We are the dente faerie, and our world revolves around the milk teeth of children. The origin of our toothy obsession is buried in the depths of our past, but we have a scatter of tales that we tell our larval offspring. It is generally agreed that it was the wise queen Deviae who discovered the magical properties of milk teeth; exactly why or how this happened is pure speculation. It merely is, and we devote our lives to hunting down the teeth that little children are finished with.
To understand why we do this, I must take you on a tour of my home. See those turrets of gleaming white? What do you think they are made of? The fortifications in the wall, that thick strong wall, white and sparkling; where do you suppose those building blocks came from? Ah, I see you are beginning to understand. Yes, we build our mound-cities with the teeth of human children. They are wonderfully strong, and possess a quality not found in any other building material we had experimented with: they repel the attack of the warder faerie. This is the reason we seek out the teeth, putting ourselves in terrible danger in the process.
I am a tooth seeker. My foster mother wanted me to become a builder or an artisan, but seeking called me. There are never enough seekers; the mortality rate is something I try to forget. I’ve been lucky so far; apart from warder faeries, we must avoid other dangers such as birds, frogs, lizards, spiders, and of course, ignorant humans. The houses of humans can be death traps too. We recently lost an experienced seeker to poison, but he was not the first to succumb to the chemicals that humans seem to love.
If you study our walls, you will see they are not flawless. The pristine expanse fools the eye, but if you look closer you will see the weaknesses. There are teeth riddled with decay, weaker than the others. There are tooth-shaped rocks, painted to blend in with the walls. It does no good to advertise the holes in our defences. The walls are in a state of constant repair, due to damage by enemies. The special properties of the teeth do not stop the warders from trying, but it blunts their attack. Without these magical walls, we’d have no chance. Birds are not affected by the magic in the teeth, so most of the damage is done by the pecking of birds. Still, birds are easily distracted and far less dangerous to us than warders.
Every night I go on a seek. I take my only defence: a spear topped with a sharpened canine tooth. We have an instinct for teeth; they call to us, a vibrating hum. Some seekers believe the teeth glow, and these are generally the best seekers, but I haven’t seen a glowing tooth. I track by vibration only. We generally set out well after sunset, after children are in bed, safely tucked up with their precious teeth. When I feel the hum of a tooth, I follow its pull, until I reach the house that is buzzing. I find a way in— sometimes this takes seconds, if a window is open, or it might take considerably longer. The longer it takes to get into a house, the more danger I am in. My closest call came as I examined the outside of a house, looking for a chink in its armour; I didn’t hear the owl until it was almost upon me and it was only the luck of finding a hole at that moment that saved me.
So here we are, inside the house. If I’ve been lucky I’m in the child’s room, otherwise I have to fly through the potentially perilous rooms. Once in the room, it is easy to retrieve the tooth and replace it with a coin from the adult human’s collection. Memory modification is my particular talent, and takes only a few moments to install a false memory in the adult’s mind of them swapping the tooth for a coin. Of course they are sleeping soundly, but this is a necessary step for our survival. Humans are notoriously suspicious animals and we need to cover our tracks.
Once I have the tooth in my possession and have planted the false memory, it is time to leave. I must shrink the tooth to a size I can transport, and I pop it in my sack, ready to seek out the next tooth. On a good night I can collect around five teeth. Some nights I am lucky to find one or two. Dente faeries have home territories and we don’t trespass onto neighbouring lands. This means that our precious resource is limited.
Once the teeth are back in the city, it is restored to original size and artisans and builders get to work. Obvious decay is treated and painted, and teeth are shaped to fit in where they are needed. I retreat to my room to sleep, after checking in with the other seekers to see who has returned and who has not.
I probably don’t have much longer. It seems that tonight, no seekers will go out. An advance scout warned us of an imminent attack by the warders—nothing unusual, but it seems they have harnessed some birds to help in their attack. Never in the memory of we dentes has this come to pass. I fear it spells the end of our people.
As I write, the first attacks have begun. The walls hold for now, and I am sure the tooth defenders are inflicting casualties with their tooth-tipped weapons. I must cease my writing soon and go join my fellows. Every able faerie will be needed if we are to repel this horrific attack. This record though, will hopefully survive, and maybe some of us will live to warn the others.
I close the book and stand up from the table. Determination burns in me as I grab my spear and leave the dubious shelter of my room, heading for the sieged walls. I see holes in the wall, where the strong beaks of the birds have pushed through the white mass. Dente faeries guard those holes, fighting the warders that seek to enter. The warders are twice our size and my heart seizes up with terror. Gulping down my fear I climb the walls and take my place as tooth defender.
I tremble on the walls, fear clutching at my heart. The sound of the battering beaks deafens me, and the warders shout as they breach the fortifications. In front of me Malavi goes down, hammered by a dreadful claw. I poke aimlessly with my spear and am rewarded with a scream from a warder. I fall back and risk a glance around me. The city is swarming with dente faeries, anyone who is able is armed with tooth-tipped spears. The walls shudder and occasionally a single tooth falls with a crash as it hits the ground. I am jostled to the side and swing my attention back to the breach, as more warders push through. Confronted with the immense warder, larger than a hornet, I freeze in terror. Someone pushes me out of the way as the warder slams down with his curved claw-sword, and I shriek as Gravis is cleaved in two. The warder is wrenching his sword upwards and I dart under and shove my spear at his armoured chest. I watch in wonder as the sharpened tooth slides into his body, and he yells in pain, then totters, crashing down onto me, and there is nothingness.
“Mama, the tooth fairy didn’t come last night.” Sasha’s sad face looked up from her cereal bowl. Diana cursed herself for her forgetfulness.
“Try it again tonight, honey,” she suggested. Diana resolved to set an alarm so she would remember the covert operation. Sasha nodded hopefully and resumed eating.
Prompt: Why did the Tooth Fairy fail to deliver coins one evening?
I played with a few things in this… present tense was the big one. This prompt made my brain swim with ideas, mostly from the child’s perspective but then I thought why not make it epic? Why not make the story all about the struggles of the tooth fairies? I started to wonder why tooth fairies would need teeth and this was born. I loved doing the exercise from a few days ago and writing from the warder’s perspective, thinking how easy it was to change the perception of the tooth fairies to thieving tricksters.