The Empress of Love is sitting on her throne in her distant palace. The walls of the palace are made of cellophane and tinsel and paper as white as snow. The full moon (the moon is always full in this strange land) creates a pen-and-ink drawing of the heavily wooded imperial gardens.
The gardens are rampant with night-blooming flowers, filling the air with sticky, sickly sweet scents of renewal and decay. There are many foxes and many rats. There is an eerie susurrus of crickets, and the far-off sound of a single saxophone crying.
There are enormous frogs that were once foolish princes, unwise enough to piss off passing witches. The frogs are waiting by the side of a stagnant pond, croaking and munching on night bugs. They can no longer recall who or what they have been so endlessly waiting for.
There is a golden ball at the bottom of the pond, dropped by a careless, frivolous barefoot princess. The ball has been long-since forgotten, lost forever in the weeds. There are bruise-coloured fish with row upon row of nasty-looking teeth, circling about beneath the surface.
There are assorted cursed lovers sleeping under trees, holding each other tight for a last few precious moments before being devoured by the tigers that are always prowling through the woods.
Every day, more travellers are moving toward the gates of the palace. They are coming by leaky boat and hot-air balloon. They are coming by broomstick and gondola. They are walking with raw, blistered feet on a road of jagged stones. Some are somersaulting, others are crawling, or turning each other about in a slow and stately dance.
In the grand palace, harlequins and fools surround the empress. She has advisers who study poisons, and others who read the stars. Her throne is decorated with scarabs and rare stones and human skulls. Her golden goblet is filled with what might be wine, might be blood. The great hall is bathed in amber light, preserving every moment for all eternity. She is watching dancers removing veil after coloured veil, and acrobats tie themselves in impossible knots.
There are threadbare poets reciting endless epics filled with treachery and unlikely events. There is the sound of harp and flute, exquisitely played, and just loud enough to drown out the strange wailing rising from the dungeons far below.