Fairy Tale: the Changeling's Story - Part One
Until recently, Morgan was a perfectly normal high schooler, enjoying an ordinary life with his family and friends, until he discovered he possessed mysterious powers which he doesn't always use responsibly.
Author's note: Here is my first contribution to Enemyoffun's wonderful DarkRealm Universe, and my first story on this site. The story takes place a few months before Life is Precious. I hope this story will be a worthy addition.
Many thanks to Wren Erendae Phoenix for proof reading and editing this chapter. Have a good read!
Chapter 1: The Changeling
“How about this one?” I asked Christopher, looking at the girl who just entered the pizza parlor.
“She’s pretty, I suppose. But Morgan, I already told you that I’m not looking for another girlfriend right now. Gillian and I just broke up just two days ago!”
“And you’ve been moping ever since! C’mon, I always told you that you were too good for her anyway. “
“Don’t talk about Gillian that way, please.”
“I’m just saying you shouldn’t let yourself feel so bad over that girl. She’s not yet able to appreciate what you have to give, except for your money, I mean.”
“Dude, I’m warning you…” Christopher said in a threatening tone. Of course, it was more funny than scary. Christopher is a small, scrawny guy, with big soulful blue eyes and shoulder length brown hair. Even angry he looked about as dangerous as an irate kitten.
“Alright, no more badmouthing Gillian, I get it. How about this one? “I asked indicating another passing girl.
“Just let it go, Morgan” Ethan told me, putting a hand on my shoulder.
I stared at his hand until he removed it. Ethan was a good friend, but I could never stand being touched by another guy apart from my father, my brother and Christopher, but again, he had been my best friend since the age of six. It was one my numerous oddities and it was far from being the worst. I had no problem initiating contact with a guy, but if one touched me, it raised my hackles.
Ethan removed his hand with an apologetic look. He knew me well enough to know about this peculiarity and he didn’t mind it. Ethan is Mister Perfect. He’s smart, kind, tall, handsome, athletic, with dark brown skin and close cropped black hair. He’s a true chick magnet, but most of the time he was completely oblivious to their affections.
My friends and I were sitting at the same table at Mario’s, watching the people passing by, and trying to cheer up Christopher a little. His girlfriend had just dumped him for the guy she’d been cheating on him with and the poor guy was devastated.
“I think Morgan’s kinda right, “Mandy intervened, “the best way to forget Gillian is to find yourself a new girlfriend. I do it all the time, with my boyfriends.”
Mandy is 5’9’’, has gorgeous grey eyes, perfect skin, wavy chestnut hair, and is one of the most popular girls at school. She’s not a bad person, but she doesn’t try to spare other people’s feelings and can be cruel when the mood strikes her.
“It’s not the same. You’re never the one getting dumped.” Christopher answered.
“Of course, I don’t get dumped. Who do you think I am? Being dumped is for losers.” Mandy retorted.
See? No consideration for other people’s feelings.
“Hush, Kitten, we’re trying to help Christopher feel better, not kick him while he’s down.” I said, taking her hand and kissing her fingers.
Mandy pursed her lips, rolled her eyes, but left her hand in mine.
“And shamelessly flirting with Mandy will help Christopher how exactly? “ Anna asked me.
I smiled at her.
Anna was my other best friend. She was an almost evanescent little thing, with wide green eyes, long black hair usually kept in a tight bun, adorable dimples on her cheeks, and the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen. She was kind, smart, pretty and brave, but also way to naïve and trusting. We went out for a few months, but for various reasons, she decided that she preferred to be my friend rather than my girlfriend. At the time it broke my heart, but in the end the only thing that really changed in our relationship was the frequency and nature of our physical contacts.
“Mandy is kind enough to help me support the heartbreak of seeing you sitting by Christopher’s side rather than my own. I’m just showing how grateful I am.”
“You know she just wanted to sit near Ethan, right?”
“Is it true, Mandy? You do realize that Ethan wouldn’t know what to do with you even if you drew him a diagram, right?”
“Hey!” Ethan protested.
I saw Christopher’s lips twitch upward. Good.
“C’mon boy scout. You know it’s true. Mandy is just too much for you to handle. She’d eat you up alive.”
“You bet I would,” Mandy confirmed proudly, snuggling against Ethan who was sitting on the other side of her from me.
“Could we go back to comforting Christopher, please?” Ethan asked, suddenly flustered as he tried in vain to put some distance between Mandy and himself.
Mandy had been after poor Ethan for two years now, but the more she pursued him, the more he ran away. I thought it was hilarious. Mandy couldn’t seem to realize that it was her very forwardness that terrified Ethan. He was more used to girls arraying themselves in line and waiting to be picked like flowers, not that he even noticed most of them.
“Hmm, guys? Don’t look, but I think Gillian is coming this way. Steve Rowe is with her.” Carol intervened.
Carol was Mandy’s cousin, a cute, small blonde girl with sparkly blue eyes, an easy smile and perky attitude. She was the nicest, kindest person I knew, and she had a talent for bringing other people’s kindness to the fore. Even Mandy was nicer around her.
“Gillian? Where?” Mandy asked, looking around in a less than discrete fashion.
Christopher’s shoulder drooped, his gaze dropped and his slight smile disappeared instantly. Damn.
I spotted Gillian clinging to the arm of Steve, a member of the basketball team, like Ethan. Unlike Ethan, Steve was a moron, and always had been. When we were younger, he and some of his friends used to bully Christopher, while I used to beat them up every time I caught them at it.
“What a bitch,” Mandy growled, “I only dumped Steve two weeks ago! I can’t believe she already got her claws in him!”
We all looked at her, our expressions going from incredulous to shock.
“What? Why are you all looking at me again?”
“No reason,” I sighed. She wouldn’t have understood even if we explained anyway. “We should probably go before they come this way. I’m beginning to wonder if Steve isn’t dating Gillian just to make Mandy jealous. If that’s the case they’re going to come here, he’s going to say something stupid and I’m going to have to break his two arms.”
Mandy perked up at the idea. She hugged my arm and purred:
“What would be wrong with that? He totally deserves it anyway. Ouch! Bitch!”
Mandy released my arm to rub her shin, while Carol glared at her. Even with the glare, she looked adorable.
“We’re leaving. Now. Come on Chris, get up.” Anna said.
Everybody got up, Anna and Carol each took hold one of Christopher’s arm, Mandy wrapped herself around Ethan’s arm before he could put me between them, and we set to leave the pizzeria.
Unfortunately, Steve spotted us at that moment, and began to make his way toward us, Gillian clinging to his arm. Steve had a stupid grin plastered on his face, while Gillian merely looked smug.
I wondered what kind of pleasure they took hurting Christopher’s feeling like this. He’d never done anything to them, and he’d treated Gillian like a princess while they were together.
My hands closed into fists, and I fixed Steve intently as he walked toward us, wishing something horrible would happen to him right this moment.
And it happened. I felt something falling into place in my head, a tingling sensation in my hands, and suddenly, Steve’s pants fell on his ankles in the middle of the pizza parlor. His feet entangled themselves in the fallen garment; he stumbled and fell on his face, in the most ridiculous way. Suddenly the pizzeria had grown quiet, and it seemed like everybody close enough to see the scene had stopped in their tracks to watch. Then a laughter filled that silence as Mandy began to giggle uncontrollably, quickly followed by all the other customers. Steve tried to get back up, but he kept stumbling because of his pants; Gillian watched him with a horrified expression. Such an easy target.
“Hey, Gillian! The next time you finish playing with Steve, remind him to zip his pants back up!”
Okay, I know it was mean. But I thought seeing Gillian’s face go red and her eyes tear up in shame was totally worth lowering myself to this level. Yes, I can be a pretty horrible person.
For a moment, Gillian looked like she was going to pounce on me, but then she merely turned tail and ran in the opposite direction, followed by the laughter of the crowd. Damn. Now I felt bad for her.
As I watched her go, I noticed a girl, no, a woman with blonde hair and cold grey eyes, sitting alone and looking intently at me, her face showing no trace of amusement. She felt familiar, as if I’d seen her somewhere before. Perhaps a parent or friend of Gillian? I lowered my gaze, feeling a bit ashamed.
Anna gave me a disappointed look.
“That was a low blow. She was already embarrassed enough without you calling her out like that.”
“Are you kidding? The bitch totally deserved it” Mandy contradicted, “Personally, I’d have been much meaner if I hadn’t been laughing too much to be able to talk.”
Emotions warred on Christopher’s face, sadness, compassion, anger. Not a hint of schadenfreude. That guy was way too nice for his own good. Still I did what I had to do. Steve’s anger would now be directed at me, making his taking his frustration and rage on Chris less likely.
“Guys, what do you think happened to Steve pants? That was an incredible coincidence, him just losing his pants and falling on his face at just this moment.” Anna remarked.
“Who cares? That was hilarious!” Mandy intervened.
Anna rolled her eyes.
“Will you still find it funny when Steve and his pals come for Chris and Morgan to avenge his wounded pride?“
“Oh. Well, I’m sure Ethan can talk them down, can’t he?”
“Me? I’ll see what I can do, but don’t expect a miracle. Steve is not known for his listening skills.”
I listened distractedly to their conversation as we made our way to Ethan’s car.
After leaving the pizza parlor, we went back to Christopher’s house and stayed with him for a while, before going back home. He was doing a little better when we left him, but of course it was going to take more time before he would be back to his usual cheerful self.
All in all, things could have been worse.
I decided to walk home, while Ethan drove the girls back home. It would give me some time to think about the recent events.
Humiliating Steve like this had been a mistake, one whose consequences I would have to deal with. I couldn’t let my friend be inconvenienced by my errors. Not that I didn’t have my own problems to deal with at the moment.
As usual, I was the first to come back. My brother, Jason, spent most of his free time after his classes hanging out at the Guardian with his friends, my sister had her piano lessons, and my parents worked late. So I spent most of my evenings alone at home. Like most days, I went straight to the kitchen to prepare dinner before the rest of the family came back. I liked to cook. It helped me take my mind off things, and I loved being complimented on my cooking. Carrie, my sister, was a vegetarian, and my mother was on a diet, so I prepared a green salad for the both of them, while I made lasagna and meat sauce for the rest of us.
Jason arrived a few minutes later, and we spent half a hour playing video games together until Carrie came back from her piano lesson. We ate together without waiting for our parents. They wouldn’t be home before 9 PM, and we were too hungry to wait that late. Carrie insisted that each of us told about our day, so I told them about what happened at Mario’s, minus my part in Steve’s misadventure, of course. Jason told us about his new girlfriend from that weird sorority which Carrie said was full of creepy girls, and she told us about this girl from the same sorority as Jason’s girlfriend that she had caught flirting with her boyfriend. Now we understood why she didn’t like those Delta Beta Zeta people. Jason teased her mercilessly, while I argued with her that her boyfriend was just as much to blame than the girl. A typical evening after such a weird day.
Afterwards, I went to my room to study. Unfortunately, I really wasn’t in the mood. Usually cooking has a calming effect on me, but today it didn’t work.
Lying on my back on the bed, looking at the ceiling, I kept thinking about what happened earlier at Mario’s.
A month ago, I’d discovered I possessed some mysterious abilities. I had no idea what they were, exactly, but I found I could change the world around me in minor ways, like I did earlier that day when I made Steve’s pants fall off. I had no idea where these abilities came from, but I loved them. I couldn’t do anything big, at least not yet, but I’d been practicing, and I was getting better. I could make flowers bloom or wilt, change an object’s color, or move small ones by telekinesis. Every day I discovered a new aspect of these abilities. I’d also discovered that their use had a cost. Each time I used them, my own body changed in some way, then the change reversed itself after a few hours.
Once my eyes changed color, another time, my hair grew to reach down to my butt.
I looked at my hands. They were smaller and more slender than they’d been before I caused Steve pants to fall off. Damn it. Those secondary effects were annoying, but fortunately they were temporary. My siblings didn’t seem to have noticed them, which was fortunate. I don’t know how I would have explained that.
“Does it happen often?” a voice asked just behind me.
Surprised, I sat down and turned, to see the woman whose gaze I’d crossed after calling out Gillian, sitting on a chair near my bed.
“Who are you? What the hell are you doing here?” I shouted.
With the noise I’d made, I hoped my brother would hear and come to see what was happening. I wasn’t the kind of person who got scared easily, and when I did, the fear quickly turned to anger. But for some reason, I could feel that something was wrong with this woman, and I’m not ashamed to see that I was not feeing particularly brave at the moment.
“Does your body often change when you use your magic?” she asked again.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, lady. Now get out before I call the police,” I said, rising from the bed slowly, careful not to make any sudden movement that might make the crazy lady get violent and pull a gun or something.
A single word, but the command it carried was so compelling, so powerful that not only did I stop moving, I also stopped breathing. Around me, the world itself seemed to have stopped moving. And suddenly the surroundings changed completely. My room and everything in it had disappeared, replaced by a small clearing in what appeared to be the middle of the thickest forest I’d ever seen.
Goodness. What did that mean? Who was this woman? Where were we? My heart beat so fast and so hard I thought it was going to hammer its way out of my chest. I was terrified.
“Breathe, “Ordered the woman, “and answer my question: does your body usually change when you’re using magic?”
I tried to think of a way to get of this ridiculous situation. Perhaps if I played along and answered her questions, she’d let me go?
“Magic? I always thought it was some kind of psychic powers…yes, there always seems to be some sort of physical change when I use my gifts. But it doesn’t usually last more than a few hours.”
“How long have you been able to use magic?”
“The first time was a month ago. I made my mom’s roses bloom while watering them.”
The woman smiled, or at least, her lips curved upward, but her eyes remained cold as she looked at me.
“I see. You should be careful in the use of your magic, at least if you intend to conserve the shape you are wearing now for a while longer.”
“What do you mean, the form I’m wearing now?”
“Your awakening magic is interfering with the glamour that hides your true shape. The more you use it, the weaker the glamour becomes. Soon, it will fade completely, and your true self will be revealed for all to see. This is… unusual. You should not be able to use magic so soon, not until the glamour dissipates on its own, in your 18th year. “
The woman sighed, and pinched the bridge of her nose.
“You are going to be trouble, aren’t you? Powerful, willful, and rash. You have barely begun to awaken to your true self and you are already giving me a headache.”
“Err, sorry? But, who are you, and what do you want with me?”
The woman gave me long, analytic stare, examining me as if I was some rare bug she’d just stepped on.
“I am Lena. If we ever meet in public, this is how you will call me. Otherwise you will call me Princess Lena, or your Highness.”
“What? Who the heck do you think you are?” I spouted without thinking. Seriously, one day my mouth was going to get me in trouble.
“Willful and rash,” Lena repeated, shaking her head slowly, as if disappointed, “I really did not need that. Stop breathing. “
Once again, my lungs stopped functioning, and I found myself in apnea.
“Child, I hold your life in my hands, you should be smart enough to know that angering me now is a bad idea. Or are you really that stupid? With your magic half awakened like this, you are going to attract things you have no chance to defend yourself against. I am to keep you safe until the day of your 18th birthday, but I fear that you may make this difficult. I do not enjoy babysitting, child. So if you make my work more difficult than it has to be by your own stupidity, I will make your life a living hell. Do you understand me?”
I nodded frantically. I was suffocating. My lungs were burning and I could see little dots of light dancing before my eyes.
“Breathe.” Lena ordered.
I breathed deeply, gasping for air. I shook like a leaf. I couldn’t recall being that scared ever before. That woman was insane. Who did that kind of things to people?
“What is this all about? What do you want with me?”
Damn it. I was trying to keep my voice firm, but it still sounded terrified and whiny. That pissed me off.
“Me? I want nothing to do with you. But I was given a task by my lady, and I will not fail. That means that I will have to teach you how to use your powers properly, and how not to be noticed. I was not supposed to do this, but since you seem to be precocious, the burden of your education falls to me.” Lena answered.
“What education? What are you talking about?”
“Morgan Dupray, you are not who you think you are. You are not your parent’s child. You are not even human. You are a Changeling, a Fae child exchanged at birth for the human child who was born to your parents sixteen years ago. “
I don’t know what I’d been expecting, but certainly not this. Fae? Changeling? Child substitution? What the heck? Did she really expect me to believe something like that? On the other hand, she was able to order me to stop breathing at her whim. I didn’t know what to believe anymore. I was my parents’ child. I knew this. I even looked like my mom; I had the same green eyes, the same pale skin and dark brown hair. She had to be mistaken. Perhaps she’d confused me with someone else.
“You doubt me? It’s natural. I just told you that all of your existence is but a great lie. Get over it. You need to accept what you are, if you are to learn how to keep what you have. Even your appearance is a lie, and one that you won’t be able to maintain much longer with your power manifesting already. You’ve seen it yourself. Whenever you use your magic, your true nature tries to reassert itself. It is only a matter of time, now. In a few days, a few weeks at most, you will be stripped of the glamour that hides your true visage from the world. What will you do, then? “
I didn’t know what to answer. This was too much. My mind refused to process this information, to accept these words as truth, even as some part of me thought it would explain where my powers came from. After all, people weren’t supposed to do the kind of thing I could do. So, what if I really wasn’t human?
“Am I supposed to believe you like that, without any proof? You just kidnapped me, what reason do I have to trust you? Release me, and then we can talk.”
“Did you hear anything I just said to you? “
“RELEASE ME!” I screamed. I felt something surging inside me, growing, pushing against the force that held me in place. My face felt like it was on fire. And suddenly I was free.
I lurched forward, so suddenly that I fell on my knees.
Lena stared at me with wide eyes, surprise manifest on her delicate features.
“You broke my enchantment? Fool, didn’t you really hear a word of what I was saying? Your whole face is transformed now. I’ll have to restore your glamour for you. “
She took a step toward me, arm extended to touch my face, and I took a step back to avoid her contact.
“What now? Do I have to immobilize you again? “She asked, exasperated.
“Don’t touch me. Leave me alone. I want nothing from you.”
“Your wants matter little to me. I didn’t choose to be your guardian. All that matter to me is to make sure you stay safe. Right now, you need your usual face back. You cannot go home with this face, and waiting outside would be dangerous for you.”
“What is wrong with my face?”
“Too much for you to handle. Let’s just say you don’t look anything like your usual self, right now. Now let me fix you, and stop acting like an idiot. I have other things to do, other people to see. You’re not my idea of good company either.”
I touched my face. Unfortunately I didn’t have a mirror or anything, but I could feel some changes by touch. My nose was smaller, my lips fuller, my cheekbones higher, my jaw more narrow. Goodness.
My shoulders slumped in defeat. She was right; I couldn’t go home like this. Besides, if she worried about me getting my appearance back, it meant that our stay is this strange forest was temporary. I’d go back home, and forget about all of this madness.
I looked at her, still not wanting to let her anywhere near me; still she was my only chance to go back to normal, so I’d have to obey her, at least for now.
“Good boy. Now let me work.” She said, walking up to me and cradling my face in her hands with surprising gentleness.
And then pain exploded in my whole body, like a fire burning me from the inside out.
I screamed at the top of my lungs, my body thrashing uncontrollably. I didn’t even realize I was falling before I hit the ground. I looked at the sky, noticing with incredible clarity how it fast those dark clouds were gathering, and how suddenly.
It began to rain.
I blacked out.
When I came to, I was laying in the most comfortable bed I had ever been in. The covers were warm and silky, the mattress both soft and firm. It felt like being wrapped in a solid cloud.
I stayed like this a moment, eyes closed, listening to the rain outside and hoping that when would open my eyes, I would be home, and I would discover that everything had merely been a particularly vivid nightmare.
The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was Lena’s face. She looked concerned, almost afraid. This was a strange expression to see on her. She’d appeared so strong and confident; I didn’t even imagine she could look scared.
Looking around, I discovered I was lying in an enormous canopy bed, at the center of a very large bedroom. The walls were made in a marble like stone, with while the vanity, bookcase, nightstand and exquisitely carved wardrobe were made in a kind of reddish wood I’d never seen before. There weren’t any windows, and the only light came from the candles of the chandelier hanging from the ceiling, that filled the air with the scent of honey. Sitting by me was Lena, on a chair of the same wood as the vanity and wardrobe.
So not a nightmare then, was my first thought. I would have liked if all of this had just been a banal, normal nightmare. But no, I couldn’t be so lucky.
“What happened?” I asked.
My whole body ached, my skin was awfully sensitive.
“Do not move. There was a… complication with my glamour and the consequences were as severe as they were unexpected. It seems that you instinctively tried to reject my magic with your own, and that you actually succeeded. Unfortunately this accomplished exactly what I was warning you against. The glamour that kept you looking human almost totally disappeared, but fortunately, I have managed to keep it from fading completely. It is almost back to normal now, apart from a few details. You should look like your normal self again in a few hours, which should give me enough time to teach you some of the basics of what you will need to survive. ”
I looked at myself in the full length mirror standing near the wardrobe. I was mostly normal, except for my hair, which was now blonde and reached down to my waist, while my eyes seemed to be bigger and almost glowing, my skin was a darker shade, olive instead of the pale white I normally was. As for my ears… they were pointed. Not longer, but they were pointed. I was also much thinner than I should be. Could I really doubt Lena’s story anymore with such evidence corroborating it?
I tore my attention away from my reflection to focus on Lena once again. Somehow, I knew that taking my attention off her for any length of time was not a good idea.
“Teach me? You’re expecting me to just stay here with you and take lessons from you?”
“If you want to survive, then yes. Now that your powers have awakened, you will begin to attract the attention of other Fae, and perhaps other creatures as well, who may not have your best interests at heart.”
“Oh you mean creatures that will appear from nowhere, and try to suffocate me to death?”
Lena’s lips curled upwards, in a cold smile that didn’t reach her eyes.
“Sarcasms. How droll. When an Ogre sniffs your nascent magic out and tries to devour you and yours, I hope your wit will stay as sharp. You might become a pet instead of a snack.“
“Ogre? What are you talking about?”
“Oh, are you curious now? Does it mean you are willing to learn what I have to teach you?”
“You said Ogres would come to eat me. You weren’t serious, were you?”
“Accept my teachings and you will know.”
“What it is that you want to teach me so much?”
“I merely want to teach you how not to reveal yourself for what you truly are, as well as a few useful tricks. Your survival may well depend on it. Besides, I saw what your true appearance was, when you passed out. I am not sure you would enjoy shifting back to this form.” Lena answered.
I could have sworn she sounded amused when saying that last sentence. It made me wonder what my supposed true form was like. Probably some sort of ugly leprechaun or something along that line, if it amused her so much.
“How long is this going to take? My brother and sister must have noticed my disappearance, by now, and they’re going to wonder what happened.”
“The first lesson should only take a few hours. Time flows differently here, so you should be back home a few minutes after the moment I took you to Faerie. Nobody in the mortal world will notice you are gone, I made sure of this before I even showed myself to you.”
“What do you mean by that? Did you do something to Carrie and Jason?”
“They are sleeping, and won’t wake up before a few hours. Now, can we begin the lesson? “
I glared at her and nodded, biting my lips not to lash out verbally at her. The way she casually spoke about putting my brother and sister to sleep, as if it hardly mattered… It was both frightening and infuriating.
Lena didn’t lose any time after I agreed to begin learning from her. She took me to another room, quite different from the elegant bedroom I’d woken up into. This room was very large, mostly bare except for an impressive collection of weapons hanging on the walls, a few chairs and a chandelier.
“This is the room I usually use for training. From now on it will also be where I will teach you about yourself and your abilities,“ Lena began, almost as soon as I stepped in the room.
I sat in the closest chair, and tried my best to look attentive and interested. Who knows what this crazy witch might do if she thought I wasn’t listening to her?
“The first thing you need to learn is how to disguise yourself, in case you return to your true form once again. This is important, so I will ask you to pay me the utmost attention. “
“Yes ma’am.” I answered, with just the faintest touch of sarcasm. After all, being able to look normal if I turned into an elf or whatever could be exceedingly useful to me. I had no wish to have to explain my parents why I suddenly looked like a reject from the Lord of the Ring.
“Good. Fae disguises are based on two different abilities: the first is shapeshifting, the power to change your body into that of another creature, or even into an object, for those with enough talent. The second is illusion, the power to change the perceptions of other people. The best disguises often include both of these elements, shapeshifting and illusions, for the good reason that Fae shapeshifting is always flawed. There is always something indicative of a Fae true form in her new shapes, and illusion can help, hiding whatever it is that could give away a transformed Fae true nature. On the other hand, while illusions do not have this kind of weaknesses, they are less practical. Being perceived as a bird, won’t make you able to fly, for example. The glamour that gives you your mortal appearance is one of those disguises, mixing together illusion and shapeshifting. I will teach you how to sense it, and how to reinforce it so it won’t fade so easily in the future. I will also show you how to craft an illusion around yourself, in case your glamour ever disappears completely.”
She did just that. For the next few hours, she taught me how to sense magic, and how to dissipate or reinforce an active work of magic. She showed me how to craft an illusion and how to change my shape, but she didn’t let me try to do it myself, as it would probably make me change back into my Fae form. Still, she made me observe her until I was pretty sure I could do it too, should the need arise.
Since I began to use my powers, I’d only ever done pretty minor things, and already I was addicted to the sensations it gave me. Now I’d seen Lena turn into a horse and then a tiger before my very eyes, and I couldn’t wait to be able to do the same kind of thing. I could now feel her power as she flowed from one shape to the other, I knew exactly how she did, and I was eager to do it myself. Except I couldn’t, not if I wanted to keep my human appearance. That really sucked. I had incredible magic powers, but I had to refrain from using them. That was the worst temptation I’d ever been submitted to.
Lena also took some time to tell me about the Fae in Ravencrest. Apparently there were dozens of Fae impersonating humans, living and working among the mortal population. Some of them did it because they liked living this way; others were agents from the local Fae royal couple, making sure their existence stayed secret and that the Fae living in the mortal world stayed safe. Others yet lived among the humans because it was more convenient to prey on them from there. It seemed that some Fae didn’t have a very high opinion of mortals, considering them to be no more than playthings, or even food, in some cases. While most Fae weren’t predatory towards mortals, few would care to protect a human from those Fae who were.
She also told me about Faerie. It was something like a parallel world, in which the Fae ruled supreme. They could move from one world to the other at will, and could even create some sort of gates through which others could cross from one world to the other. Lena was very serious when telling me about Fae society.
“Every Fae has a place in or out of our society. There are nobles, commoners, and outcasts. The nobles protect the commoners, the commoners serve the nobles, and the outcasts just want to be left alone. Your place is the one you have the power to keep. So, even if a Fae is born to noble parents, she will only have the rank she is strong enough to hold. It is also common for some Fae to seek out and challenge young Changelings to figure out what their place in the hierarchy will be.” She told me.
Why couldn’t this people have a democracy? I was not looking forward to a bunch of freaks with magical powers challenging me to duel or whatever to know if they were going to be the boss of me.
“You do not have to worry about it right now. Until you are able to make it on your own, you are under my protection. Unless you are unlucky enough to attract the attention of a major noble, it should be enough.“
“What about you? You said you were a princess, didn’t you?”
“Indeed I am. But it does not make me invincible. I would rather avoid a fight with anyone with a power close to my own, if I can. I have nothing to gain, and everything to lose from such an encounter.”
I thought I was beginning to understand Lena a little. She had fought her way to the top, only to find herself having to babysit me, who would perhaps be a threat to her position one day. I would be grumpy too, in her place. Of course, that didn’t mean I forgave her form almost choking me to unconsciousness or frightening me almost to death. It made no doubt in my mind that I would pay her back for this in the future, on general principle.
After several hours of training and lessons, I could barely stand. I was exhausted. Who knew that magic could be so tiring?
I began to doze off as Lena was saying something about the Unseen or whatever. The next thing I knew, my alarm clock was ringing. I was so surprised, I fell from my bed, and only there did I realize I was back in my room, thanks to the clothes and books lying on the ground.
I blinked stupidly, watching the familiar surroundings as if I was seeing them for the first time. When did I come back? I didn’t remember anything after Lena’s lesson.
Had it even really happened? How could I be sure? Didn’t I already have that same thought yesterday?
I touched my face, my hair, my ears, watched my skin. They all seemed to be back to normal.
I sighed in relief, and crawled back in my bed. It was the first week of summer vacation, sleeping in wouldn’t hurt.
I didn’t want to confront the world. I didn’t want to see my family. Knowing what I knew now, how could I face them? I’d taken the place of their child, and lived among them like some sort of cuckoo chick.
It was at that moment that the thought came to me for the first time: What had become of my parent’s true child?
I couldn’t believe I only thought about him now that it was too late to ask. Was he even alive anymore?
I wished I could ask Lena about him, but where could I find Lena? Yesterday had been the first time I’d even seen her. I didn’t even know if what I had seen was the human form she usually wore.
As I was thinking, someone knocked at my door.
It was my mother, Grace Crawford-Dupray, coming to see me before going off to work. My dad had probably already left.
Well it looked like I was going to have to face her, whether I wanted or not.
“Morgan? Honey, are you awake?”
“I’m awake, Mom. Good morning.”
“Good morning honey. Did you sleep well?”
For some reason, she looked really nervous. Worried, even.
“I guess. Is there something wrong, mom? Did something happen?”
“I spoke with Lena yesterday. She told me what had happened. I’m worried about you.”
I stared at her, eyes wide with surprise, too shocked to talk.
Mom knew Lena? What the heck was going on?
“Mom? How do you know who Lena is? What do you know about her?”
She stroked my hair with a heavy sigh.
“Honey, we need to talk.”
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