Mysteries and Legends

Title: Mysteries and Legends
Time Period: August 3, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Andrew misses his friend the gravedigger, so he goes on a search that leads him to the former warlord.

There are many things you can misplace without noticing. You can misplace a spoon, a book or a sock. But misplacing an injured Hungarian gravedigger is a notable feat, and Andrew takes little time coming up with illusory causes of the man's absence. The priest has aged past the stage where he came up with justifications for inaction. Lazar hasn't returned to spend the night in the cemetery house, and he spoke of no one else with whom he'd share a bed with. Disappearing on the same day he claimed to search for a hunter hardly looked like a coincidence.

And so Andrew went into town the next day, first thing in the morning, a mere hour before his duty at the schoolhouse started. Having asked hunters of lesser renown and having received little else than shrugs, he was pointed to two particularly prominent huntsmen - one called Jorn and one named Todd. The former was pegged as a jaded loner, and the latter as an abrasive cynic. Labels may not always be trusted, but where there is smoke, there is often fire. Todd's was the first place Andrew headed to after he served his hours at the schoolhouse.

The place was empty. The usual knock of three hits that the teacher so favoured resulted in no answer. The only reply he received in return was the wooden creak of the door slowly giving in. Perhaps another man would have stepped inside immediately, but Andrew had far greater respect for privacy of others, and suspicion was not enough to justify violation of another's territory or property. If it weren't for Midnight, he would have left Todd's place right there and then; the dark-furred cat, however, had more loose morals, and nimbly climbed up the wall and through the open window. "Oi! Midnight, for God's sake—"

His familiar hasn't always listened, and Andrew wasn't a fan of such moments. But whispers brought before him convinced him otherwise, this time. The cat found something. It had a keen sense; the problem was that it didn't always care to show it. Now, however, it ushered Andrew to step inside. And, against his better judgement, he stepped in. He walked into the hunter's abode, treading carefully. He touched nothing, merely taking in as much detail with his observant gaze as he could muster. Midnight was there, not far from the hearth, sitting right next to a book sprawled open on the floor. It took just a few steps to bring the priest closer before he recognised the illustration on one of the pages. It's his book. Promptly, he squatted down and picked the book up. "Can't look after m' book, nor can't he look after himself." He rose to his feet. It was high time he looked for this Wartooth fellow.

It took some time for Andrew to discover the location of the former warlord of some renown. He has not heard of the man before his arrival to Dornie, but once he arrived here, all it took was a single mention of war before the skinwalker was brought up. Andrew was undoubtedly fascinated by the Norwegian's endeavours, but he was also uncomfortable with the thoughts regarding what kind of a man was shaped by such experiences. As such, the teacher followed the directions given out to him with some reluctance, even if his steps guided him up the winding path with deceptive certainty.

His doubts rise again once he is at the door of the cottage. He inhales deeply, and the sigh that follows is intended to cast those doubts out along with the burdensome breath. To say he is afraid would be a vast overstatement; his confidence is a stubborn thing that is very wary of retreat, for better or for worse. Still, there is a brief moment of hesitation before he brings his knuckles to the door and knocks exactly three times before he withdraws his hand, awaiting response.

'Jaded loner' is accurate, for all the words are worth. While Jorn is, indeed, such an introvert, that does not mean he is miserly, nor a hermit that chases children from his woods. Surely, there are stories of it- but he is just as likely to give them a spanking as he would be to give them a treat and shoo them home. Moods are moods, and they affect Jorn much more cleanly than most. The home seems welcoming enough, from the outside. There is even the garble of a chicken behind the house, and the tinkling approach of a bell from around the side of the cottage. Andrew won't need to turn far to see the flop-eared female goat staring at him from behind her cud. Mona, thankfully, does not have the time to process the stranger and charge him before the door opens; still, she defiantly stamps one foot into the grass, scampering back across the yard when her master pries the front door wide.

A name to a face, a face to a name; it is possible that Andrew has seen Jorn about town, though that would have been likely while he was being dutifully on trail of one Ross or another. Mostly the son, or the daughter, a glimpse of white pelt above others, here and there. The white fur is not around his shoulders, yet even from the door, the visitor can see it curled up on a chair, hollow eyed hood facing the door. Aptly so. It leaves the large man at the door dressed in his tunic and leathers.

"You …are not who I was expecting." Jorn leans out the top of the doorway, glancing down the glade towards where most visitors come. His mouth settles into the usual, slightly downturned crease, his brows leveling out.

Andrew is a man who could be mistaken for one of high standing if touched by a mere glance. While he does not wear the most luxurious of fabrics, he is definitely a man who looks after himself as keenly as the lordlings are known to. He stands shorter than the Norwegian, but he also stands undeterred by the height difference; his hands on his waist and elbows spread far apart, Andrew looks up at Jorn with a glint in his eyes and a grin on his square mug.

"Cosy house", he starts, his rather thick Scottish accent immediately apparent.

He has seen Wartooth from afar in Dornie, as it turns out. He can just barely place the face on a tall figure he's seen wander the settlement's streets. Somehow, he's taller and more imposing in person. "I'm sorry if I interrupted yer dinner, but I think I lost m' friend. I checked under the bed and behind the couch, and I couldn't find 'im." Exactly what that has to do with the stranger he's disturbing, Andrew doesn't specify yet. Instead, he points behind Jorn, towards the warmth of indoors. "Min' a guest? Your goat's stare is makin' me uncomfortable."

The sound of clearing one's throat sounds more like a growl when Jorn does it- though perhaps that is his irritance at something else. He is not immune to Scottish charm, it appears, as he offers the visitor a slim smile, taking another glance down the path before shifting to one side. Mona is still staring from across the grass, of course, tail flicking. She is looking a bit round, and perhaps it is pregnancy making her slightly less wanting to chase Andrew off.

"Last time she saw a skirt, tried tearing the lace right off the hem. This is her house, make no mistake. My horse doesn't make such a fuss as Mona does." Jorn seems to prefer that much, waving a hand to invite the man inside; Jorn's posture, however, stays as rigid as it was, and there is a tension to him, even though he is being welcoming. "Did you lose this friend in the wood?"

The wary rigidity - be it a sign of caution or a relic of forsaken habits - is duly noted by Andrew; as the unexpected guest steps past the threshold, his eyes roam the tall figure he passes by. But before Andrew is indoors proper, he flicks a final parting gaze towards the anxious goat. "Tore the skirt off, aye? I need to get m'self a goat."

Plain (well-kempt, but plain nonetheless) shoes landed steps with a dull sound as Andrew stepped further into the cottage. However, he steps not far from Jorn. Having been invited, it is only fitting that the master of the house shows him in proper, rather than exploring his sanctum at leisure. "Worse, I think. Lost 'im in Dornie. He's the gravedigger who's been mauled by the werewolf. You heard?" While the opposite may have ringed true many years ago for Andrew, today urgency does not detract him from manners.

Facing Jorn, the guest extends a hand to the hulking hermit. "Andrew Cullen. I'm fairly new in town; I teach at the Ross schoolhouse."

"You'd think that was a good thing. Not when they start screaming." Most girls do not like being assaulted by dairy goats. Apparently. "The Hungarian?" Jorn says after a few moments of pause, pale blue eyes narrowing and glancing off towards the fireplace. The news that Andrew is mainly a Ross man puts him a little more at ease, at least in the stiffness of his shoulders. He takes the hand in his own, a solemn and strong shake. Jorn does not often have unexpected visitors, hand gesturing again towards the furniture in the hope that the message gets through. If desired, there are perches aplenty.

"You said you lost him in town? Are you sure he did not get on a boat for elsewhere? There are enough in and out of the harbour, he may have joined one. For- ah- air." To get away from Dornie, the northman means to say.

Teacher he might be, but Andrew possesses a build that could potentially challenge the skin-bearing bodyguard, even if for no more seconds than there are fingers on two healthy hands. This Cullen fellow is definitely a quirky one, but by the looks of that perpetual grin, he is not only comfortable with it - he's rather proud of it. He shares a firm handshake with Wartooth, before he follows the second invitation. With a nod, Andrew walks casually further in.

Showing trust to gain trust is a risky tactic, considering that turning your back to the wrong individual may result in your last breath. Yet Andrew does just that as he heads straight towards a chair. Facing his back against the host also presents an opportunity to cast his gaze about the place without Jorn's knowledge. Yet already Andrew was feeling more confident that Jorn doesn't have Lazar stuffed in the wardrobe somewhere, otherwise he wouldn't have accepted an uninvited guest in, he reckons.

Seating himself down, Andrew heaves a burdensome sigh. He's been on his feet for quite a long time today. It's nice to give them some well-deserved rest. "Yes, the Hungarian", he starts, looking back to Jorn. "And no, doubt he'd sailed for selkies and kelpies."

Andrew pauses for a moment, clearly considering how best to go about the ridiculous story. "He wanted to get back at the werewolf - God knows why - so he went off to Dornie to find a hunter. He didn't return since then. I'm a religious person, but I don't believe in coincidences."

It is second nature to predators, that a turned back means a turned eye; Jorn notices all of this in his subconscious, that Andrew is being honest and submissive. A cheery teacher is not someone he needs to worry about, unless the fellow pulls out something with a pointy end. The berserker does not sit down in the other seat, rather, sits down on the arm, laden with quilt.

"A Hunter? I don't imagine he was very successful- there are few that would be up to the challenge of hunting a werewolf, much less one with a record of attacks." A sour taste litters his mouth, and it causes Jorn's mild frown to return. "'Coincidences' in Dornie are hardly ever really coincidences, you're right."

The aforementioned cheerfulness is slowly draining from Andrew, although he's doing quite the task of maintaining his charm. Even when the time for caustic remarks arrives, he delivers them with an upbeat tone and a casual smile. "Aye, especially when I find an item I gave to m' foreign friend on the floor of the only two hunters that I was told are capable of taking on a werewolf." So much for 'coincidences', indeed.

"Jorn Wartooth is one; that, I assume, is you, unless he's Jorn and we're having a very awkward conversation." The individual Andrew points out and points to is not exactly an individual - it is the warlord's snow white bear skin. "The other one's Todd Blackburn. Normally, I don't walk into people's houses withou' an invitation, but m' familiar respects privacy less. Tha's where I found the book that belongs to me; the book I gave to the Hungarian, thinking he'd just be satisfied starin' at the sketch of a werewolf, no' chase one."

Before Andrew continues, he observes Jorn, and makes no effort to hide the fact that he does such. When you share your profession with a small number of likeminded people, it's likely you are close to them. While there may have been a risk of them working together, nothing so far suggested such.

Jorn leans in, to listen to the beginning of this tale. He lets out a short smirk when Andrew describes him as one of two; Jorn likes the praise, even if he wouldn't say it out loud.

"Ah, no, that would be me. Min bror has no name that men recite, except in stories." Blue eyes move from Andrew to the bear pelt, still curled nearby, looking at them almost sidelong. Jorn does glance up to see if this curious familiar had followed Andrew inside, but he can see none with his plain eye. "That was a good thing- " The book idea. Andrew's observation gathers just that Jorn obviously knows Todd Blackburn. Otherwise, he stays quite stoic.

"Blackburn? He's capable enough. Sometimes too much so. It gets to his head."

Much like Jorn, Andrew likes the praise he receives in return when the discovery of the book is lauded, mirroring the smirk, albeit his is wider and lives longer.

The bear pelt is given another gaze. In fact, Andrew now properly looks it over. He initially thought it decoration. Not of the cottage, no; the stories did mention the bear being worn as cloak. But what of the stories that lead to the title of 'skinwalker'? Now that would be a sight to see… some day. His curiosity is set aside for matters of the present.

The familiar is nowhere to be seen, curiously enough. Perhaps it stayed outdoors, or perhaps it lingers in the shadows indoors, but a plain glance wouldn't be enough to know it has stayed behind as a contingency, though how a cat might be a contingency is anyone's guess. "It gets to his head? I think I know where to find the Hungarian."

But what of it? What does the hermit have to do with all this? "But I woul'n't bother ye on a fine evening for no matter, mate. Blackburn's not at 'ome, and I had an easier time findin' yer 'ome than 'im. I heard talk he has a cabin up in the mountains? If ye know how I can find that place, I'd be grateful. If you showed me, I'd be in debt."

"You think Blackburn has your friend up in his cabin?" Perhaps Andrew may yet get his curious wish. Jorn is smart enough to put two and two together, and he rubs one hand along his jaw as he does so. Rogue familiars, rogue werewolves, countrymen bumping around the mountains- he is not sure he wants to know what is next. "I do know where it is, if you are inclined to know. But you should also know that Todd isn't the type to enjoy strangers visiting. And if you're looking for his own quarry, he may fight it. He is more a trophy man than I am."

"I may be able to show you. Blackburn is with the militia, but I couldn't tell you why he might be with your friend, the Hungarian." Jorn grunts once, a small noise. "If I'm with you, he might not shoot you at the door." Alternatively, there are always written directions.

"I figured as much", comes the hasty reply, followed by a light chortle. Indeed, Andrew wants Jorn for protection as much as he wants him for directions. The thrill of exploration and finding destinations wore out after years of traversing Scotland and Northern England. "Militia, though? That's bizarre." What would a militiaman want with an injured gravedigger chasing legends that could kill an unprepared man with a single strike?

"If he's as hellbent on trophies as you say, I may have a hunch why he'd hold the gravedigger hostage." Or at least he hopes it is a hostage situation; it's certainly something to look forward to, as opposed to the anticlimactic and bitter resolution that murder would be. Narrowing his eyes and turning his gaze to the flickering fire that warms the cottage, Andrew sighs, lifting up a hand to rub at his forehead. It looks like this chase is not his idea of leisure, either.

"I want to talk to this Blackburn person before I make any conclusions, and I'd feel safer with yer hide around, that's for sure." It's hard to tell whether he's being figurative or literal. "I don't dare killing your eve, and my friend deserves to spend a night in whatever damned hole he's in if he really was stupid enough to get into trouble, anyway. Think you can take me there tomorrow?"

"If you stop by the manor in the morn, I can let you know." Jorn does have a job to do; if he is able to beg an afternoon away to help Andrew, then just as well. If he can't- "If I cannot get leave to see you there, I can give you directions and perhaps, you might borrow someone else to take along." He sounds indifferent about who goes with Cullen, though it seems he is more concerned about Todd stealing people who may or may not be like the werewolves of legend.

"You could always let it sit until the moon is ripe. It'd be an awkward night, I expect." To find your- hostage- isn't a wolfman. Whoops. "But I suppose you wouldn't want to cause anyone undue pain."


The word arrives strained as Andrew rises from the chair. Indifferently tossing up a hand before it droops back down to his hip, he adds off-handedly, "I want him to learn a lesson, not sit in a damp cellar until the moon is full. I don't know this Blackburn, but if he is a man of little patience… I would rather see the matter resolved quickly."

And with a polite nod, he agrees with Jorn's conditions. "Aye. I'll visit the manor and see if I can steal you from the Rosses to chase mysteries and legends." He walks up to Jorn to once more extend a hand. "Half of the stories I've heard about you are inspiring. Others… Well, let's jus' say I didn't expect a supposedly cold hermit to be this hospitable to a complete stranger. Thank yer for the warmth and rest, however brief."

"I may be from a land of ice and snow, but I promise that it does not make me cold." Jorn says this with a somber look, blue eyes flinty. Under the exterior, then. He shakes the extended hand again, dipping his chin in a small nod. "My wariness does me no help, for all the lesser tales." A smirk turns into a smile. "People are quicker to hold onto tales of terror, I think, than heroism. My reputation precedes me."

"You're welcome. I'll see you come morning." Jorn opens the door, to find the goat standing there; he steps outside to take the creature by the rope collar, offering a departing wave of his hand for Andrew. No worries, at least about racing the goat to the edge of the glade.