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It wasn’t exactly his first choice to do this, but the pressure was getting to him. Parliament was hounding him for a response to the recent attacks while his own council was forcing him to choose between isolation from the world until things cooled down or to force his people to work with the human governments to stop the attacks on nonhuman cities. His father had left the capital soon after stepping down from the throne and disappeared to all but a select few, making it very clear to his only son that he was on his own. While his mother hadn’t left him hanging, it wasn’t exactly the best course of action to get advice from a man deeply involved with human politics, knowing that his people would claim favoritism if he did that.

There was one person he could get advice from. When he was a child, before he had been pulled into fae politics and forced to take his place as the crown prince, his mother had taken him to a small cabin located in the northern woods, where cold forest turned into frozen tundra and where very few things lived. It was there that he was introduced to a useful ally, one he wouldn’t realize the truth about until years later and one who always kept the door open for him if he ever needed assistance. Today, it was clear that he needed that assistance far more than he had ever needed it before.

He didn’t tell anyone where he was going, but he knew that his mother and the unseelie knights that were his bodyguards would know, the knights following but always keeping their distance if their king desired space. Hopefully the distant presence of the unseelie knights wouldn’t spook his ally, but knowing what he did, he knew that it was doubtful. It didn’t matter in the long run as he was aware of the fact that he would be seen even if he had brought an entire army with him, even though he would never do that.

Teleporting to the area near the cabin, he was hit with a blast of sharp coldness, a side effect from coming here from the warmer climate of the fae capital. He tightened his coat around himself and wrapped his scarf around his neck and lower face to keep back the cold before he started making his way through the forest to get to the cabin. It didn’t take him long to walk there, remembering the way there clearly from his first visit, and smiled when the small building came into view. Waiting for him on the porch of the cabin was a young woman with long dark hair and simple clothes that would protect her from the cold far better than his own clothes did. She stepped down off the porch and met him halfway, looking happy to see him.

"I thought you were going to visit me soon, Alexis," she said almost happily before studying him carefully and whatever happiness disappeared as she turned serious. "You’re not here for a friendly chat, I see. Come inside before you freeze. I know you southern fae can’t stand the cold."

He couldn’t get in a word as she led him inside of her cabin, locking the door behind them as she directed him to sit down in a chair near the fireplace. The heat from it took away the sting of the cold and he immediately felt much better, watching as the woman went into the kitchen momentarily to grab some tea for the both of them. When she came back in, she held a mug out for him and he took it graciously with a soft thank you and a smile. She sat down in the other chair nearby and took a sip of the hot tea before she looked at him once more.

"Does your mother know that you’re here?"

"If he doesn’t yet, he will know soon enough. He has knights following me whenever I leave the palace."

A small smile formed on her lips as she listened to Alexis. Now that she was no longer moving around, he could see that her left eye was a paler blue than her right, clouded over as a sign of the blindness she had. Alexis knew that his mother shared the same blindness in his right eye, though he hid it well with his shapeshifting.

"He was always a smart one, your mother," she said calmly. "I suppose that’s why he opened the option up for you to come see me for advice. You’re king now and you’re in way over your head, aren’t you?"

"Yes, Grandmother," he answered softly, looking somewhat disappointed in himself. When she put it that way, it made him feel like he was still a child. "I don’t know whether or not I support the humans or side with my people on isolation. My father has left me to deal with things myself and I cannot ask Mom for advice because the council will think I’m supporting the humans."

"Don’t look down, Alexis. All kings must prove themselves at some point in their reign. You have had a very heavy burden in the form of that prophecy forced upon you since a very young age. The decision on what to do is ultimately your choice, but I will tell you something that I have learned in both my long life and in the time that I was trapped in your mother’s body. Isolation is never the right option. The fae might believe that is the only option, but your kingdom will fall into decay as other kingdoms have in the past. Whether or not you assist the humans is another thing altogether. You are far more knowledgeable in the matters of interspecies politics than you think you are. In the end, you will find out what the right path is. It may take a while to find it, but you will one day."

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Alexis Hawkins

September 2012

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