Once upon a time there existed a magical place beyond any sense of human comprehension.
It was beautiful and fair, welcoming, with people who sang the songs of birds and birds who had the wisdom of people. Children played in the fields without worry, laughing in warm sunlight, while mothers watched on with tired smiles. Bakers, big and round and jolly, made bread and whistled the livelong day away while red-nosed toymakers created puppets and dolls. The king and queen of this place lived in a large white castle with long white banners and ruled the kingdom with a fair set of hands.
And then there was also the Forest of Squelch.
Flyboy's face hit the wooden counter with a sound like a broken nose. This was probably because his had just been broken, in a rather painful manner, by the man who was busy beating the crap outta him.
Beating the crap outta him for no reason, too! Wasn't like Flyboy had known the guy was dating that lovely young lady by the counter. You know the one, with the revealing dress and the rather sated look in her eyes, and Flyboy would bet his two front teeth that mister Nose-breaker wasn't the cause of that, no way, not in a million years, not with feet that tiny. Flyboy grinned a good grin and wiped the blood from his face.
"Oi, so you're wontin' to play, yeah?" Spit on the floor, tough guy, and make it a good show. Flyboy's grin had and would make wolves run for their lives. He reached for the quiver of arrows on his back. "Let's play doctor, then, yeah? C'mon, this'll only 'urt a bitů"
The crowd in the pub backed up in a moment of collective intelligence. Flyboy pulled an arrow and just held it, no bow anywhere, letting the tip glint in the dim light. Menacingly. It was purple.
"Wot you gonna do," said the big man, laughing in the face of brazen danger. "Stick me with that toothpick, yeah?"
"Yeah," said Flyboy, and did so. The man didn't die, or collapse into dust, although some of the arrows could do that too. No, Flyboy wasn't that kind. Instead, the man grew a lovely and voluptuous pair of breasts.
Which, somehow, was worse.
And if you moved down this tree, and over several acres of forest, you'd find La Fille de Mushroom. Her real name was Fillie. Round, very nearly pretty, with big red eyes like polka dots and two round cheeks like cherries and a body like a dollop of whipped cream, Fillie was one of a thousand sisters. They all looked just like her.
Perhaps this disturbed some of the more original members of the family, but Fillie had never minded. Whenever she bumbled down the street, usually singing and usually off-key, it didn't matter who she was. Everyone knew her whether she knew them or not, because of her sisters. And she was loved.
Fillie was sweet and outgoing, young and innocent. She was the type of girl who looked in the mirror, saw a chubby face with a chubby body, and knew she was living life well. Maybe not healthily, but well, and that was the important thing, right? The here and now.
Here, and now, she was eating the flesh off a dead finger.
It was a chubby finger, and fresh, which was rare. Fillie wasn't sure who it had belonged to. Someone old, she was almost sure, because the skin was nice and tender, and the meat just fell off the bone. The skin was even paler than Fillie's own.
It had been on a corpse just around where the trunk became roots, which was a surprise. Mostly bodies so close to trees, and therefore civilisation, were wiped clean. And this one had been, mostly, except for the finger. So Fillie took it home for a little treat.
She sucked the last of the meat from the last knuckle-bone, deposited the remains in a little bucket inside the doorway of her dwelling, and burst into cheery song.
It was a lovely blue day.
He was a clerk, and he was young for his age. Nearly three hundred, a graduate of the Fairy Academy of Economics, and he was still living at home with his parents. Tall, pale, with long white hair and eyes like something out of a cephalopod, Edenwell LeFolle was beautiful. Skinny as a twig, a Royal Cleric and Cultural Arbiter, with no strength in him but a befuddled and altogether too trusting mind, Edenwell LeFolle was generally considered a failure.
And why wouldn't they think so? He was trusting. He was nice. He didn't pick bones or steal for a living, which was probably why he was still at home with Mum and Dad. He liked people. He tried to earn a living based on hard work. Plus, neither of his parents were entirely convinced he was male, and that just made them uncomfortable.
The boy was a wuss.
That was all there was to it.
So day in, day out, Edi woke up, dressed, cleaned himself up for the public, and went to work. While there, he did his best to explain that no, a grain of rice was not equal to a cow no matter the difference in size (and therefore stomachs) between a troll and a pixie.
He had to explain that, yes, in this place fingernails were a valid source of currency, no, you could not exchange them for gold, because it was not, and why would you want such a soft useless metal anyway? He had to describe the processes of time to mortals visiting the fairy world; I'm sorry, sir, you've been here two hours already, this is your own fault, you've missed twenty years back home and if you wish to return there's at least a forty-minute wait. The worst-- and most-freakishly-common-- was the long and drawn-out explanation of the differences between mating habits between humanity and various fairy life forms.
Sir, if you'll just read this pamphlet on sirens, see, I'm aware they have a lovely set of vocal chords on them but they tend to drown you in the oceanů
Ma'am, that man is made of rock. No, he's not a golem, I'm fairly sure he's just a statue.
No, sir, it is a bad idea to get in a romantic relationship with a Maritus mortem. Sir, just pay attention to the common name. The Widowing Lady? Yes, yes, sir, it is a very bad idea.