[AW] Take your children to work year
AW for one! Bellad's bandaging Fleur while his children "mingle" inside the Circle building
Front dated to just a few days after the fire[+299]
Whatever helpful advice or, better yet, helpful hands (many of them suitably deft) Bellad received, sometimes the days of combining his paternal duties in tandem with those of the healer repeated. “Stillness.” He instructed the woman seated on one of the beds in front of him. After a slight pause, he noticed that somebody else followed the request – his pups sat at attention, staring up at Fleur and himself. Atica, in particular, was fidgety and waiting anxiously for a chance to cast said stillness off.

“Not you.” Their father breathed out. Almost immediately Atica gleefully made a sharp turn straight into Rohan, sending the two of them tumbling, mercifully away from the healer and his patient.

“C'est adorable…” The woman murmured, so quiet Bellad could barely tell if she was speaking another language or muttering some incantation. “Nothing. C’est rien.” She corrected herself, falling quiet as soon as she felt eyes on herself. The carver had a way of making Bellad feel like a chatterbox by comparison.

Throughout the exchange she kept her hand up and Bellad could keep on working. Layers of cloth soon hid the bloodied fabric closest to the original wound. Fleur didn’t mention just how she received said wound. For her to have hurt herself while handling her knives was unlikely – the woman handled them better than an average Luperci handled their very own claws and teeth. The Circle did not yet have a good enough policy on how many questions were asked of the patients. Bellad’s were just enough to know what poultice or concoction would need to be applied.

He tuned out the sound of his children playing in the background well enough. Until Atica, sniffing the air and turning towards the doorway, barked an imposing (in her opinion): “Halt! Who goes there?”
Location: Circle of Athelas clinic || NPCs: -- || Form: Optime

A light fog hung over the Realm, softening the whispers of the trees and dimming the vibrant colors of autumn. But Sólveig didn't mind. It was peaceful, this stillness of the mists, and it did nothing to conceal the smells of the forest. To be without sound or sight would be a terrible thing, but to lose the power of scent? That was altogether unthinkable. Smell was too valuable a sense to be without. As was the case with canines, so much of her success in the world relied on scent to receive and process information -- from broad, plain facts to intricate, nuanced details -- that being without such an integral sense was certainly akin to... to...

Twisting her lips and wrinkling her nose, the young Dawnrunner considered these repercussions with intense focus. There was a wicker basket hanging from the crook of one arm, its shallow base containing several plant materials that she had gathered throughout the morning. She was walking at a relaxed, casual pace but there was purpose in her direction now that she had lacked while she had been foraging. Her search complete for now, her destination was the Circle's little clinic where she would sort and process her Apothecary commodities.

Lifting her eyes skyward, Sólveig's lips parted as an idea came to mind. Surely, the loss of one's sense of smell would be like missing half of their mind or half of their heart. Maybe even half of both! She nodded to herself and wagged her tail, satisfied. That was how important scent was to her: to lose it would be like losing half of yourself.

Coming up to the building that the Circle of Athelas had claimed for their Guild, she realized suddenly that these thoughts had carried her the entire way there and she hadn't even noticed the time it took her. Tittering softly to herself, Sóli shrugged and started for the door. There were voices and scents within that suggested occupancy but she wasn't expecting such a greeting as she received when she reached for the handle.

"Oh!" she yapped, withdrawing her hand again quickly. A smile grew across her face and she gave her tail another wag. She thought that she could recognize the voice of a puppy anywhere. "It's Sólveig Dawnrunner. If it please my lady, I would very much like to come in."

[WC -- 404]
[Image: 2QIxkIn.png]
Sólveig Dawnrunner
Wiki Gallery Shingetsu Trading Company Player

Signature pic by Angelo Rosa
Heeyyyy! Likewise! Let's do this thing! <3
NPCs: Fleur (leaving), Rohan, Atica [+418]
“It please!” Atica yipped, seeming to swell ever so slightly at being taken seriously. The Circle’s adolescent sentinel wandered on over to Bellad, beaming as she announced the visitor. “Papa, it’s Sólveig Dawnrunner!” Her father watched his daughter from the corner of his eye, though most of his focus for now was on tying a knot on Fleur’s bandage without saying anything.

“Father?” This time it was Rohan, looking up at the Songthorn as he finished his work and sat back in the chair. The boy’s ears were lowered slightly as though reading some kind of tension about his parent. “Yes. Very good. Sólveig is welcome.” He mustered a smile, finally giving his children some more direct attention. The smile, it seemed, was outlasted by how intently Rohan watched him. The boy seemed rather unconvinced as far as Bellad’s assessment of the situation went, but knew better than to talk over his work, even if most of it was done by now.

“No scratching, no removing the bandage. Find me here same time tomorrow to replace it.” He instructed the woman before him, who nodded with quiet words of thanks, then got up. It almost seemed that having more than just the healer and his pups in the room made her progressively closer to whispers. She hurriedly made herself scarce, just barely affording Sólveig a nod of recognition.

“Papa okay?” Atica nuzzled up to Bellad’s knee just before he got up from the chair. The man set aside some of the supplies used to treat Fleur’s cut on a nearby bedside table, then knelt down to pet his daughter on the head. “Yes, Little Light. Let me speak to Sólveig for now. Then we three should go eat.” Despite his suggestion, as the pups padded off across the floor, it seemed they still felt some reservations about their father’s condition. To them, who did not directly witness their father’s reaction to the recent fire, his state of mind may have remained an unsolved mystery. Yet, even adolescent, they had the capacity for suspicion and, more importantly, for concern.

“It’s good that you’re here, Sólveig.” Bellad spoke before he could be easily interrupted. Almost as though by being the driving force of conversation he could prevent it from unleashing some line of dialogue he would not enjoy satisfying. “I have finished with Fleur, but you could help me stow away the ointments and bandages. We would do well to procure more in near future. This fog, it invites injury.”
Location: Circle of Athelas clinic || NPCs: -- || Form: Optime

The trill of her giggle extended from her throat and hung pleasantly in the air around her before it faded into the surrounding mists. The fresh scents from beyond the door suggested that the child doorkeeper was non other than Atica Songthorn, her Healer master's young daughter. So it stood to reason that her father, too, was surely within the clinic as well. Upon inference from this information, Sólveig found that she was equal parts eager and nervous at the prospect of seeing Bellad.

Breathing in, the young Apothecary squared her shoulders and grasped the door handle and then, swinging the door open, she stepped resolutely through the threshold and into the clinic. Her eyes alighted first on the burned man and his patient, curious and tinted with inherent concern, before movement at Bellad's feet drew her attention to the children. Her face lit up with delight.

"Oh, hello Mister Rohan and Miss Atica!" she said with flourish, beaming at them warmly, brightly. And then to Atica: "Thank you for allowing me inside."

She bent to offer them her canid displays of affection before rising again and giving a small wave at Fleur as she hurried out of the clinic. One of her ears swiveled at the sound of Atica's small voice and Bellad's gentle response, followed by the turning of her head when her name was spoken. Her eyes smiled at the children, hoping to reassure them. The way that they almost seemed to cling to their father made her wonder at their perceptive abilities.

"Yes, of course," she replied and removed the basket from her arm before assisting Bellad with the supplies. "I was just out foraging for more materials for us to work with." She gestured to the basket. "I hope there was nothing terribly wrong with Miss Fleur," she added conversationally, glancing at the door. "How are you, Mister Bellad?"

She looked up into the warm glow of his eyes and, holding her gaze there, knitted her brows sympathetically. Sólveig was thinking of [M] that night; of the fire; of Bellad's agonized shriek and the look in her eyes was telling.

[WC -- 362]

[Image: 2QIxkIn.png]
Sólveig Dawnrunner
Wiki Gallery Shingetsu Trading Company Player

Signature pic by Angelo Rosa
ooc [+460]
The little pages had little reservation where it came to greeting Sólveig. Even Atica, for all her play at being a dainty sentinel to the Circle of Athelas, seemed to melt briefly, only to collect herself to rejoin her brother in tentative play. There was a lot of floor to go around whilst the Guild was not in abundant use. A fortunate circumstance, considering the recent opportunities for their craft to become heavily relied upon.

“A cut.” Bellad summarized very briefly, before snapping back at attention. This was his student. A curt remark of this sort wouldn’t do. “Fleur works much with her carvings and sometimes injuries occur. It was fairly routine cleaning and bandaging to avoid infection.” Granted, were he to press his patient with questions he could have discovered more, but at the time the circumstances didn’t interest him that much. Only his work and its results did.

Contrary to his fairly detailed if clinical account of Fleur’s condition, the simplest question on how Mister Bellad was made him pause as though suddenly posed with defining the meaning of life. “I…” His eyes met his young apprentice’s, and he found himself peering into them with doubt and confusion. What was she really asking? And was it fit for the teacher to truly be transparent with her when it came to such things?

As though his mind trailed off and away from the question, he instead took the basket and examined its contents. He was often surrounded by the scent of medicinal herbs, but this time he put his nose close to Sólveig’s harvest, if only to drown any internal conflict in stimuli. “I’ve been... trying to keep myself busy.” Better some answer than none at all, and not an untrue one as well. But a more pointed question would be needed to extract a finer truth from him.

When he looked at Sólveig again, it was no longer as intense and frank an eye contact, but the sound of his voice was calmer and his statement less forced. “You have done well. Why don’t you suggest uses for what you have gathered?” He offered. Occasionally, rather than firm direction, he would instead give her a chance to perform under his supervision.

Of course, prior to that exercise there remained the matter of putting away the supplies he'd used to treat Fleur. In this fraction during which Sólveig was unoccupied, a small voice reached out to her in careful whisper. "Papa has been sad..." And before the little informant could be caught, she retreated back to her brother, who nudged her, the two pups ushering into hushed conversation. Moments later they found time to play, but still stole the occasional glance at the Songthorn High Lord and his apprentice.
Location: Circle of Athelas clinic || NPCs: -- || Form: Optime

She did not expect his response to her inquiry after Fleur's wellbeing to be so terse and the surprise showed plainly on her face. With a blink and a subtle twitch, her reaction could almost have passed for a flinch. Something didn't seem quite right with him, she thought to herself as he quickly offered additional details.

"I'm glad it was nothing serious," Sólveig replied, a little subdued. She thought to ask more questions, such as if her bandage would need changing and how her wound was cleaned and if anything was put on it before it was bandaged, but she was more interested in his answer to her latter question.

Their eyes met and Sólveig offered him a bright and encouraging smile, because he had trailed off almost before he got started and now his words seemed to have gotten snarled up in his throat. When his gaze fell away from hers, the light on her face dimmed and her tail drooped. She allowed her attention to be diverted a moment and watched the children as they tussled and played, remembering a time not so terribly long ago when she would do the same with Inga.

It was then, while her eyes were on Atica and Rohan, that Bellad at last replied. She flicked her summer eyes back upon him, tilting her head just so and drawing a soft smile to her lips, and waited for him to say more. And he did, but only to change the subject.

"Oh, um... Thank you," the Dawnrunner uttered. She was caught off-guard and it took her a beat to shift her focus. "Well, there's coneflower roots there that are useful for treating illnesses like, um... well, like when you have the sniffles." She couldn't think of a better example. "I also harvested some willow branches for their bark. Willow is good if you have a fever or pain." That one was easy. "There are also lots of rose hips there," she said with a little shrug. "I used them to help add a little better flavor to my teas before. I don't know if there's anything else they're useful for, but Mister Ridgewell told me a little bit about them last year. They taste good."

Sólveig said all of this as she helped her teacher clean up after Fleur's visit, moving here or there and carefully putting things away as she answered the Healer's question. While she was sharing this last bit about the rose hips, a shadow from the corner of her eye caught her attention and drew it down to the little Atica at her feet. A note of sadness caught in her throat, making a sound that resembled the agonized squeak of a mouse. She looked at Bellad quickly, dolefully, and then realized that she was in no way concealing her emotions and turned her head again sharply in a poor attempt at acting natural.

It wasn't that she thought anything untoward had happened, or that her little informant would get into any serious trouble, but Sólveig didn't want to loop the children up into... well, whatever it was that was making Bellad so sad. Not any more than they already were.

"Mister Bellad?" she asked, turning to him again with newfound resolve. "Can I, um... Can I ask you about something?" Sólveig didn't know when, but at some point her gaze had fallen to her hands. She made herself look into his face again. "That night, with the fire... I- I saw- I heard-" None of these were questions and she knew it. "Mister Bellad, you sounded so- so... so miserable." She let this hang in the air between while as her eyes grew hot and moist. She scrubbed at them roughly, like she was annoyed with herself. "What's wrong, Mister Bellad?"

[WC -- 654]

[Image: 2QIxkIn.png]
Sólveig Dawnrunner
Wiki Gallery Shingetsu Trading Company Player

Signature pic by Angelo Rosa
ooc [+726]
In the increasingly distant past in his ever-distant homeland, Bellad used to be have a hard time holding himself back from interjecting whenever he knew the right answer. As a pup he would fidget uncomfortably, all but whimpering at his Elders to consult him for whatever his peers had no response to. In the now and on Circle grounds with his apprentice, Bellad was more patient. He did not shoot down any of her answers.

There weren’t any grievous errors to correct, but, being a student and teacher, he still had to react with more than curt nods and grunts. For most things, he spoke and prodded just enough for her to remember certain details. He quizzed her on how to know coneflower root was still good to use, to make sure she remembered not to employ it once it’s lost its scent. And, following his approval of her assessment of the inner bark of willow, moved right on to the rose hips. “Yes. Rose hip tea. It is good for stress and good for pain in the stomach.”

An eye like his, trained to spot familiar outlines of leaves or the color of petals or tiny berries, it would be foolhardy to assume that he hadn’t noticed the changes to Sólveig’s demeanor whenever her friendly manner found no purchase with him. He was not tone deaf. What eluded him, at times, was the realization that the stifling grip of uncompromising control over himself would weigh down more shoulders than his own.

Some part of him hoped that this would simply pass. He owed no one constant mirth and smiles. Besides, he was pretty certain he was still an improvement over Ridgewell. Digging through such excuses, but unable to shake a sense of roused self-consciousness, he did overlook the tiny innocuous hint one of his children provided Sólveig with. The better to corner him with.

He did not expressly forbid her from asking the question. But some part of him dreaded it in advance, wise to when the prelude to a question likely did not involve asking what else willow bark was good for or what was safe to add to rose hip tea. Clearly it took her as much effort to face him with the question as it took him to withstand it. But clearly the girl brave enough to ask to study under him had what it took.

The scarred healer had only mere moments to recognize how he dearly wished they had just returned to the work of the Circle. The more Sólveig narrowed her question down to a specific night, to a specific incident, the more Bellad’s shell broke. The corners of his mouth twitched like his face didn’t know what expression to make. His nose scrunched briefly as though he’d caught a whiff of medicine gone putrid.

Miserable. The word drew a strange sound from him, as undecided, it seemed, as the involuntary spasms of his muzzle. As though he hacked out a single mangled syllable of a laugh that was not laughing. A scoff, perhaps.

Yes, miserable, and the whole pack heard no doubt. 

“I…” His throat was dry and he coughed, cleared his throat in a futile gesture. There wasn’t any actual blockage to clear. “I do not…” No, a false start. The makings of a lie. He didn’t want to lie to Sólveig. “I didn’t…” Where did he even want to go with it? The meager start of a stillborn statement. With strain, he started over again. “The fire…” There was no smoke in the room, was there? Why did it feel like he couldn’t see much of it anymore?

“The fire… cost me dearly. Cost me, cost Ierian…” He inhaled, standing before her a crumbling statue desperately trying to hold together.

“… everyone.”

He squeezed his eyes shut. He felt afraid. He felt angry. He felt lost, like the room was no longer there and it was just him against the ashen void. “Should have been stronger… Should have faced the fire.” The more he spoke, the clearer it seemed that he was no longer speaking of the fire, or indeed of himself, from recent times, let alone from now. Bellad, once again, was chastising the young Songthorn for a fire from years ago. For not having been stronger then.

A past failure projected into the present.
Location: Circle of Athelas clinic || NPCs: -- || Form: Optime

So rose hips were good for something more than flavor! Sólveig's tail waved behind her and her face lit up, ears perked and eyes bright. Mister Ridgewell hadn't told her any more than that they were good to eat and that you had to pick the seeds from them beforehand. She had had the thought to add them to teas, but only for flavor. Now she knew that there were actual healing properties to be found within them! Stress-relief and stomachaches. The student committed this new knowledge to memory with unconcealed delight.

Her delight, however, did not endure. Like a flame glowing against an increasingly dense fog, it faded as the oppressive tension continued to press in around her.

Sóli kept her eyes on her instructor, though everything within her screamed at her to look away. A knot of something thick and firm and terribly uncomfortable had begun to grip her throat as Bellad's face contorted into an expression that she could to identify, but which left her with a feeling of concern and unease. When the bridge of his nose rippled, her first thought was that he was about to become angry with her and Sólveig instinctively tensed. Her breath caught in her throat. She braced herself.

Instead, Bellad croaked a laugh that wasn't one at all. There was no life or mirth or humor in the sound of it and the young Dawnrunner disliked it instantly.

Like she had done moments before, the Healer seemed to find the words difficult to utter. Sólveig couldn't remember a time in all her apprenticeship where Bellad had been so at a loss for words. She wanted to help him but there was nothing for her to do except to listen. And she did, rubbing at her eyes now and then as her emotions gripped at her heart.

"But- Mister Bellad, but he hasn't been lost. Mister Ierian is still here." Her voice sounded small and childlike to her ears, though her words were audible and clear. "Everyone is here."

The scars that so marred the Songthorn brothers were no secret, but their origin had always been steeped in mystery to her. And rightfully so, she thought. She wondered after them, of course she did, but respect and social status kept her from asking how they had been burdened with them.

She sucked in a soft sob before it could escape and reached her fingers out towards him, wanting to offer comfort and warmth -- anything to remind him of what he had here and now.

"Why, Mister Bellad?" she asked him gently.

[WC -- 440]

[Image: 2QIxkIn.png]
Sólveig Dawnrunner
Wiki Gallery Shingetsu Trading Company Player

Signature pic by Angelo Rosa
ooc [+469]
These smothering waves of hollow fear came and went like the tide. They came also with a similar sense of inevitability, as well as a similar meek hope that he’d seen the worst of it already. This time, too, the wave found its time to fill his lungs and squeeze his windpipe hard enough that he couldn’t speak. Then it let him go. Perhaps, for his compassionate apprentice’s gentle voice, it receded that much easier.

“I…” He opened his eyes, only now realizing that he’d squeezed them shut, then blinked as though testing his eyelids. There was a faint sense of moisture between them and his nostrils made a sound when he inhaled not unlike a person who’d been in a state of quiet sorrow. “Ierian…” He repeated the name then nodded, somewhat shakily at first, but when he retraced the gesture he added more confidence to it. “Ierian is here, yes. Everyone is... You are right...”

His prior dazed utterances were followed by another breath. This time he breathed through his mouth and so spared Solveig the sound of another sniffle. It was deliberate and made his chest puff out, dropping steadily when he let the air back out. Finally he looked like he could see the room he was in. The look in his glistening eyes showed comprehension of the person he was with as opposed to the people he was without.

The fire, Sólveig.” He spoke with renewed clarity, a gentle sadness to his tone. “Long ago my brother and I have lost much to it.” Not every member of New Caledonia had become Howlbound as a result of the fairly recent burial, yet the event was not unknown, even if its cause hadn’t been explicitly public. He kept looking at Sólveig briefly, as though somehow continuing the conversation without words.

He forgot when his hand had drifted to his scarred shoulder. Just as he willed his palm off the scarred flesh he felt a moist nose bump into his ankle.

“Papa, does it hurt?”

Two pairs of eyes were looking at him from the floor. Clearly his prior display must have disturbed the children enough that they could no longer play or even pretend to play while listening to the grown-ups talk.

“No, Little Sunspot.” Bellad replied to his son. “Not anymore.” Though the addition must have been meant for him, there was a touch of thoughtfulness to it. As though the healer was voicing a more personal reminder.

“Perhaps discussing something else would do us well.” He suggested to Sólveig, unwilling to be more elaborate in the presence of his children. He hoped, beyond seeing the scars on their father and uncle, they would not have to confront more of their past. Not until later at least. Not until they walked on two legs.
Location: Circle of Athelas clinic || NPCs: -- || Form: Optime

It seemed a long time before Bellad's eyes reappeared from behind their dark lids. When they did, they looked less like the pure substance of fire that she was familiar with and more like mere reflections of it set in a rippling pool of water. Feeling them climb tenaciously into her heart, Sólveig swallowed her own emotions and, as she had done before, roughly cleared a rogue tear with the heel of her palm.

She, along with her dear sister, had been born into grief. From the earliest of her days, even before she could hear or see or walk, death had been a constant companion; it had dogged her heels with every turn and lay with her at every sleep. They had not been defined by the tragedy of their birth and their had father tried to keep the intensity of his anguish tempered, but Sólveig had been quick to recognize when someone was mournful and lachrymose.

Listening to Bellad's breaths and looking into his aqueous eyes, Sóli was reminded achingly of her father.

"The fire..." she echoed, realization weighing uncomfortably against her shoulders. Her eyes flicked to his fire-eaten skin. "You mean- Oh, of course..."

This time when a tear grew too great for containment, she did not brush it away as it slid past its threshold and down her cheek.

Solveig looked down at the little Rohan when he spoke, surprised that she had forgotten all about the children. With the back of a wrist, she dried her eyes and sucked in a deep, cleansing breath. And she gave the children her brightest and bravest smile.

"Yes, Mister Bellad," she agreed with a firm nod. "Maybe you could tell me about other plants I could harvest this time of year?"

Willing her brain to shift its focus, Sóli committed to memory the confirmation that some wounds -- namely those of the spirit and the mind -- took much longer to heal. Her last thought before she turned her undivided attention on Bellad's lesson was of [M] that night with Azalea in Del Cenere.

She hoped with every optimistic bone in her body that such wounds could be healed eventually, both for Mister Bellad and Azalea's sake.

[WC -- 376]

[Image: 2QIxkIn.png]
Sólveig Dawnrunner
Wiki Gallery Shingetsu Trading Company Player

Signature pic by Angelo Rosa

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