Classic Fantasy

Change for the Changelings

By Wendy Nikel
486 words · 2-minute reading time
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From the author: A pair of young women, swapped at birth by fae, meet for the first time.


The ones you call “father” and “mother” have never treated you as true parents ought to. I’ve seen how they’ve forced you to do the work of three people and slapped you when you dared to sing aloud. I know how tomorrow they’ll wed you to their neighbor in exchange for a stubborn mule.

Perhaps you’ve noticed, as I have, that they don’t hear the forest’s song as you do. They can’t see the dragonflies’ fiery breath or taste the wind’s temperament, nor can they sense Those beings who frolic, hidden, among the moss.

Perhaps that’s why you’ve let me in.

For in ways you don’t know, we are kindred.

Years ago, I slept beneath this roof and rested upon this bed. But those who raised you as their daughter didn’t care for my sickly pallor or weak whimpers. They wanted a child who was strong, who could work, so they abandoned me in the forest to die.

Sparkling fae-light stilled my cries, and They gleefully stole me away. Much later, I discovered the truth: that They left you behind in my place, silent upon the doorstep in a wicker basket. At dawn, the couple discovered a healthy being, one they could exploit and bear no guilt, for you weren’t really theirs, were you? You weren’t even really a child.

You may have thought your captors cruel, but even their crudeness couldn’t match the wickedness I endured. My guardians delighted in testing the limits of my mortality: with water, with fire, with all Their strange magic, until my skin was tattooed with Their silvery scars. That I survived was a surprise to us all.

But I did survive, there among the rowan, and what’s more, I learned much from them. Infused with Their enchantments, I developed Their second sight. I discovered how to disappear amidst the trees, to speak with birds, and to heal the gravest wounds. In Their gardens, I uncovered the morpho blossoms that They’d used to make you appear human, and I learned about the life you lived in my place.

I’ve watched you live here in my first home, and today I’ve come to offer you what we’ve been deprived: a choice.

You have our father’s iron-headed tools that could destroy a bed of morpho blossoms. I have fire at my fingertips that could set this hut ablaze. Together we could free the neighbor’s mule and persuade it to carry us far away, to a bustling city ringing with church bells, where people don’t believe in things like fairies. Where you can sing to your heart’s content and I — with Their herbs I’ve studied so well — can bring some hope to this broken world. We can help one another survive this cruel place. You can teach me how to live among humanity, and I can teach you all your People know.

It’s time for us changelings to make a change.

This story originally appeared in KFerrin.com.


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