Le Serpent et le Léviathan

Title: Le Serpent et le Léviathan
Time Period: June 27, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

  • Lucien Bassingthwaite
  • Cold-Front, his familiar (cetacean)
  • Octavia, Hermetic Adept
  • Sapiutu-la-trè, her familiar (serpents)

Summary: The Liverpool party's convenient rescuers encounter Dornie's naval force.

It’s an odd kind of standoff, with the normally swift green ship sitting limp-sailed on a gently rolling ocean. It’s bright little cannon sits readied, but pointed directly away from the opposite party - a Chekov’s gun with conscientious objections. As oars are the only way to get around anyways, a boat is lowered and sets a brisk pace towards the midpoint.

Sailors strain at the oars, and their leader once again stands at the prow, but this time it’s not the man with the monkey. A paler, grimmer figure takes the vanguard, her wary eyes peering out from under bushy brows. She holds an ashen stave in one hand, set askance like a prophet. Her elbow and forearm are draped with the scaly grey tail, with a zagging black pattern that runs all the way up to a dagger-like head that hangs from the utmost coil, wound ‘round the stave.

Her free hand lifts in an open-palmed gesture. Unclenched. Meaning peace, at least for this encounter.

Up above, thunder thrums in the clouds, and hints of lightning never really make it past that veil, only lighting it up from within. The wind is being strangest of all, putting the little green ship dead in the water even after the ship of Dornie had coursed down the loch with swift, cutting ease. The water chops and surges, giving both of the smaller vessels lowered into the water some difficulty, although it's beginning to calm as Lucien Bassingthwaite makes his way over in his. This sort of interaction is not unique, but unusual enough for there to be few rules as to how this should play out, few shared signals, and fewer behaviours to honour.

This has always suited Lucien fine. He is accompanied by men, two of which row, someone lean built and a hulking figure who only barely casts a glance back at the strangers. There's a darker man of foreign origin, a gun in his hand and a feline sort of relaxation as he observes the convergence as if he were not entirely a part of it.

It might not be easy to pick out, in the boat, who is the leader. That said, Lucien is not rowing, and he has no weapon, and thus holds no other value but his voice, which carries over as; "Well met!" He is dressed about as neatly as one can get in these worlds, in tailored clothing, a waistcoat, neat sleeves, and touches of jewelry which seems like an excess to many, and offsets the silver-grey growing in his hair. The wind continues to toss and tug at hair and clothing, fussy weather, and Lucien is a fussy man. But he manages to hold off on the rain.

There is nothing remotely fussy or fancy about the woman with the stave. She is dressed in somber shades with no visible ornament, and the relative warmth of Lucien’s greeting has no visible effect beyond, perhaps, a slight knitting of her brow. Her raised hand lowers, resting at her side, ring finger lightly touching her palm.

Arrêtez!” she calls out once they are just under shouting distance.

Parlez-vous français?” she asks, stepping over pleasantries and right into practicalities, “Parli italiano?” she adds, and then, what must be a last resort “Loqui tu latine?

“My English is poor,” she explains, “another lingua is better.”

Ji-Kyu has no suggestion for Lucien, here; beyond the English he's been fed since childhood, he knows only a spoken Korean, and none of its alphabet. He smiles thinly and looks over each person in the other boat, long snouted pistol pointed off and away from anything he would regret firing it at.

"I am afraid than my French would be poorer than your Anglais," he says, getting to his feet with the balance of a man accustomed to doing so, although he unselfconsciously plants a hand on Ji-Kyu's shoulder. "But I shall speak slower and carefully for you. I do think we have all day."

"No," the woman says, flatly, "we do not."

The snake unwinds a coil, its head rearing up on a sinuous length.

"We know you, Dornie-man. We have your people. One injured. Near death-" a pause - dramatic effect, "-you do not want to slow us."

Her gaze scissors demonstratively along the boiling belly of a storm cloud.

"Can you make wind for our sails? Or can you not give, only take?"

Her nostrils flare, wide and dark, and she spits over the edge of the boat.

"Tu as l'air d'un tel type."

"I consider myself a master of both these pleasures," is droll of Lucien, reedy in the vastness of the loch, but he smooths out his natural Scottish brogue so that every syllable can be heard clipped across the space between them. Although he readily admits to what he can do, there doesn't seem to be any familiar visible on his person, but perhaps it is a fish in the water, a spider under his collar, one of the cawing seabirds closer to the coast.

A hand goes out, the one he isn't using to balance. It's sort of an open palmed gesture of negotiation and concession, an offered invitation to be allies, seeing as they cannot right now shake hands in greeting. "I would have your name; I am Lucien. I would also know what you want in return for my people. I don't see them sitting with you now, so I know you want something."

The woman with the snake doesn't extend her hand in turn. It remains quite firmly at her side, where her ring finger presses rhythmically against her palm, some sort of habit or nervous gesture. A tell?

She tells.

"Adeptus Octavus," there is a way people speak when they're stating their rank, "de l'Ordre Hermétique."

Then she shakes her head. A brusque sign of refusal. Refusing to desire.

"Your people are yours," a tautology, that, but a nice enough one, "to return them wisdom says is a virtue and goodness demands no payment for virtue."

"Gratitude is another virtue - et l'hospitalité aussi. There are better families in your community, oui?"

"Your doctrine, I take it."

It's not a question, never mind if he's right or wrong. Lucien's fascination with other cultures begins and ends at their physical value, and neither Wisdom nor Goodness put bread on tables and guns in hands (stunningly true, if you think about it). This last thing has his posture going straighter, and he finds himself glancing back at his ship. Men mind the sails, keep the vessel stagnant in the water; others list along the railings, armed, interested, unable to listen.

His next glance is towards the water, but there's nothing to note visible to the human eye, and he casts his stare back at the woman. "I'm here on behalf of better families," he states. "You may be new to these parts of the world, but to be clear; this is the part where you state your business exactly and convincingly. Do you seek rest? Resupply?"

"A letter, we know it found you," is asserted with a tell-tale twinge, as if Octavia suspects Lucian might be trying to pull a fast one, "there is business. A concern. Not my business.

"Business," now she lifts her hand, marking a dash in the air over her head "superiore. In this matter Magus Quintus-" she tries first in French "il ne se donne pas la peine des domestiques," then, much more succinctly, "no servants. Blood."

Those bushy brows rise a little, as she allows, "Or are you a plebian elect?"

If she's ruffled him, it does not show visibly, even if being as immaculate as he is might lend some room to show anything less. But no, there's a small sort of smile that's remained constant, a cool assessment in his eyes, but when he says, "Dornie's naval force," it is showing off and unnecessary.

Someone calls out, from one of the ships, a warning towards the littler boats; they can see it before Octavia or Lucien can, presumably. It's a shadow that rises with the inevitability of an earthquake, uneasily close but maintaining some distance. A giant flipper arcs briefly out of the water, the mixed-salt fluid running over a hide that is grey and black and blue all at once. It angles back down again, remaining deep enough that no tail rises out from the water, or saints forbid, beneath a boat. Lucien seems nonplussed.

"We are nothing if not a trades town of business," he says. "I would invite you to my ship to ride into port, and your vessel may follow."

If he's ruffled her, she displays it only through a distinct narrowing of the eyes, perceptible even from this distance. There's no attempt to ignore the emergent enormity. Wisdom does not advise trying to brush off the leviathan. It also doesn't advise trying to take its measure, but whales have been known to inspire hubris in men.

Octavia lifts her stave - an unhurried, unthreatening motion - then lowers its end towards the water. The serpent flows into the sea with nary a splash, its grey scales turning coppery as it slides beneath the surface of the water. It flickers, a discreet ribbon of brown-black within deep blue, seeking her ship.

"Sufficiente," she concedes and motions the men to take oars and bring the boat over. She sets her stave back in place, to keep herself steady, and mutters, "tempo sprecato."

Two men get to their feet to help Octavia across, but Lucien contents himself with claming back his place to sit and tilting a look upwards at the sky. He had, of course, watched the snake disappear into the water, but knows the limits and benefits both of having a familiar, and does not judge it outside the bounds of his request. The snake may notice, and as will Octavia by extension, that the great mammal that had surfaced not a moment ago has completely disappeared from the loch, not quite deep enough to disappear an animal of that size into its shadowed depths.

The sun is pushing through the clouds, and a merry, favourable wind is sliding through and against white sails. Once she is settled, they start pulling for the Clàrsach Ghàidhealach.

"You must have come a long way," he says, for all that he does not see much in the way of smalltalk in their near future.