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20. The Birds and the Trolls

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Once upon a time, in a distant kingdom with no central heating, there lived a couple with three little children. It was the middle of winter, and with snow falling faster and harder than ever before, the little family was very cold.

"Brother," said the middle child, who tended to forget such little things as siblings' names, "It is freezing, and we have no wood to heat the fireplace. Our little sister is getting cold, and our mother's hands are stuck in the frozen washing tub. We need to find some firewood."

"But where, brother?" said the oldest brother, whose memory for names wasn't much better. "There is no wood for miles around."

"Yes there is. In the forest of Facewood."

At those words, the oldest brother paled, for the forest of Facewood was one of the most dangerous forests in the whole of Fairyland. It was said that if you dared to venture into it, the trees stole your face and personal information, and any wicked witch who came into the forest could just read them off the bark.

"Very well, brother." The oldest gathered his courage and nodded. "We shall go. Let me just bring mother a hot cup of cocoa and a straw, and we can leave."

Thus, the two brave boys embarked on their dangerous journey into the Forest of Facewood. Again and again, trees reached out with their lianas, trying to steal their faces, place of residence, and relationship status, but the boys fended off each and every attack, and finally found some smaller trees with no faces on them, which they began to cut down. They split the firewood, loaded as much as they could onto their backs and started back towards home—but snow had started to fall while they had worked, covering their footprints. Their way home was concealed, and soon, they were completely lost in the dark labyrinth of Facewood.

"What now?" asked the oldest.

"Let us continue, brother. Maybe we shall find a hermit willing to take us in for the night, or a logout button."

And so they continued through the dark and dangerous forest. At length, they came to a little clearing on which stood a house that—to their relief—was not made of gingerbread. However, it was not a hermitage, either. The house seemed to be uninhabited, except for a few dozen pretty blue birds trapped in large cages along the walls.

"Let us rest here tonight," said the younger brother. "Maybe tomorrow, in the sunlight, we can find our way back home."

The older brother nodded and pulled out tinder to light a fire in the fireplace—but instantly, his sibling seized his hands. "Are you mad? No fire! No tinder! We will be attacked by ravenous single monsters the moment they see the light! They will expect us to have flowers. Some would even expect us to go steady!"

Shivering at the thought, the older brother quickly put the tinder away. "I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking."

So the two brothers settled down on the floor behind the cages, where the collective body heat of the little birds granted at least a little warmth, and fell asleep listening to soft twittering and cheeping.

But what the two unfortunate boys didn't know was that this house was the home of three horrible trolls. The monsters known as trolls have become so scarce in the modern world that a short description of their kind seems necessary. Trolls are horrible, giant, flat-footed brutes, armed with heavy clubs, prejudice, and stupid comments. There are two factions of trolls, the Damn Communist Libtards and the Racist Rightwing Assholes, who have waged a furious war against each other for centuries. Nobody in Fairyland exactly knows how the war was started, but then, nobody really cares, because it mostly takes place in a faraway kingdom called "Internet" that no sane person would dare to enter.

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