Fellow Travelers (Landing Day - Second Hour)

OOC: Joint Post from Lazarus and Sail.

The wind was bracing as Rowan trudged his way into the town. The decent layering of snow made walking just that extra bit laborious. He had his head down and hood up so he didn't catch the silhouette coming in the other direction until quite late. Rowan was pretty sure he didn’t recognise the woman and she seemed to be hauling a decent amount of gear, so the opportunity for an in was relatively obvious.

“Need a hand?” He asked, pulling his hands out of his coat pockets and gesturing to her bags. “Looks kinda heavy there.”

Marisol had just decided that her current jacket wasn’t cutting it here on New Kasmir, when she first noticed the stranger’s approach. She shifted the tool bag to her left hand, freeing up the right to make for her pistol, if need be. At his greeting, she waved away the offer of help. “I’m good, thanks,” the woman nodded. “But maybe you can point me toward a hotel? Something cheap?”

There was a pause as Rowan eyed the subtle movements that suggested a degree of distrust. A flurry of snow passed between them.

“How… cheap?” He queried, his head listing to one side as he tried to gauge her further. “I mean… there’s a boarding house that’s halfway decent but given the upcoming celebrations the prices are likely higher than usual… there’s rooms at the saloon if you’re comfortable with the rowdy sort… they’d likely to be a little less weighty on the pursestrings.”

She stamped her feet against the cold. “Celebrations...hadn’t counted on that. Maybe I need to chase some paying work, first. Know anybody doing some hiring?”

“Lots of seasonal, menial gigs.” Rowan replied with a shrug. “Depends on what sort of work you’re looking for. You just come in off the boat that just landed?”

“I did,” Marisol nodded. “I’m a mechanic by trade. Would hope for that, but I know how a stove works, and if nothing else, I got mops and brooms all figured out, too.” The stranger’s posture had remained carefully neutral...a lift of both hands to indicate he may be unarmed, a casual stance without muscle tension...a sense of ease in his tone. He knew the game. He’d also sized her up, she was certain. “Thanks, mister. I appreciate the word. Name’s Marisol,” she offered.

The word ‘mechanic’ caused Rowan’s brow to rise, and her low level jest at the complexities of menial labour pulled a smirk across his lips. “Welcome to Aurora Creek. I’m Rowan.” He thumbed directionally to his left. “Most places to lay your head can be found that way. I can steer you there, it’s where I’m headed.” He said, leaning on the truth a little.

“You’ve picked a poor season for the tinkering trade, though. Won’t your ship be needing you?” Or… had something happened there? He added, inwardly.

No harm in answering that one, she thought. “Didn’t work out,” she said. “So I’ll see what I can rustle up til the next boat comes along.” She’d fallen in slightly behind as he led the way toward the town’s boarding district….the direct opposite of wisdom. Still, better to hopefully get her gear stowed than to spend the rest of the afternoon traipsing around in the snow like a loaded pack mule. “What kinda celebration?” she asked.

Rowan nodded knowingly. It was a familiar story, one he’d lived himself at least a few times. It was the kinda story that ended with him eeking out a living on New Kasmir though… he felt like he should warn this new arrival… but her question interrupted that train of thought.

“Uh, Winter Solstice gig…” He answered with uncertainty, feet crunching in the snow. “Happens when the planet’s in a certain alignment with Penglai and Kalidasa, causes this lensing of the magnetic field…” Rowan faltered then, realising he was getting a bit technical. He’d learned coming across as over educated tented to make for few friends. “...or some shit like like. It’s meant to be kinda pretty as I hear. Folk like to have a party whilst the sky shines.”

She’d taken to following the man...Rowan...directly, her feet landing in his tracks. “I’ve only heard of it from other planets,” she confessed. “Northern Lights...Southern Lights...Aurora Borealis….you pick. Guess I’ll try to be out that night to have a gander.” They trudged past a hotel whose sign alone told Marisol she likely couldn’t afford it, even after her share was paid out. “So,” she asked, “is it science or engineering?”

“Is what, what?” Rowan said, stopping and turning a quarter about to peer back at her from under his hood. “What’s with the stalking, miss?”

Had this been anyone she felt comfortable with, Marisol might’ve laughed at the reference. Instead, she pointed toward the depth of the man’s tracks. “Short woman, deep snow.” Realizing that she hadn’t satisfied his curiosity with a complete answer, she continued, “I conjure your trade is science or engineering. Most folk woulda answered with ‘pretty pretty lights’ and ‘big party.’ You chose to use a smarter tongue to describe it. But now I’m really intrigued. What’s a fella like you doing in a place that’s so short on tinkering?”

“There’s tinkering enough for one.” Rowan shot back, his tone marred by a certain defensiveness. He regretted his words immediately. Shaking his head he turned back and continued compressing a path for his new rival to follow. He was such a schmuck. “You ‘conjured’ right though. I was an engineer.” Now he fixed farm equipment for locals that’d happily see him run through. Something told him they’d regard Marisol a little more warmly.

He stopped again but didn’t turn around. “That’s the Saloon.” He said, pointing to the larger snow covered structures. “Boarding house is 200 yards that way. Anything else I can do you for?”

Her eyes took in the saloon, the high pitched roof of what she assumed to be the boarding house, and the sudden cold shoulder of her escort. “You’ve done me a kindness, Rowan, and I am grateful. Once I’m situated, I hope you’ll let me put things right with a drink? I meant no offense.”

“There’s nothing that needs putting right.” He said dismissively before adding, “ask for Jacobs in the Saloon, he’s often got a job or two.” There was a pause. “Just don’t mention me. And if you intend on staying here, I recommend you invest in a better coat.”

He reached up then, to the lip of his hood, tugging on the furred edge in the manner one might tip a hat. “Stay warm, Ms. Marisol.”

“And you...Mr. Rowan.” For a moment, she regarded the man as he moved off into the snowy haze. As fingers of cold began to pierce the inadequate jacket once again, Marisol turned her steps toward the boarding house. Stalking she mused, the word still a fresh wound from her dealings aboard el Vee. Guess I’m really not ‘Miss Congeniality,’ the mechanic thought as she trudged toward shelter.

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