Low Beings

Title: Low Beings
Time Period: March 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Duncan seeks Algernon out on the night watch for a chat about life, the universe and torturing arcane infiltrators.

Algernon Fogg - fixture of the nightwatch. The coffin-innards black of Dornie's dark streets has never drawn so regular a traveller, at least not one who rides under what passes for law. As this is not infrequently a punishment assignment, and infamously easy to trade off at the last moment, a constant night watchman is a notable, if not exactly an anomaly.

It's also a clear course of 'where and when' at which to find Mr. Fogg. The first where and the earliest when would be the militia stables, and so it is there the Duncan Rowntree lies in wait, as is his wont. He's looked better: there is a certain deepening to the shadows of his already deep set eyes, and his cheek bears a ruddy bristle, light enough to suggests prolonged wakefulness rather than full on neglect. A lantern hangs from his horse's saddle, hissing quietly against an insulation of leather, pale light shifting with the horse's impatient tread-in-place.

Like clockwork. Mister Fogg is approximately five minutes early in his emergence from the stable, heavy woolen coat and hat marking him at a glance. The grey gelding he's favored off and on given way to a leaner bay beast, he stifles resistance at the bit early with a kick that startles fresh-picked hooves into an awkward sidestep. O.

Ignorant of unexpected company, or ignorant of company lying specifically in wait for him, he turns and sets the bay off for his intended post at an unhurried walk.

"Fogg," deserves no exclamation point, for it is rather projected, loud without strain as Duncan presses his heels against his horse and draws up next to the other man. He amends the naming to a greeting with a nod of his head.

"Too many quiet nights," he says, addressing the night present.

Duncan turns to face Algernon. "I'm hoping tonight will be different," a beat, a downward twitch of his lips, "I'm of a mind to put my boot to someone's teeth.

"Helps to have a reason."

Convenient, then, that Algernon has a look into the middle distance ahead ready to deploy at the sound of his name in Rowntree's voice. It's gone, naturally, by the time Fogg has halted and his employer has drawn himself abreast, horse and all prepared for jointventure. How popular he must feel.

How important, his familiar agrees.

Bland affect steeled away into a held breath, after a nod, he nudges his mount back into a walk first. On the clock, after all. "I was under the impression that quiet nights were the ideal we were striving for."

"Ideal?" Duncan echoes, "the ideal woman is the one you never get to fuck. Ideal is striving, not satisfaction." His snort is definitely a shade derisive. "Life worth living, you get your prick wet."

He takes the lamp in a gloved hand, and lifts the beam of lensed light before them, slicing an oblong of road out of the gloom. "Look for trouble with a loose eye, Fogg. Quiet nights make a people foolish. The night ought to be feared, it's just got to be us by which it's feared."

Duncan has an odd idea of what comprises an ideal woman, according to Algernon's eyebrows, though he can't find it in himself to lend voice to the sentiment. To each his … own.

"Yes, sir."

To the rest he is more impassive, appropriately accepting of his superior's take on intimidation as it implies to enforcement. Back straight, posture comfortably upright, he rides on at the same pace in light's wake. Patient, after a fashion. He doesn't expect much.

The quality of Algernon's replies must be something like what Duncan looks for in his conversation, for why else would he seek him out for it? Maybe all he wants is the formal affirmation; it's a shade different, after all, when it lacks toadyism, an effect achieved by flatness of tone and elevation of eyebrows.

"You ever laid hands on magician's familiar?" Questions emerge, fully formed and without introduction. "Done it harm? Killed it? Have you seen what that does to its master?"

"The mere threat is sufficient to evoke the desired response in most cases," Algernon opines after time taken for thought, paces counted as his horse moves beneath him. Left, right and left again. The idea does not seem to offend him. "Killing it and leaving the owner alive to suffer seems like a fine way to create an entity you're never safe to turn your back on." Practically speaking.

A glance cast aside measures after Duncan's reason for asking, but he doesn't request what hasn't been given over without prompting.

"Entity?" Duncan says, the second echo this evening, though this time the question is genuine, not simply rhetorical, "elaborate." After a beat, he adds - "You know what response I desire?" This is rhetorical, the answer 'no', Duncan insisting on being unknowable.

In and of itself, this insisted-upon obscurity is at least suggestive. Along with the hard lines of his face and the lilt towards violence he's openly avowed, these inquiries bears the stress-marks of anger.

"Mages and their familiars are intimately intertwined, as I understand it. I wouldn't readily sail in a boat designed by a man whose wife I slaughtered before him as a means of motivation." Algernon elaborates as prompted. In the form of allegory, this time. Reasonable, in his even address to the brittly cold March air between Duncan and himself.

Anger is observed where it is exposed, through fissures and cracks and — most everywhere in between, if we're being honest. The, "No, sir," that follows is inevitable.

"So it's grief, then?" Duncan says, energies finding some expression in a bombard of queries, "they feel grief? Loss? Pain? You compare it to a marriage- do you mean it's kin-slaughter, or love-slaughter? Or is it both?" Too avid to be clinical, too calm to be insincere. He wants to know, and not just to know. Speaking of violence stands in for violence itself.

It takes a certain amount of skill to keep judgmental lines from creasing in around eyes filtered dark by orange and yellow light. The length of time Fogg spends looking may say enough in itself; indulgence of fantasy is revoked with a simple: "I wouldn't know, sir."

"The beast that savaged my girl was a mage's puppet," Duncan says, diversion and evasion dispensed with, begging the question as to need for the entire initial pretense. Indulgence, indeed. But now, hopefully, dispensed with.

"All wizards, the ringleaders of some plot, some many-pronged malediction, aimed at my family, and my family's family," Duncan casts his eyes out into the proceeding street, as if out there he'd see a flicker of motion, a caped darkness, a drape over the arcane. "They mean us harm, delivered in hate. And the truth is- I don't know why. So I'm left to hate hate, both senseless."

"I see," says Algernon, lowly, as if something has clicked into place, eliminating some of the insecurity that goes with guesswork. He can't help but appear slightly suspicious of so much reckless paranoia projected forth all at once: secret wizard cult deliberately savaging members of his family for no obvious reason.

Dread representative of that same breed that he is, riding on clear in the lamplight within arm's length, he fails to catch upon any of the same shadows. At ease. Familiar by now with what each of these streets looks like in the dark. Familiar also with what a mage might look like in the same setting. Sans cape, most importantly. "You're sure?" is a little late in coming, in reference to that aforementioned beast. "I confess my initial fear had more to do with rabies."

"Our man's a good one," Duncan says, meaning his mage, though he favors him with a humane term, "and his word matches the girl's. I can figure her behavior as that of a fool child- but the beast's behavior wasn't that of any common wolf. There's enough for them in the woods, and they live well in it."

Duncan shakes his head. "We've had infiltration, abduction, assault and theft- all common, all targeted. These are low beings, envious cowards, but they mistake me if they imagine I will not stoop as low- nay! lower, if I must. This cannot stand, Fogg. I'd have you understand that, and willing to act accordingly."

"Yes, sir."

Algernon agrees same as before. Slightly distant. As prompted. He is paid to follow directions. It seems only natural that he should continue to do so on this track same as any other.

"Ordering an attack upon a child unprovoked is certainly grounds for torture if anything is," he remarks offhand a beat or two later, in referencing their earlier exchange. "If that's what you were getting at, before."

"Torture's a sure way to get a confession," Duncan says, "but not with certain honesty. We'll do the worst after we've gotten to the root of this." That there is a root is an assumption made, yet another instance of the paranoid - though not necessarily the delusive.

"The only question is if this demands an example; if there are traitors among us, we need the people afraid to stand with them, and quick to denounce them. I don't like making festivals out of executions- but in uncommon circumstances…"

"Forgive me," says Algernon, "I had assumed the torture was intended as part of the punishment. Potentially in lieu of execution. I merely meant to suggest,” humbly, “that the latter necessarily follow the former in the case of mages specifically, wherein torture of the nature described has the potential to drive them into more ambitious acts of sedition."

The crook of a half smile he staples onto the end has an air of awkward apology to it, oddly pedestrian given the subject matter.

"But for the most part, I think you're right."

"If I'm to torture them, I'll kill them in the end, you needn't worry on that score," Duncan says, "who deserves the former always deserves the latter. It's a matter of putting before public eye, for the satisfaction of public cruelty. It's a matter of making the enemy clear- a matter of making an enemy."

Concerns addressed then, Fogg approves in his more customary silence, weight shifted in his saddle when an old kink stiffens at the base of his spine. He has nothing to offer on making enemies enemies.

In his experience they tend to make themselves.