Bay Leaves

Title: Bay Leaves
Time Period: February 14, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: In which being caught stealing herbs in the middle of the night isn't the biggest misstep Luna makes.

Dornie after dark. It's a place where electric lamps cast a small pool of light on the streets making the shadows in between only that much darker and harder to see into. It's a blessing in some cases and a bane in others. To the night watchmen it's the silence of the wildlife that makes it one of the other times.

In one of gardens near the outskirts of town a shadowy figure roots through the snow. It's rumored there's a hob blessing this place, or a garden gnome. Where all the others have been long dead and left to fallow, this one still grows green, even through the winter months. Not even a dry leaf crunches underfoot, perhaps because there are none here. It only aids the thief in his or her stealth.

Clippity clop, horsey hooves come and go, dopplar effect kept in time with a mare who knows something about precision of step and pace. A night watchman crosses a band of light and passes on into the next without faltering, smaller each time he reappears down the road.

Risk of imprisonment recedes with him; other dangers strengthen and multiply, drawn to the quiet and the dark, undeterred but what little light there is in the spaces in between.

Time passes. Luna's activities are allowed to continue without interruption until an eerie, creeping sensation of close company insinuates itself into the silence and stillness. Leaves rustle in the black some fifteen paces to her fore as Fogg crosses a darkened stretch of road at her aft.

snip snip

The sound of the scissors aren't quiet enough for the woman, but they're kept in time with the clip of the horse's hooves. When those have receded to silence, she stills for a time then bends to gather the leaves that are important enough to gather under the shadow of darkness rather than honestly in the daylight. The small scissors are put away, glinting silver under moonlight before being tucked under the dark cloth. They're not the garden variety but the type used to cut thread.

The hair at the nape of her neck prickles and she looks around her, pausing to try to focus on the area where the leaves have rustled. Blinded by the darkness, she backs away a pace or two and then crouches to hide behind a shrubbery. Out of sight straight in front but quite visible from behind. Glancing into a small bag at her side, she dips a hand in and toys with the leaves inside, counting them.

Orange eyes flicker their ghastly shine against now distant street lamps — concrete enough evidence for the subconscious to convince it that there is something there, motive and form unknown. It might be a cat. Or a fox. The size is right, and the fleeting nature of contact rather than conflict.

There's no growling. No intimidation. No real pause, even — they eyes look and then turn away to continue on, into less incriminating lighting.

At Luna's back, Algernon sinks himself into a crouch to match hers, wool on wool on leather on snow. If he has any expression, it's far too dark here for it to matter.

The presence of the animal is enough to make Luna freeze as its eyes meet hers, she's timid enough to glance away, something ill advised to those who know animals. She doesn't. When it continues on, she places a bare hand to the ground and pushes herself to a stand. With her gaze still caught on the retreating beast, she turns to make her way out of the garden. Business done.

It's then that she catches the outline of the shape behind her. Clapping both hands to her mouth to keep from screaming, she stares at him for only a second. Then, with getaway in mind, she quickly gathers her skirts and takes a step to the right, her head turning to find the best direction to run.

"I wasn't aware that you moonlighted as a gardener," says the shadow shaped like Algernon. He rises to his feet more slowly after her, hard-pressed to rush when she hasn't made so much as a peep to call outside attention to the fact that she has been pursued out into the winter dark, presumably alone. And unarmed.

"Whose property is this?"

Luna's eyes dart toward the unlit house beyond the fence and she swallows audibly. "Cameron Stewart and his wife," she whispers, still trying not to call attention to (now) both of them. "It's just a few leaves, they won't miss them and I need them desperately." Both hands move to the bag and she grips it tightly against her abdomen, protecting it. To see the garden in the daylight, one wouldn't presume that Luna Owens, of all people, could possibly need anything here. There's a few herbs and vegetables, some rarer plants, but nothing that would normally pique her interest. At least the ones she's best known for.

Backing a few steps away from Algernon, the prostitute switches to hold the bag with one hand, behind her now. The other is held up palm toward him in a fashion that could either be telling him to stop, or she's half surrendering. "Can you let me by, just this once? I'll pay for them in the morning but I don't wish to wake them now."

For all that Algernon seems to have some natural talent in the field of suppressing and redirecting impulse and reaction, the cold and humidity paint a silent sigh into draconic plumes when she clutches the bag to herself. Still air is slow lift the evidence into obscurity and he's left to watch her retreat in an impassive quiet that becomes more considering when he finally steps forward. Not to follow, but to carry himself over to the patch she'd been rooting around in before she was disturbed.

"You must," he observes as he settles himself down into a second crouch at unsettled snow, "if you're willing to place yourself at the mercy of all of the ill fate befalling your peers."

One glove peeled away, he reaches to twist at a remaining leaflet to bring it to his nose before he turns it delicately over in his palm.

"The creature responsible for Miss Rowntree's disfigurement has not been slain. Miss Ross's captors are still at large."

The patch, turns out to be a small shrub, by tree standards it would be a sapling but now most of the leaves have been stripped off. The one Algernon takes is small enough that it wouldn't affect further growth of the plant, the ones Luna has taken might. The fragrance itself is similar to oregano or thyme but muted due to its freshness, a bay laurel. Not the sort of herb that Luna is known to imbibe and relatively useless except in cooking.

Still, she protects the bag as though it's worth more to her than the risk of disfigurement.

"I was careful coming here," she notes, hinting that she could be just as careful getting safely back to the cathouse. "The animal just there, I think I frightened it away." Or maybe he did. Or maybe it wasn't even frightened as it stalked back into the shadows. She wouldn't know but she can feign bravery with the best for actresses.

"You won't arrest me then? You'll let me go?"

"Ah," says Algernon, "well. If you were careful." Insincerity spent purely at her expense, he tucks the little bit of green into his coat pocket as he rights himself, bafflement betrayed in a press of one brow when he looks her over again. He tugs his glove back on while he watches her, corrosively unimpressed.

"Go home, Miss Owens. You will pay for these in the morning. And if I catch you out somewhere ridiculous at a ridiculous hour again I will speak to your mother about having a paid escort assigned to your case until such a time as young women of your age and standing are not regularly being assaulted for fun and profit. Have I made myself clear?"

A delayed lift of his brows invites her to discover whether or not he's serious the hard way.

"I will, I promise." She rushes forward, the bag finding a new home by its string around her forearm. One of his hands is taken by both of hers and she lifts it to press gently against her lips and then her cheek. Her eyes open as she reluctantly she lets go, her hands dropping to her sides to gather the edges of her dark cloak. Maybe someone else's dark cloak, it's much too plain a thing to be claimed by Luna herself. "Thank you, Mister Fogg." She can't promise that he won't have to talk to her mother. Her whims carry her to strange places.

Before taking her leave, she cants her head to the side to study him. "What do you mean by my standing?" His confusion is mirrored and then amplified in her expression. "I didn't think that being a prostitute would carry a demand for an escort, there are enough at the Dovetail." Her way of belittling her own profession, they're a dime a dozen. Dropping the subject, she shakes her head and glances away in the direction the animal disappeared in. "I'm sorry, I'm a little sensitive this evening… Do you think I could bother you for the favor of an escort? I would much rather your company than my own fears."

Fogg tolerates her fawning over his hand with a slow breath and a deliberately patient look off sideways somewhere, as if he's had to endure similar shows in the past. Maybe he has. He has manners enough not to wipe his glove across his side once she's finished, anyway, a slow turn of his eyes back to the present obscured by the darkness. And his overall disinterest.

"Your father is one of the most powerful men in Dornie. Daughters of Rowntree and Ross have had a run of bad luck in recent months. 'Owens,' next would make for a logical progression," Algernon explains as lowly and quietly as their current setting requires. "Unless you are a worshipper of coincidence I should think it wise to watch your step. Lest your mother arrange for a permanent militia escort," emphasis sublimates any potential for further misunderstanding, "silly girl. Go home."

The last repeated with stiffer delivery than before, Algernon takes a step back, denial of her request for company implicit in the movement. "I've aided and abetted more than enough for one night."

There's a small jerky nod of her head before she turns to take the path out of the garden. She pauses at the gate and gives a long look back at him with a slight cant to her head. "Happy Saint Valentine's day to you, Algernon." They're alone, there's probably not anyone listening. "Perhaps when I am dreaming tonight I will see a familiar face." The reason for the bay leaves is presented to him as she lifts the small bag and hugs carefully it to her chest.

Luna smiles then and turns, sweeping out of the gate and out into the light. Her slim figure cuts a clean path through the snow, her heeled boots making not a sound where most would crunch.

Hard to say exactly which part of what she says (or does) penetrates the disaffection of Algernon's exterior, but there's a tell-tale stagger and stifle in the regular furl of his breath that suggests it's being held behind his teeth. He doesn't think to mirror well-wishes back to her, a stout bristle diverted down and then aside after his familiar.

Eventually, he turns back to the road, coat swept after him. Other business to attend to.