The Greatness of Man

Title: The Greatness of Man
Time Period: May 4, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Magic does not aspire or dream, this is the duty of man.

It would have been treacherous beyond belief to lead Luna blindfolded along all the narrow stairs that wind up to the tower room. Perhaps more treacherous still, to risk reacquainting his family with Luna Owens in such a peculiar state. Not since her brief time here as Constance's governess has Luna been brought to the castle with such expectations of duration. Best, then, not to risk Luna's neck, or the prospects of her standing. It would be an unnecessary flourish anyways.

It's only when they are safely at the door that Duncan, moving to interceded between the woman and the door, spreads his arms into a blockade and, smiling, tells Luna to- "Close your eyes."

The climb itself is bound to cause muscles to appear bulging on her thin legs. While most wouldn't find this a detriment, Luna's ascent is incredibly slow, as if to avoid such a horrible thing. She doesn't seem apologetic or concerned if Duncan is impatient with it and with every glance behind him, she pauses and gives him a weak smile. She could just blame it on her illness, feign a relapse, but that would be wrong.

"Why? Is this my room?" Regardless of her questioning, Luna's eyelashes flutter down in a fan over her cheekbones. Naturally pale, she has the fine hairs laced with a bit of coal paint to make them more pronounced. Her hand extends, to grip one of his arms above the wrist, just in case. She wouldn't want to fall.

Not impatient. More eager. There is a lightness to him, a youth almost, that lifts him up the stairs before her. Boyish, like a lad sneaking a girl up to a private place. Just like that, in fact. So he urges her up and on, but he show no irritation. He's all smiles, which in and of itself is a little strange. No tint of smirk, no hint of sardonicism, none of the cultivated wryness he rides like a palanquin. Anticipation only.

"It will be," he pledges.

When she's closed her eyes, he takes her hand, and opens the door, backing inside while leading her after. "But you'll nae want to take it as-is." She can feel his chuckle as he guides her across himself, so that when she's safely within he need only take a sidestep and he's behind her, hands resting lightly on her waist.

"Go on then-"

Her breath stills, her room. Hers. The top of the tower as promised. Taking a first breath, she can smell the fresh air wafting in from the loch mingled with the scent of oak and larch, and a floral scent. Heather from the moors. Luna's lips turn up at the corners in a close lipped smile and she leans back, nestling her smaller body against Duncan's larger and stronger one before doing as requested.

It's as slow a progression as the journey up the stairs. In an attempt to wake from a dream, Luna’s hand rises near her shoulder and a bit of skin is pinched between thumb and forefinger. The smells is still there, she’s still standing with her eyes closed, there are still two hands curled above her hips. And so her eyelashes rise just a little, to allow two slivers of blurred light. She savors every moment of the occasion, every sight, sound, and smell. She's never seen Duncan act quite like this, she can only imagine it's due to the fact that he's at home instead of in the public where his every move is met with the wagging tongues of hens.

The morning sun lances through the window, burning a bright crossbar over the contents of this, once the most lonely of the castle's towers. This used to be a place for forgotten things, but the dust has lately been purged from all but the most inaccessible cracks, and objects once obscured in aggregate time and lost from thought turn fresh faces to new eyes. What a sign of Dornie's prosperity, that even this neglected room must be resurrected, made ready for a second coming! A place once only useful for holding the useless, bereft of love, an archive of unimportance - now its being turned into a necessity, a place to mark possession and meet personal need. Only a full house can clear away all cobwebs, with light and laughter.

Of course it's far from ready for habitation, however well swept and aired it may be. But that means it's a treasure trove, chock-a-block with objects that only a really wealthy family would see fit to consign to storage. Here a dresser, there a mirror, next to that a big oak table. Yes much is broken, things missing, but these gaps leave room for other objects: combs and brushes, resting in a glazed pot like an improbable bouquet - a collection of old coins, adorned with heads of state and official sigils that now rule and represent nothing - a doll with a pretty dress, sitting up straight, fearlessly showing her faded features, something that only needs a little time and care to remedy.

Duncan welcomes her lean, but his touch is still light - he won't hold her back.

The castle is much larger than Luna is used to, especially now that she returns something of a disgrace. Duncan's hands are a place of safety and in that, she stays with him for a minute or two after her eyes are fully opened. The wall opposite where they stand isn't visible due to an armoire, its oak freshly waxed and stained glass front wiped clean of greasy dirt. That piece is the first to capture her interest enough to pull away from the soldier but not completely.

Her fingers find his and tangle before she tugs him along to the giant piece. Her free hand finds the purple thistle pattern of the glass and she caresses it lightly. "I think it's large enough for me to hide in if I'm ever frightened. May I keep this one here? No one else will want it?"

Turning to look over her shoulder, her eyes find his. Her expression is bright and as cheerful as she ever is while in his presence, like a schoolgirl being noticed for the first time. “Would it be impertinent to lay claim to enough comforts to keep me in the manner I’m accustomed?”

She's found something she likes. Good. That was Duncan's hope. It wouldn't have taken lashes to get this place clear in time for her arrival, but Luna longs for Liverpool - she's a treasure hunter in her heart.

"If you find it here, it is because no one cares enough for it," Duncan assures her, drawn after her by an easy arm, "if things have spirits, I'm sure this one's will be glad to see it put to use."

He sets his own free hand upon the armoire, thumb feeling the smooth lacquer, pressing to get a sense of the wood. It's a fine piece. And heavy. The servants will be very thankful that they need not have to move this particular piece.

"Though I hope you'll never have reason to hide. At least not for fear," a quirk of a smile as their eyes meet, "…mayhaps for mischief."

Maybe mischief is what is meant by his gaze, and the slight easing of his body closer to her, the tug at her hand that reduces the distance between them. Still, after setting a glance kiss high on her cheek, he does take time to answer.

"Just the opposite. It would be remiss not to grant you every comfort."

His kiss is returned with a small peck of gratitude on the lips. Then Luna is off, his hold left empty and wanting while she crouches under tables and peeks around corners for anything of value that she might have. The room is full, after all. There's a childlike squeal when something is found tucked underneath a high wooden chair.

Battling sticky cobwebs and coughing through a puff of dust, Luna pulls an old cardboard box from the safety of the corner. One of its edges has seen better times, from the needle marks of tiny teeth that have gnawed nearly through. "Duncan, look…" The lid is pulled off and what lies inside could only have belonged to a child. A child who saw fit to hide his most valued possessions in a place no one would ever look.

A green plastic horse with a soldier riding proud finds a place on the oak table. Next a metal carriage car, small enough to fit in her palm, rolls across its top, propelled by the power of her hand. It wobbles slightly, a bent axle on one end and a missing wheel from the other don’t quite balance it out. "This is a car… I've read about these in books. They used to use them instead of horses and complained about the price of gasoline."

Duncan's thumbs find the loops of his belt, hooking there in a startlingly casual pose, lightly hooked elbows at easy angles. Indeed, his relaxation is visible in the mild easiness of his smile, small but distinct. In moments she has found a cache. He walks over to give her findings a closer look, plucking up the plastic soldier on his plastic mount and examining him in all his molded detail.

Shortly, though, Luna and her discovery draw his attention. He sets the solider down, turning towards her.

"Automobile," Duncan says, as if he were speaking its scientific name - automobilis putput - a word wielded with the heft of knowledge. He reaches out with his own hand spread in a flat plane, putting his fingertips to hers, extending her tarmac.

"When is it you first began to dream of the world Before?"

The automobile rolls to a stop in the middle of Duncan’s outstretched hand, with Luna still in the driver’s seat. She’s caught with looking up at him, the answer to his question showing plain in the grimace on her face.

“Truthfully?”

Not that she expects him to answer negatively to that question, but it’s better to ask than outright lie to give him what he pleases. Her lower lip is held lightly between her teeth before her nose wrinkles and she shakes her head. “When I discovered the world of magic wouldn’t have me. When I knew for certain I wasn’t good enough. I’ve always been curious but I wouldn’t exist in a time Before, my great granda would’ve never found my great gran. Everyone else I know, they could have been born by chance but for me, there is none.”

If that’s what he didn’t want to hear, she seems apologetic enough in countenance for a moment or so but then the car picks up a little speed and drives up his wrist. It pulls a uey complete with the sound she’s sure a car would make brum-brum-brum before she continues. “People Before had so many comforts and privileges by being born when they did but I’m not sure I’d like to live in a world without magic.” Because she couldn’t.

"Magic has always been here," Duncan says, his tone composedly dispassionate, rational, "by all accounts it's older than man. Older than God, maybe." And then a sudden conviction runs through his words like an iron band: "But we are men. We should be men-" the strange flash adamance fades, as quickly as it came, leaving behind a gentler humor, "-and women, of course. There's no worth to a world without beautiful women."

Even if those beautiful women end up driving miniature vehicles over your person. Much can be borne, it seems, on their account.

Of course, Duncan's not quite done: "The greatness of magic is the greatness of nature- wild, beautiful, brutal, graceful- and ultimately stupid. Magic does not aspire. It's like the seasons, or a waterfall, or a storm. It simply is. Man strives." The hand that was once a passive path comes to life, clasping Luna's arm, drawing her closer to him. His voice dips lower, confiding: "As you strive. Think- you turned away from magic, and what did you do? You planned an adventure- an expedition. A journey for knowledge, and gain, and glory. Intellect, skill, aspiration- that is the greatness of man. Our greatness.

"We did wonders that make magic seem mild. Just think of the Ross' dam. Nature itself harnessed by men without magic."

Somewhere along the line, unexpected movements and touch from Duncan stopped being frightening and turned exciting. When he pulls her closer, Luna can't help but catch her breath in a gasp while her free hand is pressed to her upper chest. Her eyes are caught in his as he speaks, soaking in every word like a sponge. As he admires her ambition, she's learned to admire his strength of will and, more importantly, his passion for the mundane.

Including her.

"I did," she emits, breathy and full of pride. "I've always wanted to be something more, to have more. Like my da, I think. I've always thought that perhaps I wanted too much, I was being too selfish." The car is set aside, dropped to the table, and in the same manner his hand is on her arm, hers is on his. But a gentler thing, she doesn't have his strength.

This is the trouble with hubris and passion - they egg each other on. The sudden speed of hearts and the rush of blood it brings enflames the brain, fogs reason. Grand words float in the incandescent energy of Duncan's mind, but for all his talk of 'vision', his view is riveted on what is right before him.

"And look at you now," Duncan says, with a slanted smile, hand rising to cup her cheek and frame her face, "making your home in a castle."

His fingers slip back into her hair, cradling her head. "There's nothing ignoble about seeking what you desire when what you desire is, itself, great and noble."

More touching. Luna's eyes close and her cheek tilts into his hand, a fluid motion that allows her lips to touch the heel of his thumb. After delivery, pale eyelashes fan up, giving way to blue eyes the color of the ocean in a storm. "Only because of you, Duncan," she says a quirk of her lips gives her a smile to match his, crooked, but hers is a little more shy. The same way she's been since setting foot into the castle. "I'd be at the Dovetail still, planning my next runaway." This time to Liverpool.

With her head balanced now in the palm of his hand, she stares up at him and allows her smile to widen. "Ignoble— I fear you're making light of me. Because there's so much in this world, even in one so small as Dornie." The only world she's really ever known, a few days spent outside the boundaries here and there haven't given enough of a taste to sweeten or sour her experiences. "Wouldn't it be greedy of me to want all of it?"

His mouth almost cracks into a grin at this. "Yes," he agrees, "because of me." With her head resting in his hand, his other moves down Luna's arm, until it finds her waist, gripping. Taking her in hand.

"Greed is never noble," Duncan concedes, "being just wanting the getting itself. Like a seducer, who pursues many maidens but not for the love of any one of them." His thumb slips up under her jaw, and gently tilts her head, baring her alabaster neck. "You should cherish what you desire."

In Duncan’s hands, Luna is as malleable as warm putty. It's a dancer's step that carries her closer, en pointe, with one foot lagging in the air behind. Her back arches inward where he grips her as her hands smooth up his shirt to find his collar. Far be it from Luna to remain an idle plaything when her breath trembles and she can feel her heart beating clear to her ears.

Wisps of pale hair, arranged artfully out of her upswept style flutter under his breath. When she feels it wash over her skin, her eyes slide shut and her smile softens and wanes to parted lips. "If you are seducing me, Duncan Rowntree, I fear I must warn you that I am no maiden…"

"Then why do you wilt like one?" Duncan says, eyes narrow with unsounded mirth, "and you know me to be a gentleman," outright denying the charge of seduction - innocens sum - "you also know me to be gentle."

And he is, but still uncompromising as he draws her against him and dips his chin to politely inquire:

"Would you wish it otherwise?"

In the heat of the moment, Luna's breath catches on the question. Underneath the clothing she's pulled so tightly against, she can feel Duncan's muscles taught and poised like a cat, ready to pounce on its prey. Mind and body desire different things. Where she's always erred on the side of caution when it comes to lovers, choosing mild over boisterous and passive over aggressive, Duncan is on the opposite side of the spectrum from where Luna's heart typically lies. It's quite an impasse for her.

"Would you think less of me if I said yes, this once?" Answering a question with another is never really an answer at all but it lends the soldier a bit of insight into the woman in his arms.

"To deny what you want-"

Duncan's grip once had at least the suggestion of possible relent. It was secure, not restricting. Upon Luna's words, this changes. Clasp becomes constraint in a seamless shift.

"-for that alone, I'd think less of you."

For a fraction of a second, there's an automatic response of Luna's fists tightening at his collar. Instead of claws flying out to scratch at eyes, she circles her arms under Duncan's and wraps her hands around his shoulders from behind. An equality of sorts, cage of flesh for cage of flesh.

"I want you," she says, her tone taking on a firm resolve. For now, she's not afraid of leaving the room with her head held high. Whatever it might mean to his kin that she has this room as her own, the care flies out the window. "But not just right now, I wish to stay here with you. What is it that you want, Duncan?"

How long does the instant of decision feel in his mind? There is an imperturbableness to his eyes, a practice born of a life of violence and confrontation, which cloaks his innermost workings. And it's these workings that turn in the depths of him, the building the force of an action that begins to unfurl.

The uncertain instant ends the moment he's pressed her down into the wooden chair. Expecting no resistance, he pins her to its high back, one hand where throat and collar meet, the other pinioning her hips.

"I want you," he says, voice smooth but ironclad, like polished steel, "not to move a muscle."

He trusts she'll obey, because he leaves her there. Not for long - it's with swift purposeful motions that he sets a chair against the door, barring easy entry or exit - and then he's back, towering over Luna, assessing her stillness.

She's not completely still. Though she doesn't leave the chair, she does lean forward, curiously watching his every move. Lips pressed together to keep from uttering a sound quirk upward at one edge when he tests the makeshift lock. It hasn't disappeared by the time she touches the back of the chair again and looking up at him.

There's a warmth inside of her that hits when her eyes lift up to meet his. Compared to his studious gaze, hers is bright and expectant, like a child eying presents on a birthday. Certainly it is still quite close to that time, another year older but this time a little wiser. Perhaps.

"I didn't find your answer satisfactory," she risks, her voice clear and strong as a princess addressing a subject. The chair he deposited her in could have been a throne at one point in time, the carvings on its arms and back are ornate enough for nobility of any kind.

Duncan sees that one-sided half smile, and mirrors it with his own. Hands coming to rest on the arms of her would-be throne, he hems her in with himself. His answer is spoken with clarity. So she will not miss a single word.

"I want you to be mine- without reservation. Without doubt."

His head lowers, their faces brought closer, eyes still held upon eyes. Then he leans in, around, so his breath tickles her neck and his words can be spoken very low without losing any distinction.

"To eclipse everyone and everything else when I have you, trembling, in my presence."

His lips almost reach her skin as he speaks, then withdraw, bringing them eye to eye again.

"I want you thus- and thus unbroken, unbent- still proud and beautiful.

"But unquestionably mine."