‘Suppose you tell me what you’re about?’ said the little hairy man as they sat on the ground and drank their tea.
Tristran thought for some moments, and then he said, ‘I come from the village of Wall, where there lives a young lady named Victoria Forester, who is without peer among women, and it is to her, and to her alone, that I have given my heart. Her face is—’
‘Usual complement of bits?’ asked the little creature. ‘Eyes? Nose? Teeth? All the usual?’
‘Well then, you can skip that stuff,’ said the little hairy man. ‘We’ll take it all as said. So what damn-fool silly thing has this young lady got you a-doin’ of?’
Tristran put down his wooden cup of tea, and stood up, offended.
‘What,’ he asked, in what he was certain were lofty and scorny tones, ‘would possibly make you imagine that my lady-love would have sent me on some foolish errand?’
The little man stared up at him with eyes like beads of jet. ‘Because that’s the only reason a lad like you would be stupid enough to cross the border into Faerie. The only ones who ever come here from your lands are the minstrels, and the lovers, and the mad. And you don’t look like much of a minstrel, and you’re – pardon me saying so, lad, but it’s true – ordinary as cheese-crumbs. So it’s love, if you ask me.’
‘Because,’ announced Tristran, ‘every lover is in his heart a madman, and in his head a minstrel.’
‘Really?’ said the little man doubtfully. ‘I’d never noticed. So there’s some young lady. Has she sent you here to seek your fortune? That used to be very popular. You’d get young fellers wanderin’ all over, looking for the hoard of gold that some poor wyrm or ogre had taken absolute centuries to accumulate.’
‘No. Not my fortune. It was more of a promise I made to this lady I mentioned. I … we were talking, and I was promising her things, and we saw this falling star, and I promised to bring it to her. And it fell …’ he waved an arm toward a mountain range somewhere in the general direction of the sunrise ‘… over there.’
The little hairy man scratched his chin. Or his muzzle; it might well have been his muzzle. ‘You know what I would do?’
‘No,’ said Tristran, hope rising within him, ‘what?’
The little man wiped his nose. ‘I’d tell her to go shove her face in the pig pen, and go out and find another one who’ll kiss you without askin’ for the earth. You’re bound to find one. You can hardly throw half a brick back in the lands you come from without hittin’ one.’
—Neil Gaiman (Stardust)