Title: Reasons
Time Period: May 21, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: A few are made clear during a private conversation at the Inn.

The local jeweler hasn't had much need to visit the Inn lately, so seeing her inside the front room where sailors and soldiers chat and drink is a rarity, one that seems to be occuring today. Niyati Malik stands beside a table of sailors, fresh in from the seas, speaking to them with a smile, and a small roll of example wears, likely in the cheapest of metals. A knife sits visibly at her belt, perhaps to discourage theft. The woman has only been inside the room for a short time, casting a glance around, before settling on this table, though her eyes do stray at times.

"Of course I can also repair your jewelry, as well," she explains in her slight accent that isn't quite English or Scottish. "I see damage from the ocean air on your chains from here. It would only take an hour or two, if you came down to my shop. For a small trade."

The sailors laugh and make drunken jests, and in some ways it's hard to tell if they even understand her completely. But the one she's spoke to specifically does nod, as if he paid attention.

Time off is hard to find these days, in the spaces between civilian unrest, kelpie attacks and exploding boats. Algernon does what he can with what he has and is dressed down accordingly — insofar as the absence of his duster qualifies. He doesn't intend to go out, at least, not out on any adventures, comfortably alone at his usual table to the side with his usual book and his usual glass of scotch.

Everything is entirely usual about this, really. He is remarkably consistent.

Niyati's arrival coaxes out the same cursory glance the sailors received when they arrived. It isn't until he closes his book and leans to his feet that he looks at her again, passive invitation implicit in deliberate contact on the way to withdrawal. To the stairs. And presumably to his quarters beyond them.

For a brief moment, Niyati's eyes catch his glance. There's a small bob of her head, as if understanding the subtle invitation, before she returns her attention to the sailors once again. Directions to her shop are given to the man, so that he can find it, before she wraps up the bundle of cheap heavy jewelry and stashes it in the larger bag over her shoulder.

All the adjustments buy enough time for him to get up the stairs and out of sight, as she takes her time knotting the leather ties and adjusting her bag.

"If you'll excuse me, now, I have some business upstairs. Enjoy your drinks, gentlemen," she says politely, before she turns toward the stairs. It isn't very usual for her, but not entirely uncommon either. There are some business arrangements best handled in private, like deals with cargo masters to deliver goods.

There aren't many rooms down the hall. It's an inn — not an apartment complex, for all that Fogg has given no indication that he intends to put roots down anywhere more practical.

Or permanent.

His room is easily marked by daylight cutting a line across the floor where he's left his door slightly ajar behind him.

Inside he's occupied himself pouring a fresh round from his personal stock. Two glasses this time, rather than the one. Not far from the foot of his bed there is a desk. Not far from the desk there is a chair. And not far from the chair, a heavy wooden chest is blocked against the wall, top bound to bottom by a robust lock.

There are other odds and ends — a wardrobe near the door, a book, a bottle — but for the most part, the room is austerely devoid of personal touch.

With a small tap on the door, Niyati opens it enough to step inside, closing the door behind her with a nudge from her bag. A hint of movement is seen under her shirt and pocketed vest, emphasized slightly by the way she reaches up to smooth down her clothes.

"I see you still enjoy the company of books," she comments, glancing toward the subject with a small smile. "Though more than a few things have changed besides that." Even as she speaks, she shifts the bag off her shoulder and sets it down near the door, somewhere she can easily pick it up again on her way out.

Stepping forward slowly, she looks toward the drinks. Careful, a soft voice says in her head, deeply feminine and not actually in English, if thoughts could be considered to have a language. The words stop her midstep for a moment, and she shakes her head. From another perspective she could be having an argument with herself, rather than something hidden under her clothes.

Having turned in the nick of time to see her hesitate, Algernon pauses in kind, one glass offered forth on a delay that avoids awkwardness by a slim margin. "Yes," he says, on his way to sinking back into a sit at the foot of his bed. The chair is left to her, should she elect to occupy it — there's no obligation implied in a tilt of his glass to indicate its availability.

From there he seems content to sit and look at her for longer than may be strictly comfortable, vetting fresh observation against older memory. Things have changed.

"I owe you an apology."

Under his scrutiny, the boyish qualities of her clothes look even more so. It's as if Niyati's gone through layering her clothes to obscure any signs of a womanly form. No jewelry hangs from her wrists or ears, and the closest is in a simple leather strap around her neck attached to a flat piece of dark molded pottery.

As he stares, she seats herself on the chair, carefully adjusting the folds of her vest again, before meeting his gaze. She quirks eyebrows at his words, though her voice does not show the same level of surprise, "Do you?"

Naturally dark hands reach up to toy with her short hair, which was not always so short. "I'm sure you have reasons for whatever it is you feel the need to apologize for."

"Arrogance. Short-sightedness, ignorance," Algernon lists as if he feels he's stating the obvious, teeth clipped hard on the consonants, "incompetence. The fall of Blackmoore."

His interest in visible change is wary without being (directly) judgmental and goes without being remarked upon. He looks older, himself. Colder. More like his father. "Your enslavement."

"Ah," Niyati says softly, visibly straightening even as she looks down. After a moment, she nods, even as she looks back up at him, meeting his older colder eyes with her own dark ones. Coldness is not a part of her gaze, but a wariness that she'd held onto seems to have relaxed.

"I did not know how to handle this situation. I can forgive you for your part in what happened to me specifically. There are surely others who held far more blame."

Proposed forgiveness is marked with a stout bolt of scotch. Then he's quiet again, focus finally diverted elsewhere, to his desk. To the inn's desk.

"What has happened," he differentiates at length. "What has yet to occur."

Clarification is slow in coming. Word choice is important. He is trying to be delicate — or at least careful. Difficult, considering how little he actually knows about her from what he presses himself to recall. "If your origins are well-known, you would do well to disavow familiarity with the Blackmoores. And with 'Algernon Fogg.'" Empty glass turned over between his fingers after a still beat, he reaches absently to unfasten the button of his jacket. "You may be asked why you said nothing."

The careful word useage seems to bring back some of the tension in her shoulders. A hand rests against her vest, for a moment. Niyati looks toward the scotch, as if tempted by the glass, before she focuses back on him instead. "I do not think they are well known, though I'm sure more know than I will like," she says, voice suddenly cautious again.

There's a slow inhale. "If the worst happens, I can use forewarning to leave. It would not be the first time my whole life went up in flames." Though her voice sounds breathless, even as she tries to wave it off.

"What is going to happen, Ivan?" she asks, using the name with emphasis.

It is just Ivan now, isn't it? Lord Blackmoore insinuates a certain degree of sovereignty. Habitually jut-jawed and at ease through the shoulders, there's a flicker about the corners of his eyes at the way she wields his name. Not quite a wince. Even if it does briefly stay the breath he was about to take.

There's also the fact that it's been some time since he's heard it.

Ultimately, "I cannot say," sounds better than I don't know, and is approximately as honest. "Nor can I promise forewarning."

"I suppose that means you will not be asking for any jewelry in the future," Niyati says with a hint of a sigh in her voice, standing from the chair she was offered, and picking up the glass of scotch that she was poured. Not for herself, as is indicated by her holding it out in his direction. He may need the drink more than her.

"I am well known for staying out of mage business here. It is just as likely they would believe I avoided it in my previous home. Though that will only be used if I can not leave first." There's a shake of her head.

"Your mother taught me a lot, helped me find my feet after my family was taken from me. While there are those in the community who I would not wish harm upon… my loyalty lies more with you."

"No." He won't be. Half a smile stirred away by a restless scuff of his free hand under his nose, Ivan rises after her. A glance to her glass is the only acknowledgement of her not having touched it; he takes it in hand opposite the empty one, effectively shackled by his own manners.

"My mother did not endorse this venture," isn't a warning, exactly. More of an offhand assertion of distance. More elaboration is stayed after a pause more uncomfortable than those before it. He isn't sure what to say.

"I am not sure I do either," Niyati says simply, as she clasps her hands together before her. While she held it the fact her hand was slightly shaking could be more easily seen, and clasping them hides it.

"I am not offering to lend my hand," she continues after a slow inhale, a pause not nearly as uncomfortable, despite the impression she's steadying herself. "I think it is best I do not have any details, despite my previous curiosity.

"My loyalty to your mother means I will not reveal who you… were… to anyone."

"You're not required to." To approve or to lend her support or to learn details, Ivan doesn't clarify. Most likely all of the above, judging from the way his brows turn down after the quaver about her hand. He retains both glasses in his, reluctant to reach around her to set either down. "I daresay I've contributed enough to your burden."

He would feel terrible if he had to kill her.

Likely she would feel terrible too— just before she stopped feeling anything at all.

"Burdens are an unfortunate fact of life," Niyati says with a tense smile, that seems to have gotten back the wariness she entered with. There's that voice hisses in the back of her head, too, though a kind of nagging rather than advice.

"I should be going," she says, in an outloud echo of the inner voice. But even as she side steps toward the door, she adds, "Despite the burdens… I had enjoyed your company in the past. Even if it would be safer for me otherwise— I would not mind your company in the future."

Aren't they, though. Silent agreement comes at a grudging slant — a sideways shift in weight that keeps him in place when she moves to make her escape. "Of course," is an exercise in mild ambiguity. He's been careful to keep his voice low thus far and his acceptance of her (somewhat rapid) departure is no different.

It's the last bit that catches him off guard, thoughts already turned elsewhere rolled back on their bearings enough for him to measure her again. "As you like, Miss Malik."

"Niyati is fine, Mister Fogg," she responds with a small smile, emphasis on the name he goes by here. As she moves to retrieve her bag, she presses a hand against her vest against a small sign of movement there.

That voice in the back of her head may not agree with her decision, but it doesn't speak out too loudly against it, either.

Other than a soft hiss of caution.

"Good luck," she adds, as she opens the door.

If Mister Fogg attributes any special significance to the attention Niyati seems to be providing her vest, it fails to show in his face. He's schooled enough to keep his eyes from veering off course, scotch weighed in his hand through an effort to return her smile that doesn't get far. "Niyati," he echoes. Apologetic.

She's a liability, Forge observes. Quiet, until now.

So are you, thinks Fogg, already lifting her abandoned glass for a sip as he watches her go.

"Be well."