Witch Hunt, Part II

Title: Witch Hunt, Part II
Time Period: May, 127 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Edmund's fears are realized.

There's a rain coming merciless, lashing at the Wandering Albatross' outsides and somehow smelling of the ocean when it does. One would imagine that this might dissuade people from attending the bar at all, but on the contrary, working men and women gather inside the warmth of the building to wait out the worst of it, if possible, and so the low tables and corners are relatively crowded, without making it difficult to move or hear yourself think. It's familiar, too, to Edmund, from the scratches on the long-abused floor, the mounted Red hunching above the bar with black glass where its eyes used to be and gathering dust, to the configuration of tables and the way the one by the hearth leans even with the wedge of wood trapped beneath a leg.

Stepping inside and pushing back the hood of his coat, relatively dry despite the rain, Edmund winds his way into the tavern, scrubbing his face over with the palm of a hand to rid it from the chill, his knuckles and nose pink and the rest of him still softly pale from behind inside more than usual. The ghost of injury lingers on him, but he is not sick, and that's the main thing, the important thing. He undoes the metal hooks that bind his coat closed, although doesn't set about taking it off, even with the heat of the roaring hearth towards the back of the pub and the press of warm bodies around him, and approaches the bar.

There are no seats left, but Edmund could undoubtedly persuade someone to give theirs up to him if he let them get a good look at his face. Right now, he's just another set of broad shoulders and long limbs dripping rainwater, and not even Isibeal moves to greet him, maybe because she doesn't see him, or maybe because her hands are full — either way, there promises to be a wait for his drink regardless of who he is.

Some things just can't be helped.

At the end of the bar, equally oblivious to his presence in the tavern, are two shaggy heads that Edmund is able to recognize without looking directly down at them, which is the angle he last addressed them from. The pair of soldiers he caught under his study window have a good third of their ale left, some of it trapped between the coarse hairs of their mustaches and beards and gleaming wet on their upper lips.

Tonight they don't seem to have anything worthwhile to say to one another. Both their expressions are dark, somber, but not without the occasional flash of grim amusement at something overheard.

Using the width of his own shoulders, sore as one may be, as well as his height, Edmund is able to approach the tall bar, at least, even if it means foregoing a seat. He'll stand and wait, and he'll do it where he can be seen, at least, hands at the edge of the counter, fingernails gone slightly blue from the chill outside. Feeling is returning, at least.

Inevitably, he sees the two gentlemen he'd talked a bigger game to than his health had allowed for, but proximity permitted. Those two things are at an equilibrium, now, but Edmund's main priority is getting a draw of dark brew and finding a warm corner to lurk in, or a group to break into and talk of recent news, the state of the fishing and out-of-town rumours and in-town gossip. His hard, ocean-toned gaze breaks from them to try and seek Isibeal's eye contact.

Somewhere on the other side of the tavern a pint glass drops, showering the floor with pieces of broken glass, and Isibeal is sweeping off to investigate with or without a broom. One of the soldiers glances in her direction as she disappears into the crush of people, and as he's turning back to his companion his eyes hook on Edmund. Tension shoots arrow-quick up is spine, straightening his back, and he uses his own glass to nudge at the other soldier in order to draw his attention to where he's looking.

His companion's reaction is much the same, except that it goes to an extreme. He rises sharply from his seat, almost tipping his stool over in the process, and has to be pulled back down again. The first soldier's hand grasps firmly at his arm just below the elbow.

His mouth moves around a lowly-spoken word that might be, "Slow," because that is the speed that he encourages them both to stand in unison, but rather than approach Edmund, he turns away from him and, at a brisk walk, leads the other toward the same door that Edmund came in.

It's a shifting kind of dynamic, and Edmund is predatory enough to sense it when distraction in the form of the barmaid is taken from him, and there's that clatter of someone getting up swift from where he'd previously been staring. His blunt nails scratch beneath his chin as he observes blurred periphery, only to duck his head and peer passed his shoulder at their trailing on out the tavern. He can imagine, maybe, what Aislinn would tell him right now — but this thought alone is enough for him to push off from the bar.

He follows in kind.

One of the advantages to there being a tavern on the waterfront is that the sailors don't have very far to go. On a still night, you can see the reflection of the gray sky and clouds in the loch's surface, but on a night like tonight, the waters are churning too violently to be anything but inky black. Waves slosh against the piers on the other side of the road outside the tavern, and beneath the roar of the wind and rain crashing in Edmund's ears, he can hear the bang and chime of buoy bells.

Residual light leaking from the closed windows of nearby buildings and dim street lamps wash the waterfront in a sallow glow, allowing Edmund to trail the pair down the road and follow the gleaming pavement all the way to their destination, which is a small fishing boat tied to the docks. The larger vessels in the harbour are like rocks and appear to rise up out of the water rather than float on it. This one rocks and rolls, jolted about by the waves.

No one in their right mind would go out onto the loch in this weather, and yet that is exactly what the boat's captain is prepared to be doing. He appears at the mouth of the boat's cabin as the soldiers arrive at the end of the dock, a gas lantern hanging heavy from one balled fist.

"If we're gonna do this," one of the soldiers shouts down at him, "then we need to do it now."

The hood of his weather coat goes up, protecting Edmund from both the rain and being noticed beyond a passing glance, by the time he is a few feet out the pub.

They don't seem to notice his ghosting along behind them, but then, they didn't seem to think their attempts at slow was conspicuous either. Edmund keeps up at his own pace, hanging back enough that he keeps them in his sights without gaining. By the time they're arriving fit to stop, Edmund is sinking into the weirder shapes and shadows of the dock. He is armed, because he is always armed, but blunt force isn't his preoccupation tonight so much as it is getting closer and quietly.

Rushing feathers breeze over Edmund's head and swoop low over the docks — it's a gannet, swan-white with wings brushed in smoky charcoal and dilute blue eyes surrounded by bare black skin, and it lands on the post to which the fishing boat is tied. Seabirds are common sight in Dornie, even behemoths like this one, and neither the vessel's captain nor the soldiers on the docks do anything to try to frighten it off, even when it mantles its two meter long wings and trumpets out a low, bleating call.

It might be crying out to its mate.

It might be crying out to Edmund.

"What's your hurry?" the captain asks. The soldiers, not the bird. "I already told you: I won't take her out 'til it lets up."

"Marcus' boy is at the tavern."

"Well, which one?"

Edmund's head jerks up at the fleeting sight of white soaring through the air, squinting against the rain and mouth opening in quiet snarl grimace. There is a distinctive quality to the creature that puts ice in his veins even without the help of rain, or the words carried on the wind. A familiar never strays very far from its companion, at least not in Aislinn's case. Rain thrums against his hood even as he pushes a hand beneath the coat and lifts the weight of the long-barreled pistol out of the leather gear within. He's warm, abruptly, all over.

He's a tall figure, which lends some recognition where his weather coat steals it away again. That he is armed is probably telling enough. He knows at least two… maybe three family members who would maybe be doing something different to what he is doing now, something slightly more calculated than what is the tactical equivalent of a hammer through a window.

He hardly need say this one.

The boat's captain, who is not armed, takes this opportunity to duck back inside the cabin and swings his lantern with him. No longer kept at bay, the darkness spills back into the space between Edmund and the soldiers, the shadows like a swarm of flies converging on a ripe carcass. He can still see their outlines and the rain shining on their faces thanks to the cabin's windows and the glare of the street lamps reflected on the wet stones along the loch's shore. Their eyes are large, but if there's fear in them then it's lost with all the rain they're blinking away.

If Edmund was anyone else, they might shoot him. Or they might shoot him anyway. One of the soldiers snaps his own pistol from its holster and brings it up, pointing it at what he imagines is the region of Edmund's chest that contains his heart. His finger jumps around the trigger, and it turns out he isn't a very good shot — the bullet zings past Edmund and punches into something wooden at his back, but the pier is too damp to splinter. It explodes into pulp instead.

In retaliation, Edmund's own pistol comes up, snapping thunder and a bullet sinking into the shoulder of the one who had fired. He probably won't ever move that arm the same way again, but Edmund would have been content with murder too. Hard to say what he was aiming for.

He levels the gun towards the second in sharp warning, not deigning to pull the trigger, but keeping him square in his sights as he stalks over. "Redeem y'self," he invites, suggests, demands, other hand whipping out passed his own aim to grab a fistful of coat, the muzzle of the gun prodding bruise-hard into the second soldier's stomach. Dornie is a small town, and Edmund knows their faces well — right now, he doesn't know them at all, and for all that is anger is not known to have driven him to murder anyone in cold blood, his anger is known.

The soldier with the bullet lodged in his muscle goes down hard on one knee, his gun arm sagging as his opposite hand gropes at the wound through his clothes. He's probably never been shot before — there aren't many people, after all, who have and are still alive to remember. Clenched teeth stifle the sound of his scream.

"Hhhgh," grunts his companion, which is not the most articulate thing he could say, but he's also not feeling very articulate at the moment. What he is feeling is the press of Edmund's pistol against his gut, and that makes him reach out to grab the other man by the shoulders, anchoring himself. "Don't—"

Inside the cabin, the captain has decided that this isn't going to end well unless someone other than Edmund takes decisive action. The lantern is suddenly sitting alone in the window, and the next instant the captain is barging out onto the deck of the boat with a loose, limp bundle wrapped in cheap canvas and draped loose over his shoulder. Pale calves and small, pointed feet left bare hang out the bottom, and although they're a long way from wherever it is they planned on dumping her, distracting Edmund at this point is more important than drowning his wife.

He tips the bundle overboard and it hits the water with a wet slap.

As tempting as it is to pull the trigger and let the bullet carve a tunnel through soft guts and bowels—

Edmund shoves the man aside and moves for the boat, his long legs carrying him far but not quick enough. He's climbing the edge of the vessel by the time the bundle is being shoved over the side. Fully aware that once he comes up again, he might be in for a world of different trouble, his gun is shoved into leather pocket of a coat that will already weigh him down, before he goes feet first into the inky water without a glance for the boatman. His hands are out to grab fistfuls of canvas, long legs awkwardly working to propel himself and Aislinn for the shore just in reach.

Being in the water hinders Edmund's efforts as much as it helps — it combats the effects of gravity, but the temperature of the loch freezes him straight through to his bones, making it more difficult to move than it is on land. When he resurfaces with Aislinn's body in his arms, he can make out the familiar features of her face through the canvas plastered to it, her mouth open, though it isn't gasping for air and no noise rattles up from her chest. The only thing that points to the possibility she might still be alive is the presence of her familiar winging down to the shore to meet him as he's slogging up onto it.

Hush lands a few feet away, folds his wings, and twists an anxious look back over his shoulder to where the boat is pulling away from the pier. Its engine gives a low, mechanical whine.

Gravity is fast to weigh him down by the time the water of the loch is hip-height. He both carries and drags Aislinn, arms lashed around her torso and waist, awkwardly dragging her to the shore-line like an overly ambitious predator with its too-large kill. The needling cold has him moving sluggish, shuddering beneath his coat and fingers numb but still compulsively gripping the canvas she's tangled in.

On the slick rocks and gritty sand, Edmund takes a knee, laying Aislinn out on her back. A knife from water logged boot is extracted, his shaking hands working as steadily as they can to slice away the wet canvas, only flashing a wild, blue eyed stare up to his surroundings when the fabric is peeled back from her face at the knife clear away from it.

Aislinn's face is as white as the material she'd been wrapped in, lips gone gray and eyelids like tissue paper brushed with fine lashes. Too shallow to be heard, her breath has to be felt instead, either by holding the back of a hand to her nose or mouth, or by laying a palm across her sternum and pressing against the slight rise and fall of her chest. There is no blood on either her exposed skin or the inside of the sheet, no bruising on her skin or raw marks around wrist or ankle to indicate that she was at any point tied.

The shirt clinging to her stomach and thighs is the one she wears when she sleeps beside him at night, and although she looks like she could be sleeping now, it's wrong and almost lewd for it to be pasted to her skin the way that it is. There is no way they could have taken her straight from his bed without drugging her first.

It would at least explain why she isn't rousing.

His hands steady her head, ear lowered just above her mouth so as to listen to the draw in and out of unhindered air, a palm checking high on her torso for the same indication a moment later. Thumbs gently brush back lax eyelids, but there's not enough light to make heads or tales of her pupils — that said, Edmund can reach the inevitable conclusion, sitting back on his knees and sending a final look out towards where the boat makes its escape. He's breathing hard with rage that hasn't really found a suitable release, remotely, breaths dragging harsh through his lungs and expelling thick clouds of steam through nose and mouth both.

He scrubs numb hands over cold face. He only need get to town to get help, for all that he'd like them back at the stables, now. Taking one of her arms, he pulls it around his shoulders where he knows it will only flop again, but it helps him move her to get arms beneath her, her back and her knees.

Rage finds a suitable outlet, at least, spending itself as the strength that got knocked out of him from the cold.

Home is the safest place in Dornie— except when it isn't, but lacking the ability to tell the difference between friend and foe where Aislinn is concerned, the castle is the best place for them to be. While Edmund might not be able to trust any of his brother's soldiers right now, he can always trust his brother, and the likelihood of another attempt on her life is slim with the clan on alert.

Hours pass.

Inside, warmed by a room with a hearth, furs, and wool blankets, Aislinn is in no danger of succumbing to hypothermia. Neither is Edmund for that matter. Although rain still slaps down hard against the windows, it's on the other side, and the fire has long since sapped the moisture from his clothes regardless of whether he changed out of them. Some of the colour has already returned to Aislinn's face and lips, and although her skin is still colder to the touch than it should be, that's not completely unexpected based on the sort of knowledge she's shared with him in the past.

Hush lies on the bed, his muzzle resting on Aislinn's belly. He's chosen the form of an arctic fox, dark brown fur shot through with silver to reflect the changing seasons. He's not said anything to Edmund about her condition, but that's because he can't — there's quiet yearning in the familiar's bright gold eyes, a desire to communicate his thoughts and feelings despite magic's unwritten rules.

It's a wonder she didn't wake to the sound of men bickering.

When Edmund bickers, it's loud and guttural and base. Duncan is, by now, more than used to fielding in, but its lashing is never merciful. Sometimes, it will take Helen's talons in his arms to get him to quiet down, but the two brothers were left alone in the corridor before Duncan worked out he could simply walk away, and Edmund would not stray far from the room that Aislinn slept in. He managed not to slam the door by the time he moved back inside.

He sits at the end of her bed now, too wired to sleep or rest with her as she had for him. There isn't a wild and dangerous and desperate beast to blame, this time, but two men. Just men. He has her drawing book in his hands, held open loosely, leafed through, and every now and then, he glances to the arctic fox as if for sign of something. At least he's a little used to reading animals.

The last time Aislinn went to the market, she bought a small ceramic container filled with special dust that Edmund has seen her apply to her work with a brush made of horsehair to keep the charcoal from smudging. Her sketches are safe from his hands and the oil in the skin of his fingers as he turns the pages she so lovingly compared to sailcloth. Not every drawing earns its own sheet of paper; most of her studies share pages to conserve space, and a good number of them are of animals, including practice in anatomy using Edmund's horses for her subjects and the badger Colm discovered digging a set beneath the stables.

There are landmarks, too. Eilean Donan under the cover of dark, smoky clouds at dawn when the morning sunlight starts to bleed through and slants against the side of the castle, creating strange shadows that will melt away before midday. Monoliths rising out of the loch. A lighthouse, shrouded in mist with flecks of black: distant seabirds.

Hush's ears press flat against his skull's curve and he reaches out to Edmund in the form of a plaintive whine.

Aislinn might be embarrassed if she knew he was looking through her book. The last few pages are different than all the ones that came before them because their subject is human, and one that Edmund knows very well even though the first few drawings have him turned away at an angle. Years of hard labour form broad shoulders and the curve of a well-muscled back, large, rough hands and legs made thick. She pays special attention to his thighs in one study, and shows how they squeeze the sides of his mount while on horseback, but in most of the pictures there is not a thread of clothing on him. The one page that has a single drawing of Edmund on it is a detailed sketch of him sleeping above the blankets at some point during his recovery, his body at rest and stretched out in a relaxed sprawl, expression at peace.

His hands loosen their grip on the book by the time he gets to these sketches.

It does a fair amount to knock his current headspace out of him, staring down at the meticulous sketch lines forming together to create— well, shapes that had want to be him. But jealousy doesn't happen, only certainty even before detail and recognition resolves itself, and he isn't offended— it would take a lot to fluster and offend him when it comes to naked bodies, his own or otherwise. Shock, yes, the idea that she's looked at him this way even just to draw and, with fingertips that feel slightly numb, he walks his way through the images. His thighs balance the item, while his other hand blindly offers out knuckles for Hush to nose as desired.

Hush's nose, cold and wet, bumps against the back of Edmund's hand. The body beneath his muzzle is shifting under the blankets the next moment as the woman in the bed gradually becomes aware of her own limbs again and the sensation of the sheets against her skin. Recognizing the weight of another body bending the mattress will come later; right now, there are still enough traces of the drug in her system that she doesn't immediately realize where she is upon waking, not even when she opens her eyes.

If there's anything good to be said about the situation, it's that the chemicals also dull any fear this might cause her to experience. She makes a confused sound at the back of her throat, but that is all.

Edmund twitches at the sound of his wife rousing, only really noticing a little late — the book slips from his lap and hands, lands with a thump on the floor that has him hissing a curse. A rustle and gentle impact means he's hastily transferred it to bedside table, only then twisting to see the state of the woman in the bed and suppressing the urge to holler for someone with better medical inclinations than his own. "Aislinn," he says, voice gritty and stuck in his throat from disuse after a lot of shouting, as well as the possibilities of sickness coming on.

Least of his worries.

His hand touches her arm, in the same way he might place it on the shoulder of an uneasy colt who needs a little grounding.

Aislinn acknowledges the pressure on her arm first, reaching across with the opposite hand to place it on top of his, seeking touch. She inhales then, with the force but not the urgency of someone wanting to fill their lungs to capacity. The breath she lets out again is slow, unsteady, and ends in a murmur that sounds like her variation on his name.

"I was at a well," she tells him as Hush resettles at her side, this time tucking his chin into his tail to give Edmund more space. "Something pulled me in, but there wasn't anyone at the bottom — only water." Her eyes find focus on his face and hold it. Behind them she fights a battle between the physical need to close them again and her want to maintain consciousness. Edmund and the light belong to a better world than the dreaming one she's just come from.

"I called for help and your brother came. He said he'd raise me back up if I drank it all, so I did. Now I'm cold."


Edmund hesitates. He isn't sure if the truth is more alarming than the dream, and unsure if he's supposed to lie. She doesn't give off the signs of anxiety that need soothing, but that's also possibly because she's been drugged. And he'd had it all planned out — he was going to be angry with her, in some way, but between the charcoal sketches and her murmurings now, it's all but gone with the emptiness of a clear sky. It's a strange feeling, actually, one he isn't accustomed to, sitting silent on the edge of her bed.

He picks at her bed covers, as if to cover her more, at the news that she's cold. "It's dryer here. I can build the hearth up."

Aislinn looks from Edmund's face to his fussing hand, then back again. Her bleariness is starting to fade; the longer she keeps her eyes open, the sharper the details they pick up, and something similar can probably said for her other senses as well. Her ears pick up the crackling of the hearth he refers to, and the sound of the rain running off the window on the other side of the room. She smells damp firewood, gunpowder, smoke.

"You feel different," she says then, and not because they're touching. There is nothing unusual about the hand on her arm.

Edmund agrees, but how he feels isn't the topic of discussion. Eyes red with sleeplessness, his brief brush with physical exertion and hypothermia having taken its toll on his still recovering self, but these are things of his own design. Unlike her own predicament.

So he doesn't respond, not to that. "Do you remember what happened?"

"I'd put the kettle on," Aislinn recollects, and that isn't odd either — she takes tea before bed every night with sage and lavender and honey to help her sleep. "Constance came to kiss me good night and asked if I would like to sing Celia a lullaby, so I left it steeping. I taught her Castles in the Air—"

The corners of her mouth lift faintly in a wan smile. Either she has some memory associated with the song, or this is where things begin to get misty. "I remember coming back to bed," she finishes, "thinking we might wait for you this once."


Her and her familiar. There's that spark of anger that he'd been nurturing, bright in what counts as her vision when it comes to her ability. It doesn't show otherwise outwardly, except in stony silence and the flick of oceanic-blue stare for the opposite wall. "Someone in the castle," he mutters. Although maybe not. Someone paying someone else in the castle. The bed creaks protest as Edmund gets back on his feet, pacing down the length of the mattress and away. He wants to go kill something, is basically that restless, unslept sentiment. He could have settled for smashing Duncan's face into the wall.

Fingers scratch through brown-red hair, ruthless rakes cross his scalp. "You were harmed, Aislinn. The water wasn't a well, it was the sea'n the harbour."

Aislinn looks at Hush. Hush looks at Aislinn. Whatever is communicated in the silence that elapses between them puts an end to any arguments the woman might have had, and Edmund can be sure that the familiar verifies his version of events because the quality of Aislinn's breathing changes and the little colour in her cheeks bleeds right out of them.

She wasn't afraid before. She is now.

"They took you from here, down to the boats. I was at the pub." Edmund stands indirect, not exactly facing her but not keeping his back to her or anything. Hands restless and resting against his thighs, a tension in his shoulders. "The men I warned you about, the ones that were mouthin' off, they were there. Saw me, left, and I followed 'em down to the boats and they had you bundled up like meat from the market. I fired on one but they pushed you in before I could do much else. They were goin' to take you all the way out deep."

All of this is delivered with his generally bland breed of gruffness, but she can sense more than that, beneath the surface. He casts a look towards Hush, then off towards the hearth. He can see she's scared and he's being ruthless about it — but also quick.

All the way out deep. Aislinn strains to take her next breath. The thought of drowning is an anchor-heavy weight on her chest, crushing her lungs. He'd told her not to cry once, and this is a piece of advice she's desperately trying to heed as she presses the breath out again. This time, at least, she succeeds, and blinks back the wetness in her eyes before it has the opportunity to form tears.

The achievement doesn't fill her with pride. Or make her any less frightened. "I did all that you told me to," she warbles at him. "I never disobeyed."

"Yeah and it didn't matter, it was done. You— had that around you all the time." A look to Hush, rather than a gesture. "Kept it a secret and failed to hold to it." It's a fight they haven't had, actually — Edmund hadn't cared. He's understood. But now the implications of this mistake lie between them, and he doesn't speak enough to have a very good handle on his words, sometimes. "Waited 'til after we were married, 'til you had no choice in it. 've course this is what comes of it."

He doesn't have the actual culprits here to blame. Just Aislinn and her wavering voice, lying on the bed.

Hush flattens his ears, shrinking away from Edmund's look. He doesn't quite wither, but one moment there's a fox on the blankets and the next an ermine is burrowing under them, disappearing between the sheets with a flick of its ink-dipped tail. Out of sight, out of mind — or that's the idea, anyway. This is the man you love? he asks Aislinn, sounding wounded and accusatory, though Edmund can of course not hear it. I wonder what else he'll blame you for—

"No." No to Hush. No to Edmund. "That isn't fair."

No, it isn't fair.

But this obvious point drawn to his attention is nearly snorted at, as if he were one of his more ill-tempered stallions. A hand scrapes over his overtired face, wheeling back away from her as if to angle his nerves away from her. He can't hear Hush's scathing criticism, but its superstition that one can sense bad thoughts about you and Aislinn's gentle words fail to do much for him as they so normally might. "You can't control what they think and do, but— you can control what you do for yourself, how you— how you present yourself, and not provoke them.

"How you speak and what you mind as your own business. You kept it a secret before so you know I ain't playing stupid now."

This is not the first time Aislinn has needed to have this conversation. If it was, she might be a little more adamant, a little more defensive, but Edmund's words are her father's words, if spoken more strongly, and she finds that her own wither and die in her mouth before she can form them.

She looks down at her hands, which she holds folded across her midsection on top of the blankets. Her eyes study her fingers, her nails, then the texture of the fabric until she runs out of things she can pretend have her interest. "I won't," she says finally, and although her statement suggests defiance, the tone of her voice is all anguish and apology. "Fire burns, the wind blows, and rivers run. You can't ask the sun to rise in the west or set in the east. I am who God made me, Eamonn. If that offends you, then tell Donagh his men are right and send me away. I don't have to be your wife."


This is tossed over his shoulder, and there isn't much variation to the jangle of negativity she can pick up from him, save for the fact that her words do nothing to soothe it, including, or especially, the notion that she doesn't have to be his wife. The matter is left unresolved, her status as a mage and the way the town responds to them, her hair still holding the lingering damp from the loch and his own set of clothes off drying near the fire. But his focus redirects, and he asks, flatly, "Do you want to be?"

Aislinn answers him with a sharp, sudden release of breath as she takes a fistful of blankets and heaves them off her, right leg swung over the side of the bed, followed by the left. The movements aren't as graceful as the lady inside of her would like them to be, but right now Aislinn is less concerned about having the long, quick limbs of a doe than she is getting to her feet, which she does with the assistance of the nightstand.

She leans into it, hip on wood, white-knuckled fingers curled in a tight clasp at its edge. Her other arm she brings across her midsection, struggling against the wave of nausea that hits her as soon as she's upright. "How short— men's memories are."

Space closes and folds up between them in some swift steps, rough hands going out to steady, even urge her back to the bed with one set of fingers about her wrist and the other perched on her arm, birdishly.

"Where're you going?" is muttered out, irritable, feeling off-guard in this conversation and how strongly he feels about things like her getting out of bed when she shouldn't, or not having to be his wife, or the blind rage from down at the docks. He should have more control of this conversation, but he doesn't.

She sits back down and dimples the mattress in a sullen compromise: bottom on the bed and feet on the floor. Nowhere — that's where Aislinn is going, at least for the time being. "You know how I feel," she says, her head turning away to stare into the hearth on the other side of the room. "I don't expect the same.

"Your family would think no less of you if that's your choice, and if you want to be married then— you have your pick of other women, but none of us will change. Maybe you'll find one who'll pretend for you when you decide what it is about her that you don't like."

Rather than loom over her, Edmund manages himself into a crouch, hands on either side of her against the bed. That anger is still there, but he's managing that too, to the point where worry and frustration at himself can be seen where it thins, beneath the cracks. "I don't give a fuck about what you are," he says, bluntly, voice like steel enough that the softer edges of his brogue are sharpened into definition. "I didn't care at the time and I don't now, and not ever, or even that you went and hid it from me. I would've killed them today if they didn't give me you to pull from the water.

"If you don't picture me blaming the ones responsible and stringin' them up by the feet as an example unto others then you're a greater fool than anyone cares t'give you any credit for." He stops, not quite used to saying all this much in such rapid and vehement succession, and not done yet either. "And if I didn't want you as my wife you wouldn't be my wife. You didn't exactly have the pick of anything, now."

Aislinn looks from the hearth to Edmund, though she initially avoids making eye contact with him and focuses on his hands, reaching out to lay both of hers on top and establishes physical contact instead. Either she doesn't know what to say, or she can't overcome the tightness in her throat, because she's silent again apart from her breathing.

I could bite him for you, Hush offers, and she doesn't answer her familiar either. The ermine's suggestion was facetious, anyway; she wouldn't be touching Edmund if she was upset with him. What upsets her is the thought that anyone should have to die because of something she did or did not do, but on this subject she is quiet, too.

She leans forward and presses a kiss against his cheek.

His eyes shut at the kiss that is only near his mouth rather than on it, hands bunching beneath hers. There's no grab or pull for her, but he does rise to meet her partway before she can withdraw. The slope of his forehead maps against her throat, pushing up enough for him to breathe her in despite the fact that the trials of evening still cling scents to her skin. He could have easily not followed anyone out of the damn pub. There's a doggish insistence to contact, hands sliding against the mattress for arms to make a loop around her.

As Edmund's arms form a circle around Aislinn's waist, she drapes hers over his shoulders and bends at the elbow to rake her fingers through his hair, starting at the crown of his skull all the way down to the nape of his neck like a horse's mane. His is red or brown — she can never decide which — and she muffles a needy sound against its curls.

She'll grieve Murtagh and Saroise for the rest of her life, but not at the expense of living it.

And she realizes that's all right.