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 39 – Command Structure

As much as I expected to drain Douglas, we both found ourselves with an unusual sense of energy the next morning as we made our way to the Great Hall. Petra and about a third of the Firsts were already busy discussing the day’s events on the ceiling when we floated up to join them. Most of our group looked pretty nervous, though less so than the day before when we had no idea what to expect. Stacy and Chris were perhaps the only ones who actually seemed relaxed. They had good reason. Their participation in the games was over, and I found myself quietly envying their happy smiles as they sat, contented to be out of the competition, and the danger, that the rest of us were still facing.

On that thought, I scanned the crowd of higher grade students below us. Like us, most were busy planning out strategies and preparing for their individual matches. But something was different. I couldn’t spot it at first because I had been staring at our own group. In fact, it wasn’t until I looked up when Maria let out a barking laugh that I saw clearly what had changed from the night before. Whereas previously, the upper grades were out to destroy us, regardless of House affiliation, each Dòrn Lèir pair was still in it for themselves. They were willing to commit to destroying us, but they weren’t willing to share secrets in order to do it. Not so this morning. As I stared down, what I now saw was small groups of six to eight, all talking among themselves secretively. The dynamic had changed.

“You see it too,” asked Michelle coming over to me.

“The groups… That’s going to be trouble.”

She was quiet for a moment, thinking. “Perhaps, but it still doesn’t change anything. Either we’re ready for them or we aren’t.”

“Well, it could mean that they will adapt faster to our techniques…”

“Good,” said Candice behind me. I was so focused on the students below that I hadn’t seen her. I jumped slightly.

“Good?” asked Michelle somewhat irritated. “How can that possibly be a good thing for us?”

Candice’s smile gave me a little respite from my own tension. “For us, it’s not. But for the Seelie Court as a whole…”

“…They’re finally working together,” I finished for her.

“Yes. If we really are going to be fighting the Unseelie Court some day, working in one’s and two’s isn’t going to cut it. We need organized structure. Combat groups. You know, fireteam, squad, section, platoon, company, battalion… etc, etc.”

Michelle looked shocked at our fellow roommate.

“My grandad was in the Marines,” said Candice as way of an explanation.

“I just never thought of you as the military type,” continued Michelle.

“Why not?” asked Candice looking a little taken aback.

“Well, er, I…”

I was fixed on the groups. “Squads…” I said to myself. Then more loudly, “Of course!” Both Michelle and Candice stopped the argument they were about to have and looked at me. I took Candice by the shoulders and grinned.

“Uh-oh…” she said worriedly.

“Ran?” Michelle was equally concerned about my sudden transformation from sullen brooding to elation.

“Candice, you’re right. You are absolutely right. I can’t believe I didn’t see it sooner.”

“What are you talking about,” asked Michelle.

“Command structure! I was so busy just worrying about surviving that I completely missed the bigger picture.”

“Bigger…? So, what, you want me to organize us into small groups or something?” She was completely at a loss.

“Not us, THEM!” I pointed down to the floor of the Great Hall and almost laughed aloud. “From the very beginning I have always felt that these games were wrong somehow. It wasn’t simply that everyone wanted to kill us, but something else. Since we arrived here, they have been telling us that these games are to prepare us for possible combat. Anyone with a brain can see that it might be all out war with the Unseelie Court someday, but it wasn’t until just now that you showed me exactly what was wrong… what was really bothering me.”

The blond girl stared up at me expectantly.

“Purpose, Candice! What these games are really all about… Not what they have been feeding us, but what the purpose SHOULD be!”

“Which is…?”

“Unity,” I answered simply. “The Fae has been split up for a long time,” I said, turning back to the crowd of people below. “Not just the courts, but all of it. It was fractured into smaller and smaller clans, then factions, guilds… and all of them in competition with each other. Everyone took a side, held to a principle, or clung on to a vow of vengeance until we have been reduced to mere individuals, completely lost to the whole both in strength and purpose.”

“I still don’t see…”

“We,” I spun around and took them both in. “are having an effect. Look at them! For the first time in thousands of years, members of the Fae are spontaneously organizing. They are sharing information instead of holding it to themselves. They’re starting to think more globally, Candice, and WE did that!”

“We did?”

“Yes! We did it by making the situation so unpalatable to them that they have come to the conclusion that the only way they are going to fix it is to work together.”

“So,” said Michelle pensively, “by making you the bad guy, they have put aside their individual goals for the time being?”

“That’s right. We,” and I indicated the other Firsts,” were forced into it out of desperation and, frankly, a desire not to get completely slaughtered. But the same thing is happening below. They have finally figured out that if they don’t do something fast, a bunch of snot-nosed beginners are going to make them all look like fools!”

“Wow,” said Candice deep in thought. “I never thought of it that way.”

“None of us did!” I replied, laughing. “I seriously doubt the faeries considered it, and if the Headmaster has, he’s playing a damn fine game of it.”

“So what’s the next step,” asked Michelle.

“Tell Petra to get everyone together. We need to talk.”


“Are you crazy?!,” said Maria Gonzalas as we all crowded close around our table. “You want us to piss them off? I don’t see how getting them even more angry at us is going to help us in the games.”

“It won’t,” I said shaking my head. “Look, as much as all of us would like to win this thing, it’s highly unlikely that more than a handful will even make it to the finals, if that.”

“Then why are we even trying,” asked Petra.

Candice chimed in. “Well, standing matters, for sure. And not just this year, but overall, throughout our time in the Academy. You can choose not to play in the games, as many have, but anyone even remotely interested in any serious position is going to have to be able to show they can hold their own in the fae.”

I put my hand on her shoulder to interrupt. “As much as I agree, there’s more to it than that. Our own placements are important, but your combat rank within the Seelie Court is going to be meaningless if we’re obliterated before you can even apply to a guild.”

“War with the Unseelie,” said Petra sighing.

I held my tongue. It wasn’t the other court that had me really worried, but they weren’t ready for that yet.

No one spoke for several long moments.

“We have got to start thinking beyond ourselves,” I said flatly. “If a simple band of first-year students can respectively hold their own against seasoned veterans in these games, how long do you think they will last against combat trained and hardened soldiers.”

“Are they really that much better than us,” asked Penelope Fairchild in a frightened voice.

“Historically, the Unseelie Court has managed to stand against forces with two and three times their numbers,” said Douglas at my side. “If the records are to be believed,” and he briefly caught my eye. “Then, yes, they are that much better than we are. Despite a number of full-on wars, the Seelie Court has been unable to even come close to squelching them, or even slowing them down for that matter. We’re in a period of relative peace, and have been for nearly five hundred years. A lot has changed in that time on both sides, and their numbers are not accurately known. The current guess is that they are only slightly smaller than the Seelie Court now.”

“By the Goddess…” exclaimed Carol Parker looking a little pale. I could understand how she felt. The rest of our group was suddenly, and oddly quiet.

“Keep in mind that formal communications with the Unseelie High Court has been non-existent for centuries. There’s no way to know for sure what their position or strength is.” I tried to sound unemotional about it, but I could tell they weren’t buying it.

“Yeah, tell it to that girl they pin-spiked!” Maria Gonzalas’s words brought nods of agreement all around and I understood at once that the incident in the Healer’s Wing had leaked into the general population.

“Professor Brightly feels that was the work of the Sluagh, not the Unseelie Court.”

“What’s the difference,” asked Shawn with venom. “They all hate us.”

Douglas started to answer but I found myself interrupting him. “Yes, it’s true. They do all have hate for the human race… And they should. We certainly haven’t given them any reason to think of us as good stewards of this planet… Gaia’s planet. But,” and I looked up to meet Shawn’s eyes directly. “Hatred of us does not mean that they want to kill us. Not all of them anyway.”

“How would YOU know?” asked Maria.

“Read your Fae history,” I answered at once, silencing the answer I wanted to give. “On more than one occasion in the last thousand years, the Unseelie Court could have easily wiped us as humans off the map, but they didn’t. They know we are all part of the system. They know you can’t just cut out one part and expect the rest to live on without problems. Look, blame them if you must, but know… we are as much a cause of this war as they are. The real question is, what now? I for one don’t want to sit here idle while their number, and ours, continue to grow with each passing day. But as a force… a coherent, unified force… we fall far short.”

“And the only way that is going to get people thinking beyond themselves,” said Candice picking up the conversation to my relief, “Is to make it impossible for them,” and she flung her hand out to indicate the crowd below us, “to succeed in the games as individuals. If they’re desperate enough, they’ll work together as a single team… like WE do already.”

To my great surprise, our group was briefly stunned as the truth of Candice’s words sunk in. We were a single team. Somewhere in the last seventy-two hours, the two-dozen or so Firsts that made up our class, each hoping to scratch out a little future for themselves in a brave new world to come, had organized and morphed into an entirely different thing. We thought as one. We trained as one. We would win or lose as one.

“Well, shit,” exclaimed Maria with a halfhearted laugh. “If all we need to do to save the Seelie Court from certain destruction is tick-off some overconfident fat-heads, then count me in. Since they pretty much want to bleed us all anyway, this should be a piece of cake.”

There was laughter and nodding all around.

“Remember,” I said with all seriousness. “As far as the games themselves are concerned, nothing has changed. We still try to score as high as we possibly can. If you lose a match, and I can assure you that we will be seeing a lot more of that today, then give them nothing. No emotion, no anger, nothing that they can feed on. Walk out and move on. But if you win… well, then you can put on the drama. Make them feel the loss to the full extent. Get them angry, shaken. Make them feel mocked and degraded. The angrier they are, the more desperate they’ll be to unify.”

“Are we together on this,” asked Petra as she made eye contact with each member of the Rooftop Club. “Because things are likely to get tense. No one will find fault if this is not for you,” she explained, a bit of her Russian accent coming through.

None of us knew quite how to answer, but it was shy Penelope who finally broke the silence. “I never expected to place anyway, so at least now I have a purpose. I… I also have something to share with the group…” she said a little awkwardly. “Last night I couldn’t sleep. I’ve been working on a project on my own. Professor Rachael helped me a bit at first, but she said I had a natural knack for it… go figure.”

“What is it, Pen,” I asked, smiling and just as curious and frankly surprised as everyone else.

She looked around, obviously uncomfortable with the sudden attention, but she answered with a grin.

“I made a trap.”

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