Chapter 27: Clash

Despite the metaphorical keys of life now being in my metaphorical pocket, little changed at first. That was alright, though. I was mostly content with what I had at the moment. I called my friends in Twinbrook regularly, I went to school and met my local friends there. I read and wrote and ran and worked for Sabine, who was again her own, closed-off self. I started cooking for her sometimes. Her fingers had got clumsier with knives, even though they could still glide through contrabass and guitar strings and probably piano keys too without a problem. She complimented me on my average-at-best cooking skills and sometimes gave me tips on how to use spices better or how to make the best fried rice ever.

I tried not to ask about her condition, even as the spring went on and she kept looking frail. I knew she didn’t want me to. Heck, she even kept saying that out loud to me.

“It’s not the job of the young ones to fret about the old,” she said for the millionth time.

I didn’t know what I could’ve said to that that wouldn’t just make her irritated. So once I just asked:

“Could you teach me a few words of French?” instead.

She smiled really brightly then. After that, I started to learn French. Mostly because I could see how happy talking about her roots made Sabine. It was interesting too. I liked it.

When the grass was turning green and the leaves slowly started to show signs of budding on trees again despite the air still being rather chilly for Sunset Valley, Sabine seemed to become more energised. She could go for longer walks again, though still only with her walking stick. She didn’t seem to need so many naps, and she was more talkative again.

The change was more than welcome, and for a while I was happy to stop worrying about her and focus on other things. Like studies and life and our family. But there was still a small voice inside my head that kept reminding me that something was indeed wrong with Sabine. The worry popped into my head at random, when I was reading or cooking or being alone, when I was just relaxed enough to let my mind wander. I tried my best to stop it, to find distractions. At least sometimes it was easy. Like whenever Alvar and Kielo visited again.

They wanted Rem to leave with them again, but they were nice enough to stop for tea and a chat. I saw that Patrick was trying his best to be natural, even though I knew he was still bothered by the whole mess our family was in. By what Rem had said to him about the fair folk maybe wanting Rem away from us.

“So, what do you think will be in store for our son this time?” he asked amicably, but I noticed the way he stressed the “our son” -part. If Kielo noticed it too, she didn’t show it.

“I don’t know the specifics,” she said, “Something about more accurate visions, I think. That’s what Lumi said anyway.”

“I’ll go with him this time,” said Patrick. Kielo frowned.

“I uh… I don’t know if that’s…”

“Why not?” Patrick said sharply.

“I mean…” Kielo stammered, “Oh, sure. You can come. Of course you can.”

Mum frowned.

“Why would it be a problem?” she asked. Kielo shook her head and looked really awkward.

“It’s just… we don’t like outsiders in our place. You know that. But you… I mean, you guys are fine.”

She looked at me.

“How about the rest of you?”

I was about to say no thanks, but then I thought about magic and my lingering worries of Sabine, and about our family, and then I nodded.

“Okay.”

Mum hesitated, but then decided not to protest and instead put a slightly forced smile on her face.

“Alright. Looks like Mer and I will keep the house standing. But do come back soon.”

Kielo smiled.

“We’ll return them all again in time.”

Mum nodded. There was unusual hardness in her eyes. The kind that said “you’d better”. Kielo definitely noticed that. Alvar laughed nervously.

“Well, this is nice,” he said, “We should definitely come here more often.”

I glanced at him warningly. He didn’t look back.

We left for Twinbrook in the next bus, and the ride was tenser than it should have been. There wasn’t much small talk, which was usually fine by me, but this time the silence felt uncomfortable.

At least I wasn’t worrying about Sabine now. And as soon as I thought about that, I started to worry about her again. Of course. I turned to Kielo, who was staring out the window.

“Hey?” I said, “Can I ask you something? I was wondering how you guys heal when you get hurt or sick.”

“Sure,” Kielo said, “It’s not that different from you guys. Just less chemicals and more herbs. And we’re usually more resistant to diseases. Usually, but we have our limits, as you know.”

She looked around us, at the sleepy and bored passengers.

“Maybe we should talk about this later, though,” she said.

The silence returned.

It took us a few hours to get to the fairy forest again. At least now I roughly knew where it was, so the way didn’t feel endless.

The place looked the same as before. There was barely any snow, even though it still stubbornly lingered in Twinbrook. The fairy lights kept the place lit up with their airy glow, and the tree trunk/honey comb houses stretched towards the sky. Patrick looked around in wonder, as he had the previous time he had visited. I couldn’t help a feeling of wonder creeping in either. I wasn’t sure if it was my own feeling or if there was something in the air.

The little fairy kids, Kuura and Halla, came to greet us and wanted to show us their new treehouse. Patrick’s tense expression softened, and he said yes.

“Meanwhile, I’ll go take Rem to Lumi,” Kielo said, “Alvar, you can take care of them, right?”

“Sure,” said Alvar, “C’mon, da- I mean, Patrick, and Lynn.”

“Wait,” said Patrick, turning away from the kids, “Can we see Rem’s lessons?”

Kielo frowned.

“I’ll have to ask Lumi. She usually wants no distractions.”

“It’s fine, dad,” Rem said, “It’s mostly boring to watch. I just meditate and sometimes try to do some magic. And even the magic part isn’t that formidable.”

“I still want to be a part of this, son,” Patrick said, and Rem sighed.

“Okay. Kielo, go ask Lumi. I’ll… I’ll wait here with the others.”

Kielo looked at Patrick for a long while, but then she turned and disappeared among the curly trees and the flower bushes.

Kuura  grabbed my hand.

“Hey, Lynn! It’s great that you’re here!” she chirped, “You wanna see the treehouse? Alvar built it for us!”

“Okay, okay,” I said, “But we have to wait for Kielo first.”

“Nah, Aunt Kielo will find us,” Alvar shrugged, “It’s fine.”

“Oh… well, if you say so.”

Kuura and Halla led us to a large tree where there indeed sat a pretty treehouse. Patrick looked up at it and I saw pride in his eyes when he glanced at Alvar.

“You built this by yourself?”

Alvar shuffled his feet.

“Yeah. Well, most of it. Kuura and Halla and Marras – she’s at her herbalism lesson right now, I think – helped a bit. And Aunt Kielo too. Hey, check this out! This is the coolest thing here!”

He circled around the tree and showed us a heap of junk that actually looked a lot like…

“Wow,” said Rem, “Is that a real radio station?”

“Yup,” Alvar said, “Aunt Kielo found some antennas and started putting this together. She’s been sneaking around among humans a lot to figure out what to do.”

“Is it going to play any stations?” I asked and gave the dials a few experimental twists.

“Probably not really. It could be risky. We know a little bit about radio waves, and Aunt Kielo is worried that someone could track them here.”

He smiled.

“But it looks nice, and as long as she could get it working, it’s enough. Right?”

“We can even play with it!” said Halla, whose head was poking out of one of the treehouse’s windows, “It’s great!”

“Yeah, it sure looks like it!” said Rem, excitement shining in his eyes.

I fiddled with the buttons for a moment longer, but the radio station stayed quiet. Still, it was excitingly surreal to see such a large piece of our technology here in the depths of the technologically very backwards fairy forest.

“Oh, you already showed that,” said Kielo, startling almost all of us by appearing from some of the bushes. She looked at Patrick and then at Rem, smiling. I saw some sort of relief in her eyes and guessed that she hadn’t got herself into trouble by bringing Patrick here.

“Lumi said you can accompany Rem to his lesson,” she said.

“Thank you,” said Patrick. I could see that he was nervous. His shoulders tensed, something they almost never did.

Kielo glanced at me.

“I have to ask Alvar to take care of you, Lynn,” she said and then turned to Alvar, “She was curious about our healthcare. Maybe you can teach her the basics.”

Alvar nodded.

“Sure! I’m sure we’ll be fine!”

Kielo smiled at him and then escorted Rem and Patrick back towards the village centre. Alvar stretched his arms and then put his hands to his hips.

“So, healing, huh? It’s not all that special, really.”

“I’d still like to see what you guys do,” I said. I didn’t know what use it would be for me or Sabine. Because as much as I liked to pretend that I’d let Sabine take care of her own possible illnesses because she so insisted, I still wanted to do something about it. Alvar shrugged.

“Okay. Well, we’d best get to it, then.”

He circled around the tree where Kuura and Halla were playing and looked up, shading his eyes with his hand.

“Hey, Halla! Kuura! You want to go with me and Lynn to check out our gold fruit trees?”

His only response was a muffled giggle, some whispering, and then…

…a bucket of water that was dumped on him. Alvar shrieked and jumped like he’d been assaulted by a swarm of ants.

“HEY!

I clapped my hand over my mouth, mostly to stifle the mix of a shout and laughter that threatened to escape. Alvar wiped his face and then glared at the treehouse.

“Oh yeah, very funny. Ha ha. Okay, fine, I’ll go with Lynn alone, then! You two play nice while I’m gone!”

“We will!” Kuura and Halla said in unison, and Alvar shook his head and rolled his eyes.

“Yeah, right. Come on, Lynn.”

He led me along the river and talked like a tour guide at some kind of health museum while we walked:

“The fair folk is naturally resilient to many illnesses, but sometimes some viruses can strike them really badly. We have our own healers – led by a shaman – who take care of the sick and injured. So I guess it’s kind of like what you guys have. Just with less… sterile white rooms.”

He stopped at one of the particularly large trees. He pointed upwards at its magenta leaves and golden fruit.

“That’s gold fruit. It’s a real superfood. It’s used both in our food and as an ingredient in most of our medicine. It’s really effective with healing most of the fair folk’s ailments. The fair folk used to search for sites where this tree grew and usually built their villages around them. Nowadays they’re more focused on hiding, so they carry some saplings to the appropriate site.”

“Does that miracle fruit heal just fairies?” I asked.

“It’s less effective on humans,” Alvar said, “But we also have our own versions of antibiotics and stuff nowadays.”

“How do they treat you?”

“Pretty much like another fairy,” Alvar said and then paused before adding, “Well, I think our scouts have stolen some medical books from humans after I came here.”

I looked up at the tree.

“So it’s not like in the stories,” I said, feeling more than a little disappointed, “There’s no magical cures that can fix everything.”

“At least not around here,” Alvar said. He frowned, “Is someone you know sick? Is it one of you guys? Is that why father seems so sad?”

“Oh, no… that’s not it,” I said, “He and Rem have been a bit on edge because they’re afraid that the fairies are gonna steal Rem from us.”

I chuckled nervously, trying my best to act optimistically dumb. I couldn’t keep my smile up for long, though.

“But that’s just… they wouldn’t really do that, right?”

“Actually, they might,” Alvar said, “Not without Rem or his family’s consent, of course. They’ve learned their lesson.”

He frowned again.

“Well, at least I hope so. I’m sure Kielo won’t allow it, at least.”

He sighed.

“I hope this doesn’t get out of hand, though. This whole thing. I just… I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I like you guys. I’m not asking to butt into your lives or anything, but… It’s nice, spending time with you.”

He crossed his arms over his soaked sweater. His shoulders tensed too, and I could tell he was sad.

“I’d like us to be family… or at least something close to it. So that… so that we could keep being honest instead of hiding from everyone.”

“I’d like that too,” I said.

Alvar stood silent for a moment, tense and nervous. Then he spoke very haltingly:

“Can you… can you keep a secret?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Kielo and I went to see my real mum after the… after the incident.”

I frowned.

“I thought you said it’s better you didn’t. That she’d probably flip out – which I totally agree with, by the way.”

“Um… yeah. Well, we did go, and…” Alvar shifted nervously, “She flipped out.”

“Ouch.”

“She almost attacked Kielo,” Alvar went on, “I was afraid she was either going to kill her or have some kind of stroke. So we… Kielo wiped her memories of that evening.”

I stared at him.

“Seriously?”

Alvar nodded.

“Neither of us was happy about it, but it had to be done. To protect us.”

Something cold settled into my stomach. I stared at Alvar’s back and thought about them trying to patch things up with Donna and then just magicking away her memories. Sure, Donna had seem a bit unstable and I could imagine her not listening to reason, but… she was Alvar’s mother and they just mind-wiped her like it was nothing?

“So yeah, I really hope this works out with you guys,” Alvar said.

I shuddered. I wanted to say something, to yell at Alvar and call them out on what they had done, but the words got caught in my lungs.

They were still there when I marched through the village to find Kielo, Patrick and Rem. Lumi was with them, and she looked at me angrily when I stomped into view. Alvar caught up with me, looking very worried.

“Lynn? Wait, I-“

“What did you do to Donna?” I hissed, glaring at Kielo.

Kielo blinked at me and then looked at Alvar with a stern frown on her face. Alvar sighed.

“You said you could keep a secret.”

“Not about this!” I snapped, “You wiped Donna’s memories because your meeting with her didn’t go according to your plan?! I thought you guys had got better than this!”

Kielo shook her head.

“It wasn’t like that, Lynn. It was self-defence. She would have tried to take Alvar away from me. She was this close to attacking me when he said no!”

Patrick stared at me, and then at Kielo with a horrified look on his face. Rem was trying to look everywhere except at the others.

“Kielo… you hurt Donna?” Patrick said very quietly.

“She’s perfectly fine!” Kielo snapped, “She just doesn’t remember me or Alvar visiting her!”

“So you erased her memories of her meeting the son she has been missing all this time?” Patrick raised his voice, “Do you know how hard it was for her? Thinking her son was gone? We thought something had snapped in her, but she…”

His eyes suddenly widened.

“Oh, gods… she was right all this time.”

“Dad…” Rem said in a very small voice, “You couldn’t have known. Even I didn’t know, and I’m supposed to see the future… I’m supposed to be these people.”

“You are not staying here, son,” Patrick said, and then glared at Lumi and Kielo, “Or are you going to erase our memories too?”

“You don’t get it, do you?” Lumi said coldly, her icy eyes darkening, “We have to stay hidden. It’s the only way we can be sure we’re safe. We’ve seen what happens if we go out there. We’re also not going to just let people do whatever they want to us! So we don’t go around mind-wiping people without good reasons. What Kielo did was perfectly acceptable in that situation.”

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

“But we’d prefer not to harm anyone,” Kielo cut in before Lumi could continue, “And we don’t want you gone or… forgetting us. Rem is free to choose whatever he wants regarding all this.”

She sent a sharp glance Lumi’s way. Lumi ignored it and kept looking coldly at us.

“How bad would it really be if some people found out?” I had to ask, “I mean, sure, people can be ignorant and stupid and they do lots of bad things, but…”

“So do we?” Lumi guessed, “Was that what you were going to say?”

I bit my lip. Yeah, that had been pretty much it, but they didn’t need to know that.

“Calm down, everyone,” a serene voice spoke from behind me, “What is the meaning of this argument in the middle of such a lovely day?”

I spun around to face the peace-and-love-preaching voice and saw Matriarch Milia, who managed to look majestic wherever she went. She was wearing a long lace gown that looked like plants had decided to grow around her into the shape of a designer dress. Her eyes were still too green.

“We are not here to make enemies out of you or rip families apart,” said the matriarch as if she had been listening in on our argument. To be fair it wasn’t that hard considering the volume of our voices and the small size of the village, “But we also wish that you wouldn’t presume to know our situation enough to start thinking you could arrange our lives better than us.”

She looked at Patrick and smiled again.

“Hello, Mr… Patrick Monsoon-Farley, was it? I hear your son is shaping up to be quite a promising shaman.”

“I… thank you,” Patrick muttered, all his previous fight gone. I suppose forest queens who wore design plants would make any treehugger quite impressed.

“We appreciate you staying quiet about us,” said the matriarch, “We like this place, and we wouldn’t want to leave.”

She looked at Rem.

“And in return, we’re doing our best to help Taru’s… and your son.”

“Dad, Lynn… could we maybe talk about this later?” Rem said, clearly super uncomfortable about the whole thing, “I mean… I was about to go meditate, so…”

“I don’t think this is the best time for that,” Lumi sighed, “Maybe we should call it a day. Just go. All of you.”

She looked at us with narrowed eyes and then pushed past us towards the matriarch’s palace/gazebo. Matriarch Milia shook her head and smiled like an amused mother watching her kids do something endearingly dumb.

“Well, I’m sorry about all this… perhaps it’s indeed better that you come back later.”

“But I…” Rem started, but then sighed, “I’m sorry too.”

Matriarch Milia nodded.

“I’m looking forward to seeing more of your progress. And you all.”

She smiled too sweetly at us.

“You’re all welcome here in the future as well.”

I realised that I could only breathe freely when we were out of the village. Patrick shook his head.

“Wow. That was… much less pleasant than before.”

Rem was fuming, though. He clenched and unclenched his fists and his eyes seemed to go from honey-yellow to almost dark brown. Kielo walked us to the edge of the swamp and didn’t say a word. Her eyes had darkened too. I idly noticed again how similar Rem and Kielo’s eyes were, even though Kielo was now in her fairy form.

Kielo almost didn’t want to leave us, but Rem kept apologising until she apologised too and disappeared into the bushes. Then Rem turned to us.

“Why would you do that?” he asked.

“They just confessed they attacked Donna,” Patrick said defensively, “I don’t know if-“

“Well, I’m not happy about that either!” Rem snapped, “But… I believe them when they said they had no choice. They don’t want to be found and Donna… she wasn’t all right in the head.”

“And why do you think that is?” I had to ask, “Maybe because her baby was stolen.”

Rem blanched, and I knew I shouldn’t have said it. Sometimes I could be the most tactless person ever.

“Rem, I-“

“I never said it was a good thing!” Rem shouted, “I hate what they did, and I hate myself for making that happen!”

Patrick and I had frozen in shock. Rem sighed.

“I know they might want me to stay, no matter what they say, but that’s normal, isn’t it? I mean, I’m one of them too! I just… I want us to stay together, no matter what happens. I don’t want us and them being mad at each other.”

There was an awkward silence, because none of us knew what to say. Patrick reached out with his hand, but Rem stepped back, away from him. The silence grew so much heavier in that one movement.

Finally Rem put his hand to his head and sighed again.

“Let’s go home. My feet are freezing.”

To say that the evening was tense would be an understatement. Patrick and Rem tried their best to explain everything to mum without starting to yell at each other. And when mum heard what had happened, she almost flipped out too. At some point Patrick even contemplated calling Donna and asking if she was alright. And then Rem really did start yelling at him. I sat on a vacant couch with Merrill trying to crawl over my shoulder and tried my best to not get too involved in the argument. I had a feeling that my voice would just make things more cacophonic.

“You can’t call her! We can’t tell her about-“

“She deserves to know!” Patrick snapped before Rem could even finish his sentence.

“Maybe, but I believe the fair folk when they said they had no choice! The damage had already been done ages ago!”

“What would you even say to Donna, Patrick?” mum asked, trying to sound calmer than she was, “It could just make things worse.”

“I… I know, but I can’t just… and what about the fairies? Can we just let them keep doing this? They’ve always been so ambiguous, and now…” Patrick sighed, “I don’t know anymore.”

“They’re family,” Rem said quietly, and I imagined he kept repeating that phrase so that he’d eventually believe it, “And Alvar’s there too. I don’t like this either, but I don’t want us to start fighting without at least trying to understand.”

“And I hope you understand that we worry about you,” mum said, “This whole arrangement has been tricky from the start, and now-“

“I know it’s tricky!”

“I don’t think we should contact them in a while. Or let you stay there until we get this sorted out,” Patrick said.

“WHAT? But I want to learn…!”

Merrill looked at me questioningly.

“Why fight?” he asked, his voice almost shaky, “They never fight!”

I nodded and stood up, lifting Merrill up with me.

“I know, Merry,” I said, “Maybe we should go upstairs for a while. I’ll read to you.”

“But why they fight?”

“They’re just a bit upset right now because of some things that Alvar’s family said,” I tried my best to make it sound like a convincing explanation, “It’ll be fine.”

Merrill stared at me still, eyes wide. Mum glanced at me and nodded as if in thanks. I took Mer upstairs and we found his favourite book and sat down to read. I tried my best to close my ears off from the sounds coming from downstairs and tried to immerse myself in the world of Jimmy Sprocket.

I read until my voice was about to give out and Merrill was getting sleepy. I helped him out of his clothes and into his pyjamas and carried him to bed. The arguing downstairs had finally quieted somewhat.

“See?” I said and tried to smile convincingly, “They stopped arguing. It’s fine.”

Merrill gripped my hand.

“Is someone trying to take Rem away?”

I cursed the whole situation in my mind.

“No, Merry,” I said, “We’ll stay together.”

I hoped I was right.

“They said about forgetting,” Mer said, “I never forget my family.”

“I know. Me neither,” I said, “Don’t worry. We’re safe here.”

For now, it was still okay to lie because the lies weren’t too bad.

“Good night,” I said.

“’Night.”

I walked out of Rem and Mer’s room and saw that mum was waiting for me.

“How was it?” I asked, “I tried to keep Merry occupied.”

“You did great,” mum said and smiled. She looked sad even through the smile, “We agreed to sleep on it and think about it more tomorrow.”

She sighed.

”We can’t really jump to conclusions, but we can’t just let this go either.”

“Yeah,” I said, my voice thick.

Mum spread her arms. I hugged her and could almost feel safe.

“We’ll figure things out,” she said, “And no one’s ever going to break us apart.”

I nodded against her shoulder.

I couldn’t sleep that night. I should have showered and gone to bed hours ago, but I just couldn’t. I knew it would be no use anyway. I didn’t know what to think about any of this. A part of me agreed with Patrick that the fair folk was again doing something too questionable to just let go. And maybe our whole arrangement of trying to keep friendly ties to the people who had ruined several human lives out of selfishness really was stupid to begin with, as I’d sometimes already feared. But I also wanted to let Rem have his biological family, his teachers and the abilities and ties that belonged to him.

So far we had just let the fair folk do as they pleased and keep us on our toes, however. They kept saying that they listened to us and that we were free to do what we wanted, but it didn’t feel that way. If they could just easily wipe our memories with magic whenever they wanted, they could basically take Rem away and make us forget. They were stronger than us if they really wanted to be.

I shuddered at the thought. I thought about all the things we’d been through as a family. To think that all that could be just… wiped away was… I couldn’t even properly think it. It just couldn’t happen.

And I wanted to believe that it wouldn’t. Because a part of me really wanted to trust the fair folk, especially Kielo and Alvar and Kuura and Halla. And yet…

I looked at my computer and thought about all the stories I’d written throughout my life. I thought of the notebooks where I’d written my thoughts and even handled some of the events that had happened to us. They were stories that would never be published; stories hidden in notes and hard drives. If I kept backing them up, they would be there to help my memory for years and years to come. Maybe longer than I lived.

I slowly opened my computer.

I wanted to trust them.

But on the other hand, I wanted to be prepared and feel better about all of this.

So I thought about it for a long while and then started typing:

It all started with the wedding. Or maybe much earlier. Maybe it started when mum met Patrick Monsoon. Or maybe it started when my mum and the dad I have no memory of decided they didn’t want to see each other anymore. Heck, maybe it started when my so-called brother was born – even though I didn’t even know him when that happened and I had no way of knowing he would somehow slink into my life…

It was unpolished and probably not very good. But what did it matter? No one besides me would read it anyway.

Author’s Note: Clumsy meta moment ahoy? Or something like that. Hi guys, it’s been a while. I’ve had a lot of schoolwork and I’ve been working on my other stories. I like to keep this one at a leisurely pace because I feel like I need to digest these chapters in my head a lot before I start writing. So bear with me.

Also did you know I started a new story as well?! It’s an Ambrosia Challenge -story done with The Sims 4 and it’s called Forget-Me-Not! If you haven’t checked it out already, then maybe do that if you’re interested. There will be ghosts and revenge and all sorts of stuff going on there! I’ll try to keep my story updates somewhat balanced between all the three stories I have now.

I hope you enjoy and have a lovely time!

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Chapter 19: Rabbit Hole

As soon as I got outside, I dug my phone out of the small pocket on the inside of my shirt and checked the screen out of some very wishful thinking that I might get a signal and be able to call Grandma and Grandpa. No such luck. Of course not.

I cursed silently and looked around in the empty fairy village that still surrounded me like an especially stubborn dream. Rem could be anywhere in the village by now. I knew that Rem could run really fast when he wanted to – and he wanted to very often – and he was usually at home moving among the trees. But here nothing was really home, maybe even less so for Rem, who had apparently been born here to a very selfish mother. I knew I shouldn’t think bad things about the dead, but all of this was just so… gah! I just couldn’t get over it. And I had a feeling Rem wasn’t about to get over it any time soon either.

“Rem!” I raised my voice above the quiet whispers of the curly tree branches, “Where are you? Come on! You were the one who wanted to face this!”

There was no response, save for the unnerving feeling of being watched. Maybe that was some sort of default addition to any enchanted glade. I sighed and walked into the darkness.

I heard the faint buzzing of bees as I passed what was probably a bunch of hives. I saw glimpses of fairy lights among the trees. I’d read enough stories to not follow them. I kept shouting out Rem’s name, not caring if I was waking up some sleeping fair folk. They’d got us into this mess, so they could suffer a night of not getting enough sleep because of us.

I found Rem after some searching. He’d collapsed near an opening where I could see the remains of a large bonfire. I got a very strong sense of déjà vu as I approached my brother’s hunched form. We had to stop going to places that would lead to Rem rushing outside to cry.

“Rem?” I shouted, “You okay?”

The words sounded stupid even as they left my mouth. Of course he wasn’t okay.

When I got closer I noticed that Rem was in fact not crying this time. He was, however, breathing too fast, breath hitching in his throat in a very panicky manner. His hands clutched the grass under him and I could feel the air getting lighter when I approached him. I remembered Villia’s words about stress-induced magic surges and hoped it wasn’t anything really bad.

“Rem? Hey, Rem? It’s me, Lynn. It’s alright.”

I sat down next to him.

“Or, hell, it’s not really alright, I know. But… you know… just breathe. We’ll make this alright. You just need to calm down.”

Rem shook his head, putting his hands over his ears.

“I-I’m trying,” he managed to get out between his hysterical breaths, “I really am… Just…”

I looked around, not really knowing what I was looking for. I had no idea what to do. I tried to calm my mind with the knowledge that usually Rem had just projected this place with his… illusions or whatever they were into his surroundings. So here one could barely tell the difference. Unless… unless now that he’d finally found the source of his maybe-memories, he’d have got subconsciously bored with growing dandelions out of the floor.

I hoped that wasn’t the case. I hoped he’d just stick to the familiar and not to something that would be harder to handle.

I saw a spark behind Rem, and in a few moments there was a flame. And it was growing.

“Oh, hell,” I whispered, “Rem! Stop that now!”

He didn’t stop. The fire grew until I honestly couldn’t tell if it was real or not. I felt the heat on my face and could almost also feel the skin on my scars peeling back. The peeling continued all the way through the flesh, through the bone, and right into my traumatic memories.

“Help!” I shouted, “Someone! Help!”

I faintly saw someone green approaching us. Then I saw and felt a flash, or something like air rushing out of the universe around us. Rem yelped as if he’d been struck, and then the flames were gone.

I blinked away tears I hadn’t noticed had spilled, and saw Rem on the ground, holding his stomach as if feeling really ill. The guard-man… M… Muesli or something, stood above him, his face distorted with anger.

“I knew I should be watching you!” he snapped, “This kind of uncontrollable behaviour is unacceptable here!”

Rem didn’t answer. He didn’t seem to be able to. To my horror, he collapsed on the ground.

“Rem!”

I crouched again and saw to my immense relief that he was still breathing. He wasn’t responding, though, and I could only hope that Muesli-man’s whatever-power-he’d-used hadn’t done any serious damage.

“What did you do to him?”

My voice was bordering on hysterical. The uptight guard didn’t seem to notice.

“I suppressed his uncontrollable magic, of course. Do you think that-“

“Myrsky!”

The voice that cut the man off belonged to Villia. She was running down the same slope I had ran just moments ago. Her too-green eyes were blazing with fury.

“What are you doing?” she marched to Mue… I mean Myrsky, with very pointed steps, “If you hurt him, then I swear-!”

“I didn’t hurt him, Villia!” Myrsky snapped back, “I just suppressed his magic. It was going haywire. He reacted much more strongly than I expected, though.”

“Of course he did!” Villia almost shouted, “He has zero experience about this! And he’s a teenager!”

“I was just doing my job!”

“You could have been a bit gentler about it!”

“So I was supposed to just watch and let him fake-burn this entire glade down?”

Villia glared murderously at Myrsky, but then let out a reluctant sigh.

“Whatever,” she muttered, “I guess you did what you had to…”

She crouched next to me and glanced at Rem’s unmoving body. I stiffened and my instincts told me to stay put while my bad memories told me to run. Villia smiled in what she clearly hoped was a reassuring way.

“He’ll be fine once he just sleeps it off,” she said, “Come on, let’s get him to bed so he doesn’t have to be out here in the cold.”

All I could do was give her a shaky nod.

I’d never before had to carry Rem around, but even with Villia helping me I realised that he was much lighter than I’d expected. Not that he looked very heavy to begin with. It was like his bones were hollow or made of a lighter material than they should be. Maybe it too was a fairy thing. I’d always noticed the little oddities in Rem’s physical appearance, but now they looked so obvious I couldn’t ignore them. I noted the pointy ears and how unlikely it was for humans to have them naturally. I noted the facial features that didn’t look like anyone from Patrick’s family – or even what little I’d seen of Donna. I thought about the yellow eyes that were now hidden behind closed lids. What had they been called sometimes? Genetic anomalies? Yeah, maybe with some people, but with Rem, it was just his fair folk showing.

Kielo was waiting for us, and she led us into the house next to the one we’d talked in. Apparently that one belonged to her as well, and it housed her bedroom. A woodland-style canopy bed took up most of the space there, and Villia and I set Rem on it. He curled up, and I hoped it meant he was really asleep instead of unconscious now. Kielo looked worried.

“What happened to him?”

“Myrsky hit him with a suppressor,” Villia said, “He’ll be fine. Physically at least. As for… well, I think these two need a little time to think about this.”

“You think?” I said.

Villia narrowed her eyes.

“There’s no need for sass.”

“Give them a break, Vil,” Kielo said quietly, and then turned to me, “We’re very sorry about all this. Is there anything we can do to help?”

I crossed my arms.

“I think you’ve helped enough,” I said.

“Of course. Sorry. Come on, Vil, let’s go,” Kielo gave me a very Rem-like smile, “Just give us a shout if you need anything.”

Then they were gone, and I was left at my brother’s bedside with way too many questions in my head.

I wouldn’t have thought I’d be able to sleep, but somehow I must have at some point, because when I opened my eyes I was on the floor and looking at unfamiliar furniture for a moment before I remembered where I was. Rem’s bare feet got in my field of vision, and I jumped up as quickly as I could in my groggy state.

“Ugh… hey, you okay?” I managed. Darn, everything ached. Sleeping on the floor wasn’t a good idea at all. Not that it had been an idea to begin with.

Rem slid down from the edge of the bed he’d been sitting on. He looked much better than he had last night. If it weren’t for the conflicted, almost haunted look in his eyes, I could have said he was back to normal.

“I guess I’m fine,” Rem said quietly, “Are you?”

“Me? I’m sure my spine will recover,” I said, “I’m never sleeping on the floor like that again, though.”

“No, I meant… I’m so sorry. I don’t remember much about what happened after… Alvar walked in. But I remember flames. You saw them too, didn’t you?”

I shrugged uncomfortably.

“Well… yeah.”

“I didn’t mean to do it.”

“I know,” I said, trying to give him my gentlest smile, “Seriously, don’t worry about me.”

Rem nodded slowly.

“I… Okay,” he sighed, “I’ve been thinking a lot. What are we going to do?”

“Why’re you asking me? This is more about you right now, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, but you’re better at solutions than I am.”

I raised a brow.

“Really?”

“Yeah. You’re smart. And you’re not seeing things that confuse you.”

I almost laughed at that.

“Rem, right now everything I see around me confuses me. But, well, I’d say we should at least get out of here soon. I mean, Grandma and Grandpa are probably way too worried about us. And they’ve no doubt told mum and Patrick, and if that’s the case, we’re already on milk cartons or something.”

“So you think we should just leave?” Rem asked almost disbelievingly.

“Well… not without real closure, of course.”

“Right. Closure,” Rem looked uncomfortable, “But… what about Alvar?”

Oh. Right. Damn.

“Yeah, that’s bad… I mean, don’t you think Donna and Patrick deserve the truth?”

Rem bit his lip.

“But we can’t just bring a random guy in front of them and say ‘hi, here’s your real kid’. I mean, what if he doesn’t want to leave? What do you think Donna or dad are supposed to do with all that? What if this all just gets worse? What if… what if I have to leave you?”

I stared.

“Why would you have to leave us? Rem, you’re much more Patrick’s kid than that Alvar-guy is.”

“I… yeah, but…” Rem sighed, “I have to talk to them, right? I mean, I do want to, but… I’m scared.”

“I know. I’m still scared too,” I touched his shoulder in what I hoped was a comforting manner, “This all is so… weird.”

“Tell me about it.”

We stood in silence for a moment, before we slowly opened the door and greeted the weirdness.

What we saw when we stepped outside was not what I’d been expecting. True, I hadn’t had much time to think about what I’d imagined the fairy town to look like in daylight, but for some reason the image of the two kids from last night and Villia sitting on a clichéd picnic blanket and eating hamburgers would have probably never even crossed my mind. The only boy in the group looked up at us and waved.

“Hey!” he said in a voice that sounded a little bit like a cricket, “They’re awake! Come eat! We made fast food!”

Rem and I exchanged glances and stepped cautiously towards the blanket. Villia chuckled. She looked odd in a torn T-shirt and black capris when I’d got used to seeing her in much more stylish clothes. She was demonstrating impressive flexibility by sitting down in a perfect split, and I honestly couldn’t tell if she was showing off or just doing some morning stretches.

“They wanted you to feel more welcome,” she said, “I doubt these taste the same as the stuff you eat, but I’d say it’s pretty close.”

The little girl who seemed to have berries in her hair looked up at us.

“Sit down! I’m Kuura and this is my brother Halla! Villia told us you’re Lynn and Rem!”

I glanced at Rem again, and Rem flashed the two frosty-eyed siblings a slightly shy smile.

“Yeah, that’s us. I’m Rem. Lynn’s my sister. It’s nice to meet you.”

He sat down, then, just like that. It was such a Rem thing to do that I felt almost relieved even though we were still in very unfamiliar territory.

I sat down next to Rem and took a hot dog that looked much less like plastic than usual human fast food. It reminded me a lot of the organic veggie burgers and tofu hot dogs Patrick made, actually. I’m pretty sure the food was made mostly out of nuts and avocado. Those who’d been taken by the paleo diet craze would love this place.

“You eat a lot of stuff like this at your place?” asked Halla, “We’ve never been that far outside the glade.”

“Mother says it’s dangerous,” said Kuura, “And I guess she’s right. But Villia is always telling so much about the cities!”

“And Kielo keeps fixing human tech-things,” Halla added, “They’re really cool. And your names are a lot of fun too!”

“I wish we could go there,” Kuura said, “To a real city. You know, just to see it. But we have to master our glamour first.”

“And even then mother probably won’t let us go,” Halla sighed.

Villia smiled and flopped down on her back.

“Yeah, I doubt she will. And if you keep dreaming about sneaking into human civilisation, your mother might even forbid me from telling you stories anymore.”

“That’s not fair!” Kuura whined. Then she turned to me, her icy eyes twinkling, “You’re really pretty! When I grow up, I want to look like you!”

I almost coughed up my paleo hot dog.

“Seriously?” I managed, “You need better role models than me!”

“Don’t sell yourself short,” said Rem. He was smiling like crazy, and I couldn’t tell if his cheerfulness was real or just an attempt to hide the turmoil in his head.

“Mother isn’t going to let you dye your hair like that for years,” Halla said, “But hey, you could make your glamour hair like that.”

“I could, couldn’t I?” Kuura said, “Mum isn’t going to like it, though… she’s all proper. But you know, I could just tell her I couldn’t get it any other way!”

“Who’s your mum?” Rem asked.

“Her name’s Lumi,” Kuura said, “She’s our best healer, and the second-in-command here. You know, right next to the matriarch herself. And she’s really busy all the time.”

“Not that the title means that much,” said Halla, “The adults all decide on stuff… but the matriarch and mother just make sure the adults stay civil in the meetings. And sometimes they talk about smart stuff, I guess.”

He shrugged, clearly uninterested in talking about fairy politics.

“So… what do you do for fun in human places? We play in the woods, and do fun stuff with magic. And Kuura paints. Alvar watches the stars a lot. And when Villia’s home we play with her a lot because she’s really nice. What do you guys do?”

“Actually, a lot of the same stuff,” said Rem, “I love painting.”

“Oh, really?” said Kuura, “That’s… awesome! Hey Villia? Can you play with us now? You promised you would?”

Villia laughed.

“I did, didn’t I? I guess I have no choice. You want to play tag?”

“Yeah!”

“All right, then you’d better try and catch me!”

I looked in mild confusion when the two kids jumped up and darted after Villia, who moved with flashy grace and put her body through some sort of acrobatic routine, much to the delight of the kids.

“Well, this is… huh…” I said.

“It’s a lovely place, in the end,” Rem said.

“Yeah. That’s a bit scary. I didn’t expect that.”

“They’re not the bad guys.”

“Well, no. I didn’t think they were… Okay, maybe I did a bit, but still… I mean, I didn’t expect evil castles and decorative wall corpses -evil, but… this is too normal, in its own way.”

“Yeah,” Rem said, and then sighed, “You gonna be okay for a while? I want to find Kielo and… Alvar. I need to talk to them. Alone.”

“I’ll be fine,” I said, “How about you? You sure about what you’re about to do?”

Rem looked around in the glade. Kuura, Halla, and Villia’s laughter rang out around us.

“No,” he finally said, “But we’ve been over this so many times already. I have to… I have to do this.”

“Yeah. Good luck. Give me a shout if you need any help.”

“You too.”

When Rem got up and walked to Kielo’s house, I felt apprehension in the pit of my stomach again. For some reason the bright colours of the fairy trees just made it worse. We’d followed the breadcrumbs and then the rabbit hole, and it had just led us to a whole bunch of new problems. We really had a changeling scenario in our hands. And Patrick and Donna’s real kid was alive and well here. Among people who didn’t want to be found. Now that the initial shock had worn off, my brain finally had time to really try to process it all, and it kept reaching this very persistent question I had no answer to yet.

What the hell are we going to do?

I didn’t like the thought of us splitting up in this place, but I had to let Rem have his space when he confronted his so called family. I ended up wandering around the small village square and trying to find signal for my phone to no avail. There were many curious eyes all around me. The two little kids in the neighbourhood were especially interested in me. They even side-tracked me from my signal hunting by taking me to see their house, which was an odd assortment of do-it-yourself shelves and plants.

There was even a fountain that Kuura explained was mostly for practising illusions. Apparently water made it easier – something I didn’t really get. She asked me a lot of questions and was ecstatic to hear that I had a tattoo. Apparently only shamans – which I concluded meant experienced clairvoyants and healers – got tattoos in their culture, and the only shamans they’d had in Kuura’s lifetime were Lumi, and Rem’s mother, and apparently they’d never been big on tattoos. I showed the flowers on my arm to her, and she looked at it in wonder.

She looked just like a normal kid who had just found an older girl to be her role model. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. I guess it was nice, in a way. To know that there really weren’t conspiracies or evil powers at work here… probably. There seemed to be just… life. Lives that were maybe broken just like ours and that had broken our lives even more. But in some other way it was… maybe even more infuriating. In a way I would have felt better about it all if there had been someone I could really hate and blame. But here in the bright and colourful and maybe magical but still very normal glade all my hate wanted to just evaporate from my mind and body. The slates and I were being wiped clean of this all. And I didn’t want to be cleansed yet.
After I managed to get Kuura and her brother to leave me alone for a while I wandered back to the riverside where the bonfire was located. I tried not to shudder at the memory of last night’s flames.

They weren’t real. Get over it!

I looked at the familiar swamp across the river. It seemed to be so close, but I knew that the closeness was probably another illusion. We’d walked for hours to get here. Or then we’d just been meandering a lot because Villia had wanted to mess with us. Either way seemed just as likely.

“Hey,” said a voice I’d already learned to recognise.

I sighed. Had I summoned her with my thoughts or something? Sure, I did want to talk to her, but… not now. I didn’t feel like I was ready to be civil with her. Not without Rem holding me back.

Or then I was. Why was everything so confusing?

Because everything’s messed up again. Because we’re in fairyland.

Oh, right.

“Hey,” I said coldly.

“Yeah, I still get it,” Villia replied, “Look, Rem is working things out with his family. Maybe I should try to work things out too. I just want to… well, I don’t know what I want. I know you’ll probably never forgive me, and I understand that. I mean, I don’t think I’ll forgive myself either. Even though I was doing what I thought was right.”

“Really?” I scoffed, “Then your idea of ‘right’ is very different from mine.”

“That’s life, kid, get used to it,” Villia said, but then her frown softened, “But you’re right. It really wasn’t a good thing to do. You have to understand that we haven’t needed to do this before. This… changeling business was supposed to be a thing of the past. And then one of my best friends starts messing with it… I just wanted to help Taru. After the whole fiasco with Laketon we left you alone for a time. I had just planned to keep tabs on you, but then you moved and escaped from us.”

“Like that stopped you,” I said, “Or did it?”

Villia nodded.

“For a time. We have a code of honour. If one of us doesn’t want to be found, they won’t be until they wish it again.”

“Huh.”

“But after Taru started stressing about it…” Villia trailed off. It was obvious now that Rem’s mother’s death had hit her hard. I couldn’t imagine what it felt like to lose a friend or a loved one. I mean, to really lose them. Knowing that I’d never see them again… I found myself feeling a little bit sorry for Villia.

Villia cleared her throat.

“After she started fading, even our matriarch asked me to keep looking for Rem. Not that I wouldn’t have anyway. Taru had been our clairvoyant, and so far no one else here has displayed that ability. Not in this generation at least. But Rem has clearly inherited it.”

She sighed.

“The matriarch wants to see him. I told him that we’d go once he’s talked to his family.”

“Oh.”

I didn’t know what to say, really. I wanted answers, but the answers probably wouldn’t make sense without a proper history or culture lesson. And I also wanted to go home, but we couldn’t just leave now. I didn’t think the fair folk would let us leave without us seeing this matriarch first. And who knew what she’d want? They kept talking about Rem’s visions being valuable to them, I think. Did they want him to stay? My hands curled into fists. I didn’t care if these people were his flesh and blood. I wouldn’t let them have him. At least not unless Rem really wanted to stay. But he wouldn’t, right? This wasn’t his home, no matter how many dreams he’d had about it.

“Rem’s mum… how did she die?” I asked before I could stop myself.

Villia looked at the river, smiled at its gentle waves as if she could see her friend there.

“She got lost in her visions,” she finally said, “She felt guilty in the end, I think. She kept trying to find Rem.”

I stared at the water without really seeing it. An ominous feeling of nausea started building up in my throat.

“Don’t blame yourselves,” Villia said as if reading my thoughts, “I think that at first she knew what she was getting into, but then… she couldn’t stop looking. She tried to force herself to see. So she fell asleep. Then into a coma.”

“We watched over her. I tried to find you so Taru would stop. I think she did want to stop at some point, but she was so far gone that she couldn’t get back anymore.”

“It was… surprising. Shocking, even. She was so experienced. We didn’t imagine she could get lost.”

Villia fell silent again for a while. I could hear her swallowing what was probably tears.

“That’s also why we wanted to find Rem. To prevent further tragedies like that in our family, no matter how distant he was. He was becoming an adult, so he was at risk of really starting to misuse his powers without proper training. We didn’t want him to become a danger to himself or others.”

She pursed her lips.

“But I shouldn’t try to make us sound all noble. The truth is that… I manipulated you all. I’m rather good at it, so why not, right?” she laughed bitterly, “But I know we were selfish. Most of all we just wanted him back. We wanted everything to go back to normal.”

For a while, the river and the bees were the only sounds I could hear. They felt almost intrusively loud in my ears.

“Then…” I cleared my throat, “Then I guess we have something in common.”

Villia managed a sad smile.

“I suppose we do.”

We stood together on the shore, me and a fairy guide I’d hated for so many years. It was a strange experience. I could only imagine how Rem was doing.

“Oh, wow, you have your own vinyl player? That’s so cool!”

“Yeah. Aunt Kielo fixed it for me. She does stuff like that. She even gave me the camera I’ve taken pictures with. Sometimes she and mum take me to a human town… well, now it’s just Kielo, obviously. And Villia, when she’s around.”

“I… I’m sorry for your loss.”

“I’m sorry too.”

“So… you’ve always known that you’re…”

“A changeling? Yeah. I mean, it’s pretty obvious. We humans don’t have fancy magical disguises like you.”

“And you never considered… finding where your real parents were?”

“Why should I? I had a mum who loved me. And a big family. I’m happy here. I mean, from what I heard, you didn’t want to really find out the truth either.”

“I didn’t know the truth wasn’t what I believed!”

“So you never even doubted it?”

“I… Well, I… yeah, I did.”

“See?”

“So you don’t want to even meet them?”

“You think that’d be smart? Mum kept saying they didn’t love me.”

“Well, that’s not true. They did. Your biological mum especially… she loved you so much that she… she always knew you were missing.”

“She did? Wow… I… but I can’t just… go, can I?”

“I don’t know. It might be a very good thing… but then again, it might go awfully wrong too.”

“Yeah.”

“So uh… do you want to talk to Aunt Kielo too?”

“Yeah, that’d be nice.”

I met Rem in front of Kielo and Alvar’s house a few hours later. He was smiling, and there was genuine happiness in his eyes. But I could see that he was still just as confused as ever.

“So?” I asked.

“So we talked. A lot,” said Rem.

“Yeah? And it was a good talk?”

Rem’s smile widened.

“Yeah. Well, it was weird. But it was nice too.”

“Alvar and Kielo are really friendly. They told me about Taru, about how she lived and… died. They told me about their life too.

“In the end it almost really felt like… like maybe one day I could… I don’t know.”

“Be family?” I asked.

Rem shrugged.

“Well, that’s a bit early to say. I mean, I want to believe that… maybe,” he massaged his temples, “This is just still so overwhelming. And now the matriarch wants to talk to us.”

“Yeah. Villia told me. Is she going to take us to her?”

Rem nodded.

“I’m happy we got here,” he said out of the blue, “But I’m just wondering where it’ll end.”

“Me too,” I said, “I think there’s still plenty of rabbit hole to go.”

I looked at Rem, trying to find some evidence that he too wanted to go home. To our real home. I mean, this was nice, I guess, knowing and all. But mum and Patrick and Grandma and Grandpa were probably beside themselves with worry by now. We might have been in fairyland, but out there, across the fake-short distance, real life was still going on. And it was calling us back.

“What are you going to do?” I asked, “What do you think they want now that you’re here?”

Rem looked almost scared when he said:

“I don’t know.”

Author’s Note: More exposition for you. Yay. Also I have a new computer now. I’m having mixed feelings about that. I mean, it’s definitely good and in many ways better than the old one, and my old one was already pretty… well, old, and it was becoming kind of unusable because of all the malfunctions it had. That said, I’m pretty sure the major things that are broken are the hard drive and the battery, so they are things I could just replace… but it would already be the second time I’d have to get a new hard drive for it, but on the other hand… agh! Spending natural resources and probably supporting the very poor working conditions of computer makers makes me sad! I didn’t throw the old laptop away yet, so maybe I’ll get some use out of it still…

Well, what’s done is done, and at least my TS3 works on the new computer and it actually runs much smoother and the computer doesn’t heat up like crazy when I play. Yay! And because of the new computer my screenshots are going to be IN WIDESRCEEN in the future. I’m still debating whether I want to crop them differently or just use the proportions I automatically get, but I am liking the pics I can take now. Also some of the pics in this one were already taken with the new computer and I cropped them to match the old ones because it would be weird to change randomly in the middle of a chapter. Even if that meant a couple of the pics look a bit weird because of the cropping. But from the next chapter onward there will be slightly different pictures. Just a heads up.

Ugh, I ruined my “use only one word for chapter names” -rule that I had for this story (except for the prologue) for… reasons. I don’t even remember why I had that rule. But hey, I was getting tired of it and my Finnish mind keeps telling me that “rabbit hole” is just one word so whatever.

Also more Finnish names/words in this chapter:

Kuura: Finnish for the physical frost that forms on the windows etc.

Halla: Finnish for the phenomenon when the temperature drops below zero degrees Celsius near the ground but not higher up (the English-speakers call this frost as well).

Lumi: Finnish for snow.

PREVIOUS Chapter: Changeling

NEXT Chapter: Return

Chapter 18: Changeling

I had never considered myself a violent person. Sure, I’d been doing some Sim Fu and that had meant a lot of punching and kicking air and sometimes sparring partners, but that was not violence. That was just a fun lifestyle derived from violence. But now, when I looked at Villia’s friendly smile, I seriously wanted to deck her in the face. Rem stepped between her and me, though, before I could do anything of the sort, and raised his hands in a calming gesture.

“At least hear her out,” he said.

“Exactly,” said Villia, “I owe you that much.”

I gritted my teeth and glared at her. Rem put his hand on my shoulder.

“It’s okay,” he said quietly, “She has the answers.”

“Like we have any reason to trust her!” I hissed.

“Yeah, I suppose you don’t,” Villia said, “I know I messed up. Badly, and many times. But I’m here to fix what I can. Rem wanted to find his family, and I wanted him to find them, so here we are.”

My eyes narrowed.

“So wait, you’re saying that you’ve known all along who and – more importantly – where Rem’s real parents were all this time? Seriously?”

“Yes,” said Rem, “I think that… I think that she’s been lying about very little during all these years.”

“Well, thank you for giving me that, at least,” Villia smiled, “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry. Terribly sorry. I never realised things would go this wrong. And I completely understand why you’ve been avoiding me.”

“But not anymore,” Rem said, “Tell Lynn what you told me, please.”

“What?” I asked, “Here?”

“There’s no one around,” Villia shrugged, “Besides, it’s easy to make people ignore things. That’s how no one knew I was at the bar with Laketon.”

I stared. Villia smiled.

Screenshot-574

“Let me start from at least some sort of beginning. First of all, yes, you could call us fairies, though we prefer the term fair folk.”

I opened my mouth to say something, but an annoyed look from Villia silenced me. Not that I’d have much to say other than “What? Seriously?” Even after all this time of suspecting something like that, it was still a bit of a shock to hear someone say it. Not to mention it sounded like a half-baked, crazy story. At this point I was really hoping that Villia wasn’t lying, though. At least that would take us forward.

“Second of all,” Villia went on, “Yes, Rem is a changeling – which I’ve been trying to tell him for years. I was tasked with bringing him back home with us.

She tilted her head.

“But you seem to have finally accepted that part. I guess talking to Mrs. Brooke was what you really needed. I should have maybe realised that.”

“You knew about Donna?” I asked before I could stop myself.

“Of course I did,” Villia said, “She saw right through Rem from the beginning. Some people are better at that that sort of thing than most. Like you are, Lynn. Your father… I’m sorry, Laketon, is pretty good at it too.”

Villia glanced around as if to make sure we weren’t being eavesdropped on. I took that moment to ask the question that had become the most pressing in the last few moments:

“Why? Why did you do all this?”

Villia sighed.

“If you’re looking for some kind of conspiracy, don’t bother: there is none. We used to go around switching babies back in the Dark Ages, but we don’t do that sort of thing anymore. Rem was a secret to us too for the first ten years. We thought he was dead.”

She looked a bit uncomfortable now. She cleared her throat and the sound rang in the empty park before it was muffled by the vegetation.

“Look, this is getting into awkward family talk territory, and I’m not quite family. Rem told me he’s finally agreed to see his home and his family. I can take you to them.”

“To Rem’s real parents?” I asked.

“No,” said Rem in a very quiet voice, “She told me they’re dead. I didn’t believe it before, but…”

Villia nodded, a hint of regret on her face.

“But there is still family left for you. Your aunt, for one, and the rest of us, if you want to count that.”

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Rem looked questioningly at me, and I looked back. Then I glanced at Villia. I still couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that Rem seemed to be just forgiving this woman. Or well, maybe not forgiving, but at least tolerating her enough to listen and maybe even to trust her. I didn’t know if I was even ready to believe that she was sorry about all the pain she’d caused us. Maybe she was. But was that enough? And oh, right, she was also spilling secrets about some kind of fair folk and magic. In a way I found myself to be strangely calm about that part.

Finally, after a thoughtful and definitely awkward silence, Rem spoke again:

“I’ll go with you.”

I sighed. So Rem really was going to follow her to the truth, or whatever it was that we would find if we listened to her. And I couldn’t possibly leave him alone with this manipulative, life-ruining bitch no matter how sincere she was being now.

“Alright,” I said, and then turned to Villia, “But if anything goes wrong, I’ll make you regret it.”

They were mostly empty words, and Villia must have known that. But at least I was fulfilling my protective big sister duties.

When Villia turned and started leading us out of the gardens, I felt Rem’s hand close around mine and squeeze in a desperate search for comfort and safety. I squeezed his hand back briefly before I let go again. Sometimes I forgot that he was still really, really young. That I too was – as much as I hated to admit it. We were just two scared kids, possibly walking into death or misery. Like Hansel and Gretel lost in the woods and stumbling upon a gingerbread house inhabited by a man-eating witch. We could only hope there would be no man-eating anything in our tale.

We walked out of the town centre, towards the swampy edges where the houses turned smaller and eventually more ramshackle. The summer day had been quite hot in the town, but here amidst the trees and the watery ground it felt much colder and I wished I’d worn my hoodie. Next to me, Rem shivered a bit, but he voiced no complaints. His eyes stayed fixed on Villia’s back. Villia herself didn’t seem to be bothered by the temperature, even in her short shorts and light shirt. I didn’t know if that was a fair folk -thing or if she just wanted to show how badass she was by not being inconvenienced by something as trivial as weather.

We didn’t talk for a long while. There was just the wet splash of our shoes – and Rem’s feet – against the ground, along with the occasional rustle in the leaves of the limp tree branches. Even the air felt quieter than normal. The silence made things feel even colder. I reminded myself that this was home. Or at least used to be. This was Twinbrook, the place we’d done a lot of our growing up in. We’d sometimes come to the edges of the swamp to play, though only with our parents coming with us to make sure we didn’t wander off. But that had been years ago. Lives ago, almost. And now we were much deeper into the woods than we’d ever been. At least if one didn’t count Rem’s dreamworld excursions. And I didn’t.

We were way past anything familiar when Rem spoke. His voice cut the silence like rusty scissors, hesitant but still effective:

“Villia.”

Villia halted and turned around. She smiled her too-sweet smile.

“Yes?”

“Now that we’re outside of the town, I want you to stop hiding. I want Lynn to see your real face too.”

I raised a brow. Rem had said something about not real faces before, hadn’t he? I found myself holding my breath. Villia let out a small chuckle.

“Oh, fine. I guess I owe you that too.”

And then she changed.

At first I almost didn’t notice it, because it felt for a second like she had always been the greenish-skinned, gangly redhead. But then my brain caught up with what I was seeing and I gasped. Villia turned around, her creepily pretty face less human-like and her too green eyes now entirely too green. They reminded me of Rem’s eyes back when he had been sick. Villia smiled, straight from the depths of the uncanny valley.

“Well? Happy now?” she asked.

Rem nodded.

“Thank you.”

“So that’s… what you really look like?” I asked, my voice all too uncertain for my liking.

“Yes.”

I glanced at Rem.

“And Rem…”

“Looks the way he is used to,” Villia said, “Our people have a knack for tricking the eyes and the mind of others. You know, illusions, glamour, subtle manipulation… all that.”

“Yeah, I’ve gathered,” I said, “What else? You shoot fireballs from your hands too?”

“No, of course not,” Villia said with a snort, “Some of us have more uncommon abilities, of course, just like you humans do. Like Rem and his ability to get glimpses of possible futures. Look, it’ll take some time to explain, so I’d rather not do it right now. It’s already dark and I don’t want to take all night to get home.”

Rem looked at me, trying to give me an encouraging smile. The keyword being “trying”. The encouragement-thing didn’t really work when he was just as unsure as I was. We didn’t have much time to hesitate, though, because Villia was again walking, and I really didn’t want to be left this deep into the swamp without someone who knew where she was going. Rem and I hurried after her.

It really was getting dark. I kept glancing at my cell phone’s clock. It went past six, then seven… almost eight… my legs were starting to ache from trudging through the swamp. Villia didn’t seem to be showing any signs that we were anywhere near the end. Not that anything around us looked like a fairy forest or whatever it was that we were going towards anyway. I glanced at the clock again and realised only now that we were long past getting a signal to the phone.

“Rem?” I said.

“What?”

“We’re so going to make Grandma and Grandpa worried.”

“It’s not far anymore,” said Villia, “Just a little bit longer.”

“Yeah,” I scoffed, “that’s not very comforting when we’ve already been walking for hours.”

“If we lived right next to humans we wouldn’t be that well-hidden, now would we?”

So why are you hiding, anyway?

That was only one of the things I wanted to ask. But Villia was again picking up her pace. I had a feeling she wanted to sit on most of her answers until we were “home”, as she kept calling it. If she even wanted to really tell us anything. She could be leading us right into some kind of messed up trap for all we knew. Almost all of my thoughts kept screaming at me to turn back, to take Rem with me and run until we found someone or could call for help. But I kept ignoring it. Maybe it was because of my damned curiosity. Or maybe it was because I could see something sincere in Villia’s apologies even though I still wanted to be mad at her. Or maybe I was just so tired of being confused.

Finally Villia stopped and turned around.

“Well, here we are,” she said.

I looked around. Nothing looked especially different.

“Uhh… what’s this all about?” I asked.

“Oh, right, the wards…” Villia muttered and then trailed off. She seemed to focus intently on something I couldn’t see.

I looked at Rem and noticed that he was staring.

“It’s… it’s just the way I remembered…” he said almost disbelievingly, “I didn’t think it would be this… accurate.”

“What? The swamp? What are you-? What the hell?!”

The scene changed. Instead of the by now numbingly repetitive swampy forest I saw Rem’s dream in the distance. I blinked rapidly and even looked at my hands to make sure I wasn’t dreaming this time too. I wasn’t. And the fairy forest was still there when I looked back up.

“I take it you see it now?” said Villia almost smugly, “It always takes a bit of adjusting for a human to get in.”

“Villia!”

Villia spun around and I saw a man walking menacingly towards us. Villia sighed.

“Oh, right… This will require some explaining. Bringing humans here isn’t exactly legal. Don’t worry. I’ll speak for you.”

The man stopped in front of Villia, and in the dark he looked very eerie. Maybe it was the eyes. Maybe it was the almost porcelain-looking skin. Maybe it was the look of utter distrust he sent my way. He said a few words in a low voice, and I wasn’t sure if he was speaking in another language or just mumbled deliberately so we wouldn’t understand. Villia responded to him in clear Simlish, though.

“Oh, give me a break, Myrsky!” she snapped, “I’ve finally accomplished my mission and you start lecturing me about protocol? I brought the changeling, so I’d say that’s a reason for some rule-bending!”

The man whose name I couldn’t pronounce looked at me again. His eyes narrowed and he turned back to Villia.

“If something happens, it’ll be on you!” he said, “We’ll deal with this later.”

“Nobody has to ‘deal’ with this but me. I’ll inform the matriarch and the family. Now just… keep doing your job!”

“I am doing my job at this very moment.”

“Yes. Great. Now let me pass; everything’s under control.”

The man who was apparently some sort of guard shook his head, but stepped aside. I noticed Rem walking closer to me, and I wasn’t sure if it was to protect me or himself.

“I don’t think we’re wanted here,” he said.

“Oh, don’t worry,” said Villia, “It’s Myrsky’s job to be overly paranoid and a stickler to rules. He’s not that bad otherwise.”

I wasn’t convinced. I heard the quiet shuffle of the man’s feet and knew he was trailing closely behind us. Villia didn’t seem to mind, though, and just led us through the final stretch that led us under odd spike-trees and spiralling branches that seemed to glow in the dark. It was almost nine in the evening. Grandma and Grandpa were probably already organising search parties.

We circled around the windows that peeked through the branches until the trees parted and we came into a clearing.

Some sort of crystal ball-like contraption shone light on the houses that seemed to be build out of very old wood. They were like an unholy mix of honeycombs and layered birthday cakes, but they had a certain quirky charm to them. As we stood in the clearing, surrounded by the strange houses, giant mushrooms and bizarre trees, it all really sunk in and I felt my lungs become weightless and my arms lose all strength. I struggled to keep my legs at least somewhat functional even though I was lost in some sort of haze. Reality crashed in, except reality was fantasy now. We really were in fairyland.

I found myself staring, but my widened eyes were nothing compared to Rem’s look of enthusiasm and awe. For a moment he seemed to forget how to breathe.

“Home sweet home, as you’d say,” Villia said, “Now come on, there’s someone you must meet. Well, many someones. But I figured we should start with the family.”

“Family?” Rem managed to say in a very small voice. I couldn’t help noticing that he was swaying on his feet.

“I think we need a moment here,” I said.

“You can have a break once we’re indoors,” Villia said and pointed towards the nearest house, “It’s right there.”

A small child ran past us and greeted Villia. Villia’s usually either annoyed or too-sweet expression melted into genuine fondness and she greeted the boy back. Another set of tiny footsteps stopped near us as well.

“Humans?” said a girl whose white hair and pale skin matched the boy’s so well I assumed the two were siblings, “What’re they doing here?”

She squinted her ice blue eyes at Rem.

“Wait, he’s one of us! He just looks a bit like a human. Is he… hey, did you finally get him to follow?”

Villia chuckled.

“Yes, I did. Now run along, I can watch you two tomorrow if your mother is busy.”

The girl and the boy let out whoops of joy and were on their way. If it weren’t for their looks and the otherworldly feeling they gave me they could have been completely ordinary kids playing tag. Villia looked at their retreating backs with an almost motherly smile on her face, though only for a moment before she turned back to her task at hand and knocked on the nearest house’s door.

Rem stopped breathing again for a worryingly long while. He didn’t seem to be able to get comfortable in his skin. He was still staring wide-eyed at the not-dream around us, and I saw his fingers occasionally twitch as if he wanted to try to tear it all down… or possibly embrace it. I myself managed to find a nice spot in a state of floating between dream and reality and settled there. Maybe we would both wake up in our sleeping bags. Or maybe we wouldn’t. At this point I honestly didn’t know which would have been preferable.

The door was opened, and a woman with greenish skin and red hair stepped out. Her eyes were yellow – almost gold. Like Rem’s. She greeted Villia with a smile and a hug and they talked in hushed voices for a while.

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“Rem?” I whispered.

Rem only tilted his head.

“This is really happening, isn’t it?”

Rem nodded.

“I’m scared,” he said.

“Me too.”

The women stopped talking, and the one with the Rem-eyes turned to scrutinise my brother.

“Hello,” she said in a soft voice that sounded a bit like water flowing through rocks, “You’re finally here.”

“I… yes?” Rem squeaked.

The woman let out a long-suffering sigh when she glanced at me.

“And you brought a kid from the human family as well… Oh dear… this should be fun… what a fine mess my sister left me…”

Rem’s eyes became way too big again.

“You mean you’re…”

“Your aunt, yes. I am Kielo. Honestly, Villia, haven’t you told the poor boy anything?”

Villia huffed.

“Hey, I told him most of what he needed to know in order to come home! He just never listened until now.”

“Yes. I’ve heard,” Kielo said and sighed again, “Well, come on in. I think it’s high time someone actually explained these things to you.”

She opened her front door further, and Rem and I walked in with numb legs.

I wasn’t sure what I’d been expecting to find inside the honeycomb-cake house. Maybe another forest with flower-people prancing about in it. Or maybe some kind of chamber built into an ancient, huge tree. The latter was more accurate. It really felt a bit like we had stepped inside a hollow tree trunk. There was an appropriately woodland-style sofa against a wall, and there were candles lighting the place up with gentle flames. But then there were the mismatched chairs that reminded me more of Grandma and Grandpa than fairytales, and the stove that stuck out like a sore thumb. Kielo noticed when I stared at it a moment too long and smiled at me.

“I’m a bit of a scavenger. Quite a lot of us are, actually. Technology is just so fascinating!”

“Uh… sure is,” I said. Kielo sat us all down around a very plain-looking garden table and then took a deep breath. In the light of the candles I could see her freckles and the nuances in her skin colour that could have been make-up or just natural variety. I couldn’t tell for sure. She reminded me a bit of a human-shaped plant. All of the fair folk did, really.

“Okay…” Kielo said wearily, “Well, I guess I should say ‘welcome home, child’, or something like that, first. So, welcome home.”

“Thank you,” Rem said.

Kielo smiled. It was a mixture of nervousness, compassion and even understanding, so it made for an odd smile to say the least.

“This must be a bit of a shock to you. Or is it?”

Rem stared at the table for a moment, his body tense.

“I… I don’t really know what to feel about all this. It’s all so… overwhelming. I guess a part of me always knew… but I didn’t want to listen. Especially after… after things went wrong.”

“Right. Villia’s oh-so-brilliant plan of masking your disappearance by making it seem like a crazed man did it,” Kielo said, “And making herself look like a trustworthy person by being the one to save you from him. I told you it wouldn’t work!”

“What?” I said, “That’s why you did all that?”

“Hey! I’d like to see you do better!” Villia retorted, glaring at Kielo and ignoring me completely. My desire to punch her was back with a vengeance, “This isn’t exactly something we’ve had much experience with!”

“Don’t start again! We’re not here to judge stupid decisions. We’re here to help confused children.”

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“No, I want to talk about this!” I said, “You made Laketon take us just so you could take Rem ‘home’ without people coming to look for him?”

I looked at Rem, who had fallen silent. He was trembling and his eyes had that desperately suppressed shine that I could guess was somehow related to his episodes of uncontrollable magic.

Yes!” Villia snapped, “But I never meant it to go that far! It was supposed to be simple, but Laketon was far more unpredictable than I thought! I told you I was sorry and I promise not to do that again. I was wrong and stupid. Are you happy now?”

I glared at her in disbelieving rage.

No! I’m the opposite of happy about all this!”

“Fine!” Villia snapped, and then her defiant expression melted into regret, “Just… I’m trying to make up for it. I really am.”

“I believe you,” Rem whispered. His shoulders were still far too tense and his fists were clenched. I felt his magic thinning the air around us.

“Alright, let’s all calm down,” said Kielo, “We can all agree that Villia was an idiot. But she was just trying to fix the mess my sister started.”

“Um… What mess?” Rem asked, “Villia told us that I’m a changeling… and I guess I have to believe it now. It’s hard not to, really. She told me that this isn’t… normal for you. I… I still don’t understand this.”

“Of course you don’t,” Kielo said, “That’s why we’re here, having this questioning session. Now… first, a little history lesson. Back in the happy, birdsong-filled ancient past our kind would sometimes meddle with humans, and humans would meddle with us. Back then the fair folk was more curious about people, and it was almost customary to switch some of their babies with ours to see how the families would react. Messed up, I know.”

She laughed bitterly and I realised that I might actually be able to like her.

“Later it was done to give some of our orphaned children a good home. We’d find a family with a dying baby and make the switch. The changeling would subconsciously adapt to the new environment by creating their human disguise, which they grow into so well that it basically becomes their real shape. Usually the human parents’ relief of their child being ‘miraculously healed’ combined with the baby’s illusions was enough to fool them. The human baby usually died soon after in the care of the fair folk, and eventually the changeling would return to us after giving the human parents a taste of parental love.”

Kielo paused, looking thoughtfully at the table and tracing her finger in the seams between the planks. The mix of regret and discomfort on her face was obvious.

“But nowadays we hardly do anything to mingle with humans,” she said, “Some, like Villia here, are pretty good at blending in and helping us understand people, but that’s about it. There’s no messed up baby-switches or… magical deals that always go wrong. We just want to be left in peace for the most part.”

“So… why did my mother switch me?” Rem asked, his voice trembling just a bit.

Kielo wrung her hands and laughed nervously.

“Yeah, that is the big question, huh? Oh, I so love crushing other people’s nice worldviews and talking judgementally about my dead sister. Well, long story short… she did it because you were sick and dying.”

Rem stared.

“What?”

“It was a nasty illness,” Kielo said, “Some kind of influenza, or whatever it is you call it, but much angrier than usually. Normally we are very resilient to most illnesses, but this one got straight through our immune system. We lost many to it, including your father. His name was Kaita. Your mother – Taru – was expecting at the time and had you soon after your father’s passing…”

“To be honest, Kaita and Taru’s whole relationship had basically been a fling, nothing more… but I guess his passing hit her harder than she wanted to admit. She named you after him and tried to move on. But you got sick with the same illness almost right after.”

She took a deep, mournful breath.

“I remember her crying, being desperate, begging the healers to help. She had seen your death so many times in her mind. She was clairvoyant, much like you are from what I’ve heard. Though it didn’t really take a vision to see that we were just delaying the inevitable.”

Rem’s breath hitched. He wasn’t crying, but his fists were clenched so tight that it was a wonder his fingernails hadn’t drawn blood yet.

“Then, only a week or two after you were born, Taru disappeared with you,” Kielo went on, “She was gone for days, and none of us could tell where she had gone.”

“When she returned she had a human baby with her. She claimed she had had one of her visions. That there had been a baby abandoned in the woods nearby. She said you were dead and that she had buried you, that the new child was like a gift from the forest. She called him Alvar.”

Kielo shook her head.

“We were stupid to believe her. Even though she had always been the most honest of us, we should have seen that her grief had made her desperate. It took us years to realise she’d been lying…”

“…that she had walked right into a nearby hospital and pretended it was the Dark Ages and that changelings were okay.”

“She took a healthy baby boy with her, and left her dying child for the humans to sort out.”

“Even she couldn’t see that they would manage to save him. Human medicine has been ahead of ours for decades now, so maybe we could have realised before… but no… it took us years to figure it out.”

Kielo sighed.

“At first we were just happy to see Taru smile again. I guess we didn’t want to believe she could have been lying. When we found out, we were so angry with her. But we’d already learned to love Alvar, and there was no way we could have taken him back. But we couldn’t just ignore you either. In the old times the changelings used to eventually seek their way back home. You know, before they reached their teenage years and would need guidance with their developing magic. But you wouldn’t come back. We knew we needed to fix it somehow.”

“So they sent me,” said Villia, “I was an old family friend, and I felt rather at home during my visits to the human world. But you know the rest. Needless to say, things didn’t work out like we planned.”

My mouth had suddenly become very dry. These… these people… Rem’s mother had stolen a frickin’ baby from Patrick and Donna? And thought that it would have been okay to dump the grief of losing a child on someone else? And more importantly, she had been okay with just abandoning her own dying child, rather than facing the possibility of losing him? It was so fucked up that I couldn’t find any civilised words for it. And then Villia had continued the same messed up logic and thought it would have been okay to steal a kid from our family again and let us believe that Rem had died… or worse?

“What the hell is wrong with you people?” I managed to hiss through my teeth.

Kielo raised her hands defensively.

“Hey, I was always against all of this! I mean, I wanted our Kaita home once I heard he was alive, but not like… not like this. Kai- I mean, Rem? Are you… can you hear me?”

I turned to look at my stepbrother, who wasn’t really my stepbrother at all. He didn’t seem to find any words for this. He was shaking and his eyes had a frighteningly shocked look in them. The air around him seemed to waver. Villia shifted in her seat.

“I think he’s having a stress-induced power surge,” she said and to her credit managed to sound genuinely worried despite her clinical choice of words, “Just breathe, Rem.”

“Hey, what’s going on here? People are talking that… oh, guests! Hi!”

Rem suddenly stopped shaking at the sound of the new voice. In fact, he became completely still. I looked over his shoulder and saw a teenager at the door. And even though I had already begun expecting to see him at some point after the pieces of Rem’s past had started clicking together, it was still a shock.

I stared at the human who had the unmistakable features of Patrick and Donna on his face. The boy whom Donna Brooke had lost and mourned at the cost of hating the rest of her family. My real stepbrother.

Rem stood and pushed past the teen without looking at him. He was running before I could stop him. The boy at the door looked at Kielo and Villia helplessly.

“Uh… was it something I said?” he asked.

Then his eyes found me, and he smiled.

“Oh? Hi! You’re different! There’s never been another human here! I’m Alvar.”

“Yeah,” I said, my vocal cords feeling strangely weak, “I kinda guessed that.”

Then I rushed outside after Rem.

Author’s Note: Well, that was… problematic to write. Aside from this part of the story requiring a lot of building and Sim-creation – which I love, but will also admit that it takes a lot of time – I’m again almost having these “this story sucks and should be destroyed” -moods, but I’m trying to fix that by really trying to bring the threads of the plot together. So the answer to the mystery that has plagued the Farley-Monsoon family iiiis… that people have been in denial a lot about things they could have known earlier and that Rem’s past is filled with some really selfish people. Then again, they have their reasons, even though they’ve been pretty stupid at times. Oh, well, you can be the judge of just how messed up these people were. I mean, I can at least think of hundreds of ways they could have been worse.

And oh man, Rem’s mum turned out pretty even if I say so myself. I was especially surprised by her human form, which I made by creating a twin of the pixie form and just changing the skin tone, hair, clothes and makeup.

But I’m rambling now. I hope you’ve been enjoying this mess of a story. I’m super, super grateful of all the wonderful comments and other support you people have given me. 🙂 Now don’t worry (or do worry, depending on how you like my story), this story is far from being over even after this whole changeling-mess has been sorted out. I mean, these characters are just kids so they still have plenty of life left for me to mess with! *evil chuckle*

Also here’s a fun(?) bit of trivia for you: All of the names of the fair folk are either Finnish words, Finnish names (most are both), or at the very least slightly modified versions of them. For those who are curious, here’s a list of the ones that were mentioned in this chapter:

Villia: This is an intentional butchering of the word vilja, which is Finnish for grain/crop. I modified the word in a way that should hopefully trick English-speakers into pronouncing it correctly (In Finnish, the letter ‘j’ is always pronounced like the ‘y’ in ‘you’). There’s also the word villi in the name. It means wild.

Kielo: Finnish for a lily of the valley.

Myrsky: Finnish for storm. It’s also a word that is probably going to be a pain for English speakers to pronounce correctly. 😛 Sorry, I’m evil. (The letter ‘y’ is always pronounced like the ‘u’ in the French word ‘lune’ (moon), for example).

Taru: Finnish for (fairytale-like) legend or myth.

Kaita: Finnish for narrow, though the word is almost never used and people use the same-meaning word kapea much more often. Can also be an older, nowadays not often used form of the verb kaitsea, which means to shepherd, to guard, or to protect (with devotion).

Alvar: A Finnish name, though uncommon and not a native one. Comes from the Old Norse name Alfarr, which is formed from alfr (elf) and arr (warrior). Also a Swedish and Estonian name. One of the most famous Finnish architects/designers was called Alvar Aalto.

Whew, that’s that. I hope you have a lovely time!

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