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 43 – Badb Catha

I concluded that Michelle had indeed acted as an invisible chaperon the night before since both she and Petra were waiting outside Douglas’ door in the morning.

“Something wrong?” I asked.

Michelle gave me a crooked smile. “Nah, we just want to make sure you make it to the Hall in one piece. Don’t forget Berla’s warning about Miss Robles.”

“That bitch has it out for you, Miranda.” Continued Petra, reprovingly. “And if she’s planning on making a move, which we know she is, it’s going to have to be today. So,” she said taking my arm. “No unescorted outings for you, not even to the ladies room, da?”

I blushed slightly at the attention, but nodded. “Da.”

In the Great Hall, the mood of the others was considerably muted from the night before. Everyone was nervous, even those who had been completely eliminated from the games.

“I can’t get my hands to stop shaking,” said a rattled Penelope as she tried and failed to move a spoonful of oatmeal to her mouth. Others were having similar problems. Even Maria, who was normally a rock, was ignoring her own breakfast in favor of her nails, which had been bitten down to nubs. We all knew what was coming; that today’s competitors would not only be the best of the best, but that most of them wanted to kill us, or at least make us pay dearly for the ribbing we had been dishing out over the last few days. It was time to pay the piper, and we were a bankrupt bunch.

“Damn, these people need a serious dose of confidence,” said Michelle as she looked over our numbers. “Is there a charm for that, Candice?”

My other roommate sighed. “If there is, we haven’t touched it yet in any of my classes.”

I thought for a moment. “Maybe we can make our own,” I said almost to myself.

“Uh, I know you’re a prodigy and all, Mir, but don’t you think it’s a little risky to deal with magic we haven’t even covered yet?”

Grinning, I put my hand on her shoulder. “I was thinking of using a slightly different kind of magic.” Then turning to Petra I asked, “Can you put me in charge for a few minutes? I have an idea that might help to boost our morale.”

“What do you have in mind?”

“A ceremony.”

The girl brightened at once. “Oh boy!” she said, clapping her hands together. “This is going to be good!”

Ten minutes later, Petra, Candice, and myself were standing facing the entire rest of our class participating in the games. The others were lined up at attention, though many looked completely confused.

“Firsts!” I said loud enough that they could all hear me. I was pretty sure that the whole hall was listening (considering the giggles coming from below), but I tuned them out and continued. “Every one of us is here because we were brave enough to stand up and fight. Against far more experienced opponents, we have stood our ground for our House, and our grade. We have all proven that we have the courage to be exactly what the Fae needs. Despite the odds. Despite the ridicule of our older classmates. Despite every possible obstacle, we have remained true to our Court and calling!”


The entire line had made the loud exclamation together, and it so surprised me that I jumped and nearly wet my pants. I turned to Candice, who grinned and shrugged.

“Just a little something I borrowed from my grandpa in the Corps,” she said so that only I could hear. She was enjoying my discomfort, and had obviously explained to the group covertly what to do and was reveling in my shock. I took a deep breath and turned back to the line.

“Last night we changed the name of our band. We are no longer the Rooftop Club. Today, we are officially Badb Catha… We are Battle Raven!”


I was ready for it this time, but the force of the call was still daunting up close.

“To this end, each and every one of you shall now be marked. Regardless of what happens today; or ultimate placement in these games, each of you, from this day forward will forever be Badb Catha. Stand and be ready!”

There was a sharp snap to attention and I walked to the first on the left. It was little Penelope Fairchild. I locked eyes with the girl, who swallowed and looked about ready to pass out.

“Penelope,” I said, addressing her directly. “Will you accept this mark and the privileges and responsibilities it brings?”

The poor girl’s eyes grew so wide that she looked like an anime character. And then, a moment later she blinked and straightened up. “Yes. I… I accept,” she replied, and I noticed that there were tears welling in her eyes.

I stepped forward and placed my finger to her forehead, tracing a pattern that stayed visible as a soft blue glow. “Then, in the name of the Mother, I give you the blessing of Badb Catha. Though this symbol may fade, may the courage of your heart be ever strong. So that you all may understand this mark,” I said a bit louder so that everyone could hear. “The circle represents the everlasting cauldron, and the West. The arrow is the spear that never misses its mark, and is also the South. Next comes the warrior’s sword, which hales to the East. And finally, the square stands for the stone of Earth that knows the hearts of all, and is tied to the North. These symbols are the talismans of the Tuatha dé Danann, our Houses, and our Court. They sit together within the downward facing chevron which represents the wings of a raven. Wear it well!”


I nodded to Penelope, who was trying very hard not to wipe her face. I did notice, however, that her hands were no longer shaking and smiled. Then I took a step to the right and stood before Maria Gonzales. As with Penelope, I addressed her directly.

“Maria, will you accept this mark and the privileges and responsibilities it brings?”

“Oh, hell yes!… uh.. I mean, yes, I accept.” Again I stepped forward and drew the symbol, and asked the blessing of courage, leaving off the part of my speech describing the various parts of the mark. In this way, I slowly made it through all twenty seven members of the line. Finally, I returned and performed the ritual on Candice and then Petra, who upon completion let out a high pitched warbling cry. The others picked it up at once and the sound grew and grew until I knew it couldn’t be natural. I noticed Candice working a charm and grinned. Before the cry finally faded, it had grown to thunderous levels in the large open space of the Great Hall.

“Nice,” I commented, watching a Fifth picking up a plate of spaghetti that had rumbled right off her table to the floor. “I bet you’re fun at parties.”

The mood of the group was fantastically improved, and I sighed.

“Looks like your idea worked very well,” confirmed Petra. “A blessing is just what we all needed. By the way, how long do you think these marks will last?”

I considered it for a moment. The spell had been a bit of a rush, but was sound none the less. “It should start to fade by evening I think. I can cancel them at any time if you think they’re ugly or something.”

The girl recoiled. “Are you joking? Not on your life! I want to bask in this as long as possible. For the first time in days I feel great!”

I frowned. “Er… You do understand that the mark is purely representational, right?”

Petra laughed and turned to Candice. “She doesn’t know, does she?”

“I don’t think so,” answered my roommate with a wide grin.

“Know what? Come on you two.”

“The blessing is real, Miranda,” said the Russian clasping me on the shoulder. “We all wear the mark.”

I started to correct her. “Well, everyone but me… What?”

Candice was fishing through the pouch that doubled as a purse. She took out a small compact and handed it to me open. “Better check yourself in the mirror, love.”

I felt my stomach tighten, and I grew light headed when I saw my own reflection. Just as all the others, I too had a glowing symbol on my forehead. “But… how? When!?”

“I saw it draw itself just as you finished mine,” answered Petra.

Candice took me by the elbow and led me over to the table so I could sit down. Good thing too, because I was just about ready to collapse. “It would seem somebody somewhere likes you. In any case, you are as much a part of the Battle Raven as the rest of us, Miranda, blessing and all.”

I was shocked. I sat there for several minutes just staring at the glowing blue lines on my face, trying to understand.

“Miranda?” Michelle was standing next to me. “I don’t mean to interrupt, but there are a number of us who would like to go over a few things before they announce the final match rounds.”

“Huh? Oh! Yes, of course.” I set down the mirror and shook off the dazed state. “Has Petra formed practice groups yet?”

“No, not yet. We wanted to see who would be going first before we settled into anything. It should be any time now.”

As if on queue, there was a gong and the leader board magically rearranged itself. The order and times for each match was now listed. I heard Maria whoop and smack her fist into her other palm.

“Look at that, Pet, we’re up first! Right on! Let’s do this. I’m pumped!”

Petra smiled at the others enthusiasm. “Relax, my friend. We have twenty minutes before we have to be in the ready room. Let’s work on the details of that new maneuver while we have time. I had some ideas I wanted to add.”

The pair moved off to talk in private and I scanned the board for my own name. Michelle and I were listed fourth. We had more than an hour’s wait.

“Well,” said Michelle with a half frown. “I guess the larger groups are out. You okay? You look a little frazzled.”

I gazed up at the girl, my mouth open. “Look at this, Shell!” I was pointing to my forehead.

“Yeah, so. You’re Badb Catha. It WAS your idea, you know.”

“I didn’t do it,” I hissed, trying to keep my voice down. “SHE did. It was HER idea.”

She sighed and sat next to me. “Miranda, I know you don’t like being manipulated, but maybe it’s not such a bad thing right now.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, do you think she has your best interest at heart?”

I considered this for longer than I probably should have. “I’m not so sure. I honestly believe she wants only what is best for ALL of us, but if that means sacrificing me, I think she would.”

Michelle’s brows went up. “Ouch. Okay, that kinda sucks. But still, Ran. She’s told you that your part in all this is bigger than just graduating, so even if she does ultimately use you, she needs you alive and in good shape NOW, right?”

“I suppose,” I said tentatively.

“So why not give her the benefit of the doubt and trust that anything out of the ordinary that she might do for you is probably going to be to help you, either now or somewhere else down the road.”

I turned to my friend, surprised. “For a warrior, you’re awfully philosophical.”

“Me? Nah. I just know that there are times when you have to trust people.” I saw her take a deep breath. “When I was on the streets as a kid, there was this guy, a priest, that used to come around and bring food to the homeless now and again. Even though I really needed it sometimes, I never accepted his hospitality because… he just rubbed me the wrong way. There was nothing physically different about him, he just seemed wrong somehow. There’s this natural tendency not to trust people when you’re out there, even the people who say that they’re there to help you. Another thing that happens on the street is that people disappear. Sometimes they just move to a different area and you never cross paths, but in a lot of cases, they’ll simply die, or get arrested, and the only sign that they might have ever existed is a telltale shopping basket of their meager belongings, or even less. So you don’t always notice it right away when there’s a more serious problem.

“Well, after three of my friends vanished one summer, all girls, I put together that they had all recently seen the good Father and decided that I would keep a closer eye on him. I caught him leaving with a young girl, barely in her teens, and followed them. I had to climb six flights of broken fire escape to see into the room he had taken her to, and when I did, I couldn’t believe it. He had the girl tied up and gagged on the bed and was raping her bloody.”

“Oh my god…” I exclaimed, going white.

“She had trusted him,” she continued. “He seemed like a godly guy, you know? Not the kind of person you would take for a murdering pedophile. There were shelves of video tapes. Hundreds of them. Each one had a different girl’s name.”

“Why are you telling me this?” I asked, hardly able to hold back the tears.

“I need you to understand how hard it is for me to trust people, Ran. That I don’t suggest it lightly. But there’s more to the story. You see, I was insane with rage. I had known those girls. Personally. They were about the closest thing to a family I’d ever had. There was a loose brick on the window sill. I pulled it out, smashed in the window, and climbed through. Before the priest could even pull himself off the bed, I took that brick to his head and killed him; smashed his brains all over the place. When I checked the girl, I saw that she had bled out. She was just as dead as he was.

“Oh, Shell… I’m so sorry.” I was softly sobbing, not quite sure why my partner was choosing now to tell me these horrible things.

“I left,” she continued. “I called the police and told them where to go, then split. I left the area completely and started over; tried to forget. I had seen death before, lots of times. But this one stuck with me… Because I had acted. I had killed someone, and no matter how I tried to justify it, that fact ate at me day after day, until finally one night I couldn’t keep it in any longer. I had to tell someone, even if it meant jail. I was near a church, and a nun was there late. At first, she didn’t want to open up for me and told me to go to the shelter, but when she saw how desperate I was to talk; to trust someone, she relented. I didn’t waste any time. I sat down and told her everything, every detail. I held nothing back, knowing that I was probably kissing my freedom goodbye.

“But she never even flinched. She listened to every word in silence until I was done. I expected her to get up and call the police, but instead, she sat there for a few minutes longer, then reached across the table and put her hand on my head and said that I was the bravest person she had ever met. She wasn’t angry. She didn’t give me a lecture or tell me I should turn myself in. Instead, she praised me.

“I didn’t understand. I thought I would at least need to do penance or something, you know? But she said it wasn’t necessary.” Michelle made hard eye contact and continued. “There was nothing to forgive. She said that sometimes God uses us in ways that we don’t like. She told me that taking life was never ‘right’, but that sometimes, it was necessary.”

“Do you think my grandmother is going to take my life because it’s necessary to save everyone else,” I asked, my throat closing up.

“I don’t honestly know, Miranda. Maybe. But you need to trust her.”

A deep dread filled my heart. “But… But what if she turns out to be like the priest?” I was having a hard time holding back the tears.

She shook her head. “She’s not.”

I laughed, somewhat hysterically. “But how do you know?”

She reached out, put her hand on my head and said with a smile, “Because she doesn’t rub me the wrong way.”

I sobbed into my hands as Michelle scooted over and held me. Up until that point, I had only my own past with my grandmother to judge her by. She wasn’t some grand planetary entity, she was just an old woman who told me stories and made me breakfast now and again. This loving view of her conflicted completely with what I had encountered as I sat under a statue in the main entry hall; a being of terrible power and authority, who could and had destroyed all life on Earth in the past. As much as I wanted to believe that she loved me as a granddaughter, I could not displace my fear. Having to keep my relationship with Gaia a secret had prevented me from getting any other opinion to help console those fears. But with just a few simply words, Michelle had loosed the painful emotional knot that had been sitting in the pit of my stomach, and had given me hope. Having even one other person to talk to about what I was feeling was enough.

How long we sat there together I had no idea. If anyone else noticed that I was crying, they didn’t say anything. I think someone, possibly Candice, might have checked on me, but apparently Michelle waved her away. It wasn’t until my freckled roommate gave my shoulder a squeeze that I looked up. My eyes were a little puffy, and my nose still running, but the emotional baggage was gone. I took a deep breath, thinking that I actually felt lighter.

“Are you going to be able to go into a match?” she asked.

I blew out the air I had been holding in my lungs and nodded. “I think I feel better than I have in a long time. Thanks, Shell. Thanks for trusting me… with your past I mean.”

“Hey,” she replied, smiling. “You trusted me about your gran. It was the least I could do. I’m glad it helped you to talk about it… uh, I don’t mean to rush you or anything, but if we still want to compete, then we need to think about getting to the arena.”

I was shocked and looked up at the clock.

“Shit… I’m so sorry, Michelle. And you wanted to talk strategy this morning. Damn…”

She shrugged as she stood and helped me up. “It’s alright. This was more important, and frankly probably more helpful. One of the few good lessons Stix has taught me is that you can’t fight properly with blocked chi. All that pent-up emotion will slow you down and cloud your judgment. Hey, look at that!” She was pointing to the leader board. Petra and Maria’s names were lit in green.

There was suddenly a wild cheering from those in our group. Every win at this stage was cause to celebrate. Michelle was watching the other grades below us. A few people were cursing or arguing, but most of them just looked ready to pop. Seething with hatred, the anger they projected at our little band of Firsts was palatable.

“Blocked chi,” I commented to Michelle, who just grinned and led us out and toward the Refinery.

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