Gwain was a warrior elf. He knew this because he’d spent over a thousand years being told by all the other warrior elves that he was just like them. He had never really felt like one of them though. Sure, he’d fought alongside them, slain his fair share of goblins, trolls, vampires. You name it, he’d chopped it’s head off at some point.

He had come out in the moonlight to the edge of the unknown woods. There was another thing that had always puzzled him. They all called it ‘the unknown woods’ but they weren’t unknown. They were really quite well known. There was even a fairy trade post just outside the giant old oak tree that lent it’s bent boughs as an archway to the forests entrance. They sold maps, souvenir shirts that said ‘I went to the unknown woods and all I got was this lousy shirt.’ They even operated a dragon ride tour, where some over excited pixie would point out the locations of all the famous witches who dwelt in the woods.

It was one of those witches whom Gwain had recently visited for guidance. One of the soothsaying, eye in the future kind , not the building houses out of confectionary kind. Those kinds were stupid –a sugar house in a forest full of ants never lasted very long. Especially with the size of ants in these particular woods.

It had been the usual malarkey. Eye of newt, hair of rat, tongue of French, that sort of thing. The witches never asked for anything normal, like a cheese sandwich and a slab of chocolate cake.

Weirdos.

The witch had done her bubbling and troubling. Gwain had enquired as to whether the high-pitched cackling was really necessary in the absence of any children to frighten, but the witch had lectured him about the importance of performance and to bugger off and make his own bloody potion if he was so smart.

The witch had told him to find the reflecting pool, which he would recognise because of all the pools that lay before the swampland at the forests edge, this one was the most illuminous. “Bugger,” he said out loud to nothing but the animals and insects as he scanned what seemed to be a multitude of similarly lit moon pools. “I knew I should have bought one of those fairy maps.”

A ‘ploop’ sound to his left had his battle trained instincts flare up. He spun around; curved sword drawn.

“Show yourself!” Gwain roared. “Be ye man or beast, I assure ye, on my hide thou shalt not feast!”

Oooh, that was a good one he thought, squinting to look for the offender. I must remember to write that down.

“Ahem. Down here big man.” The voice was deep and rich in timbre, but very strangely mismatched to its owner who appeared to be some sort of abominable cross between a duck and a rabbit.

“Ah. Greetings,” said Gwain. “Apologies for the sword swirling. Force of habit.”

The duck-rabbit shrugged. At least that’s what Gwain assumed it was doing.

“Think nothing of it. Can’t be too careful these days, what with the recent invasion of giant donkey wasps from the evil realm and all that.”

Gwain rolled his shoulder. Those had been a right bastard to kill, and it wasn’t as though he could afford a masseuse wench on his salary.

"Speaking of creatures that are … a little mixed up …” Gwain knew it was rude to stare, but he also had never seen a creature clean its beak with big fluffy ears before.

“Me? Oh, the usual. You know how it is. Back when I was a boy, tried to steal some wizard’s trinket. Would have given me ultimate power and all that. But fair cop, he caught me and cursed me to spend the next five hundred years like this. If I still had hands, I’d hold them up. Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time, my old dad always used to say.”

“So,” said Gwain, making a mental note not to mess with that particular wizard. “You’re some sort of guardian of the pool?”

“Guardian. Maintenance. Spend half my day stopping trolls from peeing in it. Anyway. The names Bill. Geddit?”

“Ha, yes. Very funny er, Bill. I don’t suppose you could point me in the direction of the correct pool?”

Bill pointed an ear toward a large puddle about ten feet in front of Gwain. “That’s your one. Now what you wanna do, is take them boots off, dip your feet in and then drink your potion. I'm assuming you have a potion?”

Gwain nodded. “Freshly brewed by the hag down by the old windmill.”

“Oh, cracking stuff. She brews a good potion her; I’ll give her that. Ugly though. Even for a witch.”

Gwain looked at Bill and his four short fluffy legs with webbed feet. “Quite. Well, I’ll be going to the pool now. Thank you, brave Bill.”

“Don’t sweat it. Glad to help. Every time I do a good deed, I get a day knocked off my sentence.”

“Good on you. I don’t suppose I could get a little privacy?”

“Of course! Where are my manners? I’ll duck out for a bit. Geddit?”

Gwain mustered up half a tired smile and then made his way to the pool. Following instruction, he pulled off his boots and plunged his curly toes into the cool water, which was pleasant after a few days trekking through a deep dark wood. He held his nose, knocking back the potion in one gulp.

It took a few seconds, but a warm fuzziness spread through his body until ripples in the pool became images. Gwain smiled as he saw who he was supposed to be. He saw great works of art; he saw music, dancing, and laughter. No more sword, no more blood. Just love, light and a masseuse wench to call his own.