Rat Catchers

Title: Rat Catchers
Time Period: June 12, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: A group of Dornie citizens decide to reclaim what was theirs, and the mystery unravels before their eyes.

It's early morning on the waterfront, and all is quiet; there's a thick fog creeping along the docks that helps give cover to the stealthy group of citizens as they wait for the signal to move in on the boarded up bait shop to either catch or confront the thieves who have been taking their small and hard-won treasures.

Perhaps it's foolish to go without the militia, but as luck would have it, most are outside of town on some "business" or another — the kind of business that brings to Dornie strangers who never are given the choice to leave. The kind of business that ensures there is no competition in the nearby lands.

Finally they hear the signal — one of two birdcalls arranged ahead of time, with one meaning "no one's home," and the other meaning, "company!" The bird-call that comes to them through the fog is Wee-Poor-Will, or the whippoorwill call, meaning that all is clear. Sholto Clooney has checked out the building, and no one's home.

It's a strange day indeed when Mariah has her hair pulled back into a braid, as it makes her look more like a regular, hard working person and she's not quite ready to completely submit to that look. So to make up for it, the pants she's got on for the occasion are formfitting and flattering and seem to even the score enough to keep her comfortable.

"Oi. There's the go ahead." And yet, she's hesitating a bit. This sort of thing never fell into her various bits of training. "I guess we should get on with it, aye?" One deep breath and then she's moving toward the warehouse. She doesn't look back to see if the others are coming. She might lose her nerve if she does that.

Sorcha is much more sober and less giggly now. Pants and shirt, boots, she's right there with Mariah after having been carted home and telling the woman about the find. She's huddled to the side, waiting for Sholto's call. "WHen we looked in, there was so much, and there were rats" WHich might account for the plank with some nails sprouting through it, the sharp ends out and ready to take on any rodents that may be lingering.

A couple of the young men with the party- first playing lookout and now tagging along- are lads with the same color mops of brown hair as Leonard, same stature destined to be quite tall, and one even has a nose uncannily just like the older man's. Nephews. Old enough to help, but young enough to still get into trouble. Leonard couldn't tell, exactly, if they wanted to be noticed by the militia for good or bad, but after a passing mention they seemed keen on coming along.

"D'we go now?" One of the teenagers chirps in his uncle's ear when he hears the bird call, and Leonard hushes him- though in the same breath, he waves him along when the string of people start off quietly for the warehouse, one after the other. Leonard's clothes are the type he reserves for mucking about in; they are also darker than usual, letting him blend in a little better than before.

As they approach, the youth currently accused of the crime gradually comes into view — first a dim silhouette, something like the reserve of a ghost in the midst of the fog, and then he grows more visible as the rest make their way to him. He gives a nod to the boys close to his age, and a polite nod to the "grownups."

"There's a door around the back that just looks boarded up, but if you look close the boards are on the door, not across it. That's how they been getting in and out without anyone noticing the ol' building's been lived in," he says, with a jut of his newly-stubbled chin to one side of the old shop. "The loot's still there, so they aren't aware your lot's on to 'em," he adds to Leonard and Sorcha. "C'mon, I'll show you the door."

The door in question is on the side of the shop, a less obvious entrance than the front door that Sorcha and Leonard examined the night before. It does look, at a glance, like the boards are nailed to the wall to keep someone out, but Sholto's fingers curl around the edge of the two-by-four and he pulls lightly, and it's clear that it's all a facade.

When they're shown the trick of the door, Mariah chuckles quietly as she ruffles the boy's hair.

"Oh, you're brilliant, you are," she say, a bit of a tease, but some honest encouragement there, too. She looks about to go through, but pauses a moment to turn back to Sorcha for just one little question.

"How many rats… exactly?" There's a bit of a distressed noise over the creepy little creatures, but she's opening the door a moment later to peek inside before slipping through a crack just wide enough for her.

"I think we saw a handful" She offers up to her apprentice. "But there's likely more than just those" Like some pied piper, but instead of making the rats dance, or making kids follow, someone is having them steal. "I shudder to think that one of them, at least, was in my home" She looks to the others and the cleverly made door. "I vote that Mr. Hightower goes first" Leonard, you have been volunteered by Sorcha who's got more wits about her this time. "Unless you want to go first Sholto?"

"Feckin' genius that is." The shorter of Leonard's nephews praises it, while the other just rolls his eyes.

"A few that I could see. Rats aren't so bad…" He opines at Sorcha. Leonard is about to offer that he go first when Mariah seems to shy away, but he just chuckles to himself when she changes her mind and slips in and Sorcha is next to shy from the rat infested building. "I'll go next." He follows close after Mariah, having to open the door a bit further so that he fits through without the door creaking too much.

Sholto lets the other boys go in first, then Sorcha, but he stands at the door. "I'll stay here where I can see out," he suggests, dipping his head when Sorcha passes him.

Inside, it's clear someone's been living here, though like Goldilocks' bears, they're not currently home. Three pallets that are nothing more than a thin layer of hay covered in blankets show exactly how many people have been calling this home. The basket of items is still there, in plain view. At least three dozen trinkets fill it, making it glitter with glass beads and assorted metals.

It's Leonard whose boot crunches on something underfoot; when he looks down, it's a brass chain, a necklace from the looks of it, that's got a broken link on one end. Attached to it is a tiny leather pouch, whatever was within it now broken.
You paged (Sorcha, Mariah) with ‘same color chain as the necklace ben had worn in the first scene; fairly subtle thing to notice/remember/etc but feel free if you'd like.’

That crunch turns Mariah around from looking around the room with a frown. She crouches down to pick up the chain between two fingers. A thumb rubs away some stray dirt before she stands up again. "Well, that's sort of familiar. Looks like they might have stolen from Ben, too."

It makes her frown. She likes Ben.

Her fingers go for the pouch next, to open it and pour out the broken pieces into her hand.

Sorcha is going for the baskets, looking into them, quickly, in the hopes of catching a glimpse of her silver brush, or the necklace that was missing. "Should we get this stuff out and set about to returning it? Maybe wait to see who else comes in? For that matter was it.." She looks to the pallets, recalls the rats in her mind.

"They're… mages?" Like the two of them at least, here. "Three pallets… I remember three rats. I think there were three rats. Maybe they're… companions?" Ugh. Magic. Please don't be magic.

The vet winces when he steps on something, backtracking only far enough to pick his shoe up and peer under it, letting Mariah fetch the thing he's stepped on.

"Wot is it?" The same boy as before leans in past his uncle's arm. Leonard inspects the chain and pouch in Mariah's hand.

"We should leave the baskets, keep an eye out and see if anyone comes for it. Mages? I don't know. I'd have to ask Sage to stick around and find out, but she's out hunting." Owls and mice.

The boy at the door squints through the dim light to see what it is they're all looking at. He moves closer, looking over Mariah's shoulder to peer down at the trinket, before looking at Leonard and shaking his head.

"I think we should get the loot and return it to the people. They might manage to get away with it, if we don't take it while we have this chance," he mumbles quietly, as if unsure about speaking his opinion in a group of "proper" citizens. "People work hard for what they have, and some might be barely getting by. We don't know what those things mean to-"

The young man's words are cut short as suddenly the door slams open. The same unfamiliar boy that Mariah had seen talking to Tavish not so long ago stands looking with wide eyes at the group assembled there. At a glance, he looks like he could be Ben, but then, things don't quite match up. His ears seem a bit larger than Ben's, his teeth more crooked, his frame thinner, his clothes ragged and dirty where the MacRankins always look clean and presentable. "What's…" His eyes widen and he takes a step backward.

Nodding to the boy's words, Mariah might have voiced an agreement, but the sound of the door has her spinning around again with a jump. Her hand curls around the trinket and chain as she looks the frail thing over.

She doesn't seem to know quite what to do, being caught red handed, but by someone less than frightening. "Hang on there," she ends up saying, but she doesn't move forward, trying not to make him bolt entirely, "No one's in trouble, we'd just like a word, is all."

Sorcha is in the middle of shifting through one basket when they're caught red handed in the super secret lair of the cat- err rat burglery ring. She looks to Mariah, to the door and the kid there. To leonard and his ilk then back to the door. Frozen over her little pot of preciouses.

"We may never c-" Leonard's reply is cut off as well, and his chin lifts up to look over at the open door. The unfamiliar but familiar boy gets one of Leonard's practiced scornful looks. The kind his children- and the boys with him- know well enough. He lets Mariah speak further. She's less intimidating. …Right?

Suddenly out of the familiar stranger's pocket scurries something small and dark — a rodent, but smaller than those fat Norwegians the vet and seamstress had seen the other day. It makes for the door, but Sholto starts stomping, and suddenly, it sprouts wings and takes flight, its form shifting subtly from rat to bat and even the tough Sholto ducks when it flies past him — and out the door.

"I…I was j-just," stammers the teen, "um, I was just looking for a place to rest a bit. I see it's already t-taken though. S-sorry, I d-didn't know anyone lived here." His eyes are wide as he looks from one person to the next.

With a glance toward Sorcha when the rat shifts, Mariah puts a reassuring hand on her arm before she takes a slow step forward. "It's alright," she says, her voice soft now, kind, even, as she holds a hand out his way, "We didn't know, either. Best come along with us before everyone gets home, yeah?"

It's a bit odd for her, making a smile comforting without being alluring, but got to learn sometime.

"Don't-" Leonard admonishes the young man stomping after the rat, all too aware of what happens if he hurts or kills someone's familiar. "We were just …visiting." Something like that. He stays quiet, otherwise, his nephews taking cues from him- though the taller one seems a bit antsy, now that something's …happened. Sort've.

"I'm going to go," the boy says with a shake of his head, though no one seems to intent on hurting him. Sholto, however, shuts the door behind everyone, leaning against it.

"I don't think you are, kid," he says, the sullen boy that everyone knows coming back to the forefront. "Tell us who you are. You look kind of like that kid Ben. You one of the MacRankins?" he asks, taking a step forward to bring himself closer to the smaller teen. The other boy takes a step back, and then another, bumping into one of the other boys in the room. He jumps, skittish, and suddenly there's a rustle and the pitter patter of little feet.

Many, many feet.

There's the chatter and squeak of rats, along with the unmistakeable scent they carry in unspeakably large numbers. And it's all coming from above.

Up in the rafters, dozens of rats come pouring in through cracks in the roof, jumping down onto the beams but now and then one falls, landing on the ground around the group inside the old bait shop.

At the scuttling sound, Mariah looks up, swallowing hard. Rats. When they appear, she looks over to the others. "Time to go!" There's a glance to Sholto and a nod toward the grimy boy before she dashes over to the basket of goodies.

Her hands grab for the stolen goods before she changes direction and heads for the door herself. She, for one, didn't bring a weapon.

That and rat are just gross.

"Get the baskets" This to Leonards boys as Sorcha herself is settling her grip on her improvised rat death weapon. She's ready to swing, impale or nail a rat or two if she has to, to get them out of here. Screw it if any of them are someones familiar. Their fault for having one. You know.

The Hightower boys, to their credit, listen well. They hop after Mariah, but don't change direction when they aim for the loot; they help pick up whatever needs grabbing.

"Careful with that!" Leonard yelps, high-pitched, warning Sorcha with her rusty piked board. He is unsurprisingly unaffected by the fact that there are tons of rats above him, and a few plopping down around him, possibly on him. "Come on-" He crosses the floor, grabbing at the arms and wrists of both Sholto and the skinny boy. He's got a long reach, which tends to help. "You too."

The rats too scurry after the basket of goods, a few grabbing chains or lockets or watches before disappearing out a hole in the corner; others fall victim to the plank of doom, high pitched squealing of pain as those nails rip their flesh. Sorcha Ferrier, ratslayer.

"No!" the unfamiliar boy cries out, and he winces as if he can feel the creature's pain, tears welling up in his eyes before he blinks them away. He doesn't pull from Leonard's grip.

Outside, suddenly a voice shouts, "Let go of me, woman!" and the door slams open again — this time it's Tavish MacRankin who stands in the door, just as Sholto wriggles out of Leonard's one-handed grasp to tackle the other boy.

And then the world is chaos.

Roots rip through rotten floorboards to wrap themselves around Sholto's arms, legs, and even neck. "Let him go," demands Tavish, no longer the meek and sweet henpecked husband; on his neck is a chain much like the broken one Mariah had recognized before.

"Leon," Mariah says to the vet as she shoves her basket at him, "Get Sorcha out of here." Magical plant control, she can guess how her friend is going to react to that one. "If you can manage it."

As for her, she pushes her sleeves up her arms as she comes over toward the newcomer on the scene. Standing near Sholto, like she might somehow be able to jump over at protect him somehow. "Tavish," she says, voice calming, easy, unthreatening, "Tavish, look at what you're doing." Because it's chaos up in here.

Roots. Kids telling her not to hit rats. Mariah's magic works in her mind or however else it is that it works and she's calmer. She's not screaming about magic at least and instead is kicking at some rats as she picks her way to Leonard because in the middle of a maelstrom of mages is not where she wants to be. Not when all she wanted to do was get back the stuff that was stolen. But there's still people barring the way, like Tavish. WHo she had in her home. Sweet Tavish. :|

Leonard has wrestled boys before, but admittedly- it's been a while since he needed to break up a fight. He tries to grab onto Sholto again, stumbling after the pair when the other boy gets tackled. Even as he hears the man yell, Leonard is trying to pry them apart again. Once he realizes that the plants are latching on, however, he looks up with a slightly panicked expression. It doesn't take a genius.

"Stop!" Leonard lifts up to his feet again, straightening out in time for Mariah to shove her handful of basket at him. He backs up in front of Sorcha in time to effectively do what he's told. Somewhat- it isn't him trying to break out the other door, it is his teenage nephews that kick and hit at the front door barred on the outside. At least Sorcha has Leonard between her and everything else.

There is a nails-on-board screech from somewhere above the building, from a freshly arrived barn owl that sounds none too pleased.

"I don't care about that shite, take it, just leave him alone!" Tavish says, a little calmer, nodding toward Mariah though his eyes remain on Sholto. "It's not his fault, he didn't want to do any of this." His face is creased with pain and concentration as the roots pull at Sholto — who's looking a bit blue in the lips from the lack of oxygen but keeps trying to punch at the younger boy beneath him. The vines eventually stop his hands and Sholto's gapes for air.

On the ground below, the other boy too is worse for wear, eyes starting to close — as he does so, the rats drop their odd behavior — and their riches, and scurry out of sight once more. Except for the ones that have been wounded by Sorcha's plank.

Tavish's gaze is torn between the boy on the ground and Sholto, bound and held by vines.

Outside, Sage catches sight of another figure — Glynis MacRankin, crouching by a nearby building.

"Then why did you make him?" It's a harsh question, but spoke so softly it barely comes off that way. "You need to let that one breath, Tavish, or this is going to be far worse than some stealing. It can all go away still. You have to let him breathe, though." Mariah lifts her hands, placating as that voice worms its way into the brain.

"Mister Hightower can get your boy out of the way. Can't you, Mister Hightower? And everyone can relax." She's very convinced of that, it would seem. "You have to let him loose."

"Yes. I can." Leonard puts down the basket in his hands, and the two at the front door are not quite big or strong enough to knock it free. So, they stay there, waiting and watching, out of confusion and some uncertain fear. "Come on now, son, up with me." The vet glances towards Sholto in the roots, and back to the boy on the floor. He crouches, and reaches out to take him gently by the hand. "I'm sorry about this…" What with the rats, too.

Sage circles above in abject silence that only an owl can manage, keeping any screeches to herself, watching, waiting.

Something flies by Sage, scalloped wings telling the owl it's a bat, but that magical essence telling it that it's not of the common variety. The furred flying thing makes its way back through the ajar door, losing wings and gaining front legs that scurry to crawl back up the boy, the rat form crawling back to nestle somewhere in the boy's shirt. The boy's eyes flutter and he looks up at Leonard, nodding once, drowsily — a concussion in the works, surely.

Slowly the vines begin to loosen and Sholto's color returns; he begins to gag and hack, turning away and slumping onto the dusty floor in an exhausted heap.

Tavish turns to Mariah grimly. "It was her idea. Ben and me, we just didn't know how to say no."

Outside, perhaps Glynis knows the gig is up, and she begins to creep away — apparently not too brokenhearted to leave them behind.

Mariah crouches down to help the coughing boy, although it's more with comfort than actual medical help. "Maybe by saying no, might have helped." She looks over at him, a bit of disapproval in her expression.

"Can't change that, though. All you can do now is help stop all this." Accountability, oh yes. "Tell us what this is all about. What she wants all this stuff for." Disapproval and no small amount of disappointment, too. She liked them. Glynis, too.

Sage has her name for a reason. The woman hiding out does not escape her purview, or her wisdom enough to bank in the air and dive. Glynis won't hear the screech until the owl is at her ear, a flutter of silent wings and sharp talons raking at the back of her head, and the owl banks up in the air again. Not to injure, but to distract and cow her.

«I'm on her.»

The piercing echo of his familiar's voice rings in Leonard's head while he inspects the younger mage's cranium, hands roving in a familiar manner. A vet is still a doctor, a man is still a father.

Scare it does; Glynis screams and begins to run. Pants instead of skirts make it an easy task for her long lanky legs, but how is one going to outrun a familiar?

Inside, Tavish bows his head, watching Leonard examine the teen's injuries. "This," he says, pulling from his neck the chain that is identical to the one that they'd found earlier. He lets it drop, and brings his foot down upon it. Instantly, those warm feelings of familiarity fall away, though none of the memories do of course; they know a moment before they were speaking to the man they know as Tavish MacRankin, but the man who stands there now is a stranger, if one that resembles Tavish. The likeness is like that perhaps of brothers, but brothers who'd spend years apart in very different environments. Like the boy that Leonard aids, this man is thinner and wiry in the manner that comes to people who have long been malnourished. His hair is thin and scraggy, his skin a touch sallow, his teeth more crooked, his eyes duller.

"She doesn't need one; her magic covers her, but Ben'n'me, we had to wear these. Ben's gives him a rash so he's forever losing it." That explains the day in the market.

The vines unwind from Sholto's limbs and neck and slip back through the cracks in the ground. "I take responsibility. Only let Ben go." He puts his hands out in front of him, as if to be bound.

You don't. Not really. Sage has wings, and feet, and flippers. She has a nose, ears, and eyes. The owl swoops after her again, diving low. Wings flap forward into long limbs, talons shifting to match. The wolf is on her heels, and catches up in just a few hard sprints, lungs inhaling deep.

Sage snaps at exposed ankle, teeth trying to clamp down like a vice on the woman's boot; though she takes care to not pierce the leather completely, only trying to bring the woman to a halt.

As the necklace falls the man looks suddenly different, Mariah comes over to put her hands on his arms. "Everything'll be alright. You're not the one responsible, alright? We only came to get back what was stolen. You and Ben both, you'll be alright."

She does bend down to pick up that necklace, too. In case of the need for evidence, or at least so they won't be repaired and used again on someone else. "Before anything else, though, I think you two need a warm meal and a better place to bed down." There's a glance around; those conditions aren't ideal. And not a bunny in sight.

"You ate the rabbits… didn't you" This from behind Leonard, Sorcha using him shamelessly as a meat shield, even as he's tending to concussions. Because much like Mariah, she realizes there's no rabbits in sight. Warm meals and places to bed down however, will likely not be coming from Sorcha's corner, and not in her home.

Wolf teeth catch on boot and down Glynis tumbles, hands instinctively going over her head, then up into the surrender pose as she cowers, and awaits her fate. Sage can stand guard until she's rounded up.

"We sold 'em to Hardy," Ben manages, thickly as he manages to look a little more awake. "We kept some of their fur and then traded that, and then the rabbits. I tried to think at 'em but they aren't like rats. Except for the teeth."

Tavish gives a slight smile to Mariah, one that hints at the friend that he seemed to be. "'Tis kind of you, but I can't expect to infringe upon any more of your kind hearts. We'll take our lumps if we must, and then Ben and me, we'll get out of town, find somewhere we can start new. He nods to the door, polite as ever. "Shall we?"

He walks with the dignity of an honest man come clean.