A Seal Woman's Pride

Title: A Seal Woman's Pride
Time Period: January 10, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: It's a trait fault possessed by each of the Owens' but it seems easier for the women to set it aside when dealing with each other.

This late into the evening Maddock is normally asleep or close enough to it that he is virtually a non-presence on The Albatross's common area, all wood flooring and chairs distributed unevenly among ancient tables. The bar is clean and polished, though, and there he sits — quietly back twenty-four hours earlier than rumor would have had him returning from a business trip out of town, which apparently exist even after the world has ended and society has all but collapsed.

Oil and electric lamps alike warm the pub's interior a dusky shade of orange and he sits stooped in a waistcoat open over a white dress shirt that's at least nominally more decent than what he usually drags himself out in.

The aforementioned tables and chairs sit starkly empty; no one else is seated at the bar. Either Dornie's decided to make an early night of it or he's in enough of a mood to have 'convinced' them to make merry elsewhere while he turns his way slowly through the latest updates in his ledger.

The keeper of the Albatross stands in a lean and a long sweep of skirt against the frame of the door that opens between common room and kitchen, behind the bar. Her shoulder tipped against the doorframe and her hip cocked with her arms folded in a loose cross over her aproned stomach, Isibeal surveys the silent Albatross with a faint frown turning her mouth down at the corners. Her hair is twisted and pinned at the nape of her neck, out of the way with only a few strands of wheaten blond to curl forward and frizz about her cheekbones.

"Quiet night," she murmurs, in a low tone that rumbles with the discontent of a pubmaster confronted with a sudden outbreak of teetotallism.

There's a creak on the stairs. A black leather boot, mottled by melted snow, salt, and scuffed with sand is joined by another as their owner tries to sneak down as quietly as she can. The old wood might give her away on purpose, it might be that the owner has failed to fix it as a sort of alarm. A blonde head tilts down between the rungs of the bannister to spy on the common room, hissing a soft curse at the sight of one of the inhabitants.

Quickly straightening, the steps come louder, clomping even as she flounces down to the common area, carrying a small cloth bag. "Hello ma'," Luna smiles as she skips up, kissing her mother on the cheek like it is a normal practice in this building. "Quiet night, ain't it?" Having heard the mumble, the sentiment is echoed but in a much cheerier fashion. "Da', you look fit to strangle a whale."

"Thank God," pitched to match in a mutter back, Maddock sips between pages. Content.

Also muzzy enough already to be slow about turning to the sound of ill-intentioned little feet on creaky wooden stairs, profile scuffed round across his shoulder on a dull delay. He blanches a bit when suspicion of company is confirmed in a smudge of peripherally human-shaped movement and stiffens in his seat, only for recognition to set in before he can bolster reaction into defense.


Tired, irritable and otherwise very much himself, he narrows his eyes into familiar suspicion as they follow her progress from stair to wife. "What's that supposed to mean?" he inquires, bottle lifted and tipped to glass. Self service. "A euphemism for something?" Whore talk, he means.

Expression melting into a mien of resignation with the familiar clomp of footsteps on the steps, Isibeal lifts her chin as her daughter arrives, a pinch developed between her brows the only sign she gives of exasperation in the midst of the pleasant affection she offers in the reach of fingers to tuck a few fine strands of blonde hair behind Luna's ear. "Let's not bait your father, dear," she says on a sigh's breath. Drifting out away from the doorway and across behind the bar, she makes a show of idly checking the spigots of the alecasks, making certain everything is in order for something to do with her hands.

If she offers this very minor admonishment to Luna, as she drifts nearer, what Isibeal offers to Maddock is the lift of one fine eyebrow and a flicker of her deep green eyes; if he is meant to determine its meaning, it must require some form of marital telepathy developed over decades of proximity.

"Uhm… You look like you're angry at the world?" Luna's speech slows a little, enough to allow her confused tone match up with her countenance. Maddock is her father, therefore no longer a man in her eyes. Whatever whorish euphemisms that could be gleaned from her previous statement are completely lost on her.

Until now.

An expression of horror and disgust slowly etches itself across the younger woman's soft features, turning them harder and ugly. "Eugh, no, I'd never say nothin' like that to you, da'." Because obviously he raised her better than that. Or he's not really a man in her eyes. He's her father. Retreating to Isibeal's side, Luna's arms wrap around the older woman's waist as she rests her chinb on a shoulder. "Did you get the carrots I got for you? That awful bearman was tearin' up farms so I helped put one back together. They gave me some chickens and vegetables for my wage."

Isibeal's look is fielded and returned with one that promises an effort made towards tolerance. Which — is distinctly different from a more straightforward promise of just tolerance. "The world's been very kind to me, relatively speaking." When compared to some things.

He looks at Luna.

Then he raises his glass for a longer swallow, washing some of the bitter taste out of his mouth with even bitterer taste.

"You'd do well to show Mister Wartooth some respect, lest he grind your bones to make his bread. He's a respected member of the community, after all."

When compared to some people.

He looks at Luna again, this time as he slides (a touch woozily) sideways off of his barstool.

Isibeal exhales in a distinct snort, indiscriminately addressed. "Aye, the carrots, though I'm glad I didn't peel them for the stew tonight, as there's hardly him to enjoy any save a few wanting whiskey for their supper," she says, warm and briskly lilting as she joins in the pretense of normalcy, however brief. If she has any designs of forcing vegetables on Maddock, though, as part of some ancient and sacred wifely duty, it is a battle she saves for a later campaign.

Turning in Luna's arms, she squeezes her briefly in the enfolding pressure of a hug that seems aimed to somehow combine mild reproof with whole-hearted affection; perhaps it is the low breath she huffs, sighing against Luna's soft blonde curls before she peels loose from her offspring's arms. Or perhaps it is some maternal instinct inbred into blood and bone: a talent for disappointment that mothers simply learn.

Tongue set behind her teeth, Isibeal smiles very slightly across the girl, and then turns briskly and moves on to a seriously business-like clucking over the tap and the array of bottles beyond it, marking the liquid levels. "Is that you off to bed, dear heart?" she asks, picking up a third full bottle of cheap whiskey from the shelf and sighting across its mouth toward her husband. "To dream of the kindness of the world, mayhap?"

It used to be that those bottles were filled with more water and syrup than whiskey. Then Luna left home. "Jorn Wartooth is a menace." She darts a quick glance around the common room to make certain the three of them are still alone before she continues. "Much like the rest of the militia. Nothing but thievin' brutes. You should've seen the way he had them farm folk huddled scared in their home while he ripped everything apart. If that's respectable behaviour, da', then this town has more wrong with it than being small and simple."

She straightens, folding her arms across her chest and lifting her chin defiantly. Being much smaller, it's quite a look up to meet Maddock's eye, if he bothers. For now she settles on his face. "If you're off to sleep, then I'll stay and keep ma' company." Perhaps beg a nip or two of her father's favorite liquor. "I been meanin' to beg a boon." The fact that she brings it up when it seems he's leaving goes a fair way toward the hint that she might not wish his input on the subject.

"The militia," and now Maddock is raising his voice a notch or two louder than is ideal for a pub that seconds as a host to customers who might be trying to sleep, "is the only reason this town continues to exist at all." So pointed as to nearly beg argument on the matter, he stands square, shoulders right despite an angle at his hip bone to keep his balance centered. "I understand that Mister Wartooth was involved in fending a dragon away from another farm property just this week."

There's less bristle there. It's hardly needed, given how irrefutably right he is.

"The percentage of your clientele they must represent aside, it's highly likely that you owe them your life in some capacity. And yes," he adds for Isibeal, "dear," too late to qualify as polite, "I am. Don't let her run you ragged."

Isibeal's eyebrows swept high up her high forehead, she tips her head slightly as she watches Maddock, and her mouth tucks up at one corner in a private little smile as she says, "I believe I can hold my own, husband." Setting down the whiskey again, she drifts forward to clean up after her clientele, in this case, her family; she collects glass and bottle from Maddock's exercises in self-service, and turns a questioning look in her daughter's direction.

"I have seen a few brutes in my time that were nothing but nice boys with a need for a good solid wallop now and again to keep them in line," she says. "There's safety and safety, and I, at least, don't fear much." Her smile still slight, Isibeal shakes her head, and turns a more direct look on her daughter. "Now. I see you've come to ask for something or other at a time when there's conveniently very little work to be done at my table." She tips the bottle Maddock abandoned in a vague gesture around the sadly empty common room, and then tips her head.

"They were cut from my clientele the night I was put to work. I ain't like the other girls," an argument she's had with more than Maddock, multiple times. "I've got standards higher'n most."

Speaking of which.

Luna turns toward Isibeal wearing her sweetest smile. "Ma' I was wonderin' how much room you have for wayward souls. They ain't got much to trade but I know they'd work harder'n most to keep you happy here." Sliding up onto the stool that Maddock recently vacated, she places her pointy elbows on the wooden bar and cups her chin in both hands. "Knowin' how kind you are, I was hopin' I could come up with a barter so the poor folk in that camp don't freeze to bits over the winter months. I'd come help you here, perhaps take my leave from the Dovetail?" The words are a little breathy, like it's a secret between the two of them.

Maddock's rolling, "Clllearly," (per Luna's high standards) is veritably venomous as he flops the cover of his ledger closed and swwweeps his coat from the neighboring stool up over his arm. Then he's off, swish and a bit of sway for the stairs.

He manages to climb them out of sight without tripping, "Goodnight, Isibeal," called down before the creak and clap of a door closed behind him.

Sigh trickling past Isibeal's nose, she looks briefly up at the ceiling. Her mouth twitches one way and then the other, and then she turns her gaze to her daughter. Though a depth of compassion may sometime be found there, now Isibeal's lips purse, a faint narrowing reflected in her eyes as she studies Luna's features. "Kindly soul I may be," she says, and jams the seal firmly into place on the bottle she holds, "but I run an inn, sweetheart, not a charity house. Now your grandfather would spin in his grave if I started bedding down folks for nothing. Now, the cost of an honest wage of a bar maid, I can see putting that toward bed and board for one."

Isibeal turns the glass with its glimmering droplets of remnant whiskey in it, eyeing it. She sets it down on the bar, framing both hands around it as she lays another chip, so to speak, on the table. "And mayhap, I might consider you getting your sweet little heinie out of the Dovetail and putting a cork in your father's tea kettle to be worth a pretty penny or two. Bed and board for two. I don't expect that's what you have in mind."

"G'night Da'," Luna yells up the stairs for the both of them. If there are any of Isibeal's guests sleeping, the shrill call has probably woken them and a few of their ancestors from a dead sleep. "I don't think it'd matter to him if I stayed there or not, ma'. He don't much like me," said with a wave of her hand and a certain laissez faire. But a parent would know better.

"There's eight of 'em in that camp, ma'. I know you can't be charitable to everyone in Dornie but you've already got one've 'em in your beds. Mister Fogg, his people are in the tents." Tracing a rounded fingernail along the grain of the wood, Luna's expression turns innocent and her eyelashes work as they did when she was a child. "If you have no room, I understand perfectly. Maybe you could help me find a large enough dwelling? I haven't yet brought it to them… I thought it could be a surprise. I think I have enough for a bit of rent."

Isibeal winces, and rubs a fingertip against her nose, lashes fanning dark blond against her pale skin as her eyes shut. She opens them again, blinking away irritation. "I can keep an eye out," she says, in a tone as of an admission. "Someone's sure as heard of someplace, like as not, but you'll find that no one will be minded to give away something for nothing. Do you like these folks so well as to turn your … ah." Isibeal pauses, caught out by some internal delicacy. "Your hard-earned money so?"

Lifting one shoulder, Luna glances away coy instead of directly answering the question. There's a light sigh and then she repeats the motion again, as if Isibeal hadn't seen it the first time. "There's one in particular but Mister Fogg said he won't even eat without the rest. So I'm guessin' that he won't leave them behind either."

One leg falls from the rung of her stool in a lazy pendulum swing, back and forth, only ankle and boot showing beneath the thick ruffle of layered skirts. "He asked for a lock of my hair the first night we met, isn't that the most romantic thing you've heard? Did da' ever ask you for such a thing when you met?"

Isibeal's reaction to this may leave something to be desired; rather than swooning with the romantic drama of it all, she looks at her daughter with a kind of knowing exasperation, and lifts her hand to rub her thumb along the curve of one eyebrow, beneath the light crease of her high forehead.

"No," she says at length, on a long drawn breath with a hint of old strain wearing a dry note into her blithe words, "no, I don't believe I made a gift of such to Maddock so early. Your heart's no fair trade for a lock of hair, my girl, I'd hope you're old enough now to ken that well enough. Old enough, and—" Isibeal pauses. She looks at Luna, and blinks. "Well," she says, in the manner of a woman changing trains of thought mid track. "So you'll need lodging wide enough for the eight of them, and not a penny to be gotten from any other purse but yours?"

"One've them's a school teacher, his sister a storyteller. Mister Fogg, as you well know, is part've the militia now… They ain't got nothin' to trade yet but I'm certain they can work well enough." So no, nothing but Luna's purse. "You're in good standing with old Missus Ross, aren't you? Can you help me find something for them?" Hands laced together and tucked under her chin, Luna pleads with eyes squeezed shut and breath hissing inward through clenched teeth. "Please please please ma', I just don't want them to freeze solid over winter."

With a long sigh, the prostitute places her hands primly on the bar again. "I haven't traded my heart away, I promise ma'. Only a few of my affections, I thought you'd understand of all people. You're magic, like him, I thought you'd like that."

"I said I'd keep an eye out, my girl," Isibeal answers, tone going soothing to answer this increased intensity of entreaty. "I suppose I'd admit I'm not inclined to see any mother's son freeze solid. I'll see what I can do." Drawing herself up with a certain chin lifting pride, she says, "But I don't expect something for nothing because of my seal woman's blood, Luna darling."

"Oh ma'! Thank you thank you thank you!" Leaping to her feet, Luna races around the counter to grab her mother up in a tight hug. "I know none've 'em expect to be given everything, they just need a leg up."

A quick kiss is pressed against Isibeal's cheek and Luna dashes back toward the cloth sack she'd left near her stool. Hefting it over her shoulder, she smiles, seeming unable to contain the sparkle in her eyes. "Wait until you meet them, ma', you'll fall all over yourself. I think I got that from you, maybe it is the selkie blood, aye?"

Making her way to the door, she pauses there for a moment with her hand on the latch. "I'll be by with eggs to pay for your kindness." It's an assumption that Maddock would expect it. The blonde gathers her capelet and shawl a little tighter around before opening the door to a blast of icy cold air. "G'night ma', thank you again!"