Mary woke next with a raging headache, and sore through her whole body. The bed she lay on was not as comfortable as most of the inns she had grown used to staying in, but she supposed it was still a bed, and she should be thankful for that much at least. Only, the covers were quite rough, and they rubbed against her sore body most uncomfortably.
She was filled with panic for a moment when she realized she was completely naked in this strange bed, and she sat up quickly, holding the covers around her chest, and startled Edward, who had been sitting quietly by her bedside. For a minute they just stared at each other, neither quite sure how to begin to speak of what had happened last night.
"Was it just last night, that we were at the lake?" Mary asked finally, noting the sunlight streaming through the window. She hated to think that she had been lying senseless in this bed for very long.
Edward nodded. Mary waited for him to speak, but she soon realized he was waiting for her to explain herself. She was quiet, wondering where to start, but she couldn't decide how best to tell her story, so she asked, "You saw it then? The white wolf?"
"Yes. I pulled you from the lake," he answered, and she could have hit herself for her foolishness. If only she had changed earlier, before he brought her out, before he saw her. If only she had been quieter when leaving the cabin. "What are you Mary?" he asked, and she felt a sharp pain in her heart. She had hoped never to hear those words from him. 'What are you?' It made her feel horrid, less than human, freakish.
"I'm a werewolf," she said simply, and forced her voice to be calm.
"But I thought werewolves only changed when the moon is full," Edward said. He stared at her with curious eyes, and she feared those eyes only saw the specimen she now was to him.
She nodded, and looked away from those eyes. "Some werewolves live like that, but not all. My father passed on his curse to me, though it has been easier for me. He couldn't control himself when he changed, or just barely… He could sometimes stop it though, the change."
"I can change at will, though if I stay human for too long it becomes uncomfortable, and I will feel a strong urge to become wolf. At first, I couldn't control the wolf's instincts, but I have long since gained control of myself. The moon does tempt me, when it is strong. It pulls at me sometimes," she found herself explaining her symptoms to him, as plainly as possible, but precisely, so that he could write it all down in his encyclopedia.
"You could have told me," Edward said softly, and Mary bit her lip.
"It's not… It's not easy. To tell someone you're not quite human."
"Well, it does explain some things…" Edward mused quietly, and Mary lifted her head to frown at him. He smiled when he noticed her watching him. "Well, you don't exactly act like any other young lady, and sometimes you're downright suspicious," he said.
Mary laughed. She felt exhausted by her confession, and she wanted to go back to sleep, but more than that, she wanted to be away from this place. "Nothing came from the lake then?" she asked.
Edward shook his head. "Something was stirring though, last night. It's very likely that those were the bones of the Afang, don't you think? It's very unfortunate then, that I can not take them from the lake, so I will never have proof of its existence." He frowned for a moment, and then turned to Mary. "How did you know to bring the bones back?"
"They were evil," she said plainly. "I could hear them calling for the rest of the body, for their resurrection. I don't know; it's nothing I can explain with words really. I guess you could call it instinct."
For a while Edward sat, and was silent and thoughtful. At last he shook himself from his daze and stood. "I will leave you to get dressed, and if you're feeling well enough we should return Lord Evans' suit to him."
Mary nodded, and dressed as quickly as she could once he had left. Her ears burned when she thought of last night. She had to have gotten back to the cabin somehow, and she had been naked the whole time… Suddenly she snorted at herself. "Don't be a fool," she muttered. "You have more important things to concentrate on. You've never been squeamish about such things before, so why start now?"
Steeled once more, she went outside to meet Edward. He was speaking to the farmer, and he passed the old man some coins before noticing Mary and smiling to her. "Thank you for your hospitality," he said to the old man, and he helped Mary on to Gill's back before getting on his own horse.
They got to Lord Evans' house late that night, and though they were both eager to move on, they saw the wisdom in the lord's invitation to stay the night. Lord Evans was eager to hear about Edward's adventures with the Afang, and laughed at him when Edward declared there could never be any evidence of the Afang, not without bringing the beast back up from the depths of the lake. Edward shrugged; criticisms no longer bothered him in the least. He had known since he first decided to compile his encyclopedia that he would be mocked by many, and he had determined not to let it bother him.
He wasn't sorry to leave early the next morning. He was ready for Ireland, and the magic he expected to find there. He hoped to see faeries at least, but he knew there was much more to be seen. As they rode he kept stealing glances at Mary. No wonder magical creatures were drawn to her; she was one of them. He was amazed at his luck, but also at his blindness. He had been traveling with a magical creature all along and he had never noticed it!
Mary could feel his eyes on her as they rode, and though she tried to ignore it, her cheeks burned, partly with embarrassment, and partly with anger. Now that she had time to think about it, she was angry with him for being so foolish and bringing up those bones despite her warnings against it. Because of his foolishness she had been forced to reveal herself to him, in so many ways… Her cheeks burned even hotter with embarrassment.
"How much longer, do you think, until we reach Ireland?" she asked impatiently, to cover her feelings, with the hopes of startling Edward into noticing he had been staring.
"Oh, not much longer now. Some days perhaps," he said, and he fell silent for a little while, though he was no longer staring at her. At last he cleared his throat awkwardly, and said, "You realize… Ireland is an island. We will have to cross the sea again to reach it."
Mary was quiet, and finally she sighed. "Well I haven't got much choice have I? Maybe this time I won't get sick; the trip back from Orkney was better than the trip there," she said hopefully.
Days later she could have laughed at her optimism, if she wasn't too busy vomiting over the side of the boat. "Why must we visit islands?" she asked mournfully.
"Well, England is an island," Edward said practically. "It would be difficult to avoid sea crossings eventually."
"I'd lived my life happily free of sea crossings until I met you," she said crossly. "It's quite easy to avoid sea crossings really; just stay on land."
Edward laughed, and she felt a strong urge to hit him. "It will pass," he reassured her, "and when we reach Ireland, you will be glad you came."
Mary stared at the steely waves. She would find her brother in Ireland, and then she would be glad she came. Not glad, no, that was the wrong word. Justified. Broken.
It wasn't long before they reached Ireland, though it felt much longer to Mary than it did Edward. Once there, they got on their horses and set out directly. Edward was eager to get inland, to immerse himself in his magical surroundings, and to find some new specimens. Mary was happy to follow him inland, away from the damned sea.
They had a disappointing first week in Ireland. A couple of leads turned up nothing, Mary had no premonitions of her brother's ever passing through, and it rained quite steadily all the while. Edward's spirits never flagged though; he had been through worse in his searches. It was his perseverance that had found him so many entries to date, and he believed it would find him more.
They were riding towards a small village in western Ireland when they came upon a woman holding a bundle of straw over the side of a bridge. As they got closer they could hear wailing coming from the bundle, and realized it was a baby. Mary slowed, reluctant to involve herself with such a thing: it was not unheard of for poor families to rid themselves of extra mouths they knew they could not feed. She could not agree with it – she didn't believe it was better to end a life, no matter how miserable it would be, without giving it a chance to learn anything of the world – but she wasn't a meddler and she would not step in to this strange woman's life.
Edward however, spurred his horse forward, and grabbed the bundle from the woman. The baby continued crying, and up closer, he could see that the woman was crying too.
"I have to do it!" she wailed, holding her arms out for the baby. "I have to throw it in the river!" Edward looked down at the child, a small, wrinkled, ugly thing it was, but what a racket it was making. He had dealt with his siblings when they were babies, but they were never as loud as this. Still…
"I cannot let you do that," he told the woman. Mary had by now caught up, and she looked angry, though for some reason she seemed upset with him, and not with the woman who had tried to kill her own child.
"You don't understand Edward," she told him flatly. "You've never lived a life of poverty; you've never even witnessed such a thing."
Edward could not recall hearing such scornful words from Mary before. She had made it clear she had no special regard for nobles, but she had never once faulted him for not being poor, not until now. Her tone of reproach only made him more determined of his way. "Does a poor child have less of a right to live then?" he asked. "Would you have had your mother throw you off a bridge, when you were but a babe?" He had to yell to be heard over the child's screaming and the mother's crying, but he was sure Mary had heard him when he saw the dark look pass behind her eyes. Her mouth moved, but she spoke quietly, and all he heard was the baby.
"Give me my baby!" the mother screamed suddenly, and lunged at Edward. "I won't throw 'im over; I can't. Though I should, I should…" She wrestled the baby from Edward's grasp and held him to her chest, sobbing. "It's no' my child, you see," she told them. "I swear, it can't be. My baby was calm and happy, and one morning I woke and this little devil was in his crib. But still I… I can't let him go."
"You think that baby is a changeling?" Edward asked, leaning forward with real interest now. Mary shook her head; there was a man who had no interest in social justice or morals, not so long as there was magic to be found.
The woman nodded. "I been standing here all morning," she told them, "trying to let go. But even if it isn't my child, I can't just throw a baby into the river, even though I know it isn't even a child. Oh help me God…" She broke out into another fit of loud wailing, nearly matching the baby's pitch, until Mary was sure she would lose her hearing, and she was well on her way to losing her temper as well.
"Please calm yourself," Edward yelled, "I think I can help you with this matter. You see, I have been travelling through England and Ireland searching for just your sort of problem."
"You a changeling detective then?" the woman asked sharply, turning her tear stained face away from the sky to Edward.
Edward raised his hand and tried to explain the finer points of his vocation to the woman, but it was too difficult to be heard over the baby, so he just ended up nodding. "Let me stay with the child for a few days, and I think I can get it sorted out."
"If you can get me back my sweet, lovely child…" the woman suddenly thrust the baby at Edward, and he had no choice but to hold it, or let it fall on the ground. If possible, it started screaming even louder once he was holding it. Mary hid her smile behind a cough, seeing the look on Edward's face as he realized what he had gotten himself into.
"You can follow me home," the woman said.
'Home' was a small but tidy house. It was nicer than Mary had expected, seeing the disheveled state of the woman, but then, that was more likely the fault of the child than of her circumstances in life.
"Come in, come in," the woman said, gesturing for them to seat themselves. "My husband left this morning. He said he won't be back 'til the child is gone. He won't be happy to see you, nor the child. 'Tis a shame; he was so happy to have a son finally…" She turned melancholy and stared despondently at the wall for a moment before shaking herself. "But you'll get 'im back, won't you?"
"We'll do our best," Edward promised.
"Speak for yourself," Mary muttered, sure that only Edward was close enough to hear her over the child's screaming. Changeling or not, she didn't see how anything could make so much noise for so long, or how Edward expected her to put up with that din for days.
"Would it be alright if I took the child away for a night Mrs., erm…"
"I'm Martha. That's George – no, my son is George. That thing, I don't know its name. And you can take it as long as you like, only bring me back my son in its place. God knows I'd like a night's rest finally."
Before they left, Edward took notes of Martha's story, from the birth of her son to the appearance of the changeling. Mary sat morose in the corner, wanting nothing more than to be away from the screaming. Her head ached terribly. How could they stand to be near the thing?
When they stepped outside Mary asked Edward what he planned to do with the screaming bundle.
"I will take it with me for a couple of nights of observation. If it is a faerie, then there are several tests I can do to ascertain that fact, and I would like to ask it many questions if it is."
Mary narrowed her eyes at Edward, "And if it's a real human child?"
"Then I will have wasted two days, nothing more. Not much in the grand scheme of things."
"No, I mean, you're going to have to feed it, and change its bottom and everything. Do you really think you're up for that?"
Edward finally noticed something was up, and he tilted his head at her quizzically. "Why do you keep saying it that way - 'you'? Where do you expect to be while I am taking care of this child?"
"I want to see if I can find any leads on the murderer of my family," Mary said. "I can travel much faster on my own-"
"As a wolf," Edward said. Likely, he spoke in a normal voice, but it sounded to Mary's ears like he was yelling, and she grated her teeth to hear him speaking about her condition in the open like this. Having spent all her life keeping her secret, she now had to trust it to this man, and though she didn't think he would tell anyone with the intention of causing her harm, she worried that his enthusiasm for the occult would lead him to spill her story to strangers. If only she hadn't been so loud that night…
"Yes, please, quiet about that," she said tersely. "I just… In any case, I won't be helping you with that thing," she said, pointing at the bundle in his arms. "And I doubt any inn is going to let you stay with him scaring off all the other customers."
"Yes, I hadn't thought of that. No matter, I can buy the use of someone's barn for a couple nights, out where I won't be too much bother."
Mary sighed. Even her younger siblings had never given her so much worry and anxiety as Edward sometimes did. Almost always did.
Mary stayed with him until she saw him settled in a barn just outside of town, with enough food for him and the baby, and the horses comfortably stabled nearby. She found she couldn't be comfortable leaving him until she had done that much at least. Then, finally, he was ready for his night with a changeling/baby, and she was ready to go. She turned and looked at Edward, sitting with his notebook open, just watching the baby lying in it's crib, quiet now only because it was eating, and she felt a terrible sense of foreboding, but also, the urge to laugh out loud.
She settled for a weary sigh. "Just… don't let it die anyway. You can do that much right? I'll return in a couple days."
"That will be fine," Edward said distractedly. "Do you need any funds?"
Mary grinned. "I've lived my whole life without a cent to my name; I think I can handle a couple days without. But thank you all the same. Goodbye Edward."
"Goodbye," he answered, waving without looking up. As she left the barn Mary wished he'd given her a better farewell. If things went well for her search, she might very well never see him again, and she found she would have liked to say goodbye properly, if that was the case.
Well, it seemed she was not going to given the chance to say goodbye properly, not to any of her loved ones. "I'll find him Alice," she promised again. She went out towards the forest and undressed. After transforming she dug a hole under a beech tree and buried her clothes, peeing on the tree in case she should return and need to find her clothes again.
And now, to find her brother.
It felt good to be a wolf again. Her brother had used to describe it as nightmarish, being stuck in a strange body with no control, but it had never been that way for her. For her, the wolf was her freedom, it's light, swift body her escape from the cumbersome and awkward human body she had been born in. She fought back the urge to howl gleefully; it wouldn't help to have an angry mob of humans on her tail during her search.
She set off across the countryside, taking her time and breathing deep of the air around her, searching for his scent. Magic lives on in Ireland. What did he mean? Would she find him here, or someone who could lead her to him? Was he just playing with her?
She started to slow down as light started to show on the horizon. She would have to find a place to hide while she rested, and though she could probably keep on running all day, it would be worse than pointless to find Henry only to be too exhausted to be able to finish him. She found an old badger burrow and dug in. There was no sign of Henry anywhere, no sign of magic even, that she had smelled yet, but she wasn't going to let herself be discouraged so easily. Edward's influence perhaps, she thought, nearly smiling.
'No, no thinking of Edward now,' she berated herself. 'I am here to kill my brother; that, he can never know. He has nothing to do with this life of mine.'
When she woke in the afternoon she went hunting, and after she had eaten she continued on. The Henry she knew would have gone for the forests, for the quiet and privacy it afforded, to be away from human eyes.
'These forests of men,' that's what he had said. Mary growled and cursed herself for not thinking. Henry was no longer a werewolf; he was no longer a child of the forest. He wouldn't be found out here, but in the city, where he could blend in and disappear. But there was no magic left in cities, so what did he mean by his cryptic note? If he were near she would kill him for being so vague and cocky.
'You think you're so clever Henry, so funny,' she fumed at him. 'I hate your stupid riddles; I always have.'
She spent the night skulking around the outskirts of towns, but all she could smell was the sweat and filth of human life. She was starting to grow frustrated, knowing she would have to return to Edward soon, and that screaming, stinking bundle of… magic, perhaps?
She turned on her heel and started to race back towards the town where she had left Edward. If the child truly was a changeling, then it might be able to tell her more of her brother. The fae were supposedly all over Ireland – they must know about the supernatural goings-on in the country. Even if the changeling knew nothing, she could force it to take her to others, to learn all they knew… She only hoped she was right, and that the child truly was a changeling.
She travelled quickly, and she had reached the birch tree and her clothes by early afternoon. She dressed as quickly as possible, and marched to the barn.
The sight she saw when she opened the door was not what she had expected, to say the least. Edward was worriedly leaning over the baby's cradle, where it was lying, asleep for all appearances. He looked up quickly when Mary entered, and she saw how exhausted he looked – he looked worse after spending two nights with the baby than she had ever seen him look before.
She opened her mouth to speak, and a look of abject terror passed over Edward's face. He rushed across the floor and put his hand on her mouth to silence her. "He's just gone to sleep finally," he whispered. "Don't wake him please."
But it was too late. Even that little noise was enough to wake him, and as soon as he opened his eyes the baby started wailing. Edward's face crumpled, and he looked like he might burst into tears at the sound. Mary put a hand on his shoulder and sat him down. "I'll take care of it," she assured him and strode across the room to the cradle.
She took a good whiff of the baby before grinning. Sure, he smelled of milk and feces, and everything a human baby should smell of, but there was one smell there that was definitely wrong. Magic.
At the sight of her grin, the changeling's wailing faltered for a second, barely even perceptible, but Mary knew she had him. "Stop that this instant," she said harshly, "or I will cut your tongue out, no matter how much you look like a real baby. You can act the part all you like, but you're not going to fool my nose."
The changeling stopped yelling and glared at her, looking much older all of a sudden, much more alien. "What are you then?" he asked, "Besides a sourpuss and a spoil sport, I mean."
Mary leaned over so that her face was close to his and smiled broadly, giving him a good look at her teeth. "I'm a werewolf," she told him gleefully, "and I'm hungry, and you're starting to look like a nice little snack."
The changeling got up in his crib and peered at Edward, "Hey buddy, are you going to let her talk to me like that? Eat me? How will you find out about changelings if you let her do that?"
Mary grabbed the changeling by the collar and picked him up out of the cradle so that his legs were dangling in the air. "After the way you've treated him the past two days, I doubt he'd object," she told him. "Lucky for you, I want information more than a meal just now."
"Information? Sure; I'm just full of useful information, having spent the last few months in a cradle," the changeling said sarcastically.
Mary gave him a vicious shake. She had only to think of Edward's despairing face to feel perfectly justified in being as mean to this creature as she liked. She was glad she had no reason to feel sympathy for him. "Vampires in Ireland. Have you heard of any recently? If you don't know anything, I'm sure you could lead me to others who are more informed than you."
"Sure I could, but why would I?"
"Because I'm asking you nicely," Mary said. She let herself transform just a little bit to wolf, to give this faerie a taste of just how scary she could be. "Besides, don't you think it would be fun to have a werewolf over for your next party?"
"The child," Edward said finally, "what happened to Martha's child?"
"Oh yes, George," the changeling said, "He's down in the court now I suppose."
"You'll have to return him now, since we've found you out," Edward said.
The changeling shook his head. "That's not how it works. You're not the mother, and you didn't throw me in a river or a fire, or boil water in an eggshell or any of those things. You never would've found me out if it weren't for this broad's wolfy nose. It doesn't count."
Mary growled softly in warning. The changeling glared at her and said, "You can growl all you like, wolf girl, but those are the rules. The queen has George now, and she's not going to give him up to you."
"Why don't I just give you back to Martha to throw in the fire then?" Mary offered.
"It's too late; I'm out now. Haven't you noticed I don't look much like George anymore?" he asked. It was true; he looked like the baby still, but was definitely not. His face was longer, thinner, finer. He looked more like a small man now than a baby.
"Well, you like playing tricks don't you?" Edward asked him.
"Yes, what of it?"
"May I propose to you the greatest trick any fairy has tried before?"
The changeling looked intrigued and turned towards Edward, as much as he could while held in the air by Mary. "What have you got in mind?"
"A reverse changeling. Fool the Faerie queen herself and take George's place," Edward said. "You get to lead the spoiled life of the queen's favorite, all the while knowing she's making a fool of herself."
The changeling rubbed his chin, intrigued. Mary wanted to laugh at how childishly he was letting himself be led. "I actually like this idea of yours…" he said. "If the queen finds out she'll be mad, but only if I don't do it well. She might even find it a great joke. Likely as not she'll forget all about me – George – in a few weeks anyway. I feel almost sorry for Martha anyway. Right up until she tried to throw me in the river she was always nice to me; if she wasn't so dense she wouldn't deserve us playing such tricks on her."
"So you'll take us to your court?" Mary asked.
"And get George back?" Edward added.
The changeling nodded. "Sure, why not. Let's go."
The changeling led them out of the barn and out into the forest to a strange circle of mushrooms in a clearing. "Sit down here, and wait," he said. "The court will come to you in time. Then we can feast."
So they sat, and they waited. Mary held tight to the changeling the whole time. She wasn't going to lose this chance to find Henry. Edward sat nearby and tried to keep his eyes on the changeling. He started out by asking it plenty of questions, some of which it answered, truthfully or not, but Edward quickly started to fade, having spent the past two nights without sleep, and soon he was breathing deeply, curled up near a cluster of mushrooms.
Soon after he fell asleep the earth came alive with little people. They appeared from inside trees, from under the caps of mushrooms. What had appeared to Mary to be a fallen branch turned out to be a small woman. Mary poked Edward with her foot to wake him and then sat back to wait. As she sat quietly and watched, they pranced around waving their arms at the surroundings and putting up leaves and old cobwebs and feathers and flowers as decoration. When they were finished it looked rather shabby, but they seemed happy with it.
"Amazing," Edward said, staring all about him and writing feverishly in his notebook. Mary frowned at him and shook her head. "What's his deal?" she asked the changeling.
"Faerie feasts are lavish affairs," he told her pompously, "Not every mortal is used to seeing such richness."
Mary laughed sharply. "Trust me when I say I don't come from riches – but I also don't see them here. It's forest junk, debris that should be left to rot and feed the earth."
The changeling stared at her. "You can't see it?" he asked. "How very sad. In any case, you're here now, so you can ask your questions. If you want me to get George back, you're going to have to let me go."
"Right. Thanks for what you did, reluctantly as you have," Mary said.
"You're not welcome to it at all," the changeling replied, and before she could answer he ducked behind a fallen log and disappeared.
Edward waved to get her attention, and she turned to him. "Don't eat anything you are offered," he told her, "or you may have to say here forever."
Mary looked around at her surroundings and sneered. "That would be awful in so many ways," she said.
A tall, papery looking white creature approached her and stabbed her in the chest with a sharp finger. "You peed on me!" it yelled. "I don't appreciate being peed on, especially by people who should know better!"
"You smelled like a regular tree to me," she answered.
"That's still no reason to pee on me, dog or no," it said.
"Wolf," Mary corrected it. "I'm a wolf." She sighed. "Look, I'm sorry ok? I was kind of preoccupied trying to find the vampire that killed my family and all."
"Yes. Have you seen any recently."
"I have. They're not so common here that they can pass through unnoticed. Sylvia over there was actually bitten by him, the brutish creature."
"Do you know where he was going?" Mary asked excitedly.
"Last we've heard of him was on Station Island, St. Patrick's Purgatory. Not an especially nice place, but some fae like it there. Why they do is beyond me…"
"Thank you," Mary said quickly, and went to sit near Edward without once more glancing at the birch creature. "Can we go to St. Patrick's Purgatory?" she asked him. She was ready to leave right then.
Edward glanced up from scribbling in his book and nodded. "Certainly, once we're done here," he said. "I can't believe I'm actually in the faerie court! I never would have dreamed…" He looked up again at Mary with a look of such gratitude and admiration that she felt even her cold heartstrings tug. She remembered that look… "None of this would have been possible if not for you."
Mary laughed and shrugged. She felt strangely light and happy, though she had no reason to be. "I don't want you to think I did it for you," she told him.
"No, of course not," he agreed. "All the same, I am glad we're here." He turned back to his notebook. Mary leaned over his shoulder and saw that he was sketching what seemed to be a great ballroom in which beautiful, strangely twisted trees were growing as pillars. She looked up, but all she could see was the old forest, with the pathetic twigs and berries of decoration. Still, it looked pretty nice after all. Maybe she was being too harsh earlier. If she squinted enough it looked a little bit like a ballroom, maybe.
She felt a tug on her hand and looked to see a young elfin girl beckoning her to dance. She shrugged and joined in on the revelry. She had found out what she needed to know; for tonight at least she could let go and have some fun.
She danced with the girl, feeling more and more giddy with every jump and spin, and afterwards the girl was replaced by a young man, and then a couple of young women, and then what honestly appeared to be a goat, dancing around on his hind legs. Mary laughed and tried to remember feeling so light, but it was difficult, and bothersome to remember the past, so she let it be. She glanced around the room and noticed that Edward had given up writing and was also dancing, and she laughed. He was not a very good dancer; she could see why he would hate going out in London.
Her next partner looked very familiar, and she suddenly remembered how she had gotten there. "You!" She grabbed the changeling by the shoulders and stood still. The world spun a few times around her, but soon settled again. The room lost its beauty and disappeared, leaving only a forest clearing in its place.
The changeling grinned at her. "I'm glad even you got to feel the glamour a little," he said. "You look like you could use a good time and relax."
"Where is George?" she asked, remembering the baby.
The changeling laughed. "So you do remember him! Good, good. Go get your silly human man and meet me by that big oak tree over there, and you can take the child and run. Go now!"
Mary let him go and went to get Edward. When he saw her he smiled stupidly and put his arm around her shoulders. "Mary! I am so happy to see you!" he told her loudly.
"You haven't been drinking have you?" Mary asked. His face was close enough that she could smell his breath, and there was no alcohol there, but he was certainly acting drunk.
He shook his head. "No of course not! I don't want to be stuck here forever – how then would I finish my encyclopedia?"
"Good point," Mary said. She put her arm around his waist and started to guide him towards the oak tree the changeling had gestured to. "Come on then; we're getting George and getting out of here."
"George? Ah yes George! How could I forget?" Edward exclaimed.
"I have a feeling a lot of people forget themselves here," Mary reassured him. They had by this point reached the meeting place, and sure enough the baby was there, though no sign of the changeling. Edward stood and stared down at the baby for a moment.
"What if that's another changeling?" he asked.
Mary leaned down and picked up the child, giving him a good sniff as she did. "No, he smells like a normal baby. No magic in this one."
"Good. Let's go then," Edward said, though he turned and looked longingly towards the faerie gathering behind them. Mary took his hand so that he wouldn't get lost there and pulled him away.
It was getting light as they reached the barn, but Mary didn't bother stopping there. She continued on towards Martha's house. Once they had left the faerie court Edward regained his senses and apologized for his behavior, prompting a laugh from Mary. George laughed with her, and she smiled down at him. "You really are a good baby aren't you?" she asked him.
Edward looked at her and the child. "You know how to take care of children?" he asked.
"Of course I do," Mary said brusquely. "I have seven siblings after all."
"Seven? I thought you had six siblings," Edward said. When he had gone to Denford there was the mother and six children who had been murdered by the vampires, not seven.
"Ah, well I had another brother, who died when he was young. The fever took him," Mary lied. If only it were true.
Edward nodded, and luckily for her, did not ask any more of it. Soon they reached Martha's house and knocked on the door. A man answered, and glared at the strangers on his step. "Who are you? What do you want?" he demanded.
"We're looking for Martha," Edward replied. "We've returned your George to you."
"George? But he was taken over a year ago, that can't…" the man trailed off and stared at the baby. He reached out a hand to it, but let it drop again, and turned his face into the house. "Martha…" he called weakly.
In another moment Martha appeared, and she recognized them. "You've returned!" she said. "I thought you were gone for good, taken my babe with you, but lookit here he is, as beautiful and perfect as the day he was taken."
Mary handed the baby over; happy to have reunited a family, though at the same time she felt a sinking feeling in her gut. "When did you say he was taken?" she asked.
"Oh it must'a been about two years ago now," Martha said, looking to her husband for confirmation. He nodded, and finally reached out to place a big hand on the baby's head.
"And when did we come to you?" Edward asked.
"Oh, soon after he was lost, near two years ago I suppose."