I never told anyone that I saw the Grassman steal our baby. I was four years old, minding my newborn baby sister, Toola. Mam had set Toola in a basket in the sun.
“Keep the baby quiet, Sada,” Mam said. “Don’t let her holler.”
She went into the cottage to gather the washing.
The day was fine, bright and sunny, and I closed my eyes while I leaned on the porch rail. It was a rare moment that I wasn’t doing some chore or other, like picking burrs out of my brothers’ socks, or carding wool for Mam to spin.
A shadow fell across my eyelids. I opened one eye just a slit and saw a small green man carrying a bundle. He was hurrying along the neighbor’s wall. Jumping down, he tiptoed up to Toola’s basket. He set down his burden, and peered at Toola asleep in her blankets. Then he leaned over and pinched her cheek between a long green finger and thumb.
“That’s my sister,” I said.
“Oooh, yes, that’s so! And a fine wee worka girly she is, too. We Grassmen be making a trade today–a girly for a girly,” said the green man. He bent down with his arms outstretched.
“Leave her alone!”
“Hush, little worka girl,” the green man said.
“Mam! Mam!” I called out. I didn’t know if I should run for my mother or stay with Toola.
“Oh, too bad!” said the green man. “The noisy little worka girl must have the sneezie powder.”
The man reached into his pocket and threw dust in my face. In an instant, I started to sneeze and sneeze. My eyes watered and my throat burned. I ran blindly into the cottage. I felt my way to the water cask, rinsing my eyes and mouth over and over until the pain and the sneezes subsided.
Out at the back of the house, with her hands in a basin of sloshing suds, Mam had heard nothing. I blundered my way to the wash table, blubbering and wiping my eyes.
“Toola! Toola!” I wailed.
“What is it, Sada?” Mam scowled. “I’m over my elbows in work here.” She pushed hair off her forehead and left a scum of soap instead.
When at last Mam believed my desperation and followed me to the front porch, the green man was gone. In Toola’s basket lay a different baby, all pale skin and spun glass hair. She smiled and waved her little fists.
Mam’s face looked shocked, then furious. I was ready to run, thinking she would knock me into next week, but she didn’t. A dazed smile came to her lips. As Mam lifted the infant out of the basket, a strange and lovely fragrance filled the air. I breathed in the scents of cinnamon and apples, and new-cut hay.
“Well, well, what have we here?” my mother cooed, in a gentle voice I’d certainly never heard. “Such a pretty little thing.”
“What about Toola?” I asked.
“Toola? Aye, but the babe is here, is she not?” Mam said.
“That’s not Toola,” I said.
My mother nuzzled the baby’s neck, breathing in deeply. “ A little apple dumpling, you are,” she murmured, and put the baby to her breast.
And that is how my sister got her first name–Apple.
Guided by Magic is the second book in the Karakesh Chronicles. Sada sets out to find her changeling sister (Apple) who was abandoned in the forest by their father when Sada was eleven years old. While searching, Sada rides with Travelers, spends time in a witch’s house, and deals with slave traders. Does she find her sister?
Guided by Magic and the rest of the Karakesh Chronicles are available at