The walk back to the house that had been created for Mab, and her family, gave her a chance to see the world, and think about what had happened during the Council session. Athare didn’t seem all that different to the world they had left behind, but they had only seen a small part of it. She didn’t feel comfortable allowing any exploration until the Council decided how they would stop the fae from using up Athare’s magic. If something went wrong the first thing the fae would do was turn to their magic, which would mean using up some of the world’s supply, and their lack of knowledge was terrifying. Sighing, she looked at where the doorway had been just three days before, remembering the world she had been forced to leave behind, and reminded herself that she would not make the same mistakes again, or allow her people to.
For the first time ever Mab was the only Queen, because Willow had gone to Earth, and the others had made their choices. She hoped that they had found somewhere safe to take their people, but she couldn’t help thinking that very few of them would have made it out in time, because none of them had wanted to leave behind the world they had been born on. She shook her head. If she was honest with herself, which she should be, she knew it was because they didn’t want to believe, any more than she had, that the fae really had managed to use up all of the magic their world had held, and hadn’t stopped to think of some way to return it. They had been selfish.
Mab didn’t want to keep being selfish. People had died because of it, and because she had been scared of leaving behind what she knew. She bit her lip, trying to work out whether it was fear of the unknown that made her want to stop the Council from creating new worlds, and new races of people. Even if fear was part of the reason she still felt that creating people, especially whole races of people, was morally wrong, and they were once again being selfish. If she could find a way of putting her feelings into words she would have done, although it might mean that the elders would call an election to find a new Queen.
When Mab thought of not being Queen any longer she felt a sense of relief rather than anything else. After everything that had happened during her reign, especially the loss of her Council, she wasn’t sure she wanted to be Queen any longer, but at the same time she wasn’t sure she would feel comfortable with someone else being in her position. She shrugged, before realising that she was walking past people. When she looked around she was grateful no one was watching her. They were all too busy with their own lives to even notice that she was walking past them. In another place it would be different, but that already felt like another life.
After being elected as Queen Mab had imagined being in that position for the next fifty years, like all the Queens before her. Until the great disaster everyone had loved her, and her Council, because they’d done good things, but when the magic had started fading from the world she had failed everyone. So had her old elders. If she was going to move on, and find a new life for herself, then she wanted to be sure that the same thing could never happen again.
The fae didn’t know how to survive without using their magic. It really was that simple. All of the houses that had been built were made using magic, because no one had know how to do it any other way. They’d never needed to know other ways, because they’d never believed they could use up all the magic a world held. Mab wished that it was something they could just stop doing, but they didn’t have skills to replace the magic, so they had to work out how to create more of what they needed. She had talked about it before, with her old Council, and no one had been able to think of anything, which might have been a sign that the elders were too old for their positions. Her new Council had shown that she might be too old to be Queen by coming up with ideas that she had never thought of and probably never would have.
Slowly, Mab’s house appeared in the distance. It was opposite side of the glade to the Council hall, because she didn’t want to live close to what she considered work. She knew that living nearer to the Council hall would lead to her spending almost all her time working, instead of spending some much needed time with her family. They had all been damaged by her poor decision making too, and she felt she should make it up to them, because they had all trusted her judgement.
Unwanted tears welled up in Mab’s eyes. On the day she realised she’d made the wrong decision she knew she’d been the cause of… she shook her head. Her people had died because of her mistakes, she’d lost family members, and she would live with that every day of her life. As one trickled down her cheek she felt their loss more keenly than she had before. It was something that should never have happened, and wouldn’t have if she’d listened to Willow, but Willow was young, a Princess, and Mab felt she was better able to understand their world. Knowing that she had been wrong hurt, but what hurt more was the way she had been so dismissive of Willow, telling her that only older fae could possibly understand their world properly.
Thinking of the young Princess who had been braver than Mab had, because Willow hadn’t buried her head in the sand, made it obvious that it was Mab’s turn to be brave and make choices she would never have made before. It was unlikely that her elders would ever have brought up ideas that she didn’t agree with, but the new group of elders were entirely different. Maybe, if her elders had survived, they would have been just as angry with her. She just couldn’t see them even contemplating the idea of creating new worlds and new races to live on them, so the fae would be able to use as much magic as they wanted. Allowing it to happen felt wrong because they were being selfish, even though there didn’t seem to be any other option, but she couldn’t walk away from the young group of elders. Without her there she could easily imagine them taking things too far, and she wasn’t entirely sure that her presence would stop them.
Mab brushed a hand through her hair. Was her only option really to go along with the plan that her new elders had come up with? It was, sadly, a plan that did make a lot of sense. The more she thought about it the more certain she was that creating other worlds, and placing races on them that would create the magic the fae desperately needed, was a good idea, but she had this niggling doubt in the back of her mind, which wasn’t due to what they were possibly going to be doing. No, the doubt was caused by her people. Right at that moment they were all terrified. After coming so close to extinction all they wanted to do was survive and that was understandable. She felt the same way some days. Yet that fear was going to fade away. They’d become comfortable again, complacent, maybe even start to think that they couldn’t possibly destroy their new world the way they had the old one.
If they wanted Athare to survive they were going to have to do something different. Should that something different be create other worlds? Who would be involved? Mab had so many questions that she couldn’t answer alone, but fortunately the one person she truly trusted was going to be at home. Seward was the only person who’d never berated her for the decisions she’d made, because he knew how hard they’d been for her, and more than once she’d gone to him in tears, wishing that she wasn’t Queen at such a difficult time. Handfasting had never been something she’d really wanted to do, so the day it had happened she felt as though she was making a huge mistake, until she, slowly, started falling in love with him… and when that happened they really started to have a relationship.
As she walked in the door her eyes met his. “How did it go?” Seward asked, and it was easy to hear the worry in his voice. He hadn’t wanted her to go alone to the meeting, but she knew she’d need the time to think on the walk back.
“Better than I thought it would. They all hate me, which is to be expected, but they were willing to talk to me.” Mab shrugged. “Well, maybe it was more telling me what their plans were and expecting me to go along with them, which wasn’t going to happen, not after everything I’ve been thought to get to this point.”
“What are their plans?”
“The Blue elder thinks we should create another world…”
“She wants to create another Benira and Lorasia.” Mab stared at Seward blankly. “It wasn’t something our fae did, but we weren’t the only group with the ability to create worlds. They were experimenting with what they could do with the magic of creation, at a time when they had no idea it was possible for us to do something like that, and somehow they ended up creating two connected worlds. Unfortunately I don’t know very much about what happened, otherwise I’d be able to tell you more.”
“Why was I never told about that?”
“Our race likes to forget the mistakes they made. I was lucky enough to find a journal in Father’s attic when I was younger, written by someone who’d actually been a part of the creation of the twinned worlds, but Father found it and destroyed it. At the time I didn’t dare ask him why, because he was so angry when he realised what I’d been reading, and after that it became harder and harder to bring it up, even though I wanted to know why he felt the way he did.”
“Do you know about any other worlds?”
“I wish I did. You have no idea how much I’d like to be able to help you.” Seward nibbled his bottom lip. “There is something I worry about though.”
“From what you said the elder’s plan is to create another world.”
Mab nodded. “It’s a very vague plan. She needs to talk to her family to see what options they have, and I can’t help thinking she’ll return in the morning with something bigger.”
“One world doesn’t make sense. Not in this context. Right now we have one world, a world that has a magic core, and that world only has a certain amount of magic within it. If you were to create another world you’d double the magic, but the problem would be balancing it. Say this world is getting low, so it takes some from the other world, which leaves that world low… and the other think you have to take into consideration is the races of these worlds. We’re going to need more than us, there are going to have to be people on the other world, but there are no guarantees that we’ll be able to create the right races.” He sighed. “You’re going to need to create something more. It can’t just be a world, or two worlds…”
“I don’t know for certain. This sort of thing isn’t something I know as much about as I like, but I do understand magic. With this sort of thing you’re going to end up making a web, of sorts, so the magic flows around it in such a way that none of the worlds become unbalanced, because if the worlds become unbalanced you’re going to end up with a bigger problem than you had with Kalinia.”
“Okay…” Mab sighed. “Fancy coming with me tomorrow?”
“Not really, but I’ll come if you want me to. The Blues should be able to explain this better than I could, because they’re the ones with the ability to be able to create things, and if the elder has any sense she’ll ask Riordan to talk to you. Before we left Kalinia he’d created this city in a box, to test out what he could do with his abilities, and Bronwen, a Yellow who has more skill than she was ever permitted to use, made him a race of people to live there. So, hopefully, the elders will ask them for help explaining what it is they need to do to protect our new world from the same fate Kalinia had.”
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