Hello, children. As you can see, I'm rather busy repairing this fence, and so I don't have time to tell you a story. Yes, I'm fully aware that I'm not doing a very good job, and thank you for your unvarnished honesty - it's ever so much more valuable to me than tact or simple kindness would have been. I'm not sure why I'm even bothering, since even a properly maintained fence seems to do little to discourage unwanted visitors. Yes, I suppose that means I have nothing to lose by putting aside the work so that I may tell you a story after all. Very well.
Long ago and far from here, there once lived a powerful faerie lord named Acrimonious Snapwyvern. He was cruel, malicious, vain, and yes, also acrimonious. I'm sure it will not surprise you to learn that he died a horrible death. However, as the circumstances of his death were not particularly interesting or instructive, I shall not bother to elaborate on them, and instead I shall tell you about Ontheros Fizzlethane, who arranged for Acrimonious to be trampled to death by a flock of cursed sheep. No, trust me, it wasn't really that interesting. Anyway, once Acrimonious was out of the way, Ontheros seized his Demesne.
Yes, that's a capital letter you're hearing, and some other letters that you're not hearing. It's a very old word, and old words are like old people - they sound funny to young people and no one appreciates them properly. Anyway, a faerie Demesne is like a miniature kingdom, even if that kingdom sometimes only contains a single building and the faerie who rules it isn't technically a king or queen. Yes, I can see how it seems as if they aren't really alike at all, but I assure you that only the most powerful faeries held dominion over a Demesne.
When Ontheros killed Acrimonious, he gained dominion over the faerie Demesne of Shivering Marrow. Murdering the previous master of a faerie Demesne is the most common method of gaining ownership of said Demesne. Shivering Marrow contained an impressive mansion and a lot of surrounding empty space to make the mansion seem even more impressive. Well, I say "empty," but of course it was filled with unfriendly trees, disagreeable brambles, carnivorous mushrooms, the well-trampled remains of its previous master, and a few leftover wandering cursed sheep - all of the things you'd expect to find around a faerie's house. Along with the mansion and the surrounding land, Ontheros acquired the servants who lived in the house, because if the servants were freed every time someone in charge got murdered, then there would hardly be any servants in Faerie at all, and you can imagine how the faeries would feel about that.
Upon taking possession of his new realm, Ontheros discovered that it came furnished with a particularly hideous hobgoblin named Boletus who seemed very eager to please his new master. Boletus asked Ontheros if he wished to inspect the borders of Shivering Marrow and make certain that they remained secure. Ontheros was appalled to learn that he had neighbors. Yes, Ontheros said, he wished to inspect the borders immediately. And so Boletus saddled his master's finest riding fox for his master and his master's most pathetic donkey for himself, and they departed for the edges of Shivering Marrow.
Several minutes and one slightly humiliating encounter with a cursed sheep later, Ontheros and the hobgoblin stood before a wall of ice. Now, you might be imagining soaring sheets of ice that were clear as glass and adorned with parapets and crenelations and all manner of fancy embellishments, but in fact the wall was only about three feet high and a foot thick, and was neither particularly parapetted nor considerably crenelatious. It was, in fact, rather dull and ugly. Ontheros was not impressed.
Boletus informed him that the wall was constructed from the frozen tears of remorseful murderers, and that it separated his lands from the neighboring Demesne of Gloomclutter. As the tears of remorseful murderers were quite rare and difficult to obtain, the wall was not so large is it might be. Nevertheless, the mystical properties of the tears were not to be doubted, and certainly no one had ever tried to cross the wall. Ontheros made a noise of displeasure, and they rode on.
Soon they reached a place where the wall of ice ended and was replaced by a slightly taller wall that was made of wood. Really, though, it was more of a fence with delusions of grandeur than an actual wall. Ontheros scowled at it. Boletus informed Ontheros that it was made from the wood of trees on whose branches nooses had been strung and murderers hanged. Such wood was more plentiful than the tears of remorseful murderers, and was a renewable resource if one obtained the wood through judicious pruning rather than cutting down the entire tree, and so the wall was able to be built much larger. Also, once again it was the wood itself that mattered more than the fence - excuse me, wall - that it had been used to build. This wall separated Shivering Marrow from the Demesne of Henry. No, Boletus clarified, the Demense itself was named Henry. The denizens of Henry were a peculiar folk, but no one had ever tried to breach the wall of hangman's wood, and Ontheros need not worry.
The next wall was made of bones. It was even smaller than the wall of tears and looked as if it could be kicked apart by a determined child. Boletus explained that it was constructed from the bones of murderers who had escaped justice, both of the legal variety and the karmic, and so died many years after their crimes. As such, their bones were often brittle, and so the wall was not as sturdy as it might otherwise be, though once again the eldritch significance of it was not to be underestimated. Also, this wall separated Shivering Marrow from the Azure Waste, which was a mostly lifeless desert of crushed blue glass. Ontheros wondered aloud if a wall were truly necessary at all then, and Boletus hastily explained about the feral camels. Ontheros ordered that the wall be made taller and thicker as soon as possible.
At the end of the wall of bone there was a considerable gap, and then Ontheros and Boletus came upon a short lilac tree. A small wooden sign hung by a piece of string tied to one of the branches. The sign read "Keep Out!!"
Ontheros raised an inquisitive eyebrow.
Boletus explained that the lilac tree separated them from the Demesne of The Reflection Slays the Mirror. The sign was a piece of scrap wood and the letters were written with ordinary giant squid ink.
Ontheros thought that he had detected a theme of sorts with the other fortifications, and remarked on its apparent absence from this one. Unless of course, he mused, the lilac had been planted by a murderer or something. No, Boletus said, he did not think so. Ontheros expressed his concerns that this particular fortification seemed woefully inadequate. Boletus offered to add an additional exclamation mark to the sign if his lord so wished. Ontheros tried to figure out if the hobgoblin was mocking him.
Boletus produced a quill pen and a tiny jar of squid ink from about his person and carefully added another exclamation mark to the sign, promoting it to "Keep Out!!!" This suspicious level of preparedness made Ontheros even more inclined to believe that the hobgoblin was mocking him.
Then Ontheros finally realized that the sign was on his side of the lilac tree.
Boletus did not at first seem to understand why Ontheros was so upset, but gradually figured out the problem. Then Boletus apologized for the misunderstanding, and clarified that the tree, the sign, and all of the walls that they had just inspected had been put in place by the neighboring realms in order to keep anyone or anything from Shivering Marrow from crossing over into them. Yes, he said, even the Azure Waste had a very few inhabitants who were not feral camels, and who had constructed the wall of murderer's bones.
Ontheros was outraged. Boletus pointed out that Ontheros was taking this news extremely personally, especially considering that all of these measures had been taken not against him but against his predecessor, or possibly his predecessor's predecessor, or some other iteration of predecessors upon predecessors, and that quite likely his neighbors didn't even know that Ontheros was now master of Shivering Marrow at all.
Ontheros, however, was not in any way placated by the news that he was now lord of a faerie Demesne and no one even knew that this was the case. Also, now that he knew that the walls had been put up against him, the woeful inadequacy of the lilac tree with the sign was now profoundly insulting.
In a fit of rage, Ontheros tore down the sign and started trying to rip the tree apart with his bare hands. Boletus quietly urged his donkey to put some distance between them and their furious master.
Now, in all of the animal kingdom there is no rivalry more bitter and more poisonous than the one between cursed sheep and giant squid. The smell of fresh giant squid ink had reached the rest of the flock of cursed sheep some moments ago, and they had been stampeding their way towards the lilac tree at considerable speed and with growing fury ever since. As the tree came into view, the combination of bloodlust and poor eyesight combined to convince the sheep that the flailing branches were the tentacles of their hated foe, and they launched themselves upon both tree and Ontheros indiscriminately, tearing both to pieces with their wicked fangs and piercing talons. Of course they had fangs and and talons - I did say cursed sheep, you know.
The lesson to be learned here is that you should always be wary of using excessive punctuation. That, and a wall without parapets is a wall barely worth having.
Now, I really should get back to fixing this fence. I don't want any sheep wandering onto my property and eating my flowers. Or my squid.