A quick note about this story…
This story starts with Part V because when I originally put the whole series together in my head, there were four other precursors to the actual start of the academy. Some of them are covered in Poppins’ Return, and even, to a certain degree, in the two other Fae stories Faerie Tale and Little Lost Nymph. I formalized things in Tales From the Fae: Songsmith, and found myself on part five… It surprised me too.
I should also point out that I intend to have at least another four parts after this one. they are worked loosely (and not so loosely) in my head, and I can only hope I find the time to put them down for a completed work. Anyway, thanks for reading them and enjoy.
Tales From the Fae – Part V: The Academy of Dana
Chapter 1 – CAMP
“Mom, relax about my hair,” I said, squirming out from under her hairbrush. “It’s just a camp in the mountains, not the Ritz. Besides, I’ve been combing my own hair for weeks now…”
Smiling, my mom relented and sighed. “You really are growing up too fast you know.”
“Yeah, so they keep telling me in therapy. Part of what comes with being a girl-genius and all that.” I grabbed my bag out of the back of the car and hefted it up over my shoulder.
“Hmmm,” she moaned with a half grin. “And that’s why you want to spend a week in the mountains with two hundred other kids, hiking and swimming and whatnot?”
“Mom,” I said, giving her a serious look. “I know that you would rather see me acing my way through some Ivy-League college, and god knows I would never normally go along with anything my shrink says, but on this one point, and I stress, ONLY this one point, we are in agreement. I need to learn how to be normal around real people more than I need a degree at nineteen.”
“I know,” she replied, reluctantly. “I just love you so damn much that I can hardly bear to be without you, even for a week.” She put her arms out and brought me into a close hug. “Have fun, honey… uh, but not too much fun, I mean, don’t break a leg or something, okay?”
I was making my way towards the old, green painted bus with the single word, “CAMP” stenciled on the side. “Got it, mom. No broken legs. Even though there are some really cute guys on the bus who I’m sure would be very happy to help me if I was to hurt myself in any way…” I waved from the door at my open-mouthed mother. “Bye mom!”
I looked over the other “young adults” on the bus and wondered if any of them might also be headed to Troop 221. It was certainly possible. I was still a bit in awe from the last three weeks of events. Ever since that first morning when a sprite showed up on the end of my bed, my world was forever changed, and I was still taking odds on whether or not it was for the better.
My childhood started out hard enough, my dad dying when I was only a year old. I have vague images of him in my memory, but I can’t distinguish them anymore from mere memories of photos that my mother has shown me. The only time that I really have any feelings about losing him is when I see somebody else getting a hug or a playful ruffling of the hair from their father. We always want what we don’t have.
I think of the age between two and four as my “golden years”. It’s the only time in my life that I actually felt and acted much like any other kid that age. At least at school. I could get away with it there because the teachers and counselors weren’t looking for, or expecting, geniuses to surface yet. I think my mom suspected something was up as early as two, but what was she supposed to do about it? She worked, and I was in day-care. End of story. To be fair to her, she really did try to give me every advantage when her time allowed it, and like the great mom that she is, she took me out to see things that a normal child my age probably wouldn’t be interested in yet. I’m sure she knew I was “gifted” by three, because while some of the other kids were still learning their ABC’s, I had taught myself to read English, and was quickly working on French and German. Once the day-care workers got over the fact that I really DID like to sit and pour over Hemingway and Kafka while the other children were swinging gleefully on the monkey-bars, things settled into a nice, comfortable routine. In the morning I would go to school and act like any other three or four-year-old. Sure, I was the top of the class, but I could hardly care what they were trying to teach me, and just used the time there to simply linger in my youth. It was my “kid-time”. Nobody really cared too much if you were quiet and withdrawn, or said weird things, or even spoke another language once in a while. They just assumed that you had a mixed family and left it for the next year’s batch of educational professionals to deal with.
And my system worked until I entered first grade and got “found out” by the one truly bright counselor in the whole state. To be fair, Miss Gabat waited until halfway through my first-grade year, just to be sure. Then, instead of blurting it out to the whole world, thereby immutably setting the course of my future, she did a pointedly intelligent thing. She called me in privately. She hadn’t even spoken to my mom yet.
To a normal four-year old, getting called to the office meant that you had done something horrible, and could expect nothing short of being grounded for life. But I knew the moment the school nurse came in with a note and briefly glanced in my direction, that the jig was up. I was busted. My childhood was over.
I was packing my things before the teacher even called my name. I half expected to be shipped-off to some windowless bunker with a bunch of other gifted mutants, to be force-fed latin and higher mathematics, but it was not to be so.
“Thank you, Eunice,” said the dark-haired woman to the nurse who had followed me in and was standing around hoping to catch a bit of juicy gossip. “Please close the door on your way out.” The other woman sniffed and left. I just sat there, staring around at the various paraphernalia that people in the counseling trade use to justify the decisions they make. There were color-blindness tests, hearing evaluation boxes with twenty-five year old headphones, and of course all manner of flash cards.
“Am I in trouble?” I finally asked when I saw that she was watching me.
“Do you think you’re in trouble?” she replied with her own question.
I took a moment to think about it. “That would depend on you.”
The counselor smiled for a moment and seemed to briefly laugh. I wasn’t sure what was so funny, but I was getting the impression that the female before me wasn’t just going to batch me up with what all the books on the subject had told her about “children like me”. I knew what happened to those children, and I also knew how those children acted in front of counselors. I had read those books too.
She sat back in her chair. “Let’s turn that around, shall we? What would you like to do, Miranda?”
“I would like to go back to my class and continue my leaf project. They’ll be putting the paste away pretty soon, it being close to lunch and all.”
She tilted her head slightly. “Sarcasm?”
I think the tears that started to fill me eyes answered her question, but I made sure and whispered, “Hardly. I guess this means no more recess, and lunch lines with the chocolate milk, and simple crafts that I can take home to my mother to put on the refrigerator, right?”
And then, Miss Gabat said something that forever changed my life. She asked me another question. “How long?”
In those two simple words, I saw that she not only understood that I was purposely holding on to my childhood for every second I could get, but was reaching right to the heart of my real problem. How long could I stretch it? How long could I let myself be someone that I wasn’t, just so that I wouldn’t have to be someone who would thereafter only be known by what she was capable of.
“I don’t know…” I gasped truthfully. My throat was closing up, and for the first time in my life, I was dangerously close to letting myself lose control of my emotions in front of an adult other than my mother.
But things ended up all right. Miss Gabat did not send me off to some psychologist for advanced placement, instead, she did send me back to class. I didn’t see her again for a week. But the next time we met, we sat down on the floor of her office and outlined what I would need to do in order to make it at least through high school without being dragged off to some government think-tank within a mountain in Idaho. She showed me what tests to fake, and what tests I could ace without getting noticed. We decided how “smart” I was going to appear to the other students, and what I would need to do in order to keep my “gift” from atrophying. She made it clear to me that despite what I might think, I needed to further myself constantly, and we talked about what possible emotional problems that dichotomy could lead to, as well as how to handle them.
Therapy was inevitable. I suppose in the long run, it actually provided an excuse that I could use later to my advantage. Students and administrators are tolerant of very odd students, so long as they are “seeing” a professional. My therapist was more of a means to vent than anything else. My mother knew better than to take any of the psychologist’s recommendations for treatment too seriously. She would have asked me about it anyway, and then taken my own advice over the guy with the degree. We talked about all sorts of stuff. Everything from school, to boys, to how I was doing mentally. I made the mistake of saying that I sometimes felt like two different people; one the person that I am, and the other the person that I want people to think I am. He of course immediately latched onto a multiple personality diagnosis which I never did completely shake. He used so much mumbo-jumbo with me, that I even started to doubt myself.
About the same time, I woke up in the middle of the night to someone calling my name, and when I sat up and rubbed the sleep-snot from my eyes, I found myself staring at a small glowing female sitting naked at the end of my bed. She was about a foot high with softly flowing hair and a constantly shifting aura that reminded me of the animations I had seen in science class to depict how we thought the insides of atoms might look. I blinked a few times and figured I was having a stroke or something. Then my stroke spoke to me.
“Miranda Summers,” she said bowing slightly. “I am, <something indecipherable>. I am here to inform you that you have been formally accepted to attend classes at Oil-Thigh dé Danann, to learn the ways of the Fae.”
I blinked a few more times, then shook my head for good measure. “Say what? This is a dream, right? Because I would hate this to be some hallucinatory dementia that’s been slowly brewing in my brain.”
The tiny being lifted off my baseboard and dropped to my coverlet. She moved a bit closer and then sat down in a loose lotus. “You are not in an unwakened state. I am real.”
I checked my clock. It was almost two thirty. I was scratching my chin when I remembered one of the words she had used. “The Fae?”
“Yes. I am a sprite, and a member of the Seelie High Court within the East House. I am part of the Fae… and, to a certain degree, so are you…”
The tiny female looked almost surprised, then nodded. “Certain genetic sequences were passed on to your mother, and through her, to you. Combined with that of your father, you were gifted with a set of mostly unrealized traits that allow you candidacy in the academy.”
I was nine when my grandmother passed away, but other than my mother, she was the closest person in my life. She loved to walk about the small forest behind her home, and I spent long summer days weaving various baskets from leaves and twigs, or knotting ornate friendship bracelets that we would each wear until they fell off on their own. She was perhaps the one adult who knew of my gifts, and still treated me as though I were a simple kid with nothing better to do than run around the forest and collect fall leaves and pretty stones. It was wonderful. At ninety, she was still a child at heart, and I envied her outlook on life greatly. We sometimes sat out under the wide oaks where she would tell me stories of the Fae world. I never took the tales seriously because I was enjoying them so much. But now, it seems she was speaking from experience, and I longed to have her back.
The sprite seemed to understand my feelings and was respectably silent.
“This college, or whatever… Was I chosen because of my intelligence?”
She shook her head. “No. Although a greater percentage of those who attend the academy have slightly higher-than-normal mental faculties, what you humans term as ‘IQ’ is not a factor. Enrollment is based on genetics alone, as well as your acceptance, of course.”
I sighed and leaned back against my headboard, staring at the miniature siren.
“And what would I learn there? You mentioned, ‘the ways of the Fae’. What is that?”
“The semester is twelve weeks long and courses cover a wide range of subjects. Basic general studies are mandatory, such as mathematics and history, but you will also be able to sample subjects that no human place of learning can offer.”
“Such as?” I prompted.
“The academy could teach you how to overcome gravity, manipulate energy at will, or cause a given emotional reaction to dominate a person’s physiology. There are classes such as Enchantment, Charms, and Combat, both physical and magical.”
I laughed softly. “That sounds like a fantasy novel.”
The sprite shrugged. “It is often more comfortable to accept an abstract concept than to see it as a scientific principle.”
“Twelve weeks,” I exclaimed, shaking my head and thinking of what my mother would say of all this.
“While the semester is twelve weeks to you, you would only lose a single week in your human time reference.”
“How?” I asked, incredulous.
The being winced. “Perhaps this is one of those things that is better taken as an abstract concept for now.”