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Excerpt - Niamh and The Changeling

Once upon a time, in a land far far away there was a beautiful young woman called Niamh. Newly married to a townsman, Cathmor, and pregnant with their first child, they lived an incredibly simple and incredibly happy life in a small house atop a cliff overlooking the sea.

When early one morning in the dead of winter, their baby was born a girl, the entire town rejoiced and lined up outside their door in the bitter cold for their chance to see the tiny babe as it had been many years since a girl had been born in the town. Each person who came through the house, left advice for the couple and a gift of iron for the babe.

To help the new family adjust to their new life, Niamh's grandmother, Clodagh, travelled from deep inland to stay with them. Clodagh believed that, above all else, you must protect a new baby during their first year of life when they are the most coveted. So, she placed the gifts made of iron all around the cot as the baby slept. She believed, as many people in the area did, that the fairies feared iron and wouldn't snatch the baby as she slept if she were surrounded by it.

Niamh thought her grandmother’s superstitions, especially those about fairies, were ancient and laughable and as the months past with no signs of the dreaded fairies, she began replacing the iron bits with new spring wildflowers and pretty leaves that she found on her daily walks in the forest near their home. Clodagh called her granddaughter a foolish child and told her that, one day, she would regret being so blind.

One morning, after removing the iron items the night before and replacing them with flowers as she did every night, Niamh woke to find her baby girl changed. She no longer cooed like a dove, she no longer searched for the eyes of her mother and no longer could her hunger be satisfied. Now, the baby cried for days on end and never stopped eating from Niamh’s breast, draining her completely. Clodagh told her granddaughter that she had made a frightful error and, now, this was her punishment for not taking the stories seriously.

“You must listen to the old ways,” she told Niamh.

But, it was too late. Niamh’s beautiful, happy baby was gone and in its place was a monster.

A changeling.

A cast away from the fairy world. A world that, until now, she thought to be make-believe; a child’s imaginings. Now, she knew how wrong she had been.

Each night, as Niamh lay in bed listening to the monster cry, a sinister giggle that only she could hear buoyed beneath it, taunting her. Night after night, the crying continued and the laughing persisted until Naimh feared that she was truly losing her mind.

About a month after her baby was taken, she knew that she couldn’t take it anymore. She hadn't slept in weeks, her breasts were raw and bleeding and she empty in every way possible. So, she walked with her monster, to the edge of the cliff, turned her back to the sea, closed her eyes and, with hardly a thought, fell.

When Cathmor woke up in the morning he found his wife gone and their perfect baby girl cooing in her cot, returned to him.

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