A tower rose up through the gloom and haze that was the normal state of Hell. A lone female watched through the bars on the windows as small shadows were herded together into a pen beneath her tower. She hated this time of year, the time when she was reminded that not only she paid for her imprisonment among these creatures, these denizens of Hell. Tears coursed down her cheeks as she watched the pitiful little parade. Those poor mortal children, cursed to live a short painful life at the hands of the demons of Hell. Those poor parents, never knowing where their children had gone, or even never knowing that their children were gone, assuming her people used their magical arts. Cursing loudly, the woman turned and grabbed a vase that sat on a small table nearby and flung it at the stone wall. The pieces shattered everywhere and pain coursed through her body.

“Now, now, Princess Linette, you should really know better than to have these little outbursts by now.” The voice that spoke in her mind was harsh, but also welcome and familiar. It was the sign that she was still alive, still a prisoner, still where she had been for the last untold centuries.

Linette began to cry in earnest now. She knew full well that she was the reason these children suffered and died and the reason that their parents would mourn their loss, whether they realized it or not. At the same time though, she had come to know this place, to belong here, to need to be here. She was afraid that she would find a way to escape and return to Faerie Land. She was afraid that she was no longer the gentle, beautiful princess that had been stolen away. She didn’t even know if she was still in her natural form. She barely remembered those days, eons ago, when she had frolicked in the fields of Faerie and led her people in joyous revels. A scream tore through the air and she sighed. She was not in Faerie, she was in Hell. So far gone was she, that the scream didn’t do anything but remind her where she was. She had long since become immune to the screams and torment of adults, but never to the screams of children.

The Changeling

The three children walked across the moorlands of Faerie, each one leading a mount behind them. The sky was just starting to lighten, the sun rising slowly. The Prince of Knives and Thorns glanced at his two companions, waiting for the human amongst them to finally say what had been on her mind for so long, what had been weighing on her. He noticed it more and more of late, especially in their classes on etiquette and those on swordplay. Finally, she looked down, squeezing her eyes shut.
“Is it so hard to begin?”
The Princess of Fallen Leaves and Falling Stars rested a hand on Alycia’s shoulder, trying to reassure, only to have it shaken off.
“It is. I’m…afraid.”
“Is it something dangerous?” The Prince asked the question with a touch of excitement in his voice. “May we help?”
The laugh that came then was strained.
“I don’t know if it’s dangerous. I just know that it’s important.” For a long moment, she was silent. Then the words began to come, quietly at first. “I haven’t felt right about a lot of things lately. It’s hard to explain, I just have. Like I don’t belong in my own body. Like it’s wrong, like it isn’t right for me. I don’t…I’m not…I’m not a girl.” Then just slightly more confident, a little louder. “I’m a boy.”
The Prince shot his friend a relieved smile.
“Oh! Is that all? I was starting to worry you might be trying to say you were under a curse. And that would just be awkward.”
Blinking a few times, the young human finally pulled his fist back and socked the Prince as hard as he could.
“You ass! I was worried you were going to freak out or treat me differently or something!”
“Why should I? You’re still my friend. And now you’re just my brother instead of my sister. Nothing’s changed.”
The Princess wrapped her arms around the young boy and kissed his cheek.
“I think you were very brave to tell us, scared as you were.”
He blushed brightly and ducked his head as she continued speaking.
“Let us go home and we can get you new attire, to befit who you are. And speak to Mother about what can be done to help.”
Reaching up, the young changeling tugged at his ponytail.
“And a haircut, I think.”

Note: I know, I know, I hardly ever leave comments on my own writing. In this case, though, I had to. I want to clear up a few things for my dear readers, particularly those who might be alarmed or confused, about the use of pronouns in this story. You may be familiar with how important it is to never misgender someone and you may also have noticed that the pronouns used for the young changeling change partway through the story. That’s because this story isn’t from his perspective. The other characters simply don’t know, particularly the Prince who’s perspective this is. Once they know, the narration switches to the correct pronouns. I hope that helps to clear things up. Thanks 🙂