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 48 – Sherith Mal

I was awakened from a light sleep by an unusual sound. It was a low growling noise as though some deranged animal were just outside my door. Then I realized that the deranged animal was me and that I was starving.

The illumination in the small recovery room was down very low and I had no idea how to adjust it, but there was just enough to see Cailleach was still curled up in the chair and appeared to be sleeping. However, I was proven wrong when I sat up.

“Should I raise the light, Miranda?” she asked quietly.

I jumped slightly.

“There are a number of monitoring glyphs on you, dear,” she stated to my unasked question. The glow in the room increased until I could see more clearly.

“Thanks. Hey, is it normal to be so hungry?”

She nodded. “Indeed, and it’s a very good sign. Your body has spent a great deal of energy healing. Master Clias will have to make the final assessment, but I think you can be pronounced ‘well’ and released. I have called her. There are some clothes for you on the chair.”

“I can really go? I mean, I haven’t been here more than two or three hours, have I?” I snagged the simple blouse and skirt and started to dress. I was chagrined to see there were no panties, but then realized that the garments were probably brought by a faerie, who rarely wear undergarments.

She tilted her head. “Time, in the Iron Mountain is always a little subjective, but yes. Just over three hours, actually.”

“That’s amazing. I was brought in here half dead.”

“Thus the magic of the Silver Hand, my dear.” She smiled. “You would be amazed at the number of warriors who have come into this place on death’s door, only to be seen in battle again before the sun set on the same day.”

I took a good look at my ward and wondered how many she herself had sent to these halls. She must have picked up my thoughts because she grinned.

“More than my fair share, I’m sure. And there were a great many who never made it here… Which is why I am in no hurry to try and leave.”

I frowned. “I don’t follow you?”

“This place,” and she indicated the Healer’s wing. “Is hallowed ground. No one would dare try anything against me while you are in my charge. But, I am a very juicy tidbit politically, Miranda. I suspect my leaving the safety of the Silver Hand might be seen as much too tempting an opportunity.”

“Wait… are you saying that the Seelie Court would kill you if you left here?”

She clicked her tongue. “Oh, maybe not right away. They would want to do it all legal and according to Fae law.”

“Arrested? No. I can’t believe Marcus Brightly would do that to you, not after you came here willingly.”

She looked at me sadly. “You place a great deal of faith in your illustrious Headmaster, especially after having just thrown him out of your room.”

I blushed, but was lost in thought. “Do you really think he would detain you?”

“I do. In a few minutes, Clias will come and release you to return to the Great Hall and your friends. And when you’re gone, there will no longer be a reason for me to be here. They can claim extradition rights, and Clias will be forced to give me up. I won’t fight them, not here.”

“That’s crazy! You saved my life! They wouldn’t do that.”

“Perhaps you are correct, I certainly hope so for my sake. We shall soon see.”

There was a knock on the door and Grand Master Healer Clias peered in.

“Cailleach tells me you’re hungry?” She tossed me an apple as she entered the room.

My stomach gurgled loud enough to set both the faeries into a spat of laughter. The healer asked the Unseelie faerie a few questions while I ate my snack, then did a quick check on me herself before pronouncing me happily ‘healed’.

“You are free to go, Miranda. I suggest you try to eat several smaller meals instead of one giant one as it will be better for your stomach. You have much energy to replace though.”

I wanted to ask Clias about Cailleach, but I saw the seated faerie very slightly shake her head and decided to wait and see how things went. Then I had a better idea.

“Walk me to the door?” I asked my Unseelie charge.

She looked surprised, but nodded. “With pleasure, child.”

I slid off the bed and marveled that I felt as good as I did, considering.

“Thank you again, Master Clias.” I said bowing. “Er… I am in your debt.”

The faerie smiled. “We do not hold balances here within the Healer’s Guild, Miranda. Seeing you alive is a reward unto itself. However, I would be delighted to call you ‘friend’?” The faerie extended a hand.

I could have cried, and if not for the burbling reminders in my gut, I probably would have. Instead, the better part of my brain jumped in and I took her hand in both my own. Then, bringing it to my lips, I placed a warm kiss to the center of her palm. “The Mother’s peace to you then, my friend.”

To my surprise, she blushed softly and then smiled.

“You continually impress me with your ability to adapt to situations, Miranda,” said Cailleach when we were alone in the hall. “It is a rare gift.”

“Did I overstep?” I asked, genuinely worried.

She chuckled. “Not at all, in fact, you turned the matter very deftly in your favor.”

“I did?”

“Indeed. While it’s true that Healers take no payment for their services, they do remember their charges. Real or implied, there is great power in holding the favor of someone such as Clias.”

“I once heard her mention that she owed the Headmaster some ‘favors’…”

She nodded. “I’ve no doubt. Marcus Brightly is exceptionally adept at such things. He would not be the head of the Tuatha if he was not.”

“And… my kiss?”

“…Was perhaps the very best way to thank the Healer for saving your life without looking like a payment. She will definitely remember your grace in the matter.”

As we walked slowly toward the main entrance of the Healer’s wing, I found myself conflicted. As much as I wanted to return to my friends, Cailleach had not only saved my very life, but had offered me a taste of something that I very much wanted to delve into deeper. There was far more to the separation of the Courts than was being generally taught.

The faerie must have sensed my unvoiced concern.

“Miranda, there is an offer I would like to make to you regarding your summer break, but… I am afraid it is going to have to wait a bit…”

“Huh? Why?… oh.”

As we entered the courtyard with the fountain, I saw a group of a half dozen fully armed faerie guards. Directly in the center, looking extremely grim, was Marcus Brightly.

“First Summers,” he began at once. “I understand that Grandmaster Clias has released you from her care.”

“Yes, but…”

“Mistress Cailleach, in accordance with the laws of the Fae, I hereby place you under Court arrest. You will be escorted to Sherith Mal, where you will await trial for crimes committed during and outside of war.”

“Well, that didn’t take long,” commented the Unseelie faerie dryly.

“Professor, don’t do this!” I begged.

He looked at me with cold unwavering eyes. “First Summers, this is no longer your affair…”

“Like hell it isn’t… sir.” The man’s eyes widened in anger, so I quickly continued. “Cailleach has been nothing but gracious to me during her time here,”


“Even coming here at all was at Ananha’s request…”

“WHICH she accepted willingly,” he pointed out.

I wasn’t impressed. “And WHICH saved my life! And this Court is going to thank her by placing her under arrest and most likely executing her?!”

“That is for the Court to decide…”

“YOU’RE THE COURT!” I bellowed.

The whole room was suddenly very quiet.

“First Summers, you are to report to the Great Hall at once, where…”

“No.” I said, holding his eyes.

“I beg your pardon?” The man looked livid. I didn’t care.

“Begging didn’t work earlier, and it certainly won’t work now. Professor, until I graduate and accept my position as a member of the Fae and your Court, you hold no authority over me.”

For the second time in twenty four hours, the man looked like I had physically hit him.

“Miranda, that’s not…”

I pushed. “Furthermore, you, and subsequently this Court, have shown me quite clearly that you do not hold to the principles that I was led to believe in when I was ASKED to come here. I, and the other First’s at the academy have been tricked, lied to, and led under the false impression that we actually had any say in what happens to us at this school. We do not. Our every action is watched and guided…”

“For your betterment…” He tried to interject.

“For YOUR betterment!” I tossed back, pointing at his chest. “Not ours. Every single action we take is subject to your will to the point that we can no longer discern what is our own hard work, and what is simply following the path that you have set us on. This is UNACCEPTABLE. Go ahead and kick me out of your school if that is your wish, but I will do your bidding NO MORE! Every student not yet graduated in the Fae thinks I’m a traitor… well, maybe I am. I think you had better ‘detain’ me too, sir, because unless things miraculously change, the first chance I get I’m going to the Unseelie Court.”

The room was so quiet that even the gentle fountain sounded suddenly loud and coarse. Five very long seconds passed before anyone spoke again. This was it. This was where he would make or break, and I held my breath.

“Very well then,” he said finally. “Take them both.” Turning his back on us, Marcus walked out of the entryway. Behind us, I heard Clias gasp. The guards all looked at each other, but then came forward and placed what looked like simple brass rings around our wrists. We did not resist. The effect of the enchantment they held was instant, and I suddenly found it nearly impossible to move my arms in any way, right up to my shoulders.

We were told not to speak as we were passed through the Academy to the lower levels, but I had nothing I wanted to say in front of the guards anyway. Finally, we were led past the Refinery to a set of stairs that I hadn’t previously been aware of, and when I looked back in slight confusion, I saw a carefully placed illusion fold over the space we had just walked through.

Sherith Mal was probably one of the oldest and creepiest places in the whole of the Iron Mountain. No doubt, it may have even been part of the original cave structure that existed before the Tuatha dé Danann. In essence, it was a prison, though I doubted that anyone would live very long in its accommodations. Cailleach hesitated when we arrived at the main entryway into the place. It was a large, double-doored portal, which had no knobs or keyholes. Strange symbols, both magical and drawn covered the massive gates.

“Are you okay?” I asked her as she stared into the darkness beyond the arched frame. For perhaps the first time since I had met her, I saw fear on Cailleach’s face. The guards seemed to let her have her moment.

“This is not the first time I have visited Sherith Mal, Miranda. Once, long ago, I was captured and sent here. I was eventually let go during a prisoner exchange, but I’m sure, had they known then what I would eventually become, they would never have even considered it. While I am exceedingly grateful for your company here, I am saddened that you had to see this place at all, let alone as a… guest.

I said nothing and let the guards lead us down into the darkness. Faeries can travel perfectly well without light, but not so, I. After I stumbled and fell hard for the second time, one of the guards finally realized I couldn’t see and created a small ball of light to guide me. When I got a look at what was around me, I almost wished for the darkness again.

The symbols were everywhere. Sometimes they followed a path, like a crazed snake along the wall. At other places they were all bunched up as though compressed by some insane typographical mistake. But no matter where you looked, there was always the feeling of being crushed under billions of tonnes of hard black rock. It literally felt as though the walls were slowly creeping in to crush your body at all times, and the faint wetness made one think the surfaces were covered with the blood of past victims.

Finally, we were presented before another key-less door. One of the faerie guards passed her hand in front of it and there was a deep reverberating clanking as the inner workings released the locks and bolts. With a loud creak, the door into our cell swung inward. If the hall had been dark, then the room was filled with a blackness that was as solid as the rock around us.

Expecting resistance, the guards were ready when the brass rings were removed from our hands, but no resistance came. Cailleach just stared into the darkness with a look of profound dread. Even when they pushed us forward into that emptiness, she never gave them the satisfaction of a single word or whimper. I on the other hand let loose a real zinger of a scream as I fell into nothingness, and fell…. and fell… and fell.


Confused, I looked behind me just as the door to the cell clanged shut and cut off even the faint glow of the magical ball in the passage. Once again my cry of terror pierced the awful hell for several long seconds before there was a soft, warm touch on my arm and I remembered I was not alone. I clawed at the Fae woman’s body, clutching her to myself even as I continued to fall.

“Miranda! Shh… It’s alright. We are together. You are NOT alone…”

Beyond the constant weightlessness, there were several other things very wrong with what I was feeling. The first was the lack of wind. If I was falling, there should have been a strong rush of air. There was not. But without a point of reference, the sensation of falling was hard to brush off. I squeezed my eyes closed and instead focused on the web of gravitational connections to the universe around me… and immediately discovered the second thing wrong. There was none. Beyond the tiny masses of Cailleach and myself, there was nothing but a deep and endless void in all directions.

“It’s gone!” I cried out in terror. “It’s all GONE!” In a panic, I grasped my arms around the faerie’s neck and wailed until I was horse. Cailleach only stroked my hair and whispered softly in my ears until some impossible time later I gradually began to calm.

“Shh. It’s okay. I am here. I won’t leave you.” Her gentle words were all that kept me sane in that moment, and it was only when I felt a sticky wetness on the woman’s back and smelled blood that I relaxed my terrible grasp.

“I… I… Oh god… please don’t let go of me!”

I felt her hands gently squeeze me. “Not a chance.”

The minutes slowly passed until very gradually my heart rate and breathing finally returned to something remotely close to normal.

“W-we aren’t falling, are we?”

“No,” she replied. “The cell is designed to remove all connection with outside gravity, and as such, makes magic impossible. It also breaks the bond we faeries have with Gaia, which is frankly far, far worse for us.”

“The web…” I said, finally taking a full deep breath.

I felt Cailleach stiffen slightly in surprise. “You see the Fíochán Anam?” she asked, incredulous.

I nodded into her shoulder. “I didn’t know what it was called, but yes.”

“But… how is this possible?”

I shrugged. “I started to see it when I learned to fly.”

She sighed. “You are indeed unusual, Miranda. I know of no human other than yourself who is able to do this.”

“It’s… it’s absolutely horrible to be cut off from that.” Something occurred to me. “Cailleach, when you were here before… did they put you in a cell… alone?”

Her sudden sharp breath confirmed my suspicion and I held her tight. A moment later her whole body shuddered and she squeezed me hard enough that I finally yelped.

She loosened her grip at once. “By the Goddess! Miranda, did I hurt you?!” She sounded panicked.

“Only a little. Nothing broken, I think. I’m okay.”

She sighed in relief. “And yes… I was alone, which is why I am very VERY happy you are here with me now. Having even one other to ground you makes this hell bearable. Uh, I mean, I wish you didn’t have to be here…”

“I get it.” I shivered, thinking of what it must have been like. “I would not have survived.” I stated. “You’re really strong.”

There was sadness in her voice. “Many who were here did not, I’m afraid.”

“And it was the Seelie Court that did this?”

She grunted. “Yes, but to be fair, that Court was very unlike the one that exists now.”

“Forgive me if I fail to see the difference,” I said sarcastically.

“The Fae has gone through many transitions, Miranda. I had hope that your Headmaster would be different than past rulers of the Tuatha. It was one of the reasons I was willing to risk coming here to help you.”

I sighed. “I’m really sorry. It’s just not fair!”

“Do not blame yourself. It was my choice alone. Do you understand?”

“Yes. But I still don’t like it. So… you say magic doesn’t work at all in here?”

“Correct. It’s why these prisons are so effective. Without gravity, there’s no way to raise an Ob’ilar.”

I thought for a bit, generally enjoying the warmth of her body against mine. Then I remembered something and my mind raced ahead, smiling into the darkness.

“Miranda? What is it?”

“You said that this prison removes outside connections to gravity…”

I felt her shrug. “Yes.”

“But the… Fíochán Anam, as you called it, showed that I wasn’t alone. I could see not only myself, but you as well.”

“I really don’t see how…”

“We have mass, Cailleach,” I answered as a started to get excited. “And subsequently, gravitational attraction.”

She thought about my words for a moment. “But… not nearly enough.”

“Not for a standard Ob’ilar, no. But if I crafted one that was specifically designed to work with extremely minute amounts of gravity…”

Cailleach said nothing for several seconds. “You can do this?”

“I have no idea. But it’s worth a try. I only need just a few basic commands for what I have in mind. It’s not going to be a fully working system, but it doesn’t need to be.”

The faerie placed one of her hands gently on my cheek. “You are amazing, Miranda. I can see why Marcus prizes you so. And he is a fool to treat you as he has.”

In the dark, I blushed. “Yeah, well I’m not so sure about the ‘prizes me’ part, but he is a fool if he thinks I’m just going to sit here quietly and let him push me around.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?” she asked.

“Not yet. But… I think I need to really concentrate on this for a little while, and that means I need to trance-out.”

“Trance? As in unawakened?”

“Yes. I can get a huge amount of thinking done if I turn my conscious thoughts inward, but it means that I will be unaware of anything externally. It’s a bit like going to sleep, except that you won’t be able to wake me.”

“For how long?” she seemed genuinely concerned.

I frowned. “I have no way to know. Until I work out the problem, I guess. I promise I won’t go more than an hour without checking in.”

“I… I guess I can survive that,” she said, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly.

“Oh! I’m an idiot… I forgot you would be out here alone. I’m so sorry.”

She put her fingers to my lips. “Shh. As long as I have your warm body to hold, I will be fine, especially if there is a chance at freedom.”

I nodded, thinking briefly that she felt awfully nice as well. I felt the curious electric tingle in my spine and tried distraction. It didn’t work. “Okay… are you ready?”

“I am.” She answered.

“I’ll be back… I promise.” And then I slipped inside myself.

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