Gerard, Part 2: Chaos in the Marketplace

It is a sunny afternoon, and there are a lot of people on the town's small square, poking at the wares of various street vendors, watching street performers, searching for the small children who were at their sides just a second ago. One corner holds an attractive young man who seems to be combining the roles of performer and vendor into one: though he has a black cloth with a number of items spread out on it before him, he is currently in the process of pulling a half-dollar coin out of a giggling child's ear.

Lucas is a large -- very large, in fact -- man of middling years, with the heavily-muscled shoulders and arms of a blacksmith. The myriad tiny scars marking his forearms and powerful hands -- as well as the sooty grime that clings perpetually in the lines of his hands and under his short nails -- gives further testament to his occupation. His square features are plain and open, with a rough, slightly unfinished look, as though the sculptor had set down her tools and declared him 'done!' without the usual smoothing and polishing. The effect is softened somewhat by a fringe of walnut-brown curls and broadly-set eyes of a clear, deep blue.
Lucas' clothing runs toward the simple and sturdy, shirts and trousers both of heavy hemp-cloth, with a leather tool belt and sturdy black leather boots. In spite of his plain clothing, he carries himself with a self-assurance that is almost regal, as though he were secretly a prince, but found the role of blacksmith somehow more satisfying.

Slightly built and not tall, this young man is far from an imposing figure. His sleek black hair trails across the nape of his neck and falls across his eyes. Eyebrows like quizzical caret marks, long lashes and dark eyes, a narrow-bridged nose and a thin but expressive mouth all lend a sharpness to the youth's pale face, and great mobility of expression. His hands are long-fingered and slender, the deft instruments of a surgeon or a card sharp.
He generally wears a long black coat with many pockets, and carries a fairly new, olive-green courier bag slung across his shoulders, along with a long, narrow bundle wrapped in black. Today, he is wearing a high-necked gray wool sweater over black pants, with a white silk scarf trailing negligently around his collar and over his shoulder. A gray cloth cap and gray fingerless gloves complete the outfit. His sharp chin is shadowed with a day or two's worth of stubble, giving him a somewhat rakish air which he appears to enjoy.
His French accent is inconsistent, but it is never entirely absent nor ever so strong as to obscure what he is saying.

A different corner holds a very large blacksmith, his portable farrier's forge and anvil set up in front of his wooden cart. He works shirtless, banging dents out of an iron cauldron a smaller man would have trouble lifting, let alone manipulating with the ease the smith seems to. A hand-painted wooden sign set on the ground to one side reads, "I buy scrap." A roan draft horse stands quietly in the traces of the cart, nibbling the tough grass and weeds that grow at the edge of the square, and swishing ineffectually but unconcernedly at flies with her clipped tail.

A lanky mongrel dog pads over to the tableau watching the magician. It alternates between intently sniffing at the ground and watching the various milling people with tongue-lolled interest.

"But, what is this?" the young man says, affecting outrage. "You are stealing from me, now? Ah, the tragedy, that it should start so young..." He shakes his head in mock sorrow, and the urchin giggles unrepentantly. "Et bien, what is stolen should stay stolen, n'est-ce-pas? Otherwise, what is the point?" He wraps the small hand around the coin, and sends the child back into the crowd.

The dog strides purposefully and rather obliviously to the front of the semi-circle of children and sits down, one ear cocked. For a moment, it looks as though it is actually watching the "show", but it quickly turns away to investigate one of the audience members, shoving its head rudely into the child's side and snuffling noisily. sounds over the crowd from the other side of the square, as the smith continues working.

The child under investigation utters a small squeak, and a few of the others step away in alarm. The Frenchman says, "Monsieur le chien, you are disturbing my customers," and produces, apparently from thin air, the last third of a small meat pie, which he removes from its paper wrapping and tosses lightly toward the dog.

Meanwhile, the child who acquired the half-dollar coin is holding it up for an older man's inspection, and the man is smiling, and beginning to drift toward the goods displayed for sale.

Either the dog knows French, or it understands it is being addressed -- it turns from the child to the man with bright-eyed interest, just in time to get bonked on the nose by the tossed pastry. The dog gives a small *whuff* of surprise and greedily slurps the pie remnant off the dusty ground, just as the clanging from across the way stops. The smith has abruptly set down his tools and is crossing the square in long, powerful strides. "Arslag!" the man calls sharply, scowling. As he draws near, he offers an apologetic smile to the performer. "Ah'm so sorry, Sir. Ah knew all the people would excite him -- Ah shoulda kept him tied." He turns back to the dog, who has crawled over to grovel at his booted feet. "You wretched thing," the smith addresses the mongrel sternly. "You go back and sit with Harebell and stop buggin' these folks -- Go on!" The big man stabs a sooty finger at where the horse and cart stand, and watches as the dog slinks obediently away. Satisfied that Arslag has been suitably chastised, he turns to the non-plussed child. "Sorry 'bout that, Spriggan," he says, smiling warmly. "He wouldn'a hurt you." Then he nods again to the magician. "My apologies."

Gerard bows with a flourish. "Not at all, m'sieur. Thank you for your intervention." He puts both hands in the air and addresses the small crowd he has gathered. "That is all for now, messiuers et mesdames. Please, come look over these trinkets and see what may catch your fancy. Bought, bartered, stolen and scavenged - what you find here, you may never find again."

Gerard turns back to Lucas, having dispensed with his performance. "It is a good day for business, is it not, m'sieur?"

The blacksmith pauses to look over the proffered wares, looking up from the spread to nod pleasantly to the stranger. "Yep, that it is," he agrees. "Ah reckon folks get pretty bored of a winter, and need a diversion like this now and again."

"Indeed," says Gerard, and the word comes out as half a sigh. "Zis must be...crowded. For the town." He looks around the bustling market and clearly, for a moment, finds it lacking. Then he finds his professional smile again.

The smith, apparently himself rather more subtle than the hammer by which he makes his living, quirks a smile. "But not crowded for *you*, eh?" he ventures. "There aren't many places out here much bigger, you know. Not that Ah've heard about anyway."

Gerard hunches his shoulder in a Gallic shrug. "Alas, no. But there are the beauties of the rural life to compensate me, when I am far away from the cities, n'est-ce pas? Are you native to Ah, no, m'sieur," he adds, past Lucas's shoulder. "I'm afraid I could not let that go for a sack of barley, even so very generous a sack. Perhaps you have something more... portable?"

The smith shifts his considerable bulk out from between the merchant and his prospective customers. "Me?" he responds to the query. "No, no. Ahm from further west, though lately Ah've been settin' up shop up by Katahdin -- Haven, or Not-Vienna the place is called." He keeps one eye canted towards his forge, wary of any further mischief from his dog, and cautious lest any of the townsfolk get too close, unaware of the danger of the glowing coals. "You?"

The younger man twitches with surprise when 'Haven' is named, and then tries to conceal his reaction with moderate success. It is certain, though, that Lucas now has the whole of the young magician's attention, for the moment. ", me, I am a citizen of the world, n'est-ce pas? I travel." He shifts his weight from one foot to the other, and the long, thin bundle on his back clinks gently.

"Do you, now?" If the smith noticed the other man's reaction, he gives no sign. "You wouldn't happen to have heard of a fella called Arrow's Flight, would you? Or maybe he's goin' by Michael -- slim, kinda reddish hair, tattooed wrists? Calls himself Maker, like me. Ah heard he came
more or less this way."

Rowan trundles down the lengthy dirt road from the edge of town.
Rowan has arrived.
Sashenka trundles down the lengthy dirt road from the edge of town.
Sashenka has arrived.
Kelsey trundles down the lengthy dirt road from the edge of town.
Kelsey has arrived.
Dusty trundles down the lengthy dirt road from the edge of town.
Dusty has arrived.

There's a town square kind of thing in the middle of the town. Gerard's set up in one corner and Lucas has a forge set up in another, although currently, Lucas is over talking with Gerard. There's plenty of people bustling around, and a small crowd around Gerard, consisting in part of children tugging on adults hands. One of them is calling, "Take a coin from /my/ ear!" while the attached adult tries to hush her without success. Gerard is shaking his head to the smith and speaking with him quietly.

Gerard says "No, m'sieur, I cannot say that I have."

Sashenka stops short when she sees Lucas, watches for a moment, and then continues along her path toward him and Gerard.

The smiths open features read disappointment plainly, but no surprise.

Rowan, who's behind Sashenka, is not exactly trying to hide, and heads past her as she stops. He only registers vague surprise to see Lucas anywhere in this area.

Dusty follows at Sashenka's heels, drifting behind to get a good look at Gerard, but keeping Sasha's bulk as a potential shield.

Kelsey notices the cart before the horse, so to speak-- or rather, Harebell before Lucas. She stops short in the road as the small group ambles into town, touching Rowan's elbow and pointing towards the familiar wagon. Then she squares her shoulders and follows Sashenka and Rowan, peering towards the crowd.

Gerard's eyes slide past Lucas and fasten on Rowan with disbelief and horror. At first he cannot seem to believe what he is seeing, but a glance at Kelsey confirms it for him. "God's shit," he says, dismayed. He draws back, looks once at Lucas, once back at Rowan, once at the crowd of potential customers, and then, moving surprisingly fast, he grabs up the corners of the black cloth displaying his goods, and turns to bolt.

Rowan says, disgustedly, "Oh, /please/. Kelsey, get around him." He himself just heads right for the enterprising swordsman, breaking into a run as Gerard actually begins moving.

Dusty frantically points toward the fleeing man and yells "Stop him!"

Sashenka continues to stroll straight ahead, with no apparent concern that the man might escape.

Kelsey obeys with a faint sigh, schemes forgotten, and circles outward and away from Rowan to try and herd the man like a sheepdog, hoping the crowd will block at least one avenue of escape.

Lucas startles at Gerard's sudden expression of horror, and can barely get out an alarmed "What is it?" before the man is scrambling away. He whirls to confront the threat, and is immediately befuddled by the appearance of several of the people from his new home. "Wha -- ?"

Across the square, obedient, but undaunted, Arslag begins to bark excitedly.

Sashenka ambles toward Lucas with a friendly wave, though she watches the pursuit from the corner of her eye.

Gerard ducks through the crowd with an agility born partly of a seventeen-year-old's underfed, wiry physique, and partly from a great deal of experience. A small bronze bowl slides out of his cloth and clangs to the ground behind him, unheeded. His free hand reaches up to tug sharply on the brim of his hat, his mouth forming words that cannot be heard in the sudden hubbub, and anyone who was not watching him at that moment may have a surprisingly hard time picking him out of the crowd when they look back.

Rowan explains, cheerfully, as he races by Lucas, "Stole-- Sasha's-- money," but keeps following the Frenchman. He has some problems, since he's busily ducking around people with far less skill than Gerard, and eventually, he gives up and shifts down into lupus, where he can, finally, dart under people with far less problem.

Dusty scans the crowd, searching for the now-obfuscated target. He strains to stand on tiptoe and tosses his head back and forth, searching for another glimpse.

The crowd, meanwhile, is coming to a boil, the likes of which is probably not seen in a small northern town from one end of the year to another. People are running in all directions, asking and answering questions that have become startlingly far removed from the situation in short order. ("How many of them are there?" "Who did they rob? "Five hurt, two killed--") Children are clinging to their parents' legs, and a few more enterprising souls are using the chaos to their financial advantage, while the owners of stalls have their attention elsewhere.

At Rowan's breathless assertion, the smith's eyebrows shoot up, and he stares from Rowan's retreating form to the approaching Sashenka, to the closing hole in the crowd where his recent acquaintance disappeared. "What?!" he growls. The brows sweep down.

Sashenka stops before Lucas and sighs. "He stayed the night and then made off with the cash in the coffee can," she says, trying to sound nonchalant but with a distinct edge of hurt and anger under her light tone.

Kelsey swears as chaos erupts and she nearly trips over a small child. Hastily picking her up and shoving her towards the righteously angry mother and backing away rapidly with hands up in the air, she scans around wildly. "Blast it..."

Gerard zigs left, zags right, and makes a break for a narrow street that leads away from the square.

Rowan zags right, zigs in another direction entirely, leaps smoothly over a passing sheep (who barely has time to register his presence, let alone be alarmed), and, apparently relying far less on his eyes than he was before, heads towards the little street himself.

Lucas scowls at Sashenka's explanation, and utters something gutteral in what sounds like Mongolian. As the chaos mounts, however, he is aware of the crowd sweeping closer to the forge. He turns to Sashenka, "'Scuse me, a minnit..." The crowd washes past him like a river around a great, ambulatory boulder as he re-crosses the square to his cart, where he quickly begins shifting the forge out of harm's way. Arslag continues to bark in overstimulated canine hysteria.

Sashenka looks around as Lucas tends to his forge. Her eyes widen as she notes the mounting chaos. Sweeping a crying toddler under her arm, she looks around for Dusty.

Dusty, still straining to see what's going on, is suddenly overwhelmed by the surging crowd. He is jostled by several passing strangers, nearly knocking him to the ground. Freshly aware of the danger of his newfound position, he yields to the flow of the crowd.

Kelsey loses Rowan /and/ Gerard in the commotion; a smalltown marketplace is worlds and centuries away from Harbor Place, and way out of her ken. She stops, brows knitting together. Suddenly she throws her head back. "May I have your ATTENTION PLEASE." She throws out her arms widely. "Everyone just HOLD YOUR HORSES and STAY CALM. Settle down and CHILL!" She grins widely. "You got noooo problems."

Sashenka spots Dusty caught in the motion of the crowd, and starts toward him.

Harebell chooses *precisely* that moment to slip her tether and barge bodily into the surging crowd, snapping viciously at hapless townfolk passing to either side of her.

Dusty is bumped wildly from side to side, then finds himself behind the wake of a huge man. As startled residents are pushed or thrown aside by the behemoth ahead, Dusty follows in the resulting clear space. When an alley presents itself, Dusty accepts its offer of safety and dodges into it.

The commotion begins to subside, though there is a localized swell of noise and alarm around Harebell that grows, rather than dwindling with the rest. "Who're you?" Someone calls to Kelsey. "What's going on?" someone else asks. "Where are the bad guys?" a child's voice demands.

Sashenka relaxes as she sees Dusty seeing himself to safety. She lifts the now-quiet child up high above her head, asking the toddler to point out her mommy or daddy.

Gerard throws one hunted look over his shoulder, only to find Voice of Accord close behind him. "Incroy/ab/le," he says, the word halfway to a sob. He rounds a building and finds himself in a more open street, where he freezes for a second trying to spot the best direction to bolt.

Rowan, on the other hand, doesn't freeze at all, and just jumps onto his back, shifting as he goes, so that by the time he's landing on Gerard, the Dancer is in homid. Thud.

"Oh, fer bloody -- !!" Lucas darts after the big drafter with surprising agility, nostrils flared and blue eyes flashing in the closest any of those from Haven have seen to rage. The mare, meanwhile, seems to be taking almost sadistic pleasure in the havoc she is wreaking, her platter-sized hooves narrowly missing the scattering children and the smith's dog, who has broken his stay command to nip at the mare's heels. At one point she lashes out with one hind foot, dealing a glancing blow to Lucas' ribs. He breaks stride, but catches himself quickly enough to take advantage of the pause the mare made to kick at him.

Kelsey flings up her hands. "The name's Kel!" she says cheerfully. "And there's no bad guys! " she says clearly, turning in the direction of the child's voice. "Just some fellow who ACCIDENTALLY made our money disappear, and we wanted to ask for it back." She darts a concerned glance over her shoulder towards the hubbub around Harebell.

Sashenka settles the little girl on one broad shoulder and follows her pointing finger to the other side of the square, circling the plunging mare by a wide margin.

Gerard plows into the street face first, the wind knocked sharply from his body. The cloth holding his items for sale goes flying, in a sparkling rain of odd trinkets and mementos. Gerard's hands scrabble in the packed dirt for a moment, and then lie still. And something very sharp seems to be pressing into Rowan, where he leans on the youth's back.

Rowan says, conversationally, though very quietly, pressing Gerard to the ground, "I can shift before you can stab me with whatever. All we want's the money back. That's all."

"Where are you from?" someone asks Kelsey. "Is that your horse?" calls another voice, apparently not registering the big man in the process of settling the animal in question.

Sashenka makes her way toward a pale, frantic-looking woman in a plaid apron and paisley headscarf. "Here you go, Daisy." She grins as she hands the girl to her mother. "Safe and sound."

"We're from Haven." Kelsey's trying not to make it too obvious when she sweeps the crowd with her slightly apologetic grin that she's actually searching desperately for Rowan, Dusty, and Sashenka. "And excuse me people! Could you please step back from the horse! Give its owner some room to calm her down, eh!"

Harebell squeals in rage as Lucas catches hold of her halter at last, his free hand taking firm hold of one of the huge mare's ears. Her front end is still -- that grip on her ear must be a powerful persuader -- but her back end still stamps and shifts in pent fury, short tail high and lashing. The smith drags her head close to his and mutters something low and angry into her bent ear, and her tail droops. "--And you quit that noise, Arslag!" he finishes, this last for the dog still circling the smith's feet. Dog and horse both finally quiet and cowed, he leads both back to the cart and ties them firmly.

Out from under one of a number of crates stacked in the shadow of a storage outbuilding, Dusty's head pokes out, cautiously surveying the mood of the crowd.

"Ng," says Gerard desperately. "Arginnit do--" He turns his head to the side and spits out a small mouthful of dirt and a bit of blood from a split lip, breathing hoarsely. "Of course," he says finally, gasping the words out. "Whatever m'sieur says--if you will kindly get up--"

Rowan, slowly, gets off Gerard, but he seems, unsurprisingly, quite ready for any attempts at fleeing.

Sashenka circles the crowd again, making her way back toward the alley Dusty's hiding in.

Dusty tumbles out of the crate-laden sanctuary in which he had hidden, and brushes himself off as he heads towards Sashenka, trying his best to stifle his internal state and to appear level-headed and calm.

Gerard picks himself slowly off the ground, leaning on hands that may be seen to be shaking slightly. His sleek black hair is disheveled, the front of his sweater, slacks, and coat are dirty, and there is a small tear in the left knee of the trousers. He licks his torn lip and gives Rowan a sideways glare, sullen and trapped. "I do not have the money," he says, after a moment. "I spent it, most of it. It was not such a very much, anyhow."

Rowan says, looking at the young man remarkably calmly, "Doesn't matter how /much/ there was, you still /stole/ it. But anyway, you don't have it, that's fine, you'll just have to earn more. But c'mon." He gestures toward the main market area. "Don't talk to /me/ about it, talk to Sasha."

Sashenka speeds up slightly as Dusty emerges from his hideout. She circles him with an arm when they reach each other. "Good plan," she says, nodding toward the alley. "You okay?"

"Sasha," Gerard repeats, in surprise, not moving. "I thought 'er name was Kelsey."

Kelsey is still checking on the crowd, trying her best to do the verbal equivalent of shepherding. She relaxes slightly as she picks Dusty and Sashenka out from the crowd, doing her best not to dwell on what the magician who can hide his trail might or might not be doing to Rowan at this very moment. "Oh... mister? I think you dropped your"

Dusty nods wearily and smiles. "Thanks. Seemed safer in there." He adds rather unconvincingly, "I'm fine." He seems to be a trifle weak-kneed, but his eyes cast about in the dispersing crowd. "Did they find him?"

The blacksmith has resumed dealing with the coals from his forge, and begins packing up the rest of his tools into the cart, working quietly, and -- to judge from the carefully controlled tension in his broad shoulders -- still quite angrily. He locates his shirt, which in the confusion had been trampled well into the dust of the market square, and stuffs it carelessly into one of the boxes of tools. In the cool air, the sweat has quickly dried on his bare torso, but he remains smeared with dust and soot and horsehair.

Rowan says, with faint exasperation, "Kelsey and I work for Sasha. Sasha's the big kahuna, although mostly, she acts like a mamma bear. C'mon, you come talk to her, she's nicer than Kels and I are." He reaches out and grabs Gerard's shoulder, with the evident intention of bringing him with him.

Sashenka shakes her head. "Not sure. Last time I saw, Kel was over there." She points across the square, then starts in that direction. Her steps slow as she spots Lucas, and she detours in his direction, trying not to stare too openly at his sooty, bare chest.

Gerard ducks away from the older man's hand, and at the sudden motion, the bundle on his back tears open long the many slits in the black fabric, and five long, silvery swords clatter to the ground. "Oh, /merde/!" Near tears, Gerard drops to his knees to gather them up again.

Rowan offers, a little grudgingly, "You want some help carrying those?"

Dusty clings to the hem of Sashenka's tunic, again riding the wake of a larger, but this time much more friendly, being.

Certain ears tend to be tuned for certain sounds, and Lucas cannot help but look up to seek the source of that familiar ring. At the sight of the swords -- glimpsed only fleetingly through the remnants of the crowd, his eyes widen.

Kelsey feels it her painful duty to try and be useful or calming or soothing until most of the crowd have dispersed; she actually manages to do a fair job of it, laughing at some of the ill-mannered jokes tossed in her direction, and engaging in banter back at people. But she doesn't fuss overmuch, and eventually heads for Sashenka and Lucas, being the most visible of the kumi. The clatter of metal allows her to finally spot Rowan and Gerard again, and her head comes up. "Oh /there/ he is," she mutters, changing course.

Gerard gives Rowan a wild-eyed, incredulous look, and doesn't answer, trying to improvise a sling for the swords out of strips of black cloth. With them temporarily secured, still on his knees, he turns to try to gather up the items he dropped when he fell - a large iron key, several necklaces, a wooden puzzle-box, a palm-sized leather-bound book... He keeps half his attention on Rowan as though expecting to be attacked before he can complete his endeavor.

Sashenka, having been raised among folk who use more intrinsic weaponry, fails utterly to pick the sound of the swords out of the general crowd sounds. Avoiding Harebell by a wide margin, she continues toward Lucas.

Rowan just shrugs. He's not /trying/ to look lowering, just at the moment. He crosses his arms over his chest, and waits.

Kelsey saunters over with hands thrust in pockets, staring down at the man with eyebrows quivering between annoyance and amusement and suspicion. "You okay?" she asks softly.

Lucas, still peering after the source of the clatter, catches sight of Sashenka making her way over, and flashes her a rueful smile. "Was anyone hurt?" is the first thing he asks.

Rowan shrugs, but manages to relax minutely. "/I'm/ fine. I think I might've broken his nose, though. Which, by the way, Gerard, if you want some healing, I can help." He adds, watching the man pick his stuff up, "He spent it, though. I'm trying to get him over to talk to Sasha, 'cause it's /her/ money, not ours, after all."

Sashenka shakes her head. "Nothing serious, as far as I can tell. You seem to have everything under control over here," she says, her voice tinged with admiration.

Gerard finishes gathering the items up and stuffing them into his courier pouch, as though surprised he has been permitted to continue. He stands up, eyeing Kelsey warily. Never has a man with his arms full of weapons looked less like a threat to anyone. His nose does, indeed, seem to be crooked, and starting to swell.

Kelsey says with a sly edge to her smile which she can't quite restrain, "There are other ways, perhaps, to compensate her." She wrinkles her nose at the sight of his face, being a fairly fastidious soul at heart. "Bonjour, Monsieur Delacroix." The courtesy she sketches for him with her hand and a slight bow is laden with irony.

Rowan considers him. "Come /on/," he finally says, "I can heal you while you talk to her. Because if /I/ talk to you, I'll just eventually end up doing stupid things, and that's not gonna help /anyone/." Either trusting Gerard not to run, or assuming Kelsey will back him up, Rowan heads for where he last saw Sashenka.

Gerard visibly considers bolting again, but only for a moment.

At Sashenka's assertion, Lucas drops his eyes, launching a kick at the cart's nearest wheel. "Ah brought her 'cause Ah thought she'd be trouble if Ah left her *behind*," he says. There's the return of cooling anger in his voice, directed at himself this time. "But first it's the Dog, and then it's the Dogfood!" he growls, glaring at each of his companions in turn. Arslag has the canine grace to look properly ashamed, whether or not he has any idea what it is he's ashamed of. Harebell lays her ears back and turns her head away. "And then Ah stand there like a fool and let that thief run off and *start* all of it." He rubs a square hand across the back of his neck, seems to come to the realization that he's perilously close to whinging, and smiles. "S'been a heck of a day, eh?"

Kelsey falls into step on the other side of Gerard from Rowan, again with that dangerous smile firmly settled into place. "Don't even think about it," she says gently.

Gerard flinches minutely, and then his shoulders slump. His arms tighten around the naked swords, and the scraps of fabric still securing them, and he follows Rowan looking resentful and defeated.

Rowan eventually finds Sashenka somewhere other than where he left her. Giving Lucas a polite post-rant nod, he glances from Sasha to Gerard, trailing along after him. "This would be your guy, ma'am."

Lucas regards Gerard coldly.

Dusty partially steps out from Sasha's shadow to glare at the captured prey.

Gerard's pace noticibly slows as he realizes that Rowan is taking him toward two of the largest people in the square. He stops several feet away, and there is a bright, distant spark of panic in his eyes as he looks from one face to another.

Sashenka chuckles. "I guess it has been, at that. When you're done here, come on over and have a good dinner, okay? I can probably even scrounge something up for Arslag, there." She grins. It takes a moment for her to register Gerard and his captors, and a longer moment to change her expression to an appropriate one of Mama-bear anger. "This is him, eh?" She looks him up and down like a piece of spoiled salmon.

"It ain't polite to bite the hand that feeds you," Lucas informs the hapless Gerard, though half the chill in the smith's usually warm baritone may well be directed at the sulking draft horse behind him.

Rowan says, "Yep." After a brief moment of contemplating Sashenka's expression, he says, a bit of rueful sympathy in his tone, "Gerard, I don't heal without permission. Is it ok?"

Kelsey sets a hand firmly on Gerard's shoulder, provided that the shoulder doesn't dematerialize.

"Yes, yes. It was very wrong," Gerard says hurriedly. He cringes back from Kelsey's hand but doesn't dare evade it altogether. "Look, I give you what I have left. I'm sorry, eh? I spend--spent--the rest. It was not so much to start with." It takes him a moment to register Rowan's question. "What?" he asks, utterly perplexed.

Sashenka shakes her head. "No, it wasn't much. I'm sure what's left isn't enough to bother with." Her tone, somehow both hard and teasing, implies that she rather expects him to give it back anyway.

Rowan explains, for some reason sounding vaguely apologetic, "Well, magic. I heal by magic, is the easiest explanation. I went and toasted your nose, there, and I don't feel entirely right about it, even if you did steal stuff. So. Do you mind?" He adds, a little wryer, "Don't let me stop you from drawing up a treaty with Sasha, though..."

Kelsey says quietly, "We take back what you took from her. We don't need to cause any /other/ harm."

Rowan mutters, "Right, what she said."

Sashenka looks expectantly at Gerard.

"Where did you st-- get those swords?" Lucas asks without warning. "Who else have you stolen from?"

Gerard says, amazed, "You ask permission before you heal, but not before you break. You people are mad. You follow me this far, and then you /talk/." He shrugs, as though he would throw his hands in the air, were they not occupied. "Et biens, yes, please, be my guest!" He digs in his pockets and produces a handful of assorted coins, and a small packet of nuts. "Voila." He holds them out to Sashenka in hands that are still a little tremulous from the chase.

Gerard jerks around suddenly at Lucas's question. His arms tighten around the makeshift bundle, the balance shifts, and one of the swords slips and threatens to drop. "What?"

Rowan says, a little apologetically still, "I wouldn't have broken, but you ran, so I was sort of forced into it." He looks about to add more, but stops, given as Gerard's attention is now fully engaged elsewhere.

"You heard me," the smith says quietly.

Sashenka's hard gaze falters at the sight of Gerard's trembling fingers, and she sighs. "Oh, forget it. I don't care about the money. Just put it back in your pocket and get out of my sight. And if you ever come back to Haven -- no, wherever you go -- treat the people who do you good with some simple resp --" She trails off as Gerard's attention shifts.

Gerard scrabbles for his long lost poise. "Eh, m'sieur. If you are interested in my swords, I will be more than happy to display them for you at another time--" His attention swings back and forth between Lucas and Sashenka, and he cannot focus fully on either, with both of them so focused on him.

"That's not an answer to either of my questions," Lucas growls. My goodness, but he is a large fellow. He smells sharply of the forge and horses, this close up. "Who else have you stolen from?"

Kelsey is quiet and still now, although she gives Sashenka a frustrated glance.

Dusty senses impending danger, and his head pops back into Sashenka's shadow, using her form as protection.

Gerard tries to ease himself backward inconspicuously. "Monsieur will understand, that is a difficult question. It is not generally prudent to recite such things, even if I could remember..."

Kelsey takes a step back and to the side, shadowing him with a sort of resigned grimace.

Rowan sighs. "I think the question might well not be who, but /why/. Specially money, when we could just /help/. Y'know?"

The huge smith looms menacingly, but his next question seems a non sequiteur: "Did you lie to me about Arrow's Flight?" Lucas demands harshly.

Sashenka glances at Kelsey, startled, and then nods slightly. "Where do you think you're going?" she asks Gerard casually. "Answer the gentleman's questions, and then come back with us and, umm.." she glances again at Kel. "... wash some dishes. The lady here is getting dishpan hands, and we can't have that..." she subsides again as she realizes that she's talking at cross-purposes with the blacksmith.

"What??" Gerard says, now completely mystified. His eyes skip over the assembled faces to see if anyone there will give him his cue. "No, m'sieur I did not--I do not--"

Rowan has no particular cues to give, so he just shrugs, mostly with one shoulder. He's yet to extend his hand -- perhaps he thinks healing is too much of a distraction, in these circumstances.

At the man's obvious confusion, Lucas subsides, his usually open features unreadable. One gets the impression, however, that no answer Gerard could have given would have been the "right" one. With a low rumbling snort, the smith retreats from the circle to finish arranging the cart for the trip home. He keeps an eye and an ear on the goings on, however.

Kelsey sighs and wiggles her fingers at Sashenka with a rueful expression. "Anyway. Yes, Gerard, the way to get food, room and board, where /we/ come from, is to pitch in with whatever skill you have to offer. Then it's given freely. Or else, it's given to a stranger in need, when he looks like he needs to be taken in from the cold. In return a little courtesy is expected. Sashenka gives all she has to offer. And Rowan and I will /not/ let anyone take advantage of that. Ever."

Sashenka smiles at Kelsey, touched.

Rowan says, "/Exactly/," moving slightly closer to Kelsey, unconsciously. He starts to say more, and then just shrugs.

Gerard watches Lucas back away with visible relief; his whole body slumps just slightly as though his strings, wound to the breaking point, were slackened just a touch. Looking back at Sashenka, he says, shoving the coins back into his pocket, "I am sorry, madame, I did not he--come back?" he repeats, only now taking in what she said. "With you? No. No. C'est impossible. No." He shakes his head several times, and hitches the swords back up again.

Fairly casually, but distinctly, Rowan says, "Why. Not?"

Sashenka makes a rumbling sound in her throat, the sympathy caused by the young man's fear clearly dissipating quickly.

"Because--" Gerard begins, and gropes for an answer that will convince. Not finding one, he gives Rowan and Sashenka a wry smile, with a ghost of the charm that came through in a thunderstorm, and won him a place to rob in the first place. "Because," he says with disarming honesty, "You do not like me, and you do not trust me, and you do not want me anywhere near your home. N'est-ce pas? I am a thief and a scavenger, me, and you will not want me working in the place I robbed. You would have no peace until I was gone. And," he adds, "I am a very poor washer of dishes."

Rowan chuckles, just slightly. "I can't argue the point. But then again, /some/ kind of repayment is necessary." He glances at Sasha, then back. "Mostly, I can't figure out why /stealing/ is necessary, when you could pretty much /ask/, around /here/, anyway."

Kelsey's brows lift, but she's not really finding a better answer than Rowan's. "I am sure the amazing Monsieur Delacroix has a few other talents up his sleeve," she observes, taking refuge in irony.

Gerard eyes Kelsey irritably. "Oui, madmoiselle. I can take a quarter out of your ear - provided you give me the quarter first. And I can steal and scavenge for you - that is precisely what you would wish, n'est-ce pas? Bien. You say come, I come. You say wash, I wash. I have already seen what happens when you are displeased." He does not answer Rowan's questions. Possibly he doesn't know how.

Rowan glances at Sashenka again. Evidently, he for some reason sees her as the ultimate arbiter of all this.

Kelsey looks to Sashenka, a hint of defeat in her eyes and a silent "Well" lifting her eyebrows.

Sashenka sighs. "Fine. Like I said before, just get out of my sight. But if I see you again, expect to be hauled to the Diner by the ear and confronted with large, sticky, soot-encrusted pots."

Gerard, on the point of defeat, looks incredulously at Sashenka. "That--is it? C'est tout? I can go?"

Sashenka rolls her eyes. "You're right, I don't want to deal with you. And the cash you have on you wouldn't buy a pound of flour. So just pretend you're sorry and then go away."

Rowan looks faintly disgruntled, but says, "Seems like. You still want that healing, or do you not mind a busted nose?"

Kelsey looks vaguely dissatisfied, to judge by the hole she's chewing in her lip, but she abruptly shrugs and circles around to the lurking figure of Dusty to give him a mute hug.

"Of course--of course I am sorry!" Gerard says radiantly. "Terribly sorry. Of course." He hesitates. "No, thank you," he says politely to Rowan. It is clear from his tone that he finds the offer outlandish, and almost as frightening as the threats. With one more incredulous look at the group of non-avengers, he hitches up his load once again and hurries from the town square at a pace just under a run.

Dusty startles at the attention afforded him, but realizing it is Kelsey, he returns the hug. He looks up at her and gives a shrug which mirrors her dissatisfaction.

Lucas' eyes follow Gerard's retreat, thoughtfully.

Kelsey mutters under her breath, "I bet he's sorry." Words fail the ebullient Galliard, and she finally defines the problem with, "What a twerp."

Sashenka stares after Gerard's retreating form, her mouth twitching at the corners, and then bursts into laughter. After a few moments she wipes the tears of levity from her eyes. "What an odd duck THAT one is," she chuckles.

Rowan stares after him a little grimly. "/Someone/ is gonna have to take /him/ in hand, /someday/..."

Lucas startles at Sashenka's laughter, then for the first time in hours seems to relax, his furrowed brow easing, and the corners of his mouth tugging back just a bit.

Kelsey looks up at Sashenka a little belligerently, hanging onto her irritation like a dog clinging to a thoroughly-picked bone, but she can't scowl in the face of kindness for long, and finally finds a smile and a bit of a chuckle in return. "I'm bushed. We should've pocketed the coin he still had, at least, to buy ourselves a good dinner. Let's go, I'll see if I can bard us some drinks, at least, before we go home."

Kelsey pages the room: As in: we cut the scene here, sorta, but handwave stopping for light refreshment before making the trek back to Rowan's old town up the road. ;)

Sashenka's laughter trails away. "ah, what he had wouldn't've bought a good dinner for Arslag. Did you see it?"

Dusty releases mounds of pent-up tension with an extra-long, extra-deep sigh. He shakes his head slowly. A different thought strokes him as Sasha mentions food. "Did you say something of dinner, Sasha?"

Sashenka drapes an arm comfortably around the boy's shoulders. "I'm sure we can dig up something." She may mean that literally.