"What do you think, Mr. Mortimer? Should I sit by the pond and record my observations of the plants growing around it?"
"Hmm--what? Oh, I beg your pardon, Miss Hathaway, I was, uh..." Garrick fumbled for words and found himself speechless for a moment. It was all he could do to point at the gray cloud and fog cover that his two students were obliged to use for walks outside Dryden Abbey. The small dark clouds hovered above the two vampires at around twenty or so feet from the tops of their heads, which Mr. Guiderius once said, were a necessity.
"We want our undead friends to mingle with mortals without the embarrassment that can only come from low-hanging clouds. Let them go forth, sir, and enjoy the superior blessings of mortal living without being reminded too much of their--well--most unique bloodline and unfortunate curse," Mr. Guiderius declared with a very imperious air while sniffing contemptuously.
Garrick couldn't help but stare, really. Lavinia's gray cloud, indeed, was shaped like a lady's parasol, which spread out above her and protected her from the damaging brilliance of the sun. There was also a faint fog that surrounded her, softening her figure and lending her a particularly romantic, gothic air. Indeed, she looked like a delicate ghost walking beside him, her features softened, the excessive undead pallor muted to an almost mortal-like shade. Because she was a very handsome young lady, the faint fog cover lent her a greater allure, and had he not kept his wits about him, Garrick would have fallen madly in love with the girl right there. Enhanced beauty was a secondary effect, however. Mr. Guiderius had said that while the cloud protected the vampires from the sun above, the fog cloaked them against too much reflected and refracted light from every possible surface.
Desmond, for his part, not only walked around with a shapeless gray cloud above and a protective fog around him, he also threw on a cloak and hood that made him look like a black lump that moved lightly over the grass. He also brought a small satchel with him, which contained his writing tools and portfolio. With the bag slung across his body, he not only looked like a black lump, he was very much the image of a scholarly black lump.
"I asked if you want me to sit by the pond and record my observations of the plants growing around it," Lavinia said patiently, pointing at the pond several feet away. "Though I must confess, I'd sooner catch something alive and tear it to pieces and then write down very scientific observations about its death. Are we allowed to butcher frogs, sir?"
"I'm afraid not, Miss Hathaway," Garrick stammered, his stomach turning at a sudden and very unpleasant mental image of Lavinia doing exactly what she'd just described and then appearing before him with her dress and hands soiled with blood and entrails, her written exercise in hand.
"Oh." The girl's face fell. "Not even butterflies? I can be very precise, you know, pulling its wings, legs, and head off the body."
Garrick could only shake his head in horror. Lavinia sighed. "Very well. I'll limit myself to plants, then, though I don't feel very scientific about the process."
"That's perfectly fine, yes. I'd be interested in reading your accounts."
Lavinia grinned and hurried off, holding on to her portfolio and pencils. Garrick watched in bemusement at the strange figure she cut, tripping across the rolling, grassy terrain, a dull, grayish thing in the middle of sunny, colorful brilliance.
"And you, Master Desmond," he said, turning to the boy, who stood in silence nearby. He couldn't even see anything of Desmond save for Desmond's mouth and chin, which stood in stark white relief against his black cloak. "Where do you wish to go to record your observations of the natural world?"
"I'm going to the churchyard at St. Lucy's," Desmond said in a bored monotone. "I'd like to record death and decay. It's natural for mortals, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is," Garrick stammered. "But how do you propose to study the process? Exhume the bodies?"
Desmond snorted. "Don't be ridiculous. Vampires have very special powers of the mind, you know, that allows us to sense or even see things that mortals can't. All I need to do is sit by a grave, rest my hand on the grass, and sense putrefaction." He paused and shrugged. "Unless the person's been dead for an eternity, of course..."
"Uh--yes, of course."
"St. Lucy's had a few burials in the past year, so I think I won't be in desperate need for material."
"That's an excellent plan, Master Desmond."
"Very well. I'm off then." Without another word, Desmond's black lumpy shape moved off, bringing with it dreary grayness and brooding fog. Garrick wasn't sure, but he thought he heard the grass sigh heavily in the boy's wake. He was even tempted to crouch down and run his fingers over the thick, green blades, as he was sure that they'd been weeping as well.