Invent No Details

Title: Invent No Details
Time Period: February 3, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Paranoia may well be hereditary. It is, in some cases, a useful evolutionary edge for the Rowntrees.

Darkness gives way to deeper darkness, and it is not until the flicker of lamplight caresses Constance Rowntree's lids that she finds herself spiraling up out of the deep pit of unconsciousness. Blood has seeped into her bandages, but enough remains within her to give her heart something to beat, and the cold that presses against her skin is now neither the cold of open night air, nor the seductive caress of that wicked wastrel, Death. It is the cold of halls of chambers, of castles, a cold familiar. A cold like home.

She's held in her father's arms. This she can discern quite quickly. At first it would seem to be her father, but need not be, as the mind fills in spaces where sense and sensation leave blankness. But as more and more darkness gives way to light, she can tell it is really him, cradling her maimed body with a delicacy he's not used since she was a wee babe. As his face resolves, set lines and rugged worry, she sees that his eyes are set straight ahead, almost pointedly averted, set upon some future coal. He does not know she's awake again. He walks with a haste restrained to straining speed, and she feels each step in her wounds, however carefully he holds her.

"Daddy?"

It's not a term the young Rowntree uses with abandon. Usually it's a colder, more formal 'father' used to address him, something much more composed than the little squeak that comes out of Constance. She might have been able to keep enough of her composure when she was surrounded by people who weren't her kin but it's an entirely different story now. Her murmur isn't one of confusion. She's aware of his presence, but it's more of a word to express a few simple things: she's awake, she's hurt, and she's scared. The fingers of her good hand curl into his shirt and she clutches at it lightly.

His eyes dart down to her only very briefly when she utters that childish little word before rising again to the doorway that arches up ahead of them, movement so quick it's as if his gaze is being chased. "Don't speak," Duncan's own first words are chiding, his first and best expression of paternal love, "you've done damage enough to the face your mother gave you."

The press of his toetip swings open even this heavy door, and he must stoop a little to navigate the entrance to Constance's chambers. Firelight dances on the walls, fanning out from the hearth in a spreading wave of warmth, and there is one last draft from behind them before the door swings close with a resounding clap, as if the heat of the room and the chill of the hallway were in some collusion, seeking to preserve their mutual boundaries.

There's perhaps a cringe from Constance, though it's decidedly hard to tell if it's from pain-physical or pain-emotional. Whatever the cause, her fingers clutch at his shirt for support, as she is wholly unsure if the rest of Duncan will give her that much reassurance. She doesn't try speaking again, however, not wanting to incur his wrath — especially not now that he's mentioned her mother. That was certainly a topic that could get any of her immediate family to shut up and pay attention and in the midst of Constance's ordeal, it still manages to evoke the same reaction. Some things likely never change.

She feels no anger in the broad barrel of his chest, sees no danger of aggression in the lines of his face. Duncan will strike a naughty child, girl-child as well as boy-child, though almost always as a matter of punishment rather than rage or outburst. But even if naughtiness or - worse in his eyes - foolishness has earned Constance these wounds, likely the wounds are seen as punishment more than sufficient.

Rather, it is with uncommon care and tenderness that the carries her into her room and sets her upon the covers, hands sliding out from under her and moving to enclose her in the thick blankets, like an infant in swaddling. He looms close, giving her fingers no reason to release their grip, and when she is properly bundled he takes a seat on the bed next to her, his weight depressing the mattress, slanting her slightly towards him.

"You use each breath you take to carry you to the next," Duncan instructs, voice low, "but when you've more strength, you'd best have quite a tale ready for me."

The blankets and bedding are merely a backdrop. They might, perhaps, give her some comfort, a bit of ease for her pain, but that's not where her head's at. Perhaps it's a coping mechanism for her to be thinking so hard about other things. Constance inhales deeply, almost a sigh when she exhales before her words come out.

"I have more strength," she says, a hint of stubbornness in her tone. She is a Rowntree, and heaven forbid she be weak.

Duncan has kept his eyes on his work - he's the kind of man who can make you feel surveyed even when he's not looking directly at you. But now he has little choice but to look at her, lest he look as if he's looking away, and surely Rowntree pride will no less allow for that than for suspicions of weakness. So he looks at her, and his face is long and there is a harrowed look to his eyes that belies his body's composure. Maybe it's just the light, but he looks older by years.

"Foolishness once makes any lad or lass. But twice in the same night and you're dealing with a true dunce. You'd not lie to your father, Constance Rowntree, for the sake of seeming brave? I'll brook no acting here. Be true or be wicked."

"I might have been foolish, but I am not weak," Constance insists, eyes studying her father. She may be in pain, but she's pitying him. Mostly because he's hard to read and she can never be so sure of his thoughts. She might be his daughter, but even those closet to him can find the man's head hard to get into. "I would not lie to you in this." There's another sigh, this one softer, as she moves her head to try and find a position that puts the least pressure on her cheek but still allowing her to look at him. "Bravery and strength aren't always the same thing."

Do you imagine Duncan is exempt from his own occlusion? The secrets of Egypt were secrets even to the Egyptians.

Still, he smiles, ever so slight and ever so crepuscular, but he is near incapable of falseness of expression, so it must be some kind of honest.

"A strong fool is the worst sort of trouble," Duncan comments, "the only thing to do is give them room to stumble." So he nods. "Go on. I'll give you room."

"I hope my trouble shall stay confined to much less serious situations, then," Constance says, swallowing hard before she starts to fully relax. She gives herself a moment or two to just rest and be comfortable. Others might argue that Duncan's mere presence would prevent comfort, but the young Rowntree is, perhaps, relieved to have her father's attention and concern levied towards her.

"I do not think this wolf was normal. I wasn't far, I could still see the castle and I wouldn't have even strayed much further. It did not behave in a manner of most. Others told me that was because it might have been sick. I am not so sure. It did not seem sick and it was smart."

As soon as Constance's tone becomes explanatory, as soon as she says 'I wasn't-', Duncan's hand lifts abortively. He is manifestly uninterested in what some might uncharitably call excuses. We'll discuss your decision to take a night-time walk alone later, young lady, but you definitely don't want to have that conversation any earlier than is absolutely necessary.

But the matter of the wolf- this he'll hear out. His brow furrows. Sickness is dire- so dire that he won't confront the issue immediately. Leave that to a healer. But if Constance, fancied by fictions though she may be, is right about her instinct-

"A common wolf is clever enough," Duncan says, "what do you mean when you say that, lass?"

Constance wets her lips for a moment. If there's anyone that will take her seriously about this, she certainly hopes it's her father. "It didn't seem territorial or that it had some young nearby, nor did it seem hungry or scared. It would have been on me if it was hungry, and if it was being territorial it should have stayed put when I backed away instead of coming at me." She frowns.

"It doesn't add up. If it wanted to kill me it should have much sooner. It left itself vulnerable, if I had a weapon I might have even had a shot at its throat. It felt more like hate, like anger. I hit it once with a stick and it left, but that was not something that should have scared a wolf off. It left for a reason, but I passed out so I'm not sure if it heard something." The young woman moves to push herself to a more seated position. "I think it might have been someone's familiar. Or someone who could change into a wolf, like Jorn does into a bear. Maybe I am wrong, but my instincts tell me otherwise."

Duncan nods his affirmation. He knows wolves well enough, doesn't hate or even particularly fear them; he does not mistake them for dark spirits as the men who nearly exterminated the wolves in the lost age did. There are unearthly presences enough in the woods without imagining more.

The question is if Constance herself has fallen prey to this animal animism. A wolf that angers? That hates? That hates her?

Caution demands he take her at her word, much as his peace of mind - what there is of it - wishes this could be attributed only to the madness of too little blood and too much fear. He mutters an oath that he really ought not to in the presence of his daughter, but she's probably heard as bad before from him.

"Recall all you can," Duncan says, "Tobin'll need to hear it all."

"It was close to the road," Constance begins. "You could see the castle. It wasn't dark when I set out, so there was the risk of the wolf being seen. I think it might have been waiting for someone to come out of the castle, to be going in that direction. It didn't jump out, it approached, after I called to see if it was man or beast. It had.. its skin was black, around the eyes. I haven't seen enough wolves to know how it might have looked different other than that. I remember looking into its eyes and that's what made me feel certain it wasn't something random. I do not think wolves are in the practice of going after humans unless they are desperate and I am certain this one wasn't. I think it might have just been waiting for a Rowntree."

Paranoia may well be hereditary. It is, in some cases, a useful evolutionary edge. Waiting for a Rowntree. More resentful vampires, more mages. Peter is exempted from Duncan's otherwise troublingly generalized rancor. He can't help but notice, is all- these people with their strange capacities, kin too close with the wildness outside their walls. Not just ill-fit to civilization, but anathema to it.

There is a suddenly restlessness to Duncan, a shift in his weight that suggests his will is drawing him elsewhere. He doesn't yet rise, but there is something approaching finality in his voice.

"Invent no details. Elaborate on nothing. I am going to fetch our wizard," our wizard, ownership spoken of as might that of a stabled horse, "and he must hear everything you know- nothing more or less."

Constance seems relieved that her thoughts, her instincts seem to be taken seriously. What could have, perhaps, been a simple wolf attack has consistently felt like more to her and if her own father, the head of the militia, would not believe her she would have been alright with dropping it. It could be a young woman's imagination, something Constance certainly has. Her good hand reaches for her father's arm, all seriousness in her countenance.

"I will stay close to the castle and the city and take extra precautions and look for animals. If it is a familiar, it could be anything by now and it could go after anyone." The blonde's brow furrows. "I worry for Celia. I do not think she would have fared as well as I."

"You will stay in bed until you are fully mended," Duncan says, tone uncompromising, "we shall discuss the limits of your wanderings another time," he fixes her with a look, though one that steers as clear of her damaged cheek as it can, "you do not want me to make a decision about it now, unless you find these four walls space enough until you're married."

He gets to his feet. "If there are wolves at our heels, none of my children are leaving the castle walls, not until this is better understood."

"Of course. I do not think I could manage a trip outside my room for a while, much less outside the castle," Constance says, her eyes fixing on her father as he stands. At least it's clear that she's not planning any dances in the woods. "I would rather know if my suspicions are correct. If you find something out… please do not keep it from me."

"What concerns your welfare you'll know," Duncan promises, with the caveat, "save what preserves your welfare in not knowing." Which is a fairly vague condition. He amends.

"It's impossible to keep a secret in this castle"

True or no, this is the assurance he leaves her with. Wait- no, not just that. He leans over and, hand hover hesitant near her injured cheek, presses a kiss to her forehead.

"Enough talk. Rest."