|Something Crazy This Way Comes|
|Summary:||An attempt to track a trail that appears to be related to the missing maid finds.. something|
|Related Logs:||Missing Maid Saga|
|Woods, Outside Terrick's Roost|
|Trees, and a clearing, and crazy stuff.|
|Tue Nov 20, 289|
By the time Mortimer Trevelyan comes across the ruins of the stone cottage, it is late morning. He has been tracking the whereabouts of ghosts and fairytales; maybe next time the new Young Lord of the Roost will ask him to hunt down Snarks and Grumpkins! There has been trails that start and stop abruptly, prints of a woman's bare foot that are replaced abruptly by those of wolves, and a pile of rabbit skulls stacked neatly on a tree stump. Now he steps out of the underbrush and wild growth into the site of where a family home once stood. Since the Ironborn buried the cottage to the ground, vines and moss have slowly spread over the ash-coloured stones. There once was a garden that is now overgrown with wild blackberries. There is a large apple tree near the ruins of the foundation, and a flutter of white cloth seems to be dancing behind it, just out of sight.
Approaching the cottage, Mortimer figures that now is as good a time as ever to take a brief break. The tracks, while odd, don't seem faint enough that a few minutes pause for a drink will adversely affect them. Pausing in the shade of the clearing while he uncorks his water skin and takes a drink he scans the surroundings, mulling over both what he's found so far, and what appears before him. Cork secured again he moves off towards the apple tree. The cottage was his main target, once he'd realised where he was, but that hint of a cloth has attracted his attention and now he's curious.
Another breeze flutters through the clearing, that bit of cloth dances. It looks almost like a ribbon, though even Mortimer would see it isn't silk or anything else quite so rich. As he closes the gap between the edge of the clearing and the tree, more of that white is revealed. From a ribbon, to the edges of a skirt, to the pair of frozen dead feet. She dangles there from a hangman's loop of rope about her neck, her head is limped forward against her chest, showing where the neck had snapped. She wears a simple dress of white that is almost perfectly pristine save for the twin rivers of red stains down the bodice. This cannot be young Inna, as this girl looks more like a teenager — perhaps fourteen or fifteen. Her hands are bound behind her back, and flowers have been woven into her red hair.
From somewhere in the trees, someone starts to sing, but the song's lyrics are incoherent. It's flow, however, is reminiscent of a lullaby.
Mortimer has seen death in his time, plenty of it, although most of it has been men on battlefields. Young girls, thankfully, less so. It's not something that shocks him though, at least not immediately and his first act is to reach for the dirk on his belt to cut her down. Dead she might be but there is still such a thing as dignity for a corpse. Lying her out beneath the tree he examines her face for a moment but can not place her as anyone he's seem in Terrick lands then, after offering a muttered prayer to the Seven on her behalf he covers her with his cloak.
Rocking back onto his heals from where he's crouched he's about to stand and hunt for any clues as to who else was here and what might have lead to her death when his ears pick up the singing. Freezing for a moment to listen he tries to pick out where the voice is coming from, even holding his breath a moment to reduce background noise. With 'in the tress' being the best he can do for now he pushes himself back to his feet and scans the tree line, calling out as he does so, "Inna! Is that you?"
As Mortimer begins to lay the girl out, he will see that blood gathers under her lashes and streams down her cheeks like tears. She actually looks quite peaceful, truth be told, but there is no doubt that she was not at peace moments before she died. She looks common with dirt and grime in places most noble women would not abide by. As the deputy turns his attention out toward the trees, he catches a passing shadow of a woman in white. She is the source of the singing, moving through the trees. She is approaching the deputy, and when she emerges, it is obvious that she must be the weeping woman Inna’s brother had spoken of. She is dressed all in white, with almost unreal dark hair, and weeping darkness around her eyes.
Once he's spotted the woman approaching Mortimer moves a few paces away from the body on the floor. His dirk is sheathed again and he holds both hands up to indicate that he's not trying to be threatening. Definitely not Inna, but the woman in front of him is a potential link and he doesn't want to scare her off. He stops closer to the cottage than to the tree-line and lets her do the walking, should she be inclined to continue. Letting his hands drop back to his belt he studies her face, looking for anything familiar in her features that might give him a clue to where she is from, or if she has any close relatives in the villages around. "Mistress," he starts in his well practiced, working-casual tone, "can I help you?"
The Weeping Woman tilts her head a bit, casting the tangles of dark hair across her cheek. She is poised, and her movements seem very graceful. She regards the deputy as her song dissolves into humming before silencing entirely. Everything about the clearing, in fact, seems to be dominated by silence. "I'm looking for my children," she says in a sorrowful voice. "I can't find them."
Mortimer nods slowly as she speaks to indicate that he's listening. He doesn't move towards her, conscious even more so now of the need not to spook her. "Can you tell me about them?" he asks gently, hoping to coax her into a conversation. "Did you have sons? Daughters? What were they like?" Slowly, so as not to make any sudden movements he unslings his water skin and offers that out to her. "Where did you last see them? I'm searching for a child myself, perhaps we could look together?"
"I'm looking for my children," the Weeping Woman repeats, holding out her hands. The palms are dark with dried blood, though it does not look as if she is at all wounded. Then she looks to the fallen cloak over the body of the dead girl. "She didn't know where they went. Do you?" And the woman takes a step forward, those wet-rimmed eyes lifting toward Mortimer.
Mortimer resists the temptation to look back towards where the body lies, keeping his eyes instead on the woman before him and his on-hand on his belt, just in case things turn ugly. "Where did you last see them," he repeats, using the same gentle, reassuring tone of voice that he might were the woman in front of him were a lost child herself. "We have some lost children at the Roost, perhaps your children are there?" He offers as he reslings his water skin and then beckons her forward with his off-hand, "would you like to come with me and see if they are there?"
"My children are lost," the Weeping Woman says after a moment, head tilting down. "But so are the others… He's taken them. He's taken them for me." It is then that those pale lips start to curve into a smile. "Another will be gone by morning, and then three more in seven days." She starts to take a step back. "You shouldn't take her body back, you will anger him." And she takes another step back.
"Who?" Mortimer asks, tilting his head slightly as she seems to imply she knows about the other missing children, "who is he? Did he take Inna?" As she steps back he steps forward, still beckoning with his hand. "Where is he? Can you take me to him?" His tone becomes more urgent as she continues to back away. He'd hoped to be able to coax her gently into returning with him but he's not beyond a chase through the trees if she bolts. Another pace forwards, another question, "who was she? Why will it make him angry?"
That smile continues to grow and curve until it reaches a wicked level. "You'll see," the Weeping Woman says with a hint of sing-song before she continues to retreat. She releases a low whistle, and the sound undulates smoothly. The call is answered by several stealthy steps, and creatures unseen before step out of the shadows of the underbrush. There are four of them total. They are wolflike in appearance with large paws and long muzzles, though their fur is matted. They're fur is patched with what looks like chainmail, but it is part of their skin. They start to growl, showing off their teeth. "You shouldn't be here anymore. Lingering with me means you aren't stopping the Hunter… and he's taking another… right now. Let us go." And she takes another step back, her wolf-monstrosities not daring to step forward unless otherwise commanded. Looks like the Young Lord's wolves have been found.
The appearance of the wolf-beasts is an unexpected development and one that gives Mortimer pause to think for a moment. With the situation rapidly slipping out of his control he knows he has to act quickly but really does not like his odds. Right hand slipping instinctively to the hilt of his blade once more he counters her step back with a forward one of his own, although his eyes do dark to the nearest of the beasts to gauge their reactions. "Where is he?" he calls to the retreating woman, "where is Inna? The girl from the Roost. He took her didn't he? Where did he take her?" The sensible half of his brain is doing its best to remind him that if he backs off he can always track these beasts later, with backup, but the part of his brain that remembers what it's like to lose a child is refusing to give ground while the maid is still missing.
The Weeping Woman starts to turn now, and she waves her hand dismissively. His questions go unanswered, though that unsettling smile remains curved on her lips. "You're wasting time, Sheriff." And then she starts to step back into the woods even while her wolfish guardians advance a single step as if part of a hive mind. The Weeping Woman starts to hum that same eerie lullaby once more.
"Where is she?" Mortimer repeats, a little louder this time, just to ensure that his voice carries to her retreating form. There's a definite sense of urgency in his tone now as he watches his best, or in fact only, lead slipping away back into the trees. With her turning he draws his blade again to ward against the wolves but continues forward, towards her. "Take me to her, or tell me where she is." He's almost shouting now as a healthy dose of adrenaline makes its presence felt in his system. "Do her parents have to suffer like you have?"
The humming fades suddenly, and for a moment it may seem as though Mortimer has been totally left alone after the woman retreated into the forests. Then an angry snarl is heard from the shadows. "Yes!" There is another low whistle, and the wolf-creatures begin to also retreat where their mistress had gone.
Maybe it's the fact that she's slipping away, maybe it's the way she answered, either way Mortimer makes the decision there and then that he's not going to let her leave that easily. Once he's set on not backing off there's only really one thing he can do and that's to take to his heals in pursuit, yelling the ever imaginative, "stop there!" as he does so. It's not the intelligent thing to do but that doesn't overly concern him right now. No, now his priority is simply to take her back to the Roost to answer more questions. Her wolves? Well, he'll have to deal with them on the fly.
The Weeping Woman does not stop, walking steadily through the trees as the shadows from the canopy darken. Two of the guardians turn their oily heads toward the pursuing deputy, their paws sinking into fresh mud with the softest squelch. Their jaws are slack, pink tongue curled slightly from the sharp lengths of teeth. They continue to snarl, thin ropes of saliva dangling from those curled lips. Mortimer's daring approach is rewarded with a sudden leap from one of the two rearguard, and the wolf-creature appears to be going for the throat.
If Mortimer registers the two wolves turning it doesn't seem to have any effect on his current plan of action. In fact, it's not until the leaper is actually in the air that he seems to register the threat. Dirk thrust forward in an attempt to stab straight through the beast's hide he attempts to side-step out of the way. The mud underfoot doesn't help though and he ends up sliding. It's enough to mean that the wolf's jaws snap shut in thin air above his shoulder, even if the bodily impact pushes him backward. Equally means that he's lost track entirely of the second rearguard.
There is a sharp yelp as the dirk cuts through fur, though there is an audible scrape of metal against metal as the blade encounters a patch of scales in the matting of fur. Before Mortimer is given a chance to relish in his successful hit, the second guardian is slamming it's full weight into the deputy's back and closing its jaws around the man's shoulder. The jaws do not lock down on the limb, but instead put enough pressure behind the bite to remind Mortimer what pain feels like. The wounded guard is using the window of opportunity to continue its retreat, blood smearing across the leaves of the underbrush.
Mortimer had been lining up for a second thrust at the leaper, aiming this time to avoid any of those pesky scales. The impact of the second wolf though throws that idea of the window entirely as he goes sprawling into the mud with Seven knows how many pounds of wolf flesh on his back. The shock of the impact, coupled with the pain of the bite causes him to lose his grip on the handle of his dirk and the tightening of the jaws when he starts to reach for it again seem to get the message across that this is not a fight he's going to be winning any time soon. Staring at the beast a moment, trying to convince himself there's another way he then utters a frustrated curse at the wolf. "Fine! You made your point. Fuck off."
Even at the frustration, the wolflike creature seems to be prepared to advance further on the deputy. It approaches slowly, that snarl fading into a deep-chest growl. Just as it looks as though the guardian is not going to relent, another high-pitched whistle is sent up through the trees. The wolf turns abruptly, rushing into the underbrush after where its wounded companion had also disappeared. Mortimer is left there, in the mud, alive and well.
With his shoulder free from the beast's jaws, Mortimer reaches for his dirk and rolls so he can watch the retreating form as it vanishes into the trees. The blood trail should be easy enough to follow and he takes a small comfort in that, mostly though it's frustration at having her slip away. After a few more quiet curses he drags himself to his feet and back towards the corpse, cradling his arm a little as he does so. He offers a silent prayer of thanks to the Seven for the fact that his leathers seem to have prevented any crippling damage but he's already trying to work out just how he's going to get himself and her back to the Roost.