D: I still think we should skip ahead.
A: . . .
D: It’s just, I didn’t mean—
A: I know you didn’t mean to leave them there, all by themselves, with no one to turn to. . . poor orphans, at the cusp of adulthood, chasing a phantom.
D: You can stop at any time, you know.
A: (Grin). No, really, I know you had no idea that headstrong and ridiculously bright Maureen would decide to break curfew and chase after you. I mean, she’s only your—
D: Ahem. I mean, please don’t continue, A. Those are spoilers, and we wouldn’t want to ruin the story, would we?
A: Uh, no. Of course not. Sorry.
D: As well you should be. Good gods, woman – I’m almost happy to let you deconstruct the first page of Chapter Four if it will keep you from divulging information vital to the denouement.
A: Then that is exactly what we will do – hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen, because this is Chapter Four of Changelings: Into the Mist.
“Oh my God, Sr. Theresa was right, you are a Changeling,” Sean muttered. He did not know how long they had been lying in the tall grass, staring up at the starry sky. Long enough to realize that this was not a dream.
The church had vanished, and there were no sounds but those belonging to the night.
No, not a dream, but a huge, hideous mistake. The world started to tilt at funny angles and he dug his hands into the thick, matted earth.
“Me?” Maureen sat up. He winced at her speed. “It wasn’t until you touched my hand that anything happened.” She gave him a half-hearted glare as she attempted to smooth the back the riot of curls that had escaped her braids.
“And what did happen? In case you hadn’t noticed—”
“I know, I know. No church. Nothing.”
Yet, that was not completely true. She turned away and scanned the darkened countryside. Sean followed her gaze and tried to ignore the prickling unease that danced up his spine.
The church itself was gone, but the tumbledown remains of a stone structure, overgrown with weeds, sat in the middle of where the building had once been. Surrounding them was a great ring of oaks, or rather, what was left of them. Someone had been at them with an axe; a few raw stumps gleamed in the light of a moon that had just crested the hill. Beyond the oaks, with their twisted branches, were other stands of broad leafy trees that extended down into shadow.
The abbey, its collection of buildings and the modern trappings of their tiny world, had disappeared – either because they had not yet been built, or because they had fallen to ruin long ago.
* * *
Word of the Day
Changeling: A changeling is often described as the offspring of the Fae, a troll, elf or other legendary creature, who has been secretly left in the place of a human child. The switch is often made to strengthen faerie bloodlines, or out of malice. In Ireland specifically, if one doted on one’s child too much, one was at risk for inviting the wrath of the Fae – and almost daring them to steal the doted-upon child (ref. Wikipedia).*
Use of the term changeling – particularly in medieval times – may have been a psychological need to explain mundane horrors. In a world where infant mortality was ridiculously high, and what we consider common illnesses were ascribed to some sort of devilish defect, bringing the Fae to bear when something is “off” about a child (or in the case of doting, in preventing heartbreak should the child die) is as good a way as any. The repercussions of such a “switch” depended on the religious temperament of the community and their general fear of – or abhorrence for – the old beliefs. As Sr. Theresa is evidence, there were still those in the 50s who referred to the Fae as the Good Folk and left crusts of bread and milk out for them to avoid incurring their wrath.
Devil’s in the Details
I love this chapter, because unlike the first three, it shows just how close Sean and Maureen are – they finish each other’s sentences. They draw strength from each other’s reaction to what happened. Sean is almost catatonic with terror until Maureen just brushes it all aside. Maureen, having no clue what happened but knowing she is the one who did it, knows she has the responsibility to remain cool – even joke about it to a certain extent later in the chapter.
I said in Chapter Three that time travel is easier without parents around, and it is true. Not having parents from such a young age also meant Sean and Maureen learned to rely almost exclusively on one another – and themselves. This independence from the outside world is their greatest coping mechanism, and it is what allows them to handle the fear and terror of traveling through the vortex within the church.
It is also my contention that as children growing up in the wake of WWII – orphans of war heroes whose war record was considered treason by their own government – they would have grown a tougher skin, and built up their own self-sufficiency. That self-sufficiency gives them the emotional and mental elasticity to deal with extraordinary circumstances (like traveling through time, meeting pirates and making war with Fae kings . . . you know, every day, mundane stuff!).
I’m afraid to say there is nothing particularly historically accurate about this chapter – except that if there had been a chapel or religious hermitage on the hill, it likely would have been torn down during the height of King Henry VIII’s Reformation of the Catholic Church.
While a few Catholic religious communities survived the Reformation (the Friary at Burrishoole being one of them – see Chapter One), many others did not. It is my contention, in the alternate history of the area, that the hermitage, surrounded by Oak trees (long held sacred by the Old Religion – especially in the generalized/idealized version in Changelings) would have been just too much for the reformers. Keep in mind, there were many pagan overtones to the Catholic Church before the Reformation (and an interesting study of this is the Lancaster Witch Trials of 1612), but even acknowledging the arcane aspect of religion, asking them to accept a grove of sacred oaks, atop a known sidhe mound, encircling a hermitage that may or may not house an ancient mystic? Saint/Goddess Bridget might have survived the Reformation, but that hermitage did not.
*Note on my reference material – no one has called me out on it, but I am well aware that Wikipedia is not the world’s greatest source, particularly for proper historical research. However, as a quick reference guide, it works well, and it’s a great starting point. I’ve noticed that, in general, its information has corresponded with many of my other source material (all of which are outlined in the Changelings appendix… get your copy today!).