Title: Hallelujah
Time Period: April 11, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Constance learns something new about her aunt.

There is a store nestled in the alley between the butcher's and the baker's that everyone in Dornie knows about but needs no great glass windows to advertise its wares; it attracts customers by its reputation alone, and although the sign hanging above the squat wooden door outside makes it easy for people to find it, it's for the benefit of the port's seafaring visitors who don't know how to find it.

Every month, crates full of scavenged treasures arrive by boat and are pulled by Rowntree-bred horses through the market on their way to the shop, where they are unloaded, cleaned and polished and put proudly on display. Aislinn likes to come here and wander the rows of old books in search of medical journals to add to her collection, or to run her fingers over faded kilim rugs and marvel at the wind chimes that hang from the shop's rafters and sing every time someone lets in the wind by opening the door.
"You ask it a question," she's telling Constance, a black sphere cradled in the cup of her small palms, "then you shake it, and your answer appears in the little window."

"What? You just ask it?" Constance stares at the black ball, furrowing her brow. "And it tells you an answer? Does it know?" There's an odd look on her face. "Is it magic? Can I ask it anything?" She peers at the ball. "Am I asking too many questions?"

Aislinn gives the ball a polite jostle.

Signs point to yes.

Jorn makes his way here far less often than those with more favor lining their pockets; sometimes, he is bidden here for the sake of finding an item heard of. Despite his resistance in digging through the past, so to speak, his subconscious is always alert for things from the places he knew best, and roamed as a younger man. Once in a while, there is something for him to look upon wistfully. Today is one of those days.

"What sorcery is this?" Jorn's jesting accusation comes from just behind them, and the tall is leaning over the pair's shoulders to see the little black ball providing its bold answer. "A crystal ball that actually gives you an answer? Gods forbid."

"No sorcery," Aislinn assures Jorn, despite the fact that the price tag dangling from the ball has the words 'Magic Eight' written on it in the shopkeeper's chickenscratch, "only a child's game." She sets the ball back on the shelf from which it came, next to a box of toy soldiers and a fire engine covered in chipped, brick red paint.

"Donagh would not allow it were it not so," she adds.

"Wait, wait! But I'm not sure which question it was answering." Constance says with a frown. She peers at the black ball, idly wondering how much it did know. "Well, I kind of wish it was true. It'd be nice for some straight answers. And then, if they're wrong, you have someone to blame right there! None of this having to find a scapegoat…"

"I see." Jorn murmurs and squints at the little things on the shelf where she sets it back, suspicious of the little engine. It passes. Just a toy, after all. He shifts, moving around to Aislinn's side, while making sure that he does not turn into that Bull in a China Shop. "He is no fun, isn't he?"

"Straight answers are reserved for non-political families." The northman so kindly reminds her, reaching out to pick up something from the same shelf, eyebrows bowed. "I used to have something like this. Mine was felted wool and yarn." Jorn raps a knuckle on the firm, white leather ball, the stitching an oxidized reddish brown.

Aislinn loops an arm around Constance's waist and, making an effort not to smile, rests her head on the teen's shoulder as she hugs her close and begins leading her down the aisle, past a shelf of dollhouses more appropriate for a girl Celia's age, though she cannot help but sneak a glance in through the windows at the tiny, mouse-sized furniture.

"My older brother had one made of leather," she murmurs over Constance's shoulder to Jorn. "He and the other boys used to make a game of trying to kick it between two posts. Da said they used to play it all round the world.

"All I remember is that you're not allowed to touch it with your hands."

"Politics are so dull," Constance says, frowning. "Except when they get too exciting and there's violence. I guess you can't win either way." The dolls get a quick note in case she needs a present for Celia in the future, and she glances back to Jorn. "That sounds like a fun game. Lots of energy. I guess not using your hands would take some thought. So long as you remember not to pick it up."

"We just hit ours about with sticks." Jorn sets the ball back down, hooking his arms behind his back and half-stepping behind them. "Less room to kick things, unless we wanted to swim to get it." He frowns to himself, keeping his shoulders still. "Lots of space down here, though." Perhaps implying something.

"Are you two here for something in particular? I had heard there was a boat in from the north, but it seems I… am much too early."

"My husband stole my son to go search for a lost gelding," Aislinn explains, "and Cordelia is spending the afternoon with her mother. I had no one to keep me company, so I thought I might borrow my other niece while Donagh courts his lady love at the Dovetail."

In other words: sometimes she gets lonely. On the subject of what they're looking for, she purses her lips in thought. "Inspiration," she decides after a few beats of quiet contemplation. "For Miss Rowntree's next great play—"

She might have said more, but the sound of squeaking wheels stalls Aislinn, then stuns her into silence when a cart hauling an upright piano rolls past at the end of their aisle.

Jorn isn't late. He's just in time.

"Oh," moans Aislinn.

The piano is enough for Constance's eyes to fix on as it moves past and the young blonde can't quite stop staring. "Is that…" She pauses. "Perhaps a musical. Perhaps there needs to be a musical or just…" She trails off. She can't find words at the moment. It won't stop her from trying and babbling about it.

Mentions of 'lady loves' cause Jorn's nose to twitch almost imperceptibly. There is a momentarily uncomfortable feeling from him, vague in its source. He skulks just behind them for now, maintaining a polite interest in the matter of the 'next great play'. He can also feel the excitement from both of them as the cart wanders past, with its precious ivory-keyed cargo; Jorn cannot find the same sorts of feelings, even if he were to try extremely hard. Jorn's silence can either speak his ignorance or speak his shyness.

"There you have it. A sure sign." A soft noise leaves his chest when the younger of the women begins talking about a musical. Oh, goodness.

Aislinn removes her arm from Constance's waist, drifting after the cart and piano in a sort of haze, the tips of her fingers trailing along the edge of the shelves beside her. At the end of the aisle, she peeks her head around the case and watches as the piano is unloaded by two of the dock workers and set flush against the wall beneath a stuffed lion's head, its lips peeled back around a yellow-toothed snarl.

The big cat utterly fails to catch her interest.

It's only after the workers have vacated the shop with their cart to return to the boat for the next shipment that Aislinn emerges into the open like a doe wandering out the trees and onto a meadow. Timidly, and with no one watching, she lifts the lid.

Watching Aislinn float her way to the piano, Constance watches her aunt and the instrument with curiosity. She takes a good look around, likely to see if anyone else is eyeing the piano, before she leans conspiratorially towards Jorn. "Do you think there's any way we can get Edmund to buy it for her? She looks so happy… it's like it was made for her."

No one watching save for the niece and the bear, who has crossed his arms in front of his stomach, looming just behind Constance while he keeps his eyes to Aislinn. Her movements, though familiar, are strange when it comes to a simple piano. To him, that is.

"Such a fancy thing belongs in a fitting place." Jorn murmurs quietly down in response, jaw working. "I think that it would not hurt to mention it to him. Before grubby hands ruin it."

Plink plink.


Aislinn taps her index finger against one of the highest keys and is rewarded with a shrill, glass-like note. The piano needs tuning, but this seems not to matter to her; neither does its overall condition, which is worn and scuffed, in desperate need of love. Also some furniture wax.

"Máthair," she says to no one on the back of a sigh. Both her hands find the keys, then shift as she tries to find— or remember the proper placement. She begins to play, albeit haltingly, and with her face pinched into a mild but frustrated expression every time she hits the wrong note.

Which is one in every four or five. It's been a long time.

The young blonde is beaming as she watches her aunt, but it's Jorn's response that catches Constance's attention again. She looks at him imploringly. "Go ask how much they want for it. I'll distract her so she doesn't know you're asking and we can make a surprise of it." That is, hopefully, if she can convince Edmund to be in on the plot. Or if she can find the money somewhere herself.

Constance doesn't wait for an answer and instead moves over towards Aislinn's side, beaming down at the keys. "Did you learn when you were little?"

Jorn is not terribly good at sneaking, even if he is able to move silently- it is less the steps that get him, and more the less literal. He tries to not look too long when Constance puts in the puppy-dog eyes, nodding once as she moves away first. It leaves Wartooth to gather a handful of his wits and sidle off to find the owners of the trove shop.

"Aye," Aislinn tells Constance, and she isn't adept enough to play and talk at the same time, so her fingers come to rest on the tops of the keys so lightly as to avoid making any more sound. "My very own mother taught me how."

Jorn finds the shop's owner in one of the back rooms that doubles as his office, a pair of reading glasses set high on the bridge of his nose, their nostrils so hairy that it looks like wool is growing from them. He wipes it with a handkerchief — it's springtime, doesn't everyone catch a cold in springtime? — and looks up from his paperwork and abacus, squinting at Jorn from behind lenses that make his eyes look like watery gray saucers.

"Wartooth, isn't it?"

"Your mother? It must remind you a lot of home…" Constance wouldn't have minded learning something like the piano from her mother. Really, having had the chance to learn more from her mother in general would have made a big impact on her hobbies. She reaches to tentatively touch a key and giggles delightedly when it responds with a note.

"Try and play something. Even if it's not fancy. Just some notes."

No, he's your aunt Millicent in a new fur coat.

"Yes." Jorn says, in his out-of-place accent, shoulders straight, feet square, and eyes giving a slight narrowing as he inspects the shopkeep. "It is." He gives the man a moment to disconnect from the paperwork before settling into something he is good at- pressing people for information. "In regards to the piano having come in not long ago. What would you ask for it?" The implication of an offer is there, yet he does not share much in the way of detail.

Aislinn captures her lower lip between her teeth. Her eyes promise that she'll try. Her left hand starts first, establishing a rhythm that the right can keep up with, and if Constance knows anything about music she understands that the song isn't meant to be quite so slowly. "I've heard there was a secret chord," she sings, not just for Constance's benefit but also to help her remember, "that David played, and it pleased the Lord - but you don't really care for music, do you?"

Inside the office, the shopkeeper leans back in his seat, laces his fingers together, and rests his hands across his middle. "More'n you can afford," he tells Jorn. "She's solid walnut to start. Second, she's already been spoken for — by your employer, no less. Take it up with Mister Ross."

Constance beams at Aislinn's attempt to continue, her eyes scanning the keys as if to determine the rest of the notes that need to be played. Like a secret code. She hums lightly along with the music, then glances towards the office carefully, mentally encouraging Jorn to hurry up. She can't always stall!

Jorn's laugh is just a little bit unsettling. A slowed sound. He shakes his head and lets his mouth crook. Somehow, Jorn is not surprised at the news, as the manor is home to many other fine things. Just one more, though he will have to explain it to the hopeful girl out there.

"Thank you. I will leave you to your work." The northman bows his chin to the shopkeep before turning out and wandering his way back, reappearing again where at least Constance can see him. His frown says more than he plans, but it's not god-awful news. Just less than stellar for Constance.

"There was a time when you let me know," Aislinn continues, happily oblivious to the conversation Jorn just finished inside the office, "what's really going on below - but you never show it to me, do you?" She plods along, picking up confidence without any of the speed or volume required to do the song the justice she probably believes that it deserves, but that's all right. "And remember when I moved in you, the holy dove was moving too - and every breath we drew was Hallelujah.

"Hallelujah, Hallelujah. Hallelujah, Hallelujah."