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Christopher A. Shields

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The Changeling
by Christopher A. Shields   

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Books by Christopher A. Shields
· The Steward
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Category: 

Fantasy

Publisher:  Weald Fae Journals (TM) Type: 
Pages: 

330

Copyright:  Oct. 28, 2012
Fiction

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Maggie O'shea now possesses more power than many of the Fae, scares some. They have her brother, and she may have to fight them all if their struggle reaches a boiling point and they don't return him.

“There’s Darkness in the Wilds”

 It's been only one year since sixteen-year-old Maggie O'Shea moved to the Ozark Mountains and was declared guardian of the Weald, the most sacred realm of the Fae, mythical creatures with sinister powers, who often take the form of humans. Her life has been in extreme peril before, but never more so than now. Her younger brother, Mitch, has been kidnapped by a rogue band of Fae and the demand is simple: leave the Weald and her new life behind or else her brother dies. Now Maggie's on a breakneck race to save her brother, her family and friends, and perhaps all of humankind from a threat more insidious than anyone can imagine.

 The Weald Fae Journals continue...

Excerpt
CHAPTER ONE
ULTIMATUM

Tension filled the tiny red bedroom of my ten-year-old brother, Mitch, as the changeling stared at me, sneering. A stolen smile and forged dimples, simultaneously familiar and foreign, did nothing to disguise the malice I sensed just under the mask of Mitch’s young face. Panic and confusion, mixed with rage, whipped my thoughts into a tumultuous mess. Somehow, despite the desperation and chaos whirling through my head, I realized I needed to get Doug and the boys out of the room. As I struggled with a plan, a low, rumbling growl broke the silence. Justice, our black Standard Poodle, stood next to Doug in the doorway and bared his teeth, his almond-shaped eyes fixed on the Fae changeling that looked exactly like Mitch.
“What’s wrong with him?” Doug asked, ruffling the dog’s ears.
“Probably too much excitement.” My voice was surprisingly even. “Doug, could you please take Justice and the boys upstairs? I need to have a talk with my brother.”
“Ditching me again?” he said, grinning.
I returned his smile and put my hand on his shoulder. His blue eyes twinkled and his blond hair glowed in the light as he looked at me. “Sure,” he said.
“Thanks. I’ll be up in a minute…promise.” I forced a broad grin, still masking the anger and fear that rushed through my chest and caused my heart to beat hard against my lungs. The boys happily left the room. Scotty, Mitch’s friend, stole a quick look at me as he passed, and said, “Told ya he was being bad.”
Sara closed the door when the room was empty.
“Where is my brother?” I demanded.
“Safe, for now,” the changeling responded smugly.
“I want him back, now, or I’ll tear you apart,” I said growling, causing Sara to grab my shoulders.
“You? Tear me apart? Arrogant…” it said, laughing.
Tears meandered down my cheek and my body vibrated. “Apparently you didn’t get the memo,” I snarled through clenched teeth. “I just kicked Chalen’s ass, and I’ll do the same to you if I don’t get my brother back.”
He turned and studied me with a flippant expression, and then I felt him channel electricity from the wall. The fool—he was really going to try to fight me here? I reached out with my mind and blocked it. He studied me again, a trace of uneasiness quickly flashing across his face.
“She did that,” he said, glancing at Sara.
“No, Drevek, I did not,” she said in a cooing voice, mocking him as she crossed her arms in a fluid movement.
Drevek, if that was his name, tried pulling energy to start a fire, but I blocked that, too. Then, channeling Air, I reached out with my mind and lifted him off the bed, ignoring that he looked like my brother, and slung him against the basement wall just hard enough to fully gather his attention. Again, Sara placed a hand on my shoulder. Ignoring her, I pressed my questions.
“Understand, you filth, I can and will destroy you if you don’t bring my brother back…now!” My voice wavered and another tear fell.
“Maggie,” Sara whispered, “Please don’t hurt him. I beg you, set him down.”
“No!” I growled, stifling a scream as I thought about my little brother in the hands of the Unseelie somewhere. “I want Mitch back!”
Drevek was attempting to change out of physical form, but I pressed hard on him with my invisible grip—hard enough to prevent that from happening but not hard enough to break bones.
“What you’re doing is forbidden!” it screeched at me angrily.
“Wrong answer,” I said as I slammed him into the wall again, harder this time.
“Maggie, please!” Sara pleaded. “Let go of him. I’ve got it from here. For Mitch’s sake, you cannot harm this Fae.”
I thought about it her warning, and panicked by the idea of them harming Mitch I reluctantly dropped Drevek on the floor. Before he could change form Sara had a hold on him, and I prevented him from using his Fire alignment when he tried to fight back a third time. Sara lifted his body off the floor and he spat in her direction, his green eyes filled with rage.
“If you harm me, Sara, the boy dies. You know how this will play out. Release me or…”
“Shut up, Drevek,” Sara commanded with an authoritative whisper just loud enough to hear. “Where is Mitch O’Shea? Tell me now, or I will finish what Maggie started.”
His eyes grew large as he watched Sara snap one of the bed posts off with her mind and move it several feet until it pressed his temple.
“You wouldn’t dare, not over a human…I’m Fae!”
“Care to bet your existence on that?”
“But…” he stammered.
“You’ve not been informed, apparently, of what happened on the island. The scheme did not work, your co-conspirators were defeated, and Chalen has been banished from the physical realm for eternity. It serves no purpose for you to die over this. Tell us what has been done with the boy.”
With a bewildered expression that momentarily reminded me of my brother, the changeling stared at Sara. “I don’t believe…”
Then with a flash, startling me, Billy took form in the room. “What’s this?” he demanded, staring at the changeling.
“Drevek, here, has the unfortunate duty of playing changeling for Mitch,” Sara said.
“How long? HOW LONG?” Billy growled at Drevek.
“An hour, perhaps.” He cringed, still struggling to get free.
Billy closed his eyes and shook his head. “Who is behind this treachery?”
“I am not at liberty to tell you.”
Billy moved toward Drevek slowly, menacingly, and snarled, baring feline fangs. I shuddered.
“Please, I’m only doing what I’ve been told. I don’t know where they’ve taken the boy…I’m not sure who is behind it.”
Billy snarled again and moved within inches of him. “Give me the name of the Fae who abducted Mitch O’Shea.”
“There were two humans, but I don’t know their names. They were accompanied by Alain and Markus.”
“Humans,” Billy said under his breath. “Of course, they had to be in the event the guards hadn’t moved. What else do you know? Who is the Second Aetherfae?” His voice grew fierce.
“Second? How should I know?”
Billy bared his teeth again, twisting his head to the side, and closed them against Drevek’s throat, piercing his flesh.
“I swear it! Please! But I do know one thing…Chalen…he gave me a message.”
Billy moved his face back a few inches. “Go on.”
“I’m to stay here until Maggie O’Shea fulfills her promise to leave. Anything that happens to me, happens to the boy two-fold.”
“I didn’t promise Chalen I would leave—quite the opposite.”
“Then, Steward, you have six months, maybe less, until your brother wastes away.” He coughed lightly through the sinister smile that spread across his face. Staring at me, dimples in full force, he said, “I don’t feel well, and I’m going to get worse—a reminder to you of how much time your brother has.”
Drevek’s smile faded and he trembled when Billy bared his teeth again inches from his face. The changeling didn’t try to fight, and that surprised me. Instead, he whimpered like a child.
“Why is he so weak?” I asked.
Drevek spat at me.
“He’s exceptionally young. You’ve only learned to take physical form in the last, what, one hundred years?” Sara stared at him with pity in her eyes, and shook her head.
Drevek looked away from her, still frightened but arrogant. “I learned 126 years ago.”
Billy relaxed his expression as he turned to me. “It takes us centuries of being in physical form to fully master our element, and Drevek has not had time to learn the nuances of Fire. He is essentially a Fae adolescent.”
“I didn’t think there was such a thing as a Fae child.”
“Yes and no. There is a great deal we still need to tell you about us, but for right now, you need to get upstairs—midnight approaches.”
I protested, “I’m not leaving him here in my house.”
“I understand,” Billy said. “But you don’t need to watch over him. Sara and I will do that. As you can clearly see, he poses no danger.” Billy shot Drevek a dismissive look. “We need you to be with your family and friends right now, but after midnight you need to make an excuse and go to your room—alone. I will meet you there. Sara will stay here with Drevek.”
“But…”
Sara cut me off. “Maggie, Ozara is coming.”
Hearing her name shattered my resolve and I stopped trying to argue. Would she still be angry with me? Would the Council kick me off the Weald? I didn’t know the answers, but I did want to see her and plead my case. Sara could easily control Drevek, so I yielded and began calming myself down. After a few moments of purposely avoiding eye contact with the changeling, I was ready to go upstairs.


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