Driftwood

Title: Driftwood
Time Period: June 10, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Cruikshank finds a thing on the beach and does it a favor. Leonard helps to drag it back to civilization. And pants.

Late one Sunday morning, not long after the quiet span commonly devoted to church in days gone by, the usual wheel and sprawl of gulls at the harbor's edge organizes itself into a spiral. They dive and cackle and shit, as gulls do, around a corpus dumped motionless upon the beach, face down in gritty sand and bleaching sun.

White male, long and shirtless and thin with elbows slack and wrists locked bruised behind his back in iron shackles that haven't yet had time to rust. Murky water laps at bare toes same as the bravest of the birds nips at his ear, hopping uneasily in and then out again. A few lengths of dark wood litter the beach around him. Something that might have been a hatch, or door.

In any case, something is keeping the gulls out of arms reach. The crabs aren't as easily spooked — one pushes its way through salt-crusted scruff to pick at blood dried black in the furrow of a cut.

A little ways down the beach, there is another while male. He crouches on the stiff sand, not minding too much when his bare feet get touched by the chilly water, the cuffs of his pants rolled up passed his calves, with only a loop of braiding and beading around one skinny ankle. Fletcher Cruikshank is collecting water into a canteen of sewn leather, for reasons. Probably not ones that have anything to do with quenching thirst, or so one hopes. By the time he's lifting it to inspect its fullness and re-cork it, a nagging voice only he can hear right now informs him, first, that he is blind, and second, to look southwards down the sand. The magpie doesn't see purpose in changing her shape and colours just to fit in with the gulls milling around.

A body washing up is probably an omen of something. He stands up out of his crouch towards the silhouette, and starts in that direction by the time the crab is also making his investigation. A stick, dehydrated with salt and sun, is picked up on the way there. Probably for poking purposes. Canteen tied off at his belt, the bones of a seabird collecting into a pocket, he shall be free to do so.

The crab, first, is assaulted, flicked away with the stick to cartwheel off into the water. The absence of the scent of death doesn't actually register for Cruikshank, right away.

Amidst the lapping of the tide, but not quite fiddling about with the seabirds, there is a fat-bottomed greylag goose paddling her way about the sandy shallows, watching Cruikshank from afar, seemingly away from his line of sight. To watch and not be seen- at least not in the usual sense. Sage picks along, pecking around at weeds washed up in bundles. She has no real sense of importance from the man beachcombing, up until he rises and meanders away down the gritty beach.

Sage turns and waddles in the same direction, in that uncanny way of geese or cats- they look away when noticed, wandering nearer only when not being watched.

The crab claws air like a roach for the second or two it takes to rock itself upright. At closer range, Cruikshank's corpse is free of (recent) decay. Scars strip in slender lines across shoulder and spine. He might've been shot, at one point. There's blood in his hair and his skin has dried raw where the sun has had free rein to blister — but he hasn't begun to rot, and the close sink of flesh around his bones has to do with deficiency in life rather than mummification in death.

Also: he's breathing. Maybe. A feather light rise of rib under wrist clicks iron to iron and the last of the gulls holding his ground takes wing.

Breathing is definitely a sign of life, and when Cruikshank spots it, open confusion knots his brow. He casts a look around, overlooking the goose as irrelevant to what he is scanning for, then down again at the body.

The irons are worrying, but a little bit of inspection tells Cruikshank that while they indicate an unsavoury individual, they also seem like they would hold fast against said individual doing unsavoury things. "Hello?" he says, lacking a bit of conviction and coming out weak, so instead, he unties his canteen from his belt and sacrifices some of the gathered water, splashing perhaps half a cup's worth against the side of the fellow's face.

Ton-tonk. Ignored in favor of ministering to the person on the sand, Sage waddles nearly right up behind Cruikshank before she sounds off with a curious honk. The familiarity of a corpse comes easily to her, but she does not begin sounding any alarms just yet. The man could be just that- a corpse- dead and gone.

The grey goose stamps into sight, examining ankles and toes rather than ribs and face; she stretches out and nips at various places- calf, heel- and finally bites down on toe. Between her and the water, hopefully something happens. Sage needs to know whether or not she must fetch Leonard from the dockside, or tell him to bring people to drag a body off the beach. A fine line, to be sure.
[Public Chat] Sage has disconnected.

Salty water slaps sun-and-salt-gritted skin, following the arch of cheekbone and nose right — into the latter, so that a queerly delayed snort spasms into a twist. And a cough. And another snort, even, sand kicked through teeth and out into a long-dried puddle of what … might have been a light, mostly-water kind of vomit. At some point.

Now it's more or less a cake of sand that shadows the long flank of his face when he turns it aside to crane a look around at his assailant. Still dribbling seawater out the nose, he doesn't have long to try to pull Fletcher warily into focus before something's clamped onto his toe and he has to show his teeth at that.

His foot's pulled back into himself because it belongs to him, although without any great amount of force. Too busy with another cough. And a twist of one wrist knobbled against its cuff.

Cruikshank remains crouched where he is, back straightening some but solidly balanced all the same as he recaps the canteen and casts a cynical look down towards the goose that has joined him in his investigations. "I'd throw this one back," he tells the creature, before looking back down in time to notice he is being focused on enough to be relevant. "Hello," he tries again, minus questioning inflection, head tilting. "Had a bit of a rough night? I know how that is. One moment, you're having a nice evening, and the next you find yourself face down on the beach and someone's not taken off the restraints.

"If you promise not to kill me or be a criminal, I could probably get rid of them for you."

The goose ruffles its tail and wings, feathers buffeting as she hops away from the movement. Her head cants towards Fletcher, fixing him with a beady gaze and a flick of stubby tail. The only answer that it gives him is a small conk of air. Possibly affirmation, possibly not. Possibly just a noise. Sage is studious as the man in the sand writhes just enough for her to be sure he is waking, and not in some manner of spasm that comes with dying. She remains there throughout Cruikshank's questioning, but she does not wait for the man to answer.

Sage lets out one more little coot, her wings flapping up and out, webbed feet hobbling off the sand and into the salty air. Off to find her mage- seemingly, some assistance.

Struggle fades into slack resignation rapidly without energy to support it; there is a massive bird biting at one end, he thinks, and an Englishman talking at the other.

"English," he recognizes aloud at a rasp (and on too much of a delay), relief rooted in (potentially unflattering) calculation after the somewhat sameness. In their accents. His vowels have a similar lilt to them for all that they're weighed long by other, even more western influences.

A slow blink clears some of the fog from his eyes but none of the ache behind them and he can hear Sage bobbing heavily off into obscurity. Time seems to be moving very slowly — limited by reduced processing power and the distraction of stiffness and pain leaking in from approximately everywhere.

"Cross my heart."

"Yes," Cruikshank confirms, with a smile that is as sudden as it is sharp, but that's just his face. He follows, a moment, the track of the bird, before he pushes up to stand and walks around the prone man. He has a knife, also, in a pocket, and he takes this out too, both to use now as well as possible defense, before crouching down near the restraints, observing their condition. Once again, the salt water will be used again — the water is shaken a little first.

And then, all of its contents get slowly trickled over the locks, a thin rivulet behind the loud glug glug of the container emptying that the stranger can probably feel against his wrists, uncomfortable where there are open sores. But rust comes in easily, the process sped along with preternatural speed, eating at metal and the delicate insides of hinges and mechanisms both.

One the entire thing is emptied, he sets the item aside, and sets about levering open the restraints, careful not to let the blade slip and do something terrible. Finally, one of the cuffs give.

Imagine the surprise when you're assaulted by a goose while discussing the price of a find. Leonard learns it firsthand, though not for the first time in his life. He was not terribly far from the beach where he left Sage to comb the sand for seaweed, and she all but lands atop him in a flurry of down. He is still holding the dumpy goose when he crests the shift of beach against street, visible not far from where she had flown over.

"Ho, there! What's going on?" Leonard is careful enough when he steps down the incline of gravelly sand, and onto the softer stretch of beach. Sage honks dutifully in his arms until he lets her go, flapping up into the air. The shift from chubby goose to owl is sleek enough, and she takes to circling above.

"He's still alive?" There is enough purpose in the man's stride to be sure he wants to help, rather than wanting to insinuate himself on the incident. "I'm a doctor. Sort of. For the most part. Close enough."

Flint sees the knife come out first — a glint caught at the corner of his eye that draws the white wide after it. For a moment he wishes the goose hadn't gone, ribs flinched stiff with reasonable fear.

But the only fresh pain for him to blast a held breath at is in the burn of salt to hide worn especially raw where the shackles have bitten in at some point or another. He's only begun to relax dimly into it when Leonard's voice carries in over the sand and he wrenches again, less to hurry escape and more to get a look at the latest arrival. Particularly as it relates to the speed with which his restraints are (supernaturally) giving way. Cruikshank will see the whites of his eyes again when he tries to see what he's doing over the blade of his own shoulder.

In any case, his voice is gravelled such that "Why, 'sort of?'" comes pre-muted between them.

One cuff is off one bony wrist and, uncertain, Cruikshank indelicately pushes this arm back over into a more comfortable position and also out of his way. He looks up when Leonard comes into view, ever wary a little of the more legitimate and respectable figures in the town of Dornie, but relaxes some at the words that come along with it. "Beggars can't be choosers," he says, with the look of someone who would actually know, and he continues working at the second cuff, blade scraping before it finally whines open. He scoots back a few inches, holding the knife, still, in case his new friend decides to be a psycho murderer after all.

"My patients tend to have more fur than you…" An answer that comes on hazily smiling mouth, as the vet shifts into focus. The more meticulously groomed Leonard is a bit of a dubious contrast to the first man, but Cruikshank is right- beggars can't be choosers. For all the more they contrast, however, Leonard seems to give Fletcher the same berth as anyone else. "He is quite correct. You, my friend, are in no state to be a chooser."

The man now out of binds is less fortunate, as Leonard has rolled up his sleeves to pry the rest of the stranger's shoulders out of the muck. Not to set him upright, but to turn him over on the sand. The mouth is clear, so it isn't likely he'll drown. Unless he vomits again. In which case, it's only a matter of tilting him back onto his side.

No, surely not.

And even if he were, it's apparent that he lacks the strength to be a very impressive psycho or murderer. As for Fletcher's rebuttal, any irritation it might have inspired is lost in sweeter relief at the end of cramping restraint. There's some gratefulness, even, if Cruikshank's keen enough to read into the way he pushes his face back to the sand for a moment to soak in dubious freedom.

"Do they," muttered incoherently and to the dirt, which feels softer by the second, he's not prepared for what comes next. A grip at his shoulders, a show of belly to the sky and a grind of sunburnt skin to grit — he wheezes out all of his air before he can manage to protest. Or curse.

The back isn't much better than the front, anyway. Scars. Confirmation that the star pattern out his back was likely put there by a bullet. He stares hard up at Leonard and then quickly aside to Cruikshank for help. The trouble with feeding strays —

Wumf. That is the sound of killed flight and the soft impact of a bird landing hard against Cruikshank's bent back, and as usual, barely earns a flutter of eyelashes. The magpie wants a better view, now, and earns one, after stabbing her beak absents into the nest of Cruikshan's hair before angling beady eye down on the washed up— person. The glance for help, meanwhile, is noted but not really responded to; it doesn't occur to Fletcher to do so, studying this find.

"How did you get out here?" he asks, instead, remaining crouched, arms around his knees, hand clutching knife.

Leonard gives the bird a cursory glance, to take note of its appearance before crouching down next to the stranger and gently examining his raw wrists as if he were, in fact, a corpse unable to fuss in return. Or a dog.

"Good question." He gestures with his chin to the manacles, and glances up into the air. Sage is still there, until he meets her gaze and she flaps silently off over the buildings. "Sage will get someone and be back." The vet says this for apparently Cruikshanks' benefit, though it is not clear why. Hopefully there is no trouble where the shackles were concerned, and what the miltiamen think later.

"Can you breathe without pain? Cough?" If there is water in his stomach, now may be a good time to accidentally cough it up.

Having found Cruikshank suddenly the opposite of helpful, he looks away again to furrow his brows at Leonard's handling of his near arm. Protest beyond that is silent. He's trying to think about the question he's been pressed with and failing — distraction enough to keep him from twisting away. Or trying to.

"I dunno," he decides croakily and at length, more suspicious of Leonard than Leonard is of him. Intensely uncomfortable all around, for all that he doesn't pull away while he's being examined. He swam here. Or floated.

"I'm thirsty."

Fair enough. Cruikshank kind of just. Lingers where he is for a while, watching Leonard treat the mystery man. Sage will get someone and be back. This is thought about for another thirty seconds, before, after a moment, he picks up the manacles. His thumbs run over the newly rusted iron— repels the fae, protects children, makes gardens grow greener if buried with some blessings— before he stands. It's not really that he's kind. He just knows what this place can be like.

Bare feet leave imprints in the sand, Shade lifting off to flap away at this new movement, taking to circling. Mostly to avoid being perched when Cruikshank does this next thing, which is, with all his reedy strength, fling the iron out into the sea, where it splashes heavily and sinks fast.

He wipes off his hand, only very distractedly wondering if Leonard cares enough to tell on him, or if it will make any difference.

"Good." For the time being, the look-over is done with. Leonard can't see anything poking out, or bleeding all over the sand, so it seems a waiting game now. He watches Cruikshank's shoulders between glances, and there is no fussing from him on any matter. If not cut from the same cloth, then Leonard is at the least, unwilling to initiate anything that would require a show of bravery.

"Do you know how long you were out?" In the water, on the beach, whichever one sounds most relevant. Leonard offers a hand this time, rather than forcing the stranger to move. "Do you think you can sit up?"

What injuries Flint sustained in the course of whatever happened have had time to crust over. That they're mostly about his face and head may be cause for concern if either of them think too hard on it — a split at his temple and a smaller mark across his nose. Beyond that and the damage at his wrists, his suffering is purely environmental. Dehydration. Exposure.

…Did he just say good?

Back to the present, Flint squints. Second-guessing himself.

Beyond Leonard, the sound of his own chains on the move coaxes him to answer by struggling to lift up onto his elbow. He registers the splash without seeing it, vision still tracking more lens flare than hippy. Or veterinarian.

The latter can feel a second surge of relief through a long exhale. A weight off. It'd be easy to forget that there's a bird going to get more people. Not so easy that he forgets to shake his head no. He doesn't know. He doesn't know anything.

Look, Cruikshank can do all sorts of magic, including making shit disappear. For his next trick—

A hand goes out, offering his arm back to Shade in apology, and she takes it, landing on the crook of his elbow. Swivels around on a heel in the sand as the bird hops to nestle herself near his neck, crouching against the wind coming in off the loch. He watches, standing in that ever-damp line between where the sand ends and the water begins, uninclined to wander off from interesting things he's found.

"It means your body isn't ready to give up, if that helps.." Leonard is vague in this explanation, and his gesture with one hand seems to make it even moreso. He forces a squint back at the stranger, looking him over once again, hand firm on shoulder. Leonard lets him remain, to lie there on the sand, head and eyes hopefully adjusting to abrupt wakefulness. "You're a lucky bastard, even so."

"Have you heard of any wrecks?" The vet glances up, sounding doubtful. He hadn't heard any sort of news like that. This time he is giving Cruikshank the majority of his attention. "Maybe he escaped on his own, but…" Green eyes dart over to the bits of wood littering the sand nearby, and their noticeable shapes.

Amidst the gulls and wheeling auks, Sage appears again from over rooftops. A mention from one familiar to another, from one mage to another man. A convoluted road, but a road nonetheless. She swoops down and alights silently on Leonard's shoulder, fluttering black against the overcast gray-blue of the sky.

"Maybe."

Familiars evidently registered for what they are, Flint looks between them both a tad uneasily. Feather and fluff. Not so different from the flying rats still circling overhead. Keen on picking sinew from bone.

Aware that he's staring too long after the fact, he carves sand off the side of his face with a scoop of one hand and shifts to continue along the precedent set by his elbow. Trying to pick up onto overlarge feet in the shadow of their conversation. Likely with Leonard's help. Or hindrance. Whichever happens to strike him as more medically responsible.

"I wouldn't know," Fletcher says, bundling his arms back around himself before casting a look at the driftwood, reaching out a foot to nudge a piece away from the snatching tide. He hadn't really looked at it, before, and stoops to break off a piece of splintery, swollen wood to fidget with between the rough pads of his fingers. As the stranger goes to stand up, Cruikshank lifts the little finger of wood for Shade to take in her beak, and she does so, worrying it a little, impassive.

The Englishman— or similar— looks bigger upright than he does when lying strewn like driftwood on the sand. "What're you going to do with him?"

It could be worse. The familiars could be attack dogs. But they aren't, even if Sage began this as a toe-biter. She swivels her head around to watch Cruikshank, and by extenstion, Keeps-to-the-Shade. But, she offers neither gesture nor word. Leonard will help the man to stand, but only as long as it seems he won't fall flat on his ass again, or buckle from cracked bones putting pain to his legs. "The militia will want to see him…" This sounds suspiciously like bellyaching —

"But not before I get him to missus Rowntree." The vet's muttering is for both, though he inspects the man's posture with a discerning eye, checking again for any weaknesses. "She would tan me if I let them get to you first. Only something less like tanning and more like fussing. You'll understand." Supposedly if the stranger does meet this missus.

"I'll help you, but only if you want me to. If you think you have to get out of here, I suggest you do it now." Finally, he addresses the man at level, rather than talking around him as if he were more of a cow than a person. "Granted, you only have a few choices." A hesitant smile.

The survivor, or castaway (or fugitive) is tall and lean and built like a suspension bridge, all cables and struts. His arms are long as his face and he weighs more than he seems like he should, heavy bone draped dense across Leonard's shoulder when he leans into him. Tendon pops over cartilage across his ribs. Sand falls away in uneven spits and dribbles off his side.

His free hand hooks to his bony waist after what's left of his trousers as a (likely welcome) afterthought. At such close quarters, the gesture might be especially appeciated given that his next course of action involves turning his head past Leonard's ear and rasping a breath in deep past his sinuses. Smell … ing. Him.

His legs are fine.

His brain —

"Is there a bar?"

Once Shade is done with the nick of wood, in turn blinking back at Sage, Cruikshank receives it back into his palm and plants it in his pocket. "The Albatross," he offers. Helpfully. Better than asking if Leonard smells good.

(Probably, by the look of him.)

Anyway. He isn't about to stand in the way of militia questioning, or in its periphery. The day is young and there is a whole beach of wonders ahead of him. Once Cruikshank has made this helpful interjection, he kicks a little sand towards the water, and starts back on his way to see what else washes up that might be near as interesting.

The scene as it is now, is a bizarre one. Possibly gossip-worthy, considering the state of one man. But Leonard's not going to start this round, no sir. At first, the scenting goes right over his head, so to speak, dawning on him a moment later. Blessedly? He doesn't quite lean away- supporting the stranger as he is, he can't go far- but he shifts uneasily. More out of What than Whom, though that still has something to do with it.

"Of course there is. Yes, The Albatross." Leonard lets the first drifter answer for him. "But if you go in like that, people will think I dragged you in off the beach."

He lets that one sink in.

"The least that a man needs is his priorities straight. Pants, then whisky." Like how you need to pull your trousers down to take a shit; it doesn't work out the same if you do it out of order.

People like Leonard can lead to a false sense of security against a backdrop like Dornie.

He seems nice.

Smells nice.

One eye squinted after the bird on his far shoulder, Flint is slow to size up Cruikshank again at eye level. And slower still to croak out a cruddy, "Thanks." It's earnest, at least. His eyes are very blue and the lines around his face tend to tell the truth. No homo.

A moment spent gathering himself up spent off in a sigh, he leans further still into Leonard. Ready to move. "Pants first."