The Fae Worlds

Changes

More About Stormrock

As I reached town hall I glanced back, to see Arlo was already holding Jessie in his arms. Smiling, I shook my head, remembering all the times he’d been there to help me. Pushing the door open I stepped inside, the same way I had back when we first arrived in Stormrock. Only it was a very different situation. Instead of walking into a room which almost looked the way it might have done back before the war I’d found myself in darkness. Had it only been the darkness I wouldn’t have worried too much. The growling from the corner was something else entirely.
Fortunately Arlo was right behind me. Had he not been I dread to think what might have happened. I’d never thought about learning how to defend myself, because before then I hadn’t needed to. Yet, on learning what Galen wanted me to do, it was exactly the thing I should have done. Until I was face to face with the first of the monster we’d need to deal with I’d never accepted how bad it could be out so far from Erith.
Being there to see the very worst of things gave me a very quick wake up call, one some of the others hadn’t had, even though there’d been a couple of times when their deaths were closer than they realised. I’d seen Arlo fight before then, as travelling across country made it inevitable. Seeing him in such a tiny space, dealing with the wolf-like creature so easily, I understood why he was chosen to be the leader of the Stormrock Defence Force. He was exactly who we needed.
The two of us had our first chance to really get to know each other then, and had we met in Erith I doubt we’d have become friends. As it was the relationship we forged was purely thanks to Stormrock. Being somewhere so different gave us a chance to really see how we could work together to build the town into something truly amazing.
It was possible, in the early days, to see his doubts. Arlo didn’t believe yet Stormrock was anything more than a broken down town. From some of what we talked about I knew there were those in his life who’d put doubts into his mind, although he’d never really given any details until the conversation with Jessie. I’d worked to put those doubts to rest. Rebuilding Stormrock was going to be one of the hardest things any of us had done. Our success would rely entirely on us working together.
There were times in the past when things went wrong due to the inability of those involved to work together. I was beginning to see us having the same issues thanks to Theo and Franklin, because they were so certain they knew better than me, thanks to the number of times they’d worked on similar projects. Getting them to listen was an impossibility. When they looked at me I knew they saw someone too young to have the job Galen gave me. They saw someone they could ignore, as they knew better than than they ever could.
Standing in front of the desk I let the emotions sweep through me. Everything was different, thanks to the unexpected arrival of the Paladin. Jessie would work with me. I raked a hand through my hair, breathing a deep sigh of relief, before I took the time to gather up the maps I’d been working on. Galen was more than happy for me to spend hours at his desk scribbling down different ideas, as I tried to work out what was going to be best for Stormrock. He had his own ideas I was doing my best to work in, because it wasn’t only my vision that mattered.
Hopefully Jessie would be able to add more. Maps in hand I went to leave, to find someone standing outside the door. Theo stared at me for a long time. I’d never much liked him, and I didn’t think he liked me much either, so he’d probably been hoping for Galen. Eventually he gave me a very forced smile.
“Galen about?”
“Not currently. Was there something you needed?”
“People have been wondering about the crash.” Theo moved from one foot to the other. “How it’s going to affect Stormrock.”
“Our Defence Force is there, making certain the site is safe, and for now we have no more details to share.”
Nodding slowly, Theo glanced at the hospital. “Are there people from the crash in the hospital?”
“Like I said, Theo, we have no more details to share. Galen will by sharing what he knows when he believes it’s the right time, but, for now, all you need to know is we have it under control.”
Before Theo could say anything more I walked away. I wasn’t surprised someone had come to ask what was happening. Everyone heard the crash, and Arlo took it from there. Had it been anyone else things might have worked out differently, especially when he realised there were people alive, but he’d made the decision the best thing to do was help them. I didn’t think for a moment he was wrong. Others were likely to disagree.
Fortunately Galen also agreed with Arlo’s choice. He’d have made the same one, if it was up to him, and I was almost certain if Arlo hadn’t done what he did he’d no longer be the leader of the Defence Force. Anyone who walked away from a group of people who needed help wasn’t the kind of person we wanted in Stormrock. They definitely weren’t the kind of person we wanted to be in charge of the Defence Force. Instead we had a man who was willing to be the legs of our new builder, whether she wanted him to be or not.
They were sitting on one of the walls at the back of town hall. Jessie was looking in the direction of the sea, although it wasn’t quite possible for her to see it from where she was. If I was right there was a time when Stormrock was a sprawling town. Unfortunately for us the war took more of it than I could have imagined. History said the ports were hit hard in the early days of the war, even if they tried to declare themselves neutral.
“What, exactly, do we have to deal with between here and there?” Jessie glanced at Galen, but I could tell she was mostly direction the question at Arlo, because he was the one who knew better than the rest of us what the situation was. “I’m assuming it’s not simply going to be a case of building from here to there.”
Shaking his head, Arlo stood, looking out to sea the same way Jessie was. “Our history talks little about how the monsters came to be created. I believe it’s because we don’t know, but we are certain they were, probably by one of the artificial intelligences as their warriors. They were sent out into the world to kill and destroy. It’s what they still do now.
“Choosing to protect ourselves underground was really the only option we had. Unfortunately it did give the monsters the freedom to breed, leading to there being huge numbers of them in certain areas.” He sighed. “We don’t know much about the other countries, although we know there was a time there were others. Different alliances came together to try to defeat the artificial intelligences, only it was never enough, even when they were more focused on trying to destroy each other. In reality we were nothing more than collateral damage.
“It’s still what we are now. We believe, at least based on current information, the artificial intelligences did manage to destroy each other. There is a chance we’re wrong. One or more might be left, and the time may come when we have to fight the same war our ancestors did. I hope not. Due to what happened we’re in a much weaker position, so it’s even less likely we’d be able to win.”
“Being ready in case we’re wrong is the main research research is being done into old technologies.” I walked over to join the three of them as I spoke, and Jessie gave me a smile. “Not that I honestly believe it’s going to help. Knowing how they did things doesn’t mean we’re ever going to be able to copy it, especially with how much was lost. Sometimes it seems more like it would be a case of making things up in the hope it’s how things were done before.
“Personally I believe we need to find a different way. Our own one, possibly learning how to use our own technology, but if it does happen it’s going to be far in the future.” I shrugged. “Theo was waiting as I came out of the town hall with the maps. He wanted to know more about the Paladin, so I told him the Defence Force was making certain things were safe, we had it under control, and you’ll share more information when you’re ready to.”
Galen raked a hand through his hair. “Yes, I should have expected that, but with everything happening…” He looked at Jessie. “If you’ll be okay with Arlo and Mile I should start working out what I am going to say about the crash.”
“Of course I will be.” Jessie studied him. “You’re going to be okay?”
“Don’t worry about me, Jessie. This is simply part of the job.” He stood, looked at Arlo. “Stay with her, unless you need to go back to the Paladin. I want her to be safe.”
Nodding, Arlo smiled. “That was already the plan.”
“Good.” Galen nodded to Jessie. “I’ll be back as soon as I can. If you’re feeling capable of it I’d like you to join me when I talk to the town, along with Arlo. Seeing you, and how normal you are, should help to quell any panic, and I’ll also send a messenger to Erith as soon as I can. They need to know it’s possible there are others out there who might need our help.”
“I’ll do whatever I can to help.”
“Thank you. I appreciate it.” Galen’s eyes met with mine. “You made the right choice. Theo didn’t need to know anything more right then. If he complains about it I’ll deal with it.”
“He’s going to complain, mostly because he doesn’t like me. Every time he does it’s because he’s doing whatever he can to get you to fire me.”
“Which isn’t going to work.” He rested his hand on my shoulder. “I chose you, Mile, and until you make the decision you’re ready to move on you’re the person I want by my side.”
Stepping over to where Galen was sitting I nodded. “I know.” I took the spot next to Jessie, the maps on my lap, so the two of us could go through them together. “I’m not worried. More annoyed. This would all be so much easier if he’d accept I’m not going anywhere, but neither of them will.”
“Possibly not. They have their choices to make, and I have mine.”
Looking over I watched him walk away. Galen deserved better from the people he chose to join him in Stormrock. Then, shaking my head, I turned back, to find Arlo was studying me. “I’m fine.”
“You sure? I know it’s been hard for you.”
“Whatever happens I know Galen’s got my back. It could all be much worse. There have been times when I’ve had this problem, and not had someone there to support me, so this is better.” I looked at Jessie. “I’m still too young to a lot of people to be doing this job, including our two builders.”
“Been there.” She smiled, resting a hand on my shoulder. “I learnt the best way to deal with it was to buddy up with the younger architects, which meant they’d teach me things they probably shouldn’t and I’d teach them the same, so we could deal with anyone looking down on us with both our knowledge and friendship. This will be no different.”

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