The Fae Worlds

Gathering Together

Leaves crunched beneath him as Ryan rolled onto his side. For a moment he lay still, eyes closed. If his eyes were closed he could keep pretending everything was normal. Then, slowly, he opened them, to find he was actually lying on leaves. Reaching out with a hand he touched them. As he picked one up he stared at it.
Everyone heard stories about how fae magic could affect lives. Their arrival changed everything, in so many ways. Of course no one ever thought they’d be the one affected, and Ryan was no different. His life stayed the same, although people he knew found themselves with magical abilities making it impossible for them to live their lives the way they had before. Seeing them give up on their dreams made it all the more important for him to live his.
Magic changed more than people. As it became stronger it started to touch on those who didn’t have fae blood, by turning fictional worlds into something more. People would disappear to one of those worlds for a time, before returning home to tell stories of what they’d been through, and Ryan knew there was a chance it might happen to him. His life revolved around those fictional worlds, the same way his colleagues did, so giving it up, while not impossible, would have been complicated.
Breathing in deeply, telling himself it might have been better to have tried, he slowly sat up. Ryan was alone in an unknown forest, and, from the crunching of the leaves, it seemed to be autumn. Probably not the best of times for him to find himself… wherever he was. There was nothing to tell him anything more about where he was. Sighing, he stood, focusing on what needed to be done.
Those who talked about their journeys said it was often the last fictional world they’d connected with, but for Ryan it wasn’t an answer to his question. As a Let’s Player he’d been playing multiple games, with his colleagues, so it could be any one of them – and their enjoyment of survival games made it likely it was going to be something similar. Not that he, or any of the others, had any idea how to survive without going to a shop, because they had no reason to.
Running his tongue over his bottom lip Ryan slowly looked around himself, which was when he heard a sound coming from behind him somewhere. It was akin to a groan, and one he recognised, having heard it so many times in the past. Heading in that direction was the logical thing to do, but he stayed where he was, wondering if he should, considering how their last interaction went. Being able to play games together was one thing. Surviving on another world was something else entirely.
Having someone else there could only be a good thing… if they could set aside their issues for a time. Nibbling his bottom lip Ryan started walking, listening out for any more sounds, because if there were two of them there maybe it was possible there would be others. With the six of them together maybe they actually stood a chance of being able to survive. From what he’d read there were a lot of worlds where there would be someone there to guide them, but they were almost always RPGs rather than anything else, and with survival games it was a very different situation.
On reaching Darryl, who was looking around the forest with an expression Ryan was almost certain he’d also had, their eyes met for a moment. It was a moment where they both thought about the argument they’d had, before setting it aside. Whatever happened before was less important than what they were dealing with. They were on a world they knew nothing about. Like others in the past they needed to work out what their next steps were going to be.
“What were we playing most recently?”
Smiling, Ryan raked a hand through his hair. “Nothing that makes this simple.” He shook his head. “The last games we played were all survival, so I think we’re pretty much entirely on our own.”
“Yeah, I was thinking the same thing.” Darryl shrugged. “We know this isn’t a game, which means we need to focus on what we’d need to survive in real life, rather than go punching trees. Not that I’m not tempted by doing just that.”
Nodding, Ryan breathed in deeply. “First thing I think we need to do is go to see if we can find anyone else. With the two of us being here it’s possible the others are too. The magic could have dragged us all here.”
“I think we should stay together. Until we know this place a little better we can’t be certain what it is we’re going to be dealing with.”
Looking up for a moment Ryan found himself staring at the trees. “We also need to find somewhere we can see the sky, and get some idea of what time it is, because there is a chance it could be the middle of the day here.” He ran his tongue over his dry lips, thinking about the coffee he’d be drinking if it was a normal day, but even finding water was better than nothing. “Finding water needs to be the next step.”
“Water, then shelter. We have no idea what it’s going to be like at night. If it gets cold… well, worst happens we’ll have to snuggle up together.” They stared at each other again, and Darryl laughed. “If we have to we have to.”
Anything Ryan said would complicate things, so he turned instead, listening out for any sounds which might direct him to one of the others. There was nothing to say there was anyone else around, but it didn’t mean no one was, and finding them was the main priority. Shrugging, he looked back at Darryl, who sighed.
“Lead the way, Ry. The sooner we get an idea of whether there is anyone else here the better off we’re going to be. Maybe they’ve already gathered together somewhere. Maybe there is somewhere we can shelter, and they’ve already found it.”
Even though Ryan couldn’t help thinking Darryl’s thoughts were nothing more than wishful thinking, not something they would find was true, he started to make his way through the trees, still listening out for anyone who might be around. The thirst was something he noticed more than he’d done before. Of course anywhere else he’d have free access to water, so… he nibbled his bottom lip, wondering if he was being careful enough.
Then he heard a sound. It was more like a yawn than anything he thought he should be worried about, but Ryan still looked around, half hunting for a weapon. Following the yawn came a sigh, one he knew almost as well as he knew Darryl’s groan, and he glanced back to see Darryl smile. There was a relief in the look Ryan understood. With someone else there they had a buffer, and it was one of the best buffers they could have.
Making his way in the direction of the sound Ryan stepped into a clearing to find Michelle shaking her head. When she looked at him she raised an eyebrow. “This is not where I expected to wake up.”
“Neither of us did either.” He shrugged. “You okay?”
“Being with people should make this a little easier, but worlds like this…” She shook her head again. “My cousin travelled to another world, once, and he was the one who told me I should quit. I should find a different job, because I was tempting fate playing games all the time. He wasn’t wrong. I knew I was, only it was a part of me, and now…” Her eyes met with Ryan’s. “Tom didn’t like to talk about his experiences. He said it changed his life, and nothing more.”
“Changed his life how?” Darryl stepped closer, studying Michelle. “We’ve all heard stories about what happened to people when they found themselves on another world, but I didn’t know anyone, and knowing more… it might not help. I don’t know.”
“It probably won’t, but Tom… “ Michelle sighed. “He told me he built a life, because he didn’t have any other option, and to be torn away from that again… sometimes I think he never wanted to come back. When we talked he told me how he wished everything was different. How he dreamed of what was, more than he had done when he was there, and there were a couple of points when I thought he’d tell me he wanted to find a way back.”
“As much as I hate to say it I’m not surprised.” Ryan felt two sets of eyes on him. “We’ve been dragged to this world, and it means we have no choice but to learn to live here. If there’s anyone else who calls this world home then there’s a chance we might find someone we want to spend the rest of our lives with, and that… one way or another I’m almost certain we’re going to end up finding a way home. Probably right when we don’t want it, when we’ve built a new life, only to end up right back where we were before.”
Darryl shook his head. “I want to go home.”
“For now you do. Give it a year, and then see how you feel. In a year there’s a chance you won’t want to head back, because you’ve met someone you want to spend the rest of your life with, even if it’s obvious you shouldn’t.” Ryan shrugged. “All we can do is accept what’s happened.”
“The only man I want to spend the rest of my life with is back at home, Ry.” Darryl shook his head. “Do you think he’s going to move on too?”
“What other choice does he have, Dare?” Ryan’s eyes met with Darryl’s. “If we’re gone for a year, or two, or more…” He looked at Michelle. “How long did Tom say he was on the world he travelled to for?”
“Nearly a decade.”
“How long passed for you?”
“Eighteen months.” Michelle shrugged. “We’d started to believe he wasn’t going to come home. His girlfriend made the choice she couldn’t keep waiting after a year, and we didn’t hold it against her. Tom couldn’t imagine being with her when he did step back into his old life. The feelings he’d once had for her faded.”
“People are all different. I’m not Tom.” Darryl bit down hard on his lip. “Connor isn’t Tom’s girlfriend. This…” He shook his head. “No matter how long I’m here he’s going to wait for me.”
Michelle and Ryan shared a look. “Going over this isn’t helping. Whatever happens happens, and all we can do, for now, is work out how to survive.” Ryan put a hand on Darryl’s shoulder. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have brought it up, but…”
“You’re right. I can’t assume Connor is going to wait for me.” Darryl breathed in deeply. “I can’t assume I’ll head home the same person I am now.”
“None of us can.” Ryan sighed. “We’re here, it’s happened, and there’s nothing we can do to undo this. I’ve heard of people who tried, but from what I know it’s pretty much impossible.”
Nodding, Michelle turned in a circle. “Are we going to assume it’s just the three of us, or look for the others, because whatever we do we need to do it soon. I’m not willing to think anything about this will be easy, and we need to get out of this forest. At least enough for us to get a better idea of where it is we actually are.”
Darryl looked at his hand. “Certain games would have given us somewhere to start. A map, maybe, and some information.”
“Unless we’re on hard mode.” Ryan laughed. “It’s not as though we haven’t made the decision to do just that, multiple times, because we thought we were good enough.”
Both Michelle and Darryl stared at him like they very much wished he hadn’t said that, but the more he thought about the situation they were in the more likely it seemed the world would be like one they’d have chosen for themselves.
“Hopefully not.” Michelle sighed. “Let’s have a look for the others, and a way out of this forest. If they’re here we should find them soon enough.”
Letting Michelle lead the way Ryan followed them, thinking about the few things he knew about the worlds he’d heard of. With the game worlds there was often some way for people to learn what they needed to know, and there’d never been any talk about difficulty levels, because it was so different to the games. The worlds, thanks to the fae’s magic, became real, similar enough to those people knew.
As they made their way through the trees, listening out for the sounds of the others, Ryan ran his tongue over his bottom lip. “Do you think it’s possible they’re here, but they woke up somewhere else? We have had games where that’s happened. Two groups of three would make sense with this type of game, if I am right about it most likely being survival.”
Silence followed his words, and he took that to mean the others were thinking, especially when Darryl nodded. “I think you’re probably right.” He glanced back at Ryan. “The three of us, together, could easily survive anything we might come against in a game world. We’ve done it before. Our last gaming session was the three of us.”
Slowly, Ryan nodded, thoughts back on the argument they’d had after. How Darryl complained he wasn’t taking things seriously enough, and in a way he wasn’t. They were gaming for entertainment. It made sense, sometimes, to take things a little less seriously, but Darryl took everything they did seriously. It had just been the two of them in the beginning, building their channel. They’d been friends for a long time, since around the time Darryl found out one of his sisters had fae blood. He had fae blood too, albeit weaker than hers, so he’d never found the school.
Then again not a lot of people found the school. Some believed the fae were doing what they could to keep those who were mixed out, which was entirely possible. People who’d actually met the fae queen Willow said she was doing what she could to convince the fae they needed to do more for the people they’d affected. Ryan, having heard that from certain people he trusted, accepted that was probably the case – and it wasn’t easy for her to make happen.
Not that it mattered, or maybe it did. Was there a reason they were the ones to end up on another world? Was it due to the magic they had in their souls? Still following Michelle Ryan nibbled his bottom lip. There were those who said only people who had magic were going to find themselves on one of the fictional worlds, although the magic they had would never have been enough to affect them on Earth.
“What are you thinking about?”
Blinking, Ryan looked at Darryl. “Things I probably shouldn’t be.” He shrugged. “Like how people end up on these fictional worlds.”
“I keep thinking similar things. Why did this happen to us? Is there a reason for it? Could we have known it was coming before it actually happened, and found a way to stop it?”
“No.” Michelle’s voice was certain. “There was no way we could have stopped this, Dare. Everyone who’s been through something similar said there was no warning, and Willow herself has been looking into ways to stop it. From what I read she can’t stop it, as it’s one of those complicated changes that can happen when magic evolves in unexpected ways, but she is still trying.”
“How much do you know about Willow?” Ryan ran his tongue over his bottom lip, thinking of the articles he’d read back when the fae first arrived on the world. How Willow seemed to do everything she could to be open with people. “I stopped looking into the fae when I realised my life was mostly normal.”
“A lot of people made that choice. I didn’t. I thought it would help me to know what was going on, especially as I know there is some magic in the family. That magic might be stronger in my children than it is in me, so…” Michelle sighed. “Willow is fighting against a large majority who don’t like change. They hated travelling to Earth, but it got to the point where they didn’t have any other option. Now they’re doing what they can to control everything around them.”
Ryan nodded. “I had heard that. One of my cousins found her way into the fae school, not long after it first opened, and she talked about how hard it was for her to be human there. She had friends, fae who didn’t view her as lesser, but the majority of them did, so she eventually made the decision to leave it all behind.”
“Meaning all of us have family who have magic.” Darryl shrugged. “There are plenty who believe something like this can only happen to people who do have magic ‘in their souls’, not that I’m sure I believe in souls.”
For a long time Michelle was silent. Her shoulders were tense. Then, breathing in deeply, she glanced back at the two of them. “I do, but then it’s not hard to believe in something I’ve seen before.”
Darryl and Ryan shared a look. Michelle had been with the team for just over three years, but she’d always kept to herself. Ryan raked a hand through his hair again as he stared at her back. “You actually have magic, don’t you?”
“Yes, and no. It’s complicated, so I didn’t talk much about it, but as we’re here… well, maybe it can come in handy.”

The Neverending Forest