On The Waterfront

Title: On The Waterfront
Time Period: April 2, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: While Dornie's militia holds back a larger force, a small band helps keep back a more insidious force.

Since early morning, the Kelpies have been acting strangely. While always a danger in the back of the sailors' minds, this time, it's a far more direct threat. It started simply, just a blockade between Dornie's ports and the wide, blue ocean beyond the lochs. By the afternoon, though, it was clear they were inching closer to the shore. And mere moments ago, a force of them stormed the shore and were met by the town's militia.

Somewhere, the fighting goes on.

Not just here, though.

In a small inlet that leads into a decently sized stream, off away from the general din of the docks (and the current fighting there on), things are far more quiet. But perhaps, not entirely peaceful. There's just the odd feeling of being watched and the momentary hint of eyes deeper in the trees and brush; there, and gone just as fast. Must be the paranoia.

Unaware of any fuss going on among the militia and sailors, the stream might feel it has an unwelcome guest, in the form of a Cas Blackburn. Sleeves rolled up and arms bare except for fingerless leather gloves, he stands on the edge of the stream watching the fishies from where he's kneeling.

There's already a waterholding wooden bucket sitting next to him, likely with fishes he's already claimed. Or perhaps bait. But since there's a sharp pointy stick sitting near him, he's likely not using a net or a poll.

Every so often he itches at the back of his neck, as if sensing the eyes on him, but he dismisses it. He'd surely hear trolls right?

Leaving work today, Cordelia is more chipper than she has been in a while, and seems oblivious to that eerie feeling of being watched — she's talking animatedly to her large chaperone, telling him of the procedure Aislinn had shown her earlier in the day while caring for one of the many patients they've seen today. It may be morbid, but in times of trouble, the small scholar finds excitement in the knowledge she can gain from such tragedies.

"So we cauterized the artery, and it stopped the bleeding immediately. It was amazing," she says breathlessly, swinging her bag like a school girl coming home from school. "Have you ever seen anything like that before?" she asks Jorn, glancing up, then frowning when she catches a glimpse of the eyes — but when she looks back, they're gone, and she shakes off that eerie feeling.

Nose wrinkled, seated primly on a rock with her feet dipped into the cold water, Luna's eyes are focused on the stable hand as he attempts his hand at fishing. "And why aren't you using a net? If I was going to fish from there, I would use a net." Of course she would, it's the easy way. Regardless, she didn't come here to be bothered by or bother him. She came for a break, it's just unfortunate there was someone else breaking in the same place.

Blank book laying flat across her lap, the prostitute taps the pencil to her lips for a moment before turning her head to glance behind her. "I don't like this place today, it don't feel quite right." Pulling her feet from the stream, she tucks them up under her long dress to warm. The gold colored material takes on a honey hue against the greenery, looking nothing like she wanted when she left.

Though morbid, Jorn takes what solace he can in having Cordelia tell him about her day; the good part about it seems to have always been that he can imagine such things well enough, as seeing it firsthand over many years does that to a person. So when she brings up cauterizing arteries to keep them from bleeding out, Jorn's mind is somewhere in northernmost France, watching a man detached from his hand being held down and burned with a hot piece of iron over where it had been not long before.

"…Something like that. It was not as kind, or as clean, as you two made it." The northman narrows his eyes and follows Cordelia's gaze outward, and back again when she shakes it off. He watches her as he always does these days, when she is under his charge. Like a hawk. His nose wrinkles a little and his mouth turns down. "Mercenaries never learned much doctoring. They just knew to burn off the stump."

Kelpies bleed red. Duncan has had, of late, occasion to appreciate this fact. In the dull rush of the skirmish, when memory deep as muscle guides his hand from trigger to bolt, bolt to trigger, while his eye steals deadly, thoughtless instants from behind the iron sight, Duncan even has time to feel something like surprise at this fact. He didn't expect something so like a proper creature's blood - red, like that of a man, even. For these creatures resemble nothing so much as the ghastly, vengeful shades of drowned horses. But as the hammering of their hooves make clear, they are all too material. And much too well organized.

But organization is not making them victorious. Gunsmoke hangs in an acrid fog as Duncan's squad of militia pick their way through an unearthly slaughter, boots treading on murky, blood-soaked manes twined with seaweed. They search for twitches, for heaving flanks. They finish the job with knives, not wishing to be prodigal of bullets.

The crack of rifles and revolvers at other points of engagement signal ongoing struggle. They should reinforce them. Only- Duncan rises from his stoop, wiping his blade clean on a nearby robe. His eyes are directed towards the harbor, at the ongoing blockade.

"They're nae serious," Duncan says addressing himself as much as his men, "they're doing naught. Not here, nor out there. It's to a purpose- but what? Too much sense to nae have a reason."

Leadership is selective for paranoia. Duncan is quick to address his group.

"Get back on your horses. I want all my kinsfolk accounted for, especially the children. You ride to the castle, you see they are well."

It's not so long a way to where they tethered their horses, held back for fear that their watery doubles would send them into panic. Duncan takes his own, but heads in his own direction. They can signal him if they've need, but for the moment he is taking a part of the task still unassigned.

He knows of at least one kinswoman who is not in the castle.

He breaths into the gust of the gallop. "Damned fucking wild things."

Luna is the lucky one to get the first glimpse of just what is cutting into the usual ambiance of the inlet. A face melts out of the shadow of the tress and into view over where Cas is bent over the water. Not a human face, but something longer, more skeletal and far closer to the horse variety. Its gills, fins and dirty-greenish coloring give away what it is, exactly, and the menacing set of its features give away its purpose. Not that she has much time to shout a warning; as soon as it steps forward, the kelpie swings his head to hit Cas square in the back and send him tumbling toward the water.

But it's not the only threat to enter the area. Behind Cordelia and Jorn, another set of hooves makes its way forward, this one striking Jorn, also from behind, to unbalances the guardian. When his knees hit ground, the kelpie stomps forward to press a hoof unkindly against Jorn's calf, pinning his leg to the ground. When its head lifts up again, though, it turns to Cordelia, letting out a shrieking noise right in the girl's face.

Worse, though, is the fact that the shriek is answered back, from deeper into the woods. The two are not alone and from the rhythmic thudding that follows, they're about to get joined up by their fellows.

"That's cause I know how to catch them like this," Cas says quietly, though there's a hint of annoyance in his voice, as if he's explained it before. "I don't know how to make a net and this— " he holds up the sharpened stick. "is easy and doesn't…"

That's as far as he gets when something impacts his back and sends him falling forward into the water with a shout. One he likely regrets when he inhales a bunch of water and comes up sputtering, looking around. His stick, the closest thing he could have to a weapon, gets stuck on some rocks in the stream while he struggles against the current to get upright. And breathe.

Unaware of the stablehand tumbling into the water, Cordelia's reply to Jorn is lost in a more human scream that echoes the cry of the kelpies. As the ghoulish horse creature attacks Jorn in front of her, she stumbling back away from the grotesque face.

Somehow she manages to keep her feet. The bag she carries everywhere with her — heavy with books and jars of medicines and herbs — is swung at the thing's head, reeled back by the strap and swung again and again — she should run, she knows, but not without Jorn. "Get off him!" is a feral little growl from the usually sweetly-tempered teenager.

The face of the horse is enough to make the prostitute scream in terror. Much worse than a regular horse, the skeletal monster's entire being offends the blonde woman. Luna freezes, inching slowly toward her shoes to take her stockings and pull them on before slipping into her flat shoes. The shove to Cas' back interrupts her plan and she lets off a blood curdling scream instead.

"Cas!" Skirt pulled almost to waist, she steps into the shallows trying to get to him. The dress drops at an angle when she lets go of one side to extend a hand toward him. Wading made difficult by the amount of material she's wearing, she struggles to get a little deeper, teeth already chattering from the scant minute that she's been subject to the cold.

Jorn hears the hoofbeats behind him, though not in time enough to avoid being knocked roughly onto the road and having the creature's foot dig down into his leg. His boot does enough to keep it from piercing anything, but the fact remains that the kelpie has one-upped him and the leg is pinned. Horses are horses, in the end, and horses can be dangerous. There is a twinging from his back when he wrenches around at the waist to get a better look at his attacker- though even as a man, smelling the salty beast is not hard when it is literally on him.

The kelpie's shrill cry and Cordelia's swinging is met with a snarl; Jorn drops onto the ground, twists more at the waist, and lashes out with one arm at the equine shoulder. When it meets flesh, curved ebony claws dig in and yank it downward towards the ground. Jorn's features are melting into that familiar white snout, black nose, and mouth full of teeth, snapping, biting and clawing even as the bear literally forms up underneath of the other beast like a too-large tide.

When he hears the shrieking near the trees. Duncan dispenses with anything resembling caution.

"Cordelia!" he says, voices lifted into a booming register, meant to carry.

Of course words are of no great long term help. Duncan turns towards the inlet and makes for it, his spurs pressing the flanks of his mount, reins clenched in one hand. Already he's drawing one of his semi-automatics, the pistol-metal catching a dull gleam from the reflection of the sun off the water.

As Luna wades into the waters to help Cas, the kelpie turns dark, deep set eyes on the prostitute. Its lips peel back to show teeth just a moment before it leaps into the water. The body disappears under the waters, the span of several heartbeats before it thrusts out of the water, coming between the pair and knocking Luna back toward the shore. It's hard enough that when her shoulder blade connects with rock, a jagged edge cuts through fabric and skin with ease. But, at least, it gives Cas time to recover from his own fall. And perhaps realize that the kelpie seems to be regarding him as territory and Luna as intruding on it.

Cordelia's bag hits the kelpie in the face, accompanied with the sound of glass breaking within. And when she swings again, those shards dig into the kelpie's face, causing it to rear up with a scream. And imagine its chagrin when it's pulled out of its posturing by claws and dragged down to meet a bear face to face. So it does the only logical thing. It bites Jorn right around the muzzle. And its freer front leg slams down on his leg again. Fuzzy though it may be.

Duncan is met with a surprise of his own, as he drives his mount on toward the danger, danger finds him in the form of a large kelpie slamming its shoulder into his horse and sending them both toppling. It stamps the ground in a warning display before it turns, aiming itself toward the sound of shrieks and little girl screams.

By the time Cas finds his footing, running his hands over his face and pushing back his hair as if it's gotten in the way. He's still coughing from the accidental inhaling of water, but the fog clears quickly as the threat lurks above the water before him. Horse shaped, but certainly not a horse, he shivers in the damp cold, soaked through all his layers of clothes.

Eyes widen as he starts to back away, eyes darting from the water-horse to the young woman. Some of the behaviors are similar to normal, land horses. He recognizes that it's threatening Luna. The annoying layered-like-an-onion princess-prostitute.

Pale and damp as he is, he splashes through waist deep stream water toward the long pointy stick he used to spear fishes. He knows he's going to regret this.

"I'm here!" Cordelia cries out when she hears Duncan's voice calling to her, her own fraught with terror; she screams again as the creature bites her ursine chaperone — one might think it was her being attacked instead of Jorn.

Still, the Ross girl doesn't run, standing her ground to help defend her protector. The bag is swung again at the creature before she reaches down to pull from her boot a slim but sharp blade — it's taken her a few horror-stricken moments to remember that it's there, but she hasn't seen enough trouble (yet) in her life to make such things instant reflexes.

Blade in hand, she slashes at the creature, aiming for the artery she knows should be just behind the hook of the creature's jaw.

A hand is slapped over the rip and when Luna pulls it away to see blood, she screams even more. That the kelpie may or may not be threatening her is irrelevant, her own blood is spilled. "My dress," she squeaks, no longer screaming but staring at the palm stained with blood.

Chin trembling, she darts an apologetic look over at Cas. If there's water droplets in her eyes, it's not from the fall. That much is obvious. Slowly, she crawls backward, away from both the stablehand and the kelpie. It's easy for the man to see that she's simply not brave enough to stand up for him in the face of a skeletal horse.

The bite to his face cuts at the skin there, and it bleeds across his lip; the leg pressing into his own again is buffeted only some by the layer of fat around it. Jorn puts his other front leg underneath of the horse, paw flat on its chest and claws raking down its neck. He sees the glint coming out of the corner of his eye, and the tiny hand carrying it. Though by all means he should not let her try and slice into the kelpie's throat, he does- for one, he is in no place to argue, and secondly, it is past time for her to be the one to put her dukes up. And, as long as the kelpie has its mouth clamped on his nose- its neck is wide open.

The bear coils for a moment, muscles tightening, shoulders bunching against the dirt, and what paws he can get around underneath of the horse. Jorn times the girl's strike, giving Cordelia enough time to plunge and rake, before the paws under the kelpie give a great heave. the bear bucks it hard, and with full intent to do some good old fashioned kelpie-launching.

Duncan's first order of business is to get free of the horse. The pain in his leg mostly passes as he pulls it free of its pinning. Not broken, thanks be given to whatever saint is in charge of this sort of thing. He's soon on his feet, on his knees.

The horse is almost as fast to rise, but skittish now, and Duncan abandons it in favor of pursuit on foot. Pain would make him limp a little, but he disciplines it to just a slight stiffness in the leg. The kelpie's warning is taken as a challenge, the challenge as an insult. Duncan seeks redress with the muzzle of his weapon. His three-point reply comes in short succession, a rapid fire rebuttal in lead, aimed at its retreating back.

As Luna crawls backwards, the kelpie comes forward, muscles tense as it takes careful, deliberate steps in her direction. Jaws snap, but it doesn't quite attack again. Rather, it seems to be… herding. It isn't the most comforting moment, especially with the sound of hooves becoming clear in the woods behind her.

Cordelia's strike hits true, and while it was bleeding already, this is different. Blood pumps out with the beat of its heart, sloshing over skin and causing the beast to flail about, hooves dancing on the ground and, unfortunately, Jorn as well. Nothing breaks, thankfully, but might as well have, for the pain of it all. And it takes a launch to get the sticky skin free of his fur, but as it flies forward and slams against a wide tree trunk, another runs up, turning at the last moment to collide back hoof with bear midsection and this time something in there definitely snaps.

Their launched attacker hits the ground in a thud, twitching as it finishes bleeding out against the dark soil.

All hear the crack of gunfire and the kelpie scream that follows. Its aim may have been for the others, but it takes fire and a wound to something vital, and it stumbles out of the woods near Cas and Luna's troubles, face caught in a horrifying expression… but it falls to the ground in a heap, bright red blood seeping out of wounds while its torso rises and falls with labored breaths.

With the sounds of gunshots and likely cavalry, Cas looks between the sketelal horse and the girl under attack by it. There's no sign of disapproval of her trying to get away, or even complaining about her dress, based on the fact he waves his hand at her in a gesture of 'Keep going' while he splashes up behind the kelpie with his fishing spear.

And proceeds to jump on it's back, gripping the seaweed mane in his gloved hands. Likely he thinks this is a good distraction technique while the calvary arrives.

Bloody hand still holding bloody knife, Cordelia looks to the bear to gasp, "You all right?" as dark eyes search him for any major injuries — it's hard to tell when he's in the bear form, but she sees no gaping wounds or protruding bones, at least. She turns toward the report of the gun, then to the water. "Luna and Cas," she gasps, finally noticing the other two in a similar plight — or worse.

Probably to Jorn's dismay, Cordie breaks into a run toward the water, splashing into it with the blade held in front of her, and wishing it were a gun like her uncle's at the moment.

Luna's face twists and her crabwalk backward becomes a little quicker when Cas' kelpie starts walking toward her. Frightened and injured, she lets out a soft whimper when the man she was trying to save turns the tables and seems bent on rescuing her. It's a matter of pride. Her teeth chatter loudly, a combination of chilled bones and courage. Still, she follows the wave of his hand getting far enough back in the shallows to touch the embankment and then crawl up onto it.

A kelpie falls behind her, its teeth as terrifying as the one in the water except much closer. Whatever bit of strength it took for Luna to move the few meters she did melts away at that moment. She stops. Sopping wet and trapped between two of the monsters, she begins to scream. As the teenaged girl runs closer carrying the blade, Luna still doesn't seem to register that the face on the ground behind her is dead.

Jorn's maneuvers on four legs make all the flailing between himself and the oncoming kelpie seem a dance. He is barely on his feet when it pivots and kicks him; he is swerving when it does, and it catches him in the side hard as he too pivots around, moving to face the second. The bear opens its mouth and moans a call after Cordelia, and when she doesn't react, he backs up after her, keeping his own pointy end facing down the other horse.

Jorn backs into the water after Cordelia, the pain in his side throbbing and pinching from the inside out. Given that he can still breathe right, he knows that it probably sounded worse than it is. Probably. Hopefully. Frankly, he has not had much cause or chance to try reason- but a horse, to his mind, is a horse, even if it is actually a kelpie. Worth a shot. Dark lips peel back over long teeth, and his sides heave.

Halt, skapning, get back!

The kelpie falls, and in falling reveals an unexpected sight in sodden blonde. No Cordelia, that, but familiar unfamilial. Could he have possibly misheard? His wondering doesn't slow him at all; if anything he's propelled by his surprise, taking long, swift strides crossing the distance between himself and the woman, leaping over the fallen creature and reaching out to catch Luna by the waist, his arm wrapping 'round her, lifting her, and setting her behind him as he advances on the final kelpie, who now stands in his view.

Duncan takes aim between its eyes, above its gnashing teeth. Even if the creature heeds Jorn, it is unlikely to successfully flee a bullet. No beast, but wholly human, he doesn't hesitate to put the thing down.

Cas leaps on the kelpie and finds himself— or at least his clothes— sticking against damp skin. Which is how he stays on when the beast rears up, its front twisting to land back in the water. It runs down stream, water splashing with each step. And while the water isn't high enough for Cas to get plunged underwater, the pair are certainly heading rapidly in that direction.

It is, in fact, a wonderful distraction, as Luna is left in sudden safety, if not perceived safety.

Jorn is left facing the kelpie alone as Cordy takes off. Whatever rapport he usually has with animals, it doesn't seem to be getting through to this one. Perhaps it is just very grumpy. But when Jorn starts after Cordelia, the kelpie stalks slowly along after him. Face to face as they are, he can see the water-horse's muscles moving under skin, tense and ready to lunge when and if it feels the need. As Jorn takes to the water, it doesn't seem to feel the need.

But luckily, it soon doesn't feel anything at all as Duncan's bullet whizzes past Jorn's hunkered form and strikes the taller creature. A circle of red blossoms at its forehead and it staggers and falls with a great splash into the water. Danger passing in a graceless heap.

Except that one small problem running its way toward the broader expanse of water.

Never in a dozen years would Cas ever have pictured himself stuck to a horse by his clothes. When he expects to get thrown into the water instead he finds himself pulled up by his clothes, as if hands have grasped them. There's no hands, though. Only sticky skin.

"…I'm stuck," he says outloud, stating the obvious as his uncomfortable mount starts to carry him off towards the sea. Which definitely won't be up to his waist.

His shirt rips as he moves around, trying to free himself, buttons breaking where the fabric sticks to the skin. Moving his arm around, he shifts the grip of his fishing spear and aims to stab the horse in the upper leg, hoping to trip it before it gets too far.

When Cas' spear hits its mark, the kelpie stumbles, its motion halted for the moment; Cordelia continues her splashing through the water, apparently trusting her uncle not to shoot her.

"Don't touch it with your hands!" she shouts to Cas as she moves toward him, but there's no sneaking up on this beast from this angle, and she's got at least enough sense to give a wide berth to those teeth — her hide is not as thick as Jorn-bear's.

Suddenly she pulls off her sodden and now bloody coat, wrapping the knife in it quickly. "Stab it in the artery, just here," she says, tracing the spot on her own jaw before tossing the bundle to the man, hoping he can catch it despite being jostled by the thing writhing in pain beneath him. At least she doesn't throw like a girl.

Nails dig into the hard leather covering the arm Duncan uses to lift Luna out of the way. She kicks through the sopping dress while her heels are still off the ground and it isn't until he sets her down that she sees exactly what had her. Not a kelpieman at all.

Cavalry to the rescue in the most literal sense, Luna's knees shake as the soldier turns his back on her to continue protecting and serving, or just shooting magic things. Hopefully not the bear, people seem to like him. "Duncan…" she identifies the man with the gun, still stunned, she edges away from the fallen kelpies after kicking one of them for frightening her. And leaving her possibly fatally wounded.

Jorn's head swivels around to get a look at the source of the pistol, having been occupied thusfar. He lets out a rumble and a laboured breath, dark tongue licking the blood from the side of his muzzle. He turns the rest of the way and gallops off into the stream after Cordelia, and he gets to her after she throws the bundle to Cas. The girl can feel her waist pulling out from under her, suddenly; no, she isn't slipping on the rocks. The bear has her belt in his teeth, attempting to take her up out of the stream like a soaked kitten.

Cas has Duncan, and Duncan has a gun. Jorn has a ward to tend to.

There might be time to answer Luna, to complete the gesture with some stoic word or dashing remark, but for Cas' predicament. As is, Duncan turns towards Luna for a brief moment, gaze flashing across her in the most practical of manners, assessing her condition. The red of blood catches his attention, but - more accustomed to wounds - he knows better it's lightness than Luna herself.

No words then. Just a moment's eye contact, an almost offhanded holstering of his pistol, and then he's unslinging the rifle from his back, sight bow aligned with the barrel as he gets a bead on Cas' captor. Cas is after one leg- Duncan aims for the other.

The wrapped package is caught, if awkwardly, by Cas upon the skeletal horse with it's flowing mane of seaweed. Only his clothes, which tear a little more where his weight pulls against the skin that holds it in place, keep him from falling off, especially when the gunshot cripples the kelpie's leg.

Gritting his teeth, he aims the knife at the location indicated by the young woman with medical knowledge, stabbing deep and twisting the blade a little in place. The bleeding wound opens, even more, and the kelpie cries again, before crashing down into the stream and floating into the rocks, complete with a young man who pulls himself out from under it.

With most of his clothing still attached to the abhesive hide. Only a few layers of under clothes keep him from being far too unclothed, though his chest is bare except for two necklaces, one with a cross, one with an iron bee.

"…anyone have some clothes I can borrow?" he asks even as he still stands in the very cold water.