It was easy enough to gather together all the remaining jars that held the worlds. No one really cared all that much about them, because they’d all moved on to living their new lives and dealing with the changes they’d created. At least the ones who hadn’t shut themselves away in warded settlements, terrified of the choices that had been made, of the new races that had been created, and of the fae who’d done the work to create both the worlds and the races. Emrys wasn’t surprised, because they’d always been scared of what the Yellow family and the Blue family could do. That was why there had always been so many rules created to curtail what they could do with their abilities.
Thankfully things had changed. Emrys was grateful for that, because he’d always known that he was meant to create worlds. He’d dreamt of Athare and the worlds they’d create, so he already knew what was expected of him before the time came for him to do the work, but that didn’t make what he had to do any easier. Gaelom was always going to the hardest world, the rest were simple in comparison, even though it had taken him time to find a Yellow who was happy to make the races of Quiar, which was understandable. It was just going to be an important world in the future, so it had to be right.
Carefully Emrys placed the last of the jars into the bag he had created for them, made certain all his journals were in the other bag he carried, and then walked away from the fae for good. A door was waiting for him, that would take him to a place he was needed. They didn’t need him any more. Riordan was there, and if there was one of his family Emrys could trust to do the right thing it was Riordan. Emrys was just thankful the two of them had a chance to work together, because he would have regretted leaving Riordan behind without having spent more time together. Walking through the Council building Emrys hoped that whenever he found himself Riordan would have managed to do what should be done.
Leaving would have been easier if he was still the loner he had been on Kalinia. Being on Athare changed almost everything. The only thing that didn’t change was Emrys’ father, who’d always been there for him, no matter what. Sighing, he thought about the letter he’d left Sibeal, and knew she’d explain why he’d gone without saying goodbye to either of them. He wanted to, but if he did he would have put leaving off until it was too late. For far longer than anyone else he knew what his job was going to be, and that job was going to involve doing things he didn’t necessarily want to, but he knew he was going to be needed. At least they’d given him the strength he needed to keep going when he was at his very lowest, because the dreams he’d had were enough to push him through, when so many others had found themselves losing their fight for life.
Even the dreams hadn’t been a guarantee. Emrys knew that if they’d left it much longer he would have died on Kalinia. He hadn’t thought about that much before, focusing on what needed to be done to distract himself, but without something to work on in front of him he allowed himself to remember the fear and the relief when Mab finally realised Kalinia was dead. There was no magic left, so it wouldn’t be long before the world died. Like all the worlds the fae had left behind it would slowly come back to life and when it did it would be changed. If they ever chose to go back it wouldn’t seem anything like the world they’d left behind. Not even the magic would feel the same.
Shaking his head Emrys told himself to focus on getting to the door. It was too easy to let the dreams, and memories, he had of the world they’d left behind distract him. The door wasn’t far away. Athare had created it for him, because he was one of the few to accept that it was sentient. Like all the worlds they’d created and all the worlds that still sat in the jars waiting for their time to join the Web. He could feel them sleeping, just as accepting of Athare’s choices as they always had been. Connecting with the worlds was something he hadn’t been expecting, which had amused Athare. The world told him it had to keep some secrets, even from the people it trusted, and Emrys accepted that as a part of who the world was.
When Emrys was finally stood in front of the door, that he could only just about see, he took one last look around at the world he was going to be leaving behind. In his mind he could feel something he could only describe as a hug from Athare and then he stepped through the door. The sunlight was a minor surprise, really, compared to where he found himself. Running a hand though his hair he looked around, waiting for Athare to say something, because there was no doubt in his mind that he was still on the same world he left, as he tried to work out how much time had passed.
‘Moving you through time made the most sense,’ Athare said, still sounding female. ‘I’m a different world to the one you left behind, so I guess I should fill you in on all the changes before you do anything else.’
“What year is it?” Emrys asked, aloud, even though he knew he didn’t have to.
“So I’ve travelled nearly 650 years into the future?”
‘Yes, Emrys, you have.’ Athare sounded like she was smiling. ‘This is when you’re first needed. You’ll be here for about fifty years before I pull you into the future again.’
“Why am I needed now?”
‘There are several reasons, Emrys. The Walkers are worried, because they know that the fae aren’t comfortable with them, and they’re right to be. It won’t be long before the fae decide that the Walkers are a problem, so I need you to help me get as many of them to safety as possible. I know we won’t be able to save them all, but we need the Walkers more than we need what they’re going to become when the new rules are put in place.’
Emrys ran a hand through his hair. “You couldn’t have mentioned this before.”
‘I didn’t know then. All I knew was that this was an important point in time and bringing you here was my only real option.’
“So I won’t know in advance why I’m needed to go to a specific time?”
‘I’m sorry, but I can only tell you what I know, and I can’t see the future. The only way I know that there’s a point in the future that you’ll be needed is by feeling my timeline for points when there’s going to be change. Hopefully by having you in the right place at these times will mean that we can have some effect on things.’
“Why are the Walkers a problem?”
‘They keep getting involved in issues the fae think they shouldn’t. As far as they’re concerned the Walkers should only watch what happens on the other worlds, because the races should be permitted to live the way they want to, and the Walkers disagree. If the fae weren’t still hiding within the safety of their warded settlements the Walkers might think that they have a right to have any input into how they work, but the majority of them still look down on the races of the worlds so they chose to stay somewhere they don’t have to deal with the ‘lesser’ races.’ Athare sighed. ‘I’m just thankful that Riordan’s son has become the leader of the Walkers. He’s the first person you’re going to need to talk to, because he can help us.’
“Riordan wouldn’t be happy with what’s happening. He worked so hard to get the Walkers accepted and he was right. If the fae are going to hide away we need someone out there who can help the races of the worlds, because they need more than we gave them.” Emrys bit his lip, knowing he needed to ask the question but he didn’t want to. “What happened to him?”
‘He lived a happy life, Emrys. Riordan and Tegan married, had children, and he moved on when he knew it was time.’
“Did he move on the same way I did, or did he move to another world when Tegan died?”
‘Sometimes there are questions I can’t answer.’
“Can’t or won’t?”
‘Can’t. If I knew the answer I’d tell you, but all I know is that Riordan created a door and stepped through it. The door didn’t exist for long enough for me to have any idea where it was going to take him.’
“Interesting.” Emrys thought about his cousin, one of the few fae he actually trusted, and wondered what choices Riordan had made once Tegan had died. “How many children did they have?”
‘Three sons and four daughters.’
“She really did love him, didn’t she?”
‘You were worried.’
“Unlike the majority of my family Riordan had his head screwed on right. We always thought he’d end up with Bronwen, but I think Bron always knew that it was never going to happen, and she was so happy for him when he finally realised he had feelings for the Walker girl.” Emrys bit his lip again, knowing he was going to need to ask a lot of questions he wasn’t sure he wanted to know the answers to. “What happened to Bronwen?”
‘Go and talk to Riordan’s son, Emrys. He can answer all the questions you have, because otherwise you’re going to be standing here talking to yourself when someone walks past. I’ve told him to expect you.’
‘It’s going to be fine. You took all your journals, no one will recognise you because there are no pictures of you anywhere, and there’s enough traffic around here that it’s unlikely anyone will even bother to look at you. All you are is another new arrival on Athare, who could easily be joining as a new Walker.’
Nodding, Emrys accepted what Athare had said, because he knew she wouldn’t expose him to any danger. “Okay. Where will I find Riordan’s son?”
‘When you get to the Council building go through the door that you used as the door to the meeting room. They’ve moved things around, and that door will lead you straight to the office of the leader of the Council.’
It was strange to be walking back to the Council building he’d left behind minutes ago. Emrys hadn’t expected to even be on Athare, thinking that he was needed on another world, but he understood why. The connection he had with Athare had always been strong and that was why she’d been able to send him dreams about the future while he was on Kalinia. Although…
‘If you don’t know what the future’s going to be how did you send me those dreams?’ Emrys asked, projecting the thought at Athare rather than speaking out loud.
‘That was me,’ she replied. ‘Not the Athare from before, but me, because I knew you were coming, and I wanted to prepare you for the Web.’
Shaking his head, Emrys tried to make sense of what Athare had just told him. ‘Time travel is confusing.’
‘Which is why the fae had always been careful to make certain that only the right people get to travel through time and make lots of rules about what time travellers are permitted to do.’ Athare sounded amused again. ‘She knew about the dreams, because I told her. I wanted her to know what was coming too, so she could make some important preparations before your arrival, and at the time she was sleeping peacefully. Having you lot appear randomly would have been a nasty surprise for the world I was then.’
‘I don’t think I’m ever going to understand the way these things work.’
‘Bronwen could see the future, too. That’s why she helped Riordan to created the town in a box.’
‘She never mentioned it.’
‘Like most Seers she didn’t like to talk about what she’d seen. She felt it might change the future too much. That changed with the birth of the Seers on Raenarin, who needed her to help guide them.’
‘Raenarin.’ Emrys couldn’t stop himself from shaking his head. ‘Aubrie should have listened. The male Witches?’
‘Like you expected the magic they were given evolved into something more than the Covens were comfortable with. Bronwen did what she could to help them, because she was the only one who could at the time.’
‘That sounds like Bronwen. She always did care about the races we were creating.’
‘In part I think it was due to Eithne and the Weavers. Eithne was the first of the fae to create a race that worked, because the race she was trying to create helped her in a way that most of the spirits the fae made couldn’t. The magic Eithne gave her race made them different to the others.’
‘We needed the Weavers more than we knew.’ Emrys couldn’t help smiling at the memories. ‘Without their help I don’t believe things would ever have gone as well as they did.’
‘Eventually you would have worked it out.’
‘Did you have anything do do with them?’
‘Maybe a little. Had Eithne not made the decisions she had I wouldn’t have been able to, but luckily for me she did. That’s always been a problem when it comes to working on the Web. I have to hope things work out the way I wanted them to. Some did. Others… well, I can’t say I was surprised. I’m not exactly the same Athare I was when we were talking before. Certain choices were made and I am a little different. Fortunately I’m not as different as I could have been.’
The Council buildings came closer with every step and Emrys had more questions for Athare than he had time to ask, so he asked the one he really wanted an answer to. ‘Can you see alternate Athares?’
Amusement filled Athare’s voice as she replied, ‘I am the alternate Athares.’ Emrys could see her shaking her head the ways she would have done if they were talking in a dream. ‘It’s one of those things that’s almost impossible to explain, Emrys, but you should know that while I’m talking to you, here and now, I’m also talking to two alternate Emrys’ as alternate Athares. Both have just asked exactly the same question you just asked, so all three of us are trying to explain how it works.’
‘Okay…” Emrys sighed. ‘One day I might understand what you just said to me.’
‘I promise you that one day you will.’
‘Can’t see the future?’
‘Athare told me about it. A future Athare, who wanted me to make you that promise.’
Emrys shook his head as he put his hand onto the handle of door he used to use to enter the main atrium of the Council building. ‘Sometimes I think I’d be much happier if I never started talking to you.’
‘You’d be much less confused.’
Breathing deeply Emrys pushed down the handle and opened the door, to reveal a room he’d never seen before. It was smaller than than the atrium, which was something he’d expected, but it wasn’t as small as he thought it was going to be. Slowly, hoping Athare was right, he stepped into the room. That was when the wards broke in a way that told him Athare was right and he found himself standing in front of a man who could have been Riordan’s twin if he hadn’t had Tegan’s eyes.
“Good afternoon, Emrys,” the man said, thankfully sounding a little different to Riordan. “It’s nice to meet you. I’m Anrai, Riordan and Tegan’s eldest son.”
“It’s nice to meet you too, Anrai, if a little strange.”
“People have told me before I look like my father.”
“I left him sleeping in his bed about three hours ago. We’d just managed to convince the rest of the fae that the Walkers should be paid for the job they were doing for us.” Emrys sighed. “Now I’m here having to save them.”
“I may have to go with them.” Anrai ran a hand through his hair, looking lost. “I inherited my mother’s ability to travel the worlds, and I know that they’ll want to get rid of me first, because I’m in a dangerous position.”
“Do your other siblings have the same ability?”
“Two of my sisters and a brother. We’re all registered as Walkers, as are my three sons, six of my nieces, and eleven of my nephews.”
‘How long do we have?’ Emrys asked Athare.
‘About a moon, maybe a little more. It all depends on how quickly the Golds managed to gather the support they need.’
“Do you talk to Athare too?” Anrai asked.
“Yes. I started before I even travelled here, when I was still on Kalinia, and now she’s become a friend.”
“I’ve spoken to Athare since I was a child. She told me a long time ago I was going to be important, but I didn’t believe her. To me, back then, being the leader of the Council didn’t seem important, and neither did anything else I might have done, because my father created worlds. Now I know that I could end up being the first Walker to be executed for something I have no control over.”
“You aren’t going to be executed, Anrai. We’ll work out how to get the Walkers to safety.”
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