The mother was crying, weeping for her child. She was unsure that what they were planning to do was the right thing, but he was insistent.
“Do not cry, my deat,” he said, wrapping his arms around her, and she rested her head on his shoulder. “This is the only way. If we take it back, we will get our child back. I am sure of it.”
“We do not know that for certain,” she said, her voice hiccupping through the tears. “For all we know, the fairies will keep our baby, and we will never see him again.”
“This will work,” he said. “We will give them tokens so it will seem more favorable to them.”
“What could we give them that is more precious than our son?” she said. “We have nothing. They will not care for anything that we might find.”
“We can ask for help from some of our neighbors,” he said.
“And who would be willing?” she said. “They would be too afraid that one of their children might be taken instead.”
He could say nothing. He knew that she was right. If their places had been reversed, he would likely not have offered any help to any of his neighbors in such a predicament. He would not have taken the chane that one of his children would have been switched with a changeling.
“We will get our child back,” he said, trying to sound more determind and sure than he was feeling. “We will take the child that they left for us out to the stones tonight, and we will wait. In the morning, our son will be there, waiting for us.”
She nodded, her breath coming to her in gasps as she tried to calm herself.
She pulled away from him and went into the room where the changeling that had taken her baby’s place was located. She looked down at the baby that was not hers, wishing that her baby was there instead.
She reached out her hand, as though she were going to stroke its head, but it scrunched up its face and wailed loudly. She pulled back her hand, no longer having any desire to touch it.
If it had been her own child, she would have picked him up and tried to comfort him, but knowing that it wasn’t, she couldn’t bare to have the child in her arms. It would have been too much for her.
Turning away from the crying infant, she went out of the room, trying to get far enough away to no longer hear it crying.
That night, she went back into the room, her husband not far behind her, and she cringed as she picked up the child. She wrapped it up in a blanket, and they went out into the darkness, her husband holding a lantern to help them see.
They made their way slowly, looking around to make sure that none of their neighbors saw what they were doing; they did not want to have to answer any questions about what they were doing.
When they got to the appropriate place, he stood a few feet away, and she went up to the rocks. She gave one more look to the baby she was holding before she set it down among them. As she stepped back, he came forward and placed a jar of honey next to the child as an offering.
Then, the two of them turned away and hid among some trees.
They watched and they waited, expecting to see the fairies come and bring their own baby back, but as the night wore on, their hope became less and less.
When the sun came up, and they had seen nothing of the fairies, and the baby they had left was still laying there, she leaned into his shoulder and cried again.
After the sun came up fully, he pulled away from her and went to the place where they had left the child. The same child was still there, but the jar of honey was gone.
How could that have happened? They had watched all night. They had seen none of the fairies coming near, and they hadn’t seen the jar disappear. It should still have been there, the same as the child that had been given to them.
“What is it?” she asked. “Is our baby there? Did they bring him back to us?”
“No,” he said, “it is not. It is still the changeling.”
She let out a muffled sob and put her hands over her mouth to try and keep it inside.
Somewhere deep inside the fairy lands, there was a little boy with dark hair and grey eyes. He was much older than he would have been if he had been left among the other humans.
One of the fairies that was responsible for him, flew over to him and landed in front of him. He looked at her and smiled, wondering what it was that she wanted.
“Here, this is for you,” she said, placing a jar of honey in front of him. “We got this for you.”
“Where did it come from?” he said.
“From a couple of humans,” she said. “They left it for us as an offering.”
“Why would they have done that?” he said.
“Sometimes, they think they can garner our favor,” she said.
“Did it work?” he said.
“Not in the way that they intended,” she said, shaking her head.
“Is there any way that they could get what they wanted?” he said.
“Not without it hurting you, my dear,” she said.
“Well, I wouldn’t want that,” he said.
“Have some of your honey,” she said, pointing to the jar. “Tell me if it is any good.”
He opened the lid and put a couple of fingers into the honey, scooping it out and putting it into his mouth. It tasted good, and he got himself a bit more.
Before he could get any more of it, something changed inside of him, and he did not feel alright. His vision went grey around the edges, and he started to feel lightheaded.
When he looked back at the fairy in front of him, she no longer looked the same as she had before; she was no longer beautiful. Now, she was evil looking, all of her features pointed and pinched like a devil. And when he looked around at the others, they looked much the same as she had.
“What is wrong with you?” she said. “Isn’t the honey good?”
He looked at her, turning to her slowly. He put the jar on the ground next to him and got to his feet.
Sensing the danger that she was in, she sent a shot of magic at him. He crossed his arm in front of himself, and the spell bounced off of him.
When the light cleared and dimmed, the boy was much older than he had been a moment before, and he knew what had happened; he had been taken away from his parents, and the fairies had left a changeling in his place.
This was not the place that he belonged, and he was going to do whatever he could to make sure that he got back home.
Bending down to the ground, he picked the jar up. When he stood upright again, he threw the jar directly at her face, and as she flinched, he went rushing toward her.