to meet some of the Narnians.”

Darrin hms in thought. “How long do you think they will stay?” The question doesn’t seem to be pointed at anyone in particular.

Tyre glances up at Dar on this remark.

Avery arches a brow. “I’m not sure she would be particularly fond of meeting /all/ of them…Though, I do hope to introduce her to Aliyah. She is quite a sweet Wolf.” She smiles.

Dar coughs again. “Yes. I was thinking of Lord Peridan and Their Majesties in particular–”

Tyre’s glance becomes a gaze.

Darrin says dryly, “I can honestly say I never thought to hear the words ‘sweet’ and wolf’ paired together in my lifetime.”

At Dar’s comment, Avery’s cheeks turn a shade of red. “Oh. Of course. She will be more than delighted, I’m sure…” She looks down at her drawing, hmming. At Darrin’s words, she says, “I didn’t either, but she is…”

Dar nods, giving Avery a look by way of apology for triggering the blush. “Hardly surprising, though–“, is his comment. “Why would it be impossible for a Narnian wolf to have a pleasant disposition?”

Tyre observes absently, “They have a reputation for surliness, I understand.”

Dar inquires mildly, “Did you not encounter any when you were there for the tournament, Cousin Tyre? I have not known you to base opinions on reputation alone–”

Tyre says, “I am not of a mind to contradict my sister’s observation.”

Avery says, “I had hardly heard anything about Narnian Wolves before, but I now know my assumption was incorrect. At least, in her case.”

Darrin glances to Dar and says, “Nice does not seem a word to apply to Wolves, Narnian or otherwise, though I have only met this Aliyah briefly, so I cannot speak for her. They are…fierce, as I understand it. It was a wolf of Ulfden, was it not, cousin, who won the general melee?”

Dar observes, “I believe if Cousin Tyren were here, he would remark that prowess on the field of battle does not necessarily go hand in hand with fierceness. They are certainly redoubtable fighters, whatever else they may be, as we have all had reason to be thankful for in recent days–”

Tyre makes a cursory note.

Darrin hms, inclining his head. “A point well made, brother.”

Dar’s tone carries a slight note of pride in his brother’s accomplishments as he replies, “Your knowledge of the subject would far exceed mine by this point, Darrin. What I know about knighthood anymore is all books of tactics and whatever practice Cousin Tyren will give me so my skills do not become entirely rusted. You, on the other hand, have excelled at your training–”

Darrin flashes a grin. “Oh, I don’t know about *that*. You handled yourself rather well on the field the other day.” He hehs. “And managed to keep your horse from being cut down from underneath you.” There is a spot of color high on his cheeks, however. “But thank you, Dar. I am glad to succeed in my own way. To each their own areas of expertise, I suppose.” The look he gives his brother is one of deep respect. He clears his throat. “In any case, I believe the point at hand is that prowess in battle is no indication of personality; for proof of which we need only look at the differences between Tyren and myself.”

Tyre glances up at Darrin through his glasses.

Dar inclines his head in acknowledgement of the compliment his brother has paid him. “Celeres kept me sound as well–“, he states. “And His Majesty has need of each of us precisely because of those differences you mention. Go on, though–you were saying?”

Darrin shrugs, his usual light-hearted look returning to him. “Merely, I am a prime example that one does not have to be somber or surly in order to be skilled.” He smirks, eyes twinkling.

Avery smiles at this, sketching as she listens.

Dar replies wryly, “I cannot imagine anyone would consider you either, Darrin–at least not anyone at all acquainted with you.”

Tyre’s doughy face is not entirely devoid of expression at his younger cousin’s statement.

Darrin says, “No fear of that, Emperor forbid.” He shudders.

Avery says, “You are quite the opposite, to be sure.”

Dar answers gravely, “Nor, for that matter, could anyone consider Cousin Tyren to be either of those. Nor must quietness necessarily be equated with surliness–there are as many different knights, each of them just as significant, in their own way, as the various lords who govern our cities.”

Tyre says, “I am sure my brother’s character was not being slighted.”

Darrin blinks, as if just now realizing that his earlier statement could be taken as a slight. “Ah – certainly not.”

Dar hehs. “Assuredly not”, he concurs.

A page enters the library, two letters in his hands. He bows to the group. “Lord Tyre, Lady Avery, a letter for each of you.” He hands them their letters, careful to not mix them up, bows and excuses himself.

Tyre glances at the address. “Ah. ha.”

Dar straightens as soon as the page leaves, tucks his book under his arm, bows again, and makes to leave in order to give his cousins privacy to enjoy their letters.

Darrin makes no attempt to hide the curiosity with which he glances between Tyre and Avery and their letters. When Dar makes to leave he purses his lips.

Avery looks at her own letter. She smiles. “From Mother. How delightful.” As Dar moves away, she’s says, “Dear Cousin, you do not have to go…”

Dar raises an eyebrow at Darrin, then pauses when Avery recalls him.

Tyre examines the seal with a scrape of his thumb before opening the letter.

Darrin pushes back his chair and gets to his feet. “I’ll leave you to it, cousins. Time I retired, I think.”

Avery smiles at Darrin as she opens her letter. “Sleep well, then.”

Dar replies with perfect neutrality, “I trust all is well in Chesterton during your absence–”

Tyre glances up, “Ah, oh. Good night, Sir Darrin.”

Darrin dips his head. “Thank you, Avery. Good night.” He makes his way out of the library.

Dar bids his brother a good evening as well.

The Feasting Continues

Before the Gates of Anvard

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A flat green space at the foot of the mountains opens here, sheltered by the slopes of the northern mountains. Stormness Head looms high to the northeast, its peak nearly always in clouds, and the double-headed peak of Mount Pire rises over the trees to the northwest. A steep ridge like the side of a bowl curves around from the northwest to the east, and the ground descends into dense forest to the south.

At the center of the clear area is a small turreted castle, facing east. Its weathered walls are built of large blocks of red granite that glitter faintly in the sunlight, and elegantly functional ironwork graces the front gates and portcullis. A stone cobbled road wide enough to easily facilitate the passage of carts and carriages crosses over the broad green lawns from the castle gates, disappearing into the trees to the east.

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You can go: Into the Castle <W>, Down the Castle Road <E>

Contents: A daughter of eve with blue gray eyes (Astera); A daughter of eve with chestnut curls; A daughter of eve with her hair in a long plait; A daughter of eve with honey-colored ringlets (Avery); A daughter of eve with mid-back length hair (Dalia); A son of adam of about 14 years of age (Cor); A son of adam shrouded in a heavy cloak; A son of adam wearing well made clothes and a crown (Lune); A son of adam with a strong build (Colin); A son of adam with blue eyes; A son of adam with his right arm in a sling (Lanisen); A wolf with scars over both of his eyes; A wolf with thick black fur and tired blue eyes (Tempest); A wolf with untrusting and piercing eyes (Aliyah); A Platter Heaped with Breads; A Silver Dessert Platter; A Silver Platter Heaped with Meat; A Silver Platter Heaped with Vegetables; Banner of Archenland; Cask of Wine; Narnian Banners; and Torches.

Cor seems about to elaborate on his win, but he is interrupted by the toddler who comes up to Aravis. This is probably a boon to him.

A daughter of eve with chestnut curls falls quiet, just looking back and forth between Sir Colin and Lord Peridan with a crooked sort of grin.

Cole comes walking down the road from the direction of the castle.

A daughter of eve with her hair in a long plait blinks and looks down as she feels something tap her hand, she gives the toddler a curious smile, “Hello there?”

A son of adam with blue eyes nods, “Of course.” He glances at Lanisen, “As I was telling Lansien here, everyone is important in their own way. One stone can cause a mountain to crumble.”

Astera calls out her daughter’s name several times and begins to frantically search the crowd. Lana gives a shy smile and says, “Hello.” She presents a slightly crumpled bouquet of her wild flowers to Aravis. “For you.” She declares, as if it were a great treasure.

Lanisen turns a little red, discomfited.

A son of adam shrouded in a heavy cloak nods to Dalia. “Of course.”

A daughter of eve with her hair in a long plait graciously accepts the flowers, “Now, these /are/ pretty aren’t they?”

Avery takes a sip from her wine glass and sets it down on a tray. She walks over to Astera and says, “She’s with the Tarkheena, sister.”

Tempest sits quietly as the crowd thickens, her nose twitching as she picks out all the scents.

Cor, hearing the call of the woman, looks up to find her. Spotting her, he goes to her to see if the child is what’s the matter.

Dalia hears her Lady’s calls and begins to search as well.

Aliyah glances around and notices Avery. She makes her way to her, much more quickly than the day prior. “Lady Avery,” she says, tail wagging as she nudges her hand.

Colin’s grin widens. “Sound advice, I should say, oh cousin of mine. Say, how have you found Narnia all these years? I have yet to set foot there but I quite enjoy all those I’ve met this weekend. Will you be going back do you think?”

Cole walks out of the Castle hurriedly, parchment in his hands taking up his entire focus. Upon hearing the commotion, he slows and looks up, blinking in some surprise.

Darrin slips in among the revelers as if he’s always been there.

A daughter of eve with her hair in a long plait kneels down so she’s more on a level with the small child and says, “Did you pick them all by yourself?”

A daughter of eve with chestnut curls looks sidelong at Lanisen and leans in a little.

Arael mumbles “Were … … mountain or the …”, to Lanisen.

Lana nods earnestly, looking proud. “From there.” She turns and points to where she found them.

Avery lets out a surprised sound as a wet nose touches her hand. “Oh, Aliyah!” She gives the wolf a friendly rub between the ears. “How

Avery asks, “How is the shoulder? Healing nicely, I hope?”

A daughter of eve with her hair in a long plait looks over to where Lana pointed, “How lovely!”

Lanisen gives Arael an exasperated look.

Lanisen mumbles “… you … … … the riddle-talkin’ … … … Sir … over there.”, to Arael.

A wolf with scars over both of his eyes notices as Aliyah interacts with the others and blinks at the daughter of Eve’s gesture, looking unsure.

Cor takes a stumbling step back as the woman hustles past him, having already seen her child. He rubs between his brows and follows after, back to Aravis.

A son of adam with blue eyes responds to Colin, his eyes very bright, “Narnia is a magnificent country. Its beauty stretches from the southern Woods to the far reaches of Lantern Waste.  I believe that the Great Lion designed it after Himself in a way. Wild and free. I have enjoyed my time there very much.” His eyes flicker between the three in front of him, “You all should visit it if the opportunity presents itself.”

A daughter of eve with chestnut curls’s eyes widen comically and she chokesout a very startled laugh.

A daughter of eve with chestnut curls claps a hand over her mouth.

Astera slows a little and hesitates once she nears her daughter. Then she notices the Prince and gives a hasty courtesy. “Your highness.” She blushes faintly. Lana nods eagerly, engrossed in her conversation with Aravis. “I like these most.” she points to a flower that is purple in color.

Lanisen presses his lips together and looks away, pleased with himself and unrepentant.

Aliyah nods a few times. “It is feeling much better. Thank you so much for your help. I only wish I had seen the healer sooner.” She doesn’t seem to have minded the petting at all.

A daughter of eve with her hair in a long plait takes one of the purple ones, “These ones?” She puts the purple flower in Lana’s hair.

Dalia finally spies the child standing by Lady Aravis and sees her ladyship hurrying towards the child. She spies a familiar face and heads toward where Lanisen is sitting.

Darrin appears suddenly and silently behind Sir Colin. He leans an elbow on the other knight’s shoulder casually and says, “It is a lovely country, I agree,” to Peridan’s statement. A smirk plays about his mouth.

Cor says, “Oh,” he bows to the lady. “Pleased to meet you.”

Cole runs a hand through his hair, seemingly realizing the occasion. Looking over the gathering, he catches sight of his brother and begins making his way overthere, attempting to make a small of an entrance as possible.

Colin gives Arael and Lanisen an odd quizzical look when he picks up on some of their antics, but lets it go to focus on Lord Peridan’s description. “I definitely would like to someday. It is…something I have been thinking about a lot this year. However, when I do travel there, I need to make sure my motives are…honorable, and not selfish.”

A daughter of eve with chestnut curls glares at Lanisen, hand still pressed over her mouth, before she composes herself and looks up toward Lord Peridan, dropping her hand. She dips her head in acknowledgement, but doesn’t speak, and her lips still twitch at the corners.

Lana nods and grins, holding still so the flower doesn’t fall. She giggles and claps, taking one of the flowers and trying reach Aravis’ hair to do the same.

Avery smiles at the wolf. “Oh, I was glad I could help. No use letting it get infected further.” She looks up at the crowd, her eyes lingering on certain people. “Have you been back to check in with Adrian?” Her attention shifts back to Aliyah.

A daughter of eve with her hair in a long plait bows her head a bit to let Lana reach more easily, “And now we match”

Astera tilts her head as she looks at Cor, then smiles. “You must be Prince Cor.” She grins a little wider. “I am Lady Astera. Now that things are settled, I can introduce myself properly.”

Tempest watches Aliyah’s interaction with the lady Avery, glancing at Drune while she speaks quietly.

Tempest mumbles “… … … think … all this?”, to Drune.

Lana nods and claps her hands together, giggling and looking delighted.

Aliyah glances around, taking in the scene before responding. “I did go back to see him. He said it’s healing nicely, and we expect the bandage to be off before I head back to Narnia.”

Lanisen catches this last from Colin, and his mirth drops away quickly. He glances up at his friend, then carefully plants his stick and hauls himself up to his feet, mumbling something about food. Catching sight of Dalia, he nods and gives her a quick grin.

A wolf with scars over both of his eyes’s ear perks at Tempest’s voice, eyes never leaving the group as he responds in kind

Drune mumbles “I’ve … loved … … like this… … I must … I prefer watching from … …”, to Tempest.

Tempest nods in agreement and asks him something else.

Tempest mumbles “What … … … … … and … …”, to Drune.

A daughter of eve with her hair in a long plait smiles at the child, “So what’s your name then?”

Cor says, “Lady Astera. I’ll try to remember. There’s so many names.”

A wolf with scars over both of his eyes grins slightly, glancing at her before replying.

Arael furrows her brow and tilts her head a little as she, too, catches Colin’s words, but she shakes it off and focuses on Lanisen as he makes to leave.

Avery looks relieved. “Oh, how wonderful!” She fiddles with her sleeve. “If you’ll just excuse me…I would just like to lecture my cousin on his tardiness. Punctuality is a virtue, you know.” A grin turns up her mouth.

Drune mumbles “Aliyah and the … … … … being… petted by the Daughter … …”, to Tempest.

Tempest nods her head.

Aliyah laughs and wanders away to find something tasty to eat. “Alrighty then.”

Peridan tips his head, assessing Colin as he speaks his last words. But before he can comment, Darrin appears. He bows at the man in greeting, “Sir Darrin.”

Astera gives Cor a friendly smile, her voice quiet, “Yes. But you’ll get the hang of it.” She grins a little wider. “You’re much more reserved than your brother.” She speaks affectionately. Lana bobs a  small courtesy and says proudly, “I’m Lana.”

Avery moves across the Lawn, coming up behind Darrin and taking his elbow. “Late to a party, Lord Darrin? How unlike you…” She smiles at the gathering and curtsies.

Dalia makes her way to Lanisen, “Hello again. Lanisen, right?” she notice his cane and sling. “Are these wounds from the battle, then?”

As Lord Darrin, Lord Cole and Lady Avery approach, Colin says no more on the matter, allowing the conversation to steer away. When Lanisen makes his move away, he frowns slightly in thought, looking at Arael with raised eyebrows.

A daughter of eve with her hair in a long plait claps her hands together and exclaims, “Lana! What a pretty name!”

Cor asks, “Oh. Well. He’s had a lot longer to get used to it, hasn’t he?”

A wolf with scars over both of his eyes snorts softly, leaning toward his Alpha to reply once again.

Drune mumbles “… it were me and … … other … I would likely have … … hand.”, to Tempest.

Darrin drops his arm and bows his head Perdidan. “Lord Peridan,” he says in a friendly tone. “Ah, cousin, you’re not supposed to notice my entrance, tskk tsk.” He smirks at her.

Lanisen leans on the first table, glancing up as Dalia approaches. “Evening, Miss Dalia,” he answers, giving her a quick smile. He looks down at his sling. “Ahh. Kind of. I wasn’t in the real battle.”

Tempest grins toothily, her pink tongue hanging out as she replies.

Tempest mumbles “… here, I …”, to Drune.

A daughter of eve with chestnut curls curtsies as she finds herself surrounded by lords and a lady. She meets Colin’s eye and shakes her head, still frowning in confusion, before leaning to the side just a bit to watch Lanisen as he goes.

Astera chuckles softly, “Well, yes, I suppose. But I meant that’s how I think I can tell you two apart. I daresay you will never be carried like a sack of potatoes for sneaking out.” Her eyes twinkle. Lana giggles softly, looking pleased. “Thank you. What’s your name?”

As Lady Avery approches, Peridan bows to her, “Lady Avery.”

Cole comes up beside his brother, attempting to act as if he has always been here. “Lord Colin… ” he offers in greeting, examining the table.

Dalia nods looking serious, “I hope you weren’t hurt too badly?” She glances again at the way he’s leaning on the table and at the stick in his hand.

A wolf with scars over both of his eyes chuckles softly, eyes returning to the crowd.

Cor glances to where his brother is playing, not seeming entirely untempted. “So,” he attempts at polite conversation, “You’re from a town, I guess?”

Colin’s expression lifts. “Ah, brother! Good to see you again. Didn’t catch you when we came in…don’t tell me you forgot yourself in your books again.” He teases.

Avery throws a smirk right back at him. “There are few things that go unnoticed by me, Cousin.” She looks at Peridan as he greets her, inclining her head. “Ah, Lord Peridan, how do you fare tonight?”

Drune mumbles “… thoughts on the …”, to Tempest.

Lanisen is quick to reassure her. “Oh, no. It barely hurts at all now.” From the way he’s clutching the cane, this may be a slight exaggeration.

A daughter of eve with her hair in a long plait says to Lana, “Aravis, you can call me Aravis”

Aliyah takes her food to the edge of the crowd and sits a bit to rest her shoulder and think.

Astera nods to Cor and smiles, “Yes. Originally, Carmichael. That’s the town west of here and a little north. Just south of the other pass. All wooded. Largely known for its herds and the gems, mined by the dwarfs. By marriage I am from Chesterton… the fashionable town… and all that. Oh, and metalwork” She sounds less enthusiastic about Chesterton than she does Carmichael.

Peridan gives her a slight smile, “I am very well tonight. I am with friends, we are feasting, and there is peace in the land.” He turns as Cole speaks, “Ah, Lord Cole. It has been a long time.”

Lana listens and says the name slowly, “Ar-ar-aravis.” She stumbles over the word at first and then says it once more confidently, “Aravis.” She smiles. “It’s pretty.”

Cor’s eyes glaze a little at all the details. “Oh.”

Cole’s brow raises in mock disbelief as he shakes his head quickly. “I know not what you mean brother.” he returns quickly, mouth twitching as he tries desperately to hold back a smile.

Arael turns her attention back to the greetings going on around her when it is clear that Lanisen isn’t about to fall again, though she does continue to glance at him out of the corner of her eye.

Astera grins a little and says in a quiet tone, “Yes… I find all the details very long and not as interesting, but it will come in handy later.”

Darrin chuckles, shaking his head at Avery. “I will have to remember that for the future, then.” He looks about the group around him, finally registering all the faces, and seems rather at ease. He offers a smile when he notices Arael.

Cor tries, “So… you’d be married to… Lord… Tyre?”

Astera quickly places a hand over her mouth to stifle a giggle, although her eyes shine with merriment. She takes a moment to compose herself before saying, “No, your highness, but Lord Tyre is the Lord of Chesterton. I am married to Sir Tyren, his brother.”

A daughter of eve with her hair in a long plait nods encouragingly as the little girl tries to say her name, “That’s right, and thank you”

Astera says in a light, jovial manner, “For which I believe Lady Paige forever shall be grateful.”

Arael grins at Darrin in acknowledgement when she catches his smile.

Dalia nods slowly, as if she doesn’t quite believe him, but isn’t sure either way.

Lana asks, “Do you want to play?”

Cor seems a little confused by this last remark. “Oh I see. Uh, congratulations to you all, then.”

A daughter of eve with her hair in a long plait asks, “Play? What do you want to play?”

Cole turns as he hears his name once more, smiling broadly as he recognizes his cousin. “Ah, Lord Peridan! ” he exclaims. “It has been quite some time. ”

Astera smiles, “Thank you.” For a brief moment her smile looks strained. She eyes her daughter and interrupts, saying, “Lana, don’t you think it’s your bedtime?”

Lana turns to her mother, her smile disappearing. She gives a small pout. “But I want to play with Aravis.” She explains.

A daughter of eve with her hair in a long plait stands as Lana turns to her mother and tries to look dignified, “Is she yours?”

Lanisen turns his attention toward the food. He reaches out, mindful of his balance, and grabs a piece of bread. He transfers this from his left hand to his right hand, then piles some meat carefully on top of it. Once he’s set there, he grabs his stick and turns back toward Colin and Arael.

Peridan claps Cole on the back, “Indeed, it has been a long time. It is good to see you, cousin.”

Cor steps back, trying to be out of the way of the conversation.

Astera tries to conceal a smile, “Perhaps tomorrow. Don’t you wish to be well rested so you can play longer?” She nods to Aravis and gives a small curtesy, “Yes milady, she is.”

Darrin pats Avery’s hand on his elbow apologetically and moves over near Arael. He flashes a broader smile at her. “Miss Arael! I haven’t yet had much of a chance to speak with you. How do you fare?”

Darrin pats Avery’s hand on his elbow apologetically and moves over near Arael. He flashes a broader smile at her. “Miss Arael! I haven’t yet had much of a chance to speak with you. How do you fare?”

Colin watches the interacting with Darrin and Arael, his expression curious before he focuses on the conversation with Lord Peridan and his brother.

A daughter of eve with her hair in a long plait returns the curtsey with one of her own, done in the Calormene style, “You’re Lady Astera aren’t you? I think we  were introduced?”

Cole nods. “And you… ” he grins. “I trust Narnia is treating you well?”

Avery listens to the men, staying quiet for the moment. She takes a step closer and comes beside Colin. “Sir Colin.” She curtsies, eyes lowered.

Colin greets Lady Avery pleasantly. “Good day to you, Lady Avery. How are you faring?” He bows politely.

Peridan laughs, “Yes, it is a wonderful country. I am very happy to serve her for as long as she needs me. I hope Nieklot is still standing?” His eyes are twinkling with amusement.

Arael says, ‘Well, I thank you, /Lord/ Darrin.” Her tone is teasing here, but then grows a little more serious. “And you? You got through the battle all right?”

Avery asks, “Very well. And yourself, Milord?” She observes him with a modest gaze. “I trust you are well, especially after the last few days?”

Darrin snorts a bit, the noise rather undignified, but he grins at the acknowledgement. “Oh yes. Came out of the major battle entirely unscathed, though I took an arrow the day before. Tis not bad, however, never fear.” He touches his fingers to his middle briefly, smoothing out his tunic over the location of the wound in an unconscious gesture.

Astera nods to Aravis and smiles, “Yes. Although with everything going on, there’s not been much time to talk.” Lana gives a soft sigh and concedes, holding her arms up to her mother. Astera picks up her daughter, kissing the top of her head. “I see Lana had no trouble introducing herself. She’s so curious and adventurous. Sometimes it makes me quite faint.”

Cole looks to his brother as he replies to Peridan. “I can only assume… ” he chuckles, now grinning. “My duties have kept me close to Anvard these last few years. I imagine Sir Colin would have a much more personal grasp on Nioklot’s current state.”

Colin nods his assent to Lady Avery. “Yes, I was most fortunate, thank you for asking.” When he hears his name his attention is pulled back to the conversation. “Aye?”

A daughter of eve with her hair in a long plait allows herself a little laugh, “She’s no trouble really, she actually reminds me a little of my younger brother who’s about her age, he was always wandering off and getting himself into trouble too.”

Cor glances around, looking rather alone in the crowd. His eyes settle on his brother playing, but it’s clear he’s not sure he’s quite up for such roughhousing.

Peridan raises an eyebrow, crossing his arms over his chest. However, he winces slightly as his arm happens to brush his side, “Is that so, Colin? Now I really wonder about the state of Nieklot.”

Astera smiles, “I think it’s the age, really. Although I am very glad she is so curious about everything. I think that it makes for a much more delightful childhood.” She glances at Cor and asks, “So how do you both find things here?” Lana snuggles up against her mother, listening to the conversation.

Avery is about to walk away and let the men talk business, but before she does, she happens to see Peridan wince and she frowns. “Are you quite alright, Lord Peridan?”

Colin clasps a fist over his heart with a gasp. “You wound me, sire!” He jokes.

Dalia says, “I hope Aslan sees fit to restore you to full health soon. Aslan’s blessings.” She says as she sees him turn back to his friends.

Arael raises her eyebrows in surprise at this news. “Oh!” She glances at Colin. “H– I’d not heard about the arrow. I’m glad ’twasn’t worse.”

Cor, having stepped out of the conversation, doesn’t realize he’s been spoken to at first. When he hears the lull of noise peripheral to him he startles and turns. “What?”

Lanisen flinches slightly, either from Dalia’s well-wishing or because he put too much weight on his bad leg, it’s impossible to tell. “Ahh, thank you,” he says after a hesitation. “You, uh, you too.”

Cole cannot suppress his laughter at this. “Ah, I hear you Cousin. ” he then moves to put a hand on his brothers should and give it a good squeeze. “/But/! I wouldn’t be too worried… I have yet to hear of any wars in Nieklot. ”

A daughter of eve with her hair in a long plait glances to her rather confused looking friend, “I am finding it very nice indeed, I think he is rather lost most of the time if I’m honest with you”

Darrin flicks his keen blue gaze between Arael and his fellow knight, and restrains a smirk. “A mere graze, I assure you,” he lies effortlessly.

Astera bites her lip and smiles. “Well. It can be all very overwhelming at first.” Her tone is gentle. “I remember my first time here… I spent most of my life in a lovely little manor in the woods—only hearing stories of Anvard. And then to come here was so… exciting and frightening. So many names and faces… and so many halls.–And things to remember. I was not ready for what was here when I came, to be honest.”

Peridan grins at his cousin, “Ah, so I can wound you now? I am glad that I have not lost my touch. And yes Cole, I was merely joking.” He appraises them, defaulting into his commander’s stance, “I know that you two serve Archenland faithfully and honorably.” As Lady Avery speaks to him, he looks at her, shaking his head, “I am quite alright, milady, It is just my wound from battle, it acts up every so often.”

Avery tilts her head with a frown. “Oh. I wasn’t aware you were too badly wounded…” She blushes. “Forgive me.”

A daughter of eve with her hair in a long plait nods along as she listens to Astera talk, “Well I suppose put like that it must be quite overwhelming”

Dalia slips to Astera’s side, “Milady, if you wish, let me take Lana up to her bed?”

Cor says, “Sorry. I’m still trying to sort it all out.”

Colin watches Avery and Peridan chat, and a grin begins to toy at the corners of his mouth. He coughs and slides into the conversation with Arael and Darrin. “I should have known you two would be chums.” He says lightheartedly.

Astera nods to Dalia, “Thank you Dalia.”

Astera hands off her daughter, who has started to doze. She looks to Cor and says, “It is a lot to take in.”

Lanisen, seeing the number of people that have migrated to Colin’s general area in the few minutes he has been gone, hesitates. He looks a bit lost.

Arael nods, and then seems about to ask something else when Colin joins them. She looks up at him and grins. “Aye, well, with as long as Lord Darrin was with Lord Ast and all, you know.”

Dalia carefully takes the slumbering child in her arms, she nods to all and wishes them goodnight.

Peridan raises a hand, “Please do not worry Lady Avery, I have had worse practicing with High King Peter. Now, that is man that is relentless.”

A daughter of eve with her hair in a long plait, on noticing Astera’s attention drawn by Cor, excuses herself and makes her way towards the cakes before vanishing into the crowd.

Tempest glances at her packmate and replies.

Tempest mumbles “… … … … … … … … it is a bit overwhelming.”, to Drune.

Darrin says, “But of course, Sir Colin, as lovely as the lady is, how could I not ?” His eyes twinkle, and his tone, though light, verges just slightly away from flirtatious.

Avery acknowledges that with a nod and a small smile. “I shan’t then. May the Lion bring swift healing. If you are to return to Narnia soon, I am sure traveling with a wound would not be pleasant…” Her gaze travels to Cole. “Sir Cole, it has been quite some time since our paths have crossed.”

A daughter of eve with her hair in a long plait walks up the road toward the Gatehouse of Anvard.

Cor’s eyes follow Aravis as she leaves and his discomfort visibly grows.

Arael rolls her eyes at Darrin’s teasing.

Colin grins in response. “Seems as if Lord Ast was quite lenient with your training, perhaps I should give you a few pointers.”

As Cole and Avery begin to speak, Peridan’s eyes wander the crowd, spotting Prince Cor standing a bit of ways. He excuses himself from the group, walking over to the Prince. “Evening, Prince Cor. I hope you are enjoying yourself?”

Cole has returned to examining the table when his name is once more called. Turning to face Avery fully, he dips his head to her. “Lady Avery… It has been.” he hehs. “Time goes by far too fast. I trust you have been faring well?”

Astera says softly, “If you’d like to join your brother or Lady Aravis, your highness, you can. I can always catch up with one of the other nobles.”

Peridan also bows the Lady standing beside the Prince, “Evening, milady.”

Darrin arches a brow, the enthusiasm he has for this suggestion clear in his blue eyes. “Alas, I am not supposed to be back to training for a bit, but as soon as the healer gives the go-ahead, you are most certainly welcome to try,” he tells Colin.

Lanisen decides against braving the crowd of important people surrounding his friends. He shuffle-limps to a nearby chair and sits down to quietly eat his bread and meat.

Lune continues to make the rounds, paying equal attention to people and table, keeping tabs on his sons’ locations. When he catches a glimpse of Cor’s discomfort, he extricates himself from his current conversation and returns to his son’s side.

A wolf with scars over both of his eyes nods. “Indeed… Makes one miss the woods.” His brow furrows a bit at this as he leans over to mutter something to her.

Drune mumbles “… you heard anything … the pack?”, to Tempest.

Cor squints in concentration. “Ah, Sir Peridan, is that right? Oh, yes, yes I suppose I am.”

Astera curtsies to the Lord, “Good evening milord.”

Tempest shakes her head. “No, but I did send word letting them know where we were.”

Arael’s eyes twinkle with amusement as she watches Colin and Darrin’s exchange.

Avery nods. “Indeed, it does. Sometimes it feels like it was only yesterday that I was being presented to court. And yet, here we all are, enjoying one another’s company. The latest…events make one appreciate gatherings like this all the more. Wouldn’t you agree?”

Peridan nods to the boy, “I am glad to hear that.” He turns to the Lady, introducing himself, “Forgive me, I am Lord Peridan.

Astera spies the king’s approach and curtsies deeper. She suddenly seems a little out of her element although she remains composed. She smiles. “Pleased to meet you Lord Peridan. I am Lady Astera of Chesterton. I don’t believe I saw you when I was in Anvard before.”

Peridan turns as the King approaches, bowing to him before answering Lady Astera, “It is a pleasure to meet you, Lady Astera.” He chuckles, “No, you would not have seen me, I have resided in Narnia for these last fourteen years.”

Cole lets out a soft chuckle, folding his hands. “Indeed… ” he lets his gaze wander. “I couldn’t agree more. Been some time since there were so many gathered in one place.” he muses.

Lune gives Peridan and Astera each a nod, coming behind his son and wrapping an arm around Cor’s shoulders. “Lady Astera!” he exclaims. “Was that your lovely daughter wandering about earlier? By the Emperor, she has grown!”

Avery also looks out, taking a small dessert from the table. “Ah, yes. So many old friends to catch up with and some new ones to meet.”

Astera ahs softly, “Narnia is a delightful country.” She nods to Lune, a faint blush creeping into her cheeks. “Yes, that was Lana. I swear, I turned my eyes for a second and she got it in her mind to visit with Lady Aravis.” She chuckles, “She has grown up so fast! I never thought time could pass in such a manner.”

Cor looks up at his father, seeming comforted for the opportunity to fall quiet for a moment.

Colin laughs at Darrin. “Try, yes. I haven’t had a spar in quite some time, lad, so it will be nice to stretch the legs, as it were.”

Peridan offers, “She seemed quite lovely.”

Cole rubs his hands together slowly, nodding. “Quite a bit of history in one gathering. ” he adds. “And yes, I imagine this shall strengthen Archenland’s friendship with Narnia. ”

Darrin makes a vaguely strangled sounding noise at the word ‘lad’ and puffs out his chest. “Ah, you say that now, Sir. We shall see.” He smirks.

Lune laughs as well. “Aye, they will surprise you.” He glances down at his new-recovered son, something distant and wistful in his face. “Truly we must treasure every day given us.”

Avery takes a bite of the cake. “Oh, to be sure. I am excited to see how things will progress.” She smiles and shrugs lightly. “It has always been a dream of mine to go to Narnia…Perhaps it will happen one day soon.”

Arael laughs lightheartedly at their antics.

Peridan coughs slightly, not having children and therefore having nothing to say that moment.

Colin looks at Arael and points his thumb at Darrin as if to say “Really?”

Darrin breaks into a grin the second Colin’s back is turned and hides it again just as quickly when the other knight turns back.

Astera nods, her eyes bright and with a warm smile.

Arael’s shoulders continue to twitch a little, and she manages to hide her amusement not at all, but she stops her laughing and raises a challenging eyebrow at Colin, lips pursed. “I’ve /seen/ him fight, you know.”

Cole’s brow raises a bit at the statement, a thoughtful expression settling over his countenance. Focus turning to Peridan, an ever-so-subtle twinkle enters his eyes. “You know, Lady Avery… if you had the time, I imagine asking Lord Peridan to arrange for a visit to the country wouldn’t be completely out of order.”

Colin’s eyebrows shoot up and he sputters. “You’ve seen me fight too!” He says, pride wounded.

Cor looks a little awkward, seeming to be thinking of what his father might be thinking of. He overhears a bit of conversation outside of them and takes it as a jumping-off point. “Have /you/ been to Narnia, Lady Astera?”

Peridan turns from the current conversation back to Cole. “Hmm?”

Avery turns to him with widened eyes. She shakes her head. “Oh, but my Mother, Sir Cole…” When Peridan looks over, she blushes.

Astera nods, “I have been, shortly after I was presented at court. I was Prince Corin’s nursemaid when he went to become a squire to King Edmund. It was a very… enlightening trip.” She smiles

Darrin throws back his shoulders and further puffs himself up, looking ridiculously pleased by this development. “What the lady means, Sir Colin, that you might have to work for a victory. No simple leg-stretching here.”

Cor says, “I’d like to go, and see the forests, and Bree, and Hwin.”

Cole smiles at his Cousin, gesturing to Avery. “Lady Avery just mentioned to me how she has dreamt of visting the country you now reside in and I thought…” he glances to Avery at her comment. “That if it wasn’t completely out of order, you might be able to arrange for her to visit.”

Lune chuckles. “And shalt do. A prince must know of his allies. Before the yearis out, how should that be?”

Aliyah walks a bit more gingerly now. It seems the evening’s activities have caused her shoulder to act up a bit. Not wanting to interrupt the conversation, she waves a paw in Avery’s direction before disappearing inside for some rest and mouths ‘goodnight’.

Cor asks, “Oh, could we?”

Peridan glances between the two, his eyes bright, “Of course, My Lady. I would be glad to arrange for anyone to come to Narnia. It has been a long time since there were many Archenland Nobles in the Narnian Courts.” As Cor and Lune are speaking, his attention is diverted to them, “I would be happy to arrange for Prince Cor to come visit, your Majesty.”

Lune says, “I see no reason why not. Thy brother has only just returned from such a visit, and those of the Narnian court are dear friends.”

Astera asks, “Who’s Hwin and Bree?” She smiles at the mention of the Narnian court.

Avery looks down, her cheeks turning crimson now. She glances back up and says, “Sir Cole, I am sure Lord Peridan has more important things to worry about.” However, when Peridan speaks, she smiles and dips her head. “I thank you for the consideration…” Once Peridan looks away, she shoots a look back in Cole’s direction with a slight roll of her eyes, an amused smirk on her lips.

Cor says, “Oh, why, Bree’s who brought me up here. And Hwin told Aravis about Narnia. They’re talking horses. It was all rather good luck, you know. Or, not luck at all, I suppose.”

Astera grins and nods, “Oh, the talking horses! They are delightful. We’ve had one or two visit Anvard–one with wings!”

Arael frowns at Darrin and cries out in mock indignation, “I did /not/!” She turns to Colin. “And I /haven’t/ seen you fight!”

Colin squints in confusion. “Well why ever not! How’ve we avoided that?”

Darrin says drolly, “Clearly, we shall have to remedy that in the near future.”

Cole grins as Peridan turns, only to catch Avery’s eyeroll a moment later. “What?” he chuckles.

Peridan smiles at the thought of the Narnian Beasts, “If you like Talking Horses, Prince Cor, just wait until you meet a Unicorn.”

Cor asks, “A Unicorn?”

Astera nods to this.

Lune says, “A beast like to a horse, but with the hooves of a goat and the tail of a lion. They have a single horn in the center of their foreheads and are said to be wondrous beautiful creatures.”

A wolf with scars over both of his eyes lets out a large, wolfish yawn before muttering something to his Alpha.

Astera says softly, “Although I think after seeing Aslan… nothing could be more beautiful than him.”

Drune mumbles “I … … am … turn in for the evening…”, to Tempest.

Cor says, “Still, I’d like to see that.”

Tempest nods her head in agreement, replying.

Avery chuckles. “You know what, Milord.” She reaches for a few grapes. “I can only imagine asking my Mother about this…”

Tempest mumbles “I … I shall … …”, to Drune.

A wolf with scars over both of his eyes smiles softly, nodding and standing before making his way silently back into the castle.

Peridan nods, “I could have not said it better, your Majesty.” Soon, a servant appears, nervously catching his attention. There is a few whispered words before the servant hurries off. Perdian looks at his companions, “Please forgive me but I must retire from the feast.” He first bows to his uncle and cousin, “Your Majesty and your highness.” He then bows to the Lady Astera, “It was a pleasure to meet you.” He then disappears into the crowd.

Astera curtsies to Lord Peridan and nods. Then she looks to Cor, “Oh! And hopefully you will get to see a Marshwiggle!”

Arael rolls her eyes at Colin again. “I /suppose/ because you never felt as if you needed to fight me? Emperor forbid!”

Cole crosses his arms, chuckling softly and seemingly letting it go for now.

Cor glances between her and his father. “A who?”

Colin raises his eyebrows, looking at her skeptically and fighting the amused grin tugging at the corners of his mouth. “Somehow I don’t feel I would win such a match…”

Arael makes a face.

Darrin crosses his arms over his chest and simply laughs outright at this.

Astera giggles and tries to explain, “They are the most… unique creatures! They sort of resemble a man and a frog, with webbed fingers and feet–they have…” She gestures a bit and says, “Well, normal faces but very bulgy eyes. And they have the most… interesting outlook. Like… it’s a sunny day but it’s most certain to rain later.”

Cor looks confounded.

Colin allows the grin to spread on his face.

Lune laughs out loud. “My father who was king had an advisor with just such an outlook,” he remarks. “I thought him ridiculous, until my time came to take the throne. Then I rather wished I had a marsh-wiggle-ish advisor of my own.”

Avery pops a grape into her mouth and chews thoughtfully. Her eyes widen with a particular thought and she lets out a small gasp, nearly choking on said grapes.

Cole blinks at the gasp from Avery, expression almost instantly turning very serious. “Are you alright Lady Avery?” he asks quickly, taking a half step forward.

Cor looks up at his father, his nose wrinkling as if he has just such doubts as young Lune. “Someone who sees the sun and imagines clouds anyhow?”

Arael glances back and forth between the grinning Colin and the laughing Darrin for a few beats before she, too, begins to laugh.

Astera giggles softly, her eyes bright. “It might seem very dour at first but… they are truly gentle and kind.”

Lune says, “Aye. When the rains come in earnest, you’ll find one day, it is well to have somebody at hand to remind you to carry an oilskin.”

Avery lifts a hand, her cough turning into a laugh. “Yes, yes, I’m alright. I’ve just…” She shakes her head, cheeks pink. “Something suddenly came to mind is all.”

Colin joins in the laughter and his eyes start searching the crowd. When he spies who he’s looking for, he politely excuses himself from Darrin and goes over to where Lanisen is sitting. “How you feeling, mate?”

Darrin coughs a bit and steps closer to Arael as Colin steps away, eyes twinkling with amusement. He watches Colin a moment, looking thoughtful.

Cole eyes her a moment, slowly loosening up. “I see… ” he replies, still not completely at ease. “And what might that be?” he asks slowly.

Cor seems to find this idea troubling, perhaps overwhelming. “I suppose–”

Arael bobs a curtsey as Colin leaves, though she cranes her neck a little to see where it is he’s going.

Lanisen stirs from where he has been sitting in a tired, zoned-out daze. “Fine,” he answers, straightening and rubbing his eyes. “Yeah, I’m …fine.”

Colin asks, “You look a bit done in…ready to head back to the castle?”

Astera says, “You will see so many new and exciting things in Narnia. I know you’ll love it.”

Darrin looks back to Arael and says something quietly to her.

Lanisen considers the long distance between his chair and the gates, and the longer distance between the gates and his chamber rather hopelessly. “…I’ll go in a bit.”

You mumble “So, you and Sir Colin seem like rather good friends.”, to Arael.

Darrin mumbles “So, … and Sir … … … rather … friends.”, to Arael.

Colin crouches down by Lanisen’s seat to better speak with him.

Colin mumbles “… … … …”, to Lanisen.

Avery gives him a sideways glance. “Oh…” She lifts one shoulder. “I was just thinking that Lady Paige might actually approve of the request…”

Lune says, glancing at Cor, “Though doubtless there are enough new things here to keep you occupied for some time, eh?”

Cor nods agreement to this supposition. “I don’t feel as if I shall ever get it all sorted.”

Lanisen gives Colin a tired, grateful look. He rubs his hurt shoulder, closing his eyes briefly, then nods.

Arael turns to look up at Darrin as he speaks to her. She grins and glances back over toward Colin briefly.

Arael mumbles “Aye, he’s been quite a good friend to me and my family.”, to Darrin.

Arael mumbles “Aye, he’s … … a … … … … … … …”, to Darrin.

Colin nods, rising back to a standing position and moving to Lanisen’s good arm to help him up.

Astera’s expression softens but she continues to smile. She says encouragingly, “just give yourself some time. It’ll all come into place. And you’ll have plenty of help.”

Cole’s brow quirks as he nods. “Ah… ” he begins to compose himself, taking a deep breath. “Well… good, I am glad to hear it.” He pauses, letting the silence hang for a moment before glancing skyward. “I fear I will have to be going though. I have some duties within the Castle. ”

Darrin beams.

You mumble “I am glad to hear it.”, to Arael.

Darrin mumbles “… am … to hear it.”, to Arael.

Avery curtsies to him. “Good eve, then.”

Cole shoots a glance at his brother before dipping his head to her. “Good eve M’lady. ” he offers her a quick smile before quickly heading into the Castle.

Lune squeezes Cor’s shoulder again. “And shalt have all the time needed.”

Cor nods, not really looking encouraged by this, but accepting it nonetheless.

Avery watches Cole go and then she steps toward Astera, curtseying to King Lune first and then the others. “Good evening.”

Arael bites her lip and glances down, maybe just a bit shy. As she looks back up, she catches sight of Lanisen standing with Colin’s aid. She starts a little, and gestures toward them, saying apologetically, “I should go. I said I’d help Lanny while he’s laid up and all.”

Darrin follows her glance. “Of course.” He bows his head to her deeply. “It has been good to speak with you again, m’lady,” he says with a smile.

Astera curtsies to Avery and says softly, “You’ll have your father’s guidance too, your highness.” She blushes a little but looks to Lune with genuine devotion and gratitude, “He’s very good at helping someone grow into what they’re made for.”

Arael huffs at him in mock exasperation and curtsies more deeply than she would usually do. “Aye, /my lord/,” she teases once more, grinning, before moving off toward Lanisen and Colin.

Lanisen accepts Colin’s help, leaning heavily both on his friend and his cane. He hisses out a breath of pain even so and takes a minute to find his equilibrium again.

Darrin chuckles and shakes his head, watching Arael go with an expression of approval. He shakes his head again and wanders over to the group around the King.

Colin steadies Lanisen, trying to help ease some of the discomfort.

Lune keeps a close eye on his son, watching for any signs that he is too overwhelmed.

Dar comes walking down the road from the direction of the castle.

Arael moves quickly to Lanisen’s other side and slips her arm behind his back, avoiding the sling. She looks a little sheepish. “I’m sorry, Lanny. I didn’t realize we’d left you out there so long.”

Lanisen shakes his head quickly to Arael, trying to indicate without words that it’s not even a little bit their fault. He takes a deep breath, eying the castle gates with pale determination, and nods.

Avery looks to King Lune. “Your Majesty, you have provided us with such a wonderful night. It has been so nice to come together and encourage one another.” She glances at Astera. “However, the night has been long and I would like to get a letter written for my Mother before it is too late…”

Colin together with Arael helps Lanisen make his way into the castle.

Darrin nods his head to the group as a whole as he comes to stand beside Lune, opposite the Prince.

Cor does seem to never be quite anything but overstimulated, but he also seems to be nervously enjoying himself. “Well, I’ll try my best, anyway.”

Astera catches Avery’s eye and gives a small nod, “Thank you so much for this wonderful feast. Lady Avery, would you like some company?”

Avery nods to Astera, smiling. “Of course. You know I always enjoy your company, Milady.”

Cor bows. “Good night.”

Astera courtesies, “Good night your majesty, Prince Cor.”

Astera leaves with Lady Avery.

Darrin bows his head to them both.

Lune says, “Good evening, Lady Astera.” He gives his son another careful look, then squeezes his shoulder again and nods to those gathered before departing to make the rounds among his people again.

Darrin turns more fully to face Prince Cor as Lune departs. “Your Highness. How are you enjoying the feast?”

Dar makes his way toward the feast once many of the others have already started to depart. He carries his dispatch box and, from the looks of it, is still hard at work reading one particularly lengthy document as he weaves his way through the crowd.

Cor exclaims, “Oh, hello! It’s very fancy isn’t it? I liked that sort of thick squashy soup best. No — actually, the strawberry thing. That was very good.”

Darrin smiles. “Yes, I think you’ll find the castle cooks can do all kinds of delightful things with strawberries.” His eyes twinkle.

Cor says, “You’re… Sir Darrin, is that right? But I can’t remember the name of the town.”

Dar returns the parchment to the box as he steps around a couple who are engaged in a rather heated conversation. His path brings him very near his brother and the prince. “Coghill, Your Majesty–“, he supplies.

Darrin opens his mouth to reply when Dar beats him to it. “The same,” he agrees, with a nod. He arches his brow at his brother. “Still hard at work, I see.”

Cor looks at the new man, or rather, mostly at his chain of office, perhaps trying to figure out just what it should indicate to him. “So, you must be… Lord Dar?”

Dar raises his eyebrow in an expression matching his brother’s. “As ever, I leave the festivities to you -” He bows deeply to Cor. “At your service”, Dar answers simply.

Darrin scoffs lightly and shakes his head a touch disprovingly, but he doesn’t object. He turns an impressed gaze to Cor. “I do believe you are going to prove a natural at these things, Your Highness.”

Cor laughs at the very idea, “I don’t think so!”

Dar inclines his head. “Indeed. I imagine this is all rather much to take in, but my brother is quite correct. And we are all here to assist you.”

Darrin chuckles. “You might surprise yourself.”

Cor agrees with Dar, “Everyone’s been very nice.”

Dar hehs. “I believe you will find that to be the case wherever you go now, Majesty.” A flicker of a smile forms at the corners of his mouth, counterbalancing all the gravity of his appearance, but it is gone again with all the rapidity of a summer storm.

Darrin makes a choking noise, like he was just about to snerk and tried to cover it up unsuccessfully with coughing.

Cor looks at Darrin, a little alarmed.

Dar remarks, “You are alarming him, Brother.” He turns back to the prince. “Sir Darrin is merely amused, Your Highness–dangerous, I admit, though very seldom fatal.” This last is spoken with Dar’s brand of wry humor; he maintains a straight face throughout.

Cor looks between them, “What’s the joke?”

Dar directs a sharply raised eyebrow at Darrin, clearly wishing to know the answer to this himself.

Darrin clears his throat and waves a hand. “A rather frequent occurrence as well, much to my brother’s distress. Dar is correct, Sire, you are likely to find everyone rather…overly friendly to yourself now that your true lineage has been revealed. A simultaneously sad and humorous side effect of royalty, I’m afraid.”

Cor asks, “You mean… they talk one way and think another?”

Darrin nods. “It has been known to occur. Not that, by any means, everyone is like that.”

Dar replies carefully, “You have no idea how much it means to the people of Archenland that you have been restored to us after all this time, Prince Cor. Most who you will meet will be genuinely kind and have your best interests at heart. Still, there are those who will tell you what they believe you wish to hear rather than what you need to hear because of who you are. In time, you will be able to tell the difference and judge wisely between the two.”

Cor looks wearied by this news. “Yes — I think father was hinting at something similar earlier.”

Darrin’s lips turn downwards, and he appears briefly distressed that he’s brought the matter up at all. “I daresay it is a matter you need not concern yourself with much at present.”

Dar’s expression–while not precisely softening, unbends to a marked degree. “Your royal father is a most discerning man and a truly good king. He will show you the way forward, and you will have many years before you to settle in and come to know the people that you will one day govern. For tonight, Highness, your role is only to enjoy yourself–”

Cor puts his hands behind his back, seeming to try and look suitably official. His eyes dart away a little, but whoever he is looking for must have departed, at least from his line of sight. “I’ll do my best, Sir.”

Dar answers with the utmost seriousness, “That is all that can be asked of any man, Highness, be he prince or beggar.”

Darrin offers a smile and a nod.

Cor says, “I suppose so.”

You say, “And further, I should say if any man here has earned the right to enjoy themselves, it would be you, Sire.”

Dar turns back to Darrin. “See what you are responsible for? You have got me speaking politics, perish the thought. Your Highness, save us from the curse of dullness, now that my brother has claimed enjoyment as a right. Tell us something about yourself–”

Darrin shakes his head, tsking quietly. “Well, we certainly can’t have that. Though in my defense, twas something you said that set me off. Hardly surprising, that.” He smirks before turning back to Cor. “Please, I’m sure you’ve had your fill of hearing talk about lords and ladies for the eve. Let us hear about you.”

Cor exclaims, “Oh! Uh– what would you like to know?”

Dar’s mouth twitches faintly at the corners. “Whatever you care to tell us, you will have the rapt attention of us both. For myself, there are stories which have made the rounds since your return. I would be curious, if you will indulge me, to know how you came here bringing the forces of Narnia with you–”

Darrin nods enthusiastically. “Yes, there are a few gaps in my understanding of how that, precisely, came to pass.”

Cor rubs his arm. “Seems like everyone wants to hear that. Uh, well, see, I haven’t quite got the hang of reins, on account of Bree never taught me, so when everyone was riding off I sort of got — lost. And I guess I took the wrong path, up a cliff, the one into Narnia. I would have fallen off it for sure! Except, just as I was growing to think I’d be lost forever, I felt someone beside me.”

Darrin rubs the back of his neck, his expression becoming unreadable for all he is intent on the Prince’s words.

Cor reflects, “It was — it was the great Lion. He walked beside me the whole way, and told me many things. And when morning came, I found I was in Narnia.”

Darrin arches a brow, looking awed.

You say, “Truly, everything about your return has been marked by the Providence of the Lion.”

Dar listens to the prince’s words with keen interest. “That is indeed remarkable–”

Cor says, “Yes, it seems he’s protected me some time now.”

Darrin shakes his head, still looking a bit thunderstruck by this news.

Dar takes all of this in. “Then there cannot be any doubt that your step will be guided by the Lion from here on out as well. Thank you, Highness.” Whatever else he might be about to say is cut off, when a servant approaches, seeking him out. He gives another bow. “If you will excuse me–“, he remarks before bowing and following the servant out.

Cor tilts his head as the man walks away. “Somehow I think I’ll have plenty of choices I don’t want to make anyhow.”

Darrin nods to Dar as he walks away. “I believe that can be said of anyone, Your Highness,” he says.

Cor sighs.

Darrin casts a sympathetic look at the boy. “Though I understand that the idea is probably daunting.”

Cor admits, “I could stand to just sleep for days.”

Darrin grins. “I believe that could be arranged, particularly if you express as much to your father.”

Cor says, “Only, then I would miss out on eating.”

Darrin says, “That is true.” He surveys the spread laid out before them with a clinical eye. “I do believe the cooks have outdone themselves this time,” he says with a laugh.

Cor says, “It all looks very good to me.”

Darrin nods, glancing back to Cor. He looks thoughtful. “This may be presumptuous of me, Your Highness, but…if you find yourself in need of a sympathetic ear while you’re adjusting to…all of this,” he waves a hand at the general revelry, “you need but ask. For rather more helpful counsel, I would recommend my brother, but as it stands, I am always ready to make light of your burdens.” He winks.

You say, “A bit of levity is, I find, good for the soul.”

Cor says, “Thank you, but I’m afraid Aravis would tell me I’ve already whined too much as it is.”

Darrin laughs. “Nonsense. There can never be too much grousing.”

Cor says, “I’ll tell father than when he tries to discipline me on it.”

Darrin snickers. “Oh, heavens, now I’m corrupting the future king of Archenland. Tis time I close my mouth and retire before I get the two of us in more trouble.” The look he gives the prince, however, is decidedly impressed with this comeback.

Cor says, “Have a good rest, then.”

Darrin bows his head. “And you, Your Highness, when you get there.” He heads towards the gates.

Jasmine

Queen’s Solarium

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This is a large, circular room with enormous diamond-paned windows facing each direction. North, the solarium looks out over the castle’s rooftop gardens, while the south and west windows provide a beautiful view of Archenland’s eastern forests. By standing at the east window, one can see down into the wards of the castle. The large door to the northwest can be propped open on pleasant days.

There are a number of plants growing here, ranging from the practical to the delicate and exotic. Several potted banks of medicinal herbs share space with a small fruit-bearing lemon tree, and a Calormene jasmine plant has been trained up an ornamental trellis near the south window.

Though the room is kept immaculately clean and the plants are well-kept and thriving, there is a sense of melancholic loneliness here. The chairs and tables arranged near the middle of the room are covered with white cloth.

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You can go: Tower Garden <NW>

Contents: A son of adam wearing spectacles (Tyre).

Tyre paces between plants, examining some of them closely. He consults a gardener for a few beats, gesturing to one of the more manicured plants, and then to a more exotic one used for medicines. When this conversation is complete, he moves on to stand before the jasmine plant, hands clasped behind his back.

Darrin comes wandering inside the Solarium from the Tower Garden, dressed rather casually. He appears lost in thought.

Tyre, not yet aware he has company, reaches forward to finger a leaf experimentally.

Darrin appears similarly oblivious. He makes his way to one of the tables in the middle of the room and sits down, apparently missing Tyre through the foliage.

Tyre startles at the sound of another person passing near him. He turns around. Neither movement is particularly quiet.

Darrin looks up sharply at the sound, and then relaxes when he notices his cousin. “Oh. Lord Tyre. Apologies, I didn’t see you there.”

Tyre clears his throat and brushes the back of his hand under his nose. “Ah, quite, quite all right. Very sorry. It’s, ah, it’s usually only the gardeners in here.”

Darrin glances about, nodding. “Yes…I rather thought that to be the case. I am, well, supposed to be ‘taking it easy’ for a while.” He wrinkles his nose, the motion a clearly disgruntled one. “So, thought I’d come up here for some quiet, I guess. Much to think about lately.” He shifts, looking briefly sheepish.

Tyre says, “Easy? Oh, because of the– ah, ahah, yes. It’s a quiet location most of the, ah, time.”

Darrin nods, murmuring a quiet, “Yeah,” to Tyre’s stuttering. He stands and moves over to Tyre after a moment. It’s quite clear he’s happy to be distracted from whatever thoughts brought him up here. “What are you doing?” he asks curiously.

Tyre says, “Ahhhhhh– I, ah.” He glances at the ceiling. “Ah — well — to tell you the truth, I have something of a… that is, a fondness for… botany.”

Darrin raises a brow. “Really?” He scratches his head, blinking a few times. “Er…why?” His tone doesn’t sound judgmental, merely curious.

Tyre adjusts his glasses and looks off to the side again. He gives a sort of shrug.

Darrin rubs at the back of his neck. “All right, so…what are you doing, er, botanically, today?”

Tyre says, “I was just, uhh,–” He gestures over to the trellis of jasmine. “I am told this plant grows abundantly in Calormen.”

Darrin reaches out to touch a blossom tentatively with one finger. “Very…aromatic,” he says. “What is it?”

Tyre says, “Jasmine.”

Darrin nods a bit, as if the name isn’t unfamiliar to him even if he clearly has very little practical knowledge about botany or flowers.

Tyre reflects, “It is commonly used in teas.”

Darrin looks between Tyre and the flower. “And…perfumes? Possibly? It smells familiar.”

Tyre gives a nod. “Perfumes as well.”

Darrin looks, perhaps, slightly pleased that he’s guessed correctly. He glances at Tyre again, as if waiting for his cousin to elaborate further.

Tyre says after a pause, “One wonders what will be lost.”

Darrin wrinkles his brow, sudden understanding crossing his face. He purses his lips. “I do not hold much love in my heart for Calormen, but I…see your point. I’m sure recent events will have a reverberating effect.”

Tyre gives a little cant of his head, a kind of ‘shrugging it off’. “Nothing equal to what we’ve gained,” he acquiesces in something of a brighter tone.

Darrin smiles, his eyes brightening. “An excellent point, cousin. These last few days have been…something of a blur. But an ultimately happy one, I should say.”

Tyre’s eyes flicker to his cousin’s chest, where the bruising lies. “You are, ah, recovering appropriately?”

Darrin lifts one shoulder dismissively and nods. “Oh yes, quite. It’s more of an irritation than anything, quite frankly. Can’t be stopped by little things like arrows, can I? It simply wouldn’t do.” The grin he gives is just the smallest bit deflective.

Tyre inclines his head. “I understand that kind of attitude is highly valued among the knights.”

Darrin looks surprised by the statement, but he nods after a moment. “Well. It’s rather expedient, I suppose, considering our duties.”

Tyre says, “It is not something within my expertise to say.”

You say, “Oh, I don’t know. Seems to me a lord puts on a brave face in the face of his obligations, in his own way.”

Tyre says, “Ah — he does what he must.”

Darrin quirks his lips and nods.

You say, “Precisely.”

Tyre pushes his glasses up and looks back to the trellis.

Darrin taps his fingers against his thigh. “Well. I will leave you to your botany, cousin. I really should retire for the night.” He offers Tyre a smile.

Tyre says, “Ah, oh.” He looks back at his cousin. “Very well, yes, ah, good night.”

Darrin bows his head. “Good night, Tyre.”