Making It Right

Title: Making It Right
Time Period: December 22, 134 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: The approaching holidays bring three women together at Dornie's market, where boys will be boys.

The market tends to be busier this time of year. People need gifts and merchants try their best to stock all kinds of goods. There are colors and flavors unique to the season, and those hawking their goods do their best to cater to whatever traditions the residents of Dornie might have. It's not cold or snowy enough to drive away those who might be selling their goods outside, which means the selection is greater, even if the brick-and-mortar stores have the advantage.

Snow had fallen earlier in the morning, barely enough to stick and by noon most of the snow has melted into the ground leaving mud and wet pools where the ground hasn't absorbed the water. The sun barely peeks through the clouds, but the wind prevents any warmth from actually being enjoyed in the market.

One of the residents wandering the market is the widow, Mairi Fairbairn, who is completely at a loss when it comes to shopping for presents. When she's had seasonal workers for the fall and winter a small handmade gift would do, but for the first time in a number of years she's found people she actually wishes to find real presents for. She searches through a booth of leather goods, fingers testing the strength and feel of the leather as well as the craftsmanship used in creating them. A basket is hung over one arm, but peeping out occasionally from under the cloth covering is a pair of blue eyes. Stalwart has become far too fond of being a kitten.

Milk-pale skin and blonde hair pinned back into a loose twist at the nape of her neck makes Aislinn Rowntree easy to identify at a distance, though it doesn't particularly make her stand out. Neither do her clothes, for the matter, which she wears under a long wool coat and sky-blue scarf bunched around her throat. Like Mairi and many of the other women perusing the stalls, she too has a basket— one without a kitten. Instead, her familiar sits perched on her shoulder in the form of a rumpled white raven, feathers fluffed to act as extra insulation against the cold.

Winter is the season she knits the most, and with Christmas so close she needs to stock up on yarn to replace what's been turned into sweaters and scarves for her friends and family. Most gifts she makes instead of buying; even a Rowntree can be thrifty, especially when that Rowntree married into the clan and has spent most of her life being wisely economical out of necessity.

There are exceptions to every rule, however, and she's turning a gold locket between her fingers when she catches sight of Mairi across the square and offers the other mage a friendly smile. The women don't talk much, but they're alike, and it's important that they look after each other even if it's from afar.

This time of year is a troublesome time for Bridget. On one end, she's far better at hitting things with a sword than she is gift giving, and on the other end, it's one of those reminders about her lost family. As much as she has her aunt and uncle, it isn't much the same.

She steps out of one of those brick and mortar stores, completely empty handed and looking a little disheartened. So when she steps over to the leatherworking booth, it's with a bit of a sigh. It's a rougher sound than she intends, but it's in her nature to be gruff. Unlike the other women, she's without basket or familiar, and is, quite frankly, easily mistaken as male if one doesn't look too closely. She doesn't notice the physician just yet, because she's fingering a piece of leather armor, although it would hardly be appropriate for anyone she would buy a gift for.

Mairi's fingers trace along a leather cord as she tests its strength, though she sets it back down in favor of a slightly thinner one, lips pursed in concentration—gift giving is serious business, and sometimes quite a challenge. When she lifts her gaze, Aislinn is noticed and given a warm and friendly smile.

That is, it's warm and friendly enough, but followed shortly after by the widow's cheeks flushing and a quick glance to the ground. Her familiar's head pops from the basket and a paw reaches out to bat at her coat, but Mairi swats him back in with a gentle push. Her eyes note Bridget carefully, but she looks back to the armor she's studying carefully.

"Is that a present?" Mairi questions, nodding at the armor. "It would certainly be a…" She pauses, at a loss for words momentarily. "… safe present."

Aislinn converses with the merchant in low tones, not because she desires to keep the nature of the transaction a secret, but because her voice is naturally very quiet, and she has to strain to be heard above the buzz of the crowd. She trades a few pieces of what might be silver or gold for the locket, metal gleaming between the weave of her fingers, and tucks the piece of jewelry into her coat pocket.

Constance, she decides, will appreciate something that glitters more than she will something that keeps her warm. After all, winter doesn't last forever. Neither does beauty, but—

Hush gives the other women a low croak of greeting as Aislinn makes her way over, smelling of damp wool and horse hair. She's probably come from visiting her husband out on the heath. "Good morning, ladies."

"I was thinking of it," Bridget admits, but doesn't sound too sold on the idea herself, even. "I like practical gifts." But her hand does pull away from the leather all the same and she shakes her head at herself a bit before actually looking at who's speaking to her. "We've not been introduced, I believe?" Given that she's generally off to herself when she's not on duty, it seems likely. But she does leave room for her being forgetful. "Bridget, Bridget Ross."

It's all she gets out before Aislinn comes over, and she does get an actual smile from Bridget. "Morning, Aislinn. Good to see you. Actually, wonderful to see you. I cannot figure what to give Cordie. Do you think a dagger is better?" Better than what, she doesn't say. Just better.

"Practical gifts can be very useful," Mairi agrees, turning to face Bridget a little more fully. "Mairi Fairbairn. I run one of the farms in Dornie, so I'm often over there instead of here. It's nice to meet you." The cord is set back down as she doesn't seem sold on her gift idea, though she gives Aislinn a nod of greeting as she approaches.

"Morning," she mirrors the greeting, though she speaks no further. Bridget's started a conversation and she has nothing further to add, so her eyes drift back to the leather. The kitten in her basket, however, is not content to stay still and distracted, and his paw reaches out to swat at Mairi's coat for a moment before blue eyes turn to regard both Bridget and Aislinn, as well as Hush by proximity.

Hush leaps from Aislinn's shoulder down onto Mairi's basket, pink claws hooking into the wicker and anchoring him to its lip. The raven cocks his head and pokes his beak down under the blanket so he can look the other familiar eye-to-eye. I'm used to seeing you with more feathers, he says. Not that this shape isn't flattering. Sweeter than honey, you are.

"She'd be just as likely to cut herself as she would someone who means her harm," Aislinn says of the dagger. "Unless you taught her how to use it. That, I think, would be a fine present." Even if she doesn't sound completely convinced. Tools made to draw human blood do strange things to her voice when she talks about them, making it tight and a little wan.

"Good to meet you, Mairi," Bridget says, even going so far as to take the woman's hand for a firm shake. She only lets go when she notices the familiars apparently playing with one another. As much as magic is a part of their lives, she, for one, doesn't pretend to understand the inner workings of it all. But it is fascinating, in a way. For her, in a way that makes her a little nervous, but it only shows in the way her smile turns a little strained.

"That's… a decent point. I shall ask her if she'd like that." They way her gaze turns back to the leather at the booth, armor may just be her back up idea. There's just a little lingering there before she takes in a breath and looks back toward Ailsinn. "How've you been?"

Mairi's eyes go to the other familiar momentarily as she feels the weight of the basket shift just slightly, but the action is not something that surprises her, and she looks back to the other two humans just as quickly. "Learning how to defend yourself is a very useful present indeed," she agrees. "It's practical and rather necessary, I've found. It's reassuring, knowing what to do.

Tiny blue eyes peer at the raven as it peeks in, and the kitten's tail curls around his body as he settles more comfortably in the basket. I've grown fond of this fur, he replies. Others enjoy it and I find she is much more amiable when I tell her something she wishes not to hear when I look like this.

"Oh, I've been— " How Aislinn has been will, at least for the time being, remain a mystery. She's interrupted by a strangled noise that comes from a few stalls away and sounds like it might be some sort of throaty-voiced bird— or a trumpet. Suddenly, someone is bellowing, and a small boy with a head of dark brown hair comes spilling out of the crowd, a wooden sword gripped in one grubby hand and coattails fluttering at his back.

Ariel steers straight for Aislinn and, grabbing a fistful of her skirts, takes shelter behind his mother's legs. What he's hiding from becomes clear a few moments later as a giant of a man uses his weight to elbow several bystanders out of the way, his face gone beet-red with fury.

"Where is he?" he demands in a voice like the roaring ocean and almost as wet. Spit flies everywhere.

The noise certainly gets Bridget's attention, and seeing the young boy run for the cover of his mother and his pursuer, she steps smoothly in front of the other women (and the boy)when the man starts yelling and generally making a scene.

She has to wipe spit from her face at the man's demand, but she quite calmly shrugs her shoulder. "Can't say I know who you mean." She doesn't tend to be any good at outright lying, but bending the truth, that she's a bit better at.

Mairi's mildly startled by the roar, jostling the basket at her arm just slightly, though her other hand comes to steady it. She regards the beet-faced man stoically, but she doesn't speak a single word. Instead, she looks casually back to the leather as if nothing had even just occurred. Stalwart, on the other hand, moves to peek out of the basket.

"Fuck you," the man barks, pointing a fat finger over Bridget's shoulder at Aislinn and the shape huddled behind her. Either he can see Ariel peering around his mother's hip despite himself, or he can guess. Either way, it's a good thing that the soldier stands between him and the others; her presence is deterrent enough that it has him stopped. "That little shit attacked my goose. Broke its goddamned neck."

Aislinn does not know what to say. She isn't used to being shouted at and the force behind the fowl merchant's accusation causes her to wilt.

If only Ariel could be so easily cowed into silence. "It attacked me first," he insists in a squeak that sounds like it should be coming from Stalwart, not a little boy. Hush is staring, too. He's glad that Mairi steadied the jolted basket — if she hadn't, he wouldn't still be hanging off it.

Bridget looks back when Ariel speaks in his own defense, but she turns back to the man soon enough. "And I'm sure his mother will see to it that he's scolded for his rash behavior. How's if we have a few rounds down at the pub and sort out how to make it right again?"

By the way she gestures between the pair of them, she clearly doesn't mean for the boy or his mother to be part of the discussions, but her protective hackles are up, after all. She even takes a step closer to the man, forcing him to either be in her face or take a step back.

While Mairi may not have a pitchfork in hand, she slowly turns to face the man with her expression serious. She may not be an intimidating sight, but her demeanor is one of a stubborn strength. Her eyes drift to Ariel in concern, a quick look to see that the boy is alright before she glances back to the man. She'll wait. There's no need for any action now, Bridget may very well diffuse the situation right then and there.

The merchant is taller than Bridget, broader than Bridget, but he leans back a fraction of an inch when she closes the short distance between them. Although he doesn't have a gun, he has fists, and these he bunches at his sides, knuckles bulging.

Aislinn bends down to gather Ariel in the protective circle of her arms, picking him up. He's getting a little big to be held this way, yet he doesn't protest. What he does is press his face into her shoulder, shying away from Mairi's eyes.

"A few rounds at the pub for the trouble," the merchant agrees, "and the cost of the goose."

"There's a good man," Bridget says with a broad, is somewhat ill-fitting smile as she bumps her fist against the man's arm. It's faked camaraderie, but it'll do.

She looks over her shoulder at the women and the boy, giving them a quick nod and an exaggeratedly relieved look. "It was good to meet you, Mairi. Happy Christmas, Aislinn. Ariel." But she's quick to turn back to the man, to guide him toward the pub and away from the boy before he remembers how mad he is at the child.

The tiniest hint of a frown crosses Mairi's face as she watches Ariel cling to his mother, but she turns quickly to offer a nod and a grateful look in Bridget's direction. A quick thank you for a decisive solution to the problem. She lets out a soft sigh before looking back towards Aislinn.

"That could have been much worse," she says softly.

Aislinn has sense enough to mouth thank you at Bridget when she looks their way, and it's just as well that the situation doesn't force her to say it out loud because she isn't able to locate her voice. "Happy Christmas, Miss Ross," Ariel says on her behalf, but without looking up from his mother's shoulder, his sullen farewell muffled against the dense fabric of her coat. Aislinn's hand goes to the back of his head, holding it there.

"Your father," she breathes haggardly into his hair, and ends the thought there because she isn't very good at making threats, just promises, and this is both.

It isn't until Bridget and the merchant are out of sight that she finds the courage to turn toward Mairi. "I'm so embarrassed."

Mairi seems rather surprised at the admission from Aislinn and her brow furrows just slightly. "There's no need to be embarrassed," she says in a tone that seems just as firm as her stance earlier. "He's a child, these things happen. He's safe with his mother and no one's worse for wear now. Things are righted." Her eyes flicker between child and mother. "I see absolutely nothing here to be embarrassed about."

Aislinn apparently disagrees. Her cheeks flush pink with shame and she draws in a sharp, hitching breath. "I should get him home," she says. Hush takes this as his cue and springs back off the basket with a powerful thrust of his wings. He changes shape as he comes to land, settling in the form of an ermine that curls around Ariel's neck and nuzzles under his chin in an attempt to provide some form of comfort.

She feels like there's more to be said, either an argument to be made, or a concession.

Mairi is right. It could have been much worse. She and Bridget might not have been there.

"Good-bye," Aislinn offers abruptly instead, tone as miserable as her expression and the sniffles that are starting to come from Ariel. For his sake more than her own, she sweeps wordlessly away in the opposite direction that Bridget disappeared.