Ossian eventually leads them over a hilltop and into a sparse woods, and from thence onto a road that leads to a town or perhaps a small city. The orphanage is here, across the river, his instincts tell him.
Ce'e looks even more like Marius. Ossian thinks they'll be taken for brothers by the people of Abford.
Ossian hold his horse "I think we have made it. It is down there somewhere, on the other side of the river." he says. "Now we'll see if they still remember me, or have their records in order."
Marius observes the area for a while. Going to his particular areas of knowledge, does it look like a place with a lot of sea trade? Is there anything that specifically sticks out about the place? He'll definitely take a moment to open all of his senses for the observation.
Abford is clearly named for a river crossing, so there is the expected river and crossings. The town looks to Marius to be defensible, but it doesn't seem to have seen war for some generations. Transport is by horse, boat, or foot. Building are no more than 4-5 stories tall, with the exception of occasional towers which may be used as sentry posts or fire alert towers. Some of the river traffic looks as if it could be coastal as well. It's wind based shipping, not steam or slave-driven.
Marius considers this for a few moments, trying to gauge for himself why he would, had he been the kind of parent to do so, he might leave a child here. He comes up with a half half-dozen ideas and then is interrupted by Ossian's inspection.
[Ossian] inspects his companions "Have you noticed that the two of you look very much alike?" he asks
Marius looks at Ce'e for a while to consider it, perhaps answering Ossian's question with his silence. His longer silence may note how he's deciding to answer it. His face betrays very little in the way of discomfort, but anyone with sensitivity to such may show that he has some hesitation about this. Finally, he speaks. "Sir Ce'e, is this change in appearance your doing or my own?"
Ossian tilts his head a little to the right, watching both of the two others.
Ce'e doesn't move for a moment, and is slow to respond. "It is a side effect, My lord, of my efforts to learn about you. It is part of my nature as an unfixed being. Is there another appearance you would like me to wear?"
"We could tell people you are brothers." Ossian suggests, looking at Marius.
Marius shakes his head, a brief and quick snap of black curls and a frown. "I am not wroth with you, my dear Cloudeater. My ignorance of you and your kind leads me to the occasional concern that may or may not be warranted. I can understand any similar ignorance on your part. We are unlikely ambassadors to each other's way of thinking, but fate has chosen us where duty failed." He smiles encouragingly towards Ce'e. "Perhaps when we have the freedom to experiment, you will be able to tell me more of potential forms and possibilities."
He grins at Ossian's suggestion. "I doubt the inquiries will be invited, but it is a failsafe ne'ertheless. Tell me quick of any protocol I may stumble upon. Am I to be a believer of some sort, or are seekers anathema? May I look at the women or must my eyes never rise to them?" He means it to include Sir Ce'e as well.
"Honestly, I have no idea." Ossian sighs "I wasn't so observant on that kind of stuff when I was a kid. As a kid I was allowed to look people in the eyes, that much I remember. And I didn't see much of the interaction between normal grown-ups and the women running the place, except for when Brand arrived.
"And no rules ever applied to him anyway. People did seem to treat the women with respect, but that could be because they were some kind of priestesses or something.
"We'll have to improvise, I fear.
"I suggest we try to find a little about this place before going to the orphanage." Ossian says as they ride into the city. He will then proceed to a tavern to talk with the locals. In some cases Ossian can be rather impatient, but now he shows a painful amount of patience when (very discreetly) gathering information about the city. (Mainly politics, place and person names. Just so he is not lost when they talk about Renady, or the Archbishop.) If it takes the whole day he will spend the whole day.(Although not in the same tavern. He will also visit some shops, and buy some small things, while absorbing what he wants to know through small-talk.)
The taverns all seem to be closed, as do the shops. Almost no one is out and about. It doesn't look like a natural disaster, though; everything seems to have been shut down in an orderly fashion.
When Ossian is finally able to stop someone on the street to enquire, he's told that it is the feast-day of the Goddess, and today is especially blessed, because there's a new Mother for the orphans' home. The Bishop is consecrating her, and everyone in town has gone to the service ... in fact, that's the way Ossian's new acquaintance is going--and he's late.
There will be a feast afterwards, and there won't be any business done until after that, so he won't be able to find an inn to stay at anyway, and if he's come to visit anyone or do any business, everyone will be there.
Ossian and his friends should come and join in the celebration.
Ossian will definitely go to the service. He (and Marius and Ce'e, if they choose to join him) enters the church quitely and takes places at the back. (Standing if necessary). After a while he realises that some of it is coming back to him. He does recognize some of the songs and rituals, and whenever the audience actively does something he joins in. He is actively looking for familiar faces.
"I feel I would be almost entirely out of place, however, it seems not being involved would be even more suspicious, although, as a stranger to this place I will observe solemnly," the thoughts whirl through Marius' head. He will inform Ce'e that _he_ intends to observe but not be involved with the ceremony, and that he thinks it may be best for the Cloudeater merely to watch as well.
Are the inhabitants of the city normally armed? Rather, do they wear weapons as a matter of course? Does Ossian divest himself of his own when they get close or when entering the religious place?
I don't think based on how Claire has described Abford that arms are worn publicly. Let's gloss for now and deal with it later.
[I don't think I talked about weapons specifically. My general thought was that the common people probably carry a knife (for eating and general usefulness), and local law enforcement is more likely to have blunt weapons/cudgels than swords. In my mind, wearing a sword instantly marks one as a noble (and Abford doesn't have a local nobility, though there are lords nearby), the man at arms of a noble, a well-off local who's been travelling and hasn't reached home yet, or a mercenary. Abford does employ mercenaries to guard their trade convoys and enforce their monopoly rights when necessary so it's not too uncommon a sight, though the town council prefers to keep the mercenaries out of the town.]
Cloudeater is glad to watch. He confesses quietly to Marius at one point that he doesn't think he could sing.
That's how you know he isn't human.
When the Mother of the orphanage who is resigning speaks a few words, Ossian recognizes her. He also recognizes some of the other nuns, but it is the Mother whom he is most sure of. He doesn't recognize any of the children, but he wouldn't. And it would be hard for him to tell which of the adults were his playmates as a boy.
Marius is waiting patiently for clues from Ossian. In the meantime, what's the ceremony like? We've got singing, and some nuns. (Which, I hope you all know, is the kind of joke I collect, so I am trying to be VERY VERY GOOD.) Any invocations? Virgin sacrifices? Speaking in tongues? Fire & Brimstone?
It's a high-church ceremony with chanting and singing, incense braziers, rich robes, laying on of hands and anointing with oil, etc. The crowd participates in calls and responses, does a lot of kneeling and rising, and the like.
Ossian leans close to Marius and whispers "We are in the right Shadow. I do recognize at least one person."
After the service Ossian will see if he can have a few words with Mother Prudence. Assuming that some other people get to her first (he will not hurry), he will observe what kind of ritual is customary when greeting her, before approaching. (and he will try to mimic that)
Ossian does place his blade in the porch (or whatever is equivalent)
Question: Was Mother Prudence the Mother when Ossian was at the orphanage?
No, and Ossian suspects that woman is dead based on what he recollects and can reconstruct of the length of life normal for this shadow. He remembers Mother Prudence as a reasonably senior nun, though.
Can he attempt guess how old he should be?
He'd have to get a sample of orphans he knew to make any sort of meaningful guess.
An impromptu receiving line forms in the yard. A lot of people are paying their respects to Mother, no, now Sister Prudence.
"Greetings Mother" he says bowing
"I am very pleased to see that St Trista's is still prosperous."
Mother Prudence blinks and looks at Ossian for a moment. "Ossian? Is that you?" She sounds delighted. Turning to one of the young men she was speaking to a moment ago, she says, "Look, it's young Ossian, who went away with his uncle a long time ago. How you've grown!" she exclaims.
//That was your idea of discreet?// Ossian asks himself, but decides to just accept it. So he grins.
"Yes, it's me." he says. Does the young man she turned to seem to recollect who Ossian is?
Not really. Ossian doesn't recognize the other fellow either.
His mind is racing he has to find some time to judge people's reactions to his arrival. "I decided to come back and see how this place has changed. I had no idea I would end up in all these festivities."
"And how glad we are that you came to see us!" Mother Prudence says. She turns to a boy of about 12 or 13 and says, "Hugh, run tell Mistress Carper that an old friend has come to visit, and she should come to say hello." Hugh bobs a respectful bow to Mother Prudence and runs off to do her bidding.
Mother Humility and the Bishop are continuing their pleasant chat.
Meg heads over in that direction, in her stickybeak fashion, and will break in on their conversation unless somebody stops her.
As Meg arrives, she can hear the Bishop say to Mother Humility, "I think that's a wise plan; if we want the children to adjust well, we should help them forget they were ever in the East to begin with. It will be easier with the little ones."
Mother Humility nods. As she spies Meg, she gestures her over to join them. "Mistress Carper. How nice to see you. I'm so glad you could be here and see all the work we've been doing come to fruition."
[How well does Meg know the Bishop?]
[She knows him, but not well. He's from a sphere above her socially, so while they ask each other for things, neither considers the other to be an equal. She thinks he's a good man and trusts him to do what he thinks is right within the limitations of the politics he's subject to.
Question: Is he a metropolitan bishop or is he answerable to another bishop?]
[Answerable to another. Renady is the Archbishop for the province, which explains how Mother Humility was put in in the first place.]
"Your Grace," Meg greets the Bishop.
"Mistress Carper," the Bishop replies.
"I thought the children sang so well," she smiles and both of them. "And I think the whole town turned out today. So wonderful to see such support."
"Isn't it?" the Bishop agrees pleasantly.
"Abford has been very generous," Mother Humility thirds. "I'm pleased that the city has fallen in behind all our efforts. Have you had a chance to meet our new Eastern children, Mistress Carper?"
Meg doesn't wonder out aloud how much of the town has turned out to show respect for Mother Prudence who has been a feature of Abford for so many years, and how many are inspired by the foreigner who's been here less than a month. No, not at all. Because she's a nice person. What, is that your sore foot she's standing on? I wonder how that could have happened?
"I've met a nice young man and his sister," Meg looks thoughtful and then smiles. "Thilo and Kerta, I think it was. Poor things didn't seem to have much of an idea what was happening to them, where they'd be sleeping and that sort of thing, but Katy's looking after them now." Meg's smile grows. "Well, now the pomp and ceremony's out of the way, things will be pretty busy. With new buildings to build before winter and all this sprucing up planned."
The Bishop nods. "It's an ambitious schedule," he says neutrally.
"Yes, there will be a lot of work," Mother Humility agrees. "I know some things will be delayed--they always are--but with the Goddess' aid, we shall make good progress. And the Goddess always helps those who help themselves."
Certainly there is nothing the Bishop can disagree with in such pious sentiments.
"Is it only the two Eastern children so far? And when will the rest be arriving?"
"Just the two for now. We're going to wait until the end of the summer before we bring any more. We wouldn't want to have anyone sleep outside, you know. Once the new building is ready, children will come a few at a time until Abford has taken the number agreed."
"Aha," Meg replies.
As Mother Humility is speaking, Hugh, one of the orphans, runs up to Meg and the other adults and bows. He looks anxious and a bit nervous, but surely that's just anxiety about the Bishop, who is, after all, an important figure in Hugh's life. The Bishop nods to him, and Mother Humility falls silent.
"Begging your pardon, Your Worship, Mother, Mistress Carper. Mother Prudence has asked for Mistress Carper to come and meet a visitor." He bobs another bow.
"Thank-you for the message, Hugh," Meg replies. "If I can take my leave of you," she says to the Bishop, "I'd better go." Meg waits for his permission before following after Hugh.
The Bishop says, "Of course," and offers Meg a gesture of benediction.
"Do you know who the visitor is, Hugh?" asks Meg as they head through the crowd.
"Mother Prudence says his name is Ossian, and I think he was one of us," Hugh says. "She mentioned his uncle came to take him away."
[Mother Prudence] turns back to Ossian and asks, "How have you been, Ossian, and how is your uncle?"
Ossian smiles "Everything has been very fine indeed. I found I've actually got a pretty big family, not just my uncle.", then he turns somber "My uncle is...dead. Which is one of the reasons I have come back here."
Mother Prudence says, "I'm sorry to hear that, Ossian."
"But I will pursue that tomorrow. Today seems to be a day for festivities. I don't remember the city being so involved in the business at the orphanage, but then I was very young when I left?"
"It's not every day we elevate a new Mother for the orphanage. But I suppose the town does have more to do with us than it used to. Mistress Carper is in large part responsible for that. And here she comes now."
And indeed, Hugh is approaching with a woman who must be Mistress Carper.
Mistress Carper is a small, neat woman, no more than 5'4 tall. She's wearing a fine woollen dress in umber, russet and brown tones. Compared to many in the church, the fabric is rich, the cut of the sleeves and skirt is generous, and the skirt is decorated with a subtle pattern on embroidered bunches of leaves and berries.
Like all of the women past 15 years or so, her head is covered by a headscarf. This has two layers, one snowy white and beautifully laundered, and a further headscarf matching Mistress Carper's dress, intricately folded and obviously an item of fashion. The whole frames her face and hides her hair, except for a few strands visible at her brow. These match her brows and look to be black or very dark brown. And both men get the impression that if she knew that these hairs had escaped she's be irked.
Her face is oval, her eyes are light, and Ossian may think that her mouth is a little too wide for true beauty. (Marius' attitude to beauty is complicated, so I won't speculate.) Her posture is upright and confident, and her movements brisk. The air she projects is matronly.
She has a small basket/holdall over one arm, and as she approaches she seems to have just given the boy Hugh something from within it.
Mother Prudence says, "Mistress Carper, this is young Ossian Rand, who was one of our children some time ago. Will you please show him around for me? I have so many people to meet, and I want to talk to him when I have some more time later."
Mistress Carper looks at Ossian with pleasure and surprise.
She turns back to Ossian and says, "Mistress Carper was one of our children too, a long time ago. She can catch you up on events in Abford since you left." Ossian feels that something is worrying her. He is also aware that there are a lot of people in line to speak to Mother Prudence, and some of them are impatient.
"Ossian Rand," replies Mistress Carper, then turns to Mother Prudence. "Of course I'll show him around," she smiles and gestures to the two men to move away from the receiving line. She nods a greeting to Marius but doesn't actually demand an introduction.
Ossian nods, smiling.
If Marius had been of Julianic origin, his eyebrows would have given a wry, "Rand, eh?" set of words. As it is, perhaps his eyes narrow for the slightest instant, but if it bothered him it was just as quickly shrugged off.
If they will follow she leads them through the crowd and out a side door of the church at a gentle pace so that they have no difficultly following her.
Watching people, Ossian realises that his sword probably would be more a cause of trouble than a tool against, so he "forgets" to pick it up.
Marius tenses as if he were thinking something not entirely synonymous, but he sees the reason in Ossian's realization quickly enough to avoid any kind of faux pas.
Ossian vaguely recalls Meg, who was an older child when he was there. If she is the right age, not too much time has passed.
Meg can, in fact, recall Ossian. If he is who Mother Prudence thinks he is, he looks much younger than he ought to.
"That's ...Meg Carper, right?" Ossian asks, obviously trying to recall things long forgotten.
"Oh you do remember!" she cries, obviously delighted.
Ossian smiles "Sadly, not much more than your name.
"This is Marius and Cloudius, who travels with me."
Marius passes a look to Cloudius that Mistress Carper will hopefully see as an older brother suggesting to the younger that staying quiet is best, but we all know what it really means. "No, we are not changing your name." And so on.
"Pleased to meet you," she says politely, without stopping walking.
Then she looks back to Ossian. "Though Carper's my married name. I was Meg Gift when you knew me." She chuckles over the surname.
[OOC: And you two are free to move off. Describe yourselves, and don't wait for Meera, who will post when she can.]
Meg is studying Ossian and Marius carefully, their clothes, their shoes, the style of their hair, looking for any indications to their social status, their ages and their occupations. She is particularly attentive to Ossian's hands. Her own hands are hidden in the folds of her skirt, or obscured by the basket she holds. [Hands being a particularly strong indication of status and age in this sort of society.]
Ossian is short and slender; slightly over 5'7, with half-long, somewhat unruly auburn hair. While his body looks strong and agile, he does not seem to have done much heavy work; he has clearly had some physical training. His eyes are sincere, sad and startingly blue.
Ossian is dressed in some rather outlandish travel clothes for a wealthy man. Dark blue trousers, a matching jacket, under which a white shirt with (some, not much) ruffle can be seen and black riding boots. His hands show a few small ink and paint stains. His hands seem unproportionally strong; suggesting he might be doing some kind of handicraft now and then.
Marius is...oh dear, I really should commit to a description for him. His hands are rough with real work, and his skin shows that the sun is no stranger. He has dark curly hair and a roguish quirk to his almost ever-present smile. The bits of facial hair he has acquired and maintained only add to his slightly naughty look. Unless he was trying to be gentlemanly, at which point his demeanor changes significantly, you certainly wouldn't want a young daughter going out with him. Still, his clothing is better than that of a ne'er-do-well, and he stands as if he is certain of the ground beneath him and that it would not dare betray him, a stance better on the deck of a ship, perhaps, or balanced with a sword.
He murmurs a soft, "Pleased," as he is introduced, but from his deference Mistress Carper can be confident that he is not intending to interrupt Ossian's examination of things. Perhaps there is a bit of bodyguard in his stance?
"The place has probably changed a bit since your time. It's certainly changed since mine, but I sometimes forget because I've seen most of the changes happen," Mistress Carper remarks as they walk.
"It is good to see you have prospered since you left Abford. I'm always pleased to see one of our family successful. What brings you back to Abford?"
"I'm curious about how things have changed." Ossian says "And I want to confirm my own memories. I was so young at the time I left, I cannot be certain which memories are true and which are not.
"And maybe, maybe I can get answers to a few questions I have."
This answer seems to please Marius, for what it's worth.
Meg has lead them through the side door of the small church and they step across to another building, with doors wide open and a courtyard beyond. This is St Trista's Orphanage itself. The courtyard has buildings on two sides, housing, if Ossian's memory is right, dormitories, school rooms and offices.
[Invent changes to the structure as you like, I'm making it up as I go along.]
Meg stops and looks him in the face for a moment. Worry creases the corners of her mouth and her eyes are serious. "I don't know how much luck you'll have with answers, but we'll try." She smiles again and resumes walking. "You might have more luck with your memories. What do you remember?"
Ossian crouches and touches the ground, picking up some soil, smelling it. "It does smell the same he says" still sitting there, crouched; now looking around from that sitting position.
"You have added another story to the dormitory haven't you." he says with a smile. "And repainted the main building. It was just a tint more yellow back then."
Meg seems a little bemused by his actions, but nods.
"I did remember some of the songs we sang in church, when I heard them, but I couldn't say what we did here during the days." He rises again and asks suddenly. "Do you remember when my uncle fetched me?"
"No," replies Meg. "I'm not sure. There were a few kids who left, and the memories blur together a little." Meg frowns in thought, trying to separate the incidents out in her head, looking for distinctive features in the landscape of memory. "When did he fetch you?"
"Late spring, or early summer, I think." Ossian says with a shrug. "In the early afternoon. The sun stood right over the apple tree. I'd say two hands over" he turns around to look at the the tree that used to be there. His voice turn sorroefull "It has been cut down. The apple tree.
"Anyway." he turns back to look at Meg "As for which year it was, I lack good points of reference. You could have been twelve years old or so. Maybe only ten."
Marius stirs. "My friend Ossian," he explains smoothly, "has been living akin to us, in a place where years are counted based on our leader, and he has lost the differential to make the adjustment. If his manners seem strange, he has merely picked up our foreign ways." (Hey, is it still the century of the Fruit Bat? Or the fifteenth year (http://www.kunaicho.go.jp/eindex.html) of Emperor Akihito?) He decides not to sniff any dirt, however.
Meg smiles broadly and clasps her hands together. "Then you have become Ossian's family? Oh how wonderful! I knew he went with an uncle, but to have more relatives..." she seems genuinely thrilled for Ossian and lost for words to express it. "You must tell me all about it! Where did you go after leaving here?" Meg asks Ossian.
"I don't know where we went first. I guess it could have been Renady." Ossian says, with a sad tone "My uncle took me with me for a long journey; it could be several years actually. After that I was put into a school. Learned painting. After that I traveled myself, until I searched for and found my family."
"Problem is; I still don't know who my parents are."
Meg's smile fades and she looks worried. For a moment she is silent and then lifts her shoulders and pushes herself into action.
"We have records. We write down anything that is known about a child when they come to us, so if they ever want to know we can tell them when they're older. If you can narrow down the year, I'd be happy to look through the books with you to see what we can find."
"I would very much like to do that, yes."
Meg steps forward and puts a hand on Ossian's arm. "But it may be very little, or it may not be useful," she cautions, her voice quiet and full of concern for Ossian. "Or it may be something you do not want to know. I know what it's like, my brother. And I have helped many others like us who grew up here. Most of the time the truth is sad, or sordid, or cruel, and better not known."
Marius nods at this sagely. To Meg it may have seemed that he had had that particular train of thought rampaging through his head in the past.
"I have a good idea of how bad the truth can be in my case." Ossian says gloomily, laying his other hand over Meg's "but I still need to know. If it's possible."
Marius repressed a snort. What, a love child of Fiona and Bleys? Can it get worse? Erm.
"I could possibly narrow down the year a bit, by identifying changes around here and in the church. My memory of such changes is very good. They have replaced a number of tiles in the southern stained glass window of the church, since I left, for instance. If we go through some of the changes we should be able to pinpoint it rather closely, I think."
Meg looks thoroughly confused. "That sounds like more trouble than needed. How old are you? And how old were you when you left? That should make it much easier."
"If I knew." Ossian says, his voice sounding just a tad desperate. "Which I don't.
"But I can guess" he adds in a happier tone; he looks a bit troubled, though. "I left when I was five, give or take a year. Now I'd say I'm twentyfive, give or take say 3 years.
"So that puts us roughly twenty years back in time." Ossian looks at Meg "Will that be precise enough?"
If Ossian is lying he is a damn good liar. On the other hand, he does look very young for being 25.
Meg nods slowly. It could be that she is simply thinking of the number of records to be included and considering the feasibility of the task, or there could the faintest hint of something out of key. It all depends how paranoid one is.
"That's should give us a good start. Though it may take a day or two to get to the records. What with Mother Humility just new, St Trista's is pretty busy just now."
It's at about this point that an orphan comes up asking for Meg, saying that Mother Prudence (the children will certainly take a while to adjust to calling her Sister) needs her.
"Oh, of course, my love," Meg tells the child when she heard the request. "Please tell her I'll be there shortly." As the orphan heads off at a run, she turns back to the three men and smiles. "If you have time to stay in Abford for a few days, I can help with the records." She tilts her head a little surveying the three of them. "The Red Fingered Man is comfortable, fair priced and has the best table of the inns." Her smile turns into a cheeky grin directed at Ossian and she looks a decade or more younger. "I'm not disputing your local knowledge, but if you've been travelling, mine's probably a bit more current."
Ossian grins back "But of course. I will trust your taste. And I'd be very grateful if you would help me with the records."
"When can we do it?"
Last modified: 16 February 2005