Something Grand

Title: Something Grand
Time Period: April 3, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Constance receives a temporary reprieve.

Aislinn knows what it feels like to have an overbearing father who loves too much. What she does not know is what it feels like to be imprisoned in one's home for as long as Constance has, but she imagines that it doesn't feel very good, which is why she's arranged to spirit the teen out in the world for a few hours so she doesn't forget what lies beyond Eilean Donan's great stone walls.

She'd be lying, too, if she claimed she wasn't seizing the rare opportunity to quietly subvert her brother-in-law's authority; on the off-chance that they get caught, she can at least say that she made an extra effort to ensure his daughter's safety by bringing two of his own soldiers along.

There is a stream that bubbles through the woods and out into the loch where the otters gather to take turns sliding down steep mud banks on paths carved out by their bellies. In the springtime, with leaves budding on the trees and dappled sunlight making pools of gold on the forest floor, it is a fine place to spread out a wool blanket and watch the otters' antics at a distance.

Algernon and Jorn receive more than Aislinn's thanks for agreeing to come along. Fruit cakes made with currants, chopped almonds and brown sugar bleed grease through their brown paper wrapping inside the basket on the blanket's edge, along with flaky pastries filled with minced beef, still warm, and a fist-sized hunk of soft white cheese seasoned with salt and a pinch of pepper.

The food is for everyone, the smallest among them included.

Aislinn kneels behind Constance, weaving the teen's long golden hair into a sleek fishtail plait after spending a good fifteen minutes brushing it out with an ornate wooden comb. Ariel, who comes here often with his mother, sleeps with his head in his cousin's lap and fingers curled loosely around the stick he was using to hack down reeds before he grew tired of playing soldier and decided his time was better spent taking a mid-afternoon nap.

The freedom is a godsend for Constance. There's a fine line between protecting and imprisoning and as of late the line hasn't been very clear. The young woman's own methods of subverting her father's authority were likely much more direct and would have yielded many more consequences than the simple trip out of the castle's walls that her aunt had graciously suggested.

Watching the water, Constance occasionally reaches over to play with Ariel's hair as he sleeps, but never quite enough to potentially wake him. The young woman has tried to stay mostly lady-like and calm, but without much company or a chance to get out, she has to try very hard not to spend all their time babbling.

"I wish I knew how to do that as well as you," she says. "Then Celia would always have pretty hair."

Algernon might have driven a slightly harder bargain in search of something to ease what ails him. Mainly his knee. Physiologically speaking, that is.

Feeling better now, he's still a ways off, down closer to the water where he'd trailed after Ariel and his stick like an overgrown hound without thinking. However many minutse after the boy's departure, he picks at his teeth with a bit of wood while he surveys the stream, one ear turned to mark flow and tone of conversation back at the blanket. It makes for easier listening than frequent offhand interjections from Forge about all the colorful ways that this is a terrible idea with potentially terrible consequences.

Simply enough, it is a nice day and he owes Aislinn the favor.

Reeds don't make a very good enemy, but for little boys they are just about right- Jorn watched the boy batting and swinging through them for some time, uncertain of if he should be concerned for Ariel's interest, or if he should simply be amused that a long time ago, little Sir Ullman was doing the same thing. Vanquishing sea monsters that dared come ashore. Trolls that came to stop their fishing cottage to bits. Dragons with mouths as cavernous as a mine. Dread knights that breathed plague and rode skeletal steeds.

It was all very tiring work, as Ariel Rowntree can attest.

As for why he came along- well- Aislinn is a dear friend, and it is not terribly often that he gets to enjoy her food in peace. There is always something. Jorn stays higher along the ground, able to watch the scene as if he were about to paint it out. The northman takes a bit of the almond from the half-eaten cake in its paper, unseen in his tucking it under the shoulder of his cloak while he watches Aislinn braiding the girl's hair into the tapering plait.

Greets-the-Sun of late, has taken to doing just as his name states. You can't stay within four walls forever - He hopes it won't be forever but with each day the familiar looses a tiny bit of hope. Impossibly tiny paws take the sliver of almond when it's smuggled beneath the bear pelt, smells it before setting in to nibble the nut. He can't very well talk to Jorn when he's not in a bear form but that hasn't for the time being, stopped him from hitching a ride when he saw the giant man heading out. A chance to go out and take a break from his watching over his companion.

He has remained silent to any and all other familiar's that may be present, hiding beneath the pelt and watching. Unwilling to talk at the moment and just observe. Like his chauffeur Jorn.

"There are more useful skills in the world than being able to braid hair," Aislinn reminds Constance with a small smile. "It's time you started to think about what you mean to do with the rest of your life." Besides acting and playwriting, she means.

A spindly shape emerges from a nearby thicket, about the size of a cat with squat upright ears and a long muzzle stuff with seasonal wildflowers. Hush is not at his most handsome in the spring; his winter coat still clings to his bony frame like tufts of dandelion fluff in some places, while others appear dark and bare where his summer fur has begun to come in, leaving him looking as though he's contracted mange or worse.

"You're fortunate enough to have been born into a family that can guarantee it will be long and comfortable," Aislinn continues. "I would be very sad if you took it for granted."

There's a small sigh from Constance and she stares longingly at the stream as if somehow it were the answer to the world's problems. "I didn't know I got to plan these things. Isn't that what my father's for?" She questions, frowning. It's something she's most definitely thought of in the past, but it isn't likely that those thoughts stretched beyond contemplation.

"He'll marry me off to someone useful to him. I didn't know that required me having useful skills."

There's a twitch of movement about Algernon's post when he marks Hush's appearance with a second glance and an uncertain turn down at one brow. It's not a flattering look, poker face and splinter temporarily stalled into uncertainty until a turn of his wrist eases him back into picking his teeth. Hush, Forge reminds from afar, less judgmental midway through his own (less dramatic) molt. Fogg has no comment. His expression says enough, anyway.

Things such as this are as close as Jorn will get to actually having a familiar. He'd hope he would have one that would be less mousy, however cute it is. He looks out after the grass, absently biting into the cake in his hand when Hush comes from the brush. Without a bearish sense of smell, recognizing the creature takes him another moment before recalling winter coats. Polar bears do not have the luck that other bears have, with winter layers. Every day is a winter coat, even if Jorn folds his cloak up on the inside, to the hem of a mantle it has during warmer days.

Jorn tries not to eavesdrop on the conversation, honest- it is harder than he thought, what with the topic of Constance's future and Duncan's assuredness. The nord has a few thoughts on the matter of arranged relationships and young smart ladies, though sharing them would be a breech, surely, so he remains quietly looming beside the nearer shade tree.

Little beady eyes catch sight of Hush from under his furry, a pause in Greet-the-Sun's consuming of almonds, dropped right where it is and starts down Jorns back. Little claws scritch and scratch, worming down his back with nary a consideration that he might just quite seriously make the man uncontrollably move around thanks to said claws and tail tickling and prickling against spine before dropping to the ground with the softest of plops. Dance Jorn dance. Shed the stoicism for a moment. Into the new spring grass he goes, zipping like the wood mouse that he is and heading for a tree near to Aislinn's familiar for a better vantage point. If he's seen by others, well…

Hush pauses to steal a look up at Algernon— and the expression on Algernon's face. With a rankled snort blown out through flaring nostrils, he fluffs up what outer coat he has left — a scraggily lion's mane of white around his shoulders and neck — and gives an indignant sashay of his hips before jolting a nimble hop over a log covered in moss.

At least I don't try to hide it with a silly hat, he says, even though he knows Algernon cannot hear him. His paws carry him up the slope to the blanket, where he deposits the flowers in front of Constance.

Behind her, Aislinn ties off the plait with a piece of plain white ribbon. "There's nothing wrong with being someone's wife," she says, reaching around to pick out a single orange poppy from Hush's bundle, "but that doesn't sound like a very fulfilling existence to me."

She tucks the flower behind Constance's ear, oblivious to the mouse flouncing through the grass. "Mr. Fogg!" she calls down to Algernon. "What did the women do where you come from?"

Mouse? What mouse? Constance glances back at Aislinn just slightly at the suggestion that being a wife wasn't necessarily so fulfilling. "I don't really know what I'd do, other than be married. I mean… acting, plays…" She trails off, unsure if those are really wifely-appropriate-pastimes.

Her eyes go back down to the sleeping form of Ariel. "I could take up sewing or something, I guess. I've gotten good since I got stuck in the castle."

Algernon's hat is still missing after the dragon attack and is likely more of a sore subject than Hush would have bargained for if he could hear. He looks stately enough for its absence, duster in decent condition and claw marks through his beard shadowing back in here and there. Hush's look back is met with the same judgmental inspection he initially favored him with and then turned away with a mirrored rankle when he flicks his bit of wood away into the brush.

As for what women do where he comes from — he has nothing to say for so long that he may not have heard the question.

"They marry."

Jorn does not usually find himself toe-to-toe with ticklishness, but it is there, and the tiny mouse skittering down his back sets it off. He jumps a little in surprise, nearly dropping the fruit cake when his arms give a jerk and send a sharp wince up through his side. Jorn grunts loudly enough to probably interrupt the conversation taking place, at least for a second or two. It may be misconstrued as something else entirely, given the timing, and Jorn's shaky balance. Hurting himself while trying not to laugh isn't so pleasant.

Algernon is the most likely to see all of this weird jostling about, as the women are facing the other way.

"My mother was a midwife," says Aislinn, "and the boy I thought I was in love with married one of the baker's daughters when I was twelve. She made the best pies in County Kerry." She encircles Constance's shoulders in her arms and rests her chin on the top of the teen's head. "If you like to sew, then you should visit Mrs. Ferrier. Her husband spends most of his time out on the sea — I'm sure she'd be better for the company."

Maybe she assumes the noises Jorn is making are sounds of agreement. Or maybe she doesn't want to embarrass him further by acknowledging them. Either way, she gives Constance a hug and buries her nose in her hair. She was hoping that Algernon would have something more encouraging to say. "My point, sweet one, is that you are more than someone's chattel, be it your father or your future husband. Start doing what makes you whole now, before someone else decides that for you."

Constance seems a little lost at the idea of picking a profession. "I only really took up sewing because I was tired of Luna Owens being so much better at it than I was," she says. "I poke my fingers too many times. And… I don't know. I want to do something grand. Maybe I should take up painting and make grand murals or something…"

Sewing, baking, midwifery… her face already scrunches at the thought.

Fogg watches Jorn dance at an impassive level that betrays nothing of interest for the two women to seek out with their own eyes. A mouse, Forge informs him a moment later, as he's reaching to mix medicines with a sleight of flask from coat into hand. Upon second thought, he pushes it back into place and glances skyward. Either after further communication with his familiar, or as an unconscious result of Aislinn's encouragement.

"Alright over there, Mister Wartooth?"

Jorn breathes heavily for a few passing moments, one hand propped palm-down on his side. He is still frowning when Algernon calls out, glancing around his feet before deigning to answer.

"Enough." Alright enough. Must have had a bite of that cake go down funny. Jorn subconsciously hides the rest of it within the paper that holds it, perhaps to hide it. He coughs once, dusting half-chewed bits of almond from his shoulder. As long as he is talking —

"Do what pleases you, Constance. Even if it is theatre." Jorn murmurs just loud enough now to be heard, as if he is not sure that it is the right place. There is nothing wrong with theatre.

Through the grasses, winding his way in his minute form and eschewing transforming into some other form, Greets-the-Sun eventually makes his way to the edge of the blanket. One foot then another tests the fabric of the blanket before stepping into it proper with whiskers twitching and pink nose scenting the air - and the food. I would ask you a question This to Hush, Forge if he's anywhere that he can scent, Dina's familiar hasn't quite paid attention to.

No screaming ladies, a wood mouse is now making itself home at your feet.

It's not that Aislinn has anything against theatre—

The worry in her expression has nothing to do with her own preferences and everything to do with what could happen to Constance if some disaster was to befall Dornie. The professions the teen wrinkles her nose at put more bread and meat on the table than painting her face and delivering dramatic soliloquies to an audience.

Hush lays down, lowering himself to the mouse's level, and rests his muzzle on criss-crossed paws. You would? he asks. Why? Is there something to stop you?

Oh. Dear. That's a mouse. Constance, however, doesn't startle that easily. Unless it's crawling to her face, she's likely just going to freeze in place. She looks down at it, but tries to pay it no mind. As long as it's not getting too friendly.

"It's what I'm good at… what else can I do? Acting is what I know."

"Try different things. Costume-making is sewing, yes?" Jorn offers that much to follow; anything he has heard about the intricacies of theatre have either been from Constance, or from various intellectuals in town. Surely other parts of the theatre correlate like so. He finally notices the little mouse approaching on the edge of the picnic cloth.

"He is okay, just leave him." He makes a soft gesture towards the tiny thing, stiff as he straightens up again.

Your choice to answer might. Greets-the-Sun seems to take after his companion it seems. He takes a few steps forward, a twist of thick tawny neck toward Constance then back to Hush. I am looking. For something. A nothing. If that makes any sense at all. He looks down to the blanket, to a crumb not too far from him and one can almost see mouse brains working. Crumbs. Hmmmm. He doesn't dive for it though, resisting, flicking his attention back to Hush, waiting for an answer.

Hush flattens his ears against his skull and whines lowly at the back of his throat. Whatever words Aislinn might've had for Constance go unspoken then, as the familiar communicates to his mage what Greets-the-Sun is asking.

Constance is the only one close enough to hear her breath catch.

What do you mean? Hush wants to know next, and he keeps his eyes on the mouse because that is where Aislinn instructs him to keep them no matter where else he might want to look. A nothing?

Constance's eyes move back towards Aislinn at the slight intake of sound, but she's not entirely sure of what's going on. She's got a hunch it's a familiar thing, but the lack of Peter and his familiar means she isn't privy to the conversation. Still, she falls into silence, only in that she's watching the animals she can see nearby.

Off in the background, Algernon looks on at a distance as he arranges his pipe, evidently unaware of any cause for tension. Tin, tobacco and match strike, wood and smoke.

It's hard to tell when a mouse is thinking, other than perhaps he stills. Not even whiskers twitch. Nothing, has been the best way to describe whatever it was that happened, at least to him. He tamps down the blanket, a little shake of his body and a mouse like sigh. I don't remember. Only nothing. The bear, he does not understand. Greets-the-Sun looks to Jorn then back. There is a Nothing. I know only that. Do you know of this?

Hush is initially hesitant to answer. It's only at Aislinn's silent urging that he responds.

What will you do if I say yes?

I— Whiskers quiver. I do not know Greets-the-Sun confesses, giving into urges more mouse than familiar's out of frustration, scurrying over to the crumb, grabbing it up between paws then back to Hush so that he can sit his rump down, turning the small piece of food over and over in his small paws. I just know that… there is a nothing. Nothing hurt her. The crumb is put down, maybe he isn't so hungry. Thinking of what was done to Dina can do that.

Be careful. Do not let it near yours. He scuttles off with almost no sound, small brown shape disappearing off into the grass.

Hush watches him go. Aislinn reaches out to touch him between his shoulders, but he flinches away from her before the tips of her fingers have the opportunity to graze his fur.

I don't like this, he tells her. I don't like this at all.

If there's an apology exchanged between them, it makes no difference; with a flick of his molting tail, he's off again, and it's likely not to gather more flowers for Constance's impromptu bouquet.

"Jorn," Aislinn says aloud, "does the militia have any leads yet on what happened to Dina?"

Constance's continued observation mouse ends when it scurries away, then her eyes move to Hush as he, too, darts off. The younger woman is left a little in the dark, so it's when Aislinn speaks that her thoughts travel back to the people rather than the animals. Mages are confusing, sometimes.

But leads on what happened to Dina? She furrows her brow and studies Aislinn's face. "Is everything alright?"

"No." Jorn replies, hands linked behind his back. "The militia does not." Though in technical terms, it does not include himself, and she can tell he isn't telling the entire truth. Jorn feels that he knows something, though it is as vague as could be. He can only assume that Greets-The-Sun has made some sort of exchange with Hush, who has promptly leapt off into the grass after the mouse takes its leave. Jorn has the feeling he is out a passenger for today, pressing his lips thinly and regarding Aislinn from behind, light blue eyes studying the fair hair at the back of her head.

"I wish it were so." His own tone is one of concern, and the northman otherwise exudes something close to anxiousness. Does she?

Flinch and retreat observed through a slow push of smoke through his teeth, Algernon shifts his weight further from his injured side. Considering.

Aislinn's question posed to Jorn is followed with his eyes at a lazy aside. So far as he knows, they don't. And Jorn apparently knows as far as he does, curiosity echoed (more mildly) in a tip of his brows up after each other when the bear man looks to Rowntree. He follows suit, making a sandwich of her as he seats his pipe back at the corner of his mouth.

"Nothing you need to worry about," Aislinn assures Constance. She presses a kiss to the top of the teen's head and braces a small hand against her knee, rising in the same beat. "Come on, then. We need to see you back at Eilean Donan before Donagh notices you missing."

In Constance's lap, Ariel begins to stir and blink at the sound of nearby movement, blue eyes bleary and unfocused beneath their dark lashes. "Greets-the-Sun reminded me to ask," his mother claims, stooping to pack up the basket, "but the next time you're at the Dovetail, would you tell Mariah that I'd like to speak with her?"

Constance does worry, at least for a moment, but it's not something that requires immediate action, so she doesn't worry too much. Or for to long. As her cousin awakens, the teen gets to her feet and offers her hands to pull him up as well, her eyes looking to her aunt and their two guardians.

"Sometimes, I wonder if I even want to know," she murmurs, mostly to herself.