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 30 – Beta Testing

The following day started out a lot less tense than I thought it would be. I didn’t understand why this was until I met Candice coming out of my Enchantment’s class. She was my designated chaperone for the morning and I couldn’t deny that I was glad to see her. Most of my fellow students simply choose to ignore me. They were stone quiet in my presence. Too much so.

“Well, it’s official,” said the blond as she met me at the door. “You are now a target of all four houses in the games.”

“That explains a lot,” I replied dryly. “No big surprise though… except possibly East. God that sucks. My own house wants to kill me.”

“Yeah, well there was a big meeting over in North Hall to talk about it. They wouldn’t let me in of course, but there are ways to hear things without being present,” she said somewhat cryptically. I looked over at her with a new appreciation.

“I never took you for a spy.”

She brought her hand to her bosom in mock innocence as we walked together toward the Great Hall. “Little ol’ me? A spy?” She batted her lashes a few times and then smirked. “How do you think the world’s greatest gossip collector gets her juiciest tidbits?… No wait, don’t answer that.”

I laughed outright. The main dining area was being set up for lunch, but those there hardly noticed us as we traveled across the room and quietly entered conference room J. Like all of our trips to Humble Hall, Candice worked the Greie Leeideilagh and transported us directly to the sister version of the Great Hall we had just walked through. Our place of study was far from the organized and homey version frequented by other students however, most of the large space simply serving as a storage area for goods. Huge piles of rugs and chairs, a thousand pillows, blankets, dishes, and all manner of school supplies were stacked against the wall of nearly a third of the cavernous room. There were also heavier items such as barrels of flour, water and various liquors. The last of which the Headmaster very carefully warned us against trying.

“The Dwarfs make a fine ale,” he had said most sternly, “but it’s specifically designed to get one drunk and forget his or her troubles. Not something for the light of heart.” From the way he spoke that day, we got the impression that he had found the drink too much even for himself. We left the wax-sealed barrels alone.

As we came in that morning, I happened to notice the remnants of the table I had shattered only a day earlier and winced. It seemed to me like weeks had passed. So much had changed in the last 24 hours that I had trouble getting my mind around the significance of it all. Candice saw that I had stopped and was staring at the broken table.

“Hey,” she said touching my shoulder. “Are you okay?”

I sighed heavily. “What’s it all going to come to, Candice? What if Michelle is right about me and the Unseelie Court?”

“She’s not,” she replied defiantly.

I shook my head. “You don’t know that. We don’t know what her dreams mean.”

“You said it yourself, Ran. You won’t betray the Tuatha.”

“Not right now. But what if something happens to change my mind. What if I do betray my own court?”

It was Candice’s turn to shake her head. “No. I know you, Miranda. You’re the most resolute person I’ve ever met.”

“But if I do, all this,” and I indicated the space we had set up to work on the Professor’s amplifier project, “could be a terrible mistake!”

“It’s not, Ran,” she said with force, and for perhaps the first time I thought I saw real anger in her eyes. “It’s not. You nailed the problem when we first started. Magical amplification is going to happen. The Unseelie Court will do it eventually with or without your help. I don’t think you’re as unique as you think you are. Either case, it’s a damn side better if the Seelie Court gets it first.”

I wasn’t going to argue with her about my uniqueness. The less my friends needed to worry about me the better.

“Come on,” she said taking my hand and leading me to our work area. “We almost had this thing licked the last time, and you’ve had a lot more time to adjust to your new MOS now.”

I rolled my eyes. “Oh yeah, I really have it under control. Just last night I snapped a table right in two…” I saw Candice gasp softly a realized at once how callous that must have sounded. Images of her gashed leg came streaking back.

“Candice… I…” I started to apologize.

She put up her hand. “It’s okay. I’m alright. I knew there might be dangers involved when we signed up for this whole fiasco, so stop beating yourself up.”

I considered her for a moment and then nodded silently.

“Good. Look, I want you to check out some changes I made to the control matrix,” she exclaimed as she dropped into work mode. Candice doing what she did best was what really made her happy, and it showed whenever she and I took on something as complex and delicate as the amplifier. I may end up being the unwitting savior of humanity, but it was Candice who would do all the really juicy stuff.

“After you slipped and dumped over that stack of railroad ties, I decided to put in a new safeguard method. Basically, it closes off the upper registers on the harmonic scale so you can’t accidentally apply too much energy.”

“Sounds like a wise move,” I replied looking at the floating structure in her own Ob’ilar.

“It also occurred to me that our system of fine tuning was based on your old MOS and not the new, which is able to effect changes much more rapidly. I wasn’t worried about execution speed when we first set this thing up, just output. But now that I’ve had a chance to see what you can do, I did a bit of restructuring for efficiency.”

My mouth was hanging open as I took in the breadth of the changes. “Oh my god, Candice… a bit of restructuring? It looks like you rewrote the whole damn thing!”

“Well I didn’t start from complete scratch. The base glyphs are the same, see?” She was pointing into the middle of her creation, oblivious to the hilarity of her own skill. In many ways, my top-heavy friend was the epitome of a classic geek.

I just laughed softly and shook my head.

“So what do you think,” she asked rubbing her palms together. “Ready to take her for a test spin?”

I have to hand it to Candice. When it comes to the creation of magic, she’s well at the top of her game. The new version of her amplifier was better by at least an order of magnitude, and not just the output. I knew the moment I let the control field slide around me that the whole thing just ‘fit’ better. It was like putting on an old and well fitted pair of comfortable jeans, whereas before I was trying to perform gymnastics in a wedding dress. No longer was I restricted by the structure of the magic. I could literally feel the glyph shifting and responding to every subtle change that I gave it through my own Ob’ilar.

“This is fantastic, Candice,” I said from the center of the room as I gently reached out magically and lifted a few test items we had distributed nearby. Candice was seated behind a low wall of cement bags that had been stacked up as a precaution after I shattered a dozen ceramic plates in one of our earlier experiments. She was carefully monitoring through her own glyphs the stability of the amplification.

“Go ahead and try the door,” she suggested without looking up.

Just in front of me was a very large and heavy metal door that had been propped up in a corner when we first started the project. It looked like something that belonged on a submarine, and took both of us using magic to get it out into the center testing area. Even then, we almost couldn’t move the massive oval of metal and nearly cracked the tiles on the floor of the hall when we lost control and had to quickly step back and let it fall. Last time we tried, I had been able with the amplifier to get it a few inches off the ground by myself, but had trouble keeping it from sliding away in one direction or another.

Gently, and with Candice ready at the ‘kill’ switch should something go wrong, I reached out and slowly put a magical hand around the portal. I knew at once that the weight of the thing was no longer a factor, and the difficulty I had experienced with control was gone completely. I could still feel the mass of the heavy object but it was now about like holding a baseball.

I chuckled softly and looked back at Candice who was grinning like a child before an Easter egg hunt. Being careful to keep the door away from me, just in case, I casually turned it around in the air, rotating it easily on any axis. We had never seen the underside of the massive gate, and I frowned briefly when that side came into view for the first time. Cautiously, and watching for any possible shifts in the field, I moved a few steps closer. I realized it probably would have been easier to move the door once I had changed my position in the room, but found it interesting that it didn’t seem to affect the amplifier if I myself moved.

“Hey Candice,” I called back. “Come take a look at this.”

“Uh… are you sure you’ve got control,” she asked tentatively. I guess I couldn’t blame her for checking.

“Oh yeah. This is hardly even a challenge now,” I added as a means of compliment.

She bit her lip for a second but then came around from behind the wall and joined me next to the hovering mass of metal.

“What is it,” she asked.

“Look here,” I answered, pointing to the patterning on what was the previously unseen underside. “Does this look familiar to you?”

She squinted through her glasses at the grey-green substance and frowned. “I’m not sure I… wait. Isn’t that the same material used in the combat rooms?”

I was nodding. “It’s all along the surface, see? I think this used to be part of one of the doors into the arena. But this is what really caught my eye,” I said as carefully pointed to a half inch crack in the grey-green material. The fissure ran from top to bottom and looked as though something had made impact just above center on the door, where smaller cracks radiated outward several inches.

“What do you suppose did that,” asked Candice frowning again. “I heard that the flooring in the combat halls was supposed to be nearly indestructible… That nothing could even scratch it.”

“Apparently not,” I replied as I frowned as well. “At least not by anything that anyone living knows about.”

“I sure wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of whatever did that…” Commented the girl swallowing.

“Amen,” I agreed while silently thinking that some day I might very well have to.

We ran the new version of the amplifier through several other tests with the door before Candice finally conceded that we had done it.

“Time to open the champagne,” she said grinning. “Or maybe one of those barrels of Dwarf ale, yes?”

“I think we better stick to human brews, but I agree that celebration is in order.”

She clapped her hands and was then rummaging under a pile of curtains nearby. “I thought you might say that, which is why I got this!” With considerable flare she withdrew a medium sized, highly decorated blue bottle.

My brows went up. “What… is that?”

Candice was nearly giddy. “It’s Brownie Wine!”

“Brownie…” I laughed. “So much for staying with the human brands. I’m almost afraid to ask, but is it potent?”

Also extracting a pair of ornate crystal goblets, the girl skipped over to our table and started unsealing the top. “Let’s just say that the brownie who sold it to me warned that even she never has more than a half cup in any one day and she’d been drinking the stuff for nearly four hundred years.”

“Oh… In that case, maybe we ought to wait and have our party back in the safety of our dorm room or something. I think trying to operate the Wonkavator while plastered would be a really bad idea.”

“I thought you’d say that too, and you would be right, except that the really wonderful thing about Brownie Wine is that its effects last just a mere hour and then… poof!” She snapped her fingers. “They disappear like magic… which is how they come to be there in the first place.”

“Instant party,” I commented, smiling. “So do the hangover effects also go poof when you sober up?”

There was a deep pop as the cork came free. “No hangover. That’s another reason the stuff is almost five hundred silver marks a bottle.”

My mouth was hanging open. “Candice! Are you serious?!”

“Hey, we’ve worked our asses off on this crazy project. I thought we deserved to splurge a little. Hell, what else do we have to spend our money on?”

“I can think of a lot of things! Oh, fuck it. You’re right, we do deserve a little extravagance, only…”

“What,” she asked when I faltered. She was filling the two goblets.

“Look, do you think we can do something real quick before we get shit-faced?”

“I suppose,” she said shrugging her shoulders. “What did you have in mind?”

I bit my lip. “I want to push the amplifier. I want to know what we’re dealing with before I toast our success and let the Professor know.”

“You’re still unsure of his intentions?”

I winced. “Maybe. I think I just want to know fully what it is that I’m turning over.”

My dorm mate mulled this for all of a second and then said, “Alright, sure. I guess I’m a little curious to know the upper limit as well. And you’re right…. That’s not something we want to be playing around with drunk.”

The door may have been heavy, but it was nothing compared to the fully filled tub of water Headmaster Brightly had given us. The massive metal cauldron was six feet wide and almost as tall. Loaded to the brim with water, it would weight almost fifteen thousand pounds. It had taken him and two faeries to get it safely into the hall, and that was empty. I was about to try and lift it filled.

“Ready?” I asked as Candice settled behind the cement bags again.

“Almost… okay. Go for it.” Once again she was staring into the buzzing monitor glyphs that told her the stability of the field. Her left hand hovered constantly over the “kill” glyph.

“Right, here we go then…” I let the field move out and surround the tub and then very lightly “felt” it’s shape and mass. It was an odd feeling, kind of like having an extra pair of large invisible hands. Once I knew the tub’s weight the same way someone might judge the heft of a watermelon at the grocer’s, I gently nudged the tub from the bottom. To my surprise, the weight still wasn’t hardly an issue. I was so shocked at the ease in which I was able to lift the huge water vessel that I almost lost control. But once I had it again, I found it was as easy to keep in line as the door.

“Holy shit…” whispered Candice watching me.

Although it wasn’t an effort, I could still tell that I was hitting the top of the register as far as amplification went.

“Hey, what do you think about opening up the other registers?” I asked as I slowly rotated the tub in front of me. “Control doesn’t seem to be a factor… watch.” I heard her gasp as I then tumbled the huge container end over end. The water stayed put because I held it there.

“By the goddess!” She gasped. “Stop that! You’re making me seriously nervous.”

With a heavy clunk, I set down the tub and looked to my friend. “Are you okay? It wasn’t a problem, honest.” I saw that she was shaking a little.

“I… I’m fine. It’s just that I’m not used to seeing that kind of power. It’s kinda scary,” she said averting her eyes. My mind raced ahead and caught up with her train of thought.

“And you’re worried about Michelle’s dream…” I finished dryly.

“It didn’t really sink in until just now… what we were really doing.” Then she straightened up and took a deep breath. “But nothing has changed. It’s still the right thing to do.”

“I know,” I replied in as comforting a tone as I could. “Now what do you say we open this thing up and give it a real challenge, yes?”

She bit her lip for a moment and then nodded.

While Candice reconfigured the amplifier, I considered how to reasonably test it. I really did want to know the upper limit, but how to do so safely? The tub was just too small, as heavy as it was, and it was a single massive object. I wanted to see what would happen if I needed to control more than one object at a time. I needed to know how my new MOS would be able to adapt.

“Alright, that should do it. All registers are now open. Miranda, for Gaia’s sake, PLEASE be careful. One slip and you could kill us.”

“Right,” I agreed. I shook the nervousness from my hands, accidentally sending sparks flying from my fingertips. I grimaced and glanced over at Candice who was rolling her eyes.

I took several deep breaths and calmed my heart as much as I could and then closed my own eyes. For simplicity, we had agreed early in our testing to use a simple levitation charm as barometer of success. We had thought of using a heating spell, but quickly figured out that if things went as we thought they would, we would be generating far too much heat for an enclosed room to bear, especially one without windows we could open if something got burned. If things got dicey with the levitation charm, we had only to cancel the magic in order to put things back into equilibrium. Of course that meant picking up the mess, but that was a hell of a lot better than being burned to a crisp.

The water tub, while relatively heavy, just wasn’t even taxing on my Ob’ilar. But what I had in mind now was going to require a bit more controlled concentration. Candice was right. We couldn’t afford a mistake or slip when we were dealing with weights in the ‘tons’ range. Drop a plate and it shatters into little pieces. Drop a six ton statue made of the same material and you get projectiles moving at deadly velocities. For this reason, I let myself sink into my semi-trance state. It would allow me to concentrate completely on the task, free from external distractions.

I reached out in much the same way I had with the tub and ‘felt’ the room as a whole. It was an odd sensation, a bit like seeing something from more than one side at once. I tried on a dress with my mother once and stood in front of a three-way mirror. I had the same experience then as I stared at the back of the dress.

And to a certain degree, I actually was looking at the room from multiple points, or possibly no fixed point. The entire space, complete with all its contents was presented to me as a single collection of masses, which I could turn and view in my head from any angle. Like making your way through your house at night with the lights off… you navigate by touch. It was said that the faeries could see the Mother’s life web in this way, and until now I had no way to relate. It was thrilling, to be sure.

When I was ready, I started with some nearby pillows and began gently lifting. They obviously weren’t a task at all weight-wise, but I wanted to see how hard it was to control more than one thing at a time. Holding the water in the tub while I tumbled it hadn’t been difficult, and I found that it wasn’t any more trouble to hover five then ten then fifty pillows at one time yet still hold each one as a separate object that could be manipulated at will. I spun them in different directions and orbits for a minute or so until I was convinced of the control and then let them come together as a single unit.

It was time to push it. I had my magical hand start at the front and work it’s way back toward the far wall, picking things up as it went. One by one I slowly lifted each item and decided whether or not to group it with other similar objects or keep it separate while carefully watching myself for signs of stress. By the time I reached the other side of the room, I could definitely feel it, but I still wasn’t worried about dropping anything. Now for practicality. Pillows first, I let my floating collection of booty slide over toward the opposite wall. I’m sure it must have been a little unnerving to Candice to see the entire contents of Humble Hall gliding through the air at eye level, and when I checked by very softly reaching out to sense her own mass I ‘saw’ that she had indeed moved back several steps.

I rearranged the contents of the floating room in much the same way they were before only reversed. When everything was finally back on the ground and stable, I opened my eyes and turned to Candice with a wide smile. A moment later that smile was gone. Candice was in tears.

“What the fuck did you think you were doing!!” She screamed at me, nearly hysterical.

Stunned, I fought to understand my friend’s emotional outburst. “I… I didn’t think…”

“NO,” she interrupted me sharply. “You didn’t think! You never considered the risk you just put us both in with that stunt. You tranced-out, didn’t you?”

It was the term we used when I dropped out of consciousness to do things like my homework while there were other people in the room. Neither roommate liked it, but they understood why I did it and tolerated the odd ‘glazed’ look that overcame my features when I was away. Now, in retrospect, I realized that it may have helped me concentrate, but it also broke off communication. In my trance, I wouldn’t be able to hear Candice’s warning, or in this case, her cries of distress and fear. I might have known there was no danger, but not her. From her perspective, I was completely unaware of her presence and at any moment I might drop thirty-thousand pounds of random dry goods on her frail body.

“Oh, god… I’m so sorry Candice,” I moaned, dropping my head in shame.

She was silent for a moment, then said, “Damn it, Ran… We have GOT to work on your communications skills. We’re a team here.”

“I know… It was stupid. I should have thought it through first. I should have made our safety the priority.”

“Fuckin’ A… Don’t EVER do that again, alright? You seriously scared the shit out of me.”

I looked up at her and nodded, my own tears beading at the corners of my eyes.

She saw my face and sighed. “Aw shit… come on. Let’s have that drink now. I really need something to loosen me back up again. I’m wound tighter than a two-dollar watch.”

Wiping my eyes and sniffing, I joined her at the table where she handed me a goblet.

“Here’s to weapons of mass destruction,” she exclaimed as she raised her cup. I was so startled that I almost dropped mine. The idea of the amplifier being compared to something like a nuclear bomb had occurred to me, but not in such a poignantly horrible and timely way. The words seemed vile and dirty coming from my friend and I suddenly felt my stomach knotting up. Looking into my cup, I saw my own face reflected in the dark red liquid and my breath caught. Was this what my grandmother had in mind when she spoke of me battling the Fomorians? Mass destruction?

I steeled myself and raised the cup to my lips, taking a long drink. If I were to start down that path, then so be it. I knew no better way than to start completely drunk.

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