Tanya throws out the rest of the cakes before she gets home, loosening her shoulders so that her mother can’t see that she is under distress. She forces a small smile on her lips as she goes inside to greet her mother. She sits down and talks to her mom a bit, sneaking the map and parchment into the pocket of her dress as she tells her about her time with Morlock. She skips the part about the curses that have been placed on herself as well as her mother. She hands her mom the basket and tells her that she doesn’t know if she will be going out tonight with Mark and explains that she is fine but doesn’t feel up to it, that she might be coming down with a cold or something.
Her mother looks at her worriedly and presses a hand to her daughter’s forehead but it doesn’t feel warm nor does her skin feel cold and clammy. “You don’t seem to feel warm nor clammy but if you wish to stay in tonight, I will send a letter to Mark explaining that you have taken to bed to rest so you don’t get ill. You can go tomorrow for breakfast or lunch if you feel up to it.”
Tanya nods and starts to walk towards her room once she has stood up from her chair, “Yes, tomorrow for lunch would be nice. I will get rest now and hopefully tomorrow I will feel better. Thank you, mother, I appreciate it.” She turns and heads into her room as her mother sits back down at the table to write a quick note for Mark.
As soon as she is alone in her room, Tanya removes the map and lays it open on the bed, seeing that the tasks are a day’s walk from the village, which causes her to hyperventilate a bit. How will she pull this off? She can’t give in to Morlock now. She then sees that one task is in town, a few doors down from her where her neighbor has just had a baby. She takes in a deep breath and pulls out the parchment and unrolls it to read them, hoping that she is wrong about the first task.
Tasks You Must Perform:
- Lie to parents and friends about the curse or their curse will activate and they will die.
- Help a fairy switch a baby with a changeling. The fairy will tell me when and if the task was performed. The fairy will be waiting for you tonight at midnight.
- Steal a witch’s spellbook. There is a witch in the little village of Green Hills to the West of us. You will travel there, steal the book, and return it to me as soon as possible. Again, do not forget about task 1.
- I want the feathers of a phoenix so that I may make new quills and whatever else I can think of with the feathers. You can find them anywhere so think about putting two tasks together for this one. Again, I will provide you with the special tools that will help you carry out this task. Just be careful because they can’t be killed.
- Kill a unicorn for its horn. Since you are a maiden of virtue and innocence, you will have no problem calling a unicorn to you. In the hills to the East, there are a lot of unicorns living in a meadow-like ours. I will provide you with a dagger to use. It can cut through the horn in one blow after you have stabbed the creature in the heart.
- This task will be very dangerous but I am sure you can manage it. No animal has to die but you must steal a drag0n’s egg. There are nests in the mountains to the South East of us and the path is marked on the map as-is for all of the tasks.
- The last task will be the hardest and deadliest as it means you must take a human life. I will give you the dagger that you will have to use and you will have to return it and the heart of your victim to me. Your victim will be Mark.
Now don’t get discouraged. If any of these tasks are too hard, especially the first and the last, then you may come to me and I will lift the curse, we will marry, and we will move away from here for good. If you have decided to stick with doing the tasks, there will be a box outside of my house where you may pick up the items you will need to successfully perform each task. Good luck! Of course, I hope that you just come to me and become my wife. Don’t forget the second task is tonight.
Tanya lays the parchment back down on the bed, her eyes filling with tears as she does her best to not cry out. She knew if she did, her mother would be alerted that something is wrong and would come into her room, demanding that Tanya tells her what is going on. She knows that if her mother came in now when she is vulnerable, she wouldn’t be able to lie and then the curse that Morlock has put on them will activate and her parents would die; the whole town would die. She takes in a shaky breath and wipes away the tears, pulling herself back together and re-reads the tasks. She studies the map to see which tasks may be close together so that she can knock two out at the same time. Tanya sees that the tasks about stealing the witch’s spellbook is only a mile away from where she will have to get the phoenix feathers, so she marks that as the tasks that she will do back to back. She sighs and pushes the map away from her, her mind reeling with the ideas of how she will be able to escape to the other places in order to carry out the tasks without raising suspicion.
Tanya stands in front of her window, staring outside at the setting sun, her heart pounding away in her chest. Tonight, she will have to take her neighbor’s newborn son and switch him with a changeling, giving the baby to the fae. She knows that she won’t be able to forgive herself for what she is about to do but in order to save herself she has to do this. She will ask how to save the baby from the fae after she is safe and bring the baby boy back to Rebecka. Or maybe there is a way to trick the fae in taking a different baby from another town instead of Rebecka’s baby but that would mean she would have to find a baby before that night. She feels like banging her head against the wall as the thought whirl uncontrollably in her mind.
Can she really go through with tonight or will see chicken out and the fairy tell Morlock about it? She tries to remember the stories her mother used to tell her about changelings and how a couple was able to get their baby back by causing the changeling to rat themselves out thus forcing the fairy to return their baby. But her mind is a stream of thoughts and she can’t seem to find what she is looking for in her memories. Growing frustrated because she can’t remember, she leaves her room and heads into the kitchen where her mom is preparing a small meal for them for dinner. Tanya couldn’t believe that it is getting late already and she sits down at the table after washing up.
Her mom puts a few things in front of her to chop and she does so, watching her mom thoughtfully, “Mom, I was thinking about the old stories you told me about. You know the fairy and the changelings. I can’t remember how one family got their baby back.”
Her mom turns to face her for a moment then faces the fire stove, stirring the soup that she is making, “What brought these thoughts on?”
Tanya shrugs, “I’m not sure. They just popped into my head and I just couldn’t remember how the family saved their baby from being with the fairy for the rest of her life.” She continues to cut the small onions, hoping that her mother doesn’t sense the urgency in her question and will just tell her the story.
Her mother taps the end of her wooden spoon to her lips, “Let me see. The fairy had taken their baby girl and left a changeling in the crib. The mother hadn’t noticed until nearly two weeks after the switch that her baby was just a changeling. The mother held the baby, the changeling, and when she walked past the fireplace, she noticed that the baby stirred, not in the way a human baby would react. It startled the mother and she stared down at her baby.” She begins to stir what is in the pot while Tanya adds the onion. “She saw that the baby seem to waste away so she knew that the baby was not her own. Because of this, the fae had to return the human baby back to the mother.”
Tanya makes quick mental notes of this so that she can rescue the baby later after Morlock has lifted the curse once the tasks are done. “That’s right, the fire. I thought it was something to do with water.” She chuckles and finishes cutting a couple of carrots to put in the soup then retreats to her room with the excuse of wanting to read a bit before dinner. Once she enters her room, she quickly writes a small note to be placed in the baby crib to tell the family what has happened to their baby and how to get the baby back. But her hand freezes as she thinks about it. What if the fairy sees her slip the note into the crib? She chews on her lower lip as she thinks about how she can warn the family without being caught by the fairy.
Soon she hears her mother calling for her and she slips the note under a few books so that it isn’t found by her parents when she has to leave to fulfill the other tasks. She hides the parchment and map under her pillow before she heads off to eat dinner. She does her best to not cry as she talks to her parents, telling them about her day as she usually does, leaving out the part of them all being cursed. She listens to her father talk about his day and about how he talked to a few friends about going fishing at Lake Sira in the next town where they love to go fishing once in a while.
This bit of news perks her up since that is the town that she has to go to in order to kill the unicorn for its horn, task number 5. She can’t believe her luck and begins to start thinking of a lie to tell her father so she can go with him yet not make him suspicious and ask her too many questions as to why she wants to go with them. She listens to the rest of the chatter but in her mind she is millions of miles away, trying to get her thoughts in order on a timeline for when she will get the tasks done. She would need to write it all out or she would go insane trying to remember everything. She nods and smiles as she tries to listen but once she has finished eating and helping her mother with the dishes, she excuses herself to her room. She tells her parents that she wishes to finish her book before bed, having stopped at a really good part right before dinner and is dying to finish it. She flinches inwardly at the choice of words but is able to escape back to her room quickly.
She closes the door behind her and sits down at her desk, pulling out her parchment paper and quill so that she can make a list of when she will do the tasks. Before she sits down, she pulls out the map and list, setting them down beside the blank paper. She studies them for a while before she picks up her quill and begins to write.
Task 1 will be continuous. Task 2 will be done tonight. Task 3 and task 4 will be done next week if I can lie big enough to get out of town. Task 5 will be done the week after if I can lie enough to be taken with my dad. Task 6 will be done three days after the fishing trip. Task 7 will be done a day after the sixth task is finished.
Her hands shake when she writes about the last task, tears finally escaping her eyes and dripping onto the paper, leaving wet circles that slightly smudges her writing. She doesn’t know how she will be able to do the last task but she knew that she will find a way to get around doing the task.
She wipes the tears away from her face but they continue to fall as she cleans up her desk, hiding all of her items so that they won’t be found. She hides the map, the task list, and her list she just made inside of a bag that she will take when she travels. The bag hangs on the back of her wooden chair just as it always does so her parents won’t have any reason to look inside. Tanya goes out of her room and says good night to her parents, kissing their cheeks, her eyes and face now dry. She dresses in a black dress, hangs her black cloak on the back of her door so that she can grab it quickly once it’s time to leave, and places her boots by the window so she can grab them on her way out.
She lays in her bed, listening to the sounds of her parents chat for a bit as they sit in front of the fire, as they do every night, then head to bed themselves. Soon, the house grows quiet until she can hear the faint sounds of her father snoring in the next room. She drifts in and out of sleep until she finds herself sleeping peacefully in her bed, her dreams not waking her with fits of terror. A few hours later, she wakes up to a light tapping on her window. She stands and walks over, pushing back the curtain to see a creature she never thought she would be seeing. The fairy slightly waves at her as she stares inside at her. The small beating wings cause the small fairy to zip from side to side in front of the window, the fairy beckoning Tanya to join her outside. Tanya goes to her door where she pulls the cloak from the hook, placing it around her shoulders, and hurries back to the window. She grabs her boots, pushes the window open, and jumps out of the window.
“You must be the girl Morlock cursed and have to help me switch the baby with a changeling,” the fairy says as she flutters in front of Tanya’s face.
Tanya swallows lightly and nods, still scared of having to switch Rebecka’s baby with a changeling. She covers her head with the cloak’s hood and straightens her shoulders, “Okay let’s get this over with.”
The fairy chuckles at the woman, landing on the open windowsill. Tanya can now see the small fairy with the curly brown hair, golden eyes, and wings that match the color of the moon when it is full. “Don’t worry…I have already discussed this with the other fairies and we will not be changing a baby with a changeling. If we could stop the curse, we would but unfortunately, our magic cannot stop the curse of a wizard like Morlock. We have tried before and it only ended in disaster.” She kicks her flowered shoe on the sill, “I will tell Morlock tomorrow that you have helped me and that we changed the baby with the changeling.”
Tanya gasps and sighs in relief, pushing back the hood, “Thank you…thank you.”
The fairy crosses her arms over chest, “We won’t be able to help you with the other tasks though so you will be on your own I’m afraid. But just know that the fairies are rooting for you and once this is all over with if you need help disappearing, we have friends everywhere who will happily help you. But it will have to be able after you finish the last task and the curse is lifted. Only then can we help you hide from Morlock.”
Tanya blinks several times, surprised that the fairy and other fairies are willing to help hide her once the curse has been lifted. But she never thought about leaving or hiding from Morlock. And what about her family and friends? Would they be safe if she disappears?
“They would be safe, don’t worry. Now I have to go. If you need our help, leave a daffodil on this windowsill and we will come to you,” the fairy tells her before she flies off with a small wave.
Tanya waves back then climb back inside, removing her clothes, and shrugging into her nightgown. She puts away her clothes and boots before she climbs back under her covers and falls into a dreamless sleep.