Storytime With Princesses


aura_icon.gif elisabeth_icon.gif seren_icon.gif

Scene Title Storytime With Princesses
Synopsis Seren and Baird brighten people's day.
Date February 22, 2019

Brooklyn Public Library

It's unclear how long Seren's been here, but they've made themselves right at home.

The Brooklyn Public Library shifted many of its materials to the dedicated Children's Library out in Williamsburg, but a decent-sized nook remains in a corner of this library. In a corner of that corner, the carpeted floor gives way to … grass? a soft shade of lavender, swaying in a non-existent breeze. Seren sits against the wall, one leg curled up to their chest while they listen to a story being animatedly told to them by a child sitting nearby in the grass. Possibly, it's the tale of the book in the boy's lap, or it could even just be about his day, but Seren listens intently with a grin, nodding when appropriate, their own book laid aside in favor of hearing much worthier tales.

The action doesn't unseat the large-pawed winged cat standing on its haunches on Seren's shoulders, its periwinkle front legs draped on the top of their head. Baird wears the face of a russian blue cat today, tufts of feathers on either side of its head in place of ears. Its eyes excitedly trace the path of fireflies that glimmer in the air only as occasional motes of light, keeping to the grassy area that dominates the ten square feet around the corner. Every now and then, its plumage ruffles and its wings move like it's about to take flight after one of them, but Seren lifts a hand to pet its side and it calms.

Elisabeth and Aurora have found their way herein the hopes of finding a decent selection of storybooks for young children. Though she's 6, Aurora's a little behind when it comes to formal schooling — Elaine and Lynette were big fantastic about teaching the little ones and Liz always read to Aura, but the past couple years haven't exactly been in places where books were to be had.

The two make their way into the children's section and it's perhaps a credit to her teachers and her mother that Aurora is so ecstatic about the books she initially doesn't seem to notice the interesting scene going on in the reading corner — she's too busy pulling books off shelves and reverently flipping pages to look at pictures.

But like any small child, her attention is quickly drawn to the colors in the room and suddenly she's aware of the images and she's staring in great delight at the creature on Seren's shoulder. Her small hand creeps into Liz's and she stage-whispers in the loudest whisper ever, "Mummy, what is that?" in a tone of awe. "Can I pet it?!"

Elisabeth notes Seren pretty much immediately and she nods in recognition, but she doesn't draw attention to them, expecting the question as soon as Aura does notice. She's not left hanging long. "You may certainly ask," she tells the child, amused.

Aurora, given permission to approach, literally bounds across the room, stopping outside the grass so as not to startle the animal. She's mostly ignoring the person as she breathes, "Can I pet your kitty cat??"

Seren glances up from listening to the boy with his book telling them all the different people he knows who have abilities. Seeing Aurora, they smile warmly and glance up to Elisabeth after, hand tilting in a wave for both. They shift their head to more comfortably accommodate Baird's scrabbling, just as enthused to see Aurora as she is to see it. The tufts of feathers on the side of its head flick with interest as it peers down at the small girl, looking ready to pounce.

"He's not really for petting," the boy interjects matter-of-factly before Seren can say anything otherwise. "He feels weird and if you pet him too hard he doesn't like it." He's very serious about it, looking to Aurora after and then down to his book.

Seren chuckles at that way of summing it up, leaning forward. "You can come say hi," they clarify softly, adjusting their posture. The creature on their head and shoulder pounces down into their lap as they sit cross-legged, watching Aurora with interest while standing on Seren's knee. "This is Baird." They pause for a moment, looking up at a firefly as it glows. "He's a good friend of mine, but he's not a cat. He's just Baird."

Not seeming put off in the slightest, Aurora moves slower and crouches down into that small-child squat over her heels to look at Baird close up in fascination. "Hi, pretty," she coos at the creature. The person attached to Baird isn't nearly as interesting to the little girl. "Lookit you, you have feathers too!" She's terribly enthused at this finding, but she doesn't reach for Baird. Her hands stay firmly planted on her knees while she hovers there.

Elisabeth quirks a brow, as if something Aurora is doing surprises her, and then she has to cover a grin.

"If he's not a cat, what is he? Why is he blue? Does he change colors? Does he talk? Can he play? Why does he have feathers? Are there more of him? Can we see them?" The questions tumble over one another.

"Well, he's different almost every day. Some days he's like this, and other days he's more bird, and some days he gets real long like a dragon. He has feathers except when he doesn't, but he loves having wings! He changes his colors a lot, but today he's all lavender blue and purple. Some days I know why and some days I don't — today I don't." If anyone was expecting Seren to be bowled over by the series of questions, think again. They take it all in stride with a smile, and set a hand on their other knee. "He can be chatty once he gets to know you, but he doesn't talk like a human does. Some of my other friends do, though."

Baird ruffles in offense at being asked if there's more of him. The indignity! Seren just laughs at that, their eyes sparkling. "There's only one Baird as far as I know, and I'd not have it any other way. I have lots of friends and there's none quite like Baird." The catlike creature steps down into the waves of sensationless grass around their feet, padding closer toward Aurora. It lifts its head at her, nostrils flaring as it judges her, and then nuzzles its head against her knee in an act of forgiveness as it brushes past her. The pressure is gentle, the sounds of feather whispering against pantleg easily heard in the quiet of the library. The same goes for the deep purring that vibrates from within its form.

The boy looks a little disappointed as he watches the exchange over the top of his book, then looks up at the clock to notice the time. Scrambling to his feet, he waves before he heads off. "It was nice meeting you!" he says quickly before he rushes away.

Seren smiles at Aurora, head craning forward. The slate of their eyes shifts, taking on a silvery sheen. "What kinds of animals do you like? Do you have a favorite story?" The grass underfoot has begun to change its shade, too, the lavender and light green joined by waves of blue. The wall directly behind them seems to bubble, like it too is about to change shape and become unreal.

The little girl watches the … Baird… move and seems utterly enchanted. Her whole face lights up when it purrs for her and her hazel eyes flicker up to Seren finally. Then her head tips sideways, a perplexed expression on her features. The change in the colors around her draw her attention and the expression clears, at least momentarily. "Ooooh!" Plucking herself down, Aurora obligingly crosses her legs and says, "I love animals. Puppies," she shows off her battered Blossom in her arm, "an' kitties. I never seed a real dragon before! Do you…"

She bites her lip and looks back at her mother. She gets up and hurries back to Elisabeth, whispering the small-child volume (which isn't quiet at all), "Mummy… do you see colors?" Aurora seems a little worried for some reason.

The question brings a hint of concern to the adult and she murmurs back, "Yeah, pixie… I met Seren at Daddy's office. She makes pictures in the air with her ability. Lots of colors."

Aurora looks distinctly relieved by this and comes back to where Seren and Baird sit. Rejoining then she grins. "Can you make castles? I love castles and unicorns."

At all the possibilities Aurora's words present, Seren retreats into their thoughts, the grasses stilling and receding slowly back toward the walls when Aurora gets up to go consult their mother. They don't seem not notice or mind the activity, their thoughts too much of a blur for that. They seem to pick up on some words, and look down at Baird with a tilt of their head that's mirrored in return. "Yeah, you're right." Seren murmurs in reply to an inquisitive chirp from the winged cat. "Let's go for it." They wink, and wait for the pixie's return.

When she surges back in with her request, she's met with a smile and a pleasant birdlike twitter coming from the creature at Seren's side. The bubbling walls shift, shunting down an overhang above them. Gray hues drip off the sides like running water, and solidify and build back up like candlewax. When fully-formed, it doesn't appear to be anything so flimsy — colored windows set in stone that frame a throne room.

Aurora finds herself in her own castle. On the back wall is now a door, giving the appearance there is an elsewhere to the illusion, should one pursue it.

From the outside, it looks just as real, even though it stands roughly six feet fall. Definitely more pixie-sized than human-sized, for sure.

Candelit sconces ensure the inside is just as bright as it had been out, and Seren's eyes have a silvery glimmer in them. They smile warmly. "I haven't made a castle in a long time," they confess in a murmur, sounding excited for it. They're more than happy to give life to such ideas once they're planted, even if it's… harder… than it used to be for such things to come to mind naturally.

They wink as they add, "Unicorns like wooded areas, they don't like inside very much. Whether that be castles or libraries."

Assured that what she's seeing isn't just her own ability doing something unusual, Aurora is once more willing to immerse in the fantastic. Her hazel eyes widen and she claps her hands together when this amazing structure takes shape around her and Seren. "Primal," she breathes, thrilled with the details.

Having the child out of her sight is a bit of a stressor for the mother, but Elisabeth doesn't say or do anything to ruin Aurora's fun and Seren's enjoyment. That's her own problem to deal with.

Aurora stands and brings Blossom with her, dancing a swaying kind of little girl dance with her dog in the throne room. "You make the bestest castles!" she crows to Seren. "We should have storytime inside!" Because there are books galore, and why not??

Seren laughs with delight as the slang word is thrown out, their hands clapping together once. They must be doing something right for Aurora to be this excited. Baird is just as enthused, prancing about around the young girl as she spins, rising onto two legs and falling back down to four repeatedly. Its wings ruffle out from its side as it dances, too, sweeping out and trailing tips on the floor.

"Mmm… I would make sure to ask your mom if there's enough time for storytime." Seren shifts a look toward the open, Aurora-sized doorway leading back out to the rest of the library. While they might've had the time to kill, if they were just stopping here for a visit on errands, it would be rude to presume and all. Baird's jumping ceases at that, a stern look shifted toward Seren for sounding sensible.

Taking a knee just outside the door, Elisabeth peeks in and assures quietly, "We have have time for storytime if you do." Aurora, who paused to get that answer, resumes her spinning and squeeing with Baird. Biting her lip, Liz meets Seren's eyes and mouths thank you. There's a gleam of wet in her blue eyes, tears held at bay as the audiokinetic moves to stand back up. "I'll be out here picking up some books while you have a story, pixie."

Richard's new employee may never know just how much it means to Elisabeth to see the little girl just being a little girl.

"PRIMAL!" Aura dances a bit more and then plunks herself right down to sprawl in front of Seren. Tipping her head as she leans back on her hands, she invites, "Let's have a story about princesses! And then we can be princesses and purtend." One little foot waggles on the floor, back and forth, like she can't quite sit still but she's out of breath with all the jumping around.

The relief in Seren's look is palpable in return, and they mouth 'thank you' quickly, not even realizing that Elisabeth is meaning to do the same. Knowing that the adventure isn't a burden or even a bother is a gift all its own. Sometimes, you just need time and space to just dream and be, and the world allowed for that all too infrequently these days.

Aurora's excited squeal brings them back to the moment and they lay a hand out soothingly to get the girl's attention. "Easy now, everybody else can still hear us, and we're in a library. We've got to let everyone else have their storytime, too."

The request for a story about princesses brings Seren to smile, their eyes gleaming again as another change takes over. A glamour appears over the girl's clothes, and she finds herself in a velvet gown of emerald color. It has all the details and embroidery to make it clear it is a dress fit for royalty. Adjusting their seat, a change comes over Seren's appearance as well. A deep, royal blue doublet covers their form, along with dark riding pants covered partly by knee-high stockings.

Both their own type of princess, if they were pretending to be princesses.

"Once upon a time," Seren begins with a warm smile, ignoring the tension pooling and pulling at their head. "There was a young royal who had been away from her kingdom for a very long time. Longer than even she could remember. She was received back home with the most joyous of welcomes…" The sounds of distant music and clamour drift in from nowhere, "And all the people celebrated her return."

"The princess's name was…" they lead, and then raise their brow at Aurora to provide that critical part of the story. Will it be her own name she says, or another?

The fascination with the illusion is definitely all a young girl's dream. Aurora fluffs her skirts and settles in for the story, but there's a subtle change when the name is left to her. Some knowledge or understanding far too real for someone of the child's years passes across her features. "Adel," she volunteers softly.

Outside, Elisabeth covers her mouth with her hand. The silence field that she snaps into place around herself hides the sob that she couldn't stifle. Addie. She knows that Aurora misses and remembers Addie, but the little girl rarely talks about her 'cousin' with anyone.

"Young Adel was brave, her name rapidly becoming known through the land. Her heart was kind, her head—" Seren leans forward to tap Aurora's nose with a grin. "very wise," is mused knowingly. "And her feet more well-traveled than some of the most famous adventurers in the realm."

Baird settles, curling up by Aurora's side like a cat ready to nap. Its tail curls around its body, thin and long like a lion's with a blooming bulb of pale blue light at its tip. A soft warmth radiates from it.

"Now back home with her people, and knowing she could come back home whenever she wanted, she started to dream of her next big adventure. A quest to obtain something she desired. There was nothing else she loved more than…"

It might be about Adel, but Aurora was an active participant in this story too!

There's a flash of sadness… because the story Adel is home with her mommy and daddy but real Adel isn't yet. Aurora looks down at Baird and very very lightly touches him. Oh so gently! But she goes along with the story. "Unicorns!" she replies. "We gots to find a unicorn to bring home cuz they have magic… an' we need magic to save Manny from monsters." There's a sage nod. Because if she's going to help this story along, at the end of it Manny and Adel and Aura will be all together again!

Seren tilts their head at the introduction of another character, and the tale seeming to find life of its own under the girl's supervision. There's the barest of pauses as they shift their seat, legs crossing before them while they continue to build the story. A hand smooths out their doublet, making sure it still sits just right. Baird opens one eye at the gentle touch, its periwinkle fur shimmering while it's pet. So long as the girl pets with that same gentle touch, the creature remains real, the fur soft but with sharp edges felt as soon as any pressure is applied. The bulb at the end of its tail pulses while it purrs.

"Unicorns were known to be the rarest of all magical creatures in the realm. Long ago, their faith in humans was tested. But if there was anyone pure enough of heart to call one forth again — it was Adel. Her spirit would shine bright, enough to assure any unicorn of her good intentions."

"But still her quest would take time. There was still the matter of finding a unicorn, and the places they could be found are few."

The facade of the castle has vanished within a blink, the soft lighting of the library returned. The two remain vested in their royal raiments, at least for the moment. "We'll have to see where she goes next time, won't we? Where and how she finds the unicorn… how she finishes her quest to save Manny." They offer a hand out to the young girl, either for a low-five or to help her up. "What do you say?"

Aurora is exceedingly gentle with Baird, and when the castle vanishes, she takes her hand from him. She studies Seren with those eyes so much older than her years, finally reaching out to accept very graciously the proffered hand to stand up in her skirts. She offers a curtsy to Seren and in a regal tone, she instructs, "Kind storyteller, I look forward to it." And then she grins, bouncing on the balls of her feet. "Are you gonna be at the liberry a lot? I love storytimes! Can I bring drawings for next time? Mummy, Mummy, can we come back soon??"

Elisabeth has barely enough time to make sure that her expression shows nothing of her worry — worry makes Aurora uneasy, and therefore it's not to be shown right now. "I'm sure we can manage storytime again. We'll have to see what Seren's work schedule looks like, okay? But maybe they can join us for a lunchtime story now and then too."

The little girl is not difficult to make happy, clearly. She nods enthusiastically and bounds toward the storybook shelves to browse there, Blossom still held firmly in the crook of her arm. Liz waits until she's over there and engrossed before turning her eyes back to Seren and offering softly, "So… it looks like you've made a new friend. I hope you don't mind."

As Aurora bounces off, her gown peels away in ribbons behind her before vanishing into the ether. Seren looks after them with a faint smile before looking back up to Liz, coming to their feet in a sweep. The blue, princely garments they wear evaporate into a mist instantly while they rise, leaving only the mundane winter coat with a red knitted cap stuffed into a side pocket.

Baird stretches out, paws in front of it as it gets ready to move on with its companion. Even after, it still looks sleepy and it takes its time, headbutting against Seren's shin when it finally makes its way back.

"It's no trouble at all," Seren assures in a much softer voice than before. "She's a good kid." is added in a heavier tone. Talking about the intensity Aurora had latched onto the story wouldn't take place now or here, but they'd caught on to it right away, and it shows in the silvery glance in Elisabeth's direction. After a beat, they add unexpectedly, "Thank you."

"I feel blessed Raytech's been so supportive. I wasn't in the best of places before I moved to New York, but … I don't know how to put it, Liz, but I feel more like myself again. Seeing other people smile makes me happy, and I've not had to hide any bit of who I am in the process. I'm glad I'm getting on well with the kids and everyone else." At a chattering, almost squirrel-like noise that comes from near their shins, Seren looks down for only a moment before adding with a faint grin, "Baird is too. Not everyone always takes well to him, and it can be … hurtful, I guess, when someone resents him." The creature rumbles deeply at that, beginning to crawl up the side of Seren's pantleg rather than ascend quickly with a pump of its wings. It's tired.

Their smile broadens before they add, rubbing along the tattooed side of their neck, "And that's not even touching on how supportive everyone's been otherwise. I've heard a lot more 'they' than he and she, which has been a really pleasant surprise. So it's just …"

Seren doesn't seem to notice how one second Baird is crawling up their coat around their hip, and in the space of a blink has its head laid already over their neck, resting. Their arm simply raises belatedly to hold the creature supportively, offhand coming off their neck to brush down its gradually darkening back. The hiccup in the creature's existence doesn't repeat. "I guess what I'm saying is thanks for taking the few minutes to make her afternoon a little bit brighter. I'm sure it means the world to her, and I'm happy I could help with that."

Elisabeth smiles, more easily now than before. "I can't promise we won't still slip — it's still more natural to use he or she, but we're working on it. Aurora doesn't quite understand the idea, but she's memorizing the pronouns to at least try to be correct about them." That part, she herself is struggling a little with — it's not what she's used to, but the effort is worth it. "And you don't have to thank me for what just happened. I'm the one who has to thank you. She's…"

Biting her lip briefly, Elisabeth finally says, "She's seen far more than any little one her age should have. There wasn't anything I could do to stop that. But what you gave her today helps her so much. I have no words for the gratitude I have for that, Seren." She looks back to the younger person. "She amazes me every moment of the day," she admits.

Shoving her hand through her own blonde hair, Elisabeth says, "I'm glad to hear that about RayTech. I'm still learning exactly what Aurora's father and his siblings have been up to while I've been away. So far, the company seems amazing."

"Everyone's so dedicated to helping get life back to normal, to helping the Safe Zone and the country flourish again," Seren enthuses brightly. "I'm right there with you on getting onboard still, but every day I tend to learn more exciting details than worrying ones. Warren Ray creations are growing on me, even."

Though who wouldn't be enchanted with a cafeteria velociraptor? Honestly. This talk about spider robots, though…

They tilt their head up gently to acknowledge Elisabeth's statement about Aurora's upbringing, looking thoughtful. "It doesn't substitute for having her talk to someone," they supply softly. "But I'm happy to do stories with her anytime. Everyone could use a daily fun injection." Their smile returns again, warm and broad.

"No, it doesn't — it just supplements it," Elisabeth agrees softly, watching her daughter pull books from the shelf and show them to her stuffed dog. "She'll be okay." She looks back to Seren. "And I think in part it'll be because of you. So thank you for that." It means more than Liz can really say.

"I'm going to join her, but… if you need anything at RayTech, please feel free to speak up. Anytime, okay?"

Because of Seren? Well, that's a humbling thing to hear! Seren ducks their head sheepishly for a moment, looking down to see how Baird's periwinkle is continuing to fade through lavender to a darker indigo shade while it rests curled up into them. Their shoulder tilts up to assist them with actively hugging the creature before they look back up, nodding enthusiastically.

"Yeah, for sure, go be with your daughter. I'm going to pick up something to eat and start heading back that way." They turn to the small girl, lifting their hand off of Baird's back to wave. "See you later, Aurora. I'm going to take Baird home for a nap. You and your puppy enjoy the books."

A soft ruff emanates from the world-worn stuffed animal.

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