Animals Of All Sorts

Title: Animals of All Sorts
Time Period: February 9, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Jorn's clearing is mighty popular.

Fur is warmer than feathers, some sizes are more comfortable than others and arrogance invites carelessness. It's for these reasons that the important little finch hunched irritably against grey bark some twenty feet off the ground has relaxed into a wildcat whose camouflage makes him better suited to the setting anyway. The tree he's chosen is close but not too close; the dappled grey-brown blend of his hide is offset by the incindiary orange of his eyes. Occasionally his talons curl sleepy white into the branch he's stretched out along and his ears roll around often after snapped twigs and fluffs of resettled snow under hoof or paw. But for the most part, he is still. And he is watching.

The area around the glade remains relatively calm, even in winter; likely, this is because of the thicker trees that surround it, but could be dumb luck elsewise. The peace is disturbed only by an approach on the far side, dragging its way through the wood towards the cottage in its span of clearing. The white is unmistakable for what it is, a wall of fur passing through familiar territory on its way home. Deer blood follows him, left behind by the creature that the bear pulls along by the neck; it is a doe, that much is clear, even before he reaches his clearing.

Only there does he see fit to drop it in the short layer of snow, as he finds himself in-bounds. The only thing that had tried to come steal from Jorn in recent history was Ylva, and she seems capable enough on her own these days.

Mariah hadn't exactly intended to come along this way, but a troubled mind and the lack of her familiar to remind her to turn around and go home at some point has led her to wander. And it's when she notices the cottage between the trees that she notices that it's cold.

So she turns her feet in that direction.

Of course, she had expected the man, not the bear, and perhaps not the carnage, either. So when Mariah steps into the glade, she doesn't get to the door to knock, but rather stops in her tracks. Not at the sight of the bear, but the deer. Meat is far more palatable when it's no longer… attached to an animal. Or bleeding.

Licked chops split wide in a yawn and then a mute stretch of limb to claw, some semblance of lazy alert stirred forth at Jorn's return. Bits of ice are smoothed from whisker with a sluggish turn of one paw once it is clear that the bear is dragging a deer and not something more exciting. Like a person.

The addition of Mariah is taken in with the same feline disinterest with which Forge takes in most things, orange eyes shuttering a half-hearted doubletake when her face reads as familiar.

Smoke does trickle from the chimney, barely outlining itself against the screen of naked winter trees. The small barn behind stands quiet, as does the house itself. Then again, Mariah can see on her own that Jorn is in fact, outside. Standing over the doe, Jorn swivels his head up and around to look when he hears the crunch of leaf litter underfoot. His nose lifts up out of habit, the blot of ink against red and ivory white aiming itself into the young woman's direction.

Small eyes blink warily to her, and after a moment of pause, Jorn lowers his head to heft the deer and begin hauling it the rest of the way towards the side of the cottage. It drops with an earthy thud behind the corner of the building, notably where it can no longer be seen unless one were to walk past.

Manners, manners. Mariah's presence is a surprise, yet Jorn accommodates her in his own way.

Wolf packs work together to bring down prey, and although Jorn isn't one of Ylva's kind, the smell of fresh kill has the wolf squeezing out from under the cottage, which is where she's temporarily made her den until she's well enough to travel back to wherever it is she came from. Or this is at least the theory. Jorn hasn't asked, and Ylva hasn't volunteered any information except for what her behaviour communicates.

Specifically: She's too proud to lodge with the mercenary inside, but still too weak to turn her nose up at the shelter that's been offered to her. She stops at the mouth of the den to shake the dirt and pine needles out of her fur and flattens her ears when she spies Mariah on the property's perimeter. A hunched back and a curled lip start to warn the woman off, but then something else has the wolf's attention.

Ylva's ears prick back up. She looks in the wildcat's general direction and puffs out a breath through her nostrils.

It's all a bit gruesome, really, but Mariah smiles wryly and offers a bit of a wave. But Jorn is a familiar enough figure for her not to be frightened, just a bit off put by the situation.

The wolf is another story. She barely needs the warning, as she's already backing up a bit from the sight of it, her hands lifting, as if to prove she's not here to get in anyone's way. Her gaze cuts over to Jorn, and while she tries not to seem as scared as she is, it shows in tight muscles and jaw tension. But she not running, not if the animal's in a hunting mood.

Halfway through an idle turn and curl of his tail, periphery disruption swivels the wildcat's head across his shoulders and narrows his eyes into slivers. In the briefest of seconds before he is officially discovered, Forge has a choice to make.

Whatever it is that motivates him to make perhaps the least wise decision in both remaining a cat and remaining where he is — it doesn't unsettle him enough to project fear, or any other stress, for that matter. Ylva is a wolf, Jorn is a bear, Mariah is a prostitute. Not one of them is going to get him while he is twenty feet up a tree.


Rather than insult various intelligences by retreating back into more avian attire, he finishes that aforementioned flick of his tail and curls a paw up to groom between his toes.

Jorn is not particularly in a place to smile back, the nubs of his ears relaxing into the fur around his head. A dip of his muzzle seems enough of a greeting in return for hers, just for now. He is still smeared with the pinkish red of blood, but the bear seems less and less aware of that with the progression of small events- the wolf's exit from her temporary den(not that he did not offer her a spot by the fire, mind you), her subsequent distraction, Mariah's anxiety when the canid appears. The bear groans at the wolf, mouth half-open in complaint of her action, long before she changes directive and looks off into the trees.

It is good that Mariah does not run, even with Ylva's gaze elsewhere. Jorn follows her far-off look, noting only its cause. A cat, in a tree. Figures. With the wolf occupied, Jorn lifts his heels and begins a shuffle past the cottage to meet Mariah. Lack of action tells her that the wolf belongs here, and perhaps it is the same all around.

'A bear, wolf, and whore walk into a clearing' is quite possibly the lamest beginning to any joke. Therefore, it must not be one at all.

A low growl rattles reedily in the pit of Ylva's chest. She takes issue with the cat in the tree, and not just because it's a cat— in fact, now that she can see it, the wolf is rather certain that it isn't a feline, not truly, the same way that Forge can be sure that the creature bristling at him isn't a real wolf.

But she isn't like him either.

Mariah only relaxes a bit when Jorn heads her way, but at least it's something. She keeps an eye on the wolf, but steps a bit to keep Jorn between her and it.

"Friend of yours?" It's a quite question, although still manages the woman's usual wryness, if with a touch of distraction. Her gaze flicks to Jorn, her brow furrowing a bit. She's got a burning question, but perhaps feels a little strange about voicing it at this exact moment.

Even after so many years, Jorn's shift from one form to another can make some people uncomfortable in several ways; he can't remember if Mariah is one of them, the thought occurring to him only after it's begun. A hitch in his step rolls into focus when the bear stands and its limbs bend and crackle back into a man's. Other than a pair of dark trousers that seem like they are made more for wading, and of course the fur cowl and cape, the air is chill against skin. His palm sweeps the maw of the hood back, and when it comes back down it wipes down over red in his shortly trimmed beard.

"I am not sure." Jorn answers lightly, casting a look back to where he had come over from, and the female wolf hanging back there. "Could be. You would need to ask her."

Forge is an uncommonly large cat with large claws, robust build made moreso by the thick of his winter coat. The jasper orange of his eyes makes him easy to identify from afar; at closer range, long scars marr furless and grey across the ruff of his throat and flank.

The growl gives him pause.

About a beat's worth, before he goes back to raking tongue to splayed paw same as before, teeth glimpsed white in a nibble to the base of one claw. Unblinking, one ear turned to track after the exchange between Jorn and Mariah. Monitoring. Unabashed doesn't even begin to describe —

Ylva's growl builds to a frothy snarl. Her ears conform to the curve of her skull as she bares her teeth at the cat and fluffs her spiky mane of silver fur in a display of aggression that doesn't move past the spot she's rooted to.

She's not sure what pisses her off more: Forge or the fact that Jorn hasn't heeded her warning.

The shifting seems to phase Mariah far less than the wolf does, at least. Even if she is far more comfortable with the shirtless man version. She even steps over to him once he's back on two legs, her hand coming to his arm as she peers around him.

"I don't really speak wolf, you know," she says with a bit of a laugh, nervous though it may be. "Or cat, come to think of it," she adds as she catches the fact that Forge is watching them, "Your home seems to attract all sorts of odd animals." Perhaps herself included there, hard to say.

"That isn't the creature that's been attacking people," Mariah says, her voice dropping to a whisper as she looks back toward the wolf, "is it?" The aggression doesn't build much confidence in that, unfortunately.

Bears are those aloof creatures that are neither anxious enough to be dogs, or uncaring enough to be cats. Jorn pays heed only after it looks like the she-wolf is going to pop a gasket, turning halfway when Mariah puts her hand to his arm. He is listening, even though he watches through the bare branches to take stock of the cat there. Jorn is about to dismiss himself from the woman's touch and take care of the problem, when she presses a question that in the back of his mind- he knew was coming.

"I should hope not." Truth lies in what he doesn't say. That it has crossed his mind. Briefly. "She came around last month, injured." Jorn stays nonspecific, holding a hand up in apology. "One moment."

"Jeg ser ham, hva er det?" The tall man moves away and calls at the wolf, stopping only to pick up one of the many bits of forest debris around his home- in this case, a chunk of bark. "Go." It's a hearty toss of the chunk of bark, more to smack off of the tree in warning, than to actually try and hit the wildcat. If he has seen it before, Jorn does not say. It can come back if it wishes, but right now it looks to make Ylva into a right hot mess.

What big teeth you have, Forge observes through the part of his toes, talons worked back down to grip into bark once he's satisfied. That he waits to say so until after Mariah has asked the inevitable question is probably not a coincidence, blunt tail stirring absently, without any aggression of its own. A temper like that is going to get you into trouble.

Unfortunately, channeling so much energy into being smug is moderately distracting, and the wildcat flinches and whips round upright with a slick kind of ferocity, ears pinned and eyes hard. There is an air of low-grade offense to the half-hearted raise of his hackles, or at least indignance.

"Oh," Mariah says with a brief, breathy, mirthless laugh, "That's terribly reassuring." When he steps away, she steps back again toward the trees, like having one against her back is somehow a comfort.

She makes a noise of mild discomfort when he tries to scare the cat away as well, although it's quiet enough that it's mostly just to herself rather than an actual protest. She's just not keen on there being two upset animals nearby. Just a few too many teeth for her taste.

What do you want? the wolf demands, no less livid than she was before Jorn hurled the projectile. There's no pleasure in the guttural sound of her voice— wind roaring through the trees during the height of a storm— even as the bark glances off the tree and has Forge twisting falcon-quick in place. She lurches half a step forward in anticipation, expecting the wildcat to fly from the tree, but when that doesn't happen she halts again and draws her body back into a more rigid posture, waiting, waiting.



"There are many more wolves than she." Jorn issues, picking up another bit of bark and holding it in his palm. He does not dismiss anything, also aware that Ylva hears his reply that time. He seems put off by the cat's reluctance now as well, frowning heavily. The next throw is, in fact, intended to whack the cat. Then again, it is only a chunk of bark. If that is what it takes to defend his home from Ylva's version of interlopers.

"Forsvinn skapning. Go." Jorn growls. It is not an exclamation, yet stands as a demand rather than a suggestion.


Cats are quick, but a launched projectile in this case is quicker, and perched as he is — Forge only has so much room to maneuver in. Rather than risk looking ridiculous, he takes a chunk of bark to the face.

Still puffed bristly thick, ill-repressed irritation rife in a slow, uneven blink, his reluctantly tolerant resolve is decidedly un-catlike. It's also familiar. Or at least reminescent in a way not easily classified.

Somewhere, Algernon loses the flow of the conversation he was in, attention shuffled against his will. He looks away. It's slightly rude.

I would like for you to realize the logical fallacy of making demands from a vulnerable position, he decides, after a pause that is probably just long enough for Jorn to decide what he wants to throw next. There is a parroted quality — reluctant, almost. A message passed on, before he ruffles barred grey fur to barred grey feather and launches across the clearing, dusting Mariah and Jorn with snow spent from Goshawk talons.

Mariah can really only laugh at those next words. They are also not completely reassuring. But she doesn't disagree. Knowing which wolf is a bit pointless when any given wolf is equally dangerous anyway.

But her attention is taken from the wolf as Forge makes his exit, and that shifting gets a thoughtful huh from her before she thinks to dust the snow off her coat. She glances back to the wolf for just a moment, on her way to setting her glance on Jorn instead.

"I don't suppose you've a drink to offer a lady, 'ey?"