The Changeling – Part 5

Jean sighed as he swept the broom from one side to the other. In retrospect, he should have seen the mountain of chores headed his way. In the past weeks, the boy had made several attempts to expose the truth of his ‘sister’s’ demonic nature.

One night, during supper, he had tossed a handful of salt in her eyes. She had immediately begun tearing up, and had called for their father, who whacked Jean across the back of his head.

“Don’t you see?” the boy asked, rubbing the afflicted area. “The salt burns her! She’s –”

“Any little girl would cry if some dumbass threw salt in her face,” Lieutenant Karwotzki had said, interrupting his son. He leaned in and spoke in a hushed aggressive tone. “Now, if you would kindly stop embarrassing me, it would be greatly appreciated.”

Jean wasn’t sure if he was more upset by the reaction of his father, or by the evil grin that Trine’s face had taken on the moment the man turned the other way.

She was good. Even Jean would admit that. He supposed one might expect that of an actual spawn of darkness, but he was still becoming accustomed to the fact that such an entity could take the pure form of an irreproachable youth.

On that occasion, the boy had been let off with a warning. His next scheme, on the other hand, had been met with sterner chastisement. He had sat, picking at his food whilst he stared at Trine, trying his best to think up some proof of her identity. No one could see but he. If he could only figure out the workings of the spell surrounding her… His eyes lit up. That was it. Her. The spell surrounded her. Her hair is black, and yet they see it as blonde because of the spell placed over her, but if I were to remove it…

That was it. All he had to do was acquire a strand of the girl’s hair and… Jean smiled maliciously.

That night, he had crept into Cecilia’s room, making sure to keep as quiet as possible. As the shape of the open doorway lit by the moonlight fell upon her bed, the sleeping Trine within, Jean could feel the disgust he felt surfacing. It was Cecilia’s bed, not hers. Cecilia’s sheets and covers and sleepwear. He held back his anger as he stepped into the room. It would all be over soon. Once he had snatched a hair from her demonic, sleeping head…

He slowly approached. She really did look like just another little girl. He watched as her shoulders rose and fell with each slow, inhalation. Her small, round mouth opening and closing as the faint sound of her breath escaped it. Jean clenched his fist tighter, his eyes to the floor. No, he wouldn’t fall for the illusion. This… thing… she wasn’t his sister. She. Still… he turned back towards her. It was a she, after all.

Like it or not, Trine was a little girl, just like his sister. Just like Cecilia… His eyes widened as he drew in a sharp intake of air. He didn’t care. He’d come so far already, and he was going to go through with it. He leaned over the small figure of the girl and carefully plucked a single hair from atop her head.

He examined it. It was black – unmistakably so; the farthest it could be from his true sister’s hair. His face beamed with satisfaction. This was it. She was done. He crept smugly out of the room and shut the door quietly behind him.

“And where have you been?”

He started at the voice. Shit, he thought. He turned and found himself face-to-face with Raelyn. Double shit…

“Well?” she enquired, her false indifference failing to mask the apparent belligerent tone in her voice.

He struggled to find the right words. Raelyn’s eyes narrowed.

“What is your problem?” she asked, smacking her brother across the back of his head.

Jean rubbed painedly at the point of impact.

“Huh?” she pressed.

He grew frustrated. “What colour is this?” he asked, holding up the hair in the light of the nearby torch.

Raelyn was clearly confused. “What…” Confusion turned quickly to irritation. “Why do you –”

“It’s hers, Raelyn.”

The elder sibling squinted. “But –”

“Exactly. Now do you see?”

She scratched at her chin. He was wrong, somehow. He must be. She couldn’t comprehend it otherwise.

“You could have taken it in with you,” she said conclusively.

Jean was bewildered. “How could I have known that you’d be here when I came out?”

She hadn’t thought of that. She reddened. “Go to your room; now… before I call our father.”

Still incredulous, the boy did as he was instructed. The following morning was when he had been met with reprimand. The sweeping of the keep mess hall was only the second of the momentous list of chores Jean had been handed by his livid father. The first, rather unpleasantly, had been mucking out the stables.

As he thought back on the events of the previous night, Jean pondered how he might have done it better if given the chance.

“You’ll never win, Jean.”

He shuddered at the sound of her voice.

“Aaaaargh!” he cried, tossing the broom at the cambion’s head.

It missed by an embarrassingly large distance, shattering against the wall above the door. Splinters and snapped shards of wood flew through the air, broken fragments tumbling over and over as they careened across the room towards him.

His shoulders rose and fell unsteadily as he panted, the fury seething from him amidst the sweat upon his body. Trine’s giggle echoed through the all-but-empty hall.

“You’re so cute when you’re angry, brother,” she said with a flutter of her eyelids.

Jean gritted his teeth. He was bursting. He struggled to even comprehend the extent to which his rage was boiling to the surface. He tried to calm himself. He blinked back furious, hot tears.

“Why?” he asked.

Trine blinked. “Why what?”

Jean bit his lip, his fists tight. “All of this? Why me? Why her? Why you…?” He trailed off.

He shakily pulled the nearest chair out from under the table and slumped into the seat. Trine skipped over to his side and leaned on his chair back.

“Don’t look so glum. I’m sure we’re going to have lots of fun together.”

She ran her finger slowly up his throat and along the bottom of his chin; then ran merrily out of the door into the fort bailey.

*          *          *

Cecilia opened her eyes. The room was dark and the musty scent: overpowering. From the blackness, a figure emerged; the hollows of its eye sockets filled with blazing hellfire…

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