Interestingly, The Enchantress of Sylaire represents something of a departure from previous Averoigne stories. Unlike the majority of its predecessors, it's notably lacking in cynicism. Indeed, it's a strangely positive, even optimistic fantasy that verges on fairy tale romance in both its content and presentation. It tells of an idealistic, love-besotted young man named Anselme, the object of whose current affections is a beautiful but empty-headed woman named Dorothée des Flèches, who does not share his feelings.
"Why, you big ninny! I could never marry you," declared the demoiselle Dorothée, only daughter of the Sieur des Flèches. Her lips pouted at Anselme like two ripe berries. Her voice was honey — but honey filled with bee-stings.Dejected, Anselme resolves to leave the world -- and women -- behind by becoming a hermit in the woods of Averoigne. A year into his new life, he spies a mysterious woman bathing in a forest pool. Though taken with her beautiful nakedness, he is not so distracted that he fails to notice "a huge wolf, appearing furtively as a shadow from the thicket" making its way toward her. Fearing more for the woman's safety than his own embarrassment at being a voyeur, Anselme reveals himself and cries out to her. Showing no signs of concern, the woman turns to answer him: "'There is nothing to fear,' she said, in a voice like the pouring of warm honey. 'One wolf, or two, will hardly attack me.'"
"You are not so ill-looking. And your manners are fair. But I wish I had a mirror that could show you to yourself for the fool that you really are."
"Why?" queried Anselme, hurt and puzzled.
"Because you are just an addle-headed dreamer, pouring over books like a monk. You care for nothing but silly old romances and legends. People say that you even write verses. It is lucky that you are at least the second son of the Comte du Framboisier — for you will never be anything more than that."
"But you loved me a little yesterday," said Anselme, bitterly. A woman finds nothing good in the man she has ceased to love.
"Dolt! Donkey!" cried Dorothée, tossing her blonde ringlets in pettish arrogance. "If you were not all that I have said, you would never remind me of yesterday. Go, idiot — and do not return."
The woman dresses and introduces herself to Anselme as Sephora, an enchantress who dwells in a magical Otherworld known as Sylaire, reachable through an ancient collection of standing stones. She asks that Anselme accompany her there, to which he agrees and finds
the grass on which they lay was not the sparse and sun-dried grass of the moor, but was deep, verdant and filled with tiny vernal blossoms! Oaks and beeches, huger even than those of the familiar forest, loomed umbrageously on every hand with masses of new, golden-green leafage, where he had thought to see the open upland. Looking back, he saw that the gray, lichened slabs of the cromlech itself alone rearmed of that former landscape.The pair make their way to Sephora's tower, where she departs to rest. While she is asleep, Anselme takes the opportunity to explore Sylaire and again encounters the wolf he'd seen earlier. As it turns out, he is no wolf but rather a sorcerer cursed by Sephora to take the form of an animal -- or so he claims, as Anselme finds it hard to believe that the enchantress could ever be so cruel. The wolf-man, whose name is Malachie du Marais, says that he was once, like Anselme, a favorite of Sephora and became her lover but she grew tired of him and used dark magic to transform him into a wolf. Malachie further claims that Sephora is not a woman at all but a foul lamia and her servants are vampires; a bad end will come to Anselme if he does not flee Sylaire now and never return.
Even the sun had changed its position. It had hung at Anselme's left, still fairly low in the east, when he and Sephora had reached the moorland. But now, shining with amber rays through a rift in the forest, it had almost touched the horizon on his right.
Anselme, of course, does not wish to believe Malachie's claims but the werewolf has nevertheless sowed the seeds of doubt in his mind. If Saphora's servants were not vampires who only appear at night, where were they? Likewise, Malachie claimed that, as a lamia, Saphora is afraid of mirrors, which reveal her true face to the world. If she is not the evil creature he claims, then why is that there are no mirrors anywhere in Saphora's home or among her possessions? And once Anselme returns to Sephora's home, her attitude toward Malachie has changed from her earlier nonchalance to genuine concern, saying that the werewolf is in fact a threat to her, as Anselme had suggested earlier -- a threat about which something must be done.
I won't spoil the ending of The Enchantress of Sylaire except to say that it's conclusion is at once quite different than those of most CAS tales and yet still very much in line with the worldview espoused in most of his fiction and poetry. Both Sephora and Malachie du Marais appears as NPCs in Tom Moldvay's Castle Amber, although Sylaire itself is portrayed not as a fey otherworld but merely as a location with the province of Averoigne.