DISCLAIMER – This story features images of violence, adult language, and some adult situations.
The following story is Copyright © 2015 Padraig O’C. Copying this story without permission from the author is strictly prohibited.
The Faerie Courts were a realm dedicated to the Fae themselves, and was one of the planes created by the crack in the roots of the World Tree, Crénhu Thaor. She had learned all of it as a child when her father use to tell her stories, about their grandfather, Brian Clarkson, who had assisted Jack in retrieving an artifact supposedly from the Thule Society. Yeah right. Her mind was reeling from the feeling of being pulled forcifully into the other realm of reality. Unlike the Shadow the Faerie Courts was a place filled with ebbing emotion, magic, and in many ways a strange sense of time dilation. Faerie, as some called it, more appropriately it was called the Oc Rhiamh, the Ever Young.
She had to close her eyes when she was pulled through the mirror to avoid the weird feeling of being dunked in molasses. Each level of the fractured realms created from the crack in the World Trees root, the Thaír Fhrén, was more disturbing than the last. Only when she was suffering from severe Soulburn fatigue did she feel comfortable in such travel. In fact when she entered Faerie a sense of tranquility doused over her very being. She could feel that calm settling in as she felt the fringes of the Fury being cut away from her form.
Nyla snarled when she opened her eyes and found herself standing beside Aoife who was in her full manifested form. Aoife was whispering to herself while a small orb a light floated near one of her black within black eyes. The deep ebony of those orbs was focused as another whisper emanating from the orb. A will’o’wisp, a small spirit used to translate between powerful Gentry. Was Aoife Gentry? That question had never occurred to her. The Gentry were the upper ranking caste of Fae society with only a few members claiming descent from the lines of the ancient God-Kings.
“Are you Dhíarhu?” the young Changeling asked. Nyla was a woman coming upon her early prime, but compared to Aoife she was just a mere infant. The woman gazed at her friend who turned away from the wisp to smirk.
“Mayhap,” the woman replied, her voice taking on a chorus like aspect, similar to the sound of the Shadow-Man from days before. All creatures of the supernal realms ahd that quality, it was like sound simply did not work normally for them. The wisp ended its whispering as a loud ping sounded from it. Aoife eyed the thing with a slide of her inky eyes before turning back to face her charge.
“Where are we going Aoife?” she questioned.
“Dawn Court,” the woman replied as she turned and started walking down a bramble lined trail. A path that was carved through a great green forest that appeared straight out of Grimm’s fairytales. Thick rooted trees filld the forest itself as mist danced around their great trunks and leaves shaped like spear points hailed the sky. The forest was beyond comprehension. A great wood filled with creatures, and entities she did not wish to meet without an escort. The trees were so tall, that light was blocked from whatever the sky was. No foliage crept over the trail and respected it in a natural way, each small plant or vine growing around the path itself.
Ivy seemed to grow in great amounts, as well as thick briar vines that wrapped their way along the roots of the trees. Aoife led them along the pathway which was paved with old moss covered stones. There was no slick texture to the stones though, and they were all carved carefully by hand in appearance. Each etched with a series of words in Elder Tongue, and other old lanuages from the lost homeland of the Fae.
Their trip would take at least an hour by her normal reckoning. The wonderful difference of time dilation in the Faerie Courts would prove likely complex, and illogical to ponder at length. They walked along the path for a tad bit longer, as the trees nearby started to shift away and light began to leak from afar across the trail. In fact the path itself was starting to morph, to change from a simple forest lane into a great avenue. Aoife led them further still as they moved past two great trees and finally came over the crest of a small hill and found themselves standing before a bronze gate. Two pieces of metal etched with great filgree figures marching in line with long spears, and formed into a phalanx.
Either door was made from a single piece of sixteen foot metal shaped into a high pointed arch shape, and the inset with bands of thick black glossy metal at regular intervals. Between these bands sat the figures of the horned warriors all facing toward each other, toward the center. A lone lamp hung from the right door upon a single brass colored length of glowing silk. The lamp itself looked like it had been stolen from an old Victorian age gaslight city.
“WHO ARRIVES AT THE GATE OF THE DAWN?” a thunderous voice echoed from a above. Aoife laughed as she drew back her head and spoke a single word in a language that Nyla did not recognized.
“By right of Ice and Fire, I bid you open for I am Aoife of the Blood of the Phantom Queen,” the words came quickly from the Fae woman’s mouth, and in rapid succession. The young reporter could only watch as she observed the strange ritual and ceremony embedded in the actions of the Fae.
“Lady Aoife, who travels with you,” the voice asked. A lone guard appeared just above the gate, on what appeared to be a wall hidden among the trees who seemed to form a natural palisade around the gate.
“Nyla Three-Ravens.” That was a new title. Nyla had never refer to someone as Three-Ravens before, that was a Fae name. Changelings to her knowledge were not given such names, as half-breeds they were considered only slightly better than a mortal. Even normal fae had to earn a title to be of any worth. The woman leaned back after crossing her arms over her chest as while rolling on her heels. Nyla just noticed that in her natural form, Aoife wore a dark blue flowing belted dress that drew down over her legs. Long sleeves hung down past her elbows while a long leaf shaped bronze sword hung from the right of her hip.
“Uh, I’m what now?” Nyla blurted out as the doors started to open. Her chaperon’s only response was to lean over and tap the reporter on her fore head. Why is my head hurting? She blinked as she started to wonder what was going on.
“Hush child.” The words were all she could hear when she was suddenly once again pulled, well this time it was more of a hard yank, into the glowing light beyond the open gates. Gold light bathed her as her eyes were assaulted by the harshness of it. Her eyes would require time to adjust as she was led along fur into the gated land of the Dawn Court. A great brilliances flooded her vision whenever she tried to pierce the glare.
The din of music, and voices filled the air around them. Had she entered a great land, or a mead hall? That notion played along in the back of Nyla’s mind as she found herself dazed and confused about what was going on. One moment she was trying to explain her alchemical stalker, and the next Aoife was dragging her to Faerie.
The dazed feeling would take another what felt like an hour to recover. By then she was seated, and the sound around her was quieting. By the time she finished her eyes had adjusted as she noticed a coppery taste in her mouth. The edge? How did I get to the edge? Fear arose in the back of her mind as her eyes opened and drank in the sight around her. A great hall straight from the stories of Valhalla swept out before her. A great high vaulted ceiling perhaps a hundred feet above her rose with thick wooden timber of great oaken heartwood.
The walls were constructed of great planks, and covered in the heads of fantastical beasts. Trophies from the Lord of the Hall who reigned from a great throne made of gold, and bronze. She stopped when she looked up from where she sat in front of a long grand table covered in food. To her the scene was straight out of an old scene from the middle ages with nobles eating in feasts, and feting for hours on end.
She then turned her gaze back toward the throne. Two Lords were conversing before the Throne, as she began to notice a few things wrong with her earlier thoughts. First, the hall was not shaped like that of viking legend, but more of the old cedar longhouses she had grown up reading about as a child. Then she noticed tha the heads of the beasts were not heads, they were masks.
“Where am I?” she asked quietly of Aoife who was sitting beside her and simply enjoying the scenary.
“The Dawn Court hall of great Lord Laughing Crow of the Lq’ilqwel folk, the Moonwater People,” she told the woman. The pronounciation sounded like a mishmash of Tsalemish, Skuallup, and even a few other tribal languages. Her eyes widened as she watched the man, Laughing Crow, turned to face her.
He was tall as most of the Gentry (the perhaps three she had encountered), at least seven feet tall. A great wrack of antlers sat upon his head, and was a mark of his prowess as a Fae lord. His skin was tan, with a reddish orchre hint. Laughing Crows face was scarred from years of strain, and likely working for the greater powers that fostered his bloodline. Focus was hardened into his deep black sable eyes which unlike Aoife’s possess a set of red pupiles. His nose was a prominent roman one, along a proud brow, and a pair of high cheekbones.
The man was dressed in a long flowing robe woven from bark, and a material she could not identify. A second passed by as the tall man slowly walked down toward the woman. His eyes met hers as the man camed to stand right beside her chair. She was so small compared to his great height as Laughing Crow looked down at her.
“Stand up, please,” the great chief of the Dawn Court said. She slowly stood to her feet, and Laughing Crow crouched down before her. Slowly he reached out and stroked the side of her head.
“My Father is Raven, and I am impressed that my father’s blood seems to run strong in you child,” he told to her. His voice was easy, and calming. She was still confused as to what she was doing in this place.
“Jack mentioned you a few times,” the girl responded unsuredly. The Fae Lord clucked his tongue in the same manner Aoife had earlier as if he was judging the Changeling with unnoticeable thoughts. His face did not relay any information, all she could see was his eyes reading her like an open book. Fae could do that, read humans with a small glance. A reason how they were able to fool mortals for years.
“He did, did he.” The man’s features gave a small quirk of fear, and then anger. Why is the lord of all the native Fae, the Lq’ilqwel; a man of the Dhíarhu scared? She watched Laughing Crow for another moment as he turned away and gave a sharp gesture with one of his hands. That was when Nyla noticed that the man’s ears were those of a stag, and were twitching with irritation. Aoife shifted in her seat, and rubbed a hand over the ribbed horns that curbved along her temple.
“You truly are Thrice-Bound,” the woman said as she glanced over at Laughing Crow, and then back to Nyla.
“What does this have to do with what I told you?” Nyla was getting anxious, and unsure.
“No one accept a true Fae Lord can storm the brass work gates, those were bound by magics older than America. We brough tthem here from Erinn when we fled the Inquisition,” the woman explained quietly. The Inquisition? What? What in the world was the woman talking about? More questions, to an already complicated issue.
“Oh,” she said, “So this is a safe house?”
“Nope,” the Fae replied in that way that usually left Nyla both assured and afraid that they were going to torture her at the end of the night. Fae did not think like humans, and did not understand common concepts such as empathy, or the mortal limits of humanity. Most grasped the barest notion of this issue, and others even came close to truly empathizing, yet, there was always that niggling feeling of being around a band of magical psychopaths.
“Laughing Crow learned from Jack about the attack on your person by a Shadow-Man.” Nyla nodded at the statement as she considered reaching out and grasping some grapes on a platter in front of her. There were extensive taboos of Faerie usually forbade mortals from eating lest they become trapped forever. That was a rumor that she knew of, no facts to back it up. She reached out even further before Aoife smacked her hand away.
“What was that for!” the reporter yelped.
“If you eat that you’ll awaken your Fae side futher, you are not ready for that, -yet-,” the Fae woman replied. Soon the feasting seemed to slow down as Laughing Crow sat back upon the great throe set upon a dais high above the rest. Nyla took that moment to glance about the room, and noticed at least three other figures with antlers standing nearby. Several wore sealskins while others had cloaks woven from Raven feathers. There were several gentry present along with a local contigent of Selkie Tribesman. Selkies seemed to be one of the few Fae Tribes that easily were found along the Atlantic, and the Pacific.
Jack had mentioned something about the next level of training. Was that what Aoife was talking about?
She was unsure now why they were still there. Laughing Crow had spoken to her, had questioned her. What else could he wanted here? More questions piled up as she started to fidget at her seat. Her eyes closed as she mumbled to herself when she heard someone say.
“The Treaty Ends in a few weeks. The Mortal Fillmore now stands as Mayor of the City, and the Cunninghams are pushing their men in position for the County Council seats. How do you feel about this Lord?” someone was talking to the Lord of the Liq’alwel. The Chief of the Dawn Court, and the Moonwater People looked quite angry as the inquiry was brought to his attention. Nyla blinked, that was right Fillmore had ran almost unopposed after the death of Daniels. And Fillmores proxies on the County Council were gaining ground. Only her little home of Anian island held out against the changing of the guard.
“The Dusk uses this as a means to gain more power, Emerald Eyes will have to intervene as will Bronze Falcon. There is no Gentry powerful enough locally to lead the Dusk. Only the balance of the other two courts keeps the peace.” Her eyes flashed to the image she had uncovered of the founders of the city of Bellingham, and then to the man named Douglas.
The conversation between Lord Laughing Crow, and the lesser Fae noble continued on for a few more minutes. The reporter checked her cellphone and noted that only a few minutes h passed in the other world. Somehow her electronic device was unaffected by the strange dilation of Faerie.
“Um, Lord Laughing Crow, does your treaty have anything to do with the founding of Bellingham, and the Douglas Family of Scotland,” she asked. Her question caused the room to go quiet. A deep unabiding quiet that let her know that every eye was on her. Voices caugh in throats as the Changeling girl decided to open her mouth and address the Lord of the Hall directly without invitation. A grand offense in Fae culture.
Lord Laughing Crow did not appear to be insulted when the girl asked him. Quite the contrary, he seemed easily intrigued to have a half-mortal bidding him to answer her query.
“The Douglas’ are tenant-in-chief to the old line of Stuart, they were once sworn years ago to a the Kings of Strathclyde through another line. Through them is kept a Ban set upon the Eastern Sidhe that prevents them from returning to Eire when they were exiled for assisting the Dal Riada in moving against the Godkin of the Pictii.” A weird history lesson, but useful nonetheless.
“For this reason they are considered blessed Faekin, blood that renders our most powerful Changeling intermmedaries,” she was told.
“Sir, then do you know why a Douglas was present with a Sol Invictus tattoo as the planting of the Medicine Tree?” she asked. This fact caused the Fae lord’s eyes to snap open wide with surprise. Apparently he did not know that the Imperious Sun was present.
“Alchemy and Sol Invictus?! Shadows did not inform me of this,” the Chief growled. Thank you for leaving that out of the memo Jack.
“Aoife of the House of Morrigan, bring the Thrice-Bound, to my inner chambers. We must hold counsel,” the words flew from his lips as the Chief turned away and left the dais in a quick motion of woven cedar robes. As he left a great coned hat was placed upon his head as several angry looking Liq’alqwel warriors stood at attention and then flanked his exit. Was I just invited to speak in meeting of the Dawn Fae nobility? Lets break all the conventions.
The Sidhe woman, and her would remained behind after Laughing Crow’s exit for nearly an hour. In that time she swore she saw several grim looking Fae men pass beyond two tall warriors guardian the exit. All were dressed in thick robes covered in blue whorls, a possible mark of their status as priests of the Court. Her eyes were starting to droop as she was then yanked out of her seat and hurriedly walked toward the guarded door. Everything in the room was at least twice her height, and seemed far bigger. With a moment of hesitation she walked past the guards, and into the unknown.
Next Part: Chapter 13
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