Out of the Den

Gathering Circle

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

What a sweet place you have wandered to. The forest trees here are scattered across a soft meadow of heather and wildflowers, and the sun dapples the ground through the leaves above. This is a wide section of earth, and it seems to be a gathering place – indeed, there is a ring of stones in one side of the open clearing where it seems fires have been built over many nights. To the south, a worn path leads to the Caldron Pool and the waterfall that feeds it. You can also see a path leading west toward the cliff-face. To the east the path leads into the deeper forests of Lantern Waste.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

You can go: Clearing <N>, Into Lantern Waste <E>, Caldron Pool <S>, Base of  the Cliffs <W>

Lapis arrives from the east.

Lapis trots into the Gathering Circle, whuffling here and there for forageables.   The mare is in a cheery mood, a welcome change from the shocked sullenness she had been in since the attack.  She nickers a tune as she finds some clumps of grass appearing ready for the taking.  She nips and pulls at it, and piles it on her back.

Caileana pads in from the west, her tail sweeping behind her in a regular, pleased motion. She moves carefully, but stretches out her long legs to take large steps as if grateful for the exercise. Her expression is self-satisfied.

Lapis halts her nicker-humming and flicks her ears as she hears pawsteps.  She whinnies gleefully as she spots Caileana, galloping in a sprint to her.  “Caileana!  You are back on your paws!  It is very good to see you on the mend!”  She flicks her tail crazily.  “Have you seen Their Majesties!?  King Edmund and Queen Lucy paid a visit to the herd just the other day!”  The young mare is as excited  as a foal spotting Santa Claus bringing a sleighful of gifts.

Caileana snaps her head up, surprised at the force of the greeting. She smiles broadly and settles onto her haunches, panting slightly. There is some bruising and swelling still along her side and the stab wound from Thunderfoot’s blade is an ugly gash along her shoulder, which, though scabbing, is still quite glaring.  “Hello, Lapis. It is good to see you too, and to be out and about.” Her ears twitch. “Their Majesties, you say?” She looks pleased. “I had not heard of their being in the Waste.”

Lapis softly touches her muzzle to the side of Caileana’s muzzle.  “Yes, it was just a few minutes, actually, after I asked Petraverd and Peridot whether they felt help would arrive soon.  I was … such a mess, I was completely embarrassed!  I had been hauling food to the Cail all day, my mane was filthy with strands of grass tangled … Quicksilver quickly stole the show, of course!” she laughs.  “I had never seen them before … like dwarfs, but … taller … without beards.  Almost as tall as fauns, but not quite.”

Caileana noses her back, looking pleased by the gesture. She chuckles at the picture Lapis creates, and nods. “Yes, I have seen them before. I was discussing with Eirwyn the fact that we had had no word, as well, not long ago.” She tips her  head sideways. “Did they come alone?”

Lapis shakes her head.  “They had several knights with them.  I didn’t see an army, though … I think their visit to Un’aireken was a social stop.  I have noticed a few unfamiliar faces .. . quite a few centaurs, ready with battle armor and everything … who seem to b e patrolling while the pack heals.  Their Majesties were very kind and gracious,  every bit as I’ve only heard tales of … Queen Lucy especially was quite enamored with Quicksilver, and the little foal was definitely enamored back!” she laughs.

Caileana smiles. “I would imagine so. I look forward to meeting him soon myself.” She nods, looking a little more somber. “I’m glad they did not come alone, as they have before. I daresay they will seek out my Alpha soon enough.”

Lapis nods.  “I know higher-ups in the Un’aireken have been absent a lot, I beli eve they have been meeting with Eirwyn, but … I’m not sure.  Its pretty hush-hush.  Eirwyn and my elders do not seem to take me seriously when I offer to lend my hoof where it’s needed.  I know I’m not as skilled in combat as most Ulfden, but … I did at least make one of the giants bleed a bit when he return to the Lists entrance.  I feel … frustrated … going on as though nothing’s wrong when one of our neighbors is missing.”

Caileana hehs. She gives a sharp nod. “I know how that can be. It takes time to gain the respect of your superiors before your counsel is heard or sought. But for what it’s worth, Lapis, you have proved you can hold your own quite well. Your kind seem to be natural fighters, when they get it in their mind. And rest assured we will not let things go on as they have. My Alpha has been waiting on word from Sted Cair to act. I suspect things will begin to move forward now that Their Majesties are here.”

Lapis nods.  “When Trianna and I set out from the herdlands to search for Petraverd, we encountered a fallen giant … my typical reaction was to stay clear, not incite things further, maybe we could use him as a bargaining chip or show kindness.  After I saw that other one nearby, with Nevarre … and yet another one attacking the retreating Ulfden in the Lists entrance … I wish we had finished  the fallen one off.”

Caileana’s expression darkens. “I wish we had finished Thunderfoot off, before he pulled out that sword. Likely that would’ve ended the battle right there.”

Lapis snorts.  “I dunno … there were so many giants.  One less would have been one less … I also wish I had joined the fight, at Petraverd’s side.  I didn’t even know giants had blades … I thought they just swung trees like clubs … but I guess those are silly foal’s stories.”

Caileana’s tail curls about her. “I had not fought them myself, before. I daresay it is a topic most avoided among my pack, so I’d thought little of their weapons.” She exhales before saying, “What is done is done. It is what we do now that  is important.”

Lapis nods.  “The frustration seems divisive … even among my own herdmates.  I  try to remind them that it is more important than ever to stand united, even as  I feel frustrated at being kept out of action. Against this menace, acting alone is suicide.”

Caileana nods again. “Suicide indeed. You are right to remind them to stand together. My pack has, for the most, part, done well in standing beside each other. But I fear the division between the Wolves and the Unicorns is ill-timed and unhelpful. Trianna has ostracized some of my packmates by her manner, especially.”

Lapis nods. “I love her dearly as a herd-sister … but, yes.  I want to stand -with- your pack.  I grew up with you and your packmates as friends and neighbors.  I want to be among the first to put every muscle and tendon I have, the strength of my legs and the sharpness of my horn to helping protect and defend. Yes , I have a duty to keep foraging for the herd … but I want to do more for all of Lantern Waste, not just Un’aireken.”

Caileana smiles at her. “The sentiment is appreciated, Lapis. We would do the same for Un’aireken.” She sighs. “I can understand her desire to put her herd first, we would do the same. But it is not only the herd that this attack has affected. Nor have we done anything inconsiderate or injust towards the herd ourselves.”

Lapis nods.  “I guess its understandable tempers are short and frustrations high, but … yeah.  We were lucky, relatively speaking … what happened to Petraverd was devastating, but as ugly as it is to see what that sword did to him, I know the Ulfden losses are even worse.  I don’t know what I can do, but … I don’ t like doing nothing for you.  I should be one of the first in line to defend .. . Petraverd and Peridot have a foal now, they should be protecting him, instead of putting themselves at risk … that’s how I feel, anyhow.  I’m young, I should be an asset because I have no mate nor foals to tie me down.”

Caileana nods, her eyes flickering over the nasty gash on her shoulder. “I feel the same, Lapis. I suppose that is why I went after Nevarre in the first place. What good are my fangs and my claws if I cannot use them to defend those I hold dear, those whom others need. I will do what I have to to see my pack come through this. Not foolishly, but…knowing where my place is.”

Lapis nods.  “I know Ulfden aren’t unicorns, and certainly I’m not a wolf, but . .. claw or hoof, I have closer friendships with several Ulfden, such as you, than I do with some of my own herdmates.  I don’t foolishly want to fling myself in a suicidal frontal assault upon the giants, either … but I do feel frustrated at being denied opportunity to do some part.”

Caileana studies her. “I cannot claim to have much more sway in these matters than you, I am but a Scout. But I will do what I can, when the time comes, to see that you are included in whatever efforts our superiors decide upon. The more we stand together, the stronger we will be. I would think that they would see this.”

Lapis nods.  “I hope Their Majesties visit Ulfden soon.  It feels odd, having strangers about I’ve never seen before, but hopefully this keeps us Narnians unified, working together for a common cause.  I worry, sometimes, if that’s been for gotten with that war fought before I was foaled.”

Caileana says, “As do I. My Alpha will be anxious to meet with them.” She pauses . “I cannot say whether we are less unified than we were during the war. I was not born either. But I do believe that the way Ulfden and Un’aireken work together, even despite our differences, is reminiscent of that unity. We do stand together.”

Lapis nods.  “I wish I could go to a faun festival, though … at least one, like I heard the eagles mention.  Or see Cair Paravel … I hear they have sweet-smelling blossoms in their garden nearly year-round … but our kind seems to have  little interest in going far.  Maybe its just a dangerous youthful thirst for adventure I have, but … I want to see more of Narnia than our corner … someday, of course, not now when I may be needed.”

You say, “I don’t think there is anything wrong with a desire to see more of Narnia. I have little wish to travel, but I…I have long wanted to glimpse the sea. That at least I hope to do someday.”

Lapis gazes softly to the shewolf and asks, “Maybe … someday … we could travel together?  I do think, from my mis-adventure with the river, going with a seasoned scout would be wise.”

Caileana chuckles. “Seasoned I am not sure that I am. I have spent my life here,  except for small trips to Madderholt and once to Beruna. But…” she tips her head. “I think I would like that, in the future.”

Lapis nods. “I think we could have a fun adventure together. Get to meet some of the Narnians I only hear about in story and legend … see if the fauns really do have endless tables of food,” she laughs.

Caileana grins. “I suppose everyone should see the rest of their country at least once in their lifetime.”

Lapis nods.  “What were Madderholt and Beruna like?” she asks.

You say, “The Holt…imagine a village of dwarves, and what they would bring to a home, and you’ll have some idea. The woods north of Madderholt are rich in game, though, more game than I have ever seen in the Waste. ”

Lapis says, “I hope to more than imagine. I heard The Great River is so wide, you can scarcely see across it where it enters the sea.”

Caileana shakes her head. “When it nears the sea, I don’t know how large it is. But at the fords of Beruna, it is very wide and shallow. It’s amazing how so great a river can come from our stream.”

Lapis nods.  “I guess its the easy way to navigate if we were to go there, I hear it passes not too far south of Sted Cair and Cair Paravel.”

Caileana nods too. “That is my understanding.”

Lapis asks, “How are your other packmates faring?  With the injuries, I mean?  Are you the last to be able to get out and about?”

Caileana shakes her head. “I think I might be the first actually. I know my mother has been sticking to the den, and Virika is still healing as well. Panacea wants me to take it easy, still, but she said I could at least go for a walk, for which I am grateful. I don’t think I could’ve taken more of the inactivity, injury or no.”

Lapis nods.  “I am glad you are feeling up to it … I wish you could have seen Their Majesties arrive at the Dale.  I’m sure they will visit the packlands soon.”

Caileana nods. “I expect so.”

Lapis says, “I wish I had been there, in the fight.  I don’t know if it would have made a difference, but … I wish I had been there, for you, for Petraverd, for Nevarre and the others.”

You say, “Well, as I told Glyn…I would have liked having you at my back. But the fewer injured, the better. We need someone to be on the lookout while the others recover.”

Lapis nods.  “Its been quiet … but I jump when I hear a low gurgle from a river, a rock tumbling from the cliffs, or distant thunder from a storm.”

Caileana hehs. “I’ve been having some nightmares about it all,” she admits.

Lapis nods.  “He won’t admit it, but I think Petraverd has, too.  He frustrates me, but … in the hours between when I last saw him and finding him again … I was truly terrified little Quicksilver has lost his father. I think that, as much as anything, sparked my anger toward the tall bullies.”

Caileana snorts. “Bullies is too kind a word for their kind.”

Lapis nods.  “Isn’t there a treaty of some sort between Narnia and the Moors?  If so, it was an outright act of war.”

Lapis says, “I don’t know how things were settled with the giants after Beruna.  I hope Their Majesties will set some sort of decree, so we know how to regard it.  Is this war now?”

Caileana’s jaw clenches. “It’s an act of war to me, and to those of Ulfden, I would think. Not that any of us were ever on very good terms with the giants.”

Lapis nods, “But … there had been some sort of peace.”  She shakes her head. “Not now.  It seems to me that it was an invasion and assault.”

Caileana sighs. “I do not know. There are some points of history that I have never really thought about. But…yes. This was not acceptable. Something must be done. I’m sure the Royals will soon decide what.”

Lapis is conversing with Caileana, a heap of grass on her back.  “I’ve heard waiting is the worst part of war, not knowing what is coming … I guess I am getting a real sense of that now. When I sparred that giant in the Lists entrance, my mind didn’t wander as it does now.”

Caileana, seated beside Lapis, bobs her head lightly. “Waiting has been the worst part of the aftermath so far, for me. Waiting while others carry the weight of the burdens. It is not easy.”

Caileana looks up. “I suspect I’ve been away from the den long enough.” She turns to Lapis. “Thank you for the conversation, my friend. I hope to see you  again soon.” She nods to Lapis and pads away to the west, moving slowly.