Repetition 5am

Title: Repetition 5am
Time Period: February 2, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: An unexpected visitor turns up at the apothecary at an hour too early to be decent.

For at least a week the black blob stayed dormant in the vial. Not talking to Hush when questioned, not reacting when Aislinn or her children passed by. No movement or sound as Traa-dy-Liooar bade her time until the fang incisions on her back had healed. Whatever substance the healer dunked the familiar into, it seems to act as a quick agent. Or she's just stopped feeling pain, either way.

A low cloud from the mountain settled in sometime during the night, causing vision in the streets nearly impossible. Soft globes of light are invisible until travelers are right upon them. Inside, houses are completely dark. Inside the apothecary, a small light burns, almost invisible from the street but the sounds carry.

I'm over here…

"Where?" Jain isn't ignoring the voice in his mind as he usually does. He's alone. He made sure of it.

In the bottle, I'm moving.

The leech squirms. She hasn't transformed because she can't get out, leeches are too weak to pop corks. They're also very resilient to most things, except salt. Traa-dy-Liooar isn't sure she would have survived as anything else.

Aislinn isn't either, which is why she's been sure to check on Traa-dy-Liooar several times daily and ensure that the fluid preserving her remains fresh while Jain recovers from his own injuries. If the thought of killing two birds with one stone by pinching the life out of her while the other mage is helpless to do anything about it has occurred to her, then she's not only chosen not to act on it, but probably derided herself for even thinking it in the first place.

This early in the morning, without any sunlight streaming in through the windows to see by, the healer relies on candles and an old gas lantern she keeps hung high behind the counter. Like her husband, she's an early riser out of necessity; apart from tending to Dornie's sick and wounded, and overseeing the occasional birth, she has to keep a careful inventory of the apothecary.

Bookkeeping is not her strong suit, however. She hopes, maybe, that one day it will be Cordelia's. She sits behind the counter, a quill pinched between her fingers and a pair of reading glasses perched owlishly on the bridge of her nose. Although the wood stove burns on the other side of the room, she wears a heavy winter coat trimmed with fur that hugs the heat to her body.

She jots something in the book's margin. Pauses. Bites thoughtfully at a slim knuckle.

He doesn't see a bottle. Not from where he is.

The steps are taken two at a time until he reaches the second floor. There's a fire in the stove, he notices that, and after a careful peek through the window, he tests the door. Unlocked. Either Aislinn is too trusting or this is too easy.

The door is slow to swing open, the man behind it is cautious enough to check for a bell overhead. Seeing nothing immediately, he lets the latch loose and stalks in. There's no sword on his back and his breathing is visibly shallow. He's still in great pain. Boot heels are loud against the wooden flooring, he was too quick to assume that the fire was left from the previous night. Perhaps to make the leech comfortable.

"Where?" He repeats, this time within Traa-dy-Liooar's hearing range. His head swings to the side to examine the items behind the counter. That's when he notices the woman as well.

The wife of the Rowntree's eldest son has no need for weapons - at least not in what is supposed to be the safety of her second home. And even if she did, she lacks the instinct to fire with intent to kill. She half-rises from her seat behind the counter first, quill set aside and ink smudged across the back of one small, pale hand in her haste, but when she recognizes Jain's face she takes an abrupt step back, bumps into one of the cases and rattles the shelving behind her.

That he shouldn't be out of bed goes without saying. "In the bottle," she tries instead, voice thin, even if the question isn't directed at her. "The one on the table."

Jain's eyebrows furrow into a deep scowl when Aislinn retreats backward. That his ribs must have been bound by her is given, what might have happened to cause her to capture his familiar. It's an insult. "What did you do to her?" Words growled from between clenched teeth is all that greets the woman as a hello. Quick footsteps take him to the table where the bottle is lifted and examined.

Open it, fool, now.

He places his thick fingers on the cork, eying the blonde woman suspiciously before he tugs it off. The leech doesn't move, caught in the liquid, all that can be seen is the outstretch of a little black tendril.

"She wouldn't let anyone touch you," Aislinn says, soft and earnest, with a kind of quiet urgency. She does not want Jain in her clinic, whether it's growling out demands, bleeding to death on her floor, or even making a purchase - the sooner he's out, the better.

"You and she both would be in the arms of our Maker if I hadn't." She grips the edge of the bottom shelf at her back, stopping her hands from trembling before they have the opportunity to start. "Go."

He doesn't, not right away anyway.

First the contents of the bottle are spilled out over the table and the leech shaken out. Jain narrows his eyes at Aislinn when it doesn't transform right away. He's not used to the voice in his head, his familiar, being in this form. "Tell me how to get her back to the way she was." The highlander doesn’t seem to be taking any measures to leave. Why should he, the healer is no threat to him.

Carefully, the leech is lifted into his palm and cradled. "She's no' moving anymore. What did you put her in? How can you be so sure she's not with her maker right now?" Aside from the fact he's not crippled in agony and…

Because I'm not. Kill her and take me away.

"Water," Aislinn bleats. "I'd have brought her to you if I thought she was in any danger. I swear it."

If she could hear Traa-dy-Liooar, she might be more grateful to have the counter between herself and the militiaman; deaf to the familiar's orders, and with Hush not present to communicate the threat, she roots her feet to the floor and focuses on keeping her voice as steady as she wishes her hands would be without the shelf to clutch. "She'll change again when she's ready."

Jain's right eye twitches and contracts, nearly closing as he fights a nagging pain in his brain. The orders his familiar gives him are generally obeyed to the point of compulsion. This time he looks away from Aislinn and shakes his head. "I won't," the healer might think he means he won't leave, his familiar knows different. "I won't." He repeats and then looks up at the blonde woman, a toss of his head sends long bangs out of his eyes.

Taking long strides to the counter, he places the leech on it and rounds it. Both arms wrap around the Rowntree woman's waist and he pulls her in close, hands wandering where they shouldn't. Maybe just for the benefit of the leech. His nose finds her hair and he nudges through it, finding her ear in order to whisper. "You need to run, you need to leave and run back to your castle. She means to kill you. She wants me to do it."

As Jain's arms find her waist, Aislinn makes an effort to free herself of his embrace; she braces both her hands against his chest, elbows locked, but it's as she's pushing that his breath - and the words carried with it - enter her ear. Her response is a miserable sound strangled off at the back of her throat. She shudders the next few breaths, dry and choppy, and gives another shove, pressing against Jain until her joints ache.

"Then let go," she gasps into his shoulder at the same volume. "Please, please."

"Then run," only he says it a little too loudly.

The leech on the counter melts and the form grows to that of something large and dark. It's quiet at first but soon snarls and that turns to a slathering bark. Long teeth flash in the low light, catching small rays on saliva. Had she not been placed on top of it, Traa-dy-Liooar could never have clambered on top of the counter as a great mastiff.

Jain tenses in pain, Aislinn's thin fingers having found a nice space between his ribs to push on and cause the wind to go out of them. Gripping her a little tighter, he whirls her around, throwing her over the counter as he lunges at the mastiff himself.

Traitorous cur! The scream of rage from the familiar can only be heard as a howl of fury from the dog as it sinks its teeth into the man's neck.

The impact slams the air from Aislinn's lungs and leaves no space for worrying about broken bones or contusions under her skin. On the floor on the other side of the counter, she gapes trout-like, blinking tears from her eyes, and rolls over onto her side. She cannot breathe, but she also cannot scream; what rouses the neighbors is the scrape of her body as she pulls herself upright, using one of the chairs at the table as an anchor, and the hoarse voice of the mastiff behind her.

She would twist a look back over her shoulder to see if Jain is all right, but her gift saves her the additional strain on her neck by telling her that he isn't.

Out the door and down the stairs, Aislinn spills into the street in a clumsy spread of coat and furs, dress fanning out behind her like a mermaid's tail.

Someone is already calling for help.

"You and she both would be in the arms of our Maker if I hadn't." She grips the edge of the bottom shelf at her back, stopping her hands from trembling before they have the opportunity to start. "Go."

He doesn't, not right away anyway.

Frowning a little, he glances at the bottle in his hand and the leech struggling inside of it. Indecision colors his features before he brushes his hair off his forehead with his free hand. "You'll not tell anyone what you know, I'll keep my promise to stay away from your boy." Not boys. He wouldn't risk Rowntree anger by killing both anyway. The younger isn't a consideration but he's not sure if Duncan really ever grew to care about the deaf mute.

"I'll return to have the bandages checked, tomorrow maybe." It's not posed as a question simply because he's not giving her room to refuse. "She'll stay away and not harm you."

You'll burn in hell before I do.

Aislinn's lips part around the start of a halting protest— something about Jain's use of the singular when she has two children still living— but she must arrive at the same conclusion that he does before she finds her voice, because she pinches her mouth shut again, draws in a shaky breath through her nose and nods.

Yes, she won't tell anyone. Of course she'll check his bandages.

Her pale eyes focus on the bottle between the loose curl of the soldier's meaty fingers. She does not have to squint to be able to make out Traa-dy-Liooar's dark shape pressed flat against the glass, reminiscent of the ink smudge on her hand.

Oddly enough, the soldier doesn't release his familiar from the bottle. Instead he deposits it into a fold in his shirt, keeping it close to his chest, maybe his heart. Loud footsteps carry him back to the door and when Jain reaches for the latch, he pauses. "Be careful, she means to kill you." The only she the highlander could mean is the one in the bottle, unless he's talking about another one of his bevy of women. "Because you look like my father's wife."

The brief descriptor of the woman she so reminds him of is short, curt, and doesn't tell the whole story. It doesn't explain the warmth in his chest or the fact that it aches whenever he sets eyes on the healer. Not because he's attracted to her meek disposition.

Jain's pain is Aislinn's pain for the fraction of a moment that she allows it to be; a sharp intake of breath later, she's blinking moisture away from her eyes, either in sympathy for what she now knows he experiences every time he looks at her, or because she's just been told that his familiar wants her dead. If she has learned anything about them by observing the pair from afar, it's that Traa-dy-Liooar usually gets what Traa-dy-Liooar.

Knowing why does not particularly ease her fears.

"She's dead," she says. "Tell her they're my eyes and mouth now."

"She doesn't care, I'm hers."

The reply carries him out the door and down the steps. The crunch of his boots against the snow is a gait too fast for his injuries. Perhaps it's just because Jain wants to be free of Aislinn.