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 22 – History

There are times in our lives, luckily rare, when all sense of reality seems to have been whisked away, and yet the concept of random coincidence is no longer able to explain the turn our existence has taken. In those times, we either face the new reality, embracing it and letting it change us, or we collapse into oblivion and seek the solace of insanity.

I was very close to choosing that oblivion as I stared at the smiling face of my dead relative. It was only the naggingly fragile possibility that somehow, this whole experience was just a big hoax, that kept me in the here and now. But a moment later, even that was ripped from me.

“No, child. It’s no joke,” she said in the warm, sweet voice I remembered from my younger days.

“Grandma?” I said confused.

She only nodded.

“B-but, you’re…. You’re dead!”

Tilting her head slightly to one side, she asked, “Is that what your heart says?”

I nodded slowly, tears starting to form at the corners of my eyes as a flood of memories came down on me. Memories of dancing through the forest with the white-haired woman before me now. I remembered picking wildflowers and tales of faeries, brownies and an occasional pixie. I recalled laying on my back in the tall grass as my grandmother whispered to the trees and the moon, and to me. And I remembered the utter pain and loss I felt when my mother took me aside and explained that she was gone forever.

“Yes,” I choked out in a mere whisper.

“And what does your logic say?”

I frowned in confusion, fighting my emotions so that I could answer the question.

“That… I never… saw you dead. Nor my mother.”

“Go on,” encouraged the woman.

“…That you never died. But that’s not right either. You haven’t aged. You look the same as I remember you… As I always remembered you!” Sudden insight struck me like a slap in the face. In all my memories of my grandmother, she was always the same; never aging, even as the woman that stood before me now.

“Yes,” she confirmed, nodding once.

“But… how? What are you? Are you a faerie?”

Her eyebrows raised slightly. “Ah well, I suppose that’s where things start to get a bit more complicated.”

I just shook my head, unable still to believe, but latching on to hope.

“Try,” she continued, “to let yourself go. Forget your emotions for a moment and just look around you. What do your eyes reveal?”

Pushing my feelings back at that moment was about the most difficult thing I have ever done. I desperately wanted to believe that she was real and here and alive again. But I knew that if I started down that road, I might not ever be able to turn around and face reality. There was more to this puzzle, and the smiling female before me was guiding me slowly and gently towards those answers.

I took a deep breath and closed my eyes for a ten count. It was one of the things my grandmother had shown me. How to breathe, and how to not breathe. Finally, I let the warm air in my lungs gradually escape, drawing out the tension and fear that was wrapped around my soul. Only then did I open my eyes and look.

The first thing I that I noticed was the entity before me. Yes, it was my grandmother, but now, looking upon her with unbiased eyes, I could see she was so much more. All the magic and power that I had felt grow up around me, only minutes before, was still there, but now it was housed within the body of my remembered kin. So this was not my grandmother, just an illusion of her. Sadness started to fill my heart and I saw her shake her head slightly.

“Try again, child,” she encouraged me.

What wasn’t I seeing? She had said to look… No, she had said to “look around”. She wanted me to see something beyond the entity that waited patiently for me to make the connection I was missing. But what? I let my eyes roam. I focused on her feet, the floor, the walls. Still I saw nothing of significance to guide me. I scaled back my attention further and took in the room as a whole. There were benches and banners and a bulletin-board in one corner. There were small carvings of stone embedded all around the perimeter, but none held anything of revealing meaning. I saw the wear on the ornate stones of the floor from countless fae and human feet. I slowly let my eyes rise to the statues, gazing at each of the three smaller figures in turn. Still nothing stood out.

I realized then that there was one place I hadn’t checked. I was avoiding it for fear that I might accidentally meet the eyes of my grandmother and be unable to go further. With another quick breath I carefully brought my gaze to the central statue.

Carved impossibly from the solid rock face, the monolithic representation of the Goddess Dana was draped in a loose wrap. Her up-stretched arm held an ornate sword, the likes of which I could not place within any one time or style in history. The tip of the sword just missed the ceiling of the domed room. I was about to turn away and inspect the fae carvings along the walls once again when something caught my eye and I did a double take. All at once the pieces fell together and a thousand questions were answered in one massive gestalt of understanding. It was the face of the statue. Certainly, it was younger and idealized, but there was absolutely no mistaking it. It was my grandmother.

“Gran?” I asked softly as I took a tentative step forward. She nodded and smiled. “But you’re…”

“Gaia. Yes. It’s alright child, I’m not going to bite you. Please come and sit next to me.” With that, the woman did the most human of things and patted the stone dais as she herself bent to rest. I wasn’t sure if I should drop to my knees, beg forgiveness, or run forward and give her a hug. My emotions were no longer restrained, but were so confused that I could hardly think straight. In the end, I must have done as she asked, because I suddenly found myself holding her hand, seated next to her. Her fingers were warm, and safe, and human, and the tears that I had held at bay were threatening to take control again.

“Oh Miranda,” she said compassionately. “There’s so much that I need to tell you. I know that this is horribly difficult for you, and if there were a way to make it less so…” She trailed off.

“Are you really the Earth Mother?” I asked somewhat bluntly and swallowed.

“Yes I am,” she answered with a light smile and then glanced up to the massive figures carved from the stone behind us. “I always thought the sword was a bit much…” she said half to herself.

“But what does that make my mother? Or me?!”

“You always did get right to the heart of things. Even when you were very young. It’s that marvelous mind of yours. I suppose your mother is as good a place to start as any, but first I need you to understand who and what I am. Are you willing to listen and wait, as long as I promise to give you the answers you seek in time?”

I nodded. “Yes.”

“Good girl. Now, your fae history classes will have given you a general idea of what I am, in that they describe me as the creator and ruler of all life on this planet. But what they do not directly state, and that very few are privy to, is that my essence, the ‘me’ of Gaia is actually the planet itself. While you are composed of collections of cells and networks of chemical responses, my body is the vast, changing ball of molten stone and iron that you call Earth. I will not bore you with details, but suffice it to say that just like your human mind, my consciousness is made of different networks composed of electricity, pressure, gravity, even the realms you know of as magic. Along with the physical planet, the various networks of life also greatly add to my presence, from the simplest swarm of bees, to each and every human being. All life contributes. Are you with me so far?”

I remembered to breathe again and nodded.

“Good. Now for some history. When I was first given the option to create life… oh yes, there are others,” she added when my eyes widened. “Well, like anything new, you start small and work your way up. Fortunately, I had a lot of time, for there were two ways I knew of to go about making higher life forms, and that’s to go slow and gradually increase the complexity, or just make a whole bunch of different ‘best guess’ organisms, let them battle it out, and then see who’s left. Then you take the results and do the whole thing all over again. Both ways have their advantages, and as almost any human biologist will show you, evolution is both remarkably creative and resourceful. You just have to do a lot of waiting.”

She smiled at me, and I was suddenly taken back to the days in my youth in the forest behind our home.

“After a whole lot of mucking around in the ocean, and only after countless millennia to get the atmosphere tuned just right, I finally got land-based plants going. From there, I started in on fish, then amphibians and so on and so on, probably very much to the expectations of your high-school biology teachers. But what any planetary being like myself ultimately wants, are creatures she can truly interact with. If you can bootstrap your way to creating higher intelligence, then the connected networks increases exponentially! Once I had mammals down, I knew I had to go for sentience. The problem was, as good as variability is when it comes to stable ecosystems, the more species you create, the harder it is to keep tabs on everything. Watching over the whole mess was starting to become seriously difficult work. There were social orders forming everywhere!”

Gran, or Gaia or whatever, was telling the story as though her exploits with the various forms of life on the planet were some dramatic comedy, and I found myself laughing with her.

“So, I decided it was time I tapped into the magical networks and made myself a little help. The sprites turned out much better than I expected for my first magic-based entity, and for a short while, the pressure was off enough for me to concentrate on more important matters. Hmmm…” she grunted and stopped for a moment. “I suppose I should explain an event that occurred that changed how I looked at everything. You see, just about the time I was playing with really big organisms in the form of the dinosaurs, I was attacked.”

I blinked several times, trying to understand. “Attacked? How?”

She sighed and frowned. “Well, I mentioned that there were other planetary beings out there… Not all of them were happy that I was making the progress that I was. Like you, Miranda, I was the smart kid on the block. If you’re a big dumb bully, you’re going to resist. And resist they did, in the form of an asteroid about the size of Manhattan. Even human bullies like to throw rocks. The bigger the bully… “It didn’t do too much to me physically, other than rattle my brains a bit, but it did wipe out about two thirds of all the life I had created to date. I was pissed, but the damage was done. I lost some really great designs then.”

Gran stopped for a moment, remembering things that were completely beyond my understanding.

“But, since I had been patient, what did survive when things finally got settled down again, were the toughest and most flexible of my works. And so I renewed my efforts with a new determination, and created the second of my fae helpers, the dryads.

“They served a two fold purpose. You see, not only did I want a powerful creature to look over my now vast plant kingdoms, but I also needed a physical model for the creation of my eventually sentient life forms.”

Gaia hardly paused as she picked the confusion out of my thought stream.

“Oh yes, the dryads are indeed sentient, but their very existence is based on magic. In short, they had no more abilities mentally than I did. What’s more, even as helpers, they were bound to the magical networks through their trees, and so were not truly independent. Finally, after a great many steps, I introduced a stand-alone life form that kicked over into sentience. He was crude at first, and I quickly, and somewhat recklessly I might add, made some last minute tweaks. A mere seven millennia later I had almost three and a half billion of the buggers walking around on my surface.”

“Humans,” I stated.

“Yes. But what I hadn’t expected, was something extraordinary that snuck in all by itself while I wasn’t looking.” Gran leaned forward a bit and smiled. “Just by random chance, I had stumbled upon a life form configuration that, along with its higher intelligence, had the ability to gaze into the paths of time. Nowhere else that I was aware of had that been done before.”

“Naturally,” she continued sitting back. “I kept this new ability to myself while I started to carefully watch and manipulate gene lines in order to enhance the new talent. It would have been foolhardy indeed to announce to the cosmos what I had found, for aside from the understandable nervousness it would have caused in my nearest neighbors, there was a third method of generating a life network that I had only just learned about, and that’s through piracy.”

“Piracy?” I exclaimed. “You mean, as in stealing?”

“That’s right. Why take the time and effort to make your own creations when you can just steal them from someone else? Of course, you almost certainly won’t have the resources to steal all the life off a planet’s surface, so you just rob it of the good stuff at the top of the intellectual ladder. And without the supporting ecosystems to assist and nurture that higher life, those poor creatures are going to be in for a rough ride. Most end up as mere tortured shadows of their former selves…”

Again my grandmother looked away as though she were remembering, only this time it was something horrible and I swallowed in apprehension.

“There are terrible evils out there, Miranda,” she said looking me in the eye. “It takes a truly insane planetary entity to choose that road to obtain its life networks.” She sighed. “But I wasn’t about to allow that to happen. I refined the lines further and further, carefully selecting a few humans to expose to the realm of magic. At the same time, I made the nymphs, my first fully independent magical creation. Drawing their energy directly from my networks, they served originally as guardians for my growing human population. But I was moving too fast, and I missed a trait that developed. They became haughty, willful. They felt superior to humans, who had so little ability with magic at that time. I caught them using their magic to seduce the humans, forcing them against their will to be pleasure puppets. They were cruel and callous, but most of all, they were disrespectful of the very task that I had placed upon them. And so I stripped back their powers, and cursed them. I made them reliant upon the lust that they had so mercilessly forced on my human creations, and started at once on a replacement for them.

“I needed a new race of beings, still able to draw strength from the magical realm, but hopefully, able to replicate the unique human ability to see time. And I found a way.”

“The faeries!” I connected.

“Very good, child. Yes, the faeries. They are unique in that they are Changelings. Humans, who have been specifically and individually altered at the cellular level. The transformation was one-way, of course, but now, in these new beings, I could fine tune the time-sight ability and give them charge over all my life realms.

“And for a longer period, things went well. Humans developed and grew, both in number and intelligence, and with them, the faerie changelings and their ability to peer into time.” Gaia stopped, and once again I saw the look of pain wash over her features.

“It was only that ability that saved me from complete destruction when I was attacked the second time.”

My mouth dropped open, but I waited, barely breathing, for her to continue.

“Through the faeries, I saw them coming. In terms of human time, I had centuries to prepare, but on a planetary scale, that’s hardly the blink of an eye. The Fomorians, as they were called by the first humans to see them, are known throughout the galaxy by countless other names, and none of them make them any less evil. They are pirates, destroyers. When they attack, they do so through the deep, embedded gates between the stars themselves. Gates that can neither be closed nor removed without seriously affecting the planetary entity itself. It is the base network that connects all cosmic bodies together and allows us to communicate. They are much larger, more powerful versions of the tree-gates through which the faeries travel, or even the fixed gate that brought you here to this school. And though I tried, I could not hold them back. A vast number of them forced their way through before I could set up proper wards and defenses. My faeries finally stopped the flow of evil into my world at the gates, but they were helpless against the damage done by the Fomorians that had already passed through. They sought out my humans and broke them. Through pestilence, torture and magic of their own, they cracked open the minds of my precious sentients and introduced insanity. At first it puzzled me why they did not simply kill them, until I realized that their goal was not to steal away the life designs I had created, but also to subjugate me, as a planet as well. And they were doing that through the distorted humans that were growing more in number by the day. They had found out about my secret, you see.”

I saw my grandmother pause and look at me. And though I knew that the entity before me was so much more, for that moment, the eyes that stared back into mine were not those of an all-powerful being, but those of a sorrowful and hurt old woman, completely human and brimming with emotion. I saw that Gaia was in the verge of tears.

“I had no choice. I could not help those infected, nor could I allow the Fomorians to gain control of me. Through me, they would learn the talent of time-sight, and with that, they would be unstoppable. So I killed them. All of them. I released my fury upon the world and purged every last bit of intelligent life from its surface.

“It was the hardest thing I have ever done, and also the most necessary. It hurt me more than you can possibly know, for those humans, as well as all the life I had created, were a literal part of me. I had stopped the Fomorians for a time, for it had taken them a great deal of energy to break through the gates. And so I mourned… For about a millennium. It’s said that they heard my cries even into the far arm of our galaxy, and it was perhaps that mourning that prevented the Fomorians from returning to me when I was weak. Having grown tired of my wailing, the others decided that I should be closed off for a time. Short by my standards, but a thousand years of reflection is still a thousand years.”

“Oh grandma,” I said, my own tears leaving trails down my cheeks. “Didn’t anyone comfort you?”

“How would they,” she replied, sighing. “I had to work it out. Either I could forgive myself and go on, or I could give up and die. Obviously, I chose to try once more. When the Fomorians first attacked, one of the things I did quickly was to bury the designs for my life forms deep within myself so that even though they could steal away my precious humans, they would never be able to create them without getting to me first. So when I found that I was still alive, and to my surprise, alone for the first time in my life, I took advantage of the brief safety the cosmos had inadvertently given to me and re-established life on my surface like never before. I worked at a pace that would have been reckless and foolish had it not been for my experience… and my helpers.

“Yes, I brought back all of them. The sprites, the dryads, faeries, even the imperfect nymphs, curse and all. And I added more races as well. Brownies, nixies, rusalki, the naiades. dwarves, gnomes, goblins, trolls… and the elves.”

At the mention of the last race, I saw Gaia brighten momentarily. I had heard only vague rumors of that race in the Headmistress’s History class, but there seemed to be very little known about them. Then the Mother’s face was dark and fearsome again as she continued her tale.

“I was rushed you see. I did not know how long the universe would let me mourn, but I knew my time was short, and the Fomorians would be back. The humans were easy. You’re a very prolific form of life,” she said with a half smile as she looked over at me. “And the plant kingdom could be re-seeded almost overnight. My oceans bloomed, civilization returned, and I turned my faerie’s focus once again on defense. To that, I added humans as well, and created the sub-race you know of as the Tuatha. Their first task, with the creative aid of my elves, was to build me weapons to defend my gates, and to this end, they were quite successful. When my connection with the outside was returned, I was more than ready for the Fomorians. My Tuatha held off their advances to the point that actual manned intervention was no longer necessary. Automatic magical defenses could keep them away.”

My mind raced ahead and drew conclusions based on what my meager history classes had explained to me. “And then the Tuatha vanished…”

“Yes. Marly has done well to explain that slice of time to you. I have made remarkably few great mistakes since taking on sentient life, but allowing the destruction of the Tuatha dé Danann was among my most foolish. But that mistake is being corrected even now,” and she indicated the room in which we sat. “As for the defense of the gates, I put that into the charge of the Unseelie Court.” When she saw my surprise, she smiled briefly and went on. “Ah, see, you don’t know everything about the Dark Sidhe, do you. Yes, they were perfect for the job, being from naturally aggressive lines to begin with they made far better warriors than the more passive Seelie Court. It had the added benefit of making them protect the very humans they despised so much. I like irony,” she added leaning closer and smiling. “Which pretty much brings us up to date, historically speaking.” She was once again the prim but playful grandmother that I knew from my childhood.

“I had my human numbers back, albeit growing with alarming speed, and the Fomorians were held at bay. The Tuatha were well on their way to a formal introduction back into humanity, and all seemed well.”

“But it isn’t,” I prompted.

“Hardly,” she sighed. “I try hard not to interfere in the world of men, Miranda. It’s part of taking on the responsibility of life. If you don’t leave it to develop on its own, how is it any different than slavery? Free will is more important than you could possibly know. But,” and she raised one wrinkled finger. “I knew that the Fomorians wouldn’t be sitting idle. By nature, they needed to attack and somewhat literally consume other worlds in order to survive. And since they continued to make attempts at my gates I knew that they were still out there, growing. I knew I needed more than the simple faerie defenders and my automated defenses. Make no mistake, the Unseelie warriors are quite formidable, especially with their ability to see time. But I could see that the Fomorian attacks were slowly growing stronger, and each time they came, it was with more and more powerful magical weaponry. I needed to stay ahead of them, or I knew I would fall. The enemy had seen what a prize I sheltered, and wasn’t going to let me get away so easily. Sooner or later, they would overtake a world that had entities that had learned to travel between the stars themselves, and the Fomorians would bring to bear weaponry from a direction in which I had no defense. They would pound my surface from orbit until it was incapable of supporting life. Then it would only be a matter of time before they infected my soul and ripped out the secret I held.”

“And so once again I turned to the wonderful humans that I had created. If I could inadvertently create a skill such as time-sight, perhaps they could be ‘prompted’ into other abilities as well. I turned my attention to the random genetic lines of evolution, pushing a bit here, and snipping off a bad line there,” she made scissor motions with her hand. “I was searching, you see. Searching for something special.”

I had to interrupt. “Wait a second… I know you’re really really powerful and all, but are you saying that you watched the genetic code of every single human being on the planet?”

She was taken aback. “Oh heavens no!” She replied chuckling. “But think about it, Miranda, I didn’t have to. I simply found a few thousand with interesting traits and traced them back. You forget, I know what all those genes do, so when I saw something new, all I had to do was track it back to where it had come from and then fine-tune the line.”

“Fine tune.” I asked, puzzled.

She nodded. “Make minor adjustments to the genetics to enhance abilities in a direction I wanted. Of course, it helped if two of my ‘special’ lines happened to come together on their own. Remember, even though I tweak a bit of DNA here or there, I don’t interfere with humanity on a social level. I can’t dictate who you fall in love with.”

And then, reading the thoughts that instantly snapped forward in my mind, she added, laughing, “Relax, my dear. I wholeheartedly approve of Douglas, really I do. He’s a wonderful boy, and as it happens, you two are remarkably suited to each other genetically.”

I relaxed a bit, but another question, a more serious question quickly took the place of the last, and Gaia leaned back slightly. I knew she had seen it too.

“Go ahead, Miranda. Please ask what is on your mind.”

I hesitated for several seconds, then decided. How often did you have the creator of all life on the planet sitting next to you willing to answer your queries?

“Why did you come into my life? You said that you didn’t interfere with humans socially, but you certainly did with me… Especially when you left!” The tears were back again, and this time I had no will to stop them.

Gaia nodded once, sighing. “I am sorry about that, Miranda. It was… necessary for your development.” When I started to object, she held up her hand. “Wait. You have every right to be angry with me, but I want you to hold on to your emotions just a little bit longer. Can you do that?”

I fought against the tightening in my throat as the urge to burst into a screaming rage was forced back down. When I was once again in control, I nodded once, silently and grimly.

“Good girl,” she said and continued. “The ability to see into the future is hardly perfect. The further away you need to look, the more unclear your vision. But I could see what was coming, and what would be needed to a certain extent. I had been manipulating lines for centuries in order to get certain people in place. Marcus Brightly. Marly Poppins, as well as a host of others. And quite by accident, two offshoots from unusual lines happened to come together in a way that caught me completely off guard. Your mother. Suddenly, a specific combination of traits was present that could change everything. They were recessive, but if they happened to merge with one of the Tuatha lines, the offspring would be most remarkable indeed. And it would happen, Miranda. All by itself, without any interference on my part at all, or so I thought. But when I looked in detail at the combination that would result, I saw that any child conceived would inherit a small but fatal defect that would kill them long before birth. Intervention was needed. The Fomorian attacks were changing rapidly, and I was out of time. So I altered your mother’s eggs and let love take its course. I took on a human form, and adopted your mother when she was still a teenager. I raised her, and held her when your father was killed. And then I had the very wonderful fortune to help raise you as well.”

“But why didn’t you tell me,” I pleaded. “I would have understood, really I would have. Anything would have been better than leaving me when you did…”

“No,” she answered simply and firmly. “That is nothing more than blind emotion talking. I left so that you would have a chance to develop as a normal girl… And before you start ranting about how abnormal you are, take a moment and consider what you would have been like had I brought you into the world of the Fae at only nine, or even earlier. I knew that you would never be like an average little girl, but that hardly negated the emotional and social skills you learned in the years following, without which you would have been a haughty little priss with no respect for your human peers, let alone the rest of my life web.” She was leaning forward, her eyes holding mine with lethal intensity. I could feel the weight of her barely checked anger that boiled around me, and I remembered who I was talking to.

And then her face softened again as she continued.

“I also knew that I needed to stay objective and not become too close to you, to love you too dearly. In terms of your human life spans, I am nearly ageless. But I understood that someday, your tired body could fail and you would die. And what mother wouldn’t intervene and prevent the death of their child if it was within their power to stop it?”

“I don’t understand,” I asked.

“I could see your destiny, Miranda. The details were fuzzy, but the end was the same. I knew that one day, it would be that little girl who would have to face the Fomorians, not I. That it would be you, child, who would determine the fate of not just myself, but of every other being as well.”

Suddenly my heart was pounding so strongly that my vision pulsed. I could feel the heat in my cheeks as they flushed with heat.

“What do you mean,” I whispered. “I can’t…” My throat closed up with new grief that flooded my mind and threatened to spin me into dizzy oblivion again.

“You will,” she said simply, and I saw the tears of pain on her own cheeks. “And there is nothing I can do to prevent it.”

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