The Fae Worlds

A Strange New World

The New Arrivals

Something I noticed more than I probably normally would have done was how warm Arlo was. There was an urge to simply let myself wrap around him, to steal that warmth, which I could only explain as related to the after effects of being in stasis for a long period of time. Him being an attractive man most definitely didn’t help, but I pushed those thoughts aside as best I could. I’d just met him. He was helping me a time when I was at me weakest, in so many ways, making it natural for me to feel the way I was feeling.
Galen being there helped to stop me from doing anything stupid. Instead I focused on doing what Penny said to do – put one foot in front of the other. Something once so simple was harder than I thought it could be. Was it related to how I’d been stuck in the stasis bay for at least a few hours after waking up? It seemed possible, although I didn’t know as much as the doctors would do.
Fortunately for me both Arlo and Galen were very patient with the time it took us to get to the entrance to the tent. I was less patient with myself. Having to rely on other people was something I’d never been good at. I didn’t have any other choice right then, and I let Arlo take a little more of my weight.
“We can take a break.” He studied me, the worry in his eyes obvious, even though I was a total stranger. “You shouldn’t push yourself too hard.”
“Arlo’s right, Jessie. We can stop whenever you need to, to give your body time to rest, because I can’t imagine what this is like to be going through.”
“Let’s keep going. I don’t want Penny to get it into her head she needs to drag me back to the bed.” I ran my tongue over my bottom lip, wishing I hadn’t left the water behind. “The muscles need to work to get back to where they were.”
“Make sure you say something if you need a break though.” Galen sounded stern, and I glanced at him. “I’ve got two children not too much older than you. Both of them have been known to push themselves harder than they should be. I have no reason not to think you’re inclined to make similar choices.”
Laughing, I nodded. “You aren’t wrong, but I promise you this won’t be one of those times. If I need to take a break I will.”
The look Arlo gave me as I focused on where we were going once more made me think he didn’t believe me for a moment. Ignoring it, doing my best not to smile because he was right, I managed to step through the entrance, seeing my new world for the first time. From what I could see it didn’t look too different to the one I’d left behind. The sky was blue, there was a single sun, and I almost felt like I was home. Only I wasn’t.
I could still smell burning metal, but it was mitigated by the freshness of the air. Stilling, I breathed in deeply, grateful I was still alive. Even though I wasn’t on the world I was supposed to be I was somewhere entirely new. A fresh start, away from the mistakes of the past.
From where we were I was able to see some of the town, as the hospital was at the top of a hill. “Where is the Paladin?”
“About ten minutes north of the hospital, on the other side of the hill.” Arlo tightened his grip on me slightly, and my mind turned to the fact he’d been able to carry me that far, making him probably one of the strongest people I’d ever met. “Once you’re doing a little better I’m happy to take you to see it.”
Nodding, I kept my eyes on the town. “Getting down the hill might be a little complicated.”
“Possibly, but we have options.”
Before I could say anything I’d been swept off my feet. “Arlo…”
Shaking his head, he looked at Galen. “Lead the way, Mayor.”
Galen, doing his best to hide his amusement, did exactly that. I led us down the hill, as I tried to work out how to argue I was fine to walk down the hill. Not that I was so sure I was. It was entirely possible I’d end up tumbling down it instead, but letting Arlo carry me was something I wasn’t exactly happy about. Letting him carry him from the Paladin was one thing. This was another entirely, especially as there were people walking around, who’s first impression of me would be coloured by what they’d seen.
Reaching what was likely to be the centre of town, right at the bottom of the hill, Arlo gently set me on my feet once more, his arm around my waist to make sure I didn’t end up collapsing. “Thank you. I think.”
Smiling, he looked at me. “You know as well as I do that was the better option. If you’d tumbled all the way down the hill Penny never would have forgiven me, and then you would have been forced back into the bed you’re trying so hard to avoid.”
“True.” I laughed. “Your logic wins. This time.” I took a few minutes to slowly look around where we were, seeing a number of whole buildings. “There’s less damage than I expected.”
“We’ve done a lot to get to where we are, Jessie.” Galen looked around himself. “Years of preparation went into being able to make the journey here, and we still have a lot more work to do. Our decision was to focus on this area first, before moving out, as this would give us a good base of operations.
“Our plan is to make this town a hub, for explorers to be able to go out from there to learn more about the world around us, especially as it’s likely there are going to be others from the Paladin scattered around. We don’t have a lot of information about the geography, and there are parts of it we know would have changed due to the war.” He raked a hand through his hair. “The easiest way to do this, I think, would be for you to come to town hall. I have some maps, to show you what we have here, along with all the plans we have for what’s to come next.”
Being able to sit in town hall was definitely the easier option for my legs. “Sounds good.”
“Great.”
Together the three of us walked toward one of the bigger buildings around the square, Arlo still taking more of my weight than I was really happy about, but arguing with him about it would likely be a waste of energy. He definitely appeared to be the sort of person who’d do anything to help those who needed it – even walking into the burning remnants of a crashed ship.
Opening the door, Galen stepped back to let us in first, and as we did I found we weren’t alone. Someone was sat behind what had to be Galen’s desk, staring down at something. He didn’t bother to look up when we walked in, entirely focused on whatever it was, scribbling down notes every so often.
“I think we should be focusing on some of these bridges first. Travelling by boat takes more time than simply being able to walk across a bridge.” He looked up them, probably thinking he’d purely been talking to Galen. “Oh, sorry, I didn’t realise you had company.” His eyes narrowed, as he studied us, before standing up, notebook in hand. “I’ll leave you to it.”
“No, stay. You being here is good luck.” Galen stepped further into the room. “Jessie, this is Mile, who’s been working with me on plans for the town for the last couple of years. Mile, this is Jessie. She’s a builder from another world. I’m hoping she’s going to be willing to help us work through the next steps.”
Mile, looking even more closely at me, nodded slowly, the uncertainty in his eyes obvious. “Are you sure you’re going to be physically capable?”
“Once the effects of being in stasis have worn off I have no reason to think I won’t be. I was given a place on the Paladin due to my skills, and I’d be more than happy to put them to use here. Arlo saved my life, at great risk to himself, so it’s really the least I can do.”
“It wasn’t great risk.”
Raising an eyebrow I looked at Arlo. “You walked onto a burning spaceship with no idea what you were going to find. I’d say that’s great risk.” I shook my head. “You can call it whatever you like, but I’m not certain I’d make that kind of decision myself.”
“Jessie’s right, Arlo.” Galen shook his head. “Don’t downplay what you did. I understand you simply see it as part of the job, but there was a risk to it, which was why I left it to you to make the decision.”
Arlo shook his head, laughing. “It is a part of the job. I did what anyone else would have done in my position.” He gently led me over to the chair in front of the desk. “Don’t even think about leaving this room until I’m back. I need to check to see what’s happening with the ship.”
Without giving me a chance to respond Arlo left the office, and I shook my head. “Is he like that with everyone?”
“Yes.” Galen grinned, as he sat in his chair, gesturing for Mile to pull up another. “It’s one of the reasons I asked him to come here, to be the leader of our defence force. Fortunately for us he agreed. Him being here today was more helpful than I can put into words, but he will be rewarded.”
Carefully, doing my best not to pull any of the tender muscles, I sat down, while Mile drew in one of the other chairs. “So, you were talking about bridges?” I looked at Mile. “I think this is the point where I need to look at a map in order to understand what it is we have here.”
“Of course.” Galen pushed the paper Mile was staring so intently at before into the middle of the table. “This is the map we have of the town, and some of the area surrounding it. We still have people going out further, to give us a better understanding of what it is we’re going to be looking at, but, for now, this is what we have.”
Running my tongue over my bottom lip I looked down at the map. It was hand drawn, but far better than I could have imagined any hand drawn map could have been. “Who made this?”
“I did.” I glanced at Mile. “Mapping’s part of the job.” He shrugged. “Once we know the lands further out safe I’ll be the first one out there, to be able to make the next part.”
“Honestly, it’s amazing.” I smiled, and, for the first time, he smiled too, the tiniest of dimples appearing in one cheek. “I couldn’t do something like this, but then I never needed to learn. Our maps had existed for years. This is…” I ran a finger over the lines. “I’m sorry. This is all very new to me.”
“Don’t be sorry.” Galen shook his head. “Let me get us all something to drink, and then we can begin talking about bridges. As you can see we have a river we’re going to need to cross. From what I’ve been told be several people, including Mile, it’s land where there are certain herbs growing we won’t be able to find anywhere else, and we could boost our farming land too.”

Lessons/A Conversation