Cowry and Rabbit Bones

The Beach near Sted Cair

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This stretch of beach is quiet, largely abandoned except for the occasional shorebird. Perfectly clear blue water surges up in rhythmic waves to meet the smooth shore, fine golden sand studded with seashells. The water is gentle and fairly shallow for some distance out, though a darkening in the color suggests an abrupt drop-off of the ground below the surface. The beach is sheltered by a series of towering sea-stacks to the southeast and by the the peninsula to the north, on which the castle of Cair Paravel sits with all its windows glittering in the sun. The beach gets progressively rockier to the south, where smooth sand gives way gradually to tide pools and boulders.

A sandy little-trodden path leads southwest up the slope to the main road, and the beach is clear all the way to the castle to the north.

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You can go: Cair Paravel <N>, Footpath <SW>

Lanisen comes walking toward you from the north.

Caileana is perched atop a large flat boulder among the tide pools, the tide low enough just now that it’s easy to get where she is without one’s paws getting too wet. She has a rabbit between her paws that she munches on slowly, watching the water in the tide pool nearest her with interest.

Lanisen follows the steps down from the castle to the sand, his shoes in his hand and his trousers rolled up to his knees. His sleeves are similarly rolled up in concession to the warm evening, exposing his scarred wrists. He limps slightly, but his ankle seems to have healed.

Caileana lifts her head from her snack, her ears perking, when there’s a splash in the water near her.

Lanisen drops his shoes in the sand well above the waterline, then makes his way down to the water. He walks along the wet sand where the waves lap, occasionally stopping to dig up interesting shells or rocks. His path brings him slowly south to the rocky part of the beach, near Caileana.

Caileana finishes off the last of the meaty bits and starts gnawing on the bones, a generally satisfied expression on her face. Lanisen gets close enough for her to hear over the waves just as the wind blows his scent south towards her, and she looks up with a bone still between her teeth.

Lanisen squats down in the sand to dig up a glossy spotted cowrie the size of his palm. He looks at it with interest, straightening, then wades out into the water to wash it and his hands clean. When he returns, he halts uneasily, looking up and down the beach. His eyes finally settle on Caileana, and his face clears with relief. He begins toward her, dry sand sticking to his wet feet.

Caileana spits out the bone quickly when Lanisen starts to approach, sitting up and pushing the grisly mess behind her with a front paw, as though that will hide it from his view. “Your pardon,” she says politely, licking her chops to be certain they’re clean.

Lanisen blinks and looks from her to her meal, completely nonplussed by her behavior. “Oh,” he says, realizing. “Do you not like people to see you eat? I can go away, I’m sorry.”

Caileana tilts her head, giving him a surprised look. “Ah, no, it’s not that, it’s just…” she rolls her shoulders in a shrug. “Lots of herbivores in Lantern Waste, you know, we’ve gotten in the habit of trying not to eat in front of non-wolves. Seems upsetting?”

Lanisen pulls his chin back to consider this. “I suppose that makes sense,” he says thoughtfully. “If a Talking Rabbit saw your meal I could see how that would be…” He pushes his mouth to the side and shakes his head. “I don’t mind, I don’t mind at all. I won’t watch if it makes you more comfortable, though.”

Caileana shakes her head. “I don’t care about the watching. I was mostly done though.” She drags out the large leg bone she was gnawing on before. “You really don’t mind if I…?” she wriggles the bone in question.

Lanisen says, shaking his head, “No, of course not. Do you mind if I sit with you?”

Caileana looks appeased, even pleased. “No, please do,” she says, gnawing idly on the bone with one side of her teeth.

Lanisen picks his way through the rocks to a likely boulder near Caileana and settles onto it with a sigh. He inspects his cowrie, turning it over in his hand.

You ask, “What’s that?”

Lanisen says, holding it up so she can see, “Just a shell. Biggest one I’ve ever seen, though.” He considers it thoughtfully. “I think Tristran might like it.”

Caileana looks surprised at the mention of Tristran, but she gives the shell a closer look. “Pup does seem to like shiny things, from what I’ve seen of him,” she agrees.

Lanisen asks, “You know him well?”

Caileana shakes her head. “Not too well. Auremh keeps him close when Adara’s off with the Guard – doesn’t like us Beasts too well, that one, I don’t think. But I like Adara, and I speak with her when I can.” She tilts her head. “Not sure she feels the same, but…” She shrugs.

Lanisen draws up his knees and loops his arms loosely around them, listening. “Hmm,” he says when she’s finished.

Caileana looks at him. “You two friends, then?”

Lanisen nods. He closes his hand around the shell as far as he can and shifts, looking out over the water. “I’d say so.”

Caileana hmms to herself. “That’s good, then. Adara doesn’t seem to have many friends. Not good ones, anyways.”

Lanisen glances at her. “Bad ones?” he suggests, raising an eyebrow.

You ask, “Mm, more like apathetic ones?”

Lanisen mms, understanding.

Caileana falls silent for a moment, gnawing, then asks, “Your wound okay?”

Lanisen asks, “My– oh, my ankle?”

Caileana nods.

Lanisen says, “Oh. Yeah.” He extends it in front of him and rotates it experimentally. “It’s still kinda sore if I do like this, but it’s, yeah, it’s fine.” There’s only a very faded hint of bruising left from the sprain. Scarring similar to his wrists but far lighter can be seen in a ring around the outside of his ankle.

Caileana says, “Ouch.” She eyes his scars as much as the bruising, but she doesn’t seem put off by them or even very surprised, simply matter-of-fact.

Lanisen says, “Eh!” and drops his foot again. “I can walk on it.”

Caileana says, “Well then, what more do you need.” Her lips pull back from her teeth in a small smile.

Lanisen says, “Exactly.”

Caileana chuckles. She stretches out her front paws. “So what brings you to Sted Cair, Lanisen? Our latest political maneuverings, I assume? I thought you were on your way back to Archenland.”

Lanisen says, “I was. I made it back, slept in my own bed for a few nights, then turned around and came back.” He dangles his feet off the edge of the boulder and adds, “I was wantin’ to turn around and come back the entire way home, so it works out.”

Caileana tilts her head. “Why’d you go home in the first place, then?”

Lanisen says, “‘Cause. It’s home. I got duties and friends there.”

Caileana nods, understanding. “Sure. I get that. I guess the better question is why you /didn’t/ want to go back, then.”

Lanisen says, “Oh,” and turns the cowry between his fingers, frowning absently. “Bunch of different reasons, really.”

Caileana makes an inquisitive noise, resting her head on her paws and the bone still between them, her eyes on Lanisen.

Lanisen says, “Um…” He shakes his head. “I didn’t like leavin’ Tristran and Jana, Adara, I didn’t like leavin’… /Narnia/, it’s…” He pauses and rubs the side of his face. “Every time I come here I feel like– I feel like I can breathe again, you know?”

Caileana considers this, nodding slowly. “You wouldn’t be the first Archenlander to stay,” she says, “though I understand the pull of duty.”

A butterfly follows the footpath southwest, toward the road.

Lanisen admits, “I don’t know what I’d do if I did. I don’t really know a trade, other than lookin’ after hounds.”

Caileana’s expression clears, as though this explains a few things. “Oh, is that why you had that dog with you before?” She sniffs and observes, “You don’t smell like dog now.”

Lanisen says, “Well,” and hesitates.

Caileana looks a little amused by how often he seems to be doing that. She waits patiently.

Lanisen says, “Um,” and swings his legs absently. “I usually take him, when I’m gonna be travelin’ alone. I’m not– it’s just, I feel better with him there, if there’s people around I don’t… people I don’t trust.”

Caileana looks down at his wrists and at the scar on his throat, considers his frame. “You look like you can handle yourself,” she observes. “Those are scars that would’ve killed a weaker man. Though,” she frowns, “it must be hard, not having any claws or sharp teeth of your own. That would make me nervous too.”

Lanisen goes briefly still when she comments on his scars, but he looks down at his wrists and lifts his shoulders. “I got lucky,” he answers. “I have good friends.”

Caileana’s gaze travels to the scar on her side – old and faint as it is, the fur around it has never grown back in. “I know the feeling,” she says. “Packs are good for that.”

Lanisen looks at her, taking in the patches of fur that don’t quite lay right. He is quiet for a moment, and nods.

Caileana wrinkles her muzzle in thought. “I know you humans have a few more things you need than we Beasts do,” she says, motioning at him with her nose. “No fur of your own, for instance. But I don’t know if you’d need a trade, exactly, especially not if you wanted to live in Lantern Waste. Maybe here…there’s a lot more humans here, around the castle. Can you hunt? Or fish? There’s lots of fish to be found in the Waste. You could sell what you can’t eat to Pesca, she pays well for it.”

Caileana says, “We live simply, here, is what I mean to say, I guess.”

Lanisen says, looking at the cowry, “I don’t think I could live in Lantern Waste.”

Caileana considers. “I don’t know as much about some of the other regions. I’ve traveled more in the past year or so than I ever had in my life – born and raised in Lantern Waste, you know. But the same probably holds true for other places in Narnia.”

Lanisen says, “I’ve been… I’ve been thinkin’ of askin’ if Stormsbreath would take me on, at the castle. I’d like to learn from him.”

You ask, “Who’s Stormsbreath?”

Lanisen says, “He’s, he’s the healer at the castle, he let me read some of his notes.”

You say, “Oh, I should have known that. I bet Crenna studied under him for a time when she was doing her training.”

Lanisen asks, “Yeah?” He considers. “Maybe I’ll talk to her about it before I ask him. If I do.”

Caileana nods. “You should. She’s the first of our kind I’ve ever heard of to train as a healer – mostly those with a better familiarity with plants than wolves have sought the training. So I reckon she’s got a unique perspective on that sort of thing.”

Lanisen nods thoughtfully. “I’ll talk to her,” he decides. “Thank you.”

Caileana offers a grin. “Of course. There’s a Unicorn in Lantern Waste who knows a bit about healing too, Peridot – she’s Petraverd’s mate. But a Centaur is probably your best bet for training.”

Lanisen says, nodding, “That’s what I’ve heard, that it’s, it’s best if you can manage it to get the basics from somebody who… mmm, who senses the world the same way you do.”

You say, “Well and, Centaurs are among the wisest of us. He probably has more to teach you than Crenna or Peridot or even Penelope, the healer Faun in Bergdale.”

Lanisen nods again, thinking this over. “They live so long,” he says, marveling. “I can’t get my head around it.”

Caileana laughs. “Tell me about it. I’ll live even less time than you.”

Lanisen looks at her at this, his face twisting a little like this isn’t something he likes to hear.

Caileana grins at him, her tongue lolling. “I’m not that old, you don’t have to look so distressed about it.”

Lanisen smiles in return, like he can’t really help it, and looks away, planting his elbows on his knees. “I know,” he says, and looks down at his hands.

Caileana wrinkles her muzzle, looking out at the waves. “Lion willing, I’ll have a mate and some pups before I’m actually old,” she says softly, a bit wistful.

Lanisen glances at her again, listening, then lowers his eyes and turns to face the sea.

Caileana scratches an ear, going silent for a moment, and then she gives him an apologetic look.

Lanisen hmms?

You say, “No need to whinge about my love life, or lack thereof. I’m sure you don’t need to hear about it.”

Lanisen shrugs and shakes his head. “I don’t mind.” He lifts one eyebrow ruefully and adds, “I been whinin’ about mine enough lately.”

Caileana rolls over so she’s more on her side. She flicks an ear. “Yeah?”

Lanisen shakes his head again. He’s smiling, but he looks abruptly exhausted. “It’s not… no.”

Caileana makes a face. “Yeah. Agreed.”

Lanisen crosses his arms over his stomach and leans over his knees, brushing his feet together to get the dry sand off them.

You say, “Adara seems to think I dwell too much on it. And that mates aren’t really worth it, anyways, though on that point, we disagree.”

Lanisen says, “That’s… almost exactly what she said to me.”

Caileana laughs. “I believe it.”

Lanisen says, “Given who /her/ mate is, I can’t blame her.”

Caileana frowns. “I don’t like him. I still hardly know him, but I don’t like him. And she…she smells…sour, I guess, when she talks about him.”

Lanisen rubs absently at his wrists. “I knew him, a long time ago.”

You say, “Bet he was more unpleasant when he didn’t have the pup to at least consider.”

Lanisen says, “He was very unpleasant, yeah.”

Caileana wrinkles up her muzzle.

Lanisen doesn’t elaborate, but his face has gone a little absent and shadowed.

Caileana considers him.

Lanisen glances back at her after a moment.

You say, “I’m sorry.”

Lanisen shifts and frowns slightly, uncertain.

Caileana adds, “I don’t mean to bring up unpleasant memories.”

Lanisen says, “No, it’s… no.”

Caileana tilts her head.

Lanisen says, “It’s all right, it’s all right.”

You say, “Okay.”

Lanisen looks up at the sky, where the first stars are beginning to emerge. “I should get back to the castle.”

Caileana nods. She sits up. “It was good to chat with you, Lanisen.”

Lanisen says, “Yeah. You too.” He gets to his feet, picking his way carefully through the rocks to the flat sand beyond. “Thanks for lettin’ me sit.”

You say, “Anytime.”

Lanisen says, “Have a good night.”

Caileana smiles. “You too.”

Lanisen limps on down the sand to where he left his shoes. He picks them up and carries them with him back to the castle.

Caileana watches him for a moment before she turns back to the sea.