Wheels and Coins and Carousels

Title: Wheels and Coins and Carousels
Time Period: July 4, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Luna's first day out of the castle takes her to the top of the world, despite Duncan's worries.

The little glass jars filled with lit candles are strung through the trees, making them sparkle like they're visited by tiny trapped fairies. Decades ago, when this experience was brand new to a little blonde girl, a rumor ran through town that it was just that. At the time there might have been an investigation to make certain Dornie wouldn't be attacked by vengeful fae. Or that is just how the story is told now.

The filmy scarf that covers Luna's neck and shoulders is adjusted for the sake of sparing the public from her heinous disfigurement. She's been terribly self conscious. It's not a false insecurity meant to dig for compliments, this is very real. Every time the woman and her escort pass by a reflective surface, she finds something else to look at that's in the other direction.

"Look Duncan, the carousel, have you ever been on?"

No, Duncan has never been on a carousel. He has never so much as seen one. Had he been told of such a thing - a herd of mechanical horses - he would have at first thrilled at the might and marvel of the old world, and then - upon seeing the carousel itself - been greatly disappointed. An attraction? A toy? As good as a Turkish automaton - a trick.

But Duncan has never seen it before, and so he comes upon it in a place strewn with fairy lights, and the miraculously returned and recovered Luna Owens at his arm. Not in need or mood for might, he is able still to see it as a marvel. And passing strange! Duncan cannot suss it out-

"Why ride on toy horses?" the militiaman asks, genuinely curious from the sounds of it - and he lets their feet stray in the carousel's direction; he can discern at least some of the things women say without saying, "the real thing is always at your disposal."

"It's not just horses," Luna replies, pointing at the magical wooden beasts that glide past them. "Look a dragon, and a gryphon… but keep me well away from the kelpie, I've seen one of them too closely to ever want to ride it again." Not that she ever rode it in the first place, kelpies are too ugly. "Besides, not all of us spent our entire lives riding around on your brother's giants. Some people— " like herself "— made due with the toys."

She reaches across her body to her bad shoulder and places her hand on it. No more prickly stitches to scratch at the pads of her fingers, now the only obscenities there are the moon shaped, and squiggly ribbons of puckered red flesh. They can be felt under the fabric of her dress sometimes, when she's turned the right way, she imagines that she can see them right through it. It’s the reason she doesn't wear light colors anymore, lately it's been somber blues, greys, and browns, like too many of the other women in Eilean Donan.

He remains perplexed - as a child he dreamt of fighting monsters, not riding them. Such cooperation would seem unsettling - he's never heard of a flesh bone and scale dragon yielding to anyone's reins

Duncan's own hand rises, pressing over her hand. He sets a kiss in her golden hair, then lets his touch settle back to a comfortable place at the small of her back. Modest, but intimate.

He smiles, meaning mischief. "So it's a toy for merchants’ daughters?" Duncan asks, "you live in a castle lately. You needn't cling to your former class."

Luna's eyes close for the duration of the kiss and when it's over, her head rests lightly against Duncan's shoulder. A cat like smile of satisfaction passes over her lips as she spies some of the market square gossips and she narrows her eyes slightly at them.

"The scullery maid and laundress also live in the castle, yet I've seen them riding the magical beasts as well. The roof over my head makes no difference to what I am, Duncan." She doesn't mean merchant's daughter. Rather than lingering by the amusement ride, she turns into him and nudges toward another. The pleasure wheel. "What about that one? Have you ever been so high in the sky?"

"Never lifted, not by such a manner of conveyance," Duncan will admit, looks up at the ten yard contraption. Like a siege weapon and a guard tower fused together in a mad man's dream. But he's looking at it all wrong.

"This will be more like riding a dragon or a gryphon," he suggests, "being borne aloft by outsized might." Duncan looks down at Luna, a brow quirked, mock-appraising. "But are you really well enough for that sort of harrowing experience?"

"That depends if you're strong enough to lift my fainted body from a carriage if I happen to sway from consciousness." Or perhaps fake it, which, given the amount of publicity around…

Instead Luna smiles and curls her arm around Duncan's, hugging herself close as they meander nearer to the wheel. "I'd love to see your face the first time you go around. It's quite a thrill, I go up every time they come to Dornie." This might be the first time experiencing it completely sober, though. No amount of begging and pleading has resulted in either Aislinn or Duncan relenting on the matter of her poppies for less pain. "Come up with me, my Duncan, we'll see the world together."

"Don't you dare risk yourself! Speak so in more than jest and I'll lock you in the tower opposite Constance's" Duncan chastens, "I've only just got you on your feet. I'll not have you in spells at ten yard's height!

"Unless that is precisely your purpose in pointing out-" he allows, "it's true I'm one rescue from peril short."

Rising up on her tiptoes, Luna stretches as high as she is able to place a kiss on Duncan's cheek. "I'm not so infirm that I'll faint dead away," she reassures, slipping out of his grip to skip across the greenery toward the giant sized wheel. There is a small line, but that doesn't seem to deter her from weaving through it to land somewhere near the front of the gate.

There's a small amount of protest for the prostitute cutting in, until they see who she is with. There's enough fear respect in the community for the militia leader to allow such a favor to him, and his mistress.

"Come on Duncan," Luna urges, her voice breathless from the short run. The coin worn on her chest glints in the twinkle of lights, catching the eyes of a few of those in line. It is somewhat odd that the woman isn't wearing it close to her skin, but thus far she hasn't offered explanation.

Who have they cut off? Anyone whose opinion matters? Anyone in need of a kind word or a nod of half-apologetic gratitude? No? Then nothing is required. The better take what is good - that is the nature of strength, and to deny strength its nature is to ask nature to turn against itself.

Duncan doesn't have to run, not quite. His strides are long enough already, and tending enough towards purpose, that he isn't much left behind Luna. In truth, he lets her run ahead a little at first. To see her, so light upon her feet. To see her on her feet once more!

He catches up in time to help her into the bottommost seat, and he himself grips the sides of the pleasure wheel's car to keep it level and steady so the uneven addition of his weight - one foot at a time - does not upset the surface beneath Luna. An arm goes about Luna once he's sitting next to her, a fairgoer-and-sweetheart pose essentially unchanged after centuries.

Duncan's gaze is perhaps the last of the line to take note of Luna's gleaming coin. He doesn't mention it until now, certainly. "Should that not be worn closer to your heart?" he asks, gently teasing, "it looks like an important keepsake."

She leans into him, reaching across to lace her fingers with his to subtly keep them away from the ugly scars. Luna's lips quirk up at the edges, a secret smile meant just for Duncan in response to his query. "It is," she murmurs, looking down to spy the token on her breast.

When she glances up again, she's smiling a little wider, still just for him. Perhaps overjoyed at the fact that they're outside of the castle together, instead of just a rumor for the local gossips to chatter about. For Luna, it's a matter of her own pride and vanity to be seen on the arm of one of the most powerful men in Dornie. And wearing a token of his affection so openly.

"Ever since it was given back, it feels different," she explains, "it's colder now, and you know how I dislike the cold."

She hides for his sake. He lets her hide for her sake. How Luna sees his seeing her, how she fears he may see her- this Duncan has only so much power over. Time yet, though, to demonstrate that scars need not dampen passion.

But not now, certainly; they'll soon be much, much too visible. The pleasure wheel lurches into life - causing even Duncan to tense momentarily; maybe he'd have been more comfortable on a false horse.

A query distracts, however: "Given back? Why had you need to give it away?" Just a query, now, though sincerely inquiring.

"I didn't give it," she quickly explains, not wishing him to receive the impression that his gift isn't precious. It is. "I was holding it in my hand and that mage, the lesser woman, she took it from me. Told me I could have it back if I lived, the other woman gave it back when we hit land."

Soon they are on at the top of the wheel and holding there as passengers get into a carriage on the bottom. With Dornie and beyond spread out underneath the couple, Luna's attention is diverted from their conversation. A large breath is taken in and expelled in a long sigh, a happy one. "I don't want to leave this spot," suspended in the air as they are. It's nothing like flying, more like hanging in a tree. "We can see everything from here. Duncan, you should have a tower built, so we can see this far whenever we wish." Or be on the lookout for strangers without relying on ground scouts.

That mage. The lesser woman. Lesser by what standard? What standard would Luna use? Rank, bearing or beauty- the answer is the same each time. The bushy-browed one. Lucien's envoy.

Duncan decodes Luna's meaning with some effort, but not due to the riddle's difficulty. Truth be told, he'd tucked away thoughts of the foreigners - calling back their being is something his mind rejects as antithetical to the familiar warmth of Luna's presence. That her warmth and presence both are (allegedly) gifts of the visiting mages is a (disputable) fact, but not a fact that he wishes to have present in mind, being - as it is - a contradiction to his contradiction.

Now what is he to do? Tear it off and hurl it from the height of the wheel? That gesture would be poison to her joy. But already there is poison, already sunk in at the root, their link, their keepsake. And at this pinnacle, when he ought to be looking out on what makes her happy, or at least upon her in her happiness, he looks only at the token, and it gives him no comfort.

Duncan bites this all back. Time enough to make them pay in dearer coin.

His arm slips down, around her waist.

"Stand up- see as far as you ever have," he gives her a squeeze, "I'll hold you fast."

To all of Duncan's misgivings about the gift he presented Luna so long ago, she is oblivious. Aside from a difference of temperature, the token is still a source of delight and now that she is able to hang the chain around her neck again, it has resumed its importance. Enough to not take off, even during their most intimate moments. Smiling, she turns back to look at him and then grabs into the bar that keeps them locked into the seat.

He can feel her excitement in the tremble of her slight frame and the quiver of her breath inward when he promises to hold her fast. "You don't think they'll remove us from the wheel, do you?" Luna tends to avoid trouble when she can, the reasons for it simply because it's a waste of time better spent in the pursuit of amusement. Scolding, threat of jail, or other such tortures are best circumvented by trying to stay within the guidelines. Not that such sound thinking has been exercised much in the past.

Or this time, it seems, as she's already on her toes and leaning to see overtop the trees.

"Duncan," is the ecstatic cry that accosts his ears, "build me a pleasure wheel of my very own, I want the world!"

In times before there were safety regulations. There were laws and courts and actionable entities. If Luna were to tumble in the final century A.D., there'd be a war declared on pages and paper, with Rowntree suits battling the beleaguered fairefolk in the hallowed halls of law. The rich people would still probably win. But they wouldn't get to burn anything down.

In the year A.E., Duncan holds more than Luna's life and happiness in his hands. Thankfully, his hands are strong and steady. Tragedy need not come calling to this place, at this time. As Luna's imagination soars and her voice sounds in the air high above Dornie, Duncan keeps a firm grasp upon her, preventing any tumble or ascent into the aether. He desires her in her earthly form, however suspended.

"The world? And what will you do with it after I give it to you?"

What would she do with it? She hasn’t thought that far ahead.

“I would share it, of course,” Luna grins as she flops back down beside Duncan, her arms wrapping swiftly around his neck to hold as the wheel brings them down to the ground before climbing upward again. “I only dream, Duncan, I don’t rightly expect to lay claim to everything I see, not as you can. How would you go about giving me the world, anyway? Would you conquer all new lands and tell them that I would be their new queen?” Would he crown her?

Luna’s head is on the soldier’s shoulder when their carriage glides to the bottom, within easy reach of the grass. Her eyes are narrowed, dark powdered eyelashes fanning her pale cheeks, painting a picture of perfect happiness for all of their onlookers. Duncan is her trophy, just as much as she is his.

"Share the world? How generous of you," Duncan says, teasing as he tends. Grand gestures of sentiment are all well and good, but banter is the true wage of intimacy, "I'm sure it's many inhabitants will praise your magnanimity."

He steps out of the carriage and offers his hand to let Luna, lately made monarch of all she surveyed, out on the grass, making way for some other couple who can hope only to be their equal in happiness- though what else do lovers need?

Some need kingdoms and queenship, it seems.

"With a coronet upon your brow, my lady," Duncan avers, "your image would speak more of your royalty than my words could tell."

“You flatter, my Duncan,” Luna retorts, looping her arm through his to hold herself tightly at his side while they resume their walk. Certainly this outing has done more for the blonde woman’s spirits than all of the attention she’s been provided at the castle, her face tilted up at him is all smiles rather than a pained pout or bored tantrum. Fresh air, in this case, is so much better for the ailing soul than private recovery. “My image isn’t fit for display, not without yards of fabric to cover its flaws.”

His on the other hand.

She unwinds from his arm and twirls a circle around him, her fingers coming to rest just under his chin. Guiding his face to show off both sides of his profile, she leans up and places a kiss on the cheek she likes best. The blonde is still on her tiptoes when her lips leave his skin, her eyes opening slow enough to flutter her eyelashes flirtatiously upon departure. “If your head were on a coin, I would collect every one I came across. I’d become a rich miser only because I couldn’t bear to part with such a fine profile.”

And again, he gets to watch her dance away. She must know. She knows, at least, that he'll give chase. He always does. And he knows she'll let him catch her. She always has.

"I suppose that is a better thing for me than to be tossed into wells, for the sake of wishes," Duncan says, "but pray, don't be miserly with your love of me. There is at least one person who ought to receive some wages from your store."

The hands wrapping around her waist at the end of the game aren't surprise guests, they're so familiar by now it's alien to not feel their touch. Luna leans into Duncan, not stopping her walk, leading him between two of the wagons the travelers had brought. To one side of them the twinkling lights point toward the rides and games; on the other, a large campfire where stories will be told after the last light of day fades. It's dark enough that the clothing she wears renders her practically invisible, something she takes advantage of now.

"Have I ever given you reason to think I would withhold my love?" Since she's begun giving it to him freely, that is.

"On that front, you'll never go without."