Sir Andrew d’Ackerley instructs the men waiting upon him in the master’s box to bring up that young hotspur once he’s been hosed down after the fight.
Raleigh Montague doesn’t like being hosed down; he prefers to do his own. He makes a quick toilet and then straightens his hair, and gets his cloak, about to head off the way he always does. He looks surprised to see Jake, and even more surprised to hear he’s sought an audience with. He shrugs and heads up the back stairs where he’s pointed, ending in a small rather shiny door. He knocks.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley’s two giant door men open. They were clearly chosen for brawns and not brains. Inside, two chairs, one occupied by what seems to be a robed man, face obscured, resting one hand on a silvertopped walking stick.
Raleigh Montague doesn’t look like he usually does; his immaculate outfit is gone and his clothes are more street, but there’s no mistaking that face, or that hair. He raises an eyebrow. “You wanted to see me?”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley gestures a white-gloved hand to the other chair. “Sit,” he prompts, voice a whisper. “You two, leave us.” The two doormen obediently filter out.
Raleigh Montague defiantly remains standing. “I wish to know to whom I am speaking.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley softly says: Here, I am called Master. And you are the hotspur who wins his every fight.
Realisation dawns on Raleigh Montague’s face. “I fight fair.” (Raleigh)
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley’s voice remains a whisper. “My man here thought otherwise. That is what I came to see… And I am inclined to agree with you.”
Raleigh Montague nods, making a mental note to ask Jake later just how the hell he thinks he’s cheating. “They won’t let me sign up for anything except the death matches.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley softly asks: And would you care to fight for anything less?
Raleigh Montague shakes his head, plait whipping from side to side. “No.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley murmurs with a trace of amusement. “I thought not. You are after all a Sicarian. That is why you win.”
Raleigh Montague no longer looks defiant, or even calm. Training takes over as he scans the room for exits, counts steps to the door. Fight or flee is taking over, and at this point everything is saying flee.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley pulls his hood back, revealing a familiar face. “Good evening, Doctor Montague,” he says, in his usual voice.
Raleigh Montague’s face is a study. His forehead furrows and eyes narrow. “You.” He shakes his head. “How?”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley gently says: Sit.
This time, Raleigh Montague sits. Two weeks ago, Daimon. Now this. Who next? He shakes his head again. “So much – oddness.” (Raleigh)
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley quietly says: I own this establishment, Doctor Montague. There — now I have a secret of yours to keep, and you have one of mine.
Raleigh Montague leans against the back of his chair as understanding dawns. “I would never have – guessed – that.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley drily says: I’d rather hope not, I do take some effort to not end up in a jail cell.
Raleigh Montague nods. “As do I.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: Yes. Quite. I should not have recognised you if I had not already been trying to work out your identity. I like puzzles.
Raleigh Montague flatly says: I am quite an interesting one, I hear.
Raleigh Montague drily says: My ex-wife thinks so, anyway.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley steeples his fingers. “I am uncertain whether to congratulate you or commiserate upon that. My ex-wife seems to have forgotten my existence, for which I am grateful. I am not your enemy, Doctor.”
Raleigh Montague’s knuckles are white from where he’s still clutching the leather straps around his cloak. “I – was a horrible husband. I do not mean I was cruel or inattentive; I wasn’t present. Not with all of myself.” He shrugs, looking weary, the fight having caught up with him. “My marriage failing, was, at least, not Imogen’s fault.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: Then she is more fortunate than my former wife whom I ignored in favour of my own pursuits, such as this.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley makes a gesture at the fighting theatre below.
Raleigh Montague hates being around people when this happens, when the mask falls, and the weariness has crept in. He’s usually away on the roofs, running home, during this part. He gets his cigarette case out, desperately wanting to do something in case he gives himself away. “I loved Imogen. I just wasn’t in love with her, I suppose.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley quietly asks: It has been said of me that I love only myself. Nonetheless, I shall show you the compassion due a guildsbrother tonight, Doctor. In the adjourning room you will find warm water and fresh clothing. Join me in here when you have changed, perhaps?
Raleigh Montague gets to his feet and heads to the indicated room.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley watches the next fight below, unseen from above.
Raleigh Montague eyes the window, and sticks his head out of it for a while, desperate for freedom, but aware that he can’t quite leave yet; it wouldn’t be right. He strips quickly, washes, and dresses himself again, arriving back in the room exactly five minutes later. He resumes his seat, looking more like his usual self.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley quietly says: I wondered if you would return, Doctor.
Raleigh Montague says: I never leave in the middle of a conversation, Sir Andrew.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley softly asks: So I understand. Why do you fight?
Raleigh Montague risks the truth. “To feel.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: How ironic. I once dosed myself with laudanum to avoid that.
Raleigh Montague shrugs. “I don’t like drugs. I don’t like not being in control.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley looks down below. “Sometimes, that is the only way a man can be in control.”
Raleigh Montague gets his cigarette case out, and strikes a match to one. “How so?”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley looks briefly thoughtful before speaking. “When a man is reduced to self-loathing and despair, no feeling at all will let him control his fate.”
Raleigh Montague smokes his cigarette. “Ironically, that makes sense.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley softly says: I have since… left my troubles behind. Yet I find that I must entertain my mind or I shall surely return to old, bad habits.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: Let us say that it amuses me to keep Sir Samuel quite busy.
Raleigh Montague’s eyes take on an amused look. “I’d imagine the good Commander has quite a lot on his hands.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley’s blue eyes sparkle. “Oh, I do hope so, he is by at his most efficient when he is fuming.”
Raleigh Montague grins, and winces. He usually leaves the Pit without a scratch on him, but sometimes someone’s good. “Why were you trying to work out my identity?”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: I like puzzles. You speak with a slight Uberwaldean accent but deny being a foreigner. You’re a fast rising star in the guild. Men such as that bears watching.
Raleigh Montague smokes his cigarette. “You are the only person who has ever heard the Uberwaldean in my accent. I worked so hard to rid myself of it.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley softly says: And you have done very well.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: Perhaps some day you’ll even tell me who you really are, and what you are running from, Doctor Montague. But I am not going to press the point.
Raleigh Montague’s eyes are a deep grey in this light. “Who I am and what I am trying to stay one step ahead of are one and the same thing.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley quietly says: My grandfather was a child stealing werewolf. My father a serial rapist. I fled from Skund.
Raleigh Montague looks at his hands. “My great-great-great-great grandfather was a king. He lost a great country; he was a good man, but his failures are what he’s remembered for. The weakness of humans.” He glances at you. “There has been a price on my head from the day I was born.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley flicks through his mental notes before simply saying, “Ah. Well, that is not a price I seek to collect.”
Raleigh Montague shrugs; he knew that somehow. “I – know.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: Good. I play games, Doctor Montague, but I am not an evil man, nor do I have an interest in Uberwaldean politics. I imagine you’ll want to stay out of the palace, though.
Raleigh Montague nods. “I’ve managed. I don’t think the Patrician – well. I’m sure he knows. But for whatever reason, he’s said nothing.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley nods as well. “It’s his lady friend I’d worry about in your case.”
Raleigh Montague’s eyes flicker to the window that shows the pit as a loud roar erupts from it. “She will not stop looking.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: Perhaps we shall throw a few red herrings in her path. That would be a nice game.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley fixes his gaze, for once not monocled, on Raleigh’s features. “Say, we do look a bit alike, I think.”
Raleigh Montague’s grey-green eyes look into your blue depths. “I think so.”
Raleigh Montague says: Except for my hair.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: We are both blonde.
Raleigh Montague nods. “My hair is almost white.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley softly asks: Did You know that I have at least seven brothers, not counting the viscount?
Raleigh Montague raises an eyebrow. “I didn’t know that.”
Raleigh Montague says: It wasn’t in the – peerage.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley’s voice is carefully controlled as he repeats, “Serial rapist father.”
Raleigh Montague nods. “Quite.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: Perhaps it might become less… unusual.. to see a blond head about.
Raleigh Montague looks amused. “Ah.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: At your discretion, obviously.
Raleigh Montague takes out another cigarette. “That would suit me just fine, Sir Andrew.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley inclines his head ever so lightly. “All for a guildsbrother, aye?”
Raleigh Montague lights his cigarette. “One more toss of the dice.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: Quite so. Let us not burden the guild with this, though.
Raleigh Montague shakes his head. “Let us not burden anybody else with it.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley asks: I can keep a secret. I believe I have proved that to you now, mm?
Raleigh Montague lets the cigarette rest between two long fingers. “Yours are safe with me.” He shrugs. “I have spent a very long time in silence. This is a very unusual sensation indeed. To have a confidante.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says softly, “You do not trust the vampire?”
Raleigh Montague says: Oddly enough, I do.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley nods. “I do not like vampires in general. That one, however, has my wife convinced that he is a good man. She is usually a very good judge of character.”
Raleigh Montague shakes his head. “However, the sensation of having one, or I may say two, confidantes, does not seem to fade. I think it will take a while to get used to it.”
Raleigh Montague nods. “I suspect she is right.”
Raleigh Montague says: I saw him with Aell; I should never have spoken to him again if I had not seen him with her.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: I will not lie to you, Montague. I am not entirely dissatisfied about being able to speak openly of matters.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: Daimon — that’s what he calls himself — worked for my wife for some time. A bit for me as well.
Raleigh Montague nods. “He works for me now, in a sense.” He stops himself from sighing. “But you are right. The leopard does not change its spots. Doctor Montague does not know how to confide or converse openly with his – friends.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley softly says: I am not much in the habit myself.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: But before I forget — you are still quite welcome to fight here, as long as you can find opponents. But keep in mind that as your fame spreads, the more likely it is that you will be recognised.
Raleigh Montague chuckles suddenly. “That is getting harder. To find opponents.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley mildly says: Well, you -have- rather cost me some good fighters, yes.
Raleigh Montague fails to look chastised. “My apologies, Sir Andrew.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley smirks lightly before inquiring, “What are you going to do in the long term, then? Fight trolls?”
Raleigh Montague laughs. “Too easy, Sir Andrew.”
Raleigh Montague says: Once you predict their movement patterns – and it is only one of three – it is just ridiculously easy.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley quietly says: I do not possess your martial skill, regrettably. My weak constitution has made me a second class fighter.
Raleigh Montague nods. “In that case, I dedicate my victory tonight to you.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley mildly says: I am known merely as Master to these men.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: To the best of my knowledge they think I am one of the younger Selachiis.
Raleigh Montague nods. “It’s best to maintain that anonymity. Nobody knows my real name, or my profession. Some men tried to follow me once, back when I was doing the classed fights, and I stopped them. Nobody’s tried it since.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: They are under orders to not be stupid. Your identity is not required for you to fight. You draw an audience. An audience means profit.
Raleigh Montague’s eyes are amused. “I think I beat their pal that night.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley glances down as a cheer goes up. “I sometimes ask myself if I am doing the city a service in weeding out the brutishly criminal.”
Raleigh Montague finishes his cigarette. “Or the criminally brutish.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: My wife believes that man is essentially good. I on the other hand believe that man is essentially evil.
Raleigh Montague drily says: I am sure Lady d’Ackerley means well, but I am inclined to disagree with her.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: Mm, quite. Men are beasts, and not all of us have the excuse of werewolf forebears.
Raleigh Montague says: I think people are, in their essence, flawed.
Raleigh Montague says: Some are fatally so.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: Flawed, prideful, selfish, vain, vague
Raleigh Montague says: And stupid.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: And indeed, very very stupid most of the time.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley sips a glass of crystal water from the little table next to the chairs. “I am not a good man, Doctor. I profit from crime. I ignore the law as I see fit. But there are lines I do not cross. I do not harm the innocent. It’s simply that there are few of them.”
Raleigh Montague rises to leave. “Rest easy, Sir Andrew. The truly innocent are all under the age of ten.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley draws his hood up. “Perhaps you’ll accompany me out?”
Raleigh Montague dons his cloak, and draws his own hood up. “With pleasure.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley stands and shifts his body slightly, suddenly becoming an older man with a pronounced limp. He raps on the door with his walking stick twice, and the two burly men reappear. “My prize fighter and I shall depart now.”