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Hibberty Hobbs lived in the wonderful village of Appleton, located in the Kingdom of Lutin, otherwise known as the Gnomedom. The Gnomedom, as the name might suggest, was home to a wondrous and peculiar race known as Gnomes. They really were astonishingly smart and fun to be around once they were comfortable enough to allow strangers into their world, otherwise, they were known as a reclusive kind of people who would much rather be left alone than getting involved in the overall tittle-tattles of the nations.

There was, however, one event that gathered gnomes and other races together once a year, every year for the last three hundred years and that was apfelzag more commonly referred to as Applefest in the common tongue. Allow me to deviate slightly, to explain that the common tongue was not very common at all. In fact, it was the language spoken by mankind, which ultimately, through years of expansion across most the of the southernworld become, the tongue used amongst merchants from all races to trade until eventually it was adopted as a second language by all races.

Applefest was every gnome's favourite time of year, not only were they able to meet other races in a setting they found more comfortable, but the act of picking apples, was, after all, their favourite pastime. It was what they were known for throughout the southernworld, their country's riches were due to their sweet, juicy apples, which served to make everything from apple ale, apple tea, apple whiskey and of course their national dish of apple crumble.

If there was one gnome in the village of Appleton who loved apples more than anyone else, this was Hibberty Hobbs. He was the go-to apple connoisseur, he grew them in all shapes, sizes and colours. His garden was a burst of colour with all the different kinds of apple trees. There were red apples, green apples, pink apples and black apples, he'd even managed to grow one of the rarest; the rainbow apple.

Conversely, there was nothing he hated more than visitors and so apfelzag was by far his least favourite time of the year. Hibberty Hobbs didn't understand why gnomes had become so welcoming in the last century, he was certain that it would do nothing but bring trouble to their doorstep. One particular race he disliked was the dwarves from the Kingdom of Irma'Thun, they were raucous and messy some of the worst drunkards he'd ever come across. They were so far removed from dwarves it was a wonder they had at some point shared the same bloodline. You see, legend had it that the first gnome had been born only two thousand years ago when a human princess and a dwarf lord had eloped against the wishes of their people. Somehow through time, more and more had come to be and populate the same areas and thus giving birth to the gnomedom. How true that story was no one knew for sure. Hibberty Hobbs for one did not believe gnomes were a younger race than the dwarves, it was highly unlikely with how unruly and uncouth they were as a people compared to the gnomes. Anyway, I dither again.

If there was a race Hibberty Hobbs disliked more than the dwarves it may actually be the Elves from the Kingdom of Alysiël. They were haughty and more often than not consumed with a god complex, which was understandable since they were the only race in the southernworld to birth natural magic users, even if it was a scarcity even amongst their people nowadays. They had also held a somewhat tyrannical control over all the other peoples, they didn't overtly threaten but it was implied.

In truth there was a race Hibberty Hobbs disliked more than the dwarves and the elves...humans. They were whiny, moody, self-hating to the extent of starting wars with each other in which a new king would rise only to be killed by another faction a couple of years later. Perhaps the Trollocs of Trollos were a worse race but they didn't visit, let alone overstay their welcome!

Our story begins on the last day of Applefest, as Hibberty Hobbs awoke from one of the worst night's sleep he'd had since that very same night the previous year. The dwarves had decided to sing their merry songs until the early hours, in actuality they had sung one merry song over and over again until the early hours. Hibberty Hobbs had heard so much about Merrin's lovely long luscious braids that he wanted nothing more than to find her and cut her lovely long luscious braids so he'd never have to hear the song again. Luckily, for Hibberty Hobbs, the apple-ale in Gerome Gibbs' Inn must have been depleted before dawn because the singing stopped and he was able to get at least a couple of hours of shut eye. Hibberty Hobbs was sure Gerome Gibbs would be knocking on his door soon enough looking for the very best apples so he could make the very best apple-ale and Hibberty was sure to turn him down on accounts of having been the cause of his worst night's sleep since that same night the previous year, which had also been his fault for entertaining those ruddy dwarves.

In fairness, this year hadn't been as bad as previous Applefests where he had been bombarded with visitors asking to see his apple garden and trying to stay longer than they were welcome to pry his secrets away from him. He couldn't blame them, if he was them, he'd try to do the same, for there was no one who knew apples as well as he. For example, he knew that the best apples to use for the honey roast apple and ham were the two-year-old brown apples. If you wanted the best apple and mint tea, you needed eleven months and twenty-three-day old apples. A day older and they’d be too sour, a day younger and they’d be too bland.

Hibberty Hobbs decided to not think too much about the previous night's annoyance and instead remind himself that all visitors would be leaving town today, they would in fact have started to leave. He looked out of the window of his quaint home and could see several good-gnomes that he was acquainted with but not friendly with, bidding goodbye to a group of humans and dwarves just as the sun was beginning to touch the sky. Hibberty smiled at the thought of being able to breathe fresh air atop the hills of appleton without being bothered by an insufferable dwarf. Nothing could or would hamper his day today, not even if the Great Invisble Gods of the Gemysphere flew down and banished him to Cherryton would the smile fade from his face. Well, that wasn't strictly true, no one really wanted to be banished to Cherryton, such a small and friendly village full of chatty good-gnomes...

Hibberty Hobbs began packing his picnic into a handmade picnic basket his mum had made for him just before taking ill with gnome-pox. He placed his favourite teapot and cup inside it, followed by his perfectly cut apple and cheese sandwiches and his smoking pipe and rainbow apple and cinnamon flavoured tobacco. He was starting to get so excited he could scream with joy at the thought of sitting atop his favourite hill, smoking his pipe and watching the visitors leave Appleton. The humans would ride their mules into the distance, the dwarves their pale rams and the elves would vanish into wisps of smoke and Hibberty Hobbs would be in the distance sighing with relief.

Hibberty made his way down the cobbled path and saw Nonny Norris, the wizened old good-gnome. She had been Mayoress of Appleton for as long as he could remember, she and his mother had been incredibly close, no one had mourned Hissy Hobbs quite like Nonny Norris, not Hibberty and certainly not his father, Hannerty Hobbs. He remembered one evening, upon visiting his father, he had drawn the courage to ask him why he had left the family home.

“I was terribly unwell, Hibberty,” His father explained.

“How so? What ailment did you have?”

“My blood would boil.”

“Oh dear, but why didn’t you go to good-gnome Aris Tottle?”

Aris Tottle, was the village gnome doctor and ever such a decent gnome. Tremendously loved by all. One of the few gnomes born in Cherryton we could say had turned out half-decent.

“There was no need, Hibberty. I self-diagnosed. I had an allergy.”

“An allergy? Is it contagious? Is that why you left?” Hibberty asked in alarm.

“Yes, I daresay, when you come of age you will suffer it too.”

“What about mother, will she get it?”

“No, she is the cause of the allergy!”

“You’re allergic to mother? How so?”

“Well, why else would my blood boil at the mere sight of her?”

Hibberty had left Hannerty’s cottage a little perplexed by the talk of allergy, he had been left with enough concern for this father's health that he had been left with no choice but to tell his mother. Hibberty was shocked at how aggressively she had cried and even though he explained to her that it was not a fatal kind of allergy, she was beside herself with grief, ran into her room and was not seen for several days.

“How are you?” Nonny asked Hibberty.

“On my way to the hills to enjoy a good old brew,” Hibberty leaned in. “And a secret mix for my tobacco.”

“Oh, pray tell?”

“I mustn’t! I mustn’t! Oh, it’s ever so nice to see the village so lovely and quiet and visitor-less!”

Hibberty bade the Mayoress goodbye and continued on his merry way, taking in the sun and the cool breeze that clipped his face from time to time. Today was such a beautifully good day, that Hibberty was happy he would not be putting it to waste inside his house, hiding away from dwarves and elves and such. Today, it would just be him, the sun, the hills and his perfectly prepared picnic. There was nothing Hibberty Hobbs enjoyed more than being alone, although perhaps, being alone atop Appleton Hills came close. Being alone, on the hills, drinking his favourite apple and honey tea with a hint of sage was as enjoyable a day as he could think of.

Hours later, Hibberty found himself on top of the hill, looking out towards the horizon. To his left, five miles away, was Cherryton, just the thought of it brought chills down his spine. To his right, Pearville...they were gnomes, but he disliked them almost as much as humans, oh they were contemptuous and rude and friendly. Far out, twenty miles away, Strawberough City, he could see the tall thin tower of the king of the Gnomes, Ulrich Ulrich, also known as the Twice Named.

Hibberty smiled at the peacefulness of his surroundings and blew a smoke ring from his mouth, he smiled as he admired it changing colours before it was taken by a sudden and most unexpected gust of wind.

“Hello,” said a squeaky voice just above a whisper, scaring Hibberty to such an extent he spilt his tea.

Hibberty turned to face the auteur of his dissatisfaction only to come face to face with nothingness.

“Hello?” the voice said again. “I'm here!”

Hibberty looked down and moved back in deep and utter horror.

“What in the Seven Hills of Merry Merryfield, St Protector of all Gonedom is the meaning of this?”

It wasn't really a question he wanted answering as was evidenced by the speed at which he started packing his things and avoiding making eye contact. Okay, so he didn't entirely avoid making eye contact, from time to time, he glanced at the small creature with deep blue skin, golden hair and bright green eyes as its wings flapped so quickly she appeared to be merely floating in the air.

“Nope!” Hibberty said out loud more to himself than anything else.

Everyone knew that fairie-sighting was never a good thing. No bedtime story ever started with the sighting of a fairie and for good reason. They were utter trouble and more often than not ended up getting people killed.

“I need your help,” the fairie said with finality.

Hibberty's heart sunk.

“Nope!” he repeated.

“It's about the Golden Apple.”

Hibberty stopped in his tracks...and narrowed his eyes at the fairie.

“Do you take me for some kind of idiot?”

Hibberty Hobbs stormed off, abandoning his simple picnic upon the beautiful humdrum hills and returned to his lovely simple house at the edge of the village of Appleton. Once in, he drew the curtains and proceeded to make himself a cup of tea with his sweet apple syrup and added a secret ingredient for extra spice to calm his nerves.

Once done, he sat before his fireplace and sighed, putting to rest the sighting, although not before a slight shiver went up and down his body.

“I was talking to you!” the fairie appeared from thin air and surprised him again, causing him to spill his tea once more. Hibberty looked at her, she had a look of severe disappointment, it reminded him of his mother.

“Leave me be, you wretched thing!”

“I asked for your help. Don’t you know it’s a terrible thing to refuse the cry of a fairie? One thousand years of bad luck to you and your family.”

“Bah! Myths to scare all the creatures in the Gemysphere!”

The fairie; a pretty little thing if Hibberty Hobbs was to be completely sincere, stared him down, slowly turning into a fluorescent shade of red, smoke started seeping from all her pores and then like a high-pressure pot, the fairie started letting out this whale of a whistle. Instantly cracking his windows and all his beautifully simple ceramic pots.

“What are you doing?” he said covering his ears.

“We are bound by magic! I cannot leave until you fulfil your duty and help the cry of a fairie.”

“Well, unbind yourself! I want nothing to do with…”

Hibberty stopped mid-sentence. He was being lifted into the air by an invisible rope or some magical force, he was rising higher and higher and higher until he was upside down from the ceiling looking at the fairie.

“Hibberty Honorious Hobbs, I command you to attend the cry of a fairie or in your current form you'll forever remain!”

Her body vanished into thin air as Hibberty Hobbs fell crashing to the floor and making far more noise than any gnome should ever be able to make. Hibberty sat up slowly, rubbing the top of his head and realised that the texture to his hair was slightly different, more oily even. He looked down at his hands and not fully taking them in and then released the most panic-fuelled scream ever, rushing to the looking-glass in the corner of the room, and realising along the way that his house felt a tad bit too small for him.

Hibberty Hobbs stood in front of the looking-glass as a young, portly rosy-cheeked human child stared back at him. Hibberty moved his hands and the human child did the same.

“What in the Seven Hills...”

It was too much for him...she'd turned him into a human...that was the last thing he remembered thinking before being consumed by darkness...

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