Pomegranates

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>

Aravis is examining a branch of the pomegranate tree, where a few blossoms are considering forming fruit. There aren’t many on the tree; it seems that, though skillfully put in place, this isn’t going to be a particularly laden year. There’s a little smile on Aravis’ face as she lowers her hand and looks about at the rest of the growing plants, nearly all established and filling out.

Cor comes up the steps to the adjacent garden two at a time, a rather loud endeavor. When he reaches the top he peers around to see who else might be there. His efforts are, rather literally, short-sighted, as many of the plants in the area are tall enough to block his view.

Aravis looks around at the thumping sound of feet on stairs. She squints at the plants between herself and the stairs, then strides a few steps to the side and leans to see around the lemon tree. “Of course that was you.”

Cor turns at the sound of her voice. “What? Oh!” He screws up his whole face. “Well, I’m sure I don’t know what /that/ means.”

Aravis lifts her chin, eyes half closed and eyebrows high in mock disdain. “Some people come to gardens because they’re peaceful, you know. You bounding about like a half-blind gazelle ruins that.” She doesn’t hold the pose for long, however, instead grabbing his hand and pulling him further into the garden. “Have you seen how it’s grown? Look at this one!”

Sareen enters the solarium with a basket under one arm.

Cor starts to protest, but he is pulled out of the natural conversation by Aravis’s seizure of his wrist and the topic. Instead, he just gets a rather offended expression at the unfair hypocrisy of it all. “What are you even on about?”

Aravis doesn’t notice the gardener to begin with, pointing insistently at a particularly voracious patch of flowering vines. She’s rather uncharacteristically excited about it all, though the blossoms are quite pretty. “These, of course! And all of it, really, they started flowering all at once. They weren’t nearly here just a few days ago.”

Cor rubs the top of his head

Sareen says, “Spring likes to come upon us suddenly, but most of these are later bloomers.  Almost waited for summer, they have.”

Cor turns at the sound of the new voice. “Oh, hello.”

Sareen smiles and bobs a bit.  “Your Highness, Lady Aravis.”

Aravis straightens abruptly, switching from excited to proud. “Mistress Sareen.” She pauses briefly, then adds, “They look just as I pictured them before.”

Sareen says, “Then you’ve a good eye for color.  These were well-chosen.”

Cor frowns at his friend and supplements, “Thanks for all the work you’ve been doing on them.”

Sareen says, “You’re welcome, Prince Cor.  I’ve quite enjoyed the work.  I think young Reina has as well.  It’s always interesting to experiment with new things, though some of these are varieties my mother had in her own garden, but she had to coax them for years to get them to grow and produce fruit.  The glass keeps in heat better.”

Aravis purses her lips in response to Cor. “They’ve been well planted. Do you think there will be fruit this year?”

Sareen shakes her head, setting the basket on a bench.  “I shouldn’t expect much.  First years are usually a shock to the tree, though that one is doing well, bringing out some blossoms.  Especially as it’s still so small.”

Cor moves in toward the tree and takes a great sniff, then coughs. “Smells good.”

Sareen asks, “Not prone to hay fever, I hope?”

Aravis lets a brief disappointment flash across her face as she looks back to the pomegranate tree. “They aren’t very large trees ever,” she supplies with a bit more certainty than perhaps she ought to voice, then looks to Cor, brows drawn down, for his answer.

Cor coughs again, “Uh? Hay fever? I don’t know. Sorry. It was, it’s strong.”

Sareen looks to Aravis.  “Are they?  I’m afraid I haven’t any experience growing one before.”

Aravis shrugs, looking at the little tree again. “My father had a few in his gardens, and some were kept no taller than me, so that the fruit could be picked easily.” She also leans in for a whiff, not getting quite so close or breathing in quite so much.

Cor screws up his face but keeps his mouth shut.

Sareen asks, “Have you tasted pomegranate, Your Highness?”

Cor shakes his head. “Saw them a couple of times when I had to go in to market.” He pauses, some memory registering on his face. “Why, I think Arsheesh said there was an orchard nearby, now that I think on it.”

Sareen says, “I saw an illustration in a book.  The fruit seems to have a lot of seeds to it.”  She looks to Aravis.  “How do you eat one?””

Aravis narrows her eyes ceiling-wards, then nods. “There /was/ an orchard that way.” She looks at Sareen, brows lifting. “Why, you break it apart, of course, and eat the pips.” Hesitating, she adds, “I do remember it’s a bit messy, opening a ripe one.”

Sareen says, “You eat them all?  That’s unusual.”

Cor asks, “How long do they take to start fruiting?”

Aravis nods. “They’re a bit like berries, once you’ve broken them apart.” She pauses at Cor’s question. “About as long as any fruit, of course.”

Sareen says, “It takes five to seven months for a fruit to mature, but we’re unlikely to see more than a couple for two to three years.”

Cor frowns at Aravis and presses, “As long as any fruit? And I suppose next you’ll say /everyone/ knows how long /that/ is.”

Aravis says, “Anyone who’s been around fruit trees. Though these take a bit longer than some, I suppose.”

Cor looks like he finds this response incredibly irritating.

Sareen hums and sits down next to her basket, lifting a corner of cloth and peering at its contents.

Aravis looks at Sareen’s basket–or at least, the cloth over the top–with supreme and determined nonchalance.

Cor nods toward the basket. “What have you got there?”

Sareen flips the fabric back, revealing a small round of yellow cheese.  “My daughter-in-law makes her own.  She sent it up with my grandson.”

Aravis asks, “Does she sell it?”

Sareen asks, “When she has extra.  Would you two care to share a bit?”

Cor looks a bit uncomfortable. “Oh. I… no thanks. That is — thank you for the offer. It looks very nice.”

Aravis takes her turn to frown at Cor, then back at the cheese. “I’ll try a small piece, thank you.”

Sareen smiles at Aravis and cuts her a slice with a small knife, then offers it up.

Cor steps awkwardly to the side, out of the way.

Aravis takes the cheese and nibbles on the edge of it consideringly. “Mm. Thank you. Do they live nearby?”

Sareen says, “In the village.”

Cor says, “Oh, that’s not so far.”

Aravis nods. “Do you have much family nearby?”

Sareen cuts herself a slice of cheese and pops it into her mouth.  “A son and a daughter and their families in Andale. More elsewhere.”

Cor glances around the garden. “Oh… right. That reminds me. Has anyone seen Corin?”

Sareen says, “Not today.”

Aravis asks, “He was avoiding his lessons, earlier. The same he missed last week, in fact. Do you need to find him?”

Cor says, “Should have guessed. He’s probably got distracted boxing someone in the training hall. We were supposed to meet and –” He pauses guiltily. “We were supposed to meet.”

Sareen glances at Cor with a brow raised ever so slightly in interest, but she makes no inquiry.

Aravis’s eyebrows lift immediately, though she asks in her deliberately uninterested way, “Do you want help finding him?”

Cor narrows his eyes at her calculatingly but concedes slowly, “Sure, if you don’t have some kind of lessons to Not Avoid.”

Aravis says, “If I did, I wouldn’t be up here. Thank you for the cheese, Mistress Sareen.”

Sareen asks, “You’re very welcome.  Mayhap I should go to your lessons instead.  They’re bound to be interesting.  Do you suppose any are still going on?”

Cor says, “Search me.”

Aravis says, “None of mine, today.”

Sareen says, “Pity.  I’d never pass for the princes. Well, off with you then.  Enjoy your afternoon.”

Cor steps off to the side, toward the other garden and the stairs. “Thank you!”

Aravis follows close behind, nodding her farewell to the gardener.

Human Company

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: Stables <N>, Northern Market <NE>, Outer Gatehouse <E>, Southern Market <SE>, Kennels <S>, Inner Gatehouse <W>, Blacksmith <NW>, South Stair <US>, North Stair <UN>

Sareen ambles slowly through the ward, eyeing the decorations.

Lanisen makes his way out of the kennels, closing and latching the door securely behind him. He is bundled against the chill in so many layers that he looks almost stocky, but by the way his shoulders hunch up at the cold it’s not quite enough.

Sareen glances to the side as Lanisen enters the ward.  “Hey!  You, Lanisen!” she calls, not bothering to be discreet or head his way.

Lanisen raises his head, glancing about to see who might be calling him. He dips his head to Sareen and begins to cross toward her. “Afternoon, Mistress.”

Sareen pokes a finger at him accusingly.  “You haven’t been up to see me lately.”

Lanisen ‘s face goes slack and startled, and quickly guilty after that. “I’m– sorry…”

Sareen says, “I thought you were gonna come and take flowers to your sister.  There’s still winter blooms in the greenhouses, you know.”

Lanisen says, “Oh, I– I have, thank you very much. She likes ’em a lot.”

Sareen arches a brow.  “You have?  But not staying long enough to say ‘good day’?”

Lanisen turns red and shifts in place. “I– sorry, you seemed, I didn’t want to, to interrupt…”

Sareen says, “I thrive on interruption, lad.  Makes life tolerable at my age.”

Lanisen says, “Oh.”

Sareen says, “Plants are very interesting, you understand, but they’re not very good conversationalists.”

Lanisen says, “I could, I could see how that would be.”

Sareen gestures toward the kennel.  “What about the hounds?  They much for talk?”

Lanisen rubs the back of his neck, turning to glance toward the door. “They have their moments, I s’pose.”

Sareen says, “But you still like human company, I imagine.”

Lanisen says, “I– um, yes, ma’am, I guess so.”

Sareen eyes the garlands adorning the ward.  “You help put these up? They seem to be overrunning the castle like I forgot my shears.”

Lanisen says, “Not, not these ones, ma’am.”

Sareen asks, “Oh.  Elsewhere?”

Lanisen says, “There’s, um, in the servants’ hall, I sort of helped put those up. Not very much, though. It was Haft mostly.”

Sareen asks, “Haft?  The one who only smiles when he thinks no one’s looking?”

Lanisen says, “I– um, he’s got a beard?”

Sareen says, “Lots of men have beards.  The king’s got a beard.”

Lanisen says, “I don’t know, it’s, maybe he’s the one you’re thinkin’ of. He’s a guard.”

Sareen says, “Yeah, probably.  Doesn’t talk much, wears a purple scarf under his cloak.  Short brown hair.”

Lanisen pauses. “I never noticed any purple scarf.”

Sareen shrugs.  “I might be wrong.  Easy to miss, anyway.  The guards wear purple on duty, after all.”

Lanisen nods politely. His teeth begin to chatter.

Sareen notices this.  “You need more meat on your bones.  You eating enough?”

Lanisen says, “Y-y-yes, ma’am, thanks.”

Sareen says, “Hmm, well, better get inside.”  She pulls her own mantle closer and starts toward the inner gatehouse. ”

Lanisen nods gratefully, beginning to move that direction as well. “Afternoon, ma’am.”

Sareen says, “Good afternoon, Lanisen.”

Lanisen says, right before they part ways, “I’ll, I’ll interrupt, next time.”

Sareen nods and continues on her way.

Visitors in the Solarium

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>

Sareen kneels at the edge of a bed.

Lanisen opens the door, but makes sure his boots are clean of any snow or muck before he enters the solarium. He steps aside for Megren.

Megren copies him and glances around the room. Her eyes land on the figure of the gardener.

Sareen hums while she works, not bothering to glance over her shoulder to se who has entered the sanctuary–if, indeed, she heard them.

Lanisen hesitates slightly, having sought out Sareen almost as soon as he stepped through the door. “Evenin’, mistress,” he calls across the room.

Sareen looks up, and rises unevenly.  “And who’s this?  Lanisen?”

Lanisen says, “Um, yes ma’am, sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt if you’re…”

Sareen laughs lightly, “…weeding?  Interruptions are welcome.  And you’ve brought a friend?”

Megren smiles from behind Lanisen’s shoulder. “We’ve never been properly introduced, have we? I feel as if I know you from Reina. I’m Megren. We were hoping to come up here and get a little summer, if we’re not a bother.”

Lanisen steps back slightly and angles himself more toward Megren.

Sareen says, “Ah yes, Megren.  Reina’s mentioned you.  And summer is in short supply around Anvard these days.  I’m not so selfish as to keep it all to myself.  Of course you’re both welcome.”

Megren says, “I hope not enough to paint me too much a mischief-maker. I like to make that reputation of my own accord.”

Lanisen grins, rubbing his elbow. “Is there much more weeding?” he asks. “Can I help?”

Sareen says, “Hmm just don’t go stamping through anything I’ve planted and I doubt I’ll believe any charges of mischielf.”  She looks to Lanisen.  “No. Not much.  I’ve about finished.””

Megren asks, “Does that leave you done for the evening, or is there anything else we can help with?”

Sareen wipes her hands on her apron.  “Done for the evening.”

Lanisen nods. His eyes are drawn to the west windows, to where the sun is beginning to dip below the mountains.

Megren looks at Lanisen as if to quip, but her gaze follows his.

Sareen picks up her trowel and cleans it with an oiled cloth before stowing both in a bucket.

Haft comes walking into the solarium.

Lanisen glances at Sareen and begins to move hesitantly toward the west side of the room for a better view.

Sareen follows the others’ gaze.  “It’s a nice view, isn’t it?”

Megren says, “One of the perks of working in a glass room, hm?””

Sareen says, “One of many.”

Haft enters the solarium, frowning slightly as he takes in the interior.  He has a folded piece of parchment in his hand.

Megren follows Lanisen’s path. “What’s the best bit, then?”

Sareen picks at a loose bit of thread on her shawl.  “Getting to work with flowers and trees year-round.  And staying warm.  Musn’t ignore that.”

Lanisen turns at the sound of the door, and looks slightly surprised to see Haft.

Haft looks surprised in his turn by the other occupants of the solarium.  “Good evening, Lanisen, Meg…”

Sareen asks, “No greeting for me?”

Haft turns toward Sareen, shifting awkwardly.  “Sadie, this came up to the gatehouse.  The page on duty was shirking–or sick, maybe, but we weren’t told.  Anyway…”  He rubs the back of his neck and holds out a letter.

Megren turns at the greeting and regards Haft with surprise about equal to Lanisen’s.

Lanisen dips his head to Haft to return the greeting but stays quiet, rubbing his elbow.

Sareen shuffles over to pluck the letter from Haft’s fingers.  “Thank you.”  She inserts a nail to break it open and reads quickly.  “It’s from my son, in Andale.  Company for dinner tonight, and wonders if I’ll join them.”

Megren says, “Oh, that’s nice.”

Sareen smiles.  “Yes.  It’s probably his wife’s way of telling him that she needs an extra pair of hands and he’d better send for some.”

Lanisen asks tentatively, “You want us to clear on out of here, ma’am?”

Sareen says, “Not at all.  The gardens are open to any castle folk, so long as the nobles aren’t wanting them.  Their Majesties were always free about that.”

Haft folds his arms and looks around the solarium at greater length.  “It’s changed a lot…this room.”

Megren asks, “Yeah?”

Haft nods.  “From when the queen was alive,” he says quietly.

Lanisen blinks a little at Sareen’s assertion, but nods and steps back slightly. His eyes shift to Haft.

Sareen turns to survey what is largely her and Reina’s handiwork.  “Yes, it’s changed.  Prince Cor wanted something that would remind the Lady Aravis of Calormen.”

Haft’s lips tighten briefly.

Megren says, “I’ve hardly been up here.”

Lanisen watches Haft’s face. His forehead furrows a little and he glances around the garden.

Haft’s fingers tighten on his arms.  “I used to have duty in the Queen’s Garden sometimes.”

Megren says, “His majesty and the prince must have great respect for Lady Aravis.”

Sareen smiles.  “Yes.  They’ve been very kind to Her Ladyship.”

Lanisen crosses both his arms over his stomach.

Haft nods.

Megren glances at Lanisen. “I think I… hm, Tiny. Haven’t seen her yet today and I better check in. Lanisen, want to help look?”

Haft mutters, “Check my bunk.”

Megren grins, “You’re going to steal her off me, aren’t you?”

Haft holds his hands up.  “How is your cat’s needy disposition my fault?”

Megren says, “You encourage it.”

Haft snorts.

Sareen asks, “A cat person, is he?”

Lanisen lifts his shoulders to Megren. He glances behind him at the foggy west windows, still golden with the last sunlight, and shifts slightly so that he can watch both the conversation and the sunset.

Megren frowns slightly, but lets Lanisen be. “Looks human to me but that might be deceiving. You haven’t got paws in those boots, have you, Haft?”

Haft scowls.  “I do not.”

Megren says, “Just a person person, then.”

Haft rolls his eyes.

Megren gives him a punishing look for this and sticks out her tongue.

Sareen clucks her tongue.  “I think I’ll leave you children to your conversation.  My daughter-in-law will be expecting me.  Goodnight Lanisen, Megren, Haft.”

Megren’s expression immediately turns back to its usual friendliness. “Good night. Nice to officially meet.”

Haft is suddenly staring at his toes.  “Night, Sadie,” he murmurs.

Lanisen ducks his head to her. “G’night, ma’am. Thank you.”

Sareen bobs her head and then slips out of the solarium.

Sareen walks out into the Tower Garden.

Megren looks between the two reticents shrewdly.

Haft looks up after Sareen has left, but doesn’t notice Megren’s expression.

Lanisen gives Megren a “what” look.

Megren trots over to find a good bench and watch the last of the sunset. “Haft, want to come see?”

Haft says, “Huh?  Yeah, sure.”  He walks over toward the window where the other two are observing.

Megren says, “The clouds are a bit muggy for a really good one.”

Lanisen stays by the window. He uses his sleeve to clear a little of the window-fog again and peers down at the ground.

Megren asks, “Anything good?”

Haft says, “Windows are pretty steamed.  It’s not usually this bad.”

Lanisen lifts his shoulders slightly. “Some tracks?” he offers.

Haft says, “Think I’d best take a look from outside.  Got to get back to the gatehouse anyway.  I’m still on duty.”

Megren looks downward. “Hmm.” She glances at Haft. “Oh. Sure, have a good shift.”

Haft nods and heads for the door.

Lanisen turns slightly to watch him go.