Two identical infants lay in the cradle. “One you bore, the other is a Changeling. Choose wisely,” the Fae’s voice echoed from the shadows. “I’m taking both my children,” the mother said defiantly.
Once upon a time there was a peasant woman who was unhappy because she had no children. She was happy in all other things – her husband was kind and loving, and they owned their farm and had food and money enough. But she longed for children.
She went to church and prayed for a child every Sunday, but no child came. She went to every midwife and wise woman for miles around, and followed all their advice, but no child came.
So at last, though she knew of the dangers, she drew her brown woolen shawl over her head and on Midsummer’s Eve she went out to the forest, to a certain clearing, and dropped a copper penny and a lock of her hair into the old well there, and she wished for a child.
“You know,” a voice said behind her, a low and cunning voice, a voice that had a coax and a wheedle and a sly laugh all mixed up in it together, “that there will be a price to pay later.”
She did not turn to look at the creature. She knew better. “I know it,” she said, still staring into the well. “And I also know that I may set conditions.”
“That is true,” the creature said, after a moment, and there was less laugh in its voice now. It wasn’t pleased that she knew that. “What condition do you set? A boy child? A lucky one?”
“That the child will come to no harm,” she said, lifting her head to stare into the woods. “Whether I succeed in paying your price, or passing your test, or not, the child will not suffer. It will not die, or be hurt, or cursed with ill luck or any other thing. No harm of any kind.”
“Ahhhhh.” The sound was long and low, between a sigh and a hum. “Yes. That is a fair condition. Whatever price there is, whatever test there is, it will be for you and you alone.” A long, slender hand extended into her sight, almost human save for the skin, as pale a green as a new leaf. The hand held a pear, ripe and sweet, though the pears were nowhere ripe yet. “Eat this,” the voice said, and she trembled with the effort of keeping her eyes straight ahead. “All of it, on your way home. Before you enter your own gate, plant the core of it beside the gate, where the ground is soft and rich. You will have what you ask for.”
#fae #storytime #fun with loopholes