age: ...complicated. Less than a year old as May, with at least a couple hundred years of being a night-haunt behind her, and fifty years of Toby's memories which she never actually lived through. Looks like she's in her late twenties or early thirties.
origins: October Daye series by Seanan McGuire
played by: Aubrey
contact: taibhsearachd [at] gmail.com / meant to care (AIM) / mortalcity (plurk)
On the surface, May's world is much like our own - she lives in San Francisco, in 2011, and at a glimpse, her life seems normal. Only at a glimpse, though. As well as humans, her world is home to fae - children of Oberon, Titania and Maeve, immortal and magical. Some fae live in the Summerlands, a sort of magic parallel dimension both part of our world and very much not, while others choose to live among mortals, but all keep the existence of Faerie a closely-guarded secret. There are hundreds of different races of fae, all with their own abilities and peculiarities, which live in a complex network of kingdoms, duchies, counties and fiefdoms stretched all across the world.
Faerie politics are based on the feudal system, very complex, and often nasty. Murder is forbidden among the fae, but that just means they get creative about how they take out their rivals. May mostly blithely ignores fae politics, and the local rulers ignore her in return, probably in part because they have no idea how she fits into fae politics.
Death is rare in Faerie, but May is a Fetch, a harbinger of death that appears sometimes when a faerie - usually a hero - is about to die. They look exactly like the person they were sent for, and have all of their memories up to the point when the Fetch appeared. Ordinarily, Fetches appear a few days or weeks before the death, and vanish at the moment of death, so not even most fae know much about them: what they can do, what they really are, where they came from... but May still knows.
When fae die, their bodies don't decay, so to keep mortals from finding the bodies, or the Summerlands being littered with undecaying corpses, Faerie has a cleanup crew called night-haunts. They eat the bodies to gain their memories and forms, and leave behind doubles that look human, and will decay like a regular corpse. However, night-haunts are naturally predators, not scavengers - so they wouldn't go around just killing everyone, Oberon bound them so that every time a group of night-haunts taste living blood, one is selected at random to become a Fetch.
As a night-haunt, May chose to take the living blood of the offering given by October Daye - she was the only one of her flock who did, and a couple months later was called as Toby's Fetch. By some miracle, Toby managed to not die when the universe expected her to, May stuck around, and now she lives with Toby as her adoptive (sort of) twin sister. Family (and pretty much everything else): Faerie does it weird.
May is not at all what you'd expect a Fetch to be like. She's bright, outgoing, and almost aggressively cheerful. She's happy to make friends with anyone who'll sit still long enough for her to talk to, and she's often able to keep a sunny disposition even in the darkest of circumstances. Maybe it's because being an immortal, indestructible omen of death gives her a different outlook on life than most people. Maybe some people are just destined to be extraordinarily perky. Either way, from the minute she walks into a room, there's no mistaking that May is unique, whether it's the balance of her faerie blood that tips you off, or just her eye-searing (lack of) fashion sense.
A lot of it comes naturally to her. From her first meeting with Toby, just hours after she came into the world, she's chipper and friendly, apparently entirely sanguine about both Toby's impending death and her own. For the past few years, Toby's been half in love with death - May is the opposite, completely in love with life. She only expected to exist for a few days, maybe a couple weeks at most, and from the very start, she's rather invested in really living during the time she has. She has an almost childish glee about experiencing the world; she takes lots of pleasure in small things like dancing, cooking, and silly little games (like improvised hockey, or "spot the bogey", which apparently involves staring at shadows until you see something move) that she'll play with anyone who'll join in or just by herself. Her main priority seems to be having fun and enjoying herself, and she doesn't let little things like dignity get in the way of that.
But for all that she is naturally a bright, positive, friendly person, a lot of who she is is entirely intentional on her part. Coming into the world fully-grown, with all of Toby's knowledge and memories, and no one to shape her into who they thought she should be, she had an opportunity almost no one else gets: to choose the kind of person she'd be. And what she chose to be, when it came down to it, was not Toby.
It's not that she doesn't like Toby - she loves her, certainly respects and admires her, and that's the thing. Being too much like Toby means, first of all, that the two of them wouldn't be able to stand each other - Toby's too prickly for there to be more than one of her in a room without someone ending up bleeding, so May's personality is complementary to Toby's more than an exact mirror. While Toby's biting, sardonic quips and mockery, May is good-natured teasing and stubborn optimism. Where Toby's hardened and cynical, May's comparatively innocent and sensitive. And when Toby is sometimes painfully serious, prone to brooding and feeling guilty for things she couldn't change and just generally being cranky at the world, May's the one who'll try to get her (and everyone else in the room) to lighten up, often at the expense of her own dignity (if she can be said to have any to begin with).
More than that, Fetches are identical to the person they were called for; May convinced herself that if she wasn't like Toby, they'd both get to live. As May can't be killed or even seriously injured by normal means, the only thing that really scares her is the possibility that her friends might be hurt or die, and it's exponentially worse when the person in danger is Toby - both because Toby's the most important person in the world to her, and because up until very recently, Toby's death meant her own too. Though that's changed, and Toby is now free to die without dragging May along with her, May's instinctive fear of it hasn't changed a bit.
Part of May's attachment to Toby can be blamed on the fact that she was essentially created for her, to guide Toby in her death, and another part of it is simply natural compatibility between their personalities, but there's another part of it that's crucial to understanding but easy to overlook: who May was before she was May. Night-haunts eat the dead in order to take their forms and memories, and the last shape May took on as a night-haunt was Dare, a teenage changeling who died in part because she'd decided Toby was a hero. May never was Dare, even when she wore her face, but she had her memories, and seems to have taken on some of her traits. Dare was young, especially by fae standards - just fourteen when she died - and more innocent and naive than she pretended, some of which has obviously carried over to May. The night-haunt May was decided to become Toby's Fetch because her most recent memories said Toby was a hero - her hero - and that hasn't changed. Toby is still May's hero. May trusts her completely, she is the first person May looks to when things go wrong, and when Toby says she's going to fix things, May doesn't just believe her, she knows it's true.
Despite the fact that Toby is the most important person in her life, that certainly doesn't mean she's the only person important to May. She's extremely social, and tends to treat everyone - from children to kings to legendary sea-witches - as equals. Not everyone finds that charming, and a lot of pureblood fae in particular are rather annoyed by it, but people who aren't overly attached to protocol or particularly unsettled by the fact that she's a harbinger of death (albeit not theirs) can usually be pretty quickly won over by May's enthusiasm and friendliness. Less than a year after she was "born", she's managed to develop a rather large social network of friends and adoptive family - and sure, most of them are borrowed from Toby, but quite a few aren't, including her girlfriend (a ravenmaid, another kind of death omen). Even with those that were Toby's friends first, May has very different relationships to them. For one thing, she's a lot more emotionally fluent than Toby, and way more able to deal with problems on that level, where the solution involves more talking and empathy than stabbing or smashing things.
Emotionally fluent or not... May is not exactly hesitant in speaking her mind, and can be blunt to the point of verging on tactlessness. Night-haunts don't lie - they don't see the point of it, as the truth can hurt so much worse - and May seems to do the same. She doesn't lie (she's painfully obvious on the rare occasions she tries), but she is more than willing to hide or sidestep possibly dangerous truths when she thinks it's necessary. For the most part, though, May makes her opinions known and doesn't give a second thought to manners. She's never really needed manners, because Toby sure doesn't care, and no one else in the world can do a thing to reprimand her, so she's happy to chew with her mouth open, ask potentially rude questions, scandalize an entire Queen's court just by being herself and by starting fights with the local King of Cats... Calling a Duchess a bitch rather loudly where someone might overhear is not out of the question for May, unless someone with more sense shuts her up.
May is not a hero, or a leader of any kind. Making big decisions of any kind stresses her out a lot - for a while after she first appeared, the only time anything made her nervous (besides maybe her own driving) was when she got roped into helping Toby not die, and had a little crisis because she wasn't sure if Fetches were allowed to save the life of the person they were called for. She is not cool under pressure. She freaks out and flails and screams when it's an immediate crisis, and while she can be talked through it in order to do what's necessary, it's really not fun for anyone involved. When the crisis is less immediate and there's nothing May can do about it, she just melts down, starts crying a lot, and either holes up in her room or goes looking for someone she trusts so she can cry on their shoulder and hopefully they can deal with whatever the problem is. She's excellent as backup, as long as she knows exactly what she's supposed to be doing and it's not anything that involves too much danger (more to other people than to her, what with her being immortal and all), but you really don't want her on the front lines of... anything.
What she is very, very good at is support. Despite all outward appearances, May is actually more reliable and responsible than you'd guess, and though she's never the one actually fighting the battles, she's usually the one making sure the heroes are properly fed and caffeinated, get out of the house on time, and actually get some sleep once in a while. As quick as she is to lean on her friends when she needs it, she's just as ready and willing to offer them a hand or a shoulder to cry on, she'll jump to a friend's assistance in a heartbeat the instant they call on her, and she will literally walk through fire for someone she loves. She is loyal to the end... and for May, that's a very, very long time. Once May's decided she likes you, there's really no getting out of it - just ask Toby.
Abilities & WeaknessesEdit
- May is functionally immortal - even more so than most fae - and basically indestructible. She cannot be killed by conventional means; presumably this is to keep people from stabbing their Fetch as soon as it shows up. She can get tired, and be hurt, and though she heals from wounds pretty fast, she feels pain just as much as anyone else, and really doesn't like it.
- As a pureblood fae, she is stronger, faster, and more agile than humans (or changelings). The strength or speed might not be noticeable, as she is not a fighter - the literally inhuman grace probably is. She's also got night-vision a hell of a lot of better than a regular human's.
- She has magic - using it involves reciting a rhyme (Toby uses nursery rhymes and Shakespeare, May uses song lyrics) and produces a unique scent that identifies the magic user (May's magic smells like cotton candy and ashes). What a particular fae can do with their magic depends on their race, and as so little is known about Fetches, the extent of May's magic is uncertain. However, there's a certain level of general magic most fae can be expected to be capable of - wards, illusions (which May seems to have a particular talent for), minor mind magic like convincing humans a handful of leaves is money, and other things on that level. She's been able to change the fabric of "fresh" spells in the past, something that no other breed of fae has been known to do, but she hasn't demonstrated any other especially weird or powerful abilities so far. A lot of her Fetch-specific abilities, like sensing Toby's location, being able to tell when danger's approaching Toby, and mirroring Toby's appearance (and pain) when it changes are no longer accessible to her, as the bond between them was severed a few months back.
- All her spells, including wards and illusions, will fall apart at dawn, and have to be rebuilt after if she wants them back. For that matter, dawn is kind of painful for fae - not debilitating, but certainly distracting and unpleasant.
- Like all fae, she is allergic to iron. The closer she is to it and the more there is of it, the weaker she gets. At a certain point, if it's bad enough, it can prevent her from using her magic. Actual contact with iron burns - shooting or stabbing her with it can poison her blood, and an iron knife through the heart (possibly along with a silver one) is probably the surest way to kill May if you're really trying (this theory is untested, but it's been known to kill Firstborns, far more powerful than May, so there's a distinct possibility it would work).
- As stated above, May is not a fighter. In theory, she knows all the things Toby does - fighting dirty, fighting to win, with fists or knives or guns - but she's never actually done any of those things, and the difference between them is like the difference between watching a surgeon on TV and actually performing surgery. (You only have to look at May's horrifying driving skills to understand that.) In a fight, all she's going to want to do is get the hell out of the way.
- She is not a leader, or super good at thinking on her feet in a crisis. She's able to carry out instructions under pressure, with a certain amount of screaming and flailing, but her first reaction when things start to go to hell is... generally freaking out.