Barter for a Touch

Title: Barter for a Touch
Time Period: November, 134 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: The campfire and darkness is a fine place to strike a deal, just who comes out on top is something left for later.

In town, gossip is spreading like a wildfire over the moors, burning the eyes of the innocent with all of the scandal. The ladies at the laundry are generally satisfied when Luna Owens gives them enough dirt to chitter about while washing but she's been strangely absent as of late. She's likely gone disappeared with some sailor or merchant again… Poor Isibeal… but she hasn't.

The sight of the blonde local around the vagrant camp at the edge of town isn't so unusual that it gets a raised eyebrow from everyone. She's been skulking around for the better part of a few days, always on the outskirts and talking to people only when they are alone. Just after the sun has set, Luna actually ventures in with a flat basket draped over one arm. It's covered with a lacy cloth, just as she is, both as pale as the moon. Which makes it that much easier to spot her as she ghosts in from the road.

Fletcher Cruikshank is distinct enough to pick out - he's the one at the campfire, seated on a blanket of wool with his legs crossed. It's cold, but the heat of flame gives off just enough warmth that he isn't bundled up completely, wearing loosely fitting clothing in its many layers. His back is curved into a relaxed slouched, hands at a fidget, with a few items next to his knee. Some candles, a few melted off in flame. Leather and twine. Beading. A small jar of salt. A crafter's knife. In his hands is the result of all of these things, currently manipulating wax to fix feathers in place of some sort of creation. His expression is peaceful, near trance like.

Next to him is a small black shape, a magpie nested in the wool and asleep to the world.

Movement gets his attention, and he lifts his head, lank, greasy locks of his pushed out of the way to see who approaches, the hilt of knife gripped for the moment before the silhouette can resolve in the run off of smoke.

"You must be the Fletcher that Mister Fogg spoke about," is the apparition's greeting. White hands come up to move the fur lined hood of her cowl back, allowing the wearer to display something of a wane smile. It's not as unfriendly as it initially appears when she approaches, running her fingers through floss fine hair to tamp it down against the static that's overtaken it. Unlike the vagabond leader's, hers is quite clean and the shine it gives isn't coupled with being stringy.

She's bold in taking a seat on his other side, avoiding the wool and the magpie nestled in it, and with only a quick glance in his direction, she continues. "I don't know how you manage out here, I would simply die without a bath and a good fire to keep me warm at night." The lace is pulled from the basket to reveal a collection of dried flowers. "Regardless, I brought presents… I hope you are a little more agreeable than Mister Fogg. He's something of a fuddy duddy when it comes to real fun, isn't he?"

Supposedly, this one isn't a good fire. Perhaps it's a bad fire.

Putting aside what he was doing to the other side of him, Cruikshank looks a bit like he could use a bath. Like a real one. There's grime that can't be rid of with handfuls of water and a certain filthiness that is more mentality than actuality - he hasn't felt properly clean since he's come to Dornie at all - and it's difficult to do so, outside, this close to winter. Still, he affects some fingers through his hair in belated attempt to straighten it. "I'm definitely more agreeable than Mister Fogg," he confirms, sincerely. "One of your Dornie men didn't seem to think so, though. They've collected him up, in case you were after him.

"Fletcher Cruikshank," is added as belated confirmation. He doesn't seem bothered by her assumptive presence, his surprise lapsed by the time she'd come into focus. They do get onlookers, sometimes, hesitant visitors. None so bold as Luna apart from Duncan himself, though.

Luna's jaw hangs for only a moment before it clicks shut again and she straightens her features into an expression of nonchalance while holding out one of her hands to Fletcher. "They've stolen him from under your care? Why that's simply dreadful!" After a beat, she tilts her head to the side and raises both of her eyebrows innocently, ducking a little closer. "So his tent is free tonight then?"

One of the flowers is snapped off its stem and the bulb, complete with petals, is offered to the blanketed man. "This might just make everything right as rain, it's not local— in case you're wondering— Very exotic and difficult to come by." The last is added in a more conspiring tone. "It should make you feel a bit better about this whole mess. Why they keep you out here in tents rather than putting you up at my mother's inn— beyond my imagining. Simply inhuman, wouldn't you agree?" She smiles, a bit more demurely and lowers her eyelids halfway, using their cover to stare his dirty hands. "Luna Owens. A pleasure, I'm sure."

"Inhuman, you reckon."

Oh, hello.

Cruikshank pauses before reaching to take the bulb, fingertips exploring its shape in some degree of study both apparent and not, the same assessment he gives beads, feathers, plants and whatever else manages to fall into his grasp. "We've nothing to trade for board. At the moment," he says, after a moment, and the look he casts back to her is a little warmer, less dull than it was before. He tips a glance towards the items he'd been fidgeting with. "But I'm— working on that." Then, he does take her hand in a gentle shake of greeting. "Now, what's a girl like you giving away gifts like these?"

While craning her neck to see exactly what Fletcher is taking his eyes off of her for, Luna settles her palm a little more firmly into his and then straightens to give him a quirks of her eyebrows. “Just what exactly are you working on? If it’s of any interest, I’m sure I could manage a little something to trade. My mother does run the local inn, you know, I could make arrangements…” The ‘s’ is drawn out in a hiss through her teeth before she catches her bottom lip, tugging it a little bit as her eyes drift over his face.

“Tell me, Fletcher,” it comes out as Flayt-chur, “you wouldn’t perchance have a pipe, would you? We could break a bulb and chat a bit about what we could do for each other, the very reason a girl like me is giving a man like you— a present like this.” Her eyes flit to the bulb and then up to his before her lips twist up at one side and the tip of her tongue peeks out enough to slide along the edge of one canine tooth. “I have certain needs and Mister Fogg has led me to believe that you might desire of some of the services I can provide.”

"…why don't you wait right there?"

Bulb in hand, as well as stealing up the necklace he'd crafted, Cruikshank gets to his feet and heads for the larger of the tents, bare feet navigating the damp ground easily. The blanket is left behind, as is the sleeping magpie, the bits and pieces of debris from his craft sans the knife, which is taken with him too. When he returns, the necklace is put away in favour of a silver and glass pipe. He sets about loading it with the decisiveness of a man who's done this before, quite clearly. "And what was it that Mister Fogg said?" he asks. His focus is on the drug, which will probably change once it's imbibed.

At least it's a good measure of the kind of client she's handling.

"You should understand that, at the time, I was searching for a particular type of musician…" Luna's voice drifts off as she watches Fletcher load the pipe, her eyebrows raised with interest. Turning toward the fire, she places the basket beside her and edges just a little closer. To be with the pipe, of course. "He said that he wasn't sure you had any, but you'd likely be willing to purchase the types of things I have to sell." It's said with a nod toward the pipe and then a pointed look down at herself.

"Anywho…" she continues with a wider smile as she holds her hand out for the pipe, "I am in need of new clients. And yourself?"

The knife he was using to mutilate the poppy is set aside, its dried out contents primed for lighting, which is done with campfire and stray candle. "I can introduce you to the musically inclined," Cruikshank offers, looking back at her and offering back the pipe. That she is a prostitute is not a surprise - either Fogg's said something or it doesn't take a genius to understand. With her handling the opium, he takes out the leather pouch he'd collected from his tent, fingers digging into it.

A small token is withdrawn, small but detailed. It's mostly made of wood, with a hook-like shape to it, with a tiny bulb of the same material designed to be twisted on fast to the end of it. It's shaped, almost, like a skull under delicate knifework. It's the kind of thing that would be worn pierced through the navel. "I've sold this piece to many a young woman," he says. "They tend to favour this over tonics that make them ill or counting the days of the month when they're least fertile. Or more drastic measures. It's also temporary, so it might come in handy amongst you and yours.

"And it works, obviously."

The pipe is handled with great care before Luna takes her first puff. Her eyelids flutter closed and she lets loose a sigh that causes two lines of smoke to blow through her nostrils. Bleary blue eyes open and stare at the plumes until they fade and die away. All of this before she answers Fletcher's offer. "I do need a sitar player, winter is too cold to spend by oneself, don't you agree?" Grinning, she trades the pipe for the wooden token.

Turning it between her fingers, she holds it a little too close to her face, her eyes crossing before she draws it back. It rolls into her palm and she traces its minuscule features with her fingertip. "And I hook it through my skin? Through it? Should I go see the healer to have it done?" She seems a little skeptical about the process but the prostitute does keep her fingers curled tightly around the piece of jewelry, rather than give it up.

"Or is that a service you provide here as well?"

Fletcher is too busy imbibing to reply right away, his eyes going hooded as the smoke courses harsh through his lunges, held onto, released. Once he's done and the last of it is winding out through nostrils and teeth, he adds, "I've done it. It's quite clean, I assure you. Heals over if you stop using it as you desire." He rakes a handful of hair back to show his own handywork, persumably, twin piercings in the lobe of his ear, with only one of them occupied with a simple, thin loop of silver. The pipe is offered back. "There're lots of problems, really, that can be solved with just the materials the world provides us. That's only one of them."

The pipe is lifted from Fletcher's fingers and placed to Luna's lips for another long inhale. Playfully, she blows it in his direction, making a little pattern over his face, from her point of view. The pipe is passed back again, after one more quick puff. Then she leans in to look at his ear, resting her newly freed hand on his shoulder. "Those are wonderful… Do you have any others?" Little curls of smoke lick at his earlobe before they disappear into his hair. Her fingers follow suit, touching the silver ring and flicking it back and forth silently. This elicits a little giggle from the woman as she continues to toy with her new plaything.

"Does the one you gave me work on men as well?" The curious pitch to her voice causes it to squeak a little at the end. "I don't suppose you have one yourself, or how quickly does it work? As soon as you put it in? Would I be able to go back to my room straight away and call upon a man to entertain me?" She lets off a contented little sigh and leans back in her seat to look up at the sky. "What if I should decide that I no longer wish to use it… and then change my mind? Does it wear off instantly as well?"

Oh that feels nice. By now it isn't hard for Cruikshank to achieve a properly blissed out smile, and it remains as her fingertips toy at the earrings. "I've never made them for men," he says, eyes sliding shut for a moment as the warm buzz of the drug soaks warm under his skin. His tone is curious, as if thinking how it might work. "They don't usually give a fuck, and the fertility of a woman is rather her own business, I think. Oh, goodness, you've questions."

He leeeans back enough to plant his weight back against pony elbows. "It works while you wear it, and stops working when you don't. My only advice is to avoid putting it on if you ever suspect you're with child - it mightn't be very pleasant for anyone."

"What a lovely present you've given me then, aye?" Luna licks her lips and grins, rolling away from Cruikshank to retake her own seat. "So long as I don't get a bun in the oven and put it in… I suspect it'd come out a right monster. Like that monster, from that book, the one with the monster." She pauses to think about what she just said as she turns and places her feet on Cruikshank's lap. Laying back, she stares up at the clear sky. Stars are nice.

"You know how to read? I like it when men read to me, especially in the bath…" She doesn't say for sure who is in the water at the time. "I think— I think I wish for you to insert it tonight."

He tucks his chin in to peer at the feet in his lap, but poppy smoke makes it very hard to care. Cruikshank just adjusts his thighs subtly so that heels aren't doing anything untoward to the point of pain, and tips his attention back up at the sky. "Oh, I read. I've books, even. More books than the wanker soldier took, we hid them in a magic veil and…" And he shouldn't be telling her that, but it is what it is. "I like reading," he settles on, without remembering how they got to this point in the first place.

"Could well make monsters. The deities work mysteriously."

"He took your books? How absolutely criminal! Also…" she adds as a side, "it rhymes, which is also a crime, and rhyme rhymes with crime. I like poetry too, you know. I can write poems as well, I can. I once wrote and recited a very naughty limerick one time about a man named O'Doole. The men down at the Dovetail laughed so hard, I think one of them wet himself… It could very well have been that same soldier himself, you know, they often come 'round."

She breaks from speaking, thankfully, and takes a long breath of fresh air in. Releasing it, she pulls herself up to a sitting position using Cruishank's shirt. "I like reading too, I could try to find your books, but that would cost you more than simply putting your little charm in. We can talk about that later, in the morning, over tea and toast. And eggs…" The blonde woman stops and shakes her head, attempting to get back on her train of thought before she was derailed. "But about putting it in, would you like to go from the top or the bottom? I'm afraid my dress is seamless in the middle."

"Dreadful inconvenience. That is."

Fletcher manages not to tip over or fold as Luna uses him to sit back up, but he does lean into the tug some. "If you were to find my books, I could show you all sorts of things, but I feel I'm already running up a debt and change." His smile is wide and lazy, taking the pipe from her to set it aside so no burning happens by the time he is listing to prowl over her, nudging her back with his hands stapling the blanket and grass on either side. His magpie gives a soft birdish growl at all the rustling, a bothered flap of wing. "As for putting it in, really just a matter've what's closer."

The fur lining of her long cape makes for adequate protection against little rocks and other discomforts. Luna follows Fletcher’s direction as though a professional, with her hands near her shoulders, already tugging at the ribbon that's strung across to fasten the bit of luxury there. "Now that I'm on my back, sir, I'm afraid the strings of my corset are quite hidden." She lifts her chin to look up at Cruikshank and smirks. "Unless of course you were to reach behind me…"

Untying the ribbon, she slides the satin through her fingers before letting it fall. Her chin tucks down a little as she eyes the expanse of cloth that makes up her dress, a thick thing of many layers to ward against cold. "But if you were to do that, you might as well just reach up my skirt as its faster, aye?"

If Cruikshank takes issue with crawling over a Dornie lass in plain view of the dark evening, then it is— not apparent at all and thus nonexistent.

He follows her glance by lifting his own body a little to track it, balancing himself enough to gather up a handful of skirt fabric and sliding it up her legs. And stops. "But, you know, I've nothing to pierce with. Assuming we're still talking of token, naturally." He glances up to peer through his own quantity of hair in gesture to the larger of the tents huddled in the small camp of gypsies. A token of his own design slips out of his collar, hanging off leather cord - it's not a pretty thing, a sliver of knotted wolf skin and other adornments.

"Do you find me pretty, Fletcher?" Luna lifts her hand to toy with the charm, winding the cord around her finger and using it to tug him a little closer. She stares at his face, through half lidded eyes, and lets her smirk die off into a more self assured and perhaps arrogant expression. "I was told once that I have eyes that hold oceans, you know, that they would send many a sailor into debt." She follows his gaze to the tent and quirks an eyebrow in a severe point.

"But I must tell you, I don't like surprises, I’ve never done well with them." The explanation seems a bit off but she glosses over the finer points by touching the tip of her nose to the gypsy's, almost as if she's about to stop talking about the piercing. "If you take me into your tent to place the token, we both know I ain't going to come out again until morning— and I'm quite expensive."

The tug has Cruikshank's attention snapped back down to her, in time for nose to touch his and almost— chasing after her to touch mouth to mouth before she instead speaks again. Talk about price or something, but the burned opium is making it hard to completely account for all the words filtering into his brain.

"Is there a price," he says, after a moment of shifting a little uncomfortably, "that madam is after? The charm for the flower…"

"Do you find me pretty?" She repeats again, instead of answering his question directly. Perhaps to encourage a positive response, she gives in to the drugs and melts her lips against his in the heat. A small noise from her throat, an approval of sorts at his taste, or the taste of the opium, before she breaks off from him with a grin. "Do you find me more pleasing to the eye than any who've been under you?"

It's a leading question.

Tracing her lips along his jawline, Luna finally allows the string of leather to coil off her finger. Releasing him. "I'd like first consideration for any new trinkets you have. If I have uses, I'd like to buy them before you offer to anyone else." Her finger trails along his collar bone as she turns her head to look up at him again. "And if you have any further needs for flowers and herbs… perhaps alcohol, you'll come to me?"

Cruikshank just. Shuts his eyes and relaxes on top of her a little more, soaking up warmth and touches both with his hands on either side bunching fabric. He'd probably get further in life if he wasn't a complete hedonist. That said, the argument can be made that this is not the case in this very moment.

At release of necklace, he lifts his head again a little more, meeting her eyes, pupils wide. He nods, slowly. "A fair deal. Arrangement. What a wonderful businesswoman you are." After the tip of his nose grazes against her jaw, only then does he move as if to escape the heady scent of her hair, but practically speaking, it's in the name of progress. Though only on his knees, he offers a hand to her. There's a flap of wings, the dark shape of magpie appearing and leaping to land on his shoulder, although Fletcher doesn't bat an eye.

Luna's eyes widen a little at the sight of the bird and her chest heaves with a gasp of excitement. When it lands without complaint of the man looking down on her, she gives him a little grin and a coy tilt of her head. "And you're a mage, how fortuitous." That comes out a little breathy as she pulls herself up to a kneel directly in front of him.

She doesn't shoo it away with a flap of her free hand. Instead she gathers herself closer still, even lifting her fingers to touch the thing. "My great grandmother was a selkie, I always found it unfortunate that I only received her looks. Perhaps you can change that, draw something out of me that I didn't know was there."

The magpie ducks a little beneath her hand, before stilling to allow fingertips to brush against her wings. Then, she nips at the corner of his mouth— "ow"— and takes off close and hard enough to muss hair — both his from launch and her's as she swoops on by loudly, disappearing into the shadows presumably to find better perch.

Cruikshank touches pecked spot— no blood— before looking back at her, interest sparking behind dark eyes. "Maybe I can," he says, and it's not insincere. The urge to touch her is back in full force, but it has a different kind of intent behind it now. He resists, for the time. "I've not anyone of the elder realms before. Or rather, touched as you are. Like I am." His hand drifts out to touch fingertips against her arm, as if he could detect her lineage through touch. Maybe he can, if he looks.

As the bird launches itself into the iar, Luna ducks a fraction to the side, attempting to avoid a raking of talons. If magpies have talons. Sliding her fingers along his jawline, she leans forward to touch her lips against the spot at the corner of his lip. "Like you are? Are you a descendant of selkies too?" The question is posed too innocently to be a mockery. There's actual interest sparking in her eyes not born from the lust of opium.

"If you could actually draw something out, something substantial, I'd give you anything you wanted." She seems sincere in the promise, sealing it with a rather heated kiss. Lingering for a time, she pulls back to rise to her feet and collect the basket with the remaining poppies. "You'll need your pipe, we've a lot to accomplish tonight with only so many dark hours to play in. Mister Fogg indicated the large tent as yours, is that where I'll be staying?"

"No," he says, apologetically. "I'm no selkie, simply a mage. But the blood in our veins is tainted by the same. The ones in the realm of magic. I could— tell you all about it, in exchange for one thing."

Cruikshank gets to his feet, snagging up the pipe where they last dropped it on the blanket. The litter of his activities can remain where it is, other hand going out to help her up. "I'd have a lock of your fine hair, before you leave in the morning. It'd help us both, for me to have such a thing. And yes, the big one's mine."

Her eyes drift down to somewhere below his belt before rising again to meet his and her lips curl at one edge to avoid a full smile. "Promises, promises… I'll have to judge for myself, aye?"

Taking his hand, Luna tugs him along, pausing only to scoop up the cape rather than leave it to scavengers or dregs of society. "You'll have your lock of hair, Fletcher, and much more if you can make me a happy woman. But we'll leave the stories for after, won't we? Perhaps for the morning or the bath."

Her avoidance of full smile is met with a complete one of his own. At least his teeth aren't terrible. Cruikshank allows himself to list along behind her, glancing back at the firepit and the lights of Dornie beyond, before he's back to watching blonde hair lead him through opium numbness on the course back to his tent.

"We'll just see how we feel, won't we."