Cadaverous Pallor

Title: Cadaverous Pallor
Time Period: July 23, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Rumors of a young boy in town going mad have been circulating, but it's yet to be confirmed. Until the child slips away from normally watchful parents and makes a scene in the middle of town.

For once, in the sky above Dornie, the clouds are sparse, nothing but wispy lengths of paint against the blue, giving the sun the chance to seep down to the land unimpeded. The perfect summer day, some might say.

Of course, it is hellishly bright.

Merchants out in the square have themselves and their goods hid from the sun under awnings, those out walking are in lighter fabrics or carry parasols with them to fight off the heat. But somewhere in the middle of the slight crowd, a young boy rushes over the cobblestones, glancing over his shoulder as if expecting to find something in pursuit.

Leslie Hightower is a known face around the town, being one of the better behaved children about Dornie, not prone to troublemaking, but it's hard to recognize him today, apart from the panic on his face, he's also in dirtied, torn clothing and without hat or shoe in sight.

Despite the heat, Luna is about town in a dark grey dress. This one doesn't have a high collar, instead her neck is wrapped with a silky floral scarf to hide the scars. It's the only thing bright and colorful about her today. Aside from general disposition, which everyone knows is usually fairly nasty, until she hits the market. In her element she is all smiles.

Her baskets are loaded with items to trade, things she's grown tired of or made, to use as bartering tools for things she might want or need, or she thinks that Duncan or his children might like. So far she's gotten some watercolor paints for Celia… she has absolutely no idea if the girl will like them, but Duncan will be the one to present them anyway.

The boy racing through the street is deftly avoided with a swish to the side. Her bad arm is the one to catch the fullness of her dress to alow him to pass her by. Though familiar with the boy, and somewhat curious about his lack of shoes, she looks to where he's running from instead of where he's going to.

'Ain't that the Hightower butcher's wee one?'

'Elenna's gonna smack his bottom raw, look at'im.'

And so on and so forth. As Dornians are apt to, people even gossip while something is in progress, like hens in a paddock. One of the market women that remarks next on the state of his shoeless feet gets an elder Hightower's attention; Leonard has stopped at her stall to pawn off a few pieces of kitchenware, likely still getting rid of Deidre's unwanted things after all these years. It is not that he hoards items, no- just that he cannot usually be bothered to clean the house himself.

"Leslie! What in the world are you doing!?" When he jerks his head up to look after the young boy, the back of his head buffs into Sage's side. Being asleep, the blackened owl stumbles in place and looks up with him, almond eyes narrowing.

Idris is looking over a handful of carrots with a careful eye, downplaying it's quality to an insulting level as he attempts to haggle for a better price. He's leaning against a dappled horse that stands next to the stand, also watching the handful of carrots. He's not particularly paying attention to Leslie Hightower or Luna at the moment, focused as he is on his task of procuring quality carrots for a minimal cost.

However, as people gossip around him, he tosses the carrots back to the merchant, and he and the horse turn around, their eyes scanning the crowd to find out where everyone's attention is pointed, then looking over at Leslie.

Hearing his name sends a jolt through the boy, and he looks around— not for the source, but for a place to hide. But, seeing his uncle there, the small boy runs full-tilt toward him, ducking behind the man. His little hands cling to the back of Leonard's shirt, and a dirty face presses against him, violent sobbing causing little Leslie to shake.

When Luna looks, there's nothing particularly odd in the direction the boy came from. No bandits or monsters or pursuers of any kind. She's not the only one looking, either, as the mad dash through the market draws attention around them. Some mock and laugh over a boy's imagination, some shake their heads sadly over this confirmation of his rumored madness. Poor dear.

Luna's eyebrows quirk in all sorts of directions as her confusion takes the shape of various expressions on her face, from gaping fish to simply puzzled, she goes through the whole gambit until she finally settles on just plain dumbfounded. "But there's nothing there!" Her observation of the obvious is echoed again to one of the people nearby her, and then another, and then to Leonard himself.

Hearing the boy's sobs, she sighs and bends down to look at him. "Is he hurt or something? Hey boy, do you want a sweet? Will that make you stop crying? Or a kitten? Kittens always made me stop."

Luna can try what she likes, but Leonard knows the likely root- he told Richard briefly about the visit, but his brother did not seem to be very taken in by it. Leslie's father isn't a mage, and never seemed terribly in tune with magic. He's a pragmatic man, and has more than once said he left all the drama in mum's womb for his little brother. True, in a manner of speaking.

"Hey now-" Leonard shifts, to take the boy by the shoulders and crouch down to the same level. He doesn't look hurt- at least nothing bigger than a scrape. Sage clicks her beak and lets out a somber mewl of noise. "What's going on? Do your parents know where you are?"

The horse turns into a garden snake as it twines onto Idris' arm, and he walks over, stopping next to Luna. "Milady, who is that with the owl? A mage, presumably?" His eyes carefully study the two of them, and then he lays a hand on Luna's shoulder. "I trust you will not impetuously rush into the situation if it starts looking dangerous again." He gives her shoulder a slight squeeze, smirking. "Really, your heart is bigger than your head."

Leslie lets out a noise that hover somewhere between frightened and frustrated. His hands press against his eyes and he shakes his head. "You don't see it. You can't see, but it's right there," he insists, his voice sounding pathetically helpless.

The boy takes in a deep breath before he drops his hands to open his eyes. First, he looks at Leonard, his little hands gripping and wringing his shirt as he talks. "No one here can see anything," he says, little voice rising toward anger, "I see it walk past you and no one notices. But I can see it there." When he looks beyond Leonard, Leslie's gaze traces a path through the square, seemingly following nothing at all. He looks at Idris and then Luna, but his gaze stops there, just beyond the woman.

Leslie's face wrinkles up as the tears start to fall all over again and he points toward Idris and Luna as he whispers to Leonard, "It's right there." The words barely make it out, each syllable forced through.

"Why it's Leonard Hightower, you silly man, the local veterinarian and my very good doctor when I was quite young." Luna smiles up at Leonard but doesn't really explain to Idris why she had a vet for a doctor when she was a girl. She doesn't flinch when the hand is laid on her shoulder but she does at the squeeze, not in fear but pain. It takes her a moment or two, but she straightens and gives a tight smile to Idris, apparently not really beaming at the compliment. She likes to think of herself as quite sharp.

She turns her head to glance behind her, following the boy's gaze but seeing absolutely nothing. But she's heard of stranger things. *cough*Beisdean*cough*. "Mister Hightower, perhaps you should take the boy to see Fletcher Cruikshank and Besidean Skye? Baizey can see all manner of dead things. If it's a dead thing he could perhaps send it on its way and if it's not, I'm sure Fletcher could create a charm for him to ward whatever it is off."

It's right where? Leonard- and Sage, to her credit- both look abruptly behind them, though Sage obviously has a better time of scanning the area than he does. Sage follows Leslie's eyes, and his uncle reaffirms his grip on the boy.

«I don't see anything…» Her sweet voice trails off as she spots Idris and his garden snake. «Nothing.» She clicks her beak a second time and swivels her head to the front.

"I'm so sorry, Leslie. You said it yourself…" Leo can't see it. Whatever it is. He is detached from Luna's words about him, but at least able to offer them a hazy smile of confirmation when she goes on to mention other names. Green eyes darkening with his growing frown, he picks Leslie up in his arms. Sage drops down from his shoulder and climbs up the other one, new squirrel tail swishing in a mildly threatening manner. "Maybe there is no other choice, miss Owens. this cannot go on."

«I know Darklight. Beisdean belongs to him. I could look?»

Idris blinks at Leslie's words, both him and the snake glancing in the direction the boy is looking, then nods to Luna.

"Right. I knew I saw him before - the matter with the rabid dog." He releases his hand on her shoulder. "I didn't mean to hurt you." A statement of fact, not an apology. He walks up to Leonard and Leslie, nodding to the former before crouching down in front of the latter, and looking straight into his eyes.

"I can't see it, so I doubt many can. However, running away seems to have had very little effect. Perhaps you should try talking to it? Or hugging it? Or putting your fist through it?" He smiles gently. "Clearly falling back from it is not a valid strategy, so you should try a new one."

It seems a challenge for the boy to fully keep his attentions on anyone. He flicks glances to the adults as they speak, but his glaze follows a pacing back and forth through the crowd that is trying not to stare at the boy.

"It took a swipe at me," the boys says, apparently to Idris, his hand coming up to cover the opposite arm. When he pulls his hand away, he looks at it and then rubs it over his pants. Only, there is no injury there, but he seems convinced there is. "It isn't dead, Miss Owens." The words come out as if they're some kind of warning, and the boys face contorts as if watching something particularly unsavory. He opens his mouth, like he had more to say, but he ends up sagging against his uncle, horrified and tired.

When the tears fall out down his cheeks this time, it isn't in great sobs, but in defeat. He buries his face against Leonard, little jerks giving away how long his crying goes on, but he remains silent.

Hug it? As a woman who's battled many a beast for the protection of others (giant bats, kelpies, vampires, wild dogs, squids, and sharks), Luna Owens just gives an incredulous look at Idris. "Hugging it? My dear fellow, one does not simply hug a monster." Turning to Leslie, she looks down at him for confirmation and nods hopefully, "it is a monster, yes?" Back to Idris, "you have to find the appropriate charm to cripple it and then kill it."

Who ever heard of hugging it out with a monster that attacks children.

Really.

Leonard does not appear very …taken, by Idris. Perhaps it is just something about catching him at a bad time. Regardless, he forces out a smile. Yes, because obviously whatever DEMONIC THING is haunting his cute little nephew JUST WANTS A H — Sage nips her mage on the ear, and he he yelps, crunching his teeth on tail end of the sound and glaring at the ruddy, dark squirrel.

"Then perhaps Fletcher. The rover, right? Covered in bangles?" Leonard lifts his hand to finger the arm where Leslie seems to think something is. Obviously, the not seeing has run through into this as well. The crying urges Uncle Hightower to hold the boy tighter still, and a frown forms. He is trying to see the good side to all of this, and failing miserably. It's not hard to tell that the matter is making Leonard antsy as well, with nervousness in his bright eyes and a continuous shift in his feet.

Idris waves his hand dismissively. "Until he told us that it took a swipe at him, I had no grounds of knowing that it was hostile. So it was a perfectly valid strategy. Humans sometimes get freaked out by non-threatening but odd circumstances." He looks back over to the boy. "Can this creature pass through solid objects? Does it walk upon the ground, or float? Is there anything else you can tell us about it?"

"I need to take it back to that house, Uncle. I have to put it back there," Leslie says, his voice breaking as he tries to explain. He sniffs, rubbing his face on Leonard to dry his face. Sort of. "It walks on the ground. It's claws dig into the earth. It has fangs hanging down and it likes to eat— "

The boy looks up and pauses when he sees Luna there. Like he wasn't expecting to see her. The moment of shock doesn't so much pass as it lead right into the boy's eyes rolling back as he faints against Leonard. Flump.

"Well you should have known, obviously it is hostile if the boy is running from it." Sound logic by Miss Owens' mind, therefore it must be by anyone else's. At Leslie's description of the thing, her eyebrows raise high on her forehead and she looks to Leonard. "Can such a beast exist? Do we have any books on this sort of thing? It doesn't sound like any vampire I have ever heard of." But she'd never really put stock in walking dead creatures that no one could see and even then, she's never really seen one.

When the boy faints dead away, she lets loose a long sigh and flattens her lips into a thin perturbed line. "How do we take it back to the house if he can't tell us where it is?"

"Take what back? The creature? Did you take something?" Leonard's questioning is cut short when the boy faints, limp in his arms. He can still feel the boy's heartbeat and breathing, however, so he does not yet go right into panic mode. "He went there with some other boys. Somewhere on the edge of town? Cordelia is the one that rescued him. I hope this isn't happening to her too." The Rosses would flip lids like hot pots.

"I'm going to take him home. I hope-" A pause. "That he wakes up, and can explain. I'm not leaving him alone, if Richard or Elenna can't wrap their heads around it."

"Wait a moment, if you would, Leonard. This creature is hunting him, and we're in quit a good location to hunt it. Moving away might not make things any easier." Idris walks over, and picks up a fifty pound bag of flour, and slices open the top with a knife, then starts to throw flour liberally across the ground, causing quite a bit of flour dust to rise into the air as well. He furrows his brow a bit.

"No one light a flame!" If the creature is coporeal and still hanging around, this should make it's footprints rather visible - or such is Idris' hope. The snake falls off his arm, rising into the form of a bear on all fours, both of them glancing this way and that across the ground, looking for a sign of this child-hunting creature.

The flour ends up falling to the ground like a terribly dry snow, but nothing forms in the dust, it finds no body to fall against nor footprints to reveal.

The familiar does catch an odd scent, but not from the spot the supposed creature stood, but from the boy hanging in Leonard's arms. Something that doesn't smell human, or like a little boy who'd been frantic and running. Or even like the dirty that cakes his clothes. It's something other. And somewhat unpleasant to the bear's nose.

But of the creature, there is no sign.

"Are you mad? Who is going to pay for that flour?" With a huff, Luna stalks over to take responsibility for it. A yard of handmade lace is pulled out of the basket as she glares at the man. "Please don't mind Mister Idris, you know ma' she's got a heart the size of Dornie itself and helps those who are addled just as soon as she'd help anyone." The white ground soon has her tracks in a few lines as she tries to shoo the mage back. "Don't waste the rest of it, you can take it to the inn for the cooks to use. In exchange for making the payment, I'll take a couple dozen of ma's scones. You tell her."

She wisks past Leonard and the boy, none the wiser of what the familiar smells. "Please forgive him for this, he's not right in the head sometimes, aye? I'll look in the Rowntree library for any sort of books on magical creatures."

Leonard narrows his eyes at Idris, but falls silent and watches nontheless. The look that comes next is quite incredulous. What in the seven hells just happened? The cloud of flour starts to settle all over anyone that happens to be in this part of the market, followed by yelling and at least one confused snarl from the merchant he took the flour from. Leonard is covered in white soot, and he reaches up to dash the stuff from Leslie's face. He coughs, once, tasting dry flour.

"You, sir, are a madman if I've ever met one." It could be an insult- or it could be a non-insult, not really a compliment. Just a statement of apparent, somewhat condescending, fact. "Not right in the head?" It explains a bit. "You should do that. Ask Aislinn, as well, if you see her before I do. She may know."

The squrriel on his shoulder eyeballs the bear, before wiggling down onto its haunches and leaping into the air. The owl is back, flapping her eerily silent wings and coasting out from above the market.

Idris laughs at Leonard's words, and him and the bear approach Leslie, the latter shifting into the somewhat less threatening form of a large black dog, then sneezing.

"A test to see if the creature had physical form and was still threatening us. The answer: no. As if I'd let people thinking I'm crazy and the price of a little flour keep me from knowledge. You're rather dull for a mage, aren't you?" A shrug of his shoulders.

"The child smells off. This may be a curse that's affecting his mind, rather than a coporeal being persay. So, I'm going to sniff him a bit closer, see if I can discover anything else." He moves to brush some of the flour off the boy, and the dog moves in to do that whuffling sort of sniff that gets a lot of scent information.

Closer, the boy's personal smell becomes noticeable, but under a mask, dampened, hidden by this strange aura about him. And the smell extends back through the square, presumably back to the boy's home, if it were followed. Other than the odd smell covering his own, the boy doesn't smell sick or wounded, but rather like an exuberant kid in need of a bath soon.

Well, Idris' excuse for his insanity seems plausible enough. Luna shrugs a good shoulder and turns to watch as the dog snuffles out the boy. "How come your familiar could smell that the boy was off but Mister Hightower's couldn't? Is it because bears and dogs smell better than owls and squirrels?" Luna's voice seems a little high pitched, as if frightened by the fact that the boy might just be possessed by demons or devils or maybe even something they don't know about yet.

"Mister Hightower, can your familiar smell anything?" She bites off her questions just short of accusing the vet of conspiracy to keep dangerous beings a secret.

"I'm considerably less dull when my family is not being threatened by unseen demonic phenomena." Leonard all but growls, instead, sighing through his nose and tilting his chin up. "Until then, I will gladly be as dull as the fact that I do not actually do anything, until the time that my nephew ceases to be stalked." A mouthful, but, that's how he is. Sage twirls about above them, considering simply going to fetch either Aislinn, or looking for that bangled man.

«I didn't get much of anything. My nose is full of flour…» She alights on the stall nearby, and as if to punctuate, lets out a great, galumphing sneeze, rattling talons and flailing wings.

"Yes. Bears and dogs have much better scenting abilities. But you try smelling when your nose is full of flour, hm?" Regardless, she sneezes a small sneeze again and drops back down, pawing onto the cobble as the tall, well-fed she-wolf. Leonard waits just for a few moments while she presses her muzzle to Leslie's feet. "It's the same."

Idris walks over to pay the merchant for the flour he just stole and threw everywhere. The dog tilts it's head to one side. «/He's your family? Not the most healthy response to danger, Leonard. It's too bad I can't be of more use to you, but-//»

"-these are the limits of my direct abilities against those without bodies. I think I'll go home to clean this flour off." Idris dusts himself off a little, and he and the dog leave the square without a backwards look.