The Exercise of Reason

Title: The Exercise of Reason
Time Period: May 11, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: In the wake of sabotage and subterfuge, retaliation must contend with reason.

Duncan has spent some time of late, pondering up a word.


In stark, black lines, this word stands, lone vanguard of a column of similarly uniformed fellows. Duncan has spent some time in contemplation of it, while picking through the remains of the warehouse. The day is too lovely for such a scene. The sky overhead is sunny and blue, a rich shade that makes the few wipsy clouds look pale, and paler still when framed by fire-blacked rafters. Out there, on the loch, the glassy calm shows no sign of the Kraken Prince's passing. Absence, almost insolent.

So much for the dream of mighty fleets. They can't even keep the boats they have afloat.

"Barbarian cunts," Duncan says, and shatters a coal-black jut of wood with his heel.

"Gentlemen," is an address to his comrades, called out here in a typically impromptu quorum - impromptu, yes, though it can hardly be unexpected.

"Gentlemen, it seems I've been planning expansions to a hall with sinking foundations. And if this fool word," he directs a condemnatory finger at the slander in black, "gains even a wee bit more traction, we'll find the floors falling out from beneath us, soon enough."


Algernon stands not far from the same word, tall and grim at Duncan's shoulder. His eyes roll clear cut against architectural carnage, from text to skeletal rafters and further still to the spring weather beyond them. Underwhelmed.

Not only by the setting, but by circumstance: there's a stormcloud tension a-stirring beneath his coat for having been called to order so soon after retiring to his quarters. Impatience bristles his whiskers and shifts his weight. He hasn't said much.

It's been a long week and he still bears some bruising around the bridge of his nose, one eye squintier than the other against the sun's encroach. His back is stiff. Freshly re-stitched.

At talk of traction gained, he looks to Lucien.


A rather tidy figure surrounded by the ravages of the fire, Lucien is still and impassive, as if mimicking the quality of the loch on this fine day. Killing the leaders of short-lived revolt had only been so satisfying, murkied by the women who had come to peck at him right up intil the first gun went off; Cordelia especially heckles him, her lineage rising behind her age. McCruimein's showy carelessness, giving them something to latch onto. He likes to think that everything was a little neater before he left.

Maybe it's been a hard winter. He doesn't glance at Algernon when he gets looked at in turn. "Every village has an idiot," he says, blandly. "Or several. They'll never win the townsfolk; the world is a nasty place beyond our farmlands."

"Damn, Lucien-" Duncan says, advancing towards the slight man with a few aggressive paces - throwing his weight around, "pinching your nose doesn't make the turd you're eating taste any sweeter- nor less of turd."

He wheels, paces back towards Algernon, and the words. "We need the people with us. This-" his finger once again makes his object clear, "is instigation, we can be certain. And cause for war when we discover the culprit. But bloodying our own'll only make it easier for them to infiltrate further. Renders weaker hearts and gentler spirits sympathetic to foreign agitation- and there is no better way to get us painted devils than by losing the support of the saints."

His hands clasp behind him momentarily. A brief pause, for breath maybe. "And pray, believe me- it can get a lot nastier here," Duncan avers, with a new dullness of tone, "a city turns itself into a sack when its people run riot. This word-" again, the jabbing finger, and the dullness abating, giving way to its opposite, "it will become a new name for all their petty problems, their little frustrations. A fox raided your hencoop? 'Tis Tyranny!. You've drunk yourself out of house and work? 'Tis Tyranny! Your prick can't get stiff nae 'longer? Surely 'tis Rowntree Tyranny!"

Backdrop set to bold black lettering and shambled woodwork, Fogg turns to face Rowntree's approach head on, yielding no ground one way or the other. He hasn't bothered with a tie and the gaps between carefully maintained beard growth are grey with stubble. But his flat affect is, at its most basic level, polite. So.

"What do you recommend," he inquires, evenly, "in light of the potential for further shows of resistance." There is a naked pause before he remembers to add: "Sir."

Lucien steps back just enough when Duncan rounds on him, maintaining both his expression and eye contact even as gravel cracks conspicuous beneath his heel. He hasn't much to add on the back of Algernon's question. It is a key question to ask. His silence can be read as agreement to Duncan's prophecising, head tilted to support of polite inquiry and doggish obedience.

"We meet them with arms, horses-" Duncan says, initially offering little different than the status quo, but the variation comes quickly, "and we give them notice: they are to choose amongst themselves a party of supplicants. Tell them we will hear their grievances- but with respect and proper honor, like civilized men. If they continue to show outright hostility you are given leave to use force- and without mercy. But only then- this has to end before it begins."

"…And if they agree?" Algernon does not seem to think that they will. Then again, he was in a poor mood to begin with, slitty-eyed between a survey of his (still drying) hat and Duncan's usual exuberance. "How do you intend to placate them once they have been heard."

The angle of Lucien's jaw stiffens some in repressed words; Duncan will already know his exactly feelings on what he'd like to do with described 'village idiots' responsible for his ship, and it's less merciful than lining them up against a wall and having Dornie's finest shoot them down. Again, he only listens, this round.

"That we can determine in due time-" Duncan answers - or rather doesn't, a hand lifting in deferral, "God willing we can help the honest needy, keep work from wasting, and learn a little about what is going on in our lands. What matters most, though, is that we're known to be doing so."

He regards the sky with squinted eyes. "It pains me to bend at all to provocation. To let this be a story of our weakness-"

"So we need a story too- some tragedy to attach to the event-" Duncan addresses Lucien directly now, "the Kraken Prince- it had some family aboard it, surely? Some generous worthy and his kin, who meant us well? This was sabotage by a foreign enemy- that is the point we must drive home.

"They will use their words - we must use our own."

A sigh filtered slow through Algernon's (no longer bloody) nose carries on into him setting up a smoke, tin and tobacco and pipe arranged without hurry. Approval is implicit in his silence only because it isn't actively disapproval, even if there is a cynical pull to one brow when he reaches to strike a match to a blackened beam.

"There are ways to manipulate the situation without a lie," Lucien says, after a few moments of measured silence, "and if I have learned nothing about sailors in all my years, it is that they do talk as much truth as they do rumour. However— "

He spreads his hands, showing work-rough palms. "We lost three men in the fires. Another succumbed to smoke inhalation in the wee hours. Innocent lives and tangible bones and bodies for Dornie to mourn, if you wish to garner human sympathy. The building of a new ship as a symbol of the town's strength. There is available tragedy attached."

"We'll see they get martyr's funerals," Duncan says, nodding affirmation to Lucien, "and you see the story of woe spread as best you can. And you can lie about this fucking thing," the letters again, oppressing him, who ought rather to be the oppressor, "in enough time they'll be as many saying it was written 'Death to Dornie!' as this madness. For now, though- let's get some hands to tear this down. Down into the damned ashes and dust."

Duncan glances at Algernon's apparatus. A sign of character, he thinks. Pipes are contemplative as cigarettes can never be.

"Fogg- I'll rely on you to keep a proper leash on our men," Duncan says, "they're not used to treading lightly. But tread lightly we must. At least until we suss out the true culprits, and get their confessions. 'til then we'll make this a cautious spring. By summer the heat may press the upset down, and the harvest will keep them busy before winter shuts them up."

"With due respect," begins Algernon past his pipe, "I'm not sure 'our,' men," he echoes Duncan's use of the possessive with caution, "will readily follow the lead of an outsider imploring them to exercise — reason. Against an outside threat." 'Reason,' is a strong word, he reflects, in its implications.

But no correction or apology is forthcoming. He exhales smoke, looking again to the artwork at his side, and then to Lucien, who he smiles at. "Some persuasion may be necessary."

Lucien's eyes narrow at the marching orders handed out, a thoughtful sort of look rather than particularly troubled, although these are troubled times so what's the difference? His stands a little straighter, mouth twitching into a wry half-smile. "I must agree with Mr. Fogg," he says. "It's an awful lot to ask of Dornie men, to trust a relative newcomer."


"And I'll see about arranging a workforce for this building, and rumour and tales of woe, as you put it, can begin there."

"You have shed blood at their side, and won victory with them. You were there, on the scene of this, risking your own life for our lives in common. Show me the man who'd set you apart, and I'll show you how I whip a dog." Duncan speaks with sharp vituperance, as if addressing the wretch in question.

"I will let it be known," with a fullness of gravitas, "Aye, indeed- I think it is time to make a number of things clear. To my armsmen, and to this city. We cannot let savages speak louder than law and order."

A great deal of rhetoric. Lucien brings him back to the practical. "Do we want for space? I won't choke trade, but we could rebuild this place to a new purpose-" he shakes his head, "but that will need asking the high and mighties."

You're the Rowntree, Algernon conveys with a slant and nod, projecting no further reservation (or argument) where Duncan is so readily willing to rule that he needn't worry. Or at least, needn't concern himself. That matter settled, he doesn't look again to Lucien, opting instead to squint aside after a rustle of feathers through charred wood instead.

A shift of his weight crushes and crunches more of the same.

Well, if the lad has his heart set—

He blinks through gravitas and doesn't say another word on it. Instead, Lucien rolls his shoulders beneath the stiff wool of his coat, twisting a look back at the other structures along the docks. "I can put in the word that we're not desperate for another warehouse," he offers, voice back to its neutral blandness, that knife edge between mild sincerity and dry sarcasm. "I'm down a ship; how much cargo can I hope to inundate the town with now?" His smile deepens, just. "I believe we're at a count of eleven ships to be constructed, now."

Duncan's short, sharp exhalation is about as close as he's liable to get to laughter at this particular moment. Still it's there, and in the slight narrowing of his eyes.

"What sort of structure would help us cut that number down?"

A ship factory, Forge intones from somewhere on high.

Algernon fails to convey his suggestion. He narrows his eyes busily at bold lettering instead. Investigating. Histrionic, the goshawk further observes, as Fogg hooks paired fingers after an itch behind his ear. Bowler and pipe. And moustache and boots.

You weren't even sure of what that meant until yesterday.

"A monument to the fallen might be of some use in keeping the incident fresh in their minds."

"I agree. We'll name the ship something suitably endearing," Lucien counters, swiftly, with a thin smile to Algernon, before looking back at Duncan. "Space, simply put. We have the seasons on our side that we need not waste time building for coverage for a while. We can engineer a suitable structure for the building of a vessel of the size of the Kraken Prince, perhaps a workshop and minor storage for the material required. I can bring such plans about to the high and mighties, as you called them."

Duncan seems well pleased by Lucien's compromise. "Aye, why choose?" he agrees, "we can dedicate it in their honor- hire craftsmen to embellish it properly, put some people to work. It will be an answer, too, to the insult of the Prince's fate." An insult he's taken upon himself, from the sound of it. "Damned cowardice- a thing done skulkingly, not as men, but as rats might."

Which reminds him. "Have we the slightest idea just how this was done, and by whom?" Gone, suddenly, is his uncanny knowledge about the perpetrators. That they take foreign orders his only a priori knowledge.