Title: Heading
Time Period: October, 134 A.E
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Cruikshank is up before the sun to make a fateful decision based in part upon the advice of his stalwart manservant, Algernon.

Moonless nights are the worst, stars prickled cold and white against the same inky infinity that swallows the surrounding hills same as it does shabby belongings in shabby tents pitched by shabby people.

Fogg is in charge of the fire, which is not so dire a duty that he feels any real need to stand between quiet excursions to the camp's darker regions. Currently he's reclining, actually, shoulders and spine bolstered off the rocky ground by the roll of a pack that may be his. Orange light casts warm across dirty canvas and scattered utensiles, freshly stoked flame tonguing at the tread of his near boot. Bowler pushed low on his brow, rifle slanted lazily across his middle, he's slow to draw his foot back before the heel begins to blacken. The air is chill enough that even blistering warmth is not unwelcome, all fogging breath and toes numb in their socks.

It is possible that he's had something to drink. It's even more distressingly possible that this is simply the standard he's set for 'safety' during the predawn span within which even the most incontinent and/or intoxicated of travelling imbecils is unlikely to huddle out into the wind for a wee.

Whatever the case, he looks to be comfortable and a shape in the grass at campfire's edge does not draw his eye.

Emerging from one such shabby tent, Cruikshank makes quick work of getting from there to the burning fire.

It's cold, and he's awake, red-eyed and still wretched with recreational smoke leaking its particularly acrid scent off the woolen blanket he has huddled around himself. Predawn means the barest tinge of illumination on the appropriate corner of the compass, but not enough that it isn't otherwise pitch black save for the glow of campfire light, the scent of which Cruikshank has become very familiar with. His feet are in wool-lined boots, his hands in gloves with the fingertips removed— all the better to fidget with— and when he sits, its with a definite kind of heavyness. His joints are loose and relaxed enough that his legs can cross, back curling into a natural slouch.

He blinks into the light of the flames, a few times and hard, before grinding blanket-covered knuckles into his eye sockets. His familiar, too, has woken as he has — there's a flutter-flap of wings in the air, a fleeting shadow in the gloom.

"Morning," says Algernon, same as he always says it. Low and without sympathetic (or even particularly affectionate) inflection. More statement of the approximate hour than greeting.

He does perform a visual survey, eyes sooted dark by filtered light marking the face and the gloves and the absence of any readily apparent bloodstains or bodily harm. Fogg is only wearing one glove by uneven contrast, trigger hand buried bare beneath the dun lapel of his coat.

He's quiet for a beat, then: "You're looking enlightened."

"'Tis." 'Tis morning. Fletcher understands this much, huddling harder into himself and inching closer to the flames until he can feel the skin of his face tingle and dry uncomfortably, rocking back again. He's chosen a spot away from the smokey run off, but the wind can change heartlessly. A hand sneaks out of the fold of blankets towards where a twig has blackened and curled at the end, feeding it a little into the fire without actually casting it to burn.

A looking crossways at Algernon, then, to see if he's being sarcastic. About enlightenment. It might surprise people to know the shallower depths of Cruikshank's self-delusions. "I feel a bit that way. Everything's a bit raw. Like the cold."

The trouble with discerning whether or not Algernon is sarcastic at any given time is that he doesn't sound any different when he is. Resigned judgment in the hard stoop of his brow is perpetually being diluted by a tired kind of passivity — like he doesn't have energy to waste on conflict about the way Fletcher often smells (like a brothel) or his (over) indulgence in psychoactive substances (highly irresponsible).

Doesn't stop him from drawing a flask out from behind his lapel, leather-bound metal flipped half-heartedly across the fire's flank to land within arm's reach. "Hair of the dog," he says. "Of a dog, anyway." Not necessarily the guilty canine in this case, judging from the aroma. Or one of many doggy defendants, masked by the mixture. "Winter's coming."

Oh. Surprised without being overly so, more pleased at his own good fortune than feeling like Algernon is odd for making such a gesture, Cruikshank's posture improves to peer at the flask, before dropping the twig in favour of reaching to take the offered item.


He'll take the booze, of course — there's precious little of it left. They'll need to go somewhere. Not just for alcohol, of course, but that's just the path Cruikshank's mind takes as he takes a sip for himself, careful not to overindulge in this case. It's chemically warm and Fogg speaks the truth. "Misery," he adds, on the back of Fogg's observation. "I don't know if we should go back south." Not like it's going to be happy and fun times in Britain regardless when winter hits, but.

Like feeding a raggedy, slightly retarded duck bits of bread crust.

This is not a very nice thing to think, actually, and after a moment Algernon puts in the necessary effort to slant his focus onto the more relevant issue of a heading. Slack, distracted contempt on his face in the interim is easily lost in the offer of hard liquor. And the acceptance thereof.

One hopes.

Left glove drawn off once he's reached across himself to set his rifle aside, Fogg nods as he hoists himself into more of a leaning sit. Agreeing — and not just to be agreeable. There's a certainty lined in subtle between his brows. "Probably wise not to."

He sips until the inside of his mouth feels fairly on fire, and that same heat is coursing down to the bottom of his stomach. That'll do. Fletcher caps the thing and sets it down at a midpoint between them, before he rocks back to land his elbows on the solid ground in lazy lean, legs still folded, blanket still bundled, chin tucked into the folds high up near his face.

"So then that leaves us with north. Or headed inland or for the coast and the way I see it, the coast offers a large expanse of fuck all from which brigands won't pick on us." There's a flicker of dark, prying glance to Algernon as if— he wouldn't— turn down advice in this matter. Before it angles back down the length of his torso to stare into the bright core of the campfire.

Flask recovered and weighed slosh in his grip, Algernon unscrews the cap to peer down into the contents as if to measure the approximate level of contamination they might have suffered in the last several seconds. In the end he's not too reserved to sate his concern with a buff of sleeve over the flask's lip. Bourbon is swallowed down and shuffled back into his coat with a snuff at his moustache.

"Might be best to settle in somewhere safely out of the weather," he offers at length. "Blend," he continues, "behave," more resignedly, every syllable independently and bluntly dictated, "make ourselves useful." Is that something you think you can do, Fletcher? Pedantic skepticism leeches through a lingering look and Fogg reaches to recollect his rifle without blinking.

"At the very least, moving north will keep us from dragons lying in wait on the roads." He clicks the safety off. Looks down to roll the bolt carefully back from the chamber. "We're not the only beasts in Britain that prefer a warmer climes, you know."


Right, that is not something Cruikshank had thought of. He among several of those asleep in their tents had, of course, seen the scorched earth that had once been agriculture, and the stinking scraps of sheep and horse and bovine. He pushes his feet closer towards the fire regardless of where memory lane takes him. "But we'll need to be— I mean. Dragons're one thing but I've heard they've got— scraps over territory and other such ridiculousness. Bit of a rougher make of people than— "

He tips his head to indicate the other Dirty Hippies.

"Hence the necessity for discretion," reasons Algernon, who does not seem worried, but rarely does. He locks the bolt back in without flourish and thumbs the safety and generally fails to look all that interested in Cruikshank's reservations.

A nudge of one boot toe dislodges a log nearly burned through its middle; sparks churn and spit in a spiral from the fire's core.

"It's your decision, of course."

A hand comes up to scratch through lank hair, movements sleepy and without particular fussiness. This assertion is, of course, accepted without question as Cruikshank lazily regards the fire through bloodshot eyes, knees together and to and fro'ing a little with the same fidget that had driven him out of his tent. "Well," he says, eventually, making the slow collapse of his arms finally giving beneath his not particularly substantive weight to lie down completely— at least he brought a blanket— and blinking up at the pre-dawn sky, "it's going to be fucking miserable either way.

"But I'd rather not be outside for it."

Acknowledgement in the form of a tip at Algernon's head goes unseen but implicit in the ensuing quiet; he draws his boot back to watch Fletcher watch the sky at an even remove. Decision made, fate sealed and all of that.

A private glance out into the night and away from the fire might be tell-tale under more suspicious circumstances. As things are, he is on watch.

Not looking would be a source of greater concern.