You yelled as the man wrapped a cloak around his shoulders, your baby brother in his arms.
"But he's mine! He's my brother!" You cried.
"Can't you see, ____________? This baby is a changeling child." The man said. He showed you your prematurely born brother. His small, frail form was weak and his breathing was ragged.
Only fifteen minutes ago, your mother gave birth to your brother. Your mother was very sick from the pregnancy and was lying, gasping for breath and coughing much like your newborn brother. The town nurse and her husband came to help you when they heard she was in labor.
"But he's my brother!" You sobbed. "You can't take him away!"
"This child belongs to the fae." The husband of the nurse said as he picked up his lit lantern.
"Please, ___________. Let the child go." The nurse said. She held your mother's head in her arms and was dabbing at your mother's brow with a wet cloth.
You turned as the nurse spoke to you and when you turned back, the man was already out the door and mounting his black and white horse, your brother in one of his arms.
Neighbors opened their doors and watched as you yelled at the man on the horse, pulling at his cloak. The horse spooked and bucked, provoking your brother to give a ragged cry. Everyone in the streets gasped as they heard the guttural noise from the bundle of cloth. The whisper of "changeling" went through the streets and windows.
"Get back!" The husband yelled at you as you ignored the rearing of the horse. He pushed you away and spurred his horse away towards the woods so you wouldn't go after them. You screamed at the disappearing forms of the horse and man and ran around the back of your house to the stables to get your own horse.
You lit a barn lantern and found your saddle and bridle for your chestnut mare. The said mare lifted her head as you ran back and forth to find the tack. You quickly saddled and mounted your horse and blew out the lantern before giving the yell to your horse to run. Your mare weaved around to barn and as soon as she got out the barn door, she stretched out her neck and legs and ran down the street towards the woods. You heard the people in the streets and doorways yell at you as you galloped away.
Soon the light of the streets faded as you ran away from the town. There was a gravel road that led across a field and into the woods. The path split off every once and a while to go to different places. Signs marked the different places the roads went to. The deeper you went into the woods, the thinner the path became. You lit the lantern and urged your horse to stop as you looked at a worn sign.
Changeling Stone it read, pointing to the right. You spurred your horse to go to the right.
It wasn't long after you went to the right that the path grew thinner and thinner until it was no more than a deer path. Your horse slowed down to navigate around the rocks and trees that were in the way. Whenever there was a clear spot, your horse went back to a gallop, jumping over the fallen trees and creeks.
You swore the trees were speaking to you. Whispers in the wind and leaves. Telling you that you were in foreign regions, foreign territory. You wiped your tears away and yelled out in case the husband of the nurse was nearby. The grasses grew too tall and the trees too close for your horse to run so it slowed down to a canter. At one point, the mare stopped all together and backed up a few steps, refusing to go any further for some reason. Seeing as you couldn't get your horse to go on, you tied the bridle to a tree and ran on foot.
"Please!" You screamed. "Not my brother!"
You ran, lantern in hand, getting closer to the spot named the "Changeling Stone". There was a thick brush that you tore at. Why did the brush seem to grow back? You backed up and burst through the bushes and fell down as you got to the other side.
You ran only a little bit further before finding a large, round flat stone, surrounded by large, tall rocks that were covered in writing. The rocks formed a circle around the flat rock. Around the rocks grew moss that crept up the bottoms of the rocks, blending the writing with the greenery. The moss was also on the sides of the large flat rock, giving the effect that the whole circle was slowly being sucked into the soft moss. You entered the circle and looked on the rock.
The cotton cloth that your brother was wrapped in laid on the flat rock, bare of a human baby. You stopped breathing for a moment and bit your lip as you reached out and took the cloth in your hand.
"No…" You whimpered. "No…please…" You fell to your knees and sobbed.
"I told you no!" You screamed. "I told you not to take him! He's mine! He's my brother!"
You felt a breeze go through the silent night and you heard whispering. You looked up with teary eyes to see a golden light on the other side of the circle. You wiped away your tears and stood up, holding the cloth, to see a man clad in a dark green cloak, holding a lantern in one hand and holding a bundle of dark red cloth in his other arm, cradling it close to his chest.
The man had blonde hair and bright green eyes. His skin was fair and looked golden in the light of the lantern. His hands were clad in black leather gloves. He turned his head slightly to the side as he looked at your form, which was shaking, clutching the cloth for dear life.
"The sister…" He mumbled. He turned the bundle in his arms. Your little brother was wrapped snugly in the cloth. "Is this yours? Your brother?"
You gasped and ran for the baby, holding out your arms but some sort of force pushed you back. You hit the ground.
The man backed up a few steps, his head held back with caution. "Don't come closer to the boy." He warned. "You will upset them even more."
"Who are you?" You said.
"My name is Arthur Kirkland." He said.
"What do you want with my brother?" You asked.
"Don't you know? This boy is a changeling." Arthur said. He furrowed his brow in confusion.
"He's not a changeling!" You said. "It's a mistake!"
"I'm afraid not." Arthur said. "Was your mother unable to get pregnant?"
"Yes." You said slowly, unsure of where Arthur was going with this.
"You might not know this but your mother asked the fae to give her a child." Arthur said. "They gave it to her, only to make her give it back."
"What do you mean?" You asked.
"The fae are…hard to bargain with." He said. "She asked a powerful force for a child. If they feel that this child is not worthy to a mother or was not asked for in the right way, they will make the child unwell or hard to take care of, so they can take the child back."
"I know the story of the changelings!" You snapped. You grew quiet. "It's just…my mother always wanted another child. We spent so many hours talking, preparing for my brother and I can't simply part with him."
"I know it must be hard to believe but this child is meant for the fae." Arthur said.
"Well then, let me talk to them! Let me make the deal for my brother!" You said.
Arthur raised an eyebrow. "You can't see them here with us?" He asked.
"See what?" You asked.
"Ah, you've never been around the fae before." He said. Arthur gently put your brother on the Changeling Stone along with his lantern and approached you. He took your face in his black-gloved hands.
"This will hurt." He said.
You winced and closed your eyes. You were mightily surprised when Arthur spat on both of your eyes but you were more surprised at the burning reaction. Backing up from Arthur and wiping away the burning, you opened your eyes, only to gasp at the new scenery.
The trees were moving with life. Creatures that blended in with the leaves crept along the branches, red eyes peering down at you. Tall women figures, standing at nearly ten feet tall, had brown, cracked skin that looked like the bark of the trees. They moved from tree to tree, standing and blending in with the bark, black eyes the only way to tell them apart from the trunks of the trees. Frog-like animals with huge green eyes crawled up the tall rocks of the circle. Child-like fairies with butterfly wings darted around the trees, hiding from you, except for one little girl with golden wings. She sat on the Changeling Stone and held your brother in her arms.
"Amazing, isn't it?" Arthur said. His form had glowing dots around him, small bug fairies flying near him. They played with his blonde hair and his cloak, talking in buzzing voices in a language that you didn't understand.
"What…what happened?" You beckoned to your eyes.
"I gave you the ability to see the fae." Arthur said. "It's only something other fae have the ability to do."
"You're…you're…" You gasped.
Arthur shook his head. "I'm not fully fae." He looked down, almost embarrassed. "I'm a changeling myself."
"Oh." You gave a soft gasp.
Arthur looked at the fae girl and took the baby from her. "Your brother will not be alone." He said. "This fae realm has many changeling children."
You nodded slowly, trying to be brave. It didn't work and your lip began to tremble. Arthur got closer to you and held your cheek with his free hand.
"Don't cry." He said. "A pretty thing like you doesn't need to cry."
You slowly touched your brother's cheek and he moved closer to your hand.
"I see you are terribly upset." Arthur said. "Perhaps you can sway the fairy folk to let you see your brother, since you can't get him back fully."
Your head snapped up. "I can?"
Arthur stood back and looked at the surrounding fae. "Ask them, not me."
All attention was soon on you as soon as Arthur spoke. The fairies started to get closer to you and you stood tall to make your proposal.
"What will it take for me to see my brother?" You asked.
There was a whisper like a breeze that came from the fae's mouths. Give us something.
"What do you want?" You asked, a shiver running up your spine.
One of the bug-like fairies flew to you and pulled off a locket that you wore. You tried to grab it but all the fae hissed at you and you pulled back. The fairy gave the locket to Arthur, who held it in his hand.
"This means something to you." Arthur said, seeing the way you panicked over the locket now missing from your neck.
"It's from my father. He's away on a merchant ship right now. He hasn't come back for seven months." You said. "It means a lot to me."
"The fae can tell. They think this will suffice." Arthur said. "You can see your brother once a year if you give this to them."
Your mind mentally tore in half over if you should be able to see your brother only once a year or keep your locket forever.
"Fine. They can keep it." You said quietly.
Arthur nodded slowly. He put the locket around the neck of your brother. "Every spring equinox, you will return to this place. I will meet you here with your brother. You may spend from sunrise to sunset with him." Arthur said.
You nodded. The fae started to rustle and a breeze blew through the circle. Arthur looked at the figures around him. "We need to go." He said.
"Please, just let me hold him one last time." You whispered.
Arthur smiled and approached you with the baby. He gently lifted the baby from his arms and gave it to you. You rocked the baby back and forth.
"His breathing. It's not sick sounding anymore." You said.
"The fae have many healing powers." Arthur said. "He will grow up without any signs of being premature. It's how the fae get you humans to see which children are changelings."
"Like you?" You whispered.
Arthur nodded. "I was born five months early." He seemed pained to talk about his changeling life so you decided not to talk about it anymore.
You kissed your brother on the head before handing him back to Arthur. "I trust you to keep him well."
As soon as your brother left your arms, he decided to cry. Arthur started to slowly rock him back and forth. "Don't cry. It's ok." Arthur cooed to the baby. "You are in the safest care with us, changeling." Arthur started to sing, his voice smooth and soft:
"Come away, come away
To the realm of the fae
We will crown your head with leaves of green
And posies bright and gay
Come along, come along
We will sing you a song
We will play our music for you
Tell you nothing's wrong
Let us take you, human child
Fair thing, sweet and mild
Forever you will dance and sing
We promise you, dear changeling"
Your brother soon fell asleep in the arms of Arthur. You smiled at the sweet sight of the baby.
"I have to go now." Arthur said. "We will see you in the spring." He said.
You nodded and stood there as Arthur turned and slowly walked away from the Changeling Stone. You could hear the voices of all the fae that followed him.
Come away, come away
To the realm of the fae
You can hear the songs
Of the robin and jay
Come, changeling boy, sweet changeling boy
To a realm of peace and joy
To the fae realm, changeling boy