Terre Ferme

Title: Terre Ferme
Time Period: June 27, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: When two ships dock in Dornie, the returning party is not the expected one.

Surely there are some fine days upon the Loch. Days when the water is still like a mirror save for the gentlest rippling of the surface by the breeze above or a beast beneath. Days when the often perilous slope of the land to the water’s edge appears like the geography of some serene dream realm.

Not today. It is an ugly Scottish morning, pale and cold, pissing rain from sulking, sluggish clouds, too petulant to spend themselves in proper rancor and storm off. The water grows restless and choppy, buffeting the hulls of the ships that catch the strong wind - sole boon of these conditions - and pull in to the docks of Dornie. Their sails weep rain and runoff as the sailors work to furl them, the slowing vessels drawing up to the piers, ropes hurled over, caught - fastened.

Though not just like that. The docks are well prepared for their arrival, but the preparations have not prioritized haste. Caution and command, instead, seem the orders of the day - the armed presence is conspicuous, and while the docks do not quite bristle with guns, nowhere arms a welcome party quite like Dornie. And Duncan Rowntree’s presence is but one of the signs that this coming was heralded, and that the tidings weren’t taken to be good.

Lucien’s ship is, of course, the first to be tended, and the first to arrive at the docks. The foreign guest Octavia is up on its deck, heedless of rain and wind, the moment the ship slows. She assesses the quality of the hospitality and, rain-soaked brows furling, gives a worried glance back at Lucien’s escortee.

Indeed, the moment the green ship has drawn up to the parallel pier and dock workers begin to secure it, squads of militiamen move briskly into place, securing lines of fire on the foreign vessel. When the gangplank lowers, however, the first people off the ship aren’t foreigners or, at least, they aren’t unknown.

A gangplank and a stretcher isn't the easiest thing to maneuver, and Beisdean's shoulder is rather injured, but he was fairly insistent on being one of Luna's attendants. He takes the lead heading down the narrow stretch of board, Jorn handling the rear, and his eyes squint despite the cloudy sky to those ahead on the docks. "Welcome to you too, Dornie," he mutters under his breath, clearly none too happy to be back on Scottish ground (well, he will be in a few moments, anyway) so soon. Or at all. He had, after all, left weeks ago in hopes of never coming back.

He looks worse for wear, pale with dark circles beneath his eyes, and distinctly thinner than he had been when he'd left, which shows in the bagginess of his grimy clothing; his wrists, where his arms are outstretched to hold the stretcher, are raw and livid with welts and scabs.

Some things never change. As the hours wear on, Luna has just been getting more and more difficult from lack of sleep. She'd burst into tears after seeing her reflection in a bit of glass, she'd gone into a fit when she was unable to braid her own hair, she'd run some poor woman from her room when the braids didn't cover the nastiness of her wounds, then she began screaming at her companions when the stretcher had been presented. Some might consider it an average day for her, she's feeling a bit under the weather. Just a bit.

It had taken every tactic that Eduard Hossfeld knew when it came to negotiating her onto the stretcher. At first Luna was insistent that she crawl down the plank of her own accord, just to prove that she could. One step off the bed proved her wrong. Too long off her legs has made her unworthy for the sea. And so her eyes are closed, in a feigned sleep, as the rocking of the boat and stretcher and the bounce of the plank threaten to make her lose what little she was able to eat and drink. Bad arm cradled to her chest, she grips the swollen wrist so tightly her fingernails threaten to pierce skin.

"Hva en velkommen…" The sound from behind comes not far after Beisdean's own complaint, and from the sound of it, Jorn is thinking precisely the same thing. With the sky dripping as it does, it plasters his brown hair back, and the bristle of ivory fur spikes as if the pelt had come from the water and shaken itself off. He is possibly the only reason Luna isn't terribly soaked- he looks to have taken most of it himself. Human umbrella just as good, right? He has been as compliant with Luna as he can stand to be- he promised that she could sleep once they had her seen. One last trial, Luna. Honest.

"It's been too long since someone pointed a Rowntree rifle at me, I think…" His greeting is nonstandard, and it carries ahead down onto the docks, a punctuation for his presence.

Lucien ghosts up next to Octavia, and for someone who takes such great pains with his appearance, he merely squints against the rain, hair too close cropped on his skull and face for it to be of any particular bother, and his clothes are often wet. "You'll see those two men, just there," he says, unabashedly pointing. "They are to receive you. The employers of my servitude," is more than a touch wry. His own men are moving by them in routine, some lagging behind to see to the ship, others headed for land to either stand with the greeting party or disappear into the town. "Shall I take you to meet them?"

Two men, because Edmund Rowntree stands beside his brother, arms folded and body almost shrouded in a kelpie-skinned cloak that does much to keep the rain away. He's watching those disembark from the green ship. There's a glance and a squint towards where docksmaster happens to be hosting a stranger aboard the familiar vessel, then towards where the injured woman and familiar militia man are appearing on the docks. It doesn't take a specific orders from either Rowntree for others to come and receive them.

There are several things that make Dornie home to Eduard Hossfeld. Chief among them, however, are the presence of farmland, a bed, and most importantly of all, nothing is floating on the ocean or buried underground. His comrades and arms can train weapons on him as he makes his exit from the green ship after Beisdean all they like: He's happy to see them all the same. Similarly, he'll actually be able to be somewhere that isn't close to Luna Owens. It isn't that he doesn't like her, not at all: He's simply not sure how much longer he'll be able to keep himself from strangling her. Really.

"Meine freunde! Hallo hallo! Wir brauchen bier! Bring uns bier!" he shouts, not bothering to keep his voice low at all as Beisdean did, and throwing his arms in the air. Whether he's just trying to lighten the obvious tension in the air is not made clear in any way. Perhaps he is just being himelf? But all the same, he is quick to move alongside Jorn as soon as there is space to do so. "We have much to report," is the German's half-whispered statement, "Shall I see to it while you have her, or would you prefer to report yourself?"

For all that Algernon has been reclusive, his presence in Dornie is and has been steady in its austere way. He is consistent, in the run of water off the edge of his hat and the end of his nose and the jut of his jaw. Grim as the day Lucien's company departed.

Somewhat grimmer than the day Luna's party set sail.

A measure is taken of Octavia's post from afar, sidelong and reserved. Eventually, a measure is taken of her native ship. Also sidelong and reserved.

He hasn't drawn his pistol and makes no move to when the gangplank touches down, the heel of his hand rested comfortably across the grip. Lazy. Arrogant. Unimpressed.

Surely they don't intend to keep it, Forge ventures against the grain of irritation, at length. Referring, of course — to the new boat.

Rather than answer, Fogg chooses to acknowledge the pack of shabbily familiar figures picking their way down the plank instead. With a puff at his lapel and a resigned exhale after it. Denied an I told you so, on technicality.

Octavia gives the brothers Rowntree the same narrow-eyed measuring she granted Cold-Front during their first encounter. Whether this is a compliment or insult to any or all may not matter - it could be that she herself is indiscriminate. When he shakes her head it is an answer, not a judgement. "I will rejoin my people," is her decision. Octavia is disinterested in the local color, it would seem. Even if they do happen to employ a fancy captain.

For what it's worth, Duncan doesn't make anything at all of Octavia. Unlike Edmund, he doesn't even see her. The green ship is what concerns him, a gaudy little unknown bobbing in his loch. And when that unknown divulges the utterly familiar, the experience - for Duncan - is profoundly uncanny. He gives his brother a look, a clear tacit message. He's going down to them- his people. His daughter. His woman.

Discipline alone keeps him from more than a jog, and discipline fails in the last ten yards. "Weapons down! Down I said!" is barked as he runs up to the ragged little party that's finally come home. "What's happened-?" the question is put to Hossfeld- he whom Duncan has most formal authority over. Someone who has to answer him.

Octavia chooses an excellent time to shoulder her way around the docks towards her own home vessel - Duncan's order prevents her from being shot at, for purposes of warning or otherwise. She lifts a hand to hail Septimus, who appears at the top of the gangplank. The more ingratiating of the two delegates has a ginger furred monkey one one shoulder and a languid looking lizard on the other.

A gull that was sitting up on one of the masts comes swooping down, landing on Beisdean's shoulder and becoming once more the familiar marten that's usually seen with the mage. At the end of the plank, he awkwardly shifts his grip on the stretcher's handles, eyes tensing in a way that belies the pain he's in as one shoulder rolls slowly, flexing the sore joint as much as he can.

After a few glances at the brothers Rowntree, he glances back at Jorn with one eyebrow cocked as if to ask, 'do we put her down yet?'

If she thought it could have saved her this moment, Constance Rowntree might have stayed in Liverpool to brave other beasts instead of going home. No giant bat could ever dredge up the amount of terror that her father can. Originally, she had taken a place behind Septimus in the parade, but seeing her father running toward the party and then stopping at Hossfeld first, she chose to slip past the mage. With a delicate step, she slinks down the plank, spear in hand, trying not to garner any attention. Once on the ground, she takes cover behind the giant norseman before attempting to slip off into the crowd.

Sometimes, one can be thankful for the horrid things in life. It's not Jorn keeping Luna awake this time, it's the nausea. Salted fish and water wasn't a good choice, she should have gone hungry and just waited for real food. Her eyes open just enough to give Duncan a lazy look, then open a little wider. "You were right," she says as she struggles on the stretcher, trying to either sit or get more comfortable. Possibly even roll off. "I did it, but I feel like death." Greying skin and gaunt features make her look it too.

"Can you tell them I'm perfectly capable of walking?" She speaks up a little louder, for the rest of her companion's benefit and maybe even Septimus' if he can hear her through the rain. "I've still got my legs, it's my arm that's been bit."

"See to it. It may be best as soon as possible. You can explain how we ended up on this bauble." Jorn's answer comes with a faintly exasperated laugh, as he looks aside to the German. "We definitely could use a beer, you're right…" His moment of being a buddy is cut short when Duncan finally reaches them. He then gives Hossfeld a jerk of his chin. Go on, then.

Meanwhile, Beisdean gets an answer when a few of the Rowntree men get there to help see to the stretcher, though Jorn does not let it go when they come; and, just perhaps, Jorn chooses not to address the girl sneaking about behind him, instead allowing her attempts at stealth to win. This time. She will have to face it sooner, rather than later.

"The less you have to walk, the better-" Luna's sitting up was managed only because there are others there to make sure she didn't actually roll off. "You've still got your attitude, too." Just saying. It may be the restlessness talking with Jorn's mouth.

Lucien watches Octavia go, before deciding he might not be able to just hang out on his ship, for all that the most that came out of his intercepting was a bit of intimidation. Oh, well. He moves to join the cool kids, more or less intent to hang back and listen than he is to engage.

It's not as though Edmund need give Duncan permission; the nod his younger brother gets is one of understanding, for all that he gets a bit blank in the eye whenever mention of this latest romance gets piped up in his space. The elder of the two hangs back a moment longer to decide where he might best be needed, before headed for the gangplank that links the stranger ship to his home territory towards where the man and his animals will be coming down.

It's sort of out of curiousity that, once Septimus comes closer, he extends a hand in greeting, even if said hand has dirt in crescent moons beneath his nails, but his palm is clean with rain water.

Jorn receives a nod, and Hossfeld departs the company of his fellow travelers. It's easy enough to determine where he should go next: Duncan Rowntree is making that much obvious just by moving, and then asking- or demanding- a synopsis of the current situation. "Kommandant, I'm not sure where to begin." It's a simple enough way to start. "We departed under good weather, encountered and killed a serpent in rough seas, discovered more among the crew than anticipated, including der geist-sprecher und Fraulein Rowntree, faced down vicious hunde, some of us were, detained for a time." The German pauses just long enough to take another breath. "We searched the underground, ran from the largest, angriest, foulest-smelling lizard I've ever seen, were assaulted by an enormous bat, during which Frau Owens received a terrible bite and nearly died before we returned to the sea." Another breath. "There, we found this very, very green ship and made acquaintances with her crew, obtained medical assistance for Frau Owens, and returned under poor weather with everything we could carry with us from Liverpool."

A beat.

"In short, everything went better than expected. Herr Kommandant, sir."

With Duncan already otherwise engaged and one familiar-toting foreigner having festered into two, Algernon elects to shadow Edmund in his progress for the unknown they represent. At an unobtrusive distance, he is a black hat and grey coat that press deliberately through more animate pairs of shoulders and occupied hands.

Sections of Hossfield's report can't help but be overheard in the crosstalk, pushing his brows into an incredulous peak somewhere around mention of enormous bats.

Constance Rowntree is not about to get away that easily. There is a great deal that Duncan must process in a very short time, a vast situational derailing that has left him on what is for him less than steady footing. But there is no chance in hell his daughter is slipping off. His order is less than terse, and however daring she may think herself, she's still too small to escape the 'escort' she's assigned to get her safely back to the castle, where she may be staying for quite some time, if Duncan's present sentiment remains unchanged.

Hossfeld's tale falls upon ears which offer it up to a mind that is at first not quite sure what to make of it. Disaster and misfortune and trial and travail, and- "Get Lady Owens to my sister-in-law at once," is the sine qua non at the moment, though in it's wake he has to consider- did he hear Hossfeld right? That these people gave his people aid? Perhaps it is only his disappointed prejudice speaking, but to Duncan this seems like good fortune almost beyond crediting- save that it is so.

Of course, Duncan is not expecting the current stretcher-bearers to carry out his orders. Militia-men who've had easier weeks move forward to relieve the Liverpool party of their burden.

Meanwhile the horselord offers one of the mage a hand in friendship - a rather more generous gesture. And indeed, Septimus looks thrilled by Edmund's manners, his smile wide and bright as he takes the horselord's hand. It's no coincidence, however, that his expression falters moments after Octavia joins him and reclaims her reptilian familiar. A quick game of psychic telephone lets Septimus know that this is not just one the locals, displaying that famous Dornie warmth. This is someone important.

He withdraws as quickly as manners allow, and moves back, turning towards the ship with a nervous quickness. A pause, a glance around, and then he lifts his hands to his mouth, projecting his voice: "Rien a signaler!"

A few moments later a large armored figure appears at the top of the gangplank. It does not descend, however, which would anyways seems a perilous proposition. Instead it sets a heavy greave on the gangplank, making it fast for the woman who steps into view. A young woman in a grey dress, with red hair pulled up in a regrettably practical ponytail. She is quite pale and, judging by the great care she takes picking her way down to the door, she may have only recently lost a green tinge. Once she has footing, she sets a hand to her chest, pausing a moment. "Terre ferme-" she sighs, relief audible, "Dieux merci!'

She moves up to the confluence of Dornians, stopping by Luna. She stoops, reaching to press something into Luna's hand. Her coin. It feels very cool to the touch. Low, she murmurs to Luna. "Merci beaucoup- now you help me, oui?"

When she rises, she looks to Duncan - the man most obviously affected by Luna's plight. He looks back woodenly. This might go on, but for Septimus' intervention. With proper respect if not quite Octavia's grativas he says:"Nos Magus Quintus," - by way of introduction - "Isabelle d'Sadonne."

"Enchantee," d'Sadonne says, smiling warmly if against just a little tightness, "you will forgive me if I am blunt- Days at sea, malade comme un chien. I do not wish to tarry in the rain." Her voice is clearly accented, and her English is spoken well but with a contrasting distinctness that suggests care.

The situation leaves Duncan is nonplussed, but the tension in his shoulders suggest a building if unexpressed agitation. At what? Saints… take your pick. And so however much Duncan intended to handle the finer points of this encounter, he finds himself looking to Edmund for help. Duncan is not known for his tolerance of some kinds female presumption; Edmund has a better record with that sort of thing.

Of course, once the order is given, Constance doesn't argue it. A scowl toward the rest of the party is given, possibly for not speaking up on her behalf, before she turns her back and trudges off. She's in no hurry, thus she doesn't allow Duncan's men to speed her step any.

Coin finally in hand, Luna seems to breathe a bit easier. Clenching it into her palm, she holds it against her chest and rests back on the cot. "Thank you," she says, her lips straightening in a flat line that's not quite a smile, more of an attempt. Her eyes flit to Septimus and then Octavia before finding Duncan's. "I will, anything I can." It's a weak promise, considering the amount of influence the blonde has. Apparently the first request has already been made, out of the rain.

Taking a breath, she glances in the direction of the Albatross and then back at the militia man. "I think there's something warm at ma's, there usually is. You could go there to chat a bit, aye?"

Jorn allows himself to be relieved, and boy, it does come as a relief. He will get his trinket from Aislinn once Luna has been- ah- processed. She knows the sight of it. Once the stretcher is gone, he gives Luna short, reassuring nod, massaging his own palms against the pitter-patter of rain. His gaze turns as Septimus and Edmund meet, and the former signals something to the ship. The ensuing event puts an intense, watchful look upon Jorn's face; there are some things that he was not able to figure out, and it is clear that he has never seen this rescuer before now.

Jorn scans the crowd, curtly, before spotting a few pressing faces to address once this is waning; he steps off to the side, near Hossfeld, making sure that he gives enough space, yet stays present and prepared. The nord watches the woman with a weary set of pale blue eyes, water slipping in a line down the bridge of his nose.

If the gesture is a missed mark, Edmund doesn't seem to mind; he watches the interaction carefully even if he doesn't really understand it, before watching where the focus turns towards this new woman coming down to meet and greet. The elder Rowntree is almost casually armed, beneath the folds of his coat, hands remaining empty and expression relatively harmless if ever hard. He flicks a glance to Duncan when he is glanced back at, tucking in his whiskery chin.

"This is Duncan," he says, and for all that it might be explained that they're important, he speaks casually, not really bothering to even out his own accent. "I'm Edmund. Rowntree. We'll see you to our castle for a bit and talk there, and we'll figure better accommodations if you don't fancy it, when it's not pissing down."

A beat, and then because it seems like a good idea; "Welcome to Dornie. Do you ride?"

To his sister-in-law's at once. And then, he's gone, and Hossfeld takes that to mean that he is dismissed. And whether or not that particular command was directed at him, the vulture heads off to where, at least, the other militiamen have been directed. As far as the situation unfolding at the docks is concerned, his help is not needed. And help offered when help is not needed, is often no help at all. Or, something like that. He'll think more clearly after some beer and a nap on a bed that isn't floating on the water.

Jorn appears to be as intact as Luna is not; Algernon marks him with an up and down look from afar, comfortable enough where he stands in the damp hang of his coat. A silent fist-bump-from-afar, congratulations on surviving the utter insanity of a voyage helmed by a drug-addled whore with delusions of grandeur sort of look.

Moments later, 'Isabelle' addresses Duncan. Shadowing the elder Rowntree's introduction as he is, the three or four meters of slack between them isn't quite enough for the weather to diffuse lines drawn in tight around his eyes when he turns his face to stifle a pull at the corner of his mouth.

This ill pleases Duncan, to let unknown mages from unknown places with vaguely stated intentions right through their doors. But denial has quickly become untenable - to show rank ingratitude, to countermand his older brother, this is unthinkable in front of all these men.

Duncan regards Luna briefly in her current state. Weak. And a weakness. 'Weapons down'. He sets a hand on hers. He leans down to kiss her beleaguered brow. "Nay," he says, "Edmund'll see to that. I'll with you."

Standing straight again. "See this thing is secure," Duncan orders, gesturing at the green ship - which is really him saying 'watch this damn thing'. He shoots a look at Lucien. One that says later in an uncompromising tone.

He doesn't deign to welcome their guests.

Duncan's ill mood does not perturb the visitors, however. It’s true that Septimus doesn't look entirely at ease, but his attention is not on either of the Rowntrees. In fact, he seems to be trying to spy someone from the corner of his eye: the angle makes Algernon a probable candidate. And Octavia shows an unprecedented social initiative, albeit near the margins. She settles herself at a conversational distance and addresses Jorn with a very level gaze. "You know where good drink is," is not a question.

Meanwhile d'Sadonne laughs at Edmund's query- really laughs. Edmund is evidently très drôle. "Do I look like a pauper?" is just her answering in the same high spirit.

Such fast friends.