Open Sliver'd in the Moon's Eclipse
#1
A foreboding chill of winter began stretching its tendrils, hinting its inevitable seizure of the landscape as the months drifted by. It didn't bode well for the poorly insulated carts, which stood on the shore of the peaty bog water. Soon they'd be driven to seek better shelter. If the frost had its way, the bog would freeze, and make the treks in and out hazardous in brand new ways. At the moment, drowning was the only concern. It was also a safeguard, like a keep's moat. But the errant roots of trees and tendrils of watery plant matter did not discriminate in just who they tripped and sent off-kilter into the opaque depths. Other measures needed implementing.

Dembe knelt and rapped his knuckles upon the already creaking and waning planks of the makeshift bridge, which led from the start of the pond and across to the ramshackle hut that his mother called home. What a state he had found her in here. It was said that she once held a steady maid's job, and he wished she still had, if only for the security of a manor dwelling. But he did not yet know the reasons for her departure, along with her new 'daughter' - was she her blood? He ventured a guess that she was not, Mother was too old to have borne the young Marinette herself. Yet they shared a white man's surname, and he was torn about whether he should inquire about it, or give them their privacy. After all, he'd only just reunited with Mother when he found her in Madsmoor, or rather, on its far outskirts. They were nearly strangers. And he ventured to guess that he may not have even been invited to walk among the Sister's ranks had he not some trade to ply in exchange for shelter. But said trade, he felt, would better ensure Mother's safety. He'd remake the bridge, the hut, anything they needed. It would ease his sleep, at least. No matter how many seemed to pass him by with suspicion. What had happened? Who had so wronged them all?
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#2
Normally, maybe, Marina would not be above napping in a cart or under the stars. It was getting chilly though, and she didn't feel at ease sleeping among the foggy moors. There was a strangeness in the shadows and the chills that crept against her skin. So she gathered up her skirts and made her way to the nearest hut. She'd chat them up a bit, and maybe warm by a fire for a bit. If she nodded off, that was good too, but it wouldn't be her intent.

She slowed down as she saw someone else standing outside the hut. A little curl to her lips in a smile as she stepped up beside him. "Ah, Dembe? What are ya doin wahnderin out here at an hour like this? You should be resting, shouldn't ya? Working too hahrd during tha day and all. I was just coming to visit your mather an sistar. It's a very bonny night, but fahr too cold for mah likin. "

The girl gripped a small satchel on a chord at her throat before she knocked on the door then reached to slowly open it.
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#3
Hearing a voice outside, Marinette rose from her place and crossed the two steps it took to reach the heavy cloth that served as a door.  Where she had knelt, stirring a small kettle hung over the burning peat in the fire pit, there were two impressions of her knees left in the soft, damp earth of the “floor.” They needed to lay down floor boards, that was certain. And the winter winds would easily find their way through the doorway, and in amongst the cracks that showed here and there. She wanted to make the place more snug for her mother (the woman she called mother, anyway). Prudence was no spring chicken, and Marinette was concerned about spending the winter out here in the bog. Too wet. Too cold. It wasn’t good for an old woman's health. The moor had given up most of its treasures, as far as the young herbalist was concerned. The earth prepared to sleep, and now she must do what she could with her sisters to make their make shift homes more weather tight.

Poking her head outside the hut, she saw Marina, and Dembe, her mother’s biological son. She didn’t smile brightly or greet them effusively. That wasn’t her way. But those who associated with her closely might be better able to pick up the signs of the girl’s pleasure at seeing them – Marina because they were something of an age, and friends, and Dembe because she had need of his skills.

”Come,” she said in her oddly flat monotone, pulling the heavy cloth aside. It had once been the sail on a ship that had travelled far, and Marinette liked to touch it and try to feel its power, and read its stories in the wrinkles and stitches and stains. But for now she moved aside so they could enter, if they chose.

”We need to make plans,” she said, simply and directly.
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#4
He did not belong here, in this open space - he belonged in the city. The narrow alleys, filled with refuse both human and not, among the suit-blackened brick buildings and the sounds of life, always constant. Walter had never seen a place like this, so barren and lifeless. Since he had left the village, he had seen no life save a few birds, heard no life either. He wasn't sure what to make of it. He knew every street in London, or so he sometimes felt, and was never lost there.

He was surely lost now. Was his mother truly out here, somewhere? It seemed a fool's errand, childish dreaming, to think he might find the woman who had vanished so many years before. Walter had thought her lost, 'til he had begun to search for her, hearing rumors that she was traveling with a group of women, living in a caravan. Until he had begun looking for a way out of London.

Walter began to doubt. Neither panic nor fear bad yet set in, but he was not certain he could find his way back to the village. Or that anyone would care to look for him in this place. Every empty piece of it looked the same, and Walter had never felt so alone.
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#5
Dembe eyed Marina as she emerged from the hut, nodding politely, "Marina. I wanted to see about this bridge. I heard a mighty crack this afternoon when I was going to see mother. A little extra nail here and there should ease my worries until tomorrow." And he pulled out his box of tools, and started hammering away, despite knowing that it was probably quite rude and many of them were asleep. But he'd rather they have disturbed rest than rest forever more at the bottom of the bog by accident. He wasn't sure if Marinette meant for him to come inside too, so he stayed at his work and simply waved.
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#6
Jericho had been late to arrive, seeing to the remains of a ravaged fox den had rattled his spirits and made him reluctant to venture beyond the castle grounds. The moor was dangerous at night. But the reward of being among the strange but peaceful sisters' ground was enough to propel him forth. Bringing the blankets he usually slept with in the shed, since the cold was starting to bite harsher than before. Someone could surely use them more than he.

With them in a large pile in his arms, he almost didn't see the dark form of someone, a ways from the foot path that lead to the centre of the bog. He dropped the beaver pelt and it splashed in a puddle. So much for keeping warm and dry. But the noise of it was what made him freeze. Almost sure he'd made himself known to the stranger nearby. The huts were not far off, he could see stars of light twinkling from lanterns just beyond the trees. He could bolt if the stranger made a threatening gesture...
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#7
Marina gave a sincere smile to Delve and nodded. "Ach, ye be workin so hard an' so of'n. We were gifted tha day ye came to join us. Come in when yer done, m' friend."

As she turned to enter the hut, she thought she saw figures in the distant mist. It was dark and even the villagers shouldn't have been so foolish to come in the dark. She decided it had to be her imagination and went inside beside Marinette.
She took her friend's hand and gave it a gentle squeeze in welcoming as she flashed her a small smile. Just as quickly, she released her and sat on the dirt floor near the fire but far enough that the true occupants of the hut had the preferred closer seats.

"Wha's this ye need ta discuss?"
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#8
The light had dimmed, and Walter was beginning to be troubled, as the landscape now was unrecognizable as well as unfamiliar. What was that!? Something splashed in the bog and he stopped still. Now he was frightened. How had he wandered so close to the bog without knowing? He glanced around, trying to make sense of his surroundings and figure out where best to go, to gain distance between himself and the treacherous water.

Then he saw the shadowy form of what could only be a man. Walter's first instinct was to reach for his pistol, but he stopped instead. there was no reason to believe this man was hostile to him, whoever he was, whatever he might be doing out here at night. After all, Walter was out here at night as well, and his mother was supposed to be here as well, though he still doubted that.

"Hello? Who is there?" An almost useless question, as Walter truly knew no one here.
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#9
A man's voice? That confirmed his fears precisely. Dembe was the only other man he'd seen them let through. But it could always be a lost wanderer...

"Hello..." He tried to be loud, speak from the back of his throat, straighten his spine and exude an intimidating aura, but it wasn't happening. He didn't even move from his spot, though he did turn his stance toward the lights for a quicker escape should his responding be so grave a mistake. "M-may I... help you?"
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#10
She returned the light squeeze, acknowledging her friendship with Marina in a way that perhaps her too still face was prone to forego. But she drew the other young woman in to the fire and when Marina sat, Marinette did as well, curling her legs underneath her, one hand on her ankles, the other used as a prop. ”We will freeze to death if we don’t have a  better way to keep out the cold,” she said without preamble. "Maman will not survive a winter here in this hut, not as it is now. We must make it tighter, and you too, Marina – you need a warmer place to pass the cold months. We need wood, and nails.” And clearly these would have to be purchased, for the moors were not replete with trees. Peat bogs did not yield forests. Yet where would the funds come to buy these materials, and would the villagers even sell them such, if it meant the “gypsies” taking up even more permanent residence in the bog?
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#11
The man, whoever he was, hadn't answered his question. Walter supposed it didn't much matter for the moment; there were more pressing concerns than his name. This other man was surely wandering what brought him out into this wilderness so late at night, though Walter could have asked the same. It struck him as strange, that they would both be out here at this hour, but there could be any number of reasons . . . hunting, perhaps, or a straying animal.

"You might," Walter said, afraid to move towards the other man. Not that he was frightened of him, but of uncertain footing. "If you know your way around these moors. It seems I've wondered too close to the bog."
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#12
The woman waved her off and laughed. "Mar'nette, mah dear lass. Ya dinnae worry abou' me. Ah know how ta take care of meself if the weather gets cold. Ah know what it's like on the streets when the snow falls and yer breath turns ta ice! But ah can see tha problem. We need ta worry about yer dear mother and yerself. Ah think we should push selling more. An' while ah would never suggest it otherwise, if any one is willin' we may need ta go into more.. unsavory professions. Ah have never done such a thing, so ah want it ta be the last thing we try, eh? "

"Maybe we should work harder in town ta draw people to tha shop. So many are nervous. They have silly thoughts. Show em we're not some bogeyman their mothers warn em about." Her face stayed on the fire and the light spirit she had diminished as she knew how grave the situation could be. "Maybe.. one of us.. could go to one of tha big cities nearby. Sell our charms an' skills. People in tha types o' places are likely ta think of us more as an attraction in our selves. A rare novelty an' touch of tha exotic. To get their fortunes an' a souvenir of tha event would let them be the talk of their friends per'aps. It's a stretch but it could work. Try it for a month, send money back any time we get enough to help pay for the building we need..."

"Unless ya want to try to charm one of the stupid men in town and use him for just you and your mom for the winter months." She smirked showing her teasing side before her eyes flicked back to her friend.
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