High Voltage

Page 44

“I ken it, lass. She had no choice but to use the Song or the Cosmos itself would have been destroyed by the black holes. We’re lucky she was able to wield it, and I’m grateful. But no action is without consequence. Indeed, there are times the most desirable, correct, necessary action results in catastrophic consequences. We’re facing them now.

“Back to the timeline: Subsequent queens moved the Light Court from world to world, draining yet more power from the court each time they moved, desperately seeking a planet richly steeped in magic. They knew they were diminishing, bit by bit. Many of them drank from the Cauldron of Forgetting, to forget how powerful they’d once been, how weak they were becoming.

“Eventually, around two hundred thousand years ago, they discovered our world, which still pulsed with considerable magic. But it was already occupied by both gods and ancient man. It was a peaceful time on our planet before the Fae arrived. The gods were mostly benign and, although they occasionally warred among themselves, they cared for and tended the mortals who worshipped them and there was a strong bond between them.

“The Fae, deceitful bastards that they are, feigned far less power than they had, and begged sanctuary from the gods, claiming their world had been destroyed through no fault of their own. The gods, sensing no threat, gave the Fae a fair amount of land, and things were peaceful for a time.

“But the Fae were busy gathering intelligence, desperate to seize and rule our magic-rich world. They covertly studied the gods, seeking weaknesses. Their attack was patient, stealthy, and a shining example of slanted press on a global scale. They abducted the gods one by one, used their Fae glamour to impersonate them, and began punishing, torturing, and killing humans. To humans, it seemed their gods had turned on them.

“In kind, humans turned on their gods, and the gods that remained turned on their humans for betraying them—for refusing to listen when they tried to explain what the Fae had done. Then, the great, benevolent Fae finally stepped in to ‘rescue’ humans.

“The gods realized the Fae had been concealing their true power all along, but gods can’t penetrate the glamour of the Fae, and the Fae gathered up and killed most of the deities on our world, leaving a scattered handful of those too powerful to kill, or those who devised ways to elude their clutches.

“I’ve no idea how many remain but I’d wager a few hundred or so. Those gods they couldn’t figure out how to kill—unlike Fae, all gods can’t be killed by two commonly known weapons, each has one unique way they can die and it’s a tightly guarded secret—they captured and entombed them in the earth. They relinquished one of their most powerful shians or Fae mounds to use as a prison.

“For a long time the gods slumbered in the soil, faded to mere wisps of their former selves, but when the ancient Song was sung again, it awakened and released them from those tombs. The gods had learned from their mistakes. They came back weak, as mere shadows, and bided time as stealthily as the Fae once had, laying low, absorbing power from the newly reinvigorated Earth, until they were once again powerful. Only recently have they begun to show themselves.”

I murmured, “And they despise the Fae more than ever and plot their destruction.”

“Worse than that, Kat. They despise humans, too. They loathe both races and want both gone, and the odds aren’t quite so against them now. The first time the gods and Fae battled, sidhe-seers didn’t exist. The Fae weren’t on our world and there was no need for them. But now they do exist and the gods have an enormous advantage they once lacked. Before, they couldn’t have seen a Fae standing right next to them if it was glamoured as a human. With sidhe-seer watchdogs, they can.”

I shuddered. Was that where our twelve sidhe-seers had gone—abducted by gods? I knew better than to assure him that our sidhe-seers wouldn’t help them. Dole out enough torture, eventually someone will cooperate. “Have you discovered when our order was born?” Our roots were a mystery to us, I was fascinated by our origins. I knew the why of it; to protect the Sinsar Dubh.

“Aye, again approximately. As you know, after the Unseelie King killed the queen, Cruce stole his beloved concubine and made the king believe she was dead. In an act of atonement, the king dumped all the formidable power of his dark magic into the Sinsar Dubh, and cast it out into the world. But as Fae things do, it evolved and, furious with the king, obsessed with him, the dark doppelganger began to stalk the Unseelie King, wreaking havoc wherever it went. The two played a game of cat and mouse for hundreds of thousands of years.”

“Wait a minute, I have to ask this: we were led to believe the Sinsar Dubh was nearly a million years old. It’s only a half a million?”

“Depends on how you look at it. The Sinsar Dubh is commonly regarded as a million years old because it contains the Unseelie King’s knowledge from the time he began creating his dark court, nearly a million years ago, until the time he divested himself of it, over half a million years later. Technically, it is only half a million years old. Again, this is all only approximate.”

I nodded. “Go on.”

“When the king finally managed to capture his dangerous alter-ego, roughly one hundred fifty thousand years ago, he needed a secure place to contain it with guards. Conveniently, there already existed a shian on a planet, rich in magic, laced with the proper elements, the perfect place to entomb it; a place the Seelie would never go because they’d already buried their ancient enemy there and abandoned it.”

I gasped. “Are you kidding me? Are you saying…” I trailed off in disbelief.

He cut me a dark smile. “Aye. The Unseelie King paid a visit to our world, and hid the Sinsar Dubh beneath what is now Arlington Abbey, above the entombed gods, then created the sidhe-seers as his final Unseelie caste, to serve as his watchdogs. He gave your order the power to penetrate Fae glamour, the ability to ward your land against Fae, and various gifts to fight them if they came.”

I shook my head, dazed by the thought. “The gods have been slumbering beneath our abbey this entire time?”

“Och, lass, from the hints I’ve gathered here and there, your abbey perches atop many powerful things. I’d like to explore the Underneath if you’d permit it. Soon. We’ve a mess on our hands and require every advantage we can find.”

I nodded. We would find a way to work together.

“Back to the timeline. The war between gods and Fae had ravaged the earth. Queen Aoibheal, who’d once been mortal herself, had watched too many planets destroyed. Eventually, and I can’t pin that event to a time, she forcibly removed the Fae to a separate realm, fabricating walls by tapping into the power of the Unseelie prison walls, striking a Compact with a clan called the Keltar, and trained them as druids to uphold it. Here’s where it gets complicated. I’m going to try to explain the realm of “Faery” to you in a nutshell.

“Under the First Queen and Seelie King, Faery consisted of only the Seelie Court, a vast, resplendent land with four distinct kingdoms, with royal houses governing each: Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. Over them all, the queen ruled.

“When the king left the Seelie Queen and became Unseelie, he expanded Faery to hold the enormity of his own demesne. Within his kingdom he constructed the nearly infinite White Mansion, and tied it to the truly infinite Hall of All Days. He also fabricated the Silvers as a secondary means of travel, initially for his and his concubine’s use only. Faery grew from a single court to an enormous tapestry of connected worlds. Some say the battle we wage here on Earth between mortal and Fae is happening on countless other worlds with countless other Fae courts connected by this network, in a multiplicity of universes.”

He saw the look on my face and laughed. “Aye, the thought boggles my mind, too. Eventually, the Silvers were cursed and the terrain of Faery became even more complex, as if it wasn’t already enough of a mess. But for simplicity, think of Faery as the Light Court and the Dark Court, the Hall of All Days, the Silvers, and the White Mansion all in one enormous, otherworldly realm. But it’s no longer otherworldly. No walls divide us. It exists adjacent to, spilling into, our own.”

Which was why we desperately needed Mac to figure out how to use her power as Fae queen, so she could sing those walls back up and restore our world to its normal order without Fae preying on humans. “How do you know all this?” I asked. This was the kind of history we’d long been seeking.

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