It was a time of great peace in the lands of Farfadel. Modernity had struck, and with it had come the age of brass, steam, corsets, and watches. Oh, and kerchiefs. Everyone had a kerchief in their waistcoat, or stuffed into the ruffles around their corset.
Now, befits me to tell you that this did not mean that much had changed in this beauteous land. For Farfadel, Denerspell, and all the strange and beloved neighbors were still ruled by Great Ladies, Great Damsels, and Kings and Queens. Fairies still abounded and there was even a trendy new thing called witches scurrying about.
And yet... a strange darkness had inhabited the land since the Fire Lady had withdrawn herself. Magicians were no more, and these new witches were more apothecarians than magic-makers. There was no pep to the laughter in Farfadel, so to speak. There was no magic to the people, nor the creatures, of Farfadel. Those other lands that still had magic had been deemed as 'filthy, base, beastly' by the now-defunct order of Magicians, and were forbidden from entering Farfadel. And so there were no fairies, no elves, no goblins or gremlins that dared enter Farfadel, save on the sly.
But those, dear friend, were rather subtle, perhaps unnoticeable changes. It is more difficult to notice a lack of something good, than the presence of something awful, you see.
Were you to walk into the street and take a look around, you might not notice much different from years gone past, save for one other thing.
The crank-machines! Why, they were the grand detail that was everywhere, making up for the lack of magic with all the gusto it could manage.
Thanks to the workings of this certain engine (which put off a great amount of steam), the horizon of the world had grown! There were machine-powered boats, carts, and even chairs! The chairs rolled about so as to propel oneself at great speeds but, ah, it was not yet altogether fashionable.
Because of this speed, other lands such as Neverfailia and Denerspell were now in seemingly instant contact with Farfadel. No sea or mountain could stop what seemed, on the surface at least, to be a great era. After all, everyone at every time thought that their era was the best. But they did not always snub the eras gone by as the Farfadelians now did. They thought that the previous eras and times gone by to have been unaccountably foolish. After all, magic did not exist! The tales were taken as foolish stories, and, dear reader, they claimed that the Great Adelaide was merely strong of character, not magically imbued. No one dared to venture into the lands of the Great Ladies, but they also sneered at their powers, claiming they were merely old and not even venerable at that!
One might recall, and I cannot stress this enough, that there seemed to be something amiss in Farfadel. Could it be a sense of their attitude? A sense of… something? But it was there, was it not? There was something amiss in the good lands, something set a kilter. But ah, what could set right such wrongs, wrongs that one cannot even truly name or point the finger at?
Ah, dear friend! That, right there, that was the beginnings of this here tale. That, is the conundrum this tale seeks to solve. Your english teacher would call it a ‘theme’, or an ‘ignition point’, or some other fancy thing. I will simply call it: a problem.
For I do not like a miserable Farfadel, good friend. I want a happy Farfadel. A cozy land, a cheerful land, and best of all, a merry land. Filled with magic and honeycombs, sweet grasses and luscious fruits.
But, I digress. So fi, hold onto your hats! Or rather, put your hat up, sit your buttocks down, and smooth out your skirts. Also, perhaps have a biscuit and some tea? It is not too hot, I promise you. Just one lump of sugar?
Please, eat and be merry, as in the good times gone by in Farfadel. Call it tradition, friend. After all, all shall be well. Eventually, is it not so? That is the way it is in Faradel, and, I like to think, a little everywhere else too.
But ah! Now that you are comfortable, and properly sated, and that we are settled, allow me to introduce you to our new main character: Rita.
Rita, as we shall know her, was a character, a personnage (a fancy and ultimately modern way to say ‘a person’) from Neverfailia. She had arrived in Farfadel for an international and, really, quite grand, competition of an art from her lands. It was another token of the grandness of the times that such teachings had crossed the ocean and was now being taught across the vast waters.
Now, no, the teachings were not being taught across the waters, as in ‘in’ the waters. They were being taught in buildings on solid land, in fields, in little rooms and lofts.
These teachings, this art of the body, was quite fashionable amongst the damsels of Farfadel, who now took it up so as to maintain a trim figure. The men, thinking themselves too good to do such a thing, merely scoffed and did some flexing on the sidelines.
The art was known by the name of ‘fi – fo’. It was a flexible art, involving swords and weapons and actions such as jumping and kicking and back-flipping and… you get the jist, don’t you? Clever you.
Truly, it was a voracious art, one filled with vigor and inner strength and power, but the Farfadelians rather sorely missed this part. They thought of the art as rather a frilly amusement which their teachers took far too seriously. They thought that this art, so voracious, esteemed, and powerful in the lands of Neverfailia, to be a silly thing to be done for entertainment alone and perhaps a slimmer figure.
They also laughed at the history of fi-fo, saying that it was ridiculous to think that these powerful motions had once been imbued with magic! After all, everyone knew that magic did simply not exist, not now nor never! Farfadelians called it folly to those who believed otherwise.
But I digress. There, let us return to our dear Rita.
Now, at the time of our meeting her, Rita had already been to this competition of fi-fo earlier in the day. It was a supposedly friendly competition, but in truth it was underlaid by strife and tension between the countries. It was hardly friendly between the competitors as they glared each other down and performed their sequences of actions before snobby-nosed judges while a gawking crowd cheered on.
Rita was perhaps one of the ones who had glared the fiercest and battled the hardest. For Rita, fearsome and legendary in her home lands of Neverfailia, was known to be indestructible. Nothing could get in her way. Nothing could stop her flying knee kicks and all substances known to mortals (perhaps not to immortals) could be chopped down by her hands. She was a celebrated champion in Neverfailia, and this was her grand debut into the Farfadelian stage.
Her debut had been filled with cheering success but – ah. That success was not what filled Rita’s mind. No, her mind was rather far away.
For at the moment Rita was doing her best to not appear fearsome. The time for fearsome attitudes and grandness had come, and gone. Now she wanted to be loveable. Rita, supposedly hard and cold-blooded, considered herself to be somewhat of a ladybug. On the outside she was all sorts of hard and crusty, yet she was somehow cute and still desiring love.
And for that beautiful day, oh, that shining and resplendent day, Rita thought she had found it.
ita, for all sakes and purposes, was beautiful that day. This ought not to be important, yet for herself it was, so I take care to mention it. She had preened herself meticulously after the fi-fo competition. She had cast off her grimy clothes, unwrapped her fists from their trappings, and set about bathing and creaming and powdering herself to the greatest heights of modern fashion. It had taken her two hours, even though she had been her quickest at it!
But now, ah, now that she was done, she truly looked a model of fashionable perfection.
Her corset was set just right so one could still breathe yet did not appear to be able to. Her blue bustier and jacket were framed with beautiful lace flowers. Her hands were set in delicate black gloves and her black skirts were long and grazing the floor decadently. The only thing that set her apart as a perhaps strange lady of the time was the short bob her dark hair was set into. That, and how utterly perfect and stylish her makeup was. It was simply impeccable.
Rita, let it be known, had taken several classes from fashionable experts in the arts of makeup so as to be able to perfect her own grooming on this day. She usually did not wear so much makeup but for today? It was an utmost necessity!
For Rita, Rita sincerely believed that today was the day of her life. She believed that she was about to meet the love of her life. And not just any love. A lady love. The most beauteous and charming lady love one could have.
You see, in the kingdom of Neverfailia, Rita was lonely and well… alone. There was hardly a lady-loving lady around for her to talk to. No, in between training for and teaching fi-fo, she had hardly time to meet any beauteous ladies. But the fates that twist ‘tween the worlds had different plans, it would seem. For one day a fellow teacher had smiled and handed her a telegram number. “Telegram her,” he’d suggested with a bright smile behind his large, round, glasses.
Ah, he was a matchmaker, that one. But Rita did not know this, so she telegrammed the lady without further question. She, blindly so, thought that she would make a new friend.
I am charmed to say that yes, Rita did make a new friend. Or did she? Over the past two years, telegrams had turned to letters (as they were more private) which turned to love letters. Ah! How this lady could write. How she had a silver hand with which to caress the page. How gracious of her to spray her letters with her perfume. Rita had clutched those letters to her bosom and even slept with them 'neath her pillow for so many months. How tedious the planning had been, the counting of coin to pay for the fares. So many months, ah! How long the time had seemed. How slowly the hours and days had crawled until this fateful moment.
This moment, dear, where the stars aligned, the wind blew crisp yet gentle, and all the great spirits watched with bated breath.
Now, just now, her lover was to arrive. Any minute now. For Rita had bustled from the fi-fo competition to a little appointed coffee shop on the outskirts of the grand city of Farfadel. There, in the near-empty shop, she had seated herself in a corner and was awaiting with bated breath.
She was visible, but not obnoxiously so. She liked to think that being set aside in such a corner made her more appealing, in a withdrawn and alluring way. Perhaps she would seem mysterious, sophisticated, and sensual. All that thought went into placing herself into the corner.
The truth was that Rita, our little crusty little love-bug, was nervous. She had thought far too hard over which seat to take, and had stood there painfully long as she chose. Now that she was seated, she was not sure how to sit. A damsel must sit just so, but ‘so’ was… up to tastes, it would see. Should she tilt her head when she spoke? No? Rita could not decide!
Worse, she was jittery with the sparkles of love, magical butterflies filling her stomach and taking the air from her breath. To try and steady herself, she checked her wind-up pocket watch one more time. It was quite an expensive little gadget, especially for a Neverfailian. But it was a fashionable necessity, and Rita had wanted to be as fashionable and lovable as possible for today. After all, she was meeting her lady love!
Ah! How her heart leaped as she saw in her trembling grasp that indeed, it was the hour of their meeting. Butterflies conquered her stomach – and she let them. For today, she thought, she would allow herself to be foolish. She was in Farfadel, after all. The land of magic and grand tales.
She caught a glimpse of her reflection in the glass window of the shop, and she couldn’t help but feel magical. Perhaps, she thought, the land here was happy and would bless them and oh! A happily ever after? Perhaps!
With trembling hands, Rita touched her simple bob of hair. It bore only a plain blue ribbon in it. Her lover had said she would also arrive in blue. How charming.
And once again, Rita slipped off into a daydream, smiling foolishly to herself.
Neverfailians, you see, had a particularly romantic view of Farfadelians. Farfadel was the land of plenty, the land of knights in shining armor. Farfadel had fairies and dragons! Neverfailia had plenty of people and it had graciously invented tea for the rest of the world, but it was hardly… romantic. It had practical armor that did not shine. Historically speaking, they had never jousted either! Neverfailia had dragons (of course!) and other such beings, but they were altogether different from those in the Farfadelian tales!
No, no, Rita (and many others besides) found Neverfailia to be altogether drab and dull next to the shining and seemingly ever-blessed Farfadel. It was as if all the grandest things in the world had been sent first to Farfadel, and the rest of the world had scraps. Farfadel was the land of magic and romance, and ah! Many a Neverfailian dreamed of one day tasting such magic and fantasy as there was in the lands of Farfadel.
And yet here Rita was, ready to not only meet a Farfadelian lady love, but one of the most romantic Farfadelians she believed to be possible. Ah! How her heart felt ready to burst! How excited she was! She could not wait to be treated like a proper Farfadelian damsel! Why, imagine the walks they would go on! How they would hold hands!