The sound of metal striking rock rings loud and clear even above the regular ambiance that flows about this end of Vesper. Given all the old industrial buildings in the vicinity the sound isn’t too out of place but it’s very jarring; an off-beat rhythm to the even sounds of old machinery buzzing and ga-junking along behind wood and brick walls.
It also originates, should one try to follow it, from a very unlikely place. There at an intersection of winding streets a man in a white button-up shirt swings away with a pickax. Around his waist is tied a rather nice looking jacket, some shade of teal with a hint of shimmer that betrays a fancy sort of material. All in all he’s dressed rather nicely. It’s just a little strange to see someone wearing such things while performing manual labor.
Scratch that, it’s strange in general to see someone taking a pickax to the street. By the look of things it seems he’s been at it for some time, chunks of rock from the modge-podge pavement having already been chipped and broken away.
There’s a fair share of onlookers, passers-by and so forth. Most of them don’t linger for very long. They must be well-acquainted with the tendencies of the Haberdeen heir that they don’t give his actions much thought, although surely someone’s probably gone to inform the Justicars, just in case.
For others, they might recall the young man from having lept off of a rooftop one day in hopes that he could fly.
Leave it to Elpida to ask the obvious question.
“The hell are you doing?” she asks of him when she stops by. She’d stared a while, sort of trying to spend a bit getting the gist of what he’s doing. It’s not that WHAT he’s doing isn’t obvious, of course, but it’s a bit out of place for someone to take a pickax to a street somewhat randomly, especially if they’re not necessarily in the employ of the city.
Snakes hiss at him, of course, because there’s no one they don’t hiss at.
He’d been so caught up in his work that he nearly jumps two feet when a question is directed at him. Most people (who know better by now) have given him a wide berth, figuring that it’s better they don’t know the details. Some people who pass by move a bit faster as they see Elpida engaging him.
The pickax goes clanking to the ground, slipping from his fingers- although thankfully not in mid-swing!
“Shhhh, shhshh-shh!” comes Aloysius’ reply as he swivels about to face the Gorgon, finger pressed to his lips. He pauses, eyes widening as he takes in her appearance, but just as quickly he blinks and seems to brush it off. And then, as though he’s about to tell her the greatest secret ever, he grins and then recovers his pickax so he can apply it to a chunk of stone that looks ready to give way.
“A few moments, an’ all will be revealed. Ah’ve about got it…! After so long!”
Strange, maybe. When did he develop an accent?
“…are you on something?” asks Elpida, giving a snake a flick over her shoulder. One of the larger ones was worming its way down her front, after all, and probably was looking to bite her.
“Anyway, the hell are you on?” She asks, after a moment. “I mean, I’m not even sure you should be doing that.” She points at the ground.
“On? Secrets! An ol’ secret but ah’ll not miss this chance now.” Yeah, that really doesn’t answer much. Probably doesn’t help that he misunderstood the question.
“Not t’worry, Scales. ‘s jus’ rocks an’ dirt. Once ah’m done, fill’er in an’ it’ll be all good as new, eh?”
Aloysius waves her concerns off with a hand, then sets a boot against the flatter end of the curve to help lever up the pointed end of the pick that he’d wedged beneath the stone. “Grk… It’sa bit…wedged in there, in’t it?” he chuckles, obviously straining to try prying the thing up. But with the few inches he’s managed to, it’s clear that the space beneath is somewhat hollowed out.
“I’m sorry. Did you just call me ‘Scales?” says Elpida. Her tone has gone sour. That is not a nick name she seems to like. There’s venom on the snakes teeth as they hiss more directly at Aloysius now.
Her eyes roll and she crouches down nearby to have a look. A closer one. She is, after all, probably a fair bit stronger than he is.
There’s no doubt that Elpida is stronger than the young noble. Certainly Aloysius is athletic and in fair shape for all the traveling he’s done, but raw strength is something left to be desired, at least in comparison to the Gorgon’s ability. To be fair, he’s done a considerable job of getting the piece up at all, but it’s two inches thick and its removal isn’t at all simple for the amount of detritus build-up and whatever that had been used to set the stone into the street to begin with still clinging to most of the outer edges, a rough square approximately a foot across. All things considered, it’s a bit odd for placement considering most of the other paving stones here are smaller and maybe even a little older.
Detecting Elpida’s distaste of the name he’s called her, Aloysius smiles warily, briefly releasing the pick with a hand, wiggling fingers in something of apology. “Meant no offense, luv! Here now, think y’ can give me a hand?”
“Love?” says Elpida, distaste growing by the minute.
“Yeah, of course I’m gonna help you. The picking will probably drive me crazy later if I don’t.” Well, that and curiosity. She reaches down, root around to find… whatever it is and give it a good, careful tug. It wouldn’t do to break whatever it is in the first place, after all.
Aloysius flinches at her tone, but nevertheless he looks grateful when Elpida decides to help out after all. He tries to prop up the stone a bit more to give her more room to reach in.
The Gorgon will find her fingers brushing something that feels like cloth, rough, but definitely an unusual material to be found under a paving stone. What she manages to pull out is a burlap bag, its condition making it difficult to tell just how old it is since it’s been relatively well-preserved in its hiding space, although it is dirty. Inside is a flat wooden box, its polish a bit worn, its edges slightly dinged. There’s no lock to it but it opens on hinges, the front of it slathered in old, melted red wax with a seal stamped into it.
Once Elpida’s pulled the thing out from under the stone, Aloysius lets it settle back into place as he lifts the pick free, looking eagerly at what she’s found.
“How did you even know this was here?” asks Elpida.
“What is this, some kind of game?” She brushes the box off with clawed fingertips, gently, offering it towards Aloysius. To be fair, it’s his discovery, whatever it is.
“…I need a drink,” she mutters. And then reaches for her hip flask. Being a Gorgon means never having to monitor your alcohol consumption, really.
Letting the pickax drop to the ground with a ringing clank, Aloysius takes hold of the box once its offered to him, eyes bright, a hesitant smile on his face.
“Yet untouched after all these years…” he murmurs, fingers brushing the seal. His eyes flick towards Elpida, smile almost regretful. “No game. An ol’ wish, left behind. Erynd sent me word o’ where’ta find it. Didn’t make it back from th’ war. Unfortunately neither did I.”
Leaving no more explanation for those cryptic words, he cracks open the seal, the pieces of wax falling to the ground as he carefully opens the box. Inside is an old key, a ring, and an old folded piece of parchment.
Aloysius glances at Elpida as she helps herself to a drink, chuckling dryly. “Ah’d agree t’that, but ah’ll not be long.” With shaking fingers he unfolds the note, reading the spidery lines of script before he sighs with a wistful smile.
“Guess th’ rest is up t’ye both,” he says, closing the box up. He nods his head to Elpida. “Thank y’ for th’ assistance, miss. Weren’t meant t’ be trouble. –Catch.”
It’s an odd addendum, but perhaps it’ll make sense shortly.
Aloysius seems to…flicker, and there’s a brush of a chill past Elpida. The noble stumbles back, looking like he’s started to faint.
“Hm, what do-,” and then he’s practically fainting. Naturally, Elpida is going to reach out, try to grab him, steady him, and if necessary, let him fall into her so she can hold him.
This is not exactly what she planned on happening. There is flustered grumbling of annoyance. “Oh, COME ON,” she says loudly. Her snakes are agreeing.
Also, some of them are gonna possibly wind up on Aloysius if he does fall into her.
Either way, the Gorgon is grabbing at him.
He’s totally falling on her, but at least it’s nothing she can’t handle, right? Not to worry, it seems that Aloysius is coming to rather quickly, his eyelids fluttering open. Blearily he stares a bit as he finds himself surrounded by snakes.
“…err…wha? O-oh!” he yelps, more so because waking up to a face full of snakes will probably startle anyone. He seems to have the presence of mind enough not to make any abrupt movements, although this is quickly making itself out to be a very awkward situation. “H-hello again? Sorry, did I just…um…” Faint on you? Whoops? He looks a little surprised, but the accent’s gone.
“…yeah. You did.” The lack of accent has her squinting. The snakes are draped all over him now and they’re binding him up. For warmth, y’see!
“…now cut that out, you guys,” she tells them, trying to free Aloysius, carefully.
“UH. Don’t wiggle too much, huh? Erf…”
“Mff?” This is a very new experience for him and he’s not all that certain that he likes it. While Aloysius doesn’t take to flailing about at suddenly being slowly engulfed by snakes, he isn’t above trying to nudge them aside, albeit very carefully as he can’t tell how close his fingers are to the bitey ends when he can’t quite see.
But he would very much like to be able to breathe.
The Gorgon lets out a hefty sigh. She verrrrry carefully bends at the knees so she can set Aloysius down on his back and then straighten up. This pulls him free of her snakes.
Aloysius decides that he does not like this experience. It’s very unsettling. But he seems to trust Elpida as he finds himself lowered, and finally he feels the snakes loosening from around him as they straighten away once she sits back. His hair’s left a bit wild in their wake, but good news, he can breathe again! That’s reason enough to grin, even as he takes care when sitting up again, making sure that he’s not within snakelength should Elpida’s serpents have developed some sort of fondness and hidden anaconda roots.
“Hah… That’s much better. Dreadfully sorry about that! Usually Xavier’s with me, but he said there was a backup of laundry that absolutely needed to be taken care of before the week’s end.”
He dusts himself off as he looks around, taking in the broken ground nearby, the pickax, and the box that’s fallen open beside them.
Elpida seems relieved that he can breathe again, too. They may mostly be vipers, but some of them are pretty long and densely packed, not to mention that she has some pretty dang long ones in back that reach all the way down to her frigging waist.
You know. Hair. If they were real hair, it’d be hair to be proud of! So thick!
She brushes herself off, though, and she uses her hands to push the writhing nest (which happily bites her as usual) back out of her own eyes.
“Ugh,” she says.
“Sorry about that.” Then her gaze goes back to the box.
“Ahaha, quite all right! Your little friends are a touch clingy, aren’t they?” For someone who had nearly been smothered by snakes, Aloysius seems to be taking it quite well.
He absently runs a hand through his messy hair, which does the job of fixing it just a little but it still leaves it sticking up here and there. “Ah…” he says as he follows Elpida’s gaze to the box, which he reaches to pick up, turning the key over in hand before setting it down to do likewise with the ring. He blinks and then pats at his chest before reaching into his shirt to pull out the chain hanging about his neck from which another ring dangles. A ring that looks identical to the one that had been in the box.
“So that’s what he was looking for,” he murmurs, carefully setting chain and ring in the box with the other before he unfolds the note to skim over it.
“Brothers- twins, they both went off to fight for Vesper during the Hinterlands War. Back home there was something of an inheritance dispute, but with both sons away, their aunt being nearest of kin attempted to make the claim since their sister was too young at the time to do so. One brother died early on, word was sent to the other, as with the location of the key to the lockbox that contained all the legal deeds and so forth. Except the other brother never made it back to claim it.” He sighs, folding up the note again.
“…oh, hells. What is this, Tae-Guk-Gi?” mutters Elpida, dourly, under her breath in a reference that’s going to make exactly zero sense to anybody present unless Aloysius is bizarrely familiar with Korean War dramas.
She pinches the bridge of her nose. “And where did you come into all of this?” The snakes are peering at Aloysius with interest. Or maybe they just want to hug him to death again.
At least unlike a certain other explorer and archaeologist, Aloysius doesn’t seem to have developed an aversion to snakes. He thinks Elpida’s snake friends are cute in a way, although he’s not sure if he should be concerned that they’re eyeing him so.
“Pardon?” he blinks, looking curiously at the Gorgon. “Oh! Um. Well you see, I happened to come upon the ring belonging to the latter brother,” he explains, tapping the ring sitting atop the chain. “Found it with an old military kit I came across when I was out spelunking around the Appalachians earlier this year.”
“…so what are you going to do with them next?”
Elpida has a drink from her hip flask.
She is holding it out towards him, batting away snakes that follow her movement.
“Well, I suppose I’m to see if their sister is still around, or failing that, their next of kin. Honestly I’m not all that sure how long holdings are kept if things haven’t already been long decided but…”
Shrugging, Aloysius glances at the flask that Elpida offers to him, a lopsided smile pulling at his lips. Sure. That’ll help. He lifts his hand to take it, pausing to perhaps daringly brush a finger along one of the snakes before accepting the flask, taking a swallow.
Elpida’s expression twitches as the snake is touched. Can she even feel that?
She reaches out for the flask once he’s done with it to take it back.
Aloysius doesn’t take much more than one gulp, offering it back as he tries not to cough. He doesn’t seem to have noticed Elpida’s reaction otherwise, letting her have the flask back, his hand hesitating as he eyes the looming snakes again. Reaaaaching out. Niiice snakeys…
Elpida is too busy drinking her alcohol to notice he’s reaching out. Honestly, people petting her snakes is something that almost never happens. Megana tried it and lived. That’s about it.
Perhaps it doesn’t occur to him to think just how much these snakes might be apart of the person they’re attached to. To be fair it isn’t often one sees a Gorgon about, and Aloysius is absolutely fascinated by her having a head of hair that’s alive. And the snakes certainly act like they’re independent that it’s easy to forget they’re not pets.
He is probably that sort of person that would stop to pet a random person’s dog if he came across them walking it.
Without anyone telling him not to, Aloysius goes right ahead and tries to pet the curious snakes again.
There’s a hard swallow of alcohol. Elpida twitches entirely. THIS IS WEIRD.
Her stance adjusts slightly and she kicks one leg. A little.
You know. Like a dog when you hit the right spot.
Oh good, they’re not biting! Who’s a good snakey- you aaaar– Elpida, what are you doing.
Aloysius blinks at the movement from her, glancing over. The thing is that he’s still kind of not all the way up from the ground, her kick while not all that hard, thankfully, catching him enough to knock him off balance from where he’d gotten distracted between standing and gathering his things up and snakes (!).
“Ah! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to-!”
Elpida loses her balance. Promptly. And falls on him.
Thump. That was just weird and she doesn’t know how to describe it at alll. Petting the snakes! It’s not like it when SHE touches them, or when they’re touched most of the time (which is really just ‘never), but…
Anyway, she’s totally losing her balance, windmilling, and falling on Aloysius.
His apologies stop short when he finds that the Gorgon is still moving closer. And that it is not intentional after all. She’s not trying to kill him after all! She’s just falling. On him. Oh. Oops.
He flails where he sits and then throws his arms outward in preparation to catch her. It’s more or less reflex. Not that she seems to have any other options. In retrospect he might think it fair considering he’d fallen on her earlier. -ohgoshsnakesinfaceagain–?!!!!
Well, he’s gonna catch her.
But that also means he’s got an armful of snakes and scales and, uh, everything else she has to bear.
The end result is that they’re probably going to hit the ground together. Hey, she’s not exactly light, you know.
Not that Aloysius will ever comment on a woman’s weight but–
Beneath Elpida there’s the sound of something akin to a deflating balloon. It’s kind of muffled because there are snakes everywhere again. His hands are kind of held out in an uncertain manner, more so because he doesn’t want to grab anything he shouldn’t and, to reiterate, snakes. He’s going to die drowning in snakes. Didn’t know that was a thing.
“GWAK,” says Elpida. She jerks straight up and rears back on him. This has the obvious result in making things even MORE hilariously awkward looking than they are.
Which is already a lot.
“Fuck! I’m so sorry,” she squawks, flustered.
“AIR!” Aloysius blurts out the moment he’s able to suck a breath in. Snakes have…an interesting smell. Not saying Elpida smells! But scales. And snake breath. …what does snake breath smell like? Anyway it was very suffocating and it’s hard to breathe when you have a Gorgon on top of you.
Said Gorgon is still on top of him.
His face reddens a little, but he manages a polite, tiny cough. “Er. If you would be so kind as to…” Because he can’t exactly stand or get up himself when she is straddling him so.
A few people gasp as they skitter past, trying very hard not to stare too much, pretending to ignore the two in the middle of the street.
“Yes, yes, I’m getting off–,” Elpida ends her sentence because there’s NO WAY to make that sound better. She begins to push off him and rise to her feet. “NOTHING HAPPENED,” she informs everyone. TOTALLY NOT WHAT IT LOOKED LIKE WAS HAPPENING THERE, NOT EVEN A LITTLE.
Her shouting doesn’t do much for dismissing the growing embarrassment. Aloysius ducks his head, gathering up the box and its contents as he starts to pick himself up, tugging loose the knot of his jacket sleeves around his waist so he can shrug into it before slipping the box into a pocket. He gives himself another dusting off before glancing back at Elpida, hands lifted in a quieting gesture. And he manages to stop himself before he starts to dust her off too, thankfully saving them another bout of awkward.
People pointedly look ahead as they continue on their way. Crazy Gorgon! Crazy Haberdeen boy!
Aloysius scratches his head, sighing a bit before stepping over to hook the handle of the pick-axe with a foot and swing it up to grasp in hand, hefting it up to rest over a shoulder.
The mess of the cracked stones is toed at with something of a sheepish look as there’s no way that little hole in the corner of the stone slab will be filled by the crumbling remnants. “…think anyone will notice that?”
After everything that’s what he’s worried about? …or maybe he’s just trying to change the subject.
“Eh. If they do, I’ll fix it later,” says Elpida, mumbling and not looking at Aloysius. SOMEONE is feeling humiliated right now. She reaches her hands up to tug on ehr snakes absently. Stupid snakes.
Fingers stop just short of reaching out again for snake friends. Aloysius did you just forget how that all started? Instead he brings his fist to cough into, nodding absently.
“I’ll talk to someone about it, don’t worry. My mess anyway.” He smiles, stepping back before offering her a bow. “Sorry again for the trouble, but thank you for the assistance. I suppose I should be on my way then..!”
You know, it’s a good thing she has scales. When you have scales, NO ONE CAN SEE YOU BLUSH.
“Uh, yeah. That’s… probably a good idea. Before you try to pet my snakes again.” She eyes the bowing. Looking uncomfortable. VERY.
She’s feeling a bit humiliated, after all.
Aloysius laughs, scratching the back of his head as he flashes a sheepish grin at her. “Erm, yes. Ahaha… I couldn’t help myself!”
He starts to turn and head off then. He was just being polite! “I promise I’ll make it up to you some time!” he calls over his shoulder before trotting off.
“…ugggh. You! Stop staring!” Elpida points a finger at the random stare-er guy.
She stomps over to him to have words. “Not only did I not lose my balance, I never fell on that guy. Okay?”