Regal Profile

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

Summary: Luna has royal ambitions but Duncan brings her back down to earth.

Duncan's office is a sparse place, as befits a soldier. A later class than his will build this sort of space into one of pomp and ornament. For the Dornieman work is work - unglamorous no matter its context. And a plain table of sanded oak will do just as well as a thing of lacquered curlicues. Better, for it does not distract from the tasks at hand.

Most of which involves writing letters. These missives tend to be as sparse as the office in which they are written. Orders he won't have time to give in person, reminders of dues unpaid, summons to account - though Duncan accepts that he must sometime dirty his hands, still he never expected so much of it to be inkstain.

He's not yet at the point where he's ready to apply wax to paper, and sign to wax, but a single candle burns, and a taper sits nearby, the last steps towards official finality. Duncan takes a moment to clean his hands with a rag - drab and serviceable, like so much in this room.

She might not exist for all the noise she makes. When Luna slips through the door, books under one arm and fist curled tight into a ball, she's as silent as a growing plant. It's the loud color of her dress that gives her away. Bright green with gold and blue embroidery, too much like a peacock to deny the inspiration, she steps lightly over the stone pavers and into the room. She hangs along the wall for a moment, until he grabs the rag, and then stalks forward.

"Duncan," she greets, too stiffly for this to be the sort of call they've been getting used to. The books are placed hard on the desk, the cloth cover of the bottom one likely blotting the ink of the paper underneath it. These particular books have been liberated from the Rowntree library, all of them based on the same subject.

Next, her hand slaps down a few coins and she flips them over, heads up. "There've been kings and queens of Scotland for longer than its been named. I could never hope to see my face on the front of a coin but with a regal profile as yours, why haven't you claimed all that you see?"

Duncan does not startle, but he does start, head turning in a minor but very quick motion as he pulls her into his vision. The lines of his face are impassive for the moment before full recognition - it doesn't take long. He smiles, brows moving a bare fraction upward to indicate his surprise - at her presence, and at the manner of its introduction.

He peruses the coins, turning one with the tip of his finger so that the monarch's profile better presents itself to him. Then he looks back up at her, assessing her for seriousness. Not sure what to do with it if he finds it. She can't possibly-

So he deflects. "All I see," he dips his head indicating the room, the desk - her, "I readily claim."

"Do you now?" Luna responds, setting herself up on the opposite edge of the desk and balancing a foot against a chair reserved for visitors not as familiar as she. One of the coins is plucked up and rolled between her thumb and forefinger until Duncan's face is covered by the crown wearing man centered in the piece of currency. "Dornie don't have any close neighbors, at least none that would present a problem. Does it?"

Being a resident of the small town her entire life, the daughter of one of its more infamous merchants, and a most notorious gossip, she's well aware of her surroundings. The blond leans until she's balanced on the flat of her free palm and lounging on the large piece of furniture as if it were a garden bench or her favorite table rock rather than a desk. "Your da's so busy in his factory and your brother ain't suited for such a thing. You're such a natural leader, Duncan, you should command more than armed men. You should have a crown on your head."

A hand reaches out to pluck the coin from her fingers, revealing his true face again. "Any crown would be my father's to wear, no matter where the authority lay," Duncan avers, "and you can bet Ross and his ilk wouldn't take kindly to it."

"This is your own ambition speaking- I can tell. Are you growing restless, being the mistress of a mere guard commander? Will I soon need to wear ermine, velvet and sable to be worth your attention?"

He flips the coin into the air, in an arc, back at Luna.

"Patience, love. Heads crowned too quickly roll quicker still."

"The Rosses are much too busy hiding away in their manor house, no one that I've talked to has heard much of a peep from within their walls." Her tone is bored, purposely so, and in accordance, the prostitute swings one foot lazily back and forth. Fingers, so recently liberated of the profile that had replaced Duncan's for the moment, reach out to trace the line of his jaw as her gaze turns admiring. "And even if they did, they've no one to match your prowess."

As the coin tumbled through the air, she straightens and snatches it into her palm in an iron grip. "You know me not well enough if you think you'd have to be dressed in finery to have me caught. I'd be at your side if you were reduced to burlap rags, for I've loved poorer men than that." She smiles, slightly and drops the coin back to the book. "I'll never be restless with you, so long as you keep sending such sweetly penned letters."

Letters, yes, though nothing like the ones he's been scratching out in this office. He gives a huff, not quite a laugh, at the mention of his less official correspondence. The lady made a request, is all - not long after their first meeting. He just did his level best to answer it.

"Rags? Indeed?" Duncan says, chuckling properly now, "I shall trust your word, as I trust that it need never be tested.

"Your devotion is inspiring, love, but it also tells me you're a poor judge on what it will take to make a king. I trust no one holds me in as high esteem as you, Luna- you overrate my greatness, as a lover should. When my glories equal your ambitions - when I judge them to be equal - then I'd entertain the idea."

"Then educate me," Luna challenges, raising her chin a little in a prideful pose she's shown too often as of late. "If I'm a such a poor judge, it is because the only experience I have is from reading your many books. Teach me what would make a king, so that I might know when you'd ascend that seat I believe you're great enough to take."

There's a small moment that her eyes flit down to the paper under the books she brought in. "It would help me to watch you, if I'm going to be leading the adventure to Liverpool. Not that I wish to be a soldier, I'd spend too much time scrubbing the dirt from my nails rather than following orders, but I could learn as a shadow. I can be quiet enough, you'd never know I was there."

"A king is crowned," Duncan states, as if this explained everything, "he doesn't crown himself. Tyrants crown themselves, and rule in singular dominion. Kings have vassals - loyal subjects of the better classes. Emperors, too, have governors- and a senate."

So he writes, and he reads. The ease with which Duncan postulates this distinctions and similarities suggests a certain armchair scholarship. Predictable, really, that he would be drawn to histories of empires, and power. Some dreams never die, and some nightmares never end.

"None of them, of course, can manage without the people. The people are the deepest root of power, deeper even than weapons. In politics, death is not stronger than life. A king with no people is no king at all."

Down amongst the papers, Luna sees swaths of deadly dull ink. If something of interest is in there, it hides itself well. No hastily scrawled words like 'passion' or 'desire' leap out from the array of common 'payments' and 'inventories'.

"You'd have to be hidden from view," Duncan says, sounding doubtful, "I have a strict policy about not bringing beautiful women with me on patrols. It proves too much a distraction for my men."

Passion and desire are not the things she's looking for in eying the sheets of paper. Her head angles to garner a better view of something she's quite familiar with. Business. Until her move to the Dovetail, Luna's trade might have been more akin to what is on the desk than what she learned behind brothel doors.

"A falsehood if I ever heard one," she intones unhappily, her lips twisting downward and her eyebrows down to point at a small crease in the middle. "How many beautiful women have asked to join you on your patrols? Enough to make it such a strict policy?"

Slipping off the desk, she rounds its corners to Duncan's side and climbs into his lap, her hands reaching to slip a soft grip under his collar. "I understand if you wish to keep the more brutal parts of your duties from my sight… Surely there's places that I can follow? Please Duncan?"

Certainly Duncan does not expect comprehension. She learns, unknown to him. The least of rank misogynys, a matter of simple underestimation.

With the lady in his lap, another naturally follows. When you play his game- "You must be ready to harden your heart, Luna," Duncan says, and in so saying doubts that she'll be able, "I can show you some things- things you should know, if you truly have ambition. But you may not forgive me for it."

"I wish to know what it is that will bring me from Liverpool alive, rather than wrapped in a burial shroud. I'll have your man, Mister Hossfeld, with me. I've yet to pick amongst other possibilities for companions, though Mister Wartooth has been suggested." Luna's fingers run along the edge of Duncan's collar as she attempts to wheedle either sympathy for her plight or more understanding of what position she feels should take.

"I have ambition," she's insisted as much on a few occasions and been accused of it on others. "But why must my heart be hardened? Is there no room for compassion or mercy when it comes to leading men?"

"Don't mistake me, Luna- I did not say throw away compassion and mercy," Duncan says, "but remember- mercy can only be granted from a position of authority- of power. You grant mercy to someone at your mercy. There is no one without the other."

"As for leadership-" Duncan gives another sound like laughter, but singular, exhalatory, "I can suggest some few things, but I've a sense that women and men lead in different manners, owing to their different assets and abilities."

He relents under her touch, hands settling on her waist. Recognition of the attention, tacit approval. "You might, for example, sway a man with a bat of you lashes. I'd likely achieve less success."

The verbal picture results in a grin, then a rather unladylike snerk from the back of Luna's throat as she obviously makes the attempt at imagining such a thing. "You'd have my wrath to face if you were batting your lashes to sway anyone. That is when my compassion and mercy would fly out the window in a fit of jealousy." Her lips land briefly against his cheek as a reward for the small laugh and as reassurance that, so far, she hasn't been in a jealous fit.

"But tell me these suggestions," she says, voice strong and self assured. "I've read about many of the famous leaders from Before, from kings to prime ministers, it seems that many of the good ones had wills of iron and feared nothing."

"Your men must be willing to die for you," Duncan says, flatly for all that the statement seems grave, "they'll only do that if they think you'll die for them. You can't - you mustn't - but they must feel it is so. That is what is meant by 'fearing nothing' - seeming willing to be the first to die, even though you must be the last." But it seems he cannot tell her how to achieve this.

"For no one is ever brave for themselves - 'for yourself' is antithetical to bravery; everyone is brave for someone else. Make them brave on your behalf." No more can he explain how this is done.

"And a will of iron must be refined into the suppleness of steel. Iron can cut through weak resistance, but when it encounters strength, it shatters. A great leader must be able to bend, when the situation demands." Bend how? He cannot say.


The joy is immediately sapped from Luna's demeanor at the change in Duncan's tone, and the tone of the conversation. Not that it wasn't always serious but his mention of death brings her down a little more. To have people willing to die for her, this is what the blonde requires, especially of the men (women) he's pledged to send along.

"I am a coward," she breathes, there is shame in it. Her eyes downcast to the hands on her waist then toward his papers again. "I don't know if I could do something like that, make people believe that I would be the first to die. I don't think that's something I can learn."

Without righting her posture or head, Luna brings her eyes up to meet Duncan's and chews her lower lip in contemplation. "Have you always been so brave? Or is it something you grew into?"

"It may be different for a women- for a beautiful woman, such as you," Duncan says, tone softening - receding from steel, "no one would ask you to die first- they'd lay down your life in a chivalric show. But then- it is a matter of creating that kind of loyalty…" A pause, here. A thought. "I know you kindled that in me. If it kept you safe, I'd not begrudge more modest flames in the hearts of you protectors. Do what you must to be safe- to come back to me."

As to her question - "Bravery is a learned necessity. No one is born brave. You are only ever reborn brave.

"And you are no coward. You are simply wise-" he lifts a hand to the back of her head, guides her into a kiss, "-knowing you are worth more than the rest of them."

The kiss is eluded by a twist of her head and Luna's entire body stiffens. "I'm hearing you correctly? I sincerely hope I am not." Clenching her jaw, she shifts and places her feet on the floor, readying herself to push away from Duncan.

"I'll not fan flames that I don't wish to pursue, Duncan Rowntree. I may've been a Dove and I may be living in this castle as your mistress, but I am not a whore."

"You misunderstand me," Duncan says, a touch grave himself all of a sudden, "-and misjudge me. I know you are not a whore-" legally so, in fact- a fact that Duncan took care to make legal, "-but nor am I a pimp."

Duncan tries to turn her face towards him with gentle leading at her chin. Conciliatory.

"You are a lady," he insists, "you can foster devotion through grace, wit and charm. No man would, I trust, dare disrespect me by making overtures to you. But loyalty is a chaste kind of love - the love of family is just one such example."

"Swain," Luna corrects, a touch of a smile appearing at one corner of her mouth as Duncan's guiding hand gives him full view of her face, "I believe you called them ardent swains. Unless you are renting me out, you'd not be a pimp." Her hands smooth over his shoulders and tops of his arms in a gentle rub.

Stretching her neck forward, her eyelids slide closed just before her lips touch against his for a brief sojourn. The lingering contact is followed by a light nudge from the tip of her nose to his. "I wouldn't go so far as to call myself a lady, Duncan. For the things that run wild through my imagination when I see you aren't anything a lady should know about." She withdraws then, resuming a comfortable seat in his lap and examination of the papers. "I'm sorry for thinking the worst, I shouldn't… Not in regards to you. It's difficult sometimes to understand why, why a man in your position would cater to a woman like me."

"You've read too much, or too little," Duncan says, chuckling as she recedes, "or perhaps both. What do you lack, that's in a lady? If I can crown myself a king, what keeps you from dubbing yourself dame?"

But that is the essence of her question - or rather, of it's answer. "There is nothing," Duncan says, "short of ladyship in you. Only circumstance has done you ill. You are beautiful and strong of spirit, and you are much braver than you know.

"You are also connected to a very large fortune, which - while not romantic - makes for good speculation amongst the politickers, and keeps them from interfering."

That last was an awfully cynical remark, however honest. He's quick to try and ameliorate. A change of tone and a change in topic. "Your imaginings, I know, can take a highly poetical form. The arts should be an aspiration for all ladies."

"Is that what people believe, that you are courting a fortune?" Not that Duncan is courting his mistress, not exactly. "None of it is mine, I don't think it will fall to me unless I beg forgiveness from my da and ma." Leaning down to the desk, Luna sets her elbows on the wood and cups her chin in the heel of one hand. The other occupies itself by shifting the papers to get a better look at them. Accounting. Promises of this and that for deeds performed. Everything boring.

The compliment to her poetry is nearly ignored, at least she tries. Modesty tries allow her to deny its existence outright with a straight face, but pride gives her away. "It's not the sort of rambling that could be recited in polite company," she admits. A tinge of blush appears on her cheeks as her teeth become visible in a grin.

"I certainly believe you are entitled to the wealth of your family. A lady ought to have her own household, or at least enough to own one, were she to want." Duncan statements to this effect are rather carefully neutral. They by no means admit that the fortune is any factor in, let alone object of, his intentions.

"Whassat?" Duncan asks, dipping into a pointed brogue, "I do nae know what yeh could mean, lass, by 'polite' company? I see nothing like it here." And truth, both present have been practitioners of the oldest professions - neither known for manners so much as customs.

"I've enough now to rent a stall in your brother's stable," she laughs, edging a little further off Duncan's lap and onto her feet. "The rest has been set aside to pay for my adventure, should I not find a bit of treasure. I'll not be ruined so far as to be unable to rent passage home."

Turning to face him, Luna eases herself onto the desk again, covering the papers she'd been studying moments earlier. "I'm glad that you aren't polite all of the time. But Duncan, this is not the time for reciting poetry. You've work to do and I've men to visit regarding my travels." She reaches to run her fingers under his collar again, back and forth in a lazy sway. "Unless— you'd like to help me in that regard? You're well acquainted with the dock master, could you ask him to order a ship my way?"

"I'd buy you time, then, if I did this for you?" Duncan says, his ambivalence necessarily feigned - he rarely fails to grant a favor if duty doesn't intrude.

No, indeed, he's rising to his feet, coming a stand such that the distance between them shrinks once more. His fingertips come to rest, lightly, on the edge of the desk on either side fo her. "'twould make for an opening in your busy, busy day?"

"Well yes," Luna begins, her tone the same as a tutor trying to explain simple spelling to a young child, "it's one less thing that I'd have to scurry outside of the castle walls for. Besides, I wouldn't wish to intrude on him, a visit from me might be an annoyance more than a welcome reprieve from work." The words are leading, assumptive even.

"Of course, since you've got so much paperwork that I seem to be interrupting," her smile grows wider as she slides backward on the desk, distance between them gaining a bit more length. "It might be wiser for me to hide away in my tower, I wouldn't wish to be so bold as to take you from all of this. I'm able to wait for my time."

Duncan's hands slide along the desk in time, letting him lean forward, reclaiming and closing the divide.

"Who said you could go anywhere?"