The Changeling

Young Adult Fantasy Fiction

After his father’s business takes a nose-dive, twelve-year-old Reuben has to leave his friends and move to Cornwall with his family. He soon notices changes in his baby sister Lucie but his parents, preoccupied with making ends meet, won’t listen.

Reuben befriends thirteen-year-old Tegan – a goth girl with her own problems. Together they discover that Lucie has been stolen by spriggans (evil Cornish piskies) and replaced with a changeling child. With the help of an old Cornish woman they meet one of the spriggans and journey to Obukula, an underworld hidden beneath the old tin mines. Obukula is controlled by spriggan dictator, Camlin, and Reuben and Tegan soon become embroiled in a battle for the survival of the human world.

Extract from Novel 

Bronnen makes her usual a night-time mug of chocolate but, instead of taking it up to bed, settles down in the rocker in front of her fire.

Her cat meows, unimpressed by being evicted from his favourite spot.

‘Yes, I know Captain, but I’m not going up just yet.’

She sips her drink. After a while her eyelids begin to droop so she sets down her cup to take forty winks. She’s woken by the sound of Captain scratching at the door.

‘Shhh now,’ she says. Picking up the cat, she carries him into the pantry. Lifting a jug from the shelf, she fills two saucers with cream and, while Captain is lapping, she picks up the other saucer and sneaks out of the pantry, closing the door behind her.

The moon is bright when she makes her way outside. As she tiptoes silently across the garden, Captain’s protests become louder. The greedy cat must have finished his cream. She hopes he wouldn’t frighten away her little visitor.

At the gate leading to the vegetable patch Bronnen stops to watch the small figure, no more than thirty centimetres tall, hard at work pulling up weeds in the herb garden. She wears a little brown tunic with leggings tucked into wee leather boots and on her head is a red, pointed cap.

Despite her slight figure, the little brownie* is strong, her nimble fingers moving swiftly to pluck out the smaller weeds. After a few moments she calls out to Bronnen. ‘Hello old lady. What are you doing up so late?’

‘Watching you work,’ says Bronnen.

‘These weeds are taking over.’ The little brownie wipes her brow with a tiny hand. ‘I have my work cut out tonight. They’re choking the hyssop.’

She’s tugging at a dandelion almost as large as she is, when suddenly it comes out of the earth and she falls back, landing on her bottom.

‘Don’t work too hard now, Hessa,’ says Bronnen. ‘Come and have some cream.’

Hessa jumps to her feet, glancing around nervously. ‘The cat is shut in?’

‘Yes, yes. Captain is in the pantry.’

The little brownie skips across to where Bronnen has set the saucer down on the grass. She looks up expectantly and the old lady slides a hand into her apron pocket and pulls out a silver thimble. Hessa grabs the makeshift cup and scoops up the cream She drinks thirstily, before wiping a tiny cream moustache from her wee pink lips with the back of her hand.

‘I can get you some help if you like,’ says Bronnen. ‘I have a boy who will deal with the bigger weeds.’

Hessa glares at Bronnen indignantly. ‘Haven’t I worked your plot single handed for many a year?’ she says. ‘I don’t need no human boy to assist me.’

Bronnen laughs. ‘And a fine job you do too. Rest yourself a moment, Hessa. I want to ask you something.’

Hessa perches on a flowerpot and peers up at Bronnen. ‘What do you want to ask?’

Bronnen choses her words carefully. ‘I believe the boy’s little sister may have been taken by spriggans*.’

Hessa’s laughter tinkles like a silver bell. ‘Have you been drinking your own mugwort again?’ She shakes her head. ‘No babes have been changed for many a year.’

‘There are signs,’ continues Bronnen. ‘The child is behaving oddly. She used to be happy and now she’s very disturbed. But more than that. Something the boy said… about her having wise eyes.’

Hessa’s eyes widen. ‘Well, there are stories of spriggan bandits in the woods. I suppose it could be an unsanctioned exchange…’

‘Can anything be done?’ asks Bronnen.

‘Unlikely if the change has already taken place. They could try the dolmen stone.’

‘The Crick Stone,’ says Bronnen. ‘Of course. I should have thought of that myself. Will you oblige me with a charm?’

Hessa recites a short verse to Bronnen before gathering armfuls of purple flowers. ‘They should wear a sprig of vervain, and don’t forget to warn them. They must destroy the protector too. The charm alone won’t work.’ She jumps up, brushing green moss from her bottom. ‘Well, I must get on. Take care now, old lady. And mind you keep that cat inside until I’m gone.’

 

 

*Brownie – household spirits said to come out at night and perform chores in exchange for a bowl of milk or cream. They are easily offended and will leave forever if they feel they have been insulted or taken advantage of.

*Spriggan – malevolent nature spirits who delight in working mischief. They sometimes steal away mortal children leaving their ugly changelings in their place.

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