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 24 – Song Circle

“I don’t care what Fifth Leavey says,” muttered Michelle as we walked back toward the House halls after our arena combat instruction. “I’m going to get a good look at those battle logs.”

“I’m sure that half the East House is thinking the same thing right about now,” I replied, trying to keep up with my housemate’s long, rapid gait. “I suppose if we can manage to get in there late enough at night, we might have a chance. I’ll speed-read the damn things and you can quiz me if it will help.”

Michelle stopped so suddenly that I nearly knocked her over. “That’s a brilliant idea,” she said, staring at me. “But are you seriously saying that you can read and memorize who knows how many volumes, and then regurgitate it back out again word for word?”

“Sure,” I said, shrugging my shoulders. “I’m not saying that I get any smarter just by setting it to memory, that takes processing. But I memorize most of my books. It saves me from having to carry them around all the time, you know?”

Michelle guffawed briefly and shook her head in resignation. “You know, Ran, sometimes you really freak me out, the way you think and all. But if it will help us place in the games, then I’m all for it. So what did you make of that whole rank stuff?”

I was still thinking about freaking her out. “Oh, I can see some problems with it. For one, did you notice that Leavey used the words ‘human combat rank’? I’ll bet her numbers aren’t so impressive when you consider her against the whole of the fae.”

“I did notice,” said Michelle with a smile. “I didn’t want to say anything at the time, but it occurred to me as well that a person could get to a high rank, just by fighting more.”

“Or against a series of weaker opponents,” I added. “I also doubt that ranking includes the Unseelie Court.”

Michelle thought about that for a few moments while we continued walking. “You’re right, it probably doesn’t. How could it?”

“What do you mean,” I asked, a bit worried by the girl’s contemplative silence. Michelle was naturally reserved, but something else appeared to be bothering her.

“Ran, they really dislike humans. Intensely. It’s not like they’re just going to beat the shit out of you. from what I’ve heard about fighting the Unseelie, you either win or you die. Very, very few walk away from a fight having lost, and when they do, they’re usually marred permanently… On purpose. A stupid rank isn’t going to matter too much after you’ve fought for your very life.”

I sighed and remembered my conversation with the faerie Cailleach. In retrospect, I was probably pretty lucky I didn’t piss her off. But then, I did only have the rumors of others in which to base my view of the Dark Sidhe. No, that wasn’t quite right either. I had only second-hand information, not rumor. There were quite a few fae right here at the Academy that had been in battle with the Unseelie Court, and their tales were not very encouraging. My Grandmother, and I noticeably winced at the thought of who she really was, had shown me that times were changing. Perhaps the Unseelie weren’t what they used to be? Or maybe they were worse.

The drum and voices coming down the hallway toward us couldn’t have been more perfectly timed to drive away the funk that had started to form in my head. Michelle frowned and obviously thought the growing sound of the singers to be just another irritating fae custom that needed to be tolerated and avoided.

“Oh, what the hell is this,” she asked testily as the voices quickly blossomed in volume as they approached. I found I almost had to shout in order for her to hear my reply.

“Candice mentioned a Song Circle tonight, remember? This is the Calling.”

“The what?”

A brightly garbed faerie came around the corner at a slow march. She carried a tambourine and was leading a small parade of students down the hall behind her. I marveled that someone of the fae could wear so much clothing (most went around in less than was legal in most states), and still look so shockingly indecent. I knew that it was part of the game, to entice the eyes and draw you in, but the leader’s brazenness was almost refreshing against the darker instruction of arena combat, at least for me. Michelle looked like she wanted to run.

“The Calling,” I repeated loudly in her ear as the tawny-haired faerie started to pass us. The song had an alarmingly memorable melody, and I found myself grinning and bouncing slightly in time with the beat, which was being further emphasized by a drum carried by a Fourth-Year directly behind the faerie. The rest of the entourage consisted of about twenty students, male and female, who sang and danced in a moving party behind their leader. I knew that the faerie would make at least one complete circle of the dorms as she led the constantly growing choir towards the main hall. The fun was in the participation, and aside from dancing, there was an enormous amount of flirting going on, casual and serious. About half the group was topless.

As more of the singers passed us, there were calls and encouragements to join the group and follow the parade to its end. I had heard about the Song Circles, but the last two times they had come around, I declined, partly because it was mostly an upper-class thing, and partly out of simple fear. I just couldn’t see myself around so many people. Especially when I had no idea what was expected of me.

But today, I felt like it was just what I needed to get my thoughts away from the dark knowledge that my Grandmother had given to me. She hadn’t specifically told me not to tell anyone, but I had a pretty good idea it was something that would certainly change the way people saw me again. At almost that exact time, I heard a voice that I recognized at once.

“Douglas!” I was nearly laughing as my friend and lover came around the corner singing lustfully. His shirt was tied around his waist, and it appeared as though someone had painted a wild collection of dark symbols on his smooth chest and face. He looked around at me and hardly broke the rhythm of the song as he danced forward and drew me into a swirling hug. After a slightly more attentive kiss, he reached out and wrapped an arm around Michelle’s waist as well, drawing us all together.

“Enough work for today,” he exclaimed smiling. “Tonight we sing!”

I laughed outright, realizing that Douglas was right in his element. As an Historian within the fae, song and dance were required subjects. Many tales were found only in music, passed on from faerie to faerie through the centuries, so a good voice was sort of a prerequisite for someone in his line of work. He certainly seemed to be enjoying himself, and I told him so.

“Of course I am! I have two of the most beautiful students in this fair place of learning to sit by me in the main hall.

Michelle paled. “Oh, now wait one minute, McBride…”

“Come on, Shell. It’ll be good for both of us,” I chimed in, grinning.

“I don’t…”

“Woohooo!” Yelled Douglas as he swirled us into the middle of the train of people. Whatever Michelle was about to say was drowned out in the chorus of happy revelers as we continued down the hall.

We met Candice about five minutes later as we passed the dorms. We took on a lot of people then, as they were drawn out of their rooms by the music. Most had hardly opened their doors before they were dragged out into the singing throng as we gained energy and momentum nearing the main hall. Candice was startled, but hardly missed a beat before she was dancing up to Douglas, Michelle and I to be drawn into another group hug. She was topless coming out of our room, so she fit right in with much of our traveling party. Douglas had a saucy look in his eye as he hugged the three of us, and I made sure to catch his gaze a few moments later to let him know I was watching him. Candice was a pretty enticing package, especially sporting so much skin, but the flirting was friendly, and hardly limited to our little group. I needn’t have worried, since a minute later Shawn caused Candice to gasp in shock when he brazenly came up behind her and reached around her torso to cup both her tits. She squealed at him, but was obviously pleased to be the center of so much attention. Anywhere else, it might have been a pretty stiff breach of privacy, but not here, not now. Michelle looked a bit shocked, but since there was plenty of groping going on all around us, she could hardly fault the lovers for their openness. In fact, I was a little worried that she might have felt a bit left out. She was, after all, the only one of our group that hadn’t taken a lover. Candice suspected that she might actually be gay, but I knew better. Oh, she might have been a closet lesbian for all I knew, she certainly seemed to give equal attention to males or females. But I was fairly certain that her unwillingness to seek intimate contact had nothing at all to do with sex. It was all about being different. Just like me, she was an anomaly at the Academy. She almost always trained alone. Both out of choice, and because there was no student who could keep up with her.

Seeing the scowl she was making as she watched Shawn and Candice locked in a deep, wet kiss, I reached over and softly squeezed her shoulder. She turned to look at me, and in that one glance I knew I was right. She must have seen the compassion in my eyes, for she smiled briefly and then shrugged her shoulders. Douglas seemed to have figured out what was going on as well, for instead of monopolizing me as Shawn was Candice, he kept his arm around each of us as we danced down the passage.

The Main Hall, or Ionad Geal, as the upperclassmen called it, seemed to echo the final notes of our group song until it had faded into the rising white noise of random conversation. The large wooden tables used for meals had somehow transformed into a multitude of soft cushions which were set in a wide circle big enough that we could all easily find seats with room to spare. There were about sixty of us that night, and only about half had any idea what we were even doing. We had heard rumors, but since every Song Circle was different, no one knew for certain what to expect.

There was a general feeling of excitement and anticipation lingering in the general chatter and it had only just started to die down when a chorus of three voices rose up from the center of the room and the silence literally settled down like a curtain. All eyes stared then to the middle of the circle where the Principalities for the North, South and East houses were standing facing each other in a loose triad. Their voices were like a soft evening mist that fanned out and settled among us, and to say that the slowly building song was merely beautiful would be a phenomenal discredit. I had heard faeries sing before, but never fae royalty, and never in a group, as this was. These faeries were possibly the three strongest in all of the fae. Their magical abilities were renowned and feared, but tonight it was their golden voices that proved their power and grace. Rapt, we sat and listened, barely breathing lest we somehow lessen the purity of the sound that reached out and around us.

The song was both happy and sad, thrilling and relaxing, all at the same time. As I was held in silence by each note, I started to hear an accompaniment of flutes, perhaps pan pipes, join in from somewhere unseen. Then there were strings and even a drum delicately following the rhythm in the background. When I looked around for the players, however, I realized that what I was hearing was coming only from the faeries themselves. Along with their voices, they were somehow using magic as a means to produce the nonexistent orchestra. The phantom band came from all around us, from the ground itself, and it was the kind of music that vibrates with your very soul, so that you felt that if it were just a bit louder, it would tear your fragile body apart.

When the faeries finally finished the tune, there was an abrupt long round of applause that seemed horribly coarse after the delicate intricacy we had just witnessed. Ananha and Verith, the Principalities of the East and South, silently left the circle center, leaving Keila of the North House standing alone. She raised one hand and a soft blue glow like the night moon formed high above her, illuminating the faerie without shining in anyone’s eyes, and she waited as the chatter and applause died down to silence once again.

“Greetings and welcome, one and all, to this, our third Song Circle of the semester here at the Academy. I’m pleased to see that we have truly attracted quite the group tonight,” she said as she turned slowly in a circle. “Although this is to be expected, I think you all shall find tonight’s Circle to be a little bit special. We have with us on this fine night a guest whom many of you may already know. Her voice has long been renowned in the fae since before any of you were born, but it was only recently that she became known to an even greater audience. In the past seven years, she has graced the ears of the Human world, and although her true nature could never be revealed to them there, here she has no such restrictions. It is time that we finally welcomed her back home. Good students, I give you, Binne.”

As Keila bowed and stepped back out of the light, there was a collective gasp from many in the audience as well as a hushed murmur of whispers all around. I turned and saw that Douglas and Michelle were literally open-mouthed in shock. When they noticed each other, they simultaneously grinned and guffawed. I snuck a look at Candice, who just shrugged her shoulders. It seemed we were the clueless ones that night. At that moment, a short woman walked into the light. She wore a loose blue-green skirt made of something that seemed to be nearly lighter than air, and a bead be-dangled vest of an equally thin and misty material. Her hair was the color of fall maple leaves, a light brown, shot through with reds and oranges, and her eyes were a luminescent green that reminded me of the sea for some reason. She was smiling as she looked slowly around at us amid the vigorous and cheerful applause, and it appeared that she had tears in the corners of her eyes. But they were obviously tears of happiness.

Douglas grabbed my arm to get my attention. “Ran, she’s been topping the folk circuit for the last three years! She’s incredible! I always thought that she must have had fae blood in her, but I never even suspected that she was an actual faerie.”

I turned back to the female in question and raised my own brows. Sure enough, her ears were Sidhe, so for her to live with humans, she would have had to have them covered… for seven years. It was no wonder she was crying for joy. As the cheering died down, I couldn’t help but think of the Unseelie Court and my conversation with Cailleach. If being separated from your people for seven shorts years could bring this faerie to tears, how much more would it affect those exiled for millennia.

Binne began her first song so softly that I wasn’t even aware that she had started until I noticed that the chatter of anticipation abruptly snuffed itself out. Then, over the piercing quiet, was a single pure note that floated around us and built in both volume and depth until it was like listening underwater. It’s hard to describe a magically enhanced voice, except that it’s like hearing the same song on the radio, by ten different bands… all at once.

Binne’s musical abilities were like that. It didn’t matter what she sang, her voice was far more than simple words and melody. There was an impossible undercurrent of other data floating through the air to us, and only a small fraction of it had anything to do with sound. As her song progressed, the very light in the room changed. The air itself became crisp and scented with the fragrance of flowers, then earth, fire, and even the salty foam of the sea. We saw images in our minds, and felt things that weren’t there. More than once I turned to see if Michelle was playing some trick on me; touching my shoulder or thigh, only to find her asking the same thing of Douglas. And, through it all, was emotion. There was no escaping it. Intense feelings of happiness, fear, anger and finally resolution gripped us in a story as real as if we had experienced it personally and were recalling our very own memories of the events.

It took an act of will to snap myself out of reflection when the notes had ceased and the applause began again. Startled and impressed, I added my own applause to Candice’s wild clapping and Michelle’s loud whistles of appreciation. Douglas was still rapt with awe.

After a time, Binne started in on another, more traditional melody, accompanied by Ananha on a large flat drum. I could still feel the magic, but it was obvious that this tune was more suited for the common masses. A quick glance at Michelle confirmed my suspicions as the girl was mouthing the words she obviously already knew.

The faerie treated us to four more tunes that night, one of which actually caused the room to fill with the illusion of falling snow. But it was her very last song that really brought down the house.

Right from the opening breaths, we knew we were hearing more than a simple tale passed on from singer to singer. This was something real and personal that related to Binne herself. It was a remembering poured out directly from her deepest soul, that only a handful, fae or not, had ever heard or would hear again.

She sang of a lover. Another faerie, to whom she was united by her deepest spirit. A soul mate, to be sure. She sang of the happiness they shared and the general feeling of family within the fae in the arms of the Mother. Inseparable, the two performed their duties together as one, and despite their low rank within the fae, they were happy and content. For a time.

Then the tune began to change. Slowly we could feel the foreboding oppression of an unseen danger. Like a great darkness, it hung above the lovers, growing stronger with every second. It came like a great dog through the forest, swift and eager to tear them to pieces. Our hearts beat loudly and with so much fear that many in the room buried their heads under their hands or clamped shut their eyes. Louder and louder became Binne’s voice in the room until all at once I understood that I was hearing the tortured wail of an incapacitated passenger jet and nearly screamed.

And abruptly there was silence.

This was not just a lack of noise and song, but a magical suppression of any sound at all. On and on the silence filled our hearts, and I could see those around our circle screaming in confusion.

And then there was sadness. Loss. When we finally realized that Binne’s lover had been destroyed in one fiery instant, tears sprang to our eyes without control. Many in the room simply wailed, or sobbed with grief. Binne herself was a mask of sorrow so complete that she seemed ready to end her own existence, and I and everyone else in the room was certain that at the time her tale had actually taken place, she was quite ready to.

And then the tone of her song changed yet again. She told of her accidental entrance into the human world; how she was taken in by another and cared for. In time, she healed, both physically and in her soul by the patient touch of her new friend. Love sprang anew between the human/faerie pair, and when Binne’s eyes moved slowly toward one side of the room, everyone present realized quite suddenly that her lover was seated among them. The blue glow surrounding Binne was not enough to stretch into the darkness, but another warm light grew from her song and the face of the crying woman was slowly revealed.

There could be no doubt of the joy and pride that beamed from her features as she listened to her lover’s song, and there wasn’t a single dry eye in all the room. Only now, we shared in the faerie’s welcoming song, and that of her mate.

It was many minutes before Keila returned to the center of the room and, after hugging the singer, she joined her on the floor at the edge of the circle next to her lover. There, while people were still wiping tears from their faces, the principality brought forth a small ornate drum, which, upon its appearance, cause a small stir among the upperclassmen.

“What’s going on,” I asked Douglas in a whisper.

“The Sharing Drum,” he replied with a cryptic grin and said no more.

Holding the instrument, Keila tapped out a slightly rapid beat and let loose a tune in Fae common that I recognized almost at once. It was a simple drinking tune, but after the first stanza, she changed the lyrics and had everyone who could follow her open-mouthed at her brazenness. When the song ended, I was surprised to find people tossing the faerie coins of varying value and clapping. My brows rose when I saw her then pass the drum to the fourth-year seated next to her, who bit her lip, but accepted the instrument. After a pause, and a few whistles of encouragement from the crowd in general, she too broke out in song.

It only took me a moment to understand what was happening. The drum was passed around the circle to anyone who wished to sing in order to find reward. I’m sure it must have been quite intimidating to take a turn right after the Principality of the North, but the faerie had chosen well in her song and the Fourth, after a slightly nervous start, actually produced a rather good rendition of another well known tune. Again, coins were tossed and the drum passed.

In this way, the group slowly loosened up. What was a very formal gathering at its beginning, was now a friendly evening of improvisation and warmth. There were plenty more drinking songs, and the singers ranged from surprisingly good to shockingly bad. In several instances, people tossed what I felt to be ‘sympathy coins’.

Most people in the circle declined when offered the drum, and I was a little taken aback when Douglas accepted the instrument with a smile. He briefly turned to look at me and winked before he launched into a tune that I hadn’t ever heard before. It was a bawdy tale of two lovers caught in an impossible series of circumstances that kept preventing them from being intimate. But instead of a tragedy, Douglas sang the tune as a masterful comedy that was so hilarious in its ending, that people were still laughing five full minutes after he had concluded. Coins were tossed from all over the room, and he even received nods and grins from the faeries present. Ananha was actually shaking her head in mirth as she continued to giggle to herself.

I laughed so hard that my side started to cramp up and I almost missed it as Douglas attempted to hand the drum to Michelle.

The girl paled, and I heard her whisper fiercely to my lover, “You do, and I’ll kill you, McBride…” Apparently, a good portion of the room caught the joke because there was a renewed wave of laughter all around.

I was trying so hard not to laugh anymore, that I failed to see Douglas as he grinned and then reached over the girl so that he could shove the drum directly into my lap. I was holding my side and looking the other way, so it wasn’t until my fingers curled around the hard drum that I realized what I was holding. With my mouth dropping open, I quickly tried to pass the drum to Candice, who put up her hands and looked as though I were trying to hand her a bag of spiders. There was more laughter, and my face flushed as I fully understood that I was now required to sing.

For some reason, this terrified me more than almost anything else I had yet encountered at the academy, and I glanced up briefly at the faces around me seeking some possible escape. It was only when I noticed Ananha watching me without emotion that I realized the significance of my situation. The other students might see this as just a friendly social gathering, but for the principality, at least, this was a test. It was a test I knew I couldn’t afford to fail.

Closing my mouth, and then my eyes, I screwed up my courage and forced myself into relaxing. It took only a few slow breaths to slow my heart, and in that time, I shifted my attention inward and began a rapid search for an appropriate tune. Unfortunately, my repertoire of fae music was woefully short. I was letting one part of my brain work on a few new stanzas to a few choice melodies when another part of my mind interrupted and indicated that it had something perfect. Without even looking to see what it had found, I sent it forward and started to sing.

You have to understand: I wasn’t being a coward, I just didn’t want my primary focus of attention to have any contact with the outside world right about then. I knew that if I opened my eyes and stared at all those faces, and then tried to use my voice, I would almost certainly choke. So I let that other part of me do it. From somewhere deep in my psyche, some repressed aspect of my personality had found the perfect song and was even now belting out that tune for all it was worth. For all I knew, I could have been singing Mary Had A Little Lamb.

But I wasn’t. Later descriptions of the event by Douglas have me closing my eyes, breathing a few times, and then opening my eyes again. I sang alright, but it wasn’t in English. It wasn’t even in Fae Common. For nearly seven minutes I sat there in that room and bespoke a song in Old Fae, a language that was known to the faeries, and possible a handful of others in the room, but no one else, including, I thought, to me.

And it was fortunate that Douglas was as versed in language as he was, otherwise I might have never even known that I sang about the splitting of the courts, and the sadness of the Unseelie outcasts. I sang about the coming of the Fomorians, and about the Dark Sidhe fighting at the gates; defending them against untold evils. My lover said that my tears of pain throughout my vocal performance could not have been faked, and yet I have no recollection of anything from the time I closed my eyes to the moment that Michelle placed her hand on my back as I sat folded over, sobbing at the conclusion of my song. The emotion filled me the moment I slipped back into the drivers seat, and a sat up wiping my reddened eyes in confusion. There were no coins, or applause, only a sickening silence mingled with terse whispers from the students nearby. I turned and looked at Douglas, begging him to tell me it was all a joke, and that something awful hadn’t just happened. But his eyes where filled with fear.

“My god, Ran…” he said softly. Behind him I noticed Keila speaking sharply with another faerie and together they left the room nearly running.

“What’s happened,” I asked, the sensation of doom growing with each passing second.

Douglas just shook his head. “I don’t know where to begin…”

“Excuse me, Miss Summers. I think I should take that now.” Ananha’s voice caused me to look up sharply. The faerie was standing directly in front of me with her arm outstretched to receive the drum that was still sitting in my lap, unused. I handed it to her without a word and she smiled at me warmly and then took the drum and walked to the center of the circle. I chanced a glance at Candice, who did not make eye contact, but did give me a quick and subtle shake of her head to indicate that I shouldn’t try to talk to her right then.

At the time, it was maddening. I knew that I had done something terrible, but had no idea what. Most of the room simply stared at me whispering until Ananha’s voice broke the relative silence.

“Well! I think that our time tonight is almost at an end, but as a final treat, I have asked Rachael, our resident nymph, to close out our evening with a very special tune. After the circle breaks, you are all welcome to stay in the main hall for as long as you like. Even until morning, if you wish, as I have just been told that tomorrow is to be another day of rest. So enjoy, my friends, and good evening.” With that, the faerie Principality stepped aside and our Sexual Arts teacher stepped forward into the circle carrying a large flat drum which was encircled with beads. When the whispers quieted down, the nymph settled slowly into a lotus with the drum held loosely in her lap and then used her palm to start a slow, deep rhythm on the instrument.

Unlike the faeries, Rachael’s singing voice was deep and heavy with breath. Being a creature of magic, she wasn’t restricted to the same laws of physical construction as were the faeries or the human students. She could reproduce any voice she wanted, which in this case turned out to be one that was both sultry and seductive. In our classes, she had warned us that music could be used as a means to trap the listener in a web of magic, but she had never given us an example of that… Until now.

Even by the end of the first measure, every human in that hall was entranced into silence. All but a very few fifth-years were able to resist the charm that our instructor cast out upon the air that evening. Being in a state of near panic, I was easy pickings for sure. I saw Michelle get that strange confused look out of the corner of my eye, and Candice, from the state of her nipples, was quite obviously also feeling the immediate effects of the spell. I myself was torn between fear and arousal, the later slowly winning as the song progressed and increased its tempo. Minutes passed, and the room was gradually filling with a soft fog-like mist that warmed everything it touched. As my own breathing deepened with my growing lust, I started to see couples eying each other, hands slowly finding their way closer to caress a lover’s thigh or knee. The tempo grew stronger, and faster. Couples paired off and began to kiss and fondle each other in what was obviously a losing battle against the seduction of the charm. Douglas had traded spaces with Michelle and was reaching for me. I felt his hands slide sensuously into my lap and my breath caught.

Rachael’s song progressed into a wild beating of the drum that concluded so sharply and abruptly that everyone in the room expelled a soft groan as one. She had left us suddenly seduced, but unfulfilled. The blue light above the nymph faded with the end of her song, but the mist itself seemed to linger with an amber glow. I could see that couples, freed of the holding effects of the charm, were quickly filing out of the room. A number simply flopped down on the pillows and began a more intimate coupling, completely oblivious to those around them. When I glanced over at Douglas, it took but a single look before I grabbed his hand and pulled him from the room.

We made it about halfway back to the dorms, fondling and kissing the whole way before I simply couldn’t stand it anymore and opened the nearest door to get us out of the hallway. By pure luck, we happened to fall into one of the many rooms used for the storage of various herbs and spices for the kitchen. Douglas wasted no time, but lifted my squirming body up on a pile of flour sacks and began working the clasp of my belt. I was trying to get my shirt off without breaking the kiss we shared. When I realized our mutual frustration, I broke away and slid the troublesome garment off and to the side and then helped him with my pants.

Free of our clothes, my lover entered me in a single powerful stroke. Quite to my surprise, I launched immediately into orgasm, and then stayed there for upwards of thirty seconds while Douglas rocked his body against mine and finally came as well. I was clutching him so tightly that he quietly asked me to let up a minute of so later when we were breathing again.

“Sorry,” I replied, blushing and letting my thighs slip to the sides of his hips loosely. We panted for a while in silence and then he rolled over and joined me as we slid to the floor.

“Thanks, Ran,” he said softly as he played with a curl of my hair. “I needed that more than you know.”

“You and me both, lover.” I smiled at him and then realized that my previous feeling of panic was gone. I was still scared and confused, but somehow, the urgent need for sex had driven out my worrying. I made a mental note to thank Rachael later and then caught myself as certain memories returned to me. Ananha asking for the drum, Keila’s hurried exit. I suddenly doubted that Rachael’s surprise performance was an accident at all, and found my heart rate rising rapidly.

Apparently, Douglas noticed, for he reached out and held both my shoulders. “Hey, hey… What’s wrong?”

“Douglas… please. What did I do tonight? In the song circle… I have to know.”

And so he told me. Much to his credit, he was able to recite the whole of my lyrics without even the aid of my melody. Even devoid of emotion, I still found myself in tears by the end, and he drew me into a tight hug as I sobbed.

“Why?” I cried. “Why me!? Why did it have to be me that this happens to?”

He was silent for longer than I liked, then finally spoke with carefully guarded words. “I think, Miranda, that you are quite a bit more special than you know. I’m only a first-year student after all, but I’m fairly certain that what you sang tonight was what’s known as a ‘Telling’. It’s like a prophecy, but it doesn’t have to be about the future.” He held me away just a bit so that he could look into my eyes. “But one thing is always true about such occurrences, and that’s that they all come directly from the Earth Mother.”

“Gaia?” I breathed, thinking again of my grandmother and what she had explained to me. “But how?”

“I’m not certain, but it’s believed that She can inhabit the body of any of her creatures, sort of like speaking through you. It’s extremely rare, and usually occurs only with principalities.”

“The faeries?”

“Yes. But humans have been hosts in record. It’s said that Headmaster Brightly has met Her face to face, and that’s something usually only reserved for the Dominion Queen herself.”

When I didn’t respond, Douglas surprised me yet again when he made the same connection I had about Rachael’s seductive song.

“You know, I don’t think our Sexual Arts professor was originally scheduled for tonight’s Circle.” he went on quickly when I looked over at him with my mouth open. “I think that her sole purpose might have been to get people’s minds off of what you had just revealed. She might have even had you specifically in mind.”

“Me,” I asked, hating the idea that she would do something so drastic simply for my own mental sanity.

Douglas nodded. “And I think I agree with her.” He abruptly stood, and then put out his hand for me. “You’ve been as tense as an out of tune guitar string lately,” he added as he helped me up. “And for you at least, sex really seems to help.”

“It does, doesn’t it,” I replied smiling up at him.

“Um hmm. So why don’t we work some more on forgetting this whole ‘telling’ business and concentrate on getting out the rest of the tension locked up in your pretty little body, eh?” Without waiting for my reply, he lifted me again to the top of the sacks and urged me to lay flat. Smiling, I happily complied, a happy joy starting to fill in the darkness that had formed inside my mind.

“And how, exactly, do you plan to do this,” I asked with mock concern.

“Oh, a little of this, and a little of that.” His hands were slowly playing over my bare belly, and into the soft depression there. Then, much to my rising arousal, I saw him slowly drop to his knees and urge my thighs apart. When I was aptly spread before him, he grinned and moved his face forward into my lap. I’ll say this for my lover, whether he was still inspired by Rachael’s seductive song or not, it wasn’t long before my troubles back in the Main Hall were completely forgotten and I was singing out a cheerful little song of my own.

The following morning I woke up in my own bed and took a moment to recall how I had ended up there. Douglas and I had made love in the storage room for several more hours before we finally snuck out and found our way back to the dorms. I clearly recalled his goodnight kiss at my door, which blossomed into a goodnight fuck before either of us realized what was happening. I stuck my head out of the covers and found that both Candice, and to my surprise, Michelle, were suspiciously absent and wondered if we had given them a show as we literally fell into my bed the the middle of the night. I was still tingling between my legs, and smiled at how thorough Rachael’s magic had been.

The thought of the nymph’s charm, and its subsequent suspected purpose, led my thought train inexorably to what Douglas called my ‘telling’, and I felt a queasy tightness form in my belly. As if to punctuate my growing dread, there was a soft knock at the door.

Frowning, I reached over to retrieve my robe and suddenly found myself completely disoriented within a maelstrom of floating lines and glyphs.

“What the…” I started, but quickly snapped my mouth closed again as the glowing world of my personal MOS shifted again abruptly. My magical operating system had somehow brought itself up without my intending it, but when I went to wave it away with my hand, I found that it spun and revealed about two dozen spell paths instead of vanishing like it should have. And then it hit me.

“Oh my god!” I gasped aloud and caused the globe to whirl into life again. At the same time, a ball of light sizzled out from my fingers and set fire to one of the tapestries near Candice’s bed.

“Shit,” I muttered and caused only a rapid drop into a collection of notes I had taken during a session with Candice at humble Hall. Then, despite the burning decorations, I froze. Somehow during the night I had made the transition to my new MOS. Only, I hadn’t meant to have the thing convert over all at once but in nicely controlled steps until I got used to it. Now, I couldn’t even seem to get the thing to revert back to the old model. To make matters worse, the slightest motion or even a vocalization on my part could activate my system in different ways. I needed to shut the whole thing down, and fast. The answer was obvious.

Working very slowly, and concentrating for everything I was worth, I managed to slowly work my hand up to my other arm and slide off my amulet without disrupting my control too much. As if someone had flicked a switch, my MOS disappeared and I jumped from the bed as I called out, “COME IN!”

I grabbed a small tub near our sink and filled it quickly with water. Then, spinning around, I launched my makeshift fire extinguisher at the burning tapestry… And completely doused a hovering sprite that had passed through the door and was staring wide-eyed at the flames.

It sputtered and turned to me in shock.

“Don’t just stand there,” I screamed. “Help me put it out!”

Turning back to the fire, the tiny fae woman flicked her wrist and a white mist sprayed over the burning fabric, putting out the flames and freezing the whole thing solid. A second later it cracked from the wall and shattered on the floor into a million tiny pieces.

“Oh my…” exclaimed the sprite. I just slumped my shoulders and wondered what priceless artifact I had just managed to destroy.

“This is not how I wanted to start my day,” I muttered to myself.

Collecting herself, the sprite zipped up until she was about a foot in front of me, then back a foot when she saw my haggard expression. “First Summers, you are formally requested to see the Headmaster in the Main Hall as soon as you are able on this morn. Any other duties are to be suspended until further notice. Please acknowledge this request.”

I sighed. It figured that I would be summoned by Professor Brightly after my crazy episode the night previous, I just never thought it would be so soon. I saw that the sprite was waiting for my response.

“First Summers, acknowledges the request,” I said without emotion and turned to my dresser without watching the sprite leave.

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