Anyone will say that there is effort in bearing a child.
For Eirwen, it involved a ritual that took two years to complete. And then it happened overnight.
She woke with an impressive baby bump that she had seen on human women. It was hard, cold, and smooth as she ran a hand over it, a thrill of pride and possession running through her.
The trouble with fae birth is that it’s as different and as individual as fae are. Eirwen could carry this child for two days. She could carry the child for ten years.
Of course, what she wanted was for it to be born on the solstice. She was wild and powerful; her child should be as well. Having it born on a magic day would be even better. But as winter faded and the Court prepared to turn–honestly, the worst time of the year, by far–Eirwen was not terribly expectant of the birth. She quietly whispered to it, “You better hold on until Autumn,” and felt like it heard her.
She should have known better.
It was the equinox, the very day that signaled spring was here, when Eirwen had the child. She was alone when it happened, thankfully. And when she saw it, she hissed.
Two years. Two years of work, just to bring another Seelie to the court?
The child was pale, though not as white as her. Its green hair stood every which way like unmowed grass. It was small and unmoving, though still breathing. Eirwen ought to kill it right here.
It was not impossible for a fae child to die so close to their birth. It could easily disappear. She could get away with it.
But she still wanted a child.
Eirwen looked around her home for a place to put it while she decided what to do. Eventually she settled for putting it on the ground at the foot of her bed. Then she went out.
It took her a few days, mostly because the Serpent King didn’t want fae around the humans anymore, but finally Eirwen found what she was looking for: the human with the newborn. Wickhills was small enough that only a few people were pregnant at the same time, and she had just come upon her one stroke of luck. Eirwen interrogated some of the fae familiar with this human, who said that the baby was just seven days old.
Eirwen returned home, where the child lay exactly where she had left it. It had not moved, had not opened its eyes at all. She picked it up, wrinkling her nose as she touched the child. She supposed it would need a name, something she could call it once it had been raised by the humans to reclaim it. Eirwen looked down and saw everything she wanted and nothing she had.
“Leith,” she said, and the name settled on it like a mantle. It was this small, pathetic little thing–a raindrop where she deserved to raise a glacier.
Well, the new baby would actually be a credit to her. He would be a proper Winter.
It was only two nights later where Eirwen slipped into the yard. An early morning feeding had just been completed, and the human mother had gone to sleep after the baby. The window to the nursery was open, and it was barely a thought to get inside. In the cradle, the baby was sleeping. He looked soft, almost ethereal, his heavy breaths the only sound in the room. Eirwen took a long, deep look at the baby was about to be hers. A quick gesture of her hand and a glamour is cast on the thing in her arms to look like this baby in the cradle.
She switches the children, heaving a deep sigh of relief to have her son in her arms. Without a second glance, Eirwen turns her back on it and slips back into the forest.
Dot slept later than she had in–goodness, months. It was so strange that she was disoriented for a minute when she woke and saw dazzling sunlight. She looked at the baby monitor, but it was silent. Almost too silent.
She knew she was being ridiculous, but she still shot up and hurried to Thomas’s room. Dot sighed with relief to see the baby in the crib. She quickly walked up and picked up her son, then paused. “Well, that’s no good,” she muttered.
The baby in her arms fussed and waved his angry little fists. He looked so much like her Thomas, but he wasn’t. He wasn’t, but he was.
Dot rocked him gently, and he calmed quickly. His eyes, closed for so long, opened, revealing beautiful silver. Very much not Thomas.
“Larry,” she called down the hall, “We have a bit of a situation, dear.”
Eirwen stalked away from the house, absolutely furious. How dare that woman! Keep both the children! What was she supposed to do, show up to the court childless? Everyone would laugh at her! She was bested by a human!
No, no. This would never, ever go. No. Never.
She would tell everyone that the child was stolen from her. It was deep treachery, and they bound her power, somehow–refused to give her what she deserved. Yes, Eirwen could twist this. And in the end, she would still reclaim what was hers.