You enter the Common Ground, waving to various people, listening (or not) to their tales of woe, the current gossip, and the taste in music; all of which seems to be centered around the bar.
You drift around the pond, past some trees, to a spot just a little bit out-of-the-way. It's far enough away from the various tree-houses and huts and castles that people tend to build. The only thing sitting on this pleasantly-shaded plot of land is a store.
It's a rather squarish front. Two bay windows sit on either side of the front door, the glassless wooden squares open to breezes and sounds. There seem to be some sort of shutters or blinds on the inside, and elegant brocade cushions to make window seats. What appears to be an origami cat sits dozing on one, next to a gently steaming teapot and tea service. In front of the store there seems to be some sort of announcement board, covered with recruitment posters for various new clans, missing flyers for lost pets, and advertisements for strange events. What the heck is a Spoon Swaddling tournament . . ? There even seems to be an assortment of wanted posters hanging, although it looks as though a few have been hastily torn down. You pull one or two of the wanted posters off to read later.
Inside! Past the solid door, you see rows and rows of things! Shelves and drawers and tables full of items. Rubber bouncy balls and strange books, wind-up-mice and pants, bolts of cloth, spools of ribbon, balls of yarn, a box full of left shoes. . . And whatever that thing over there is. Strange lamps and eclectic items hang from the ceiling, gloves and doodads peek out of drawers. A very promising looking chest sits closed in one corner. There's even a shelf full of candy and chocolate behind that desk over there!
A strange, white-haired woman looks up at you from behind the desk. She quickly shuts a thin volume on the pencil she was using and takes her feet - hooves, you correct yourself, off the desk. The spine of the book creaks in protest. With an innocent expression, she smiles at you.
"Welcome to Ebenezer and Marly's! Can I help you?"
When Marly became a mutant, she was sad. She gloomed and frowned and made sad faces for no reason. She talked in phrases that were not flowery so much as they were disgusting. Her friends were not happy with this new Marly. They put her on a diet of Happycakes and hugs, they rubbed lotion into her peeling skin, and they gave her sparkly paper for her origami.
While all these things were Good, it was the paper that helped her focus on something other than her own appearance. She discovered that as long as she kept busy, she didn't have time to mope. She took on a project, and then came the Business.
Ebenezer became a mutant soon after she did. He gloomed and frowned1) and made sad faces. Marly took a self-interested pity on him, and invited him to share in her latest2) scheme. They were to go into Business together.
She sat him down in Pleasantville, and they talked. She was good with people. He wasn't. He was good at numbers and papers. She folded said papers into little animals that ran away at the mention of the IRS. Clearly, it was a Good Idea. They would trade and lend items and objects to various people. Need some string for a kitty friend? Want a lobster for dinner, but too tired or lazy to find one? Need a stuffed doll?
They started to build an inventory, and Ebenezer filled out paperwork for a warehouse. They hired staff to help with the stock and the building. They planned and planned. . .
Then Mutant Marly finally got around to registering her complaints with Horatio. He obliged by making her a robot.3)
Marlybot was metallic and socially maladroit. People confused her, with their feelings and emotions. She started to observe people, and read through the library trying to piece together the puzzle of humanity. The Business became a way for her to learn about people. They acquired a not-so-silent business partner/investor4) A storefront was built in the Common Ground5).
Meanwhile, Ebenezer was human again, having caught Horatio at a good time with the right type of biscuits and some fresh lemons. He was busy making ledgers and talking business, when he was approached one day with a request for a job. He discussed it with his robot partner, and they hired him.
It was the start of something.
The Store's Mission Statement:
'We trade items for items. Barter. Goods and certain services are acceptable barter material. No req involved.
'We give no guarentee as to the quality of the item. All trades are final. You turn the Joker card over, you've just traded for it. No drawing on the cat.'