"I'm bored, bored, bored," Dewdrop grumbled. "Why doesn't anything interesting ever happen around here?"
"Just be thankful we don't live in interesting times," her attendant scolded.
"I know," Dewdrop sighed. "No wars, no disease, and no unhappiness. We just live boringly forever and ever."
Dewdrop was a fairy with a bad tempered expression and gauzy wings. She squatted cross-legged on the petals of a pink rose, her dress a matching pink so only her paler pink face and hands were noticeable, and scowled. She was the seventh daughter of the Fairy Queen, which made her a princess, but not a very important one.
Lord Be Thankful floated by her left wing. He wore a severe expression, lots of silver armor and carried a silver lance. Princesses always had guards and attendants. As Princess Dewdrop was an unimportant princess, Lord Be Thankful was both guard and attendant.
"There's the wild hunt coming up," he reminded her.
"Who wants to thrash pretend horses through dense bush to terrorize a few miserable criminals," Dewdrop sneered.
"You have Delight to ride through the woods every dawn of your life."
Dewdrop almost smiled. She loved her unicorn dearly, but he was very dignified and full of himself, and not much company. She sighed. It had become just plain boring riding him into the dawn day after day.
"Your mother is giving a moonlight revel for your birthday next week."
"Yuk! Wearing that revolting dress of silver and gold, simpering at chinless fairy princes and minding my manners."
"It won't hurt you to mind your manners," he snapped. "Be thankful you are a royal princess after all."
"Who won't ever rule," Dewdrop reminded him. "But I'm still not allowed the freedom of an ordinary subject."
"Be thankful you aren't an ordinary subject. In my day..."
Dewdrop flung out of the rose and streaked away, wings going so fast that they looked a gauzy halo around her.
"In my day," she mimicked finishing his off repeated words, "Princesses and subjects were prideful of their position in fairyland, and acted accordingly."
Lord Be Thankful soared after her, like a silver shadow. Dewdrop dropped into a bright yellow daffodil, her dress turning to bright yellow as she landed. Lord Be Thankful hovered, looking across the field of bright yellow flowers before he dropped to her left wing.
"Princesses and subjects were prideful of their position in fairyland, and acted accordingly," he finished, panting slightly.
Dewdrop looked over the edge of the petal and down on the ground. Something ground colored stirred and looked up at her with twinkling dark brown eyes.
"What cheer, Dewdrop?" a voice asked.
"Golly!" Dewdrop said happily. "What are you doing here?"
"Your mother is not happy about your friendship with that common thieving goblin," Lord Be Thankful warned.
"Try a nice poppy salve for that stiff neck of yours," Golly advised. "One thing I'm not, is common."
In one jump he was up and on to the daffodil flower beside Dewdrop, looking like an ominous brown spider with his dark spindly legs and hunched up body. Lord Be Thankful hovered even more stiffly, and ignored him.
"What are you doing here?" Dewdrop asked.
"I'm hiding," Golly said cheerfully. "Nearly got caught when I thieved a human baby that Her Majesty wanted."
"Who did you exchange him with?" Dewdrop asked.
"Your nasty little baby brother, Willdom," Golly chuckled.
"Thank goodness," Dewdrop sighed. "Some dumb human can put up with his tantrums and his sulking and his nasty screaming. He is the most unfairy-like baby mother has ever produced. I was hoping that she would hurry up and get sick of him."
"The human farm is my own work base. It took a month of close watching before I found the chance to do the exchange," Golly explained. "He is the sweetest and most lovable baby I have ever taken."
"Mother will be so pleased," Dewdrop said, her boredom completely forgotten as she straightened up to fly. "I'll go straight home and meet him."
"His name is Willyum," Golly called after her as he slid down the daffodil stalk. "Even the names are similar."
"This is so exciting," Dewdrop said as she flew back to the castle with Lord Be Thankful beside her. "The last time a baby was exchanged was when my grandfather was born. Why do we exchange babies?"
"Living in fairyland with no pain, no sorrow and no unhappiness, means that no one learns proper caring, kindness, loyalty or endurance," Lord Be Thankful explained. "We have to bring in the human babies every few generations to breed them back into our line."
"Very odd," Dewdrop agreed.
She flew through the open window of the tapering spire of the castle that was the nursery. She paused inside, suddenly shy. Her six sisters clustered around the cradle. Her mother the Queen floated like a smug silver cloud above the cradle.
"Sweet", "lovely natured", "lovable", "intelligent", "healthy", "a good sleeper", the litany of good wishes floated down into the cradle.
Dewdrop pushed her way through the sisters and peeped into the cradle. Her heart sank. The changeling baby looked exactly like Willdom: He had the same fuzz of yellow hair, clear regular features and delicate brows.
Suddenly the baby opened his dark blue eyes and looked at her. Dewdrop felt her heart turn over at the happy expression in his eyes. A dimple started at the side of his mouth and he grinned at her.
"He's beautiful," Dewdrop whispered.
"So he should be with all the good wishes bestowed upon him," the Queen said. "He is my beautiful prince. He will have an attendant and two guards to show him respect."
"Why two guards?" Dewdrop asked.
"To protect him of course," her mother explained. "His parents have until the next full moon to find and rescue him, after that he is ours forever."
"But no human can find fairyland," Dewdrop protested. "Can they?"
"It's not unknown," her oldest sister New Dawn warned. "As you should know if you spent more of your time at school."
"It is your seventh sister's decision not to attend school," their mother reproved. She shimmered and then vanished, the other six sisters vanishing after her.
Dewdrop waited by the cradle smiling down at her new brother. Willyum smiled back. There was a "pop". A fat pink faced woman and two guards were suddenly by the cradle.
"Off you go," scolded the woman. "My little precious needs a feed and a sleep."
Dewdrop flew back to the daffodil field, but Golly was gone.
"Why do you want to hang out with that thieving little criminal?" Lord Be Thankful snapped, perfectly aware of who Dewdrop was looking for.
"How would the parents know that their baby has been stolen when they have got a perfectly identical exchange?" Dewdrop wondered.
"Human mothers know," Lord Be Thankful said.
"But how?" Dewdrop fretted.
"Just be thankful you are a fairy princess and never have to find out," Lord Be Thankful snapped.
This was a very strong remark from her patient attendant, so Dewdrop had to shut up, but she still wondered. How did human mothers really know?