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 – Unseelie Summer

Chapter 6 – Departures


I stood before the full length mirror in my bedroom, smoothing out the garment that Ananha had given me to put on.

“Are you sure about this?” I called out to the other room. The faerie joined me, several other garments draped over her arms. “I think I look like an 1800’s sea captain…”

“I know it’s not what you’re used to, but it is current as far as the Fae is concerned. Actually, it’s a little amazing that clothing styles have kept as close to human as they have considering that it’s been several thousand years since humans have been in the Fae. You look smashing.” She was smiling.

I sighed and frowned. The cream tunic and pants fit well enough, as did my white thigh-length coat and the fold-over boots. But I just didn’t feel myself in anything other than jeans and a t-shirt.

“I’ve included several other outfits, as well as a formal ball gown, should you need it,” she continued, looking over my shoulder.

“A gown? Oh god…”

“Now listen here, Second Summers… It’s been over two millennia since a human ambassador visited the Unseelie Court, so we would like you to make a good impression. If that means you have to wear something that’s a little out of your normal comfort zone, then tough.”


She turned me around.

“Miranda, I know all this change is hard, but it’s necessary… for the Fae as a whole, and more importantly, for you. The Headmaster has complete faith in you, and so, child, do I. Now, let’s get the rest of your things packed. We’re almost out of time, and Candice mentioned she would still like to have a word with you before we go. Oh, I almost forgot,” she said, reaching into one of my bags and extracting a medium sized book. “Take this and read it as soon as you’re settled.”

“What is it?”

“General spells for personal protection and utility. Right now, you’re covered by a number of charms that were placed on you when you arrived. Those spells will most likely fade when you enter the Unseelie Court.”

“Personal protection?” I asked, raising a brow.

“From general infection, pregnancy, etc… Rachael mentioned them to you, I’m sure, but she probably didn’t explain how they were placed on you, or for how long.”


“Of course. We didn’t want you trying to remove them on your own.” She pinned me down with a knowing eye. “Memorize them and apply them as you see fit. They’re simple enough for someone of your skill.” She placed the book back in my bag.

Ten minutes later I stepped out of my “house” and closed the door behind us, bags in hand. I gave the little brass plaque on the door a pat and smiled. It was oddly comforting to know I had a place to come back to. Ananha gave me a knowing look.

Michelle was waiting at the stairs. Upon seeing me, she grinned and nodded.

“Nice duds. You look like a pirate.”

I turned to the faerie. “See!?”

She waved it off. Michelle, I noticed, was dressed even more casually than normal, and was carrying only a tiny little roll on a strap that she had slung over her shoulder.

“Did you already send your bags on ahead?” I asked.

“Nah. This is it,” she replied, and indicated the roll.

My mouth fell open. “But… Shell, you have no idea where you’ll be or…”

She stopped me. “Listen, before Brightly brought me here, I had a lot less than this. I’ve lived most of my life with what I could carry in one hand. I’m used to it. I figure that if I’m going with Talise to learn, then anything I bring with me from here is just going to get in the way.”

She was right. I smiled and placed a hand on her arm just as Candice came running up the stairs.

“Ohmygosh, I’m so glad I caught you…” she panted to me. “Hey Shell.”

“Yo, Candice,” replied my freckled friend. “I need to get going, Ran. See you in a couple months, yes?”

I nodded. “Good luck,” I added, drawing her into a quick hug, which Candice repeated a moment later.

“You too.” With a bow to the faerie, Michelle jogged down the stairs and out of sight.

“Miranda, I’ll take your bags to the portal,” said Ananha. “Don’t be long.”

Candice waited until the faerie had left before she reached into the pocket of her skirt and withdrew a small photograph, which she handed to me. It showed a young girl sitting in the lap of a woman with long blond hair.

“Is that you?” I asked, pointing to the child.

“Yeah, cute huh? Look I only have a moment… The picture isn’t important. It’s one of about a dozen I brought with me from home. What you need to know is that it’s enchanted. I wanted to give my com protocol system a real test, so I embedded it with as much magic as I could in the short time I had. Tap my head three times and it should set up a link back to me so that we can communicate. Only… Be sure to do it when no one else is around.”

“Sure, but… why?” I asked, genuinely curious.

“Well, I didn’t exactly get permission…”


“I know, I know. But this is just too good an opportunity to test the system outside of the Iron Mountain. I need to know if it works even through the wards and protections that guard both the courts.”

I sighed. “All right. But as soon as you get the bugs worked out, I want you to come clean to the Headmaster. Trust is a two way street and all that…”

She nodded. “I will. I promise.”

Suddenly, we had reached that awkward moment when it was time for goodbye’s. Neither of us said anything, but just embraced. Then, with a smile, I headed down the stairs to find Ananha.



The Headmaster was standing near the entrance gate,  speaking with a faerie Michelle recognized from the kitchen staff. As she approached, the woman nodded to the man and then scurried off at a slight run.

“Ah, there you are, Second Stuckey. Er, are you ready to go?” he asked, noticing her shoulder roll.

“Yes, sir.”

He squinted at her, as though he might discern some hidden meaning from the freckles on her face.

“Unburdened by material needs,” he commented, with a sigh. “Sometimes I envy you that skill, though I know it did not come to you by choice.” His eyes were soft and knowing. “Right. Let’s be off then. We all have a very busy schedule today.”

They nodded to the pair of faeries to either side of the Market portal, and a few moments later she was counting back from ten as she flipped and spun through the medium between space and time. She had been to the Candy Market often enough that the feelings of dislocation no longer left her stunned and slightly foggy as she exited, but she was still relieved to step out into the fresh air. A few meters away was a faerie she recognized. Apparently, so did the Headmaster.

“Watcher Ruari-seth’oka, we are honored to be your charges.” He bowed respectably, and Michelle followed suit.

The faerie returned the bow with a grace only to be found in the Fae, and then extended a hand, indicating they should walk with her.

“Cailleach is waiting with… our guest. She felt it would be best to send a known face to greet you.”

“Prudent, and most welcome. Thank you.”

As they started into the town proper, Michelle was vaguely aware that they were being watched, though she never did see anyone following them. At one point, the Watcher caught her eye and nodded ever so slightly, indicating that the eyes belonged to those under her command. She decided the tight security was probably warranted, all things considered.

“Is everything in place for the arrival of Second Summers?” asked the man.

“It will be. This meeting is the only variable. My Mistress has indicated that she shall meet her personally at the gate, if that is acceptable?”


“Ambassador Stuckey,” said the faerie, turning to her as they traveled. “I’m curious as to your feelings. This meeting is certainly unprecedented. Are you… nervous?”

Michelle blinked. “Wait, what did you call me?”

Marcus interrupted. “Uh, Miss Stuckey, technically all the Tuatha are ranked as Ambassadors in formal proceedings, though I think given the nature of this meeting, your title at the Academy might be more appropriate.”

“Please…” she said, swallowing. “I’m not ready to be some kind of diplomat.”

“Very well, Master Brightly,” replied the faerie turning back to her.

She thought about Ruari’s question, then shrugged. “I suppose I could be nervous, but honestly, I’m not. If anything, I’m eager to get started.”

The Fae woman smiled. “Then I shall be nervous for you,” she replied, cryptically. “I’m not certain how I would react, given the same opportunity. The Queen’s Hand is… legend.”

Michelle frowned slightly as she considered the other’s words, then, stealing a glance as they walked, she wondered at the strange armor the faerie wore. It was ornate yet obviously light, designed to stop blades rather than bullets, which made sense to her. Magic and time-sight changed everything. Even though it was well maintained, she could see numerous scores and slash marks. The impressive gear was definitely not just for show.

“Ruari?” she asked, “you’re a ‘Watcher’, yes?”

“That’s correct, Second. I am a Watcher, a Royal Guard of the North House.”

“You… serve in the Unseelie Palace?”

“Yes. We are directly responsible for the protection of the Principalities and the Queen, though, at the moment that task has been reduced to merely Cailleach.”

“She’s the only Unseelie Principality?”

“Two others were killed by… in wars,” she answered a little awkwardly as she glanced at Marcus. “One more by the Sluagh. The Queen was lost to battle as well.”

“Doesn’t that put a lot of responsibility on Cailleach?”

“It does. Which is why her safety is paramount. Not that there is anyone in the Fae that could currently match her…”

“Huh? Why…”

“Balance is always preserved, Second,” she answered, meeting her eyes. Michelle very much wanted to ask her to explain, but they had arrived at their destination.

It was still early, so even on a normal day the Red Hat would have been mostly empty. Still, Michelle wasn’t surprised to find they were alone inside given the armored Unseelie guards stationed at the door. Cailleach and a smallish cloaked figure sat in a booth at the far side of the room, otherwise, they had the place to themselves. Even the tavern keeper was notably missing.

“Mistress Cailleach,” greeted Marcus, bowing deeply to the Principality. “May I formally present Second Michelle Stuckey, though I know you have met.”

“Indeed. It’s good to see you again, Michelle,” said the woman, smiling slightly.

“And you, Mistress,” she replied, bowing as well. Her eyes traveled to the other, who still had not even looked up.

“May we…?” asked the Headmaster, indicating the booth seats across from them. Cailleach nodded, and the man slid in and poured himself a glass of water from the pitcher which was waiting with several ornate crystal glasses. He had taken a long sip before he realized that Michelle was still standing.

“You can sit,” he said, indicating the space next to him, but looked worried when Michelle made no movement. Cailleach squinted at her.

“What is it, child?” she asked. “You are safe here. There is nothing to fear.”

Slowly, Michelle’s eyes slid over to the hooded figure. From under the cloth, there was a soft chuckle or grunt, then an even female voice.

“It’s not fear… She seeks permission, but is lost in the dance.” Reaching up, the figure pulled back her cloak, revealing her round, olive-skinned face. An ornate headband held her tightly pulled back black hair, which framed large, almond shaped eyes. So dark was the color of her irises, that Michelle felt as though all the light in the room was being slowly sucked into the twin circles, and with it, her soul. The other was right, it wasn’t fear she felt, it was adrenaline. Without having done more than reveal her face, the faerie had somehow triggered every defensive reaction Michelle possessed. Even now, she could feel her arms tense and twitch, her hands literally clenching into fists as her body prepared to resist a coming attack. But none came. Her muscles seemed to be playing out a complex series of motions without ever moving, and when she understood why, she gasped softly.

“Permission? But I just said that…” started Marcus.

“Not from you,” interrupted the small Fae woman. “From me.”

“Now just one minute…” continued the Headmaster.

“No Marcus. Let this play.” Cailleach’s tone was terse, but calm, her eyes fixed on Michelle.

The longer she stared at the woman, the more frantic the twitching became. Sweat formed on her brow, and with it, a slow fatigue. Confusion and desperation began to get the best of her.

“Let go. The answer is not yet within you,” said the other.

With a sudden deep exhalation, Michelle nearly collapsed and had to hold herself up on the edge of the table. She felt drained, both physically and mentally, and more than anything else, confused. She stared at the small woman, who nodded and indicated the seat across from her. Michelle slid in and reached for a glass for some water, but found her hands were shaking too vigorously to pour. Reaching over, the woman took the glass from her and proceeded to fill it.

“What you feel is called the Enet’bat. It is the ‘shadow dance’, a Brownie term to describe the battle between foes with time sight. The fatigue will pass as you come to accept the outcome.”

“Battle? But… We didn’t just fight, did we?”

There was a slight smile on the woman’s face. “It is what could have been, the Tkemet, as they call it. You will need to master your control of the dance if you are to do battle within the Fae.”

Michelle stared into her water, not quite understanding what the other was talking about, but what she felt was nearly identical to the placement test she had taken when she first came to the Academy. She wondered if Marcus Brightly knew of her skills, even then.

“Time sight? I’m not a faerie. I don’t have time sight…”

“No? There are many ways that this ability manifests itself, and not just in faeries.” Her eyes slid briefly to Headmaster Brightly. “Shall we proceed?”

The man nodded.

“I am Talise, First Order Grandmaster of Combat and the personal assassin for Queen Ariana of the Unseelie Court, whom I served faithfully as my station required for four hundred and eighty seven years. I was also known as the Queen’s Hand while I was under that service. I am interested in taking on this human, the one you call Second Michelle Stuckey, as my Hebbelet.”

“I’m not familiar with that term,” said Marcus.

Cailleach interrupted. “Hebbelet, or Heb for short, literally means, ‘little cup’, but it is used to signify a student under a master. In this case, an apprentice.”

Talise nodded to the faerie.

“I should also point out,” continued the Principality, “that the implied relationship is singular, meaning ‘only one’. A master only takes on a single Hebbelet at a time. In the Fae, the meaning carries with it a binding responsibility. The master becomes the legal guardian of the apprentice, and is wholly responsible for their care, much like that of a parent to a child.”

At the woman’s words, Michelle looked up from the glass she had been staring into.

“Wait… what? My legal guardian?”

The Headmaster seemed slightly surprised. “That could pose a problem…”

“There is no title, if that’s what worries you, Marcus. The arrangement is at the discretion of both parties involved, though there can be legal repercussions within Fae law if only one party wishes to break the arrangement. Michelle’s parents need not worry about Talise taking their daughter.”

The moment the words were out of her mouth, Cailleach realized her mistake.

“Oh… Child, forgive me. I was not aware of your history.”

“When Michelle was found by the sprites,” said Marcus, “and it was brought to my attention that she had no family, no legal guardianship at all for that matter, the Headmistress and I agreed to act in that regard. It was never formalized under human law, for obvious reasons…”

“Then Second Stuckey acts on her own?” asked Talise.

“I always have…” Answered Michelle, sadly as she gazed down into the crystal glass before her.

“You didn’t let me finish,” said Brightly. “Though we were unable to formalize her human guardianship, once she was accepted into the Fae, we both took the Oath of Life on her behalf.”

“Marcus, you surprise me,” said Cailleach. “I knew you wanted children, but I had no idea…”

Michelle looked up again, confused. “I don’t understand.”

The Principality continued in a more normal tone.

“The Oath of Life is a binding Fae contract, child. It means that by all accounts, the Headmaster and Headmistress have taken you on as though you were their own offspring.”

Michelle’s mouth dropped open, and she turned to Marcus, who she noticed was smiling softly at her.

“Is it true?” she asked simply.

“Yes. I’m sorry we didn’t tell you sooner. We didn’t want it to influence your decision to study with Talise… or in your decision to join the Fae at all for that matter.”

Tears formed in the corners of Michelle’s eyes.

“I told you when I brought you to the Academy,” he continued, “that I would look after you as though you were my own.”

“I thought you were just speaking metaphorically!”

“You will never have to be alone again, Michelle. Marly and I are your family, if you’ll have us. You don’t have to accept, of course…”

“I accept!” she exclaimed, a little more loudly than she intended. She wiped her face as her tears clouded out her vision and her throat closed up.

“Perhaps… we should postpone this meeting until Miss Stuckey has had a chance to acclimate to this news?…” Offered Talise.

“No!” she replied at once. “I mean, no… Please continue, Mistress.” She sniffed, barely in control of her own emotions.

“Are you sure, Michelle?” asked the Headmaster.

“This needs to happen. Now. Trust me.”

Michelle noticed the Principality paying her closer attention, and cleared her head.

“Very well,” answered the olive-skinned woman. “Cailleach is correct in that I hold no title to the girl, Master Brightly. However, I can’t stress enough the seriousness of the Hebbelet bond. As my apprentice, she must accept whatever I ask her to do. There are no restrictions. At all.”

“I assume you will see to her safety, keeping her from harm…”


“What do you mean?”

“I mean no. She will at times, be unsafe. That much I can assure you.”

He frowned. “But that… That’s unacceptable!”

“Those are my terms. If she is to be my Hebbelet, then both you and she must agree to this. There is simply no way to teach someone true combat in a perfectly ‘safe’ way.” She turned and held Michelle’s eyes directly.

“Be certain you understand this, human. Now is the time to ask questions. I can put you on the path you seek, but I can not make you walk. This path has many changes and challenges for you. You will not be the same person when I release you. There will be pain, fear… despair.”

“I have faced all that before,” said Michelle, taking a deep breath.

“You may not survive,” she said flatly.

“Now wait just one minute!” Interrupted Marcus. “I will not put her at that much risk. There must be some other way…”

“Can you see her future!?” yelled Talise. “Do you know what is to be required of her!? You don’t, you can’t!” The woman reached out and gently held Michelle’s chin, forcing her to look her in the eyes… Those dark eyes.

“But I do. I understand what it means to become Yami… to become Death.” Talise let go of her and Michelle remembered to breathe. “I cannot assure her safety, but, if she lives, I agree to release her back to you for her next semester of schooling. She will need the time to recuperate and expand herself. Is this acceptable?”

Marcus sighed. “I don’t suppose I have much choice. I doubt I’m going to convince the girl not to go with you.” He looked to Michelle, who just shook her head slowly. “Then she has my blessing.”

“And you, child? Will you agree to be my Hebbelet, and all it entails? Do not agree unless you are certain.”

Michelle paused, considering her life to that point. “It’s what I am for.”

The rest of the meeting was mostly formality, with Headmaster Brightly working out dates and details regarding how and when she would be returned to the Academy. Cailleach acted as arbitrator. Michelle was hardly listening, and instead found herself staring into the glass of water in front of her. In her mind, she tried to understand what had happened to her earlier, what Talise had called the Shadow Dance. How could something that never even happened cause her to feel as though she had been sparring for hours? She quietly let her mind drift back into some of the feelings that her muscles had brought to her, to understand the complex motions involved. She found that she could see them in her mind, and to her surprise, the counter-moves that Talise had made. Slowly, she played through them, amazed and hungry to understand. She resisted the urge to fall completely back into the dance and resume the fight, and instead let the progressions guide her, step by step. In each case she saw how far ahead the woman was, setting her up and staying in perfect control of the imaginary battle. She was in awe, some unknown time later, when the Headmaster had to place his hand on her shoulder to get her attention.

“Michelle? Did you hear what I said? Are you ready and willing to go with Talise at this time as her Hebbelet?”

She blinked several times at the man. “Yes, sir. I’m very ready.”

“Very well. I release her to your care, Mistress Talise. May she learn well what you have to teach her.”

The woman looked over at her, and smiled warmly. “She already is.”

The meeting adjourned, Michelle followed Talise through the streets of Aonach na Milseáin, the Candy Market, their pace brisk, but not rushed. The Fae woman kept her cloak up to hide her face, and Michelle noticed they stayed mainly to the side streets and back alleys. Talise waved her hand for her to come forward, next to her.

“Why am I hidden, human?” she asked when they walked side by side, obviously picking up on her thoughts.

Michelle considered her words for a moment. “You have many enemies.”

The other laughed. “Yes. That much is certain. Do you think I fear reprisal?”

“No. They are no match for you.”

“Then why does it matter that I hide my face from my enemies?”

Now it was Michelle’s turn to smile. “Revealing yourself serves no purpose in your favor, and gives up a distinct advantage you can currently exploit. Most feel you died with the last Unseelie Queen.”

Talise turned briefly to her, nodding.

“Yes. It pleases me that you already understand this. You might be surprised by how many would give up such an advantage for mere ego. Confidence in oneself is helpful, only if it is not a lie. Control your ego, and it will ever serve you. Your emotions are tools. They can sway others as easily as they sway you.”

“What about fear?”

They passed into the woods surrounding the Market. Talise slowed a bit, and even seemed to breath easier.

“Fear comes in many forms, but always for good reason. It signals possible danger. It is a powerful ally and guardian if controlled and listened to. Like a trained animal, it can sniff out a threat you might otherwise miss… But also like an animal, it can turn on you if not kept under a firm hand. Use it, but never let it use you. Even the bravest of warriors respects their fear. It is only a fool that fears nothing. Here we are.” She stopped before an old oak and began to craft a spell.

“Once we pass through this gate, you will have taken the first real step in your training. This is your very last chance to change your mind, human.”

“I’m ready,” replied Michelle, taking and releasing a deep breath.

The faerie paused. “Are you afraid?”

Surprisingly, Michelle was actually startled by the question.

“I’m… eager,” she answered, smiling in jest.

The other turned to look at her, her eyes like the darkest of shadows. She was not returning the humor.

“You should be afraid. This is perhaps the most dangerous point of our journey today. We know not what waits for us at the other side of this portal. Perhaps we have evaded our enemies… or, there could be a hundred assassins ready to skewer our bellies the moment we step forth. Never make assumptions, my Hebbelet.”

The faerie turned back to the oak and placed her hand to its surface. There was a deep bell-like sound, and the whole fabric of space near the trunk of the tree seemed to waver and ripple.

“Take my hand and follow me. And be ready.”

Michelle did so, stepping after Talise into the magic portal.

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