The Fae Worlds

Last Farm Standing

Alone I didn’t stand a chance. Every time I stepped out the door I was able to sense the difference as magic faded from the world. Yet I kept doing what I could, because in my soul I was a farmer, and I knew it even when my family did their best to hide the truth from me. Maybe, if I’d found my courage sooner, I’d have been able to stop the damage from getting as bad, but it took me too long.
Blinking away tears, doing my best to stop any from falling, I looked around my land. There were so many things I still wanted to do. “You saved Matlocke.” Anna’s hand rested on my shoulder. “Without you choosing to come here we’d never have a chance to fix the damage done.”
“Is it enough?”
“Thanks to the hard work you’ve done Matlocke will become a sanctuary for all those who survive what’s to come.” She breathed in deeply. “I’ve been where you are, Paige. Somewhere, I’m certain, I managed to call the farmers who were needed, but that isn’t our reality. When it didn’t work… I was as ready as I could be for what I believed would happen next. How magic was going to fade, how I’d fade with it, and the possibility one day they might be someone who could rebuild.
“Your arrival here changed everything. The moment you set foot on this land I was able to feel you. After calling for so long I had no hope any more, and yet there you were. Even if this was the only farm we could save, the only magic, it was better than what I feared would come next.
“For now, to you, it’s not enough, because you can’t see how much good you’ve done. The time will come when you will, and then you’ll understand why you’re truly our saviour.” As I turned to look at her properly she smiled at me. “I know what you’re going to say, and you’re wrong. Without you the magic would already be gone. Everyone would have to fight to get through the dark times, and most would lose.”
“Why did you choose to become a goddess?”
Our eyes met as she shrugged. “Ieria needed me. There has always been a balance, and even then I could see how it might be affected by the changes happening. Magic was still strong, some didn’t believe it was possible we would ever get to this point, making it almost too easy to become complacent. I didn’t agree it was impossible. I hoped it was, because this was not how I wanted things to work out. As it has all we can do now is make the best of it.”
“How?” The word was out before I could stop it. I’d done so little, in the seasons I had, in part thanks to how long it had been since there was a farmer. Taking in a deep breath, I looked out at the farm once more, a tear rolled down my cheek, emotion sweeping through me. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be.” She laughed. “I’ve had so much more time than you have to come to terms with this, Paige.” Her hand was on my shoulder once more. “This is normal. You’re grieving for what you hoped could be. After you arrived I called once more to those who were meant to claim the farms, in the hope they’d listen, but the world is a very different place now. Leaving the city for the hard work of farming wasn’t a decision they were willing to make.”
Nodding, I raked a hand through my hair. “Leaving, for me, was the only choice which truly made sense. I knew about the farm for a long time before I left, because I was scared of what I might find. Of starting over. Of being alone in the middle of a town I didn’t know. Some of those fears were more Mum’s than mine.”
Silence followed my words, and I glanced at Anna. “Understandable fears, for how things have become, but I was born on the farm, and it was the only thing I knew.” She sighed. “My world was so different to yours. Places which have become cities were starting out, so they needed us. They still need us, no matter what it is they might believed, which is something they’ll come to understand sooner rather than later.
“Magic was normal. Technology was new, and people were uncertain about it. Yet it was the beginning of something most didn’t truly accept could happen. How the world would become somewhere almost entirely devoid of magic, thereby losing the balance it so desperately needed, leading to this.” She gestured. “I was born here, Paige, the daughter of a farmer, and from the time I was old enough to walk I was taught what it meant to be a farmer. Back then it was still possible it could have been me, or my older brother.
“When the time came it was obvious I was the one meant to claim the farm, and he went on to become the blacksmith’s apprentice. Some of the tools you’re using now were built by him.” She smiled, but I could see the mix of emotions in her eyes. “Making the decision to become a goddess meant their souls moved on, while I tied mine to the farms. To the magic.
“At first it was easy. Then, slowly, as the world started to change, and those who could have chosen the farms moved away I was able to feel the magic fading away. I watched as the farms fell into disrepair. Matlocke was the last, your grandfather having made a similar journey here to the one you did, which gave us a little more time, but neither of his children stayed. Sooner than I hoped they left, and your mother, the woman who could have claimed the farm, broke my heart.
“Your grandfather kept going until he couldn’t any longer. I was there, doing what I could, only it was never going to be enough. He wasn’t immortal, and losing him… I cried in a way I don’t think I’ve ever cried before, seeing the death of everything I’d worked toward in his death. Then you came.”
“Leaving everything I knew behind. As I remembered the conversations I had with Mum before about the farm I left her a letter, rather than arguing with her about whether or not coming here was the right thing to do. Even if she never connected with the farm the moment I walked onto the land my soul sang. This was where I was always meant to be.”
Gently, Anna took my hand, leading me down one of the paths I’d built, to where I had the first of my vegetable patches. They were growing faster than they would do anywhere else, thanks to the magic deep in the soil. Magic was fading in the rest of the world, but when I stood there, beside something I’d grown, I was able to feel how strong it was there. How my choices had changed something, even if it wasn’t as much as I hoped it would have done.
“I know you feel it, because I feel it too. Matlocke, with you here, will be strong enough to hold through the darkness.”
Kneeling beside the plants I rested my hand on the soil. “What more can I do?”
“Paige, you don’t need to be doing anything more. The love you’ve given the farm is what’s holding things together. All you need to do is keep loving it the way you have been since you arrived. You’re the reason the fruit trees are blooming for the first time in years, and the bees have returned to the hives. I can understand wanting to do more, but you’re doing everything you can, so the best thing you can do is focus on whatever plans you had.”
Feeling more certain of myself than I had done I looked at her. “How long do I have?”
“With how things feel I’d say probably a season, maybe a little less, and the more you can do here the longer you give yourself. I’ll see if I can draw anyone to one of the other farms, because one more might be the difference between one season and two. It’s not something I can be certain of, or something I would say you should rely on.”
“Okay.” I stood, looking around the farm. “There’s a couple more patches I can start to build up. I was already planning on doing it, but sometimes it feels like there’s not enough time in the day to get everything done.” Shrugging, I nibbled my bottom lip. “Help was offered, so maybe the time has come for me to take people up on it, rather than trying to do this all myself. I just…”
“You’re possessive of the farm.” Anna smiled. “I’ve been there. For me it was much simpler, but it was still hard to accept the help when I really needed it, because this was my farm. Now, though, this is Matlocke’s farm, and you aren’t the only one here who understands the situation. If they’re willing to help then I’d take it.”
In the early days, when I first arrived at Matlocke, talking to Anna was hard. She was upset with me for not arriving sooner, even though it was something she worked through relatively quickly. I was upset with me for not being there sooner, and believing Mum when she told me the call I felt was nothing more than a dream, when she knew for certain it wasn’t. Walking onto the farm… slowly I looked around. The work was hard to get the ground cleared, but there were areas where the soil was good for growing.
All the magic went into the weeds, still taking up so much of the land, because getting them out was hard. The roots went deep, thanks to the decades of magic gone into growing them. Trees grew everywhere, and felling them was almost as complicated a job, but I’d managed to get a number of them down, sending the wood up to the local carpenter to be used on the cottage grandfather called home. Some of the rooms were still good, in part thanks to Anna putting her magic into repairing them, while others needed more work for them to be habitable once more. The basement appeared to be the most dangerous, but the attic wasn’t much safer.
Running my tongue over my bottom lip I looked at Anna again. “I’ll talk to them, and see what I can get done. The more we grow the better it will be.”
She nodded. “We need all the magic we can get for when it fades entirely from the rest of Ieria. If I can do something more then I will, but I can’t promise anything right now, as I am much weaker than I was.”
“Whatever you can do helps, Anna. You know that as well as I can do.” I stood once more, brushing the earth from my knees. “All we can do is keep taking it one day at a time.” I made my way over to the shed. “I should get to work, and then I can head into town again.”
“You know how to call me if you need anything, Paige.” Anna touched my shoulder once more. “If you don’t I’ll be by soon to let you know how things are going.”
Turning, I watched as she disappeared. Even though Anna didn’t need to come by, because I was able to feel how things were going, she liked to, for multiple reasons. Being on the farm grounded her in the same way it did me, so I wasn’t going to stop her. She needed it more than I did sometimes. Having spent so much of her life working toward saving Ieria the pain she felt was something I could never truly understand, although I could empathise, considering how it felt having only been there for a couple of seasons.