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 28 – Cuts and Curses

The healers’ wing Professor Brightly spoke of was a little traveled section of the Academy that was normally avoided by students unless absolutely necessary. It wasn’t just that it was the school’s infirmary. The place was plain creepy. In the fae, almost everyone has some minor healing abilities. We ourselves would be learning the basics of healing spell-craft in our second year. But there was also a completely separate guild within the fae world that very nearly qualified as its own court, and those were the various fae entities who had dedicated themselves to the advanced healing arts, the Lámínd Airgid they were called, the Silver Hand.

Unlike the other guilds within the fae, the Healers held no direct allegiance to any Principality or even any specific court. Although it was rare or even unheard of for an Unseelie Healer to present themselves within the Seelie Court, they would not be turned away. By the same unspoken law, they neither participated in nor would be attacked in battle. They were, after all, sworn to hold all life as dear regardless of political or ideological affiliation, and the penalties for violating that trust either by they themselves, or another to them, were swift, final, and no doubt suitably horrible as to be convincing of even the most gruesome and terrible races. All this was explained to us by Professor Poppins-Brightly during our first week at the Academy. It scared the living daylights out of most of us, so that it was with no small nervousness that I entered the tall archway into the Healers Wing in search of my friends.

“You would be Miranda,” said a very small female humanoid behind a large desk at the end of the oval-shaped waiting hall. In the very center of the room was a rather striking fountain with what was obviously a massive metal hand rising from its middle. The water spilled out over the open palm in a way that somehow reminded me of blood and I shivered slightly. As I approached the desk, I saw that the woman was a brownie, and quite old. But her smile had the warmth of a teenager and I grinned and nodded.

“Clias knows you’re coming,” she said in a comforting tone. “Just down the long hall here and your second left.” She pointed with her knobby finger in the mentioned direction and a small ball of light popped from her middle finger and zipped in that direction. Before it moved more than a dozen meters, it slowed and reversed until it had paused near the exit. It was a guide ball.

“Clias?” I asked as I followed after the helpful magic and turned to leave.

“The Healer on call today. She’s attending to your friend. Don’t worry,” she added with a smile when she saw me catch my breath. “She’s one of the best.” I nodded again and tried to relax. Then, taking a deep breath, I straightened up and followed the glowing ball down the corridor.

“Miranda!” Candice’s happy greeting as I entered the medium-sized room instantly dispelled any trepidation I had about how she felt about me. I wasn’t at all sure how the girl would act and half expected her blast me over losing control of my magic and hurting her. But she was her bubbly self, and had Michelle, Douglas, and to my surprise, Shawn, not held her back in protest, I think she would have jumped off the raised dais she was seated on and run over to me. Directly behind her was a tall faerie in deep green robes. She was also wearing heavy pants, boots and a long sleeve shirt and vest. Faeries didn’t normally like thick clothing, and she seemed so out of place that I did a double-take as I came forward and gave my roommate a slightly hesitant hug.

“Is it true that Professor Brightly is kicking you out of the Fae,” she asked so suddenly that I almost laughed. Looking around, Shawn added, “It’s the latest rumor, and complete trash, isn’t it, Miranda?”

I saw everyone holding their breath and resisted the urge to play a nasty prank. Shrugging my shoulders I replied, “I did get a stern talking to…”

“But no expulsion,” asked Douglas worriedly.

“No,” I chuckled. He sighed and looked instantly himself again.

“And that’s as it should be,” said Candice forcefully. “He’d have no reason to, and if he had, well I can tell you, I’d have marched right into his office and told him to stick his pro…”

“REALLY, Candice,” I interrupted when I saw that she was about to accidentally reveal our work on the Amplifier. “I’m fine. It wasn’t even hardly a scolding. But damn it, are you okay? Candice I’m so sorry. Can you ever forgive me?”

“Forgive you? You dummy, of course I forgive you! It was an accident, plain and simple. Frankly it was worth losing a little blood over to see the look on Diego’s face…”

“The guy who donated his lunch to us,” said Douglas when I frowned in confusion.

“… He was so pale that I’m sure he thought you’d snap him in half next,” continued Candice, who instantly regretted the words when she saw my own face drain of color. The problem was, I just happened to take out my frustration on the table. Who said that the next time I lost it, it wouldn’t be a body I split open. Unconsciously, I glanced at Candice’s thigh.

There was an awkward silence in the room and my roommate reached out and lightly touched my arm. “I really am alright, Ran. Good as new… Better actually, since Healer Clias here corrected a small issue I had with my knee while she patched up my leg. It’s been bugging me since the third grade and… poof! Now it feels great!”

I looked up at the faerie who was smiling happily. “Just part of my job, my dear. But I must say, the Headmaster must think quite highly of you to send you specifically to me for something any one of the Principalities could have fixed in a heartbeat, especially Ananha.”

“Aren’t you the Healer on call,” I asked.

“Yes, it just happens that I am, but a messenger sprite arrived just before you four showed up with instructions specifically requesting my skills. While the Tuatha technically have no formal authority over the head of the Healer’s Guild, I do owe the professor a few favors.”

“You’re the head of the guild?” Douglas’ voice was a little awed.

The faerie just nodded slightly.

“But then, that makes you a Grandmaster Class Healer…”

“It does. Now if you will all please excuse me, I need to check on a few other patients.” With a bow, the faerie quietly left the room. Shawn also mentioned that he needed to run or he’d miss his next class and gave Candice a chaste kiss and a hug as he headed to the door. When they were gone, Douglas let out a low whistle.

“Damn, Candice… The Master herself. Boy, you must rate. What’d you do to get on the Headmaster’s good side?”

She laughed nervously. I just kept my mouth shut and hoped she’d remember that she would be risking the life of anyone she told about our little side work.

“Interesting,” said Michelle out of nowhere. “I heard a rumor that Ananha was a Guild Healer once, before she got pegged as a Principality, and that they were even considering her for Guildmaster.”

“Really?” Candice was as surprised as I was about the new information regarding our House head. We all knew she had decent healing skills because of some stories regarding her and the Headmaster that had been going around since our first day. But Guildmaster? That’s a pretty impressive seat to give up, even if it is to be one of the top ranking members of the dominion. But even more impressive was that it was Michelle who had routed out that nugget of gossip. Of all of us, she was by far the most reclusive. She hardly talked to anyone outside of her combat instructors and our little group. Apparently Douglas was equally impressed.

“Well, well…”, he said eyeing her. “Looks like our little soldier isn’t as single-minded as we thought… Ow!” Michelle had turned and punched him in the arm, frowning. “Hey, that smarts!”

“Remember you’re in the Healer’s Wing,” she exclaimed as she stared him down. “I could break both your arms and you wouldn’t even have to be sent anywhere to have them fixed.”

Douglas gulped and shut up while he rubbed his sore limb. I just grinned.

“So what did happen, Miranda?” asked Michelle, surprising me again. Then I remembered that she was my partner in the games. A breakdown, mentally or otherwise would be a disaster.


“Ran, we need to tell them about your MOS,” said Candice as I hesitated. Suddenly, all attention was back on me, and in a way that I was even more fearful about than the amplifier.

“Your MOS?” repeated Michelle. “Was that what I saw just before you snapped that table in two?” Both Candice and Douglas turned to her in confusion.

“You… saw it,” I asked. “What did you see?”

“Well, I saw something, but it didn’t look like my own Ob’ilar, that’s for sure. It appeared just as you raised your arms. I happened to be looking at you or I’d have missed it.”

“That can’t be,” I said, shaking my head. “It must have been something else, a spell maybe.”

“Perhaps,” she said shrugging her shoulders. “But it certainly looked nothing like any spell or charm I’ve ever seen.”

“What did it look like, Shell,” asked Candice.

“Well… It was… I don’t know. A faint blue web of lines all over your body, even on your face.”

Candice met my eyes. We both knew that Michelle was right. That was my MOS. I sighed and dropped into a chair near the dais.

“Miranda,” said Candice hesitantly. “I think I might know what’s happening.”

“Really?” I asked incredulously.

“Yes, because I caught a glimpse of it too right before you chop-sueyed our lunch. But more so because that wasn’t the only time…” I fervently prayed she wasn’t about to let slip our meetings in Humble Hall. One catastrophe a day was enough. “Outside our door… When you yelled at me.”

I felt everyone turn and stare at me. More than anything, I just wanted to hide, and my face must have shown it for Candice quickly added, “It wasn’t her fault, honestly. Someone spell-marked our dorm room door with the word, ‘brahder’.” Michelle looked confused, but Douglas translated at once.

“Traitor? Why those little shits…”

“I wanted to remove it, remember? And you blew a fuse and told me to leave it alone.”

I closed my eyes and groaned.

“You were angry, Ran,” she continued. “Really angry. Not with me, but in general. For a moment, I think I saw the same thing that Michelle did at the table… your Ob’ilar in visible form. I didn’t think you needed anything else to worry you so I kept it to myself. Miranda, I’m almost certain your new MOS becomes visible when you show strong emotion.”

I knew she was right the moment she said it.

“What am I going to do? I don’t think I can keep in what I feel anymore, Candice.”

“Whoa, whoa,” interrupted Michelle. “Did you say, ‘new MOS’?”

I just turned and looked at her sadly.

“Are you for real? You changed your whole magical operating system?”

“I’m sorry, Michelle. I wanted to tell you, but I’ve been so busy just trying to get used to it…”

“Used to it? You have got to be kidding me! We’re like a week away from the games and you go and swap-out your whole system for a new and improved model? That’s just great, Ran… That’s just fucking brilliant.” Cursing, she then pushed Douglas out of the way and stormed from the room.

“That could have gone better,” I said as the three of us left the room and started into the hall leading back to the entrance of the healer’s wing.

“Don’t worry, Miranda,” answered Candice as she happily tested her repaired leg as we slowly walked. “She’ll get over it, especially when she sees how fast you can work magic now.”

“Maybe,” I agreed. “I just wish I had a few more days to figure out what’s going on with it becoming visible. That’s definitely not supposed to happen. I suppose I better go find her and…”

I was cut short by a sudden change in the hall light. Instead of the soft blue glow from the evenly spaced lamps along the wall, it was as though the whole hall were abruptly filled with a dark red gas. At the same moment, there was a deep repeating gong, and like the red light, the sound seemed to come from all around us. We stopped in our tracks, confused and alert. I think Douglas was the first to recognize a commotion at the hall entrance, but the sound of many voices and running feet was quickly apparent to all of us.

“What’s going on,” said Candice nervously above the rising noise.

I just shook my head. A second later there was a loud shout behind us.

“For Goddess sake, get out of the way!” Coupled with the voice came a firm but insistent pressure that pushed us flat against the walls of the hallway. A moment later, Clias’s lanky form dashed past us. With a sigh, the pressure relented and we sagged back to the floor.

Something serious was happening, that much was certain, but since we didn’t know which way to move, we simply stayed where we were. That was how about a half a minute later we found ourselves staring down the hall when there was a loud bang and more shouting from the direction of the entrance way. Then a pair of faeries came dashing into view, running right for us. I was just starting to panic, and Douglas looked as though he might bolt when the pair halted by the door directly across from us and snapped it open.

We looked back to the hall just in time to see another group including Healer Clias, coming at a slightly reduced run, but only because they were tending to something that was hovering before them as they went. It was an odd shape, and it took my mind a few moments to understand what I was seeing. When I did, I flinched and had to concentrate very hard not to lose what little lunch I had eaten earlier.

It was a woman. A human, though I didn’t see that until she was hovered to a table within the room the pair of faeries had gone into. We were just outside the doors, and so could still see clearly. The woman was screaming and shaking in unimaginable pain as blood ran from literally hundreds of protrusions exiting from her skin. At first I thought that perhaps she had been attacked by a huge porcupine, or maybe caught in a flurry of arrows, but even as I watched I could see that the whitish spikes where elongating or growing before my eyes. Extending from every limb and at every angle, I understood with a sickening moment of comprehension that the spikes were made of bone. Somehow, her body had taken it upon itself to grow hundreds of needle-like spines that reached outward from her skeleton. The spikes pierced her muscles and skin and right through her clothing until they were over four inches long. There were also huge gashes in her limbs were she had obviously continued to move, tearing the pinned flesh and muscle.

Clias was working frantically to bind the worst of the wounds, but it was apparent to all that nothing was going to save the poor girl short of an act of the Goddess herself. Douglas walked to the edge of the doorway, still trying to get a grasp on what he was seeing but was pushed aside by the sprinting figure of the Headmaster who angled into the room and came panting to the table next to Clias with three sprites following close behind him.

He bent over the girl as though by staring into her eyes he might somehow halt the progress of the deadly spikes that were undoubtedly growing inward as well as outward now, piercing her lungs and her heart, and, I realized, her brain. Even with smaller needles protruding from her eye sockets, the female on the table seemed to recognize him. She grew suddenly more animated, and her mouth opened as if to speak. I could see that even the inside of her mouth was beginning to fill with the sharp white needles.

“Please,” urged the Headmaster to the others, “Silence!”

Clias continued without pause, but the rest of the room was brought to complete quiet in the span of a heartbeat… Quiet save for the gasping, choking breathing of the woman on the table. She desperately fought for every breath as her body was turned into a living pin-cushion. Finally, she managed a single word, the very action of which cost her dearly as she had to drive the protrusions through her lips and tongue in order to speak.

“Ma’at… Ma’at! Ma….” Suddenly, she started coughing as blood and fluid filled her throat and lungs and was violently ejected causing those near by save for Clias and Headmaster Brightly to pull back in horror. The involuntary convulsion triggered a cascading series of spasms in her body so that moments later she was thrashing about like a hooked fish, her body literally tearing itself apart in the process.

And then it was over. I saw her sag to the table, blood pooling out under her as it drained from hundreds of pieces of sliced flesh. And even when she was completely still, I saw that the spikes that had killed her continued to slowly elongate and spring fresh through unpunctured skin with a stomach-turning popping sound.

“Oh my god,” gasped Douglas, stunned. Candice was literally weeping and shaking her head in denial of what she had just witnessed. Marcus Brightly turned at my lover’s voice and his face faded from one of rage to utter sorrow.

“Damn…” he said softly as he starred at the three of us. He then looked away and closed his eyes briefly before opening them again and coming forward. Douglas I saw, stepped back as he approached and I didn’t blame him. The man was covered in blood. He looked at each of us in turn and then started walking slowly down the hall and back to the entrance.

“What just happened,” asked Douglas, still in a state of shock. Candice wasn’t ready to talk just yet. I shook my head.

“I don’t know, but I need to find out,” I replied staring at the grotesque body on the table. Clias just stood there watching, as the spines finally stopped growing. I was about to go and talk to him when there was a soft hand on my shoulder.

“Miranda, if you please,” said Ananha’s soft voice, stopping me.


“The Headmaster would like you to come with me,” she turned to Candice and Douglas, “all of you.”

I let her soft pressure lead me away from the blood-soaked room and the questions I wanted answered, but not without first meeting the Guildmaster’s eyes. She looked almost confused, as though death were something she had never seen before. And as her eyes locked to mine for the briefest of moments, there was a tinge of something more. It was something that you rarely expected to see in one dedicated to the preservation of life. It was hatred.

The faerie led us quietly and slowly back to the school proper, then turned and directed us to administration. I shivered, the strange old magic and decor taking on an even more sinister appearance than it had the last time I had been there, and we spoke not a word until we were within the Headmaster’s office and the door was closed. The man himself was seated in the chair behind his cluttered desk facing away from us. We waited.

“It was entirely… unfortunate that you three were present to witness Cara Lang’s death. Doubly so given recent circumstances regarding you, Miranda. I’m afraid this is going to cause great trouble.”

Candice spoke for the first time since leaving the healer’s wing. “Professor,” she asked on the verge of tears, “what happened to her?”

The man sighed and lowered his head for a moment before turning around and facing us. He looked surprisingly old and weary. Blood still soaked his clothing and hair, and was already turning brown, but he had managed to wipe the worst of it from his face.

“A curse,” he said simply. “One for which we had no remedy.”

“But who,” continued my dorm mate. “Who would do that?”

I saw that he took a moment to answer, as though he were once again considering how much to tell us.

“Cara Lang was a graduate of this school,” he began. “She had taken up her place within the fae as an historian. She also worked directly for me in that she took on special assignments at my request. She had a gift for finding things…” He stopped for a moment as though remembering times past.

“About two months ago, standard time, we heard rumors that the Sluagh were on the move again, and that they might be planning some kind of coup within the Unseelie Court. Cara was sent to investigate. She tracked the Sluagh for weeks and had said to me that she was on to something very important but that she needed to get confirmation before making a full report. She also mentioned that we shouldn’t trust the tree gates. That they were being watched somehow.” He paused again and took a deep breath.

“She must have been discovered. Apparently, she managed to get to a gate, but not before someone hit her with… with that curse. She crawled through the main portal and was able to sound the alarm even though doing so must have caused her extreme pain.”

“She said, ‘ma’at’,” I stated quietly. “What is ma’at?”

Douglas spoke up, looking almost annoyed that he knew the answer. “Ma’at was the Egyptian goddess of justice.”

The headmaster nodded to the young man and continued. “That’s correct. Why she spoke that name is not known. I suspect that it had something to do with her mission, but I have no idea how.”

“Maybe she wanted revenge?” asked Candice sobbing slightly.

The professor shook his head. “I do not think so. Cara was not a vindictive person, and she literally tore herself apart delivering that final message. It was important to her. Important enough to die for.”

We let that sink in for a moment before the Headmaster rose from his seat.

“I’m afraid that I can’t spare you more time right now. There are a number of things I must do, not the least of which is to contact Miss Lang’s family. But,” and he paused to look directly at me, “this is going to further complicate issues yet again for you, Miranda.”

I was startled. “Why? I had nothing to do with this.”

“It won’t matter. There are those here at this school that view your Telling as a clear sign that you are a traitor to the Seelie Court. The fact that you happened to be present at the time of Miss Lang’s death will only serve to fuel their misconceptions.”

“But that’s insane! I wouldn’t…”

“Miranda, please,” he interrupted raising his hand. “I know your heart is true, and that’s all that matters for now. I am assigning Dramia to watch over you for a while. Please see to it that she is with you whenever you are alone in the halls.”

“Yes sir,” I replied, lowering my eyes and thinking that the last thing I needed was an outward sign that the Headmaster didn’t trust me to be alone. Sure, it was for my own safety, but that’s not how others would perceive it.

“You are all free to speak of what you witnessed… It will undoubtedly find its way into the gossip mill soon enough, but I would ask that you refrain from mentioning anything about why Cara Lang was attacked, as her mission still continues and there are others such information could harm. Now if you three will excuse me… Ananha will see you out.”

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