At his desk, slumped back in the chair, the words of the younger Unseelie replayed in his mind. In the past century or so, many Unseelie had migrated from the Mounds to the surface world. With the expanding power and control of the Seelie Court, the freedom-loving Unseelie found exile more palatable than persecution. The growing number of Unseelie outside the Mounds had made this safe house a necessity, when the Elite’s mission involved reaching out to one of the exiles. Other fey, of course, never fully left the surface to concentrate their numbers in the Mounds. Entire communities of lesser fey lived in secret and seclusion on the surface. But the noble elves, the Sidhe, has always lived in the Mounds before the All-Mother’s Seelie tendencies finally manifested in her growing favor of one Court over the other. Had she stood fast in her neutrality and commitment to balance, none of this would have happened. A pointless regret now. Nursing the pain accomplished nothing.
Jhaer knew Tiernan’s parents. Remembered when he was just a lad less than a decade old and they left the Mounds. He probably didn’t even have a memory of what it had been like there. Tiernan’s family had been one of the first to leave. More soon followed.
Lifting the paper, Tiernan left and Jhaer read the names. Bryce and Kieran. Both just in their early twenties. Living for thousands of years, the Sidhe bred extremely slowly, a fertile couple only producing a few offspring in their lifetime. To all appearances, though, the exiles bred as rapidly as the lesser fey and humans. For the most part, Jhaer dismissed the outcast youths as no threat to the Unseelie Court, and not even worth keeping an eye on. Especially when matters in the Mounds with the Seelie deteriorated day by day.
But these youths were Sidhe, and by definition the personification of magic. Untrained, perhaps. Undisciplined, to be sure. But wild and free and the very essence of Unseelie. And the earthborn Sidhe almost assuredly outnumbered any surviving Sidhe from the Mounds. They were an untapped power, a resource that practically begged predators to hunt them. Jhaer had not missed the rumors about the wizards, long ago driven out of Ireland, beginning to weasel their way back in. Though by far the worst, wizards were hardly the only threat to the Sidhe. Vampires, and even opportunistic lesser fey like the retched changelings, would pick off a Sidhe if they could manage it.
If the earthborns and exiles were all that remained of the Sidhe, the race would be extinct inside a year. Word of the Mounds collapse would already be whispering its way into the wrong ears. Though his people may not have been completely destroyed with the decimation of the Mounds, the end was only postponed until the scavengers descended upon the weak and wounded. Any Sidhe from the Mounds who did not link to the earth realm would Fade, and die from it or from an attack as soon as they grew too weak to fend it off. The earthborns, untrained and scattered, would be as easy to pick off as cubs once the pride that protected them was gone. More merciful if they all would have just died in the collapse than to Fade or die at the enemy’s merciless whim.
Tiernan was right. The Mounds were gone. The fey realm was never coming back. It was Earth or death. And Jhaer never for a moment considered bowing to death. Not for him. Not for the Unseelie. Not for the Sidhe.
Part 7/16 of "Aftershock" coming on 12/16/11!