On The Merit of Words

Title: On The Merit of Words
Time Period: June 9, 135
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Andrew Cullen's attempt to get a job teaching means that he gets to deal unexpectedly with Dina Ross who's getting her fingers back into her all her pots.

It was a touch odd to see such a seemingly well-built man in a room in school, interviewed to be employed as a teacher and not as a farmhand on the outskirts of the village. His age lied somewhere in the late thirties, but it was yet to hinder his build. Andrew's confident demeanour matched his appearance, as well. Palms wrapped around either side of his ribcage, he sat with arms crossed and legs spread, appearing almost displeased. But a subtle smile tugging persistently at a single corner of his lips disarmed any sense of aggression. The comparitively small wooden chair creaked as he shifted about, ready to answer the question that would without a doubt surface in every community he's visited and expressed a desire to teach in.

"You don't need t'worry 'bout me preachin' the Lord ways an' all that zealotry." His accent was fairly thick, but it hardly eschews the meaning of his words. A brow rises as he seeks to further explain his intentions. "I separate m'jobs, and I can be spiritual adviser to Dornie's adults and Dornie's teacher to younger minds." A single hand rises in front of him. "I'm no cultist or anythin'. You can send word for places I've taught in, they'll tell y' I'm no maniac or anythin'."

"Well. I'd hope you are, because I am not in the habit of trusting the minds and the future of Dornie into that of a Maniac's" This from behind, at the door to the small school that serves as Dina's pet project and her intention to insure Dornies future. Reading, writing, arithmetic. Words tinted with Welsh tones.

The woman overseeing the school in Dina's absence leaps up at the appearance of her defacto boss and Dina herself nods to the woman who's been pushing her chair before getting her help to stand, get her feet under her.

"I don't know that you will find much in the way of those who would speak with you as a spritual advisor in the capacity of… Christianity?" She's one of the older individuals in the town. Finally upright, helped inside, she studies Andrew in full. "You would be?"

The little chair creaks again, this time due to Andrew turning in his chair to look behind him. The polite smile is exchanged with a look of mild surprise. He straightens up in his chair, assuming a more rigid and attentive pose. Keenly, he listens and observes, primarily whether Dina's assistant requires help from the man, as well. Once he deems that the situation is not currently dire, he delays his offer of help, instead addressing the matter of his potential employment. "Ma'am, I'm a man of knowledge-seeking first and foremost. I make it my quest to share my thirst for education with growing minds, and I even take every opportunity to teach adults what they didn't have the fortune to be taught", he replies, before reluctantly admitting a moment later, "And aye, Christianity. I don't expect people to come to me to listen to God, ma'am, I expect people to come to me when they have no one else to turn to."

Perhaps to illustrate a point, or perhaps simply because it's in his mindset to, he grips the arms of the chair, making his intention to rise clear, should the other party be in need of his offered assistance. "Are you okay, ma'am?"

"I am well" Like a great dame, his question is waved off with a waft of her hand, though she does take her time - and a little time spent shuffling feet forward to make it to a chair. "Let your mind worry not with my wellbeing and instead with your own. You have not yet divulged your name. So, I will ask again and let it be known to you that it is the only time, that I will ask twice. Who, are you?"

In the womans wake, leaping off the arm of the chair that it had scrabbled into, goes a mouse, tawny haired in nature, pink nose and claws scrabbling with very little sound across the floor in her wake, pausing when she does, moving forward with the same time. Whiskers twitching and an occasional shift of small black eyes to the man in question.

A deep nod - a bow, really - is offered to Dina Ross. Andrew wastes no more time, albeit he does precede his introduction with an apology.

"Sorry, ma'am. Uhm, I'm Andrew Cullen. Andrew John Cullen. You probably haven't heard word of me, I've been teaching kids from one small community t'the next. Most know me more for my spiritual stance." After a short pause of considering whether it's worth noting, Andrew finally decides to do so - with a half-smirk. "People remember gossip better, ma'am." Tipping his head to the side, pointing out what is understandably out of sight, he adds: "I have m' own books, a lot of them of an educational nature, too. I was hoping I could continue my teaching career in Dornie."

The man is of course distracted by the curious mouse. His smirk grows into a wholehearted smile. "Good thing I kept my cat outside. If you don't mind my asking - pet or familiar?"

"If it is the latter, would you think less of me, given that you are a believe in Christianity?" Which marks her, by those words, not. "And if one were to listen to the gossip, about you, from what other towns, what would one hear. As I spoke, we are not in the habit of employing maniacs in our school." Greets the sun fixes a look on Andrew and almost with a haughty sniff, turns and makes for dina's skirts, scurrying up them till she can reach down with thin fingers and scoop him up, settle him some place safer.

'Your cat would be a fair sight surprised, if she or he tried anything with my companion."

Before turning to the matter of gossip, Andrew salvages the reputation of his own familiar. "My cat rarely chases mice. Especially if they're a familiar; he has a sense for that."

What follows is the fading of his smile, although his spirits diminish just by a margin. With a shrug, he answers, "All sorts of doss nonsense. That I'm a cultist, a zealot, a hypocrite— That I sacrifice goats. Which doesn't even make sense, min', since it's pagans who did that, not Christians. People who knew me well knew they could always seek my help. My good deeds are remembered, the rest are whispers of bored housewives and drunk smiths, ma'am."

His next sigh is exhaled slowly, masking his exhaustion with the same question he's clearly been asked many times, so it's hardly a wonder he answers it last. "No, ma'am, I wouldn't think any less of ye'. I'm a mage, myself." Leaning forward, he webs his digits together and lets them rest on his knees. "I hold no prejudice against no kind. Unless that kind lies, cheats, steals and murders."

That's the Militia. She almost says. "If I may ask, where does your talent lay in the realm of magic?" Settled in a chair, the other teacher is sitting now too, letting Dina take over. "If you were to be denied a spot, then where would you go? Another city? Look to other employment in the city? The Militia?"

"Dreams, ma'am", he replies, simple as. Of course, the ambiguity such a response presents is not missed, and Andrew proceeds to explain shortly afterwards. "It's a bit difficult to explain in short, ma'am, but I read, walk and shape dreams. I have a hard time deciding what helps me help people more - my mind, or my magic."

As the discussion turns to the question of what profession he might choose as an alternative, it's as lightning strikes. Andrew immediately responds, "No. No, ma'am." A few rapid blinking later, he takes the time to elaborate the hasty reaction. "I know I may not look it, but my mind has long abandoned the idea of violence. I will trade and keep books, as well as other cultural items of interest to me, a fellow enthusiast or any passing merchants. I of course intend to seek out anyone I can help in any matter, for free - spiritual or helping them build a house." After a pause, he notes, "Even if I am accepted, I will not ask much - just the bare necessities."

"From your mind, comes your magic Mister Cullen. There is no deciding" The frail woman supplies. "It is always, where it comes from" Thouhg others may say otherwise, and are free to say otherwise. She adjusts her skirts, mindful of the mouse on her lap, making it's home on the pale blue skirts, nose brushing to the side of her thumb when it's close. "So, merchant then, of teacher, bookseller and man of faith. I'm afraid our only church has long since been re-purposed for things not near as holy. Favourite subject, besides that of the supposed Lord?"

A smirk creeps back on the man's lips. "Even if you were to include Him, ma'am, theology is hard to teach because of today's predisposition against all things religious. No, I love teaching history the most. It's history that helps us not make yesterday's mistakes today, ma'am. Not only that, history helps us understand today and build a better tomorrow." Relaxing somewhat, Andrew reclines in the chair, once again making it creak agonisingly. "And don't worry about the church, ma'am. The House of God is where you make it." After yet another bit of a pause, the man once again dares to ask Dina a question. "And may I ask what your favourite subject is, ma'am? What is the most inspiring sight for ye'? Kids being taught what, exactly?"

"History. We learn from our mistakes, that of others as well and their success so that we may learn from both and venture forward. But reading foremost. For before one can even think to learn about history, one must learn to read about it first. I find it is a forgotten skill in these days. Trades are fine and such, but reading. The goal of this school is to ensure that all are granted access to basic education if not higher" To ask for references though, is a little tricky.

"Would you be willing to provide the names of a few towns that you taught in Mister Cullen? As I said. WE won't just hire any Maniac. Just the good maniacs"

Andrew just as easily understands the unreliable nature of asking for reference or even potential recommendations. Combined with Dina's ending remark regarding what sort of maniacs they might be hiring, the would-be teacher lets out a genuine chuckle. "Dangerous question. I could lie through m' teeth and get away with it on account of never before 'eard settl'ments." As he occasionally drops his guard in terms of manners and politeness, his accent marginally grows in intensity, it seems. Making himself more comfortable in that uncomfortably small chair, he clears his throat.

"The town I was born and grew up in, not far from where what remains of Glasgow lies. It was just Plainsford for a while, until we heard there already is one." Another chuckle reveals his amusement by that particular coincidence. "So we went all out with our min's and called it New Glasgow, 'cause of how close it was to there. Anyway, I came back to it after m' travels and taught there for some time. Then there's Redrock, but that's fallin' apart by now, which is why I had to leave." Pausing in thought, he narrows his eyes, gaze on the ground. He looks back to Dina a moment later. "I think it'd be a touch more reliable if— I have with me lett'rs. I have this thing, I ask childr'n to write what they thought of my lessons after I teach 'em to write. I have a small box full of their letters."

"I tell you what. If you would permit me, to peruse your memories of these towns, and your experience there, and I am satisfied with what I see, I will let you teach here. Provided that you meet with myself and other teachers to discuss the curriculum and you adhere, to said curriculum. If I do not like what I see, well then" Well then. "We will go from there. Amenable?:

Silence of reluctance is Andrew's initial response.

"Is that a prerequisite of every employee-to-be, ma'am? Do you browse their memories like reading a book in a bookstore before deciding whether to buy it?" Treading careful ground with an equally polite tone, he continues as he leans forth once again, "People trust others on merit of word or evidence of deeds by day, ma'am. I understand your caution, but the gifts we were given were not designed to abandon our wit and resort to an easy path. Now, if allowing you inside the most sanctimonious and private place of the human body is the only way I have a chance of proving my aptitude, then I may just yield out of necessity, but I think it would be a wrong step in our rapport."

Leaning to the side, he reaches down to the weathered leather portfolio. It's torn and the little lock thing is missing. He flips it open, and although he does not produce a box as promised, there are a bunch of sheets of paper wrapped with a string. Rising to his feet, he walks over to Dina, handing over the modestly sized pack. "After all, ma'am, you can get rid of me the moment you deem me incompetent."

"These days, call it a precautionary measure. But not a pre-requisite. If you wish not to allow me, that is your right and I respect that. Far be it from me to force it upon another." The twine held papers are taken however, settled one her lap beside the mouse that chitters a little, leaning in to sniff at them. "Are you afraid of what I might find?"

"Yes." Well, at least the man is honest. "We all have our dark days. Yet we are all so quick to judge another." He doesn't move from his spot, although he does step back to respect the woman's personal space. "But it's also a matter of principle, ma'am."

The myriad of letters are obviously not a hallmark of literary achievement, none of them. Predictably, each contain crooked writing of varying degrees. They seem to be mostly grammatically correct, although each letter contains at the very least one mistake. Noticing that she's accepted the letters, he notes, "I didn't bother correcting the mistakes. I cherish the letters too much. But I did let them know where they were." With that, he ventures back to his seat, reclaiming it.

"I know it may be hard trusting on word alone, especially if you have the gift to see how dark and twisted men can be. But I assure you I am worthy of teaching in your school. Faith may not mean much to you today, ma'am, but with time you'll see that it motivates me to hold true to my word, and it's not just vain zealotry."

Poor Andrew, at the mercy of what happened before he stumbled into the town of Dornie. "Where are you Staying Mister Cullen, so that when I am done looking over these and the others, and we have discussed your application, we might seek you out to give you our verdict?" See if a rider or two can't be dispatched to corroborate his claim. "As I said. We're not in the habit of handing over our childrens minds to just any maniac and we do like to be thorough"

"The Wanderin' Albatross, for now. I hope you'll find me suitable, ma'am. Teaching children is what I've been doing for the past few years, and I would love to continue doing so during my stay in Dornie."

Lifting his hands up with palms facing upwards, he shrugs lightly. "Is there anything else, ma'am?" But before an answer is heard, he suddenly remembers yet another matter. "Oh, and please be careful with the letters. They actually mean a lot to me, and not just professionally." With a nod to add weight to the statement, he then stills and waits for Dina's response, to see if there is more to the interview or whether he's to wait for the woman to consider him as a future employee.

There is no more, a nod to the sanctity and meaning of the letters. 'That will be all Mr. Cullen. You are dismissed. I will have word sent when we wish to speak to you. For now, enjoy all that the town has to offer and it's safety. I will send these to you once we have read over them" He is dismissed, with a wave of DIna's hand as she shifts ever so carefully in her seat in preparation to talk business with one of the other present teachers.