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 7 – Candyland

The next two weeks went by in a flash. I spent most of the time just keeping up with my studies, eating, or sleeping. There simply wasn’t time for anything else. It wasn’t until Headmaster Brightly declared a holiday that we even realized how single minded we were being. So when it was announced that two whole days were being declared as a period of rest, most of us first-years hardly knew what to do with ourselves. Michelle tried to sneak into the training rooms and was turned away by a sprite. Apparently, the staff didn’t trust us to actually take the vacation seriously. I couldn’t blame them. I found myself wandering toward the Troggeyder rooms early the first day, and it took a conscious effort to stop feeling like I was “skipping school” when I returned to East Hall in search of my friends.

To my surprise, Douglas was already there looking about as lost as I was.

“You can’t think of what to do either?” I asked, taking a seat next to him.

“I was right in the middle of an important research assignment, and now they won’t even let me near the library.”

I looked around the room and saw that many of my classmates were playing various board games, or reading quietly in one of the many wing-backed chairs that were sprinkled around the hall. I was considering whether or not I should go back to my dorm room for a book of my own when Michelle came stomping in. She had a cloud of anger over her features, and even during the short time we had been friends, I had learned that it was best to just sit quietly and wait for her to let you know what was wrong rather than pester her about it. No matter how well-intentioned your motives, she always had a tendency to think she was being attacked. Apparently, Douglas had figured this out as well, because we were both silent when she dropped into the chair across the table from us and grunted. She mumbled under her breath for a few minutes, and then blurted, “They won’t even let me practice! How the hell am I supposed to get ready for tournament level competition if I can’t even practice the moves they’ve given me?!”

“Locked you out too, eh?” I said, as meekly as I could.

“Bugger me! It’s infuriating. What the hell am I supposed to do for two whole days?”

Just then I noticed Candice waving to get my attention from the East House doorway. Technically, she wasn’t allowed into the hall itself. The others saw me wave back and watched as Candice rolled her eyes and slumped her shoulders in frustration. Then she simply yelled across the room. “Come on!” She pantomimed pulling a rope to draw us physically from the hall.

“I guess she wants to talk to us,” I smiled.

“What does she want?” asked Michelle, still in a funk.

Douglas stood up. “Who cares? It beats sitting around here watching you two.” He was almost out of the hall before we caught up with him and joined Candice in the public causeway.

“Too chilly to go topless,” kidded Douglas as he noticed Candice’s state of dress. She had on a loose cotton shirt instead of the complete lack of upper clothing that she had sported for the last few days.

“Ha ha,” she replied cooly. “You may beg my forgiveness later when I tell you what I’ve learned.”

“Oh ho! More juicy tidbits from the grand-master of gossip?”

She only nodded and smiled.

“Ok, I’ll bite,” said Michelle dryly.

Candice moved us off out of the way so that no one else would overhear us. “How would you all like to go to the Market?”

“The Market,” I exclaimed. “I thought that was restricted to third semester students and above?”

The girl shook her head. “I checked it out with my counselor. It’s not forbidden, just discouraged. Anyone can go.”

“That’s awesome,” said Douglas, brightening. Even Michelle seemed to momentarily snap out of her funk.

“Wait a second,” I interrupted. “It’s discouraged for a reason, Candice. I was told that the Market is technically not even part of the Academy, even though it shares the same compression of time. The instructors don’t necessarily hold the authority there as they do here, so if you get busted or hurt or something, you very well may find yourself on your own.”

“Doesn’t bother me,” chimed in Michelle. “In fact, it sounds like just what I need.”

Douglas laughed and bowed deeply before Candice. “I beg your humble remittance, master… As well as directions on how to get there. I’m not one to turn down an adventure, especially when the next best thing is a game of checkers.”

“So what’s it going to be, Ran,” asked Candice looking at me. “Care to take a walk on the wild side? They said we should go do something different from our usual studies…”

I sighed. “I have to go. Somebody has to keep you guys out of trouble.”

When I was eight, my mom took me to see a traveling carnival that happened to be in town for a couple of weeks. It was pretty much like you would expect a carnival to be, complete with animals and clowns and even a trapeze act. In fact, it was such a stereotypical show, that I was mostly bored out of my mind after the first ten minutes. After you’ve seen one guy do a triple somersault fifty feet over your head, to see it again is no big deal, at least for me. Even at eight, I wasn’t easily shocked, so it just didn’t carry the “wow” factor I was hoping for. What did surprise me, however, were the carnival people themselves.

It turned out that my mother knew one of the performers in the high-wire act, and after the show, she went “backstage” and asked for her. They were friends from high-school or something, and there was much feminine squealing and giggling while they made their re-acquaintance. Then, we were brought on back into what I can only describe as a gypsy caravan of assorted trailers, bikes, trucks and other bastard vehicles that had been modified to be both transport for the circus, and home to about eighty people, and it was a world unlike any I had ever encountered.

It wasn’t so much the way that these people lived, but rather the whole different set of morals and ethical codes that they used to govern their highly enclosed society. I don’t think all circus troops allow public nudity, but skin was about as common as not, and children were raised, watched and disciplined by whomever happened to be closest. It was as though they were one giant family, and I was enormously jealous of the constant love and attention that the children had there. There were no outcasts within the troop. Everyone pitched in and did their share of the work without having to be asked. It was as natural as breathing for them, and just like breathing, it was essential to their survival.

Another aspect of the traveling gypsies that I found so wonderful was the constant open marketplace that seemed to exist whenever they stopped for a show. Almost every family group within the troop had some form of secondary trade that they worked on when traveling, and then sold to others after the shows. They mostly sold to others within the caravan, and some were services while others produced actual products. There was everything from tailoring to hat-making, and each night was like a miniature fair all by itself. There were crafts, and food and clothes and pastries and toys and almost any form of nicknack you could imagine. It was a way for the people of the caravan to get the things that made their lives interesting beyond the “show”. Certainly, what they did for a living was fascinating to most people, but to them, it was mostly just a job to do.

I spent about three quarters of my savings buying all sorts of things that I would never find in a “mall store”. There was amazing jewelry, rare books, wonderful hand-made clothing, and more types of food than you could safely eat in an evening. To an overactive, hyper-intelligent eight-year-old, it was heaven, and something that I thought I would never again experience in my lifetime… At least until I first walked into the Market.

The entrance was located in the same large reception area that I had entered from the log cabin when I first arrived. That event somehow seemed years ago in my mind, but I knew that only four weeks had fully passed since taking that strange CAMP bus and walking through a solid wall into a whole new world.

“Over there,” said Candice, pointing to the far wall. A pair of faeries stood on either side of what looked like a bricked up passageway. “That’s where you go through. My counselor mentioned that the Market has the same time compression as the Academy, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to go there. Still, it’s NOT within the Iron Mountain, and so is not protected by the same magic that we are currently.”

“So what does that mean?” asked Michelle with a frown.

Candice shrugged. “Only that anyone in the Fae can go there, Seelie Court or not.”

“Don’t the Unseelie want to, uh… kill us?” I asked, with no small amount of sarcasm.

“Not exactly,” answered Douglas. “They want to cull our numbers.”

Michelle snorted. “Yeah, but HOW you are culled matters too, bub. My Combat instructor showed me a scar she got from an Unseelie magical attack. It won’t fade… ever. She said that the Unseelie Court hates our guts, and that given the chance, they’d rip us limb from limb, or burn us alive, or…”

“Okay! Okay!” Interrupted Candice. “We get the idea. So are we still going to do this?”

There was a moment of silence as we all looked at each other.

“Fuck ’em. I say we go for it,” exclaimed Michelle.

Douglas’ smile was infectious. “I don’t know that I’d have put it that way, but I don’t fear the dark side. I’m always on for an adventure!”

“Candice,” I said turning to the girl. “Just promise me one thing. If the situation gets dicey, we bail… All of us. No exceptions.” I turned to catch everyone’s eyes. “Deal?”

“Right with me,” answered Douglas at once.

“No problem,” said Candice with a smile.

Michelle took a moment to answer. “I guess so. What the hell. All for one and one for all, or whatever.”

“Good,” I sighed. “Then let’s go check out the town. If something has somebody nervous, then just let the others know by mentioning that we have a history test. That will be our code phrase. If you hear that, you drop what you’re doing and we get out fast. Remember, we can always come back.”

The faerie guards at the gate warned us that the the portal closed each night promptly at three in the morning. I assured them that we had no intention of staying so late, but they just shrugged and motioned for us to pass.

The trip through the Market Gate was nothing like the one that had brought us to the Academy. It didn’t seem to take less time, but was rather… more direct. Still, it was a lot like stepping through a waterfall or something. The “wet” feeling of magic faded quickly, and we were suddenly all standing amidst a veritable carnival of shops, vendors, street performers and all manner of Fae entities. I think we all spent about five minutes just standing there taking it all in before a fourth-semester girl in little more than a gauze skirt laughed as she walked up to us and urged us out of the way.

“If you stand in front of the gate, you’ll get knocked down when the next group comes through.” And then she leaned in and kissed me on the mouth and went off giggling. I was stunned. It wasn’t a long kiss, but it wasn’t dry either, and damned if my lips didn’t tingle.

I brought my hand up to touch them as Candice chuckled behind me. “Well, wasn’t she the friendly one,” she offered. Then after a while she added, “Earth to Ran… hello?”

“Er… sorry,” I sputtered, my mind in a daze. I was amazed to find that my heart rate was fast and strong, and that I couldn’t get the image of the girl’s face out of my mind. I couldn’t have even said how long I had been standing there caressing my own lips.

“Hmmm…” commented Candice, frowning. “Oh, well there’s the problem,” she said, standing in front of me. And then she did something with her hands and it felt like someone had dumped a cup of cold water over my head.

I blinked for a moment, the erotic sensations abruptly gone. “A charm?”

“Snagged you free and clear.”

“Shit,” I said, color coming to my cheeks. How could I be so damn unguarded? The others were grinning, and no doubt thought it was hilarious.

“Come on Miranda,” said Douglas, taking my arm and urging me forward. “It’s nice to see that you’re human after all. Although I’m a bit disturbed that you were so affected by a girl…”

“Oh, shut up, McBride,” I snapped back, smiling.

The Market was huge. It was like a combination of all the best malls in the human world, and a constant, twenty-four-hour a day circus or Renaissance Faire. There was something for everyone, and I could have spent days wandering around the various shops and carts and still have only seen a fraction of the place.

There were clothes shops, book shops, spell shops and carts and carts of food and drink. Douglas was constantly wanting to check the pubs, but after we almost couldn’t drag him from the first one, we forbade him to go into another unless we all agreed. He sulked, but quickly changed his tone when a cart full of books rolled past. Everyone has something that catches their fancy, and for Douglas, it’s books or beer. I have to admit, I was pretty intrigued by some of those titles myself. I wasn’t sure about some of my translations, but ‘Mola’s Guide to Spacial Translocation’ and ‘The Collected Works of Ora the Grand-Master Charmer’ looked fascinating. There were also a few that caught my attention for other reasons, like ‘Bliss Basics – Extracting Spell Power Through Orgasm’ and ‘Crafting Charms of Sexual Bindery.’ Either Douglas had failed to notice those last two, or he wasn’t able to translate them accurately. I hoped it was the latter.

Candice caught my eye and indicated that she and Michelle were going to go make use of a ‘powder room’ and I nodded. I doubt that Douglas even noticed they were gone. He was dickering over the price of a large tome that he had in his hand. The owner of the wagon was a somewhat smallish humanoid female wearing what looked like a black and blue striped pantsuit with a gold and black long-sleeved top. On her head was a hat that reminded me of something out of a Caribbean pirate movie. Like most creatures of the Fae, she had pointed ears, but the fine clothing surprised me. There was skin everywhere, but to see anyone other than a human in so much just didn’t seem right.

I continued to browse, pretending to be loosely interested in this or that while I eavesdropped on my fellow classmate’s squabbling. By the end of the transaction, my appreciation of Douglas had increased considerably. He was not only as fluent in the local language as I was, but he seemed to have a remarkable gift for gab that allowed him to be completely at ease with a being that I couldn’t even yet identify by type. I suspected that she was a brownie, but save for outright asking her, I had no way to find out.

After a period of negotiating the price, the two finally shook hands and Douglas withdrew several coins from a pocket in his vest and handed them over. The tiny woman handed him the book and they then continued to chat for a while about this or that of no real consequence. I remembered from my lessons with Rachael that this was just procedure. It was considered rude to just pay and run off, and depending on the individuals, the price was often raised or lowered simply by the kind of chit chat that could be counted on afterward. Gossip had value within the Fae. I waited patiently to the side until they were finished, and then the woman waved and pushed her cart on down the busy walkway.

“This is so awesome,” exclaimed Douglas, switching back to English and leafing through the heavy book in his hands. “Do you know how rare this volume is? I’ve been scouring the library back at the Academy for days trying to find half the historical references that are in this book!”

“I wasn’t aware that you spoke Fae Common,” I said, absentmindedly, as we walked slowly to a nearby bench to sit.

“Oh, yeah… that. Well, I should know it. I grew up with it,” he answered, still flipping through his prize.

“Really?” I was genuinely surprised.

He stopped and appeared to be staring off into space. “I can remember my great-grandmother using Common, and then my mother of course. I don’t think my dad did though. In any case,” he turned to me with a smile. “It certainly has helped with my studies as a historian. Professor Poppins says I’ll make a ‘brilliant’ sociologist if I don’t kill myself first.”

I wanted to ask him where he had gotten the money to buy his book, but just then, Candice and Michelle came back out of the powder room.

“Oh my,” coughed Douglas. I just smiled and shook my head.

Candice had chosen to dress a bit lighter and had stripped off her top. She had the necklace on, and had rearranged her hair in a very complimentary way like a crown atop her head.

“When in Rome,” she said, as she came within earshot.

“Hear, hear!” Answered Douglas enthusiastically. I playfully jabbed him in the ribs.

There was simply so much to see that describing it seems so mundane compared to actually being there. Almost anything could be had, at least anything that belonged in the Fae world. You wouldn’t, for example, find an electronics store, but if you happened to be looking for an emerald encrusted pipe, then the Aonach na Milseáin was the place. It meant ‘The Candy Market’, but everyone just called it the Market it seemed. It was somewhat redundant to use the full name, since almost every other cart or shop sold sweets of one sort or another. And they weren’t the simple lollipops and gumdrops of the human world, these. They were works of art.

Most of it was chocolates, but there were taffies and toffees and caramels, and every sort of edible confection that you could imagine, but they were so finely crafted and shaped that you almost hated to eat them. Almost.

Candice traded in her silver piece at an exchanger (with Douglas’ help to keep things honest) and came away with a pouch of smaller coins so heavy that she finally asked me to carry half of them so she would stop rattling like a video game junkie. We had no idea how much the coin had actually been worth until she treated us all to a round of fine chocolates that each looked like swans dressed in tiny glittering jewels. We oohed and ahhed over the candy until we were licking our fingers and acting like little kids. Candice then ordered a bag of assorted goods ‘to go’, and paid the grinning faerie at the counter while the rest of us stepped outside looking for a place to get a drink.

When she joined us a moment later, she was frowning and looking at the change in her hand.

“What’s up, Cee,” I asked, noticing her. “Think you got ripped or something?”

She shook her head. “No, just the opposite. Miranda, if the price of those chocolates is in any way similar to the price of candy in the human world, then you and I are carrying around enough money to buy a medium sized house.”

“Shit…” I gasped. “Douglas?”

“She’s right, Ran. While I don’t know the relative values of human money to Fae, I can tell you that the exchanger was surprised that Candice had what she did. I think that food and especially sweets are considerably cheaper here than in our own world, that being the theme of the marketplace and all, but I would still have to say that Candice’s prize for baring her, uh… chest, was quite considerable. Say, something on the order of a few thousand dollars, American.”

Michelle whistled in appreciation. “Nice one, girl. At least we know who’s buying dinner…”

It turned out that Candice could buy us a lot more than dinner. Watching other shoppers a bit more closely, I tried to get a better idea of the various weights and exchanges that made up the financial system within the Fae. It wasn’t easy. For one thing, price was as variable as the person buying or selling, and there were a number of other factors that could be used to augment physical forms of payment. Gossip was an easy one that I had already seen, but it shocked the hell out of me to witness that kissing, dancing, even whispering lewd comments into ones ear were considered equal forms of quick payment that held the same or better value than their object-based counterparts. Rachael had mentioned that sex was power. I hadn’t considered that it also might be legal tender for that new skirt you wanted.

In retrospect, that was silly of me. Even in the human world, sex could be traded for things. The only difference was in the way people perceived that exchange. In the human world, you’d be considered a slut or a prostitute and looked down upon. But in the Fae world, sex was as open as any other form of communication. They didn’t hide it, and nobody would ever think less of you for being good at it. And what’s more, the more well known you were for your sexuality, the more you were valued and respected.

By the end of that day, I had recalculated Candice’s current financial standing to be not two thousand, as Douglas had guessed, but closer to fifteen. I kept the information to myself, but made sure I didn’t lose the heavy bag tied to my belt. No one had mentioned thieves within the Fae, but I wasn’t about to take the chance.

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