Isolated

Title: Isolated
Time Period: March 20, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: In which a potentially dangerous man meets with one who isn't sure what he should do.

There are a few deadlines looming. The full moon, for one. Duncan's patience. The whereabouts of terrorists. And if Cruikshank keeps it all to himself, he may actually spontaneously combust into flames of pure anxiety.

He finds himself outside the room at the inn claimed by Algernon, and he's brought his little bird. He's already insisted that she must not stray far for the time being and she put up some argument, but in the end, Shade is quite willing. She huddles on his shoulder and against his throat and twitches a little when he goes to rap on the wooden door to be allowed in. Beneath his coat, Cruikshank also has his given firearm kept concealed, the predictable array of beaded decoration that click and clack upon knocking on the door and stepping back.

Algernon is fast asleep in his quarters, for all that he hasn't been there for long. Pocket watch in hand, familiar curled warm on his chest and back popped rigid against the headboard, he stiffens into wakefulness with an uneven blink and a huff of air washed warm into the hollow of his collar. Forge's muzzle maneuvered from its rest under his chin at a distracted remove, he hooks the rest of the wildcat free with a turn of hand and wrist a moment later.

Awake.

Less interested in company, Forge nests in soft sheets until Fogg has made it far enough to open window. Freezing wind whistles in; snow and ice pricks itself damp against the window's woodwork.

Forge slithers quietly under the bed.

Rather than argue, Algernon stares blandly at his own reflection, looks to his book lying open in unmade bedding, and then closes the window again. The book is tossed onto his desk. A standing glass of wine is emptied and relocated randomly into a drawer large enough to accomodate it.

At the door, a recently applied bolt turns before the chain. The chain turns before the lock. It cracks open. And there stands Algernon, dressed halfway down in shirt and vest and trou, looking very much as if he's just been woken up and would like to know why.

"Did you know?"

It doesn't come across as accusation, although it's probably— abrupt. Cruikshank only becomes aware after the fact of Algernon's— everything, and the hour, and has the decency to glance off and away in a sort of affect of apology before looking back at him. "About Rowntree and Sh— my familiar. Can I come in?" might be a better angle, actually, the question earnest and fluttery and somewhat distracted.

Appraising in a slow, deliberate and slothfully resigned kind of way that can't bother itself into full-fledged irritation, Algernon glances to the hallway beyond Cruikshank and sees — no one. Granted, it's hard to know who's on duty. Who's drinking or having lunch or checking in up front and saw Fletcher bustle past in a rickety heap.

Too late to concern himself now, isn't it?

Forge has nothing clever to say along these lines, which is almost odd enough to earn a moment's pause in itself before he pulls the door open the rest of the way and steps back to allow his friendentry. "I can only know what I am told," may or may not be a backhanded jab at the cat huddled conspicuously quiet (and warm) beneath his bed, as he turns to draw out the chair of his desk. Invitation.

Maybe.

"Doubt that." There are many ways to know things, Algernon, but Fletcher doesn't badger for an answer. He didn't come here to fight, exactly, or make accusation. He closes the door behind him and moves then to sit down. Shade promptly takes off from Cruikshank's shoulder to find her own place to settle, somewhere high and dry. And watchful.

He relaxes a faction once settled, bundling arms around himself. "What do you know about the… the people who kidnapped Duncan's niece." He doesn't mean to have the reasons why he is here come out as fragments, but Cruikshank simply pursues what he wants to know as soon as it occurs to him.

Algernon's room is sparsely decorated as it is occupied; there is a largeish trunk Fletcher will remember, along with its robust lock. The desk, the bed, a rickety wardrobe. Fogg's rifle stands alone in a corner whereas his revolver prefers to stay at his belt, which. He reaches down to refasten tight out of its slack hang at his hip upon realizing the state of it.

That done, he looks slightly less haggard. Slightly. There's still a coarse scuff when he feels over the greying spaces between his chops. One of his socks has a hole at the heel. "What I am told," he repeats, impatient in his surveillance of the (now slightly damp) window. "Why don't you tell me why you're here?"

Tension ignites into a spark of anger, Cruikshank snapping; "Am I being unclear? I don't care where you heard it or how you know it, I want to know what you know. You carry a gun for this stupid— " And that's where he stops. Being pushed around by bullies is not actually his natural habitat for all that he is very adept at it, but Algernon's not the bully in question. He lets out a thing sounding sigh and looks down at his shoes.

"I'm here because Rowntree caged my familiar when she went looking for an item for them." An accusatory glance at the magpie, but she has nothing to say. "And now I'm to scry and search for them in penance. I thought you might…" He shrugs. Help, maybe, or care, or know something.

It's a mark of Algernon's skill that he fails to pale around the gills upon mention of a caged familiar in such close context. Beneath the bed is another story: Forge condenses blackly in upon himself, ruff lifted into a bristle Fogg reflects only in an absent blade of his shoulder beneath his waistcoat.

Cruikshank's anger is what he chooses to acknowledge instead, and even then with little more than a Look in passing.

A match is stricken from his desk; he dips light into a second sconce to fend off the gloom he'd fallen asleep in. Taking his time.

"You've just made yourself out to be a dangerous man to fraternize with, Fletcher." A sink back onto the foot of the bed compresses springs over his familiar, who flattens his ears. "Now you're here," he pinches flame off the match's tip, "demanding information."

There is a blink of just incomprehension at what he has made himself to be, Fletcher shaking his head in swift and uncertain denial. "I'm not. I'm not dangerous. Not to you, anyway." Whether he sincerely believes that is up for debate, but it rattles out urgently all the same. He glances towards the newly made light source, a hand absently traveling up to fidget with the cord of leather at his neck, mostly to keep a fishing line tension hold of the pendant hidden beneath his shirt.

"I'm not demanding. I was asking."

"Some days ago Mister Rowntree solicited any knowledge I might have on the subject of torturing familiars. Specifically in reference to what manner of suffering it might inflict upon the master." Blackened match end further smothered to dust between his fingers, Algernon takes a moment for dramatic effect to see how that's received before he glances to Shade.

"Your heart aligned itself with an enemy of this settlement. Whether you consented or not, as far as he's concerned, you are guilty by association, and my positive relationship with Mister Rowntree relies upon trust." He is explaining. Patiently. While continuing to crush his match. "Therefor you are dangerous to me. Moreso than you realize. But." But! He flicks the ruined match at Fletcher and sits up, ribs fanned wide around a sigh. "Since you've found your manners. What is it that concerns you about your supposed compliance with Duncan's demands?"

I'm not sure I can do them, is what he wants to say, but— Cruikshank winds up miserably not doing so, the blood drained out his face at what Algernon has to say with regard to the torturing of familiars. There's a croak from the magpie, accompanying some mental bit of dialogue, perhaps an I told you so. He picks the used match off where it's caught on rough spun wool, turning it between his fingers before going into a more complicated fidget, dragging the still slightly warm burned end against his palm, drawing a symbol. His fingers are lax, dirt beneath his fingernails.

"I just want to know about them before I do anything to help him," he says, almost sulky, and his focus down on his palm. "They can talk to birds. They have blood magic. A wolf familiar."

Ah. "Well." Algernon often starts with a well when he says something that is intended to sound offhand but almost certainly isn't, "they're a lot like you, from what I can gather. Isolated, hungry. Inexperienced as terrorists." His eyes follow Fletcher's, ticking blue green after the etch of charcoal across the smaller man's palm. He pauses before he can catch himself, muscle through his jaw slanting taut. "Facing the wrath of a man with an entire militia at his beck and call."

Two mirrored curves, a circle, a rough eye-like shape that he has to go over again to make the lines less faded - his palms are greasy besides. He tosses the match aside, then, hand curling around it. "It's not— not like all that," is Cruikshank's rather weak argument, but even he knows that Duncan being nice doesn't mean he is being nice. Getting dragged out of bed at midnight and interviewed in a slaughter house sort of. Drove home that point enough.

"Oh, well. It's their own fault for kidnapping the man's niece, isn't it. If I help him, I won't be dangerous to anyone."

"No one in Dornie." Algernon elaborates upon the obvious. Helpfully. Reassuringly. His brows turn down in understanding and his spine straightens, open collar and fine vest showing a few loose threads near the shoulder.

He looks to Fletcher's hand again once he's settled. It's been some time since he's been regularly exposed to voodoo and snake oil, and never in quite such — closed quarters.

He tries to tell himself.

When tension begins to lay in across the bones of his face again. "What manner of blood magic?"

"The token that Duncan took from them."

Shade moves, then, the room filled with the sound of flapping before she lands hard against Cruikshank's slouched back, crabbing her way up to his shoulder. As always, he barely blinks. "It permitted her to speak to birds, and use them as spies. But it's been used before, by her mother, and her mother's mother, and. Et cetera. It's bound to her by blood, so I suppose I'll be using it for Duncan to better locate them." But he has an idea, or has come to a decision, some sort of secret confidence settling beneath the surface as he gusts out a sigh.

He glances back to Algernon, then towards his bed, adding, "Sorry for disturbing you."

Beneath the bed, eyes like embers cut hard after the sound of wings chopping at otherwise still air. Forge wets his nose with a slow curl of his tongue and hunkers closer to battered wood flooring. Warm enough where he lies.

Algernon watches the slither of magpie up onto shoulder for him, a flinching blink shuttered back into composure that has something in common with relief once tension's been temporarily (and benignly) vented. There is still the issue of bound blood and Duncan's will. Which. When coupled with Cruikshank's instinct for self-preservation.

Fogg looks him over and then aside, dismissive of apology on a delay that's distracted enough to parse as awkward. "It's fine," he says. Genuine. "I don't have many visitors."

And it's Forge, then, that casually and unintentionally hears it, when Shade opts to speak instead of listen; So use it in reverse so he won't know. Then put it in the fire to be sure.

It's a fragmented conversation - whatever Cruikshank has to say in return, or said to spark it, he isn't using his mouth, and Forge will remain deaf to the telepathic conversation on the human side of things. It's possibly not now, just by the way his mouth twist, and he stands quicker. "Then I'll bring about a drink next time and make it a social occasion. Unless I'm still dangerous."

Hazy focus on the far wall honed abruptly to a point, Algernon remains seated when Fletcher stands. He is busy doing a lot of thinking in a very small span of time. There's only so much distance between the desk and the door.

"What will you do if it doesn't work?" is a legitimate question once it's posed, possibly to Cruikshank's back. A relevant concern, for someone he might consider a friend. Or at the very least — a colleague.

"Then plead for a pike with a nice view should he have my head for it," is unusually flippant about his own prospective death, for Cruikshank, once he's paused his move for the door at the question. Although by the time he's glanced back at Fogg, he considers it more seriously, a hand up to stroke his knuckles along the smooth curve of Shade's wing. "I don't know. Find some new friends, perhaps."

Algernon is, in turn, considering Cruikshank more seriously than he has so far in the course of this visit — eye contact held until a nod tips into ambiguous acknowledgement. Nothing important on the tip of his tongue. Preoccupied with being of two minds.

Somewhat literally.

"There are good people here," he decides in the end, "if you know what to look for."

There are.

Sometimes they feed him.

"Bound to be," Fletcher agrees, lightly, and on that note with a hesitation of affect, he moves to leave. He has time to prepare but not nearly as long to do so before he can talk himself out of it. It's Shade that gets the last look, hopping around enough to cast a beady eyed glance over Algernon without expression or nuance.

Shade looks to Algernon. Algernon looks to Shade, too direct for plausible deniability.

Still seated once they've gone, he makes up his mind a few minutes later, tongue pushed dry across his teeth. Nothing to swallow.

Follow them.