North Garden
~~**~~**~~**~~**~~**~~**~~**~~**~~**~~**~~**~~**~~**~~**~~**~~**

Oren sits on a bench in the garden, perusing a letter.

Avery comes from the hall into the garden, her pace slow. Her eyes are focused
on a bracelet on her wrist as she positions it properly. She does not notice
Oren right away.

Oren glances up at the sound of slippered feet, then rises. “Good day, Lady
Avery.”

Avery says, “Oh, Your Grace.” She lowers in a curtsy. “I did not see you.”
Oren bows in return. “Enjoying the garden?”

Avery says, “Yes. I’ve come for some fresh air. I’ve been busy with writing home
and thought a walk would be nice.”

Oren asks, “Was it so stuffy in the castle?”

Avery shakes her head. “No, of course not. I simply prefer to spend most of my
time outside and I’m very fond of these gardens.”

Oren asks, “Are there many gardens in Chesterton?”Avery nods. “There are. But they are often overlooked in favor of the lake or
aviary.”

Oren asks, “Aviary?”

Avery smiles. “Yes. We have many birds in Chesterton. The peacocks are very
beautiful. Their feathers of green and blue are truly mesmerizing.”

Oren says, “You must appreciate the Great Hall then.”

Avery says, “Yes.” She chuckles. “I’m afraid I have quite a collection of them
at home, too.”

Oren exclaims, “Oh? What do you do with them? Put them in vases, wear them I.
your hair–no! I am being far too trite. You tease the cats.”

Avery laughs. “We do not have cats, but I have teased my brothers with them
before.”

Oren asks, “Fair enough. I forget: are they younger or older than yourself?”Avery says, “Both older. I am the youngest, but I am glad of it. They always
kept me quite safe.”

Oren says, “As they should. Were there many suitors to ward off? ”

Avery blushes. “Oh. Um, many? No…”

Oren seems to realize he has hit upon an awkward topic, so he set it aside. “My
own daughter shall have a hedge of spears about her when the first boy glances
her way. I am resolute.” He holds up a sheet of paper, one of several in his
hand. It bears a child’s scribblings. “What think you, a heron or a lobster?”

Avery smiles gratefully for the change of subject. She touches the corner of the
paper. “Certainly a lobster, but I do believe you’re holding it upside-down?”
She tips her head to the side. “Yes, a lobster.”

Oren flips the paper. The image is still utterly unrecognizable as anything
animal, vegetable or mineral. “Why of course it is! How could I have missed it?”

Avery shrugs. “I often draw, so perhaps my eye is more trained to recognize the
subject…” She grins.

Oren looks at her skeptically, but does not contradict her.Avery says, “You must miss her very much.”

Oren says, “Yes. I hope perhaps I may send for her soon. Narnia seems safe enough,
at least.”

Avery says, “Of course it is. If it were otherwise, I would not be here…”

Oren observes, “And yet you also brought guards. Only for propriety?”

Avery ahs. “I come from a prominent house in Archenland nobility, Your Grace. It
would be strange if they did not accompany me. As you also often have
companions or guards at your side.”

Avery says, “Even in my own country, I often have a guard when I leave the
castle.”

Oren says, “Is it so dangerous? I had heard that Archenland was fairly…sedate,
for want of a better term.”

Avery says, “There have been concerns and incidents before, but one, especially
a woman, should always take care anyway.”

Oren asks, “What? Attacks on your person?”Avery quickly shakes her head. “No, no. But to people I care for, yes.”

Oren asks, “Your brothers?”

Avery sighs. “Yes, but nothing has happened recently, I assure you.”

Oren asks, “I’m glad to hear it. We’re they targeted by brigands or was it
something more personal?”

Avery glances away. “I was not made fully aware of all the details, Your
Grace…” She motions toward the rest of the garden. “Would you like to walk a
bit?”

Oren offers his arm. “Certainly.”

Avery says, “Oh.” She hesitates a moment, but then takes his arm. “My mother
prefers that I have guards and I do not argue. I am her only daughter and her
youngest. Surely you can see why such caution is taken. Perhaps you would even
feel the same about your own daughter.”

Oren laughs. “A hedge of spears, madam! But if she is so protective, why send
you to Narnia at this uncertain time?

Avery nudges a pebble with her shoe. “Because she knows that Archenland should
stand with Narnia during this time.”

Oren speaks slowly, “So you represent Archenland, then?”

Avery shrugs. “In a way. My cousin, Sir Darrin, and I could be spared from Court at this time, as well as Dame Megren. Most of the nobles are married with families now. Traveling is not so easy for them.”

Oren tilts his head, his voice lightly chiding. “And yet you told me you were
but here to visit friends. Now I discover you are a diplomat.”

Avery blushes. “A diplomat? No, I am not.” She sighs. “I am here for selfish
reasons, actually.”

Oren gives her a swift, keen look. “Oh yes?”

Avery nods. “I am here for Archenland and myself.” She gently pulls her hand
from its resting place on his arm. “I am here to visit one person, really.
Someone who I believe will make me truly happy.”

Oren looks at her hard for a long time before speaking. “A man, I presume.”

Avery simply nods, her cheeks coloring slightly.

Oren chews his lip, looking just a little disconcerted. “And…the meeting has
measured up to your expectations?”

Avery looks down, her delicate finger brushing the bracelet. “Far above anything
I have expected.”

Oren smiles. “I am pleased you were not disappointed. And…would such a union
also please the king of Archenland, as the matter must concern him closely?”

Avery nods quickly. “Yes, of course.”

Oren answers. “Well, I shall certainly give the matter my utmost consideration.
I had not planned, you understand, on making any such decision so soon. Though I
was certainly impressed by your handling of the situation on the beach the
other evening.

Avery narrows her eyes slightly, considering his words, confusion creeping into
her expression. Her mouth parts as she realizes the meaning. A hand goes up to
cover her mouth and her cheeks turn very red. “Your Grace…I did not…That is
to say, I did not intend to suggest that you and I…that we…” She shakes her
head, eyes wide.

Oren’s hand, which had been lifting toward Avery’s, drops to his side again.his
expression goes blank as he asks, “Madam?”

Avery blinks. She inhales slowly, seeming to gather her words. “Do forgive me. I
spoke of another, you see…”

Oren’s face flushes in turn. “I…I apologize Lady Avery. I thought…I do beg
your pardon.” He backs away rapidly, then turns to beat a hasty retreat through
the garden.

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