Title: Ex-Chicken
Time Period: January 7, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Jorn invites a thief into his home.

Dornie winters are hard, not just for the settlement's inhabitants, but for its local flora and fauna as well. This is the time of year when farmers string up fox pelts as warnings to other predators, and the bodies of crows litter the open fields, shot for roosting too close to the grain stores for human comfort. Domestic animals don't have it much better; when chickens stop laying, their heads are lopped off, their carcasses plucked and butchered, and their bones boiled for broth; sheep make good mutton stew; and hutch rabbits strung up by their feet dress kitchen windows.

Jorn's chickens, at least, don't have to worry about ending up in a pot, but that's because they have more immediate concerns. It's an hour before daybreak when the panicked bleating of his milk goat rouses him from his uneasy slumber.

Jorn likes to think he is kind to his wards; they have a good little life, for the most part, wandering about in the relative safety of his glade, sheltered by his squat little barn and the smell of bear embedded in the dirt and trees. He lets the crows and ravens come as they wish, the deer often pass through towards other grazing, and he has the suspicion that there is a tiny warren nearby. As far as he is concerned, anything that comes around is either foolish or cunning enough to behave in peace.

The bleating does not so much jerk him awake as it does rouse him; dawn comes, and he is usually up. Today is no different. The grog he finds himself in upon waking is familiar, but the goat making a racket is not. Kicking his ankles out from the wad of furs near them, his feet on the chilled stone give him a moment of jerky movement, arms and legs and suddenly cold skin, apart from where the white fur seems to stick over his chest, and around his shoulder. Even in sleep, at least when he is alone. It isn't so nice to share a bed with someone when you know your brother is there too.

"Mona?" Yeah, the goat has a name too. "Hvem er der ute?" The northman rumbles this as he tumbles to his back door, slinging it wide open to the wintry air.

The sight of a wolf with one of his chickens dangling loose and limp from its jaws greets Jorn when he opens his door. Its surviving kin have taken refuge in the branches of a low, squat tree, short enough for them to reach but too tall for the wolf unless it wants to attempt climbing, and a glance at the predator tells Jorn that it's in no condition to do any such thing. Blood and dirt mat its fur, which might be silver or a darker gray— there's too much mud caked onto its pelt for him to know for sure, but the origin of its injury appears to be somewhere between its ribs.

The sound of his voice has the wolf flattening its ears against the curve of its skull, sleek body pressed to the snowy earth and the blanket of pine needles that covers it.

It does not move.

There is a spark of surprise that registers behind his eyes, easier seen than admitted. He is already a step and a half onto the ground outside the rear door, and when he does stop, it is only when he fully comprehends the state of the canine with one of his recently deceased chickens in its mouth. Jorn stills as best he can, the frown on his face backed by the sound of a grumbling in his chest. A man can be selfish if he decides to be, but Jorn is less selfish than he is ignorant of detail. That is to say, not very.

From the mud, to the blood, to the seemingly open and seeping wound, Jorn's territorial reaction dulls amidst the still-blathering Mona, who is now stamping her way off around the front of the cottage, ears flapping.

"Jeg ser — " He mutters out loud, either to himself or, in some manner, at the wild animal. "You need her more than I do." His mouth flattens, and he takes a half pace back. "You probably tried this somewhere else…" Jorn can only assume that the wound is from some other mistake, made by either inexperience or youth. Or both. Wolves can be foolhardy if they desire, same as anything.

The wolf's breath curls from flaring nostrils as steam. Even at a distance, he can hear the laboured sound of its breathing, which is raspy and uneven, wracked with tremors. It isn't whining— wild animals can afford to show absolutely no weakness— but the fact that it's still reluctant to budge from its patch of ice and snow by the barn means it must be in enough pain that it's willing to risk being shot again rather than turn tail and run.

If it's even capable of running, and assuming it is, it wouldn't get very far. The spacing between the rise and fall of its sides is all wrong. Unless the wound is treated, it won't last more than a few days.

Jorn watches the animal for a few moments longer, watching its manner and its state all the same. He looks… indecisive, watching it lie bellydown on the snow with the chicken still clamped in its maw.

Hngh. He grunts. "The lady tests me, and may her mercy preserve me." He says almost through his teeth, glancing vaguely about him at the overcast dawn and the shadowy winter forest. He takes a few steps forward, then, bold as brass — simply to see what it might do.

The wolf hunches over its chicken protectively, hackles raised, and growls out a low warning. This is the part where it should lunge and snap with jaws frothing and eyes wild, posturing to keep Jorn away from its kill, but it's either too weak or too smart to attack.

Its gold eyes do not ever waver, its gaze hard as steel and locked on the man's shape.

There is the possibility that he's dealing with someone's familiar.

Weakness is as obvious as the clouds. In this place, however, there are always other things at work. He does not live where he does because he does not know better. Piecing things together comes easily, when you have enough clues. Jorn doesn't deliberately make eye contact, though his instincts give the canine a couple of glances that pinpoint gold with blue. He crouches down nearby, shifting the fur slung on him. The man holds his palm out and facing upward in offering. Scottish coastal winters are easy to get used to when you have so much worse to compare it to; his feet and limbs remain bare, for now.

"If you snap at me, you're getting it right in the gob." The seriousness with which he uses such local terms is odd, but so is everything else.

The wolf curls its lip at the threat, showing teeth edged with bloodied feathers. Jorn's outstretched hand receives the attention it demands, followed by a dismissive snort; he isn't sitting close enough for the wolf's nose to touch his fingers, but he can feel the warmth of its breath when it empties its mouth and begins to snuffle at his furs instead, and although it continues to hover over the chicken, all signs point to it being more interested in the skin he wears than its next meal.

Up close, he can confirm that the wolf's injury was inflicted by a firearm, probably at long range and by someone who does business with the Rowntree Ammunitions Factory. Guns aren't a common sight outside the town's borders.

"A bullet, then." Jorn's voice is as low as it can be, barring becoming a whisper. He receives the attention to his hand, and then fur, with expected calm; the wolf becoming so interested in the pelt is less of a shock than his inspection of the wound, and its likely origin. Usually the long range hunters are better than this. Even most farmers are better shots, when it comes to protecting land and stock.

Jorn allows the canine to stay there and inspect him, tensing only as much as he needs to should he have to move into a defensive mode. Fear isn't the word — caution is better. They smell of him, and of course, the bear — though after a point they come to smell the same.

"I can help you, but I am no real doctor." Jorn states plainly, after allowing the wolf to come as near as it does.

The wolf responds by licking its teeth, which are tinged pink with blood— either its own or the chicken's— and then its long, prickly whiskers. It's an anxious gesture. If it understands him, then it's reluctant to trust, and with good reason. The individual responsible for its current predicament is probably not much different than Jorn from an animal's perspective.

Eyes still fixated on the man, it lowers its head, pointy ears splayed and gingerly tucks its head under its front leg to nurse at the wound with its tongue, though there's only so much dirt and blood it can lick off before it resorts to taking the clumps of matted fur in its teeth and tugging at them.

The man's gaze drops down to watch the wolf's head as it dips, and its ears twitch apart. Watching its brow is a better idea than making threatening eye contact. Jorn looks on while it shows its own attempts at how to fix such a wound. It knows and recognizes the state of affairs it is in, a small relief that hints even further at it being connected to some now lonely person. It appears to understand, and make own connections, and Jorn is thankful that he was the one to find the creature. That it came to eat one of his chickens.

"Do not do that." The reprimand is firm, yet quiet. A voice one may reserve for use with children. "You will agitate the wound. If you do understand me, ulv, sjelevenn, you — and my ex-chicken — are welcome in my home." Wartooth, however, will not be doing any touching unless he gets an explicit sign that he is allowed.

"…I rather like Mona, I ask only that you leave her be."

A glance in the direction that the goat toddled off seals things, and if there's any lingering doubt then it's dispelled by a grudging snort from the wolf.

All right, it says. If I must.

Focusing all its efforts not to wince or cry out in pain, the wolf bends down, scoops up the chicken in its jaws and rises to its paws— or rather tries to. It takes two attempts before it can pick itself up off the earth, snow stained red, and maneuver around Jorn. It favours its front leg furthest from the wound, reluctant to put more weight on the opposite foot than absolutely necessary, and even then it stumbles, hindquarters giving out when it tries to mount the cottage steps.

Then it picks itself back up again. Pointedly refuses to acknowledge what just happened.

Jorn turns his light blue eyes to scan the treeline, checking only for the further presence of man. There is none that he can see, as per usual in this glade. He looks back to watch the wolf's trek up, and its slow path towards the open back door of the cottage. He gives the creature plenty of space and time even now, allowing it entry in the house for a few moments until he decides to follow it inside. He does not close or block the door, until it is clear that the wolf has made its choice to trust him.

The inside of the house is as cozy as a cottage ought to be, when it belongs to such a man. Just two large rooms, the current being an obvious living and working area. The large fireplace at the far wall holds embers, the cooking pit on the side cold. The furnishings are simple, and where it matters, littered with the plushness of furs.

Wordlessly, Jorn moves to stoke the fire in the room, hand holding the still-warm fur about him.

The wolf claims a spot near the fire and curls up on the floor, one of its front paws draped loosely over its kill. Inside, the need to devour the chicken is less urgent; no larger predator is going to chase the wolf off it, and although it's very hungry, it's also very tired, and when faced with the choice between filling its belly and resting its eyes, it chooses the latter. At least for the time being.

It lays its head down beside the bird and closes one yellow eye. The other continues watching the man for as long as wolf has the energy to hold the lid open, which turns out not to be long at all. The next time he looks back at it, its face and muzzle are tucked under the thick brush of its tail.

A smile taunts Jorn with a presence at his cheeks, and he does his best to quell it before that eye catches him doing it. He focuses on feeding the fireplace into some warmth, pushing out the cold with a few fresh logs and a few fanning strokes with a piece of flat wood. It is slow to grab, but it does, eventually. Jorn settles heavily into a squashed-looking, pelt-covered chair after he looks back to see the creature falling asleep.

There is a long pipe fetched and lit from the small endtable nearby, and the man falls into nursing it, the smoke curling about into the ceiling while he watches his houseguest slumber.