Part of Sing Rides Again
|Dramatis Personae|| |
9 December, 2016
Ambroise talks with Lisette about the return of Sint
St. John's University - University City - Fallcoast - B03
It's Friday afternoon, and the quad is a rush of noise and movement, as students excitedly discuss their weekend plans and generally work towards the business of forgetting about university for a couple of days. The cold weather keeps anyone from lingering too much, most people rushing off to somewhere else, although there's a few people lingering around one of the more favored coffee providers -- Lisette amongst them -- one hand wrapped around a newly acquired takeaway coffee, the other frantically texting, both hands sans gloves. She's moving, albeit at a snails pace compared to the rest of the passersby, focused on her screen.
Ambroise emerges from his office, heading for his car. Technically his Friday schedule is such that he had already taken off for the day much earlier but after realizing that he had left something behind he returned near the end of the day to pick it up.
Wrapped in his long coat with his scarf wound round his neck to ward off the cold he has a roughly three foot long cloth wrapped package under one arm when he encounters Lisette making her way across campus. "Ah, Miss Cavanaugh," he says in way of greeting. "Good to see you again."
Lisette's head snaps up; even though she has plenty of relatives whom the address could conceivably be addressed to, it's natural that she always thinks it's for her. "Oh," she exclaims, surprised or pretending so fairly adroitly, "Professor. How are you?" she juggles coffee and phone awkwardly for a moment, glances down at the phone and finishes whatever she was texting. Glancing around, then back to Ambroise, she adds with an earnest, brilliant smile, "Good to see you too. You're eye ah, looks better."
Ambroise nods to her and smiles. After about a week the bruise has faded to little more than a slight discoloration beneath the eye. "Thank you," he says. "It feels much better as well. I hope things have been going well for you and your cousin."
There's a moment -- visible on Lisette's expression -- where she has to think about which cousin Ambroise might conceivably be referring to. "Oh. Ahh, yes, Milo's good at looking after himself," she says, with a rueful smile. "He was in the military, did you know?" She slips her phone away, mostly so that she can press ungloved fingers to her coffee to warm them. "Did you, want to talk?" it could be the start of a proposition, but the brunette seems a tad too cagey all of a sudden for that, adding, "About what happened the other weekend?"
Ambroise blinks, a bit surprised at the sudden and unexpected question. "Oh. Of course," he says, apparently caught a little flat footed at having the actions of that evening so suddenly brought up. He pauses thoughtfully for a moment and then glances about at the quad and the milling students. "Perhaps in my office?" he offers. "It would be a bit warmer than standing around out here."
If anything, Lisette seems surprised by his surprise, twitch of lips swiftly transitioning into an easy smile. While the professor glances about, she takes a generous gulp from her coffee, nodding gratefully at his suggestion. "It is getting a bit cold out here," she says with a grin, gesturing as if indicating he should lead the way. Clearly she doesn't find herself in the history department all that frequently.
The professor's office is modestly sized, not as large or well situated as it might be were he the head of the department but certainly not the broom-closet sized affairs of a teacher with only a bachelor's or master's. It is fairly spartan in its furnishing at the moment, the professor not having had the opportunity to move a great deal of his personal belongings in just yet. For the most part the furnishings seem to consist of a filing cabinet, his desk and computer, a bookcase already half filled with well-worn but neatly organized books (chaos not having had the opportunity to infect the shelves) and a black and white photograph of the professor on the wall, perhaps five years younger, as he works with hammer and chisel on a large stone block.
"Please," Ambroise says with a smile, indicating one of the chairs in the office, "make yourself comfortable." He leans the cloth wrapped package up against the edge of the desk and hangs his long coat and scarf on a freestanding coat rack before he takes his seat in the chair in front of the desk.
Lisette is one such clearly used to assessing someone's personal spaces, gaze flickering around the austere-looking office with a visible wrinkle of her nose. "You ought to get some plants or something in here," she advises, as she slips her purse off her shoulder, sets it down on the floor next to one of the chairs, and shrugs out of her coat. She pauses to look at the photograph of him on the wall with a furrow of her brow, before his invitation draws her towards the desk, choosing the other chair adjoining his. She sets both coffee and phone down on top of his desk, before she settles into the chair, crossing her legs. "Have you studied much about the history of Fallcoast, Professor?" she asks, turning gaze towards him.
"Unfortunately the majority of plants on sale at the moment are poinsettias," Ambroise says, "and I'm not terribly fond of them, but I will probably pick up some small plants in the next few weeks as I settle in." He peels off his gloves as he talks and in answer to your question he says, "Unfortunately I haven't had much of an opportunity to research the local history, though having grown up in Lewiston-Auburn I was already familiar with your family, if that's what you were wondering."
"It wasn't," Lisette starts to say, before she's visibly derailed as his latter words sink in. Suddenly surprised, she wonders, "What about my family?" there might be an understandable defensiveness in her words and the way she straightens, twisting her body to face him a little more directly.
Ambroise raises a hand in a somewhat placating gesture. "I simply mean I'm aware of them," he says. "The Cavanaughs hardly keep a low profile, after all and they've been a presence in Maine for, what, a hundred, a hundred and fifty years? It is hardly surprising to find their name on quite a few of the things about town."
Slowly, Lisette exhales, her chin lifting inadvertently as she does so. While she seems mollified by the response there's a remnant of haughtiness in the way she regards him now, like as not unfeigned. "There's plenty of, well, odd things in Fallcoast's history," she says, eventually. "And," with a grimace, "In its present. Those -- pirates, whatever, they came at the hospital, after we dropped off the boy the other night. Looking for more children." She may play at being haughty, but there's a slight unevenness of fingers as she leans to reach for her coffee.
Ambroise raises one eyebrow. "I did not hear about that," he says. "That's...upsetting on multiple levels." He studies her carefully for a moment, trying to spot the landmines hidden below the surface so as not to say the wrong thing. Finally he settles on "I am so very sorry," and his tone genuinely seems conciliatory. "Was the child that we rescued..."
"They said he was physically fine. But his parents--" Lisette presses together into a thin line, before she exhales. "But, that's... there's a reason you didn't hear about it. No one talks about the weird stuff that goes on. It's always there, but it becomes a... a gas explosion, or a gang attack, or a crime wave." The brunette straightens, aware she's probably coming off as some sort of conspiracy nut, now, seeking to meet Ambroise's gaze. "Cousin Milo thought it best you weren't burdened with how odd Fallcoast is, but I think it's only fair that you know what you're in for." A beat, and the weighted question follows: "Do you believe me?"
Ambroise raises an eyebrow once more, the conversation not really going in the direction he had anticipated, but then who would have anticipated this direction. "Well," he says, "considering I've seen first hand one of these events and the media's lack of concern about the matter it would be a bit foolish of me not to believe that these kinds of things are happening."
The raised eyebrow makes her tense, but his latter words earn a visibly noticeable easing of tension in Lisette's posture and the beginnings of a smile, despite the topic at hand. "I think... the children are safe, for this year. But I've heard that, whatever that was -- that it comes back, year after year."
Ambroise studies her for a moment, looking for hidden meaning beneath her words, but he's not much of a counselor. "You're not afraid that it is somehow connected to your family, are you?" he asks a bit suddenly.
Lisette looks genuinely surprised and caught off guard, though the speed at which she refutes the suggestion hints at honesty: "No, not in the least." With another smile, and a hint of laughter, "We Cavanaughs can have our... fancies, but child-stealing is definitely not one of them." She takes a generous gulp of her coffee, and sets it on the desk so that she can unwind her scarf.
Ambroise gives a small nod of his head, looking a bit relieved at the answer. "Good," he says. "I was worried that maybe you were somehow trying to blame yourself for something that wasn't your fault. So are you saying that last year was not the first year that this had happened?"
Pooling the scarf in her lap, Lisette pauses for a moment, frowning briefly. "I could've, maybe," she says, slowly. "I don't know. When I was younger, all the strange stuff I used to hear just seemed like someone else's problem, you know?" Her fingers brush along the material of the scarf, as if finding some mute comfort in the gesture. "I... I heard rumors, last Christmas, but I stayed in New York. No one really seems to want to talk about it, though, which is frustrating. Wouldn't you rather know?" she asks, making a frustrated noise in the back of her throat. "I would."
Ambroise nods his head slowly once more. "I would," he says in a tone of agreement, not really quite understanding what he is being asked. "But you can't fault yourself because you didn't," he says. "You were a child and thought with the mind of a child. What is important is what you've done now. How you've acted. Most people would have probably run the other way if they encountered something like what we ran into last week, but you took a stand and helped hold the line and save a life and that's not something a lot of people can say."
Lisette responds to the praise with a brilliant, warm smile, shifting her weight in the chair as she leans forward in her earnestness: "Did you see the way their weapons went flying like," she flickers her fingers, looking pleased, like she's personally responsible. "I... what did you do with the spear you took?" she asks, curiously. "Do you still have it?"
"It...was a halberd," Ambroise says, a bit self-conscious at making the correction but not really able to prevent himself. "And yes. It's actually back at my hotel room. I kept it wrapped up for the police but..." He shakes his head. "Anyway, like I said, you can't blame yourself for any of this. Even if you were more aware of what was going on last year do you think that would have caused it to stop? It would have happened anyway." He then sobers a little more and says, "But you need to be careful. I know I'm saying that what you did was a good thing, but it was also very dangerous. We're both very lucky that that bounty hunter was there with her gun. I'm not completely sure I understand why those guys were using the weapons that they were but just because they were old doesn't mean they weren't dangerous."
Lisette's expression might as well convey 'there's a difference?' just as clearly as if she'd spoken it aloud. "No one'll come asking for it," she says, sounding pretty certain. "I'd like to... if I can, see it. Touch it." As far as stopping what happened, she taps fingers against the material of her scarf as she considers. "Maybe. Maybe not." Her brow furrows briefly at his mention of Jo. "Yeah. I mean, I think we'd have been okay even without her. You were all," she swings a fist wildly in the way of someone completely untrained, "They didn't seem so scary once I took their weapons."
Ambroise laughs a little. He doesn't really seem to catch her comment about taking their weapons, or maybe he thinks it is in reference to disarming them after the fight. "I had something of an advantage on them," he says, "because I actually have studied sword fighting." He nods his head in the direction of the cloth wrapped bundle leaning against his desk. "Put no, I would not have like to have tried to take away weapons from three armed men even if their experience was pretty much limited to 'put pointy end in other guy' without someone with a gun providing backup. Thanks to that I was able to go from needing to get the weapons away from them to just slowing them down until she might shoot them. And you may remember I still didn't get away completely free." He taps the faded bruise beneath his eye. "I just got lucky and the time that they caught me it wasn't with anything pointy."
The brunette doesn't seem to notice her slip -- if indeed it was a slip. She waves Ambroise's corrections away, as if they're of little consequence. Probably because she fixated on something he says at the start: "You know how to fight with swords? That is cool," with somewhat of a surprise, like equating professors with cool is something particularly out of the ordinary. She rises to her feet, far too curious to resist the temptation of unfolding the cloth over the bundle he's indicated, though there's a lightness about her touch, like she's trying not to touch whatever's underneath.
The object beneath the wrapping is more like a sword shaped object than an actual sword, made of a heavy black material that has a slight resilient feel to its surface but a lot more stiffness than you would assume if it were just a hunk of rubber. It is basically a practice sword, or waster, made from a black polypropylene material.
"I'm a little out of shape," he says with a slight smile. "Unfortunately while I was finishing up my doctorate I didn't keep up with my practice, but after the events of last week I thought that perhaps it would be a good idea to start exercising a bit more seriously again." And while he does look to be in fairly good shape a closer look at the photo would show him to be much more fit, two summers spent shaping and lifting stones combined with regular practice having made the professor surprisingly muscular back then.
Lisette exhales as she sees the object, unaware she's doing so. There's a tentativeness as she takes a hold of the hilt that disappears after a moment's concentration. Of course, she does exactly what every person whose never held a sword before does: she immediately lifts it horizontally in front of her, just like one of those scenes from Kill Bill, before she lifts her arms, spins around, and slashes down at the nearest invisible enemy. Of course, the spinning part isn't exactly smooth in her heels, so in theory it sounds a lot better than her actual execution. "You should definitely start doing this again," she says, enthusiastically, as she makes all sorts of sword-holding faux-pas, swinging it around before lowering her arms.
Ambroise nods and flashes a quick grin as he watches her waving around the sword. "Once I'm a bit more settled in," he says, "I'll see if there's enough interest in the school to form a HEMAA club and if I can perhaps find a certificated instructor who would be interested in teaching. Maybe it would help a few of my students who seem to be looking at history as something dead, dull, and uninteresting to get an opportunity to smack one of their teachers in the head."
"That certainly would be quite a draw," Lisette admits with a laugh. It doesn't take her long to get tired (physically, perhaps otherwise as well), of swinging around the practice sword, and so she sets it back in place, wrapping the cloth around it. "You never know. I might even show up once or twice, post it on my instagram. Then you'd be overflowing with students," she says, sounding certain, as she leans against the desk.
Ambroise smiles and leans back in his chair a bit, happy and a little self-satisfied to have diverted Lisette from her earlier mood. "Show up more than that," he says. "You certainly seemed to enjoy it, and it really is pretty good exercise. Not to mention the fact that if it is well received perhaps we can add horsemanship as well, though that would probably have to be through some organization other than HEMAA. They don't handle horses."
"I'll think about it," Lisette says, after a moment's consideration, though she does at least seem sincere in her intent to consider it. "It might be useful, next time pirates come visit," with am easy smile. Her phone buzzes, and she drops her hand to the desk, glancing at it and pushing straight at the same time. "Shit. I have to go, I have this thing tonight," she says, reaching for her scarf and beginning to hastily wind it around her neck. "Uh. Are you on twitter? I'll DM you and we can set up a time for me to look at the halberd."
Ambroise nods to her and quickly rattles of an address. "Oh! I don't think they'll be back for a year," he says. "At least not as pirates. I meant to tell you that but after your cousin mentioned one of them on a white horse with a crosier I did a little research. I think that they are trying to connect to some of the mythology of Saint Nicholas so with the feastday for St. Nicholas just past I doubt they will be back."
Lisette, ever the multi-tasker when it comes to her phone, is simultaneously shrugging into her coat while looking up his twitter account, adding him, and presumably sending him a message. "Well, that's something," she says with a brilliant grin. "Who knows, in a year, you and I could be meeting them sword to sword, Captain Sparrow style." She makes an approving noise in the back of her throat, as she pulls her coat closed. "Thanks, Professor. I'll speak to you soon?" and then she's out in a bundle of energy, leaving her forgotten coffee cup behind.