Things of Power

Title: Things of Power
Time Period: March 11, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Duncan follows a loose thread in pursuit of answers regarding a certain bone necklace.

This place was once an abattoir. Open to the sky, but closed to the world, the gentle slope of the tiled floor towards the iron grill of the drain betrays the gravity of this place, a place of falling bodies and dismemberment. If there was gore left in the cracks between the tiles, rain and wind have wiped it clear, and green rather than red nestles in the crumbling of the mortar, soft cushions of moss.

There was little softness to the manner in which Fletcher Cruikshank was summoned here, however. They could have fetched him at any time, presumably - there is only so much of Dornie to be in, and only so much of that would long harbor a body out of place; they needn't have waited 'til he slept, but they did, shock upon shock as he is dragged without a word of explanation beyond the empty words 'you've been asked for' delivered by smirking lips.

Duncan's men enjoy the power their position gives them; one should love one's work, oughtn't one? And they are rough in their handling as they take Fletcher to the killing floor, where the split ends of lit pine torches lend Duncan Rowntree a distinctly demonic visage as he stands, holding court under the open sky, where creatures were once made meat.

It's been an anxious couple of days. It is very much like Shade to depart for lengths of time, and Fletcher is rather sure he would know if anything had befallen her; but still, he worries. Distracts himself, and worries again. Stacks his books, smokes his herbs, winds beads and fabric and malleable woods for profit, and worries some more.

And sleeps, except for now.

By the time he's before Duncan, he's gotten some of his shouting out of the way when he hasn't been frightened into silence. His feet are bare but he used to go bare foot in warmer weather anyway, soles hard and cracked against the hard floor he's marched across. Loose wools clothe him, light and good for sleeping in; the only token he went to sleep with being his bit of bloodstone lashed around his neck and the clack of beads around one skinny wrist and one long ankle.

Steam expels in stops and starts in shallow breathing, Cruikshank glancing around before settling his attention on Duncan, sinking back from him as much as the grip held on him allows, even as he inquires, almost politely, if wavery; "You wanted to see me?"

Perhaps Cruikshank's humor goes over Duncan's head. Perhaps this is why he so emphatically towers over the slighter man, asserting his height, and thus his elevation - denying that anything could escape his oversight. But maybe that's just the way he comports himself, a bully's swagger that insists to itself and everyone else of its natural-ness.

In any case he stands very close, to emphasize this disparity, among others.

"Haven't seen that wee bird of yours, of late. What errand did you send it out on, that'd keep it so long?"

Not a particularly difficult man to bully, Fletcher edges back as Duncan comes forward, his gaze dropped down to the other man's feet - only to swoop back up at that question, head canted to the left in a show of reaction to the unexpected. Then again, anything out of this man's mouth was bound to be. "I didn't," comes, after a moment of fluttery hesitation, hands coming to knit together. A glance from meathead the first, then to the second, then back to Duncan. He wants to ask, is she alright? Instead, he asks;

"What's she done?"

"Isn't the creature a touch like a hand to your ilk?" Duncan inquires, more with an air of curiosity and conjecture than pressing interrogation, "yet you don't know where it's stuck its fingers. You can't speak to it, 'cross the air?"

Duncan has proceeded with his rhetoric while walking around Cruikshank, giving him the space edging wins but allowing no more as he makes a methodical orbit. He stops, directly behind Fletcher. His voice is a touch lowered, mime of confidence, conspiracy.

"What draw could old bones on a string have for magpie? What'd make them gleam to its eye?"

There's a tic to a clenched jaw as Duncan speaks of familiars, biting back correction, although that isn't a fight - he'd rather sink into silence than let ill-advised words rattle out. Arms bundled around himself, he glances a little bit to follow the track of the other man, before letting his gaze drop back down to his bare feet. "We can't speak if she's gone off so far. Sir. These creatures, they do have their own minds, not so very much like fingers at all. Really."

He has her. That much Fletcher can guess.

His shoulders hike up a little, defensive. "I don't know. They don't sound very important."

Duncan remains behind Cruikshank, leaving himself a presence and a voice, felt and heard but unseen. Though his voice remains quiet for moments after Fletcher's answer. And Duncan makes himself felt before he makes himself heard.

The blow Duncan delivers to the back of Fletcher's head is carefully measured, the pain designed to fit the estimate of some infraction. It's the way a father hits a child, or a teacher a pupil. It fancies itself 'fair', in a word, even as it asserts inequality.

"Do a favor to she and thee," is Duncan's declaration, "and answer less like a fool."

It gets a flinch and quiet yelp, hands up to fend off more, until Cruikshank realises that that didn't actually hurt very much, more surprised than pained, and after a second's pause, goes to rake hair out of his face as if he could also adjust dignity. The breath he lets out is shaky as he does, at least, attempt to do as asked.

"Power," he says, eventually, voice low. "Things of power, and bones have their properties, like wood and stone and plant. Perhaps she suspected that I could craft something of them. Otherwise, perhaps they were strung up prettily."

This is more like an answer. But it's still not sufficient.

"And you'd not worry where such a thing came from?" Duncan says, "what hands made it, what neck it hung 'round?"

"I…" don't know. This answer didn't serve him well last time, and there's a small, defeatist huff of air, Cruikshank rolling his eyes to evaluate the sky as he tries to think. "I have certain talents, I suppose, I think I could— look, I didn't will her to do anything, I don't even know what you're on about." A beat. "Sir. If she's done something to displease you, I can ask her to return what she took, or…"

"You think you could-?" Duncan echoes, picking up the abandoned string of words and handing it back to Fletcher, tacit request for him to carry on with it, rather than moving on to later, less interesting ones.

He blinks at Duncan for a moment. They haven't really discussed his talents, as he puts it, only his keeping of literature, his ability to read and write, repair the texts, determine what's interesting. Cruikshank hesitates, before obliging with; "I can find out what they do, what they're for, by touching them."

Another blow, or so it might at first seem- but in fact, in quick retrospect and recontextualization, it's not even a blow. Rather, Duncan delivers a 'hearty' pat to Fletcher's back, an impact of camaraderie this time, and thus both less painful and more forceful.

"I'm about to take you into my confidence-" he says, passing back into Fletcher's view, meeting him face to face again.

"I'd hope you're a man who knows better than to make light of that."

It still gets a flinch. But no yelp.

Cruikshank tries to will the stress from his expression by the time Duncan is standing back in front of him, even if it still makes determined punctuation at the knit of his brow. "Of course," he says, for lack of anything better to say.

"Good man," Duncan judges, and then turns his feet from Cruikshank, vector already pointing elsewhere, will bearing him on.

"Go home. Get dressed. Then find me at the castle," Duncan instructs over his shoulder, profile dark in the backlight of the torches, "I'll see that you're expected."

"Right you are."

Cruikshank turns to watch Duncan go, before taking a last look around the place. It only takes a few more seconds, until Rowntree is disappeared from sight, before he moves ago, bare feet slapping along the tiled floor to do what is bid of him for as long as he can't hear Shade's voice.