hermit crab

Spooky Story

My library is having a Spooky Story competition, which I am far too ancient to participate in (it caps out at 8th grade), but I wrote a thing anyway because I allegedly enjoy writing things, and I hoped to amuse my fellow library folk.


Once upon a time there was an adorable little ghoul named Glurk who loved to read. Glurk especially loved to read books about bones and books about cemeteries and books about children who become lost in deep, dark forests and meet terrible fates.

Glurk's local library was filled with such books. It was a charming place constructed from the skull of one of the old, dead, forgotten gods. On full moons and solstices and equinoxes and Thursdays it was closed for special celebrations and blasphemous rituals, all of which were held outside on the lawn, partly because they were too messy to hold inside, but mostly because if you were inside the skull for more than a couple of minutes on those occasions you would go mad and be turned inside out, though possibly not in that order.

One night, Glurk went to the library to get the brand new latest volume in his favorite series of books, which he had been eagerly anticipating for months, and which he wanted to read before one of his friends spoiled the ending and revealed what kind of monster devoured the doomed, lost children. Glurk had already lost several friends who had spoiled the endings of books he had been excited to read. Well, they weren't really lost, since he knew exactly where he'd buried their skeletons, and they weren’t really friends, since they’d spoiled the endings of books he wanted to read, but you get the idea.

Upon his arrival at the library, Glurk discovered that it was closed for a festival! You see, Glurk had lost track of what day it was after he accidentally spilled an enormous amount of blood on his calendar during breakfast earlier in the week. It turns out it was Thursday!

Glurk tried to find a helpful librarian who would be willing to break into the library and risk insanity and being turned inside out in order to get him his book, but all of the librarians were too busy placating the spirits of old, dead, forgotten gods, or had taken the night off and were at home in their lairs doing laundry or reanimating patchwork corpses, though the absence of a really good thunderstorm meant that they probably weren't getting much laundry done.

One of the librarians did pause for a moment in the midst of their unspeakable chanting to tell Glurk that they thought the library in the next town might be open, because that library wasn't constructed from the ruins of the skull of an old, dead, forgotten god, and thus could safely be entered even though it was Thursday. Glurk asked what kind of skull it was made from, and the librarian replied "O Unnamable Unnamed One, We Beseech You - Avert Your Dread Gaze! Actually, I don't think it's made from any kind of skull."

Glurk was astonished. He had always assumed that the Unnamable Unnamed One's dread gaze was inescapable! Also, he hadn’t known that there were libraries that hadn't previously been something's skull.

Glurk asked around until he found a soulless skittering something that was willing to give him a ride, and just a few terrifying minutes later he found himself deposited in front of the strangest library he had ever seen. As promised, the library was not even remotely skull-shaped. Glurk approached the front door, but then hesitated. The doors all had huge panes of glass in them, and Glurk didn't want to accidentally see his own reflection in case it might step out of the glass and try to murder him, as reflections so often do, so instead Glurk snuck into the building through a vent.

If the outside of the building had been strange, the inside was utterly shocking. It was filled with bright colors other than red, there was no blood on anything, and nothing crunched alarmingly under his feet. In fact, Glurk was able to move so soundlessly that none of the strange people he spotted wandering around noticed him at all. And they were very strange people indeed! Almost none of them were screaming, and not a single one of them was gnawing on a bone or babbling incoherently about old, dead, forgotten gods.

Sadly, Glurk could not find a copy of the book he wanted, and Glurk also didn't see any librarians who could help him find it either. At least, no one was wearing the crown of starlight and whispers that would indicate that they were a librarian. Glurk had heard of places where the librarians didn't wear crowns of starlight and whispers, but no one was carrying a glowing skull or riding a headless deer either, and surely no matter where you lived your librarians had to display at least one of these badges of their office.

But, happily, Glurk found all kinds of other books to read instead, filled with wizards and goblins and accountants and international spies and kittens and jellyfish and all kinds of other things, all of which sounded delicious. He read so many of these strange and wonderful books that he totally lost track of time and was locked inside when the library closed - and it closed so early! Hours and hours before dawn! So Glurk spent the rest of the night reading all by himself, and then when the sun threatened to appear he folded himself up into some shadows and fell asleep, and even now he's hidden away somewhere among the books, and if you pull the wrong volume off the shelf he might wake up and see you.

The lesson to be learned here is that spoiling books for people who haven’t read them yet is unforgivable. That, and if you interrupt someone while they’re trying to placate the spirits of old, dead, forgotten gods you could soon find yourself locked inside a strange library.


And with an anticlimactic "poof," the loathsome hwango was once again banished to its prison of echoes and shadow, there to lurk and scheme and plot until the foolishness of mortals once again loosed it upon the world.

This sucks, but I've got nothing for this week. I had very few chances to brainstorm and/or write this weekend, and none of them produced anything. Honestly, I think I'm just too emotionally drained from the Intersection. The whole "find a partner thing" just...it's very upsetting for me. The actual collaborating is fine, but the process of acquiring a collaborator sucks. But I survived it the first week, and I liked what ended up with a for a story, and there was nothing exotic about the poll to make me worry that if I got voted out that I'd take some innocent bystander with me. I could breathe a sigh of relief afterwards that at least it was over, and maybe this would be fun again.

Alas, then we had to do it again immediately, and I was upset for the next three days. I think the only reason I managed to write anything at all for last week was the looming possibility that if I went down in flames I might be taking someone with me. And then yes, the poll _did_ turn out to be adding our scores together, and I stressed out the entire voting period that I'd managed to get rayaso eliminated because I didn't stick the landing on an ending for my story (or because it didn't measure up for some other reason, but from inside my own head the biggest issue with my entry for last week was that I thought the ending could have been stronger).

So, yeah. Thank you so much to everyone who has been reading and voting and commenting all season! It's been really great to have so much support, and I'm so glad I could make people laugh in These Difficult Times. Sorry I just couldn't manage it this time.
hermit crab

LJIdol S11 - Week 24 - Intersection Again - "If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn"

My cohort for this week was rayaso, whose entry can be found here. We decided on a common starting element and then went off in our own directions with no further communication.


Legend tells of a mystical stone that can be found in the enchanted forest, which has the power to change one's fate. Legend says that it has turned paupers into monarchs, mediocre monarchs into much more successful monarchs, and reluctant monarchs into people who aren't monarchs anymore but certainly aren't paupers, because who the heck wants to be a pauper?

For those who wish to neither increment nor decrement the number of crowns that they wear, Legend says that the stone can alter fate on a somewhat less dramatic scale just as easily. Regardless of the magnitude of one's troubles, however, the process for gaining the favor of the stone is the same - all one need do is write their problems or fears onto a piece of paper and leave it beneath the stone.

What Legend doesn't say, however, is exactly what the stone looks like or precisely where in the forest in can be found, which is probably why the countryside isn't crawling with a profusion of monarchs and there are still quite a lot of paupers. It also explains why just about every stone in the enchanted forest has several pieces of paper pinned under it.

The forest is not pleased about this. The notes disrupt the ecosystems of various insects that take refuge under rocks during the day. The foot traffic of the people leaving the notes damages all sorts of undergrowth. The prevalence of tiny pieces of paper means that several squirrels and owls and foxes have taken up writing poetry, scrawling the words on the blank reverse sides of the notes. Since there is so much collective sorrow permeating the forest from people trying to correct their misfortunes, much of this poetry is overwrought and depressing, yet also lacks authenticity because it's all based on someone else's suffering. Those owls, squirrels, and foxes are all posers.

Worst of all, this focus on the rocks means that people visiting the enchanted forest are paying more attention to the rocks than to the trees. Enchanted trees can be very self-centered.

In an attempt to dissuade these vile interlopers from disturbing the forest's bugs, trampling its ferns, and inspiring its birds and animals to write terrible, inauthentic poetry, the forest has taken to transforming intruding humans into elk, or shoving them into ravines, or even just dropping heavy branches on them. Alas, all these measures accomplish is to reinforce the supernatural reputation of the enchanted forest, which only serves to make people believe in and desire the use of the forest's fate-altering stone all the more. For the desperate it is worth the risk, and for the lazy it is still less work than trying to solve their own problems.

The awful tragedy of the situation is made worse by the fact that the stone is no longer in the enchanted forest at all. It was stolen several weeks ago by a traveler who didn't recognize its significance, but just thought that it would make a nice paperweight. His life has been plagued by misery and confusion ever since. An absent-minded fellow, he is forever writing himself little notes to remind him of things he needs to do or appointments he needs to keep, and whenever he happens to anchor one these notes to his desk with the stone, bizarre and upsetting things happen.

The stone is also frustrated. It has been trying to solve the problems of this same man for weeks now, and he never seems to be satisfied with the changes the stone has wrought. This shouldn't be surprising, since most of the time the stone has trouble trying to figure out exactly what the man wants it to do. The stone had no trouble with messages like "I do not wish to marry Gavin," or "We cannot afford to pay our landlord," but is utterly flummoxed by "bread, radishes, cheese" and "lunch with Oletta noon."

The stone had caused the bakery to burn down, spoiled a cartful of radishes, and, borrowing a page from its old friends in the enchanted forest, turned the cheese-monger into an elk, but none of this seemed to make the man happy. The stone had inspired Oletta to leave town and never return, and that had only made the man even more upset.

Oh, well. On the bright side, at least the stone doesn't have to listen to any more of that dreadful poetry.
hermit crab

LJIdol S11 - Week 22 - Hiraeth

They say you can't go home again, but if I lived my life according to what "they" say then I wouldn't have constructed a floating island fortress in the first place, so I didn't give their opinions much consideration. Instead, I just threw together a small stealth submarine and went to go visit. It had to be stealth because various governments don't want anyone (mostly each other) visiting the site, and it had to be a submarine because various governments had fired an awful lot of missiles at my floating island fortress until it didn't float anymore. Really, an excessive number of missiles. Like, enough missiles that it started to feel kind of personal.

I switched on some exterior lights as I approached the coordinates and braced myself for feelings of...regret? Failure? I don't know, I figured it would be upsetting. But as the wreck came into view my first thought was "Wow, that coral really moves in fast, doesn't it?" Then I wondered if maybe this was an atypical amount of coral to have grown in such a short span of time, and tried to remember if mutant doom coral had been one of the projects I'd been working on before all of my meticulous laboratory precautions got hit by missiles.

Regardless, it was kind of pretty. And...I think it helped. All the coral and seaweed and molluscs all over everything made it harder to see the scorch marks or the jagged edges where metal had been torn apart. It made the all the violence seem like something that had happened much longer ago than it really had.

On the other hand, it also made the place even less recognizable. It might have been hard enough trying to identify which twisted bit of wreckage had been a doom cannon and which bit had been part of a hive filled with mind control bees even without all the seawater and the enterprising marine life, but with them it was proving impossible. Why, if I doubted my calculations, I could even have wondered if maybe I was in the wrong place, and this was the sunken remains of some other floating island fortress.

But no, there was my logo stenciled onto the chest of a headless sentry robot. There was a crab lurking in the largest of the holes in its armor, and I waved to it, like you'd wave to someone sitting on their porch as you walked down the street in front of their house. That's when it really hit me that this really wasn't my home anymore. It belonged to the crabs now.

That was a weird feeling. I'd fought off all kinds of soldiers and secret agents to try to keep control of my island, but I surrendered without a fight to this tiny crab. I guess I'd realized there wasn't anything here worth fighting for. It's not like I'd expected to be able to salvage much, but it was still a tough moment for me. I guess you really can't go home again.

Or maybe crabs are just really scary. Maybe I'll make the new sentry robots crab-shaped.

Anyway, I guess I'll have to start from scratch. This time I'm thinking maybe I'll go for a flying island fortress. That sounds pretty awesome. And maybe people will say that crab-shaped sentry robots look out of place on an airship, but I think we've already established how much I care what "they" say.

Robot crabs it is.
hermit crab

LJIdol S11 - Week 21 - The Way Back

Oh, hello children. I see that once again you're out and about, having fun with nary a care in the world. I can only assume that means that you've already finished all of your chores and have permission to be roaming around town engaging in unsupervised frivolity. Hmm, that reminds me of a story.

Once upon a time there was a lazy, disrespectful child named Bertold. Bertold never did his chores, ignored his studies, was rude to his elders, didn't return his library books on time, and so on. Yes, it's safe to say that he was exactly the sort of child you would expect to be abducted by a faerie, whisked back to faerieland, transformed into...I don't know, maybe a donkey, and forced into a lifetime of menial servitude. Certainly this is what a faerie named Calistophan Eldergnarl was counting on, at least.

Many faeries enjoy visiting the human world to cause mischief, to dispense nightmares, and of course to abduct and enslave misbehaving children. Calistophan particularly enjoyed spreading mischief, and he spent quite an extraordinary amount of time in the human world curdling milk, enchanting livestock, stealing shoes, and persuading the weather to cause ecological catastrophes that cost thousands of lives. Faeries file an extremely wide range of behavior under the category of "mischief."

Anyway, Calistophan spent so much time causing mischief in the human world that he accidentally became stranded there. It's like if you were to visit a library and became so caught up in the book that you were reading in the special collections section in the basement that you were still there when they locked the doors, turned out the lights, and awakened the security ghosts.

There are a lot of places that are pleasant or exciting to visit, but where you would not wish to become trapped, such as the top of a mountain, or the ruins of a sunken ship, or a library infested with the tormented souls of the unquiet dead. Or, as was the case for Calistophan, the human world in general.

Calistophan decided that his best chance of getting back to faerieland was to "hitch a ride" with another faerie. This was an excellent idea except for a few significant obstacles - most notably, finding another faerie.

Calistophan visited some fresh milk, some unenchanted livestock, some unstolen shoes, and some surly-looking but unmotivated clouds, but did not find any other faeries. Then he visited some blissfully sleeping children who had not gone to bed when they were supposed to, but did not find any other faeries pouring nightmares into their ears. Then he enchanted some goats, because he was getting bored. And then he set out to find the most wicked, ill-tempered child he could, in the hope that some other faerie would try to steal the child away to faerieland.

And that is how Calistophan found himself lurking in the shadows watching over young Bertold.

Now, hundreds of children are abducted by faeries every year, but the world is a big place filled with millions of children. You might think that Calistophan would spend years waiting and waiting for a faerie to come for Bertold without success, until eventually Calistophan simply sublimated into the air under the crushing banality of the ordinary human world. Ah, such is the tender innocence of youth. You do not yet realize just how powerful the crushing banality of the ordinary human world truly is. It only took about a week for Calistophan to start to sublimate.

But then, one night, just when Calistophan had nearly lost hope completely, a faerie appeared! This other faerie crept in through the window of Bertold's bedroom, silently padded across the floor to Bertold's bed, and...reached for Bertold's shoes. Calistophan could not believe his eyes. Bertold was the most dreadful child he'd ever encountered, and all this other faerie wanted was his shoes?

Calistophan shouted in outrage as he burst out of the closet where he'd been lurking, quite forgetting that he should be ingratiating himself to this other faerie rather than criticizing his choices regarding the fates of disagreeable children. The other faerie was so startled that he dropped the shoes, and between the shouting and the clunking of falling footwear, Berthold woke up. The other faerie panicked, turned Berthold into a squirrel, the shoes into butterflies, and Calistophan into a crocodile. Ordinarily it would not have been so easy for some other faerie to transform Calistophan into an animal against his will, but nearly all of his power had been stamped out of him by the unrelenting mundanity of everyday human existence.

The other faerie looked at the mess he had made, decided to call it a night, and vanished back to faerieland.

The crocodile formerly known as Calistophan was so enraged that it devoured the squirrel formerly known as Bertold, Bertold's entire family, and an enchanted goat that it found in the back yard. Then it made its way to the nearest river, swam away, and forgot that it had ever been a faerie at all. Although, somewhere in the back of its reptilian brain, it still feels a simmering hatred of misbehaving human children and seeks to devour them whenever possible. So that's another good reason to do your chores.

Anyway, the lesson to be learned here is to always make sure to leave the library well before it closes, or you could find yourself trapped in a labyrinthine basement being hounded by revenants. That, and if you let the ordinary world drain you of wonder, someone will probably turn you into a crocodile.

Now, be off, all of you. I need to return some books before the library closes.
hermit crab

LJIdol S11 - Week 20 - boondoggle

Finold studied the furnishings of the chancellor's office - the furniture, the windows, the lamps, the books. They were not particularly interesting or elegant - elegance was something reserved for the Emperor's throne room, where the goal was to impress. Conversely, the chancellor's office was simply a place where work was done. The only reason Finold was devoting so much attention to the rather mundane features of the office was that it distracted him a little from the terrible awkward silence, and it meant that he didn't have to look at the chancellor's grimace of disapproval. Finally, the chancellor spoke.

"Finold, I understand that you have asked for a new assignment."

Finold did not answer, since it was not really a question.

"I am not certain that giving you a new assignment is a sensible course of action. Many of us are concerned that you are simply not well suited to a life in diplomacy."

"You're wrong!" Finold objected, too loudly and with too much force, as if the words themselves weren't damning enough. The chancellor raised an eyebrow.

"I mean, I'm sure that I can do better, sir," Finold said.

"We can certainly agree that there is ample room for improvement."

Finold squirmed in his chair.

"How long were you ambassador to Xalta?" the chancellor asked, as if he didnt' know.

"Three months," replied Finold.

"And your tenure there ended because?"

"The Xaltans burned down the embassy," Finold said.

"Finold, Xalta is so tropical and humid that you can practically drown walking down the street. It rains almost every day of the year. Do you have any idea how much effort it takes to to burn down a building in Xalta?"

Finold squirmed some more.

"Following your time in Xalta, you were ambassador to Blüt for two months. Remind me why you came home from Blüt?"

"They declared war on us. But no battles were actually fought before we straightened things out, so no harm done, right?"

"Finold, no battles were fought because Blüt was still trying to figure out how to manage their army because they had spent the previous two hundred years as a nation of pacifists and had to construct a military from scratch."

"Well then, we'd probably have beaten them if it had come to actual fighting!" said Finold. The chancellor resisted the nearly overwhelming urge to bury his face in his hands and weep. Instead, he decided to just get it over with.

"Against my recommendations, the Emperor has agreed to give you another chance. You will be going to Tygius."

Finold knew enough about the chancellor to know that he was not joking, and yet could not stop himself.

"You're joking!" he said. The chancellor just shook his head slightly in disbelief. "I mean, surely you can't be serious, sir."

"What makes you say that?" the chancellor asked.

"But," Finold said, "Everyone in Tygius was turned to stone by that curse! There haven't been any people there for decades! No one goes there!" The chancellor did not contradict him. "It's cursed!" Finold reiterated.

"And yet," the chancellor said, "we still maintain an embassy there, in case the curse is ever lifted."

"Uncle is sending me to be ambassador to a cursed country populated by statues?!" Finold said.

"Finold, we have talked about this before - during official business please refer to the Emperor as 'Emperor' or 'His Majesty' - not 'Uncle.'"

"Sorry, Dad," said Finold. "I mean, Chancellor."

"And you will actually be the Assistant Ambassador."

"Assistant Ambassador to a cursed country populated by statues?!" cried Finold.

"Yes, you will be assisting the current ambassador, Voldur," said the chancellor.

"I have to work for my brother?!"
hermit crab

LJIdol S11 - Week 19 - "I can't get calm"

Memo to all employees:

I wanted to take a moment to let all of our staff know that we in management are aware of the stress and anxiety that many of you are feeling, and to address as many as possible of your possible concerns.

First, there are a lot of rumors circulating about some sort of evil monster roaming the corridors of our home office, randomly eating people. Allegedly, the creature is twenty feet long, covered in venomous quills, and possesses claws, fangs, tentacles, and, in one particularly fanciful report, wings. Reports of such a creature are wildly inaccurate. Most importantly, the creature is not evil - it is merely acting on ordinary animal instincts. As such, the individuals it has been eating are also not selected at random, but specifically targeted based on a careful calculation of expected provided nourishment versus potential risk. As to its appearance and capabilities, the truth is that the creature is barely eight feet long, the quills are not venomous, and it definitely does not have wings. I can only assume that this last misunderstanding arose from the fact that the creature is able to crawl along walls and ceilings, and so may indeed attack from above.

There are also concerns about the tiger. I assure you, the tiger is specially trained to hunt down the aforementioned monster, and is in all other respects quite friendly.

I know that many of you are worried that you will be replaced by robots. After all, robots won't be eaten by the monster, or continually email management about the monster, or try to leak stories to the press about the monster. They also won't distract the tiger with enormous balls of yarn when it's supposed to be working. Nevertheless, let me assure you that you are in no danger of being replaced by a robot. All of the robot replacements we had planned to make have already been implemented. If you have not already been replaced by a robot at this point, there are no plans for the foreseeable future that you will be.

Some of you are concerned that you have already been replaced by a robot. You are doubting your own humanity. How can you be sure you're not just a robot programmed to think that it is still a person? Let me assure you, only an almost insignificant percentage of our new robot employees think that they are human. The odds that you are one of these three or four robots is exceedingly small.

Next, some of you are afraid that management is using robot sleeper agents to learn about your secret plans to unionize so that you can combat measures such as wandering monsters at HQ and being replaced by robots. As you can see, management is already aware of your plans and considers them no threat, and you don't need to fear any sort of retaliation.

Finally, those of you who are robots may be concerned about the danger of anti-robot extremists. Rest assured, during the next routine update we will be modifying your code to remove these concerns.
hermit crab

LJIdol S11 - Week 18 - Blood Harmony

What the -? What are you children doing here? I thought you only came to visit me when you were bored and desperate, or just didn't want to do your chores, but there's a festival in town right now. Surely that should be a suitable distraction for all of you. No, I don't go to such things. All that awful dancing and loud music. That reminds me of a story, actually.

Once upon a time there was a faerie named Paraselene Whisperkith who loved music. Or, more accurately, he loved crafting musical instruments. Or, even more accurately, he loved crafting enchanted musical instruments that did terrible things. Many of them could even kill people, and I don't mean in the conventional way that you can simply bludgeon someone to death with a tuba.

Among the most awful and famous of his creations were a special set of instruments that were each a different color of the rainbow. The Ochre Barrage was a drum made from the heart of a thundercloud that could shake your bones into dust. The Verdigris Cacophony was a bell made from the copper heart of a fallen star that could melt your...you know, I don't like to coddle you children, but it really was quite dreadful, and I don't think you need that image running around in your fragile young minds. Let us just skip to the Ultraviolet Xylophone, which...actually, upon further consideration, let us not dwell on any of these any longer. Except for the Vermilion Cascade, since that's integral to our story.

The Vermilion Cascade was a harp made out of blood, and it could stop your heart.

Now, when you have a passion for making things, you can sometimes end up making more of those things than you have space in which to keep them, and then you need to come up with a way to get rid of them. Paraselene was not the sort of faerie who would sully himself with something so beneath his station as an occupation, and so he did not wish to do something so crass as to sell his creations. This was fortunate, as there was not a large customer base for evil musical instruments in the first place. Now and then he did manage to trade one to another faerie, often for something equally terrible, and a few he managed to give away, in spite of the fact that everyone with any sense knows that one should never, ever accept a gift from a faerie. In this way, Paraselene's creations slowly trickled out into the world, sometimes changing hands many times. Due to the nature of his creations, they most frequently changed hands via inheritance laws or the collection of evidence at a crime scene. The suffering that resulted from all of this delighted Paraselene, but it also vexed him when one of his creations would end up in the possession of someone who he felt was not worthy to possess it.

The Vermilion Cascade had blazed a trail of suffering and misfortune through several powerful faeries, then through several less significant persons, all the way down to a drunken pixie who lost it in a card game to an ordinary human woodcutter named Hoskuld. Hoskuld, for his part, was not terribly pleased to have won such an obviously evil thing. It as clearly too valuable to throw away, but he found himself unable to find anyone interested in purchasing it, as the market for such things was, as we have already established, very small. And so Hoskuld kept the Vermilion Cascade locked in a box in a shed several feet away from his cottage.

For Paraselene, this was intolerable, and when he learned of the situation he used a tuba made from a piece of the sky to bludgeon to death the bearer of such foul news, then immediately set forth to retrieve his harp.

At about the same time, the whereabouts of the Vermilion Cascade became known to another interested party. I've told you plenty of stories about wicked, evil, loathsome faeries, but I don't want you to get the wrong impression - there are plenty of horrible people in the world who are not faeries. Among those horrible people was a king by the name of Ulfufroth. Many kings are horrible. I think there's just something about having the authority to cut off someone's head if they displease you that turns people a bit funny. Ulfrufroth thought that the best thing about being a king was being able to kill people when they displeased him. He was not a nice man.

Ulfufroth also loved music. Or, more accurately, he loved collecting rare and valuable musical instruments. Or, even more accurately, he loved collecting rare and valuable evil musical instruments so he could have people killed with them when they displeased him, because turning someone inside out by playing a banjo at them was so much flashier and more impressive than just hacking off their head. At this point in our story, Ulfufroth already possessed the Banjo of Inversion, the Devouring Harmonium, the Dire Accordion, the Infernal Glockenspiel, and the Hyperdimensional Theramin, which was not actually evil, but when it was about to be played improperly the people who were about to hear it would often go insane, so it was in his collection as a sort of honorable mention.

When Ulfufroth learned that there was some lowly woodcutter living in his kingdom who possessed a magical faerie harp made out of blood he immediately sent for his carriage. Ordinarily, a king would send minions out on this sort of errand, but recently a large number of Ulfufroth's minions had displeased him, and as a result his Infernal Glockenspiel had been played so much that he found himself a bit low on minions. Also, the entire castle now stank of brimstone, and he could do with the fresh air.

As you've probably guessed, Paraselene and King Ulfufroth both arrived at Hoskuld's cottage at the same time.

To a faerie like Paraselene, all humans looked pretty much alike, and even the most splendidly accoutered human was still a shabby, grubby thing compared to his own magnificence. Similarly, to King Ulfufroth, pretty much everyone who wasn't wearing a crown tended to get lumped together in a category of "lesser people." Paraselene didn't know that woodcutters seldom ride about in carriages attended by footmen and armed guards. You might think that Ulfufroth would realize that woodcutters seldom ride perfectly white deer with antlers made of glass, but the truth was that this was his first time out of the castle in several years, and he had very little idea what ordinary people did other than turn inside when you played your special banjo at them.

All of which is to say that both of them assumed that the other was the woodcutter. They immediately started making demands of each other and getting outraged at the temerity of the other, and things escalated quickly, and by the time Hoskuld got back to his cottage carrying an armload of firewood several people had been turned into toads and pigs and there was substantial and widespread evidence that a certain banjo had been played. There was a notable absence of survivors who could explain what had happened.

Hoskuld was so badly unhinged by the grotesque sight that confronted him that he immediately abandoned his job as a woodcutter and taught himself to play the harp. The Vermilion Cascade stopped his heart and left him a cold, unfeeling man who played music not for the joy of music, but simply as a way to earn a meal. He rode away on the fey deer and for the rest of his days roamed the land as a rather ghoulish and otherworldly wandering minstrel.

The lesson to be learned here is that for faeries the rainbow extends all the way into ultraviolet. That, and many musicians have dark and troubling pasts, and a career in the music industry can wither your heart and drain you of your humanity if you aren't careful.

Now, I really think you children should be going. It sounds like there's still time for you to catch some of the festival. I can hear a drum that sounds like thunder and...I can't quite place that one. Something with strings, I think.