A Little Time, To Prepare

Title: A Little Time, To Prepare
Time Period: March 11, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Duncan asks for help hunting the kin of his enemy, and Fletcher asks for a full moon.

His bird was here. He knows because he just does.

It's kept off his face, of course, Cruikshank's expression curiously neutral as he follows Duncan into the dusty, abandoned tower room. Properly dressed, now, bundled into a woolen coat. The bloodstone charm was removed and replaced with something else that stays hidden in his shirt collar, but no other affectation - he didn't try to take too much time. His feet stay bare, padding silently upon behind the other man and moving into the wider room, glancing around, feeling a little the traces of Shade left behind in the few loose feathers that were left behind.

But then he gets a sense of something else, his back straightening, and he turns then towards the ward and its guarding of its treasure.

The ward bears the marks of Shade's passing. The black substance that bound him has dried out, now just a filmy, dark encrustation that does the aesthetics of the already grim bone token no favors. The yew is tangled, obscuring the finer details of the necklace, but if there were any doubt, Duncan soon removes it by indicating it with a finger, pointed from the vicinity of the now-closed door.

Duncan keeps his distance from the thing, indicating at a remove he intends to retain. He's leery of such objects, their natures unknown.

"Don't skimp, man," Duncan advices, "you want me to know all you can learn."

"I do."

Quick assurance, and a little thoughtless. Cruikshank approaches the ward with less concern than Duncan does, a hand out as if one were testing the heat of a fire. By the time his fingertips are within an inch of the bizarre structure, there's a sudden rustle of yew, and the tangle— untangles itself. The dried sap cracks and splinters, crumbles into disregard as the branches forcibly retract to make the circle they were initially formed into, and once they are, they lie still.

And remain still, as Fletcher retracts the necklace from its centre, holding it up to dangle in front of his face, inquisitive in his observation, before collecting the small bird skull in into his palm. "Well," he says. "Like most trinkets, it's made for a lady."

Duncan gives a small snort. "I know of no ladies worthy of the title that wear bird skulls about their necks," he says, "a witch wore it last." He knows because he took it from her. "It'll take more than what's already known to repay your bird's transgression."

He looms just a little closer, wish to intimidate struggling against his own sense of superstitious distrust. Fletcher handles it easily enough, certainly; Duncan himself has held it - but what it can do while in a mage's hands is another matter entirely.

Fletcher manages not to step back in response, feeling over the little skull with careful fingertips. He's fighting back his own anxiety as he does it, which he had managed to forget for about two minutes; Duncan's reminder settles it where it was, a clenched fist around his heart.

Stupid, stupid magpie.

"It's the skull of a raven," he says, after a moment. He doesn't bother describing to Duncan the things he senses, picking out what his magic tells him of the item versus what has been done to the item. "It's blood magic, inherited— a curse, that's inherited. The woman of a bloodline can use this charm to speak to ravens. Or all birds, perhaps, I don't know, I couldn't use it," is added, somewhat hastily. "But the witch can speak to them, command them, and see through their eyes, so long as she bears the necklace."

So it's used to- talk to birds? Useful for spying, for thieving, for a variety of unsavory and uncivilized pursuits, it is precisely what one would expect of kidnappers. Though not especially dangerous, from the sound. Duncan approaches, growing more present.

"Like with like, carrion birds one and all," Duncan intones - already he's aphorizing against them, already starting in with animal correlations; easier with mages, with their companion creatures and shifting shapes.

"Is there anything else that can be done with it?" Duncan asks, "I took this from my niece's ransomer. If there is any way this can be used to find other members of this bloodline, other enemies of my family- I need to know."

Duncan sets his hand upon Cruikshank's shoulder.

"There would be no better time than now to prove your loyalty to this community."


Fletcher's discomfort is something he can conceal, or masquerade; worry and concern, generalized fear at Duncan's mere proximity, as opposed to sneering distaste at dance, monkey, dance. He clutches the necklace, hoping that internal argument might come across as a bit of brainstorming. "I could attempt to scry," he says, after a moment. "If it's bound by her bloodline, I mean. But I would need the light of a full moon," is a bit of genius and spoken swiftly, and not entirely untrue. "And a little time, to prepare.

"But of course," he says, forcing a smile. "I mean, why not. It's worth a go, isn't it."

"Aye, I'd say so," Duncan replies, a touch wry, grip tightening for a moment, "good man."

That would be the second time Duncan has attested to Fletcher's virtue; is there perhaps a fondness forming? Surely so, since Duncan adds, after a moment's thought.

"Likely you'll need your birdie flying free once more?" as if Duncan had any notion as to how scrying works, "so as to grant your arts some freedom as well." In truth he knows nothing of magic itself, but he knows a little of negotiating. This concession is a blessing upon Fletcher's claim to time, however little either might actually have to do with the spell itself. Attempting to make bargaining present itself as generosity. His, of course.

"I do," Fletcher says, quite unable to bar relief from his voice, or the swiftness with which he replies. "No mage is really worth their weight in anything without their familiar." But he shuts up after that despite the dogma lining up behind the words, shutting his mouth before he can oversell it and instead watching Duncan expectantly.

"You'll need tell me more on that," Duncan informs Cruikshank, letting him bracket the question for now, but only so that it might be brought up later, "knowing more of these matters will help us bolster the good, manage the bad, and sort each from the other."

And surely everyone will agree on the divvying out of these judgments.

"Set that aside, then," Duncan says, nodding at the grisly token and preparing the quit the room, "we'll unite you with your less honest half."

Cruikshank gladly does, mostly because he cares less about the dead bones of one bird and more about the living ones contained in another. It's dropped into the disabled ward, and he rubs his hands together in a nervous fidget, moving to follow Duncan. "Thank you. So sorry she caused you any trouble, by the way, I don't know what gets into her sometimes, but it won't happen again…"

"You've been a sport since early on, the both of you," Duncan avers, "no sense in dwelling on differences." His tone makes the words seem convivial, though that such 'sport' has included assisted target practice, midnight arrests and threatened wing-clipping sets them askew.

Out of the chamber of neglected things and up a steep set of stairs, towards the narrow door of the garderobe - they are getting closer and closer. And Duncan, who lets Fletcher lead, keeps a steady eye on the man before him, curious about how a mage who feels his familiar getting nearer will react. What must it feel like to him? Like a sniveling child, reunited with its crib-blanket perhaps? A booze-hound reunited with their bottle?

When he sees the cage resting where Duncan last left it, Cruikshank makes an instinctive sound of dismay - he has never caged her, and would probably get bitten if he ever tried. He freely leaves Duncan behind, rushing on over to crouch in front of it, a hand pressing against the cage side. "You dare complain about tardiness, and I'll leave you here," is a muttered and exceptionally hollow threat, glancing towards the shine of scissors and picking them up. The bird inside the cage automatically flutters as far from them as she can, but Fletcher pays this little heed - he's scissoring through the soft wood, splitting open the door and ignoring the couple of small, shallow slices his efforts earn him on the wood and blades.

He drops the item again, pushing an arm inside to help her out. Once so released, she clings to the front of his coat with little feet, crabbing up near his neck while he keeps a hand cupped protectively over her. Crouching in place, he rubs his thumb along her neck, ruffling delicate feathers before pushing up to his feet.

Duncan views the reunion through the remove of the doorway, arms crossed, observing in the purest sense. His interest in imagining what Fletcher is feeling is confined to its utilitarian applications - information, as such. When he sees it, though, he limits comparisons, since the ones he was expecting (hoping for) don't fit; it's too much like blood relation, too much like a feeling he himself can feel, for him to want to dabble directly.

Still, the comparison is useful. It's good to have punishments that can fit their crimes.

The stream of dialogue echoing through Cruikshank's head makes what Duncan considers to be silence— very noisy. "Hush," he says to her, more plea than command, before he turns back to look at Duncan. The hand holding Shade tightens to a grip, but nothing that would harm her - simply stopping her from flying away, or worse, attacking Duncan with bare beak and talons.

"We'll be along, then," he says, mostly because the other man is in the door and sneaking by and out is less than discreet.

If an attack came, it would likely come as a surprise. Duncan doesn't look guarded. He looks almost at his ease. He inclines his head.

"Don't get lost, now," he advises.