A Mark of Courage

Title: A Mark of Courage
Time Period: April 2, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Luna's near fatal wound is looked after by Duncan; who, by recollection, is not a healer.

Despite Luna’s deepest doubts and darkest fears, the wound she received at the battle of the inlet is not mortal, however valorous. Still, all care is taken in seeing her back to her quarters, despite protests and requests for more serious attention. Duncan is tolerant, but unyielding. He’ll see to her wound himself, he promises - she need only cling to life a little longer.

And to his credit, he doesn’t tarry over-long. The kelpies are dealt with, and Cordelia is safe, but until he knows more there is only so much more he can do. So he keeps faith with Luna - maybe when she’s set at her ease, convinced she’s mended or mending, she’ll recall something of importance from the scene. Perhaps not, but still- he’ll keep faith.

He comes with a wrap of linen under his arm, and a flask of alcohol that smells too strong for drinking. “Show it to me,” he bids, taking a seat at the edge of his usual chair, “and we’ll see if we can’t bring you back from death’s door.”

Already she's stripped from the wet and muddy clothing that she's been forced to endure while Duncan finishes with his duties to town and family. It didn't make her foul mood any better when her benefactor didn't cater to her whims to bring her to a more professional setting to have her wounds tended. So when he arrives in her room, she's sitting sullen and sour in front of her mirror, long nightshirt already pulled off to one side where the fatal gash is located. The cut itself is small, as he can see from a quick cursory inspection, the majority of it a long scratch and deep bruise that spans her shoulder.

"I'll be ugly without medication or ointments," she laments, ever the princess of drama, much more so than his own daughter who puts on a brave face for her father. "I'll have a scar," she goes on, "and I'll be ruined more than I already am. Who will want me then? No one. I'll be a failure at even this." A hand is waved around her room, indicating the house itself. Never mind there are others under the roof that are thicker, more scarred, and even grey from age. They all do fairly well.

There’s theater and then there’s drama, or so the line between stage and audience seems to say. In truth, Duncan doesn’t seem to have much truck with either. He remains somewhere between impassive and indulgent, and makes the air sharp with the disinfectant’s stench as he whets a strip of linen.

“So now you’re no longer fearful of death,” Duncan observes, “you’ve decided to instead be afraid of living?”

He offers a hand to her to grip and sink her nails into if she’d like. “This will sting.”

Luna's thin fingers lace delicately between Duncan's bigger ones and she holds the hand close to her waist, already tense from the anticipation of pain. She hisses a breath inward when the gauze is applied but to her credit stays quite careful of injuring her nurse. Fingernails do not bite into his skin but their fists are held tightly to her clenched abdomen.

"I don't fear living," she argues, her sour mood putting an aggressive spin to her words. She turns her head to give him a sidelong glance over her injured shoulder. "I'm afraid of dying a pauper, I'm afraid of being so ruined that I'm unable to climb back. I enjoy my comforts, Duncan, and already I'm losing them." Her eyes lift to meet his, her eyebrows knitting together slightly.

“A cut will not ruin you,” Duncan assures her, daubing the laceration clean, then applying a fresh strip of linen, the weave catching what new blood wells, “and only anemic fools would neglect a maiden on such slight grounds.”

He dresses the wound with a methodical care that doesn’t lack a certain tenderness, but there is no substitution or sublimation here. No healer, but a medic as one must be in his profession, he takes the work seriously. Only once he’s done does he place a kiss behind Luna’s ear.

“Rather, a wise man of good blood would see it as a mark of courage, the kind of thing he’d wish passed on to sons,” Duncan says, “the ability to bear comfort in elegance and privation with pride, in equal measure.” A flattering way to describe Luna’s regal bearing while keeping herself in a brothel.

Having stated favor, he slides a casual query before her. “What found you out there in the first place?”

His words, coupled with the kiss, bring a small smile of pride to Luna’s lips. "You think?" in regards to the scar, "I'm most afraid that I'll lose more clients than I already have. The time spent with you has caused quite a drop in my list, I think they're intimidated by your presence in my room." At the very least, the man the militia leader interrupted has been too cowardly to risk another visit.

Which leads to Duncan's answer.

"And so, I've had much more time to myself as of late. I thought an afternoon in a favorite spot might bring me a wee bit of happiness." When the dressing is secured, she pulls the shoulder of the thin nightshirt back up, covering the horrible mark. "I was going to try writing, instead those hideous beasts appeared. I was silly and stupid, I tried to save the stableboy without heed or care to my own safety." A rare good deed, even if it didn't turn out the way she wanted.

“Then this certainly is a mark of courage,” Duncan affirms, smoothing the fabric of the nightshirt and then taking Luna by the waist, “however wrongheaded. Stableboys are many. You are just one. Don’t forget your own value, Luna- keep it always in mind, and it will help others remember as well.” The judgment is more than implicit: Luna’s life is more valuable than Cas’. Not to call him expendable, not by any means, but Duncan’s sense of importance and priority is rather brutally clear.

“Whatever you lose for me, I’ll more than return,” is a resolution that would lose its impact if he stopped to tabulate what this might actually entail, “and don’t take fright at a second pilgrimage. Take what time I’ve bought you and use it so- for happiness. Smiling beauty lasts longer.” Now there’s an adage you can put down in a little book. “Writing was it? Writing what?”

"My thoughts," is the simple answer, none too direct. The little book was forgotten in the midst of kelpies and saving lives and is probably halfway out to sea by now. "It's nothing of extreme importance," she adds flippantly, waving a hand for the purpose of showing exactly how little she cares for the thing. Her head turns toward her little window, away from Duncan's view and her lips purse in visible worry. She does care.

"What do you think made those beasts come up in groups? They don't generally travel in herds like that, do they?" A quick subject change, to get away from the previous one of her secret indulgence.

“It is unusual, yes,” Duncan agrees, without actually offering a speculation, “stranger still to be putting up something as canny as a blockade. Sort of thing seems design past the mind of some wild beast.” They way Duncan says that - ‘some wild beast’ - has a valance that wouldn’t include just any bear or raccoon. Wildness is meant in a deeper, darker sense. The wild as the wyrd.

Maybe he’s being inquisitive; maybe he’s hoping to eke another subject-changing observation about the kelpies out of her; maybe he aims just to fluster. In any case he asks: “Not extremely so, but still important? Did you loose track of it? Have your thoughts wandered?”

"It's only that books are so very valuable," any word in print, though, most that are priceless come from a time no one remembers. Luna twists to better face Duncan, a smile on hers along with a slight crinkle at the corners of her eyes. "Maybe the selkies will find it and become so entranced with my poems that they'll want me to sing to them always." The dream of seal maiden hood still hasn't left her.

"Promise me something?" A fingernail trails soft along his jawline, question posed serious enough that it demands flirtation to keep from making him upset or angry. "You won't take arms to ma's and my kin without allowing her to speak with them?" It's well known that the older Owens woman is gifted enough to speak with the creatures of the sea, a talent she uses for her benefit. "Perhaps if you speak with her, she might be able to find out why the kelpies were so angry."

“I’d rather reason, if reason can prevail,” Duncan says, “aye, I promise, not without just cause and proper resort.” As to speaking to Isibeal- that’s as sound advice as any he’s received on the matter, and as solid a thought as any of his own. “Your mother would see me?” According a reverence that - honestly speaking - he might not bother with if it weren’t Luna he was speaking to. Is acting better anything like being better?

“You’d find always to be a terrible long time to be doing just one thing,” Duncan opines, with reproachable pragmatism, though he’s smiling again, “I’ll see if we can’t find that book. But I should ask- if I find it, might I read it’s contents?”

"I can't fathom a reason why she wouldn't," aside from the woman's disappointment at Duncan for feeding into her daughter's delusions and supporting the plan for Liverpool. "If she's busy, you could always ask Da. He'd be more than happy to speak with you, I'm sure of it." Luna is sure of it. This is considering the merchant is just as much Marcus' man as the Rowntree mage; maybe, according to gossip, he owes the clan head his entire fortune.

At Duncan’s requested compensation for finding her missing treasure, Luna's brow furrows worriedly and her lips press tight in a flat line. There's a slight shake of her head before she takes a deep breath inward. "I'd rather you didn't," she says finally, a sort of apology mixed into her words. She's not afraid, not exactly, but nervous that she might be mocked or something along the same lines. "They're private, I'd wager you'd find them terribly boring and I'm afraid that you'd consider me ridiculous because of them."

“Not even as a reward?” Duncan asks, prying just a little before letting it go, “but a lady must have her privacy, her dignity. Though I’d wager I’d find it only spoke to the higher parts of your character, Luna. Reading, writing- these are high minded pursuits. I commend them, and you.

“Just don’t be rising so high as to place yourself above me- simple solider though I may be.”

This solicits a titter of a laugh from the woman and now a more vigorous head shake. "And I'm the one usually accused of being a little off the mark? Duncan, that is sillier than anything that's ever come out from my lips." This is rewarded, with a brush of hers against his. "You, sir, are no simple soldier. You lead this town as a farmer drags a bull by the ring in its nose."

Curling a little closer in his lap, Luna rests her cheek on Duncan's shoulder and places a hand gently on the opposite. "Again I think you're trying to pull the wool over my eyes with pretty words. How is it that a woman such as myself, with grand ambitions and balmy little ideas, could possibly be placed higher than the man who is most feared in Dornie?"

"You can say it, but you cannot know it," Duncan says, receiving the benediction of her lips with monastic indulgence - stoic, but satisfied, "can't it be that it is those grand ambitions I admire? And every idea sounds silly, or mad, when most folk can't reckon it. But most folk are stupid, and by turns complacent and fearful. A truly great idea, a rare gift of vision- that is always singular, and always dubbed impossible by those who would never bother conceiving of it, let alone achieving it."

Duncan's grandiloquence, and his raw hubris, is testament to Luna's powers of flattery. Most feared man in Dornie? For shame.

"Most don't see them as something to be admired," Luna says sedately, her moodiness coming back in a near manic swing. "Some people don't think I'll come back. They try to make me doubt myself, I'd enough talent to stay alive and well when I ran away. I'm just as capable as the next woman, perhaps even more."

She stays curled against him, sullen and angry when she'd reminded herself of unkind sentiment. "You trust that I will, aye?" The blonde looks up at him with a firm set to her jaw, determined and steely. "Even if it's with only the skin on my back, I'll be in Dornie before summer solstice."

"Any great venture is also a great risk," Duncan says, either playing a little on her mood swing, or just being unwilling to lie; the Liverpool underground might be a dragon's den, or worse. But 'might' is to vague a bogey to shake real mettle.

"I trust you will return, though," he adds, "and to a higher place in the world."

"I'll endeavor to not disappoint you or your expectations," the rather jovial comeback isn't quite a switch in her mood but more acknowledging his placating her. Luna's hands slide along Duncan's forearms in a light caress, something to wile away the time and keep innocent instead of more suggestive. "It makes me quite happy to know that you have even a little faith in my abilities."

Those light fingertips climb up to the soldier's biceps, then to his shoulders. "Will you need to escape back to your castle sooner or later?" He's a busy man, he's said before, and there was an attack. Her question, though, suggests more than talk in store for the evening.

So Duncan wonders - innocent, or not? And he wonders - does he stay, or go? For he is a busy man. An important man. The most feared man in Dornie.

He leans in close, for a kiss, before he answers.

"Later," he says, as if the answer were obvious, "when I know you're fully convalescent."

This is regarded as a success by Luna's standards. Giving Duncan a coy grin after the kiss is broken, she leans back in his arms and stares up at his face. “Good,” her answer begins short, an acceptance of a verbal contract of sorts. “Because my most favored client— “ meaning the one allowed in her bed at the moment “— has flown away from me, I haven't seen him for weeks." It gives credence to Luna’s previous claims about Duncan.

“… And a woman has needs like any man. So, after some careful deliberation, I was wondering if you'd care to join me in my bed?"

They have needs- and so it is felt. A need, like hunger, ever-present upon the mind until sated, the more denied the more each breadcrumb seems a loaf, the most meager repast a feast. Imagine then, how resplendent a spread Luna would seem, laid out on her coverlet; imagine the hunger, and think of the restraint up until now.

Understand, then, that Duncan does not reply in words. No grace is given before the meal - sanctity is understood in the communion to come. Lips to lips, with possessive grip, Duncan answers and in answering, leaves nothing left for Luna to wonder.