Standoff

Title: Standoff
Time Period: August 11, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Both Jain and Algernon's secrets slip.

"Hey that's mine!"

The possessive yells of a boy just entering manhood are cut off by a crash of wood, then a groan of pain. They stop, for the moment, though the wood shifts and some drops with a small clatter to the dirt and cobblestone. It's all out in plain sight. The line of factory workers just off from the day, shuffling home after a hard day's work.

Jain's favorite time of day.

A few of the lesser soldiers have their rifles trained on less than a dozen of the weak and weary denizens of the rookery while Jain himself is rummaging through their bags, packs, and sometimes pockets in a quick frisk. "You can go, next." The boy is out of the way with a swift cuff to the side of the head and one more steps up to take his place. "Let's see what you've got in there."

Officially, he's looking for anything that might belong to the Rowntrees; metal shell casings, tools, even shavings scraped off the floor. Anything that could be used to trade for a bit of freedom from the drudgery and stench of every day life in the Rookery.

Formerly a rare sight on shift in Rookery territory, Algernon seems to be there all the time, lately. At his request, no doubt, for reasons that become obvious enough when his latest round intersects with the sounds of Jain's shakedown. He observes from afar at first, black hat and dark suit. Waistcoat and watch. Revolver, truncheon and sword.

Hard to mistake at a distance.

Any doubt that he is who he is declines sharply with his approach — he has a certain way of moving that doesn't mesh well with the locale. Arrogant. And with unspoken intent to meddle written all into the way he's looking. Sideways.

A few little curls of metal, stuck to the bottom of a cloth lunch sack are pulled out and placed in a leather pouch. They were likely picked up by accident, simply because the hiding place is too unlikely to be thought of. "Take him back to the factory, tell 'em we found a thief." Given the iron fist the Rowntrees use to keep order in the town, it's not likely that the laborer will be dealt with mercifully. All of the parties involved know it.

Pleas and begging seem to win out as Jain lifts a hand to hold the other soldiers from carrying out the bargain. A crooked smile on his face and a quick nod of acceptance, a gentleman's agreement to terms that make even his companions' lips turn down in disgust. "Don't worry boys, I'll share. One of you escort the young gentleman to his home, the rest of us'll be round when this is over."

Watching the teen and the soldier making their way around Fogg, Jain lifts his chin in a small salute. "Slummin' down here are you now?" No love has ever really been lost between the two, but still Jain does his best to keep things at least pleasant on a working level. "The boy just volunteered his home for our pleasure after patrol is done. I expect you'll be declining the privilege?"

Fogg watches the unhappy procession wind past without interceding, more or less inscrutable in the cut of his profile and then the lift of his eyes back to Jain after it. "'Slum,' is certainly the word for it," he agrees after a pause, earnest in a lift of one brow for their surroundings.

"And I suppose that depends upon the privilege you're proposing I partake in. Mister MacCruimein."

He smiles.

Sort of.

Inquiring politely after elaboration in the furrow of his brow after he's glanced acknowledgement to the others still gathered round.

Guilty eyeshifts from one or two of the other soldiers are a sort of answer that Fogg receives, at least until Jain's silver tongue steps in. "A little drink, a little dance, perhaps even a little bit of fun. We're good company, I'm fairly certain they'll have us 'round again after it's all said and done. Eh, boys?" A row of straight teeth flash in a wide smile before it drops just as suddenly as it appeared.

Then he turns back to the lineup. "I'll take the next one now," the man at the front gets the butt of a rifle between his shoulder blades to force movement. When he reaches Jain, his bag is snatched and rifled through. "I don't much like you," the highlander comments idly, to no one in particular. It could be for the man in front of him, a fellow soldier, even Algernon himself.

"Probability suggests that the feeling is most likely mutual," Algernon ripostes with a certain succinctness, ambiguity carried over in word choice and tone as he watches the younger man's near shoulder. He had nothing to say on the subject of what Jain considers 'good company.' A level look and then a turn away under the pretense of limiting his interruption. Respectfully.

He isn't leaving, though. Prying at best and supervising at worst.

A small handfull of metal pressed into a ball is lifted from deep within the sack. "I knew there was a reason," he says, almost cheerfully. He doesn't even offer this one a bargain, at least one should be turned over, or something. Stolen property still held tightly in his fist, Jain smacks it across the man's face, knocking him into the wall hard enough for his skull to leave a red splat before he slides down to the ground.

"Pick him up, take him back to the factory, we'll let them deal with him from there." Who knows what sort of punishment the theft will bring about, laborers from the Rookery are plentiful enough that death or dismemberment wouldn't be completely off the table.

Finally turning to Algernon, he waves his hand toward the line, "Why don't you take the next one, old boy? Show us how one of the upper brass deals with things down in the slums?"

The crack of human skull to brickwork doesn't evoke much of a reaction. Certainly no pity with the lump of metal involved. Idiot. In the end it's the loose-limbed slide of unconsciousness after it that winds tension up behind the set of Algernon's jaw when he looks.

He's still looking at the reddish smear left behind when Jain invites him forth into the fray. And it may be for that reason that he steps forward where he might normally decline. Time is taken to survey those lined up with their long faces and their ragged bags, but when his truncheon looses free of his belt, it's to designate the militiaman at his side.

"Empty your pockets."

The stick is glanced at, then the man, Jain's green eyes narrowing for a fraction of a second, as if sizing up the older man. He is, incidentally. "Feel the need for a bit of roleplaying before you get your hands dirty?" Because Algernon might not know how to rough up the locals. Of course. He points to the last of his little group soldiers and waves him forward. "Empty your pockets for the Englishman, so he can build up the stones to try for real." An unapologetic slight against Fogg's work ethic, maybe.

"You," he barks to the first man in line, "stay where you are, the rest of you can go." They're outnumbered now, two militia men and another that seems to be on the opposite side. Jain takes care of the problem before it becomes one, by sending away possible resistance in a small act of mercy.

"When you're finished, Mister Fogg, you can take the last man."

There's an austere intensity to Mister Fogg at close range that is either new or something Jain has not previously been privy to. Past — perhaps — a fleeting glimpse the last time they were enlisted together as impromptu executioners. The hollows of his face cleave close to the bone, dried mask-like to his skull in the absence of humor.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE even irony makes. There's none here.

"That won't be necessary," he contradicts plainly and without raising his voice. Or lowering it. "I'm not interested in dress rehersal. Merely the contents of Mister MacCruimein's pockets."

He hazards to get a little touchy with his billy club there, nudging it in after lapel to muddle any easy unholster of any weapons lying just beneath. What he says once he's done so is quieter. Just for the two of them. "I have trodden over enough shit to recognize it when I see it."

Around Jain's sides there are no weapons, at least none that buck from their places very easily to the end of the club. He does feel something though, that's when the highlander's hand wraps around the end and shoves it to the side.

"Have you now?" The younger man challenges, stepping close enough to stand nose to nose with his elder. "I love how you've walked over it and not through it, like some sort of messiah for the wretched. Floating over their shite rather than steppin' through it. Is that how you managed to climb the ranks so quickly?" It's obvious by Jain's hissed words that he's more than a little jealous of the esteem that Algernon has garnered.

Instead of emptying his pockets, he shoves the other man hard enough to put a few paces between them. Room to draw the knife from its sheath, the one that Algernon's truncheon had found.

Algernon's nose is pointed at the end and his collar is high. He gives no ground when challenged thusly, deliberately unfuriating from the cool pick of his stare to the bar of the baton reapplied cross-wise against Jain's ribs between them. Steady pressure.

Even this close he smells decent. Summer sweat. A touch of scotch ill-concealed under mint.

His silence in the (literal) face of accusation may be taken for agreement or confirmation, impassive as it is.

Then the shove: he staggers back off balance, stuffily irritated in the clamp of muscle from ear to clavicle when he regains it. There's a temper lurking under the matte starch of his suit, stiff through his shoulders despite the slack of his wrist when he works his chops and tips truncheon loosely to indicate the unsheathed blade. "…And the rest of it?"

"You're drunk," Jain snerks, reaching into one of the pockets of his trousers to turn it out. Empty. "The other one's the same if you'd care to reach in yourself." Stated as if he'd actually let Algernon reach into his pants. Perhaps he would, he does have the knife. Then again Algernon has the club and they can do damage to body parts. Parts that Jain values very much.

That realization is what causes Jain's eyes to narrow just slightly, his eyes glazing over for a fraction of a second.

Just long enough for Algernon to notice.

"You're a troglodyte," Algernon counters unkindly.

Also with a fair amount of professionalism. Very upright.

Might as well be if they are to be engaged in a mean accusation contest.

His eyes find the unturned pocket in question next, adrenaline waning into calculation. Knives are sharp, clubs are blunt. He has the advantage in reach. There are people watching.

All of these factors are still being weighed out when he looks up again to find Jain's gaze, only to find that it's somewhere else.

Oh.

Well then.

Fogg lunges, truncheon swung up into a clock arced for the younger man's jaw.

Static.

Jain comes back just in time to see the club a little too close to his face. Unable to avoid it completely, he takes a knock to the jaw and flows with the arc rather than resists it. As he reels backward he swipes the knife up toward Fogg's weapon arm in a windmill motion.

Grey man.

The telepathic communications are disjointed and might be confusing to any other familiar but Traa-dy-Liooar is used to the jumbled thoughts of a neanderthal. She springs into action. Unfortunately, it's not to protect Jain but to find the widlcat that eluded her. The one that tricked her. Bastard.

"I' was you!" Once Jain lands against the brick building, he points the knife again at Fogg. His fellow militia member. Using the solid wall as a springboard, he lunges back toward Algernon. Vision a bit blurry he yells to the stationary soldier, the one with the rifle. "Shoot the English bastard! He's a mage and a murderer!"

Knives are super effective against flesh and cloth and Algernon is slashed wet through his sleeve at the end of his swing, teeth shown white and cuff stained red. 'I' was you!' stays a followup blow with a knit at his brow, sanity intact enough to mire in nonsense.

For a fleeting moment. Jain lunges back in with his knife and reflex more than conscious malice drops Fogg's baton to draw his revolver instead. Ready to make the man a prophet.

For all that a man can be a force of nature, there are always certain things that elude the eyes of others. A shadow, a breath, an eye on the backs of shoulders. While not all men are made for stealth, if the time calls honest for it, it will often come to him, out of desperation to possess it. Jorn Wartooth was never a roguish enough a man, to hide in shadow and lurk in darkness when he could be facing his enemies eye-to-eye, toe-to-toe. But of course, the same rules apply to him as they might for anyone else. If the desire is greatest, a man can do much.

Even hide.

But some things go far enough, no matter when he got there, or how long he has been there to witness the ongoing incident. Only since he made it out of the alley a few moments ago, though his sense of hearing was more than adequate a few steps before.

"Opphore!" Armed shape backlit by waning lanterns, eyes gleaming, teeth sharp, frame blotting out the street, there is no question, suddenly, why northerners- and southerners- fright themselves at certain descriptors. Skinwalkers. Berserkers. Wartooth's voice is a snarl, the sound nothing short of a devil's. Even in the shade of himself, his nostrils flare visibly, jaw grinding, hands hung at his sides. The white pelt on his shoulders appears to bristle of its own accord. Or, possibly, from the wind off the harbour.

"Stay your hands." He snarls again. It sounds like an order, not a request.

That order is rejected. The bear holds no authority.

At around the same time Algernon draws his revolver, Jain's pistol is whipped from the back of his pants and the weapons are pointed in some sort of stand off. The third militia member, the one with the rifle, simply stands confused as his two superior officers turn on each other. The fact that one is a mage doesn't seem to panic him as much as it does Jain MacCruimein.

Though, Algernon and Jorn both know that Jain is one as well.

The highlander's eyes are on the Englishman's trigger finger, ready to pull his own at the slightest flinch. Algernon knows how practiced Jain is at gunplay but whether his manner of execution is just a twisted form of pleasure or it's the measure of his actual talent, that can't be ascertained. At least not at the moment. "You tried to kill me! You tried to kill me on the road by hangin' me from a tree and snappin' my neck!" Jain's free hand waves by his head as the high pitched screech of his voice continues. "The static, faceless man is you!"

For all that Algernon has an instant's advance notice of Jorn's entrance, the voice in his head does a poor job of fully illustrating the overall impact.

The voice in his head is quite terse, actually.

Rumpled and now bleeding, Fogg stands upright with revolver at ready, right arm rigid with the weight of it. In another universe — one without a bear man named Wartooth — he's already pulled the trigger. In this one, he puffs his chest around a steadying breath and otherwise keeps still. In compliance.

"I must not have tried terribly hard," he observes aloud, more to everyone else in attendance. Dry.

Jorn hasn't completely stopped his approach; authority is in the eye of the beholder, perhaps, but only one of them here hasn't made a career of it. He stops only when it seems a sane enough distance from the pair; but there is now no ignoring his presence, as much as Jain may love to.

"Pot kettle black." His words are punctuated by a harsh, choking laugh. This comes out of Jorn through his teeth. They are already a little too large for his mouth, if one pays close attention to such details. Though Jain's words, incidentally, do not escape Jorn's purview. He simply files them away for another time. "Before you toss accusations, I suggest you produce hard evidence. It would be a pity if something came to light that shouldn't have." Pointedly in the direction of the Scotsman, pale eyes hard.

"And you could stand to be less trigger-happy, Fogg." Not that he is- seeming neutral requires sacrifices, you see. "If one of you died, the other would need to explain. I have the distinct feeling that neither of you would appreciate — inquiries."

Hard evidence.

A split second eyeshift to Jorn happens just before Jain's attention is back on Algernon's trigger finger. His own gun isn't lowered yet, not until Fogg's is put away. A bead of sweat trickles down one of the Highlander's temples, along the line of his jaw, stinging at the blemish left by the truncheon. "And how d'you propose gathering this hard evidence, Wartooth?" The notion itself seems somewhat silly to Jain at the moment.

Although…

A slow smile creeps across Jain's lips, turning them up at one corner. The fact that both men know he's a mage doesn't exactly sink in, not yet. "Take me to the Ross woman. She'll be able to see what I've seen, aye?"

"I will be as trigger-happy as my continued existence requires," Fogg counters aside without remorse. Less than no remorse, as a matter of fact. There is attitude in the sentiment, adjacent to condecension.

Disgust is next on the spectrum, as evidenced by the look on his face when Jain suggests Missus Ross as a means to settle accusation. "Yes," he says, with a spike in volume to drive in the you idiot, sentiment he can't actually voice along with it, "everything you have seen."

He's sweating as well, blood congealed into a steady drip off the bend of his elbow. Less composed the longer this goes on. Sort of like Jorn seems to be more bear the longer this goes on.

"Everything." Everything. Quite right. Jorn's mouth stays largely clamped shut otherwise, though his eyes are as stony as a piece of slate, watching the two, Jain more than Algernon. There's something new and hateful behind his eyes, unvoiced. "The moment you go to her, the moment she will know to pry whatever she wants out of your head." Whatever. Whoever. Everything he's seen, and been.

"Evidence will come at a price I don't think you would be wholly willful to pay."

"Then what. Do you. Suggest?" Is said to Jorn, indicative of a chin tilted in the bear's direction— without actually taking his eyes off Fogg's trigger finger. The word of a Ross seems to be hard enough evidence to Jain. "The both of you seem to think I have so much to hide. When it's plain and simple to see that the one thing I did, seems to be out in the open already."

He pauses there, his eyes narrowing, his own trigger finger itching a little to be pulled. "Remind me to thank the little birdie that sang that tune." Not quite a threat.

"I suggest you save yourself a measure of dignity and suffering by committing suicide at your earliest convenience."

Fogg wasn't the one being asked but he answers anyway, thumb tripped carefully back to release the hammer of his revolver in the same movement that lifts the nose away from its aim. Skyward. And then to nudge his hat into a lower sit across his brow as he takes his first step back.

"Gentlemen."

"A birdie?" Jorn laughs derisively, just for a moment. "Nice try. Sang sweeter than a bird…" Which can only leave Jain to wonder where he got it. Or if he simply figured it out. Regardless, Jorn hopes to use that niggling paranoia in every man to let him know that he has no clue where the scope really is. And it lets him put some measure of pressure off of the Little Birdie.

"I would have to agree with mister Fogg." The skinwalker begins to step backwards along the same path, eyes glancing off of the single bystander to this, and back to Jain. A half-tilt of his chin to Algernon. Jorn's neutral expression axes straight into something …unsettling. A warning, clear and certain, of any — bad — ideas the other man may have. "Men taste just like pigs, when they're bled enough."

Thought you should know.

Jain doesn't really have to wonder, there's a plausible scapegoat to his secret spilling. Aislinn Rowntree.

Once the other two men start backing away, Jain motions to the remaining guard. "Train your rifle on Wartooth, I've got Fogg. He makes a move to come back this way, shoot him in the head, I'll do the same." Lifting his eyes for a second or two, he searches the skies for stray birds. Seeing a crow circling, he takes aim and fires. Immediately, his gun is back on Algernon. Then the carrion feeder lands on the street, dead, between all four of them.

Traa-dy-Liooar, the faceless man and the bear both know. Find the bitch's mute son and make an example of him.