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 36 – Glyph Training

“So…” said Michelle at breakfast. “You want our glyphs to fail?”

Our foursome had been joined on the ceiling of the Great Hall by the rest of the rooftop club and Keila had graciously moved two more tables to accommodate our numbers after a brief consultation with Ananha. When the upper grades saw what we had done, a few tried to pester us by flying up. Only they found themselves suddenly in a bit of a pickle because the reverse field of gravity mysteriously ignored them. So they could be there, but they had to supply their own gravity while maintaining control of themselves at the same time. It also didn’t help that gravity for anyone not in out group had an odd way of abruptly shifting directions. It wouldn’t knock them off the ceiling, but it made doing anything else nearly impossible. I grinned in approval to Candice when Mavin Diggory, a South House fifth year, sat down and tried to steal our orange juice just to show us that she could… And promptly found herself wearing half of it when the gravity shifted and dumped the contents of her glass all over her.

We knew that we might get razzed from the get-go, and it was Candice’s brilliance that came up with the key that let our own group sit comfortably while locking out anyone else. We just needed something that a first year student would have that any of the other years would not. The answer was simple. Our amulets.

By using our amulets, we perfectly ensured that only Firsts could take advantage of the ceiling charm. No higher student would be caught dead wearing their amulet now that they had graduated into the fae. It was generally looked at the same way training wheels are on a bike. For children.

“I don’t want them to fail, but I know they’re going to,” I continued. “The difference is that they learn. I knew I couldn’t construct a glyph that would be stronger than what’s already out there, so I focused on simply making it smart instead. Every time it’s defeated, it reports back to the other glyphs how it was beaten and together they try to come up with a new defense.”

“So…” replied Michelle trying to grasp the concept I had presented. “It’s like artificial intelligence or something.”

“Yes, in a rudimentary way. The basic underlying construct is incredibly simple.”

“If you say so. But only one thing… I’d hate to be the first one to use it.”

I frowned. “Yes, there is that. No matter what we do, the first few groups to use it are probably going to get very little back. It may even work against them.”

Michelle groaned. “I suppose it’s better than nothing,” she commented while stuffing a blueberry pancake in her mouth.

I found my stomach was a little queasy at that moment. The thing was, I could be making a terrible mistake, and “nothing” might actually turn out to be the better choice.

After breakfast I asked Petra to gather the members of the rooftop club together and I presented the Guardian glyph to them, carefully explaining the risks and the advantages.

“We know that the other grades will be working against us, and undoubtedly, that they will be sharing whatever information they can get on what we may be putting together. It’s almost certain that they’ll find out about my glyph.”

“Won’t that be a bad thing,” asked a nervous-looking Tina Rouche. Several others nodded concern as well.

“It won’t matter. The point of the glyph isn’t to win, at least at first. Just to get smarter. So anything they do to counter it will only help us in the long term.”

“Long term,” asked Petra. “How long?”

I knew the question was coming, but it was still hard to verbalize the answer. “Frankly, I don’t know. We certainly won’t see any real advancement for at least two or three iterations.”

“Iterations?” Maria Gonzales looked completely confused.

“She means losses,” said a dusky-skinned West House boy. “We’re so going to get clobbered…”

“Enough of that,” cut in Petra angrily. “We knew it was going to be like this from the beginning. Nothing is new here. Miranda’s glyph gives some of us a chance to prove that Firsts can stand on their own…”

“Yeah, at the expense of the rest of us,” continued the boy.

I cringed inwardly. There was no mistaking the undercurrent of regret that my presence at the school left in my classmates. They all knew things would be different if not for me.

“I said that’s enough,” replied the Russian with enough force that Michelle placed a hand on her shoulder. The girl relaxed, but did not lower her hard gaze.

“It’s true,” I continued. “This glyph will be little use to the first who use it, and may actually end up hindering them. The more practice we can give it before tomorrow, the better, but our simple charms and spells are only to get it moving in the right direction. It won’t really start learning until it hits something with a lot better crafting, so don’t rely on it too much.”

“In other words, you still have to watch your own backs,” chimed in Michelle. “But we were going to have to do that anyway, so nothing has changed. Nobody is requiring you to use this thing,” she said nodding to the slowly rotating construct that hovered visible over the table we were gathered around. “But either you buy in now, or you do without it for the duration. We have to be together on this for it to work. We all have the same amount of risk since the matches are random. Those that go first, it will help less. But the hope is that it will have evolved enough by the last few groups to actually be worth something to them.”

“So let us see hands,” added Petra. “Who is willing to take this risk?”

It was unanimous.

“Da. We are in,” said our club leader smiling at me.

The last classes, including our finals, were to take place that afternoon. For most, this was pretty routine, and frankly, easy compared to the physical test that was before us. Not everyone participated in the games, but everyone definitely felt the undercurrent of tension that fell over the Academy like a curtain before a major stage play. It was shockingly quiet in the halls. Those that weren’t fretting over their grades were immersed in battle practice. I caught a fifth-year girl walking down the hall talking to herself. She was muttering spells under her breath and left a slowly fading trail of sparks on the ground behind her. She didn’t look at all well, and I wondered if I too would appear that way when I reached her level. Certainly, the finals for her were vastly more intense than my own. She, after all, was vying for a place within the fae. The outcome of her finals might very well set her permanent rank and standing for the rest of her life, which for those of the Tuatha could be greatly extended beyond what was normally considered humanly possible. No one specifically mentioned life span, but that was only because there were no human Tuatha old enough to gauge how long we might live. The faeries, it seemed, were nearly immortal.

So after my History of the Fae final, I found Douglas back on the ceiling of the Great Hall with his nose buried in a book from which he was scribbling rapid notes. None of the other Firsts had yet come out of class for lunch, so we had the place to ourselves. He noticed me floating up and his eyes brightened. He did close the book rather rapidly though and I had to laugh.

“The butler did it,” I said smiling as I silently flipped over and dropped onto the bench next to him. He looked at me quizzically for a brief second and then smiled as well.

“Yeah, and now the maid’s pregnant…” He retorted.

I laughed and hugged him. “You finished your final faster than I did,” I said somewhat offhandedly. “And that’s saying something.”

He just shrugged. “History is easy for me. Now that Arithmancy final… Ughnn.” He feigned death, his limp body sagging into my lap. I leaned over and kissed him, letting him decide how far to take it. Hesitating only a moment, he grabbed my simple buss on the lips and ran like an Olympic sprinter. By the time I came up for air, he had my shirt pushed up and my thighs were shaking.

“Whoo!” I expelled, fanning my face which was burning with warmth. “Hello to you too.”

“Wanna get out of here,” he asked simply.

“Hell yes!… but I can’t.” My regret was palatable. “I have to meet Petra. We’re going to go over the glyphs one more time.” I sighed when my lover sat up and simply sat next to me.

“Yeah, I should probably get this book back to Professor Poppins anyway. She doesn’t like it out in crowds.”

I frowned slightly. “Why? It looks old. What is it?”

I got the impression that he didn’t want to answer me. “Well, no one really knows for sure. It’s incredibly old, perhaps one of the oldest books in the fae. So you can understand why she might be a little… protective.”

“I guess. What are you doing with it?”

He smiled. “Just some research for the games…”

My mouth dropped open. “You’re looking for spells, aren’t you!”

Shrugging his shoulders he replied, “I am an historian after all. Brian and I have found a couple of things that we want to try out.”

“Brian Henderson? The tall guy with the single eyebrow?”

“That’s him. He’s really a pretty good historian and since he has a knack for combat, I thought we’d make a pretty good team. We’re not expecting to win or even place or anything, but the arena is the perfect place to try… Ran?”

“You’re competing in the games?…” I stammered, the blood draining from my face. Douglas noticed that I was starting to hyperventilate and patted my back, urging me to take bigger breaths.

“Hey, take it easy… Are you okay?”

I grasped his face in my hands. “No! I’m not okay! Douglas, don’t you understand what that means?? You can’t compete in the games!”

He looked taken aback. “Why not?”

I was shocked. “Because… because Michelle and I might end up having to fight you, that’s why!”

“Not bloody likely,” he answered dismissively. “The odds of you having to do combat with me and Brian before either of us are eliminated are pretty damn slim.”

I just sat there with my mouth open for several seconds. “Odds?! Douglas, this is the fae!”

“I’m not sure I see what that really has to do…”

“NOTHING is random here!”

“Well, I don’t know if I’d go that far,” he replied simply.

“Ughn,” I moaned. “Just promise me something.”

“Huh? Sure…”

“Be careful, dammit!”

His smile was all Douglas again. “Of course. Nobody values my intact hide more than I do.”

I snuggled into his chest. “Don’t be too sure about that.”

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