The Wandering Tree, Part I


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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title The Wandering Tree, Part I
Synopsis A long journey to upstate New York reunites mother and daughter, mentor and student, cattle and rustler.
Date December 04, 2010

New York

Some three-hundred and fifty miles from New York City, north of the town of Franklin is a remote and rural parkland nestled in the verdant Adirondack Reserve Park in Upstate New York. Far off the beaten trail overlooking Wolf Lake, the Mount Moriah Monastery is a stoic-looking structure perched upon rolling hills and snow-blanketed forested countryside. It is an old thing, gray and brown stone looming high from brown fields of grass, a Benedictine monastery far enough from the urban life that it seems like a place that time forgot.

Were it not for the handful of trucks and a white delivery van parked out front, it would seem like something out of the eleventh century, with its tall, stained-glass windows and heavy wooden door. It is the picturesque to the mental images evoked by mere mention of the word monastery. So far from the troubles of New York City, that it may as well be in another world.

The air is frigid here, elevation and northern latitude contributing to this cold. The clouded skies are a matte blanket of slate gray overhead, spreading as far as they eye can see in every direction from the high vantage point of Mount Moriah. Rumbling up the dirt road to the monastery, the beat up old Dodge pickup truck is considerably warmer inside than the windy mountain outside.

"Just so we're clear…" Looking in the rear-view mirror as he says this, examining a blue tarp tied down to cover something in the bed of the truck, Noah Bennet surveys his new wire-framed eyeglasses with modest distaste. "I'm going to let you take care of your family business first, I'll be waiting out here. Once you're done…" Noah offers a look askance to the woman seated at his side. "Then I'll go in and talk to mister Sullivan."

As the truck rolls to a stop next to the delivery van, Noah rocks the shifter into park with a grinding noise of the clutch. Resting between he and Huruma, a wooden walking cane certainly isn't hers. The damage done to Noah by Susan Ball's attack on the Ferrymen council has insured that his days of hopping fences and chasing down fugitives is over.

"Good luck in there," is something Noah offers with honesty, his hand curled tight around the leather head of the garbox shifter. "Family's important."

Bundled in her fur-lined coat and boots, jeans covered with a thin layer of damp from helping uncover the truck, Huruma hasn't said a whole lot of anything to Noah Bennet on this trip into the wilderness. At first she sort of tried to- ah- commiserate- but soon enough the gravity of where she was going hit her, and she clammed right up. Much to the dismay of a few more hours of driving past blankets of white forest. Hopefully this goes well, because if it does, she'll be much less of a brick wall. As they pull up to the old monastery, Huruma cannot help but lean forward, arms crossed, to inspect it through the windshield. This is the first time that Noah would have ever seen her nervous. At least, it's never been visible before.

She listens to him past the slight muffle of an earband she wears under her flat cap, seemingly understanding enough to glance over. "So it is." Huruma puts out a hand to the door handle, resting on it for long, lingering seconds before pulling it back and cranking the door open. She makes sure to shut it quickly so that the warmth doesn't seep out, arms pulling her coat closer to her, the high collar stiff around her jaw. She has to walk around the front of the delivery van, and if there is someone back there actually making a delivery she does not pay them any heed whatsoever. That is, maybe, til she gets to the tall wooden door and nearly immediately, shies back from them, one hand hovering.

Huruma fails to actually try and open the door, instead opting to stop and thump her forehead on the oak and give this yet another moment.

As it turns out, the woman doesn't need to knock for the door to open. As she stands there hesitating, the heavy door creaks and groans against the cold as it is pulled inward - a mark of it's age - to reveal a man still adjusting a scarf around his neck. The knitwear is a hodgepodge of colors and weights, and may, in fact, have been donated to the monastery or one of it's beneficiaries. Ultimately, it serves to keep Amato Salucci's neck warm.

It's been some time since he was able to labor in the sun, and his color shows the difference. Though not as white as he was when he first came to the United States, winter has already made it's mark on the fair-haired man. Surprised at the guest, Amato blinks his pale blue eyes at Huruma before he remembers himself. "Hello," he says rather flatly, the American accent of Benjamin Sall gone from his voice, leaving the unadulterated cadence of a man who has lived too many years in various countries.

"Can I help you?"

Huruma, though always curious, has been very careful about putting her feelers out in a place like this. If he's here, he'll feel her too- and- she lets out a small grunt as the door sinks away from her head to swing inward. The tall woman takes a half step back, eyes lowered to intercept the figure she sees appearing in front of her. It's a man she does not recognize, and by the time he greets her, the expression of frustration is gone from her face. Huruma stares back at Amato, lips thinned and her eyes half narrowed.


Amato's eyebrows lift at the woman's answer, and he shifts his weight back onto his heels, his shoulders in the newish looking wool coat he wears squaring some. "I'm sure I can," he counters, looking past her for a moment to the man at the back of the delivery van loading up a dolly with various boxes of foodstuffs. He was supposed to be coming out here to help get these things inside, but a wandering sheep knocking or about to knock on their door, regardless of flock affiliation, takes precedence.

"Saul," Amato calls to the man at the van, who looks up from a box of condensed milk at the sound of his name, "Someone will be out shortly to lend a hand." With a nod a a polite smile to their regular visitor, Amato turns to the new one again, only to take a step back from the door and gesture her into the much warmer air within. "What brings you here?" he asks as plainly as if he were asking her name.

But there is slight tenor - one only detectable by Huruma's ability - of fear and insecurity in his voice. While Huruma may be a lost sheep, she could just as easily be a wolf in disguise.

Huruma turns her head to look at the man he names, but only enough to get a glimpse before looking back. She is tentative about entering when he waves her in, taking a look at the doorframe before taking a couple relatively small steps inward. If she is a wolf, she's as awkward a wolf as any sheep may be. It is almost as if she is waiting for something to explode, or burst into ash, dust- or really- something to suddenly happen at all. Huruma's shoulders and back are tensed when she shifts past Amato to get inside, jaw tight and gaze searching weakly across the interior.

Huruma's chest under the closed coat rises and falls with a slightly faster pacing, heart virtually in her mouth when she narrows her eyes again at Amato. Technically, Noah brought her here- and she may be here for Joseph and her daughter, but somehow that doesn't exactly parse and make it to her vocal chords correctly. In fact, nothing actually gets there at all. Maybe that's enough? Fat chance, still a chance.

The interior of the monestary, or at least the entryway that the large wooden door leads to, is what may be expected given the exterior's design. The original structure has not been changed much at all over the years, though the few chairs and benches that furnish the initial space aren't antiques. Amato closes the door behind them, but he doesn't get it latched before a man wanders across the room, leaving one small wooden door on his way to another. The errand of helping the delivery man is passed, and Amato opens the door to a small yet densely packed coatroom.

Rather than shrug off his coat or loosen his scarf, Amato first removes the pair of black leather gloves from his thin and calloused hands. He offers one to Huruma with a beatific smile. "My name is Ben," he says simply.

Everyone here lies, in one form or another. One man's Ben is another's Amato. Some lies are easier to afford than others, and some names are less well known than the rest. Joseph Sullivan, however, is one that Huruma will never be able to forget. To see him in the flesh is like viewing a window into the past, where a kindly man nurtured a wild animal from feral to something closer to domesticated.

He's old, now, as old as her dream of him showed. His hair has gone mostly gray, and he didn't have a goatee when she last saw him — he does now though. The Black robe he wears is loose over his still wiry frame, a large cross resting bright at the center of his chest on a chain, gold-plated more so than the real thing.

Standing at the far end of the large hall, Joseph's profile is all Huruma sees, the old man in conversation with a younger of the monks, standing in the pointed arch of a doorway with a cardboard box clutched to his chest. Joseph lays a hand on the young man's shoulder, reassuringly, but then withdraws and starts to turn as the young man departs.

That he pointedly turns his focus on Huruma like a falcon spotting a rabbit in the tall grass is also unsurprising. Joseph Sullivan was always more compass than man; moral or otherwise.

Huruma watches the floor and Amato's legs more than she inspects him, watching the door to the coatroom open with him. She shifts, as if to take the hand of the man near her, and even her hand twitches up like it wants to go. That is, until the brim of her cap moves with her head, and offers a quite deer-like glimpse of the man at the far end of the hall. All legs and arms and height, it's hard to miss her even if he was not who he is. The few seconds before Sullivan looks up consist mainly of Huruma's brain telling the rest of her to do something besides stand there, like some dark-skinned gargoyle in the foyer.

Oh. Already well into this, Huruma only now recalls her hat being on- and somehow, it becomes a big deal that she can grasp- literally; she lifts a hand and pulls the cap and band from her head, stepping away from Amato and kneading the cotton and fleece in her fists. The woman's white eyes center on Joseph, finally, after taking him in. With it comes a familiar feeling for him- the invisible something opening up like a late summer flower reaching for water. It is a sensation that probably doesn't make much sense to people who aren't like the two of them; two people seeing one another, and not with just eyes.

What brings her here? Well- this- and just one other thing.

It isn't difficult at all for Amato to see what it is that has Huruma so spooked, even without being an empath. He follows her eyes to the end of the room to the monk, then takes a small, deferent step back to continue the removal of his coat and scarf, leaving him in a boat-neck sweater and slacks. Not everyone here is a man of the cloth, though they are few others who, like Amato, aren't part of the monastic order.

He doesn't close the closet door once he's finished replacing his items, but rather raises a hand curled into a fist to his mouth in order to clear his throat. "Ma'am?" he says pointedly in an attempt to snap Huruma out of her trance. "If you take //off/ your coat, you will be warmer when you go back out." Assuming she'll be going back out tonight, or that she would like to give up her outwear. "Otherwise, your body won't adjust sufficiently to the change in temperature."

Brother Sullivan, as he is known these days in no small measure of personal irony, turns from his departing peer and folds his arms inside of his sleeves for warmth. His approach around the rows of benches is slow, a meandering and patient pace that implies all manner of knowing expectance. Had he not been in concert with Huruma during that dreaming state, this would more than likely have come as a shock to see her after all these years.

Still, in the flesh she looks different than in dream, less furry. Gone is the young girl from years past, returned as a woman to claim what is rightfully hers, now that she is ready to lay such a claim. Or at least, in Joseph's mind she is. "Benjamin," Joseph offers in distant greeting on his approach, "thank you 'fer showing her in. I 'preciate it."

Slow to close the distance, Joseph seems to be giving Huruma the time it will take to compose herself, while impressing with featherlight touch a sense of companionship and comfort atop her. It has been too many years since she felt the gentle, guiding hand of her mentor in her heart.

The change in temperatures isn't something that Huruma is worried about; she gives Amato a look, stern and somewhat irritated that he interrupt whatever it was that she was thinking. Something like that, anyway. She unceremoniously jabs the hat into her pocket, and moves a hand to unzip her coat. Huruma doesn't need to watch Joseph to follow him, she can do that well enough with her mind, making a note that he is taking his time. In that dream state, she certainly was furrier; in life, the gangly, dirty girl that Sullivan remembers is remarkably nowhere near what she is now. The mental image wouldn't even parse for the people that know her back on Pollepel- few of them would even have the imagination. Inwardly, she is glad that she is not coming as a shock to him. It might have been …upsetting if they had not seen this coming. She did tell him she would be here, just not when.

Huruma lifts her coat from her shoulders to pass it expectantly to Amato. If he's going to fuss. The long-sleeved shirt she has on does enough for her, drafty old monastery or not. "Noah Bennet brought me…" It isn't the first thing she wanted to say to him, her smooth voice tentative, but she should probably say something in case Bennet might accidentally sit out there for hours. She wouldn't be that unaccommodating to a crippled Company man.

The mental touch from Sullivan to her comes as a mild surprise- that he'd do it still, after all this time. It does not need to be reciprocated, no, though the dark woman watching him now does so regardless.

Amato simply nods to Joseph before taking Huruma's coat and tucking it away inside the closet. He closes the door as quietly as he can, all the while making those small mental assumptions. If this woman knows Joseph, and Joseph knows this woman, it is quite possible that she has something to do with the girl in the Brother's care. But with other already having slipped out to help the delivery man, undoubtedly taking the supplies in through the side kitchen door rather than the front entrance, there's not much else for him to do.

But at the mention of another - someone Amato knows only by name and reputation, his eyes narrow slightly. "They're alright, aren't they?" he asks, his whole body suddenly tense to the point where the anxiety is clear in his voice. But as plural as the pronoun may be, there is a strong singular, or at least a much smaller collection of people, implied within it.

Huruma always manages to bring something perplexing to the table. Be it an odd personality quirk, an unusual phrase, or a name that falls hollow on Joseph Sullivan's ears. "I can't say I'm familiar…" is the wary response from the old monk as he moves to stand at Amato's side, offering a peaceable expression and a nod of recognition to a man he considers his friend.

"Benjamin," and isn't Huruma's life just full of Benjamins, "this is Huruma. She's… a very old friend of mine— family. I'm sure our resemblance is staggerin'," comes with a faint, bittersweet smile.

"Huruma, Benjamin here is a good friend. But it appears you two at least distantly know one another… two degrees'a separation?" One of his brows lifts, and Joseph takes no more time in dancing around the issue that more than likely has Huruma here. She's ready, and while she may have claimed that a man named Noah brought her here, Joseph might attribute a different name to that shepherd. It begins with a capitol G.

"She's here," is implied as if in warning to Huruma, "studying. Reading." Something that comes with great difficulty for Huruma's daughter, but stubbornness is genetic in her lineage if not willful determination.

Huruma allows herself a moment of actually looking at Amato, now, rather than his feet. "Yes." Her answer is simple, and for him, unsure of how he seems to connect and Joseph does not. Time will tell, surely. The repeated used of that name in her life isn't exactly new- her visible response is more of a vague look of testiness than anything else. It hits bemusement when Sullivan introduces her as family. "Th'resemblence is simply uncanny…"

She looks down to the older man when he speaks directly at her once again. As expected, Huruma registers something puzzled, and the impression of curiosity can be felt as easily as her presence there. "Reading." It is said only at a murmur, verbal confirmation that he did say what she thought he said. Frankly, Huruma looks unsure of what she should be doing next- with Dajan it was extremely different, and there was no Sullivan, no Etana, only blood, mud and Apollo.

Amato meets the joke with only a slight raise of his eyebrows, his jaw held tight as he nods to Huruma, both in response to her answer and Joseph's introduction. He hesitates for a moment, looking slowly from Huruma to Joseph, those eyebrows furrowing slightly. "I can fetch her," he whispers, though not so low as to keep the words from the woman. "If you'd like a moment to catch up?"

While far from a regular helping hand in the girl's care, when it comes to her work with the sheep, Amato has some experience in assisting his friend in his caretaking duties. He looks back to Huruma again, one eyebrow lifting again. "Unless you're staying the night. If that's the case, I can see if one of the guest rooms is ready."

"Huruma isn't much one to settle down in any place for too long," Joseph admits with a furrow of his brows, looking from her to Amato. "If you could fetch her, I'd be most appreciative, Ben. Let her know her mother's here…" The smile that Joseph manages is a somber one, no joyous family reunions are on the slate for today, he knows how awkward and difficult this is for Huruma. Family is like that.

As he turns to look back to his long-lost student, Brother Sullivan finally takes an appraising step closer to Huruma, his brows lifting up as he watches her closely, chin tilted up and stare attentive, assessing. "And I thought your daughter was tall," he admits with a grimace and light-hearted laughter, finally stepping aside and sliding one arm out of his sleeves to motion towards the benches and chairs beyond.

"Come, sit down. There's time enough for talk, if nothing else." Joseph breathes in deeply, then exhales a relaxed sigh. "You owe this old man that much."

Huruma wants to watch Amato move off to wherever Sullivan sends him, though refrains, as now her very own Obi-Wan is there staring up at her. With the winter boots, it adds at least an inch, but even then- her daughter must be like Dajan, if Joseph thought something like that. If nothing else can be said for her, it can be said that Huruma breeds giant children. He gets a softened bearing now, rather than the strung tension she had coming inside. Both physically and mentally, Huruma is as much at rest as is possible, considering.

Sullivan motions her forward, and she takes the time to gaze over the walls and windows as she moves forward, the things she had missed looking at in favor of the floor seeming suddenly quite beautiful. "I owe you much more than that."

With only a nod, Amato slips away on his errand. The leather soles of his shoes are quiet on the stone of the entryway, and by the time he makes it to more modern flooring, he's far enough away for his footsteps to be muted by distance alone.

"My debts don't have much interest," is a subtle play on words by Joseph, one that Huruma isn't entirely armed to puzzle out either. "I wasn't expecting you until after the snow melted, I'll admit." His follow of Huruma's pace is a languid one, ever so much Etana's male counterpart in mannerisms, if only just. Joseph is the first to actually find a seat though, easing himself down onto a bench with all the tired creaking posture of old age. "She's nervous about meeting you, as much as anyone as innocent as she is can be, at least."

Folding his hands in his lap, Joseph upturns a look to Huruma and manages a smile much like Etana's can be; proud, confident, reassuring, maybe a little judgmental. "I worried after what happened on the 8th of November that a scrutinizing eye may have fallen on this place, but our flock is resiliant and we've managed to keep our heads down this long. Out of sight, out of mind, without the garish lights of my old home to draw insects."

A smile briefly crosses Joseph's lips. "It may seem silly t'say, but you can lay your burdens on me… as if th' outfit didn't imply as much." He leans forward, forearms resting on his knees, palms rubbing together. "Broad shoulders like yours seem t'be weighed down."

Everyone gets old, but Huruma never thought she'd have to see him old. A quarter of a century will do that to a person. Huruma sits down beside him, her own movement primarily unhindered, save for that bristle of cold that still lingers. Her back against the bench, chest letting out a sigh, she only listens.

"They always are. Have been. You remember that much, I am sure." When she finally speaks again, there is calm that seems to radiate purposefully off of her. Not that he needs it- just that she has to force it. "I seem t'know too many 'Benjamin's." Well, okay, that's not it, he can tell. Still bad at jokes, like she always was. "There are many things, now. I have people that want t'call me a friend, I'ave been helping them since th'eighth. That is th'majority of what- ah- ails me, so t'speak. I seem t'ave a place t'be, been doing m'best to …protect it." Not terribly unlike Joseph is doing, save for a castle full of refugees.

"Nothing horrible, yet. Dajan is having his problems too, but, I know they are capable." The Ferrymen she does not quite see like that- they do need her, and she knows that. A burden? Certainly. An unwelcome one? Not anymore.

He was a good listener a quarter of a century ago, and that hasn't changed one bit in all those years. While pain and loss have tempered Joseph into the man he is now, faith has kept him from turning to mankind's darker vices in escape of that. He is still, much, the man that Huruma turned to in her time of need. "Family," Joseph calls them, perhaps presumptuously, "often times finds you, rather than you finding it." His lips creep up, a smile starting to grow where once was hesitance. "That you're starting to find your place means that perhaps the wandering tree is ready to set down roots finally."

Always his nickname for her. Not a stray, or a lion, or any sort of animal analogy. No, Huruma was the wandering tree.

"It's good to see how much you've grown," and Joseph means that in the literal and figurative sense, "even if perhaps you could have stopped at enough is enough in height. You're going t'make the statue of the Savior feel inadequate." On that very note, Joseph tilts his head towards a shrouded statue of a hooded, somber Jesus Christ standing at the fore of the room, one hand raised in benediction, his expression solemn. Huruma is, certainly, taller than the statue.

Huruma chances a laugh, when he so very poignantly points out that family does often find you first. It wavers when he mentions roots, lips setting into a slight smile. That sounds exactly like what Etana said, doesn't it? Damnation. Her eyes follow his, up to the somber face of the statue. Another small laugh, something that it seems Sullivan brings very easily to her. "I doubt he was a very big man. Per'aps in heart, rather."

"I surroun'm'self with other gigantic people, an'I don'feel like such a giraffe." Huruma asides, her tone nearly conspiratorial. "Does not help when I wear heels, mind you. Maybe I have found a place. I can't tell what having one is like- I think it is an unconditional place- people. It is hard t'know what I am looking for, when I'ave never… had much of it." You can't say a bird is a bird when all you've seen are eggs.

"You'll know it when it comes," Joseph thoughtfully admits, looking up towards a closed door expectantly. A hand lifts as his posture changes, sitting up straight and motioning towards that door. Huruma feels it a second later, a bubble of anxiety and nervousness wrapped in a shell of happiness that seems to radiate outward from a moving point.

Joseph is slow to stand after that, his brows furrowed and attention on the door as it slowly opens, revealing a tall, slender and warmly dressed young woman standing in the doorway. A black sweater hangs loose off of her skinny frame, a classy cloche hat rests low on her head in the same matte black color, a silk ribbon tied around it. Everything about Juwariya's attire is dark, much like the pahtner fur that she had worn in dream.

Just like the panther, she has a scar running down one eye and across her nose, two samller ones painfully detailed across her cheek. She got off easy compared to Dajan, but Huruma is left with the nail in her heart on seeing her handiwork so many years later.

"I've no words appropriate for this," Joseph admits in hushed reverence, offering a smile and sympathy to Huruma. "Save that I'll give you two your space."

She feels it there, coming around corners- and it is hard to process, but she just knows who it is. Huruma stands up when Joseph does, trying not to seem like she is about to explode out of her boots with anticipation; of course, not even an empath can hide from another empath. That's not how it works. They are open books to one another. An open book, whose heart is not only pierced by a sharp nail, but also washed through with the sting of regret. Something altogether new to Huruma, though it has always been there in one form or another. Dajan was different from this in that he was her son- grown into a man. A son she just happened to find again. But this is Juwariya, a daughter, a mirror, after Huruma has spent months upon months looking after other's daughters and be deprived of her own.

Her eyes, seemingly stuck on the willowy Juwariya, drift warily to Sullivan and back again. He has no words. Of course not. That would be too easy, giving Huruma some sort of cue, other than her ability, to at least guide this along. He was right, she's tall. Just not as much as her brother, or her mother. Enough to echo that long-limbed frame that runs in this family. High cheekbones, an arched browline, full lips- family things alright.

"…Juwariya." It comes as a whisper. No words, indeed. There could be. Nothing that seems right.

She moves like her mother, silent like her brother. Juwariya advances from the pointed arch of the doorway without hesitation, black flats scuffing on the stone floor even as Joseph gives a wide berth to her. She smiles, and it is a smile that could brighten the dark side of the moon for all its honesty. She's light on her feet, noticably so, and when Joseph slips past, his robes rustle and flutter with a breeze.

He soon exchanges places with her, leaving the room through that arched doorway without hesitation, while Juwariya does the same in her advance to Huruma, a collision course that has her arms rising up and body arching forward as she slides those long arms around Huruma's waist, leans in and buries her face against Huruma's shoulder and squeezes.


No words indeed.

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