Names Worth Buying

Participants:

Caliph (NPC'd by Ahnika) and Enker (NPC'd by Lorayit)

Date: Jan. 12, 2011
Location: By the stables, Landing
Synopsis: A lock-maker hiding out down in Landing comes in contact with one of Bowen's hunting contacts down by the stables. Caliph goes above and beyond in an attempt to retrieve the list that Bowen and Lorayit seeks from the man, but the paranoid Enker doesn't bite.
Rating: PG
Logger: Lorayit


Enker is a very busy man, but no one really knows what keeps him tied up so.

Short but lanky, and balding with leathery tanned skin, the man only lets anyone that asks know that his specialty is making locks – locks for doors, locks for presses, locks for anything – along with the keys that go along with it. In hindsight that seems like a legitimate reason to be busy and out and about all the time, but… He’s seems far too into his work to be checking on whether or not he’s being tailed, one would think, but he is found every now and then looking over his shoulder. He’s not good at finding a tracker on him, but he is good at making a dodge for it the moment he suspects that something is not right in his routine. For those checking close, they would find that his routine in Landing has him leaving his room early in the morning to spend some time in the storage caverns, then breakfast, then his ‘legitimate’ work, then lunch meals, then a leisure walk out along stables (which usually includes a meeting or two with strangers both clean and shady alike), then back to his work, then dinner, and then he retires to his rooms for the rest of the night. For any that’s been watching him sevendays at a time, they would notice that he hardly delineates from this routine, and would in fact try and keep to the same time blocks as well. The only time he would switch it up is when there’s heat on his tail, but then that would have one asking, what kind of heat would a lock-maker living in Landing would be on him?

This afternoon he’s on his routine stroll pass the stables, eyes lingering on the runnerbeasts he could see as he keeps his hands clasped behind him. He doesn’t seem to be checking on whether or not there’s any eyes on him, but then if he’s not being jumpy, on would never really know what to expect with this man that likes to vanish at the drop of a hat.

While Bowen associates with a handful of hunters who work the areas between Landing and Eastern on a regular basis, there were really only two he trusted to be discrete enough and skilled enough to tail Enker, which for now is all he asked of them. The big decisions were being left up to Lo and Max in an odd sort of dichotomy of team leaders here, but he’d at least follow through with setting up the tail. To that extent, he’s asked two of his more trusted hide-suppliers, Felahk and Caliph, to track him down and once identified, take shifts on keeping an eye on him. As survivalists and hunters, the wild is really where they excel at tracking and keeping camouflaged, so it’s not surprising that Enker might find the fact that he runs into one or the other of the hunters at different times in his schedule. It is Caliph who is pulling his runner out of the stables by a lead, glancing in the direction that Enker comes, briefly though it is. He nods politely before appearing to pause beside one of his runner’s legs and nudging it to get the runner to lift his foot, at which point he crouches down beside it to examine the hoof as a rider might do if he thought the runner was favoring a hoof over the others for some reason.

For some reason, Enker seems to enjoy coming by the stables. Despite his keeping a tight schedule, he would get his fill of looking at the runners covetously as he goes, always making a note to stop by one or the other runner out pasturing the following day. He didn’t have the marks to purchase one himself, and so the lock-maker on a daily basis is reduced to merely watching them with the stablehands. He makes a note to remember each and every stablehand that works on them (along with those others he passes often on his routine), so when he spots Caliph with one of the runners he actually falters his steps. He might have seen him from somewhere… but the man seems so fond of the runner, so Enker actually does something that isn’t part of his routine: he goes through the gate to enter the stable pastures and approaches the man. It’s something he doesn’t do – not with the schedule he keeps – but there was something about this man… and as the man nods politely to him and crouches down to examine something on the beast, the lock-maker was making it his mission to find out.

If he notices Enker approaching, there’s no indication in his body language and Caliph says nothing. Straightening to a standing position and letting the hoof go back down to the ground, the hunter tosses a large pebble away, presumably pulled from the sole or frog. That’s when it seems he notices Enker and with the man having come in closer, Caliph nods politely once again, a simple, congenial smile, and “Howdy,” in greeting, with an easy, almost affectionate pat on his runner.

Enker watches every little thing he does. It was his way to do so – to watch and observe. In his position, he couldn’t really afford not to. He watches the trajectory of where that pebble goes – as if he should be suspicious of it along with everything else – before his pebble-like gaze darts to Caliph. When the other greets verbally, he doesn’t return it. His shrewd gaze instead falls on the way the man pats the runner, eyes narrowing just a fraction. He’s hard to read, and it’s hard to detect what he’s thinking or feeling. Nodding towards the runner then in a sharp yet subtle way, “He yours?” he probes then, his voice nasally and fits his short height. And should Caliph evade that question, “He got a name?” He knew the name of the runner – all the runners – it being important to him to know the names of all he comes in contact with on his daily routine. Yes, he is anal-retentive like that.

It’s Caliph’s turn to look suspiciously at Enker, though he does so in a vein that most people might when a fellow just comes upon one to watch him pull a pebble from the mount’s hoof, somewhat quizzically. A professional hunter needs his own mount plus some kind of packmule, of course, as stacked hides and carcasses can be pretty heavy. So, Caliph’s familiarity with this runner is genuine. “Aye,” Caliph says, running his hand briefly over the contours of the runner, checking for any tenderness or odd lumps worth checking out as one might before a trip into the woods, “Zymon.” He pauses in his checking over things and leans against Zymon’s side, one arm slung over the back, “Though if y’lookin’ for a ride, ya gotta ask me, not him. You got a name?”

Enker avidly studies the relationship between runner and stableman, his eyes following Caliph’s hand over the runner like an apprentice would. “Zymon,” he repeats, nodding once to that like one that was checking information off of a checklist. Once the hunter leans himself against the runner then, continuing to speak, the fidgety lock-maker takes another step forward and pierces him with his shrewd gaze. “I’ve seen you around,” he decides to say, almost accusingly. “But not here.” He seems to be ignoring the question, for now. People in Landing say he’s a strange man for a reason. If Caliph’s been around Landing for enough time, such rumors are bound to have reached his ears by now. “What else do you do?” After a moment, his expression twitching once as if his brain had just kicked itself into focus, “My name? You’re not from around here, if you do not know.” He’s turning the focus back on him, sniffing once before a hand comes up to tweak at his nose.

Unmoving from where he leans against his tethered runner, Caliph narrows his eyes a bit at the turn of the conversation, his shoulders tensing just a little, but the hunter makes no move to his belt knife. Yet. He studies him a moment longer after Enker’s done speaking and brings his hand up to his nose. Finally, he answers, “I’m a hunter. I hunt things. Sometimes wild game. Sometimes … people.” That’s said with deadly seriousness, and then once he’s sure that has sunk in, he lounges a little more relaxed against the runner, smiling cryptically, “Sometimes information.”

Enker is good at making people uncomfortable. It’s almost like he gets a kick out of it. It’s really because as long the other party is focused on themselves, they’re not going to focus all that much on him. How else did he manage to live in Landing for the last two turns with little known about him? He watches Caliph tensing for just a fraction. He watches that hand move up to his nose. When he speaks – when he finishes speaking – “People,” he echoes that word, eyes flicking up and down him. By the size of the man, he could believe that. On his last though, “What kind of information are you hunting for?” And then, perhaps to throw him off, “Always wanted a runner,” he adds, eyes falling on the runner Caliph leans against. “Never can afford one. Enker,” and his eyes finally meets the hunter’s again, always calculating. “My name’s Enker. What’re you called, hunter?”

The only movement Caliph gives now is to increase the perception of lounging by crossing one boot over the other at the ankle and resting the hand that’s not slung over the back of his runner at his hip, casually. “Usually the kind that pays best,” Caliph says of information, not apparently thrown off, yet, “If I’m lucky.” He straightens from his lean and gives the other man a friendly smile that is, perhaps oddly, genuine. “Caliph,” he answers, “Nice ta meetchya, Enker.” Caliph is a man who appreciates the runner species, so he understands the desire Enker shares to one day own one. “Heard there was a mare up in Eastern about to throw a foal any day now. There might be others. I know a fella up there, too, who might be able to set up a kind of trade, depending on if ya had something he needed.” A sly, meaningful look from this rugged man to the locksmith. He’s taking a bit of a risk here. Bowen didn’t tell him to take any action but keep his eyes on Enker, but Caliph is nothing if not a bit of an opportunist, and he’s not wasting this opportunity.

“Luck is random,” Enker notes, the man common at making odd comments. Eyes falling on the runner then, “Here for information then? Here in Landing?” Yes, he’s trying to decipher Caliph’s reason for being there, especially since it’s not often that the lock-maker has seen him on his routine outtings. Once he got a name, he blinks and nods sharply. “Caliph. I like that name,” he actually gives grudgingly, meeting his eyes. Predictably, interest shows in his eyes at the piece of information given on a runner foaling over in Eastern. He takes yet another step forward. “Is that so?” he asks then, his mind turning. His mind is always turning. “What man do you know up there? What does he do?” This information is always important to him. He says nothing yet on the matter of trade though, but his eyes do fall back on Caliph’s runner again.

“Always on the lookout for information,” Caliph says, which isn’t really true and more a boast, stated more for a self-inflated ego than any desire to be deceptive. He’s an opportunist, but a mildly lazy one. What he says next is completely true, however, with no indication in his body language or tone to suggest he’s not telling the truth. “I’m a hunter who makes his route between Landing and Eastern. So, I’m only around here every couple of sevens or so.” He nods a little, a hand lifting and finger touching the brim of his hat in very lazy and vague act of tipping it for the praise on his name. “I know a lot of fellas up there, and here in Landing, too, though most of them are those who work around the beast caverns, stables, and the tanners. Comes with the territory,” says the hunter. “The one I’m thinking of … his name is Bowen. He’s a tanner.” Not too much of a secret, Caliph reasons. “He said he heard something of a man named Enker at Landing, who might have information worth buying.” Caliph turns his attention to his runner a moment, adding, “I didn’t know whether or not he was just playing a prank on me until now.” He looks back at the lock-maker.

That explains why he hasn’t seen him about so. “Locks are my business,” Enker states, assuming it’s the obvious – or perhaps, letting the hunter know that information is a trade he’s not interested in. One could interpret that either way though. He’s mostly silent through the rest, processing what he hears deftly before another name is given. “Dunno any tanners,” he thinks it important to know then, now taking his attention off of Caliph to look about them. “This tanner gave you my name? So then this was not a chance meeting.” Eyes dart back onto the hunt in suspicion then, the action sharp as he tacks on, “What information could I possibly have that would be worth buying?” with some cool crispness. Drawing himself up to his full height (which isn’t much in comparison to the hunter), “I am a lock-maker, in case you did not know,” he lets him know for sure then. “I do not know what you mean about this ‘information’ business, and I do not know any Bowen. That man has sent you on a dead end, my friend. Perhaps he is playing a prank on you, after all.”

“That so?” Caliph asks casually when Enker tells him locks are his business, but otherwise keeps his attention on his runner, now pulling a curry brush out from his bag and starting to give Zymon a once over. He shrugs when Enker says this isn’t a chance meeting, feigning misunderstanding with, “Never thought much about ‘destiny’ personally, but if you want to call it that, by all means.” He pauses in his brushing to look over at Enker as the locksmith gets a little huffy, well, in Cal’s mind anyway, “Don’t make no difference to me if yer a lock-maker or a nanny. Information is information, and if it’s good and worth something to somebody, it can allow a man ta afford many their heart’s desires.” Like runners. “But if ya ain’t a broker for it, then that’s fine. Other men are, and probably for less than a runner might cost.” He resumes brushing, “T’aint no thang ta me. Maybe he thought ya were someone else. He didn’t tell me what you looked like, after all.”

Listening to all that in total silence – which could be uncomfortable by the other party with the lack of reaction from the man – Enker then states, “You haven’t told me what it is you think I might have of interest.” Beat. “What it is this Bowen thinks I have of interest.” Of course he wanted the runner, but he was no fool. He’s dodged renegades and crimelords and even a pissed-off wife for turns. The pissed-off wife was his most difficult challenge. Stepping forward as if to examine the runner then, “I’m not other men,” he states the obvious with a look going Caliph’s way, “but you must understand my position, Caliph.” Eyes darting about them, “Very few would know of my name outside Landing,” or rather, only those that are looking to kill him would know of his name outside Landing, “so you must understand that I find a stranger with an unique name as mine leaving his lips at all to be…quite questionable.” Chin lifts, the lock-maker fits a studying look onto the man long before blinking. “Tell me what it is that would cost the price of a runner,” he nearly demands, his voice almost of that of a blooded holder.

It’s really only total silence when he or someone else isn’t speaking that genuinely bothers Caliph, which is why sometimes even his friend Bowen bothers him. So, he only gets a little antsy in those lengthy pauses between his words while Enker isn’t commenting back. When Enker does start speaking however, it’s Caliph’s turn to go thoughtfully quiet, but mostly because he’s earnestly thinking things out, his next move, and what Bowen may or may not need him to do. Quite frankly, he’s already crossed the line of Bowen’s orders with Enker by even talking to the man. Bowen just asked for simple recon. But well, opportunity knocks … or walks by the stables. Either way, Caliph isn’t going to balk at this turn of events, but he will think carefully as he navigates it. He’s not a complete fool, just maybe a small one. Caliph finally allows, “Aye, I wager you’re not,” other men, that is. Then he grins a little, handing Enker the curry brush and motioning to his runner as he gets a second one for himself, “Funny thing, you know … names. They can mean so much and mean so little at the same time.” He resumes brushing the runner, going slow so as to better demonstrate to Enker how it’s to be done, assuming the man would be interested in knowing if he wants to one day have a runner of his own, “Ain’t it funny how a person can go his whole life unrecognized—maybe he’s done some good things, even—but nobody cares unless it’s a Lord Holder’s name or a Mastercrafter. But the minute that man makes a poor choice, just once, and finds himself on another fellow’s list of names, well, then, all sorts of people would give all sorts of things to find that out and to try and get an audience with that kind of man.” Beat pause, “I dunno, but I think if I was a fella with some runners to spare, I might be willing to give one up to see a list like that.”

When Caliph hands over the curry brush, at first Enker recoils from it like it was going to attack him like a tunnelsnake. He eyes it warily, then eyes the hunter, then eyes the brush again as the man speaks. “Names don’t seem funny to me,” he admits, finally deciding to step forward and gingerly takes the brush. He watches as the man teaches him how to brush, but one can be sure that he’s listening. When Caliph starts talking about making poor choices, the lock-maker having stepped forward to mimic what he sees slowly of the brushing activity, he falters and darts a long look at the man. “Hardly,” he answers on that/ particular thing being funny, either. “Have //you ever been on a list for a poor choice, Caliph?” Of course, he would know whether the man was or not, but he felt the need to ask anyway. Resuming his brushing then, hearing the last bit, “You think I have some sort of….list,” he answers crisply then, eyes finding the hunter’s. “A list worthy of a runner.” Abruptly, the brush goes down, the lock-maker immediately handing the brush back over to the man. “I am sorry,” he states a little too formally, taking a step back as if he were preparing to depart. “I haven’t a clue what you’re talking about, young man. Perhaps your tanner gave you the wrong information. I should be on my way.” He was lying, of course – the words flowing too freely and easily from his lips for one used to detecting such things to pick up. He’ll even put action to words by turning, every intention of leaving the hunter with his runner and returning to the safety of his routine.

“Me? Naw,” Caliph answers honestly to the question of whether or not he’s ever been on a list like that, “I’m just a simple hunter,” and occasional bounty hunter when the opportunity arises, “who enjoys making the extra mark here and there.” Caliph takes the brush back, but his eyes remain on the lockmaker as Enker speaks. Either he is fooled by the lie, or he just isn’t inclined to call the man out on it because as Enker steps away and claims to not have such a list, Caliph just raises the hand with the brush in it and gives a little wave, “Fair ‘nough. He musta been mistaken. Don’t be a stranger, now, y’hear? Maybe we can have a drink t’gether sometime or something. Or I can show ya more ‘bout how to tend to runners. Even ta ride one, if you don’t know how.” He’ll leave that seed to germinate and Caliph goes back to brushing down Zymon, not preventing the lockmaker from leaving if he so wished.

“Seem more than a simple hunter to me,” Enker grunts, his suspicions back on. He was now ten minutes behind schedule on his routine, but the conversation had taken a strange turn for him and he was finding it hard to turn away. Caliph was offering a drink sometime and a ride – something that doesn’t happen these days in his mundane life. Should he take the risk? “A drink?” he echoes this, then. “A ride and tend?” No strings? The lock-maker wasn’t sure about that, but the offer was so tempting… “I will seek you out,” is all he gives in open reluctance then, his back stiff as he starts to walk off. He had to get out of there before Caliph could figure anything out – like the fact that he was lying. He forces his eyes away from hunter and runner then, almost running out of the area and back towards his mundane, boring life. The way he wants it to be.



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