Just Passing Through

Title: Just Passing Through
Time Period: October, 134 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: A contingency of Dornie's militia rides out to meet a caravan of travellers, turning what could have been just a brief stop potentially into something more of an extended stay.

They worked swiftly, from the time the errant, suspicious ribbon of grey smoke had been cast from the sky near the edges of the forest, to approach.

The staticky radio transmission from Hossfeld spit out the report of horse-drawn vehicle, two mules and a horse, nine people by his count. A significant count than the occasional weary backpack traveler and to be marginally expected as the winter starts to creep in at the edges, bringing frost and those in need of shelter, and thus, worth the effort of Dornie's militia. It's land not so off the beaten track of civilisation, while the group, as relatively well-provided-for as they are, couldn't be called 'civilisation'. In the light of the day and the easy morning, spied down the slope of an incline, they move fragmented, in pairs, singulars, and one small group.

Fletcher Cruikshank is among this last group, seated cross legged on dry ground with a woman his age with hair already begun to grey, and a younger teen more preoccupied with picking at her nails than listening to quiet conversation. Seated at the caravan, an older man holds a book in his hands and is reading with a slowness that can only be attributed to only recently mastering his own letters. A woman his age is disappearing into a tent, in search of some item.

A magpie is nestled at Cruikshank's shoulder, tucking small against his neck, and being of no use to anyone.

Algernon is on his horse this fine morning, late to bed and early to rise, breath fogged still beneath the low hooded brim of his bowler. He looks tired, which is common of late, and tense. Which is less so.

He is watching the smoke.

So is the horse, gaping nostrils dished wide to the wooden stink of it, pitchy flanks atwitch and footing shifted often and uneasily against hard-packed earth. Not the most comfortable or comforting of seats, although Fogg shifts his center of balance easily enough in the saddle.

"Fletcher," he raises his voice to call, at length. Not quite warning. Or suggestive. A hedging mix of the two, perhaps. A request for an audience that is not actually a request.

Every army needs a scout to go ahead and look for trouble. And trouble is something Eduard Hossfeld rarely has, well, trouble finding. A vehicle, two mules, a horse, and nine people, approximately. no problem. Now, he waits for further instructions a distance from the camp he spied on, out of sight and earshot with his rifle and radio for company; he's not in charge here.

In between looking over his shoulder and around the area, Hossfeld continues observing the nine persons, developing a feel for their routines and looking for something that can be exploited, or any other useful information he can report back in his role as eyes and ears.

The rally was swift - a two-pealed alarum called out to those assigned as the outriders in Dornie's militia. Not a true panic, no full to-arms, but the wordless imperative gathered the raiding party to the stables, and by the time the radio confirmed the number and manner of the elselanders - too many and just enough - the warband was mounted, armed, and ready. A stocky militaman with a deep voice that cuts through the static tends to the main station, listening for Hossfeld, and also for Duncan Rowntree, who sits astride his horse near the outskirts of Dornie.

This holding at the edge of the settlement, that and way he holds his reins - with an impatient thumb speeding wear on the leather loop - bespeaks his restless anticipation. Hossfeld's confirmation brings a twitch to the level line of his lips. A pinprick of a smile.

"Keep on them, then. We'll be seeing you soon."

Duncan is already leading his horse around, even as he slips the radio back into its case. He lifts his arm, hand flat almost in benediction, then points towards the ringed wild.

"Ride out!"

Elvira Banes means to be reading, seated with her brother, just a respectable distance beyond Cruikshank's circle of conversation, so no one feels the need to try and include the Banes siblings. But what has actually happened is that the woman's inability to sleep well at night has given to her easily napping during the day. Her head slowly drooped to one side to rest on Arthur's shoulder, she's been asleep quite some time.

It's only by happenstance that the book slipping from her fingers coincides with Fogg's summons to their leader. Elvira lifts her head quickly, as if that might somehow cover the fact of the matter. Blinking pale green eyes rapidly, she tips her head to one side first to regard her brother, then to survey the camp at large.

Much like Elvira, Arthur has decided to spend his time wwith a book in hand, eyes focused down on his pages as his sister leans against him. A scowl sits across his face, though if it's because of his sister's current concious state or because of the contents of his book is hard discern; either way he doesn't seemed particularly bothered by the woman leaning against him. Shifting his weight accordingly, he moves to turn a page as best as he can without alerting her.

Algernon, however, does a fine enough job for him, eyes flickering over as she stirs awake. They move over towards Fogg and his summons for their "leader", but other than another glance to Elvira, he seems less than inclined to move so far. "I'm sure it's nothing," he remarks mostly to himself. One more glance is given around, looking for something in the tree above.

A 'click!' over the radio is the only response that acknowledges Duncan's order: A simple affirmative. Further planning will wait. For now, Hossfeld remains a hidden observer until told to change his tactic.

The nature of the approaching trickle of people is one of the reasons that Jorn is with Duncan, rather than his usual shadow off in Edgar's wake. The mare just to the rear of the militia leader gives a hearty stamp of impatience while they wait there; the brown dun horse seems to exude the want to get moving far more than her rider, cloaked in his ivory pelt, the head of the bear pulled down over his brow. Jorn remains still and silent even as Duncan motions his rangers to move out, allowing his mare to flick herself into action on her own.

Not the first time, but never the last. He keeps his eyes ahead, watchful between the shoulders of those ahead of him, and the onward path.

"Yes? What. Sorry."

This is Cruikshank paying attention, said focus whipping around from young female to the guy on the horse yonder. There's something in Algernon's tone that even brings about a faint edge of concern from Fletcher, urging his followers to back up a little as he sets about getting to his feet with a flap of coat. Absently tucks swinging pendant into the collar of his shirt, sending a glance back to where he hears Arthur's murmur before he starts off towards his summons, less than sure footed if only because he hasn't been awake very long and he's als not used to.

Things needing his attention that much. Shade keeps her talons dug into the wool on his shoulder, noisily flinging out a wing now and then to correct her own balance. "What is it?"

Fearless leader thusly summoned out of the pack, Fogg reins around in a tight circle to address him in lower tones. The difference between an earnest delivery of private advice and a passive aggressive show put on for the troop in its entirety.

"We should move into the forest," he opines from on high, already the kind of stuffily stiff that suggests he anticipates ridiculous argument along the lines of but there's an orgy in ten minutes and the leaves will stick. "Beyond the treeline, at least."

They know this land, know which places most easily permit the passage of horses, and stand to make good time on the way to the clearing Hossfeld has scouted. Duncan turns in his saddle, lifting his voice to carry back towards the bear-skin clad Nord. "We can catch them in the clearing with the red clay slopes," he says, "I'll take half up to the northern crest, you take the rest around to the south. They don't sound like they'll be much trouble. But let's avoid any misunderstandings." Guns above and to both sides tends to make communication very clear, for both parties.

To do as Duncan suggests will require them to split up at the landmark, a narrow thrust of gneiss whose bands of worn color have earned it the nickname 'the kingsnake'. Duncan barks out general orders, and motions for his prong of the pincer - a half of full score that makes up the riding band - to follow him to the left. As he parts ways with Jorn, he taps his radio with two fingers - they're to keep in contact. Duncan lifts his own radio free and flicks it on, updating Hossfeld and the watchman back at Dornie.

"Jorn and I are splitting the group. We're going to wait for them at the red clay slopes- if they change course, let us know. Otherwise, meet me on the north side." He waits for confirmation as hooves bear them forward.

"Understood," is the plain reply from the radio in the German's voice, mixed with static. The group splits, and Hossfeld, for a brief moment, takes his eyes off the target to check his surroundings. Just for a moment, though, and then he is slinking away from his hiding place and slowly moving to the north, stopping every couple dozen feet to look back and make sure nothing unexpected has happened. Still haven't vanished into the ether? Good.

"Send Fake?" Elvira asks Arthur in a sleepy murmur. It's a request to be disabused of the notion that something might be afoot, albeit one refused easily and without penalty. She rubs at one eye, watching the pair of men in their muted discussion. Then she takes a sudden interest in the reaction of those who've travelled in this troupe longer. If they're at ease, then it is probably nothing. But if they're on edge…

The woman rises to her feet, clutching her book to her chest. That's when she also begins watching the smoke. Which is not something to be suspicious of, generally. But Elvira stares all the same. "Do you think that's about the settlement?"

"Fake is out hunting," Arthur laments from his seat, still focused on his book even as Elvira rises to her feet. Indeed, the bird seems to be absent from a usual perch nearby the pair, and Arthur doesn't seem terribly concerned by his absence. And with how he's been catching a little extra food for them all to eat over the last few days, Arthur doesn't seem to be in a rush to summon him back either. Mention of the settlement, however, does finally bring his gaze upwards, eyes narrowing as he sees the smoke on the horizon.

"I hope not," he says quietly as he rises to his feet on his own. "Imagine, coming all this way just to find it burning to the ground or something else equally less fortunate. I suppose that would be our luck, though," he quips with a bit of a grin. The book slaps shut in his hand and is slipped into a large pocket on the inside of his jacket. "Come on, Patience. Better to be sure."

Jorn is high enough in this pecking order to be designated that rare bit of equipment; he treats the responsibility perhaps too well, in that he hardly uses it unless he absolutely must. Possibly, that also has something to do with his being able to conduct things readily regardless. His mare swings her head as the group splits, giving a pitched noise as Jorn bears her down the south path that Duncan has signaled to them. She seems to enjoy the fleetfoot dashing far more than he does, as he has the same look on his face as he did when all of this began.

"Quickly." Jorn speaks but a moment before it is gone again, and one gloved hand is beckoning the party on his right to shift their mounts more closely to his.

Hands on hips, Cruikshank's listens with a sort of rumpled confusion, one hand then raising to shade the fair amount of sun out of his face as he does so. Protest is already brewing in his body language and the lines of pointy expression, but he's keeping it quiet for now and darts a glance for said desired treeline. "Well, if you've reason," he states, after a moment. "I mean. I don't want to unsettle everyone over a hunch, and it'll take us hours to find another spot, who knows how dense it'll get beyond the tree front— " He stops, and glances for the camp, then back up at Fogg.

"For what purpose?" he asks, mostly because he anticipates getting asked that himself. It's then that magpie launches off his shoulder and swoops on for the sky, impatient with conversation enough to do that much and go see for herself.

If exasperation was a color it would suit Algernon very well. As things are, his expression will have to do — reticent, ill-repressed antipathy tight in the lines around his eyes while he watches Fletcher puff up and fidget importantly. But reluctance isn't outright argument. It can be easily overstepped accordingly.

"That pillar of smoke is clearly visible for kilometers. We're in plain sight of anyone curious — or enterprising — enough to investigate." That his 'reason,' has latent strums of rebuttal strung through it is borne of the tautness through his chops rather than any real need for debate. "Between the two of us I think you're more likely to see some action this afternoon if your head is still attached to your shoulders."

Further to the north, well out of earshot and far out of sight, Hossfeld emerges from the tree line and looks further north still, signaling to his commander and comrades when they come into view by raising his weapon- a scavenged soldier's rifle from a bygone era- into the air. As if he might be mistaken for somebody else when there is no one else of note in the immediate vicinity.

"No changes," he reports, "Vehicle, horse, two mules, nine people I saw." The thought is finished with a half-shrug. "I didn't see a weapon. Maybe hidden."

Maybe they will hear them - the sound of horses, their iron shoes dinting the moist humus, the accumulate of countless seasons. There still won't be enough time. Duncan and his team weave through the trees, slowing as they approach the wall of luminance that marks the edge of the clearing, and the swell of the northern hillside. He signals for them to slow upon approach, and spreads a callused hand in a silent hail to the forward scout, that mournful-faced Teuton.

Duncan lifts a flattened palm to signal a stop. A moment's though creases his brow along well worn lines. "Fire a warning shot the moment anyone starts acting sly," he instructs Hossfeld. The second Rowntree son peers up at the hill's slope, no- through. As if he could perceive Jorn and his detachment through the impermeable earth. He won't insult the berserker with a radio check. He's sure he's right where he's supposed to be.

A flick of the reins and a squeeze of his heels, and Duncan is surmounting the hill, his advance an order for general advance. His first view of the travelers is their first view of him, sitting tall on his chestnut horse, ruddy head wreathed fresh in the sun, no longer held back by a leafy canopy. The riders, certainly not hiding their weapons, make an array to either side of him.

Duncan lifts his voice so it may carry to the cluster of people below:

"Have you lost your way?"

A simple 'yes' or 'no' will probably not suffice for an answer.

"No." The younger of the Banes pair puts her hand on the elder's chest. "You don't call me by that name anymore. Not in front of the others. I've told you this before." Rather than show annoyance, however, all she shows is hurt. Perhaps it's all she has the energy for these days. "Could you please try to respect me for once?"

Then Elvira withdraws her hand so she can gesture for her more enterprising brother to lead the way. If he wants to be overt in his curiosity, she'll support that. As it happens, their curiosity is satisfied by the beat of hooves, like the sound of drums growing ever louder until those riders are upon them. All possible ire held against Arthur is dropped in favour of clutching at his arm with wide eyes.

Arthur stops, looking confused for a moment. It's only when his sister explains herself that he lets out a bit of a sigh, eyes closing a he takes a deep breath. "Sorry," sounds genuine enough, particularly to Elvira. "I forget sometimes. I'm still getting used to that whole- thing." Somewhat dismissive sounding, even without intent to be disrespectful. "I'll try to remember better. I promise."

Resettling his jacket on his shoulder, he resumes his march towards the centre of the group, slowing as the beat of hooves gets louder and louder, only stopping when they finally come into view. There's a thought, maybe, to clean his glasses and make sure he's not seeing things. But unless it's Elvira playing tricks on him, he's fairly certain he doesn't have multiple senses malfunctioning. When she clings to him, he does the same, his other arm slinking under his coat - just in case. In most circumstances, he would issue a response of his own, but this isn't his caravan. He'll give the others a chance not to mess things up before he speaks up.

Emerging is what wilder men do best. Jorn's small entourage of militiamen bleed out onto the opposite side of the hill from the forested border, with the Nord at the helm. The mare, Kuu, seems to absorb the seriousness, and there is no more nickering from her as her rider looks on past the teeth of his hood. A simple noise comes from him- a heavy, almost laborious sigh that rumbles out through his nose.

One hand gestures out only for signaling the men with him to keep a pace behind, lining up in a vague order to watch Duncan on the other crest of hillock.

The beginnings of a nod to Algernon— because that's a very important point, in the midst of alarming news, eyes sliding off for said pillar of smoke and mouth opening to question it— all of this stops. And it's not when that unfamiliar voice rings out, but after wee magpie crests the hill and sees immediately the approach of horses and men. By the time Duncan begins his address, Cruikshank has turned to stare up the incline in a sudden jerk of movement, one hand up and splayed in preemptive surrender. His other darts for the cord of black leather around his neck, fingers fidgeting what hangs off it out from his collar.

And sort of crab wheeling off towards some indetermined space between camp and Algernon. His own ilk both scatter and cluster — the older gentlemen moves for tent, fetching his partner. The three women band together, unhelpfully silent. In fact everyone is being unhelpfully silent.

So he clears his throat. What's the right answer to that question?

"Yes. No."

'Elvira' and Arthur are bickering; Alergnon glances away from Cruikshank long enough to measure out the pair of them with the same patriarchal breed of irritation he's been favoring Fletcher with. The leathery creak of his saddle in the interim even sounds like its patience is being tried — not that it has long to complain.

Hoofbeats and the turned ears of his dark horse alike signal inbound company. A turn of his right heel translates into a turn of his mount, robust bay jawing down where his bit's been pulled a little too taut. Long fawn coat and tall bowler, muttonchops and holstered revolver, Algernon holds his ground, if only because trouble is as likely to find him ten paces back as it is where he stands, shadowed by the group's leader.

"Just passing through," he says. Mild. Resigned-like, with a tip of one gloved hand to the edge of his hat, for all that he can't summon a smile. "Not looking for trouble."

"North, south? Up, down? Virgin, whore? Neither? Both?" Duncan echoes oppositions back at Cruikshank, brows slightly lifted, "let me allay your confusion, then," he sets his hands on the saddle pommel, and on the rifle laid across it, "you are in Dornie-country."

Duncan's eyes gather impressions from each face, taking one measure of the men, another of the women. He hears Algernon - a man who makes himself out as reasonable, evidently - and his eyes catch the shift of Arthur's hand under his coat. Does that quite count as sly? The bespectacled aren't usually sly like that. But rather than leave it a question:

"I'm sure there won't be trouble," Duncan assures the assembled, in answering Algernon, and gestures to the berserker and his party as they filter from the bough-hemmed shadows. Just making clear to everyone their positions, each to each other. "You are, as you can see, quite well protected with us.

"But you're a ways off yet. The settlement is close by. We can take you there ourselves- once we settle the matter of tribute."

Maybe he didn't catch the part about their 'passing through'.

"Arthur don't," his sister cautions, her face suddenly buried against the back of his shoulder - to mask the movement of her lips - as if she were petrified. She's frightened, surely, but not so bad as to be left without the will to act if it is needed. "I can make us disappear," she reminds in a hush. Let me protect you.

Even despite Elvira's request, Arthur can't help but scoff at the mention of "tribute". Then again, nothing is ever free is it? Even despite this, he seems visily displeased at this development, rather than relieved that they are, in fact, within close distance of their destination. "No need," he whispers back. "Not yet. Stay sharp, just in case." Inside of his jacket, his fre ehand slips into the pocket inside, and tightens around the grip of his pistol - just in case.

Dornie is on the sea. The only direction they can pass through, unless they wanted to turn back, is through Dornie. Jorn knows this- he is not certain of if the seeming leader of these gypsies does. Then again, looks can be deceiving. His mare stamps her front hooves while he listens to Duncan across the way lie down the conduct of those that pass into the county territory. Jorn turns his horse sidelong, now, before flicking back his cloak across his hip, left hand perching over the crossguard of his longsword.

To put palm to hilt is a gesture of threat- to put his hand across the guard seems more likened to simply show that he has it- that they would, in fact, be 'well protected'.

"We've not got much in the way of tithes," Cruikshank states, voice at a waver only when it finds some volume. His hand locks about the pendant hanging from his neck in nervous fidget. "Honest, I mean. Look at us. Nothing you— you lot would be interested in." Maybe the horse is sick. Maybe the mules are lame. Maybe the caravan has been spent of its luxuries and is down to meagre supplies. "Like he said, we'll just be on our way— we were heading south, actually. We'll carry tales of your—"

He pauses, a glance back towards where Jorn and his are. "Of your, uh. Might. With us." A hand sort of sneaks out towards one of the women he'd been talking to so amiably befor Algernon's summons, her's finding his in a grasp.

Right. Maybe he didn't catch that part. Fortunately Brave Sir Cruikshank is back there behind him to pipe up and reiterate it.

Rather than echo or dispute either party, in anticipation of how said reiteration will be probably received, Algernon runs his tongue over his teeth and manages to force a flat (polite) half-smile for their new friends.

It doesn't reach his eyes.

"I'm afraid we can't allow that," Duncan says, and he has the temerity to sound half-way regretful, "much too dangerous- for you and for us. You have to understand- this is our land. We need to take proper stock of the people who happen upon it. More innocent looks have hidden darker intentions. You know the times we live in." Times when one can rarely feel safe from armed marauders.

"As for the tribute- I've no doubt we can work something out. Whatever you're short by- well, there's plenty of work in Dornie. You'll repay us quickly, I'm sure. You- laddie," he's talking to Arthur, offering the young man an expectant smile, "you look like you've got some wits to your labor. You'll do well, if you make it as far as the settlement." So take your hand out of your pocket and avoid any life-abridging decisions.

Duncan's eyes find Jorn, and his hand lifts in a signal to the man. Move in. See what contributions are to be made to the community by its newest arrivals. This is getting to sound too much like a negotiation. He leans over to instruct Hossfeld, voice low: "Keep a sight on the bowler. Don't give him the chance to fire a round."

"Please," Elvira hisses to her brother, telltale quaver to her voice further betraying her worry. But she lifts her chin and gives affirmation of Arthur's wits before he can go and spin a tale himself. "My brother is a teacher." The tremor is appropriately absent from this display of feigned confidence. "He'd… do well in Dornie, then?"

"Pa-Elvira," Arthur chides when she responds to the man before he can. She can hear him grit and grind his teeth behind a smile as he looks towards Duncan and nods. Releasing his grip on his pistol, he instead pulls the book out, holding it hand simply for effect as he addresses. "Teacher. Handyman. Worker. It's like I always tell people," he starts as the book slides to the middle of his palm and he holds it abit aloft, "whatever you need me for, I can work it out. Teacher, however, would certainly be my first choice." Turning his thumb, he flips the book open, motioning at the entourage with a widening grin. "I'm sure a settlement such as yours has children in need of an education? If so, then, yes, this is something I- we - can offer in return. I'm sure they would enjoy it, as well. My sister may not be gifted enough with instrument to be a proper bard of any sort, but she can spin a tale like you wouldn't believe, if any one is in need of a good story."

The book, as it always does, snaps back shut, and Arthur waves it at them before tucking it under his arm. "Does that sound fair enough? Personally, I believe it's quite the offer, at least until others find a place for what they can offer."

Jorn presses Kuu forward when Duncan signals to him, and the horse takes her time in meandering down the side of the clearing. The men with him follow partway, stopping only where they will be able to back him up without causing the people any more undue stress. Jorn slips his hood back, for the same reason. His mare sidles nearer to the group, keeping distance with a relaxed gait. He does stop to listen, once Arthur goes into his routine, keeping his eyes between the more capable looking fellows.

When Wartooth clears his throat, it is almost an accidental growl. "Dornie has a schoolhouse." He states, plainly, and in that diluted accent of his. He does not bother to explain whether or not they do or do not have capable teachers, nor if Arthur would be a fit or not. His addition was enlightening, but ultimately unhelpful, and he seems unphased by Arthur's attempts at chattering. Jorn flicks his attention now to Cruikshank, words clipped short for the man to have answered Duncan first. "Pick up your camp. We will search any wagons and trunks. Riders will dismount."

Par for the course.

Cruikshank doesn't look back at Arthur, more intent on staring and glancing between his enemies, hand locked with that of one of his followers, although his hackles raise. The older of the group have emerged from their tent in quasi-embrace, peering dimly towards Duncan and his ilk.

As if responding to her companion's own urge to protect the modest caravan, the magpie clips through the air and lands light atop the thing in a flash of black and white and hidden blue. Rather than wait for militia to roughly kick things apart, those that pitched their tents start to move off to take them down again, although Cruikshank doesn't move in any particularly helpful direction save to release the woman's hand and cast a sharp look off towards Jorn, for all that— he's neither armed nor physical match for the man.

In a flurry of movement and flapping wool, he makes for the caravan, to both get ahead of the militia and track their progression. "And of materials, what will satisfy you?" he asks, hurriedly. "Some things have more worth than others, and such, depending on whose hands they're in— "

One dish-sized hind hoof lifts and settles softly back; Algernon's head swivel's across the same angle to zero in upon Arthur at the attention called to him. Eyes cast grey blue in the light sketch from shoulder to concealed hand. Suspicious. Distracted.

Also warning.

To no urgent end. A book is drawn out in place of a firearm and Fogg filters a sigh silently out through his nose.

Jorn's directive is heeded at his own pace, without particular hurry, dismount executed slowly and a bit stiffly, with an air of Is this really necessary, officer? to the way he's careful to keep his hands in clear sight. No sudden movements, one ear tilted to better stay alert for any sudden squawks or choking noises in the run of Cruikshank's dialogue on behind him.

The situation is, seemingly, resolved to the benefit of everyone, if only in the sense that no one was injured or shot at. But Eduard Hossfeld does not suddenly appear from the trees, or from behind a horse or pebble or, in fact, at all. Not yet. For the moment, he remains a specter hidden from sight, until he is told to make his appearance. There is, after all, still time for something to go horrifically wrong.

"Very well, lass," Duncan assures Elvira, "I've a daughter myself who's still of schooling age. Your brother could become a man of standing, should he have the head for it." And if he still has his head, is the ongoing subtext.

Arthur's self-exposition is first received with interest, then merely patience, and then not even that once the book is on display. Duncan interjects, brusquely. "You're not going to be tutoring me, lad. Save your spare words for when they're worth something. And I'm sure a bard can sing her own praises- that at least."

"Tell you what, my good man," Duncan says, attention returning to Cruikshank who is, apparently, what passes for the leader of this shabby little expedition, "we'll take stock of it all, and make sure every bit goes where it's most valued." He looks to examine Jorn's progress - nice to have someone whose presence alone will prompt compliance. "But any weapons you'll need to hand over now. It's a custom- a courtesy really: we don't let foreign parties ride, armed, into our settlement."

"Shut up, Arthur." Whispered warning, and green eyes close for the space of seconds it takes to make a somewhat difficult decision. Elvira breaks off from her brother to stride purposefully after Cruikshank, and catch up with him. Also in effort to beat the militia to their caravan. "What do you need protected?" The query is made under her breath, low and urgent. She doesn't bother explaining how she can protect Cruikshank's goods, trusting her insistence to carry the promise that she can.

Chiding from not one, but two sources! Arthur's eyes narrow slightly, and despite the sour thoughts that swim through his head he manages to not otherwise betray the displeasure he feels both at his reprimanding and at the insistence that all firearms be turned over to their care; likely because he knows - or at least suspects and hopes - that the matter is already being taken care of. He doesn't even need to pull out the pistol to see what it looks like now, Elvira and he agreed on this long ago. He just has to hope no one decides to get too handy with it should they decide to inspect his person. But hopefully, no one would think much of a dusty, heavy copy of A Tale of Two Cities.

Clearing his throat and rolling his shoulders, he strides closer to the centre of the group, though he moves much slower than his sister. "Fair enough," he responds with an entirely put on smile. "In that case, I'll leave you to you- inspection." A bit of a flourish and even a little bow, and he moves towards the wagon, a small grimace hidden across his face.

Though Jorn is unabashed in meeting the gaze of the leader of the little band- for all that he seems to be going by orders, there is no actual malice behind the set of his blue eyes. His regard of the fluttering magpie is more obvious, in fact, than his reasons for being there. His brows lift at it, and his eyes follow its path until it lands. As for Algernon's lack of hurry, he has no real press towards that either. No use slapping anyone around for being slow- it only slows them down more.

"You may-" Keyword being 'may'. "-receive some recompense. Depending." On what, Jorn does not elaborate. Behind him, some of the men on their steeds toe closer around the group. One, a burly local Scot with a thick ruddy beard, dismounts at a gesture from Jorn- seeming to be the one that is to receive whatever weapons that the band turns over.

Inside can be found the predictable things - the meagre food supply that wouldn't have lasted them much longer without being beefed up with adequate hunting or a stop at a settlement just like Dornie. Room for folded tents. Space for people to actually exist for small measures of time, whether to rest during the journey. And then there's the books, boxed with care, a supply only just small enough to be rational to travel with but large enough to be significant. Perhaps between the nine of them, it's fair, but Cruikshank would consider them his. Two trunks worth of the things, but he only states preference for;

"The chest with the red leather, do you know the one? Can you hide what's in it—?"

This is muttered to Elvira, caught between instructing her and pleading his case— or requesting further negotiation of Duncan and Jorn, but perhaps that can be done in time. Instead, Fletcher shies back with an uncertain headtip at their words as if in submission concession, and mutters this thing to the girl, anxiously tense.

Both feet on the ground now, with caravaners shuffling into reluctant order, somewhere in the scheme of things Algernon further moves to heed instruction by reaching to draw out the long nose of his revolver.

Presumably that is why. He's doing it.

It's an innocuous, matter-of-fact movement really, smooth once a leather catch is released, without any malice or cutting of eyes.

It's when something has distracted most everyone who cares to watch that things can happen without notice. When caravaners are shuffling into order is when Hossfeld decides is the right time to emerge from the trees, quietly and casually, as he is least likely to be noticed then. And it's briefly after he emerges that he approaches the presently-armed Algernon from behind, just as casually, giving him a light clap on the shoulder as if they were friends. "Lucky, it's not far," he says, and then he slinks back two paces and becomes the other man's shadow. No more malicious than Algernon drawing his pistol, Hossfeld is there to watch him. And everyone else too, of course. But particularly him.

"Hossfeld - bring that to me," Duncan says, pointing to Algernon's weapon. It's an order but it has the tonal register of a request. In keeping with the sense of coerced innocuousness. He doesn't even make the Hun take it all the way up to him. He spurs his horse forward, down the slope, drawing into a more conversational distance with the ragtag caravan. His men follow him, slightly staggered, hoofs clopping down the hill in careful trots before easing into a relaxed walk.

He's singled out this one weapon for inspection, and whatever the reason for the gesture, it does happen to keep his attention from the whispered conference taking place between Elvira and Fletcher.

"You mean the chest in which we store rocks to weigh down the caravan?" Elvira angles a look to Cruikshank, all innocence as she tells him what to expect when the lid is inevitably lifted. "It's taken care of."

Hoffeld's sudden emergence has the woman skittering back a step like a spooked mare. (Though none of the horses here are indulging in such behaviour, admittedly.) When Arthur begins to approach the wagon, Elvira reaches her hand out toward him.

The scowl on Arthur's face only grows as he looks back over his shoulder and towards the freshly emerged Hossfeld, his pace slowing noticeably as he watches for a moment. Eyes flit between Hossfeld, Duncan, and Jorn as his grip tightens on the book in hand, fingers drumming on it's back cover. Part an act, part genuine - it's never easy to tell how something like this is going to go, particularly with the forceful presence that they've made sure to present.

Attention shifts at the sounds of sliding steps, and Arthur's head snaps back towards the wagon, towards Elvira and Cruikshank. His sister's movement toward him is met with the hand she wordlessly asked for, pulling her in closer once he has a grip on her hand. "They're just trying to scare us. It's a show of force," is whispered, eyes moving back towards Duncan. "Don't let them scare you too much. I don't see this going badly." Not yet at least. A look is given over towards the caravan leader and an eyebrow raised, Arthur's way of making sure everything's okay on their end.

Jorn's eye on the proceedings is practiced ignorance- he does not want to appear too interested in anything, even if the gestures of the small group give him something to be curious about. He flicks his gaze to Hossfeld a moment, and then puts it back on the band. He is there to intimidate them, yes- Arthur is being quite accurate on that point. His role, however, seems to wane when Duncan finally comes closer with his own men, and Jorn defers things to him from there.

Much to his chagrin, his mare stoops her head down and begins to munch on sprouts of weeds. Still, he does not pull her head up- if she is going to make him look less terrifying because she feels peckish, so be it.

Indeed, upon dragging out the two trunks into the light, rocks stored as if in counterbalance appear to fill the one covered in red leather, Cruikshank trying to keep some distance even as he cranes to see what's happening. The second is packed thick with books of various quality— a good majority of it quite poor, actually, but that doesn't stop them from being books, and therefore, of value. With the demeanor of a nervously hopping bird, Cruikshank finally breaks away to go stand nearer to the searching around for tribute, hands gripping closed his coat.

The caravan and tends collectively provide little, simple tools, a little bit of weaponry, clothing — supplies of smoking, hallicogenic herb is not to be sneezed at, however, found in satchels and boxes.

Flinch contained to a hard blink at one eye for the hand that claps companionably at his shoulder from behind, Algernon is harder pressed to hide the way muscle clamps stiff under contact. Partial breath puffed out at a blunt rush is drawn back in; he relaxes his grip on the firearm in question down to paired fingers balanced under the grip, barrel swung down by its own weight as it's held away from his side in passive offering.

It's a bare .44 Smith and Wesson, heavy, long in the nose and probably in need of re-finishing. The nickel plating is patchy and worn. The safety is on.

It is loaded.

A glance is extended back over his shoulder around the same time, keeping tabs on messrs Cruikshank, Banes and Banes while Duncan and Hossfeld are keeping tabs on his gun.

When control of the revolver is relinquished to Hossfeld, he spends a few moments examining it- determining that, yes, if he were to point it at someone, it could end badly for them- before he then hands it over to Duncan. Carefully, of course. "Es ist alt," he says as if it made sense to anyone but him, "It looks pretty good. It would make a wonderful mess of someone." A glance is spared back towards the rest of the caravan, and again, to Algernon in particular. "Good taste."

Very good taste. Duncan takes the revolver into his hand with an appreciation for it's weight - he receives it, on its terms. He may not have met this particular weapon before, but he's already feeling familiar. He snaps the cylinders free, takes a bullet out, examines it between thumb and forefinger.

"Barter or inheritance?" and the way Duncan phrases the question as to how Algernon came into possession of such a fine piece of gunsmithing, he pointedly excludes courser forms of acquisition. As if he'd never imagine them from Algernon. As if Algernon were not capable of such things.

Arthur's hand is gripped tightly in exchange for the way Elvira attempts to banish the other outward manifestations of her fear from her expression and body language. "How do we even-" She stops herself just short of finishing her thought, a shake of her head meant to dismiss it.

The number of men, and how well armed they are precludes them, in Elvira's mind, from being highwaymen. That is, she thinks they must be who they say they are. "They're going through our things," she whispers to her brother, giving insight into the heart of her worry. And while it's raggedy clothing they'll find in the luggage owned by the Banes siblings, thanks to the charms she's placed on their valuables, it's the fact that anyone's going through them at all that sets her on edge.

"I know," Arthur replies quietly as he watches the other men with the attention of a hawk, rather than Elvira. "I don't like it either. Not exactly the welcome I was hoping for, but I guess we shouldn't be too surprised." Eyes move back to the treeline, then to the sky as he looks for Fake, for once hoping the familiar takes it's time returning from wherever it has spirited off to - assuming it isn't already here and he just hasn't noticed.

"If they find anything, let me talk. I'm sure I can get them to back off easy enough." There's confidence in those words, even if Arthur himself doesn't totally believe it. "You've got it handled, I'm sure?" he inquires expectantly, just as his eyes catch sight of Fake landing lightly on one of the tents. "I couldn't shoot them all, nor do I want to. So we're just going to have to go along with it, for now."

Watching the gun being handed off, Jorn takes note of it and the reaction from the others. It is old. "Alt und gefahrlich." His tone agrees softly with Hossfeld. The man with the ruddy beard gathers up two others from Jorn's half of the group, and they begin to follow suit and start to methodically going through the things they draw out into the open. Of course, as expected, they do not seem to be finding much of ultimate worth- anything that one could expect from a bedraggled little caravan. The weapons are taken aside, at least.

Nothing of note up until the bearded one produces one of the first satchels stuffed with the herbs; he gives it a sniff through the small bag, wrinkling his nose and passing it up to Jorn for some sort of confirmation. As he pries it open with one hand, his laugh is somewhat disturbing without any context, as it bubbles throatily into the tension.

"Jeg vet dette, tror jeg.." Jorn draws the satchel closed again. "Is this medicinal, recreational, or religious?" Whether it makes a difference is up in the air.

Busy hovering about his books to see what their fate may be— well, this one is of equal importance. Cruikshank turns back to look towards Jorn, glancing from the satchel to the larger man's face with an air of uncertainty. What is the right answer, there?

In reality and also in this situation. 'Medicinal' seems like too great a lie to pull off, unfortunately, and of the other two— "Religious," he states, then, all prim with decided conviction, mostly because he could almost feel the eyes of his followers glance up over taking down all the tents and things. It is, at least, close to the mark of honest. "We weren't looking to— to sell it to anyone. In Dornie." A beat. "Not to children anyway." His smile is thin and resigned. "I'm sure your healers will appreciate the tithe, of course."

Algernon's natural affect flattens further still for the options he's bound to answer by, dry through a blue cut of his eyes Elsewhere. Elsewhere and then slightly up when the wind carries Cruikshank's (tissue paper and twine) ass covering to the tilt of his ear. It's not hateful enough to be contempt. Resignation, more like.

Suppressed irritation translates into a silence that's too long and and an up-and-down look after Hossfeld that is too inscrutable for comfort. He doesn't look flattered, so. That narrows it down slightly. "Whichever you prefer, sir."

Algernon's ambiguous answer directs Hossfeld to look back up to Duncan, if only to see what the verdict regarding this development is, and what action should be taken. "He is alright?" is asked of the militia leader in regards to the bearded man.

Whichever he prefers?

A soft 'heh' answers Hossfeld. He's alright. Playing along, at least.

"Inherited," Duncan says as he snaps the revolver's cylinders back into place, "as that means you had a proper father, and that your house had law." He slips the safetied weapon into one of his saddle bags, and then turns, addressing the caravan more generally.

"For you should all know, Dornie is a law abiding place - and a sure relief to you, that is I'm sure. And once you're settled, I hope to see you to give you a pleasant greeting," he makes as if tipping a hat, an extremely slight gesture, "when we happen to cross paths. But should you, pure bawsed on a night, and having lost a foolish bet, forget that Dornie is a law abiding place, then surely we will cross paths - but the greeting will not be pleasant."

Duncan's miming and brief slip into slang come with a one-sided smile on his part and is soon accompanied by a low chuckle from his men - you always laugh at the bossman's jokes, at least when you figure out he's joking. Laughter dies when he gets to the instructive point, then flickers back - with a darker tint - as he adds:

"Even less pleasant if Wartooth happens to be with me."

Speaking of: Duncan turns to see Jorn and the girlish-haired leader of the group. Religious herbs, hm? Not frankincense, he's guessing. Rather for getting the mild melted. He guides his mount closer to where the berserker is exacting the healers' tithe.

"Not Christ-men, eh? A saint sect, then?" What Duncan would think of either of these is left perilously uncertain, and before it can settle one way or the other, he dismisses the conjecture with a wave of a hand, "as long as you don't staring taking up collections. Faith's a private matter, after all."

Cruikshank finds himself the focused object of a cool blue stare. "I am Duncan Rowntree. You must tell me your name, and your story as well, on the way to Dornie."

"I don't want you to shoot anybody," Elvira responds with a hint of horror that sends the colour running from her face at the thought. The tension of the situation doesn't help, either. "Maybe Dornie isn't the right place for us," she whispers to the man at her side.

The ultimate showcase of her lack of faith in Arthur Banes' ability to avoid trouble with the law. And her own. "I'm feeling uneasy," she admits, her gaze squarely on Duncan.

"Well, that's rather good, then, because I imagine we'd both be in trouble if you did," Arthur replies as he looks to her with a toothy grin. "Was simply statnig a fact, not intent." The rest of her statement, however, causes his grin to fall away. "Only a fool rushes in," he says in a whisper, eyes still fixed on his sister. "I have no intentions of doing anything that would get us into… too much trouble," he replies honestly. "We'll be fine. You certainly will be, and I intend to be as well. If you still feel uneasy after some time in Dornie, we'll leave. But I have a reason for coming here." His eyes narrow for a moment, before opening back up and big, grinning as he squeezes his sister's hand. "Have patience, Patience. Everything's going to be just fine. I'll even prove it to you." He knows she hates it, but he never refuse saying that.

Jorn's hand gives the slightest of tips into the air- a somewhat sarcastic, if polite, way to point out that Wartooth would be him. Just in case you could not guess from the fact his cloak still has teeth. His mare lifts her chin again, tilting her head to look up at her rider a moment, before she settles her dark brown eyes on the gypsies.

Blue eyes turn up to Duncan when he nears, though the Northman does not offer the supposed tithe to him- if Jorn agrees to these situations because he desires spoils, then perhaps this is the one he wants, for some reason. He leans in to speak at the men rooting through the caravan supplies, at the pause of Duncan's rhetoric. "Leave the rest of this with them, ja?"

Such a request, even if not followed to the letter, is still a request borne of consideration for the use of the item itself- out of place for just some militiaman. Of which, simply, he is not. Something to be learned at a later enough date.

Something Cruikshank doesn't do: correct the arrogant fucking Dornie man about what religion to which he aligns himself. He keeps his expression carefully blank once he darts dark eyes from Wartooth to Rowntree. These people and their horses.

"Fletcher Cruikshank," he says, after a second's hesitation. Not because he's hesitant about his name, particularly. More hesitant about whether Duncan wanted it now. "And I would be more than delighted— " Then there's a sudden flurry of flapping as one brave— trolling— little magpie suddenly plummets from the sky with her grey talons outstretched in intent to snag into the satchel that Jorn is holding onto, an avian croak and misplaced black and white feathers come loose in the effort of a face full of flapping. "Oh, fuck."

Fletcher is immediately there with the intent of extricating bird as opposed to. Drugs. Jorn can keep them, really. Meanwhile, there's the final thud of folded canvas backed away in caravan. The mules are just hanging out, like mules.

Stripped of his sidearm, rifle bundled elsewhere and knife far from threatening on his belt, Fogg meets Duncan's ruling with an even, "As you like." The .44's vanishing act is acknowledged with a look, expression and posture alike in their latent remove. With his hands now free, he's left to sweep the right down the arch of his (former?) horse's neck, retracted into his own world for the — thirty seconds or so it takes for Fletcher's familiar to have its own go at fucking everyone over.

Rather than turn to spectate, he deduces what he needs to with his ears and stares helpfully into the middle distance.

With Duncan's attention elsewhere and Algernon, if only for the moment, rendered a non-threat, Hossfeld directs his own attentions elsewhere and begin a casual stroll around the rest of the caravan, observing what is visible, what is not, and what might become a concern later (even if he must conjecture it). But true to his instructions, he keeps one eye on the bearded man as he does.

Most men would slap the bird right from the air; luckily for Cruikshank's familiar, Jorn's large bird-crushing hands don't paw at the magpie. He does try to lean his face away from flapping wings, though it does not go terribly well until he pushes his arm further away. Fletcher pries the bird from him in due course, leaving the man atop his horse rolling his shoulders back and lifting fingers to flick a couple of downy feathers from his chest.

Jorn grumbles loudly and unintelligibly, at first, before he clears his throat and fixes a look on the magpie. "Very well. Take it, sjelevenn." He says this word with mild reverence. Rather than give the pouch back to Cruikshank, the berserker offers it to the bird first, the man second, if his familiar does not fetch it from a now outstretched glove.

"Here." It isn't a trick, cross his heart.

The magpie is more or less crushed to Cruikshank's chest, although not in a way that would cause her injury — he is all too aware of the make of her to do something like that. By the time Jorn is negotiating back to them their possessions, however, Cruikshank pauses in still-prey surprise before relenting. Shade flaps her wings in irritation, plunging happily from Fletcher's arms to snag the offering and take off with it to do as she may. Hopefully give it back to Fletcher at. Some point.

"Thanks," sounds a bit miserable — but not entirely insincere. With a last glance back towards where possessions have been loaded back up, he slinks on back towards those he considers his people, a glance brushing over the siblings and then towards Algernon. There's not much to do now.

But follow.