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Changelings

By webothknow All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Fantasy

Prologue

Nerissa had never seen Daggerhorn cliff in the moonlight before.  This was not surprising, considering she’d never been there, save for now- a fact she had regretted the moment she’d set eyes on it.

 The cliff was both beautiful and tragic in Nerissa's eyes. Beautiful, because the way the moon shone against the thick blanket of snow called for that word, and tragic, because this was the last place Nerissa would ever see, which kind of put a damper on the whole thing. 

For Nerissa was a fade- a human who had died without completing her personal quest, brought back on borrowed time to do so.  She had gone to great lengths, and faced many dangers, to find out what her quest was; so she would know exactly how much time she had left, and she had thought that was what she wanted. But tonight, for the first time, she wished she didn’t know that this would be her last night. She wished she didn’t have the burden of knowing that this day would be full of lasts. Moments before, she’d seen her last sunset, and she hadn’t even had the time to enjoy it.

A light tug on her dishevelled blonde hair brought her back to reality. She looked down at the blue eyed infant in her arms, and smiled.  The baby made a gurgling sound, and poked Nerissa with her tiny finger. 

The child was not her own, though Nerissa half wished she was. No, she was the kelpie princess, stolen from the kelpie palace- a shapeshifter, although she was in her human form, as most kelpies chose to be.  She was the daughter of Fabius, the King, and Tylara, the late queen. Nerissa hoped the girl would one day see her father again, that the shadows would not take him as they had her mother.  The shadow, among other reasons, were why a royal child from each of the four main branches had been taken, to be sent to the Upper World, the world of humans. The four children –vampire, werewolf, kelpie, and fade- had to be protected. Even if Nerissa didn’t fully understand why, she knew she had to get them there- it was her quest.

Abruptly, she was struck with fear, and grabbed the hand of the pale faced man next to her. He gently squeezed her hand in response, his fingers intertwining with hers, and tried to smile reassuringly, but ended up grimacing. He knew what was coming as well as she did, and Nerissa knew it was causing him just as much pain as it was causing her.

“I want to say tell you that it’s going to be okay, but we both know it won’t be,” he murmured.

Nerissa looked at the man- well, vampire- that she loved, and sighed. Seth’s cropped black hair was hidden by the dark cloak he wore, identical to her own.  His hazel eyes were filled with warmth, but she could also see sadness in their depths. The lower half of his face was covered in stubble, due to the group not having been anywhere near civilisation for days. Held protectively in his arms—well, one of them, seeing as the other was preoccupied- was the infant vampire prince.

“Yeah,” Nerissa responded, not really sure what there was to say in a situation like they were in.

“I love you, you know that,” he said with a half smile.

“I know. I love you too.”

There was something comforting about those familiar words. They stopped Nerissa being afraid.

“Look, guys, I get that this is sad, but come on, we have to do this,” Marcus interrupted, jolting Nerissa out of her thoughts, "We don't have time to waste."

“Guess so,” she smiled weakly, at Seth.

Marcus grinned at the couple, his brown eyes laughing sadly, his short curly brown hair sticking out of his cloak, identical to those of Nerissa and Seth. Marcus was also a fade, but he did not know what his quest was; he was terribly afraid to find out. The result of this was that he could be gone at any second, but it didn’t seem to bother him. Nerissa longed for the uncertainty.

She laughed at the way Marcus gingerly held the infant fade girl. It was clear that he was not overly fond of babies.

“Hurry up, all of you!” called Cheyenne, from where she stood close to the edge of the snow covered cliff.

It was hard to see her, seeing as the light was dim, and she, like the other three, wore a dark cloak, but her golden eyes shone like streetlights, or beacons, indicating her location.

Nerissa could picture the impatient look on her friend’s dark skinned face, her sceptical brown eyes narrowed in irritation.

Cheyenne knew as well as the other three what was coming, but she hid her face in the folds of the cloak, behind the lustrous black hair Nerissa used to be so jealous of. Cheyenne never betrayed her emotions if she could help it. She did not even weaken for the infant boy in her arms, with golden eyes that glowed eerily like her own.

“We’re coming,” Nerissa called, amazed at how choked up she sounded.

Nerissa and the others joined Cheyenne near to the edge, and the four stood there in silence, each knowing what had to be done, but each loathe to do it.

“Was this really a good idea?” Cheyenne voiced everyone’s thoughts, “Do we have to do this?”

"It may very well be our only chance. Besides, it's a little late to be having second thoughts," Seth answered her. He too voiced everyone’s thoughts.

“It must be done,” agreed Marcus, stating the obvious.

“It’s my quest,” Nerissa whispered, knowing her whole life, and the borrowed time she’d been living on after her death, had been leading up to this.

Seth’s hand gripped hers even tighter.

“Oh, Nerissa-“, murmured Cheyenne, her voice a mix of pity, regret, and pain, as she reached out to the said person.

“I know, Cheyenne,” Nerissa smiled thinly, shivering in the cold, “But this is how it has to be. We both know that.”

They hugged each other awkwardly, holding the infants with one arm. The hug conveyed all the emotions they didn’t want to say out loud.  They held each other tightly, not wanting this to be it, but knowing it was.

"Cheyenne, you'll help him control himself?" Nerissa choked, pulling away to look at the infant Cheyenne held in her arms.

Cheyenne nodded, obviously struggling to keep her emotions in check.

"Seth, he'll need you, when he returns,” Nerissa hastened, turning to the vampire at her side.

The words didn't seem to have an effect on Seth, he just looked at Nerissa wordlessly, heartbreak in his eyes. She felt the same heartbreak, but she knew it would be worse for him in the long run. He had to keep going without her, and she didn’t know if she would have been able to do it, had their positions been reversed. But he had to be able to. The infant vampire would grow up, one day, and he would come back. He would need Seth.

"I need you to be there for him, Seth, promise me you will be!" Nerissa pleaded, tears trickling down her cheeks.

Nodding, he awkwardly wrapped his free arm around her, briefly letting go of her hand. This hug was different from the one she’d shared with Cheyenne. This was two people who loved each other more than anything else, and had been through so much to get where they were now, saying goodbye.

"I promise," Seth told her, his voice ragged.

Impulsively, Nerissa pulled back from the hug, and kissed him like it was their last, because, well, it was. And if she'd said that thought didn't make her tear up, she'd have been lying.

In that moment, she didn’t care that the babies weren’t in the most comfortable position. These were her last moments with Seth, and she would not allow them to go to waste. It was as if they were in their own world, separate from reality. Nerissa knew Seth felt it too, and they both wished they could stay there, forever. But it was not to be. 

Cheyenne and Marcus turned away, exchanging knowing glances.

"Can you at least try not to get staked?" Nerissa said, pulling away, jolting them both back into reality.

"I'll do my best," Seth replied, smiling now, albeit weakly.

"And Marcus," continued Nerissa, "You’ll have to explain our ways to her. I doubt she’ll take it well, but help her."

"Of course, Nerissa," nodded Marcus, before muttering to himself in a voice he thought no one could hear, but everyone could, “That is, if I’m still around then.”

"And you'll all need to help this one," said Nerissa, ignoring Marcus’s comment as she gazed at the child in her arms, "Since there are no kelpies on our side, after we lost Flare.”

The other three nodded, giving a moment’s silence in respect to Flare, the kelpie who had died in the last battle; sacrificing his life for the good of the cause.

“Marcus?” Nerissa continued, “Please listen to Seth. He’s smarter than you think.”

“Thanks,” remarked Seth, dryly, as Marcus looked sheepishly at him.

"I guess this is it," said Cheyenne, dully, as she shivered in the cold air, even with her cloak.

"I guess it is," agreed Nerissa, the tear tracks freezing on her face, "When it's done, you must leave quickly."

"Any specific reason?" asked Marcus, his eyes crinkling in confusion.

Nerissa was unsure if he actually didn’t know, or was subconsciously stalling what they all knew was inevitable.

"Don't you think the royals might have noticed that their children are missing?” answered Seth, sarcastically, as he squeezed Nerissa’s hand.

"Right," agreed Marcus, “You’ve contacted Nick and Caserra?”

“Yes, they’ll be waiting on the other side, and will deliver the children to their new homes,” Cheyenne informed him, as she reached into her pocket and pulled out a small circular gold charm.

She put it to her lips, whispering, "The Upper World", then tossed it over the edge of the cliff.

A few seconds passed in silence, then there was a spark of white light, and a large pulsating orb appeared, crackling with energy. The orb was the bright white of a light bulb, and it hurt to look too closely.

Marcus leaned over the edge, and dropped the dark haired child he'd been carrying into the portal.

Cheyenne did the same with the golden eyed boy.

Seth and Nerissa held tightly onto each other’s hands as they walked forward.

Seth dropped the infant into the portal, watching protectively as he disappeared.

Reluctantly, Nerissa let go of Seth’s hand.

Hesitantly, she took a step forward, so her foot touched the very edge of the snow-covered cliff.

The other three watched in terrible fascination.

Nerissa looked back at them, taking a picture in her mind, along with a deep breath that didn't quite seem to fill her lungs enough.

This was it.

As the baby girl fell towards the portal, Nerissa watched, feeling like the scene was playing out in slow motion.

She felt a burst of fear, and turned her back on the portal, taking two steps toward Seth.

‘I love you’, her blue eyes whispered, full of fright.

‘And I you,’ his hazel eyes answered, brimming with tears.

Before she could take another step, the last child passed through the portal.

Nerissa flickered.

That was the only way to describe it.

She was there, horror-struck, terrified. And then she wasn’t.

And then she was there again. She wasn’t supposed to be there still, the flickering had never happened before, she realized dimly. But she was fighting so hard to stay- with Seth, with her family-fighting against nature, a battle doomed before it had ever begun.

Marcus gaped at the woman, knowing someday, that would be him. Cheyenne’s face was void of emotion, even while her eyes betrayed it. Seth reached out for Nerissa, but it was too late.

She stopped flickering.

She was gone.

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