The Fae Worlds

Worries

Watching

Reuben was quiet as he stepped back onto the ship. Quiet wasn’t unusual for him, exactly, but he looked almost defeated. Studying him I tried to work out if I should say something. Even though he was civil he’d never tried to really get to know any of us. He did the job, and nothing more. From the way he acted it was obvious to all of us he wasn’t willing to put any roots down.
“Do you want to talk about it?” I kept my voice low enough Vere wouldn’t hear, certain Reuben would have preferred neither of us say anything about his emotional state. “I’m willing to listen if you do.”
“There’s nothing to talk about, and if there wasn’t it wouldn’t help. Talking never helps.”
Blinking, I watched as he walked away, knowing better than to push. I wasn’t exactly surprised he was the kind of person who didn’t believe a problem could be made easier if you talked about it. He probably thought I was someone who thought talking solved everything, when really it was more a case of getting a second point of view a lot of the time. Sighing, I raked a hand through my hair, wondering how much longer he’d stay in Stormrock.
“He’s never wanted to be here, Sage.” Vere joined me, the two of us looking down the corridor Reuben went down, probably to check to make sure we were done. “Anyone can tell from the way he’s acted.”
“I know.” I sighed. “Do you think we can help?”
“Probably not. It was hard enough for him before, and now…” He gestured. “This changes a lot. We both know Galen will offer a place in Stormrock to the survivors. If he doesn’t then he’s not the man I chose to follow here, but Reuben… I knew him back in Erith. Not well, I wouldn’t have said we were friends, so take this with a pinch of salt. I could have entirely misjudged him, but I honestly believe the only reason he came here was because he didn’t think he had any other options.
“Anyone with a modicum of sense could see how things were changing in the city. Reuben isn’t an idiot, so he made the decision this was his chance to get out, only to find he wasn’t the kind of person who could easily fit into place here. He doesn’t like Arlo, or Galen, so their decisions are never going to be ones he agrees with.”
“What makes you say he doesn’t like Arlo?”
“You’ve never seen the two of them argue.” Vere shrugged. “I have, more than once. Reuben doesn’t agree with any of the choices Arlo’s made in the time we’ve been here. One of the things he’s most worried about is Arlo’s close relationship with Galen, because he believes the Defence Force should be independent, should anything go wrong in the future. The problem with his belief is where we are in the process of rebuilding Stormrock.
“Galen and Arlo not working together would cause more problems than it solved. Reuben, because of what was happening in Erith, is constantly wary of people. There are going to be reasons for who he is, even though he’s never talked much about them. Most people called him the man of mystery back in Erith, as he never truly let himself get close to anyone, although there were people he did think of as allies.
“Now he’s alone, as far as he’s concerned. He has no allies here. Arlo, obviously, is going to make the choices he believes are right, and I trust him. I wouldn’t have made the journey here if I didn’t. He’s one of the people I know will do anything he can to protect Stormrock. I worry about him, because of how hard it is for him when he fails, but he has the support of both Galen and Mile, so I think he should be able to get through it well enough.”
For a few seconds I stared at Vere. “You’re not who I thought you were, are you?”
Shaking his head, he grinned. “Depends on who you thought I was.” The grin faded. “I watch. I always have done. You learn a lot by watching people, sometimes more than you do talking to them, and as it’s only the five of us…” He sighed. “We need to work together. Reuben being so disconnected is a problem.”
“More for him than for us. He’s more than capable of doing the job, even if he doesn’t agree with Arlo.”
“Until he makes the decision he can’t stay any longer. Then it complicates things.”
“Knowing Arlo there’s already a plan in place. Stormrock, currently, isn’t so big we can’t patrol the town with it only being the four of us. Plus there might be someone willing to join the Defence Force on the Paladin.”
“Would you trust them?”
“Yes, if Arlo did.” My eyes met with Vere’s again. “Like you I trust Arlo to make the right choices. Anyone who’s accepted will have been fully vetted, both by Arlo and Galen.”
“Good.” Vere nodded. “One of us needs to check in with Mara, and then go to speak with Arlo. The best thing we can do right now is warn him of the situation we have with Reuben. You’re right when you say it’s likely he already has a plan to deal with things if Reuben does leave, so this is nothing more than letting him know he might need to be prepared to use it sooner than expected, thanks to the crash.”
“Either that, or take her place. As long as someone talks to Arlo we’re in a better position than we would have been otherwise.” I raked a hand through my hair. “Do you think it’s possible you might be able to get Reuben to open up? With the two of you being acquaintances before it seems possible.”
“Possible, but not likely.” Vere raked a hand through his hair. “I can try. With how things are it’s likely he’ll assume anything he says will go straight to Arlo. Getting him to trust enough to say anything more than I think he’s already said to Mara won’t be a simple process.”
“No, it won’t.” I ran my tongue over my bottom lip. “Leaving everything behind was hard, for all of us, and his choice… I can imagine how he feels right now. He needs someone, even if he doesn’t believe he does.”
Vere studied me. “Why did you make the journey here, Sage?”
Running my tongue over my bottom lip I looked at the wall of the Paladin. “It’s a long story, and one I’m not sure we have time for right now.”
Nodding, he put his hand on my shoulder. “Should you ever want to share it I’m here.” I glanced at him. “Whatever your reasons I trust you. You’ve never given me any reason to doubt your choices, the way Reuben has, and not all of us are ready to tell our stories yet. I’m not going to push you. Arlo, to have taken you on, must know at least some of it.”
“He does.” I breathed in deeply. “Opening up to him was easy, because I knew there was no judgement. He wanted to know to make the best decision he could for Stormrock, and, as this was what I needed, I was more honest with him than I thought I could be. Now, though, it’s… I want to leave it behind me, Vere. More than anything I came here for a new start.”
“I can understand that.” His eyes met with mine. “You aren’t the only one who made the decision, Sage.” He looked at where Reuben had gone. “Go talk to Mara. The sooner we get this sorted out the better it’s going to be for everyone.”
Then Vere walked away, not glancing back, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Sometimes I wondered why Arlo made the decision I was the right person for Stormrock after what I’d shared with him, but his acceptance gave me a chance to find a new path. A better one. Proving to him he’d made the right choice was important to me, hence the decision to go to Mara with our concerns about Reuben. Likelihood was she did already know. She wasn’t an idiot.
Going through the Paladin I thought of all those who hadn’t survived. Choosing to leave everything behind hadn’t worked out for them the way they hoped it would. Instead of the fresh start they’d dreamed of they’d lost their lives in the crash. We’d remember them, but we’d never know who they were.
Stepping out for the first time in hours I looked at the sky. The day felt long, like the days when we were journeying to Stormrock, the weight of our job heavy on my shoulders. We couldn’t have done more. Getting through, with the damage done, was hard, and we’d moved as fast as we could while also staying safe. Dying ourselves wouldn’t have done any good.
As I made my way over to Mara she nodded. “Reuben?”
“Who else?” I shrugged. “He came here for the wrong reasons, Mara, and we all know it. This is going to affect him in a different way to the rest of us. I wouldn’t be surprised if he made the decision to leave.”
“Neither would I.” Mara raked a hand through her hair. “Arlo knows, but I think I should talk to him. We need to be prepared if Reuben does go. I hope he won’t, because we need him, and yet I can’t help wondering if it would be easier. Without him fighting every choice made…” She shook her head. “This was never going to be simple. Having people here so determined their way of doing things is the only way is making it much harder.”
“If you go to Arlo I can take your place here, keep everyone safe. Vere was going to talk to Reuben, not that either of us really thought it would do any good, but it’s worth a try.”
“Thank you.” Mara’s eyes met with mine. “Arlo told me a little of what you shared with him, Sage. Not a lot, but enough for me to understand you, and I’m glad you’re here.” She bit down on her bottom lip. “He did tell me it would be best not to say anything, but with everything that’s happened today… I don’t know.” She looked at the Paladin. “You’re a good person, whatever you might think.”
Even though I wasn’t surprised Arlo spoke to Mara, as she was pretty much his second in command, I hadn’t expected her to bring it up. “I’m a better person now than I was.”
“Sometimes, when we find ourselves in a complicated position, we don’t always make the right choices. I see someone who made mistakes, and I have no reason to think you weren’t a good person then too. Things just got out of hand.” She smiled. “I’ve been there. I think we all have, with how things were in Erith. Even Arlo.”
“You could be right.” I smiled back, although it faded quickly. “Arlo knew how much I needed this.”
“He’s always been someone who understood people, which is why Galen chose him.” Mara shook her head. “He chose Reuben for the right reasons. We both hoped this would work out, but it’s not.” She looked around once more. “I haven’t seen anything yet, and it’s worrying me. There should be something, unless they’re scared of the Paladin, so keep an eye out for anything even slightly weird.”
“Okay.” I looked around myself, not seeing anything unusual. “Stay safe, Mara.”
“Stay safe, Sage.”
Rather than watching her go I listened to the sound of her jogging down the hill, keeping my attention on the land around the Paladin. There not being anything moving was more unusual considering how long it had been since the crash, as normally the sound would have drawn the monsters, but there was no way of knowing what they knew. Maybe they had memories of similar ships from the past, keeping them away.