You can catch up on the story here.
“Elise.” Aleda stopped as all the fury over her son’s recklessness dissolved. He was bleeding, but standing, and looked almost as fearful as the night they ran from Gaerlom.
“Alaric.” Carrick motioned to his son and the boy ran over, hiding behind his father as his muddy, bleeding fingers left stains on Carrick’s pants. “Run home and tell Lisel to get the children inside.”
Alaric looked at Elise once more, then ran. Carrick barred the way behind him and stared down the woman from Gaerlom. “Who came with you?”
“Only my daughter.” She pulled back the blanket in her arms to reveal a newborn.
“Wings?” Aleda asked.
Elise nodded and covered the child, gaze not leaving her precious bundle. “They killed my firstborn. A boy. Left him in the ocean to drown.” She looked at Aleda, her eyes pleading. “I couldn’t let them take my baby girl.”
Aleda looked to Carrick and he nodded. She turned back to Elise with a small smile. “I think we have someone you should meet. Come.”
Elise gave them a curious, wary look, but followed Carrick as he lead the way home. Aleda took the pack from Elise’s back. The poor woman; to give birth and almost immediately leave home and walk to the mountains, loaded down with fear and supplies. It must have been harrowing, to say the least. Aleda thought a dozen children were difficult, but at least she’d had time to heal.
From the look of the dried blood running down Elise’s leg she had left right after the birth.
“Have there been others?” Aleda never thought the changelings would continue to be born. Not after so many summers with Mountain silent.
“A few. Most of the babes have been normal, and the ones who weren’t…” Elise shrugged. “Stillborn, is what the mothers said. What I said. But I can see it in their eyes, and in their mannerisms. The few who survived wish they hadn’t.”
Aleda sighed and shook her head. If only there was some way to get word to the mothers—and keep it away from the fathers—that the changeling children could be kept safe. If only Aleda knew when the changelings were born, and could go back and steal all of them from the Sea.
She touched Elise’s shoulder as they reached the brush-covered entrance to the cave. “It was brave of you to come.”
Elise looked at her, relief and fear warring in her eyes. “I didn’t think I would find you, but it was better to die together in the mountains than lose another child to the Sea.”
Aleda smiled again as they walked through the tunnel and into the cave. One little boy, two summers younger than the rest, toddled over to her and she scooped him up and sat him on her hip.
“Elise. I would like you to meet Montie. I found him in the cove two summers ago.” Aleda turned her smile on the little boy, who was looking at Elise with naked curiosity. “He’s your son.”