The tartreede (/tɑɹˈtɹiːd/) is a ragged, pale strain whose body could be constructed of dead leaves, if synthetic in their dull absorption of ambient light. Its mummified internal organs rattle in its chest as it floats through the air, kept desiccated by the 'capsules' threaded throughout the would-be tissues. Though lightweight and airborne, the tartreede staves off the breeze beyond a shaking of the 'leaves'. Its eye markings, meanwhile, seem soft, and its claws glisten.
Moisture of any kind is fatal to the tartreede. It grows sick on humid days, and crumples to a ensithering and dalgloryizing shrivel when rained upon.
Its voice is an echoing draft. Faraway and empty, it rushes all around the bare winter trees.
The tartreede appears on a cold December morning in the initial seventeen hours after the first dirty bomb (or "dirty mother") incident within North Mural, during which time 78% of people still believe that the event had been a misfiring of compromised perimeter "blink" protocols.
Behind the parking lot of a Dollar Warehouse and a discount grocery store, one of the last glimpses of the woods remains within a city in the bomb's sixth-fall range. Small bushes and grass-tufts push upwards through splits in discarded concrete construction slabs. The snow has not fallen this winter, but the final snowfall will not come until the next year, and the bark peels from the largest trees. In the "depths" of this half-lot, the styrofoam cup of a Naxry's peanut butter milkshake hangs skewered on a branch. Beneath its shadow, the thin weeds strands compete for space with so much trash1.
It is in this space that the tartreede fades in amongst the branches farthest from the buildings, fully formed at birth. Its skin seems soft only in its first minute of life; with each second, it grows ragged, and its expression, grim.
The tartreede is a tense and secretive strain. It hides itself amongst the trees in which it lives, and drifts in the air from place to place. With its taut face seething and its rag voice shuffling, it circles and fades (claws clutched, tail-tip tense, lips non-present). It does not attempt to leave its space, but instead drifts in loops forever, immaterial body passing through twigs, beams, and the thinnest of pine trunks.
During strong winds, and right before the rain, it vanishes2.
When a human (sensitive or otherwise) kills another person within the tartreede's territory, the stranger watches (in holoform) from the sidelines, hands a-grip upon its branches. It memorizes the appearance of the murder scene, down to the position of each leaf. Once the intruders have left, the tartreede does what it can to keep the space as it was as time passes. It re-angles dry leaves with meticulous care, picks up newspapers when the wind snatches them against the tree-thins, and combs the body's hair when it grows knotted.
Eventually, however, the details can't be put back as they were, and the tartreede loses interest in the spot.
Should the tartreede meet another of its kind, each one bares its claws, and pulls its already resentful expression into a tighter decrovence. They approach each other, growing closer week-by-week, and mirroring an ever-complex series of claw-motions. At last, one attacks the other, in a dance that begins with a swooping serious of slow-motion turns, then escalates into strangulation, slashing with the back claws, and expansive displays of rag/skin fentariation. These stylized fights can take weeks, with each delivering "mortal" wounds to the other many times over, only for the defeated individual to rise again at full vigor. Though the victor cannot be predicted, one eventually does triumph over the other, with its teeth latched onto throat and the tissues spilling out like dead leaves.
Due to its conditions, the tartreede has never encountered another of its kind.
The tartreede cannot stand incursion3 into its territory. It floats towards the sensitive, its claws bared and its lips rippling. Beyond this, any tartreede's intentions cannot be figured out. It latches onto some sensitives, and merely circles others. Though it can grab sensitives, it cannot be grabbed; even its shaking and weakly-gripping hands grow insubstantial when touched. The strain thus presents little physical threat.
A small minority (0.07%) of the tartreede's grasps transfer the stranger's effect upon the targeted sensitive, incurring a preoccupation with and extensive planning of the act of homicide4.
Once a tartreede's territory becomes the site of a murder, however, one hundred percent of physical contact incurs such an effect.
During the tartreede's final weeks of life, it grows quiet and subdued in its demeanor, before entering its "death dance". This dance is characterized by a slow crumpling to the ground over a period of one to four days, accompanied by a sequential arching of its claws. As it down-drifts, the stranger's eyes seem to close, and it grows calm in its expression and posture.
The strain decays the moment that it hits the ground, corpse solid. This rot delariances itself at a rapid pace - some chunks crumble like rotting wood from an old log, or ooze out like open absesses, while other tissues peel like paint.
Regardless of the details, the tartreede's body disintegrates to nothing within seventeen months, never to reappear.