Pillars of Knowledge

Title: Pillars of Knowledge
Time Period: May 31, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: What's given between Duncan and Luna is given freely.

The arching stone of the castle’s interior is just about perfect for housing the clutches of bound paper that stock it’s library. Hidden away from uncouth eyes, the books sit in demure repose, gathered in their affiliate cliques, dozing covers closed. Usually a lone pilgrim or perhaps a pair take a text from its ledge and pour over it, a reverent affair

Usually that’s how lone pilgrims behave. And pairs may form when one finds another, both undisturbed and undisturbing. Yet what draws Duncan to the library is not love of knowledge of a longing for peace - not that he is opposed to either knowledge or peace when they serve a purpose - but rather an uncommon racket, at least by library standards.

Softening his tread so as not to raise any alarm, Duncan approaches from an eastward passage, peering carefully around the portal’s edge to see inside.

Two tall stacks of books balance precariously on a table, the one boasting more books and teetering every time another is piled on either. It has a wide variety of subjects making up its tower of knowledge, the other is a simpler fare, books that have been requested on a previous occasion but not granted for the simple reason that they are out of order.

Rounding the corner of one of the stacks, Luna carries another four books toward the table, starting a new pillar. Spring has seen a change in her wardrobe, sleeves cut short allowing the leather strap she always wears at her wrist to become visible. The bead scrapes against the spine of the tall pile, catching at a corner and forcing her to scramble to prevent the books from falling.

She's been busy, that is apparent enough, gathering volumes that she likely doesn't have enough time to read.

Luna is well shielded by her whimsy. What might provoke suspicion or pure puzzlement instead simply seems in keeping with her character. It makes it an expression, rather than a mere behavior. It makes familiar, rather than alienating.

So Duncan smiles instead of furrowing his brow. He lingers a moment in the doorframe and then moves inside, footfalls now more audible. Not wanting to surprise her excessively, lest she crush herself in her fright.

"You'll need lenses inside of a fortnight," he says, "taxing your eyes so."

Still, it's slight alarm that meets Duncan's smile. A flare of eyelashes and a slight breath inward before Luna lets go of her books and crosses to the doorway. Taking his hand, she leads him toward the burdened table and motions toward the taller stack with a wave of her hand.

"Duncan," she begins, her voice serious, or as serious as Luna can be, "since leaving the Dove I haven't asked for much at all. Being here has been enough, but since I'll be going soon I need to set a few things right. May I have some of these to trade? I made a promise to Fletcher shortly after he arrived and I wish to keep it." She pauses there for a moment to allow him time to absorb before going on. "I need some things from him, it's important that I get them before I go."

If ever before Duncan believed Luna's expeditionary ambitions were a pipe dream, her resolute insistence has thrown doubt into doubt. His own encouragements are no longer so abstract, as a result - horse riding is the least of the skills she will need to have to survive. Yet it is not to learn about what roots and berries native to England are good to eat. She is- setting something to right?

With Cruikshank.

"Don't think me unfeeling," Duncan says, "but what debt needs my family's books to repay it?"

"He said he would show me things if I was able to return some of his books to him. I wish to ask him for something else before I leave and I think I'll need a few books to convince him." Luna replies, her fingers lacing with Duncan's as she steps so close that a fraction of an inch separates their sides. "Please Duncan, it's important that I know you'll be safe while I'm gone."

Letting loose his hand, she tugs at the knot in the leather and holds the bead in her palm when it's loose. "I'm giving this one to ma, but I need one for da, you, Constance, Peter, and Celia. It'll protect you from the vampire, Fletcher said it heals the blood and I believe it."

Duncan regards the beads with a rather steady gaze, as if they are suddenly a concern of his. To wear them, or something like them? "Of course, if that will make your heart easier and your mind clearer for your journey."

This is not the truth entire. There is something of a boilerplate that his mind embosses under this promise. It includes a consultation with Tobin, and the creation of a fake should the pet mage find there is more going on than what's avowed by belief. He'll wear a superstitious trinket. Duncan remains wary of true magic.

It's a white lie, made paler by omission. He lifts her fingers to his lips, kissing them. His brows lift, his challenge tempered by tease.

"You truly think Fletcher Cruikshank is an honorable man?"

Luna lets out a long breath, as though Duncan's agreement has lifted the weight of the world from her shoulders. She smiles and leans into him after her hand is let down again. "Of course I do, he's been nothing but wonderful since he came to Dornie. I feel so badly for him to be living in such a poor place as he does. He deserves so much more than what he takes," she continues, the tone of her voice carries much more fondness for the man than her words. "He's such a giving soul."

There's a quirk to her eyebrows that denotes some worry but smooths before it sets in. Then she tilts her chin up toward him, a slight smile appearing on her lips. "You don't feel the same as I, do you? I'm certain that you'd get on with him as famously as you get on with Mister Fogg if you put your mind to it. Though, Fletcher's not the sort to be a part of the militia, he's much too delicate for that line of work."’

Duncan sees an opportunity to be jealous. This opportunity would facilitate some base satisfactions, but likely lose him others, and more of them. Considering the alternatives, he favors, instead, a chance to demonstrate the difference of their power. When Luna describes Cruikshank, Duncan laughs at him.

"Delicate? Aye, that's just the word," and it goes without saying that Duncan's conveys much shallower affection than Luna's, "I had him in mind for a job. A proper job, serving the public good."

"One that suits him, I hope." Luna grouses, seemingly hurt by Duncan's laughter for the absent Cruikshank. "I'd be quite unhappy if he turned up at your father's factory or at the Rosses power plant. He's not meant for such things, he should be a tutor or something that suits his intelligence. He's quite knowledgeable in quite a number of subjects."

She smiles and takes one of his hands in both of hers, squeezing it lightly. "But of course you have something grand in mind for him. A teacher a the school perhaps? Or your personal secretary? I'll wager with all of the books he's read, he could educate the entire town on anything."

"Even if so, it'd be a false start to think I want just anything to be taught to the entire town," Duncan says, trying to sound both sober and amused - two pillars of superiority, "not every idea ought be made common. I've seen rude songs end bloody.

"I've something honorable for him," he allows, at last, "I'll see to grandness when he's proven grand." Duncan's thumb brushes across Luna's fingers, and he speaks in a manner meant to reassure. "It is not that I wish to distrust your judgment, Luna. But a good man by your measure mayn't be a good man by others, nor for the job I'd need of him."

"My judgement is impeccable," Luna retorts. The air of superiority runs strong in her words and poise as she straightens her back and raises her chin, giving him a narrow set of eyes. "Aside from one or two mistakes in my past, for which I will blame smoke and wine, I've had wonderful success in finding people of character to spend my time with."

It's posed as something of a challenge. After all, she is living under his roof. How could Duncan have misgivings about her judgement, especially after the pedestal she's put him on after judging him.

“But tell me, Duncan,” she continues, sidling down the edge of the table, putting a few paces between them. “What sort of job do you have in mind for Fletcher? Or am I the sort of common that shouldn’t know this idea?”

"An impeccable sailor need not be an impeccable tinker, nor is the cleverest of men necessarily the best-hearted," Duncan says, "take it as no slight that I won't substitute my judgment for your own. I accept your vouch, and for that he should thank you."

He turns towards her, confronting the little gap she's made.

"The sort of job in the sort of place I'd hoped to surprise both of you with, for the sake of gratitude," Duncan says, "but if you insist on my giving the game away-" his brows lift just a little, "tell me- do you know the difference between a bank and a hoard?"

Turning around the corner of the table, Luna disappears behind the tall stacks of books. So much the coquette he accuses her of being, she peeks at him when space allows before coming into view across from him. "A hoard, like a dragon's hoard, is a pile of treasure that is kept hidden away and secret." Picking up one of the books she's pulled for herself, she fingers the words on the back, not reading them yet. "A bank is a safe place for all to keep their treasures."

Raising her eyebrows in question, she puts the book back down on the table and slides it across toward Duncan. "Before, people would put their coins in banks and the banks would use those coins… lending them to others for a price." She stops, suddenly uncertain of herself and her words. "I'm right, am I not?"

"You've the heart of it, yes," Duncan says, "as a hoard grows larger, it keeper guards more jealously. The more wealth a bank has, the more it can afford to give out at once for the convenience of the people. You can't take freely from either, but one grows freer as it grows greater, while the other only becomes more lonely."

He rounds the table, picking up the book in passing and glancing at its spine, seeking it's name, if idly. "I'd have a vault of knowledge, which might lease wisdom to Dornie. An honorable intention, no? And maybe a great task, in time, if its keeper proves fit for it."

It's one of the long collection of children's books that she's been insisting on reading, if only to find out the end. Not that there actually is one. A frivolous waste of time while she waits for a date to draw closer, or for Duncan to finish his day.

"Duncan Rowntree's vault of knowledge, it does have a certain ring." Luna's lips hook up at one corner, extending to an actual smile as he draws near. "So Fletcher is to be the keeper? That's a wonderful thing for him. I think of all the people in Dornie, he'd certainly be the best suited for it." She claps her hands together at the palm and laces her fingers together, an action to bring about the end of her gushing. At least about Fletcher. "You're so clever, thinking of all of these things to make Dornie a better place to live. To think I ever wished to leave."

Duncan sets the book aside- being a founder rather than a librarian himself, he leaves ordered replacement to someone better suited for the task. He is perfectly content to allow that some are called to defend books from mold and misplacement, while others defend the while city from everything else.

"There is so little we can do that has not been done before," Duncan admits, in a rare instance of seeming modesty, "I'm less clever than determined, my lady."

He overcomes the space between them in little more than a stride.

"But I'm glad of whatever I am, if it keeps you here."

"Only for as long as it is your wish," a sentiment that's been repeated time and time again. As though permanence holds no place in their arrangement.

Turning her head toward the piles of books, Luna dances away from the subject, focusing on the one that brought Duncan to investigate in the first place. "I suppose then, I'll not be granted many of them to give to Mister Cruikshank? I was hoping for at least a half dozen, even then I'm not sure his price for his charms. I've never paid for them before." At least not with material goods.

Her lack of nerve shows plain in the fact that she can't seem to bring her eyes up to meet his. It's lacking in manners, or something, she supposes, to bring up a former lover's price to a new one.

For his own part, Duncan never sees fit to contradict her injection of uncertainty. Which makes his overtures themselves hang between seriousness and mere play. “Pick the ones you’d give him, and then give the family time to be certain none will be heartbroken to lose one. And he can tender those trinkets on credit, I’m sure, at my behest.”

Duncan knows what those averted eyes amount to. He could have been jealous. He wasn’t. Now he can be gentle. “If that troubled me,” he says, leaving the thing itself unsaid, but presumed understood, “why now and not before?”

He takes her waist, and then her chin, as actions can carry better than words. Guiding her gaze back to his.

“There is no confusion as to whose you are.”

Her body is loose, yielding without strain or protest to his guiding hands. “Aye, it’s just I haven’t tried seeing him again until now.” Luna’s voice takes on a hushed volume, the apology in her eyes is matched in tone. It’s obviously not meant for Duncan. “I should’ve gone to see him before I moved here, I should’ve done so many things for him. I owe him more than a thank you for the charms.”

A flit of her gaze toward the stacks of books doesn’t lead to her pulling away from the soldier’s touch. Instead a slight smile forms on her lips, fit for a tart. “You’ve given me a mile, Duncan, the books I would give him are everything in those piles there. Instead, I'll take the one on the left. Even if your family misses half of them, I think I’ll have enough to barter with Fletcher. I’ll not ask for credit, that’s not the way proper business is done.”

Duncan is indurate to Luna's worry and apologia. He lays in wait for her smile. He catches it with a kiss when it appears.

"If he's done you good, then I will credit him that," Duncan says, agreeably, "but of course I won't interfere with proper business. Take the leftmost. They may yet end up in the library, journey's end."

He has her waist in both his hands now, commanding her slight body from its slim stem with familiarity and care.

"I wonder… what thanks am I owed?"

Her hands rise to caress his arms from shoulder to elbow, back and forth. Duncan's question gives Luna's eyebrow cause to quirk up at a sharp angle before her lips meet his in answer. The kiss is short, like the dot at the end of a sentence, somewhat final.

"You feel that I owe you? Not the other way 'round?" the blonde teases, lifting her eyes to meet his again after a quick glance toward the open doorway. Her finger traces a spiral pattern into the fabric of his sleeve, tickling the skin underneath with a featherlight touch.

Duncan follows the line of her gaze, and infers a meaning with uncommon speed. He leaves Luna, in order to shut the door. When he returns, he purposefully measures his paces, not rushing back. Not giving away the game, though the fix is clearly in.

"I like to think, in a union such as ours-"

Now he's found her again. His hold is less modest, now that not just anyone can peek in passing.

"-all that's given is given freely."

In their game, she could have broken free and run away while his back was turned. He gave her a sporting chance. "Union is it? It makes me quite happy that I'm not thought of as simply one of the help. Though I do believe I have helped your disposition quite a bit." Luna's wry grin turns to an excited gasp as she's tugged roughly against the soldier. Her hands find his chest and she pushes back ever so slightly.

"Gently Duncan," she utters, fingers moving toward his to place them somewhere a little less scandalous. Just in case one of his family members were to walk in. Or one of his men. "I'd rather not call attention, especially since we're not in my room." Once the misbehaving hands are tamed, if only a little, the blonde woman's arms wind around his waist. "I must wonder, soldier mine, however did you manage with only two visits to the Dove a week?"

There's little she can do to stop his hands if they move with purposeful intent. "If it's the peace of this place you're worried about-" he lifts her without effort in one arm, the other topping a pile of books to clear space, "-bite your lip and call it an exercise in discipline."

He disregards 'gently' as he lays on his attention. She's pressed back. He's upon her. They kiss. He murmurs.

"I will miss you while you are gone."

As if that alone excuses all.