Celebratory Arm Wrestling

Title: Celebratory Arm Wrestling
Time Period: June 15, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Dina visits the inn with news regarding Andrew's potential employment. The news lead to a quirky celebration.

The sun is slowly crawling its way towards the horizon. The work day is drawing to a hopefully satisfying closures, and homes are soon to fill up with family members who are ready to call it day. But there is one establishment that boasts an even larger number of people rushing to it, and that's the Wandering Albatross. Among the gathered here is the would-be Catholic preacher. Perhaps surprisingly to those who have heard of an arrival of the curiously religious man or even met him, the eccentric stranger wasn't teaching the vices of alcohol - he was indulging in them.

While fortunately not drunk yet, the man was certainly having an entertaining time. Seated comfortably at a round table, his pint was within convenient reach, and on his shoulder sat a dark cat seemingly discontent with its surroundings. Then a slam hit the rough wooden surface of the table - Andrew's fist, with another piled atop it. The victor retreated, and Andrew shook his defeated hand. "Aye, a strong bugger ye are", he whined mockingly. "A'right. He was a carpenter, led a man's life like any oth'r". The answer visibly disappointed the man, who scoffed. "Hack", the victor murmurs, before walking off. Arm-wrestling with education as bets? That's a weird one. Still, he reaches for his pint to replenish his energy and restore confidence lost through such a defeat.

Things take time. Like a man on horse being sent out across the land to towns that are either disappeared or far reaches. But a single rider can cover more ground faster than multiple. Which was precisely what Dina did. She wasn't joking when she stated that she doesn't let just any maniac run rampant in their town, much less teach.

But with papers in hand - Both Andrews letters and her own - Dina is entering into the tavern. One that she is rarely, if ever, in. So there's a bit of a surprise by some, a ripple going through the crowd as the defacto matriarch of the town crosses the threshold with her cane, surveying the room in the hopes that she can find her intended target. Which doesn't take long to zero in on him at all and she's heading his way, looking healthier than before and more meat on her bones.

She stops along the way, some people familiar, others less so, pausing long enough to exchange pleasantries and inquire after family.

One of the few people in the vicinity not making an awful racket is sitting with his back facing a corner, observing the people around him as if he'd been paid to look after them personally. But that's far from the truth. That truth more likely being that Lazar's heard an unfamiliar voice, and he'll be damned if he doesn't keep an eye on his future clientele. Or maybe he just likes to meet new people.

It's hard to tell in this case, the way the gravedigger lifts himself off of his seat and saunters toward Andrew's table, his gait heavy and somehow uneasy-looking. His black coat - once probably a thing of beauty, now mostly a thing of covered in a thin layer of dirt - hugs his shoulders as he squares them back, and he stops to stand next to Andrew to raise a brow and to say but two words in his distinct Hungarian accent and a flat tone. Simply, "Having fun?"

Then, Lazar's eyes come to rest on Dina in particular. Not a person he's shared many words with, personally, but nevertheless someone he knows is slightly out of place in here. Curious. But the direction she's moving in, it looks like he'll know the reason of her visit soon enough.

The iron pint smashes against the table with sufficient noise. The finger uncoil from it and wander upwards to pet the cat, whose annoyance with the surroundings and circumstances are only momentarily cast aside by its owner's gesture. No new contenders? Either he has already garnered infamy before the evening's over, or there is another reason for this setback. But before he can discover which one it is, Lazar claims another seat at his table.

"Well, I'd be havin' a lot o' more fun if I were winnin', aye?" Smiling from ear to ear, Andrew inspects the gravedigger, first. He hasn't seen him around before, and he's both seen and observed as many as he feasibly could. A voluntary recluse? Perhaps, perhaps not. It doesn't take long before Andrew's gaze lowers to the eye sore that is the empty spot on the table in front of Lazar. "Didn't bring yer drink with yer person?" A brow is raised inquisitively. "You don't think I'm going t'buy yer one?" Another meticulous once-over is given to Lazar. "Although if you ask nicely, I just might."

And then Andrew directs his attention elsewhere, once he hears a familiar voice nearing his vicinity. Once he notices Dina, his wholehearted toothy smile diminished to a lopsided grin with his lips sealed. He patiently awaited Dina's arrival to the table - and potentially Lazar's polite inquiry.

It's not a long wait and soon the soft thud of the cane comes to land in front of Andrew and Lazar. THe latter of which, she recognizes. There are some people, you have no choice but to know in the town, even if you hope to never have to deal with them. That and she prides herself on knowing the names of nearly everyone that she can.

And so she inclines her head, leaning on her cane a fraction even as from under the edge of her light shawl, there's a small pink nose and whiskers barely seen, twitching as the scent of cat and familiar are caught.

It's his familiar of which Dina can hear in her mind, but so can Andrew's familiar. The Cat. It's a three letter word to Greets The Sun. "Mister Lazar. It must be a good day if you are here and not occupied" Means one less person in the ground. "Mister Cullen" No first names for Andrew. "May I sit?"

Lazar's gaze lands back on Andrew when his lack of drink is mentioned, and though he's fairly sure the subsequent offer is more of a joke than anything else, he smiles a dead little smile and curtly shakes his head from side to side, just once. "Had enough. And even if I did not, I prefer my women with a little more class." Not that he's ever been seen with any of the aforementioned, but it makes for a good jab, doesn't it. "Speaking of which…" He sits back, as if to literally give Dina a clear shot of Andrew, giving her a prolonged nod and polite smile in greeting. "It is a good day. Yours as well, I hope." Whether or not she is welcome at the table remains to be seen, and he shoots a curious glance in Andrew'sdirection. Your call.

The integrity of the stifled grin is threatened when Lazar makes the jab. He doesn't answer, however, for Dina is already with the two.

The black-furred cat that is Andrew's familiar doesn't appear to be all that vexed by the sight of Dina, or her own bestial companion. In a truly feline fashion, however, its sudden interest in the change of the environment beckons wide eyes and a completely frozen body - if one doesn't count the tip of the tail flickering left and right. The black one's emerald eyes are fixated on Greets The Sun, but soon the feline tips its chin up and keenly observes Dina, instead. Be it fortunate or not, Lazar doesn't seem to interest the familiar. Yet.

"Of course, sit." Lifting up a hand, he gestures to one of the chairs at the table with that grin still present. Perhaps it's the atmosphere of the establishment, or the intake of alcohol, but Andrew's formalities were lacking. He doesn't look drunk, but he's certainly more at ease and common than he and Lady Ross last met. "I was jus' arm-wrestlin'. No' for money, min'. I win, I answer a question; they win, they answer mine. I'd offer, but…" Andrew trails off, turning his head to the side, his grin growing. "While I dinnae what ails you, ma'am, I still can offer you the same thing I offered 'im", he notes, pointing to Lazar with his thumb. "A pint."

As if to potentially tickle jealousy of his own drink, Andrew takes a healthy swig from his own iron mug.
"I will graciously pass on the pint. As I said before, nothing ails me Mister Cullen" Greets the sun retreats, disappearing from sight. Where to, who knows. Maybe off somewhere, maybe somewhere on her person. "It is a good day indeed Mister Lazar. The sun shines and the all are settling in their homes or for a pint or two it seems. But, I will procure this round" Already one of the two in her entourage is dealing with drinks even as she's settling her gaze on Andrew.

"The rider returned."

Oh good, time to observe. Lazar, having greeted both Dina and Andrew, seems to cease to care for social interaction, having little more to say on important matters. But he doesn't mind this in the least, appearing much more interested in eavesdropping on the upcoming conversation. That is, assuming he's allowed to listen in. He stretches his legs out and tirely slings an arm over the back of his chair, looking back into the crowd after one more glance at Andrew as if to say, 'Making trouble already, are we?'

As the Ross lady reminds the so-called priest that no illness troubles her, that grin of his is momentarily suppressed further as Andrew looks to the cane at Dina's side. "That thing's for show, then?" Rather than prying, Andrew's tone is light-hearted and of a rhetorical nature - his returning grin assures that. "Nev'rmind, ma'am. I assume you being here means you're not here to arm wrestle, drink or be scunnered by people thinking they're being original by making low-brow jokes."

And, as it happens, she wasn't. Raising both brows, Andrew comments on the return of the riders happily, "Ominous." Sitting up straighter in the chair, he hugs his pint with both hands, the grip ready to bring the drink to him should the news be bad. "Well, I'm listenin'." Or, at least, that's what he claimed. It seems he is rather sure of what the rider came back with - his undivided attention resting on Dina seems to indicate he's more interested in what she has to say.

His familiar, in the meantime, jumps off the shoulder, far more bored with the exchange than Lazar himself. The disappearance of Dina's familiar did not help matters. And so the cat plants its tush right in front of the gravedigger, eyes firmly digging into the Hungarian's face.

"I said that nothing ails me Mister Cullen. I never said that nothing Ailed me. Whether it is for show or not, I leave that up to you to think. Regardless, it does not change matters. I sent a rider out, the rider has returned. Tell me what you think, that they sent back? He did return in one piece at least. Or else Mister Lazar here would be occupied" The papers, the letters with childrens scrawl across it, are placed carefully on the table before the would be priest to take back, even as the round of alcohol - and from somewhere, a cup of tea produced - is placed on the table.

With the movement of the Cat, Lazar's eyes turn back to what's in front of him. He seems somehow irked by the feline, moreso when it parks itself where it does. It's hard to say whether he'd noticed or cared about it even being present at all before, but his nose wrinkles at the familiar now, and he tilts his head upward to stare down at it. When he speaks, his voice is somewhat lowered to avoid interrupting the ongoing conversation. "I have nothing for you, cat." Nothing except more staring. Lazar can stare and listen at the same time, no problem. "Come visit home later and you can have Bird."

With Dina's direct approach resonating well with his own keen desire to finish with the important matters just so he could continue his leisurely drinking, Andrew nods in understanding before contributing to the topic further: "Depends on where they went. Redrock - not much there. A couple of good words, maybe, uh, a handful of rumours how I eat racoons raw for ritual purposes. Word from New Glasgow probably came with too much sugar on top." Andrew shoots a sideways glance towards Lazar, his curiosity visibly peaking. An investigator? Authority?

Accepting the letters, Andrew adds a brief sigh afterwards. In need of a certain boost, his vacant hand lifts the heavy mug so he could take a hefty swig. His cat, on the other hand, continues staring back at Lazar. Unlike the human, however, the cat anatomy is more suited to staring at someone for a prolonged period of time without blinking. Andrew noticed that, of course. "Midnight", he starts, and that's enough to reprimand the feline. But not enough to make it listen. The cat lets out a brief mrr and stands up… only to sit exactly where it was seated moments before.

"Ma'am, to be honest, I'm more interested in hearing what you have to say, no' the rider. I need to know if I need to drink in celebration, or sorrows."

"You were right about New Glasgow. Saccharine at best. But everywhere else.." Dine rests both hands upon the top of her cane. "You may drink in celebration for I have come to formally tell you to show up at the school tomorrow, they will be waiting to hand you over a portion of the children" There's a nod to the other packet of papers on the table. "What you are to teach. Do not deviate, do not alter, that is what you teach. If you wish to teach religion, then perhaps we can see to finding you a corner of the town where those with the mind to such things, may congregate with you"

She's looking at the familiar now, Midnight, with raised brows.

Yes, cat. Listen to your owner and obey. Lazar seems pleased with the feline being reprimanded, however brief a moment it might have been. His attention shifts back to the conversation and the table in front of him, and he leans forward again, now. Andrew gets a squint of the eyes, and the gravedigger smiles with the lower half of his face much more than the upper. "Of course!" His voice, now perhaps slightly too loud for comfort, re-enters the conversation of his peers. "A teacher. I knew you looked like something, Mr. Cullen. That is it. Slightly drunk teacher, but a teacher."

Andrew chortles gleefully. While one reason is quite predictably Dina's acceptance of another pedagogical addition to the school, the other one is elaborated on by him personally. "I dinnae teach others what I want, I teach what they need. If I find better or more reliable material or course, I'll run it by you, first. Thank you." After another swig of the ale that finally renders the mug empty, Andrew looks to Lazar, evidently satisfied with himself. "And thank you. The next round's on me, an' yer 'avin' one." But before that, the 'slightly drunk teacher' moves to the next step of the agenda - one that was unbeknownst to Dina until now.

"I'm pushing m' luck, but…" Shifting about on his seat, Andrew draws a meaningful pause. "I'm an avid collector", he admits, his tone becoming more somber. It's certain now he's far from drunk; or he's very good with his inhibitions. "The things you can find when you really put yer min' t' the task. Books, old plastic records with music trapped inside it. Pictures so faded by time you can jus' barely make out happy faces - weddin' photos. Brok'n, no long'r functional watches, scales and electronic gadgets." The list of things arrives to a smoothly rounded tone of an epilogue. Ambition seeped through his words.

"I want a house. Or the materials to build it m'self. I'd use it as a bookshop, or a library for those who cannae afford it. A museum of bric-a-bracs of past ages. But I would also use it as a small church - a place for those with the mind to learn from Christ, or of 'im. A place where I could teach to private persons, too. An', well, a place for me to sleep in." Looking to Lazar, Andrew grins. "With enough drinks, perhaps I could even teach you to read an' write."

Andrew's daring request causes Midnight to look over its shoulder towards Dina, those eyes as weary as they are curious. Yet it remains where it is, invading Lazar's personal space.

"Whether we can do all that, let us first see if you are cut out for this town. Then, if there is enough want for such, and you have found a suitable location within the town, or even just outside it, we can discuss things further. As for materials for your proposed collection, the Rosses and the Rowentree's may be able to make a donation or two" Maybe. The Rosses at least will. 'For now gentlemen, I will take my leave as I have much to do still, even as the moon climbs to take it's place"

"… I can write." Lazar is quick to correct Andrew, at least on one matter, under his breath and with his forced smiles suddenly nowhere to be seen. Dina gets another nod in fare well and is given a tip of an imaginary hat. "It was a pleasure, Missus Ross." It's not too hard to discern that this statement was anything but genuine, but should anyone know him well enough, they would be aware of his tendency to try and keep relations neutral with most everyone. Shoddily executed perhaps, but no sarcasm.

And while Midnight is looking elsewhere, Lazar's right hand is lifted and reached toward the cat's head to try and lightly tap it on the brainpan.

Andrew deeply inclines his head with what is likely the greatest amount of respect he's shown to Dina this entire evening. "Sounds reasonable. And I'd appreciate a donation, but I think I've a hoachin wagon full o' many thin's a'ready. All I need is a place to actually pack full." And as the lady aims to depart, Andrew proves to be just as understanding in that regard, as well. "Aye. I'm lookin' forward to meetin' you again. Preferably in school, ma'am."

Midnight seems to have wanted to part with Dina - and her familiar - but Lazar duly surprises the feline. As soon as physical contact is made, the furry friend shoots off the table with a distress mewl, darting past the many pairs of shoes and boots and disappears in the crowd. Andrew snorts, but doesn't address the issue of his cat having such a stark reaction - knowing mages, the two are already having a chat inside their noggins. Vocally, the priest - and now formally a teacher - addresses Lazar, instead. "Clans. Nice to see we're back to the tree-markin' age. Ironically, Dornie is a testament to that philosophy's success. Anywho, min' a roun' of arm-wrestlin'? Same rules as before - loser has to honestly answer the winner's question. If it's private, it's private."

"Oh, and one more rule. Loser buys the next two pints."

Lazar doesn't seem to have much to say on the subject of clans, but he does seem to relax a little more once both Dina and Midnight are out of the way. The latter's departure bringing on a hearty chuckle, of course. "Using muscle to gain knowledge." He then mutters, seemingly amused by the concept, and idly cracks his knuckles. "You are strange." Then, with a thunk, his elbow's on the table, as if he's armwrestled opponents into submission countless times before.

"I am always honest." He states, matter-of-factly, "But I will give you the chance of free drinks."

"Rarity and oddity walk hand in hand", the challenger quickly notes. "Bear tha' in min' when I say both yer accent's and yer name's strange, too, Laz." Already on shortened first name terms, he is. Andrew changes the position of his seat to adjust himself to one of more comfort for both of the arm wrestlers. Needless to say, the newly arrived bookworm challenging the newly arrived gravedigger is slowly attracting a growing but small crowd of those interested in witnessing the struggle and especially the outcome.

"Muscle an' wit are nae different things. Sometimes yer need a shov'l, sometimes yer need a book. Sometimes, you need both. In case the shovel breaks." Andrew clasps Lazar's hand. Some of those gathered are already starting to argue amongst themselves that the former is not built as strongly as the latter, but the Cullen bastard was rather calm and sure of himself, too. "I hope yer don't min' chatter. I prefer to talk while I do it." The double entendre was sorely obvious.

"On the cou' of three, then. One. Two. Three."

"Chatter." Lazar answers, his hand gripping Andrew's almost too tightly for the usual unspoken rules, rough-skinned from manual labour and very little care. "If it makes you feel less bad about breaking your knuckles on this table." He gives a one-shouldered shrug.

And he does not mess around; straight after the countdown, his muscles tense and a good amount of force goes into trying to push his opponent's hand back and down, though fortunately for him he knows better than to put all of his strength into the first push.

Lazar has partially disconnected.

"Woah, I'll be bugger'd."

His laugh is short; short enough to be registered as a chortle, even, considering he has little breath to spare. His efforts are immediately routed to the match. With the countdown finished, the crowd circling the pair already started coming up with supposedly superior strategies on how one can defeat the other. Andrew's fans are of a smaller number.

Andrew's hand is not as rough, but the moment the match starts, it's clear what strategy he is employing - an endurance run. What his hand may lack in offence, it makes up for in defence. Although the muscles twitch in acknowledgement of the heavy load and stress put on them, the hand absolutely refuses to budge from the initial position. "So, Lazar", he hisses through gritted teeth and a faint grin. "Long way from 'ome, judgin' by 'at name. An' where woul' 'at 'ome be?" Despite his physical focus resting solely on the match at hand - pardon the pun - his gaze actually is fixated on Lazar's visage.

Lazar does his best not to show any effort involved, but little facial twitches that slip through the net give some of it away. But to his credit - there aren't many of them. Either he is good at keeping them at bay, or he's not running his engine at full speed quite yet, either. Add that onto the fact that he hasn't quite adopted a hand-wrestlin' posture just yet, and he's looking quite confident indeed.

Once he catches onto the fact that his face is being stared at, he takes the liberty to do the same in return, jaw clenched. "Hungary. Small town. Too far for you." Every short word seems to cause him to push his hand forward a little harder, if not always for very long. Testing response time and resistance. "You sound from around here." This almost sounds like a question, but he seems pretty sure judging from his next sentence. "Accent and stupid words."

Tipping his head to the side, Andrew lets slip another chortle. The telltale muscle twitch in his forearm quickly follows after it. "Hungary? Did they even notice when the Dark Ages hit there?" A rather cruel jab, perhaps, but a sure grin still sat comfortably on the Scotsman's mug. "What brin's yer 'ere, then? Yer have a strong hand - not jus' yer arm. Tha' means a hands-intensive occupation, then. Butcher, docks worker, grave digger… Am I gettin' warm?"

Whether or not he is getting any warmer, his hand is certainly stalwart in its refusal to bow to Lazar's. Either it is going to budge soon… or the Hungarian will have to employ more of his force. But in that lies the gamble of arm-wrestling - to either be patient or give it all you've got. Andrew seems to be playing such an ostensibly simple and brutish pastime like poker.

Well whaddya know. When his current occupation is mentioned, Lazar's strength diminishes slightly, and both the hands move slowly but steadily in the grave digger's direction. Just slightly, but enough to annoy him. "I have-" He pauses, position shifting slightly to straighten his arm and put his shoulder in a more comfortable position, even though his force does not immediately increase, "-done other things. But everywhere has death. My work is needed."

His eyes narrow, then, and though he does not show much of an expression, there shouldn't be a doubt that there's mockery in his tone. "Telling people stories. You think this is needed?"

"Good for you." Despite sharp mockery earlier, Andrew reels in most of his biting wit. With Lazar's hand retreating ever so slightly, Andrew ceases the opportunity - yet the moment he notices more resistance than he'd like, his hand freezes up and parks again, this time off-centre. The crowd is unhappy and as such the volume of their moral support rises. "Battles… will be fought by warriors. Historians… will jot all tha' down. Preachers will pin tha' success… on… their gods. But who remembers… who wants to be… the man who cleans up the mess?"

"Stories, y'say. Which? The fake ones, the true ones? The fake ones help you get through the day. The true ones help… prepare for tomorrow." The hand finally begins to budge - signs of its weariness are beginning to show, although it's still firmly planted where it is.

And good timing too, because Lazar's grasp is starting to weaken. That would be the downside to deciding on a firm grip from the start. "Hmph. I wonder…" He pauses, glancing from onlookers, to their hands, to Andrew's face. "… What version of this… will you remember. Real or fake?"

And finally, he smiles again, if a bit laboured. His strength and balance shifts, suddenly, arm pressing down onto the table as he goes for the final push without warning, eyes still locked on Andrew's face, searching for anything he may take for signs of weakness.

The strained look on Andrew's own face is momentarily cast aside in favour of amusement. Short-lived, perhaps, but amusement nonetheless. "Are you implyin'… my pride would falsify m' memory?" A knowing chuckle precedes his further words, "I've learned to swallow my pride a long time ago, Laz."

When the Hungarian grave digger decided to make the final push, any onlooker could feel the almost palpable tension as the two hands reassert their vice-like grip on each other. Andrew's hand is now clearly fighting to stay in its place - and so far, succeeding. Defence turns to offence in order to match the offence of the other party. But as Andrew's grin grows - his hand starts giving way. Jerky movements to fool the onlookers, but it's unlikely Lazar will fall for it. The continuous retreat is too well-timed.

Obviously, the disguise only works with Lazar's pressure. If it is maintained, Andrew's hand would give up at the last stretch in mere seconds.

Lazar does fall for it. He's done with this game whether he wins or loses, and with that in mind- he keeps doing exactly what he's doing, muscles locking and lungs emptying in a Hungarian profanity-filled grumble through his teeth. The movements on Andrew's side, faked or not, only seem to help him want to attain victory. But said victory had better be soon, or he'll he short an answer and some pints.

Thud.

The coarse sound is the sound of Andrew's knuckles falling roughly onto the table. He holds his hand there, only slowly releasing the grip from Lazar's hand. Despite his loss and the crowd cheering for the victor, the priest seems rather composed. Well, not counting the sweat beads on his forehead and the dent in his stamina pool.

Retracting his hand, he heaves a sigh. "I'll want a rematch, some day. For now, yer 'ave yer question - before I get up and go get us those pints. I'm curious how well Hungarians can drink."

Finally. Lazar keeps his composure pretty well, himself, save for the fact that when his hand is released, he shakes it about for a good few seconds. Ouch. But he seems pleased, both with himself and his opponent, and proudly sits back again to bask in his hard-earned success. Not to mention hear people who bet on Andrew complain. Music to his ears.

"My question… my question." He murmurs, deeply breathing in just to let out a long, content sight. Then, finally, "Why do you think people are answering with honesty?" Not why do they answer honestly, emphasis and voice implies, but rather why does Andrew believe them.

Alternating his massage between his wrist and his palm, Andrew reclines in his chair. Eyeing Lazar ponderously, it is quite clear Cullen is thinking on his answer. Or is he just waiting for the crowd to disperse? It may be just a coincidence that he leans in just when the two can have more privacy. "I don't. I lost to every single one on purpose so I could tell them somethin' they didn't know."

"Now, hold on, I'll go get us some drinks. I want to have a longer chat with yer." And with that, Andrew rises from his chair and wanders towards the bar. As Midnight would have it, the cat darts right in between the priest's legs, zooming off to be unseen by others once again. Likely a reminder that Andrew shouldn't count his pints. And possibly Lazar's.