Murmurings from the Hive

Resolution

It’s that time again.

Time for new beginnings, to right the wrongs of the previous annual cycle.

It begins as usual. I awaken from my slumber, burst forth into a world that is color and chaos. Bursts of kaleidoscopic fire light up the dark desert sky and the city just a few miles south of my rook is abuzz with color and jubilation. Surely, they’re celebrating my return, yes? It is the only connection I can make between my awakening and the jets of shrieking, celebratory fire.

I hop to the ledge of my rook and flex my wings. Amniotic threading still stretches amidst my skin as I am still fresh from my annual hibernation. I rub my knuckles across my sleep crusted eyes and gaze into the cacaphonous night.

Each year I tell myself I will do things differently. Each year … well, I only have 27 hours per cycle before my chrysalis reforms, against my will. Why such an exact timeframe, I fear I will never know. I only have 27 hours to… eat. Could you blame me for choosing such easy prey? On this night, this night of new beginnings, this night of revelry: the land dwellers stagger about, dazed into a stupor from the intensity of their celebration. These are the ones I pluck, ripe and plump. Juicy and…what is that taste? Oaky, almonds. Hops and grains. I grow dizzy, I lose my equilibrium.. but I want more

Every year I choose these buffoons for easy prey and every year the same result: I absorb their affliction and inevitably spend the remaining 26 hours in an equally dazed stupor. It’s all I can to make it back to my rook, on unsteady wings, and slumber in the safety of my age old home.

This year, I will spend what little time I have and seek answers. Why do I only have such a small window of activity? Why do I feast on these chatty, two legged beasts? What is the true purpose of this noise and celebration?

Why am I .. what I am?

THIS year. I will learn the reason for my being.

But lo and behold, beneath my ledge: a vehicle, several temporary canvas dwellings in the parched, cold desert. A raging fire, upon which more revelry occurs. I can tell by their boorish exclamations that they have fallen victim to the stupor.

I flex my wings again, stretch my talons, my long and sinewy legs. I gnash my fangs and crack my six knuckled hands. I swoop down, judging my angle and velocity that will be ideal to impale a particularly rotund and loud one.

I will feast well tonight. I will indulge heartily! I will celebrate this new cycle in style!

…..

I know I said things would be different. And I’m still curious

…. but then….
…..
…..

There’s always next year

Filth to some, Glory to others

 

This is where it ends but more importantly, where it all begins.

Faul believed this to be very true. The chamber was dim, lit softly by amber lights that seemed to defy explanation. They clung to the barren earth walls and followed him as he proceeded deeper. The ground was rough, loose, ancient. It spoke to him as he ran his scabbed fingers through the dirt, letting it seep between his hands. It changed him even then, each particle of terrain leaving behind a speck of altered flesh.

He was where he needed to be. He raised his hands towards the vaulted ceiling in quiet triumph. The arches loomed above, carved stone supplanted against the bare earth to provide support and even more. At the apex of each arch, a basin was supported by Rusted metal chains interconnected with strands of pale fiber and snaking cable. It was in these basins that the Rust collected, dirty liquid from the harvest fields above. It seeped down from above, lapped up by a thirsty world and recycled into these underground chambers. They were beginning to overflow and Faul was exactly where he wanted to be.

He thrust off the bare remnants of his tattered clothes with a flourish and let the Rust drip down. He sobbed quietly among the living torches and extended his tongue to let the brownish fluid fall into his brackish mouth. It tasted metallic and salty, not unlike the blood of the harvest and he could not ask for more.

But yes, he needed more. So much more…

The world above belonged to them, an incursion that occurred without warning to the cattle and certainly without mercy. If one were to venture among the bruisefruit and gorewood high above, they would find the agriculture that festooned the fields. Each body of those from before provided sustenance for the dirt, for the field, for those below who dwelled now as above. Those who had lived here prior to their settlement had not been harvested quietly but Faul and the rest of his ilk knew they were secretly grateful. What better honor could there be?

The Rust fell freely now and Saul ran his tattered hands wildly across his hairless scalp, accepting the gift so readily provided. It felt so soothing, so calm here in the chambers. Each splash of this sacred gift coated his lithe body in a greasy sheen, slick to the touch but nigh impenetrable; living metal. It would do well to help combat any attempted resistance but he knew these chances were slim. These were the gifts bestowed by the Matrons.

The Filth Mothers were good to his tribe. They had gifted them the Life-After-Life, to crawl forth from decay choked crypts and ascend, ascend as they were always supposed to. These Matrons existed in sacred locales in the new world and with each flick of their Rust coated nails, they would provide more of this altering drink, more so than the cattle could ever provide.

For now, Faul needed only a small taste. A short, sustaining bath to slake his thirst until his journey ahead. After his decrepit baptism, he would emerge up the sloping, gilded hall that lead out into the world above. He would collect a bruisefruit to snack on and tiptoe carefully among the harvest and the still living cattle. From there, he would collect the ash that rained down from the grey sun above and coat his body with it. He would paint it across his bare chest and face in the sacred designs called upon from those eternally encrusted with dust and grime, his forefathers. And then he would begin his pilgrimage. He knew a Filth Mother was close by and, although Faul knew himself to not be worthy of her presence, he would still seek her shrine and bask in her Rust ridden glory.

The Mothers were beautiful to behold, shining red flesh and Rust coated gears that propelled their nails mechanically forward and down, across swollen midsections to release their gift. Salted red ambrosia, flecked with grime ; the most beautiful thing anyone could behold. They were anchored into their shrines, held fast by cords and cables until the appropriate time. Faul longed to insert the gears and screws into his own flesh to be one with those others who had made the pilgrimage. Upon arrival, those chosen would clamber into the Matrons and combine their gears and pistons, a communal, beautiful combination of skin, bone and rusted metal. And then these mighty things, these glorious communal sacrificial constructs would let loose from their anchors and parade across the ash ridden world. Where they went, Filth and Decay would follow, exhaling Ash and Rust into an increasingly grateful world.

Faul wept red tears at the thought and only wished that it could be happening now, right now. For the time being here, in the quiet chambers, he would sip the Rust in silent acceptance. But his time was coming. The Mothers were calling, a mighty yet feminine bellow echoing across the gorewood and the Rusted harvest fields. And he would answer.

They had come from below. They reclaimed their land. They harnessed all that stole life and yet born life anew beneath a blotted sun. They took the metals that had been enslaved by the ones before (now reduced to mere stock) and combined them with their own flesh, together as one where things should be.

This was Faul’s lot in life and he had a wonderful existence.

The basin above dripped dry. He was disappointed but that only meant he could begin his pilgrimage even sooner. Faul collected a ceremonial staff from their sockets on the wall and tested its heft. It was strong, powerful, a symbiosis of muscle and metal. It would double as a support for the arduous journey, as self defense and as a good tool to inscribe the Ash upon his skin. It was time to leave.

He slowly made his way up the slopes, marveling at the craftsmanship in the Rust inlaid floor tiles. His tribe was truly special, the artisans gods among fools. He could only hope to be like them some day. Finally, he reached his apex and emerged upwards into the world of grey, red and black.

He breathed deep, inhaling smoke and grime. His slitted nostrils flared and he flexed ropy, powerful muscles in the dim lighting. It was a beautiful day to begin his holy journey. Faul turned away from the harvest field behind him, ignoring the quiet pleas for providence. It would all be silent soon, no matter.

The gorewoods lie ahead, each tree a writhing marvel of intertwined cables, tendons, sprockets, bark and arteries. He sighed contentedly, reached up to the first tree he found and plucked down a bruisefruit. It squelched softly in his hands, purple-black juices running down his hard tinged skin. He bit into it with well worn teeth and savored the taste. A droplet of it ran down his chin, carving a trail in the Ash that softly fell upon him.

He looked forward into the forest and listened for the calls of the Matron.

Faul would heed the call.

It was there that another life would end and a new one would begin, among the jubilant throngs.

Faul was ready and he took a confident step forward into the new world.

A world coated in grime, one that was Filth to some yet glory to others.

Leftovers

It was a beautiful, crisp autumn day in late November when a small handful of friends gathered in the woods for a belated holiday meal. The table was constructed crudely yet with care from a massive redwood stump, ensuring that all would be equidistant seating, promoting togetherness and equality.

The host beamed happily with thick simian lips and gestured to the grand feast of berries, straw, grass, nuts and roots that lie heaped before them.

“My friends,” said the Sasquatch, “I know we all had to celebrate the holiday alone, what with our friend Hodag’s unfortunate run in with two boys on a hike. As I hear it he is safely lying low until the fervor blows over. But in the meantime, I thank you for joining me in a leftover meal of brotherhood and bond.”

“Pleased to be here, to be sure”, Mr Leeds responded gracefully. His shock of wavy hair was tied back with root, his wings folded neatly behind his high angled back and his cloven hooves tucked below the table.

Pukwudgie, ever the curmudgeon grunted noncommittedly from his high chair. He was quite sensitive of a lot of his physical attributes, his diminutive size, leathery grey skin and bulbous nose and ears notwithstanding. But he was also the oldest of the bunch and an amazing craftsman. In fact, he had crafted his own custom chair and had assisted Sasquatch in building the elegant table.

The fourth guest smirked at the contents of the table, but he dipped his shaggy head below the table, his antlers quivering with delight at what he had hidden from view. He was tall, rail thin and yet possessed a voracious appetite.

“In brotherhood, let us all feast on this delightful natural meal!” Sasquatch said.

Mr Leeds raised a cup of honeydew, made from an airtight woven stalk of grassroot in a toast. But then.. a sudden and intrusive THUMP interrupted the festivities. The trio glanced over at the other guest. Wendigo stared right back, a roast human leg now spattered on the table, his jagged fangs already dripping red. Mr Leeds cleared his throat in indignation and flapped his bat like wings once.

“What…is this, Wendigo?” Sasquatch asked. “You know what we agreed upon.”

Wendigo belched, causing Mr Leeds to scoff and Puk to giggle lightly. “You guys were serious?” He asked. “C’mon guys. You expect me to eat-”

“To eat what, ruffian?” Mr Leeds asked, his horse like mouth chewing a dollop of hay.

“Well, what you guys are eating. I mean, I eat meat. It’s kind of what I’m known for,” Wendigo explained. “What I’m feared for!”

Sasquatch cleared his throat. “Well, I’m little annoyed he brought meat to the table when we agreed on a foraging meal but.. I suppose in the spirit of the day, we can.. entertain his particular needs.”

“Perhaps, but what I simply must ask is..WHAT are we known for?” Mr Leeds asked sternly, his amber eyes boring a hole in Wendigo’s gaunt face.

“I-whats that?”
Leeds answered with a direct stare. A single crunch of hay.
Wendigo sighed derisively. “Ok look, you guys are all relics, I’m sorry to say! Me, I’m in the public consciousness. There was a public image of me in a video game and 2 popular tv shows just last year! Leeds, you’re…The mascot of a hockey team. And not even a very good one.”

“Blasphemer!” A hoof pounded the table. Sasquatch raised a meaty hand in a silent plea for order.

“Our gracious host -I just have to say- people have been looking for you for years. You need to cut them loose, bud. Either make an appearance or just… fade away. And Pukwudgie… well, I mean… just look at you. Those ears..”

“BAH!” Puk hollered. He banged his diminutive fist on the table and began to wail loudly.

“Wen, you know how sensitive he is!” Sasquatch shouted, choosing to ignore his carnivorous guest’s criticism.
“WAHHHHH” shrieked Pukwudgie
“So inconsiderate! Thou art a lecherous whelp!” Leeds hollered.
“Archaic! Join the 21st century!” Wen screamed back.
“I’ll have you know good sir-!”
“WAAAHHH!!”
“Please tell me, I’m dying to know!”
“Those television programs are trifle-!”
“WAHHHH!!”
“Trifle! I don’t even know what that means!”
“SAVAGE!”
“WAHHHH!!”
ROOOARRR!!! “QUIET!”
Bliss.
Birds began to chirp gaily, bringing a peaceful aura to the round table.
Sasquatch was breathing heavily and lowered his hands. He took a scoop of berries and chomped them noisily. Puk feasted on a root strand and Wen took a nibble out of the leg.

“I’m sorry for raising my voice. But we all need to respect one another. Wen, you need to respect Mr Leeds and how he chooses to market his image and speaking pattern. You need to respect Pukwudgie’s… unique appearance. Mr Leeds please accept Wendigo’s choice of meal. I don’t agree with it either but we are all equal guests. Puk, I love you but… you need to love you for you.”

Hmph” grunted the little imp.

“Equality. Solidarity. Ok?” The gentle giant pleaded. His bestial guests grunted in assent.
“Very well. Now we can eat in piece.. Mr Leeds, please pass me the pine nuts.”

“Certainly good sir,” Leeds replied.

“Jersey Devils suck,” Wendigo muttered under his breath. He cracked apart a femur and licked at the marrow.

“Right then!” Leeds screamed as he unfurled his wings and leapt across the table. Puk clapped his hands and tackled with glee.

“To family,” Quatch sighed wearily. He ran a hand over his leathery face as his cryptid brothers brawled wildly. He sipped the honeydew and decided he’d probably need something stronger.

Ambrosial Spirits by The Lizard Queen, Araceli McMullin

spooky_path_nature_woods_dusk_dark_forest_mystery-1334203

 

 

I had never seen anyone who looked so sad, so forlorn in my entire existence. It clung to her, like a morning fog, turning her silhouette into an almost shapeless entity. But she was beautiful to me. There was simply no other words to describe it. She was beautiful. I licked my lips, hesitant in approaching her. I could feel her need for companionship, the need to have someone who spoke to her soul, who fed the dark impulses vibrating within her, but I stayed rooted to the spot. My body, the contemptible traitor, refused to obey any commands my mind tried giving it, so enraptured in the creature my attention fixated on.

 
She turned, and I felt my dead heart quicken, startling me. It had been so long since it drummed the familiar tattoo that for a moment, I felt fear. What was she? How could this be possible? She stared in my general direction, a subtle look of curiosity lacing her otherwise sorrowful features. I held my unneeded breath, ready to dash away the moment she took a step towards me. Did she realize that she was being watched? Did she sense the hunger I so keenly felt for her? My apprehension was for nothing, however, as she returned to watching the moonlight dance along the lapping waves of the river.

 
I released the trapped air in my lungs, and felt it whisper among the leaves of the elm trees I was hiding in. For a moment, I almost yearned for my deadened body to be alight with life, feel the expired blood course through my veins. Yet, I softly gasped at the thought. I enjoyed my static existence, was delighted in living in a never ending night. What was it about her, this lady of agony, that provoked such alien thoughts? I had no answers to give my churning mind and so resolved myself to continue watching, waiting.
She looked up at that moment, smiling as the moonlight illuminated her delicate face. Oh how I ached to stand before her and worship her very essence! How I wished to take her into my arms, and drain the vibrancy of life she so desperately hated. How I knew she felt this way, I could not say. But I knew it with every breath she took, every whisper in the wind.

 
She longed to die.

 
I could not let that happen. She was too pure, too decadent for something so mundane as death. This world may not have deserved to have such a somber angel walk among the putrid filth it possessed, but oh how it deserved to have her in all of her horrific revenge.
The glint of moonlight reflecting off a blade recalled me from my dark thoughts. In my musings, she dropped to her knees, unsheathed a knife that was hidden somewhere on her person, and held it hovering over her left wrist as though hesitant to complete the act she came here to do. My keen ears heard her soft cries, heard the gentle tears cascade into the grass below her, and felt my ancient soul shatter into countless tears to join her own. It was excruciating. It was exquisite in its pain.

 
“I can hear you….” her voice whispered into the night. I stood, paralyzed by her words, among the elms and waited to hear more of her melodic voice. I should have been concerned over the exposure, but there was none. The moment the sound of her voice echoed into my mind, I was hers, mind, body and soul. And in the moment following that realization, I knew she was mine. Forever.

 
I would make her mine, one way or another.

 
Still, I remained within my hidden perch, continuing my silent vigil of her. She sighed, her frustration a living thing in the soft breeze, and spoke once more, “I know you are there.” My lips parted, ready to say something, anything to my mournful goddess, but the words didn’t form. I was so taken aback, so shocked by the beauty of her voice that I could not speak. Slowly, she moved the poised blade from her wrist and let the hand holding it fall to her side. My useless breath caught raggedly in my silent chest. She stopped her pursuit of finding oblivion? Why? Not that I would have let her complete the task, but her doing so would have been the invitation for something so loathsome a creature as me to transform her beauty into something truly timeless. So why?

 
She finally rose from her kneeling position and headed in the direction of the trees where I hid. My body instinctively moved into a crouch, the predator within me ready to pounce the moment she walked into the tree line. The hunger writhed inside of me as the rushing of blood in her veins became a deafening roar filling my ears. Yes, my beloved, yes. Come to me and sacrifice your life force for my own. Yes….

 
No. That was not the only thing I desired or needed. I wanted to see her become alive in undeath, see her fury envelop the world, drenching it in the sticky sustenance we would so desperately crave together. It would be magnificent. Glorious. Two hunters in a never ending journey for prey. And oh, how I longed for that hour to arrive. Her steps drew her nearer and nearer to me, and I practically salivated at the scent of her delicious blood. Soon, she would be mine and the longing I felt for her would end in a savage fury of lustful fantasy.

 
“Please don’t be silent, hunter. I have what you crave. What you want. What you need,” she spoke to me once again. My world was utterly destroyed in that instant. In the next, it was recreated in the image of her dark fantasy. She knew. She knew! What was this? My mind raced, insanity clouding my sense of restraint. There were no others like me on this forsaken planet, I was the very last of my kind! Our existence caricatured by thousands of pathetic mediums, turned into idiotic fantasies for bored house wives and deranged men. How? How could she know? “I’ve been waiting for you….my whole life,” she said, her voice barely a whisper. She was so very close to me now, one step, two and she’d be before me.

 
I snarled into the still night, a warning to her to stay back. My yearning for her essence was so great that I was frightened that she’d expire before I could transform her into the being that most reflected the ambrosial spirit trapped in human wrappings. She never hesitated. Her steps never faltered. Before me stood the only being that would ever sing to this decrepit soul that lay trapped inside a mockery of life itself. She was even more enamoring up close, than I previously thought. The delicate way her features coalesced together to form the heart shaped face, the slender bow of her shoulder, carefully hidden behind the thin fabric of her blouse. The subtle rise and fall of her chest, quick as though she felt the same kind of exhilaration I felt when I looked upon her.

 
“Please. Take what you need. I cannot stand this world any longer. At least this way, my death will mean something,” she said to me, sorrowfully, pleading with me to do the task of ending her short life instead of forcing her to do it herself. This was too much to bear. The lovely carotid artery pumping in a steady rhythm, teasing me with its song, begging me to sink my fangs deep and devour. I could hold back no longer. In a flash I was upon her prone body, and gently, with a lover’s grace, I held her and bit into the pliable flesh of her neck.

 
It was like drinking liquid fire, her blood was. Instantly, I felt my body come alive in an onslaught of sensations that had long been forgotten. The sluggish dead lifeforce within my own veins slowly began to circulate as life was breathed into my long dead heart that haphazardly started to beat. The feeling of it was so foreign, so alien to me that I gasped against her skin. What was she? How could something be even possible for someone who had felt the kiss of death so long ago? I hesitated slightly, worried over what was becoming of me, but her essence was so pure, so invigorating… so addicting that I could not stop myself from engorging on her.

 
She moaned into the quiet night, a soft look of happiness spreading across her face. She looked divine. She looked alive. As the realization of that struck me, that despite the increasing loss of blood, she looked more and more alive than she had before approaching me, I began to feel scared. Truly afraid for the first time. What. Was. She? She smiled, a small, yet cruel pulling of the lips as the beating of my heart grew louder and stronger. Yet I could still not pull away from her, and continued to drink.
My body became alight with… life. Pure, unimaginable life. I was no longer the creature I had been. I was alive. The last of my kind erased. Panic washed over me as I realized what that meant. What she meant. I finally released her from my grasp, and stared at her stunned. What should have been a lifeless corpse heaped on the ground, stood a woman of such majesty, such splendor, that for the briefest of moments, I knew I stood before a Goddess. She smiled at me, and said, “Live now. Live. For life has many other pleasures beyond those of blood. Beyond those of the flesh.

 

Be wicked.

Be holy.

Be.

Free”

Boggled

An’ all us other children, when the supper things is done,

We set around the kitchen fire an’ has the mostest fun

A-listnin’ to the witch tales ‘at Annie tells about,

‘An the Goblins ‘at gits you

if you don’t watch out…

(poem by James Whitcomb Riley)

I often hear the fair Woman tell this tale to the Boy before he goes to sleep. I think it cruel but very accurate indeed. To impart such thoughts into the mind of a wee child…to…warn him of what lurks beyond the warm hearth of their cottage. To warn him of me.

At the present time, I clung to the edge of their eave, tilting my head closer to the window to hear the witch-tales. I cannot proceed further for the windows are barred shut with thick slabs of metal; wrought iron more like. That most damnable of elements set in place by one who knows more than she ought to know should. This is as far as I can go but I will bide my time and stake the claim for myself and the rest of the Fae in due time.

They call us many things. The goblins, the boggarts, the faeries, the tricksters and most pathetically, “The Little People”. We’ve never bothered to correct them for to pronounce our race’s true name correctly, one would have to part ways with their tongues and these Fir folk (some would call “humans”) often do not like it when you remove their tongues. The closest approximation to my own name in their language would be Lokune, but I dare not speak it aloud lest one of them acquire dominion over me. It’s a powerful thing, one’s true name. I heed you a word of advice to be cautious with whom you share your own.

I have been observing this small family ever since they set up root here some six harvests ago. They encroached on our meadow, our hills without so much as a greeting or a saucer of cream left upon a warm and inviting doorstep. They did us a disservice and thus I am tasked with retrieving the Child for our own. A parcel of land for the soul of a Boy seems a fair trade to me.

I plan my visits carefully though. I found myself emboldened as the Man left one day, musket slung over his brawny back. I continued to observe from the treeline at the edge of the meadow as the day turned to night and to day and to night and to day and to night. I watched as the Woman emerged from the home each night, wringing her fair hands in worry and clutching her belly. I watched as the Woman lost hope and finally stopped emerging each night. She still left a lantern out in the hopes that he would return. Thus far to no avail. I watched as the Boy grew and my opportunity slipped further and further away by day. Children are so much easier to snatch when they are younger. I watched as the Woman’s midsection grew larger and that was when I knew I had my best opportunity.

I know little of the Fir’s inner workings but I knew their mewling young emerged in less than a harvest’s time. Had the man only been gone for such a short while? It seemed like so much longer. I am still here on the rooftop. The family below has been asleep for some while. I feel the faintest twinge of sunlight’s poisonous grasp upon my mottled skin and know that my night has ended. As I slink back to the ring of mushrooms that leads into our realm, I begin to plot. Lokune has a plan and he shall enact on the next evening.

Another Woman has been visiting the one who carries a child. I’ve seen her in the past few days and she has returned tonight. I need to be careful. Earlier this day, I approached the Boy as he played in the meadow. Conjuration is one of my many talents and so I set upon approaching from the forest in the guise of another young boy equal to his age. I walked to the boy with a foppish grin and sat down before him, inviting him to chat. The Child must have been starved for attention, I suspected he had no interaction beyond his Mother, such was that he joined me with no hesitation or suspicion. This might be easier than I thought.

The Boy’s name was Thomas, likely named after his father. I declared myself Luke (a close approximation) and asked him about his home life. Through my delightful deceit I gleaned that the Boy did indeed live alone with his mother, as they had been exiled from the closest village due to some act from his absent Father that had driven the village elders to declare his entire family heathens. Through an act of defiance, the Father’s Sister would brave the night to visit the Mother and assist her as she was in fact ripe with child.

The Father’s Sister would help cook and take care of the Boy. It turns out that she was the one that taught the stories to the Mother and also had installed the wrought iron bars. Thomas told me that she had sensed something dark and malevolent (stop, you flatter me!) on the edge of the woods and caution would have to be had to protect the Boy and Mother. The Father’s Sister was no stranger to defiance and living her life in the shadows. Woe be to her if the village caught wind of her own conjurations in the night, dabbling and communing with the other worlds beyond the veil. She learned things and acquired The Sight upon which few Fir could use to glimpse into our world.

I would have to be careful.

Then came the fun part. I told Thomas that he was my friend but that nobody else wanted him around. Why else would his Father have ventured into the woods and never returned? Why else would his Parents bring about another child unless they intended to replace the one they had? Why else would none of the village children venture across the meadow to play with him? He told me I was wrong, of course, but I assured him that I had heard things said in whispered and accusatory tones amidst the clergy of their former home.

I told him there was another place nearby that I could take him. It was a wonderful place full of warmth and mirth and fun games to play. Caves to explore for buried treasure, glowing mountains to climb to seek adventure. Bounty of bread and salted meat and delightful pastries and his family would want for naught ever again. Where is this place, he would ask me. I told him I would show him but he needs to pay the toll. See, this place, this World of Wonders, could be his and his Mother’s all for the cost of a single tooth. After all, you’re surely about to lose one of your own, right? Isn’t it hanging on by the most meager of threads?

Why a tooth?

Such an inquisitive child. Well, in this other world, teeth are coveted because they are so pearly white and pretty to look at. Even if yours is a bit on the dirtier side, it would still fetch value.

Perhaps I took this a little too far. The Boy grew wary and said he would think about it. He abruptly told me that he needed to go inside now. I bid him farewell and watched as he returned home, no doubt to tell the two Women about his new friend Luke and the funny things he said. Perhaps I had been too eager. The Father’s Sister would know what the child spoke of. I had sown my seeds yes, but I had also perhaps complicated matters further. I would have to act swiftly though. My people were demanding payment. And I wouldn’t want to incur their wrath…

I spent the rest of the night observing the family go about their own evening. I peeked through the windows as sneakily as I dare, being careful not to touch the accursed iron. The cottage was a warm one despite the heartbreak that had befallen the family. One room, décor of a few chairs, a rough hewn bed, a hearth and a flight of bisected log stairs leading to a small loft where the Boy slept. The scene inside was delightful and I felt the discomfort of a faint twinge of empathy tugging at the base of my pock marked skull. I scratched at it absentmindedly with a jagged talon, the loose and hairless flesh catching on one of my three sallow fingers. I pulled away and grimaced slightly; wiped the small swell of golden ichor oozing forth from my wound.

Inside, the Mother was telling stories to the boy as the Father’s Sister cooked a delicious smelling stew in large cast iron pot. No doubt these were stories imparted from the Father’s Sister, the Magick Woman. Indeed, young Thomas was clutching a small toy dog, woven from grey cloth, undoubtedly with a protection totem woven deftly inside. The Magick Woman was clever.

I watched as the Mother suddenly let out a cry and clutched her swollen belly. The Magick Woman rushed over and I knew that my opportunity was at hand. Not tonight though. As I leaped off the side of the cottage, I caught the fringes of an amber light from around the bend. I crawled through the grass and approached the porch warily. Alongside the ever lit lantern was a turnip, hollowed out and emblazoned with an admittedly terrifying face. A candle blazed forth and as I crept closer, the light touched my skin. My friend, if you have ever placed your hand into a roaring fireplace, I first must question why you would perform such a feat. But then I most also assure you that you assuredly know the pain that erupted from just the lightest touch of the candle light. I am quite embarrassed by the squeal that emitted between my porcine lips but you would holler too if you felt what I had felt. Just one more obstacle for me to overcome. What old trick was this?

I slunk defeated back to the mushroom ring, burning with the singe of an arcane flame and the fire of vengeance that gnawed at the marrow of my soul.

Tonight is the night. I timed it perfectly. The Magick Woman, burly as she was, was out in the yard splitting firewood as I approached. I started to form my child-guise but realized that she would see right through it. Better to confront her head on. I drew low to the ground, becoming one with the Gaia as my people so often do. I readied my claws – but then – a cry from inside the cottage. It was time. The hour was upon us. New life, a new Fir to stain this already begotten world.

The Magick Woman, the Father’s Sister rushed inside, leaving her implements behind. I passed by the hatchet and large planks of wood, they would do me no good. My plan required stealth, not brute force. No more thinking, it is time to act. In her haste, the Magick Woman left the front door open a smidge and the rush of her darting form had silenced the light within that bastard of a turnip. I rushed inside, quick as you please, wincing momentarily at the garish light within.

The two women were near the bed, one within and moaning like a nearly slewn foal and the other tending to her frantically. The Boy had been set to bed already and he peeked over the edge of the loft at the scene unfolding below. I ignored it all and scuttled up the stairs, bending into the shadows as I approached the bed. The Boy saw me coming, ol’ Lokune the mean ol’ Boggart, and ducked under his covers.

Such a sweet child. His flesh would taste so sweet.

I scurried to the foot of his bed and crept under the cover, relishing my slow approach. I felt the weight and warmth of his body below me and heard his whimpers. And then: a shadow in the darkness. Fangs flashed, silent but rending. I was unprepared and took a blow to the haunch. But this was not my first battle with a Guardian and likely would not be my last. I recoiled momentarily and pulled down a swath of blanket upon the tiny grey form. It looked like a dog, a toy, but I knew this was naught but a small and fierce Golem sent to protect the boy. The toy imbued with fangs was caught off guard by the entanglement of material and I took advantage to maneuver onto its cloth back, plunge my talons into its soft throat and wrench the head back.

The Boy squealed as stuffing and moss flew forth. I dug deeply into the Guardian’s neck and found a small bead, the size of a walnut. I could feel the carvings on it and recognized the magick imbued within. I crushed it deftly and all fell silent as the small toy dog became exactly that. No more tricks.

I crept upon the boy and pressed my forehead against his. He was sobbing and so, merciful individual I am, decided to comfort him. I told him to give me a tooth and I’d go on my way. I used my boy-guise voice and he recognized his new friend Luke instantly. The boy shook his head and pressed a chubby fist to his mouth. I wasn’t asking.

I’ll spare you the details. Know that the tooth story is pure fallacy. I’ve heard more witch-tales told of this before, but I suspect they are simply exaggerations to those that caught the briefest glimpse of a goblin enacting what I imparted on dear Thomas. I did reach into his mouth but it was to begin the process of imparting my entire essence into the Child, to absorb what might have been him and replace it with what was unmistakably me, your deal old friend Lokune. His cries were indistinguishable from those of the newborn in the room below. It was over swiftly and the soul of the Boy would soon emerge from limbo and enter the Fae world while I remained behind within this husk. Here, I will dwell and destroy the rest of these interlopers from the inside out. They did seem like a sweet family but the laws of the old world must be obeyed and if you should happen to encroach and not pay due respects, you must be prepared to pay the price.

I flexed my new fingers, ran them through the fine blond hair coursing over my smooth head. With the slightest of hesitation, I reached out and grasped the iron bars. The metal felt smooth and cold. Cold iron, such an unbelievable sensation. No burning, no pain. I nearly wept at the revelation. I crawled to the edge of the bed, brushing aside the destroyed Guardian and peeked over the edge of the loft. My new Mother and Nanny looked back up, smiling warmly. My Mother held my new baby sibling in her arms, swaddled gently. My Magick Nanny stared back at me and, for the faintest of moments, her smile flickered into a creased line of concern. I smiled back, beamed as joyful as you would please. She frowned again and turned back to the new child. Time would tell if I would have to deal with her. But for now, I was tired. It had been an exhausting day and I had earned my rest.

This is how I, Lokune, trickster and goblin extraordinaire began my new life within the skin of the Child. My next step would be to slowly drive my new Mother insane until she begged for death. One step at a time, my friends. One step at a time. She’s outside right now, lighting the turnip again. But I don’t fear, for the candle within casts a warm glow on my fair skin. No more pain. Not for me.

I approach the new baby, a female if I am not mistaken. A new baby Sister, unaware of the troubles of the world, of the persecution taking place beyond the forest, blissful and ignorant. To live such an existence. I lean in closer and feel the Baby’s breath exhaling softly. I breathe it deep and sample the tiniest morsel of its essence. The child stirs in discomfort and I restrain myself from inhaling the rest of it.

Soon we will have our land back. But for now, I have warmth, comfort and a loving family. One that I will break down to the loosest strands of sanity and then slice the taut cord until all that remains is a gibbering mess. I am happy and satisfied and have done my people proud.

What else could anyone want for? Could one think of anything more satisfying?

It simply boggles the mind.