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Claude Burke for Beatrix Burke.
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"I'll bleed wherever I damn well please!" She shouted, scowling at him. As if to prove it, she uncovered her nose and shook her head back and forth like a dog attempting to dry its fur of water. Little droplets of blood rained on the sidewalk all willy-nilly. Billie Farrow in A Good Dusting
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the malicious playfulness of the wind
May 1st, 1889 — Dovecote outskirts

Djura was on his way back from visiting his Irvingly property manager's offices in Dovecote when he decided to turn off the main street. It was not often, after all, that the Baron should visit this part of town, and he was getting a few quirked eyebrows and breathless smiles. Djura, who was not a sociable sort, elected instead to take a detour on his way back home, walking along the woodland path by the station, silver cane pressing comfortably into the firm soil and ghostly eyes peaceful in these quiet, natural surroundings.

A brisk wind caught up from the east as he continued on his way, but he paid it no heed until it demanded attention. Without any semblance of warning, a narrow branch on a beech tree was dislodged by the gale and whipped him harshly across the arm. "Hm", Djura noted gruffly as a sharp pain faded in, and he stopped in his walk to see a narrow, bloody gash emerge on his affected arm.

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She was tired. The day had been long and the week, even longer. With the warmer months approaching, her students were getting less and less inclined to sit still and listen to her - she knew the other teacher, who dealt with the older students, was struggling as well. Soon - as the last summer had indicated, a few of her children would even stop showing up to school, too busy at home to be allowed time to see to their schooling. It pained her, but she understood it to some degree. Today she had made a house call to one of her student's parents and was headed back to her own home when she was witness to a man older than herself being smacked with a branch.

She'd paid little mind at first, too caught up in her longing for her own bed and sleep to pay much mind to anything else, though she did a double-take and slowed as the man came to an abrupt halt before her. Unsure, she took a few more steps, placing her closer to the man. "Are you okay, sir?"

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Being quite distracted, it took a moment for Djura to notice that there was another in the vicinity, coming up the woodland path behind him. He turned to regard a young woman who had a pleasant look of normalcy about her — in other words, she wasn't clad in royal blue robes and hadn't just transformed from a bird. Had she been his only focus at the moment, she might have reminded him a little of his childrens' governess.

"Quite okay, thank you miss", he fabricated out of chivalrous courtesy, standing aside for her. "I will simply fetch my handkerchief and I'll be fine."

But as he reached for his jacket pocket, the blood spiraled down his arm and drip-dropped onto the trodden ground. It seemed he wouldn't be able to sort this out without making something of a mess.

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How his definition of normalcy had become "not wearing blue robes and transfiguring from a bird to a human" would certainly be a story she had a desire to hear, but of course, that pended if she ever actually learned that herself. However, now her whole focus was on the man, her eyes now alert rather than spacy. Bless the children for teaching her how to stay calm in a panic and bless her siblings for imparting some of their medical knowledge into her, as much as she could do without magic. "Don't," Annabeth instructed, digging into her own pocket for hers - far less nice than his, but with stitchings of birds along the edges, "You'll only make it worse. Let me." Folded up neatly, she presses the square to his arm with little regard for what state her handkerchief would be in - or stopping to ponder if maybe she should ask permission first.

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Had the lady withdrew one of those magic wands, Djura would've barked a command of halting, with all the authority of his days as a Colonel. But instead she procured a handkerchief, evidently quicker than him to jump to the conclusion that her two working hands were better than his one. He stonily allowed it, not so much as batting an eyelid as the sting was brought to sharp relief upon contact. He had suffered through far worse.

"I am grateful", he replied, looking down at his arm a little guiltily as the crimson of his blood already began to soak through one edge of the cloth.

"In all my days wandering woodlands, I've never known the combination of gale and branch to be so... malicious."

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No one would have broken out a wand in the streets of Irvingly unless they wanted to pay the consequences - unless it was emergency, magic was illegal on the streets here. All to make their muggle neighbors more comfortable. She found that silly, asking someone to repress an integral part of who they were just to make someone else more comfortable. Her peoples' fear was ridiculous, at least in her opinion - though she supposed many wizards held the same fear of them. That fear was just a boundary though. Imagine all the things that could be done with the combination of mundane sciences and magic. All the diseases they could cure and the knowledge they could learn. Fear was just a thing holding them back from progress.

As the blood-soaked through her once white handkerchief, she frowned. "Can you reach your own with just your good arm? I can use yours to tie it off. That way you can get home without holding it and seek help from a doctor or healer."

She glanced back at the tree, eyes narrowed, a bit suspicious that the tree was not entirely 'normal'. What tree causes this much bleeding. "Neither have I, though I don't normally make a habit of wandering through the woods here." She'd heard too many of her siblings' horror stories for that.

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Obligingly, Djura reached into his pocket and withdrew his handkerchief; a noble-looking embroidered thing that had been a gift from his mother. The Baron did look like a noble gentleman today, but quintessentially non-frilly, and comparatively modest given that the occasion was a meeting in the Dovecote District. But the handkerchief was less humble with its elaborate corner script of Baron Crossridge.

Djura wouldn't call this "through the woods", given that this was simply a well-beaten tree-lined path that skirted round the back gardens of various cottages, rather than some dangerous track through a wild forest, though he could see why a young woman on her own would rather avoid it. Except today, for whatever reason.

"I am sure the pressure of your handiwork will stem the flow", he replied, having no intention of calling in a doctor; or a "healer", for that matter.

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Annabeth Jennings held little regard towards nobility despite what her mother and governess had attempted to drill into her. She'd spent far to long submerged in the magical world and as such their disregard towards the muggle nobility had been imparted on her. Nor was she overly impressed by displays of wealth. Her family was comfortable - neither her nor her sister really needed to work, they only did so because they fancied something to do with their time. A healer and a teacher. Her mother might have been impressed by Baron Crossridge, but to Anna - who didn't really fancy being anything like her mother with her growing suspicions of her siblings' paternity - he was just another man. And wealth and status aside, she wasn't going to take the time to inspect the man's handkerchief when he was bleeding. Just because she typically had her head in the clouds didn't mean she couldn't be logical when the situation demanded.

"I can't insist you do, but at the very least have it washed and properly bandaged when you return home. This will not serve you well for any longer than it takes for you to get home," she lectured, hints of the tone she used with the children in the schoolhouse leaking out, even though she was talking to a full-grown man who appeared to be twice her age. Struggling slightly, she held the already blooded handkerchief down and tied the other tightly around it. "Peeling this off, you'll risk starting the bleeding again and you wouldn't want it getting infected."

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"Yes", he agreed dully, and then a mild reassurance; "I've seen worse." Djura was a war veteran who'd been in multiple battles, and had tended to both his own wounds in the field and others — though not as a medical practitioner, of course. He was undecided on whether this young woman seemed like a professional, though she was evidently confident. A mother, perhaps, with boys prone to grazed knees and knocked elbows.

Then as if from nowhere, the wind caught up once more, and a nearby tree swayed menacingly, seeming almost to flex its branches. Djura frowned. Had he inadvertently wandered into some "magical" section of the otherwise innocuous suburban woodland?

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She offered a faint, sad smile as she step back from the man, taking her hands off his arm and gathering her belongings from the road below. She clutched her books to her chest for lack of things to do with her hands now that she'd tied off the man's scratch.

"Thank you," Annabeth offered, pausing as he did. "Are you okay? Did you hear something?" A moment of panic surged, visible on her face. The last time she'd faced something that seemed like it belonged in the woods, she'd gotten briefly pulled into a magical black market animal trade and faced off against a magical cat caught on the idea of facing off against her. Eyes darted around, uneasy, and for a second, she caught herself looking for Mr. Adlard in an unrealistic hope of association.

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Djura's frown deepened as he looked steadily at the tree. It was making no further movements that could be deemed potentially anthropomorphic, but it was certainly... off-putting. He just couldn't put his finger on why. "I thought for a moment I —" he began vaguely, in response to the young woman, still looking at the tree. But then he remembered himself, and returned his gaze downward to where the scholarly would-be nurse stood curiously. "Not to worry, it was a trick of the light", he concluded. He was probably just tired.

And with that, he prepared to detach himself from this odd and unexpected encounter. "My thanks for your care, miss", said Djura formally. And sure enough, he could no longer feel the sting of his wound — partly because of her handiwork, and partly because of their rather distracting surroundings.

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"Thought what?" the teacher echoed, turning to follow his gaze and point greet owen line of sight into the woods. Despite her fear of the creatures that lurked in the dark of the magical world, the sense of spiked curiosity of the promise of adventure teased her restlessly. Things that lurked in the woods once again turned her thoughts towards Mr Adlard and without even realizing she was, she smiled brightly, looking quite unperturbed by what might be in there.

Beth startled as he spoke again (her surprise from both his voice and from the topic change). "Oh, your welcome. Nothing to worry about."

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Evidently the young lady had an abundance of curiosity and could not help herself from asking for clarity, even though he'd already brushed it off. For one odd moment, she reminded him ever so slightly of his small daughter.

"Merely that the trees around here have more character than one would expect", he replied darkly, which just about covered it. Trees were alive in a most literal sense, yes, but less so than humans. But some of these ones seemed to whisper and swish at will. Perhaps the one with the malicious branch had decided Djura should have this chance encounter.

"I will be on my way, miss", he bid his farewells at last, tipping his hat to her. "I will have this washed and posted back to you", he raised his injured arm to indicate the handkerchief that was hers. "Pray, what is your name? I am Crossridge."


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More character? What did that even mean? She had figured that the older man had seen something in the woods - something like an animal. She hadn't expected him to be looking at the trees themselves. Lips curled slightly downwards she peered at the now still tree, taking a hesitant step forwards. Then the man spoke and she forgot about the woods and the frown slid back into a smile. "Make sure you have that arm looked at, okay?"

As he indicated that he'd returned her handkerchief, her smile turned into a beaming grin. She'd never expected him to go through the effort of attempting to get it back to her, had never expected to see it again. She'd gone into the whole situation expecting that. "Miss Annabeth Jennings, Lord Crossridge, it is a pleasure to meet you. If you really do wish to get it back, you can have it sent to the town schoolhouse. I teach there and it will be easier to find than my house. Thank you."

She offered a small wave and gathered her basket, starting to feel the need to get home. She hadn't mentioned to her sister and brother she was going to be late due to this visit and they were bound to start to worry after her.

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