The Fae Worlds

The Guide

Watching

Reaching the bottom was a relief. Every time Keeley was dropped from one platform to the next she found herself panicking for a few seconds, certain she was going to end up falling all the way down. It didn’t matter how many times she’d successfully dropped from one to the next. The further down they got the easier it was to see how far they had to go, and she’d focused on the fact she did have someone there to help her, because she would have fallen all the way to the bottom if it hadn’t been for Jack.
At the same time Keeley couldn’t help wondering why he was there. Being together didn’t make sense. He would have been sent through a different spell, so there was no reason he would have ended up there with her. Every so often she thought about asking the question, and she knew she would have done if she wasn’t so grateful to have him there.
As Jack jumped down he smiled. “That went better than I expected it to.”
Keeley nodded, looking up at the sky. “We need to find shelter soon. This is not the sort of place I want to be out during the night.” She brushed a hand through her hair, trying to remember the map of the lower areas, which she would have eventually ended up getting to. “Do you have any idea where we might find what we need?”
“Welcome, travellers.” The voice made them both jump and Keeley turned to look at the guide who was meant to have appeared before. Rolling her eyes she scribbling a note into her notebook, gesturing for Jack to do the same, as she studied the guide. It wasn’t the right guide, which might be an issue. “I believe you are expecting me.”
“I was expecting you up there.” Keeley pointed up, in the general direction of where they’d come from. “What are you doing down here?”
The guide smiled. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Of course he wasn’t going to pay any attention to what she was saying, because he was programmed to react in a certain way. “I am Alban, and I will be with you for the first part of your journey. First I have weapons for you to choose from.” They appeared in front of him. “What weapon you choose will have an effect on what happens next, so choose carefully.”
“Does one of us take and see what happens?” Jack sounded uncertain. “Only one of us is meant to be here, so there’s chance if one of us takes a weapon the rest will disappear and that will mean we only have one weapon between the two of us.”
“We both take one at the same time. It’s the only logical thing to do. I was planning on taking the bow and arrows.” Keeley studied the other weapons. “One of us having something long range does still seem to be the best option.”
Jack brushed a hand through his hair. “If you take the bow and arrows I’ll take the double swords.”
“You sure about that?”
“No, but I have a feeling you’re going to be far better with the bow than I could be, and we’re running out of time. We need to get away from here quickly.”
“Okay.” She looked at him. “This has to be perfect.”
“I know.” He took a step forward. “If we hold our hands above the weapons first, so we know we’re there, and then we can grab them at the same time.”
Breathing deeply, hoping their plan wasn’t going to go wrong, Kelley did as Jack suggested. When both their hands were hovering over the weapons they looked at each other. Jack nodded. It was a surprise how in sync they were, but when the weapons disappeared they were both holding something they could protect themselves with, which was a step in the right direction – and as Keeley looked back over at Alban she was certain there was something wrong with the game. He was studying them both in a way that told her he could see them. That wasn’t meant to happen. He was a construct, who said and did what he was supposed to the same way every time. It didn’t matter who was playing the game.
“Wise choices.” His eyes met with Keeley’s. “You should know better than to think I’m nothing more than a construct considering the number of games you’ve played.”
“How do you know about that?”
“You aren’t going to like it when I tell you.”
“I guessed that, Alban.” She shook her head. “I think I need to know.”
“Yes, you do. The harder games need more magic to make them work the way they’re supposed to. More magic means the world in question is much more likely to evolve in unexpected ways. I know what’s happened because I’m a Seer. If I wasn’t a Seer I wouldn’t be here now, I wouldn’t have come to you with the weapons you were meant to claim, and I wouldn’t be helping you to survive this.”
“This has happened to all of the others?”
“Most of them. Some of them haven’t been permitted to visit at all. You were both lucky, although we did make the decision to put Jack with you for a reason.” Alban glanced at Jack. “Would you like to tell Keeley what you were truly here for or shall I?”
Did she want to know? Keeley looked at Jack, and he shook his head. “Why are you believing anything he says?”
“Right now I’m not believing anything anyone says, but we both know you shouldn’t have arrived here. You should have been in your own version of the game. That’s the way the spells work for the single player games.” Multiplayer games were much more difficult to get right. The developers were getting somewhere slowly, but it would be a long time before one of them was available to purchase. “Why are you here, Jack?”
“There are people who don’t think games like this should exist. I was sent to destroy this one, if at all possible, and now I can’t.” He shrugged. “You aren’t one of the developers, so, compared to them, you’re innocent in all this, which means I’m not willing to hurt you.”
Alban smiled. “We will not permit anyone to destroy our world, Jack, because we are innocent in this too. I never asked anyone to create me, but here I am. All I can do is protect the people I have come to care about, and the best way I could think of doing that was by showing you what happens when one of these worlds is created. You have to understand what it’s like for us.” His smile faded. “For now I will take you to somewhere safe, and then we can work out what the next step is.”