Outer Ward

Lunchtime has seen a rush of people to gather, eat, and visit. Vinri is snacking on a handpie at her stall, reading a letter as no one is nearby.

A son of adam with a stern face steps out from the north tower, heading toward the blacksmith’s shop.

Cassandra comes walking into the ward, frowning at the busyness. She tries to peer over the crowd but that doesn’t work. Finally, she climbs on a barrel, looking over the heads of the people.

Vinri folds up the letter, a little smile on her lips. She tucks it away, looking around the crowds, and takes another bite of her pie.

A son of adam with a stern face looks up, amused at the girl’s actions, then frowns slightly.  He walks over to Cassandra, looking up at her.  “Excuse me, Miss, but that might not be the safest place to stand.”

Cassandra looks down at the man, smirking, “Well, if you have a better way of me getting a look over the crowds of people, you can let me know.”

Vinri catches sight of the girl standing above the crowd and grins, waving her way.

A son of adam with a stern face says, “Oh, it’s not that.  It’s just that the barrel you’re standing on is damaged.  We noticed it last night.  I guess it needs to be mended before someone gets hurt.”

Cassandra catches Vinri’s wave and waves back before looking down at the barrel. “Oh, well thanks.” She hops down.

A son of adam with a stern face asks, “No trouble.  You looking for someone in particular?”

Cassandra nods, “My brother actually. He works here in the castle.”

A son of adam with a stern face asks, “Oh?  Where’s he work?”

Cassandra crosses her arms, “He is a squire.”

A son of adam with a stern face says, “Oh.  Might find him in the stables, I guess, if he’s tending his master’s horse…but more likely he’ll be past the inner gatehouse.”

Cassandra frowns, “Oh well, He’ll be bound to come out sometime. Thanks.”

A son of adam with a stern face says, “You’re welcome.  Oh, don’t believe I caught your name.  I’m Haft.”

Cassandra sticks out her hand, “Cassandra.”

Haft takes her hand.  “Pleased to meet you.  I’m a member of the guard here.  You live in Andale?”

Cassandra smiles, “Oh I know Megren. I met her when me and my brother came back. And not quite, I am living in the inn for now until I get settled with a job.”

Haft returns the smile.  “Megren’s a friend of mine.  We often have duty together.  What’s your profession?”

You say, “Don’t have one yet.” She points to Vinri, “Vinri over there told me that I would be a good merchant.”

Vinri, seeing someone pointing her way, waves cheerfully again.

Haft looks up, then motions Cassandra to follow him as he approaches Vinri.  “Good day.”

Cassandra follows him and smiles, “Hey Vinri. How is business?”

Vinri exclaims, “Good day, Sir Guard, Cass! And very good this morning, a few ribbons and a couple necklaces.” She sets aside the pie. “I hope your mornings have been just as good?”

Haft says, “Well enough.  Cold’s just about cleared up.  Think the captain will let me back on full duty tomorrow.”

Cassandra replies, “I’m good.” She leans against the post again, casually eyeing the jewelry.

Vinri grins. “Good! And your order is all sent off,” she informs Haft.

Haft asks, “Wonderful.  I’m sure my nephew will enjoy it.  Thank you for taking the trouble.  When will I pay the remainder?”

Vinri asks, “When it’s been delivered, she’ll send me a letter with your brother-in-law’s mark to prove. I’ll send a note up to the castle when that comes.” Her attention turns to Cassandra. “Seen anything new since yesterday?”

Cassandra shakes her head, “Nothing worth noting. You haven’t seen Lanisen around, have you?”

Vinri taps her lips with a finger, then shakes her head regretfully. “Couple of times in and out of the kennels, but nothing recent. Sorry, Cass.”

Haft nods in acknowledgement.

Haft’s eyes widen slightly, but he turns and begins inspecting a piece of jewelry.

Cassandra sighs before grinning, “He is a hard man to track down sometimes. If you see him, can you tell him, I’m looking for him. He and I were going to talk to Lord Dar about that job.”

Haft says, “You’re planning to work here in Anvard then.”

Vinri takes a half-second glance towards Haft, but by her expression notices nothing amiss. “That one’s best for suitors, Sir Guard, just so you know,” she tells him with a light grin, then looks to Cassandra and smiles. “I’ll do that! Come back right after and tell me how that goes?”

Haft whips his hand away as though the pin has scorched him.  Then he makes a wry face at Vinri.  “And I suppose it’s inconceivable that I should be a suitor?”

Cassandra nods, “I will, Vinri.” She turns to Haft, “Yup, I am hoping to work in the stables.” She then giggles at his reaction.

Vinri gives Haft a charming grin. “Well, if I didn’t know before, I do now!”

Haft looks heavenward, shaking his head.  He then addresses Cassandra.  “You know much about horses?  I know very little myself, though I can ride at need.”

Cassandra shakes her head, “Nope, but I’m a fast learner. It sounds like it would be fun.”

Vinri shakes her head. “I’d never be able to work with animals that big. They’d step on me and never even notice.”

Haft smiles at Vinri’s comment.  “It seems like good, honest work.  Hard, but rewarding.  They’re beautiful creatures, and you won’t find better in Archenland I suppose.”

Vinri asks, “I thought Coghill was the place for horses?”

Cassandra grins, “I look forward to the challenge.”

“True, I’ve heard that,” Haft allows, “but I’m assuming the best of Coghill’s offerings belong to the king and his lords and knights, many of whom are in residence here.

Vinri waves a hand towards Cassandra. “I’m sure Cass will become the expert and let us know.”

Cassandra rubs her arms, “Perhaps.”

Haft asks, “Cold?”

Vinri allows, “If you decide you like it, at least.”

Cassandra shakes her head at Haft, “No, thank you.” She grins at Vinri, “Push comes to shove, I’ll just live with Lanisen.” She chuckles, “Though we haven’t lived together in years.”

Haft says, “Siblings can mostly put up with each other, I guess.  Look on the bright side.  You still won’t be sharing a bunkroom with two dozen men on alternating shifts.”  He doesn’t sound like his living arrangements bother him in the least.

Cassandra shudders, “That sounds awful.”

Vinri considers Cass’s words. “Does he have a house? Or is he in the castle?” Eyeing Haft, she points at the other girl. “I agree. And very loud.”

Haft grins, thoroughly enjoying himself.  “About a quarter of ’em snore and some nights they come back from the inn hall and forget to be quiet.  Sweeter’n a lullaby.

Cassandra shakes her head, “No thanks, I would rather have my own room.” She turns to Vinri, “I think he lives in the castle so maybe I can’t live with him.” She shrugs.

Vinri asks, “I can’t imagine they’d not let you.” She looks towards the resident castle-authority expectantly, then adds, “Though with that ruckus going on nearby, do you want to?”

Haft chuckles.  “Servants’ quarters aren’t all that close to the barracks.  The king’s got a better chance of hearing us than you would.”

Cassandra grins, “Good to know.” She sighs, “Well, I’m going to go check the kennels for Lanisen. It was nice meeting you, Haft. And nice to see you again, Vinri.”

Haft nods, looking thoughtful.  “Nice to meet you, miss.”

Vinri shakes her head. “The poor king…” Looking up with a smile, she waves to Cassandra. “Good luck!”

Cassandra gives a wave and then slips back into the crowd.


Setting up displays

Outer Ward

It is midmorning, and the Outer Ward is just beginning to get the full strength of its crowds. Vendors are setting up stalls, shops are opening doors, and some of the shoppers are munching down late breakfasts. Vinri is at her stall, a little ways from the kennels, beginning to set out her goods for the day. It takes her a while longer than some of her neighbors, as each of her displays carefully shows her goods off to their best advantage. The many pauses to call out ‘good mornings’ don’t help with speed either.

Cassandra walks into the Ward unhurriedly. A walnut muffin is in her hand, half eaten. However, every time she takes a bite, she wrinkles her nose and has the most disgusted look on her face. She takes advantage of the slightly busied ward to look around.

Vinri pulls several sample lengths of fabric from where they were tucked away in her stall. While she straightens and folds them, she looks around the ward, skimming faces.

Cassandra frowns as she does not seen who she is looking for. However, she does perk up as she sees Vinri’s stall. She begins to make her way over.

Vinri sees Cassandra approaching and immediately gets a bright smile. “Cass! Good morning!”

Cassandra waves, “Hello Vinri.”

Vinri nods towards the walnut muffin. “Delicious, isn’t it?” she asks with a wry smile.

Cassandra makes a face, “I could cook better than this.” She leans against one of the stall’s tent posts, glancing over the fine materials. “Setting up for the day?”

Vinri nods as she finishes arranging the fabrics so that each one is complimented by the ones on either side. Silk, velvet, and linen are all present. “Care to give me a hand? I started a bit late today.”

Cassandra blinks, “Uh, sure.” She sets down her half eaten muffin, wiping her hands on her skirt. “What do you want me to do?”

Vinri beckons Cass around to her side of the stall, then points at a satchel. “That one has some blank journals and sketchbooks. Set them up over there, however you think looks best.” She sets to straightening out some ribbons. “Do you cook much?”

Cassandra begins to do what she is told. “Only if you order food poisoning.” She pulls a detailed carved journal, admiring it for a moment.

Vinri laughs. “I’m no fair hand at cooking either.” Finishing up with the ribbons, she starts setting little glass bottles up along the back. “I never had the patience for it.”

Cassandra laughs, “I never have any patience.”

Vinri grins, then holds up two bottles. One is red-tinted, the other clear, and both hold liquid. “Which do you think should go beside these?” Breezing on, she asks, “What sort of hobbies do you have then? Any writing?” She indicates the journal with one of the bottles.

Cassandra sets the journal down, placing her hand on her hips to think. “What are they? Perfume?”

Vinri nods. “Rose,” she holds up the red one, “and lily of the valley,” the white.

Cassandra picks up some jewelry, “Don’t people who buy perfume always buy jewelry to go with it?”

A smile curls Vinri’s lips. “You’ve got a good mind for this. You’re very right; I usually put them together. Here, this satchel has the rest of the jewelry. Help me set it up on this velvet here? The books can wait.”

Cassandra hesitates before obliging.

Vinri doesn’t seem to notice the hesitation as she sets down the bottles just so and begins to arrange the jewelry. “So, hobbies?”

Cassandra shrugs, “Nothing really. You?”

Vinri twirls a hairpin around her fingers once before deciding where it belonged. “I write a lot of letters,” she replies lightly. “Hazard of being away from home. For me, at least. And running a shop.”

Cassandra continues to help take jewelry out of the satchel. “Your family, I take it?”

Vinri nods, then glances at the necklace Cass is pulling out. “Hm. I’d forgotten that one. Put it… by the bottles, that’ll look nice. And yes, almost every day, it feels. My poor brothers, they’re lost without me.” She flashes a grin, and it isn’t clear how much of that comment is true or exaggeration.

Cassandra snorts, “Brothers. How they ever along without sisters is beyond me.”

Vinri asks, “Not well, that’s certain. Is it just the one for you?”

Cassandra’s eyes sadden a bit as she focuses on pulling the last few pieces out of the satchel. “Yes, it is just Lanisen. I do have a sister but she is married and lives away.”

Vinri hops a bit to perch herself on a barrel that seems to serve as her seat back here. She seems perfectly content to let Cass set up the rest of the jewelry display. “At least you outnumber him. I’ve two brothers and no sister, close or far.”

You say, “Yeah.” She looks at Vinri, “So, what made you come here? Where there not enough buyers in Chesterton?””

Vinri laughs. “Oh, hardly! No, there were many more there. But you see, my father runs a store like this, but bigger. I’m his Anvard branch, you could say.”

You say, “That is nice of your father to let you help.”

Vinri waves a hand. “Oh, he knows I’m capable. Still makes me write him a report every week, though.”

Cassandra nods, “Fathers.”

Vinri asks, “Mhm. Controlling in the worst way. Your own was a shepherd, Lanisen said?”

Cassandra sighs, mumbling to herself. She then looks up at the Woman, “Yeah, he was.”

Cassandra mumbles “Does Lanny tell our entire life story to everyone he meets?”, to Cassandra.

Cassandra mumbles “Does Lanny … … … … story … everyone he …”, to Cassandra.

Vinri gives an apologetic smile as Cass catches her eye. “Sorry, didn’t mean to pry. He didn’t tell me that much, really.”

Cassandra glances around the stall, “Anything else?”

Vinri releases a nigh-unnoticeable sigh and hops off her barrel, going to the other side to inspect. “No, and that looks wonderful. You could put a good number of the vendors here to shame, what with the way they arrange things. You’ve been a great help.”

Cassandra beams a bit, “Why thank you.”

“So,” Vinri says as she walks back around to her normal side, “you’ve been in Andale and Anvard a few days now. What do you think of it?”

Cassandra smiles, “I like it. It is much better than Carmichael.” She leans against the post again, “All I ever wanted to do is leave and now I did.”

Vinri grins. “Welcome to the rest of the world. We’re glad to have you. And I know what you mean, I was glad to leave Chesterton behind as well. Not that I don’t plan to go back every now and then, but still.”

Cassandra laughs, “Chesterton would still be better than Carmichael.”

Vinri laughs along. “You don’t love the sheep and mines? That’s most of what I’ve heard of it.”

Cassandra grins, “That /is/ it.”

Vinri lays a hand lightly on Cassandra’s arm, as if to console her. A friendly grin is still on her face, despite the teasing sympathy. “You poor girl. We’ll have to see what we can do to help you get over such a boring hometown.”

Cassandra tips her head, “I’m open to ideas.”

Vinri laughs as she drops her hand. “Well, maybe next time I go to Chesterton, you can come along. I’d love a companion, the road is so boring. Provided, of course, you aren’t waist-deep in stable duties.”

Cassandra frowns, “Yes, I hope I can get a job soon.”

Vinri examines the girl for a moment, tapping her lips with a finger. “Have you ever considered being a merchant? Any sort?”

Cassandra blinks, “A merchant?”

Vinri nods. “Mhm. As I said, you’ve an eye for displays, and you knew right away what people might want to buy together. Ever thought about helping out in a shop?”

Cassandra shakes her head, “No, I never did think about that. I did work in a tavern for awhile.”

Vinri hops back onto her barrel. “You should. I’m a bit too small to think about help quite yet, truth be told, but maybe one day, if you were interested. ‘Course, I reckon there are a lot of things you could try here.”

Cassandra nods, “Hopefully, I won’t lose-Something will stick.”

Vinri tips her head, one brow quirking up. “You seem bright enough not to lose anything, and for much of anything to stick.”

Cassandra snorts, “You put a little too much faith in me, Vinri.”

Vinri lifts a finger. “Confidence, Cass. It’s how I got here, and if you don’t have it, I reckon I’ll have it for you.” She flashes a smile. “Anyway, you’ve given no reason for me to think you /won’t/ be great, have you?”

Cassandra places her hands on her hips, “Well no. But you sure seem to be trusting. That can end up hurting you later on.”

Vinri throws her head back and laughs.

Cassandra lifts an eyebrow, “What’s so funny?”

Vinri recovers herself, though she’s still grinning, and holds up a hand while shaking her head. “Oh, no, sorry, don’t worry about it. I’ve been told that a lot, it hasn’t hurt me yet.”

Cassandra frowns, “Well, from one woman to another, please be careful.”

Vinri shoots back a bright smile, unphased. “If it ever hurts me, Cass, you’ll be the first I apologize to. You’re sweet, thank you.”

Cassandra blinks, “Why would you apologize to me?”

Vinri says, “Because you warned me, of course.”

Cassandra ohs, before just shaking her head. “If you need me to get out of your hair?”

Vinri waves a hand. “Oh, not at all, I like having someone to talk to. If you need to go, of course, don’t let me keep you.”

Cassandra chuckles, “I don’t have anywhere to be.” She moves to sit on the barrel beside Vinri. “So do you just sit here until someone comes by?”

Vinri shifts so that Cass has enough room. “Yep! Or I call someone over if I recognize them. It can be a bit boring, but,” she waves a hand to encompass the ward, “there’s no better place to watch the crowds.”

Cassandra nods, shifting to watch said crowd.

After a little time, Vinri points towards an area across the ward where a woman is walking along with a basket. Inside the basket, what looks like several bottles of milk are heaped. “See? Like that. I’ve decided that she probably keeps at least five cats. Or watches children for the village when their mothers are doing housework. She’s here every other day.”

Cassandra grins a bit before pointing to an older gentleman speaking with the weaver. “What about him?”

Vinri looks at him speculatively. “You know, he buys a basket from her or the other weaver once a week. I thought he might be interested in her at first, but then I found a basket full of apples on my stall one morning. I think he leaves them at a different shop each time.”

Cassandra huhs, “I wonder why?”

Vinri shakes her head. “I’ve honestly no idea. Maybe he has too many? Oh!” She raises a finger. “Maybe his wife is very bad at making apple pies, so he has to get rid of them all before she can make another one!”

Cassandra chuckles, “Yes, I bet that is it.” She leans back a bit, thinking, “Does any one from Coghill come here?”

Vinri considers for a while. “You know… I believe I spoke to a hunter who said he was from Coghill. And I’ve had occasional customers from that way, it isn’t too far after all. Why?”

Cassandra shrugs, “Got a friend there is all.”

Vinri blinks at her. “I thought you’d only been here and in Carmichael?”

Cassandra nods, “I have. I met him in Carmichael a month ago.”

Vinri ahs. “Well, if he traveled to Carmichael, there’s no reason he couldn’t come here as well. I could keep an eye out, if you’d like?”

Cassandra smiles, “Would you? That is very kind of you.”

Vinri smiles back. “Give me a name? Or at least a description?”

Cassandra begins to describe him and then says, “His name is Renand.”

Vinri tips back her head as he is described, as if visualizing him, then repeats “Renand. I’ll watch for him, then!”

Cassandra smiles, “Thank you, Vinri.”

Vinri asks, “What does he do? Something with travel?”

You say, “He is a carpenter. Travels to select wood for his practice. He mentioned that he sometimes comes here.”

Vinri nods. “That makes sense, I reckon.” Before she can say anything more, a group of women and a couple men approach. She greets them cheerfully.

Cassandra slips off the barrel to let Vinri conduct her business. She takes one last look at the jewels before slipping off into the crowd.

Vinri takes a moment to break off from her sales’ pitch to call out, “Good bye, Cass! Come talk to me again soon!” before continuing with her customers.

Meeting a merchant

The Narrow Gate Hall

Cassandra walks into the hall, whistling a tune. Upon seeing Lanisen, she makes her way over to him.

Lanisen has a half-empty cup of tea in front of him, and he is half-turned toward Vinri, chatting comfortably. He starts to answer, but glances over his shoulder as Cassandra enters the hall and raises a hand toward her. “Oh, there you are!”

A daughter of eve of rather short stature looks that way as well. A bright smile appears immediately. “G’morning! Cass, I’d guess?”

Cassandra moves to sit next to her brother, “Um, yeah, Hi.” She grins, “I guess Lanisen just can’t stop talking about me, huh?”

Lanisen retorts, “Seems fair to warn ’em, I reckon. Cass, this is Vinri.”

Vinri pretends relief. “Oh, good, not sure /what/ I’d do if I guessed wrong again. Pleasure to meet you!”

Cassandra rolls her eyes at Lanisen before nodding to Vinri, “Nice to meet you too.”

Lanisen asks, nodding at the pricelist, “You want anything?”

Vinri gestures towards one of the stools between herself and Lanisen as an invitation for Cassandra to join them.

Vinri glances down at her cup as Lanisen asks his question (even if it isn’t aimed at her) and sets it on the counter, regarding the menu again.

Cassandra shakes her head, “I’m fine thanks.” She glances at the woman, “Do you work at the castle too, Vinri?”

Lanisen sits back a little so they can talk around him more easily.

Vinri shakes her head. “Not at the castle, no. I’ve a stall in the ward, though!” Tapping her lips a time or two with ink-stained fingers, she shrugs and orders a walnut muffin.

You ask, “Oh, what do you sell?”

Lanisen finishes off his tea, gone fairly cold by now.

Vinri eyes the charred muffin and begins doing what Lanisen suggested and picking off the burned bits. “Luxury goods, for official title. Jewelry, journals, fine fabrics, even a couple of scents and such things.”

You say, “That sounds interesting. I shall have to keep an eye open for your stall when I’m there in the ward.”

Vinri grins. “I’ve some interesting things that come through. I hear your thinking towards the stables? Ever worked with horses before?”

Cassandra blinks, glancing at her brother, “Wow, Lanisen told you everything, huh? Yeah, I’m thinking about it. I have never tried it before.”

Lanisen says, “Did not.”

Vinri gives another bright smile. “We hadn’t quite started on the baby stories yet, if that makes you feel better.”

Lanisen says brightly, “She had this stuffed dog toy that she liked to chew on when she was in the toddlin’ stage, chewed that poor thing’s nose /right off/, it was amazing.”

Cassandra socks Lanisen in the arm. “Hush, Brother.”

Lanisen hunches up his shoulders and sways away, laughing and rubbing his arm.

Vinri joins the laughter. “Poor thing, how was it suppose to scent anything /then/?”

Cassandra grumbles, “My mum stitched it back on so there was no damage done.”

Lanisen offers innocently, “I could tell her the onion story.”

Cassandra punchs Lanisen again, “Hey, I need to people to like me.”

Vinri lifts her brows. “The onion story? How intriguing. It sounds like a tale full of tears and tragedy.”

Lanisen says, “/Ow/, lion!”

Cassandra doesn’t look repentant at all.

Lanisen says, injured, “It’s an adorable story.”

Vinri sits back, nibbling on the muffin and watching them with a grin.

Cassandra rubs her temples, “I should have stayed home.”

Lanisen snickers.

Vinri says, “What did make you decide to come here? It’s a fair ways from Carmichael, after all.”

Cassandra stiffens slightly before just smiling, “I decided to move here permanently. So really, it is home now.”

Vinri smiles easily despite the momentary awkwardness. “That’s very brave of you! I’ve only come recently myself, so there’s still quite a bit that I’m getting used to as well.”

Cassandra blinks a bit at Vinri’s choice of words, “I suppose so. Where did you move from?”

Vinri says, “Over in Chesterton. A different sort of city, but still rather large.”

Cassandra jerks her head over at Lanisen, “Lanny mentioned that it was bigger than Andale.”

Lanisen grins at this. “Little bit.”

Vinri grins. “That it is, and busy too. You may want to come see it someday, it’s worth a look.”

Cassandra nods, “I have plans to see everything. Even go to Narnia!”

Lanisen glances at her at this, half-apprehensive.

Vinri quirks a brow. “That’d be a sight, alright. Which beast would you most want to see talk?”

Cassandra grins, “I just want to see one /talking/ beast. I’m not picky on what type.”

Lanisen volunteers, “I met a talking wolf after the battle.”

Vinri looks at him, blinking. “I’d heard they’d come. What was that like?”

Cassandra glares, “Why didn’t you tell me this?” She quiets though to listen.

Lanisen says, “Uhh, well. It was a surprise is what it was like.”

Vinri picks a few more black bits off her muffin. “I hope you didn’t have any of the wolf-hunting hounds with you,” she muses. “That might have been awkward.”

Cassandra hmms, “I didn’t know Wolves could be friendly. I always assumed that they were vicious.”

Lanisen says, “I mean, I heard they were pretty vicious in the battle? But this one just came over to see if I was all right.”

Vinri tips her head. “Were you?”

Cassandra frowns, looking down.

Lanisen says, “What? Oh, yeah, I mean–I was asleep, they gave me stuff to send me to sleep, and then I wake up and there’s somethin’ nudgin’ my hand with its nose and I just figured I was in the kennels, right, ’cause I sleep there sometimes, so I thought it was Nia and started scritchin’ her ears like she likes and then, um, the wolf started talkin’.” He clears his throat, grinning. “It was awkward.”

Vinri lifts a brow a little at the indication that he needed something to send him to sleep, but grins. “So I suppose the best question is: do talking wolves also like ear-scritches?”

Cassandra giggles at the image as she continues to listen.

Lanisen says, “I didn’t ask.”

Vinri shakes her head. “You missed a perfect chance, how often do you think that’ll happen?” She looks towards Cass. “Whenever you go to Narnia, you’ll have to find that wolf and do it for him.”

Cassandra grins, “Alright, I can do that.” She slides off her chair, “Well, I best finish unpacking my things.”

Lanisen says, “Her. Her name’s Tempest, and she’s the alpha of the pack so I don’t recommend it.”

Vinri stares at Lanisen for a moment. “First Sir Colin, now the boss of a wolf pack… do you have a habit of making powerful friends?” She sends a bright smile Cassandra’s way. “Come say hello next time you’re in the ward!”

Lanisen blinks, evidently not having thought of it this way before, and laughs uncertainly. “Do you need anything from the market, Cass?” he asks. “I’m about to head that direction.”

Cassandra nods a bit, “Yeah, Actually I do. Want to come up to my room so I can give you a list?”

Lanisen nods agreeably and pushes back from the bar. “Can do.”

Vinri waves at them both. “Goodbye, see you around!” She turns back to her rolled up letter and picks up her gloves.

Cassandra turns to Vinri, “It was nice to meet you.” She begins to make her way to the hostel.

Lanisen pauses before following Cassandra, turning back to Vinri. “Thanks,” he says. “I’ll see you around, prob’ly?”

Vinri grins. “As I said, I’m not far from the kennels. Come by and say hi whenever.”

Settling in at Anvard

The Narrow Gate Hall

Lanisen is sitting alone at a table against the wall, keeping an eye on the door as he eats.

Cassandra bursts through the door, still looking excited. She is a bit dusty and her hair is a bit loose from her braid but her eyes are bright.

Lanisen glances up immediately as the door opens and waves at her.

Cassandra walks over to Lanisen’s table and unceremoniously throws herself into a chair with a sigh of relief.

Lanisen eyes her. “What’ve you been doing?”

Cassandra replies, “Seeing everything. It is so big.”

Lanisen grins faintly and takes a drink of his cider. “You ain’t been to Chesterton.”

Cassandra glares at him but it is only a half glare, “Don’t ruin my excitement. This is the furthest I have ever been from home in my life!”

Lanisen says, “Sorry, sorry.”

Cassandra waves over a bar maid, asking for a tea. She then turn to Lanisen, “Glad to be home?”

Lanisen says, “Yeah. I missed my room. And my dogs.” He glances at her sidelong. “Whatcha think of it so far?”

Cassandra grins, “I like Megren and Nia.”

Lanisen looks pleased. “I thought you might.”

You ask, “What have you been doing today?”

Lanisen says, “Unpacked. Stopped by the infirmary. Checked in on the hounds. That’s about it.”

Cassandra frowns slightly, “I guess we should discuss living arrangements? I already own you and Sir Colin a lot of money for my stay in the Carmichael Lodge.”

Lanisen shakes his head dismissively. “I’d be /really/ surprised if he ever let either of us repay that,” he says.

Cassandra snorts, “I don’t like owning him anything.”

Lanisen glances at her, a little wry.

Cassandra returns the look.

Lanisen says, “Well. He wrote a letter for you, if you think you’d like to work in the castle. That’d prob’ly come with quarters in the castle, so it might be easiest.”

Cassandra blinks, “A place in the castle? Really?”

Lanisen shrugs a little. “There’s quarters for the servants on the first floor of the nobles’ tower. They ain’t fancy, but. Room and board, and a job. You could do worse.”

Cassandra taps her fingers on the table, “That sounds like a good deal.”

Lanisen offers, “Bet they could find you a spot in the kitchens, if you wanted. I know you don’t want to serve direct, that’d be different. Or you could work in the kennels like I did, maybe, I don’t think girls’ve worked there before but that don’t mean they can’t, I reckon. That gets nasty, though, you got a weak stomach?”

Cassandra hmmm, “What nasty stuff? I can pick up after them well enough.”

Lanisen says, “Well, dealin’ with their food, dealin’ with what’s left behind… handlin’ stuff when they get sick… Plus sometimes they fight and you gotta break that up, that can get nasty.” He rolls up his sleeve to show her an ugly, ropy bite scar several years old.

Cassandra recoils slightly, “Okay, maybe not.”

Lanisen hastens to assure her, “That don’t happen often, I got stupid.”

Cassandra nods once, still thinking, “I asked Megren what guarding was like.”

Lanisen blinks. “Oh?”

You say, “Don’t think I would like it.”

Lanisen says, “Oh.”

You ask, “What about the stables?”

Lanisen asks, “You want to work in the stables?”

Cassandra shrugs, “I like horses.”

Lanisen asks, “You like shovelin’ their muck too?”

Cassandra wrinkles her nose before sighing.

Lanisen hesitates. “Colin suggested helpin’ in the infirmary, maybe. That something you’d be interested in?”

Cassandra makes a disgusted face, “I would rather muck out stalls then be around sick people.”

Lanisen thinks about this, tapping the tabletop with the tip of his fingers. “Well,” he says at last. “You could try it out, I suppose, and then try something else if it don’t suit you.”

Cassandra nods, “I like that idea!”

Lanisen asks, “We’ll talk to the Steward, then?”

Cassandra suddenly looks nervous. “Alright.”

Lanisen says, “Nothin’ to worry about. You got Colin’s letter.”

Cassandra bites her lip, “I’ve never been around nobles before. Aside Sir Colin.”

Lanisen says, “It’s not so bad. Just curtsy and remember to say sir a lot.”

Cassandra stands up, “Like this?” She grabs the sides of her skirt, pulling them up as she crosses her leg to bow. However, the hem gets stuck on the heel of her shoe and she begins to fall. She attempts to grab the chair but it just goes tumbling with her.

Lanisen blinks, reaching out too late to try to catch her. He covers his mouth quickly to keep himself from laughing out loud.

Cassandra picks herself up, setting the chair upright. She glares at a few of the patrons who also are trying not to laughing before sitting down. She then glares at her brother, “Hush.”

Lanisen asks, “You never curtseyed before?”

Cassandra gives him a look, “I told you. I haven’t been around nobles before.”

Lanisen says, “Not even Lord Ast and Lady Priya?”

Cassandra shrugs, “Okay, I may have curtsied once or twice but not normally.”

Lanisen says, “Well, amusing as it would be, I’m not gonna try and teach you how. You might could ask Megren?”

Cassandra’s face lights up slightly, “Do you think she would mind?”

Lanisen says, “Nah. Mind you, she might fall over too.”

Cassandra hmms before staring out the window.

Lanisen asks, “You want me to come with, or…?”

Cassandra shakes her head, “No no. I really like Megren. I hope, maybe, that we can be friends is all.” She looks back at Lanisen, “You know, I’ve never had that many friends before.”

Lanisen says, “Megren’s friends with everybody, I think.”

You say, “Then I guess I don’t have anything to worry about.”

Lanisen says, “Nahh. Not with her.”

Cassandra grins, “I’m glad.”

Lanisen asks, “Your room here all right?”

Cassandra nods, “I’m use to sleeping in an inn now so it is okay. I’ll be ready for my own bed though.”

Lanisen says, “I know what you mean. Sooner we talk to Lord Dar the better, yeah?”

Cassandra nods, “Yeah. But could you be there with me?”

Lanisen hesitates. “Yeah,” he says after an apprehensive pause. “If you– yeah.”

Cassandra tips her head, “Everything okay?”

Lanisen says, “No, yeah, it’s fine.”

Cassandra smiles at him, “I appreciate everything Lanisen. I really do.”

Lanisen shakes his head slightly. “‘S nothin’,” he says. “I’m glad you’re here.”

Cassandra stands to her feet, “Me too. Now I’m going to go take a nap. I need to enjoy this last bit of free time before I have a job.”

Lanisen says, “All right.” He finishes off his cider and stands up. “I’ll be… I think I’ll prob’ly be in the kennels, if you need me. You remember how to get there?”

Cassandra nods, “If I get lost, I’ll ask someone.”

Lanisen says, “All right.” He rubs his shoulder and glances at the door. “Enjoy your nap, then.”

Cassandra grins, “Thanks.” She makes her way towards the hostel.

A new home

Before the Gates of Anvard

Lanisen is sitting against the side of the wagon as it trundles along the road, hunched slightly with his face tight and pinched. As they come within sight of the castle, he stirs and straightens, visibly relieved.

Cassandra sits next to her brother, grumbling as she is jostled yet again. As the Castle comes into view, all annoyance is gone, replaces with excitement. She starts hitting Lanisen on the shoulder repeatedly. “We are here! We are here!”

Lanisen winces away. “Stop, stop–”

Cassandra does but more because she starts gathering up her stuff. She looks ready to jump on the wagon at a moment’s notice and actually looks very impatient.

Lanisen is far less energetic, but he follows her lead, pulling his satchel toward himself as the wagon rolls through the gates.

Outer Ward

As the wagon slows down to accommodate for the foot traffic in the outer ward, Cassandra jumps off. She is very wide eyed at the size of the castle and it’s ward and tries to look at everything at once.

Lanisen slings his satchel over his good shoulder and drops off the wagon. He stretches gingerly and casts a glad, relieved glance around the ward.

Cassandra spins around, looking at everything. She does place her hand firmly on her satchel’s latch, in case any pick pockets want to do try their thing. She is still wide eyed and a bit speechless at the all the activity.

Lanisen watches her, tired but grinning. “Whatcha think?”

Cassandra looks at him, “It’s so big!” She grabs his arm, “You have to /show/ me everything!”

Lanisen says hastily, “I will, I will.” He winces and shifts his shoulder to a better angle. “Maybe not everything tonight though?”

Cassandra pouts just a little, “How about only half tonight then?” Any exhaustion received on the trip is completely gone. “I’m not getting any younger, you know.”

A daughter of eve with short, copper hair stands guard at the other side of the ward, next to the inner gatehouse. She watches the crowd a little lazily, her back against the wall. There are enough people that the newly arrived wagon isn’t too remarkable, although it does catch her attention… but she can’t easily see who steps out of it from behind the other milling residents.

Lanisen snorts, a weary, indulgent grin tugging at the corners of his mouth. “Okay, let’s–um…” He rubs his forehead. “I’m… gonna put my stuff in my room, and then do you want to see the kennels?”

Cassandra nods, “Yes please. I want to meet Nia.” She grins, “And perhaps, look for a dog myself?”

The crowd shifts just enough for Megren to get a glimpse of a familiar face, and she immediately straightens, craning to see over the milieu.

Lanisen agrees, “Yeah, maybe. I bet there’s a bunch of new pups by now.” He glances at the inner gatehouse. “Will you be okay here for a second? I’ll be right back.”

Cassandra gives him a look, “I think I can manage to stay in one spot for a few minutes.” She begins to look around some more watching everything.

A daughter of eve with short, copper hair dances on her toes, trying to look dignified as she arches to look over the crowd.

Lanisen promises, “Five minutes.” With that, he heads toward the inner gatehouse, a tired stiffness in his movements.

Cassandra moves in and out of the crowd a bit, still sight seeing. She does keep in view of the inner gatehouse so Lanisen can find her when he comes back.

A daughter of eve with short, copper hair finally catches a confirming sight that the person she has seen is indeed Lanisen. She says something brief to the other guard on duty and breaks away from the wall at a sprint, dodging various civilians and bowling him over.

Lanisen is not even a little bit prepared to be bowled over. He pulls an alarmed breath and makes an attempt to dodge the mad sprinting person.

Due to the crowd’s movements, Cassandra does not see her brother’s plight, instead gawking at some items on one of the merchant’s tables.

A daughter of eve with short, copper hair wraps her arms around him in a bear hug, careful not to knock him down. “You /sneak/.”

Lanisen is startled and tense and not very good at being bear-hugged. He blinks at her and breaks into a grin. “Meg!”

A daughter of eve with short, copper hair steps back, holding him at arm’s length like a mother inspecting her errant child. “You did /not/ tell me you were coming back. Where’s Sir Colin?”

Cassandra wanders around some more, finally looking towards the inner gatehouse. Upon seeing Lanisen and the woman, she begins to make her way over. “Hey Lanny, whose this?” She smiles at the woman.

Lanisen says, “Oh, um, sorry, I meant to– Sir Colin’s still in Carmichael, I’m just back because– um.” He turns slightly toward Cassandra. “Meg, this is my sister, Cassandra. Cass, my friend Megren.”

A daughter of eve with short, copper hair turns to look at the other woman, seeming quite as jubilant at meeting her as Lanisen. She reaches a hand out to touch her arm. “You’re–! Oh no, you’re beautiful. Look at that, same skin, same hair.” She circles Cassandra interestingly. “Oh, right, hello. I’m Megren. I work, uh,” she makes a circle with her hand to indicate the ward. “–here.”

Cassandra blinks at the very jubilant greeting. “Er, Hi, Megren. You can call me Cass. It is nice to meet you.”

Lanisen asks, “Are you busy? I was just gonna show Cass the dogs.”

A daughter of eve with short, copper hair exclaims, “Oh– well! Hm. Maybe not. Let me just check with Perth. I’m meant to get off soon anyway, and things have been pretty slow.”

Cassandra glances between the two, waiting.

Lanisen says, “All right. I’m gonna drop my satchel and stop by the infirmary and I’ll be right back after. Five minutes.”

Cassandra shoos him away, grinning, “You said that 5 minutes ago. Go on already.”

A daughter of eve with short, copper hair quips, “Stop and say hello to Adrian. I’m sure Cass and I can find something to talk about.”

Cassandra turns to the woman, ” So you work here?”

Megren nods, starting to walk backwards toward the inner gatehouse so that she can check back with Perth without interrupting the flow of their conversation. “That’s right,” she says, indicating her livery and resting her palm easily on her sword. “Guardswoman, going on two years.”

Cassandra follows along, still eyeing the ward. “Guardwoman, huh?  Is that a fun job? I’m looking for work now that I’m living here.”

Megren looks her over thoughtfully. “I like it. It’s good if you like serving people. But it’s a lot of hard training. I grew up hunting, and it was still pretty hard to learn. You can tell I’m new if you watch me spar the others.”

Cassandra chuckles, “Yeah, I probably should stay in non physical activities.”

Megren says, “So you’re moving out here, then? Lanisen didn’t say.””

Cassandra nods, “Yes, I’m going to live here now.”

Megren stops up when the reach the guard at the gatehouse. “Hey Perth, this is Cass. Mind if I take off a little early? I’ll make it up to you and pick up tonight’s shift.”

Cassandra nods to Perth in greeting.

Perth gives Cass a polite, if rather shy greeting, and agrees begrudgingly to Megren’s terms.

Lanisen returns, a little out of breath, and joins them. “Well, the castle’s still standing,” he says under his breath.

Megren makes a face at him. “You doubted me?”

Lanisen says, with perfect sincerity, “Not even a little bit.”

Cassandra just grins.

Megren looks skeptical, but she only says, “So, the kennels, then? You’ll get to meet the new litter. I made sure Nia wouldn’t remember you at all.”

Cassandra grins widely at the mention of the new litter. She shifts impatiently on her feet.

Lanisen gives Megren a mock-annoyed sidelong look. “Sure you did,” he says indulgently, and starts toward the kennels.

Megren falls in line, letting Cass go before her and clasping her hands behind her back to take up the rear.

Cassandra may just push Lanisen to hurry him up or it could just be the flow of the crowd.

Lanisen opens the door to the kennels and steps aside for Cassandra and Meg to enter first.

Cassandra enters the kennels with a, “Oh, look at all the puppies!”

Megren traipses past him, going in search of Licorice.

Lanisen follows them in and shuts the door carefully, glancing around the room. He grins faintly and follows them, looking more at peace than he has in months.