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 21 – Revelations

Every day in combat training seemed to be more tiring than the last. It wasn’t just that we were learning increasingly strenuous moves, but that what we were learning was so much more complex. It was hard to get your brain around the rapidly shifting changes in form and motion.

After one particularly frustrating one-on-one session with Stix, I found myself shaking my head and thinking that I had all the grace of an elephant on roller skates. Michelle noticed me and called me off to the side.

“You just have to relax into it. It makes sense if you don’t try to break it down into a bunch of tiny little steps,” she said demonstrating easily what I had just spent the better part of an hour failing at.

“It makes sense to you maybe, but I’m not sure I’ll ever get this…”

The sandy-haired girl just stared at me for a few moments, then made a decision.

“Here, let me show you another way.” Stepping forward, she took my hand and had me take up the beginning stance. When I was in the correct position, she moved her own body in close to me so that we were literally touching, with her body in a direct mirror position to my own. It was a little more intimate than I was used to, but I held my tongue and let her guide me.

“Don’t try to do the steps. Just close your eyes and feel the motion,” she said nodding to me. I hesitated only a second before I did as she asked. Then, starting slowly, Michelle began to move. Since she was still holding my hands, I was forced to move along with her. I noticed that the rest of her body was acting to guide me as well. Her hips pushed on my own, and her thigh was carefully pressing inward so that it caused me to assume the proper balance. Once I got over the odd bodily contact, I found that the motions I was being led through actually did start to make sense. With each repetition, Michelle held me just a bit looser. When I finished the fourth run through, I opened my eyes to find Michelle standing nearby smiling.

“I did it!”

“Told ya. You just have to see it as a whole, rather than as little steps.”

I was nearly giddy. “Michelle, that was awesome! Did Stix teach you to do that?”

“Naah. Stix is a great teacher, but she’s a little square.”

“So where did you pick that up, not that I’m complaining or anything,” I said as I flowed through the move one more time.

“Oh, it just occurred to me. It seemed like the right way to teach you. Sometimes our faerie teacher can be a little… monotonous. She has to teach a lot of really varied students, so her methods have to be really intuitive. Unfortunately, it’s not very efficient. You’re a lot smarter than your average student, so I just figured I’d ditch her whole system and find a way to show you the move in a more direct way.”

I was halfway through the motions on my own again when I stopped cold. Michelle noticed the blank look on my face.

“Hey, are you alright?”

“What? Oh, sure…” I replied, trying to cover for the profound revelation I had just experienced. “Thanks for helping me today,” I continued just as Stix called an end to the class. “You’re a lifesaver.”

“Sure, anytime.”

I dashed out of the training rooms and headed straight for the Headmaster’s office.

Professor Brightly’s office was near the main hall in the staff quarters. It was an area that I had only visited a few times since I arrived at the Academy, and even though I was familiar with the odd place, it still gave me the creeps. It wasn’t so much how it looked, which was different enough, but rather how it felt that made the hairs on my arms stand on end.

You could tell from the moment you started up the rough stone staircase that led to Staff Hall, that you were entering an undiluted realm of the fae. Unlike the rest of the Iron Mountain, the subtle but critical reminders of our humanity were pointedly missing. There were no tapestries, or paintings, and the very air seemed thick and alive, as though I was actually entering the belly of some giant creature rather than a darkened stone passageway. All along the walls on the way up were glowing lines of an unreadable ancient script that was found nowhere else in the Academy, and the air itself seemed lush and filled with a thousand fragrances to make one feel as though you were traveling through a tropical rain forest. But the most disturbing aspect of the place was the ever-present feeling of being watched. It was as though a hundred pairs of eyes followed you as you moved, like a great beast waiting for just the right moment to spring from the solid walls and tear you into a bloody pulp. It was deep magic… Old enchantments from an era long gone, from a race of people remembered only as legend by even the oldest in the fae world.

Once I reached Staff Hall, the uneasy feeling quieted some. The lounge area had been altered somewhat so that the presence of humanity still held fast. I took a deep breath as I entered the room and saw only a single olive skinned faerie making use of the place. She had her nose in a book and didn’t even seem to notice me as I entered. Then I saw her raise one hand in greeting without taking her eyes from the tome.

I responded in kind, being unaware of her position at the Academy, and headed to a large ornate door at the far end of the large room. Knocking twice, I waited.

“Come,” said a female voice from within, and the door clicked and opened of its own accord.

As strange as the passage into the staff quarters was, the Headmaster’s primary office was equally its opposite. Aside from a few odd metal devices on the shelves, as well as a very old and extremely heavy looking book at one side of his desk, you might confuse Marcus Brightly’s office with any other university professor’s. It even had a pair of windows through which a soft sunlight stretched across the floor. The illusion wasn’t quite as realistic as the one in his workshop, but none the less breathtaking.

Seated behind the broad oak desk was Professor Poppins, my Fae History instructor and Headmistress of the Academy. She was Marcus Brightly’s wife, and a full Adept. There weren’t many of her kind around any more, the Unseelie having hunted them down. It was said that even the famed Sluagh feared her, but the tiny redhead looked anything but ferocious to me as I meekly entered the modest office.

“Ah, Miranda,” she said looking up from the large book with a smile. “What can I do for you?”

“Hello Professor. I was looking for the Headmaster.”

She regarded me with her cool green eyes, and I wondered if she had Professor Brightly’s ability to hear thoughts. “Mark is away and unavailable. Is there anything I can do?”

I sighed, trying to decide whether or not the Headmaster would have told his wife about the amplifier project. Probably, but not for certain, and he had stressed that secrecy was paramount.

“That’s alright, ma’am. I probably need to talk to him directly.” I was about to bow and leave when she spoke again.

“Is it regarding your special project?”

I stopped and held her eyes.

“It’s alright, Miranda. I am indeed aware of the work you have been doing.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I replied. She waited patiently while I mulled things over in my head. “I… I think I should probably wait and talk to the Headmaster himself. It’s not urgent.”

“Very well,” replied the woman, and I got the impression that there was something she was holding back. For a brief moment as she stared into my eyes, I had the feeling that she was immensely angry at me, even afraid. But the sensation was gone as quickly as it had come. “Is there anything else?”

“No Ma’am, thank you. Sorry to interrupt.”

“Not at all Miranda. You’re welcome here… anytime.”

As I made my way slowly back out to the corridors, I tried to understand what she could have seen in me that offended her so, but could come up with nothing substantial. She was an intense woman anyway, so perhaps I was feeling something that had nothing to do with me after all.

Ten minutes later, the slight depression had not left me and I walked nearly absentmindedly through the hallways, until I suddenly found myself standing in front of the giant statue of the goddess Dana that was carved into the wall of the Main Gate receiving room. I stared up at the massive figure and the three smaller ones around it, trying to decide what I should do next. My revelation had been straightforward in essence, but unbelievably complex in practice. Simply put, I wanted to rewrite my MOS.

In the human world, it would be the equivalent to making a new operating system and completely ditching the existing system because it was just too slow. Not that the one we were currently using was bad, but it wasn’t optimized for what I needed it to do. It was also meant to be used by a very wide range of entities, human and non, so, like Stix’s teaching methods, it had to be flexible and extremely intuitive. But you get those things at a price, and that was speed.

If I was going to make the amplifier project work, I was going to have to design an operating system that was tuned to me specifically. Michelle had unintentionally seeded the idea in combat class by tailoring the way she taught me so as to be more efficient. But it was efficient for just me, and that was the key I needed. Because of the way my brain worked in parallel, I was certain that I could radically speed things up if I created a MOS that used all aspects of input and output at the same time. Like driving a car, you didn’t just use your hands, but also your feet, your eyes, even your ears. I wanted something that could use my feet, my hands, my mouth, hell, my whole body as well as sound, even the position of my eyes in order to dictate and control magic. And I knew I could do it. Shit, half my brain was already working on the structure even as I stood there.

But one of the things that they explained to us from day one was that no one save for the Headmaster himself had access to the underlying format of the magical operating system. I had considered trying to hack it early after we were first shown our amulets, but was preemptively warned against such activity by Marcus Brightly himself. “Trust me, Miranda,” he had said after calling me aside following one of my early troggeyder classes. “You do not want to go up against the Mother’s own security. She doesn’t miss much…” From the way he had spoken, I got the distinct impression that he himself had tried, and failed to do the very same thing, long ago.

I decided to take him at his word, but that left me with little way to implement what I needed done. I could make the whole damn thing, but it would be useless unless I had the access to replace the existing system.

Not having anywhere else to go for several hours, I sat down with a sigh at the foot of the statue and closed my eyes, relaxing and letting my brain sink into the comfort of deep and complex creation. If I had to wait anyway, at least I could put the relative quiet to good use and be ready when the Headmaster returned, whenever that was. The hall was empty for the moment, but I knew that once classes ended, it would again bustle with students and instructors. In retrospect, my dorm room might have been a better place to concentrate, but in my funk, I just couldn’t get myself to make the journey. I was a bit afraid that Candice or Michelle might be there, and frankly, I knew they would distract me. Neither of them could stand the glassy-eyed look I took on whenever I was turned mentally inward to do hard thinking. They said I looked too much like I was dead or something.

My internal clock indicated that nearly an hour had passed when something drew me out of my trance-like state. As my eyes refocused, I expected to see other students rambling by, but instead I was greeted by the same empty space. Frowning, I listened. I thought that perhaps someone had walked passed me and was now out of view, but there were no footsteps echoing down the halls. In fact, there was almost no sound at all.

This alarmed me, and I froze, not even breathing. The halls in the Iron Mountain were quiet, to be sure, but rarely, if ever, were they silent. There was always the soft whisper of voices from far off, or a deep reverberating drumbeat from one of the classes dealing with fae music, but never was there a complete lack of any sound. Something was wrong.

I tapped my finger on the stone next to me and heard the click, click of my nail, so I knew that I hadn’t somehow gone deaf while I was “away.” I cautiously looked to my left and right down the empty adjoining corridors as far as I could. Nothing. It was as though I were suddenly alone in the massive underground university, surrounded by nothing but untold miles of hard rock.

My heart was pounding loud enough that I felt certain its sound was starting to echo in the large hall, when I began to sense something. It was the same sensation you get when you come home on a dark night and suddenly know that you are being watched. That sensation turns to dread as you fumble with your keys to get inside as quickly as possible, only I was already inside. I stood and took several quick steps to put me at the center of the junction room. From where I was standing, I could clearly see all the way down the adjoining halls, and there was still nothing. And yet, I was certain that someone, or something thing was watching me… Closely.

I felt the soft presence of magic surround me long before I noticed any of its effects. Coming right out of the floor, it was as though a forest of trees had risen from the solid rock to completely surround me, only instead of trees, I felt flowing rivers of space-time which seemed completely unhindered by the confines of earth or stone. Soon the streams of magic started to glow softly, twinkling with soft iridescence. Tiny flecks of light settled around the room like dust blown into corners and nooks, and the streams became increasingly more complex and more visible with each second. I was paralyzed, both in awe at the beauty I was seeing, and in fear of the incredible power that was manifesting around me. Unable to move, I waited, expecting my life to be over in a few short moments.

Still the presence grew around me, now emanating sound as well as light. I heard a rushing as though a wind were blowing, but the air was still. Mixed into the sourceless wind was what that sounded like a chorus of sprites, all talking and whispering as they spun around my form in a dizzy whirlwind.

Something was coming. Something massive, and yet as weightless as light itself. Unable to stand the rising and increasing complexity of sight and sound, I clamped my eyes shut and balled my fists. I could still feel the magic pulsing around me, and the sound only grew and grew as I started to shiver, like a child hiding under the blanket of their bed at night to escape the demons lurking just outside.

And then it was gone. The light, the sound, even the tides of magic that were beginning to pull at me like eddies of water. In a moment too abrupt to notice, it was all simply gone. All save for the presence, which I knew was now standing directly behind me. I could feel them there, waiting, waiting for me to turn around.

I wanted to run. But I couldn’t. It wasn’t that I was restricted in some way, I simply had to know. I needed to see what it was that had come, even if it was some horrible monster that would tear me into bloody pieces of flesh before I could bring in enough air to scream. I had to know. So I turned around…

And looked into the eyes of my grandmother.

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