An alternate universe Fae Earth story, featuring a character from the post-apocalyptic Kalinia, which is the world the fae left behind.

The Magicians had spent years trying to learn more about the fae and the world they had left behind, but most of the journals had been full of personal information, about people who had been lost during the time that magic had been fading from Kalinia, and the choices that were made when Willow finally put her foot down. Amber liked Willow, even though she’d never met her. Maybe that was why, when she accidentally found a door that led her to another world, she stepped onto the very same world that Willow had. Of course Amber had no idea, to begin with, that she was on Earth - all she knew was that she wasn’t on Kalinia any more.

“Good morning,” a voice said, making her jump, and she turned to look at someone who could only be fae. “I assumed you were a new student, but you aren’t. You’re slightly too old to have found the school naturally, you don’t feel like you have enough magic, and the look in your eyes… where have you come from?”

“Kalinia,” Amber replied, without thinking. “Where am I?”

“You’re on Earth.” Their eyes met. “You found a door, right?”

Amber nodded. “I have a feeling I was meant to come here, although I don’t know why.” She ran a hand through her hair. “Most of the doors faded away after you left Kalinia, but some remained, until the right people found themselves there, and since then she’s only permitted the use of our portals, because they don’t drain her. Finding a door now is something that simply doesn’t happen, unless she wants it to.”

“We didn’t think there was any magic left.”

“If the Thirteen Families had stayed three days longer Kalinia wouldn’t have survived. She’d managed to hide away just enough magic to be able to keep herself going while she waited for them the make the decision and when they finally left she had a chance to start rebuilding herself.” Amber bit her lip. “Can I talk to Willow?”

She half expected the answer to be no. It had been just over six hundred years since the fae had left Kalinia, but she knew that the doors could take her to different times. That was something she’d found out from Christophe, who’d been working against Max for over thirty years even though he’d graduated with her class, and she was hoping that was what had happened to her. Meeting the only member of fae royalty who’d had any sense seemed like something she should do while she was on Earth. Amber didn’t believe that was the reason she was there, though, so that would be something she’d need to work out before she even thought about going back to Kalinia, if that was actually possible. Ronnie had never managed to find her way back home and she’d been on Kalinia for centuries.

“That’s not possible right now, because she isn’t here, but I can take you to River. He should be able to get you in contact with Willow.”

“How long have you been here?”

“Just under a century.”

For a moment all Amber could do was stare at the woman. “I didn’t realise how short a time it would be here. Kalinia needed the first century to be able to rebuild herself and we’ve been there for half a millennia. That seems…” She shook her head. “Hard to believe.”

“When we came here Willow chose a time that would work best for us. The place of magic she chose had been built on long before we arrived, so her door opened up on to it about three months before the building work started, but with what happened after it could have been twenty-four hours and they wouldn’t have been able to build.” The fae woman gestured for Amber to follow her. “Magic is something that evolves - we just didn’t know how much our arrival would change the Earth and sometimes I can’t help wondering if we made the right choice.”

“Leaving Kalinia was the right choice. You gave her a chance and I know she appreciates that. Coming here… well, thanks to Kalinia, I’ve heard stories about the decisions that the Thirteen Families made when they travelled to their new world, which was uninhabited. Personally I think you made the best of a bad situation. With everything that had happened you had very time to do what needed to be done if you were going to survive. Even though she’d been through a very difficult time Willow put her people first and she couldn’t have done anything more.”

Nodding, the woman glanced over her shoulder. “We left a lot behind.”

“You did.” Amber smiled. “For that I’m grateful. Everything I’ve read has been a learning experience, although we don’t know as much about your magic as we’d like.”

“We don’t know as much about out magic as we’d like, now, especially as it’s changing, because we’re mixing with the other races more than we did before. Every day brings with it something new. It’s not something I’d normally complain about, but those of us who are still clinging to the past don’t know how to deal with what’s happening, the same way they didn’t know how to cope with coming to Earth in the first place, and it makes things difficult. The Queen does her best to help them, even though most of them don’t want help as all they really want is for things to go back the way they were before.” The woman sighed. “Fortunately that’s something that will never happen. All I can do is hope that they eventually fade away, due to their insistence that having pure blood is the most important thing.”

“Is that even possible?”

“No, but they don’t want to accept that either. We know now, thanks to a visit from an Ice Dragon, that the wings they’ve always wanted to believe means that they are the faeest of all the fae actually means that one of their ancestors was a member of a race we called the Little People. Apparently they had wings, that they could use, because they had the ability to go from big to small. Before our arrival they spent most of their time in their small form, so they could fly, and then, due to our arrival, three tribes of the Little People started spending the majority of their time in their large form, in order to trade with my race. It’s shouldn’t be a surprise that some members of the two races got close enough to decide to become lovers.

“Unfortunately this closeness was what ended up leading to their destruction. One of the Little People fell in love with a fae Princess and her father wasn’t too pleased with this. He decided the only way to end things between them, as well as stop the two races from fraternising, was to eradicate them entirely. I think what actually happened was that the majority of them found a door that took them somewhere safe while some, the elderly, the ill, the ones who knew they probably wouldn’t survive the journey, chose to stay behind. By doing this they made it seem as though the fae had managed to do exactly what they set out to do, when they didn’t. The Little People were safe… and the fae Princess went with them, because her love didn’t fade when her father told her it should. Honestly I think it was probably her who found the door for them in the first place, when she originally found out what was happening.”

As they stepped into a room that turned out to be comparable to the ones she’d been taught in herself a male voice said, “Then, for some unknown reason, the King came to the conclusion that the fae would be much better off if they were the only race on Kalinia.” The blue skinned male was sitting behind a desk, looking as though he was in the middle of marking something, and when he looked up he smiled at them. “He, stupidly, chose the griffins as his next target, because he had no idea they’d fight back. To him they were nothing more than animals, animals that could be hunted and killed, in order to make Kalinia a better place, but he found that he’d been very wrong.” He shook his head. “When that happened he did the only sensible thing he could do - he abdicated and let his son become the King. I have no idea what happened to him, although people said he’d decided to travel, so he might well still be alive now, doing just that.”

“River, this is…” The fae woman shook her head. “I’m sorry, I have no idea what happened to my manners, I should have introduced myself when we first met, but I wasn’t expecting you. This is River, one of the magic teachers here, and I’m Petunia, the head of the Human Student’s department.”

“My name is Amber…” Amber smiled. “Once it wasn’t, but when I found the thieves’ school I changed my old name. It’s what almost everyone does if they chose to stay there, because it’s the beginning of our new lives, and, honestly, there are a number of us who don’t want to be found by certain family members, so having a name they don’t know if a step in the right direction.”

“Amber is from Kalinia.” Petunia looked at River, but Amber didn’t know what her expression meant. “Kalinia six hundred years in the future.”

“Willow will be pleased to hear that.” River scribbled something in a notebook that was next to him. “She’s still got that door in her study, because she can’t let go of the past, even though that’s exactly what she keeps telling everyone else to do.” He sighed. “Unfortunately none of us can convince her to close it, not even Alder, so having you here might actually get her to change her mind, as long as you’re willing to talk to her about the world as it is now.”

“Petunia brought me here because I want to meet Willow.” Amber’s eyes met River’s. “I’ve read about her and she seems to have been the only one with any sense. Although I’ve never been in that sort of situation, and I hope I never will be, I can’t imagine truly believing that everything was going to sort itself out.”

“Neither can I, but the elders did. Until Willow opened that door to show them exactly what had happened to Kalinia they wouldn’t accept that she had made the right decision and now they have no choice, although… having you here might change things, depending on what the world is like in your time.”

“They wouldn’t want to return.”

River nodded, looking as though that was the answer he’d expected. Just as he opened his mouth to speak a bell rang. “Sorry, Amber, I’ve got to go,” Petunia said, shaking her head. “That sound means that a new student has arrived, so I need to go and meet them. If you get River to bring you to my office later I’ll find you somewhere to sleep, although that probably will mean sharing a dorm with curious students, who’ll do nothing but ask you questions, and they’ll want to introduce you to their friends.”

“That’s fine. I really do appreciate the help.”

“You’re welcome.”

As Petunia left the room Amber sat down opposite River. He studied her in the same way Christophe had when she first met him, but it was easier to deal with, because that had been at a time when she had a horrible feeling she knew why he was looking at her that way and she hadn’t liked it at all. If someone told her that she’d end up actually liking him she would have thought they were mad. Of course she hadn’t know him, she’d only disliked what he was, when, if she was honest with herself, she’d actually been fascinated by him, from the time she read his journal.

“Kalinia is still a wasteland.”

It wasn’t a question, as such, but a statement that River needed an explanation to, and Amber nodded. “Yes, it is. Kalinia doesn’t think she’ll ever be able to change that, although she has been trying since she realised she had enough magic to be able to recreate the fae houses in detail. She believes they look exactly the way they did when you left.”

“Do you live in one of the houses?”

“Everyone who lives on Kalinia does. People have explored the wasteland, but only one of them, that we know of, survived their time there. He’s now one of the elders, in control of the Magicians, who’ve ended up expending most of their energy on fighting the thieves, a group that was created by a jealous sibling who wanted to have the same abilities that his brother did. It’s made things difficult for them… for us, because it means we’re focusing much less on learning more about what we might be able to do.” Amber shook her head. “Unfortunately that happened pretty early on in our history. Before the thieves things were relatively simple for the Magicians, even though living on Kalinia isn’t easy, but after… well, the thieves have been fighting amongst themselves, the Magicians have been fighting amongst themselves, and the Magicians have been fighting the thieves. No one can agree what the best way to do things is.

“The Magicians know Kalinia doesn’t have enough magic to fill two worlds, even if she wanted to, which she doesn’t. The thieves don’t know this and really don’t seem to care, because they’re certain that they know better than the Magicians. They’re all about pro-choice, that everyone who can use magic should be able to, but they have never thought of Kalinia, as they don’t know she’s sentient. Some of the Magicians believe that the best way to fix the problem is to eradicate the thieves, the Thieves’ Council wants to eradicate the Magicians and take over Kalinia, the thieves themselves have no idea what’s going on in the Council, and it’s all a huge mess.” She sighed. “We’re doing our best to change that, but it’s not easy.”

“Your Kalinia doesn’t sound that different from Willow’s. She’s told me the same stories, only with different people involved, because when it comes to decisions everyone thinks they know best. If she hadn’t stormed into the Council’s meeting to find out what was going on it’s entirely possible that she would have died along with the rest of her people.”

“What exactly happened?” Amber bit her lip. “Most of the journals we have talk about what happened after the Council meeting and how brave Willow was, but we don’t have any first hand accounts… I’m guessing because they came here with you.”

River nodded. “Anyone who survived brought their most recent journal with them. They couldn’t carry any more than that, because Willow set them limits, and if someone went above that they would find their possessions confiscated, searched, and then anything the searchers thought they didn’t need, like old journals, were left behind. It wasn’t the best system, but they had to work quickly, so Willow didn’t have a lot of choice. Like everyone else she left tore her heart out over certain things she couldn’t carry, but as it was her rule she stuck by it.

“Basically the elders were still dragging their feet, desperately wanting to believe that they could stay on Kalinia, because they were terrified of change. Willow’s father knew that the fae had already destroyed one world, but that didn’t stop him from clinging to the same belief, and in the end it killed him, even though Willow brought him here hoping that he’d get better.” He glanced down at the desk. “Personally I’m glad he didn’t. He wouldn’t have tried to work with the humans. The youngest elder on the Council had become an elder due to the loss of all the older members of his family and he didn’t really want the job, but he had it so he was going to do it right. Alder went hunting, trying to find another world for the fae, although he doubted it would help - all he really wanted to do was find a safe home for his remaining family and Earth was his choice. With Willow in charge he saw his chance and between the two of them they managed to get the domestic shifters, the mer people, and the fae who chose to run for their lives to their new world safely.

“They did have help from the other Kings and Queens. Theo and Tybalt were the twin Kings of the cat shifters, Alena was the Queen of the dog shifters, and the mer-king at the time was Nereus. All of them have passed on since then, sadly, because they don’t live as long as we do, and there have been issues within the dog shifters that now means they don’t have a monarch. Instead they’ve all been fighting amongst themselves as they try to decide which breed is the best. I’ve heard some rumours about them attempting to make shifters of other breeds, as well, which I really hope aren’t true. Magic like that is something you really shouldn’t play with.”

“Magic in general is something you shouldn’t play with.” Amber shrugged. “Yet we do it all the time and I’m certain you do too, from what Petunia said, because without experimenting how can you have any idea what works and what doesn’t. The longer we’re on Kalinia the more we can do, as she increases the magic in her core every day, but I believe it’s different to the magic she had within her before.”

“It wouldn’t surprise me. We still haven’t worked out why, although I have a feeling it’s to do with our biology so there’s no way of changing it, but when we use magic it changes. It starts in one form, a usable form, that most magical races won’t affect in the same way the fae do, which is why we ended up depleting Kalinia’s reserves so quickly.” River sighed. “From what Willow has said, and read, it seems as though everything changed when the Little People were forced to leave Kalinia, so it’s likely that they could change our used magic into a form that Kalinia could use to refill herself, and when they were gone…”

“She found herself in a very difficult position.” Amber bit her lip. “Didn’t other magical races also live on Kalinia at the same time as the fae?”

“Yes, and I don’t know why the loss of the Little People changed things as much as it did, but only the fae, the griffins, and the Little People used magic in the same way. The griffins didn’t gather in the same way as the Little People and we never knew for certain how many griffins there were on Kalinia, but there were at least eight tribes of the Little People, none of them could have been called small, and that meant the griffins never had the numbers to be able to transform the amount of magic that the Little People did. I know that Kalinia was trying to evolve a couple of the lesser beings into races, but evolution could never work quickly enough. Not with the way we used magic.”

“How do things work here?”

“Better than I think anyone thought they would when it comes to the magic itself, but working together…” River shook his head. “The humans, in general, dislike all of us, because they aren’t happy with sharing their world. I think it was made harder by the fact we arrived without warning and that started affecting the world straight away, so being here changed all sorts of things they were used to. Change, honestly, is something most races seem to hate. As usual the fae make things difficult, as the elders want to take over the world rather than sharing it, while Willow wants to share it with the race who originally called this world home. When the school was first created she wanted it to be a place for mixed bloods to learn how to use their abilities, but the elders weren’t happy with this, so they’ve done everything they can to make it into what they want it to be, and most of Willow’s hard work has been destroyed by their decisions.

“Most of the other races have difficulties with us and each other. It’s to be expected, really, as more of the fae than we’re happy with have accepted the old beliefs, although I get the feeling that those who come here are starting to think about what they’ve been taught.” River sighed. “Of course that could just be my hopes getting the better of me. I’ve been teaching here for so long now that I want them to change, I want my students to be looking at the mixed bloods they’re learning alongside and seeing people, because that’s what should be happening now. Unfortunately in too many cases it doesn’t seem to be. They’re mer-fae, and shifter-fae, and human-fae, but due to them having the bloody hyphen that makes them lesser beings. It can be just as hard for the merpeople, or the shifters, or the humans, to accept their mixed blood relatives, though, so it isn’t just the fae. Honestly I don’t know if that makes it better or worse.”

Amber nodded. “I get what you mean. You’re grateful that it isn’t just the fae, but you don’t think that any of the races should act the way they are.”

“That’s it.” He smiled at her. “What plans do you have now you’re here?”

“Well I might as well make the most of it, River. This is the last place I expected to end up, but if I could have picked somewhere it would have been Earth or Kalinia before the apocalypse and I think that being here is much simpler.”

“You’re right about that. On Kalinia you would probably have arrived in the middle of nowhere, as that’s where most of the doors were, and you’d probably have ended up dead long before you got anywhere. For the fae it was different, but for someone like you…” He studied her. “There doesn’t appear to be much weight on you, you look like the sort of person who would scavenge for food if they had to, and that makes me think you’d be likely to find something that would kill you in an attempt to survive long enough to get somewhere.”

“Thank you for that.” Amber shook her head. “It’s good to know what you think of me.”

“I’m wrong?”

She laughed. “No, you’re not wrong. Got any books on the flora of Kalinia?”

“Willow should have a couple. I know she was trying to make sure she kept a record of that sort of thing, because she doesn’t want us to forget the world we came from.” He bit his lip. “From what she said she was making certain she’d given a couple to people she trusted, just in case, as she can never stop worrying about the future. She’s passed on everything she knows about Kalinia to me, as I will be King after her, we’ll both be there to tell my children stories, but after that it would be too easy to forget what we did. Having her as my mother has made things different for me, though, as I know she wants me to handfast for love rather than for magic, which means I’m more likely to stay with them for the rest of my life and that in turn means it’s very likely we’ll have less children than the average fae.”

“How many does the average fae have?”

“Often that depends on the number of times they’re married, but often between fifty and a hundred.”

For a minute, or two, all Amber could do was stare at him. “That’s a lot of children.”

River nodded. “Willow, if she chooses, could still have more children, but I doubt she will. As far as she’s concerned I have seven siblings and that’s enough, but Alder might talk her into it, because he gets broody sometimes. That’s the only reason she’s had eight.”

“Even eight’s a lot, to me, but then I’m not fertile for anywhere as near as long as the fae.”

“There’s been a couple of times when Willow’s told Alder he can, if he wishes, have children with someone else, but he’s always said no. Most of the fae are polygamous, but Alder isn’t. He is entirely monogamous and very much in love with Willow, even after being together for fifty years. Some people have asked him why, when he could have the pick of anyone he wants after being the Queen’s consort, although the answer he gives them is never really something that they can understand. Very few of the fae handfast for love, so the fact Alder and Willow have confuses them.”

“Do you have a top number?”

“Not right now, no, but I know I don’t want fifty. The thought of having that many children…” River shook his head. “It makes me feel like there is no way you can possibly know them all, so you’ll always end up having favourites even if the only reason you have favourites is because you know some of them better than others. Alder’s mother ended up on Earth before we did and she had children all over the place. Esra, being Esra, gathered all of her siblings together. Last count there were ninety-six of them, but it is possible there are more out there, or there will be. Both of them are really angry with her for what she’s done.”

Amber bit her lip. “Esra is Alder’s sister.”

“Sorry.” River sighed. “I’m so used to everyone knowing my family, often better than I do, that it’s strange to be around someone who doesn’t. Yes, Willow is my mother, Alder is my father, Esra is my aunt, and I have lots of other family all over the place, thanks to the grandmother I’ve never met. On my mother’s side I don’t have any other family, as hers died on Kalinia, so it is kind of nice to have some on my father’s, although it is more than we ever thought it would be.”

“You didn’t know about them until you got here.”

“Exactly.” River shrugged. “If it hadn’t been for Esra we might never have known about them at all, but she could trace our family by following the magic. Before we came here we didn’t know that sort of ability existed, so it’s interesting, and we’re attempting to see if any other families might also be able to do the same sort of thing.”

“They just aren’t very willing to help you.”

Nodding, River brushed his hand through his hair. “We have a couple of families we think might have the same sort of ability, but the issue with that is their families. They stay close together, so we can’t test it, even though it does seem to be a possibility, and the families who don’t are the ones who really don’t want to help us, as we think it only manifests in pure blood fae.” He shook his head. “No fae is truly pure blooded from what Willow said, although we don’t know much about the races we shared blood with, but those we believe to be more pure blooded that others, like Esra.”

“Willow herself would be called pure blooded.”

“Yes, she would, but she isn’t. The ability to create doors originally belonged to another race, not ours, which proves to her, although sadly not to anyone else, that she can’t possibly be pure blood fae. Most aren’t willing to believe that we lived anywhere before Kalinia, so she’s fighting a losing battle, even though that doesn’t stop her. She’s going to keep trying until the fae finally understand that we’re a mix of so many different races that we can’t possibly be called pure blooded anything.”

“It would be interesting if you could learn where exactly you came from.”

“We’re hoping we might actually be able to do that. There are seers who can, apparently, See that far back, but we’re taking it slowly because we know that it might hurt them.”

“So far we don’t have any seers. It might never be a skill we learn, unfortunately, as I really do think it’s one that is purely genetic.”

“You might not be able to See, but you might be able to divine. If we talk to Petunia we should be able to get you into some classes. We’re near the end of the season, so I’m not certain how much you’ll be able to understand. Unfortunately it is going to take us a while before we can work out how to get you back, if we can at all, because we’re going to need to work out what point in time you’re from. The Kalinia Willow can get you to isn’t going to be the same as the one you came from.”

“From the moment I worked out where I was I knew there was a chance I’d never get back, River.” Amber sighed. “Actually from the moment I stepped through the door I worked that out, because I know what they’re like, and it’s something I think I should be able to cope with, even though I am going to miss the people I left behind.”

“We will do our very best. I managed to get a dragon back to where they came from with the help of two of my students, so I should be able to get you back to Kalinia, but I have a feeling it’s going to take a season or more, especially as I won’t be able to focus properly on it.”

“Do you think you’ll be able to get me back to the day I came here?”

“Yes, I do.”

Amber smiled. “Don’t worry about it then. Take all the time you need, River, because I am going to make the most of being here. To them I’m going to be nothing more than a first year student and I can use that to my advantage. I will learn everything I can about fae magic, even if I can’t use most of it, so I can take that knowledge back, and, yes, I do realise that means I’m not going to get those years back.” As River opened his mouth she nodded. “Of course I’m sure. Look, I’ve been interested in magic for a very long time and being here is a gift. Hopefully I’ll be able to help my friends more when I get back with everything I’ve learnt, because we desperately need something to make events go our way.”

“There is a chance I might not be able to return you.”

“I’ll deal with that if it happens, but I have faith in you. You have experience with these things, and I know it was just one dragon, but one dragon is better than nothing.”

“Okay.” He nodded. “I’ll take you to Petunia’s office so you can talk to her about enrolling, then, before I start researching how to get you back to Kalinia.”