Myrtle meets Sly, a boy under quite a curious geas.
Beacon Hills Public Library
A Sunday afternoon finds Sly with the day off of work at the gym, so he's gone wandering. Not finding anyone he knows around town, he grew bored and started looking for an interesting location. Eventually, the public library drew him in. It was a thoroughly unfamiliar place, but somehow the faded, prefab sort of feel of the place felt oddly comforting. He wandered around until he felt drawn to a certain section, where he picked out a book that just felt right... a book on myths and fairy tales. He found an armchair, curled up in it, and began to read to himself quietly.
At first, the tales were comforting, making him smile, but as he goes along, they've somehow begun to trouble him, and he begins to show an inner tension, a sense of frustration and discontent that a sensitive, observant person might pick up on.
To others, he's just a weird teenager reading an old book.
But to Myrtle, this young man is no ordinary teenager and certainly is not to be so easily dismissed. Not that she ever would, especially if she were not absolutely sure of herself and such a judgement call. And so rarely is that the case. Knowledge tends to carry with it a questioning of itself, an understanding and at the same time a need to be sure. So she draws softly closer.
As she does, she becomes more confident. This is certainly not anyone who could be overlooked, nor should he be; not that it would be possible to overlook her, with the way she dresses. But her manner is gentle, her mien unassuming, and despite her eye-catching ensemble, not so desperate for attention as one might assume. Her eyes draw over the book and its contents, just as she reaches the distance of close enough not to disturb the librarians.
"The tales of the fair folk, so many lessons to learn from them," she pronounces carefully, her words graceful and soft. "But it seems perhaps they've struck a chord of dissonance."
Sly looks up sharply--not like a person who's annoyed, but with the nakedly startled manner of a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar or an animal about to take flight. However, when he sees the gentle, unassuming Myrtle before him, he relaxes somewhat. "The fair folk," he echoes, and looks down at the book. His brow knits visibly, and he seems to give this a most ponderous bit of thought. Then, a slow nod. "Fairies. Like... fairy tales. They're stories that are supposed to teach us things." He says this as though he's sifting through his thoughts to remember it, as though even speaking the words aloud is an act of discovery. Then he pauses, blinking a bit, and says, "Oh. Was I disturbing you?" This fear is easier to read--the anxiety of someone wandering through the world utterly uncertain of the social rules he should be observing. It's the exact expression one might have if one found oneself at high tea without any idea of the proper etiquette--naked. And having not done one's homework.
"Naturellement non," Myrtle shakes her head delicately, her words so soft and warm. "I should be asking that of you, though I hope the answer is the same." The hints of her little smile show on her face, the lines of age indicating the shift in expression so clearly. She clasps her hands together and approaches a little more, noting the strange and distinctive aura. But for the moment, she doesn't push any further. For the moment, that isn't important, at least not as important as other priorities. "Which story is your favorite?"
"Oh, non," Sly echoes, shaking his head. "You're not... disturbing me, no," he murmurs, and quietly closes the book. The question makes him frown a little, and his brow knits all over again. "Favorite? I... guess I don't know. They seem familiar, I guess, but I don't really know any of these stories." He gives a little shrug. "Maybe I heard them when I was a kid or something. But I don't know them. It's hard to pick a favorite when they're all so... new."
Myrtle laughs softly, clearly pleased at the answer in kind. "Well...it's good to discover things anew, as much as it is to recall fond memories. May I suggest particulierement bon collections of fairy tales? With the most splendid of illustrations. I believe this library has most of the series. Perhaps you'll pass pleasant afternoons with them."
"Oui, s'il vous plaît," Sly answers, though his tone isn't that of someone speaking a Foreign language. In fact, his accent isn't, either. The phrase falls from his lips with all the ease of a native speaker. And then he switches right back to English. "I... don't know if they'll really be pleasant, though," he murmurs, looking down at the book uneasily. "It's kind of giving me a headache. It's... weird. I really want to read more, but... I kind of feel like I'm not supposed to. Like... I stole this book and shouldn't see inside it." His lips twist in frustration. "I'm not explaining it well," he says, mildly frustrated.
It's just that, and it's stated with such casual truth that it's clear she does at least understand in some way, even if the rest is in the process of analysis and translation. Myrtle's smile stays, steadfast, perhaps even spreading slightly. "The learning is not always pleasant, but the lessons enrich us and make us better. Tell me, do you think it's a forbidden pleasure, or merely forbidden? If you would humor me..."
"Forbidden pleasure," Sly says, feeling out the words in his mouth with an experimental air. Then he shakes his head definitively. "No, not like that. Just... forbidden. That's a good word for it. Like I'm breaking the rules by doing it." He frowns in obvious frustration. "But I don't even know what rules I'm breaking!" He looks for a moment like he might throw the book away from himself in frustration, but he doesn't.
"Well," Myrtle starts, trailing off only slightly as she curls the fingers of one hand around the other. "I don't see what harm learning can do. Especially not from fairy tales. But I say, in the case of breaking rules..." She raises one hand, extending her first finger, as if reciting something to be recalled -- as if there may well be a test on this! "If you're going to break the rules, break them good and hard!"
This makes Sly smile, as though he enjoys the sentiment, perhaps even as though it speaks to him on a deeper and more personal level, but then he suddenly frowns again, shaking his head, and thrusts the book toward her, as if begging her to take it away. "But--that's just it. I don't think I can break the rules! There are all these rules, but they're invisible, and when I try to think of them, my head hurts..." And then he's leaning forward, head between his knees, drawing deep breaths as though trying to fend off a fainting spell or panic attack.
Myrtle reaches out and softly takes the book in her hands, opening it to flip through and smiling as she sees the words, the titles, some of the stories. "Please don't worry." She collects it with one hand and, with the other, reaches out to pat his shoulder. "You'll be just fine. And I would never want to cause you discomfort or harm. But...sometimes it is the obstacle that presents itself, that wants most to be worked past."
"But when I try," Sly argues, lifting his head once he seems to have it under control, "It feels like my head's splitting open. Like--" And then he just stops. His mouth is open, and he moves his lips, but it's as though they've suddenly refused to form words. Like his voice has died right in his throat. He struggles on for a moment, then gives up with a frustrated sigh. "I just... can't," he says dejectedly.
Another little pat, so gently, and Myrtle shakes her head. The same patient, tolerant smile persists, though perhaps a little less wide than before. "You will," she assures him. "But it's best, perhaps, to let it go for now. After all, there are so many other delightful things to learn, so many other wonderful stories to read. N'est-ce pas?"
His shoulders slump, and Sly says, "But I don't know anything. People constantly say things like I'm supposed to know them, but... I understand what they mean, but I don't know what they're talking about. I'm not even sure where I'm supposed to start looking to figure out what I'm supposed to know. And there's so many rules, but nobody tells you what they are!" He starts to say something else, but once more his voice just seems to vanish, leaving him unable to form words, and he gives up with a frustrated sigh.
This does get Myrtle's attention. She's keenly perceptive, more than most from her witch-gifts. And she does try and perceive a bit more. It's always something of a concern when she finds someone so clearly in need of some sort of help or comfort, but she can't help them to help themselves...at least, not entirely. "Breathe, mon petit. Begin at the beginning."
"But I don't know the beginning," Sly almost whimpers. "Everything... it's like it spins back on itself. Like an ouroboros, but... all twisted up." There again, he drops the word "ouroboros" as though it's completely normal conversation. Probably not your typical teenager. He gives a full-body shudder, then relaxes, as though he's been fighting against a pull that's exhausted him. Indeed, it's as though his whole body goes slack, save for holding up his head. His eyes even go half-lidded for a few moments. After a moment he blinks a few times, shaking his head, and seems a bit disoriented. "What... what were we talking about?" he asks unsteadily.
"Breathing," Myrtle chimes in. "That's the beginning. Breathe out...breathe in. Deeply. Such a simple thing, so easily forgotten. N'oublies pas. N'oublies pas." She gives a soft little squeeze to the shoulder, staying close and hoping that, in some way, she's given some degree of comfort. But there's still that curiosity. She tries to look a little deeper.
Sly begins to breathe, slow and easy, as Myrtle instructs. There's a calming certainty to her manner that he finds steadying, and he lets his eyes drift closed. He relaxes into it, his body and energies unclenching somewhat... and that's when Myrtle can see.
This boy is laboring under a geas. One of, if not the single most potent that Myrtle has ever seen.
As this becomes clear, the squeak of a library cart makes itself known. And a voice, just a shade more sultry than seems quite right for a librarian, asks, "May I help you?"
The woman who now stands there is tall. She's wearing what looks like a 1960s haute couture designed decided to go "librarian" a cashmere sweater, pencil skirt, stilettos. Her auburn hair up in a bun. Makeup just a touch too bold. Cat-eye glasses just a bit too glitzy to be appropriate. The pearls are definitely too much. It's not what a librarian would wear, then or now. It's a costume, as if someone with tremendous wealth were trying to put together a librarian outfit from the pieces in her extremely luxurious wardrobe.
And the woman has no aura at all, as if she's not even really there.
"Non, merci." Myrtle answers, not turning at first, but then slowly shifting her body to face the woman. She has the power of couture, to say nothing of her sorcerous might. But it's her own tremendous aura, natural and inborn, that makes her a force to be reckoned with. And this stranger? She's well aware that isn't a librarian.
It's probably not even a human.
"Please, don't let us keep you from your duties. You do stock a marvelous library, simply marvelous!" Myrtle gives a chuckle to punctuate that, but it's not a sound of mirth. In fact, it's about as hollow as this being before her, but perhaps in that case, she figures, it might as well be appropriate. Or perhaps ironic. A touch of irony always did sit well with her...
It's not that she feels that she'd let herself be outclassed, but the boy complicates matters. Someone with such a null aura happening to arrive at just that moment...she doesn't like the coincidence of it all. Too much to chance, but maybe not to chance at all. It's the aura that disturbs her.
The charade doesn't last. Either the woman's heart isn't in it, or she knows better than to bother. Or perhaps, still, she recognizes Myrtle's prowess and decides that playing at games would be rude. Either way, she walks--the walk of a fashion model or dancer, never a librarian--around to stand just behind Sly, raising her hands in a non-threatening way, palms forward.
"No one but you in this building, perhaps in this entire city, will ever know we've spoken, Witch." The word is delivered with grace and respect, like an honorific, not flung as an insult or snickered as a jibe. "For I am little more, now, than a shadow. This boy's shadow, in fact." She slowly lowers her hands to her sides, looking down at Sly impassively. "I pretend neither compassion nor malice for him. He simply is. As I simply am."
She lifts her eyes, then, to regard Myrtle again. "He has been sealed and warded, and I am conjured before you to warn you: This is not a curse upon him, but a protection. There is grave danger for the child, those who would seek him, find him, and destroy him without hesitation. Under this spell, they cannot find him. If they see him, they cannot know him. If they perceive him, they cannot recall him. He too has been warded from his own memory, lest he betray himself."
She gives a small curtsy, as if to acknowledge Myrtle's status. "It is possible you could see through the reflection placed upon him, but I beg you--do not." Somehow, this woman seems the sort who has never begged for anything in her life. Nor would ever. Still, it's an idiom that falls from her lips casually enough. "For if his protection is compromised, then his life will doubtless be forfeit."
Myrtle watches her, and the smile vanishes like morning mist in the light of the sun. Her eyes narrow behind the stylish glasses she wears, but at last she does incline her head. "Understood," she answers. "However..."
She raises a hand, unfolding her fingers like a fan. "Never underestimate the power of allies of good and reason. And I must say, if you so understand," which her following gesture indicates she does believe, "that you will understand that nothing, in this world or any other, simply exists. No man is an island." The corners of her mouth spread and turn up so slightly. "Never."
The shadow-woman's small smile and slight nod field no argument against Myrtle's pronouncement. Rather, she says, "There is truth in what you say. And yet, for his safety... the appearance of such... removal... must be maintained. For if he be not an island, then he shall be not at all." She raises her chin slightly, and her eyes flash like fiery gold for just a moment behind those glasses. "But it will not always be so. Indeed, soon the time of revelation shall come, and he will be made master of his own fate, his protection placed in the hands of another. But for now..." Her gaze, now again the warm honey brown of her librarian costume, drifts to the book Sly was reading. "...You may trust the story to play out as written."
"Perhaps," Myrtle answers, looking to the book as well before lifting it and holding it out to the woman. "But stories have a way of coming alive and finding other writers. Just as none of us exists alone. Or even more so." Something nags at the back of her mind, but she doesn't let on. She will have her time later to sort through this. Words, truth, illusion, stories...all of these things are right within the realm of her specialty.
Smiling, the woman reaches out to take the book, but in the instant her fingers touch it, she fades away, like a light cast upon the shadow she claimed to be, and all that's left is Sly, still sitting there, still and quiet, focused on his breathing.
A moment later, Sly lifts his head, eyes fluttering open, and looks around himself in puzzlement. "I'm sorry, I... think I lost track of time." His brow knits yet again, and he seems to try to think past this lapse, but soon enough he gives up, sighing, and looks up to see Myrtle standing there, holding out the book. He tentatively reaches for it, taking it that she is returning it to him.
Myrtle adjusts wordlessly, smile returning in earnest now as she hands the book over to Sly and returns her hand to join the other when it's free. "Please, take care of yourself. I do hope we'll run into each other again. A la prochaine." Turning slightly, she pauses and wiggles her fingers back at Sly, smile widening a little more, and then she turns the rest of the way and eases off back to the maze of shelves that makes up most of the library.
Sly blinks after Myrtle's departing form, raising a hand to wave in puzzlement, and then lets it fall back down to rest atop the book. He sits there a while longer, pondering the imponderable--literally, in his case--and then gives up with a sigh. Heaving himself from the chair, he goes to put the book back where he found it and eventually leaves the library, finding elsewhere to roam.