A Worm Fanfic
Dreaming of Fairies
The next week and a bit fell into a pattern. Self-defence training in the mornings with Carwyn followed by flight lessons in the afternoon with Emhyr. Her dad would head into work every day and come back by dinner. It was a stable pattern as they waited to hear from the PRT. Conversations with her dad were both easier, and harder now. He could hear her, but he seemed to be falling back into the rut from shortly after her mother died. They needed to have that conversation, but she just didn't know how to start it.
It didn't help that most of the time she was in no physical shape to have a long emotional conversation at the end of the day. Self-defence training was physically draining and left her sore. Following that up with flight training after lunch left her with little energy for being emotional.
There were probably better times to ruminate on the nature of her relationship with her father than in the middle of training, however.
"RIGHT!" The stick in Taylor's hands cracked loudly as she barely raised it to block. "Good," said her trainer. The General had decided to teach her personally after the visit by the PRT.
"LEFT!" She blocked the strike from the short General. The stick that was standing in the place of a longsword rang with the blow, vibrating loudly. She knew from personal experience that had she not been reinforcing it with her magic it would have exploded from the force of the blow.
The diminutive General spun the wooden axe in his hand and lashed out again shouting, "RIGHT LOW!" Her response was too slow and the wooden weapon swept her feet out from under her. She crashed to the rough wooden floor with a yelp.
She lay there for a moment, groaning at the throbbing in her sides, legs, and head. "Ow," she complained.
Carwyn rested the head of the wooden axe against the floor with a thump and leaned on the pommel. "Hrm… Better," he said with a nod.
"You keep saying that," Taylor said, sitting up and rubbing her legs. "It hasn't felt like it at all." Her calves were going to have bruises again that night.
"Of course it hasn't," The General chuckled. "Get up, I think we have enough time to go again."
"Alas, I'm afraid you are out of time today." Taylor looked up hopefully as Emhyr entered the practice hall.
"Emhyr, thank god. Save me from him!" She pleaded, getting a chuckle from both of them. She grinned a little despite the pain. She was only mostly joking. The Loremaster looked her over with a critical eye.
"Minor bruising, no broken bones. You're improving," he remarked.
"Don't start as well," she grumbled, "And he hasn't broken any bones before."
"Not yet," Emhyr corrected.
"Aye, that is a risk in the more advanced classes," Carwyn nodded wisely, "Go on and get cleaned up Your Grace." He waved her off, "Don't forget to hang up your sword before you go."
Taylor grumbled as she peeled herself off the floor and walked gingerly across the hall to the racks of wooden weapons. She hung the imitation longsword up and sighed. Her everything was hurting more. Wonderful.
"Tomos has lunch waiting for you after your shower, Your Grace," Emhyr said, "I will be along in a bit, after I've spoken with the General."
"Thank you Emhyr," She said with a smile, turning to Carwyn she added, "And thank you, General."
The old warrior waved her off. "Get going girl," he chuckled.
Taylor slipped out of the practice hall and into the main hallway of the barracks. She straightened the skirt she was wearing and glanced about as she pulled down on her top. The hallway was empty. She leaned against the door with a sigh. "Ooooow," she groaned quietly. She was getting tired of spending half the day as a mass of bruises. The good news was that Fairies healed fairly quickly. The downside of that meant that Carwyn knew he could be rough with her.
She stepped away from the door and headed down the hall, around the corner, and out the front door of the Barracks. The guard by the door bowed as she went past. The streets of the small town had hit their limit five days before. There simply wasn't any more room on the table and, rather understandably, her dad hadn't been eager to set up more tables to give them more room. As it was there were four hundred and fifteen dwarves stuffed into the tiny three street town that had sprung up.
She paused at the glassless window of a small shoe shop where two guards were waiting for their boots to be repaired. The main road had been dedicated to shops that catered to the needs of the guards and hunters, though some had arranged for shops in the small fort at the base of the table. No money was currently being exchanged due to the situation. They had limited supplies and limited means to acquire more. Everything was being distributed as needed. The only one this didn't apply to was her. As their Queen, she essentially had the authority to ask for anything and receive it immediately. Or as immediately as was possible. Not that she had used it for more than demanding more pastries.
She turned away from the shop and looked around the street. It might have appeared to be a town from above, but it was really just a heavily armed camp with nice housing for the soldiers. It was a wooden cut out of a town with plates of armour hung off it.
"I'm just being really introspective today, aren't I?" She mused with a shake of her head. She looked up the street to her house and frowned. She really wasn't looking forward to the long walk down the table. Of course. She spared a glance to her wings. There was a better option if she was willing to risk it.
Flying was fun even if she wasn't all too good at it. Being in the air under her own power was an incredible experience. "Oh what the hell," She grinned and pushed her magic into her wings as she had gotten used to doing over the last week. A soft golden glow flowed through the delicate silver tracery of her wings and she extended them fully. Fairy Dust scattered in their wake with that action.
She wasn't really supposed to, but… With a grin, she jumped. Fairies, like most Fae, naturally turned some of their magic into physical enhancement. Like when she had knocked her dad off his chair. A lot of her practice with Carwyn was simply learning to enhance herself deliberately with magic.
A brief puff of fairy dust left her foot as she kicked off the ground and soared up above the three-story houses. Dwarves looked up as she flexed her wings and shot forward, a faint trail of fairy dust following behind her. She back winged immediately as the table disappeared beneath her and the dollhouse loomed large before her. "Shit," she cursed as she came to a stop within a fairy inch of the third-floor window.
Somewhat sheepish she lowered herself back to the ground outside the front door gently and tried to pretend that she hadn't nearly imitated a fly smacking into a windshield. The exasperated looks she got from the guards suggest she hadn't been as successful as she liked. Joy.
With some dignity, and an incandescent blush, she headed inside and up the stairs with only a quick wave to Tomos working in the kitchen. She needed a shower. Now if only she could get a nice relaxing bath.
"So what is this I hear about you nearly crashing through the third-floor windows?" Taylor groaned as Emhyr walked out onto the second-floor patio.
"I didn't feel like walking?" She said defensively as she nibbled on a danish.
He chuckled as he took the seat across from her. "I think we'll make a fairy out of you yet," he said. "You wouldn't believe the number of young fairies that I've heard give that exact defence to smashing some vase or window, or… well. The list of what young fairies haven't broken is certainly shorter than what they have."
She blushed and finished the danish. "I like flying," she defended.
"So do most fairies," the Loremaster chuckled. He nodded his thanks to Tomos as the chef set lunch down before him. "Thank you, Tomos."
"You are welcome Loremaster. Your Grace, anything else?" The chef asked her. She shook her head.
"I'm good, thank you," she smiled at the chef who scurried off.
Emhyr started cutting up the meal in front of him. "Tell me Your Grace, have you been reading the reports coming in from the scouts?" He asked.
Taylor shook her head. "I've been stuck in a loop of defence training, flight training, bed for the last week and a bit. How much time do you think I have?" She asked. The nice thing about that was that she had been too tired to miss having books to read.
"Apparently not as much as I thought," Emhyr replied before he bit down on the sliced meat he had been served. They ate in silence for a few minutes before the Loremaster set down his cutlery and reached for the napkin. "Ah, it is good to have cutlery again."
"There's a lot more in those books than I thought," she commented.
"Mhmm, I'll confess to some surprise myself. It is clear that they had more time than we expected," he noted, "Which is good for us now, but… this is getting away from my question earlier. I take it you aren't aware of how much ground the scouts have made?"
She shook her head. "No," she said, "I haven't a clue."
"They finished the search of the first floor three days ago," Emhyr said.
"Already?" Taylor stared, "I thought you said it was going to take weeks?"
"We thought it would, but I'm afraid our estimates were based on… assumptions," the Loremaster sighed. He speared the last slice of meat and chewed on it slowly. He swallowed then continued, "We assumed that the insect and pest infestation of this house would match up with what we were familiar with back in Wales. That was a mistake. The number of insects, rodents, and other pests is comparatively non-existent. Hunt-Captain Harvard has already cleared all of the rooms and returned maps that we have already matched to the blueprints of the house. While we haven't checked inside the walls the Hunt-Captain has declared that the first-floor open spaces are safe for habitation."
Taylor shook her head. "That's good news, but I didn't think you'd be able to clear it so quickly," she said, "The travel times alone-"
"Aren't all that much," interrupted Emhyr, "I know we haven't had the time to spend on covering the physiology of the Fae as I would like, but we Dwarves, especially our trained soldiers, can outpace a sprinting human on flat ground. Not for terribly long, but travel times were not as much of an issue as you seem to think."
"Oh…" Taylor sighed, "There's still a lot for me to learn?"
"Years worth I'm afraid," her teacher smiled. "He would have declared it clear days before, but he wished to triple-check everything. Which brings me to the point of the issue. The Hunt-Captain is requesting more men so he can establish camps around the floor to keep the pests that they've already cleared out from reinfesting the areas."
The Loremaster cleared his throat and took a sip of the tea. "Hywel is eager to get to work on them with your permission," he added.
Taylor considered it. "They've picked out places to build?" She asked.
"Several. They've been marked on the map upstairs for a couple of days now," Emhyr said. His raised eyebrow implying that she should have known that already. She felt her face grow hot from embarrassment.
"And they are?" She asked.
"The Hunt-Captain believes that the kitchen counter by the fridge, the corner of the office by the filing cabinet, and the area underneath the sofa are all prime candidates for camps," Emhyr listed.
Under the sofa? She glanced across the room at the distantly looming edifice that she had once sat on like a normal person. Well, there was certainly room under it. The office probably had the room for a small camp as well, but the kitchen counter? "How are you going to get the materials up to the counter?" She asked.
"That is a bit of an issue, I'll admit," he sighed, "Hywel has suggested ropes and an elevator, but the easiest method would have been to build a staircase into the wall."
"And dad doesn't want us to start putting holes in the walls or the foundations," Taylor observed.
"Exactly," Emhyr nodded, "Which is beginning to become a bigger issue altogether."
Her eyes narrowed. "How so?"
"Hrm…" Emhyr stroked his beard, "Where to start. Well, simply put in the times when we have had to cohabitate with humans before we have stayed out of their way by the expedient method of utilizing the walls for highways. We install stairs, pathways, and even elevators inside them."
"Dad is worried about you messing with the power cables or water pipes. Accidentally," she clarified.
"We are used to working around dangerous materials. Take the smithy," Emhyr gestured to the only structure in the town that utilized stone. Most of the building was wood, but the forge had been carved out of a large rock her dad had brought in from the garden and engraved with runes by Cadog that prevented the heat of the forge from bleeding into the table or surrounding homes.
"Point. But electricity isn't fire," she countered.
"No, but it is dangerous. We can learn to handle danger just fine, Your Grace," he leaned forward against the table, "Hywel has already asked for books on the subject and we have yet to receive them. If your father would give us the chance to learn we could prove that we can handle ourselves around this electricity,"
Taylor sighed. He had a point. "I can't approve the counter plan. At the moment," she said, "but, the sofa and office camps have my approval. Stick to the open areas." And if her dad didn't want them there he should have said so before.
"I'll pass your word along then. There is, however, another issue that you need to know about," Emhyr sighed.
"What else?" Taylor groaned.
"Cadog has brought it to my attention that there is a growing need for materials. Materials that your father cannot provide, regardless of how much income you bring in," Emhyr said, "We've been pulling from the stores in the Seventh Colonial but if we continue we're going to run low." Taylor sighed and picked up one of the last pastries to nibble on.
"Why can't we buy them?" She asked.
"The materials are magical in nature. Plants and livestock that humans either don't know of or have no use for," he replied.
"Are you sure about that?" Taylor asked.
"Yes. Many of these materials only retain their useful properties when harvested correctly. Some are used for healing. Others are key ingredients in alloys or are types of leather that take enchantment well. These cannot be purchased from the human world. Food and most building materials are one thing, but most humans lack the magic required," Emhyr explained.
"And we have the livestock and seeds in the books. But that would require expanding, wouldn't it?" She observed. The table was completely out of room and she couldn't imagine her dad would be happy about them herding unicorns or worse down on the carpet.
"And it would need someplace other than carpet or a table."
Taylor chewed her lower lip as she thought. They would need those materials, especially when the inevitably brought more dwarves out of the books. Of course, to get those materials they would need to bring people out of the books. They didn't have farmers at the moment. "What would they need?" She asked.
"Many of the plants respond best to areas with poor lighting," Emhyr began.
"Some of them are, in fact, mushrooms, yes. But there are other plants that burn easily or originally grew in places where the sun was often a luxury. Such as the arctic circles, or at the bottom of deep chasms," the Loremaster continued, "We know how to recreate those environments well enough to grow them, but we will need to dig chambers for them. The livestock are also normally herded in large artificial caverns."
"What do they eat? The livestock I mean," Taylor asked.
"Depends on the animal. Most are herbivores, however."
"Most," she deadpanned.
Emhyr shrugged. "Meat is less of an issue when you're one of the smallest creatures around," he noted.
Taylor nodded absently. "They would need large enclosures?" She needed an idea of how much room this was going to take.
"As an example," he began, "this table would be, if covered in grass, enough space for a herd of unicorns. Not the largest herds, but large enough." Taylor looked out onto the rickety town created from carved up two by fours and tongue depressors. It looked like a lot of room from where she was sitting, but compared to actual horses it was rather small. Then again, most horses weren't five inches tall at most. Privately Taylor cursed the different scales. It made it difficult to visualize things.
"The issue," Emhyr continued, "is that we cannot dig. With the prohibitions on digging into the foundations or making entrances into the walls, we do not have the proper space to do this."
"They eat grass?" Taylor asked.
"Just bog-standard grass you'd find in any front yard?" She asked again. Emhyr nodded. "When the money comes through we could buy a few terrariums."
"Terrarium?" Taylor blinked at Emhyr's questioning tone.
"You don't know what a terrarium is?" They couldn't be that new.
"I'm afraid not," he said.
"There days they're glass boxes with climate control used for keeping pets like snakes or insects usually. Ant farms are popular for some reason," she shuddered. She never could understand why people felt the need to keep insects as pets, even before they were big enough to eat her. "Put some grass down, and set up some irrigation. Could keep anything we need in them."
"And I take it glass is less expensive than it was before?" Emhyr asked, running a hand through his beard. His tone was thoughtful.
"Quite a bit I think."
"Hmm, something to consider then. Though, this home of yours may be too cramped for our purposes," he observed. Taylor grimaced as she looked around. He was right. If she considered that a single herd of animals would take up space equal to this town of only a few hundred dwarves…
Taylor stood up from her chair and walked along the deck, running one hand along the rough wood of the railing. Emhyr was right. This was what it took to house less than five hundred dwarves. There were potentially over a million more dwarves waiting to be released from the other books. They could fill the house floor to ceiling on both levels and still not fit all of them. Not with all the workshops, stores, offices, and farmland they would need. Terrariums could help, but everything took space.
The house was too small.
She leaned against the railing and looked out over the roofs of the town and the living room. "We're going to have to move," she said.
"Your Grace?" Emhyr asked.
"By the time we take the space we need, my dad isn't going to have much of a house left." The old Dwarf looked about the room.
"Not knowing how large the rest of the home is, I'm afraid I can't offer good advice on this, Your Grace," he said apologetically, "But, even I can tell that the issue is not urgent. Tomorrow or next year, those of us still in the books will still be there just as we have been for the last century and a half."
"True…" It didn't stop her from feeling a bit guilty. They hadn't even finished unloading a single book. "Either way, I need to talk to dad. We need more space." And it was time she stepped up and tried to fix their issues before she lost her dad a second time.
"I won't disagree with the truth." Emhyr stepped up beside her and looked over the railing and down the street. They stood there for several minutes before he hummed thoughtfully.
"Emhyr?" She looked down at him questioningly.
"It occurs to me," he began, "That perhaps our plans have not accounted for the technological leaps that have occurred and our own diminished capacity to achieve our own desires." He looked up at her. "Your father works for the Dockworker's Union, correct?"
"That's right," she confirmed.
"What sort of work do they do?" He asked.
For a moment she stared at him, wondering why he suddenly changed the topic. Then something snapped together in the back of her mind. "They used to do everything at the docks. Unload cargo, put up new warehouses, load goods onto trains and maintain the tracks in the area. Dad says that it used to be if you worked in the docks you worked for the Union," she said.
"Including the things involving this electricity?" He asked.
"That's right," she nodded, "You're suggesting we hire help." The Dwarves had struck her as fairly proud and she had to wonder how the other three leaders would take it.
"For a time at least," Emhyr allowed. "It strikes me that we have several issues, all of which can be solved with outside assistance. If we can secure funds."
The crimson-haired Fairy grimaced as she nodded. "It comes back to money again," she sighed.
"Things often do," the old Dwarf chuckled, "Assuming we can get the funds I believe we can solve several issues at once. Our lack of understanding of modern technology first and foremost. We need teachers if we are to interact with, and perhaps master ourselves, the many advancements of the last century. Secondly, while our people are learning these new techniques the Union can build what we cannot. I've seen you looking longingly at the lights when it gets dark."
Taylor shrugged. "The fairy lights are nice, but we only have a few," she shrugged.
"Yes, and Cadog would love to supply more, but the magical materials they require have several other more pressing uses. Substituting electricity for them would alleviate the supply issues we are going to be facing for the next several years," Emhyr said, continuing his explanation.
"And we can use terrariums to get a start," Taylor added, getting a nod of agreement from the Loremaster.
"How expensive are these terrariums?" He asked.
"I'm not entirely sure," she admitted. "A few hundred dollars at least? I can probably talk dad into picking up one at least. Would dirt from the garden be good enough for crops?"
"More than adequate, Your Grace," Emhyr bowed, "Of course, you will have to speak with your father to arrange any of this."
Taylor winced and wilted a bit. "Yeah… Like I don't have enough to talk to him about… Tell Cadog that we're working on it and let Gryff know that he is clear to set up under the sofa and in the office. He can bring out another hundred hunters. That should be enough to make up the difference."
"Tell him to keep it in the footprint of the table for now," she ordered with a sigh. She crossed her arms under her chest and leaned back against the railing. Directly across from her was the window of her room. It was nice, but she missed her actual room. With her bed and her pillow. That Miss Militia poster on the wall and the shelves of books she would read whenever the mood took her.
Sometimes it really sucked being four inches tall.
"I think I'm going to take the afternoon off today Emhyr," she said, "If I have to deal with my dad I'd rather get some sleep first." She pushed off the railing and stretched, something in her back popped and she sighed.
"As you wish, Your Grace. I shall let you know when your father arrives then?"
"Please," she said with a smile at the old dwarf as she headed for her current room. She was going to sleep as much as she could.
Danny arrived home at the usual time, announcing his presence with a loud, "I'm home, Taylor." Before being turned into a fairy Taylor would sometimes reply with her own 'welcome home' if she was downstairs. These days communicating outside of a single room was a trick in and of itself.
So when Taylor heard her dad arrive she stepped out of the house and onto the deck and leapt into the sky, her wings glowing a soft gold. It was the first time she deliberately flew over the side of the table. For a moment her stomach dropped as she looked down at the open-air beneath her. It only lasted a moment though as the fact she was flying under her own power set in and she grinned.
She pulled a loop in the middle of the room and let out a whoop of joy. She sped up and did a loop about the room before turning for the kitchen. Her dad was hanging his coat over a kitchen chair when she buzzed into the room. His head snapped up as she came to a halt over the table in a spray of fairy dust. "Welcome home dad," She said, waving to him.
"Taylor… You're flying," her dad said. He sounded surprised. It must have been the fact she was outside of the living room.
"And mostly stable," Taylor added as she floated down to the table. She stopped a foot from it as she looked down. It was the first time in eleven days she had seen the kitchen. The table was covered in unwashed plates. She slowly spun on the spot, taking in the entire kitchen. It was more than just the table. The counters were also stacked with dirty dishes and take out containers. She frowned and crossed her arms and looked up at her dad. "What is this?" She asked sharply. He grimaced and leaned on the chair before him.
"I haven't been feeling like doing the dishes," he said.
"Uhuh. We have a dishwasher you know," she reminded him. He was letting himself go again.
"It costs money to run that. I was going to do them later,"
"Money which won't matter when we sell the gold. Use the damned dishwasher," she snapped, flying up to hover a foot in front of his face. "Unless we can't sell the gold?" She asked.
"I haven't heard a thing since Assault and Vista were here," Danny said, pulling out a chair. The chair groaned as he sat down. "I've called twice since, but nothing."
"Do we need the PRT's approval to sell the gold?" Taylor asked.
"Not exactly," he admitted after a few moments of meeting her eyes, "It helps. The lawyer I talked to said that a lot of companies refuse to purchase parahuman by-products unless they've been thoroughly tested by the PRT. And the gold does count since you literally create it from nothing."
"So we could sell it?"
"With difficulty," He pointed out.
Taylor clicked her tongue as she floated there thinking. It seemed that they would have to wait for the money then. "Well, while we're waiting there are a few things that we might need to do," she told her dad.
"We need more room. We've covered the table and while I've told Hywel to start building underneath it, there's the issue that we need farmland. Could you pick up a couple terrariums?" She asked.
Her dad's brow furrowed. "Possibly. How much space do you want?" He asked.
"At least as much as the tabletop twice over." Danny winced.
"I assume you'd need dirt as well for them?" He asked.
Taylor nodded. "I don't know how expensive they are, but anything would be enough to start growing what we need." And get Cadog to stop complaining to Emhyr.
"We don't have that much free money at the moment, but I'll see what I can do," he said, offering her a weak smile.
She smiled back. "Emhyr says that some dirt from the garden would be good enough."
He snorted. "Good luck getting it. There's two inches of snow on top of everything right now." She shrugged.
"The dwarves could probably bring it in themselves if they had a way outside," she suggested.
"Which would probably leave a line of dirt from the back door to wherever we put the terrarium," he pointed out. His tone left the impression that this was the last thing he wanted to deal with.
"Well getting out of the house would lighten the load on what we're doing inside," Taylor pointed out in return. "If you don't want them to use the doors, then what do you want them to do?" Her dad grimaced and looked down. "Dad?"
"Going outside the house could get them spotted," he said. She blinked, was he worried they would draw unwanted attention?
"They've been dealing with human beings for millennia dad. I think they can handle running around our backyard without exposing me," she said.
Her dad sat back in his chair. One hand toyed with his jacket. "There are plenty of flyers in the city. All it would take is one person looking down at the right time and-"
"Nothing. They're three inches tall dad," she said with pure exasperation, "I want them to get out there and start mapping things outside so that we don't fill up the house."
"And how are they supposed to do that? Dig out homes in the dirt? We live above an aquifer Taylor, not solid rock. There's a reason most places around here don't have basements," he said sharply.
"And yet we do," she countered. That was another place she and her dwarves had been forbidden to go.
"We're one of the only places around here with one, and it's one of the reasons our property value stays high," her dad countered, his voice rising in volume, "Taylor I want to keep you safe. I can't do that if you get found out by one of the gangs."
She stared at him with a frown. "I know," she said, "But now that I can fly I don't want to stay cooped up like some fairy tale princess waiting for her knight in shining armour to ride up and slay the dragon."
"You don't even know how to fight. If they're telling the truth then you are a Fairy. One of the Fae and that means there are other Fae out there and not all of them are nice," her dad's voice cracked, "I've already… Taylor I can't keep you safe out there…" Tears were forming in his eyes.
"And you don't want to lose me," she floated over and laid a hand on his cheek, careful to avoid the rivers of salt-water that were slowly running down his face. "I'm learning to fight. Carwyn is teaching me how to defend myself with a weapon and Emhyr has hinted that we're going to start on combat magic now that I've picked up the basics of flight."
"Good… that's good. I-" he licked his lips.
"You aren't going to lose me, not like you lost Mom," she said firmly. His emotions were going all over the place, but it was clear he felt terrified of the thought of losing her.
"If you hadn't turned into a fairy you would have been there," he said woodenly.
"There?" She blinked. Oh. The locker. "Dad, Emma isn't your fault."
"I should have known something was wrong. God… I'm your father. I'm supposed to protect you. Care for you. I spent years wallowing and it would have killed you if you hadn't read a book." Taylor floated back an inch as the tears began to pour in rivets and her father sobbed. Each burst of sound was like a cannon going off beside her and she flinched back another couple of inches as his body heaved.
Taylor grimaced and snarled. That was what he was fixated on? Fixated to the point of letting himself waste away? She did not need this.
"I failed… I-" Something inside her snapped.
"STOP." He flinched as she poured a bit of extra magic into her voice. The burst of sound rocking him back in his chair with wide eyes as she floated in front of him, fairy dust fountaining off her as she glowed to keep his attention. "Do not do this again. You say you failed? Yes. You did. I've spent two years with a shell for a dad," she snapped, jabbing him forcefully in the nose. It flexed in what had to be a painful way and he flinched back. "That changed on New Years. For three days I had my dad back. Maybe not the way he had been, but I had someone who was more like him than I had seen in years."
"Shut. Up." She snapped, emphasizing each word with another jab to the nose, "Shut UP! So you failed! I FAILED AS WELL!" The windows rattled, "I wasn't there for you! Neither of us was there for the other. Well, this time I'm here for you! We are not doing this again! You do not get to wither away in a pity party while I try to figure out how to be Queen of the fucking Fairies!" She gasped for breath as she finished. The rage she was feeling had dwindled a bit, but it still swirled through her.
"Taylor…" Her dad trailed off.
"We are not, doing this again," she repeated more softly, "I just want my dad."
Tears running down his face he nodded. "I know… You deserve better."
"Well, I have you. So you better shape up. I'm a Queen now, and that means I have higher standards… Or, I imagine I'm supposed to," she shrugged, "We haven't really covered much about what a queen is supposed to like, so I'm just guessing."
Danny chuckled wetly and raised a hand to her. He poked her in the side with a finger, getting a slightly annoyed 'hey' from her. "My daughter, the last Queen of the Fairies. Your mother would be so proud," he chuckled.
She smiled back and grabbed his finger in a hug. "I know. I wish she was here." He nodded and for a few moments, everything was quiet.
Danny broke the silence. "I'll… do better. I promise," he said. She hugged his finger again. "You know I stopped by Alan's house."
"What?" She looked up from the hug. "Why?" She zipped back, then started circling him. She tugged at his collar looking for bruises underneath his shirt. "Please tell me you didn't pick a fight."
Her dad pulled away and waved a hand. The winds from it barely buffeted her flight as she continued to zip around him with frantic worry. "I didn't even go up to the door. I saw them in the wind," he said.
"Who? Emma?" She asked.
"No," he said, shaking his head, "Alan and Zoe. They were in the living room on the couch. They had left the curtains open. It was the day after the PRT came to visit and… They both looked as terrible as I felt. I sat in the truck watching them for an hour. There was a lot of shouting going on from what I could see." He sighed, "I just drove away. I don't know what Alan knew, but I get the feeling he failed Emma worse than I failed you… I just… don't understand how."
He shook his head with disbelief. "Well," Taylor said with a sly smile, "I guess this means you don't get the worst father of the year award then?"
He chuckled. "Maybe I can aim for the best next year?"
"We'll see," she said, settling in front of him. She was starting to feel the drain of flying. "I'm getting a bit tired from all the hovering, so I think I'm going to head back to the dollhouse. Before I have to land and risk getting jumped by whatever has taken to calling this mess home." She grimaced at the piles of dirty dishes and takeout containers.
Her dad winced. "I… Think I need to do the dishes before dinner," he admitted. She kissed him on a dry spot on his right cheek.
"You do that dad. I'm going to go rest before I fall out of the sky. Cheers," She zipped off towards the living room. She glanced back and smiled as she saw him grinning weakly after her. She did a small loop-de-loop above the town before landing on the balcony. Carwyn was waiting for her as she set down and let her magic fade. The golden glow left her wings and left her with an ache in her shoulder blades where the wings met the rest of her body.
"Well Your Grace? I hope the shouting helped because that was rather loud," he said with a worried look.
She smiled to set his fears to rest. "A bit I think," she said, turning to look back towards the kitchen. Her dad was visible for a second carrying a stack of Chinese take-out boxes towards the garage. "Now, I'm going to have a shower. If anyone asks, make sure they know I want a quiet evening. Unless it's my dad," she told the General as she walked to the door.
"I'll send a runner around. Have a good night, Your Grace," he said, bowing as she passed.
It was time for a shower, bath, and finding a good spot to watch the TV from. Perhaps on the roof of the dollhouse? By the steeple maybe?
The floor of the training hall tasted like wood and glue. Not surprising, since that was what it had been assembled from. To Taylor, it had become a familiar flavour as she peeled herself off the ground for the… she had forgotten how many times she had hit the floor that day. That was probably because of the multiple instances of concussive force to the skull she had been on the receiving end of.
It went without saying that the week since her angry lecture of her own father had been going swimmingly. Her dad had stopped moping, or at least moping as much. It was clear that while she had managed to break the downward spiral he had gotten it he was still worse than he had been at the beginning of the month. Still, it was an improvement over where he had been before she turned into a fairy. There was, unfortunately, still no news from PRT though, the TV News had reported that charges had been laid against three students from Winslow High School.
Hopefully. that would be the end of that mess.
Magic training had shifted from flight, except for the progressively longer flights around the house she was taking during the evenings, and to more combative forms. While Emhyr was no wizard the first book, How to be a Queen, had proven to be a good resource. There was an entire section of the book dedicated to explaining magic theory and it had included a small library's worth of books. They had left most of the books in storage. They just didn't have the room for a Royal library's worth of heavy tomes.
As for combat training, Taylor had graduated from forms and basic handling to actual sparring. "Surprisingly quickly," had been Carwyn's comment at the time. Sparring was a lot more painful than training had been up until that point.
"Going to get up?" Carwyn asked from his seat at the end of the hall from where he supervised the training. "Or are you done for today?"
Taylor shook her head to scatter the errant thoughts. "I'm good," she said. She retrieved the wooden longsword as she climbed back to her feet and faced her sparring partner. A young dwarven guard. Every day it was a different guard that Carwyn pulled for the duty, so she never fought the same opponent twice. Or at least, not yet. She would have to run out of people eventually… Oh, who was she kidding. That would take years.
"Hmm," Carwyn tapped his chin watching her. She raised her weapon into the ready position she had been taught. "One last time I think," the General decided, "I don't want Emhyr complaining you were too concussed to study magic this afternoon."
"I think it might be too late for that," the guard, observed as he raised his wooden axe.
Carwyn snorted. "She's a Fairy. She'll be right as rain in an hour or so. Begin," he declared with the same suddenness that she had learned he preferred.
The dwarf across from her leaped forward, his body actually leaving the ground as he covered the length of the hall in a single bound. Taylor sidestepped the telegraphed blow and blocked the swift follow-up strike with her blade, and the next strike, and the next. She shuffled back across the hall, giving ground under the relentless assault of the experienced dwarf.
As she sidestepped another overhanded blow she stepped forward to deliver her own strike towards his body. In a move, she couldn't track the guard sidestepped her strike in turn and brought his axe about. He caught her blade between the axehead and the shaft and ripped it from her hands before slamming the butt of his weapon into her stomach. She rolled across the floor until she bounced off the wall.
"Oooow," she groaned as she lay there.
"You overextended," Carwyn commented conversationally, "Again."
"I noticed," she said as she sat up. She massaged her stomach gently. That had hurt a lot.
"Well, we're done here," Carwyn said, "Once I've compared notes I'll join you for lunch. Head up to the house and get cleaned up before I have Emhyr in here yelling at me for taking too much time. Again."
Taylor stood up and dusted herself off. Her everything was hurting, but experience had shown that bruises and soreness disappeared in only a couple of hours at most. "I'll see you there, then," she acknowledged before walking stiffly out of the training hall.
Rather than walk, she took to the air the moment she was outside of the barracks. She zipped across the town and landed smoothly on the balcony on her house. She nodded to the guards by the door. They bowed in return.
First a shower, then lunch.
News arrived with the bang of the front door flying open the next afternoon. "TAYLOR!" Her dad's voice echoed through the house from the kitchen.
Taylor was standing on the edge of the tabletop practicing her magic with Emhyr. Floating an inch in front of her, and hanging out in the open air, was a glittering orb of fairy dust that was shining brightly enough to cast shadows on the walls of the living room. As she looked up from the spell one side bulged.
"Taylor!" Emhyr said sharply. With an 'eep' she pulled her attention back to the spell. It was too late to salvage it, so she shot it out over the carpet. A moment later it went off with a loud crack-bang and a flash of golden light. A thin layer of fairy dust rained down upon half the room.
"Fuck," Taylor sighed, her hands and shoulders dropping. Her dad was going to be annoyed that she covered the room in gold. Again.
"Focus, Taylor. Do not let yourself be distracted," Emhyr reprimanded with a shake of his head.
"I know. At least it didn't go off on top of us again," Taylor shrugged. That had been a pain to clean up. Emhyr could only nod at that. "I'm going to go find out what dad wants," she told her teacher.
"As you wish, Your Grace. I will get a few teams down there to recover as much as we can before the charge is lost," he said, gesturing to the field of gold.
"Thank you," she grinned. Her wings lit up as she jumped forward, and straight off the table. She traced a golden arc across the room to the kitchen. As she entered her eyes scanned the room again. The dishes had been cleaned up the same evening she and her dad had had their discussion. It was nice to see that he still hadn't backslid. Sure the sink was full of dirty dishes from that morning, but he normally did them in the evening anyway.
Danny was setting a manilla envelope down on the table as she came to a stop a foot from him. "Dad!" She called, waving. He smiled.
"The PRT called today," he said with his own smile.
Her smile became a grin. "Really? Did they say yes?" She demanded, buzzing closer, "Please tell me they said yes."
Her dad leaned back as she flew within an inch of his face and chuckled. "They said yes," he confirmed.
"YES!" She pumped her fist then hugged him on the cheek again. "Yes, yes, yes, yes!" She zipped away and did two laps of the room before coming to a stop in front of him. "This is going to solve so many problems," she said.
"It gets better," her dad continued, holding up the manilla envelope. "In here is a contract requesting that we provide fifty percent of all gold we bring to market to the PRT for the market price plus five percent." She stared.
"Plus five percent?" She repeated.
Her dad grinned and patter her gently on the head. "I tried to talk them into plus seven, but Director Piggot wasn't having any of it. So, just five percent. They did say that they would happily take the rest as well for market plus three if we decide to. Apparently they're having a hard time sourcing sufficient gold for their tinkers."
She stared for a moment longer before drifting gently down to the table. Her knees gave out as she touched the tabletop. "Fifty-percent? Just outright fifty of however much we decide to produce?" She asked.
"Well, fifty-percent below a threshold that is frankly ludicrous. I don't think we have much to worry about there," he added, "I've already had our lawyer go over it."
"Already?" That was fast.
"He was quite eager to once I mentioned it was about the sale of the gold I had mentioned before," he said, "I am going to go and pack up what we have and take it in before word can start spreading."
"Wait, spread? How?" She asked, shaking off her surprise.
Her dad sighed. "I know the PRT. They leak far more than an organization like that should, and with gold at stake? They'll be even more likely to bleed the secret than before," he noted, "We're better off getting this over and done with today. I've already alerted Assault. I'll give him a call before I head out with it. One of the heroes will be waiting when I get there."
Taylor nodded. "Did we ever measure how much we have?" She asked. He shook his head.
"I never got around to it. They'll measure it when they receive it and transfer the funds directly to an account for you once the details are finalized," he said, "Now, I'd like to get going before the gangs have time to line the roads for an ambush."
"Maybe you should take some of the guards with you?" Taylor suggested, taking flight again. "If something happens I'd rather you have help."
"How much can a bunch of three-inch dwarves do if the E88 takes a shot at me, Taylor?" Her dad asked. "I'll be fine going alone."
"They can do a lot. Hell, I flipped you out of your chair on the first day," she pointed out, flying up to his face. "I'll get Carwyn to put a team together. It shouldn't take more than a few minutes."
Her dad met her hard gaze for a minute before sighing. "Okay. I'll go and get the gold ready, you go and get your guards ready. They can ride on the pail," he said.
She beamed. "Okay," she chirped before buzzing out of the room with a trail of glittering gold. She flew straight to the dollhouse and landed lightly on the balcony. Emhyr was waiting as she landed.
"Everything good, Your Grace?" He asked as she marched past him and up the stairs. He hurried along behind her.
"Everything is fine. Better really," she said as they reached the planning room Carwyn was still using. "General~" She greeted him with a grin that caused him to raise an eyebrow before turning his gaze to Emhyr.
"Should I be worried?" He asked Emhyr.
"I would ask the same question if I had anyone to ask it to," the Loremaster replied calmly. She pouted at them both. She wasn't that overly cheerful.
"Dad came back. The PRT wants to buy as much gold as we have at the moment," she said, "Dad is packing it up and he's worried that a gang might get wind of this. So I'd like you to get a group together to go with him."
"And protect the gold?" Carwyn asked. She shook her head.
"No. Protect my dad. We can get more gold if we have to. Or get our gold back," she told him.
Carwyn nodded. "It would be a good chance to get a glimpse of the city. We've been entirely cooped up the last few weeks," he noted. "If we were building in a garden or field we would have already covered a hundred times the area we have so far."
Taylor grimaced. "We should probably do something about that later, but for now, a team please?" She asked him politely.
The General nodded and set his map tools down. "I'll see to it immediately, Your Grace," he said.
"I'll let dad know," she said, spinning on her heel and slipping around Emhyr before heading back down the stairs.
As she left the room Emhyr turned to Carwyn. "Well, this should prove quite informative. There is still far too much we don't know about what has changed since we left," he said.
"Aye. I'll ask the guards I send to be extra vigilant," Carwyn said.
"And while you organize that, perhaps this evening is the time for our first true planning meeting," Emhyr suggested as they descended the stairs together. "We have been lax for too long I would say."
"We both know that the young Queen needed time to adjust. How are the magic lessons going?" The General asked.
"Well enough. Her progress is slower than it could have been with another fairy as a teacher, but she has made astounding progress nonetheless," Emhyr said.
"Much the same as her sword training. She has been making exceptional progress," Carwyn grimaced, "It is still too soon for her to get involved in the outside world, however."
"That choice is not ours to make," Emhyr chided, "We may only decide how to adapt to her actions and make plans to safeguard her." The General sighed and nodded.
"I know. Gather the others. I believe a formal meeting over dinner would be the best time to discuss our options," he suggested as they reached the first floor. The two of them stopped and turned to each other.
"I'll alert Tomos to prepare something for four dwarves and a particularly hungry fairy," Emhyr chuckled. "She looks like a grown fairy, but eats like a child."
Carwyn chuckled, "I will see you at dinner then, old friend." He patted Emhyr on the shoulder then headed out the door, leaving the old Loremaster with his thoughts.
Dinner that night was a much fancier affair than Taylor had grown used to. Rather than a quiet meal on the balcony, they were making actual use of the dining room for once. The table had been covered in a red tablecloth and plates of delicate china had been brought out. The cutlery was a silvery-white metal that she couldn't recognize.
The meal was delicious. As the last of the plates were cleared away Emhyr tapped his wine glass with a spoon. The sharp ringing brought an end to the conversation. Taylor turned from her conversation with Hywel about how the installation of the terrarium was going in the undercity to face the old Loremaster.
"Your Grace," he began, addressing her, "I must ask your forgiveness. Since our arrival, we have been kept so busy that we have not been as organized as we should have been. Tonight, with the news that the first batch of gold is being sold and with some of our number travelling into the world beyond, even if only for a short time, it is time that we sat down and properly discussed our plans for the future. With your blessing, Your Grace." He bowed deeply to her. The other three rose from their seats and echoed the older dwarf.
She looked about the table at four bowing dwarves. "Please sit down," she ordered them. The four resumed their seating with the screech of sliding chairs. She looked over the four dwarves. They were right. They had talked briefly here and there about ideas of what to do, but nothing had ever been finalized, and it had never been the full five of them. In fact, it hadn't even been four of them before.
She rested her hands on the table. "Okay, so what do we need to start with?" She asked.
"With your permission, Your Grace, I'd like to start this off," Hywel said. She glanced around and noted the nods from the rest.
"Go ahead," she told him. The youngest of the four dwarves took a sip from the glass of red wine he had been served, a marked difference from the harder drinks the other three had requested.
"Our single biggest issue, is the fact we know nothing," he said bluntly. "It has been one hundred and forty plus years we last were in touch with the Fae Courts. That is plenty of time for the fallout of the Fairy Court's annihilation to shake out into something resembling a new normal. A normal that our Queen's mere existence is about to endanger."
"Endanger? Why?" Taylor frowned. She didn't really want to be a Queen, but if she had to be one she wasn't exactly raring to go out and conquer the city or something.
"He's right," Carwyn said, nodding firmly. "The European Fae Courts were known as Fairy Courts for a reason. No one possessed the might to challenge them. Assuming whatever wiped out the Fairies didn't switch targets afterwards that means most species of Fae have had between one and five generations without Fairies. They're used to being their own masters now. The existence of a fairy? My apologies, Your Grace, but two Fae Courts cannot coexist in the same space without one becoming subordinate to the other."
"So what happens when two run into each other?" Taylor asked.
"That would depend on the courts involved," Emhyr said, "While the general rule of thumb for two courts occupying the same area is that one must bow to the other, there is always the possibility of simply leaving the area."
She grimaced. The thought of leaving her home was not something she wanted to contemplate. Though…
"That is, of course, assuming we are in the territory of a Fae Court," Hywel pointed out, "That's the issue. We don't know if this territory is claimed by another court or if we're in unclaimed land. It has been over a century with the Fairy Courts to enforce peace in the vassal courts. Nothing we knew about the political landscape is relevant anymore."
"Then it is time that we rectified our lack of knowledge," Carwyn said. The General leaned forward, resting his chin on his folded hands. "We will need to send scouts out into the neighbourhood and then the rest of the city. We dwarves can cover a lot of ground in a day, but we'll need a lot more to make any meaningful progress."
"Which means we're going to need more housing. Again," Hywel sighed. The youngest dwarf ran a hand through his red beard. "I can't say I advise that unless we get some infrastructure in place. The field equipment is good, but we don't have that much of it."
"There would be more in another book," Emhyr said, "But breaking open a new book for toilets and sinks is perhaps not the greatest plan."
"Do they have to run everywhere?" Taylor asked, drawing attention back to her. She fidgeted under the gaze of her four advisors. "The scouts, do they have to run? Isn't there some form of transportation you could use?"
"Possibly," the Loremaster said, tapping the tabletop as he thought. "I remember… Hywel, did the Seventh have Gryphons or am I misremembering?" The administrator leaned back in his chair at the question with a frown.
"I… I can't remember," he admitted, "But I'm sure we could find some in one of the books if we really need them."
"We do," Carwyn cut in. The General sighed. "This new age is very fond of vertical movement. Up and down, up and down, over and over again. The tables are taller, the houses are bigger, and if the TV is to be believed their towers are taller than any castle ever was. The Hunt-Captain Harvard has been complaining about the lack of tools his men have for maneuvering when exploring. We can install all the elevators and stairs we want, but that won't help outside of town."
Taylor nodded. The dwarves could move quickly. They could jump a foot into the air when really trying and sprint faster than a grown human. The issue came from the fact that not much was within a foot of the floor anymore. "Then we'll need to see if any Gryphons are available. We'll pick up a couple more terrariums for Hywel. We can use them as stables for them," she decided.
"That will require us to dig out their riders as well," Carwyn noted, "They will also allow us to assign a direct escort to you as well, Your Grace."
"Do I need one?" She asked. She had been flying about the house perfectly fine without one.
"You are our Queen. You warrant a guard detail. Until now we have had no one who could keep up with you when you went flying. If we can bring out the Gryphon Riders then we will have no issue following your lead," the General said.
Taylor grimaced, then sighed. They had a point. She was still having issues with the most basic combat spell a Fairy could learn and she hadn't lasted more than ten seconds against any of the guards she sparred with. She needed the protection a guard detail afforded if she wanted to leave the house.
"Go for it. It'll be nice to have someone to go flying with at least," she sighed. Emhyr chuckled and shook his head with a smile.
Cadog knocked his metal flagon against the table. "Bringing our conversation back a bit," he said once their attention shifted back to him. "I would like to suggest a few additional courses of action."
"What do you have in mind, Cadog?" Emhyr asked.
The smith took a drink from his flagon before continuing. "So, we're talking about what we can do with the materials in the book. We need to bring out more enchanters."
"You were complaining about a lack of materials yesterday," Hywel said throwing up a hand, "Can we even support more enchanters at this time?"
"Enchanting does not always require specialty materials," he paused to burp loudly. "Excuse me Your Grace," he said with an embarrassed look.
"It's fine Cadog," she waved him off.
He nodded, still looking embarrassed. "As you say. This town is relying on field equipment. We need to install proper dwarven infrastructure. Water, lighting, heat. Well, the heat is taken care of by the Lord Hebert's in house heating system, but the other two are needed. All of those things require more enchanters."
"After my men finish building them. We don't have the metals yet," Hywel protested, "And I can't exactly start putting pipes through the carpet. Not to mention I have nowhere to source water from."
"We are on an aquifer around here," Taylor noted.
"Which would require me to pip water either through the walls or the floors. Neither of which I have been granted leave to do," Hywel said.
"It strikes me," Emhyr broke in, "that many of our issues stem from us, essentially, renting space." Taylor sagged against the back of her chair as the other three dwarves voiced agreement.
"I can probably convince dad to let you drill a few holes, but…" she trailed off.
"But in the long term, this may be an untenable location," Emhyr gently said.
"We already agreed on that, Emhyr," she reminded him.
"And you said I might have been too hasty," she added.
"True." He nodded.
"Has that changed?" She asked.
Emhyr leaned his head against his hand for a quiet minute as the other four at the table watched. "Your father has been more helpful since your discussion. However, I have had the feeling that he wishes everything to return to how it was and is resistant to anything that might challenge that possibility." He tapped the table with his finger, drumming a beat as he continued. "You can more than likely persuade your father to allow us to expand, but the effort might be better spent convincing him to let us establish a proper court somewhere where our needs will not conflict with his."
"I have to agree with Emhyr, Your Grace," Hywel said, turning to look down the table to her. "Your father is quite helpful in most things. The food he has provided is far and away more than we could have hoped for and he has been quite willing to answer a number of my questions about the city when I have asked, but his reluctance to allow my people to do their jobs is… An unnecessary issue." Taylor closed her eyes and nodded. As much as it hurt to say it, her dad was beginning to be an issue. She didn't want to keep living in a small dollhouse, though with some renovations it would be a perfectly fine place to stay when visiting her dad.
She groaned. This was going to be a pain to deal with. "Well… That relies on convincing my father to let us, because I am not alienating him just because all of you want a bigger place to build," she looked around the table with a firm glare. She was just starting to get him back, she wasn't going to drive him away again on the whims of a bunch of dwarves she had known for just over two weeks.
"It would also require us to actually find a place to go," Carwyn added, "And then secure it. Again, all things we need additional scouting for. We are talking about what-ifs. While we should keep these in mind, let us focus on what we can do at this moment. We need additional men now. We need the riders. We need space, water, and to get our enchanting operations started. There is no one solution to all of these problems."
"There may be ways to mitigate them, however," Cadog said, looking across the table to Emhyr who nodded. "We have money coming in. We need housing. We need water. We need better transportation for the scouts. I would like to suggest that we look to the humans and their technology for our answers."
Taylor eyed the smith before shifting her gaze to Emhyr. The Loremaster must have spoken with him at some point since their discussion.
"In what way?" Carwyn asked, folding his hands in his lap as he leaned back in his chair. Across from him, Hywel had turned fully to Cadog.
"I'm curious as well, so please, spit it out," the red-haired dwarf suggested.
Cadog finished his drink and leaned back in his chair. "To start with, labour. Our biggest issue is building. My enchanters can work with pre-constructed materials for all but the most delicate artifacts. Hiring humans to create, en masse, the housing and other materials we need is entirely possible with today's technology. Lord Hebert was more than positive of that when I enquired with him two days ago."
"I'm going to guess he suggested using the DWU as well?" Taylor asked.
Cadog nodded. "He asked me to consider sending some work their way. Tell me, Your Grace, are his people as good as he claims?" He asked.
"I'm not sure. Dad has kept me out of things for a while, but I've never heard anything bad about them from other sources. If nothing else they're likely to keep quiet if we're providing jobs," Taylor told him, "Though, they'll probably be the best source of skilled and available labour we can get. A bit on the expensive side though."
"Cost is not as much of an issue for us as it might be with others," Emhyr noted, "We still need a place to put these homes. Unless we have already forgotten the previous conversation already, Cadog?"
The smith shook his head. "No, no, not at all. Your Grace, how likely would your father be to approve a single passage being cut through the wall dividing this room from your backyard?" He asked Taylor.
"If it's just the one… Probably a yes if we can give a good reason?" She hesitantly offered.
Cadog nodded. He turned back to the rest of the table. "Then we build the passage, design, or hire someone else to design, the homes and other facilities we need, which will be installed on the outside of the house. From there we bring in the people we need and work on identifying a place to properly establish the court," he explained, "We're going to want to leave a garrison here to guard your father anyway, Your Grace, so the facilities won't be a waste of funds once we move on."
"Yes. I like that," Carwyn said. He leaned forward. "I would advise having them built as a fortress if we intend to leave it as a garrison afterwards."
"It will also pair well with my other suggestion," Cadog said.
"Other suggestion?" Hywel asked, "I can't say I'm terribly fond of your first one. It cuts my people out of their duties."
"It'll let us put electricity in, however," Emhyr noted, "None of our people possess the knowledge to wire a building safely. Electric lights would cut down on the enchantment material requirements and we may be able to integrate other human technologies."
"Precisely," Cadog agreed, "When I spoke with Lord Hebert he mentioned that humans have created toy scale versions of their vehicles that can be remotely controlled. These cars and planes that we have seen on the TV over the last few weeks have smaller toy versions. We could see about having some made to our specifications and then my people could enchant them to increase their capabilities."
Dwarves in RC cars? Taylor tilted her head to the side at that mental image. The image of Emhyr in a red plastic Cadillac with his hair and beard streaming behind him in the wind was oddly amusing. On the other hand dwarves with planes could be quite useful. Or even helicopters. There was quite a bit of potential there, actually, and it would serve to deal with the main difficulty that came with scouting the city: the sheer size disparity.
"That could work," she said, thinking hard. The plan relied on getting her dad to play ball in a way he hadn't so far, though the opportunity to get jobs for the Union would probably be a good incentive for him. Maybe she could use that to get him to let her move out later? Maybe…
"I'll get to work on convincing my dad about the garrison," she said, coming to a decision, "Cadog, unless anyone has a problem, we'll go with your suggestions. Anyone?" She glanced around the table.
"I think we're all on board, Your Grace," Hywel sighed, "Does anyone have any other things they'd like to discuss tonight?" Everyone looked around.
"It seems we're out of major topics for now," Emhyr observed, earning nods. "Then let us move on. Hywel, how is the terrarium turning out?"
"Well as I was telling Her Grace earlier..." Hywel launched into a detailed explanation of their current efforts to convert the terrarium for farming.
Taylor leaned back in her chair and took a sip of the wine that had been provided. She swished the liquid back and forth as she idly toyed with the glass. "This," she whispered to herself, "is going to be a long night." Her mind wandered away across the city as she wondered how things were going for her dad.
Vista was bored. She was bored as she lay on the couch of the PRT East-North East's Ward's common room and stared at the ceiling, her phone lying forgotten next to her. She was dressed in her full costume with only the visor missing. It was lying on the coffee table in arms reach.
"Ugh, why is this taking forever?" Vista barely shifted as the boy sitting in the recliner across the room complained loudly. Again. He pulled at the collar of the clock covered white armoured costumed he was wearing. "You'd think with Sophia getting canned we'd be done with shit like this."
Vista rolled her eyes and flicked her hand, bending space in the same instant so that palm smacked him across the back of the head from across the room.
"Ow, damn it Vista," he complained as he rubbed his head, "I know you weren't upset when she got the axe finally, so why are you hitting me?"
"Because you won't stop complaining, perhaps, Clock?" The third person in the room offered from the kitchen.
Clockblocker, known out of costume as Dennis, grumbled. "We've been here for three hours. They cancelled our patrols tonight for whatever this is," he said, crossing his arms with a huff. "The least they could do is tell us what we're expected to do."
The other boy snorted and stepped around the couch into Vista's line of vision. "That's not happening," Gallant, known out of costume as Dean, said. He took a seat in the other recliner. "Not after Shadow Stalker."
Dennis scoffed. "Shadow stalker. I can't believe Piggy expected us to have any clue what that psycho was going. We didn't even go to the same school. How were we supposed to know she was practicing her Jack Slash impression on school girls?"
In the wake of Shadow Stalker's arrest and immediate transport to juvie there had been a mixture of relief and horror for the Wards. Relief because they no longer had to deal with Sophia's insults, passive-aggressive snark, or her inability to work with anyone not as twisted as she was. Their horror had come from what it had finally taken to get her pulled from the team. Texts pulled from her phone and those of her conspirators had explained in plain English how they had intended to lock a girl their own age in what amounted to a biohazard waste bin and leave her for dead as the capstone on a year and a half long bullying campaign. It boggled the mind how something like this could have been missed.
It hadn't hit Vista the same way it had the other Wards. She had been there when the girl's intended victim, Taylor Hebert, had named the Ward. There was a sick sort of irony that the girl had avoided a fate terrible enough to count as a trigger event by triggering with powers not even three days before. She had been furious during the ride back from the Hebert's home. By the time they had arrived at the PRT Headquarters, she had been calm. The sort of calm that leads to one committing murder in cold blood. It was only the fact that Sophia was still in quarantine offsite from the fallout of her stunt that had prevented the young girl from making her best go at it. The things she had read in the journal on the way back. Well, there was a reason Assault had taken the book back from her during the trip. She hadn't meant to break the geometry of the van.
There was a part of her that was happy to see Sophia gone, but the mess she had left behind was bigger than just a school. Sophia had been pulled from quarantine after a check by Panacea and shipped off out of the city without delay the moment things came to light. Her departure and heralded the start of what Vista could only think of as a witch hunt. Director Piggot, the commanding officer of the PRT ENE, had been on the warpath immediately. The PRT's caseworker for Sophia was rumoured to have been arrested and tried within a week of the incident. Depending on who you asked they were either in jail or shuffled off to a containment zone for the rest of their natural life.
Piggy's warpath hadn't ended there, unfortunately. The woman was a big fan of the idea of punishing the entire team for the sins of a single person. They had all been painted with the same brush in her eyes. All the Wards viewed it as a minor miracle that Aegis, the current Ward's Captain in Brockton Bay, hadn't lost his position in the mess. The fact that he had only been captain for the last month had probably been what saved him in Vista's opinion. The Director's attitude to them since had, however, made it clear she trusted them much less than she had before. It was like she expected them all to be hiding Taylor's in their closet just waiting to spring out at the worst time and embarrass the PRT.
For the rest of the Wards, the 'punishment' had been limited to mandatory awareness lessons, restrictions on patrols, and a small dock in pay. It was the last one that had ticked the group off the most. As Clockblocker constantly complained, how were they supposed to know Shadow Stalker was less antisocial loner and more psycho serial killer wannabe?
"We couldn't," Vista sighed, getting both boy's attention. "Just stop complaining about it already. You've done nothing but that for over a week Clock. It's getting annoying." She waved her hand threateningly in his direction.
Clock winced. "Fine… So where is our fearless leader and Kid anyway?" He asked, changing the topic, "They've been gone for nearly an hour." Aegis and Kid Win had both been called away within minutes of each other. No reason had been given at the time and it had left the rest of them wondering and waiting.
Vista sighed and sat up, slipping her visor on. She pocketed her phone and stood up. "Where are you going?" Clock asked.
"Away." She bent space and stepped from the couch across the room to the window that looked out over the bay. It was the furthest point from Clock and Gallant. She leaned against the window. Outside night had already fallen and the city glittered with street lamps, headlights, and the windows of homes. It was a relaxing scene compared to the constant moaning and complaining from Clockblocker. Dennis, as he was known out of costume, was normally a funny and easy going guy, but the last few days had worn away any humour.
It wasn't just Dennis. They were all on edge and spending a few hours just sitting around waiting for something to happen was not helping. If she had to listen to him complain for another hour she was going to do something she regretted… would regret. Somehow she doubted that the first minute of listening to him fall into a bottomless pit would provoke much regret.
She sighed and turned her attention out to the city. Thinking about the team would just drive her up the wall. She stood there, trying and failing to not think about the team, for another ten minutes while Gallant and Clockblocker talked in the background. She vaguely noticed that Gallant had subtly steered the conversation away from complaining and onto football.
The door opening interrupted both her looping thoughts and the conversation between the two boys. She turned to find Aegis entering the room. The moment the door shut he reached up and popped off his helmet. "Gah, that was annoying," he complained, walking over to the kitchen table.
"More annoying than sitting here with nothing to do?" Clock asked.
Aegis shot him a look before glancing at the large TV that occupied much of the wall. "Says the guy who had a TV?" He snarked, sitting down.
"Funny thing about that, TV still isn't working," Clock said, jerking a thumb back at it.
"You're kidding," Aegis groaned, "They said they fixed it."
"Nope. We've been as bored out of our minds," Clock shrugged.
"What did they want Carlos?" Gallant asked.
Aegis, who went by Carlos normally, sighed. "So, you guys remember that cape Vista visited with Assault a few weeks back?" He asked. They all nodded. "Vista forgot to mention they create gold when they do their thing. The PRT just had sixty pounds of it delivered thirty minutes ago." Vista stared. How much was sixty pounds worth anyway?
"Holy shit," Clock said, "Sixty pounds?"
"Yeah. Kid was ecstatic. When I left he was already knee-deep in some new design," Aegis said. He stretched and rolled his shoulder with a groan. "Anything left in the fridge?" He asked.
"Plenty of pizza from earlier, just leave the anchovy slices alone," Clock told him, getting a shudder from Gallant. Aegis snorted.
"No danger there," their captain scoffed.
"What are they going to do with sixty pounds of gold? How much is that even worth?" Clock asked. He looked about the room, getting shrugs from both Gallant and Vista. She didn't even know how much a pound of gold was worth, let alone sixty.
"Two point eight million," Aegis said as he pulled a pizza box out of the fridge. He popped the top open, grimaced at what was inside, and slid it back into the fridge before retrieving a second box. "The girl's dad who brought it in looked stunned when they weighed it. They hadn't realized how much they'd collected over the last few weeks."
"Yeah, but what are they going to do with it? Sell it?" Clock asked, earning a snort of derision from Vista.
"Not at the price they were buying. Market plus five percent from what I heard," Aegis said, sitting down with his prize. "By the sounds of it, they're going to be sending it to tinkers around the country."
"So that's it then?" Gallant asked, "Are we free to leave yet?"
"Well," Aegis took a bite of pepperoni pizza, "mm, I'm going to eat, but yeah, we're all free to go. Though I don't think Kid is going anywhere anytime soon. He was looking really into whatever he was working on." Clockblocker didn't even wait for him to finish before popping out of his seat.
"Then I'm gonna get changed and get the hell out of here," he said, disappearing down the corridor to the Ward's on-site rooms. Gallant clapped his hands on his knees and stood up.
"I need to get going. Vicky's already gone nuts over this cutting into our date tonight. If I'm quick I might be able to salvage something," he said, bowing out of the room with more dignity than his teammate.
Aegis glanced over at Vista as she watched them go. "Everything okay Missy?" He asked.
She shrugged. "I'm fine," she lied. Of course, he had spent the entire time thinking about Vicky. She buried that line of thought before it could gain traction and tried to switch topics. "So we've spent the last few hours bored out of our minds because of a gold delivery?" She asked.
Her teammate shrugged as he chewed. "Yeah, basically," he admitted once he swallowed. "The Director wanted us on hand 'just in case'."
"She didn't tell us a thing though," Vista scowled, crossing her arms, "We've been here for hours without a clue."
"Don't feel too bad. They didn't even tell the PRT Troopers what was coming in until it was just around the corner," Aegis said, "Hell, I learned at the same time they did. Piggot was playing this one really close to the chest. I don't think anyone outside of her, Renick, Armsmaster and maybe Assault had a clue. Nearly three million dollars in gold…" He shook his head, "Absolutely nuts, and that girl just creates it from thin air?"
Vista nodded. "Yeah, she makes a ton of it at once, but most vanishes in a few minutes. Apparently only a bit of it sticks around as 'real' gold," she confirmed.
"Well, she's rich now," Aegis observed, "You going to head out as well?" She shrugged at the question. She had already gotten approval, for what little it counted, to stay the night from her dad. Officially it was just in case whatever this was had lasted too late. Despite being relatively early in the evening she wasn't inclined to head home.
"I think I'll stay the night," she said, "A bit late anyway." She ignored the raised eyebrow. He didn't have to deal with parents who couldn't even be in the same room as one another.
"Alright, well I'm just going to finish this off then head home. You've got tomorrow off, right?" He asked. She nodded. She wasn't scheduled for any patrols or appearance the next day. "Take it easy, go have fun somewhere. We've all had a rough few weeks."
"I'll think about it," she shrugged non-committed. "Good night Carlos," she said, turning for the Ward's rooms.
"G'night Missy, sleep well," Carlos said, raising a slice of pizza in salute as she left.
Missy walked down the hallway, passing Dennis as he marched out of his room. "Later Vista," he said with a cheery wave before running down the hall, backpack over one shoulder. He was gone before she could say anything back.
There were twelve rooms set aside for the Wards. At present, there were five Wards in Brockton Bay and given how most people who joined the Wards usually leveraged it to get out of the city she had to wonder just how optimistic the designers were. The odds of there ever being more than half of them filled were long in a city like Brockton.
Her's was around the middle of the hallway on the left side as announced by the simple blocky yellow letters of the digital nameplate on the door. She pushed open the door and shut it behind her, locking it with a sigh as she leaned against the door. The room was small with a desk and computer, a TV, a single person bed, and a dresser in the corner. The rooms weren't intended for long term occupancy, just the occasional overnight stay.
Vista sometimes stayed overnight most of the week.
She tossed her visor onto the bed and followed it by faceplanting onto the bed herself. The Wards had never been an easy thing. Brockton Bay was a rough city where more than a few criminals and Supervillains were more than willing to take a shot at a Ward despite the risk of Protectorate and PRT retaliation. She had nearly been killed a few times over the last few years. Comparing the last few weeks to one of those fights she had gotten into over the last several years left her wishing for the fights. The constant low-level tension between everyone was reminding her more and more of her parents.
She groaned and rolled over on the bed. "Go have fun," she said absently, repeating Carlos' words. Fun. Until the last few weeks, her fun had been being Vista and running around as a Ward. Sure it got dangerous at times, but it was better than living with her parents every day.
She fiddled with her visor and held it up to the single ceiling light, tinting it green as she looked up. It was funny, these days she didn't feel so much like Vista or Missy. She tossed it off the end of her bed and rolled over onto her side. The armoured plates on her shoulders dug into her skin. She groaned and sat up.
"Stupid costume," she grumbled as she walked over to her dresser to see what she had brought over. She pulled open the top drawer and paused at the Tinkerbell themed T-shirt on top. It had been part of a prank that Dennis had played on her a few months back and she'd hung onto it. She liked fairies. They were cute…
"I wonder how Taylor's doing," she mused aloud, picking up the shirt. She knew a fairy now. Well, not a real fairy, but about as close as she could get to one in the real world. The tiny girl was rich now, not that that wasn't obvious the moment she had fired a plume of gold across the room.
Missy sat down on the foot of her bed with the T-shirt in her hands. "Wonder if she's managed to figure out flying yet…" The girl had been so annoyed that she hadn't even started on it yet. It would be nice if she could. If she could fly quickly then maybe she'd be able to get outside again and she'd be able to run into her again somewhere in the city.
A thought sparked there and she paused. Who said she had to wait for Taylor to go out and about again before she could meet her. She already knew where Taylor lived, and it wasn't really a violation of the unwritten rules if she came by for a visit to check up on her. Maybe take her around town if she had figured out how to fly.
Missy grinned. She was a hero, she could keep one little fairy safe if her dad was worried. "It sounds like fun," she snickered. It probably wouldn't even violate any of the PRT's rules either. They were trading with the girl, they had to trust her at least a bit.
It looked like she had her plans then.
The next day Vista looked down at the backyard of the Hebert's house from where she was perched on the backside of a three-story house just behind and down the block from them. It looked clear. Space warped and she stepped through into the backyard and walked up the steps.
Right, this was it. Just a friendly, unsolicited superhero visit. She took a deep breath and knocked on the back door. Then she did it again a few moments later. She was about to do it a third time when the door opened with a creak to reveal Mr. Hebert. The gangly tall middle-aged man looked down at her with surprise.
"Vista?" He asked.
Vista smiled brightly. "Hi Mr. Hebert, is Taylor in?"
A/N: *swirly-eyed kitsune* Whoo, this was a lot of work all at once. Like, the most I've ever done without submitting it somewhere. *flumphs face first into pillow* I'm just going to take a nap. Cheers.
A/N the Second: Now that I've napped [Slept six and a half hours] I'm ready to finish this up. This little bundle of one hundred pages and over forty thousand words [just] has been the work of all of february. I hope everyone has enjoyed it. This idea just kinda burrowed into my brain and I started writing.
A big thank you to my editor, again, Gekkou_Yoko her help has been literally invaluable. No seriously, she spotted several big mathematical errors this time. *sheepish kitsune* No one should be required to eat six times their own body weight to survive. Poor dwarves, Miss Yoko has saved them from quite the horrible fate.
A thank you to my Patrons for your support. Sorry for the silence over the last month, but this project has been combining with school to take all of my attention. If anyone wants to toss a dollar my way my link is in the description. [and I really need to set up a plain old donate button for the one time kinda people]
If anyone wants to keep talking about this my discord is in my signature. Please come and join us, more people are always welcome~
To everyone on fanfiction: Hello~ Here's the latest story from me. After this, I'll be getting back to my older stories for a while. Need to reign in the muses and focus on finishing something.