Long ago, there were myths of creatures such as fairies and trolls who stole the children of royalty for various purposes and replaced them with something else. Be it to introduce new blood into the fae ranks or for the sheer pleasure of causing mischief, these surrogates were the greatest fear of the queens of olden times. The nightmarish proxies were known as changelings. Children of fae, enchanted objects, or troll offspring, changelings were believed to resemble a normal human infant however, were said to acquire insatiable appetites, uncommon wisdom, and a malevolent or mischievous nature as they grew. Legend had it that an iron object, such as scissors, placed in or around the crib of an infant would ward off the fairies and keep the little treasure from harm.
The year is now 2019 and whispers of these changelings still linger on the lips of mothers and fathers alike, however the folklore has undergone some cultural alterations, if you will. There is only one king, only one member of royalty in these times, and his only children are the obedient masses that have been trained to bow before his ruthlessness. A Changeling is no longer a fabled being but rather a mysterious organization whose sole purpose is to cause chaos and rustle up a little rebellion. Replacing the tame with the wild, these modern day myths look like every other person, however, beneath their placid facade lays a hidden miscreant whose soul is bot and will never be tamed.
My name is Deanna Marie Revlen, but you can just call me Puck. If you’re reading this, then I’m either victorious, dead, or worse, a slave to the will of the King. All the people in this story are real, however their names have been changed for their personal safety and yours. I never really meant for any of this to happen, it’s important that you, my dear reader, know that. Blame it on being raised in a broken, but nonetheless free nation, or that stubborn streak that you always read about in books, either way, I just didn’t take too well to subjugation. Servitude simply didn’t fit me like it did the rest, and as I would later find out, there were others who shared my angst. Our story however, begins with something a little less philosophical and a little more reckless; a sparring match, some whiskey, and a couple fractured ribs…
“There’s no way you can beat both of us in a sparring match, kid.” Sneered Talbot as he took a king sized swig from the Jack Daniels bottle the three of us were sharing.
“Sorry sweetheart, he’s right, there ain’t no way.” Falco interjected, motioning for the elixir we all had become reliant on as of late. Both Boston natives, Talbot and Falco had met far before I encountered them eight years ago during my first year in college. Though exactly how they became of acquaintance, I’m still not quite sure, the story changes a little every time they tell it. All I know for certain is that they served in the Marine Corps together and decided to start a dojo post honorable discharge, and that’s where I met them. A curious college freshman with a need to keep healthy, I strolled into the edifice during a sparring match between the two and fell in love with the mixed martial art known as MCMAP. Moments later I had signed up and paid for a years’ worth of training and in the process secured a future, unbeknownst to me at the time, at that very institute and two of the greatest friends a woman could ever ask for.
“I mean you’re good, hell, you probably could beat us individually, but together, we’re just too big for you.” He added, shaking his head vigorously. Falco was the taller and larger of the two, standing at six foot six and consisting of well over two hundred and seventy pounds of pure muscle. His blonde hair was trimmed to Marine regulation and his deep blue eyes shone with a glimmer of arrogance as he sipped from the half empty bottle. Talbot on the other hand, who sat smirking across from me, was of a more slender build. Though could not be considered small by any means, he was more alike to a panther in sharp contrast to the bull like appearance of his larger counterpart, and was a mere six foot three. His veteran body was lean and strong, his dark brown hair was kept just as short as Falco’s and his eyes were of the most elegant emerald green I had ever seen. Both men were in their early thirties and I sat the youngest at the tender age of twenty-five.
Wrenching the whiskey bottle from his hands, a mischievous grin found its way to my lips. It seemed like the greatest idea in the world at the time, taking on two retired Marines in a sparring match, but then again everything seems like a great idea when two and a half bottles of whiskey have been shared between three people within an hour.
“Fifty bucks and a back massage says I can take you two down.” I stated as I rose haphazardly to my feet, whiskey in hand. The two men looked at each other, the money was enticing, but I knew it was the back massage that brought the bet home. As a certified masseuse, among other things (I have eclectic interests, okay?), my back rubs were miracle workers for the guys, they loved them and I had yet to find something they would do for one. Nodding their heads, the two rose to their feet to tower above me. Looking up at them triggered a warning bell in my brain that a five foot six woman like myself had no business sparing with these two monstrous men at the same time but the whiskey screamed oh yes I do, and we all know who I listened to.
Placing the bottle down against the wall, I swallowed my last gulp and took a stance.
“Come on then, or are you afraid of a little girl like me?” and with that, two thoroughly inebriated men came charging at me like angry wildebeests in stampede. Falco caught my round house kick with his face while Talbot landed a solid punch on my lower ribcage, sending a shooting pain up my side. I retaliated with an Aikido take down, flipping him onto the padded livingroom floor. By this time Falco was fully recovered and proceeded to tackle me to the ground in an attempt to pin me and win the match. Thanks to over a decade of yoga and my deep seated stubborn streak, I managed to slip my legs out from under his knees and wrapped them around his head. Compressing his neck and face with my thighs I tensed every muscle in my upper body to flip us over once more only to run straight into Talbots choke hold. I was about to attempt a flip from a seated position when a voice interrupted our match.
“Excuse me, sorry to interrupt but I’m looking for Puck. I have a pressing matter to discuss with her.” The young man inquired, standing in the doorway shrouded in shadow. All three of us stopped in our tacks, quite an awkward position to be stuck in might I add, and stared at the new comer. Perhaps it was the whiskey that had slowed our minds, the fact that it was one in the morning, that our condo had a top of the line security system, or a mixture of the three, but whatever it was, none of us seemed to be processing what exactly was going on.
“Ehhh, what?” I replied after a minute of pure silence.
“Are you Puck?” he asked again, more urgently than before. Nodding my head, I tapped out of Talbots sleeper hold and stood up, lending a hand to Falco as he too rose from the ground.
“Yeah, I’m Puck, who are you and how’d you get in here?” I inquired, as sobriety slowly inched its way into my brain. The man took a step forward, revealing a tuff of disheveled raven curls and a wrinkly plain shirt atop a pair of jean Bermuda shorts that had seen better days. Two stained cotton loafers adorned his abnormally large feet and a leather messenger bag was slung across his willowy shoulders.
“You can call me Amp, and your security is like child’s play for someone like me.” He said dismissively. Judging from his lack of wrinkles and what some would refer to as fashionable clothing, I pegged him at around nineteen, if that. “Sorry for barging in so late by the way, but It couldn’t wait.” He added as if breaking into someone’s home in the middle of the night was a mere unannounced drop in on a Sunday afternoon.
“Alright, Amp, you have two minutes to explain yourself before we give a new meaning to the phrase ‘human pretzel’. Go.” I retorted aggressively as Falco and Talbot edged in front of me protectively. It was a rare day indeed that someone broke into our home and lived, let alone was received in a relatively placid manner such as this. Though I could feel the tension building, my two flatmates severely weary of this stranger, he seemed far too calm to be anything too harmful. That, and the three to one odds.
“Well, I kind of hacked your computer remotely for fun and stumbled on something that was labeled Changeling while perusing your encrypted files. By the way, you really need to update your software, your keys are pathetic. Anyways, I read through it and I want in.” The boy said with a hopeful glint in his eye.
“Changeling? Like the fairytale?” Falco said, a confused frown tugging at his thin mouth.
“They don’t know?” Amp queried, all but ignoring Falco and looking at me as if I were some kind of alien.
“Know what? Puck, what don’t we know? And how does he know your name? Only we call you that. What’s going on?” Inserted Falco before I had time to respond, obviously agitated. If there was one thing that got under his skin, it was being ignored and made to feel stupid; two things this Amp kid had successfully managed to do within two minutes of meeting him.
“Calm down, and give her time to explain.” Talbot’s deep voice quieted the rest of us as he placed his hand on Falco’s shoulder. “She can’t answer if you keep asking questions.” He paused and looked at me, “Now, Puck, tell us what exactly this ‘Changeling’ file is and why this kid ‘wants in’.” Completely dumbfounded and still slightly drunk, I plopped onto the couch and sighed.
“Changeling isn’t just a file, it was a plan I had a long time ago, back when we were still fighting Loki. You know how I like to plan things. See I knew the military wouldn’t take someone like me due the whole missing organ thing, so I designed an organization that would. I was an idealistic college student and thought that a little mischief making would make him understand that some of us aren’t bred to be his pets. I devised Changeling to be an elusive and organized force of miscreants doing everything in their power to inconvenience the King, not to over throw him per say, but just to show that he wasn’t in control… I was young, it would never work.” I elucidated with a sadness in my voice that I had long since forgotten. “Sorry to break it to you kid, but Changeling doesn’t and never will exist.” I added, raising the bottle to my lips once more but before the warm liquid reached my tongue Amp said something I never expected.
“That’s where you’re wrong; it can exist if you are willing to lead it. The plan is solid; the cell system is flawless. I could never start it by myself, because this is not my masterpiece, but I’m good with technology like you’ve never seen though.” The boy replied. Confused, I looked up at my two best friends expecting to see stern faced but instead I found an understanding smile and what little expression one could devise from Talbots continuously ambiguous face.
“You know me, always up for a little fun.” Falco asserted, placing his gigantic hand on my shoulder. “I never liked the idea of my country being ruled by a guy wearing a cape anyway.” The two of us rested our gaze on the stoic figure of Talbot, the most rational out of the group.
“If the King ever found any one of the members, a fate worse than death would await them, you know that.” He stated seriously, his deep sincerity sucking the hope from the room like a vacuum. “But, I know how you plan things Puck, and this kid apparently knows his way around technology… Honestly, it’s probably not going to end well however, that’s what most people thought when Thomas Jefferson wrote the declaration of independence. So I say, why not? Let’s rattle the kings cage a bit, after all, what’s the point in living if you don’t take a stand once and a while? I’m in.”
That night was the beginning of the rest of my life and this is the story of how it ended.
That was a year ago today, and since then we’ve added a couple new faces to our little band of scoundrels (Amp had already put together a list of potential candidates before he broke into our condo that night, the kid is a worse insomniac than I am) and we now have over fifty cells operating independently across the north American territory.
Within six months my family had grown from just Talbot and Falco to six others of whom I would now die for in a heartbeat. Amp, who you know, is our computer brain, turns out he actually dropped out of MIT when he was arrested for hacking into the FBI mainframe (this was before he learned how to cover his tracks, as his constantly reminds us). Pinewood and Willow were the first recruited by Amp to join us, two sisters and former eco terrorists with a knack for environmentally friendly explosive devices. Baptist, a local ER doctor was brought into the fold when I got myself shot two months into Changeling. Mugs, a female cage fighter got herself arrested for speaking out against the king until Amp wiggled his way into the Boston PD’s computer system, saving her from five years in jail. Last but not least came Van Gogh, a local art professor at Harvard, we found when she was almost arrested for forging a famous Van Gogh painting, another clean up job exceptionally executed by Amp and his uncanny technical skills. In fact Mugs and Van Gogh are actually celebrating their year anniversary this week, who knew an illegal organization could breed such love?
Warning: Contains violence, profanity, nudity, and all around good times.
Hope, it’s a silly little thing. We’re told that as long as you have hope there is no such thing as defeat. We are surrounded by these fairy tales where “good” triumphs over “evil” and you are either for the heroes of the story or you are against them. In these fictions there are no shades of grey and no possibility of failure if you’re on the side of “good”. Wars will be fought and odds defied, no matter how extreme, for there is no way that darkness can stamp out the light. Or at least that’s what we were told when we were children, when the monsters in our closest were but figments of our imagination and hope filled our hearts. In reality, you can be as pure as a mountain stream and bleed just like the rest of us. You may think yourself a God, but death is the king of all.
It’s been seven years since the Battle of Manhattan, and as he promised, Loki brought humanity to their knees one nation at a time. Once the Avengers failed, there was little fight left in the hearts of the people. The UN attempted to hold back the flood but it was all for not, war stricken and broken, they submitted to his rule after five years of destruction and death. Loki, king of Midgard, now sits upon a throne built from the bones of his vanquished enemies, their sacrifice all but forgotten by the obedient. Children no longer know what it’s like to be able to claim freedom as a right and our elders no longer tell stories of liberty. We are no longer equal under the law, we are but slaves to our king, sheep resigned to heeding the command of our ruthless shepherd. Some of us however, turn out not to be that good at follow the leader.
A few reckless miscreants are stupid enough, crazy enough, idealistic enough, to have hope. We lurk in the shadows like common thieves, but our purpose is far more mischievous. We aren’t waging a war with rifles and tanks, we are playing tit for tat with the ultimate trickster. As a wise man once said, we aim to misbehave. We are the thorn in the kings side. We are vandals. We are rascals. We are criminals. We are the wayward sons and daughters of a forgotten liberty. We are Changeling and we are the rebellion.