The Fae Worlds

A New World

There was a light. I remember that better than anything else. I felt it drawing me towards it, in such a way I knew I wouldn’t have been able to stop what was coming from happening, and then I stepped into it. I glanced over my shoulder, at the car in the ditch and my body. I was dead, so, logically, wherever I found myself must have been the afterlife. Yet, when I looked around, I found I was surrounded by tall trees, which made me think I was in a forest… and I definitely wasn’t expecting there to be a forest in the afterlife. Slowly I looked around, trying to work out where I was. At the same time I wasn’t entirely certain I wanted to know. I was definitely dead. I couldn’t have survived the crash.
Breathing deeply, doing my best to calm myself, I tried not to think about what had happened. As I moved myself into a more comfortable position I realised I was sitting with my back against the tree, like I’d been sleeping there. When I stretched I realised I had truly been sleeping there… or the body I’d found myself in had been. The dress I definitely hadn’t been wearing. Feeling even more unsure than I had been before I stood. My body felt different. I was shorter, for a start, and my hands were very different. I ignored the tears I felt building up. I’d never been much of a crier, and that wasn’t going to change just because I’d found myself in another body after I’d died in a car crash. Instead I told myself sternly to be thankful I had another chance. I wasn’t dead.
I heard the sound of hooves. Hooves told me someone was riding in the forest, but that didn’t mean they were going to be riding anywhere near me. I wasn’t certain if I wanted them to come closer, or if I wanted them to keep their distance. I knew I didn’t know enough about wherever I was to be able to pretend I was meant to be there. Finding the words to explain to anyone I’d been in a car crash, especially if there were no cars where I was, would be impossible. Sighing, I tried to work out what my next step was going to be. I didn’t know where I was. I didn’t know how big the forest was. I didn’t know if the rider would be friend or foe. Just as I’d made the decision I was going to start walking the rider crashed through the trees, almost colliding with me.
“So sorry, my lady.” He slipped off the horse far more elegantly than I thought anyone wearing armour could. “I have been looking for you.” No reply would be the right one, so I kept my mouth shut. “When Lennon saw your arrival he sent me straight out, because we know this is never an easy thing to deal with. I am Sir Peter, of Astora, your new home.”
Words failed me, right when I needed them the most. “I’m where?”
“Astora, my lady.”
“Please stop calling me that.” I shook my head. I couldn’t be in Astora. Astora didn’t exist. “How did I come to be here?”
“Lennon asked me to leave the explanations to him. He understands all of this far better than I do. I’m just here to make sure you get to where you need to be.”
“Until I know what’s going on I’m not going anywhere. This is impossible.”
“Nothing is impossible.” Sir Peter, if that really was who he was, smiled at me. “I understand this is hard for you to accept, but you aren’t the first to arrive here. We know Astora is fictional in your world.”
His words told me what had happened. There was only one explanation as to how I’d ended up in a fictional world. I probably should have been dead. Maybe being dead would have been better. I studied him. He didn’t seem bothered by the way I was acting, which made me think he’d greeted others like me, and yet that didn’t help at all. Fae magic had tossed me onto another world. Was that better than being dead? Probably not to the people who found my body, but… I brushed a hand through my hair. Okay, I was in another world, and I could deal with that. I could. I was alive. I had a chance to live a life, even if it wasn’t my own. I tried to force away the emotions that were doing their best to escape. That wasn’t going to happen. Not when there was a total stranger in front of me.
“Okay. I guess you can take me to wherever it is I need to be.”
“Take your time. I know this isn’t easy for you.”
“No, it’s not, but I need answers more than I need time right now. Time can come later.”
“Your wish is my command.” I could tell he wanted to call me ‘my lady’, but he kept stopping himself. “Do you know how to ride?”
“Fortunately for both of us I have some experience.” I managed to smile at him. “Thank you for coming to get me.”
“You’re very welcome.”
Slowly, glancing back to see my car and body had disappeared, I made my way over to Sir Peter’s horse. It had been patiently waiting for the two of us. At least that meant I wasn’t going to have to worry about it throwing me. The last horse I’d been on decided he really didn’t like me all that much. He tossed me off, like I weighed nothing at all, and it had led to me spending six weeks in plaster while I waited for my broken leg to heal. I was supposed to be having my first ride since it happened. Instead I’d somehow crashed my car into a tree. Even though I tried my best I couldn’t remember how it had happened. All I knew was that one minute I’d been on the road, and the next… I pushed the thought aside. Maybe the light I saw didn’t mean anything.
“Would you like any help?”
“No, thank you.”
Feeling like all I really wanted was a car I mounted the horse. I settled myself behind the saddle, and waited for Sir Peter to get himself comfortable before I took hold of the cantle. As he had armour on I didn’t want my fingers to get trapped. Really, after the day I’d had, a hot chocolate in my bed would have been nice. That wasn’t going to happen. It was entirely possible I was never going to see my own bed again, or my apartment, or my friends, or my family, or the man who was beginning to become something more to me than I believed he could be… I pushed those thoughts away. Nothing I was doing was going to help. I needed to focus on something else. Anything else.
“Tell me more about Astora.”
“My lady…” He shook his head. “I’m sorry. I should have asked you name before. Would you be willing to share it with me?”
“Moira.” At least it was in Astora, and that was the name I was more comfortable using there. “I understand why you’d forget. This has been an unusual day.”
“It has, Moira.” He didn’t sound comfortable using my name, but I needed him to stop calling me ‘my lady’, even though I could understand why he would be. If I was my character from Astora then it would be my title. I’d refused to use it during all the games we’d played, and that wasn’t going to change. “Normally Lennon would come himself. You were, unfortunately, further out than normal, so he sent me instead. He thought it would be better for you if you got to safety as quickly as possible.”
For the first time I glanced up at the sky. It was far closer to sunset than I thought it should be. How long had I been sleeping? “I appreciate that.”
“Would you like me to tell you more about the world itself, where you are, or Lennon?”
“Lennon.” My mouth answered for me before my brain could. “If you’re permitted to tell me more about him that is.”
“All he asks is that I don’t try to explain why you ended up here.” Sir Peter sounded amused. “Lennon is my liege. We’ve been helping new arrivals to Astora ever since we found out what was happening. He, like most of the nobility in this country, has abilities I don’t. That’s how he knew you were going to arrive today.”
“He didn’t know exactly where I would be?”
“No, he didn’t, just that you were a certain distance away. By the time I reached you I’d been searching for over an hour, but most of that was going around in circles. We only have so much information to go on, and he’s one of very few people who can tell when a new arrival will turn up, so he does his best to make sure we’re always where we’re needed. With you it was luck. Normally we get some warning. You gave us none. One moment you were on your home world. The next you were here.”
I bit my lip hard. As it wouldn’t take us long to get to Lennon I wasn’t going to start crying. I needed to be able to speak to him without looking like I felt. Holding back the tears was harder than it ever had been before, but I managed it. Somehow. “You haven’t told me all that much about Lennon, Sir Peter.”
“That’s true. Lennon is… he’s much like you, actually. He won’t let me use his honorific, and he never has. I know he hates being who he is, which is why he made the decision to leave everything he knew behind to help the new arrivals, and I wasn’t going to let him do that alone. We’ve been friends since we were children. I believed our relationship would change as he got older, but it hasn’t. Instead he’s done his best to keep it the way it always was. In some ways I’m grateful for that. He is one of the people I am closest to.
“Being out here does mean he’s in more danger than he would be if he’d stayed home. He doesn’t care about that. All he cares about is being there for those who need him. Finding out he is the heir to a rather large Duchy can surprise some people, because he doesn’t look like the Marquess of Riona. Out here it’s better he doesn’t. It keeps him a little safer if no one knows who he is, so only those who need to know are told, and you need to know, considering who you are, my lady.” Sir Peter glanced over his shoulder. “He didn’t know. This is not something he would have wanted, but life doesn’t always give us what we want.”
“No, it doesn’t.” I ran my tongue over my dry lips. “Who am I?”
“Lady Moira Trevalyan, Countess of Fionnair. You know that as well as I do.”
“True, but I had to double check. I couldn’t just assume.”
“You make a good point.”
“How well is this meeting likely to go?”
“Lennon is not his father, which is definitely a good thing in this situation, because his father would have tossed you in the nearest jail. I’m not saying you don’t deserve that, but it’s not fair of us to blame her actions on you.”
A bubble of laughter escaped me. “If you’re talking about the actions I was very much a part of, as I created Lady Moira Trevalyan, you’d be wrong not to blame me for her actions.”
“Some of what she did I’m certain has something to do with you, but others… I have trouble seeing you as a murderer, Moira.”
My amusement faded. “Who did she murder?”
“I think Lennon should probably explain that. This conversation might have gone further than it should have done.” The walls of a house seemed to be coming closer. “He’s going to have weakened the wards to let you through. When he realises who you are he will strengthen them again. Should you go through them with me there’s unlikely to be a way out. You need to make a decision now as to whether that’s what you want to do.”
“You’re giving me a choice?”
“It could turn out to be a mistake, but I don’t believe it is. You aren’t her. I could tell that from the moment I met you. I believe you’re a thief. I believe you’ve learnt certain illegal magics. I don’t believe for a moment you’ve ever killed someone. As that’s the case I don’t want you to get trapped due to ignorance.”
“Whatever she did I need to accept. I have her body now. Everyone who sees me is going to think I’m her.” I shook my head. “I have a feeling Lennon might be my only chance of staying out of jail, so I think I’m going to take my chance with him. I know what can be out there. I know what I might have to fight, and I’m not capable of doing that right now, because I’m not her.”
“Lennon is just. He will give you a chance. Others might not. You’re going to have to be ready for that.”
Going through the wards was one of the strangest feelings. Magic was very different when it was real. It tingled throughout my body even when we were past them, and I hoped I wouldn’t have to go through them again. Sighing, I tried to work out what I would say to Lennon, in the hope he really would give me a chance. If Sir Peter was wrong… we clattered into a courtyard. Well, it was too late to worry too much, because my decision was made. All I could do was accept that. Breathing deeply, trying to let go of the mix of emotions I was feeling, I slipped off the horse. Parts of me ached that hadn’t ached for a very long time, and I think I would have collapsed if it hadn’t been for the man who caught me, who, when I looked at him, just happened to be Lennon Rossiter, the Duke of Riona.
“Now this is interesting.” He smiled at me. “Lady Moira. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Is it?”
“We both know you aren’t her, exactly. None of the others have been exactly who they should have been either. It’s to be expected.”
“Then you don’t think I’m a murderer?”
“I’m sorry, Lennon. It came up in conversation. I should have left that to you, but Moira needed something to take her mind off everything, and I said more than I expected to.”