Noon on the 9th of Bethas, 2719
When Tom's thin, aged fingers curled tighter around his delicate hand, Ezre could only imagine the sorts of things that went through the raen's mind in the same moment his own heartbeat picked up its rhythm in his narrow chest. The contact filled him with a sense of focus, with a protective need, even as the dripping, groaning ghost in front of them threatened to steal that focus with every hot cloud of breath that escaped his chilled lips.
The restless spirit spoke in confused ramblings, but it was clear it was focused on one word: watch. Whether it truly meant an actual watch as a time-keeping device or whether it actually meant somewhere to keep watch over a place, the Hexxos acolyte felt as though not even the ghost knew for sure. Somewhere in death, it had clearly become obsessed with something in particular and simply refused to let go and slip away into the Cycle. Whatever it was, whichever it was, Ezre wanted to help.
It was his duty to help.
He felt torn, however, concerned for the raen he stood in front of and yet also eager to bring peace to the confused manifestation of monic memory that blocked the path between the pair and the moa. The dark-haired boy reluctantly released the other man's hand, whispering his instructions urgently before turning to face the dripping, wavering spirit. Ezre took a step forward,
"We will both help." He spoke so softly, though his field was still taut and ready, the Monite for any number of possible avenues of protection burning against the back of his teeth like the heat of his rapid breath. He hadn't changed his mind so much as he was worried to leave the raen alone. Perhaps he should have just told the man to flee.
The glowing, near-amorphous thing was suddenly closer—the Hexxos and the raen would have felt as though they blinked and then it was upon them—far too close to Ezre than he felt he was ready for. There was a sensation of interference to it, the static of its existence not at all dissimilar to Tom's frayed field only stronger, almost nauseating or intoxicating or both. Definitely both. He was fascinated and terrified at the same time, dark eyes taking in the way the ghost's features shifted and changed, faded in and out of recognition, dribbled and oozed as if still submerged beneath a body of water and then dragged out again.
He wanted to touch it, but instead he bit his lip and held himself still. He wanted to ask it questions, but instead found himself without the right words, heart against the back of his throat, a strange yearning stirring unbidden in the catacombs of his busy mind.
"Yes, you will. You will help me find it. My watch. Watch—" The ghost's voice was shrill suddenly, and it reverberated in a gurgle through the frigid air, hands reaching for the Hoxian, gnarled by age when alive and by time in undeath, fingers so close to the boy's golden skin that his hair danced as if on a breeze. He didn't flinch, however, didn't lean away, eyes wide in his surprise. The restless spirit seemed drawn to living student as if it wanted something more from him than just assistance, as if it was definitely planning on devouring him whole, and yet it tilted its head to look up at Tom, hollow features staring vacantly but searching for something it desperately couldn't find in the raen's galdor features,
"—just like the pond where ice reflects the sky, flowers bloom even in winter here because they are made of stone. A garden that never grows, but time ticks by without me, leaving me to watch. Alone." Groaned the ghost, suddenly morose, tilting its head toward Ezre and leaning even closer, brushing against the boy's field with a very visible shudder of discomfort. It whined, blubbering, "I just want—"
"—your watch. A time keeping device? You lost it by flowers?" If he could have mustered the reasoning to reach out and touch the thing, the Hexxos acolyte might have, but again he stood so still, ignoring the thunder of his pulse, "Can you take us to the last place you saw it? Whatever it is."
"No! Yes! I lost it—here—here. I must watch it. All the houses. One a home." The ghost attempted to step closer as if it wanted in Ezre's personal space but recoiled instead, pushed back when the young Hoxian flexed his field in warning. With a long moan, the ghost began to walk, leading the way through what felt like the entire phasmonia, leading them through sunlight and fading in and out of visibility as if it was a candle actually affected by the frigid wind as it blew. The route was shambling, seemingly random, and the ghost cursed and whined, screeched and moaned, complaining about everything and rambling on about seeing. Ezre offered his support to Tom, but it was also very clear that the dark-haired boy didn't want to be far from him, that he was perhaps more frightened than his emotionless exterior at all betrayed. This ghost was stranger than any he'd thus far encountered.
It muttered about water, about how its lungs had burned without breath, and it gurgled about how quiet the city had become here, how no one seemed to want to visit the beautiful capitol any more. Had it died here? Or was it really from Vienda?
Its words were so disjointed and confused. It soon became obvious that they'd all walked in circles more than once, the ghost taking the same paths over and over again.
Eventually they would find themselves having gone around the same circle of sidewalk, the small mock-houses in this area unkempt and overgrown, but a few of them with stone flowers carved delicately in stone window boxes. Glancing in the open windows revealed that the interiors had been meticulously decorated at one time—tiny furniture, painted wallpaper, even paintings on the walls. Food offerings had been left on the miniature doorsteps, and some galdori had even left food inside of the houses in the form of perfect, tiny feasts. Dried flowers, faded spectographs in glass frames, and various mementos crowded these houses more than any others.
The ghost had become agitated, loud, finally turning on the pair, shifting for a brief but obvious moment to a size far larger than expected and attempting to reach for Tom's face, only to pull its twisted, bony hands back with a hiss as if in pain, as if getting close to the raen's field caused it to feel things it didn't want to or to remember what it wasn't.
The next blink and it was literally touching Ezre, hands tracing over his clothing. The old, gnarled form of the ghost half-whispered, half-shrieked in the boy's ear, and he closed his eyes at the strange sensation of contact with the etherial being, aware that there was a strange compulsion to draw closer still, aware of the pull of ghosts and how it was said they wanted to consume the living, "Yes, here. Find it! Give it to me!"
The oozing thing finally drifted into the entropy of Tom's vicinity, and, strangely enough, in the buzzing sensation of his frayed field, the restless spirit appeared to grow larger, clearer, more focused. A hand hovered near the man's chest, just over his heart, hissing in a voice that could only be described as full of wrathful envy, full of accusation, and yet perhaps also full of a clue, "Tick. Tick. Tick. I hear it. You have my watch! Give it to me! Or is that just your heart? How can you keep it wound when you are dead?"
Did it know what the raen was so easily? What could it see that others could not? Were they looking for an actual watch? Or something special and dear to the ghost's now long-rotted heart?
"Tom, I don't see it. Do you?" Ezre admitted with a tone that sounded both distant and yet also ashamed, peering in houses, dark eyes lingering on all of the fixtures. He finally looked at the ghost, field relaxing in a way that would seem dangerously inviting, but instead of standing still, he shifted listlessly. He began to carefully sort through the offerings, one house at a time, unable to resist the urge to keep looking, unable to walk away now that the ghost had captivated his attention in a way he wasn't sure he was even entirely aware of.
Finally, he held up a pocket watch and the ghost squealed in unearthly triumph, formless body brushing against Tom and leaving behind a dripping, oozing slime on his coat. It felt more solid than before. Gnarled hands reached for the tarnished silver, reached for Ezre's tattooed hands that had curled around a surprisingly well-kept pocket watch that he'd found on a table in one of the houses, nestled in with tiny books and a miniature inkwell and pen,
"My watch! It is dead—oh—dead—nooo—look what you did to my watch! How can I know when it is time!"
Ghostly fingers wrapped around the Hexxos' wrists and he looked up in surprise because he could feel its touch, because its grip was tight and greedy. The restless spirit spoke again and as it did, the boy's lips moved with the words—"I cannot hear it!"—and then slowly mouthed wind it as if he was suddenly unable to speak.
Tom could see Ezre through the still-translucent ghost, but the dripping, ugly thing seemed to be changing. It moved forward and the boy's hands passed through the drowned old galdor's thin body, his arms impaling it while its hands cupped the Hoxian's face, growling greedily, "Tick. Tick. Tick."