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 14 – Countdown

I was transcribing a complicated, if not incredibly boring charm sequence from a book that was probably old when Gutenberg was still fiddling with moveable type, when I subconsciously heard someone mention my name and looked up. The librarian, a sprite who was reported to be over four millennia old, was talking to a man I immediately recognized to be Headmaster Brightly. I barely made out the tiny magical female pointing in my direction, and then the ‘ah’ of recognition as the headmaster noticed me and, thanking the Librarian, headed over toward me in his normal, somewhat exaggerated gait. He was smiling, but from personal experience, I knew that his face did not always accurately reflect his current emotional response.

“Good morning, Miss Summers,” he said, coming to my table. “May I interrupt, or are you right in the middle of something crucial?”

I smiled, thinking that the question was self-answering, and he knew it. By asking the question, he had interrupted me enough to break the concentration most needed to copy a written spell. I saw that there was a twinkle in his eyes, confirming the subtle humor.

“Of course, headmaster,” I replied, setting aside my quill. “I can always pick this up later,” I continued the joke.

When his face did not register the expected deepening of mirth, I started to worry. “Very good. Follow me then.” He then turned on his heels and started back down the aisles.

I just sat there with my mouth open until he turned and noticed that I was still seated. “Oh, don’t worry for your things… Nix will watch over them until you return.”

Nix was the librarian. Aside from being old, her only other claim to fame was how she kept her premises. The ferocity with which she protected the valuable tomes in her charge was legendary. It was said that she once beat a careless dwarf to within an inch of his very life for ruining a simple collection of Naiades water poems. No small feat for someone six inches tall against a member of a race known for their hardiness in battle. Most students, myself included, were so fearful of the penalties imposed on those who misused or returned books past their ‘due date’, that we simply did all our studying in the library itself. Anyone could check out a book, but when a common gold mark was charged against the person for every day the book was late, who wanted to risk it, especially when the one doing the collecting was an enormous Troll by the nickname, ‘Humpus’.

And yes, the nickname means what you think it does. Any poor girl with a fine that she can’t pay can ‘work off’ the debt in a more physical manner, although I have yet to meet a student who has actually seen or experienced this first hand. Your average troll stands nearly eight feet tall, and while they are nothing as horrible as modern human legend has made them out to be (or as stupid), it’s said that they posses an ‘unusual’ set of genitalia. I digress.

The headmaster had turned and was walking away again, with the intent that I should drop what I was doing and follow him at once. Some things you simply have to take on faith. I spied the Librarian, who nodded to me, and then hopped out of my seat and dashed off to catch up with the man.

The headmaster led me to what I first took to be his office, or possibly an anteroom connected to it. Then I realized that it was far too cluttered to be anything but a personal workshop and I was grinning like a little girl as I stared wide-eyed around me. There were artifacts from what seemed to me to be every single culture on the planet. All around the round room were hung drums and masks and armor of every sort. There were countless books and bottles and ornaments of unknown purpose. Some things were incredibly out of place, like the old computer tucked into a small desk between two shelves, or the impossibly detailed globe that appeared to be floating in a golden stand. Magic was everywhere, and not all of it Fae. I was like a child seeing a toy store for the first time.

“Miranda?” Candice was seated on a padded seat by a window at the other end of the semi-circular room. Dark green trees swayed lightly in the cool breeze that gently drifted through the open ornate glass, and sunlight painted the girl’s bare torso with a moving pattern of light and dark shadow that made the pale female nearly fade into the background of dark oak paneling around her.

“Wow,” I mouthed, realizing that the effect had to be an incredibly realistic illusion. Or maybe not. I quickly glanced back to the doorway and considered the possibility that I had just walked through a portal of a kind like the one that had brought me to the Academy nearly five weeks earlier.

The headmaster laughed as he brought a stool forward. “No, Miranda, your first inclination was correct. It is but an illusion, albeit a charming one.”

“I’ll say,” chimed Candice, with a happy smile, as she stretched her arms out in front of her, enjoying the warmth.

I turned back to the headmaster and studied him for a second. “I know that the faeries can hear thoughts and feelings directed at them, but you’re human,” I said flatly.

He nodded. “I have nothing of the range or clarity that they do, but I do perceive the thoughts of others when those thoughts are close by and generated by one with a strong mind.” I took the implied compliment without emotion as he moved a tall stool up a bit and stepped up onto the chair as though he weighed only a few ounces, which for all I knew, he might at that moment. “Please,” he indicated the window seat.

“Hey, Candice,” I waved, as she made room for me on the seat. The moment I sat down, I felt the tension of the day fall away like dirty clothing before you step into a clean bath, and I sighed. Maybe it was the light of the sun that streamed in to cover my body in warm caresses, or just the smell of wild jasmine in the playful breeze. Whatever it was, real or not, it was wonderful, and I marveled at the detail and completeness of the illusion. I closed my eyes and simply breathed for what I thought was only a moment, but when Candice lightly placed her fingers on my shoulder, I jumped a bit and felt myself rise up from a light sleep. As I stared back and forth between the two grinning figures, I felt my cheeks grow warm.

“Sorry,” I mumbled. “I guess I was a little more fatigued than I thought.”

“Probably,” agreed Candice, next to me, “but if it’s any consolation, I did the same thing. To be honest, Professor, I have no idea how long I have even been sitting here.” She looked a little nervous at the thought.

“Don’t worry, Miss Mellions. You haven’t missed any classes. And just so you know, that window was a gift to me from your Illusions teacher, Sheila-Kay. As I understand it, she also asked the sprites to add some details. It is perhaps the most relaxing place in the Iron Mountain. I have lost many an hour laying there napping.”

“I don’t doubt it!” Chimed Candice. “It’s simply wonderful.”

“Well, I suppose you two are wondering why I have dragged you from your studies, yes? Certainly not just to catch a few extra minutes of sleep at my window, though one should always make time for a nap, even a quick one.”

“Don’t I wish it were possible,” I replied, rolling my eyes comically.

“But all things are possible, Miranda,” said the man, still smiling, but with warmth, not mirth. “It’s just a matter of probability, and that can be altered.”

I blinked, when I realized he was completely serious, and was going to ask him to explain when he went on.

“But I have something else I wish to pose to the two of you today. You see, I have a problem.” He hopped down from the stool and started to pace the floor. “Well, actually, it’s more of a combination of issues having to do with both creativity as well as known skills…” After a few seconds, it became apparent to both Candice and myself that the headmaster was speaking more to himself than to us.

“I can almost get it to work, but almost just won’t do… no, not at all. No, what I need is a whole new configuration, and it’s not simply a matter of starting over…”

“Excuse me Sir,” I interrupted. “I don’t mean to be rude, but I think you lost us.”

“Oh, quite right, quite right. Sorry about that. I’ve just been noodling this for so long that I forget… ” He came back and leaned against the stool while he spoke, this time, holding our eyes.

“For the last two years I have been working on a project of sorts. I’m attempting to construct a spell the likes of which has not been seen for… eons. So far, I’ve come close, but have been unable to get the concept to work. I know it can be done, because… well, I was told it was possible by a source not to be doubted. But as much as I want to keep trying, I have run out of ideas and time. Which is why you both are here. I would like the two of you to continue the project.”

Candice turned and looked at me, and I just raised my brows a bit.

“Sir,” I started, meekly. “With all due respect, aren’t there more qualified individuals here that would be better suited to continue an undertaking that is probably way out of our league anyway. I mean, we’re first-years. Shouldn’t you be giving this to a Fourth?”

“Ah, but that’s just what I can’t do,” he answered cryptically, as he moved his stool a little closer, as if what he was about to tell us was for our ears only. “You see, part of the reason I can’t make it work is that I was trained to use magic in the same manner as every other member of the Fae. Most of the Seelie Court was trained here, or individually. Nearly all of the Unseelie Court was trained at an institution much the same as this one, if not younger and smaller. But regardless of the method, the information, or rather the base course material, hasn’t changed in nearly four millennia. It works, so why change it, yes? But that’s the rub. Anyone who has learned to construct magic from this base curriculum is going to use the methods and patterns and concepts of that original base. They have to, it’s like their native language. Even if you learn another, you will always translate into your native one to think about it. And that’s the problem.

“Without boasting, I can honestly say that I know nearly everything about constructing contemporary magic that can be learned. I am the only known Grand-Master class troggeyder in the whole of the Fae, and yet I am still unable to make this thing work that I _know_ beyond doubt can be done.”

“I still don’t see how we fit in,” chimed Candice, confused. I was pretty confused myself. “If you can’t pull it off, then what chance do we have of making it work?”

“Ahh, you see my dear,” he continued, raising one thin finger, “the two of you have not yet been fully imprinted with that base curriculum. You know just enough to construct magic reliably, but have none of the restrictive patterning that hinders me, your other professors, or any other higher student for that matter. You are still free to try things in ways that I would never even consider simply because there is no proper translation in my native language.”

When he finished speaking, we were all silent. I quickly considered his words and then made the obvious question.

“Professor, what exactly is it that you are trying to construct?”

“What indeed,” he answered, breaking away and pacing the floor in front of us. “Are either of you familiar with the concept of harmonic resonance?”

Candice just frowned, but I figured it was time to drop the masks regarding my intelligence. “The use of tuned waves of energy to create an amplified output.”

The man just stared at me for a moment. “I forget sometimes that you are much more than you appear. You are correct. And to be precise, the construct that I wish to create is exactly that, an amplifier. An amplifier for magic.”

My mind went into silent overdrive while Candice continued the conversation. “What would it do?”

“Oh, the uses are endless, Miss Mellions. Imagine being able to alter gravitational wells enough to launch spaceships into orbit, or hold back devastating hurricanes…”

“Or annihilate an entire enemy at a single stroke,” I suggested coldly. I really hadn’t meant to speak out loud, but it just sort of slipped out. The room was instantly quiet once again, and Candice was just staring at me with her mouth open. The headmaster’s visage was far more serious.

“Yes, Miranda. It could be used as a weapon. You can’t control that much power and not consider that.” For a brief moment, the man’s features held a rare instant of something that looked like anger, and I inwardly cringed. The last thing in the world I wanted to do was to have Marcus Brightly against me. But the flicker of emotion was gone as quickly as it had come, and he was once again regarding me with eyes that held neither mirth nor hatred, but that bored to my core. I felt as though I were sitting there on the bench completely naked, and turned away, blushing.

He let out a long sigh and continued. “I have words that I must speak to the two of you, that must not be repeated beyond the confines of this room. Not to your friends, nor your lovers, not even to your instructors. Do you understand?”

His question brought Candice’s attention as well as mine back sharply.

“Yes,” we stated, almost in unison.

He waited for ten long seconds, staring through us, before he was convinced of our sincerity. Then, standing again, he turned away from us and walked slowly part of the way across the room. I noticed that he was staring at a large battle shield, which was pocked and marred with obvious use. I wondered how many different owners lives that one piece of defense had saved.

“Before, when I mentioned being the only known Grand-Master, I was being only half truthful. No one else knows this yet, but I no longer believe that I alone have that distinction.”

I was gravely silent, my mind working in the background while my heart-rate shot through the roof. Candice was too surprised for rational thought.

“But… But what does that mean?” she asked, as the man returned to his chair. “Isn’t it a good thing? I would think it would make your job that much easier.”

I saw the headmaster’s gaze shift expectantly away from Candice to my own and I knew that he wanted me to answer her question.

“Not if they’re Unseelie,” I stated simply. Next to me, Candice gasped as she finally understood the implication.

“No, indeed,” he confirmed gravely. “I have no proof, only vague impressions and coincidences in which to base this on, but if it turns out to be true… It could be very bad for humanity.”

“You’re talking about another civil war, aren’t you,” I asked, the heat rising to my cheeks again.

“Yes, Miranda, that possibility does exist. I can not deny or ignore it. And if I can come up with the idea for an amplifier, then so can they.”

The up-welling of anger that suddenly washed through me caused the man to visibly draw back, but I could no longer control the strange emotions that conflicted my mind. “And if they strike and disable or destroy the Seelie Court, then there would be nothing to stop them from devastating the whole human race, is that it?”

“The Unseelie view humanity with hatred and contempt. They would see the amplifier as a means to finally eradicate the pestilence known as man. They would use it as a weapon…”

“And you wouldn’t?” I spat the words at him with bitterness as tears formed in the corners of my eyes.

“Miranda,” hissed Candice, trying to remind me who I was talking to. I saw the headmaster push his hand toward her, palm out.

“It’s alright, Candice. She has reason to be angry. This academy has given her no reason to believe that I would use such a power for anything other than as a weapon. We do, after all, highly promote combat in the curriculum. Battle is ingrained into the Fae, and has been for millennia. I wish it were not so, but it would be foolish for me to ignore.

“Miranda, there is nothing I can say or do that will prove my intentions, but for what it’s worth, I give you my solemn oath that I wish only peace between the Courts, and will use any and every non-violent means at my disposal in order to bring that about. If I had the power that the amplifier could provide, I would use it for defensive magic _first_, and offensively only as a very last resort.”

“But you would still use it as a weapon.” I stated.

He paused. “Given no other option, yes. I would do whatever is necessary to protect this Court. It is the calling assigned to me by the Goddess herself.”

I turned to Candice, my face still frowning. “And what about you? Would you kill others to protect this Court?”

The girl opened her mouth, but could not find the words. I saw a deep confusion grip her and realized that it was unfair to put that kind of pressure on her. She wasn’t, as the headmaster had put it, one with a strong mind, despite the fact that she was probably one of the best troggeyders currently attending the Academy. Still, my question was valid.

“I… I… I don’t know,” she replied at last.

I turned back to Headmaster Brightly.

“I’m afraid it’s something that you had better think about, Miss Mellions, for Miranda is correct to consider it. As much as I am loath to accept the fact, I am asking you to create a power that could be used for great evil, as well as great good.”

“Then why build it at all?” she replied, in obvious duress, and at that moment I felt pity for the simple girl. It was the same pity I had felt in the past for my grade school teachers, and even the other ‘normal’ students. It was a pity that always turned to envy. I wanted nothing more than to let such heavy-weighted questions fall to someone else. I didn’t want to understand the ‘implications.’ I just wanted to live like everyone else. But I knew that would never be, especially now.

“During the second world war,” started the Professor, “the United States researched and produced the world’s first nuclear weapons, which they then used offensively to kill hundreds of thousands, but ended a war that might have been far more costly to human life had it not been so. Were they justified? Like you, I don’t know. But what I do know is that Germany was working on a nuclear program of their own, and had the Allies been even a few months later, or failed to secure the talents of a few key scientists, the Axis would have had those weapons first, and would have obliterated them.”

“So… So you’re saying that we should build it first in order to… attack them?” Quite by accident, Candice had hit upon the flaw in the headmaster’s analogy. He sighed and looked suddenly quite old. I knew that he couldn’t be more than thirty, but in that brief moment of time, he appeared to have the weight of ages upon him.

“There was a time in the history of the Fae where that option would have been greeted with considerable enthusiasm. But these are not those times. The Fae is changing, and death is not the answer, to any of my problems.”

I knew that I had to make a decision. Candice wasn’t ready to fully comprehend what I thought the headmaster was getting at, and for that matter, neither was I. But I understood the implications, and had to decide if I trusted the man or not. If I believed what he said, then the construction of the amplifier was critical. If I thought that he was deceiving me in some way, then I could be sentencing an entire political group of individuals to certain death. It was not something to be taken lightly. We all sat in silence, Candice quietly chewing her lower lip, and the headmaster sitting in his seat staring at the floor. We all knew it was up to me, even though nothing was mentioned about my role in the project. Candice was the better troggeyder by far. Seconds turned into minutes, and I finally made up my mind.

“I’ll help build this thing on one condition,” I stated, holding the headmaster’s eyes. “I want total control, at least for now. No one, not you, not the Principalities, not the Dominion Queen herself is to interfere or attempt to gain control of what we construct. Candice and I alone will hold the keys to its use until such time as a proper council can be created to regulate and shield against possible abuse. Do you agree?”

The man smiled and sighed, as though an enormous weight was lifted from his shoulders. I understood as he nodded and confirmed verbally that he would, that the weight had been transferred to me. I then turned to my friend.

“How about it Candice? Are you in? I can’t do it without you.”

She scratched her chin. “I have one more condition to add,” she said with slight tremor in her voice. Brightly looked almost amused.

“Go on.”

“Our class loads are hard enough as it is. We hardly have time to complete the studies we have without dedicating the kind of time I think you want to this project. We’re going to have to have that load lightened.

“Hmmm…” It was the headmaster’s turn to contemplate. “No promises. This project must be done with the utmost secrecy or your very lives might be at stake. But I’ll see what I can do. Good enough?”

The girl nodded.

“Well, Professor,” I said, with a slight smile. “It looks like you got yourself a research team.”

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