Mad Hatter

Title: Mad Hatter
Time Period: May 16, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: "I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, sir," said Alice, "because I'm not myself, you see."

It's difficult to say how long its been since Cas was last fully conscious. There are impressions, vague impressions of being bound in a cart next to some other warm bodies, of giant trolls and chittering voices around him. But nothing too solid.

But it is that chittering he awakens to, and little bodies seeming far less threatening in ones and twos at his feet. His head hurts. His leg hurts. But there's a bandage over the bite, which implies that someone cared enough to look after it.

As his surroundings sink in, though, it becomes clear that he's bound into a soft seat, arms pinned to the rests, calves strapped to the chair legs and his chest tied back against the seat. And worse than that, he isn't alone. A glance around reveals a theatre of sorts, tiers and rows of seats rising behind him and fanning out over the wide room. Beside him, a somewhat familiar face; he runs letters and parcels to and for the Rowntrees often, a messenger named Wallace. Or something similar. He's still too groggy to realize where he is, but similarly tied in. In fact, almost every chair has a body in it, but every one of them except the two of them seems to be comatose.

It may not be the most encouraging realization.

But up front, the stage of this production, is a simple work bench, and a simple, older gentleman peering through a pair of spectacles at the toy he's currently working on. It's a music box, painted in dark blues and black, and he's just fastening in the handle that some lucky patron will turn to get the music to play.

The first instinct Cas has is to touch his head. That doesn't work well, with his arms bound. At first he doesn't seem to realize that's why he's not moving, until he tilts his head down to look. A tremor runs through him. The pain helps bring reality in, even if the pain in his head brings as much fuzziness.

The first sign that he's awake may come in the straining of the bindings, but then again as he twists around, looking from one person to the next. Unfortunately he can't twist enough to make sure he sees everyone else that's tied up. There's a worry in his eyes, something rumbling toward a panic that is waking him up. With a shuddered breath, he looks toward the man moving front and center— obviously untied. "Where— " His voice is hoarse, he needs to cough and swallow to continue. "Where's Mariah?"

The man doesn't answer at first, because he's very intent on his work. But once he has the pieces into place, he straightens up and puts his hands against his back as he takes a moment to stretch out a few kinks.

Only then does he look in Cas' direction. And for a moment, he seems surprised to see him.

"Oh, hello," he says, his voice gentle and even kind, if crackled with age, his tone frightfully normal sounding. As if Cas had come by for tea, and not… woken up strapped to a chair. "You aren't supposed to be awake." He picks up his music box, carrying it in hand as he climbs down the short flight of stairs from the stage to come approach the first row. "I'm afraid I don't know any Mariah."

The casual tone seems to have an uncomforting effect on Cas, as he strains against the bindings again for a moment, shifting in his comfortable chair until it's obviously uncomfortable. Especially for his leg. "Kinda difficult to stay asleep when I feel like I got— oh wait I did get mauled." The lack of Mariah could be comforting… but he still tries to shift around to look at each of the people.

As if he thinks he'd recognize a head of hair, or the dress she'd been wearing. It's somewhat of a relief that his eye catches a messanger he knows. It explains the horse. And if they're so close together and somewhat conscious…

"Where are we?" he says as he decides to look back at the approaching man on the stage, leaning back in the chair.

"I am sorry to hear. The hobs, they're good with bandages." There's a chitter from the floor under his seat, but it seems the hobs hanging out near the newcomers don't want to come out with the man approaching. "I… would you like some tea? I'm certain there must be some— "

He stops there to look around, as if confused on just where one might find tea. And it takes Cas speaking again to bring him back to the conversation. "Hmm? Oh. Still you." But, as he stops in front of Cas, he gestures back toward the stage. "My workshop, my boy, aren't those eyes in your skull? Should spend less time daydreaming about ladies named Mariah and pay attention to what's around you."

The chittering makes Cas jump a little, as he realizes that those little monsters are right under him. "I— no I don't want any tea, unless you're going to untie me so I can drink it," he says in a way that would be considered moody, if he didn't sound genuinely worried right on top of all of it. Worried, and further confused.

Mostly by the man who seems confused at him. Confused and accusing. "I'm not— I'm not daydreaming I— she was— I— she was with me in the woods when those— when I got attacked and…" he looks down toward his leg, as if trying to make sure those chittering little things aren't actually touching him. "If this is your workshop then what are… are we doing here?"

"Oh no no, that's not possible. But don't worry. They take care of everyone," he says with a sharp gesture toward the rest of the theatre. But as Cas goes on, the man just looks… puzzled. He's not following. "Well, I… we don't get too many women in," he says, as if that should clear it up, "I'd expect more children, really, but these things can be hard to predict."

It's the last question that lights the man up. "Ah, ah ha. The very heart of it." And he crouches down some to hold the box out in front of Cas. "We're making toys, my boy. Beautiful toys. And you're here to be a part of the magic," he says with wide eyes. He's excited to speak on it, perhaps. It's only his life's work. "I made this one for him," he says, with a gesture to the messenger, "and when we're done, it will have music of its own to play. They won't have to wind it, you know, but I like giving the option."

"Toys?" Cas asks, as if he's not sure his mind is working well enough to understand what's going on. But the more that the man says, the more that seems to soak in. And the less he seems to like the idea. "Him? That…" He looks from the messanger who he only vaguely recognizes, to the other slumped figures that seem to be… not all there.

"This is…" he trails off, shaking his head, eyes clenching shut for the moment. For a second his breathing is fast, unsteady, but he visibly uses his closed eyes to calm down.

When his eyes open again, he nods his head towards the guy who the newest box was made for, and asks another question, though he sounds cautious, "Were me and him— were we the last one… to arrive?"

"The most coveted toys in all of the islands, yes." He straightens, taking the box with him. And to answer the last question, he only taps his nose before stepping over one seat to poor Wallace. "You all come here. Providence! Work I was born for."

He turns his attention to the messenger, his hand reaching out to lay on the man's arm. He stops explaining, or rather, babbling, and his eyes close. It's an odd thing to watch, how Wallace tenses up for a brief moment, and then exhales heavily as he joins the others in their collective lack of consciousness. And the man takes in a breath simultaneously, but by the time he opens his eyes again, the lid of the music box opens of its own accord, and music starts to play. Forlorn music. Music meant to cry to.

Turner Buchanan's toys are famous for a reason. It's probably for the best that no one knows the reason, though.

Any hope of remaining calm and collected seems to have gotten thrown out a proverbal window. As the messanger slumps in his chair and the music box starts to play, Cas begins to struggle more whole heartedly in his chair, pulling and twisting and paying no attention at all to the pain in his legs.

The sounds he makes could very well be soft curses of protest that never quite get formed all the way.

This is something he very much doesn't want to be involved in, by the looks of things.

Turner looks over at Cas, reaching up to forcibly shut the lid to shut the music short. "I haven't quite worked out how to get them to play something happy," he comments, apparently to himself. But seeing Cas struggling, he waves a hand as if to wave off his worry. "I have something better for you."

Because that's clearly what Cas is upset about.

He brings the music box with him as he turns to retake the stage, and once he's gone, the hob under the chair pops out to climb up into Cas' lap. The stablehand gets a smack on the arm, a silent plea for him to calm down. But what Cas might notice is that this little hob has a piece of Mariah's dress tied around its arm as decoration. Something torn off in the tussle back in Dornie.

"How do you feel about marionettes? Good, I hope," comes Turner's voice from the stage, "Still some work to do, though. Might as well go back to sleep."

At the smack, Cas stops struggling— though likely not because of the smack itself, cause his eyes are situated firmly on the piece of cloth. "You're not the one about to be turned into a bloody toy for some creepy old man's amusement," he grumps at the creature, straining his fingers now as he tries to reach out for the piece of fabric. It doesn't work so well, but still comes off as a 'gimmie' gesture.

It's said creepy old man's words that draw his eyes back up with a start. "I— I don't want to go back to sleep!" he says in a panicked almost high pitched way. Only to continue a moment later, in a more normal tone. If rambly. "Shouldn't I have a say in the toy you're— I mean— I don't want to look like one of them," he nods toward the Hobs. "I can— I might have ideas— I could help." It's almost desperate. But maybe he's hoping if he stays awake, he can… do something.

The hob notices the gesture, and he turns to frown at Cas, his hands moving to his hips. But, the words seem to sink in, or maybe this one just has some sort of compassion, because he unties the bit of cloth to shove it into Cas' hand. But then he turns to plop down in the stablehand's lap to watch the stage, too. It's hard from his angle. He's very small.

But Turner lifts his eyebrows at Cas' words, intrigued perhaps. They usually don't talk to him. He glances toward the side of the room, where there's a door, but he turns back to his catch a moment later.

"I… Hm." The old man comes to sit on the edge of the stage, his legs dangling off the edge. "No one's brought it up before, but… I do sometimes wonder if it would make a difference. A new home of your own choosing." There's a glance toward the work bench, where a half-finished marionette sits, and he furrows his brow for a moment before he looks back to Cas. "If you can think of a good idea before I finish… we'll talk. Agreeable?"

For a moment, the little Hob sitting in his lap gets more of his attention than the old man and his creepy toys. Fingers squeeze around the piece of cloth, and that helps his breathing settle down. "If you want, you'd get a better view from my shoulder," he says down to the Hob, having obviously forgiven him for his part in the kidnapping and everything.

The piece of cloth may have been enough for that. And perhaps he's holding out for wishful thinking of assistance from the little guy.

When he looks back up at the old man, he looks as if he needs a second to remember what the man just said to him, before he nods, "Ah— yeah. Maybe… a hat?" he says helplessly.

The hob looks back at Cas, then to his shoulder, then down to the lap he's sitting on before he decides to scale the stablehand to perch on the offered seat. And he seems to be pleased with his new vantage point. There's even a clap. Just before he rests his arm on the top of Cas' head. Since he's forgiven and all.

Turner, meanwhile, brings a hand to his chin at the suggestion. "A hat. A hat. I'm no milliner, my boy, but perhaps we can come up with something… hattish." He stands up then, retreating to his bench to shove his current work to the side, some things falling off to the up-stage side. A sheet of paper is brought up then, and some charcoal grasped between fingers. He even starts to work, sketching out ideas and crossing some out, apparently forgetting that he was mid-conversation. Right up until something flitters into his mind, and he straightens to look over at Cas with a grin.

"Perhaps you will get to wear yourself before we send you off to the merchants," he points out, apparently amused. To the hob's credit, he lets out a sigh that is less than thrilled with this brand of humor.

"Maybe a coat too, while you're at it— don't want me to get cold," Cas says in a rather disturbed fashion as he grimaces with the Hob sitting next to his head. It's not the Hob's fault, this time, but… everything else.

Fingers slide along the piece of fabric in his hand, almost as if he's making sure it's still there. Almost as if it's a ward against danger. The iron was supposed to protect him. The cross was too…

He doesn't even seem to realize he's crying til the tears distort his vision all together and he tries to blink them away, looking down. As if he doesn't want a mad old man to see him. Though his shoulder buddy can't miss it.

Turner chuckles some at the reply, but it isn't long before he gets well and truly engrossed in his work. Mumbles and exclamations replacing conversation in short order. But the good news is, Cas is still in his own body, where those around him don't seem to have had such luck.

The hob does notice and when Cas looks down, the little creature watches for a moment before sliding off his shoulder to stand on the man's legs. He chitters at him a little, trying to communicate something to him, but it isn't long before he reaches up to use his forearm to wipe at Cas' cheeks.

As the hob chitters at him and tries to communicate, Cas can only try to breath deeply in an attempt to get rid of his tears. With the help of the forearm against his face, he manages to become mostly tearfree— Except for the tears that still want to fall.

"Thanks," he says in a whispered voice. He has no idea if the little guy understands him, but he seems to well enough. With another deep inhale and slowr exhale, he glances upwards toward the working mumbling old man, before he looks back down at the hob and says in a soft voice, "You help me get out of here and I'll make sure you get a hat. A very nice hat. A better hat than he could make."

The hob leans in as Cas speaks, just a little lean, but enough to show he's curious and also… listening. There's even a glance up to where there is no hat sitting on the man's head. But once he's worked out what Cas is proposing, he hunkers down a bit, looking over his shoulder toward the man on the stage. He shudders, and opts to stay ducked down out of the toy maker's direct line of sight.

But he looks back to Cas, a bit torn. It's a frustrated harumph from the work bench that sends him skittering back under the chair, as though the man might have been paying more attention than the hob thought initially.

He isn't, though, he just scribbles something out and starts over again.

As the hob scurries away, Cas smiles in a tight-lipped fashion. It doesn't take a translator to know the creature is afraid of the old man— and really, how could he blame him? Few men disturb him as much. It's enough to make him forget about his leg—

Almost.

Squeezing the piece of cloth in his hand, he slowly twists around in the restraints, watching the old man as he works. He's alive and awake and aware— more than the others in the chairs around him.

And he'd very much like to stay that way.