Ciardis’ mother was a Green Widow Hag. She had Ciardis’ and knew that she would be persecuted for what she was. About the only nations that don’t persecute them are the ones that kill them swiftly upon discovery. Nobody trusts them and everyone fears them. Ciardis was part elf in heritage, but her looks would eventually change. She knew of an elf in high court that had just given birth to an elf girl child. In the night, she switched Ciardis out for this elf child. With one last look at her child, the Hag left knowing she may never see her daughter again.
Ciardis’ elf mother, Sametha, instantly knew that something was wrong when she went to get her child in the night after hearing her cry. This wasn’t her child. She yelled in fear and panic to her husband, Jamich. Jamich pushed her fear and worry aside as post birth craziness. Sametha didn’t want anything to do with the child. For weeks, this behavior continued. One day, Jamich walked in on Sametha trying to smother Ciardis to death. Jamich took his wife to a doctor worried there might be something wrong with her.
Sametha was diagnosed as having a mental health problem and put away in a special home. Jamich became depressed and started drinking. For years, Ciardis had to put up with her father’s drinking problem and the fact that her mother tried to kill her. Other kids who thought she was different picked on her. The kids were ruthless towards her. Ciardis became a loner.
When she was about 12, a strange wandering preacher-type came to town and took an interest in her. She never saw him following her, he just kept happening to be where she was, wearing a robe with a heavy hood that he pulls back when speaking. One time when she was alone, he stopped her and asked her if anything had changed lately. She asked him what he means by changed. He said, “When it changes you’ll know what I mean. Then come see me – or if you can’t, drop this rock into water, any water will do.” He handed Ciardis a small, ordinary looking pebble. You continue to see him in the town square, but he doesn’t approach you again. And, oddly, you can’t get rid of the pebble.
Years later, when Ciardis was 18, she woke up in the dark, mildly aching all over; including her face. She brought up her aching hands to rub her aching face… and everything feels wrong. Different. Her nose, her chin – they’ve been swapped for someone else’s. She notices her nightclothes are tight in odd places, and loose in other odd places, not like they usually are. Ciardis slides out of bed. Her feet hit the floor a few inches later than they should, causing Ciardis to be off balance. She nearly falls as her body moves wrong. Suddenly she realizes – this is what the strange preacher meant. What does he know? What did he do?
Quietly she dressed in her miss fitting clothing. She wrapped her blankets around her and over her head to conceal the strange face she wears. Surprisingly, Ciardis got out of the house reasonable quiet in spite of the clumsiness of her strange body. Or so she thought as she started out into the moonlit night. Just as she got to the well, she heard a door close behind her and footsteps. Her father’s voice called out, “Show me your face, child.”
Ciardis fished in her pouch and found the pebble. She dropped it in the well. Her father yelled this time, “SHOW ME YOUR FACE!” Desperately hoping to show him the face he’s seen all her life, but fearing she didn’t know how, she turned slowly toward him and pulled back the blanket.
“Oh gods. Your mother was right. They’ll kill us all – we have to leave first thing – come here, girl.” He raised the sword he’d used in the war. “If you let this be quick, I’ll try for painless. Better’n your kind deserves.”
Ciardis stepped around to the far side of the well.
“It can hurt a lot, girl, I’ve seen men die slow. Come here and let’s get this over with.” He moved around the well; she moved to stay opposite of him. Down the street a bit, she heard the sound of someone moving towards her and her father. “I said, come – and a beam of purple light that made her eyes want to crawl away speared her father. He froze in mid-stride and fell over.
The cowled preacher comes up. “Good. You have a lot of questions, and you’ll get answers, I promise. But first – let’s get your father back home before he wakes up, and get out of town. It isn’t safe here.” He drags Ciardis’ father toward his house, following Ciardis’ lead. She opened the door. The family servant, who raised Ciardis was waiting at the door with a knife in her hand. She dropped the knife and covered her face with her hands. “Step back woman so I can get him inside.”
“No, he’ll be fine by sunrise… if there is no more trouble. I try to be nice, but there are limits. There. Girl, put on this robe.” He handed Ciardis a robe liked looked like his own. It was much too large for her. “Now look at your servant. Imagine how it might feel to be that size, to have legs that long…” he continued on for a couple of minutes in a soft, steady, toneless voice, and Ciardis realized her body had grown and the servant was pressed against the wall on the far side of the room. She is utterly terrified. “That will do for now, but keep the hood up. We’ll study faces later.” He looked around and took the sword-sheath off its hook on the wall. “The sword is yours if you want it; if not, there are others who could use it. Let’s go.”
Out of the door, back to the well. The preacher picks up the sword where it landed when Ciardis father fell. Ciardis and the preacher headed out of town. Some hours later, Ciardis asked, “What are you?” He laughed.
“A great many things. There’s a more important question though; what are you? Let’s work on that first. Are you evil?”
“I…I don’t think so.”
“Remember that. Have you seen me do anything evil?”
“That too. When your father tried to kill you, was that evil?”
“It… I… yes.”
“Is your father evil?”
“Remember that too; it’s important. And yet, from what you’ve seen, he’s the most evil of the three of us. Right?”
“He tried to kill you because he’s been taught to be afraid of one thing you and I are. We’re Changelings. Doppelgangers, some call us.”
“Changelings? The stories about swapping babies…”
“Sadly, true. Changelings can be fearful too. But you wouldn’t have killed those elves that raised you. The parents who produced you were killed just a few days after they swapped babies, and the baby they took – those elves’ child – was killed with them. Just because the elves found out they were Changelings.”
“Oh… And that purple light that froze my father?”
“No, that’s because I am also a witch. Purple you say? Made your eyes itch? Becoming a witch may be hard for you, but with training and rigorous practice, I reckon you could be great at it.”
Ciardis studied with the preacher for years before she finally mastered the craft. The preacher was right. It was not easy for her. In the beginning, she struggled even with the most basic of witch spells. She never gave up hope and in the end succeeded in becoming a witch.
One night while traveling with the preacher, they stopped to make camp on the side of the road close to a large town. Talking openly amongst each other, they didn’t know that guards had be watching and listening from a distance. Right before the guards closed in, the preacher stood up and said a spell that threw them backwards. He looked at Ciardis with sad eyes.
“This is the time that I must leave you child. There is nothing else I can teach you. It is my time to leave this earthly realm.”
“No, we can take them on.”
“NO! You must get away from here. There is something that I lied to you about long ago. Your mother was never killed in the accident. I hid the truth from you to spare you the gruesome details of what really happened. Your mother is a Green Hag. She lives in a marsh…”
At this point, the guards were beginning to stir.
“After your mother bedded your father, she ate him. That is what Hags do and how you became what you are. If you choose to look for you mother, you too can become a Green Hag and make little Changelings of your own.”
Ciardis’ head was spinning. Her mother was alive, but had eaten her father. She had heard of Hags, but never dreamed her mother could be one. An arrow flying by her head caused Ciardis to leave her trance and get her mind back to the task at hand.
“Go Ciardis. Go live your life and help other Changelings as I have helped you. Or, if you choose, find your mother.”
With that, the preacher moved closer to the guards and threw up a spell that cloaked Ciardis. She ran as fast as her body would let her away from the town, away from the guards, and away from the preacher who saved her life all those years ago.