The Civilized Course

Title: The Civilized Course
Time Period: March 13, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Luna's rehired in a much different capacity than before.

You could near mark a calendar by the routine of Duncan’s visits to the Dovetail. It’s likely Edme receives some word ahead of time, but all the girls who pay attention to the patterns of passing days know before they’re told that Master Rowntree is visiting, and already put on their best and finest, so that when the order comes from Madame Hare to do just that, they have a little time to relax, read, or further preen, as taste dictates.

For soon enough they’ll be arrayed, a flock of swan maidens perched on the sloping bannister that slides down into the main room of the Dovetail. The room isn’t cleared - other customers, should they be present, can watch this display. Duncan is not above enjoying a certain dose of envy.

Note, this is not some spontaneous competition for the chance of his favor. Perhaps that is the fantasy that is being produced, but it is as such produced by request. Whether unspoken or otherwise, these considerations are made on Duncan’s behalf - any competitive spirit is a matter of individual preference. Moreover, Duncan is infamously arbitrary in his selection, decision arrived at through some unseen process behind his eyes, difficult to predict - save that he seems to favor brunettes, more often than not, and while he has yet to play favorites, one visit usually leads to one or two more before his eye wanders again.

It’s timed so that they are in place before he arrives, though hidden on the floor above. When Edme gestures for them to file down and take their places, he’ll already be waiting below, watching with unrushed enjoyment as a bevy of women swoop into view.

Self important and deeming herself a cut above the rest, Luna's attention has been on other things all day. Apparently there's someone of some importance coming or here, the girls have been tittering about it since dawn. For her own part, the young blonde is busy with other things. Mainly scouring through one of the few books she's managed to keep a hold of in her years.

Unlike the others, she's not in her 'Sunday best' when she traipses through the room, cutting from one corner to the other on her way to the kitchen. When she reemerges, there's an apple in her mouth. The bad habit of eating interrupts the large redhead trying to catch the favor of their guest who clears her throat and jerks her head trying to shoo the interloper away. The paperback is lowered. Clematis, a purple and green thing with the name Alan Titsmarch emblazoned across the cover. He might have been someone of some esteem at one point in time.

After sticking her tongue out at Florentine, Luna's eyes dart toward the guest and she freezes. Hardly in her best clothing, she's at least presentable when meeting him, much moreso than the other woman in the room. "Mister Rowntree," she greets before turning on her heel and raising the book again. It's as dismissive an action as he gives many a person in the village.

For all that is it quite the opposite of the show put on by the other girls - rather, in fact, because it is the opposite - Luna's sore thumb behavior manages to grant her Duncan's attention entire. What she may remember of the man during her brief spell in his employ will do blessed little to help her read his expression, save perhaps prepare her for his general expressive obtuseness.

His face is still. The rest of him is not. Duncan moves like a cat, motion smooth and careful as he reaches out and catches Luna about the waist. It's a clasp rather than a grasp, but a very firm one all the same.

"This one," he informs Edme. Choice made.

Surprise has her dropping the book in favor of clawing up perfectly manicured nails, intent on taking his eyes out. The squeak of protest from the large redhead catches her attention instead and her hand hovers in the air in front of the man's face.

"What? No!" Florentine bellyaches and stomps one foot as though she were a child, or Luna. Apparently it was her turn to try to lure Duncan into bed, something that earns Luna a narrow eyed glare and a grit of teeth.

The fact that the man holding her in his grip seems to be a commodity to so many of the others, gives the blonde cause to slowly lower her hand. Duncan Rowntree might be one of the upper crust of Dornie but he's a soldier, a point that's kept Luna hidden in her room for every one of his previous visits. "I have rules," she informs him, her chin up at a rather haughty angle. "And I am quite a bit more expensive than the rest of them here." Any quiver of fear in her voice is carefully masked, almost as well as if she'd taken to the stage.

Slowly, she pries herself from his grip and stoops to gather the book. "I'm at the very top, the attic." The book curls as she holds it close to her body, "You can wait here for five minutes then come up, we'll discuss a price."

This is most definitely impudence, but Duncan would be a shabby sort of man with a shabby sort of confidence if his nose got put out of joint by the sass of a golden-headed whore. And just as this uppityness drew rather than deflected him before, so too does it now bring the subtle curve of a smile to his lips rather than any frown of flouted authority. This is a display of womanhood that ceremony cannot replicate, and its spontaneity possesses its own attraction, rare as it is.

"Price is no object," Duncan informs her, relinquishing her without a fight, using no contrary force.

For that, Duncan receives the quirk of an eyebrow. Luna's eyes sweep his form with a new interest, the steely set to her jaw softening just a touch. "Very well, know that you may or may not be invited to my bed. Regardless, the price of my time remains the same." Then she turns and walks slowly from the room. It's once she's out of eyesight that her step picks up and the clamber of her heels can be heard beating their hurried rhythm all the way to the top of the house.

The blonde is still hurrying around her room, putting away precious items when her time runs out. Scrape of hard leather against wood can be heard from the stairs of the first floor as trunks are shoved back under the bed. The slam of thin doors sounds out the shutting of her wardrobe. By the time she hears the hushing of the women on the second floor, she's throwing a new dress over her head. Something a little more pleasing than the frock she was wearing downstairs.

"Half of a mind to ask if you've a spare muzzle," Duncan comments to Edme, smile turned smirk in its sardonicism as soon as Luna's up and out of sight. Madame Hare gives Duncan only the minimum requisite acknowledgement, and complies in silence as he orders a finger of scotch. He drinks slowly, marking out the time he's to wait in the slow slide of amber down the side of a glass.

He'll smell of it, acid and smoke and the suggestion of brutality, when he enters Luna's attic room. He's not drunk though - not nearly - but he's smiling still, and the amusement gives the expression a darker tinge. He surveys her, his prospect.

In close quarters, the prostitute is a little meeker than the bravado she claimed on the main floor. She motions to a chair on the opposite wall from the bed and seats herself on the latter, waiting for Duncan to take his indicated place. "You've the look of a predator about you," Luna comments idly, twisting her fingers through the lace coverlet. "As though you might swallow me whole."

The room itself is much different than the ones on the lower floors. The influence the young woman has had on the man's daughter is clear only by the lace panels that hang framed on the walls. She's been to visit, Constance has the lace to prove it. "You said in the common that price is no object, I'd like books. Travel books if you have them, about England. As old as possible."

"You are a wee thing," Duncan says, denying nothing as he advances, stops, one boot-tip pointed towards the chair, the other towards her, "you'd take nae but a few bites."

There is something rather fairy-tale wolfish to his presence, surrounded by all this lace. The broadness of his shoulders and the ruggedness of his features seem antithetical to anything so delicate and filigreed. Wildness personified in the midst of domesticity.

Still, his boottips take him on the civilized course, towards the chair, where he takes a seat, hands coming to rest on his knees as he dares her to meet his gaze.

"Luna, wasn't it?" So he does remember her, and her name. "Do I judge rightly? Your pleasure with the book will be matched by your gratitude towards the giver?"

Her eyes drift from his long enough to study the line of his shoulder before answering his query with a small nod. A small smile to match. "Aye, Luna," prideful in the fact that she has been remembered, though for what is uncertain. "And I have rules," she repeats for his benefit. "The price of my gratitude will be measured the same whether or not you join me in my bed or not." The softest mattress in Dornie, it's common gossip that not many have had the pleasure of testing it. Rumors which have all been started by Luna herself.

"I don't abide by marks or bruising, you'll not be rough like the rest of them. I've seen what they can do and I'll not have it." The firm tone is expressed alongside a sharkish gaze of her own. Then she pushes herself to a stand, folding her hands behind her back as she takes only two steps toward him. "I don't like inviting a man into my bed straight off," she explains further, "not if I'm planning to keep him."

Duncan remains firmly in his chair, though there is perhaps an near imperceptible lean forward as she takes those two steps closer.

"Base men mark women to prove they possess them," Duncan says, and the languid scorn in his voice communicates his distaste for this attitude, "they don't understand."

He lifts a hand, making a gentle beckon for Luna to come closer still. Smile to smile, gaze to gaze.

"Possession is not a sign without; it's a change within. Don't you agree?"

A few more steps carry her within arm's reach, hands still behind her back as if she's hiding something from his view. Luna's expression, as she approaches, transforms with each soft pad of her feet from soft to stony. "I don't like to be touched by surprise," her tone is a little muted compared to the din of the afternoon outside. "I'm likely to put your eye out if I don't know it's coming. S'why it's important to follow the rules." Her gaze falls to his hands and then to his collarbone, a slight dip in her chin consent.

"It's unlikely that I'll ever be possessed, Mister Rowntree," she continues, edging just a little closer to alight onto the arm of the chair. "But I agree, it's not a mark on the outside that makes someone belong." She swallows, her throat jumping with the small sound as she gives herself enough time to move gracefully back to a topic that interests her.

"Do you have any books about England?"

There is the faintest tremor of a laugh following the word 'unlikely'. Duncan's hand, immobile until the dip of her chin, lifts from his knee and slips to hover at the small of her back as well contained mirth causes a slight shift in his shoulders.

He touches her, but barely. The ghost of fingertips against her spine, fainted still through the material of the dress. Up and down, in a faint caress, he traces the curve of her back.

"I have many books-" Duncan answers, "and gain more each passing week. Too many for me to know the subject of each and every one."

Posture stiff, Luna's eyes are on the shoulder that hand attaches to. When he speaks, they flit to his face to study the ridge of his brow, the contour of his nose, and the lines of his lips. "Then what will happen if you are unable to satisfy the price of my company? You'd be forever in my debt, Mister Rowntree, how would you make your way out of that?" It could be a little flirtatious. It is when joined by the playful trace of her fingertips across the seam on his collar.

"Can I offer you something to drink?" He's had scotch, that much she can be certain of simply by smell but the collection of bottles near her bed are host to much more than that. "I have the fairy, if you're so inclined, or more of the usual fare. Depending on your mood, of course." Herbs goes unsaid, with Luna there's always the option.

The press of his palm is gentle, but flat against the small of Luna's back, a full touch from a hand that spans much of her narrow waste. "I'd find some manner of repayment. I'll default no debt, much less one to so fair a maid." Flattery now, in answer to flirtation.

"But maybe better to ask," Duncan says, eyes making a deliberate journey down the length of her leg before rising back to meet hers once more, "what would you do with a man such as myself in your debt? Would grace and learning give way to ambition?

"Sweet cordial," he says, in answer to her question, "with one glass."

"There's always ambition, Mister Rowntree," Luna says lightly, separating herself from his touch with one smooth twist of her body. Heels click across the floor as she finds the drink specified and pours a mouthful from the decanter into a delicate stemmed glass. It's presented to him before she slides back onto the arm of the chair with a smile to punctuate her answer. "The question is would the ambition exceed the worth of the debt. In my case, I find it highly doubtful simply because there isn't very much that you have that I could want."

Her hand twirls through the air, dismissing any argument before they're presented. "I have a name, you can't give me that. I have fortune of my own and my parents even moreso. Infamy is a constant state of being, thus your influence isn't required. What I would do with you in my debt is something I would have to consider carefully, as of now I desire only books."

"Then you'll have books," Duncan says, with the casual certainty of what is both more and less than a promise - a fait accompli. His hand returns to her back the moment after she returns, its touching growing once more subtle, but it's range lengthening, fingertips tracing to the point between Luna's shoulders.

He sets his other hand to the bottom of the glass, applying gentle pressure upwards. "You drink," he bids.

Direction is followed and a sip from the thick liquid is taken before she offers it down to him once again. The line of deep red to the edge of the glass confirms the raspberry flavor that's on her breath. "Now you, since it is yours.

"You'll not share my bed this visit, Duncan Rowntree, I've decided that already." Her fingertips move to curl under his collar and wind around to the back of his neck where they rise to twirl into his hair. "For now you'll have to be pleased with what favor I grace you with. In a few days time, you'll return and come straight to my room. You'll not need to announce yourself, I'll keep my day open for you." Leaning in, the hint of raspberry becomes a bit of a taste as she grazes her lips against his.

"I'll have one of the girls warm the water for your bath."