Bluff Charge

Title: Bluff Charge
Time Period: August 20, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: A bullet in the back is worth two in the head.

The forest around Dornie can be overwhelming at night. Although the trees in this stretch are not closely spaced, they fill every periphery to the edge of perception, muddying direction save for what can be seen of the stars through their branches. There is enough moon to see by, once human and equine eyes have adjusted to the absence of artificial light. Algernon has been riding for an hour, now. Maybe two.

Life or death gallop petered out into a canter and eventually a walk, he hasn't yet charted out a specific direction beyond away. Forge is still searching elsewhere for their escort and as of yet, neither of them has come across anyone in pursuit. Or much of anything else, for that matter.

Fogg rides slanted in the saddle, cramped and sore past the initial adrenaline and endorphin wash. Visual evidence of his injury went cold very quickly. The smell of man and horse, on the other hand —

— provides the evidence required of a nose being used as hardware, rather than a simple tool. The past hours in Dornie have been … chaotic, at best. Horses galloping every which way up and down the roads, dogs baying long into the dusk, militiamen frightening enough that they cause many to stay in their homes in spite of the holiday. Not much of one, anymore. The other shoe hangs in the air, and people hesitate to be the one to make it drop.

Having left his wards to be watched by men without a bear's nose, Jorn's presence in the outskirts of Dornie is a necessary one. Duncan's rangers and the hounds of others can do much, though another helps. The marked difference is that other men are more like to stop within a certain point in the forest. There are few willing to go so far to start to feel the ground inclining higher and higher into forest deep. Not at night, and not without planning. The wood is dark and full of terrors, after all. Wartooth is one of the few, through the bear's presence. Otherwise he might feel similarly, to need to stop and plan something out. Good fortune is a white fur.

As large as it is, the bear is silent as it stalks through the forest, nose in a perpetual decline, and even the owls and rodents seem to sense the forlorn manner in which he keeps on. Part of him wonders why he's come so far. For Marcus? Jorn never felt the patriarch to be a near and dear man, even if there seemed to be a scathing, cold appreciation cast to him. Perhaps for himself, feeling simple-minded, and betrayed. For answers, he supposes, as he calmly finds his way.

Left hand to the reins, right pressed at his side, Fogg draws to an unwise halt long enough to squint down at himself and the warmth damp between his fingers. Ring and all. A match struck seconds later shows limited damage through the split thread of his waistcoat; a canteen brought up for a swallow is turned down to rinse into the wound when he's done. he grunts. Only water.

It's Dusty who first takes notice of an incoming presence, one ear swiveled back around on its base. Fogg glances to it as he screws the cap on. Not ready to be concerned.

After another thirty seconds, it doesn't matter if he's ready or not. One turned ear has escalated into two and the beast takes a step back on its own accord, sclera showing white. "Easy," he warns. Forge is out of range.

It takes some willpower to lever himself down out of the saddle, once he's had a breath to think. Leather wet and cold with sweat gives quietly. There are enough low branches for him to tie the horse off.

His sword follows him out of the saddle. Less impressive than Jain's by a sweeping margin, it's simple and clean and designed to be wielded in one hand. Militia issue. The edges are sharp. He hasn't had to use it much.

It's a familiar smell, no doubt, but still a predator; besides, there are no studies on the nuances of mood on smell- but animals seem to be able to get those vibes more easily than men do. Though his ears are not as good as his nose, the bear can still hear that telltale stomp of a hoof, and the shift of body between saddle and ground. There is no click of a firearm, however, and that is the only reason that he moves nearer. There is no slavering creature out of the gloom, no snarl of battle, no gnashing of long teeth. The moon as sparse as it is, it takes considerably longer for it to catch the space between trees, and the white fur beneath them.

Jorn is stopped far enough away that the two can see one another through the trees once the dark shifts, the clouds rolling away past the moon. To a religious man, it may be a more complex event than it is. Blinking nondescriptly, the polar bear lifts its black nose to the air, neck stretching out, a glance upward for but a moment. Not near enough that he presents an immediate threat, though for someone on the run it may be too close regardless.

In return, Algernon issues no threat save a lazy arc of blade over pommel as if to test the weight at his wrist. Half-hearted flourish. His arrogance is unmistakeable.

It is probably also less endearing in this context.

In any case he is not a religious man and never has been, as godless as he is apathetic to beliefs of others. He isn't vocal about his absence of faith, but it shows in the way he holds himself and looks on now, wary without particular aw. Or fear.

A huff of air passes in through nose, down to his lungs, and puffs out as a more unceremonious grunt. Jorn lifts his nose to either direction now, sniffing around presumably for any other … presences, as it were. There's nothing, at the moment when he does so. The bear moves forward by two steps, forehead lowering, feet planting firmly in the dirt. The gesture has become familiar to Algernon as the one that moves before a charge, though none comes. A half-baked thing, like the arc of sword adjusting in hand.

Wartooth does appear sorely tempted, however. The stubs of ears flatten back into fur, and Jorn's nose wrinkles upward to show the edges of his teeth past his lips. Waiting for something. He wants to see if it comes of its own volition.

Even local deer have cleared well away from the combined scents of man and bear by now. For the purposes of this confrontation, they are alone.

Algernon is pale against the swing of his coat, long sleeves and stiff collar and a hole punched tatty through the back. He's lost a fair amount of blood: the smell of it in his clothes cloys coppery in the air around him under healthier patinas of earth and sweat. His and the horse's.

If he was sorry, now might be a good time to apologize, what with Jorn gathering for a charge and his familiar set to task elsewhere. But he isn't. So he doesn't.

He doesn't seem all that concerned about the prospect of being plowed through by a tank with claws either, holding his ground with a certainty that is either supernaturally assured or foolish.

"Well?" he invites. At length.

"Well?" It sounds as if it is spoken through an iron pipe, muffled at one end. In this case, by teeth. Jorn was not in particular, looking for an apology. It may not have helped, really. The growl is a roundabout way of asking for an explanation that may not actually come. The bear does not charge him, for the time being, preferring stillness and inquiry to flattening Algernon into the mud. It probably does less good for the poor horse.

"Speak.." The bear shakes its head, muzzle bobbing from side to side. There is a stubbornness to the gesture, something lingering there that marks his unwillingness to shift back for some unknown reason. Conversations are oft one-sided like this, and perhaps his hopes lie in one story at a time. In this case, Algernon's. Or whoever he is.

Dusty isn't thrilled, it's true. Solid brute that he is, he's straining to keep sight of the bear over his own hindquarters with ears laid flat and nostrils dished wide. Every now and again his hind hooves dance uncertainly in place while he angles himself to better see or better kick. Stress stands veins out thick in his neck and down into the muddy tousle of his hocks.

Algernon isn't so different. The lank length of his hair is swept back with sweat in the absence of his hat and there are haggard shadows set into the hollows of his face. And for all that he projects confidence, he never turns his back.

"I have killed an evil man and done Dornie a great service at my own expense," he decides humbly and with narrowed eyes after taking too much time to think. "Sic semper tyrannis."

The laugh is an odd sound, coming from a beast. It would not be out of place from some manner of demon, guttural and using the air to push it from his lungs. It comes out like a series of chuffs, and the wryness of it is not lost, with the swivel of head and the shift of weight from one side to another as the bear rocks on his heels.

"Fortes fortuna adiuvat." Jorn only knows a few of these, though the ones that he does know are also, as it happens, rooted in war and politics. Black nose quivering, Jorn finally raises his head to stare down the length of his muzzle, meeting Fogg's eyes only then.

"Scotland, I should say," Algernon corrects himself, jaw flexed to its limit when he shifts his weight over from one side to the other. He's forced to wonder briefly if he might be dying. The thought is bricked over before he can commit resources to thinking overmuch about the inconvenience.

He isn't sure if Jorn is mocking him and chooses to tolerate his return as an attempted compliment because defending his honor against a polar bear might be more than he's up for in his current state. Still, there's a second guess in the lock of his stare back into direct contact. Slightly resentful.

"Not always."

"No, not always." The tone becomes more clear with more dialogue, though it is still muffled by the pull of enchantment versus physical form. A sigh. The great white bear shifts again, this time turning to the side, stepping into a shuffling gait, half-backwards, one eye trailing on the haggard Fogg. This is not an easy decision for Jorn to make, and he wishes that he did not have to. But his life has not been fair to him thusfar, t'would be a shame to start it smoothing out.

"But today, yes."

Fogg harrmphs to himself. Unconvinced. He does not feel fortunate.

The cough that follows is enough to make him wish he hadn't.

He wagers to take a step back when Jorn leads with the same, sword tip turned out away from his side and eventually on down into the dirt. Tink. His hand is tacky with blood around the hilt.

Secure enough while he waits for Jorn to distance himself.