I got this one in before midnight… barely!
This prompt came from a reader who requested it. Hope you enjoy!
Request: A human child is whisked away in the night, and left in its stead is a fairy child.
The Fey were known for their tricks, and everyone had heard of a changeling being left in their stead; a fairy child that looks just like your child, but cries, and fights, and causes terrible luck. Parents of the changeling were supposed to starve it, and leave it out in the forest over night to get your own child back. Fortunately for this changeling, a Fairy child taking the name of Ophelia, like the child it replaced, its new mother may have just been the most loving woman in the world, a woman named Lyanna.
The first night was the most difficult. Tears flowed like nothing Lyanna had ever seen from any child. Her husband couldn’t bear it, and he cursed and swore, and threatened to strip the child from her arms and take her out into the forest and leave her. “The little monster couldn’t be mine!” He shouted, before resigning himself to their bedroom, and burying his head under a pillow. Lyanna, however, would have none of it. As any mother would, she brought little Ophelia to her breast, and nursed her through the screams, and the tears, and the fighting. Even though she was nourished, she still fought.
Nights became weeks, and it was all day long. The doctor said she could have had the colic, but the milk never came back up. It never soured. It never failed. Lyanna knew the doctor was wrong.
When weeks became months, the lack of sleep had gotten to Lyanna’s husband. With less sleep, his work performance failed, and he lost his job. After losing his job, the food became more and more scarce, and he finally threw Lyanna and Ophelia into the garden, screaming “Take the beast and live elsewhere, or not at all!” Even being thrown from her own house, Lyanna protected little Ophelia, and the two rolled together in the grass. Together, they ventured away.
First, they went to Lyanna’s mother’s home, but she was turned away. Even she believed that little Ophelia was a curse. Then they went to the church, and there, they were turned away. Then they went to the home, but they were told to leave there, too.
Never once did Lyanna consider giving Ophelia away, and the tougher times got, the more resolute Lyanna became. Finally, Lyanna moved into a hutch, deep in the forest. She took what she learned as a young woman, and put it to use. She tied the little crying Ophelia to her chest, and she picked wild mushrooms and herbs. She killed rabbits and squirrels in traps, and she fished. She barely stowed enough away to make it through the winter.
When the snows of winter melted, and the first shoots of spring came, little Ophelia didn’t cry much anymore. She took her first steps on the wooden slat floor of the old hutch cottage, but upon her first steps outside… a whole new world was opened to Lyanna, and her perseverance. Her trials and her tribulations were rewarded, because at the first little magical steps of Ophelia, flowers, red-capped mushrooms, and little blooms blossomed and opened along the way. Little Ophelia giggled, and she waited for Lyanna not five feet out the door.
When Lyanna took her hand, the two ran through the forest, leaping and jumping, laughing and shouting gleefully. With each bound, Ophelia’s bare feet caused a blossoming of life in the forest. Beautiful flowers and mushrooms sprang to life! Grass grew where it normally did not! And when she finally stopped, she stood before a large opening at the base of a very old, ancient Oak, whose massive limbs stretched yards and yards from the trunk. Ophelia lead Lyanna, her mother, inside.
Passing into the realm of the Fey is said to be impossible, unless you are with a Fey, yourself. Ophelia, the little Fairy girl, had led Lyanna into the land of Tir Na Nog. A young girl who couldn’t speak, now spoke a language entirely foreign to Lyanna, but unforeign to those around her. Great armored men approached, with wings of a dragonfly, spread out cross-ways behind them, glistening like rainbows in the light. They fussed and they shouted, vicious biting tones, until Ophelia said but one word: “Màthair!”
A woman appeared wearing long, flowing robes and with a beautiful face. Truly, she was without flaw. Had it not been known, as it had been told, that she was thousands of years in age. She took Ophelia by the hand, and spoke a language that Lyanna did not recognize, but when she turned to leave, Lyanna leapt after them. “Not my baby!” She shouted. The woman turned to her and stared at her for a moment, then spoke to Lyanna as if she were speaking to a friend. “We do not leave without you, mother of Ophelia.”
And so, it came to be that Lyanna was the first human to pass into Tir Na Nog to live. As Ophelia aged to become an adult, Lyanna never aged again. Her compassion for her child was a passing grace to a world usually inaccessible to a simple human.