Cunning Linguists

Title: Cunning Linguists
Time Period: January 11, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Algernon pays Cruikshank a visit in his new home. They have some catching up to do.

Ice has stopped falling from the sky and the snow on the ground has thinned to a white scrape tracked over with feet, wheels and hooves. It isn't the nice corner of Dornie, but anyone looking for where the gypsies had fled indoors for the winter would not expect to be trekking for the castle or anything like it. With the intent of enjoying the rare moment of a near cloudless sky, Fletcher Cruikshank lurks outside the somewhat ramshackle boarding home, a coat of wool and leather bundled about him and a rolled cigarette between fingers poking out of wool. Tucked on his shoulder and against his neck, the magpie is almost asleep where she nestles. He lifts his hand to take a drag of smoke, expelling it along with mingled steam.

An affectation, today, for all that most people around these parts cannot afford it, hangs from his neck on a short length of leather - a simple stone pendant, unique but ultimately worthless. A deep jade green, threaded through with veins of rust-red.

It is occasionally toyed with as he watches what goes on across the street. A body, undoubtedly so, wrapped head to foot in cloth and bedspread. There's no physicians or holy people among those that carry it out, only family and neighbours. The youth holding the feet end slips in the snow, dropping himself and his end of the cops down onto the ice, and the blanket flops back to expose a stiff-limb, blessedly clothed against the winter.

Hands grip tight the blankets to conceal it, and they continue towards the man-driven cart waiting. It doesn't occur to Cruikshank to help, or anything.

"Not very hardy folk, are they."

Observation in the lazy guise of inquiry at Fletcher's shoulder is too apathetic to conceal contempt behind an actual question mark.

Well-dressed against the cold in his black wool coat (lingering stink of ale still barely detectable) and a shabbier scarf, Algernon blends as well against the gutter as he does anywhere else, one shade of grey to another.

Speaking of ale, he has a bottle of it in hand, clear glass held absently against his side by the neck while he takes in the scene of cadaver and escort from however many inches above his companions humbler vantage point. "Poor taste to be manhandling corpses through the streets, I think." Conversational. He turns at the waist, brows lifted. "But how have you been?"

As if it's only natural that he should drop in for a visit now that Cruikshank has wriggled his way into a dwelling with an actual door.

Cruikshank looks quick enough for there to be small rustle of complaint from the bird on his shoulder, but she's quick to settle again, her feet hooked insistent into wool knit. He hesitates, taking in the sight of Algernon and his ale with quick, baffled blinks, before he lifts his unbirdened shoulder in partial shrug. "I suppose. It'll be the second one this week, on this street." His voice and eyes are clear and the rest of him about as healthy as he'd ever been, with the caravan, which is to say not that much, but not sick. "They try not to keep them in the buildings too long — as in, not a moment after they pack it in, by the looks of it.

"I'm alright. Actually." He taps ash off his cigarette, which, when its scent catches on the slight wind, doesn't reek of anything hallucinogenic, and is rolled in stiff paper without cork to filter. "What're you…" He pauses that, starts again, the corner of his mouth turning up in almost ironic smile. "How're you?" The creak of wheels and crunching road rock and snow sounds out.

Algernon rumbles hazy acknowledgement — the kind that might sound sympathetic from someone slightly more. Sympathetic. A poorly dictated glad to hear it instead, maybe, coupled with a skeptical furrow at his brows a beat later once he's given Fletcher a sideways looking over and proffered the ale. "You're sure?" offered at the same time manages to sound genuinely concerned.

"You seem a little horse."

Hat and chops and everything between, Fogg's poker face is pristine with preoccupation when he gives the ale a take this tilt.

"Keeping busy. Fending off dragons and whores. Polar bears. Someone had mentioned that you moved into the settlement proper." Study turned after the wagon's retreat, he's quiet a moment before he adds: "Two in one week, you said?"

"Aye, on this street."

The ale is taken, abandoning cheaply crafted cigarette to better twist it open, sniffing after alcohol before closing it again. "The settlement proper's not faring so well this winter. Come along, then." Fletcher steps back, turning for the door, before stopping and swiveling just enough back again to give Algernon a look, one that is narrow and vaguely, consciously uncertain. Dragons and.

Horse. "Caught that, did you," he states, oblique enough, he fancies, to be necessarily vague if he's wrong. Otherwise, he's leading the way indoors.

Less inclined to venture forth into ghetto obscurity with confirmation of the local death toll than he might be otherwise, Algernon has pride to coerce him along where common sense might otherwise dictate that they converse outside. In open air.

Relieved of alcohol, he strips his gloves as he trails Fletcher into the unknown, "What, two in one week?" muffled aside in dismissive push of train off tracks for the implication that there's been anything of significance to catch as he goes. Of course he caught it; he just recited it. "Nice to see that someone's," he's distracted by the process of tucking his gloves into his pocket, "…finally lit enough of a fire under you to get you out of your tent." HE CAN DO THIS ALL DAY, FLETCHER CRUIKSHANK. "Will the others be staying here with you?"

Fletcher turns in a complete circle as he walks especially to punish that with a look sent back to Algernon. Otherwise—

Otherwise, it could be worse, in here. It's dim, and not completely clean, and has that sense of being somewhat crowded for all that no one gets in their way. There's the occasional rthud of footsteps above their heads, a distance conversation. Someone's even playing music. Fletcher's room is ground level. Furnished. A sofa that's sunk in the middle, a table pushed against a window that could stand a clean. It's pushed open by Fletcher, who sets ale down.

Some sort of complicated charm of leather, feathers, wooden pieces dangles from the sill, naturally. It's difficult to tell if these things do anything on a very practical level. Awake, one magpie leaps off companion's shoulder, swooping agile through the little room to rest atop shelving she's nested for her own purposes.

"They've found board," he confirms. "Less a fire, more the winter."

Smug self-satisfaction is contained to a slant at Algernon's brow and a crook at the corner of his mouth for the look, daring less ambiguous accusation. Then a work of his jaw to ground out even the barest implication of a smile when he turns his attention outward, to Fletcher's new home.

The fact that such cramped quarters are likely to invite filth (and so disease) does not escape his attention, but he is, for the moment, polite enough not to comment accordingly. He does look at the sofa for longer than is probably courteous before he sinks into a sit, though, conscious of rusty springs, or. Mice in the cushions.

"I'm glad to hear it."

Clatter, rustle, rifle. Finding something to pour out ale is easy enough - mismatching containers, earthenware better for teas and heated wines, but it would do and isn't any worse than what could be found at the local tavern. The ale is distributed, prone to sharing if only thanks to a group-like lifestyle for so long as opposed to a true kind of generousity or sense of decorum. "I've taken to selling my wares as well, just like I used to. It's all I could ever ask for and more." …that would be brittle sarcasm.

He goes to hand Algernon his drink, taking a seat nearby himself once he's opted to shed his coat. "I expect you've found something a little less cosy."

Algernon watches Cruikshank shuffle about more closely than rummaging for earthenware is probably worth, gathering tidily after little flickers of frustration built into an automatic impulse to share. It's interesting, the same way people find documentaries on poor, nudist natives interesting. Maybe even moreso for the fact that they aren't in a position to fathom what it's actually like. What they must be feeling, and so on.

It's actually not very nice, for all that there are more malicious kinds of fascination out there.

"I've been staying at The Albatross," he confirms once he's received ale and slouched deeper aside into the arm rest. Comfortable in his coat for all that he has reached up to remove his hat and set it aside, at some point. "Patrol work, mostly. Maintaining order. But don't fret. I'm sure once you've made a name for yourself selling scandalous piercings you'll be back on your way to ritual fellatio in no time."

"You know, you really ought to be less facetious about the beliefs of others."

It's ever difficult to tell if Cruikshank is being sincere along with reprimand - he is quiet and muttery, his attention focused on his ale before he brings it up, savours the scent, and takes along draw. Once done, he adds, louder; "And Miss Owens could stand to keep her mouth shut, but what can you do. I'm not actually looking to make any kind of name for myself at all."

A silent (facetious) Oh? in a lift of his brows leads Algernon into a slow swallow of ale. Should he? "I meant no offense," is probably not true. But it sounds like it is, and so far that's been enough.

"As for Miss Owens," there's an easy pace to his diction, not quite poetic (as previously claimed) but still baseline pleased enough with himself that the cadence is somewhat the same, "I was under the impression that her aptitude as a cunning linguist was the basis for your having gotten on. So. Well."

Leg folded over the other swings a little as Cruikshank suppresses— badly— a smile at the corners of his mouth, in the way people who have Important Sadness might try not to be amused because it's quite unfair. "She has herself a talented tongue. Quite the way with words. Amongst other assets." And he isn't even talking about tits and ass, necessarily, which is mostly only made clear in the fact he isn't in withdrawal or the aftermath thereof, that perilous place of maintained, precarious health of frequent users. He takes another long draw of ale, enough to shallow out his cup so he can justify swift refill.

"We left a town ravaged by six of those things. The dragons. Not due to the dragons, mind, but the people. One is enough, and then this…" He glances out the grimy window, indicating the building across from them and the bodies that had come out of it. "People are stupid and superstitious, you know."

Algernon spares Cruikshank's assessment of Luna's ability due consideration between swallows of ale. The way he might if he was considering making an investment. Or buying a horse. If anyone is qualified to know —

"I do," he agrees, belatedly, turning with the change in subject to follow Cruikshank's glance to the window. "You should direct your adoring followers to keep your origins under wraps, lest local nobility opt to perpetuate your standing as s scapegoat. If you haven't already." Serving near empty, Fogg eyes Fletcher's progress before he offers his cup for a refill as well. "Mister Rowntree seems more the type for execution than banishment, I'm afraid."

"He's very charming, isn't he."

Flippant comment doesn't do much to disguise the nerves that come about in response, fingers up to tangle around the leather chord at his neck, the rough cut piece of green-red stone dancing a little beneath fidget. "No, I know. They know. I just…" Fletcher pauses, then remembers to pour, gravitating bottle neck from his cup to Algernon's, dealing out liberal helping before leaning back again. "What will you do when the winter's finished?" he asks, somewhat abruptly, pinning a look at Algernon that could stand to be a little less keen.

"I will do what work there is to be done." Drolly deadpan upon reception of another round, Algernon hooks paired fingers beneath the close catch of his collar. "Maybe I'll learn a new trade. Pursue a career in live entertainment."

Another day, another dollar. Truth be told he doesn't look any more interested in the future than he is Fletcher's latest bauble, though he does account for the latter with a lazy cut of his eyes when it's fingered. Distracted, perhaps. Thoughts elsewhere. He lifts his cup.

This doesn't parse for Cruikshank, tipping his head in birdish inquiry and disbelief. He doesn't say so you're staying out loud, assuming sincerity, just a sort of quiet, "oh," before he looks back down at his drink. The future is swift, then, to skitter outside of Fletcher's immediate attention span and concern, jolting a shrug and taking a sip of ale. Besides, the idea of securing the funds enough to leave is as unlikely a thing to happen soon as convincing Algernon to play protector once more.

Strangely enough, his little pack of followers aren't on the forefront of his mind.

"I suppose this isn't exactly what you imagined when you joined up."

"As opposed to having designed our courteous imprisonment from the start?" There's a haggard edge to the companionable half a smile he manages past his ale: shared suffering. That Fletcher has more to go around is only natural.


"Most of the locals seem altruistic enough. Better-intentioned than their overseers, at the very least. I have a roof over my head and a warm bed to sleep in whenever I like." He's much less likely to accidentally trip over Cruikshanks having sex somewhere improbable.

Second round finished off more abruptly than the first, Fogg turns the cup absently around in his hand and looks back to the grey of the window. "I'm not sure what I imagined, Fletcher. What about you, hm? Freedom forever in the wilds of Scotland?"

"Designed our courteous— the first thing, only less so. Maybe sell off some of the load instead of have it taken. The animals. The books." The books. :( "Little, inconsequential differences."

And Fletcher gets up, taking the ale with him, only to fall/sit back down again in sofa just next to Algernon, the furiture creaking in some protest, sinking beneath the weight distribution of the two men upon it. "And besides, what's wrong with freedom in the wilds of Scotland? As long as you can look after yourself. We were doing alright for a while, weren't we all."

"Lets be honest with ourselves, shall we?" Shhhall we? Algernon rolls an ankle over in its boot, leather creaking at its axis while he reaches his arm to rest along the couch at Fletcher's back. Lax, in a vaguely forlorn. Kind of way. "Life beyond civilized walls is a crapshoot, Mister Cruikshank. It was only a matter of time before we ran into someone or some thing I couldn't kill." He doesn't tiptoe around the 'I' either, first person established with another one of those looks that invites contradiction, if he dares.

"Not every threat succumbs easily to bullets, these days. Here you have the option of — free enterprise. You're protected by an active, vigilant militia. There are whores." It's not so bad, according to the incline of his brows. "I'm not sure how well they'll tolerate you cavorting around with any trousers on, but surely your guaranteed survival must be worth some sacrifices."

There is only the slightest of grimaces at the supposed worth of the militia, but Cruikshank is. Listening. Ale gripped between pointy knees and narrow hands, and he does have to tip his head in some concession. Yes, there are whores. One even likes him.

Or, something. As much as such women can. "Yes, well, you always seemed to tolerate it splendidly," he snips, before downing some more ale as if that could help ease the way for clarity and more positive outlooks instead of musty, dimly lit self-pity in the boarding house. "And if you're going to put it that way, I miss…" Cruikshank pauses, as if trying to ascertain what it is he missed. "…furniture."

"I'm a tolerant man," says Algernon. "You're still alive, after all." Ho ho. He leans into a nudge that might mean only joking or lighten up, Fletcher or. Well. One of those things. Probably.

At his opposite side, he dallies with his empty cup a moment before setting it aside after his hat with a resolute, talon to tile click. "So he took your books?"

The nudge does what it affected itself to do; Fletcher relaxes a little more with that same reluctant twist of a smile (because he can imagine maybe they're friends!! and joking like friends do, as this is a rather friendly setting, friendly props, friendly proximity) although the alcohol probably gets some of the profit too. "Mm. A fair portion." He tops himself up once more before the bottle is set aside and its amount left over for a rainy day. This second and a half helping is not imbibed immediately, only gripped close for now. "Not all of it. That woman, the sister, Elvira. She saw to hiding away some of them at the last moment. Why?"

"It's unfortunate, is all." Elvira the illusionist is recalled with a bland look to his boots. "They still have my horse." He hasn't forgotten. And doesn't seem likely to at this rate, freed right hand raised to scuff under his nose.

"What else? No other great concerns? I trust you're keeping my revolver clean."

He doesn't. Actually.

He isn't, but Cruikshank does slide a look off towards where it's likely hidden, which is to say, some indefinite place amongst crooked, cramped furniture. "I've not had to use it yet," he observes, leaning back into his seat. "So I suppose that's a good thing. You're not wanting it back, then." An eyebrow raise indicates Fletcher doesn't truly think Algernon would - he does, after all, work for the best munitions producers this side of the Highlands.

"I don't think I'll be falling ill, at any rate. I've done what I can to stave it away. You don't want anything I can provide, do you? Nothing for good fortune, good health?" He lifts his cup again to sip and adds, wryer, "Good crops?"

"No." Reality meets expectation — Algernon does not even lift his eyes in an effort to follow Cruikshank's to where the gun in question might reside. Instead he extends that original no into a, "thank you," to encompass tailing offers as well, an absently skeptical look leveled sideways after the stone Fletcher's sporting around his neck.

Hat collected under a lazy reach and lifted after him, Fogg pushes to his feet. Confident in the fortitude of his health. And crops. Hat gripped between his hands, standing tall, he gives Fletcher's quarters one last sweep over with his eyes before leans into his first step. Start of a slow exit. "Well," he says. "I'll leave you to your machinations. I just wanted to see for myself that you had managed to settle in."

Fletcher is well used to cynicism, but doesn't say or do anything as Fogg stands up, hand wandering to toy again with the self-crafted amulet. Bloodstone is among those less than precious gems found in Scottish earth, and this one is unpolished and unadorned, as if not wishing to take from its natural power.

"They never did find your wedding ring, did they?" he asks, over the top of polite departures.

There's a still, static, prickling bristle to the lay of Algernon's shoulders from behind, barely detectable for all that it translates into a slow about face. Under the thin guise of proprietous acknowledgement, he squares himself to look more directly at Fletcher than he has since he's been here. Hat still in hand. Looking to measure the point that may be being made.


Cruikshank jolts a shrug, allowing a brighter smile to show at that good news. Nothing to worry about, Algernon.

"Well done me."

And he stifles down smile again, helped along with tipping back towards imbibing ale again, but pauses, and lifts the cup in gesture to add, slightly gentler, "Thanks for this. Stop by any time," which only serves to compare against tone just prior, which had only the most hidden of edges.

"Indeed," Algernon allows, still stiff in the face of that smile, "I am in your debt."

If the word debt lands like an iron ingot on the floor between them, its not so significant an emphasis as to negate the overall sentiment. Of graciousness.

He nods, though — marginally more formal farewell coupled with the push of his hat back down over his head as he turns to go a second time.

"I will."

At any time.

Curiously, very little embellishment is required for promise to translate as threat.