Aphelion Issue 274, Volume 26
July 2022
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The Changeling

by K. A. Masters

Cazort Macsterna stared into the eyes of his enemy's son and sighed, "Alec, we must talk."

The young elf braced himself for the discussion.

Cazort stared down at his mangled merman's tail and the burned hands in his lap, considering what to say. The dragon may have seared his flesh, but it had taken away the boy's family. He sighed as he thought of the promise he had made when he and his nemesis Krozer had rescued the wrong child from the monster's jaws. He had fought the dragon with courage but now he wondered anxiously what to say to bring his changeling son home.

"I was very disappointed to waken from my fever and find you missing," he began awkwardly.

"I had to fetch Arnath," the youth justified, "I didn't want him wandering the forest alone without..." Alec grew quiet, not daring to finish his sentence.

"Why didn't you come back, then?" Cazort pressed him, "Once you found my son, you sent him home but you did not return with him."

Alec shrugged and looked down at the ground in silence.

"It worried me that you were up here on the surface when I was too weak from my injuries to fetch you. But now that I'm here, I've come to take you home."

The elf shuffled his feet, twitching his wings. "But I am home. See?" He pointed to the charred oak that stood by the lake's shore. "I have found a tree, near the water and the spot where..." Again the youth's voice trailed off sadly as his eyes brimmed with tears.

"Alec," Cazort sighed, shaking his head, "you are far too young to be living on your own. I have no love for your father -- as we both know -- but he has put you in my care and I will honor his request."

The child remained expressionless, so Cazort pressed him further: "I want you to come home with me, son, and live with us. We can transform you into a merman, and your friend Arnath can now be your brother. We have already given you gills, so you can breathe underwater and stay with us until your transformation."

Alec's wings thundered in anger. "I won't give up my wings. They were a gift from my parents," he said defensively, firmly fixing his feet upon the ground. "I won't give them up and I won't go back with you. This is my home. I belong here."

"Surely you do not want to live on your parents' tomb! You are far too young to pine away over their bones!" the merman thundered, frustrated by the boy's defiance.

When he realized that Alec was too stubborn to be coerced, Cazort checked his anger and attempted a new strategy. "Come home, Alec," he asserted, softening, "Surely you miss my son Arnath; let him be your friend in this. You don't have to be alone, son."

"I do care about Arnath," the child admitted, "He is my best friend. And I will visit, I promise, but..."

"You should visit," Cazort asserted, placing a hand upon the elf's shoulder. "We can help you. Stay with us for one night. Try living with us, just for a little while, and see."

"I can't," the boy spluttered.

"Why not...?" the merman began, then looked at his blood-soaked hand. He shook the greenish liquid off of his palm and asked, concerned, "Why are you still bleeding? Are your wounds infected?"

Alec blushed, covering his weeping wound and backing away. "It's not infected. My blood is green."

"Wait," Cazort continued, puzzled, "Why does your blood run green? I thought your blood was silver, like your father's."

Again the child shook his head, repeating, "My blood is green."

"Like your hamadryad mother's?" he pressed.

At last the elf replied, dragging his tongue through the painful words, "My parents were human born, and they lost a lot of energy transforming into Fey. They didn't have enough energy to create a child of their own. And when they adopted me, rescuing me from a human death, they did not have enough energy to transform me completely. Although I am elf in form, they made me part hamadryad." He sighed, ashamed, "Please do not tell Arnath."

Cazort shook his head. "I don't understand, son. Why is that so important?"

"Because my oak is more than my home, sir," Alec admitted. "My life force is tied to it. I must return home to her every night to recharge my energy or I'll die."

Cazort sighed, realizing the child's dilemma. "So you are not just being stubborn. This is not a matter of what you want. You can't come home with me."

The elf nodded, still looking at his feet.

"Then you will have two homes," the merman suggested, "You may stay here at night, to sleep and restore yourself. But you should spend your days with us in our underwater home."

Alec remained quiet.

"Well?" Cazort asked, agitated by the child's silence. "Is that agreeable to you?"

"Yes," the boy whispered.

"Yes, what?" Cazort prompted.

"Yes, Father," the elf nodded, taking the merman's hand and joining his new family beneath the lake's surface.


© 2008 K. A. Masters

Bio: K. A. Masters is currently a Latin teacher in New Jersey, but she spends her free time writing. Her story "Hunter's Tale" can be found in Bewildering Stories (Hunter's Tale, Part 1; Hunter's Tale, Part 2); and "Redemption of Krozer" appeared in Gryphonwood (Redemption of Krozer, Part 1; Redemption of Krozer, Part 2.

E-mail: K. A. Masters

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