Sometimes my witch is very smart. She’s clever and intuitive and knows how to listen to people and that adds up to an impressive package. Sometimes she’s completely foolish though, like when she dragged us all off to the Goblin Deeps without telling anyone or arranging for any backup. Those are the time I get the second most worried for her. I reserve my high quality worry for other occasions though.
“We should try to find out if there are any missing changelings!” she said.
Other occasions such as when she’s both very smart and very foolish at the same time.
“Well now that’s an interesting idea isn’t it?” Grandma Apples said. “What made you think of it?”
As the most magically aware adult in the room (and possibly within the state), Grandma Apples was supposed to be the voice of reason. The one I could depend on to keep the teenage craziness of Penny and her friends in check. That she was even contemplating listening to that idea did not fill me with warm and fuzzy feelings.
“Well, I thought that if the plan is to replace me with a changeling then there’s more than September’s Mom and her witch that are in on this,” Penny said. “Is a changeling any easy to find than a witch?”
“If they can shapechange it seems like they’d be harder to spot,” Rosie said.
For a brief moment, I felt my kitty heart skip a beat out of love for the Enchanter in the wheelchair. Rosie was dependable. She’d talk Penny out of any craziness that entered my witch’s mind.
“They can be very difficult to find,” Grandma Apples said. “And quite dangerous too. If a changeling finds out you’re after them, they can turn into almost anyone you know. You wind up being wary of everyone you meet.”
“Why would someone like that work for a witch?” Penny asked.
“Money?” Rosie said.
“Why? If they wanted money they could just shapechange into a rich person couldn’t they?” Penny asked. Like I said, smart, but that didn’t make me feel any less nervous over where the conversation was going.
“Witch’s trade more in favors and magic than money,” Grandma Apples said. “When dealing with a changeling there’s often a measure of coercion involved as well.”
“That sounds dangerous,” Penny said. “Wouldn’t the changeling want to get back at you if you were blackmailing them?”
“Yes, and there are plenty of stories that illustrate what a bad idea it is to try deal with changelings unfairly, but people, witches especially, still make that mistake over and over again,” Grandma Apples said.
“It’s because they don’t trust the changelings, isn’t it?” Rosie asked.
“And with history as their guide, changelings tend not to trust witches either,” Grandma Apples said.
“So does that mean the changeling that this witch Iona wants to replace me with isn’t necessarily on Iona’s side?” Penny asked.
“Likely not, though don’t assume they’re on your side either,” Grandma Apples said.
“What are changelings like?” Penny asked.
“They’re people, like any others,” Grandma Apples. “Some are best avoided, others are only concerned for looking out for themselves.”
“I think we should definitely find this one then,” Penny said. “If they don’t want to do what Iona is forcing them to do then they’re more a victim than I am at this point.”
“That’s a nice way to think dear, but fixing this problem isn’t something that’s your responsibility to do. You’re still just starting out at all this.” Penny’s father said, earning him a renewed place in my heart. I began plotting what kind of “Team Sensible Actions” I could build starting with Rosie and Penny’s Dad as my base.
“There might be another avenue that we could pursue,” I said, speaking up before anymore terrible ideas like going out there ourselves could be brought up. “Aside from waiting for Inspector Brooks, we could ask Akemi if she’s able to track my mother.”
Akemi was a special kind of girl. Part ordinary human, part guardian spirit, part wolf-blooded beast. Humans are generally noseblind to the point where I can laugh at them for being so clueless. Akemi was the exception to that. Her senses were so sharp that when we were with her, I didn’t even bother paying attention to what my sense were saying, I just watched her for the reactions she showed, since she generally knew about things long before I could smell them coming.
“Even you wish to pursue this matter further?” Grandma Apples asked.
“I want to see it pursued,” I said. “It’s ok if someone else does it though.”
“If things are safe enough here, then this can all be pursued in the morning,” Penny father said. That split me down the middle. I wanted to find my mother, but heading out into the night to do so seemed like a cataclysmically terrible idea. But I still wanted to find her.
I looked over at Penny to see which direction the wind was blowing her and saw her jaw set and her eyes firm. She wasn’t going to let this rest the night. I didn’t know whether to cheer or to cry or to sigh. Life is never simple.
“Or perhaps we can leave word with Inspector Brooks and do a little searching of our own,” Grandma Apples said.
I stared at her. She was the last person I’d expected to suggest something crazy like that.
“September raises a good point that we have options for moving forward, and I’ve seen the look that these young faces are wearing,” Grandma Apples said. “There’s something wrong and they’re not going to rest till they do something about it.”
“But an evil witch? Isn’t that too dangerous?” Penny’s father asked.
“We don’t know that she’s evil dad!” Penny said. “I mean what would you be willing to do if I was in trouble?”
“That’s a dangerous question to ask,” Grandma Apples said. “Better perhaps to consider that it will be much less dangerous if we go with them rather leaving them to sneak out and try to handle the matter on their own.
“Wait, you want all of us to go?” Penny’s father asked.
“Yes,” Grandma Apples said. “We’ll make a training session of it.”