A Devil Recognized From Afar

Title: A Devil Recognized From Afar
Time Period: March 5, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Many things are better off kept to oneself. Some things, however, are not; Jørn decides to go a new route to explain to someone the situation regarding his she-wolf.

It was well into the night before Jorn was able to fall asleep- and it turned out to be only a few hours long at best before he was wrested awake by dull daylight and a fretful dream of swarming, slavering wolves. The one thing he wouldn't pass by, however, is Duty, and Jorn pushed himself to get back into the grind of everyday and get his tail back to town before dawn proper managed to nudge roosters awake. Hiding his sleeplessness turned out to be much harder than hiding anything he had learned the evening before; his blue eyes were marked by red tint even as he dropped Cordelia off at Aislinn's in the morning and headed back to the manor afterwards. The tired old bear may have nodded off a few times before someone all but dumped a sludge of bitter coffee in his mouth.

Bodyguards are no good if they're falling asleep standing up. Even if they still look frightening.

The afternoon was long, and Jorn has gotten so taut with anxiety and forced energy that he, for some inexplicable outside reason, turns up at the Apothecary at least an hour and a half too early for anything. It isn't unheard of for Jorn to go there for his own business, however, so when he pops open the door and lets himself in, surely the neighbors think nothing of it.

When the door opens, Cordelia looks up from where she is cutting and measuring dried leaves of some plant, carefully tapping the measured amounts into tiny glass jars; her lips parted with concentration, she finishes the task before capping the little vial and then brushing off her hands on her clothing.

"Hi, Jorn," she says softly, though she looks at him with some worry — while she didn't press him on the journey to work, for she appreciates the fact he's left her to her own thoughts when she needs left alone, she did notice the subdued mood.

"Are you not feeling well? Do you need something for your aches?" she asks gently, reaching for a jar that contains something to help, assuming that's why he's early.

Jorn looks slightly put off by Cordelia being the first one he encounters. Judging by the frustrated way his jaw sets and works together, he was probably hoping that she would be taking care of something that wasn't in the front room. He breathes out through his nose and closes the door behind him once he is inside. Nothing was bothering him until Cordelia brought it up. Suddenly he feels the gnawing of his old injuries, and a bothersome twinging at the back of his neck.

"I didn't, until you asked…" He bellyaches for a moment, sidling his way further in. "I need something else." Jorn's gaze avoids her, pointedly, blue eyes scanning window and counter and shelves packed full.

"Well, take this anyway," Cordelia says with a small smile, taking the jar and then moving to where the ever-ready tea kettle sits. She measures out the mossy-looking substance carefully into a teacup, then pours in the hot water, and finally adds a dollop of honey from another jar nearby. Stirring the concoction, she brings it carefully to him so as not to spill, then takes his hand, squeezing it once before placing the mug into the cup.

"Did you need Aislinn?" she asks, now that's done. "She's just in the other room. I'm sure she'll be out in a moment."

If she can bring herself to face him, anyway.

Aislinn hasn't forgotten the look he gave her at the Albatross, and when she does emerge from the back room, it's on light feet and without making eye contact with Jorn. Hush isn't with her, unless he's hidden somewhere in the folds of her clothing, which means he's been relegated to babysitting duty for the day; ever since the near-disaster with Edmund's pistol, she's been sure to keep Ariel supervised at all times, even if that means going without the company of her oldest and dearest friend.

"Is he hurt?" she wants to know, the question directed at Cordelia rather than the man she's asking it of.

It comes to mind that he is terribly spoiled, even if he's done something wrong. Jorn doesn't look for a place to sit himself quite yet, watching Cordelia move about with a knot in his browline, and a closed mouth shaped vaguely like a trout's. Gloveless hands find enough warmth in the cup and the girl's grasp, and Jorn gives her a wary little smile in return. The large man wastes no time in looking down into the cup, and keeping his eyes there for longer than necessary. Aislinn gets his attention when she appears, and while she doesn't look at him, he radiates more than enough to see.

"I'm sorry about last night." But he does say it as if it intones bad news- which it does.

Aislinn's lack of eye contact with a possible patient… Jorn's lack of eye contact with her and then Aislinn… both draw Cordelia's curiosity and pull her out of that quiet mood she's been in for the past several weeks. One hand goes on one hip, and she looks from Jorn to Aislinn and back to Jorn.

"What's going on?" she says… no, demands. Her brows draw together and she looks at each of them in turn again.

"You're both acting weird." Teenagers can be so direct.

Aislinn makes a vague gesture with her hands as if dismissing Jorn's apology even if it's not the apology itself that she's attempting to dispel — it's the implication that he did anything wrong in the first place. She adjusts the wool shawl she keeps wrapped around her shoulders for warmth, and refastens the broach she uses to pin it to the plain eggshell-coloured dress she wears beneath it, paired with stockings and walking boots made of worn calfskin.

She wants to reassure Cordelia that it's nothing. Unfortunately, everything that she's picking up from Jorn indicates otherwise, so she says nothing at all and lifts her eyes to Jorn's face, searching for an answer instead.

Leave it to Cordelia to pickax the ice for them. Jorn gives the teenager a mildly disconcerted look, turning red about the ears almost immediately and letting his tone waffle between offense and thought. "I am not being weird, I am thinking." that is to say, there is something going on, yes, he is just searching for how to phrase his next leap, eyes flitting. "I need to discuss something important."

"With both of you." Jorn's browline arches upwards, and the flush is under his beard for a few seconds — though it fades when he makes it known that there is nothing funny going on. So does some of the honeyed tea out of the cup in his hand. If just to occupy his fat mouth.

When he says he has to discuss something important, Cordelia's brow quirks up again, and then she glances at Aislinn. "I'll leave-" she begins at the same time as Jorn says she is still needed. No easy escape from awkward situations tonight, it would seem.

"Oh," she says, returning to the counter to cap the jars she'd left opened, and also to busy her hands and give her a reason to stop staring at the two adults trying to understand what's going on.

"Go ahead, corra h-aon," she says with a wave of her hand, head down as she works.

Aislinn pulls out a chair by the wood burning stove and sits down, cotton-clad legs folding like a pair of swan's wings. She crosses them at the ankle and places her hands on her lap.

She's listening.

"Muna, could you let those be? I said both, not one and a half…" Being that visiting is not terribly uncommon, there are at least seats enough for all of them in here, regardless. He finds a second chair, and sets himself down rather heavily into it. "I have not asked you about your time in the mountains out of kindness. But… I need you to speak with me now." Her guardian is still watching her, his words more pleading than usual. "Please."

"This is about the wolf I was nursing back to health."

His first words make her chuckle, but the rest of them chase away the smile as Cordelia comes away from the counter, reluctantly. She drops lightly into another chair and glances at Aislinn, bothered by her quietness — more quietness than usual, anyway.

"There's not that much to tell," she says with a shake of her head, dark hair falling into her solemn eyes. "What does it have to do with the wolf? I don't know anything, Jorn." Her voice is a little petulant at the end, the smallest hint of a whine that usually gets her what she wants from her father, if not Jorn, at any rate. In this case, she just wants left alone.

From the sound of it, Jorn does not want to do this any more than Cordelia does. He really doesn't — some things just have to be.

"The wolf, Ylva, was the young woman from the party. The one that Duncan ordered shot down." That is what it has to do with the wolf. "There was a man that must have been her - packmate - who came to town last evening, asking about where to hunt wolves- to perhaps find the wolf that attacked your cousin." Aislinn can feel his suspicion even without actually feeling it there. He is a mixed plate, regardless- suffering barely outweighs the bitterness.

"I went home after he disappeared, and she was there. I think that he followed me as a wolf, himself. But that is where my guessing ends. I need to know about your time with her."

Cordie frowns, fingers interlacing and then squeezed between her knees as she stares down at her booted feet. "I don't know anything. Her name was Eilin. She didn't hurt me. She was good to those people, trying to help them learn to take care of themselves, trying to help them exist up there. She left me alone, most of the time. I helped them as best as I could. A lot of them were sick, so I tried to help, but there wasn't a lot I could do. They have so few resources."

Her eyes start to tear up, and she turns them away, to stare off into space, as if picturing the mountain. "I tried to tell them to come down and live with us, but she wouldn't listen to that. I tried to tell her I could arrange things, help them, but…" She cuts herself off, and turns back, wet eyes on Jorn's face. "But I was wrong, anyway. They wouldn't have listened to me."

The excess moisture in Cordelia's eyes has Aislinn rising from her seat by the stove and moving toward the teen so she can envelop Cordelia in her arms from behind. Hands clasp just above her midsection and she rests her chin on Cordelia's shoulder in a display of something like sisterly affection.

"No," she agrees. "They wouldn't have."

"She is her own, like her father, and I suspect those with her are the same." Jorn says this first, shifting in his chair to face Cordelia better, watching Aislinn go one step further. "They probably would not have, no." He does not lie about that- stubborn is as stubborn does, whatever form it comes in. Unfortunately, Cordelia's input on things does not have as much an effect as he'd hoped. Jorn isn't sure what he was hoping to get in the first place.

Perhaps just the air, cleared. He takes a deep breath of it.

"I will not be going after them. But you need to know that she-" The northman writhes silently under the surface, and there is something almost terrified lurking heavy in his chest and in the back of his throat. "She said that she would be back for you. Because of what happened at the meet. She demanded me to tell your parents this. But I have not, yet. Because I do not know when she could return, and I do not wish panic. It could be tomorrow, weeks, months from now…"

The cracking of his knuckles as his hands turn into fists barely precludes the abrupt and absolute mashing of the half-full teacup in his left hand.

When Aislinn reaches around from behind, Cordelia's hands cross herself, setting one on each of Aislinn's forearms where they come over the smaller girl's shoulders. She rests her head against the blonde's, and it's a pretty little picture for a moment, dark against light.

But just for the shortest of moment's, for then Jorn's words cause Cordelia's head to come back up and her eyes fly open. She doesn't speak for a moment, her lips parted and her brows knit in a mix of emotions — anger and fear, mostly, that no doubt Aislinn feels pouring off of her.

"Why? For revenge or for more bargaining? I won't be a pawn for this family…" with that, she's up and out of her seat, pushing away from Aislinn. "They could have helped her, they didn't have to do what they did! They didn't have to kill-"

Her words cut off again, this time with a sob and she covers her face, ashamed by those tears. "I won't let them use me — either Eilin or my family," she hisses — it's quiet but adamant.

"All this over six crates of guns and ammunition. Donagh is too prideful." Aislinn reaches for Cordelia again, but this time it's to place a calming hand on her arm. There is no shame in tears.

"If life is as hard for them as you say it is," she tells the teen, emphasizing her words with a gentle squeeze, "then there is no reason why his wolf would refuse what your mother promised them when she agreed to their terms." The healer looks to Jorn, then. "When they come for her, we give them their guns. It is that simple. This time her uncle need not know."

He will have time to worry about the teacup later. For now he frowns deeply and lets the pieces drop from his hand, and the tea leaves slink around on the skin of his palm. He tests the grits with his fingertips, checking for nicks while he watches Cordelia move out of her seat. It is embarrassing for her, he knows, and it plainly shames him to have made her shed tears for it. Shame will come to him again before this is over.

"I have always hoped to hear you say that." Jorn remarks softly on Cordelia's determination, letting Aislinn field the rest until she turns to him once more. His irises are still bright, contrasting the dulled whites and the rings just under his eyelids. "I cannot say if that would work, but I may hope. As a wolf under my care, she was getting healthy. She could not have been even before the wound. Survival will be more important than pride, and I am riding on that."

"There is… more to her story, and I am uncertain on if it has bearing on her actions when it comes to you." The last to Cordelia, rather than both of them.

"She's right not to trust them," Cordelia says through her sniffles, turning to look at Aislinn, and then Jorn. "That was a trap — they didn't do what she asked, and it all went wrong. If they'd just done it in the first place, she wouldn't be hurt, and I wouldn't be in danger again, just because of who fathered me."

Her hands drop from her face and curl around her middle, hugging herself. "Give them the guns. Give them some food, and medicine… It's so arrogant to act like we're the only people in this land that have the right to survive and the right to happiness." Her voice raises as her cheeks flush.

Chewing her lower lip, she thinks for a moment. "We should not let them know she is alive. Can you get the guns, without my parents knowing? Without Uncle Duncan knowing?"

Scheming is not one of Aislinn's talents; she is, in fact, notoriously bad at anything that requires some degree of dishonesty. She worries at her thumbnail with her teeth.

"He would notice them missing," she says, "unless we gave him reason to believe they were going somewhere else. Let's think more it when it's time, sweet one. As Jorn said, it could be months."

"In case you forgot, Muna, I am not from around here." Jorn wants to laugh to himself, but keeps it down. He won't want it mistaken for mirth. "I know how you feel, because I have lived the land over the seas. I was for giving them what they wanted and getting you back. I would support you now." He finally wipes his palm over his knee, sodden tea leaves smearing over his pantleg.

"I hope that she learned from me, if I did anything for her. If so, she would know more hunting grounds, and where more certain plants grow wild." But as he intones, Jorn does not presume to think he taught her any of it. She is her own wolf, after all. His explanation is to soothe Cordelia. "Guns can be traded for, over time. And she did take one of my rifles, after shooting up my home." His brows tilt upwards on his forehead. One gun down, right? Sure.

"There is more to consider, and it shames me to know it, and to have to ask either of you for help. I would not if I felt it was unrelated." Jorn digs one heel into the floor, his clean hand moving up to take the edge of the white pelt between his fingers. "She has- a personal issue- with me. From a long, long time ago."

Cordelia nods to Aislinn, and listens to Jorn, her brows crinkling when he says there's more to it, that there are histories to consider. She looks worried, and reaches to touch his hand with her smaller one, lightly, before it drops to her side.

"I could maybe bring them one gun at a time, with some supplies. I could find it again. Or we could send a message, through one of the familiars, maybe, for her to pick them up now and then — but she'd think it were a trap, maybe, unless you can tell her it's not," she says, first proposing the idea to Aislinn, then turning to Jorn, the 'you' implied to be him.

She pushes her hair out of her face, and behind her ears, a hand scuffing across tear-stained cheeks. "Why you?" she asks, finally.

"Whether or not you trust them, I do not. One does not simply walk into that." Barring Mordor, however, Jorn has the feeling that she won't listen. He frowns and speaks again, this time having no compunctions against letting his hurt bleed into his tone. "She does not trust me, either. She claims that I murdered her father and took this pelt from his still-warm corpse. I believe he was her father- she is too young to be much else, and felt no need to clarify to me."

The girl shakes her head, ready go argue with him about her foolishness or lack of, when his words stop her before she begins. She shivers a little, and her eyes narrow in that way they do to try to push back tears.

She knows he is a warrior. That he's killed. That he would kill for her. It's never bothered her, as an abstract idea, but to hear it said so bluntly? She shivers a little and looks up into his eyes, as if to read the truth there to the question she can't quite ask: did you?

"If you see her," Cordelia finally says, "tell her to wait, to give us a time, and that we'll get her what she asks for. That I know, and that I'm choosing this way." She glances at Aislinn, to see if she has the other's support, even if she's asking the other not to be honest in a way that's very very hard.

She looks back at Jorn. "That I know, and that I won't be treated like a chess piece, because it won't end well for her if she chooses to play that game. She's strong and she's clever, but we have the numbers that she lacks. And as much as my parents love me," her voice finally cracks a little, "it's clear that my family isn't going to pay a true ransom for me. They will only pretend to, but it will always come at cost greater than what these people will receive."

A tear slides down her cheek and she turns away, head down. "Tell her that, and that she has my word that we'll try to help her, and that they should find a stronghold somewhere further from here once they get their supplies. Because once the Rowntrees and the Rosses find out, I can't promise anything else."

Aislinn's support comes in the form of a hand on her cheek, smoothing away tears and hair, and a kiss pressed to the dark crown of the girl's head. "You're wiser than I was at fifteen," she confides, though her voice is not so low or soft that Jorn won't be able to hear it. She means to hide nothing of their exchange from him. Fingers rake through loose brown-black curls, teased between the healer's pale knuckles.

She tucks a strand behind Cordelia's left ear and offers her a genuine, if sad, smile. "Eamonn is not so quick to declare war as his brother," she says. "You may yet have the support of one uncle."

She doesn't ask it, but he sees it there. It is hard to read him only by his gaze, at least for Cordelia; he has had a lifetime to perfect the art of being stoic, and it bends just a little at a time.

"I will help where I can." Even if it means that he may have to find the she-wolf sooner than anticipated. Jorn allows Aislinn to carry things from there, until he finds the personal gall to address the look that the Rossling had given him. "Aislinn is right. Edmund is not his brother." The nord reaches the short distance with a long arm to take up Cordelia's fingers in his, while the healer smoothes her hair back.

"Nor am I the man that Eilin thinks I am. Ulrik Tyrsson was like a father to me, and died in a battle our band could not hope to win. She intends to make me prove it, somehow. If aiding her people also helps me prove my honor, then so be it."

Cordelia wraps an arm around Aislinn, smiling at the encouragement and kissing the other's cheek. "Thank you," she whispers, then turns back to Jorn, eyes big and lashes still full of tears.

She lets go of the physician to take Jorn's hand. "And thank you, for coming to me first. I appreciate it."

She tugs him toward the door, fingers interlacing. "Shall we go home, then?" It's not really a question, and her eyes tell Aislinn one more silent thank you, and goodbye.