Lords of Chaos
Human from Godsholm. A Shapechanger magic user.
A scream followed by the wailing cries of a newborn child filled the air.
“My baby… someone stole my baby” shouted Yellow Star as she stared at the cradle at the foot of the bed.
How anyone could possibly have stolen anything from the crowded hut was beyond Standing Stone’s understanding. Was it 7 or 8 kids in the cabin born already to Yellow Star and her mate Runs-with-Beers? Plus, her old Granddame Willow Bends and Cousin Ed all living in the one room cabin in the woods.
Standing Stone had come to see the latest addition to the brood last night. A fat red bald baby that looked just like her Pa. As Standing Stone pushed her way to the front of the gaggle of wide eyed children she had to confess that the perfectly formed little golden haired girl that had replaced the homely red squalling brat was a vast improvement… but how in the world could a Changeling happen in that crowd? And why leave this beautiful child and take the ugly red brat?
But anyone with eyes could see that this was not the baby that had been born just yesterday. Consulting with the Elders for wisdom was the only advice Standing Stone could give Yellow Star. Sending for them would take a day or two as travel to this backwoods Godsholme village was slow. If Runs-with-Beers was sent for the Elders it might even take 3 days Standing Stone thought sourly.
The next morning Yellow Star’s screech of outrage woke even the roosters and sent them flying from the porch. “They took her again! A new Changeling! Where is my baby?”. Standing Stone couldn’t believe it. A new child had been left. This one as brown as a nut with curling dark hair and eyes as green as a leaf. Good thing they had sent Sliver of Silver to get the Elders. That youngster was fast and the Elders should arrive the next day. Meanwhile all 7 (or was it 8?) children were set to guard the cradle. Climbing Monkey even set in the rafters above the bed with the plan to pounce on the intruder that had Changeling-ed their baby sister if they came back again.
This time before the dawn grayed the woods, Yellow Star started the day with a screech that would wake the dead. “My Baby! My Baby! They took her again.” Climbing Monkey was curled up at the foot of the bed with his thumb still in his mouth when Standing Stone ran back into the cabin. Sure enough it was a different baby. It was hard to see her in the dark but her silver hair gleamed like down against her ebony skin. Her lungs sounded just as healthy as the last two baby as her wailing cries filled the air.
The Elders arrived just as they were sitting down for the midday meal. Cousin Ed guarded the back door and Granddame Willow Bends guarded the front door from her rocking chair. Runs-with-Beers was guarding his “project” in the woodshed. Kids were stationed on the roof and in the trees. It looked like the neighbor’s broods had been recruited for guards as there were at least 12 kids in the old oak that hung over the cabin and more kids and several dogs under the porch. A pack of teenagers and the hunting dogs were in the woods out back and had several rabbits and quail to show for their vigilant patrolling.
Fortunately, Yellow Star could cook for crowds. The venison stew and fresh baked bread with yellow butter and honey from the hive was a welcome greeting to the 3 Elders after their travel. With the Baby placed as Centerpiece in the middle of the table they discussed the oddity of a triple Changeling.
Never in the history of Godsholme had a Changeling happened 3 nights in a row! Sure the occasional crazy fairy would swap an ugly baby for a pretty one just for a lark. Or a Troll that wanted its child raised in a good proper human home might leave it’s young in the cradle. But this type of baby-swapping just didn’t happen in this neck of the woods. Impossible in so packed a hut for it to happen 3 times!
Finally, after licking the honey off her fingers, Elsewhere-with-Owls picked up the baby to examine her. For a long long time, she gazed into the violet eyes of the Child. The baby gazed back with an unusually serious look. Standing Stones started to wonder, so serious and wise a look from a 3 days old child, was she fairy? Was she some other magical creature from the dark woods?
After a long long while Elsewhere-with-Owls spoke. “Yellow Star and Runs-with-Beers, this is your true child. She is not a Changeling. But she has lost her true form and cannot find it again. Someday she will wish to seek out her true form and you will need to prepare her for that journey. When she is ready let her go. The Road will take her to become what she will be.”
Elsewhere-with-Owls continued to gaze at the baby. The violet eyes looked intently into hers. The baby looked even more serious. Finally, she relaxed with a sigh. “Ah yes…” Elsewhere-with-Owls said as she handed the baby gingerly back to Yellow Star “I believe she needs changing”.
Breathing deeply: Check. Visualizing transformation: Check. Healing potion in padded pocket: Check. Told Mom I loved her today: Pretty much check. Glad my friends aren’t here to watch this: Check. Feeling all Zen inside: Whatever. Sphincter tight: Check.
The moonlight over the forest was breathtaking. The pine tree swayed gently in the warm summer breeze. On a perfect night like this death just didn’t seem possible… so why was I hesitating.
Oak Eyes had left this afternoon to go on his Name Quest. If he came back it would be as a Warrior and he would no longer be Oak Eyes. He had been a year ahead of her in school. Snow had helped him with his magical animal studies and he had helped her with her theoretical magic energy exercises. Oak never could tell Pixies from Sprites, but their magic energy exercises had become more than theoretical in the hay loft of Oak’s father’s barn. He would come back, if he ever came back here, a different person. A Warrior with magic skills tuned and honed by combat. Life outside Godsholm would change him. His Magic would transform him.
Oak had looked back once when he took the road that led away from home and forest. He had grinned at Snow but his eyes were already searching, looking away from Godsholm. She could see him reading the magic laylines that led down the road. Already he had gained focus and started changing from Oak Eyes that lived down the road and sat behind her in school.
Oak had been nice to her when she showed up at the school on her first day. It wasn’t a big school but the Goldfeather clan didn’t seem to think that anyone from her side of the river was worth schoolin’. They were happy to drink Daddy’s moonshine but horrified that the liquor dealer’s daughter would learn reading and magic figuring in the same room as their heirs. Oak had put a stop to Ruby and Dagger picking on the new kids.
When Snow was in her 5rd year at school and still couldn’t do even the most basic of magic Oak had been the one that didn’t let her quit. The little first and second years were lighting candles and casting charms on each other when Snow couldn’t even summon a bug. What was she good for? Like all the people born in the land that the Gods had forged in their battles, wild magic was part of her. Every morning she woke up with a new face. Momma made her wear sapphire earrings every night just so she would know her strange daughter in the morning. Magic energy was obviously part every fiber of her body. But she couldn’t do squat with that energy! Nothing. No spells. No foretelling. No charms or illusions. No matter how had she studied, she couldn’t even see the magic laylines that had led Oak away.
Oak had said that at least she could read books better than the other kids. She was the best in the school at magical creature studies. Practical application with animals was even stronger. Snow could tickle trout and lure garden gnomes into traps better than her teachers. Top of the class in everything except magic where she was the class dunce.
Summer of her 6th year Snow had thought that she had found redemption when she learned to transform into a hound. Her family’s pack had been delighted. Together they bayed and hunted rabbits and deer in the forest. The unity of the pack was complete and left her spirit with a new feeling of belonging to something bigger than herself. At school that fall Ruby and Dagger had laughed and called her Yellow Snow until the Teacher finally hexed them to stop. Once again Oak had been the one that kept her from running home mid-day.
Now that Oak was gone Snow didn’t see any reason to continue at school. She had learned all she could there. The magical theories that she had puzzled over had been no help whatever when she shape-changed. This shape-changing magic was different and just hers. No school learning was going to help her with this.
See the hawk. Be the hawk. Feel the wind. Ride the wind. Breath. Zen crap… Leap into the wind.