Business is bad in fairyland.  Someone’s mixing iron filings with pixie dust and I can’t shift my stash for love nor money.  Troll construction workers are rioting again too–renegotiating their contract they say.  The only one’s hitting the street are the Sidhe union busters.

So, when the door’s kicked in, I’m a little bit taken aback.  I’d pretty much written the night off.  Sheckel’s already so strung out she’s summoning will-o-the-wisps to bring her bowls of cereal and I was thinking of indulging myself, except Sheck used up the last of the old stash and the new stuff is suspect due to aforementioned messed-up mixology.

But in the doorway are two trolls looking to unwind after an evening’s negotiations.  One is holding his own broken horn in one hand.

“What can I do for you fine gents?”

“Want me to pluck your wings?” says one-horn.

“Fix you up shall I?”

“How much for the girl?” says the one who’s head is still mostly in tact, though what that counts for I don’t know.

“Who says we’re paying?” says the other.  They both chuckle and snort.

I fill the baggies fast as I can while they circle Sheck.  She’s giggling and they’re pulling at the sheets.  I push back the shower curtain that hides my little shop and pretty much hurl the baggies at the troll’s heads.  Both of them tear them open and inhale deeply.

Old one-horn sits down hard, eyes rolling.  The other one grins, pulls on the power he just inhaled and a particularly large gun appears in his hand.  Not his first trip apparently.

Still, pointing it at me is about as far as he gets.  He’s already gray around the gills.  His fingers shake and then freeze.  He manages to roll his eyes to look at his comatose friend  before even they seize up.

Then all I’ve got is two huge stone statues in my room.  Turns out the new stash has been spiked after all.


Business stays bad.  Spiked pixie dust stays on the streets.  My stash stays unsellable.

On the other hand, though, turns out the stone Troll too market is booming.  A rare commodity, I’m informed, highly valued by the Sidhe. So all in all things aren’t so bad for Sheck and me in fairyland.

“This is my daughter, Chloe,” said the Outland Minister from the land Beneath the North Pole. He was escorted by a cherubic, fire-haired girl of three or four with skin as white as snowflakes in cream. “And these are her friends,” he said, indicating nobody, “Pinky, Kitty’s Pinky, Goldilocks, and Chloe.” He must have seen the confusion on my face as I took in the imaginary friends. “Chloe is a friend of my daughter’s, even though my daughter’s name is Chloe. My daughter is called Snow White Doctor.”

“No!” the daughter said. “Princess Mermaid Tinkerbell.”

“Aha, it sometimes changes,” he said. He cracked a smile, in the same sense that a piece of concrete can crack in extreme cold.

“Please, have a seat,” I said. I wanted to ask the man why he had brought his daughter and her imaginary friends to our informal discussions about possible military alliance against the Cloudholders, but it would not have been a productive or diplomatic question.

“There are no other seats?”

Belatedly, I understood. I called for four more chairs, but when he saw them, he frowned.

“Did you not notice that Princess Mermaid Tinkerbell’s friends are three inches tall?” he said.

“Perhaps some small pillows,” I suggested.

When Pinky, Goldilocks, and whosiwhatsis had (as well as I could calculate) settled onto their cushions, we began to talk. The use of ice vortices came up, which was a delicate subject, and then supply exchanges.

“I’m certain we can arrange for regular deliveries of apples,” I said, though in fact I had no idea how many apples were left in the Strategic Fruit Reserve. It was a necessary posture, though: the people who live Beneath the North Pole are notoriously giddy about apples, and in fact, as soon as I mentioned this the Minister leaned forward alertly.

“Kitty’s Pinky says he’s lying,” Chloe intoned. There was a silence. “And Goldilocks says their Fruit Reserve is almost all gone.”

The Minister raised an eyebrow, and I bent my head in apology. We salvaged the negotiations, eventually making some decent progress.

After they left, I called over my Facilitator Spy. “Get me everything you can find on the little girl’s friends,” I said.

“But … they’re imaginary.”

“I know, damn them,” I replied. He’d have to do his best, but I began to weigh the possibilities of hiring an imaginary deputy.

I grew up in a tenement that looked out on the back of the minotaur’s head. The minotaur statue is older than the city and taller than any building in it. Our tenement is nearly as tall, not nearly as old, and in far worse repair.

The statue gazes out across the plain of salt, which the scholars say was a sea that dried up years ago, and my siblings and I gaze with it into the hazy horizon.

The scholars don’t know who built the statue, or why, but everyone else says it’s a marker to guide travelers over the salt plain. However, everyone, including the scholars, agrees the plain is impossible to cross–too vast, too empty of landmarks. With all the wind-stirred dust, you can’t navigate by stars; by day, you can barely guess where the sun is.

My brothers and sisters and I do go out onto the plain at daybreak and dusk, when the twilight seeps into everything, and we might be walking on a flat of sky. It’s the one advantage we’ve got in the salt quarter. The old city has history; the river districts have trade and communication with distant lands; and the elite quarter has the evening cool of the mountains. A half hour at either end of the day to explore an empty blue world doesn’t seem like much in comparison.

We find our way back by the broken silhouettes of the mountains, and the prongs of the minotaur’s horns above them. One night, we found a man collapsed at the base of the minotaur statue, covered in salt dust. Under the white coating, we saw his glasses and boots were the blue of twilight on the plain.

We went for a healer and returned to find the man gone. The scholars and city guard told us he was a lunatic who’d wandered out onto the plain. We didn’t believe them; we knew the impossible when we saw it.

They built his pyre on our rooftop–our building was closest, and they didn’t want to move him far, which made us even more suspicious. We knew secret ways, so we crept up and stole his boots and glasses.

We argued all night and drew lots. In the predawn twilight, the glasses show me trails on the plain. I set my foot on one to see where the boots will take me…

Dear Ike,

About two years ago, some girlfriends and I started worshipping the devil, just as something to do on weekends. We’d make mojitos, watch Sex and the City, and then around midnight we’d sacrifice a kid goat and dance in its blood, things like that. It was just innocent fun at first.

But then sometimes if I had a rough day at work, sometimes I’d come home and eviscerate a puppy in a pentagram or try cursing the neighbor’s cat with hairballs, just because it gave me that little pick-me-up I needed … and then one day he started leaving me notes! I’d wake up in the morning and my wall would be dripping with blood saying “Keep up the good work, sweet cheeks,” or at work I’d be alone with someone in the break room and they’d start foaming at the mouth and writhe on the floor and shout out in an roaring, inhuman voice “You look really hot in that blouse!” It just kept getting more serious. I even changed my name to Diabolica, which he said sounded really sexy.

OK, long story short, we started dating a few weeks ago, but he hasn’t messaged me now for about ten days, and I think he may be dating other Satanists! I’m trying to just be trusting and supportive, but then I think how he’s evil incarnate, and I’m just afraid he doesn’t care about me as much as I care about him. What should I do?

Datin’ Satan

Dear Datin’ Satan,

1. Don’t worship Satan. It’s really that simple.
2. It may have been a bad move to change your name to Diabolica and then publicly announce that you’ve been hexing your neighbors.

Good luck, and stay away from piles of wood.

Ike Turnbull

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