The Changeling Returns
Being a fairy princess isn't all it's cracked up to be.
The Changeling Returns
by C.R. Merrill
Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy
hate being the new girl every school year. This time, the ‘queen
bee’ of Parfrey’s Glen High School has decided I’m the enemy.
Her mistake. Because like it or not—and it’s definitely not—I
have powers, dark powers. I’ve tried to deny them, but they are
Fay Smith was three years old when she was kidnapped by the two queens of the Unseelie Court. For twelve years, she’s been moved from city to city to avoid suspicion, wanting nothing more than to belong somewhere and be normal. But she can’t remember anything about her real life, real home, or real family.
Soon she’ll be called to cast off her mortality and become a dark fey like her captors, serving on one of the three thrones of the Unseelie Court, trapped in an eternal power struggle with Mab and Titania. To escape, Fay will have to control her change from human to fey and defeat the two queens.
But she’s going to need help, which means she’ll have to make a truce and establish ‘frenemy’ status with the girl who hates her.
I must never let myself forget that Tania and Mabel aren’t just strong. They’re powerful. They’re more like mountains than hurricanes. Something that has been around forever and can’t be moved. If they want something big, they can wait centuries until the rest of the world gives up fighting. But if it’s small, like a person’s freedom, it only takes them a blink, or a twitch of the pinky and they’ll have you.
And for some reason, they wanted me. I can’t remember the details, but I know I was little when it happened. Maybe three or four. I was either too young or too stupid to get the whole “stranger danger” thing. Did a rosy-cheeked granny offer me some candy? That’s Mab’s gig, being sweet and old and harmless, right before dropping the hammer. One stupid Starlight Mint from her would have been enough to catch a little kid.
Don’t eat or drink in the company of fairies. Just don’t. One bite and you’ll be trapped like a bug in a jar.
Or did I go with a pretty lady who smiled at me at a mall? That’s Tania’s trick, being too pretty to resist. She could have held out her hand, and I would have followed her without looking back.
Don’t go into the light. Or the water.
The Folk love to trick travelers. Usually, they don’t even bother to appear in physical form. All they have to do is find a person who’s a little bit lost, throw up a glamour and a couple of fairy lights, and sit around to watch the fun. If you’re lucky, they only make your life a little bit worse.
The Folk think that bitch of a Fey who figured out how to enchant a GPS is hysterical. Talented too, since she had to overpower the tech to do it. No one has owned up to it, but I think it was probably Mab. It’s her style.
But even Mab thinks twice about laughing at Jenny Greenteeth and the rest of the water hags. Air spirits need to breathe just as much as we do. But Jenny and her kin have gills like fish, and they are none too particular about who they drag under, if you catch sight of them and are dumb enough to lean over the water.
Or maybe, when I was taken, it wasn’t my fault at all. Maybe my mother was tired of having to take care of a snot-nosed little girl and wished on the wrong star. Because there are lucky ones and unlucky ones. And you never know, when you make those wishes, who might be listening.
Be careful what you wish for.
If you wish for something, and a fairy hears you, they’ll grant the wish in the worst possible way. If you trade with them, you’ll get dandelions, not gold, and elm leaves instead of dollars. The same goes for sleeping with them. Go to bed with a pretty girl and wake up with a little less of your soul than you had when you laid down. Maybe not enough to miss. But if Tania held on to any one man long enough, she would suck him dry.
People always want something for nothing. Fairies give just the opposite. But, like I was saying, I have no idea how I ended up here, and not as particle in some nuclear family with a mini-van and a house in the ‘burbs. Either I was too little to remember, or they’ve enchanted the details right out of my head. But I’m pretty sure my name isn’t really Fay. To have that name and then get taken by the fairies would show Alanis Morissette what irony really means.
Most likely, somebody broke one of the big three rules, and I paid the consequences. But sometimes, late at night when I’m lying in bed listening to the night songs, I worry that it wasn’t a mistake. Maybe my parents just didn’t want me. Maybe they took me, and my real family just went on with their lives as if I’d never been part of it.
That’s why I don’t look back. Maybe my parents had me and gave me away. Maybe, like Tania says, they just didn’t care. I don’t want to know. Because, maybe, just this once, she’d be telling the truth. And what would be the point? No one from my life before could help me, even if they wanted to. Mab and Titania, the two most powerful fairies in the Unseelie Court have taken me as their daughter.
When the Fair Folk have a changeling, it’s usually as a pet or a slave. But they’ve been tending me like mortals tend a garden, funneling power into me, turning me into something not quite normal. It’s the sort of magic that only works when you get a human baby and work on it for twelve years or so. That’s a blink of an eye to them. But to me? It feels like forever.
I hate what they’ve done to me. And I hate them. Whatever they want from me in the future, it won’t be good.
Christine Merrill wanted to be a writer for as long as she can remember. During a stint as a stay-at-home-mother, she decided it was time to "write that book." She could set her own hours and would never have to wear pantyhose to work! It was a slow start but she slogged onward and seven years later, she got the thrill of seeing her first book hit the bookstores. Christine lives in Wisconsin with her family.
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