The Fae Worlds


Waking up was more difficult than normal. Kestrel blinked a couple of times before attempting to move. It almost felt like she had a hangover, but she knew she hadn’t gone out drinking the night before. All she could remember clearly was going to the library, and then there was a fuzzy blank. Slowly she sat up. At first she just wanted to lie back down to get rid of the headache.
Then Kestrel realised she was in a room she’d never been in before. Breathing deeply, she slipped off the bed, her unexpectedly bare feet touching carpet. There was no doubt in her mind something bad happened. Nowhere was safe, so she was normally careful. Obviously she hadn’t been careful enough. There was no need to try to be silent as she explored, because the carpet soaked up all sound.
Kestrel was certain someone would be outside the door, even if it was open, but that didn’t stop her from trying the handle. When she found the door locked, the next option was one of the windows. To her surprise the first opened. For a moment she thought it would be easy. Until she looked down, to find she was on the third floor, and there was nothing to help her down. Sighing, she stepped away from the window. If she tried to jump she’d probably break something, so she needed a rope or something to help her climb down.
Leaving the window open Kestrel started searching the room, ignoring her headache as much as she could. The quilt was uncovered, as was the pillow, and there was no sheet on the mattress. There was nothing in the wardrobe, or the chest of drawers. If she wanted to make a rope she’d have to make it out of her own clothes, which would never be long enough. She went back over to the window, staring out into the darkness, wondering where she was and how long she had been there. When she’d left the library it was just before sunset.
Dawn came sooner than she expected, but she was grateful for the light. It gave her a chance to see where she was. The first thing she saw, because it was impossible to miss something so big, was the wall surrounding the gardens. Her heart sank. Down from the window, and then across the garden, to a wall that was at least two stories high. Escaping was going to be hard, unless her captors made a mistake.
Sighing, Kestrel knew it was unlikely they’d make a mistake, because the wall told her everything. When she saw someone in the garden she backed away from the window, not wanting anyone to see her. It took her a minute to realise how illogical the feeling was. Everyone in the house probably already knew she was there, as it was an achievement for anyone to capture a Hollower.
Instead of feeling any anger, Kestrel felt disappointed with herself. Falcon would be angry enough for both of them. She couldn’t stop herself from shuddering when she thought of him raging around his study, and planning ways to get her back. The last thing she wanted him to do was come after her because that would make things a hundred times worse. He needed to stay away. Breathing deeply, she sat down on the floor at the end of the bed. It didn’t take her long to enter the meditative state she needed to be in to contact him. Long hours of practice made it easier than walking.
The only thing Kestrel could do was send herself to him, because she wasn’t at a high enough level to contact him telepathically. If she was male she would be, but as far as Falcon was concerned green level was more than high enough for a nineteen-year-old female. That hadn’t stopped her trying though. Shaking her head, she focused once more, and found she couldn’t go anywhere. Opening her eyes, she stared at the wall for a moment, hoping that it was her problem rather than the room being magic proof. She thought about Falcon, knowing she needed desperately to contact him before he found out where she was, and again nothing happened.
“Do you really think that he’s stupid?” A voice startled her, coming from the door. “The last thing Heliopath would do is let you contact Falcon.”
Leaning back against the bed, trying to seem calm, Kestrel looked at the man who stood with his back to the closed door. She ran her eyes over him, so she could remember him when she escaped. The first thing she noticed was the colour of his eyes. Bright green, sparkling with amusement. There was no doubt she’d remember him the next time she saw him, unless he changed the colour of his eyes. The rest of him was mundane in comparison. He was wearing black, which was normal for a mage, without any symbol to tell her what level he was. She didn’t expect them to make it easy for her, so she guessed he was above red level.
“Magic proof rooms are expensive.”
“Heliopath values his life.” He smiled. “Not that you’re any real threat to him.”
A green level mage wasn’t dangerous to anyone. The most Kestrel was able to do, even though she was very good at it, was send herself in spirit form to talk to someone. She could create illusions, and she could scry. It wasn’t until she reached a higher level she’d be a threat to anyone. Not that it seemed likely. Falcon wanted to keep her safe, and to him it meant not learning anything too dangerous. What they viewed as dangerous were two very different things.
“I don’t need magic to be a threat.”
His smile grew. “Do you really think this…” He brandished the dagger Falcon gave her as a thirteenth birthday present. “…would do anything at all?”
Kestrel laughed coldly. “If I stuck it in Heliopath he’d be dead in seconds.”
Being a green level mage wasn’t enough for Kestrel. It never had been. Instead of getting angry at the system she chose to use her time wisely. Magic wasn’t the only way to kill someone, but it was the one used most often. If a black level mage threw a death spell, even from a distance, the person they aimed it at would die instantly. Not that many people reached the highest level. It took too much out of a person to use so much power. She knew she was unlikely to ever reach black, or any of the top levels, so she focused instead on learning about other ways of killing. The man by the door looked thoughtful.
“What did you use on the blade?”
“Do you think I’m stupid?”
An instant later the blade close to her throat, but not quite touching. “You can tell me, or I can kill you. It’s as simple as that.”
The only sounds in the room became that of the two of them breathing. Kestrel wasn’t sure whether to believe he’d kill her. He sounded deadly serious, but she couldn’t see Heliopath being very happy one of his people killed someone who could be used as leverage against Falcon.
“You don’t need to be alive.” He whispered into her ear, letting the dagger touch her skin. “You’ll be just as useful dead. Falcon won’t know we’ve killed you until it’s too late.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier to just kill me then?”
“Heliopath thinks you could be useful, in time.”
“It will take a lot of time.”
“If that’s true I really should kill you.”
Kestrel didn’t particularly want to die, but the thought of death didn’t terrify her enough to make her give in. “Maybe you should.”
There was a moment when she thought he really would just kill her, and then he took the knife away from her throat. Kestrel managed to stop herself checking to make sure the blade hadn’t nicked her, no doubt he was a professional with a dagger, making certain he didn’t see any weakness in her. When he stepped back, a smirk on his lips, her eyes met his for a second, seeing the amusement flash once more. The dagger was still in his hand.
“I think I’ll enjoy making you one of ours.”
“Do you really think you’ll be able to?”
“Yes, Kestrel, I do.” He slipped her dagger into a small sheath at his side. “There’s no real reason for you to be loyal to Falcon, and the people of the Hollow. If you work with us we can teach you magic you wouldn’t learn there.”
“Magic isn’t that important.”
“Have you ever spent longer than a day not doing any magic at all?” She shook her head, not understanding what he was getting at. “I’ll be back tomorrow.”
Without saying another word he left the room, and Kestrel was alone again. She knew he had some knowledge she didn’t. Something about magic. Not that it surprised her, because there was so much she didn’t know, thanks to Falcon. Pushing those thoughts to the back of her mind, being angry with him wasn’t going to help, she focused on what she’d learnt during the short meeting with Heliopath’s messenger.
Like everyone else Kestrel knew Heliopath collected strong mages. It was what he’d done from the moment he had appeared in town from out of nowhere. There was no reason for him to go after her, because she wasn’t a strong mage, so it was obvious someone got lucky, and he’d decided to use her to get to Falcon. Falcon was a brown level mage, making him stronger than any other mage in the town, other than Heliopath. Heliopath, it seemed, either wanted Falcon on his side, or dead. If anyone knew who she really was then she’d be an even better hostage, but as it was she was the only person who knew what lengths Falcon would go to in order to free her from Heliopath’s clutches.
There was only one thing she could do. It wasn’t a very safe idea, but then not a lot of things she did were particularly safe. Feeling better for having come up with a plan, Kestrel went over to the window. As she looked down at the ground she felt slightly nauseous. The feeling faded after thirty seconds, making it possible for her to climb out to sit, as well as she could, on the tiny windowsill, with her hands clinging on either side of her. Breathing deeply, she let herself drift into her meditative state. She had just created her sending, which was much more difficult than normal considering the fact she had to try to keep away from the magic proofing, when she got dragged backwards off the windowsill and into the room. Her eyes met a green pair that were full of anger.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
Kestrel rolled her eyes. “Contacting Falcon.”
He stepped over her, and slammed the window shut. She watched him lock both windows, wondering idly what might happen if she did try to stop him. Sighing, Kestrel sat up, wondering why he was bothered by the idea of her falling off the windowsill. Less than half an hour before he’d been threatening to kill her with her own dagger.
“Is Falcon really that important to you?” Kestrel just looked at him. “We’ve contacted him already, he knows where you are, and he knows you’re safe. If he joins us you’ll be sent safely back to the Hollow.”
“Falcon would rather die than join Heliopath.”
“It’s not his life at risk any more. If he doesn’t join us by the equinox you die.”
“He won’t join to save my life.” She hoped he wouldn’t at least. “I’m really not that important in the grand scheme of things.” Sometimes she honestly believed she wasn’t in any way important to Falcon, so it wasn’t even a lie. “If you’re lucky he might send someone else to try to get me out, but that’s probably the most you’re going to get.”
He stared at her for a long time. “We’ll see, Kestrel. There’s time for things to change. The equinox is some time away yet.”
Without saying anything more he left the room. She didn’t have any idea who he was. Not a lot was known about the inhabitants of the Grey Gardens before Heliopath took over, as they kept their distance from everyone else, but she knew a little about the people who were closest to him, from the work Falcon had done since the new mage’s arrival. He didn’t seem to be any of them, and yet he had to be. Unless… Kestrel shook her head. It wasn’t going to be Heliopath, taking time out of his day to threaten her. No, it was going to be someone else, someone he’d kept hidden from them all.