Omens

Title: Omens
Time Period: January 2, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: A scouting party finds something unexpected in the mountains.

Steep mountain walls covered in snow and sparse, scraggy vegetation create the hooked shape that Horseshoe is named for. A day's journey from Dornie close to the base of the Cloud Mountains, the pass is the first of many treacherous obstacles that travelers passing through the range have to contend with; its danger comes not from the risk of rockslides or avalanches, which have in previous years blocked off the pass and access to the mountains for whole winters, but from the bandits that use the rocky terrain to ambush the unwary.

Loose gravel and ice crunch under the hooves of the two horses being wound through the pass by their riders. Moonlight streaming through thin, trembling branches reflects off the snow and provides enough illumination for Bridget and Jorn to see by, which is fortunate because torches would almost certainly attract the attention of the wild men and women who make their home in the caves and forest high above. Neither they nor Duncan's militia have any authority here.

Bridget has been traveling light. A leather jerkin for armor, knives tucked here and there, just in case. She didn't bring anything she couldn't pick up and run with. Aside from the horse. A heavy coat over her clothes serves as the best she could do to disguise herself as just a traveler, instead of a soldier on a scouting mission. Contingency plans.

When they reach the pass, she slows her horse to a stop to dismount. She doesn't tie the creature up, knowing it would hardly stop a thief, but would definitely hinder her in the case of a hasty escape. "We should stick to the edge of the road. Try to stay where it's the darkest. Maybe our movement won't be noticed," she whispers, glancing upward to indicate where she's most worried about.

Jorn has had the very same, churlish look smeared on his face since the afternoon, and it seems to get more stagnant the longer that he wears it. It also hurts to be this boorish for so long, admittedly. His forehead aches. Regardless, he has pressed on this long, at Bridget's side. Not about to leave it behind, Jorn wears a tattered looking cloak over the furrier one, the ragged hood partway over his brow, and the torn hem at his knees. The slight favor of a leg when he dismounts may or may not be theatrics. Having not brought Kuu with him, the muddy brown gelding he has borrowed promptly moves aside when Jorn lets him, huddling up against Bridget's horse.

Jorn's grunt is as much confirmation as she needs, and his stepping off to the side of the road is enough to be sure that he agrees. The road here is flattened out from centuries ago still, as roads are among the last things to change course. From down here, they do have a lovely view of the ridge- though if anyone were to have a lovely view from up there, they probably would not be seen as easily.

"If you keep that face on, it'll freeze like'at in here," Bridget says with a nod toward the pass. It doesn't come off like a joke, if that's even what she was trying for. Who knows, really. But she moves over along the side of the road, too, just behind Jorn, but keeping eyes above and behind them. He'll have to keep watch on what's ahead.

"I think we could get men tucked in around here. Early. I want to be set up well before they think to show up." Which might be cruel to the militia involved, what with the snow. They'll live. Probably.

His frown deepens, but it's hard to catch. It isn't because she is teasing him, it may be because of her choice of words. Whatever the case, Jorn is briefly off-put, and gains his sense back when he starts his trek with her. He will watch the front, and leave the wary glances to her.

"That is only if there are not already men there. We do not know how many there are." Jorn hates that too, by the sound of it. He keeps his voice low, for her, but the shape of the pass lends a murmur to the air around them, and he is hesitant to continue. "If they have plans for men, they will have gotten the best places." It sounds like being late for a show, doesn't it?

The snow on the side of the road is thick enough that it muffles the noise made by the pair's footsteps, making the misty dragon's breath that leaves Jorn and Bridget's noses and mouths sound like the roar of the ocean in comparison to the still winter air. They follow the curve of the old, bent traffic rail for a quarter of a mile before wing beats and crackling black feathers break the silence; a raven lands on the crown of a Scots pine growing out crooked from a crack in the mountain wall, and bleats out a low croak that bounces off the sides of the pass.

A band of silver gleams around one of its twiggy legs.

"Then we'll have to be quick and quiet about killing them, won't we?" Bridget doesn't seem to notice that moment of being off-put, but that's nothing new, her being emphatically dull.

She's quiet from there out, trying her best to breathe softer and not attract attention. That said, when there's a sudden noise, she grabs Jorn's cloak and hunkers down against the wall, trying to stay out of sight. It's only belatedly that it processes that it was a bird and she nudges her companion, pointing toward where the raven lands.

"Look familiar?" she all but mouths to him.

There's something about the quiet that gives Jorn that odd feeling that he's being watched; he doesn't have long to dwell on it, before he hears the slight rustle, and the short cry that comes after. Not long to dwell on that either- Bridget is grabbing him by then, and he resigns to being directed about like a blind-man. The nudge is unnecessary, and when Jorn lifts his glove to pull her pointing back, that apparently was as well. At least now, they are close enough that he can whisper only as loud as he needs.

"Only so many of those…"

The call has another shape emerging from the darkness to investigate. On the ridge above, small stones and pieces of chiseled rock come tinkling down the slope, gathering snow and momentum. Ears pricked and hackles raised, the silhouette of a wolf with shining eyes comes into view. At the bottom of the pass, Jorn and Bridget are shielded from the wind, but the same is not true of the ridge — it tugs at the wolf's fur and makes its pelt ripple.

The raven gives another throaty scream.

Bridget lets her arm get pulled back, and she gives him a bit of an apologetic nod. She's just about to open her mouth to agree with his whisper, but the rattle of stones falling keeps her quiet. Her hand strays to her boot, where she slowly draws out a knife to hold ready in her hand.

But when the wolf appears, her eyebrows pulls together and she glances to Jorn for a moment, to silently share in her surprise before she looks back on. Curious.

Wolves are not an utterly rare sight, here. Not anymore, at least. The simpering population had itself some time to recuperate. What strikes Jorn is not the presence of the animal, but its coinciding with the bird, and the intentness that it fixes upon them, at the bottom of the face. The bristle of fur is not as important as bared teeth; the latter of which is notably, for the moment, missing. His face still shadowed under his cloak, Jorn glances aside to Bridget, keeping her close to both himself, and the shadow of the opposite wall.

Jorn hasn't bared any teeth of his own, so to speak, so in an effort to retain calm, his glove finds and covers up the silvery sheen of metal in Bridget's fist. If they have been found, he does not want a fight. Not here, not now.

If they listen closely, they might be able to hear the belly-deep growl rumbling low in the wolf's chest, but still there is no curl of lip or flash of teeth.

Their move.

When Jorn covers her blade, Bridget frowns at him, but concedes after a moment and slowly slides the blade back into place. She glances back to the wolf, though, and while she doesn't quite meet its eyes, she opts to lift up to her feet. But, she stays in a crouch and takes a few steps back from it down the direction they came from.

She does her best not to appear the aggressor, but it seems just sitting there against the wall isn't an option for her. But then, she's always been the fidgety one.

It takes a great deal to not let himself growl back at it, even without the form so often afforded him. Jorn can tell when something is keener than it appears, if not to what end. And this is neither what he expected, or can afford. His hand nudges the underside of Bridget's elbow when he sidles to join her in retreat, taking his paces half-backwards along the wall, as to not take his gaze from the wolf. Never turn your back on one, as far as he is concerned, unless it is part of your own pack. The same can go for men, sometimes.

"Come." Jorn's voice is low, and only for his partner, eyes only drawing to where they had come so that he may make certain the path is clear.

Bridget nods to Jorn's whisper, and she lets him check their path while she keeps her attention on the wolf. Even when it's clear it's not chasing after, she straightens up, but she doesn't actually turn around until it's out of sight.

Once they're clear, though, she turns, still hugging the wall as they head back in the direction of the horses. "Well, that wasn't a good sign, was it?"

Jorn mimics her, when it comes to turning his attention and focusing on the path ahead. He goes in in forcible silence until theyget nearer to the mounts. Only then does he turn his face down to her, taking stock of her expression as he does so. "No."

"No, it was not. For all the better I feel, that wolf may as well been of the Cu Sith." Jorn's own expression seems tight and pale even in the low winter light.

"Don't get mystical on me, old man," Bridget says, her own expression a little gruff. And she isn't afraid of a magical enemy. Unless it happens to come from the ocean, but that's a whole other subject. "Could've just been a territorial wolf. Or someone's… familiar, maybe."

She doesn't actually stop until they reach the horses, and it's then that she really looks over at him. "We deal with what's in front of us. Not some… harbinger." There's a pause before she adds, "But maybe we can bring a few extra of the men, just in case."

He is more than welcoming of other opinions, but it won't get rid of the fact that there were two animals hanging around the location they were scouting. One tamed, one not so much. Why they were there may be a mystery, but there is no mystery when it comes to the timing. When they get to the horses, he finds the reins of the gelding to tug it over to him. Perhaps it does not like the smell of him- its ears swivel in uncertainty.

"What is in front of us is a pass apparently stood guard by harbingers." His accent is somewhat heavy with less common words, and it garbles him just a bit. "I want at least one superior marksman along the ridge. Alone, hidden. If you can find one." Jorn grimaces. He has to remember that this is not any of his wars. This is just …Dornie.

"I was planning on more than one. We can make sure the mouth of the pass is covered. If we end up having to go deeper in… we'll improvise." Bridget doesn't much like improvising, but unless they can think up a plan quick… well, she's not going to let them keep her cousin, if she can help it at all.

She mounts her horse smoothly, and looks over at Jorn. "We'll see how the militia likes our odds."

"I do not like that idea." About improvising. Jorn takes a moment to situate his horse before climbing up, turning his head from the road to direct him to the hoofprints in the shallow snow that he had left behind not long ago. "I am beginning to think we will have no choice but to acquiesce." Which he hates even more.

"Years ago, I would not have. I suppose that says …something." Jorn murmurs, toeing his horse into the start of a long walk back.

"Well, no plan survives the first strike in battle, I do believe I've heard that said." Bridget trots her horse along beside his, shaking her head at his suggestion. "No. We can't start thinking that way. Who knows what they plan to do with those weapons. Maybe come against the whole town? Do we fight now or fight later? Once we get Cordy, we get her and the weapons out."

She looks over at him, lips turned into a grimace. "If we start thinking in terms of defeat before we even start, we might as well just give them the weapons now and walk away. Plus, I do not believe evil men can keep promises. If they get what they want, they're just as likely to kill her anyway."

"Those same years ago, people called me an evil man." Jorn states blandly out from under his hood, pushing the horse into a rolling gait. "Yet, I am not so bad as rumor made me. Do not assume too much about who they are, quite yet." Maybe they think they are acting in a more goodly manner than Bridget is giving them credit for. "Or, perhaps, you are right, and these are abhorrent folk."

"She is worth more alive, than otherwise. But if we have to fight them, we shall. Make no mistake of my purpose." Snippets of what he once was have tendency to peek out, especially at moments like these.

"They took a young girl, Jorn. Threatened her. They didn't come for someone who could defend themselves, they took the most vulnerable they could find. Where's the honor in that?" And without honor, she must assume the worst. For Bridget, things are often black and white. Even if they aren't.

"I know your dedication, Jorn," she says, in reply to those last words, "If I had a doubt, you wouldn't be here."

"Even if you did, I would be here anyway." Jorn has enough mind to spare her the slightest of smiles, despite the mood and tone of the conversation. He is sure he would rather have no-one else with him for this. "Come on, then. We'd best get back before any storms roll in." The northman uses one hand to gather the cloaks about his chest, before he presses his heels firm.

"Stubborn," Bridget says, but the accusation comes with a smile of her own. Broader, but then, she's easier with them in general. "Decent idea," she says, waiting for him to settle his cloaks before she, too, picks up the speed to head for home.