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 Court of the Morning Star, the Court of the Rising Sun; The Dawn Court of Faerie had many names. It had many lords, and it had many ladies. Fae Nobility who made up the ruling families of the tribes, were all organized into complicated, convoluted, and outright confusing organizations created from centuries old contracts and treaties. These extensive, and impossible for most mortal to understand connections were what made the Faerie Courts. Fae had a natural affinity for power, and it was within their nature to seek it out, and grasp it. A desire that many held dated back to the time of the Titans, the Taulan Dhuallai, the ancients that preceded the God-Kings back in the lost homeland.
Grandeur was only a the beginning of how to describe the internal rooms, and apartments of the Son of Raven. Each room was set with fantastical carvings straight of Salishan legend. Each image depicting the powerful totem spirits that made up the ruling family of Laughing Crow’s lineage. Above all were the emblems of Eagle, and Raven. Either spirit being the leading Fae founder of the Tribe that became the Liq’alqwel people. Numerous rooms passed Aoife, and Nyla by as the young woman was led by her Fae chaperone. Finally they reached another door guarded by two men dressed in burnished bronze scale chest plates, and wearing tall cedar woven conical hats. Their hair was plaited with kelp it appeared, and their eyes were set in determination to protect the life of their lord.
“I bring Nyla Three-Ravens of your tribe to speak give counsel with Lord Laughing Crow,” the woman said in that Fae formal register. Nyla could only watch on as silent participant, really just a member of the audience watching this grand play before her eyes. Past the door and the guards with their bronze spears they found a room with several beaded blankets across the ground. A large carven cedar mask of Raven sat on the wall opposite the door as in the middle sat Laughing Crow, and one of the grim looking Fae from earlier. A third was a white sidhe with a face tattooed to look like bone, and with glowing emberish eyes. Even their hands appeared to be bone, but yet were made of flesh. It was a woman, and she had a headdress of long feathers set aside her.
“Maria de Muerte,” the woman said, with a smile. Her lips were black, and yet Nyla marveled at the Fae’s appearance. The macabre markings almost enhanced her body in an exotic fashion.
“Nyla, or as my parents call me, Quinn-Tamsin Clarkson,” she said and offered a hand to the woman. Maria gave a glanced to Laughing Crow before accepting the hand. Fae did not often shake hands as one might use a hex or a curse once personal touch was received. Another aspect of their lack of empathy in certain areas, and also their desire for power. Then once the hesitation was over Maria accepted the young reporter’s offer, and shook her hand in greeting (while still looking uneasy).
“So you are a Drifter?” Nyla asked as Aoife took a seat beside Laughing Crow.
The hispanic Fae blinked, and replied, “Yes, my family is descended from Mictlantecuhtli via his daughter, and the Archangel Michael.” The woman replied. Nyla blinked and nodded, the woman was Santos Muertos, the Saints of Death. A group of Fae who were folk spirits found in parts of Mexico, and southwestern America.
“Maria has has been watching the Shadow for us using her mirror.” The man indicated a small mirror in front of the skull-faced woman. Maria glanced at it and held it at eye-level in front of her face. She watched it with serious concentrated intent while then making a gesture to indicate that the Shadow was clear. Even in the heavily guarded realm of the Dawn Court, assassins could still slip in from the land of Spirits.
The reported watched on, and just took quiet notice of what the Santa Muerta was doing. Many Fae tribes possessed the ability to watch the Shadow with mirrors, few could do it naturally. Mostly only the Drifters, the Fae classed as mediators between the living, and the dead could glimpse the shades that walked freely in the land of Spirits. She was sure that Maria had the same innate ability as her. But why use the mirror? Mirrors were quite useful in magic, in that their reflective nature the very existence of lost souls was made visible, only magic could bring their hidden nature into the light.
After only a few moments the Lord of the Hall clapped twice and two manservants brought forth a rolled up piece of parchment, and then grabed a small mahogany box. The box was set beside the parchment as it was carefully unrolled to reveal a vast archaic looking map of the entire region. From the top upper left hand corner of the map in a carefully hand drawn series of lines was marked the Pacific Ocean. Then there was Vancover Island with careful detail of all major cities along with the coast of British Columbia and a birth further all the way down into Oregon to the city of Portland. The map went as far east as the border of Idaho and Montana the abruptly stopped.
The mahogany box suddenly opened and a series of stone, and wooden pieces flew out of the box on their own volition. The Fae had a strange love of causing items to fly out into the air, or making them levitate. She was sure it was not telekinesis, but something else entirely. A strange form of magic that appeared straight out some old animated film about magic, and King Arthur. Her eyes watched as the small pieces set themselves to build the forms of cities, and towns. Then suddenly the map took on a strange hue. All of the pieces that first set ont he map were wooden in color, natural. Then suddenly another series of pieces all marked by grey shiney granite set themselves on select places across the board. Next came another series of pieces all a different color.
“Each piece marks a city, a major Shadow vortex, or a territorial holding of one of the Fae.” Aoife explained as Laughing Crow waved a hand over all the pieces as glyph’s appeared over certain ones. Nyla recognized the triskele like Glyphs of the Fae Courts. Each was a mutation of the High King’s Mark on her shoulder. A tri-part spiral marked by feet, claws, or with triangles. The three parts representing the three stages of life ,and connection to the land.
“Last year the Duke of Dreams, a leading member of the Oaken Court was slain. He was one of our greatest knights, and in his absence the Court of Dusk moved against the Courts of Storms, and Stars. The older Courts held their own, for a time, but eventually several tribal territories, Thóchánnu, fell to those blighters,” the Chief muttered. His voice biting with anger.
Ever since the Dusk and Dawn Courts had split from the much older Courts of Storms, and Stars, a bitter feud had existed between them. Much like two estranged siblings, both organizations were similar in their origins, and yet differed in largely in their respectively alien ideologies. They strove further into the conversation leaving the poor Changeling to sit by like some gurgling toddler at a dinner party. By the time they were deep into Fae politics Nyla was naturally becoming fairly bored. Her focus was slowly losing itself when finally she let a loose thought free.
“I wonder why I am here to listen to Fae prattle on about politics when I’ve been nearly killed twice by a determined person who likes to pray to a Roman sun god,” she muttered to herself. Sadly, her conceived means of expressing herself was heard from by the rest of those at the table. The reaction of the Santa Muerta was to look at Nyla as if the Changeling had grown a second head, and Aoife’s expression led her to place her forehead firmly in her palms. Fae did not usually openly question each other unless it was a Council of War, or there was a clear line of peerage in the room. Nyla being a Changeling roughly was the equivalent of a house pet to most Fae; so her mouthiness was perceived by most as the equivalent of the beloved House Cat deciding to give a critique on the evening meal.
Chief Laughing Crow lifted his arms and crossed them behind his head. HIs attention was suddenly laid upon Nyla as the man’s black sclera only helped to highlight the color of his pupils.
“You are just as stubborn, mouthy, and tactless as Young Raven.” He guffawed loudly as Aoife gave him a confused look, and merely shook her head. Maria remained closed mouth, not even attempting to consider the silent exchanged between the elder Fae. The Drifter cocked her head as she scooted over to sit closer to Nyla (who was kicking herself for opening her mouth earlier). Young Raven? Who? What? Nyla fumed to herself playing the part of the indignant child.
Aoife coughed loudly then signalling a returned to the discussion at hand.
“The Sol Invictus has been used by many throughout history, the Illuminati, the Brotherhood of Serpents. All however used the emblem for one reason, a grab for power.” Nyla listened to Laughing Crow, and made a series of mental notes. Whoever was using the Sol Invictus emblem now was not likely from defunct orders. Or unless like many things in the not so mundane world, the supposedly defunct dead orders of evil were in fact running the world by now. That would not at all be remotely impossible. She had already encountered a few shadowy government cabals in her time with the Fae.
“I don’t know what they are doing though. It has something to do with the Medicine Tree, and Richard Daniels. Whatever is doing this is intent on taking advantage of Daniels’ blood, and thinks I’m getting close to them,” she paued for a moment, trying to organize her thoughts. “Otherwise they wouldn’t have tried to rattle me by using a goth kidlet in Aoife’s shop.”
“The kid whose nose you broke,” the woman’s black within black eyes betrayed a level of mirth that only Nyla or Fae blooded individuals could read. The discussion was suddenly cut short by a sudden violent whipcrack sound that was heard behind Laughing Crow. Air behind him suddenly seemed to bend in on itself as the vision of the room warped, and then a loud pop was heard as a disheveled looking Jack O’Shadows dressed in a kilt, and highlander clocha appeared. His typical hat bent sidewas as his cane looked a bit blasted by scorch marks.
“By the Names,” Aoife croaked as she rushed over to see what was wrong with the ageless looking Trickster. Laughing Crow watched on as Maria seemed quite intrigued to see the sudden appearance of the infamous O’Shadows fae.
“I tried to get to Faerie from my cottage, but this large beastie pounced on me. Wyvern or sorts, except it had no legs, likely a basilisk,” he said after a moment or two of respite. Everyone eyes were locked on him.
“Our summoner is getting desperate, methinks,” he added.
“A basilisk? Those only live in Syria!” barked Aoife as she thwapped the man on the side of his head, “How many times do I have to tell you to watch yourself! Especially with how you till the Courtless line.”
Jack is Courtless? He never told me that before? Nyla could only listen as their little courtly council was overtaken by Jack’s harrowing story of slaying the ‘beastie’. As he regaled them he told them of how he had stepped into a local pound to use as a portal to the Shadow as he did now and then, and suddenly found the creature waiting for him. It has been there and just struck as he walked through as if someone else was viewing him from the other side.
“There is no way a simple mortal using Alchemy could summon a Basilisk, only Fae Knights and their retainers can hope to manipulate such a creature of the old world,” the Chief suddenly broke in. The plot thickened as Nyla began to wonder, was there more at stake than a medicine tree?
The council for the Lord of the Dawn Court seemed to be pittering out to nothing. No revelations or grand epiphanies to be had anymore. She felt like an uniformed dupe in novel at the moment with how random, and illogical the attacks appeared to be. Jack then carefully removed a piece of what appeared to be burnt leather from his coat pocket.
“I scored this off the creature,” the man shrugged as he tossed the piece of what Nyla now realized to be flesh onto the table. It skittered over and landed upward with a circule emblem with jagged thunderbolt like spirals from a central triangle.
“Dusk Court,” he cursed, “At least whoever brought that thing here, stole it or used help from the Duskers.” The man added.
“It would not beneath the Dusk Courtiers to use proxies to get their dirty work done,” Laughing Crow grimaced. His face was now deeply set in a scowl of hatred. So deep was the estrangement, and feud between Dusk, and Dawn that the hatred was not hard elicit from the opposing members.
“This is weird, things are certainly getting worse, but why,” Aoife mumured. Nyla listened, and thought to herself. Yeah really. She could only think of a few reasons. The elections for the councty council, and the tribal council were all but over. Those who were in favor of certain factors were in place, and the more reformed individuals out of the way. By many accounts this could simply be local political bosses aligning with less mundane compatriots to get power. It was not at all unlike mundane humans to make a grab for what they often desired most. Yet, something was wrong, far wrong. Nyla touched the piece of skin and suddenly her arm jerked as it burned.
“Yeah Alchemist touched this somehow,” she coughed as she rubbed her arm. “My arm’s been burning every time that stalker has shown up near me.”
Jack nodded slowly, “It could be that little upstart order we dealt with back when Crowley was a fad,”
Aoife waved him off, and Jack nodded with a quiet response. Nyla opened her mouth and she received a frown from Aoife. Why are they shutting me up! Laughing Crow kept slowly sat up and looked at the rest of those present, “I believe our meeting is concluded.”
That was it? Why did Aoife drag me here?
Maria de Muerte stood and gave a bow to those present before making her way towards the door. The young Santa Muerta looked over her should and her eyes met Nyla’s, and then the woman turned and was gone. Yup. Bait the queer. She kept her mental frustrations to herself. At that moment Nyla felt like a stooge. So when Aoife and Jack gestured for her to follow them out she glowered at them, and slowly fell in line after them. Their stroll would take them to the very edge of the great hall and toward the gate they had come. Her eyes caught site of several large open rooms. One where a blacksmith was working on a set of spears, and another where a group of carvers was working on a vast totem pole.
“What did we accomplish back there?” she asked.
Aoife glanced at Jack, and the two seemed to partake in a voiceless discussion between them. Her eyes locked ont he ground as she shuffled after them. Here she was, the supposed mediator betweenthe Fae and the mundane, and she was being toted around like a pet, -again-. Why do they keep treating me like a child? The trio walked on a bit longer into the dark forest of Faerie. This time they were walking in a different direction than that of where Aoife and her had appeared. As they passed a large tree trunk marked with moss and fungi, Nyla’s phone beeped. “New message.” It bleeped out.
Nyla blinked as she removed it from her pocket and noticed that a considerable amount of time had passed while they were there. The time dilation had changed to the point where she had been gone for at least twelve hours in mortal realm. She held up it to hear right ear and listened.
“No call back okay cool. Well kitten if you want to tango again, I’ll be at the Down and Up tonight. This is Hoku by the way, the girl that pissed you off and made you turtle your emotions all night last night. Cheers!” The voice came over to her, and she blushed deep red. Dammit. How did Hoku have her phone number? DAMMIT DEIDRE! Of course her sister would give out her phone number. Or had she? Crap I think I texted it to her when I was jittery the night after. Dammit no more cinnamon whiskey for me gods!
Angst was once again riding her like a foul little goblin. Aoife in her serenity canted her head to eye Nyla over her shoulder as she listened to Jack ramble on about a fight with a leanan sidhe back in Ireland a century ago.
“-the damn tart had me by the throat, so I had to use all my lore to undo her wiles,” the man’s voice rocked in its easy going as anyone born within earshot of Bow’s Bell.
It was a few minutes after word that they reached the parting of the ways. A small pool which reflected out into the real world. Glancing at it Nyla could then make out her home. “How convient.” Her words were muttered under her breath. Sarcasm was part of her internal ideolect, her own means of speaking. But now it was becoming more evident, more pronounced, and sharper with each statement she made. Jack, and Aoife took their turns saying good bye, and Aoife even gave Nyla a warm hug.
But, the truth was she could sense that something was being kept from her. Her friends, her family, even her mentor were simply not informing her of a fact that was likely going to change her life. This case with Daniels was just the start of it, now the weird interaction with Aoife and meeting one of the three most powerful fae in the region. Her last thought before jumping into the pool to return to mundane life was, What are they not telling me?
Next Part: Chapter 14
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