Once upon time there ruled nothing but a Creature of Chaos. The black, twisted thing that it was - it caused all Inhabitants of Ever-After to kill, corrupt and bewitch each other. Blood soaked the soil, pus contaminated the water and the stink of rot and decomposition thickened the air.
Ever-After was anything but happy.
At some point, Chaos must have lost interest, got bored and died or disappeared - and the world slowly began to heal.
Rain cleansed the soil, the water and the air; and the Inhabitants aided each of their own kind. People helped other people. Animals helped other animals. Fairies helped other fairies. And trolls helped other trolls.
And thus formed the four kingdoms of Ever-After: Earth, the Sky-kingdom, the Farm and Bridge to Greener Grass. However, there was a desolation that surrounded the lush green lands, called the Grey.
It was for the... abnormalities, undesirables, discarded.
Those who were not from the Grey, never entered it.
It was on the wrong side of the Bridge to Greener Grass and it held the remnants of Chaos about it. The darkness was absolute, such that even the sun never showed its face. It wouldn't dare. The Grey would corrupt it.
But, if you knew your way about, the Grey also offered passages to different worlds.
It was quite literally the edge of Ever-After - go too far and you would fall off into the unknown.
But Abominations were different. Their exile had toughened them, made them stronger and more daring. And they had little to lose and so everything to gain.
Abominations didn't have a single form, they came in all shapes and sizes, of all races and breeds. The oldest Abomination is the most well-known and the most feared.
No-one knew what his real name was anymore, but everyone called him the Big Bad Wolf.
He was born to Morpher parents - people who lived and tended the Farm in animal forms - Old McDonald and Bo Peep. But unlike them, Wolf was unable to merely tend sheep and house pigs. So they banished him and, let me tell you, his grudges go far. He is well-acquainted with all Abominations, but he has a reserved manner with most. They were all outcasts, after all, so they generally didn't try to murder each other (although the Slender Man and the Jersey Devil tended to trade blows in the Dark Forest that they shared, but there was nothing doing about that).
One such Abomination Wolf did take a slight inclination to. This Abomination was abnormally abnormal, by all of the Grey's standards.
Did people ever tell you never to leave a new-born unattended by a mirror in the night-time?
They should have.
Because that's what he was - a mirror-wraith. Everyone's heard of Bloody Mary Tudor - the childless, demon spirit that can either predict the future if she was in a good mood or kill you brutally if she was sore (and she usually was the latter).
He was Mary's impossible son.
It was said that every ten years, Mary took on a new form by kidnapping a helpless female new-born and taking her body - by means of any mirror close at hand in a dark room. At some point, she must have felt bad about not having any children or mistook the boy for a girl - because she kidnapped him. Only... Mary couldn't use him as her vessel because he was a male, but some of Mary's spirit inhibited him and... changed him.
Mary named him Joel. Bleeding Joel.
But she's gone now. One would never think to call her a mother figure, but she was loving to Joel, until Wolf killed her a few years back. Not out of spite, though, Joel understood this. It was just good business.
Besides, Bloody Mary was an Abnormality. She'd come back eventually.
One day, Joel limped painfully to his home in the Grey, a large brick house sitting in the maw of the Dark Forest, which was in practically good shape all things considered. He was sorely injured, and so dragged his disfigured leg across the front porch and threw the door open, holding the frame for a moment to rest. There was no blood. Ironically, Bleeding Joel never bled.
Wolf, sitting in his favoured chair, raised a brow at Joel - the boy's face raw with cuts and bruises. Wolf was in his human form, a gruff man looking to be forty years or so - but the twinkle in his bright amber eyes would tell you that he had experience enough for four-hundred years. He had flowing dark hair - coloured the darkest shade of grey - and heavy stubble on his jaw. He liked to wear leathers outdoors (he did love the imposing look), but was wearing a simple button-up shirt and trousers in the comfort of their home, a lighted cigarette streaming smoke from between his knuckles.
Wolf smirked, “What slapped you about this time?” he asked, his voice deep and angry at even the best of times.
“I was hoping you'd be asleep, Granny Hood,” Joel replied curtly, “Your big eyes look tired and it's well passed your bedtime, ain't it?”
Wolf let out a deep-throated chuckled, “Who were you sent to kill?”
“The Beast Prince,” Joel replied, as he limped across the living room and sat down on a soft chair. Wolf passed him a bottle from the low coffee-table, and Joel took it gratefully before gulping down the sweet, intoxicating liquid.
“Beast? You went up against the Beast and you didn't take me?” Wolf laughed.
“I thought he was your... What did you call it? Friendly rival.”
“He is,” Wolf nodded, “But I meant I wanted to be there to watch.”
“Asshole,” Joel muttered as Wolf continued to jeer and mock at his expense.
Joel hadn't managed to kill the Beast, so he would get nothing from his client and had earned himself a broken leg.
Ah, the things one does for petty gain.
Then a shriek filled his mind and caused him pain, like the shattering of several glasses scrapping across his brain.
“Damn...” Joel mumbled and held his head.
“Bleeding Joel, Bleeding Joel, Bleeding Joel: you have no soul,” said a solemn voice.
Joel sighed, resting back his head to alleviate some of the mind-splitting pain. How he hated being called on.
He sighed again and mumbled irritably, “Sorry, not in the mood.”
“Bleeding Joel, Bleeding Joel, Bleeding Joel: you have no soul,” repeated the voice, more tersely, “Princess Snow bade me pray, to find the killer from the Grey.”
“Snow? Snow White?”
“Skin white as snow, hair black as night-”
“I'm not the Magic Mirror, you idiot, you can spare your bollocks.”
“Skin. White. As. Snow,” the voice insisted angrily, “Hair black as night - my lips taste sour to say you are right.”
“I'm going to find and murder you.”
There was a pause, before the voice continued, “The Princess is calling on you. She seeks an audience as soon as possible.”
Joel held back laughter, “Tell her I'm interested, then. I'll come round tomorrow night sometime,” he smirked, “Sleep in front of a mirror tonight, yeah?”
The voice didn't respond.
Joel raised my head and shook it, trying to clear his thoughts. Wolf looking at him with the obvious expression - what was that about?
“Wow,” said Wolf, “Snow White, eh...?” he made the remark sound almost suggestive.
“Oh, shut up,” Joel said quickly, “For business, not for... that.”
Wolf shrugged, becoming amused all over again, “You were never a fan of professionalism anyway.”
“Yeah, well, this is a Princess we're talking about.”
“And? Those women have had it so many times with worse things than you. And it's Snow White! Snow White and the seven dwarves?”
“That's supposed to encourage me, is it?”
Wolf guffawed, “You ought to go spend some time in your mirror, get that leg all healed-up. You're going to need all the power you can get if you want to impress Snow.”
“Will you stop it?” Joel laughed.
“Come on,” Wolf got up and helped Joel out of the chair and then up the steps to his quarters. Wolf left him by the door and Joel limped his way to the only piece of furniture in the room - a full-length mirror. He held it for support and looked at the reflection. Joel didn't need to project a reflection, but he wasn't on a job so he examined his regular form.
Joel was a thin, pale thing - dressed in a black jacket, white shirt, dark pants. Black hair cut short, hollowed cheekbones, lips that were disproportionately long. And a pair of intense, ambitious eyes of a liquid gold stared back at him. And if it weren't for all the cuts and abrasions making his face, the lad would have appeared a tad bit effeminate - with his long lashes and slim body. It was to his advantage - usually giving his opponents a reason to underestimate him.
Joel took a breath and then stepped into the mirror, as if it was a portal to his own personal realm, pulling in his dead-weight leg after him. Immediately, Joel felt the healing properties of his birth-mirror fixing him - resetting bones and knitting the shards back together.
Staying in the mirror had its benefits, but it also made him extremely vulnerable - if someone were to smash it while Joel resided within, he would die. It's how Bloody Mary was killed. Joel should have left the mirror to lock the door - for a full-grown man, Wolf could fall into seriously illogical tantrums - but he was tired and bruised and battered, and so decided to just risk it and sleep for a change: wondering what on Earth Snow White would want with him...