No one knew how long the magic of Athare would last. It was a problem they’d all thought about, because leaving Kalinia had been hard enough. The Green who had created the door, Bronwen didn’t know his name, said that if they’d left it a few hours later he wasn’t certain he still would have been able to open the door. As it was they had a shorter time than expected to get everyone through it, which made things even more fraught, so even thinking about having to do it all over again terrified most of the fae, while the rest were trying to work out how to make certain that they wouldn’t. Unfortunately the plans they were making, the plans she had become a part of thanks to the work she had done with Riordan, were ones that she was certain the average fae would only accept until it became real. Once it became real…
Bronwen sighed. Being able to experiment with her abilities was something she’d like to do, but she knew that her elder had no idea what would end up happening. For one they were all strangely certain that only five worlds would be needed, and she realised, after a couple of days thought, it was because they didn’t have any idea how magic worked. Most of the fae didn’t, because it wasn’t until you worked on something like the town that she had created with Riordan that you started to understand it, but experimenting was something the fae didn’t do much of, mostly through fear. Some of the fear wasn’t exactly misplaced, not after the messes that her family had created in the past. The Blues had the same issue. Of course it didn’t help that the only reason they’d been permitted to experiment was thanks to a member of their family becoming the Queen.
That, though, had been when the reigning monarch had the powers to make those sorts of decisions alone. With every election the Council became stronger, because of the mistakes the monarchs had made, so it had got to the point that Mab pretty much had to wait until at least a couple of her elders realised how bad things had become, which was something very few fae actually seemed to understand. She could have pushed, yes, but she accepted that her elders knew more than she did, so she listened to them, even though listening to them turned out to be a mistake. Bronwen believed that she would have made the same choices if she’d been in Mab’s position, no matter how hard they were to make. It was, at the time, the only logical thing she could do.
Mab seemed to blame herself as well, for not listening to the right people, even though she couldn’t have known that Willow was right to leave Kalinia behind, not when her elders were so certain that everything was going to right itself, eventually. Bronwen could understand that. After everything that had happened, after so many of her people had died thanks to the choices ‘she’ had made, she was going to be feeling guilty, and angry with herself for listening, and it didn’t help that the majority of the fae were furious with her too. The fae only saw the Queen. It didn’t matter to them that there was a Council of elders too. A Council of elders who had, in the end, all succumbed to the loss of magic on Kalinia, leaving Mab with an entirely new Council who all hated her, and that couldn’t help with making the right choices for her people.
Creating five worlds wasn’t going to work. They’d just end up draining their new world, instead of helping to keep her core filled with magic the way they were meant to. If they wanted it to truly work, the fae wanted it to, they were going to need to make more than five worlds… Bronwen had a feeling that, in the end, their decisions would be unacceptable to their own people, but that wasn’t exactly a surprise. She knew from the moment they came up with it that it was never really going to go right. Not when she’d listened to her elder and the Blue’s elder talking about what they believed would work, when neither of them had ever experimented with their abilities, so actually had no idea what would. Maybe she should have told them them, but she knew they weren’t going to listen to her, no matter how hard she tried to get them to. They were older than her, although not by much, so of course they knew better…
Going to talk to Riordan, even though it was tempting, wasn’t something she was ready for. Bronwen knew he’d already come to the same conclusions that she had and that meant that the conversation they’d end up having would be very much the same as the ones they’d had before. No, it was time for her to talk to the three fae she was certain would become race creators: Eithne, Mairin, and Aidan. The others Bronwen wasn’t so certain of, but she knew those three almost as well as she knew Riordan, and they needed to know what was coming, because no one else would warn them before they were asked to become a part of the creation of what she believed was going to end up being a web of worlds, so that the magic would be able to flow, even though creating a web like that wasn’t going to be easy. Especially as they were going to end up having to deal with the Council, who weren’t going to be at all pleased.
“Bronwen?” Even though Bronwen hadn’t been expecting it right then she knew it was coming, so she wasn’t surprised when she turned to look at Emrys. “Are you free to talk?”
“Yes, but I already know at least part of what you’re going to tell me, and I’ve guessed the rest.”
Emrys smiled. “That doesn’t entirely surprise me. You and Riordan have always been more perceptive than the majority of the fae.”
“That’s why we’re going to be a part of this.” Bronwen sighed. “Even though I don’t think either of us really want to be.”
“I don’t think any of us do, because we know what’s coming. Well, at least those of us who have been told do, while the rest… I think it’s time everyone who is going to be a part of this should have a chance to know in advance what might be happening, so they can make an informed choice as to whether they really want to be a part of the creation of the Web.”
“How many worlds?”
“Thirty-seven.” Emrys ran his tongue over his lips. “We’re going to end up creating more, but, to begin with, there will be thirty-seven worlds in the Web, and at least three of them will close their doors to us.”
Nodding, Bronwen gestured for the two of them to enter the nearest room, hoping that it would be empty. “When did it start?”
“On the day Grandfather died. Athare brought me here to tell me about what we were going to create, because there are certain worlds and races she would rather not be a part of this Web. You’re the person I need to talk to about the races – they will listen to you if you tell them what they need to know.”
“Most of them will, in the same way that most of the world creators will listen to Riordan, but not everyone will.” Bronwen sank into one of the seats, grateful that they had built the council building first and that it was very much the same as the one they had left behind. “Who will be a part of this?”
“Aidan, Mairin, and Eithne you already know. They’re definites, no matter what happens. So far they have been a part of the creation of every Web and the only thing that would stop them is dying.” Emrys bit his lip. “The others are maybes. Although they’ve been involved in the creation of some of the Webs they haven’t been involved in all of them, which means there is, of course, a chance they’ll walk away from this one too, and there are a couple of them I’m hoping will.”
Hearing the tremor in his voice when he spoke of dying told Bronwen why he was talking to her. “Emrys…”
“Don’t. I always knew that the loss of magic was, eventually, going to effect me, but the issue now is that my body doesn’t know how to cope with the increased amount. When I was coming in my dreams I couldn’t feel it, because I wasn’t really here. Now that I am…” He sighed. “This is likely to happen to other people too – it’s just no one knew it was possible, and I couldn’t tell them. How do you explain that you know what’s coming when you’ve never been able to See before?”
“You know what’s going to happen?”
“Thanks to Athare I do. I wish I didn’t, but in some ways it does help. Knowing when it will happen means I have a chance to talk to both you and Riordan first, so you have a better idea of what you need to know, and I gave him my journals.”
Bronwen sighed. “You didn’t tell him.”
“We talked about different things, so this didn’t come up and I wasn’t willing to tell him. Telling too many people makes it real.” Emrys shrugged. “I’ll probably survive. I’ve survived more times than I have died, but right now it’s hard to keep that in mind, because I don’t have much time left. What little time I do have… well, I need to write down some more instructions for Riordan, just in case, as I have a horrible feeling that the Witches are going to be a part of this Web, no matter how hard we try to rid ourselves of them.”
“How much have you seen?”
“More than I ever wanted to, Bronwen. Athare showed me everything she could, because she needed me to understand, and I’ve travelled to as many Webs as she could take me to, so I know almost as much as she does about them. That was her aim.”
“Why did she choose you?”
“Riordan would have been the better choice, but he wasn’t as open minded at the time when she needed to connect. Losing Grandfather changed things for me, so it was easier for her to slip into my dreams, and it does help that Riordan has a connection to the Blues that I don’t. Even before I found myself focusing all my energy on the future I was never like the rest of them.” Emrys brushed his hand through his hair. “Too many fae don’t ask questions. They accept what they’re told and follow any order they’re given. I couldn’t. I always wanted to know more, which no one appreciated until I met Athare.
“If she could I know she’d take me to see how the Dragons were created, but that happened on Kalinia and she doesn’t have the ability to show me another world’s past unless that world is connected to her. The time may come when she feels she can connect with Kalinia, to help our old world return to the way she was before, but it’s not going to happen for at least a millennia, maybe more. Whether Athare does or not depends on the choices Kalinia makes, the choices we make, and the choices the worlds we create are going to make, because they’re all going to be sentient, like her. During my dreams I met some of them. Knowing that we’re going to create them makes me even more worried about the decisions we might be making, although Athare keeps telling me I shouldn’t. We can only do our best.”
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