Gerard, Part 1: Look What Came In From the Rain

Voice-of-Accord is running anyhow and carelessly down the middle of the dilapidated road, her usually pristine fur caked with mud and bits of bark and leaves. This is a night for weather, and she's revelling in it as ever.

A sodden young man stands in the rain, staring at the WELCOME TO sign with morose disillusionment. His black hair, black coat, and muddily indeterminate-colored trousers are streaming with the rain. His shoulders are hunched, hands tucked inside his sleeves, and blood is trickling dilutely down his chin from his nose. "Welcome to ze town of," he mutters disgustedly to himself. Then, on the wolf's precipitous arrival, he cries out inarticulately and stumbles backwards, crossing himself hurriedly. "Mother of gods--!"

Rowan is dirty. This is no particular surprise. He's also apparently been out hunting, as he's heading for town with several rabbits, a small former pig, and some greens sticking out of his pockets. He's not quite reached the sign yet, and given the rain he can't see the young man, but his exclamation makes him hasten his pace slightly.

Hooded, for the moment, by the neckline of one of her sweatshirts, Rahne plods slowly towards the sign from the direction of town. What looks like a muffin, slowly growing soggy from the weather, is stuffed into her mouth haphazardly to leave her hands free at the moment. Her hands, for their part, are busily rubbing her eyes in the fashion of one who was rudely awakened from sleep of some sort. The exclamation brings one of her hands from her eyes, the green orb blinking quickly. Picking up into a tired jog, she plucks the muffin from her mouth and jerks the sweatshirt back so she can see what's ahead.

Voice-of-Accord tumbles to a halt at the exclamation, realizes too late that she's not exactly presentable, and hops to her feet, dripping. After a calculated glance at herself she opts for flopping on her butt and thumping the ground hard with her tail, wagging stupidly.

Gerard's eyes narrow at Voice of Accord's behavior. "First hound of hell and then nice doggy? Me, I do not believe this. You are no nice doggy, your are the wolf, n'est-ce pas?" He backs away slowly, and for all that he is speaking aloud, does not seem to expect a response. "Me, I love the rural life," he continues to himself with bitter irony. "Mud, and wolves. Who could not enjoy himself here? Nice doggy," he adds, talismanically.

Voice-of-Accord is a young healthy wolf in her prime, sleek, black, with an unusually long mane and feathers at her heels and tail that might be described as "fluffy" by ill-advised persons who failed to notice the edge in her gaze and the whiteness of her teeth. Her intelligent brown eyes tend to search restlessly, as does her sensitive nose. She is handsome, this canine, with a hair seldom out of place, a lithe if not overly large body, a dark coat like the shadowed undersides of building thunderheads, and neat white claws and teeth kept trimmed to sharpness. Not overly large or aggressive in her manners, she nevertheless carries herself with a pride and presence that lends gravity to her statements.

Thin and lanky, almost gangly at her modest 5'5", Rahne has an almost childish quality to her form and features. Raggedly cut reddish-blonde hair hangs in stringy, unkempt and uneven locks about an impish face that hovers between youth and maturity. High cheekbones offset wide oval eyes of bright, unflinchingly pure emerald green and a frequent smile that adds to the rebellious look of her deeply tanned face.
Arms and legs that seem almost too long to go with her relatively short torso are swathed in a pair of faded jeans, their knees raggedly ripped out a long time ago, and a motley collage of two threadbare sweatshirts in green and blue and a t-shirt gone grey with age from what was probably white once. Sneakers held together with duct tape cover her feet, as well as a pair of socks in about the same shape as the t-shirt. Inconsistant with this portrait of growing youth is the large, broad knife resting in a worn, tooled leather sheath at her side. A rope belt, wound tightly about her waist four times, secures sheath and blade to her waist while a smaller leather strap pins the bottom to her right thigh. The leather bears the fading intricacies of celtic knotwork, a composition of light and dark growing dimmer with age. Around her neck, a thin gold chain dangles a small, heart shaped pendant delicately between her collarbones.
She's often seen lugging around a somewhat sizeable backpack, the sides of it bulging here and there in possibly strange ways.

He fits in the background, this young man. He's fairly tall (about 6 feet 2 inches worth), and rather stocky, but he can and does observe events without intruding on them. His hair is rusty-red, darkly so, and relatively long. It is, however, tied back in a ponytail, to at least attempt to keep it out of his eyes. Most of the time, he succeeds in this endeavor. Occasionally, he fails, somewhat to his irritation. His face, in keeping with his frame, is a bit broad. His eyes are blue, and there are already laugh lines around them. He wears dark blue pants, with a considerable number of pockets, a slightly lighter blue shirt, a vest, and a jacket.

The Dancer, finally able to see something, mostly sees Gerard's back. Mildly, he says, "Well, she /is/ fairly nice..." and practices looking unthreatening.

Voice-of-Accord drops down onto her side-- she can't get any more filthy at this point-- and rests the side of her muzzle against the ground, jaws yawning open with a bemused snap. Tongue lolling, she continues to wag thedamp banner of her tail against the frayed cobblestones. I should hope so. What do I do now, Rowan?

Rahne swallows her mouthful quickly and combs back quickly wetted hair with her free hand. She keeps her tone amiable as she calls out to the shapes she can make out through the rain as she comes closer. "Only hurts a fly or two, really..."

The young man whirls around at the sound of voices behind him, flails his arms once or twice, slips in the mud, and lands squarely on his seat. "/Merde/," he says fervently. "Are you ghosts or men?" He mops at his nose with his sleeve and looks from Rowan to Rahne, and then, twitchily, over his shoulder again at the nice doggy.

Rowan says, thoughtfully, "Well, depends on how you define 'man'. But I'm not dead, if that's what you mean." After a moment, he adds, "I'm Rowan. That's Kelsey, there, the one you're freaking at. Welcome to Haven."

Voice-of-Accord gives a cheerful bark and then ambles off. She still hasn't quite worked out Veil etiquette, so she chooses to change behind a fence.

Rahne chuckles and tucks the rest of her muffin into one of her sleeves, pinching one of her hands and eliciting a small 'ow!' from herself. "I'll be happy to assure you I am quite corporeal, and my name's Rahne." She waves, stopping within a distance that she could be seen relatively easily.

Rowan extends a hand to help Gerard up.

Gerard clears one of his hands from his sleeves and accepts Rowan's assistance gingerly. Seen close-to, he seems to be in his late adolescence, perhaps 17. He is probably, under the right circumstances, a startlingly attractive youth, with long black hair, dark eyes, long lashes, a narrow bridged nose. These are not the right circumstances. Both eyes are puffy, the nose persists in bleeding, the face is very pale, the lips a little tight. Standing, he is perhaps 5'7", slighly built, in a well-cut but much worn black coat, the pockets of which seem heavily laden. On his back is a long bundle wrapped in black cloth. His grip on Rowan's hand is long fingered - the graceful hand of a surgeon or a card-sharp. "Merci. You are--it--where iz it going?"

Rowan shrugs. "Probably, to figure out a way not to scare you. Are you -- do you need aid?"

Rahne holds her sleeve close to her mouth and nibbles on her bit of food, shielding her eyes from the rain with the other hand and watching this stranger with some measure of curiousity.

Gerard laughs shortly and hunches his shoulders into his coat. "No. Sank you. I am Gerard. Gerard Luc Delacroix, at your service. You--live here?" Faint incredulity tinges his voice.

Kelsey emerges from behind the few isolated stumps of the old fence, or rather, stands up, choosing a moment when Gerard's somewhat distracted by Rowan. The mud is on her forearms and the side of her cheek very plainly, but then again, it's not a moonlit night at all. Shoving futily at the morass her hair has become, she strolls quietly towards them, the electric bounce in her step mostly held in check. There's stil the wildness of someone with too much caffeine and too little sleep in her eyes.

Rowan glances reflexively back at town. "Well. Yes. I have for a few months. Why, does that mean I'm some strange alien?"

Rahne glances over at Kelsey and smiles greetingly. Breaking off some of the uneaten portion of her muffin, she offers it quietly and listens to Rowan and Gerard talk for now.

"Ah, no, no, bien sur," Gerard says hastily. Mopping again at his nose and shaking his head to clear away the hair plastered against his face, he makes a visible effort to regain some degree of long-lost poise. "It is a charming plac, I am sure. In ze day time, especially, perhaps." He breaks off, eyeing Kelsey. "'Aven, you say it is called?" The French accent seems a little inconsistent, but it is never entirely absent, nor so strong as to render him incomprehensible.

Kelsey says smoothly, with a calculatedly winning smile, "Yes. Welcome to Haven." The effect is slightly dampened by the mud on her nose, but she carries herself like a politician, folding in something halfway between a bow and a curtsey. "I'm Kesley Eisenmann."

Rowan says, "Well, /we/ call it Haven..." He's watching the young man with interest; no particular wariness, though he's not overly friendly, either.

Rahne just smiles and looks pleasant, despite the rain that's made a snakey mess of her hair by now.

Kelsey's effect on the young Frenchman is rather like that of a brief appearance of the sun. Gerard's whole aspect brightens and he takes her hand and bows over it, kissing it lightly. "Madmoiselle," he says, becoming noticeably more French for a moment. There is a faint clinking noise from the bundle on his back as he straightens. "Clearly there is more to zis Haven--" and the 'h' is clearly a deliberate effort "--than meets ze eye, for it to have drawn three such. I apologize."

Kelsey holds his gaze as one should, over a kiss like that, although one of her eyebrows registers the barest twitch of amusement in Rowan's general direction. "Pleased to make your acquaintance. I am sure the same is true of yourself."

Rahne raises both eyebrows over a bite and smirks a little as she watches, looking somewhat amused at this scene.

Possessive? Rowan? Surely you jest. His smile just disappears as if someone switched a light off because, perhaps, Gerard's accent thickened. Really. He doesn't make any overt movements, though, and he ratchets his smile back up rather quickly. It's hardly noticeable, really.

Gerard's delicately peaked eyebrows twitch slightly, and there is a gleam of honest enjoyment in his eyes for just a moment. "I can only hope you are right, ma'mzelle." He does not seem to have noticed Rowan's reaction, but he tucks his hands back into his pockets and eases back a step or two from Kelsey. His eyes move over Rahne again, but, perhaps because she has not declared herself in any definitive way, he does not react to her so strongly. To Rowan, he says, "You have, ah, quite a hunt there, m'sieur." For a moment it almost seems as thouh he will say more, but then he leaves it at that.

Rowan shrugs, in a way that's also geared to getting himself less tense. He sounds perfectly friendly as he speaks; just a slight hint of an edge. "I was lucky. Stupid pig ran right into a snare. The squirrels, well, I had a good run. The pig I'm giving to Sasha, but you want one of the squirrels? Make a damn good couple meals..."

Rahne finishes off her muffin quickly, wiping her fingers against damp jeans and stuffing her hands into the sleeves of the sweatshirt. Not really saying anything, she instead turns to humming softly, picking out a tune that mingles well with falling rain.

Kelsey does not so much retreat as encompass the space between them as she settles back beside Rowan. "I'm wondering if Monsieur Delacroix--" her French accent must be several centuries out of date-- "has lost his way, coming here, or if he has a place to stay."

A faint but unmistakable whiff of horror widens Gerard's eyes at Rowan's
generous offer, and Kelsey's question doesn't help. "Ah, no," he says with haste which borders on the unseemly. "I am just passing through, me. I could not impose. You are kindness itself to inquire." He attempts covertly to rid his right shoe of the heavy mass of mud it has accumulated, with negligible success.

Rowan shrugs, a little more easily now, the edge gone completely as he leans just slightly toward Kelsey. "Well. If you're a vegetarian, Sasha makes a stunning soup. At the Diner. In town."

Rahne ruffles her soaked hair and smiles, "B'sides, it's easier to keep travelling when the weather's not workin' against you, y'know? Take some time to dry off before you hurry away."

Kelsey's eyebrows as usual have a way of making a mockery of her more deliberate manners, and can't help but cavort at Gerard's horrified expression. "Or, in any case, we should not delay you from seeking shelter on /such/ a night as this." The exuberance escapes again too; for her, such a night is evidently a fine thing indeed.

Gerard hesitates, warring with himself. "It /is/ wet," he agrees, with perhaps more feeling than he intended. "Zis diner, it will be open, so late?"

Rowan says, cheerfully, "Oh, yes. Sasha's in bed by now, but she keeps some soup simmering. And I'm on duty most evenings, when I'm not hunting."

Kelsey explains, "It's also the closest thing we have to an Inn. Are you coming?" She turns on a heel and breezes back up the uneven path towards the heart of town.

Rahne smiles and starts to back up as a prelude to actually turning around and heading back to town.

Gerard allows himself to be swept along by this unlikely party of hospitable strangers, half bemused, half grateful. As the damp and mottley party procedes through the town, the young man struggles to keep his expression uninformative, but it is clear that the dimensions and nature of the township of Haven fill him with almost as acute a distress as the prospect of a squirrel dinner.

Kelsey watches him slyly out of the corner of her eyes, making small talk. "And that was where the horse got loose and jumped the fence, and trampled in Mrs. Collin's tomatoes.. .and, oh, mind that spot, we haven't gotten around to repaving... is it like this where you come from, Monsier Delacroix?"

Rahne ambles along, occasionally scrubbing her wet face with a section of her sleeve. Nothing quite like a rainstorm for a chance to scrub at some dingy patch.

"No," says Gerard, far too emphatically. He recovers himself almost instantaneously. "Nothing like so beautiful." A pause. "Or quiet." It's not clear whether that last is actually a compliment or not. "Or dark." Then, realizing he is slipping again, he adds, "It is so peaceful, outside of ze city, n'est-ce pas?"

Rowan is perfectly friendly, as Kelsey pokes around Gerard's edges. He serves soup with a will, presuming anyone ever gets to the Diner, and eventually fades off to cook squirrels.

Ursa Diner(#179RAJh)

You step onto a cracked but clean tile floor that was probably once red, but is now a faded salmon pink. A large, rectangular communal table seating about 10 takes up the middle of the floor, with mismatched smaller tables arranged near the large front windows. The long counter in front of the kitchen door sports plates of fragrant bread, cookies, and muffins and bowls of fresh wild fruits. A small, rattling fridge in the corner holds a selection of juices and cold spring water in reused bottles and jars. Atop the refrigerator is a can for cash donations; next to it is a box for barter payments. Scrawled on the box in black marker are the words "Pay what you can, when you can."

"Indeed," Kelsey replies, swooping them into the diner and emitting a breathless "whew" as the door slams open to announce their arrival. "Good thing Sashenka sleeps elsewhere. Make yourself at home." She shucks off her jacket and goes to fetch some towels from the backroom to help everyone dry off.

Gerard allows his expression of polite enthusiasm to slip a notch as Kelsey turns her back, and the wariness and distaste of his original demeanor creeps back into his eyes for a moment. Far from shedding his waterlogged coat, he hunches deeper into it, and surveys the diner looking lost, alien, and momentarily vulnerable. "You, I do not remember," he mutters to the room at large, but very quietly.

Kelsey returns with an extra towel and offers it to him politely. "Here, we can't have you snivelling... I mean dripping... all over the place, eh? What sort of hosts would we be? Can we get you anything? Rowan's putting the soup on now, and there will be hot water for tea or coffee." She chatters cheerfully.

"Sank you," Gerard says, accepting the towel humbly. He unstraps the bundle from his back and sets it, clinking, very carefully on the floor beside a chair. Reluctantly, he removes his coat, whose pockets it may now be seen are stuffed to capacity, and which seems to have had extra pockets added - and then stuffed to capacity themselves. The coat does not so much clink as clunk, when it is hung over the back of the chair. Beneath the coat, the slender young man is wearing a white shirt, a pale gray waistcoat, and dark gray trousers, with a white silk scarf looped once at his throat. He is soaked to the skin and shivering slightly as he uses the towel to become, if not drier, at least more rumpled and less drippy. The bloody nose seems to have stopped for the time being. "You are very kindness," he adds, distractedly.

Kelsey clucks her tongue. "Nonsense. Sashenka would give us a good drubbing if we threw you to the wolves." She considers him skeptically, dips back behind the curtain again, and sets a thick folded fleece blanket on the chair next to his. "So what brings you to the village whose name you didn't recognize? Storm blow you offcourse?"

"What brings me here?" Gerard repeats, his voice somewhat muffled by the towel as he rubs his head. "Ze road, bien sur. I followed it, and here I was. Well, first, I was in ze village just down the road, but there was a bit of, hm, misunderstanding, n'est-ce pas, and it seemed better to continue. And you, madmoiselle? What brings so beautiful a lady to so remote a place, where she cannot shine as she would in city lights?"

Kelsey wrings out her hair, eyes twinkling. "I stand out better among the shadows than under harsh lights?" She shrugs. "Some kind strangers were willing enough to help me when I was in trouble, and I've stayed to return the favor. Don't really have a better place to go."

"Such a waste," Gerard mourns, but it is all a game. "Still, I understand you. It is your kindness that keeps you here, and your honor."

Kelsey laughs brightly. "Not to mention Sashenka's cooking." She pulls up a chair and settles easily into it, sitting sideways and laying a forearm along the back. "By the way. I'm a collector of stories, traveller's tales. All the more because I'm trapped in this forsaken neck of the woods--" she exaggerates the tragedy with an angst-filled huddle of her eyebrows -- "so if you have any news from over the mountain or out by the coast, or any tales at all, I am quite at your disposal, Monsieur."

Gerard wraps himself in the blanket, where he looks much out of place, and
also much younger. "Ah. I shall attempt to recollect some such stories, and if any come to my mind, rest assured, I will tell you of them. Meanwhile, have you--" is there a slight snag in his voice, like a rough finger catching a loose thread? "--tales to tell of this place?"

Kelsey nibbles on her lower lip. "Well, have you heard of that big, big storm? Zelda? Hit here not too long ago. I've never seen anything like it."

Gerard draws back slightly. "Zelda?" he repeats incredulously, eying the young woman. "Yes...yes I have...heard of Zelda."

Kelsey says "Sky ripped open, houses torn down, rocks coming down the'd think all the hounds of hell were barking across the sky, from the din." She spreads her hands wide and enthustically. "Incredible lightning striking off the mountaintop. Streams tearing out of their banks, trees uprooted, hail like bombs. But we made sure the whole village was safe and sound, houses boarded up, everyone in basements or safe places before it rolled in, and we made it through just fine. Only lost a couple of houses, and they're being rebuilt.""

Gerard nods. "She is like that," he says, with what might almost be approval. "Zis is the first time you have seen her?"

Kelsey nods enthusiastically, then suddenly straightens in her chair. "Her?" she asks rather eagerly. "You've seen her more than once?"

Gerard shrugs his thin, blanket-wrapped shoulders. "A handful of times, perhaps. She and I keep running into each other, you might say. Like old friends, hien? We have missed each other here, though. Perhaps that is for the good."

Kelsey looks at him quietly, a pang of envy briefly stripping away some of the charm, revealing a flat bitterness in the set of her lower lip. Then she grins again. "I hope i shall be so lucky.

Gerard's lips twist into a wry grin. "She is my godmother, perhaps. You should travel, let her find you again. Chaos will not come to meet you, you know." He eyes Kelsey thoughtfully. "You have chaos in your heart, n'est-ce pas? You do not show it in your pretty-pretty smile. It makes you more beautiful than the smile, though."

Kelsey's lashes dip. "Not chaos," she says softly. "Shadow. But they say my ancestors were children of Thunder, and sometimes I think I can still hear them calling, on such nights."

"Shadows..." Gerard dips his eyes, then brings them to bear against Kelsey's again. "They are what you shine in contrast to, n'est-ce pas? Your hearing is most excellent, madmoiselle."

Kelsey laughs again, shaking away any traces of discomfiture lingering in her expression from words hitting too close to home. "Well, I have to be, to hear the stories people don't quite tell me. Anyway. Enough of me. I have a feeling a traveller's fatigue is not lifted by a few idle words, a dry room. There's a cot in the next room when you're ready to turn in, and by the smell of it, soup's ready in the kitchen."