Tin Cup

Title: Tin Cup
Time Period: November, 134 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Duncan approaches the captive gypsy camp alone to get a better measure of its inhabitants. His influence could stand to be better received. Also his people skills need work.

In two days there is only so much any group can do to make themselves look respectably settled. Hardly enough time to erect any real kind of shelter - assuming such a construction would even be permitted - and by no means time enough to scratch out land for planting, two days is just enough time to sit and consider just how long present supplies can last, and how easy it is to starve even within a loud shout's earshot of so-called civilization.

Two days, then, the caravan is left to ponder their situation here at the limina Dornii, before the man who brought them here to wait and wither just in sight of society sees fit to grace the group with his presence. It is just past dawn, when the light is sickly pale and a fine mist still hovers on the ground, not yet dispersed by direct sunlight. It is cold, and while the swelling day will bring some warmth with it, in succeeding days it can only get colder.

Duncan's arrival is unrushed, and - arrogance of arrogances - he comes alone, save for his horse, lending him height and vantage as he approaches at a light trot. He make no announcement of intention, does not hail the group even so formally as he did upon first meeting, and seems at first content to circle their little shanty town, as if emphasizing their containment, one to be compared to the free range they had enjoyed out in the wild.

It is early, it is cold, and for Algernon, it is nearly time for bed.

He's seated on a robust stump of firewood near the tumble of embers and logs burned low that will soon consume it, shoulders hunched and knees wide apart beneath the long, sullen drape of his coat. An iron poker scavenged or overlooked or otherwise undesired is turned from his wrist, business end stirring coals all white and orange under first light.

For lack of anything better to watch, he is watching the fire. Most everyone else in Cruikshank's camp is still asleep or warm enough where they are not to creep forth just yet.

He is easily identified at a distance.

It's the hat.

A full circuit of the camp, and Duncan feels ready to dismount, swinging one foot from its stirrup before both boots - heavy works in tough leather - hit the sod. He proceeds into the camp on foot, his horse pawing the ground in a momentary show of anxiety at being left - what for? - before it huffs, and lowers its head to graze. The bliss of equine ignorance.

Duncan advances, a sight in his thick, dark coat and a broad belt ringed with rounds. He has a pistol at each hip, both unostentatious semi-automatics in dull gunmetal grey with wooden grips. His eyes scan the encampment from within its limits, wandering without clear aim, but his feet take him unerringly towards Algernon's fire.

"The day's lamp is already set to burn," Duncan remarks, dryly, upon proximity, "and all I see are bodies lying about, good as corpses." This reflection has the tone of soliloquy but, as with all theater, it is spoken loudly and distinctly. To be heard.

He inclines his head towards Algernon, whom he is now properly addressing. "Ominous. That is, if you take to omens."

A more deliberate, wrenching dig of poke to skeletal wood at the sound of Duncan's voice on the latter end of his approach fractures a blackened beam. Sparks cough from the collapse in a spiral and Algernon tips hand to hat in ambiguously polite acknowledgement that is not followed up with contest or agreement.

Merely an even, "Mister Rowntree," pitched low, with respect to anyone who might — still be sleeping. Somehow.

Truly Fogg is the least chatty of the caravan's assembled - barring the presence of any deaf-mutes. Certainly less excessively expository than the bespectacled tutor, or tiny man who somehow assumed leadership of the sorry expedition. Duncan seems to appreciate the Englishman's reticence, and answers the greeting with the slight incline of his head before allowing silence to drag on for a moment as he considers the low glow of the embers.

But only for a moment. "I had wondered - did your father teach you to use his bequest?"

"He did."

A pull at Fogg's brows implies earnest surprise nearing upon suspicion at the question — as if he hadn't expected the subject to arise again. Either subject, actually: his confiscated weapon or its potentially dubious origin.

It also betrays some neighboring truth to Duncan's initial assumption.

Or judgment.

The heat lifting off coals and occasional tongues of flame has a deceptive intensity, even well out of arm's reach. Which is convenient, because Algernon is comfortably warm where he is sitting and has thus far made no move to match Duncan's perspective at eye level. He slants a look to the semiautomatics at his belt instead.

If there is any recognition of a nerve touched - however lightly, however glancing the blow - Duncan does not display it. He's not even looking at Algernon, who is looking at his guns. He looks like he might be deep in thought, but it could be a trick of his sloping, well-lined brow. If so, then he may risk appearing absent - not thoughtless, perhaps, but gone, leaving blue eyes empty.

The uncertain expression does not shift, even as he lifts his fingers to his mouth and issues a high pitched, two-toned whistle. His horse's ears perk, and in moments it is cantering across the intervening distance, hooves shaking the ground beneath any number of tents. No consideration at all.

Duncan turns with a measured swivel and pulls open his saddle bag with a flick of the wrist. He reaches inside, extracts a weapon with a muzzle extending to a familiar length. Duncan's handle on it is light, and his grasps it, hand around the cylinder, forefinger looped through the trigger guard.

"Show me what you remember."

The revolver's grip is offered up to Algernon.

"Don't shame him."

There at the pistol grip's offer, finally, Algernon pushes up onto his feet. The fire poker stays bound in tendon until he's had a solid pendulum beat to suss out whether or not this feels like a trick, eyes cut clear in their polished survey of the stouter fellow opposite him.

In less time than it seems like, he carefully switches the poker's warm grip from one hand to the other to free up the right. Which, in turn, wraps firm around the offered weapon.

"Thank you, sir." A nod of gratitude echoes the sentiment, for all that he hasn't quite wrested the gun fully back into his own possesion yet. Shoulders upright, horsey teeth shown bare in a smile, he is plainly self-assured in a gravel-shot, "I won't."

Eventually, one of the dead emerge.

It's unclear if it's the noise of conversation that invited Fletcher Cruikshank into the morning, or the need to urinate somewhere after long sleep, or the usual unusual awakenings that plague him, or a combination of all three — he squints off in a different direction when his head pokes out the tent, mop of greasy hair and general unkemptness, and then towards the more familiar shape of Algernon, the less familiar sight of Rowntree and mount. There's a full bodied twitch, like he's prepared to reverse back inside, before deciding against it and emerging the rest of the way out. Perhaps the bloodline heir wanted something. Perhaps it was 'to be kind'.

In case anyone was wondering, Cruikshank is also fully dressed, additionally so with heavy blanket of wool wrapped about him and gripped in his claws. He gathers it enough so it won't trail along damp ground as he approaches. Grimness and sullenness define his expression.

Duncan gives a single huff of a laugh, an appreciation for something Algernon has said, though what out of those five short words could be a source of humor to this man is not entirely clear. He relinquishes his grip on the weapon and steps back, giving Algernon a little more space, twisting on a heel and looking for-

Well, in truth he wasn't looking for Fletcher Cruikshank, but that is who he finds, making his way towards the firepit, cloaked in- what is that? Some sort of mantle of authority? Whosoever wears this cape of fleece shall be forthwith king of the caravan.

"Hold," Duncan calls out to the newly awakened, and wastes no time before giving orders, "go get a cup or a bowl, or something of the like." He speaks with and almost casual expectation of compliance, if edged by the threat of impatience. As if each moment Fletcher remains cupless marks the flickering progress of a fuse.

There's a jut at Algernon's lower jaw that might read as a sinking in of relief once Duncan's back has turned. He stands for a moment as he is, revolver in one hand and hot iron in the other, eyes cast first to the horse that's still snuffing around as horse's do and then more clearly to Fletcher, once he's been addressed.

Attention called thus seems to snap him out of a temporary haze and he glances down the revolver's flank after an outward swing of the cylinder to check it before it's holstered on his belt. Only he hasn't gotten it all the way in before Duncan continues on with his orders and his hand slows and stills in the younger man's shadow.

So does the rest of him, for that matter — a tall, shadowy presence whose dignity is somewhat undershot by the awkward look he tails back after Cruikshank. Presumably to see how Duncan's directions are going to be received.

That gets a slow and grainy blink.

Cruikshank does not have his wits quite about him to look anything other than reproachful, sliding a glance to Algernon as if to see what the other man. Intends to do. Which is look at him. By the time his focus is back on Duncan, it's with a sufficient amount of conscious wariness. No verbal confirmation, he just turns back the way he came to display the skewed sun-like pattern in the wool he's got wrapped around him and trudge back to his tent. Duncan will just have to trust he is doing as asked.

It's a near miss. The woman he was sleeping on is a tempting thing to lie back down with.


Cruikshank returns with the cup asked for, a thing of tin, dangling from his fingers. It is probably clean.

It his hard, from Cruikshank's position, not to mistake Duncan's intentions. The Dornian lifts an abortive hand before the man can get more than three paces from the entrance of his tent. "Hold," he says once more, "and hold that up, like you were trying to catch rain with it."

He doesn't bother to make himself inaudible to Fletcher when he turns to Algernon - this question concerns him as well, whether or not he yet realizes. "At how many paces?"

Ah. Realization and resignation sink into Algernon's bones in the same fell swoop. The revolver, halfway holstered, is drawn out once more, worn sights turned to glint more cleanly than they have a right to in dawn light. "Well that depends," he says, reasonably, with the affect of one who feels he is stating the obvious, "on whether you want me to hit the cup or annihilate one of his hands." The 'sir,' is silent this time.

The cup starts to raise. Stops. Drops at his side again as protest rises inaudible Cruikshank's throat, dies out.

Possibly, there are things he could do to help himself, but not empty handed and not in clear view. He stands still instead and stares at the exchange, too tired and sober and everything to even put in some sort of witty barb or make much flailyhands protest either. He certainly isn't lifting the cup until someone confirms the safety of his hands, but— "It's a bit early yet. You'll." He slides a glance off towards the other tents. "Wake everyone." Because the Rowntree militia man might care about that.

"I imagine his hands are his livelihood, whatever it is he does," Duncan avers, the ghost of a smile curving his mouth, "I wouldn't rob him of that." That single thing, at least. He nods at Cruikshank, though as an object rather than an addressee. "Closer or farther?"

"Make the shot from the draw," he stipulates. As if Cruikshank's fingers weren't in enough danger. But Duncan wants to get a measure of Algernon, and speed in aiming is as crucial as the aiming itself. Gunfights don't typically give you endless time in which to line up your sights.

It looks as if he's not going to confer even so much as a reply to the unfortunate Fletcher. But not so. In answer to his concerns, Duncan has two words, pointing out the obvious: "It's morning." As if time itself were a justification.

"Masturbate, mostly," Algernon says automatically and to himself (mostly). He is unapologetically irritated, now — at both of them — dialogue finds its way out to fill that first gap without thought and the sideways up and down look he slights off at Duncan before he turns to initiate an awayward pace suggests he may suspect the same of their fun new 'friend.'

He's on the move regardless, keen enough to head off any further stipulations that may fill the hours he intended to sleep through with miserable wailing and bleeding to death and the like.


Nine paces. Ten.

Fogg stops there, scans the ground, and takes a step back somewhere around the region of nine again, where he turns and tips his chin up for Fletcher to raise the cup. "It is morning," he agrees, emphasis on Cruikshank's inability to be convincing on short notice. LIKE ALWAYS.

He readjusts his grip on cup handle, so his fingers aren't hooked around it. This, Cruikshank does while he stares bleakly at the two other men, and then mostly just on Algernon. Faint disbelief as well as brimming panic finally making its sluggish way up like water filling a jug, but also a steely sort of resignation. Eventually, after a quick search of the sky for some sort of sign perhaps, Cruikshank raises the cup, at taut arm's length, mostly so that they don't do something else should he fail to present a target that isn't the rest of him.

And sort of leans away from it, head ducked.

Whether this is ritual sadism, or just a personal cruelty of Duncan's, one would need a longer history than these men have readily available. In his defense, if defense there can be, Duncan doesn't seem particularly interested in Fletcher's discomfort. His attention is entirely on Algernon, who is viewed with a look of expectation that is not directed at the man but rather at his motions.

Whenever he's ready.

Algernon can feel their eyes on him more than he cares to look and see. His focus is on the tin cup. It is made of tin. And a cup. Wind stirs at the dying fire and at his coat, as it must in situations such as these. His hat stays fitted firmly against his skull.

The draw is quick, fluid; the shot slightly less so. He actually thumbs the hammer, steadies and aims, which takes precious milliseconds more than firing from the hip would. The tin rings out accordingly, a hole in the front and a split through the back. One shot. No fingers lost or arteries severed open or hairs split.

"It doesn't matter how quickly you can fire thirty bullets," Fogg says, voice raised over whatever racket Fletcher might be making, "if you can't hit anything."

It's true. Fletcher was going to make noise no matter where it hit.

It's a shriek from the mage, beneath the crack of the revolver's firing, the tin cup now made quite useless dropped or thrown or some skittery combination of the two as Cruikshank staggers off in the other direction and more or less landing on scrawny backside in the grass. His hand feels numb and so the other is quick to investigate that it has all its pieces and there's no blood involved. He's breathing hard and mostly through his nasal passages, blanched pale, glancing then towards where he dropped the item that got shot through.

What sleepy tossing and turning, what muffling drape of arm, what stopping of ears or other tactics that have so far been employed to keep out the voices of the men, all are rendered insufficient by the sharp crack of the gun's report, and then sharp cry that follows. As if understanding that this marks the end of lingering sleep, the sun has started to disperse the pale vapor. It boils away, thinned into nothing by the light.

"Put that on your crest," Duncan suggests, in answer to Algernon's adage. He is moving over towards Fletcher- no, towards the cup, though the starting trajectory appears the same. The Dornian dips down on a knee and rises with the punctured cup in his hand. Proof positive of Fogg's capacities. Duncan is impressed, and does not disguise the fact. He regards the target, then the marksman.

"You're wanting for better accommodations," is not really a question because - looking around them - who wouldn't be? Not that the statement is general. It is Fogg that Duncan is talking to. Cruikshank just gets this:

"Your people need to start doing something of value." He tosses the blasted cup over to Fletcher - catch! "Before winter locks up the land."

"I am." Wanting for better accommodations. Evidently not all that impressed in turn, Algernon watches Fletcher's tumble with an extension of earlier resignation as he holsters his gun under his coat. "And they will."

Having no obligation to get up or anything, Cruikshank remains planted where he is, catching the cup on instinct to his chest with long, hooked fingers. He is all of the affront in the world as well as being quite unable to do much about it, save for cast a quick and nasty look Algernon's way when the man goes ahead and speaks for him. Not that Fletcher was doing a very brilliant job of that himself.

"I'll pass along the sentiment," he says, voice croaky but very enunciated. Slowly, he works on getting to his feet, keeping wool gathered defensively around himself.

"And I'll need a list of names and callings for every man and woman," Duncan adds, rewarding Cruikshank's amenability with yet more demands. He's walking away from Fletcher as he says this, so he lifts his voice to be certain he's heard. Heard by all.

Duncan sets a boot on his right stirrup and pulls himself back onto the saddle in a single practiced motion. He takes the reigns, drawing his mount about to face Algernon. "Get your things. I'll see you settled. We'll have words after you've a rest and a drink." A brief pause, then "You'll want a bit of fud?"

Cruikshank's look is fielded with one he hasn't seen out of Algernon to date and likely won't care for: a crisp and level mind your manners cut of eye contact that he is kind enough to divert elsewhere once the others have begun to rouse uncertainly from their tents. Namely, to his 'things.'

After a beat, Algernon nods once in clean acceptance of all terms offered; whether or not he's familiar with that particular tag of slang on the end there will be seen in short order. Meanwhile, if there's any guilt about him, it's contained to an uncomfortable tautness about the sharpened bones in his face when he sidesteps towards the process of packing up.

On his feet, Cruikshank isn't set to follow. He isn't invited to. And he somehow doesn't suspect that Duncan really requires verbal response.

So he stands where he is and watches as intently as he can without being overly obvious about it, hunkered in his blanket and more than mildly concerned that they're losing their key gunman so easily, even if they've not any guns left to their name. Algernon's nonverbal communication is met with obvious reproach and silent bristle, but he otherwise does as willed.

A small, brown bird lands near the campfire, pecking at the ground for food crumbs. She only gets the barest side-eye from her companion.

Duncan rubs at his cheek and jaw with a calloused hand, testing the closeness of this morning's shave. Silent as stone the moment he's not giving orders, handing out rhetoric, or requesting information, the militia man sits like a statue atop his horse while he waits for Algernon to collect his belongings. He doesn't imagine there could be much to it.

Cruikshank gets a single glance, cursory but not stolen by any means. It's as much to be seen as to see. Yes, I can see you, too.

Halfway to his tent, Algernon pauses and turns, right hand lifted to indicate — things that are not in his tent. All of the things, more broadly. Vaguely. Samething. "I have a few personal items to sort out of materials that have been packed away in camp," he says, don't wait on me, thinly veiled in the (practical) beat that follows.

"I'll catch up."

Once Cruikshank has finished raining flaily slaps down upon him.

A hand sort of goes up like he'd wave at Duncan to encourage him to go, but fortunately for Fletcher, he's still holding onto blasted cup with the other hand occupied keeping blanket around him against the early morning cold. So the tin kind of just glints in the low sunlight in vague gesture that dies before it can begin, sneaking a glance to Algernon before looking down at his own bare feet.

This is Cruikshank behaving. He does it by doing nothing.

A hand sort of goes up like he'd wave at Duncan to encourage him to go, but fortunately for Fletcher, he's still holding onto blasted cup with the other hand occupied keeping blanket around him against the early morning cold. So the tin kind of just glints in the low sunlight in vague gesture that dies before it can begin, sneaking a glance to Algernon before looking down at his own bare feet.

"Your name," Duncan requests from Algernon, only the moment he needs it. "They'll expect you at the Dovetail." He's not going to wait around. He's a busy man, after all.

"I'll be back tomorrow for the list." Duncan tosses the deadline like he tossed the cup, easily, even as he turns, preparing to depart.

"Fogg," says Algernon, because that is his name. "Algernon Fogg." Ensuing mention of the Dovetail inspires bafflement that he doesn't allow past a twitch at one brow and disguises with another nod, anyway. No use in denying a good thing, perhaps.

With a scuff at his moustache and a glance to Fletcher, he turns again to continue on to the task he's been set.

"Oh," is verbal confirmation that Cruikshank did in fact hear Duncan, something more positive like alright then set to tail it but dying in his mouth. Never mind. He watches, a moment, Duncan's departure, before his attention swivels back towards where Algernon is headed to collect his things around camp.


Would be the shot through cup bouncing off the other man's shoulder in lazily angry overhand throw, Cruikshank's expression twisted even more severe with general upsetness.