The Sun and the Moon

Title: The Sun and the Moon
Time Period: April 16, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: The morality police detain Duncan Rowntree for questioning.

A late spring morning, quiet and cool, pours into the courtyard of Eilean Donan Castle, showering a serene light on Duncan Rowntree. He cuts an uncommonly bucolic figure, perched upon a stone that sits amidst the grassy ramble. He's clean shaven, with the easy aspect of a man who's already gotten something done today - an easier feat for someone who rises at dawn. At his leisure, it looks, and with a book in hand, cool blue eyes marching diligently across line after line, his understanding take page after page under its authority, expanding the territory of its knowledge.

The sun has only just peaked over the crown of the tower. He lifts a hand to ward off the glare.

The glare of the sun might mask the approach of his daughter, but the sound of her sunny voice takes away any doubt of her presence.

"Are you reading anything interesting?" Constance asks, peeking towards the book in hopes of glimpsing a title or the contents of a page. She herself is devoid of any book which gives reason to believe that she's simply out to get some air. Castles get stuffy, after all.

She isn't alone.

Aislinn has been spending more time with Duncan's eldest daughter as of late, and although she's been close and affectionate with her nieces since her marriage to Edmund, the interest that she's taken in Constance's future befits a mother more than it does an aunt.

Maybe it's because Constance doesn't have one anymore.

Or maybe it's because Aislinn doesn't have a daughter, and Duncan doesn't have anyone else except himself to blame for that. "Do you think he'd be reading it if it wasn't?" she teases the teen, their arms linked at the elbow. "Good morning, Donagh."

"Some of it you'd find very dull," Duncan assures Constance, setting his hand as a visor above his brow as he peers over at his daughter, a small smile gracing his lips. Such a perfect little person.

But there's her shadow. Foreign influence. Flank tearing thorn. Duncan is too absent a parent to justify ruling against this closeness, and too wise a man to think that any such ruling could be enforceable. He lives with it, but he doesn't have to like it. Nor does he have to like her outlander twist on his name. She means something by it, but obscures the meaning, a devious circumlocution.

"Fair enough for a morn," he concedes, closing the book and setting it against his knee, though a ring finger keeps his place, "you here to claim these grounds? Clear me off?" He says this with good humor, a tacit offer to clear out if the ladies need the space, the fresh air, all to their ladylike selves.

"See," Constance says, glancing to her aunt at her side. "Not everything he reads is exciting. It looks more like he's studying." And studying, of course, is serious business.

The young blonde takes a moment, finger tapping on her chin with her free hand as she surveys Duncan's current perch. After this serious contemplation, she shakes her head. "No, I believe we'll allow you to remain in our domain for the time being. We are gracious," she states, chin held high. "Besides, we're out for air and to stretch our legs. Much harder to do that while sitting."

"Aye," Aislinn agrees. "We thought we might borrow two of Eammon's horses and go once round the loch. Their legs need to be stretched too."

Her cool civility toward Duncan is as much for Constance's sake as it is for her husband's; while the expression on her face is gentle, the eyes that watch him from beneath their fair blonde lashes are as flat as they always are around him. The only way she can suffer through being in the same room as Duncan is to concentrate her emotions in an organ that isn't the heart.

Today it could be her liver. A kidney. Spleen.

"Learning, hopefully," Duncan says, shifting his perch on the rock to better face Constance, a divvying of attention that has to be comprehensible on both sides of this particular social divide. "See that you walk as much as you ride," he advises, smile running slantwise, "no man wants a bow-legged wife."

It is in the frosty heights of his intellect that Duncan chooses to keep his notion of Aislinn captive - the feigned indifference of the rational. He lifts his book once more, finger unfolding his last page precisely. Getting back to business.

"I'll race them," Constance says, "and I'll see if I can win." The young woman seems more than happy at the prospect, despite the unlikelihood that she'll even remotely keep up with the horses.

Her eyes flick back to the book and Duncan's serious contemplation of it again and she hooks her arm tighter around Aislinn's, taking her gaze elsewhere. He's moved on, why shouldn't she?

Resistance makes Aislinn's arm tight. She hesitates when Constance gestures for them to continue on their stroll.

Her feet do not move. "Donagh," she says again, either because she knows he doesn't like it or because she's making a genuine attempt to connect with him through her perception of his name, "would we be able to speak? I'm worried for a patient and you're really the only one who can ease my fears."

"Must be a novel case," Duncan remarks, a definite shade of wry. He lets the book fall to his knee again, but he keeps it open, a conditional upon his attention. "What can I do to bring you peace, Aislinn?" He uses her name, handled in the course hands of his accent, either because he's making a genuine attempt to connect with her, or because a name spoken can transfix one for examination, like a lepidopterist's needle. Not that there are any of those left, certainly no one who'd be known by the vocational.

When they don't move onward, Constance halts in her own tracks, falling back to Aislinn's side. She has a sinking feeling she knows where this conversation is going, and she firmly plants her feet next to her aunt to make it clear she's not going to allow herself to be shoo'd away from this. She remains silent, eyes fixing themselves on the book still in Duncan's hand.

"It concerns Miss Owens," says Aislinn, and nothing more than that. She lets him choose whether or not to allow their conversation an audience.

The faded letters 'The Punic Wars' spells itself out, borne on gold seraphs, upon the cover of Duncan's book. What is it with men and their history buffage? He reads of a time so long past, it's almost closer than those crumbling cities, the age having swung 'round again.

"Constance's erstwhile governess?" Duncan says, asking clarification and maybe playing the fool, just a little. Though he considers it as having been invited - just the terms of his making the choice she grants. Since Aislinn rarely comes to him with anything less than a moral brand in hand, the decision is easy enough, in the case of Miss Owens.

"Run ahead and see they've saddles ready for you," Duncan says, dismissal masked with task. In a sudden fit of parenting, he adds, "and don't race them too hard. Be kind to what carries you."

The task she’s requested, no, ordered to do is not something the teenager is keen to run off to. Her arm stays linked in Aislinn’s and Constance shifts her weight, as if somehow physically being difficult to drag away would aid her in her sudden stubborn disobedient response.

“Luna,” the young woman starts, “is a dear friend.” She presses her lips into a thin line. “I have seen her sickness myself and her well-being is important to me. If things are said regarding her, I would like to be here to hear them. I am not a child.”

Constance pauses before adding, “Let me stay.”

Whether or not Constance believes that she's an adult, the kiss that Aislinn plants upon her temple is the sort reserved for someone who isn't.

"Do as your father bids you," she murmurs into the teen's hair. "It is better to be bow-legged than disobedient."

Let no one say that Duncan's daughter suffers from a deficiency of self-worth. Her adamence, her entitlement - these qualities may not be endearing, at least not when displayed in defiance of his orders, but it is something like her right. She was born high, and such height brings with it expectations.

Still, Duncan is some heads higher. And as Aislinn's affirmation of his instruction obviates the need for him to repeat himself, he simply levels an uncompromising look at Constance. The communique could not be more clear - this is not open for negotiation.

The young woman grits her teeth at both her aunt’s mothering kiss and her father’s firm resolve. She doesn’t move, for a moment, standing her ground in one last ditch effort to keep from being removed for the conversation. At last, though, Constance gives in, her shoulders slumping in defeat.

“You’ll be sorry,” is the teen’s threat towards her father. Her arms fold over her chest as she begins to stalk off, tossing a last comment over her shoulder. “Besides, it’s not as if I don’t know what you’re doing.”

There is no one in Dornie who doesn't know what Duncan is doing if the rumours whispered between the Dovetail's sheets are true — which they are. Aislinn waits until Constance's shape has disappeared around the corner before she lifts her eyes back to his and, unflinching, searches them.

"You are her sun and moon," she says of Luna, "and all the stars in the sky. If the other men could feel what I feel, they'd taste your mouth on her lips and hear your name in the drum of her heart.

"What is she to you?"

His sister-by-law possesses that particular brand of disingenuous meekness which the weaker sex in particular seem to relish brandishing like a weapon. A bared neck you're forbidden to bite is more ridicule than respect. This, at least, is Duncan's assessment. And he prides himself on his judgments of character, bad character in particular.

So while there is nothing overt in Aislinn's tone, Duncan perceives the latent aggression, the obscured temerity. His face is stony, and his tone accordingly flat.

"She is a whore."

Brutal. Factual. And he says no more on the subject. Duncan rises to his feet, the bulk of him unfurling from his previous leisure. With the slope to aid him, he near to towers.

"There's naught I can do about your influence on my girl, but am I now to expect your meddling in my personal affairs?"

Defensiveness. Well in excess of provocation. But then again, Aislinn knows how well Duncan favors the doctrine of overwhelming force.

"I sent you to her to see her cared for," he reminds her, "take care you don't overstep, woman."

"She is a child in a woman's body!" The swift rise of her own voice startles Aislinn enough that there's a moment where she looks like she might end her argument there; her emotions are seeping out and making her blood run fast and hot. Colour fills her cheeks. "One who belongs in the care of her parents, not a brothel."

Her nostrils flare around the next breath she pulls in, which is shaky but not at all uncertain. She stands up to her husband's family so rarely, and with not nearly the amount of vigour that her settlement's dead demand. There is no turning back now.

When she reaches out to touch his arm in a supplicating gesture, her body language is submissive and her voice much softer than it was, though no less firm or wrought with distress on the whore's behalf. "If you must have her," she says, "then have her, but be the only one. Buy her out of the Dovetail. Make her your mistress.

"You have the wealth and the privilege to be decent enough of a man for that."

"Then you think me now an indecent man?" Duncan infers, and the bitter twist of his lips make a smile rather than a sneer, "you mistake me for someone you met outside these walls."

He is seemingly insensate at her touch. Nerveless.

His mouth withdraws into a pensive line. "You can't play kin to every damn ragged in the street. Wealth I value only for what it can do; but loyalty? family? - these things are precious. And a thing is precious only when it is rare."

A gesture of his empty hand, quick and loose - a wave of dismissal? the paying of a beggar in passing? a feeding of the birds?

"That you take up the banner of every soul with a sorry tale only tells me you've no special favor for anyone. Butter, spread too thin."

Aislinn's hold tightens around Duncan's forearm, just below the elbow. She is no longer looking at his face but at his hand, which she turns over in hers — the one that isn't clutching him. The spread of his palm bears a resemblance to Edmund's, all dry, worn skin and thick calluses on the ends of long, muscular fingers.

She sees that they are brothers by the examination of this hand rather than his face, which is just as well because she can no longer bring herself to bring her eyes above his shoulders.

"Eamonn is your brother," she reminds him, "and I am Eammon's wife. Whether or not I am precious to you, I bore him a healthy boy — Ariel's blood is my blood is Eammon's blood is your blood.

"I am family and I ask you, please, do this thing."

"Don't plead. It's unbecoming." Duncan withdraws his hand from her, a rescinding motion. A motion that says he is unmoved. "Better tests of what you truly are will come at times besides your asking something of me and mine."

And in this moment haughty. But haughtiness is a paper balloon, kept aloft by hot air alone. Duncan descends before he expands too much, or catches alight.

"I never refused," is almost conciliatory. And it's true. He only deflected. It won't be the last time.

Duncan lifts his chin in a short motion towards the whence where Constance was headed.

"Go on after the girl," meaning this discussion is coming to an end, though his tone has lost its stridence - what he says even sounds like a request, for all that it's still worded like an order, "and sooth her. Do nae let her figure her father for a monster."

Aislinn's chin tucks into a nod, and she bends into something like a curtsy with loose fistfuls of dress in her hands, almost prostrating herself before she finally turns at Duncan's command to sweep off in the direction that Constance disappeared.

Brisk strides carry her away from him, and although she can still feel his eyes on her retreating back, her palms find flushed cheeks and press hard against the sides of her round, small face.

That did not go quite the way she had hoped, but with Duncan it never does.

She can at least take solace in the fact that it went the way she expected.