A Word of Caution

Welcome to the realm of the Unseelie Court. Feel free to wander and browse, but know that the content you will find here is not for the faint of heart. The visions portrayed are often darkly erotic, even disturbing, and should be traversed only by those with the appropriate character and mental age.

You have been warned.


Tales From the Fae – Part V: The Academy of Dana

Chapter 8 – A friendly conversation

After we had relieved our thirst at a small outside table of an establishment called ‘The Red Hat’, Michelle noticed that several humans were engaged in some form of sparring game within a faintly glowing circle. There was quite a crowd around them, and it didn’t take a high-brow to figure out that bets were being taken on the winner. I was a bit surprised, but both the combatants, as well as a number of humans waiting to compete, were all fourth-semester students at the Academy, and I decided that if they knew what they were doing, then who was I to judge them. Michelle was instantly drawn to the combat display, and I didn’t try to stop her.

Candice mentioned that she wanted to check out a nearby shop that sold spells, and I suggested that Douglas go with her to barter on prices should she want to purchase anything. I quickly added that I was enjoying the chance to get off my feet and that they should go on without me. She was hesitant, but finally nodded and dashed off with Douglas in tow.

That was how, about ten minutes later, I was alone when I noticed a dark-haired faerie at a table nearby eyeing me over the pale red wineglass she was nursing. I smiled at her, and tried to remember if it was an insult to ignore a member of the Fae in such a situation. I had just decided that it was not an insult as long as neither party had audibly spoken, when the stranger sat up and did so.

“You’re from the Academy, yes?” Her voice was deep and rich, and reminded me of swaying redwoods for some weird reason.

I looked up and tried to smile. “Yes, I am. I’m a first semester student,” I added, and then realized that it might not be such a great idea to advertise that fact.

She nodded. “That explains it”, she said cryptically. “First time to the land of the sweets then?”

I hesitated, still unsure of the Fae woman and she laughed, catching my thoughts and putting up a hand in apology.

“Forgive me,” she said, still chuckling, and let her feet come down off the chair next to her. Her own chair had been tilted back on two legs and it now landed with a heavy thunk. “I forget that you humans are so timid. I did not mean to pry.”

I thought I heard a slight British accent in the happy lilt of her voice, and overall found the woman charming. She was dressed a bit on the heavy side for a faerie, sporting a loose, green speckled skirt that shimmered in the evening light as if it had a million tiny stars sewn into the fabric. Her feet were of course bare (only a handful of faeries wore shoes), but adorned with anklets of silver and a matching pair of toe rings, and her upper body was bare under an ornate purple vest with silver threads. The ensemble was quite attractive, and I marveled at the workmanship. Nothing like it existed in the human world.

She had a red and black kerchief around her head, and her hair protruded from the back in a long braided tail. I was just puzzling over the strange brownish patterns that I caught glimpses of on her chest and ankles when she leaned forward and spoke again.

“Do you mind if I join you?” she asked, with a light in her eyes. I considered her for a moment and decided that it couldn’t hurt, and it would be a good chance for me to get an unbiased view of the Fae. Not that I thought ill of the various faeries, nymphs and sprites at the Academy, but the woman was so pure and raw… and wasn’t an instructor who I had to listen to.

“Uh, sure,” I replied, a second later. The faerie grinned and stepped out from behind the table and crossed over to mine.

“I hate to drink alone,” she mentioned, dropping into the chair across from me like a liquid. “Something left over from my own human days, I guess.” She lifted her glass in toast and I obliged. “I don’t see many first-semester students from the Iron Mountain here,” she arced her glass to indicate the busy marketplace. “Lots of cocky fourths lately though.” She frowned in the general direction of the combat display. “What’s your name, child?”

I winced just slightly, remembering the last time I had mistakenly assumed the age of a faerie. I hated the ‘child’ designator, but it was better than ‘human’, so I chose to ignore it.

“Miranda,” I answered, with what I hoped was a friendly smile.

The faerie seemed to squint slightly at me, as if trying to peer beyond my eyes for something. Then, before I was sure of the expression, her face softened into a grin again.

“I’m Cailleach,” she answered, swirling her wine. Something in her eyes made me think she was watching me to see how I reacted, but the expression was as fleeting as the last. “So tell me, Miranda ó Sliabh an Iarainn, they teach you our ways at this Academy of yours, yes?”

“Among other things.”

“And do you enjoy the learning?”

I regarded her for a moment. There was something about her that was different from any other faerie I had met, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I had been watching for any signs of possible magic being used to influence me, but there seemed to be nothing. I wasn’t at all sure I could spot something from a faerie if they wanted to hide it, but I was diligent none the less. There was the fact that she was speaking my own language, but most of the faeries I had met lately could manage that.

“Very much,” I said at last. “There’s another whole world here that I never knew existed. How can I help but enjoy it?”

“Another whole world,” she repeated my words quietly to herself. “Interesting. And they are fair and open-minded in their opinions?”

Her words were starting to take on a bit more color than casual conversation warranted, and I wondered if perhaps most of the Fae were as curious about us humans as we were of them. At least we had legends and tales to go on, however warped and shifted over time. There were many Fae folk that had never seen a human, nor read a book, and would have little or no idea what to expect of us beyond rumor.

“I suppose,” I answered, twirling my own glass, “…that they are as open-minded as any other human institution. Beyond that, I have no point of reference.”

My answer seemed to please her. “Well said. But I wonder if they are promoting an accurate depiction of the _whole_ Fae?”

My eyes caught hers, and I knew that there was far more to that question than was being said. What did she mean by ‘whole’? I always considered what I was learning to be as complete as was humanly and inhumanly possible. Censorship just didn’t seem possible. Then I understood, and it took everything I had not to jump up from the table. As it was, I’m sure I visibly tensed.

“You’re Unseelie,” I said in a whisper, not sure of how the other would take it. Part of me fervently wished to have Michelle or one of the others at my side as backup.

Her reaction was completely passive. I half expected her to attack me, but instead, she bowed her head and rolled her hand in the air with an exaggerated flair.

“At your service,” she proclaimed, smiling at me again. Then she laughed softly. “Please child, relax. You’ll hurt yourself.”

I took her advice and commanded the muscles in my shoulders to unknot and settle. I wasn’t about to let my guard down, but the Fae woman was right about doing myself damage. Adrenaline was pounding through my veins from the instant fight or flight response.

“I’m sorry,” I said watching her. “I’ve never met anyone of… uh..”

“The Black Blood,” she finished. “The Dark Sidhe? The Slaugh even… No, I suppose not. We have been mostly pushed and labeled into obsolescence in recent years by your bigger and stronger Seelie Court.”

“I thought that the Unseelie hated humanity.” It was more of a statement than a question, and I lifted my chin to indicate the many humans now all around us. I was torn between wanting to run for my life, and to hear what the other had to say. It was like having an open conversation with a Hells Angels biker. The reputation did not always match the individual, but the only way to find out was to actually talk to them.

“Oh, I’m sure some of us do,” she replied, somewhat dramatically. “Just as I’m sure there are those among your own species that feel much the same way. But most of us don’t hate humanity, dear girl. We hate that which humanity brings.”

“And what’s that?”

She guffawed. “Please tell me you are not so naive as to miss the obvious results of your own overpopulation? You strike me as smarter than that, Miranda.” The faerie was squinting at me again, and I found that I had to look away. Her bright eyes were filled with captivating power.

“Of course, but we’ll figure it out,” I said, with more conviction than I felt.

“Will you? And if you don’t? What then?” The other’s tone was dark and serious.

“I… I don’t know,” I mumbled, having not thought about it enough to feel I had a proper answer.

“No. But WE do,” she answered. “It’s why the Goddess placed us here. All the faeries, Seelie or non. Still,” and her voice changed to a lighter tone, “it takes a better class of human to admit to a lack of knowledge. There’s hope for you yet.” she raised her glass to me before taking another sip.

I held her gaze for a moment, trying to make a decision about how I felt about her political stance. Truly, all I had heard was rumor, and nothing she said so far conflicted with what I had already learned. Could the Unseelie Court be the product of negative marketing, intentional or otherwise? Certainly as a human, I could appreciate how opposite sides of an argument could often take on emotional qualities that brought out the worst of any species.

And I had no real evidence, beyond what was taught to us from the Seelie Court, that the Unseelie were actually the hateful, evil side of the Fae they were portrayed to be. On the other hand, a good portion of most legends were based on at least partial fact, and most of what I had read about the Unseelie Court scared the hell out of me. Past Fae wars were brutal and extremely violent, or so it was recorded, with most of the bloodshed coming from the smaller court. It wasn’t just the humans that the Unseelie hated, but anyone who supported them. The problem was that I had only one side of the story. The only records were the ones written by the Seelie.

“Alright then,” I said, setting down my wine glass and sitting up a bit. “I’ll forget for the moment that I am human. Convince me.”

The smile that grew on the lips of the other informed me that I had hit a chord. With a twinkle in her eyes, she set her own glass down and sighed with pleasure. “Finally… A human with a truly open mind! I don’t know where to begin?!”

“You implied that you knew what was going to happen if humans don’t solve the problem of overpopulation. Start there. I’m creative enough to imagine the obvious answers, so tell me what I don’t know.”

The faerie chuckled with amusement. “Very well then. But since my concepts of what you know about the Mother are non-existent, suppose you illustrate for me and then I will show you where you lack?”

I considered this. “With over-population comes a decreasing ability for sustainability, both with the physical feeding and support of that population, and its social stability. A group’s tendency to fracture increases proportionally to its unmet needs.”

“My my…” said the Fae woman, still smiling. “I think I may have underestimated you yet again. You are correct of course, but let’s continue the model, shall we? With the increasing population, would you not agree that external pressures increase as the relative balance within the ecosystem becomes larger and larger?”

“You’re talking about things like plague and mutation, yes?” I cocked my head. “It can, and usually does play an increasing role, but not necessarily. Things like pollution and inter-social decay must be closely and diligently regulated.”

“And are they?”

I looked at her. “What do you mean?”

“Does the human population as a whole monitor itself closely enough to forestall the external pressures?”

It was a deceivingly simple question, and it caused me pause, considering. I let my mind silently work on the problem in the background for a moment while I stared into the eyes of the strange woman. There was something there in those glittering irises that I had not seen for a very long time. It was more than intelligence, it was a massive hunger. It was the same hunger I remembered in myself as a child.

“No,” I finally answered, without emotion.

“And do you, having lived within that population, believe that it could change enough at its very core in order to ever achieve that balance?”

I had to break her gaze and stare into my lap. “No…” I could feel her tight-lipped smile of approval without looking up. But then I did. “But that’s the whole purpose of the academy, to help humanity see that there’s so much more at stake than they realize!”

She sighed and leaned back into her chair.

“Perhaps. But what if you fail? You forget that the faeries see the future.”

“And what do you see? Will we succeed?” I knew the answer to this already, so I asked it as a test, probing to the honesty of my new companion. She waited a moment, considering me. I kept my best poker face.

“It is not clear, even to us. But,” she quickly went on, “the results of failure ARE known. The Mother has never hidden this knowledge. The price of failure is destruction, complete and total. And before you start lecturing me on how wonderful that must make me feel, remember that you can not remove a species as massive and interwoven as humanity without it affecting the whole of the life web. It would not simply be the end of man, but of countless other dependent species. The faeries are sworn, even created, for the sole purpose of protecting the Mother’s gift of life. We would do anything, including giving up our own lives, in order to uphold that duty.”

Cailleach’s eyes shone with near luminosity at her own words, and her smile was gone now, replaced by an intense conviction. What remained, frightened me. It was not just her stern and hard features, but the words she spoke that still resonated in my mind. And then, she softened slightly, and even smiled.

“Do they teach you that at your Academy?” she asked, without malice.

“No,” I replied. “At least not yet,” I added, while I tried to calm my own heart.

Neither of us spoke for several moments, and nursed our respective drinks.

“I think I like you, human,” she said, looking at me over the top of her wine glass. “You are not like others I have met, quick to fight,” she waved her thumb over her shoulder to the gathered humans and Fae watching the fourths beat each other up. “And unable to see beyond the walls around them. You’re different, in many ways.”

I sighed and frowned. “Yeah, story of my life.” I gulped the last of my wine in one motion. I saw the faerie’s brows rise.

“It bothers you, to be so different?”

I looked up at her and tried to decide if it was worth explaining. She would be a good listener, and certainly a unique perspective. They say it’s easier to spill your guts to a complete stranger than to your best friend. If the few airplane trips I have taken are any indicator, then it’s completely true.

“Of course it bothers me,” I started. “All my life I’ve been different… smarter. No matter how hard I try, people will always see me as someone who is not quite the same as they are. My life is a constant competition. All I ever wanted was to be average… What are you smiling at?” I exclaimed angrily.

“You’re describing the Unseelie Court, my dear.”

“What are you talking about?”

She lifted her hands to count off points on her fingers. “No matter how we try, we’re always different. We tend to be composed of the smarter, more open entities. We are in constant competition with our Seelie cousins, to prove ourselves, when all we ever really wanted was to be simple equals.”

I sat in quiet confusion, brooding over the other’s words.

“We are more alike than you thought, yes?” The faerie leaned forward, still smiling softly. “I wonder… There’s never been Unseelie humans, but times are changing.”

I jumped in at once. “I am not part of your court.”

“You find the idea so repulsive? I wonder why? You’d be welcomed there, I can assure you. Someone with a different viewpoint. You could help us prevent the kinds of bloodshed that have occurred in the past.”

“I can’t believe that you actually think that I…”

“You’d be normal.”

Her words brought me up short.

“We are all outcasts in the Unseelie Court, but we know where we stand with each other. We have a common goal, that rises above our individual differences. Our methods may be more… intense, than the Seelie, but I assure you, we both want the same thing.”

I didn’t have an immediate response, so I kept quiet.

“Think on it,” said the faerie, leaning back again in her chair. “If you would like to talk more, on any subject… I would be honored to listen. You need only come here and think of me. I will know it and come. Your friends will be returning shortly. I should go. While you are a pleasure to converse with, I’m not sure that your companions would be as open-minded. Beannacht máthar ort,” she added, standing.

“The Mother’s Blessing upon you as well, Cailleach.” With a final smile at me, the faerie then turned and walked into the crowds.

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