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The House of Red Fireflies is easy to find.

It shouldn’t be, being tucked in one of the illogical corners of the otherworld, but if you’re running a brothel, inaccessibility is a bad thing. So despite the winding road and the woods patrolled by small, grumpy, spear-carrying mushrooms, despite the narrow eyed black storks lurking at the crossroads and hitting up passers-by for small children and cigarettes, despite the swift currents and sudden backwaters of the Feverstream that runs by the House, despite the labyrinthine limestone passages deep underground that lead from the tastefully decorated maw of Hell to the somewhat less tastefully decorated sixth sub-basement of the House, the House remains paradoxically easy to find.

Practically all you have to do is set out in any reasonably enchanted woods with the intent of going there, and the next thing you know, the red lanterns are twinkling in the distance, like the fireflies from which the House takes its name.

The House is built in the Grandmother Tree, a tree so old that its dryad requires a wheelchair on the rare occasions she manifests at all, and this has given rise to the euphemism “going to Grandmother’s house.” Somebody even wrote a song about it once, and occasionally you can get one of the sleek-voiced seal women that perform in the evenings to sing it for you.

The Grandmother Tree is huge beyond telling, a gigantic gnarled tower of an earlier age, hung with red lanterns and ornamented with gaudy carvings, as if one of the great primal trees from the dawn of time had been transported across unimaginable gulfs of memory, and then redone in the style of Early Bangkok Whorehouse.

Massive shelf fungi the size of dance floors cling to the outside of the trunk, roofed over and hung with lights to make charming outdoor pavilions, each with a small shrine to the fungus spirit within, and every week, small offerings of buttermilk and burnt paper money are left in gratitude.

From the higher branches hang great papery structures, like wasp nests, (built by trolls) which form sleeping quarters for the workers of the House. The branches themselves are hollowed out, forming long, irregular wooden corridors, set with round windows like portholes. Each paper nest is accessible by ladder from hatches set within the branches. The highest nests sway considerably in the breeze, and are fitted out almost nautically, with hammocks and slung nets, while the largest and lowest nests are as well decked out as any stateroom. At night, the nests glow faintly when lit from within, giving the impression of enormous lambent fruit hanging from the highest reaches of the tree.

Within the trunk itself, individual rooms for the entertainment of clients are hollowed out in a spiral wrapping its way up the inside of the trunk, ranging from small, cozy rooms for entertaining clients and old friends, to much larger rooms for games, parties, performance stages of varying sizes for dancers, and the occasional high priced orgy. The largest room of all, the Great Bole-Room, set within a particularly large gnarl of the Grandmother Tree, has hosted the great feasts of the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, the crownings of beggar queens, the weddings of stones, and on one occasion that the floor-scrubbers still remember with horror, the stately and ponderous Dance of the Elephants.

There are a number of ways to approach the House of Red Fireflies. The road through the woods is the main one, leading up to the great main doors, which are almost always thrown wide. This route sees the approach of people of so many descriptions that the word “people” is more courteous than accurate, on mounts ranging from great warhorses and tiny hand-and-a-half ponies to camels and aurochs and gallomphing landleeches weighing many tons.

A more discreet entrance, nestled among the roots on the other side, lets in the shy and the hunted and also the people who deliver the milk and the eggs and whatnot.

The Grandmother Tree’s roots extend over the bank of the Feverstream, and down into the water on one side, forming a cavernous tangle of enormous, mangrove-like roots. Boats tie up among the roots, or at the small, quaint dock that extends into the Feverstream, throwing ropes over posts carved to resemble a fantastic and oversized bestiary worth of rather specific male anatomy. Lanterns hung between the roots reflect on the shifting surface of the Feverstream, and on the slick surface of the Water Stair, which spirals around a main root many feet thick, extending down below the surface of the water. It is up the Water Stair that the selkies come, and the tribes of merpeople, and the occasional snorting hippocampus, come up to the surface world for a Good Time. The House caters to them all.

Stranger creatures entirely come up from the darkness underground. There are several basements, a few of which are suitable for entertaining guests, but most of which are storage cellars. But at least one well-appointed entrance stands at the end of a long, winding path of stone, through glittering caverns, which joins, a long way away, to the anterooms of Hell and to even stranger places beyond them, which make Hell seem, if not comfortable, at least straightforward and comprehensible.

It would probably surprise people how many demons come and lay out good money—the black serpentine coins of hell are as good as anybody’s—not for deviant sexual practices, but in order to pour their woes out into the ear of someone trained to be a sympathetic listener. Hell is full of victims, but precious short on sympathy, after all.

And this is fine. Whatever your particular desire, the House can probably accommodate it. From light conversation to drugged euphoria to sexual satiations undreamt of in the mortal realm—the House knows it, has a specialist, and will offer classes for a small fee.

Some of the desires are perfectly understandable. Some of them are a little baffling. The most popular person among the Red Caps, for example, evil dwarves who eat their victims and dye their caps in the fresh blood of the slain, is a plump middle-aged human woman of great personal warmth, who can speak for hours about the properties of textile dyes. On any given evening, a half-dozen burning-eyed, gnarled men with scarlet caps will be hunched around her, buying her drink after drink, and listening with captivated expressions.

Some are simply incomprehensible. A woman solicited by the skeletal Bay-kok, the red-eyed, rattleboned hunter of men, might expect a really unpleasant experience at best, and a nasty death at worst. She would probably not expect to spend the evening knitting. However, for reasons known only to itself, the Bay-kok’s most fervent desire is to spend time going “drop one, perl two,” in company, and it will pay in rare and beautiful pelts for the honor. It brings its own yarn, too.

And of course, some creatures simply want a roll in the hay, or the silk, or the sand, or the water. To each their own.

For some particularly dangerous desires—for creatures like the Nuckalavee, a flayed and skinless horseman with a single burning eyes, whose pleasures are a little beyond the pale, for the Mayan demons Scab-Stripper and Lord-of-Pus, whose genitals are laced with ropes of thorns and obsidian knives, for members of the Unseelie Court foul and shapeless—even for them, there is a place. There is the Door.

The Door is black, and unadorned, and even though the House of Red Fireflies is always pleasantly warm, the Door is always a little too cold. It lies at the bottom of a shallow spiral staircase cut into the floor, where a shadow falls across it. The steps down are ornamented with a frieze of strutting peacocks, and only when you are looking will you notice that the tail of each peacock is made of chains.

Humans do not serve behind the Door. Indeed, while there may be as many as sixty or seventy prostitutes at any given time, with specialties ranging from engaging conversation to erotic yo-yo, there are less than half a dozen, at any given time, that serve behind the Door. The golem girl, who is made of clay and indestructible, who feels neither pain nor pleasure nor boredom nor fear, is the longest lived. The djinniyeh, who is more than a little mad, fashioned of fair flesh and immortal flame, once killed a client behind the Door. She said, when someone finally coaxed her out of the smoking salamander heart of the fire, that it was what he had most truly desired. This may even have been true. Those who serve behind the Door generally do not speak about what they do there, and rarely does anyone dare to ask.

There’s a lot more to be said about the House of Red Fireflies, but this is as far as I’ve gotten…
A rambling bit 'o world building about the House of Red Fireflies, the fantasy brothel setting that's been beating at my brain for some days now. Expect more as (or if!) it comes to me!

Illustrations of some of the workers at the House can be found in both the main gallery and my scraps section.
Add a Comment:
 
:iconblexluthor:
blexluthor Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2014
My word, that was awesome. I put up a story today and made reference to this in the description and added a link in case anyone else wanted to read this and it's striking me now that perhaps I should have asked if that was alright with you first, do you mind?
Reply
:iconspginc:
SPGinc Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2013
This is a great piece of work.
Reply
:iconspginc:
SPGinc Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2013
ps. Are you aware that this gets a mention on TV tropes?
tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php…     Literature section
Reply
:icondieforelle:
DieForelle Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2013   Writer
wow. just... wow.
Reply
:icontamtrible:
Tamtrible Featured By Owner Jan 25, 2013
I like your brain, and want to spend more time there.
Reply
:iconspirrus:
Spirrus Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2012
I read this years ago. Recently visited a brothel and thought of it. Then I came back to read it again.

I swear you could talk about this place all day and I'd read it. Good work, good sir.
Reply
:iconapothecation:
APOTHECATION Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2010
Daaaamn! You should totally publish your own short stories; you could seriously be the next Neil Gaimen with stuff like this! BRAVO!
Reply
:iconcarcer99:
Carcer99 Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2010
Must say, I absolutely love this series of shorts. Fantastic!! More!!!
Reply
:iconstormofblue:
StormofBlue Featured By Owner May 18, 2010
Most interesting. Do go on about the clients- They're all so intriguing.
Reply
:iconminortechnicality:
MinorTechnicality Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
:love: Wish there were more.
Reply
:iconred-james:
Red-James Featured By Owner Dec 10, 2008  Professional Writer
wow great job, i love how it flows and how detailed it is
Reply
:iconmircal:
mircal Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2008
Very interesting idea and very colourful and expressive describing. A little odd and out of the ordinary, as i like it. Thank you very much.
Reply
:iconcarnivalchild:
CarnivalChild Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2008
I am rabidly desirous to know what the chances are that you would draw this?
Reply
:iconmakola94:
Makola94 Featured By Owner Jul 16, 2008
wow.... if you got your writings published... you'd be a hit. seriously. a best-seller, in fact.
Reply
:iconmoon-finder:
moon-finder Featured By Owner Jun 11, 2008
If I could draw well enough to do this magnificent place justice, I would. But, unfortunately, I am nowhere near that place. This is amazing. Every nook and cranny is visible in my head. Wonderful work.
Reply
:iconaeddan:
aeddan Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2008  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is wonderful! More! More!
Reply
:iconartemis3120:
artemis3120 Featured By Owner May 27, 2008
Have you ever heard of the short story, "The Barnum Museum"?
Reply
:iconpockypuck:
PockyPuck Featured By Owner May 25, 2008
This is a bloody fantastic concept, and your descriptions of just everything make this so vivid. Everything is in perfect detail in my head.
Reply
:iconjjferrit:
jjferrit Featured By Owner May 25, 2008  Professional Filmographer
...WOW :| that is just flat out amazing, the imagination and description you go into is just amazing, love it :D
Reply
:iconpirateotter:
Pirateotter Featured By Owner May 23, 2008  Student General Artist
You know as Im reading this I hear Eddie Izzard's voice talking. He should narrate?? your story on a tape or cd. (if i miss spelled anything please forgive me, and i hope you know what i mean about the narrating thing).
Reply
:iconseiberwing:
Seiberwing Featured By Owner May 23, 2008
Oooh...

You really, really have a way with imagery, not only with dreaming it up but with conveying it to others.
Reply
:iconspiegel666:
Spiegel666 Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2007
This is, I have to say, disconcertingly brilliant.
Reply
:iconredpyre:
Redpyre Featured By Owner Oct 26, 2006  Professional General Artist
My favorite things about the very very last line, is that you can't tell if that's just an author's note, or the actual narrator telling us that this is all he's conquered and explored so far in the place.
Reply
:icondeviantpart:
deviantpart Featured By Owner Oct 7, 2006   Writer
Beautiful prose and hilariously delicious.
Reply
:iconalimari:
Alimari Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2006
O.o I would So buy that book. or two. or three. dozen.
I am authentically impressed.
Reply
:iconshah-rhe:
shah-rhe Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2006
Your writing is enchanting. It draws the reader in.

You win at life. :trophy:
Reply
:iconpigeoncrowz:
PigeonCrowz Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2006
Wow, a very fascinating place, I hope you write more of it in the future.
Reply
:iconjh2tc:
Jh2tc Featured By Owner May 1, 2006
I found this near the top of the fantasy fiction whilst browsing, and I can see why. This has given me some inspiration, as I love writing pure description, but feel bound by having to wrap a story around a world or location, and this shows that pure description can be very effective on it's own, and does not just have to be an introduction but an effective piece on it's own.
If you have a minute free, check out the first few paragraphs of my Kuckora serial; [link]
You can see how the story seems to trail off, it seems disconnected from the the description. Any constructive comments would be great.
Reply
:iconkorniko:
Korniko Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2006   Writer
Incredible descriptions. I really like the way you connect your litterature (if you don't mind me calling it by that name) with your illustrations. The concept is original and seems very well thought out.
Reply
:iconthomcomstock:
thomcomstock Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2006  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I most definitely want more and will haunt this gallery in search of it.
Reply
:iconnautik:
nautik Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2006
i liked it!
Reply
:iconthriss:
Thriss Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2006   Writer
Hm, are we Terry Pratchett/Douglas Adams fans? :)

Nice, I'm definately gonna have to read more of your work!
Reply
:iconebony66136:
ebony66136 Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2006
Kinda reminds me of the bathhouse in Spirited Away...if Terry Pratchett had written it. :)
Please write more!
Reply
:iconfearthefahd:
FEARtheFAHD Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2006   Photographer
I really like your work and would like to feature it on my website: [link]
just give me the ok and I'll have it up within a day. If you would like me to list any personal data with the work then you can send that to novelist@thefifthwind.com
(such as your real name, contact info, ect.)

My website is just beginning and will ultimately stay small...but I'd really like to feature a good piece of prose every week. If your are curious about the site, just take a visit.

Thanx in advance for the consideration.
Reply
:iconursulav:
ursulav Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2006
Sure, go ahead!
Reply
:iconoyog:
oyog Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2006  Hobbyist General Artist
I desperately want to see this made into either a Miyazaki film or a a graphic novel. Hell... I'd even settle for a book. Just keep writing! You've got me fiending for more!
Reply
:iconoyog:
oyog Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2006  Hobbyist General Artist
I have this fantasy of this story made into a Miyazaki film. Or possibly a comic book. I'd definately read the comic book. Maybe you'll write this into an entire book. That'd be awsome.
Reply
:iconboromirthebroken:
BoromirTheBroken Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2006
I can't believe the world you've constructed is all contained in the same brain. I like how Terry Pratchett ties together different fantasy worlds, but he seems to be mocking them at the same time. Your work is more genuine. You should really make this an illustrated book. Is there a market for 'adult' fantasy picture books? Because I have one myself, but never thought there would be anyone to buy. I know I would buy it though.

love the pictures too, keep it up.
Reply
:iconmozaki:
MoZaki Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2006
Noooooooo... over too soon!
I really hope you write more.
Reply
:iconniteflyerfaerie:
niteflyerfaerie Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2006  Professional General Artist
you are an amazing writer! i thouroughly enjoyed your beautiful imagery. man, if you wrote a novel, i'd read it for sure! or...at any rate a bit more about this House of Red Fireflies!
Reply
:iconmooncroww:
Mooncroww Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2006
It's lovely. Just lovely. The idea is interesting. I'll enjoy hearing more about it.

Mooncroww :boing:
Reply
:iconfirretayl:
Firretayl Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2006  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Great stroy telling. I can see the picture of the house in front of my imaginary eyes.
Reply
:iconready-to-pretend:
ready-to-pretend Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2006
I really love the stories that you have .....your world in all is practicalities comes alive. Two often...nay let us say almost always the tales we hwear and read are about the male leaving home and venturing beyond.....I myself think that the home fires and what they give and what they require are a great deal more interesting. After all when we humans venture we usually go to a place that is home for someone else and expect to learn about their culture to fill our memory books. Thank you for well rounded work.
Reply
:iconsleepwalking-dreamer:
This is incredibly, indescribably fascinating. There is something about your prose that is just so...candid, I suppose is the term, that you can describe something like the House of Red Fireflies as if it was just around the corner, waiting for anyone to drop by and sample its unique pleasures.

I do hope that you continue this. This is just far too interesting to let go so easily.
Reply
:iconmeshugeneh:
Meshugeneh Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2006
Good Story. Hey I've got this project I'm doing for a Marketing Class in which I'm supposed to build a campaign for an unknown or well known author and their story. If your interested please send a signed letter for permission to use this story it would mean a lot my email address is vjh431@stu.aii.edu .
Reply
:iconmeshugeneh:
Meshugeneh Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2006
Good Story. Hey I've got this project I'm doing for a Marketing Class in which I'm supposed to build a campaign for an unknown or well known author and their story. If your interested please send a signed letter for permission to use this story it would mean a lot my email address is vjh431@stu.aii.edu . I
Reply
:icontuulikkiw:
TuulikkiW Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2006  Hobbyist Writer
"...storks lurking at the crossroads and hitting up passers-by for small children and cigarettes..."

:XD:
Reply
:iconhasturcts:
HasturCTS Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2006
You need a publisher. After the story about the Dream Deer, and reading this, I wish I was one so that I could get more of your work in front of a larger audience.
Reply
:iconkamisch42:
kamisch42 Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2006  Hobbyist General Artist
Cool...I have a character called Grandmother Tree in my Sugarplum Chronicles, but the look is a bit different. The Chronicles are for kids, and rather cartoon-ey. Nice imagery. ~K
Reply
:iconthoughtfullypausing:
thoughtfullypausing Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2006
That's awesome, the idea alone is absolutly wonderful, but the way its written is amazing. :)
Reply
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Submitted on
February 8, 2006
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