When I woke up that morning, my ring was too tight, the carved, ashwood ring my father had given me for my sixteenth birthday. I worked it off, twisting it painfully over my knuckle, then stared at it sadly before putting it in my pocket. I knew I might grow out of it, but I didn’t think I grow out of it so soon. I wasn’t getting fat already, was I?
I came back from gathering honey for breakfast. Mother stopped and stared at me when I came in the kitchen, a look of surprise that quickly melted into a fond smile. “My, how you’re growing, Fia, my sweet!” She put a kiss on my cheek, then went back to setting the table.
“Summat wrong with the bees,” I said, and started at the sound of my voice. I croaked like a frog.
“What’s that?” Mother’s high, flutey, gentle voice answered back. My voice usually sounded like hers, only one note higher.
“They made an angry buzzing the whole time I was near their nest,” I set the crock of honey on the table.
“I’ll tell your Da, then,” Mother said, and gave me a curious look. “Are you feeling all right, then, sweet?”
I nodded my head, but kept to myself during breakfast. I didn’t like the way my voice sounded at all.
After breakfast, I left our house and walked along the tree branches, on my way to the meadow. They bent under my weight. My little brother dashed by, sometimes running, sometimes flying, with his friends in a game of tag. He stopped to stare at me.
“You’re getting fat!” he said. “Look!”
It was true, the branches were hardly holding up my weight. I scowled at him and sat down, then slipped into the air.
My wings weren’t working either. I could barely flutter to the ground. When I made a loud crash in the leaves below my brother and all his friends laughed.
“Oink, oink!” they called after me as I went the rest of the way to the meadow along the deer tracks through the forest.
The other fairy girls were there already, tending the wildflowers. I tried to sing to them, but my voice rasped. The flowers wouldn’t change color at my touch, either. Frustrated, I wanted to cry. The other girls gathered round, all sympathy and gentle reassurances. I must be ill, they said, and told me to go home and lie down.
I fingered my ring in my pocket as I walked home through the forest. When I pulled it out to try and slip it back on, it wouldn’t even go over my finger tip.
At the base of my tree, I made a little hop to launch into the air, then felt a sharp pain behind me and heard a soft snap. I crashed back to the ground in a heap. Beside me lay a glassy, gossamer, crumpled thing. My wing! It had broken off!
I sat there, sobbing, until Mother came down. Mother and half the clan too. They all stood about, baffled, useless. “Go away!” I said, horrified at how loud and low my voice had become. I stood up, and was head and shoulders above even the tallest of them. “Go away!”
Mother hugged me. She only came up to my waist. “We ha'e to take you to Grammy,” she said softly. “Come along.”
Grammy lived in a cave in the deepest part of the wood. Mother and I went alone. My footfalls sounded terribly loud next to hers. When we got to the mouth of the cave, Grammy was there waiting for us.
“I knew it,” Grammy said.
“What? What did you know?” Mother asked.
“Someone’s doing a change. Some fairy lad has fallen in love with a human lass, and has worked the dark magic to change her into a fairy. Our Fia here is to take her place in the human world.”
“No!” I cried. “I won’t!”
“You must, unless you can find the girl and convince her to deny her love and want with all her heart to be a human again.”
“Then where is she?” I asked. I’d make her wish she’d never set eyes on a fairy.
“That I can’t say,” Grammy said. “You must find her on her own.”
“Then I’m off,” I said.