(Screen caps are from the the original PC version of Fables: The Lost Chapters)
The kingdom of Albion comprises small pockets of land separated by brief loading screens. Within these unchanging parcels of terra firma, where it is forever Autumn, one is compelled to wander predesignated pathways, many of which are bordered by rambling stone walls, which are slowly falling into disrepair. You may wish to pause to admire the scenery that lies tantalizingly beyond the beaten track, yet the inaccessibility coded into the physical laws of the realm determines that, while your gaze may linger wistfully over faraway sun-dappled hills, you will never be permitted to explore them.
In keeping with my role of professional hero, I travel everywhere in this fairytale kingdom, either on foot or by teleporter, with an unfathomably large inventory of armour and assorted weapons. Chief among my arsenal are my numerous enchanted swords, all of which are impractical in both size and design; additionally many bear overcompensating monikers: The Bereaver; Avo's Tear; The Harbinger. There is a giant serrated vegetable peeler christened the Solus Greatsword that I purchased for an exorbitant sum in a shop in swanky, gentrified Bowerstone North.
In between quests, I found the time to wed. The courtship leading to these nuptials was brief: In the tavern at Oakvale - the village of my birth - I selected a maid at random. I plied her with beer, and the gemstones that I had harvested from the bodies of the trolls I had slain, until she succumbed to my charms. We were married soon after.
Periodically I would return home to find my beloved socialising in the tavern. I began to worry that my long absences were taking a toll on her; perhaps even driving her to seek comfort in alcohol, or in the arms of another.
She always greeted me with a smile and often with a gift of armour inferior to that which I was already wearing, but which was nonetheless appreciated. And yet I could not divest myself of the suspicion that her overtly smiley demeanour concealed a deeper sadness.
To allay my fears I decided that I would take some time off from the hurly burly of war and bloodshed that dominate my working life and spend a day getting to know my virtual spouse. This is what I discovered:
We need a bigger bed
I return to Oakvale in the dead of night to find the double doors of my bungalow flung wide open to the darkness. This causes me considerable disquiet. When I was a boy, Oakvale was raided by bandits. In this very house they executed my father, blinded my chocolate-obsessed, know-it-all sister and kidnapped my mother.
My wife, oblivious to my concerns regarding home security, snores noisily in our single bed. I find that I am unable to climb in with her and so wile away the nocturnal hours practising with my flaming sword (not a euphemism – an actual flaming sword) At some point I inadvertently break a window.
My virtual wife is an uncomplicated woman of simple pleasures
Morning. A cock crows. My wife awakens, stretches and rises from the bed fully clothed.
Instantly she is overcome by the same joy felt by every one of my real world partners. In this aspect Fable accurately portrays real life to an uncanny degree.
She stands before a small, east-facing window, adjacent to the bed, and remarks in quaint, rustic tones:
“Being in love is so nice. Hello trees. Hello sky.”
Having dispensed with her morning ritual she sits quietly by the fire in an upright chair.
Later she will rise, but remain standing beside the hearth, gazing upon me with reverence and affection as I pace up and down our small, but impeccably decorated, one-room domicile, like a caged tiger who longs to decapitate a gang of bandits with an enchanted longbow.
INTERLUDE: Flirting and casual vandalism
Concerned that my presence maybe be unduly influencing my wife's behaviour, I venture outside to flirt with our next door neighbour, who obviously fancies me. However, I soon become bored by her platitudes and banal small talk.
In an attempt to alleviate the tedium I launch into some spirited shadow-boxing. This climaxes with me accidentally breaking a window in the house opposite. A guard is summoned and I am fined a small sum of money to pay for repairs and to compensate for my public disorder.
As the guard lumbers back down the hill, the owner of the vandalised property cheers and applauds me. In this town I can do no wrong. I am like goddamn Justin Bieber with a broadsword.
My virtual wife is hard-working woman with a strong sense of civic responsibility
Evening falls. My wife, who has spent the day warming herself beside the hearth, happily trilling odd lines from songs, abruptly leaves our home.
“Pub?” I inquire, as I follow behind at a respectable distance in the twilight.
At the end of our lane she pulls a cord connected to a lamppost, turning on the light. She does likewise with the lamps on either end of the covered wooden bridge that crosses the gorge, and connects both sides of the village.
Having performed her civic duties she returns to our home and begins vigoruously scrubbing a section of the skirting board.
My wife is a good woman, hardworking and in possession of a social conscience.
My virtual wife is a love machine
Darkness falls. My wife sits quietly beside the fire. Suddenly her aura changes from dusky blue to green, indicating (as it does in the real world) a desire for intimacy.
For the third time in our long marriage I have sex with my wife, who remains blissfully unaware of my ownership of a bordello in Darkwood, from which I derive a modest income.
Following our dalliance we rise from the bed. My wife stretches and yawns repeatedly. Ever the gentlemen, I await for her to climb into our single bed, resolving to keep watch over her.
When she declines to do so, I climb in and pull the blankets over my platemail armour. As I lie there in the darkness, I resolve to spend more time with my virtual wife. I will be a better husband. I will cease visiting the bordello in Darkwood and letting Hedwig chain me to a rack in my union jack underpants.
I drift off to sleep.