A Higher Price Than Shepherds

Title: A Higher Price Than Shepherds
Time Period: March 4, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: A newcomer to Dornie stops by the Albatross to make an inquiry regarding the settlement's recent wolf problem.

There's a fine mist shaking down, and give it a little time and the rain will be both horizontal and cold enough to be coming clean off the icy ocean, no matter the warming of the weather, and the Wandering Albatross braves it, a beacon of light on the waterfront. Seeing more foot traffic from its own locals than anything else, there is no real place to put the mule - the stranger makes do with tying it up side on from the building, and when he leaves it behind, he leaves the animal bearing nothing but its own pelt and the handmade harness of rope rubbing marks around its muzzle and behind its ears. If it gets stolen, well, it's old.

The stranger is slightly more remarkable than the mount he rode in on. Tall, hair dark and olive skin, a pelt of wolf fur worn at his shoulders of brown, grey, and white, his clothes practical and weather-worn of coarse wool and tough leather to make garments that could have been sewn with someone with more skill but were not, and so the affectation of predator's teeth, sharp and yellow-white, fashioned into a necklace and bound around his neck seems almost out of play with the rest of him.

He is also sans weapons, and his boots— the best made thing he happens to be wearing— don't trek in too much in the way of mud as he moves on into the tavern.

It's not uncommon to find Sorcha in the tavern when she has no obligations to her mother at home, and no pressing pieces of clothes or otherwise to sew. It's something to pass the time, and she has plenty of time to pass. Her own well sewn jacket sitting on the back of her chair, she's laughing at something that someone in her corner had spoken, tossing back her head and dark curls moving with the motion. "I'll have to remember that!" She likely won't, even as she taps the other persons chest with her finger pausing only to toss back the rest of her drink and make for the counter in the hopes of getting another drink.

If she so happens to look the way of the newcomer, he's flashed a smile, skirts swishing past other patrons. She's not quite tipsy enough to start singing.

Down the stairs step a pair of small feet in well-tailored boots made from soft leather with metal hooks to hold tight the laces. Aislinn Rowntree goes where she is needed, and today she was needed at the Albatross after an earlier brawl between two of her husband's men over one of the prostitutes at the Dovetail left one of them with a broken jaw and several missing teeth.

There seems to be a lot of that going around lately.

With her patient laid up in one of the rooms upstairs and the offending party off seeking forgiveness from her husband, there is little left for Aislinn to do here but leave, yet she lingers at the bottom of the stairs with her kit tucked under one arm as she adjusts her shawl and seeks out Isibeal Owens with her eyes, which are the same robin egg blue as the dress she wears beneath it.

Although she wants to tell the innkeeper that she worries for her daughter, one of the things her father taught her was the importance of confidentiality between patient and physician, and this is a rule she isn't yet ready to break. Unable to spy the Albatross' proprietor, she moves toward Sorcha instead with a glance toward the dark stranger that lasts long enough for her to realize that she doesn't recognize him.

"Missus Ferrier?"

Weather aside, the evening as been rather tame- at least, for Jorn, it has been. The daily grind, followed by a woefully boring night. He has been skulking about in here long enough to have had a drink and situate himself in one of the usual places far away from too many shenanigans or young men more keen to start roughhousing with one another. Not that he couldn't get in on that- simply that age has given Jorn Wartooth the ability to prefer not to. As such, he keeps his visits as mild as can be, considering.

Though hard as it is to miss Sorcha Ferrier making a right girl of herself, the stranger that Jorn can see past the sets of shoulders and dull colors is harder. Strangers are uncommon- sailors and traders nonwithstanding- and the man lacks the saltiness or outward finesse as far as he can see.

For now, however, the Nord is hesitant to keep his gaze there, and allows it to drift elsewhere; mainly, the pitted old surface of the table beside him, listening to to nearest moving mouth with the vaguest sort of interest. Preoccupied, perhaps.

Outside, upon halt and rain-slick dismount, Algernon spends some wary time inspecting mule and harness alike. A thumb marks hide worn smooth around the chin and muzzle; paired fingers trap in through a champ and snort to check for blood behind the teeth.

His own storm grey mare is tied off after an uneven glance around and a grunt for his findings, glove patted and swiped clean of drool across the ass's ass. Hrmph.

A glance at the same glove checks it over for lingering spittle before he peels it off to step inside, as much a part of the setting these days as any other guard black of coat and boot and mood. He diverts smoothly to the bar, devoid of lingering looks or awkward hesitations.

The mule is old, marks on it from farm work that isn't simply riding ominous strangers into settlements, where its fur wears thinner below its neck, but no one's marked it for property. But it has nothing to say, just some ear twitches and nosing at a gathered puddle of dirty water, unphased by the presence of mare and man.

Inside, the stranger does not make for the bar just yet, scouting out the room with flicks of a dark glance about before moving in closer. There's no reaching into his pockets for metal pieces for purchase of a meal and a drink - he doesn't look like the kind of guy to have anything at all of frivolous value, in fact, with bones for decoration and torn-edge fur pelt for clothing. The crowded nature of the bar has him shying away - it is, in fact, the man seated alone that has more appeal than the younger gentlemen set to get rowdy and possibly bring about unwanted attention.

The women get the same once over as everyone else, and once he's at Jorn's table, he rests his knuckles against the edge of it in an almost mute sort of permission to invade the quiet space the man was keeping with company.

"Hmmmmm?" She turns in the wake of the question, lifting the pint of something alcoholic up to her lips then wiping off the remnants on her lower lips with her sleeve. "Last I knew, that'd be me." Cup thummps to the counter. "Sewing emergency? Because, I am jut a" Forefinger and thumb of her free hand measure out a distance of air just shy of an inch as a demonstration. "-twee bit tipsy and I won't be able to do a straight line. It'll be slightly wobbly, generally to the left"

She offers her hand out though to the other woman, to shake. "Sorcha Ferrier. You'd be?" Aislinn is not whom looks after her mother when the occasion calls for it. Eyes flicker away from the other woman, towards Jorn and where the stranger seems to be inviting himself. "Well, this'll be interesting" Murmured before flashing a smile again to Aislinn.

"I'd be Missus Rowntree," Aislinn starts, then stalls into an awkward silence punctuated by an embarrassed furrow of blonde brows, her gaze directed squarely at Sorcha's feet as she takes the other woman's hand. She knew what she wanted to say before she opened her mouth, but whatever is meant to come next has her working her lower lip between her teeth while she reconsiders how to phrase it.

She clears her throat and places her bag on the countertop. "Madame Edme told me that you sometimes sew for her girls, and I remember how lovely the wedding dress Lean and Marcus bought from your mother for me was. Do you think you might be able to, ehm— it isn't for me. It's for Eamonn." Her insistence is forceful but quiet, barely above a whisper, and she doesn't look up again until she realizes what she's implying. Her head snaps back up as if jerked by an invisible string, cheeks filled with colour.

"It's not for Eamonn to wear," she elaborates, softer still, voice thinning. "It's for me to wear for Eamonn. I wanted to ask you about commissioning a dress, I mean."

While he is not as groomed as one could be, Jorn's layer of ivory is kept in such a state, as much as can be spared. Most of it is rumpled over the back of the chair, though it still clutches about his shoulders and chest, as always. From afar, a stranger could mistake it; but when someone has time and nearness enough, its previous- nature- becomes much more clearer. Jorn lifts his gaze when he sees the boots approach, the knuckles bumping light at the tabletop in his vision. He doesn't get himself worked up over it, certainly, but the somewhat distempered initial look could come off as such.

In the end, however, Jorn lifts the calloused hand on the table to gesture vaguely towards the empty chairs nearby. Brave enough to come over in the first place- the stranger may sit where he pleases. The berserker looks more closely now, at both the man's garb and unfamiliar features.

A half-hearted smile creased at the keep, Algernon tucks his gloves away and orders a round of the usual. Unusual. Given that he's on the clock, but the argument can be made that he's blending into the environment.

Squat glass acquired with a nod and a look across Aislinn's head for Sorcha that falls far short of neighborly, Fogg turns from the bar and unremarkably takes up residence at a non-descript table to Jorn's right and the stranger's aft.

Two rough hands wheel a chair around for the stranger to sit down, and this is the only time he seems somewhat uncomfortable, and stays angled away from the table as well as declining to take off his furs, as if expecting that he'll be on his way soon enough and thus there is no need to get overly comfortable - which is either the truth of it, or simple force of habit. If he takes note of anyone sitting deliberately closer, it doesn't show outwardly.

"Heard much about this place," he says, discarding pretense that he is anything but new. His accent is not regional, but it isn't particularly alien either - simply traveled across Britain, passing through many walks of life. There is a half-smile at Jorn as he adds, "Friendlier than I expected it to be," because that's the joke, sort of.

"I could make one for him, but I admit, that he might look a little silly in something with a little lace and a tuck here and there" SHe did say she was this much tipsy. "But yes" Sorcha clears her throat a bit, the cup of alcohol has remained on the counter since it's a moment of business as opposed to frivolity and pleasure.

"I do make things for her girls if they come to me." Aislinn's own clothes get a once over, studying to see if they're form others in the town who make clothes or whether home made. "Arre you… looking for something for more… public functions or are we speaking of for more discreet times in ones" She leans in, lowering her own voice. "The boudoir?" She wriggles her shoulders side to side as if to emphasize. "Because I do have some lace. Some very delicate lace"

A whiskered nose pokes out from the sleeve of Aislinn's dress, followed by the head of a wood mouse small enough to disappear into the woman's fist if it so wanted. Clutching at the fabric of her clothes with tiny pink feet, the rodent climbs down her leg and drops the last few inches to the tavern's floor with an inaudible thump. Hush shakes himself off as he picks himself up, rises onto his hind legs and pretends that his descent was a little more graceful by casually grooming his face with his paws before looking around.

He doesn't make a very good spy.

A much more nimble hop, skip and jump carry him under Jorn and the stranger's table, where he takes shelter behind one of the wooden chair legs and hopes that neither of them decides to abruptly stand. Here he sits, yarn-thick tail coming alive with an occasional flicker of interest that's a lot less subtle than the expression on Algernon's face.

"Boudoir?" Aislinn asks. This is apparently not a word that she's familiar with. "I'm sorry. I'm afraid I don't know what you mean."

Algernon's own nearness is not ignored, though with a stranger courting his attention, Jorn can never be too careful. Unknown as it may be, Hush has the right idea as well. Mice are common enough that he ignores the creature doing its scampering- that is, if he spots it at all. Whichever the case, he keeps his eyes on the man, and lets out a small scoff in reply, manner guarded enough that he sits straighter in his chair.

"You should see when it is most welcoming." Jorn continues, if quietly so. He seems less keen to talk about how friendly- or otherwise- the town is, even to an outsider. Someone may get the wrong idea, for better or worse. "Trustworthy hearsay is a contradiction."

"I heard say that Dornie had wolves."

So there's that. There's a sidelong glance to Algernon - or more accurately, his drink, but the stranger steers his attention lazily back to Jorn. "One of your," because Jorn is now Dornie's representative, "farm's said they lost a few sheep not just to the cold, and that one of the gun merchant's girls got attacked. As it so happens, I kill wolves." His smile widens, ivory friendliness, a little pearlier than the olf teeth he wears around his throat. "Thought I might see what the talk was like inwards of the pastures.

"Caballero," he offers — a name, apparently — along with his hand to shake, all rough callused fingers and palms, and black dirt beneath his nails.

"Boudoir, the bedroom, you know, what the girls wear when they are working" She wiggles again, pointing to Aislinn's chest and her modest clothes. "The kind of garment that one rips off when caught up in the passions between ones husband and themselves" Wistfulness, breathiness, obliviousness to what just fell out of Aislinn's sleeve so ungraceful like.

"An outfit meant to be worn for only five minutes that leaves little to the imagination and makes them work to get at what's beneath. Something for him for the boudoir" Sorcha grins. "My Mam always said. Less on you" She taps Aislinn's chest. "Means more for him" A jab at the door and off in whatever direction the Rowentree castle can be found. She's oblivious to the mention of wolves. Or she might gopher head that way. For now though, she just looks over now and then but mostly focused on Aislinn. "Yes?"

"I wouldn't want him to rip anything," Aislinn says. There is a very pointed refusal to drop her gaze below Sorcha's collar. "What a waste of fabric that would be. I only want something my husband will like. It doesn't need to have lace— unless you think it should have lace?"

Hush peeps at Aislinn under the table; if it's an attempt to steal Aislinn's attention away from Sorcha, then it succeeds because she turns to the pair, looking as though she might interject. Hesitation makes lines around her mouth, and Hush has to squeak again to get her to speak. "Most of the wolves we see come down from the mountains," she says, a meek try at helpfulness, "and what happened to Constance— I can't imagine that animal hasn't moved on by now. But you've a wolf in the woods, haven't you, Jorn? The one you found shot?"

So it is that kind of stranger. Jorn is no stranger himself to men of opportunity. He was, and is one, technically. He lifts the hand from the table to scratch along his jaw, fingers dragging over the bristle in casual contemplation. The information is correct, dated accordingly. The northman's blue eyes find a coldness that is not altogether unusual when it comes to a new face. He finds it easier to treat with them this way. "We all have wolves.

"I can kill them, too…" Or patch them up. Jorn's wry glibness burbles freely about for but a moment. He is not terribly impolite- he does take the offered hand in his own. "Caballero. Surname? —" Which is all that he is able to question before Aislinn finds her courage. A rare thing it is, to find Jorn looking to Aislinn with anything but fondness; he fixes her with a bit of a glare before he instantly regrets doing so and mashes it back into calm.

Jorn runs his tongue over his teeth, pausing at the tip of a sharp canine and looking back to the stranger- Caballero, rather- and turns it back to Aislinn. Or, her chin, specifically.

"I do. In the woods." He makes a small effort to kick implications of danger around, given the nature of the wilds themselves.

The timing of Senior Caballero's sidelong glance couldn't be more ideal; Algernon has an appropriately(?) aristrocratic look of perplexion furrowed in neatly between his brows while he pauses mid-lift-of-his-glass to squint at Sorcha's wiggle and point.

He's still discombobulated through a slower swallow and reset, such that he's still scrubbing a knuckle across his moustache when Aislinn's assertion sinks in and he mirrors Jorn's look with a blanker one of his own.

"Only that name."

As Aislinn speaks, Caballero drags a look towards there, blunt nails scratching down the beginnings of beard that need to be razored off or allowed to grow into something proper as he listens. He dips a nod to her in thanks, a skimming look to Sorcha mostly due to her vicinity, then back to Jorn. "You keep a wolf?" he asks, voice gravel-rough in his throat - but managing to sound amused all the same. "Until it is well again, or do you keep a sturdy cage, Mister…?"

'No ripping" Sorcha is ruminating, one can see the wheels turning in her head about what she can make for the young woman beside her, even as she lifts her cup, partakes of the booze within and lets her eyes wander back to Jorn's table with the stranger and Algernon. Dip of the head in acknowledgement that hadn't happened earlier. Respect at least.

"I'd hope that animal has moved on. I can't imagine what would have happened if the lot of us hadn't come across her when we did. Poor dear. Mariah says there's a fair bit of odd things happening. The wolf attacks. Sickness even too"

Which prompts a peer at Caballero "You wouldn't be coming from any of the sick towns now would you? Wouldn't do to bring that to this town"

Aislinn gets the distinct impression that she has done something Wrong. It doesn't take her very long to recognize what that something is, either, and as soon as she does she tries to correct the mistake with an even meeker, "She wouldn't hurt anyone." Jorn's wolf, she means. "He wouldn't have taken her in if he thought she was dangerous. Her fur's rather ratty, in any case, so you wouldn't want to skin her. I doubt she'd fetch much. Mange, I'd wager. Fleas. Pelt is worthless."

She is overcompensating. A little. Aislinn eyes Caballero's necklace with caution. "I also heard a rumour she doesn't have any teeth," she finishes, now thoroughly miserable, though this last part isn't likely to be heard by anyone at all.

"Until she is well again. I can kill a wolf, but it does not mean that I should." Jorn's threat is obvious enough, kept politely worded and at a conversation's volume. He allows Aislinn to insult Ylva as she does, as it is also necessary. "She may die on her own, despite my help." He lies, plainly, and leaves out the time that he has actually had her around. For all the stranger knows, it happened last week.

"Wartooth." Jorn finally answers Caballero, the threat hovering from his tone and into one more befitting an introduction. Aislinn gave his given name, he only needs to pass over the last.

A sigh traces out silent on the tail end of Aislinn's overcorrection. Algernon sinks deeper down into his chair, hat doffed aside and set carefully down next to his glass.

He withdraws a small book from behind the lapel of his coat, cover too water-damaged and careworn for the title to be legible. Flips it open, thumbs to whichever passage. Well, he thinks to the book, or past it, see if you can find her.

To everyone else, Caballero's expression is still and lazily interested. Aislinn will know better, the two notes of compulsive inner reaction - to the news the wolf may be close to death, and then to the name Wartooth. A sort of recoiling unease at the first, something of the same for the second.

Caballero only tips his head a little, mouth quirking wry. "We stay healthy," he assures Sorcha, a little roughly, before dismissing Aislinn and her mosu quietness, focusing again on Jorn. "And don't worry, sir, there are cleaner, fuller pelts I can hunt without," and his hand lays down on the one he wears as if in example, "begging after another man's flea bitten scraps. I was hoping the little lords've this settlement would claim a higher price than shepherds."

This time, Aislinn remains silent on the subject of wolves, whether it is out of fear of saying something worse than she already has, or because she needs silence to process what she's reading from Caballero. She says to Sorcha instead, "I'll stop in tomorrow. If you don't still have my measurements on record, maybe we can take them again?"

"Then you shall have to speak with one of the 'lords of this settlement', rather than myself. I suspect if you caught the guilty creatures, they would be in your debt." Jorn rubs the heel of his hand over his forehead. "If wolf-baiting is your only true skill, however, you will find it hard to remain." Maybe he doesn't like this fellow on principle now, or maybe he is suddenly tired of the sudden attention on his little corner of the Albatross.

"The wolves of the mountains certainly have more finer pelts than Ylva. Bigger, as well." Yes, that's right. Send him off again, or attempting to.

"I know."

And so, Caballero stands, nudging as the chair with his ankle, sensing the conversation depleted of its use. He feels no need to clarify whether he has other skills and how hard it might be to remain; he presses a smile to Jorn, fleeting and aloof, but doesn't deign to do more than that by way of departure, and Aislinn and friend are ignored altogether. Algernon goes entirely unnoticed. Without inquiry of beer or board, he moves out of the tavern with stride of some purpose. Maybe Jorn succeeded in shooing him away.

But, you know, probably not.