Where the Wild Roses Grow: the last time Logan was here, he didn't get the best deal. Today's market buzzes and burbles with activity -- there are several non-local merchants camping on the periphery, barely tolerated by those in pinks and reds -- perhaps he will make a better bargain today.
Logan is alone, today, and when he is alone, things tend to be...different. He is more willing to take risks. He is always /confident/ about taking risks, but one has to use discretion in front of others. Dressed again in his white, Prince Charming-esque Hedgespun outfit and his rapier, he glides through the market with an eye out for something really, really special.
Merchants are always looking to catch the eye of a potential customer: the Wild Roses are a bit more diffident and don't hawk quite as loudly. Perhaps they imagine that their wares are a known quantity. Past the usual stalls, though, there are the newcomers: a pair of tents painted in stars that shimmer and clock slowly across the fabric, a vardo painted with a sunrise that shimmers with the promise of the day's heat, and another wagon, this one looking as if it's made of smoke. On the back step of the smoke-wagon, a small hob with delicate features and long, pointed ears that hang to her waist like a veil sits patiently, trilling: "Ephemera! Priceless unmentionables! A dream, a sigh, memories and forever!"
It's enough to catch Logan's notice, for certain. He slows in front of the delicate hob, offering her as dazzling a smile as he can manage (read: pretty damn dazzling). Now, there are a lot of things he wants at the moment. Information is still the first and foremost thing on his mind, and always will be. But there are a few other desires he'd like to satisfy as well, and perhaps this newcomer can satisfy one or a few of them. "Hi," he greets brightly, just like she's anyone else and not some ethereal hob in a Goblin Market. "What kinds of things do you have for sale?"
The dazzle of his smile quite literally reflects in the hob's large, dark eyes. Her black outfit is decorated with tiny chains, slung around her in almost a tornado design. The silver and gold make a pattern that is almost as dazzling as Logan's smile and seems to float around the tiny creature. "Oh!" She perks up, bouncing to her feet such that the chains and scales jingle and shimmer. "Years of life, precious memories restored, dreams fulfilled, truth given. Ask and whatever the mind can conceive, the mind can realize!"
There is a moment, during which Logan thinks on this. Now, he's not getting any younger. Oh, sure, he is naturally youthful-looking, and the Wyrd has been extra-kind to him and his appearance. But his recent birthday reminded him that he should be taking certain precautions. Brilliant blue eyes lock onto her dark ones as he asks, still ever-so-cheerful. "How about eternal youth? Or something like it?"
She claps her hands together -- her fingers are as long as the Fairest's, despite the fact that she's about a third his height -- and nods her head rapidly. Her ears flap so quickly with the movement that for a moment it looks as though the tiny hob might take flight. "Oh, yes! Yes, we offer this. We can sell you your youth. Reusable, portable, never runs out. Only a little bit of childhood in exchange for eternal youth!"
Logan's eyes widen. Secretly, he kind of loves bargains, especially ones that carry a little risk. But he tries not to sound /too/ interested. "Really?" He takes a step closer, wearing his beautiful default smile that's just designed to put people, hobs included, at ease. "What does that entail? I'm interested."
Calming herself, the tiny hob turns her gentle, placid face up toward Logan. She, too, has one of those faces that is designed to put people at ease -- her eyes are so big and so luminous that he can literally see himself reflected in their depths. Her fingers knit together, and she smiles the gentlest of smiles, demure and sweet. "It is a painless process. My employer will remove a selected memory or memories as agreed upon, and in return, the Contract will be placed in that space in your mind. Then the control over your age is your own. A delightful and simple process!"
"Is that so?" Now, Logan knows perfectly well that things are not always as simple as they seem in the Market, but his interest is now keen. "What do the details of the Contract entail? Like, how much control do I have?" His childhood memories? He's not too concerned about that, or so he tells himself. Sure, maybe he'll notice later -- when he goes to retrieve something inside and it's just not there -- but right now, the benefits seem to outweight the risks. Potentially.
A little flutter of her long-fingered hands looks not unlike an octopus's armns waving underwater. "Oh, you will it to be so and gift the person of your choice -- even yourself -- with seven years unaging. Seven years as fresh as they looked this morning! And at the end of seven years, you need only to will it again! It does work better on blood relatives -- and of course you do not count as your own blood relative -- but... and if you are so lucky, you might even become younger. No refunds or substitutions, you will not become a child or a youth again, no using this to fulfill some sort of weird Technically Legal fetish, my employer does not condone and will not enable that kind of thing." The last sentence comes out in a rush as if she's at the end of an As Seen on TV late night ad, but there's a certain vehemence there.
Logan can't help but chuckle a little at the hob's particular manner of speaking, and the way she puts it to him. It's charming, in its way. He wets his lips, letting a pregnant pause form for just long enough to make it seem like he's thinking about this. But really, he isn't. He's already made up his mind. This is probably the best he is going to do with the least amount of compromises and the least downtime. It seems like a perfect birthday present to himself. "Okay. Let's do it." His grin shines out again, dimples showing, and the light in his mien shines as well, sparkling all around him.
The hob's eyes widen a little more, and her long lashes flutter as Logan grins. She could just be putting him on and responding how he expects, or it could be genuine, or some combination of the two. "Oh, you're going to love Mr. G!" she croons, and extends one of her long hands toward the wagon; the walls of it draw up and out as if the cloudy walls are curtains pulled aside by an unseen hand.
The chains of her dress spiral back behind her, attached to the corner of the vardo's interior, just under the leg of a table set in the middle, like a stage.
On the table, a tall column of glass sits -- it's about two feet tall, and big enough around that Logan could almost wrap his arms around it. Inside, iridescent material of some sort bubbles slowly, like a gently-boiling pot of water. It shifts colors -- purple -- blue -- green -- orange -- and the liquid or gel or whatever it is turns over and over and sparkles like a thousand stars. Two small globes turn and bubble in the liquid. It isn't until they start to center themselves in the column and turn to match one another that Logan can spot the iris -- the pupil -- one eye green, the other brown.
Logan's eyes, bright and blue as they are, as bright as the Pacific on a sunny morning, stare with intense interest into that pot of water. No matter how long he may be a Lost, he privately finds the wonders of the Market and the Hedge to be endlessly fascinating, and this brilliantly colored pot is no exception. His grin beams out again at the sight of the eyes. "Neat trick," he has to comment.
A burbling within the pot makes it clear -- now that Logan can watch it more fully -- that it isn't quite water, whatever it is, but some sort of viscous fluid. The bubbles rise too slowly for it to be water.
"Mr. G says that you should step up, remove the lid, and place your face over the bubbles," translates the hob from whatever language or means of communication the creature in the or of the goop is employing. She presses her long-fingered hands together and bows so low, so reverently, that the tips of her ears brush the ground by her spindly toes.
Logan hesitates for just a split second, because -- well. His face is a very precious commodity, as far as he is concerned. And it can be difficult to trust hobs entirely. But he gives the benefit of the doubt and does as he's instructed. The lid is removed, and Logan lowers his face to the bubbles, bright eyes staring into them, unblinking.
More burbling, and then the hob instructs: "You must hold the memory that you are willing to trade very precisely in your mind. Mr. G cannot be responsible for any unintended memory damage due to imprecise extraction if you are not holding the memory very very precisely in your mind." She stays bowed down, apparently looking at her toes. "Imagine it entirely, as if it were happening now."
Logan has to ask, "Is there a particular type of memory that's preferred? Something from childhood, I realize that. But what should be the nature of the memory?" Meanwhile, he starts examining his memories within, like a computer scanning a hard drive for the proper file. This is often the way Logan relates to such things.
"Quality is required and requested. A foggy or broken memory is of no use and may be rejected," clarifies the hob. "Something clear and bright. Subject matter is irrelevant."
"Got it." And so, Logan goes into the memory. One that means something to him, but that he's had some bad luck with recently, so why not get rid of it? It's a very clear memory, though whether or not it's the kind the hobs want is a different story. It's 1971 and he's ten years old. Back then, his name was Cal. He'd earned the Arrow of Light award in Cub Scouts, of course, so he got to join the Boy Scouts early. He's been learning about how to tie all sorts of knots, and he was damn good at it! So one day, while horsing around with his friend Craig Leeds, out in the abandoned aqueduct that had one random rusty chair, he told him he wanted to practice some knots on him. Craig let him, and young Cal tied the best knot he possibly could, so good that Craig could barely move, let alone get out of it. Cal challenged him to try and get out of the bonds, saying he'd be back later.
So Cal left him there. Tied up. He went home, had lunch with his mom, and acted like he forgot all about it. He hadn't forgotten about Craig, of course, not really. No, he thought it was funny. He wondered if Craig would pee his pants? Would he do a number two? Would he start screaming for his mom? Would he sock Cal once he got out of there? Would some murderer gut him before he had a chance?
It wasn't until much, much later that day, nearly dark, that Cal finally ventured back there to find Craig in tears, hysterical. No harm had come to him, and in the end Cal just untied the knots and said he sure was sorry, but privately, he found it all to be one of the funniest things he had ever seen. And he hadn't felt an ounce of guilt about it. That was kinda weird, but it's because it was just a game. Wasn't it?
As soon as he has the memory formed in his mind, the goop in the column curls up out of its resting place and splashes over Logan's face. It continues to push upwards -- within less than the span of a breath it covers the entirety of his face, slithers up his nose, into his tear ducts, his mouth, his ears... in through his ears, impossibly so, until the chill of the goop meets in the center of his head. It feels like drowning, unpleasantly so, and it might be panic-inducing, but it does not - as promised - hurt. It is painless.
just really weird
and feels both like drowning and falling
And just when he cannot hold the memory in his mind anymore, just when his lungs start to really hurt for wanting air, the goop slithers out and drops back into its column with a pop
And he cannot remember what he was trying to think about anymore. What memory did he want to give away? Was only that memory taken?
That's the trouble with selling a memory. When it's gone, it's as if it never was. There's an empty space like a missing tooth, but there's no knowing what was there.
In that space now rests the knowledge of just how costly it will be to his will to stay young. But he knows how now.
"Thank you, have a nice day!" chirrups the long-eared hob, hopping up the stairs to shoo him out of the vardo before he's even had a chance to catch his breath.
Logan does not do well with feelings like this, in fact, and there is a moment during which he is certain he is going to have a panic attack. As cool, calm and collected as he normally is, the mask breaks and he flails his arms, feeling the sweat creep up his forehead, feeling a tingle all through his body. It's not until the pop of the extraction that something starts to change.
It's a curious mixture of feelings. For one, there is that idea of the cost. That would be a heavy burden, but -- the emptiness is somehow freeing. Like he's just discovered one more ticket to immortality. Which he has. It's another step on the evolutionary ladder, the one that places him in the class of people destined to move beyond even the Gentry.
"Thank you," he says cheerfully as he emerges back into the market. Freer, lighter, and with more knowledge than before. Not much else the likes of him can ask for.