That Which Is Ours

Title: That Which Is Ours
Time Period: June 21, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: The wolf is out of the pit, and decisions about commitment and allegiance become impossible to avoid.

This time is different. Unarmed, and thus uncommonly, Duncan Rowntree pays the Ross estate a visit, wearing his crisp patrol blacks, the sombre colors of responsibility. It is, after all, the demands of his duty that have him calling, though during daylight hours this time. Not eager for a repeat rebuff at the end of a shotgun, nor any more for a politically suicidal ploy, he even sent a messenger to herald time and intention; Duncan must trust that his arrival was foretold with the appropriately polite urgency.

For at two hours past the zenith, he’s at the front door, requesting audience regarding the matter of the Rowntree’s lately hired gardner. A matter, if his messenger were to be believed, of no small importance. Indeed, it can’t just be the confinement of courtesy that gives Duncan his restless, caged aspect, weight refusing to settle as it shifts from foot to foot - aspect of a man of action, held in stasis. Some greater worry hoods his brow deeper and darker, and he keeps glancing up at the faint figure of the moon, pale as a ghost against the blue summer sky.

Messages were indeed relayed, preparation made to receive the Rowentree man in proper fashion as opposed to in the dead of night with dew one everyone's feet. Met and greeted at the door by one of the many who's job it is to work the estate, he's lead through it's simple halls. It's no dusty castle and it's likely not the first time that he's been there. Fresh flower cut from the garden in vases here and there.

And the garden is where it seems that Duncan will be taken to, the large elevated stone patio that looks over the more practical side of Ross Manor as opposed to it's more impractical expanses. Potatoes, climbing beans, some corn stalks even promising to be more than a handful. All manner of vegetable.

Against a stone balustrade, Dina in her long skirts and light blouse, looking the part of some Depression Era grand dame is overlooking the garden, turning when the mouse that twitches and sits on it's haunches atop one of the large gently rounded finials worn smoother with time lets her know that someone is coming.

"Mr. Rowentree. How delighted I am you chose the front door this time." There's wrought iron table nearby, meant for two, matching chairs and drinks - both alcoholic and non - laid out, as well as finger foods. "would you be wishing to stand, or sit?"

“My lady,” Duncan says, his bow heavy with deference, the motion as clean and formal as his garb, “I will sit only if you do.” Meticulously respectful, which is perhaps him making up for a previous deficit.

“Before my mode was stealth,” Duncan says, out and out admitting it, “arrogant, on my part, to presume to enter your lands without your knowledge, let alone your consent. As I said, though- my concern was your safety, the safety of the family which is joined to my own through my sister.”

An ongoing concern, it would seem, which excuses his forthwith lapse from circumlocution.

“A man, an outlander, was taken to the clinic in the wee hours. I saw the man- looked as if a pack of wild beasts had been at him. He claimed your cousin, the gardner, wounded him, while in the guise of a wolf-creature.”

There's a gesture for him to join her against the stone wall, the mouse moving to accommodate the man. No hint of she and him are conversing. "Guise of a wolf creature" Dina's face laced with some concern, lips pressing together just a fraction even as her palm spreads out across the wall. Weight gained back, no longer the thin frail woman that had woken from her months long coma in the spring. Even if her stride still left some to be desired.

"We both know Duncan, may I call you Duncan?" Since the formalities were done with. "That the Gardener is not my cousin, though I claim him as such. Who is this outlander. Describe him to me, would you? I presume that you have gone to take his word as to the incident?"

Duncan nods, yes, she may call him by his personal name. Though it’s not clear that he’s willing to give up on his own formalities just yet. In this case, the strange dissociation of social law’s letter and spirit becomes perceptible - Duncan may follow it to the letter, yet his inability to abandon it makes him appear oddly awkward. Stiff in his articulation.

He cannot bring himself to lean against a wall, for example. Instead he stands at a remove from the stone surface, posture rigid like a soldier at attention.

“His name is Abelard Thorpe, and he speaks like an Englishman. He is not an honest man, not if I’m any judge, but a close brush with death will make the worst liars speak truth for a time. I know he took payment to track your gardener down, but I don’t know who gave him his commission. Whoever did not see fit not to mention certain details- but Thorpe found out soon enough, it seems.

“Last I had it, though, I hear your gardner had returned. Is he presently on your grounds?” The tone of his voice makes his implication clear. You may be in immediate danger.

"He has. It appears that he was taken, against his will. If he leaves the grounds, he has with him most times, someone watching over him. I am no daft woman to know that if a man arrives in shackles upon the shore, that some eye must be kept on him" Greets The Sun shuffles forward, coming to near Dina's hand, allowing her to stroke a finger along his spine then rest her palm once again.

"He surfaced once again in the city after he had escaped, battered and bruise, injured. But kidnapped none the less for a few days" Disapproving, not of Duncan, of the fact that someone had been taken from her.

"I confess to thinking that perhaps you had been behind it at one point but he disavowed me of that" Away from the stone she pushes herself gesturing to the expanse of back patio. She wants to walk. ANd she does.

"He has been docile. Respectful if begrudgingly so. He makes no mess, keeps to himself. He has not once tried to duck the watch set upon him until he had been taken. I have not made an attempt to use my magics to divine his mind and memories. What is it that you wish of me Mister Rowentree. And of my gardener slash houseguest?"

Thorpe didn’t use words like ‘kidnapped’ in his narrative, but Duncan is no daft man to believe the manhunter has some other, gentler way of securing his target. He is more than unsurprised. What does surprise him, though, is the report of docility.

“If your family vouches for him,” Duncan says, not quite hesitating, “I have no authority to seize him, not while he remains in your employ.” And certainly not for the non-crime of brutalizing and outlander in what amounts to self defense.

“Just know that if your situation changes, the militia stands ready to assist you- and would rather do so in time to avert as much unpleasantness as possible.” No more polite offer of a swift, discreet assassination was ever made.

“Thorpe spoke, also, of an expected arrival: whoever paid to see your man in chains, and paid to see him re-chained- they’re coming by sea. I will prevent them from troubling your family as far as I can, but I have no measure of these men.”

"I vouch for him. I will be speaking with him further, regarding what happened. See if I cannot divine what is coming so that we may best guard against those would would lose such… interesting cargo" Her steps are careful, measured, slow. Strength in her legs still not what they were before. But at least she doesn't have need of the cane. not today.

"I was trying to give him space in the wake of being taken. He has so far given me no reason to have turned him over to the Militia which I would have done, if I felt the need to do so. Sometimes, those who wash up on our shores are better placed in more sedate occupations than armed with gun and dagger. In this instance perhaps it is agreeable that a… man of his condition mightbe better suited not to such a task" A were-wolf.

She's about to ask if someone has perchance gone to speak to Ruth when there's someone walking towards them. One of Duncan's men, being escorted by one of her own which puts all thoughts to the shelf and a gesture for the militia head to turn and be made aware. "You are wanted it would seem?"

Duncan is also briefly nonplussed upon seeing a familiar place in an unexpected location. It occurs to him to rebuff the messenger - how dare he interrupt this meeting of worthies! But if he made it this far, he must have found it urgent, just as Duncan did before him.

“Came by mourning dove, sir,” the messenger says, handing over a piece of parchment folded in quarters, “the seal, sir.”

It’s of red wax, a circle stamped with a familiar icon. The serpent-and-stave on Thorpe’s scrap is an impoverished cousin of the winged caduceus that seals this missive. Duncan’s thumbtip touches the edge of the wax circle, but does not pry it free. Instead he offers it to Dina.

"We've been speaking of devils," he says, by way of proverbial explanation, "I believe your eyes are most fit, my lady."

There is a garden of practical vegetation, as previously designed. Potatos and beans and maybe squash.

Vegetables grow in dirt. Special dirt under ideal circumstances. Rich and dark. And pungent.

A wooden wheel's creak on the wind marks the arrival of a wheelbarrow heaped full of the stuff, smell trailing in soon after. Tall and lean and gritty with the same brown as the shit he's pushing, Flint pauses with his head stooped and his arms belted long to the handles. Catching his breath. Or so he thought.

He doesn't have to look to zero in on Duncan's voice in the temporary lull between creaks and rattles. After a pause, he executes a three point turn and starts to head back around the corner at the same deliberate pace he pushed in with.

“I presume that you recognize the seal and you mean they are the devil since I would not presume to call my guest a devil" She doesn't bother to keep up the pretense of saying cousin. Not here at least. "I already have in my employ and in yours, one who can turn into a polar bear" Dina points out. "Another who turns into a wolf would not be so strange an occurrence on our grounds. He would just have to adhere to the same rules that Jorn does. No fur in the house" Mind you, Deckard has the potential for being much more dangerous than Jorn the polar bear.

But speak of the furry. Dina spots him and with a gesture to the servant, she's sending him off in chase of Deckard. She does not wave her hand and yell his name some common street person.

The letter is taken in hand though, a glance down to see where Greets The Sun is and satisfied that the mouse is skirting around her hem, looks at the seal, touching it. "These… are the bearers of the note you brought before? The… French" Mild distaste, as she looks over to see if Deckard will be coming.

“I’ve no gripe with skinwalkers,” Duncan states, and not without evidence to back him. His militia has long cooperated with helpful individuals, regardless of their assumed shape - Dina admits as much. In the year 135 A.E. one can afford only so many prejudices, and Duncan is nothing if not parsimonious.

“The devil is the paymaster in this affair. We’ve only met minions. I presume this,” he gestures at the letter, “is from a more authoritative source.”

As of this moment, Duncan finds the prospect of outside interference much more concerning than the monthly mood swings and canid capers of the Rosses’ gardener. His words before, about being a ‘friend’, are at least circumstantially true - though true friends are never so contingent. He doesn’t beckon, though. That’d be more a deterrent than anything else.

“The sigil is the same,” Duncan says, which is not strictly true, but he needn’t burden a venerable woman such as Dina with minor details, “but grander,” he amends, then guesses, “correspondence, not commission.”

A quietly unenthusiastic conversation with the servant in pursuit ensues. Eavesdropping from afar isn't necessary — mulish resistance stiffens Flint into an awayward slant that still sees him towering over Dina's … domestic. For several seconds he even keeps one hand anchored to the wheelbarrow, committed to the dirt's dire need to be anywhere but here.

Eventually, inevitably, he's loosened and pried off like a barnacle to follow. Coming. Horse shit stench and all.

"Minions can be so tiresome" Dina sighs, watching Flint and his reluctant journey towards them. She tilts her head a fraction, imagining the man as a werewolf. "I wonder what he looks like, in his altered state. We shall have to consult Ruth to determine how best to proceed with protecting Dornie and protecting Deckard with regards to his affliction"

She's not about to toss him out on his ass and certainly not out into the Militia. "But as you can see, docile. If perhaps scruffy. I have been following Aislinn's instructions for care to his medical needs." The letter still in her hands, she looks to Duncan. "Was she the one to tell you? If so, do tell me that you have not been too harsh with her. It was I who claimed him and bid her not speak, should you come across her. She was following my own instructions" A hand laid on Duncans forearm briefly while waiting for scruffy mc scruffster to plod his way over.

Dina’s claim is disagreeable, insofar as it relieves Aislinn of responsibility. The imbalance in judgement leaves Duncan unsettled, since apology is more or less unimaginable. He suppresses the feeling. It's of no use at the moment.

"Aye," he says, and no more. The man with no memory is approaching. The letter lies in Dina's hands. Two mysteries, both which Dina might have the power to unveil but-

-does not.

"We've something here, might help jog your memory," he calls out to Deckard. Duncan can hope.

Deckard has regained some color, having spent the greater part of his time outside hauling dirt around, lately. Even so, his primary hue is an industrious shade of brown, eyes bit out blue against dirt on his face and shirt and trousers and boots.

He is suspicious of this meeting and draws up slow out of arms length, squinty and grim.

"Is it a truncheon?"

"Hardly. Only truncheon would be to the back of the head of the man who took you, but apparently, you took care of that before surfacing. I applaud you for such. Perhaps though, we might have disclosed your condition at some point before now?" Light chiding. The only chiding. "We shall have a conversation about the particulars later but Mister Rowentree here will not be hauling you off anytime soon. We have come to an agreement. I already have an individual who shifts into a polar bear. I see no harm in one who changes into a wolf"

She wedges a thumbnail under the seal of the letter, breaking it. Greets the sun is climbing her skirts, mouse claws grasping firm into fabric, distracting her a moment to reach down and pluck him up, ease him to her shoulder then back to the letter at hand. "But I would like to know the circumstances if you can remember, that have brought you to our shores. I have waited, patiently. If you have a hard time remembering, I can aide in that, if you will let me. Such is my skill. But we have impending visitors Mister Rowentree tells me and we need to know how to greet them" She tilts the seal so he can see it. "Please"

Duncan recedes into a state of observation, something he's happy to do if it will result in answers. Duncan can't make demands of Dina, and it seems Deckard couldn't deliver even if he wished to - itself doubtful. But what Dina can ask and achieve- that requires no interference from him.

He thinks, but may not say: Get on with it.

"An error on my part. I had hoped that you would volunteer the information. Are you able to fill us in now? If not, we may do so in private later and I may relay to the Rowentree's anything that is urgent or should be relayed" Slender fingers work at the letter, easing it open so that she can read it. Meant for Duncan, but passed to her, she doesn't speak the words aloud or move her lips when she reads - a mark of true education as opposed to likely newer.

The mouse on her shoulder though seems to become agitated, whiskers twitching as he makes a noise.

She blinks a little, not hearing the old mans voice in her mind at first, shaking her head a moment before concentrating on the letter once again. She's halfway through when a sharper sound from the mouse on her shoulder who stamps his feet garners her attention and she looks to him. Then to Duncan.

"The letter" She seems reluctant to pass it over, but she shifts it in her hands, holding it by fingertips as if it is distasteful unlike how she was a few moments earlier.

"Magic, of some sort" Another look to her companion. "He knows not what, but speaks of there being magic in it. On it"

Duncan's stomach feels a little hollow. This entire affair is discomfiting, rife with seemings and matters invisible to him. Uncertainty is like the plague, something that can't be fought and can't be planned for - something he avoids with equal vehemence.

But it holds him for a moment in tense hesitation. What is he to do? Should he treat it as a threat, tear it from her hands? Or would that seem mad? Is that madness part of the magic?

The whole thing gives him a headache. He leaves the letter in her hands. She, at least, has an advisor in the matter. Deckard's condition seem manageable in comparison. A man with a secret burden, a savage side - a problem with a well-known silver solution. Simple by comparison.

"You plan to make Dornie your home then, man?" Duncan asks Deckard, out and out. "A mother of this city is offering you a home, at her own risk. You can repay that with your fealty, can't you?"

Call it what she will, nobody asked Deckard if he was a werewolf and he didn't mention it to anybody. He does not seem at all interested in a Q&A by extension, acknowledging her curiosity with a sideways look and a long breath and no answer. The letter is easier to eye. Mainly on account've it lacking eyes of its own.

Restless tension in the small of his back leans him closer to Duncan with half a step, on the barest edge of deliberately pressing his luck. Dina's voice stops him short of needling. He's just kind of there. A little too close when he hesitates over the paper and turns his head from Ross to Rowntree. These are people who make decisions. He's just here. Bystanding.

A little worried that the paper Dina's holding is about to turn into a big snake or something.

"…Sure."

Duncan confirms fealthy, Dina is looking at the letter. Watching the color of the ink turn from red to the muddy brown that blood does when it dries. Listens to Greets The Sun as he speaks. "It's gone. Whatever afflicted this letter for good or ill is gone" Offering it up to Duncan to read, looking to Deckard now.

"They are coming. Whomever they are. But they will be here within the week and have given us notice out of respect" Which even Duncan knows is just a shot across the bow in truth, of warning. We are coming, we don't care if you don't like it.

Dina looks very unhappy. "This does not bode well. But you have chosen to stay here and so you are one of ours and as Mister Rowentree will attest, we protect that which is ours"

So Duncan is attesting to things now? Good of Dina to let him know.

It's hard to be sure just how to take Deckard's monosyllabic reply. It's affirmative, certainly, and if it were delivered with any more vigor or enthusiasm, Duncan would suspect the man of dissimulation or mockery. Is he to take lackluster deliver for honest feeling, then?

But concession will do, as will threat from outside. Also, Duncan did take note of just how badly wounded the Englishman was back at the clinic; Deckard did damage. "If it comes to blows, would you strike back at those who had you in chains?" It's worth asking.

That which is theirs narrows his eyes a touch at repeated use of the possessive, tension furrowed in over his brow terse to the tips of his ears. Far from the point of this conversation.

AND YET.

Uncomfortable in his boots, Deckard rolls one ankle aside against stiffened leather and filters a long breath out through his nose, dust scuffed from an itch at the side of his head. He takes a step back. "Wouldn't you?"