Chapter 23: Chained Heat

on August 2, 2011 in Volume 2 Book 2: The Trouble With Twyla

In Which Mackenzie Goes For A Three-Way

Human sensibilities can have result in a few conflicting reactions at a sight like an elf wearing a three-piece business suit.

To say that elven fashion tends to run behind human fashion is a bit of an oversimplification. No race is monolithic… barring, as Steff would point out, the ones who actually are monoliths. Even though elves have a lot of homogeneity in their culture, they’re no exception.

Some elves are thousands of years old. Some are eighteen. A little bit of a generation gap is to be expected.

Those who number their centuries in the double-digits probably learned at some point to wear whatever they please, which might be something that was popular at any point along their personal timeline, but it might also be the latest thing. Some of the teenagers might think their parents’ tastes are hopeless outdated or they might think there’s nothing wrong with a good cape and a decent pair of riding boots.

The complex interrelationship between elves and the human fashion industry… which often favors elves as models and creators… only tangles things up further, by putting a good number of elves ahead of popular human fashion.

But the clothes that models wear on the runway are tailored for them. Even garments that bear some relationship to something that other people are expected to wear in actual social situations are made to fit the model’s frame as much as the model is chosen to fit the outfit.

Elves and humans are just built different. Elves are much more slender, and often shorter… though they have longer limbs, proportionally. They’re bendier, too. I don’t just mean that an average elf is more flexible in the way that a limber human might be. I mean their joints can bend further and in different directions.

An elf who picks up a human garment off the rack is going to find it an odd fit. They’ll look like someone playing dress-up. I’ve seen elves wearing t-shirts from the trendy mall places like they’re tunics and it kind of works, but a suit isn’t designed to hang off the body.

There are some types of clothes that can be made in elven style and human style and look right. Suits aren’t one of them. If an elf is wearing a three-piece suit, that means it was not just altered to fit but probably made for them. Not all elves are rich, but an elf who can afford personal tailoring can probably afford the verybespokiest of bespoke tailoring, the hautest of haute couture. But suits are the uniform of rich and important and powerful or at least serious humans, so the eye judges them with human expectations.

If the suit fits the elf, it’s too narrow. It’s too angular. With a good enough tailor, it’s fairly subtle… and again, elves who buy suits are likely to have good tailors. You don’t look at an elf in a suit and just burst out laughing. It’s more just that your eye sort of catches on them every once in a while and you wonder what’s off about the picture.

Acantha, the substitute not-a-professor for my spellbinding class, seemed to favor suits. I imagined they helped open up doors, since the modern enchantment industry was… well, modern in its outlook, and so favored people who looked modern.

I suppose it said something about human culture that someone wearing something completely unsuited to their body could get farther in business than someone wearing something made with them specifically in mind.

Her outfit for that day… a pinstripe suit with silver threads… was impressive and obviously costly. It also emphasized her smallness and seeming fragility, which contrasted with its inherent message of power. There could probably be an insightful case study in being able to telepathically listen in on people and see which they see first: the vulnerability or the strength.

Elves often look smug to humans, but that’s because humans are mainly used to reading human faces. Elves tend to be more expressive the more comfortable they are. When they’re nervous, they grow very still, but it’s not a stillness that a human could emulate… it’s hard to be that much like a statue and not come off haughty.

I had mainly learned that by watching Steff and Dee. Steff was only half-elven, so she didn’t show it as much. Dee came from a culture that valued self-control and so it was only after she’d spent some time on the surface and learned to relax around others that I’d seen this effect in action, and even then I’d believed she was just reverting to her training when she went still until I’d compared her to Steff in similar circumstances.

Acantha was standing at the front of the room, and she was standing very still. She wasn’t even breathing that I could see. She might have been breathing very slowly… or not at all. Steff had explained to me that some elves grew out of the habit. Supposedly that made them become all ethereal and floaty, which Acantha definitely wasn’t… but I figured that didn’t happen all at once.

She’d been standing there for at least five minutes, but the period hadn’t yet begun. The very second that the timepiece on the wall behind her scrolled around, words began pouring from her mouth like she was a bell-golem chiming the hours.

“There are three rules for handling powerstones,” she said. She reached up and tapped lightly on the tinted transparent visor that covered her eyes. “The first of which is that protective eyewear is to be worn any time they are handled. I see more stones in hands and stones on desks than I do people wearing shields. We did not devote the bulk of an entire class period to the safe handling rules and classroom procedures because we are studying a simple subject that leaves us with so very many idle hours to be filled. I would trust that all those stones that I see out that are not lying on grounding plates are either fully sealed or devoid of charge, but the fact that one rule has been disregarded means I do not… stop! If your stone isn’t already in your hand, then please see to your eye coverings before you touch it.”

I had to admit, Acantha had a way with words. It wasn’t necessarily a short or particularly direct way, or even a very scenic one, but it was undeniably a way.

The roundish hunk of hematite that served as my powerstone was sealed properly, but it was also on the grounding plate. I was already wearing my protective facemask of transparent leather. I wanted the professor to be able to see that I followed instructions and I came to class prepared. Her references to her experience as a consultant in the enchanting industry had sparked my interest, and I wanted the best chance of sparking hers.

It was kind of weird to feel like a suck-up. I’d never actually triedto curry favor with someone before consciously, and I was torn between worrying that I was being too obvious about it or that I would just look like any other student, especially once she got the safety procedures stamped into the whole class’s brains.

Probably the latter, I figured once I thought about it. Acantha’s grading scale made it clear that she took the idea of “C = Average” more seriously than a lot of teachers… doing merely what was required and expected of you wouldn’t wow her.

I’d never tried to impress a teacher before. As a child, I’d had a habit of doing what I was told because I was told to, and I’d done pretty well in school because I found it exciting. I’d always tried to be a good student in high school, in the sense that I still wanted to learn things and wanted to give as little reason for any kind of authority figure to dislike me as possible… but my high school teachers had mostly been very coldly neutral towards me.

Being half-human meant that I was a person under the law no matter what the other half was, and that meant I had the right to a public school education and to a relatively safe environment. My grandmother wouldn’t have tolerated anything less, and she was pretty influential in her community.

But being half-demon meant I was never really liked or trusted by that community, and even if an individual teacher might have liked me it wouldn’t have been good for any of them to be seen as too friendly to me.

My grandmother wouldn’t have had that any other way, either.

My choice in eye protection was actually a full-face mask of enchanted leather, with the portion around my eyes made transparent. Something about being invulnerable to non-magical explosions and shrapnel made me really shy about the possibility of a magical item detonating in my face.

It wasn’t like I was any more vulnerable to magic than a full human would be, but knowing I was more vulnerable to magic than I was to, say, a rock or an unenchanted sword made me warier of it than someone who could have their face torn off by just about anything given enough force would have been.

Most of my fellow students had gone for a more conservative and minimal definition of “eye protection”. I felt a little dorky, but having long since realized I was a dork I felt more comfortable doing what made me feel safe than trying to score coolness points I’d never be able to cash in.

“Let’s get started,” Acantha said, once everybody had their headgear on and their other tools out.

She pulled a wand out from an inside pocket on her jacket and gave it a flourish with a snap of her wrist. There was a soft little phut! sounded as a barely-visible misty projectile shot out of the end. It solidified into a cloud as it flew a few yards away, which then shout out a tiny bolt of lightning and disappeared with a loud pop!

“This is the spell that we practiced binding on Monday,” she said. “Or rather, my own slightly more refined version of the off-the-shelf spell. Now, how many of you left class yesterday and worked with the sample spell we practiced?” she asked. A number of hands went up, including mine. “How many of you tried to recreate it from scratch?” Some hands went down. Mine didn’t. “How many of you succeeded?”

No hands that I could see… my own included… stayed in the air.

“It is a deceptively simple-seeming spell,” she said. “It would be easier by far to just shoot a spark from the tip of the wand, or just a puff of air that stays air. I expect most of you could work either of those out without much thought at all. What this spell does as written is take the two effects and link them together in a chain… the ‘body’ of the spark spell is carried along in the energy pattern of the gust, being triggered when that tiny bit of energy is no longer coherent enough to hold together. The gust ends, the spark snaps into existence.”

Chained spells… I might have thought of that eventually, but then I’d had more formal training in elemental invocation than anything else that visibly ‘wizardy’ that wasn’t enchantment. After Monday’s class, I’d tried recreating the effect just by manipulating elements without any luck.

“The ins and outs of chaining spells is something we will be tackling later in the semester,” Acantha said. “It’s the next level of spellbinding, binding one spell to another. The basic technique is the same as you would use in binding a spell to an object like your wand, but it requires greater sensitivity since you’re attaching energy to energy rather than an object. Here most of the work has already been done for you. As you alter the spell… or rather, alter one or both of the component spells… you will have to feel what that does to the link and adjust accordingly. This will give you valuable insight for when you are constructing your own links from scratch later on.”

She put the wand back in her pocket and produced another one, then pulled a cap off the end. There was what looked like a piece of chalk underneath.

She frowned at it… or actually, I guess she looked at it without smiling… and gave it a little twist, then tapped the markerboard with it. Instantly a series of spell symbols began to snake their way across the board in what looked like chalk, though at least it was colored a dark red.

“I suppose I have to update some of my tools,” she said, turning around and facing the class. She put the wand back inside her jacket and brushed her hands together as if to remove whatever tiny traces of chalk dust might have somehow transmigrated to them. “I prefer working with chalk and slate because they are useful earth components and provide a good grounding element. When you work with magic… deep magic, complex magic… everything you work with, everything you touch may become a part of the working in a subtle way. Modern plastic materials are more flexible, which has its uses as well, but if one is not trying to achieve a specific effect, something neutral or earth-oriented is almost never a mistake.”

Though she was pouring the words out of her mouth in a continuous stream, she was actually talking at a much more measured rate than she had on Monday. She had seemed almost panicky on the first day of class… it made me wonder exactly how last-minute her appointment as our instructor had been.

“This is an expanded and incomplete version of the spell you practiced binding into your wands on Monday,” she said. “Written in what we call the ‘exploded view’… unlike the simple rack version we worked with before, this spell will not fully functional as written but requires mastery in a more personalized form. Your assignment for today is to use the tools you gained in class on Monday and through the assigned reading to bind a working version of this spell into a wand with at least three charges. You will leave the charged wand with me at the end of the class, or if you do not finish by then, you may bring it to my office… it’s the one listed as Professor Leclerc’s… by no later than three P.M. tomorrow. The wands will be returned with your grade on Friday. Remember, your score depends on not simply replicating the spell in a working magic item, but on improving upon the basic model.”

The spells from the textbook were largely diagnostic, and now that I knew what we were doing I could see why she had assigned them. I was pretty good at finding my way around magic by feeling it out, but that kind of “hands-on” approach could alter or damage a delicately balanced arrangement of energy just by probing it too hard. The kinds of bindings we were working on were kind of ephemeral to begin with, before you added in something complex like spells layered with other spells.

I intended to get an A on the assignment, and that required at least two noticeable improvements to the basic spell. I made the decision to get the spell down as written and then work out how to modify it in small steps instead of trying to modify it and figuring out if I could get that version bound… it would be slower going, except insofar as doing it the other way left me with the chance that I’d bite off more than I could chew and not realize it until late in the class period.

“Most people will find more luck holding the completed first component spell… the air-based one… in their heads and then constructing the spark on top of that,” Acantha said as all around the classroom we all started groping in the direction of figuring out what we were doing. “But do not become ‘hung up’ on that approach, or on any approach. The reason you must construct a personalized version of the spell… no one should be writing anything in their grimoires yet… is that no one way will work the same for all practitioners.”

I decided to try it the way she described. After all, she said it was most likely that would work and I did have to start somewhere. The air-puff spell really was very basic. It was the sort of thing I’d done over and over again in elemental invocation. On Monday, I’d been trying to make the “push” effect on the air somehow trigger pushing a tiny bit of lightning… a fiery element within air… out. It had seemed to me like it would be possible, but it had proved to be nowhere near as easy as what the stock spell actually did.

Now that I knew the trick, I could see I hadn’t been completely off the mark… the little meta-spell that tied the two together used complimentary bits of air-magic in each of the component spells like hooks. I figured that was probably why we were using something like this, even though it was flashy and useless… it seemed like pretty much an ideal set-up. Trying to get the air spell to carry an earth spell or something completely non-elemental would probably be that much harder.

Once I realized the significance of the elemental sympathies between the spells, the whole thing just sort of locked into place for me. I was only able to cast the whole spell about every three tries out of four… not a great ratio for me, but I was used to working with things that were so simple that it was absolutely no effort to hold them in my head long enough to pull them off.

I could have started binding at that point… if I got the spell in the wand successfully, I’d be able to cast it without appreciable chance of failure. But it bothered me that I wasn’t doing better, so I decided to try substituting my own spell for the air-puff… I’d done enough similar spells in Professor Bohd’s elemental invocation class that I didn’t have to think hard to call one to mind, and once I had it, that made concentrating on the newer pieces a bit easier.

Maybe I was stretching the definition of taking the spell and making it my own, or maybe I was fulfililng it more exactly than expected… I didn’t think I’d be marked down for it, though, because I was still producing the same end result.

Making the first component spell something more familiar and easier for me to cast opened up a lot more room for me to improve on the whole. With my strong elemental affinity and deep energy reserves, I could very easily make the little gust stronger, or make it fly faster and farther before “snapping out”. I adjusted the spell to do so, but I wasn’t counting it mentally as an improvement… I had a feeling Acantha would be more generous with the grades if I did something that took more effort.

I tried to make the spark more interesting… coax some color out of it, or make it less of a spark and more of sparkles. It was such a brief and ephemeral thing, though, that even with the greater diagnostic tools available to me I couldn’t find anything in it to “grab” onto. If I cast the spark directly I could twist it into a different color before it faded away, but it happened too quickly for me to break down what was happening and translate it into formulaic terms that I could use to tack it onto the other spell.

I thought about swapping out the spark for a tiny little ball of fire which I did know how to do all kinds of tricks with, but then I’d have to figure out anchoring the link on my own and if it worked I’d be left with an end result that had no part in common with the spell I started out with. I didn’t know Acantha’s style well enough yet to guess if she would take that as me showing initiative or taking a lazy shortcut. Since i couldn’t deny that making fire was easier for me than what we’d been given to do, I decided not to risk it.

But just thinking about that gave me an idea that I thought would give me some points for ambition. We had the air linked to the lightning by tying air to air… the lightning had fire in it, so why couldn’t I copy the link spell but change it around so it relates to fire? Puff of air becomes tiny little spark of lightning becomes little ball of fire. Acantha’s personal demonstration version had switched the air out for an actual cloud and the spark for a tiny stylized thunderbolt, so I had a feeling she’d appreciate something showy like that.

My first attempt at casting a three-spell chain fizzled out completely… there just wasn’t enough power in it to sustain the whole thing and it collapsed while it was still a puff of air. Apparently there was a bit of inefficiency inherent in the structure, because I’d put enough power into the thing to cast each of the component spells individually.

The second time I tried it, I was glad that I was scrupulously obeying the safety instructions and casting the spell at the containment circle on my tabletop, because I overcompensated and the spark turned into a three-foot pillar of flame when it hit it. I wasn’t going for a conflagration, just a little puff of fire. It took a few tries for me to work my way back and forth between too much and too little, but in the end I had it. Because the spark was bluish, I colored the flame blue, just for fun.

“Some of you are burning through your energy stores,” Acantha announced. “That’s why we have powerstones. Don’t exhaust yourselves… if you can’t keep trying to cast, then work on it on a conceptual level for now, rest, and then complete the practical assignment later.”

I looked back at the timepiece over the door. There were only about fifteen minutes left in the class. I definitely wanted to turn my assignment in before I left… I’d become a lot better about keeping on top of things like that, but there was no sense taking homework from my first class of the day if I could avoid it.

I began binding my spell into the wand. I figured that if longer range was kind of an easy enhancement that she might not give full credit for, the fire would probably exceed expectations enough to make up for it. It took me a good five minuts to lay down the first charge, and after that I probed it carefully in every way I could think of to make sure it was actually in there right… I didn’t want to test it by discharging the spell, since it had taken so long to do it in the first place.

The subsequent charges were a little bit easier, both because I had done it before and because the pattern was right there to be copied. I had time and energy enough to get an extra charge in there, which I used up with a test cast, just to be double sure that I was turning in something that worked.

I finished without much time to spare at all, and was among about a third of the students in coming forward with a wand to lay on Acantha’s desk.

“Take a tag from the pile,” she said. “Tie it to your wand and tear off the perforated tab. Retain the tab; do not write your name on the tag or on the wand.”

I liked the attempt at impartiality, though as she’d just watched us working for the past hour and had offered direct help to several students I figured she would probably have a pretty good idea who had done what. Especially since only a small number of students had bought ready-made wands that could be mistaken for each other.

Mine were lovingly hand-crafted from only the finest sticks I’d picked up off only the finest ground… crude, but with the advantages that comes from enchanting something you’ve worked with your own hands.

After I tagged my wand and set it down, Acantha stopped and grabbed at the staff… or rod, in its current shrunken form… that hung from my belt.

“You did this after our first class,” she said. She’d managed to unhook it in one fluid motion. I wasn’t sure how that was possible, but Steff had pulled off more impressive feats involving undoing things I was wearing and she was only half-elven.

“Uh, yeah,” I said. The first day of class had mostly been about classroom procedure, but those procedures had included some simple enchantment techniques.

“I didn’t teach you how to maintain a spell like this,” she said. “Store a spell uncast as a charge, yes, but not cast it and keep it going.”

“Not specifically,” I said. “But you taught us the technique for sealing those charges, and I sort of… well, extrapolated.” She was looking at the staff and not me, and though it wasn’t that far off from her usual face, I had the feeling she was looking at it critically. “Did I do it wrong?”

“You didn’t do it right,” she said. “It’s a mess of spaghetti binding. And there are much better ways to accomplish the same goals, that aren’t even any harder.”

“How did you know I didn’t do that before class on Monday?” I asked.

It wasn’t as though I’d brought the staff to class in its full size… the university’s strict campus-wide weapons policy required most students to have a magic weapon with them any time they were outdoors, but as a theoretically dangerous half-demon I had an exemption.

“Because of how it’s done,” she said. “It’s very… loose. Like you haven’t done it before and you’re still feeling your way. That’s good. It means you haven’t grown used to doing it, and that’s good, because you’re going to learn better ways before too long. I like that you’re looking for ways to use what you get in class, but if you’re going to try new things, be sure to keep trying new things. Keep a light touch and keep moving. Don’t get used to doing things one way.”

She handed the staff back to me, and it was hard to tell but I think she felt embarrassed at having grabbed at it. I had to remind myself that she wasn’t used to teaching students in a classroom.

“Thanks,” I said. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

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42 Responses to “Chapter 23: Chained Heat”

  1. Tomo says:

    verybespokiest? maybe very bespokiest?
    “I’d never actually triedto curry favor with” missing a space in tried to

    Current score: 0
    • Tierhon says:

      As for the first. Na, the rushed together way it is seems to fit best, even though it isn’t technically “proper”.

      As for the second … Mmmm curry Nom Nom Nom.

      Current score: 0
  2. tigr says:

    Yay, new chapter 🙂

    And I’ve got important other work to do, so of course I went hunting for typos…

    Found one in the first paragraph, “Human sensibilities can have result in a few conflicting reactions at a sight like an elf wearing a three-piece business suit.” has a “have” too much.

    “I’d never actually triedto curry favor with someone before consciously” is missing a space between the cursive ‘tried’ and ‘to’.

    “There was a soft little phut! sounded as a barely-visible misty projectile shot out of the end.” should be ‘sound’ instead.

    There’s still the [] around “played around” left over from drafting.

    “The ins and outs of chaining spells is something …”, maybe change to ‘are something’…?

    There’s one ‘i’ too many in the fulfilling of “maybe I was fulfililng it more exactly than expected”.

    And this I should be capitalized: “Since i couldn’t deny that making fire was easier for me”

    “It took me a good five minuts to lay down the first charge” -> minutes.

    Current score: 0
    • Cass says:

      Hi, just my tuppence worth – no, the “ins and outs of chaining spells is” is right. is not are 🙂

      Current score: 0
    • BMeph says:

      “…There’s one ‘i’ too many in the fulfilling of “maybe I was fulfililng it more exactly than expected”.”

      No, the ‘i’ and ‘l’ are swapped, but there are as many as needed.

      Current score: 0
    • 'Nym-o-maniac says:


      ““Written in what we call the ‘exploded view’… unlike the simple rack version we worked with before, this spell will not fully functional as written”

      Either “be fully functional” or “fully function,” I think.

      Current score: 0
  3. Alyxe Barron says:


    Yaaay, Mack and Acantha are seeming to get along well, I like that she immediately noticed the staff, as well. THAT is someone who liked enchantment.

    One note on a missing space, though. -sheep- “I’d never actually triedto curry favor with someone”, with “tried” being italicised.


    Current score: 0
  4. CBob says:

    Good stuff as usual.

    And when someone n centuries old tells you stay flexible, take the advice 😉

    (hoping all else is well too)

    Current score: 1
  5. tjhairball says:

    Well! I suspect Mack has impressed the teacher. However, I also suspect that Mack will not realize that Mack has impressed the teacher for a little while.

    Current score: 1
    • Zergonapal says:

      This may be assuming a lot, but I think the way to impress Acantha will be to keep the enchantments efficient and elegant. Simple, simply wouldn’t apply to enchanting.

      Current score: 1
  6. Peter says:

    Love it. I guess I’m a tech geek.

    Current score: 0
  7. jc says:

    “I might have thought of that eventually, but then I’d had more formal training in elemental invocation than anything else that visibly ‘wizardy’ that wasn’t enchantment.”

    I found this somewhat confusing; I think there’s some syntax in there that’s not part of a dialect of English that I know. I’d suggest how to fix it, but I can’t quite tell what it’s trying to say. Maybe the problem lies with the two instances of “that”; I can’t quite decide what part of speech each of them is. Anyway, maybe the sentence could be rephrased in a clearer form?

    Current score: 0
    • Lunaroki says:

      There’s nothing wrong with the construction of the sentence apart from it being a remarkably complex construction that would be easier to understand if it were heard spoken out loud rather than seen written out. I had to stop and work my way through it slowly a time or two to really understand what Mack was saying/thinking here myself, so I understand the confusion. She’s comparing three things at once: Elemental invocation, enchantment, and anything else visibly ‘wizardy’. She’s saying that she’s had more formal training in elemental invocation than in most visibly ‘wizardy’ things, with the exception of enchantment, in which she’s actually had more formal training than in elemental invocation. Not sure how to phrase it better without making the comparison more cumbersome.

      Current score: 0
      • Brenda says:

        “I’d had more formal training in elemental invocation than anything else so visibly ‘wizardy’ that wasn’t enchantment…”

        Current score: 0
        • Cass says:

          It *is* a complicated sentence, I agree. It’s not bad, just complicated. I tried adding commas in my head but they don’t work either. Anyway, it’s a good sentence as it makes us all think 😉

          Current score: 0
  8. Maahes0 says:

    I like that Mack is putting a bit of fire flare in her spells. I hope she keeps this theme up for the whole class. I like seeing her utilize her demonic half when it can help her rather than shove it in a corner and deny it. (Night vision, etc)

    Current score: 0
  9. anon y mouse says:

    “Human sensibilities can have result in a few conflicting reactions at a sight like an elf wearing a three-piece business suit.” – can result, I think

    “I’d never actually triedto curry favor with someone before consciously,” – needs a space between tried and to

    “It solidified into a cloud as it flew a few yards away, which then shout out a tiny bolt of lightning” – do you mean shot out?

    “but then I’d had more formal training in elemental invocation than anything else that visibly ‘wizardy’ that wasn’t enchantment” – this seems off somehow, but I can’t come up with anything better

    “Since i couldn’t deny that making fire was easier for me than what we’d been given to do, I decided not to risk it.” – cap i

    Current score: 0
  10. Chris says:

    used complimentary bits of air-magic

    I think you want ‘complementary’.

    Great chapter – I love getting into the nitty-gritty of how the magic system works.

    Current score: 0
  11. Lunaroki says:

    Typo Report

    Some of the teenagers might think their parents’ tastes are hopeless outdated

    Should be “hopelessly”.

    which then shout out a tiny bolt of lightning and disappeared with a loud pop!

    Unless it did so in a very loud voice I suspect the cloud “shot” out a tiny bolt of lightning.

    this spell will not fully functional as written

    Perhaps “is not fully functional” or “will not be fully functional”?

    Current score: 0
  12. Kevin Brown says:

    Well every typo I spotted has been accounted for, and there were a lot of them which made it look like you were rushing the chapter out before to many people got impatient. AE, please don’t burn yourself out trying to keep us happy after all a burned out author is an author who isn’t writing.

    Edit: That last sentence was meant to imply that we want you to keep writing, it felt sort of vague.

    Current score: 0
  13. Zathras IX says:

    Cunning Linguistics:
    Acantha is a Greek name
    Meaning “Full of Thorns”

    Current score: 1
  14. Brenda says:

    Thank you for the chapter! I hope you’re finding your way back to a routine that makes things easier for you!

    Current score: 0
  15. readaholic says:

    Om nom nommy nom. Very enjoyable chapter. Interesting cultural insight with humans preferring elvish models and fashion designers, and a nice comment on the modern fashion industry, topped off with a hefty dose of magic-building. Very satsifying, and well worth the wait.

    Current score: 0
  16. Voyuer says:

    Hm, I wonder if Mack reads ahead of the class and tries to work out more on her own will it impress the teacher or make her seem like a suck up?

    I’ve known teachers who’ve disliked students who got ahead of class schedule and would ridicule them in class; others would love it and praise them. Just wondering which type this one is.

    Current score: 0
    • Bramble says:

      If Acantha is more used to having apprentices than students, I suspect that she won’t appreciate the “this is class; this is the rest of my life” divide that college students can get. That is, I think she’ll have a lot more patience and respect for people who are interested in knowledge and skills than for people who are interested in a grade, and I’d say that Mack reading ahead, experimenting, and attempting to apply what she learns in this class to make the rest of her life better or easier would put her firmly in the “knowledge and skills” category.

      For all of her trouble staying on task with life in general, Mack is passionate, interested, and motivated in regards to enchantment, and from what we’ve seen of Acantha, I think she’ll appreciate that.

      Current score: 0
      • Zukira Phaera says:

        Definitely. That was a critique with constructive criticism not a giving of hell.

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  17. Goinstadi says:

    I quite enjoy the intricacies of your magic system AE. Even with the roughness to the chapter, it was interesting and fun to read.

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  18. Ky says:

    Aw, awesomes! I want more, this is fun, and I love the fashion thing. If you ever can’t finish a proper story I wouldn’t mind a behind the scenes fashion and culture monologue like the one at the head of this as an update. This is a really exciting chapter too 🙂

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  19. erratio says:

    lol spaghetti binding. So I guess enchantment is the MU equivalent of programming then?

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    • Anthony says:

      You didnlt have that figured out about 3 years ago or so? 😛

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      • erratio says:

        I’m a programmer myself, so it was kind of a not seeing the forest for the trees thing :p

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  20. Nobody says:

    Delicious. <3

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  21. Iason says:

    Great chapter, thank you AE.
    Always enjoy Mac geeking out and you do some superb writing when you are describing the workings of magic.
    Also very much enjoyed the initial thoughts on the elves. It all seems very “alive” when seen through Mac’s eyes like that.

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  22. Christie Ward says:

    I really enjoyed this installment. Maybe because my own geekish thought process works kind of this way, but I could also feel the emotions Mack was putting out as she worked through the assignment.

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  23. Bramble says:

    I love these kinds of chapters… and I’m starting to realize that there might be a bit of a reason why I signed up for “Intro to Robotics” next semester to fill out my schedule with enough units rather than grabbing another visual arts or humanities class. (Although I’m also really looking forward to seeing more of Mack’s design class, as that’s more my usual fare and it’s really cool seeing the MUniverse version.)

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  24. Sindyr says:

    Husband and I enjoy the story as always! Thanks for the fantastic update.

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  25. Hatamoto says:

    AE – The magic geek / wonk in me is elated with the latest. 🙂 Thanks!

    PS – Aside from a slightly higher than usual typo count this time around, I didn’t see any indication of the unpleasantness you blogged about having any effect on the work. It flowed nicely and felt cohesive, no disjoint. Glad you took the time to recover from the drama and it showed in the results.

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  26. Trystia Indraea Olyphis Farrower says:

    I always found that what teachers tended to appreciate the most was when students expanded on the assignment in a way that showed a mastery of the concept being covered, which is what Mackenzie has done here. The purpose of the assignment is to practice with a spell that binds two energies together, and she bound -three- into a single spell.

    Now, some professors will get annoyed because the student will have nothing to do when they finally get around to the topic of binding three energies together. Others will wonder how the student will continue to push boundaries and earn As for those future assignments, an let them know they’ll be expecting a lot from them. After all, high expectations draw far more out of a student, and the best teachers want their students to excel and succeed.

    Best teachers I’ve ever had were always the hardest graders. I learned so much more, so much faster, when I knew I could never rest on laurels. So, I was always taking on the hardest option from courses, and incorporating as much of what we’d learned as I could. Final project in a data structures class? Make darned sure to use at least one of every kind of data structure… appropriately. I added so many features, just so that everything was a correct use rather than just forcibly inserted into a spot something else would work better. And I knew I had an A in the class, because I had worked until I felt I deserved it.

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  27. Chips says:

    I think she may become my second favorite instructer at MU!

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  28. pedestrian says:

    I always found it very useful, throughout my years working in several different businesses, to suck up to the secretaries, receptionists, etc. Before executives learned to use computers {blame MS solitaire} their secretary’s actually ran the businesses. Their communication networking kept me informed of opportunities and challenges.

    I can remember several raises and a couple of promotions I achieved partially for all the effort I devoted to cozening up to the people who told the executives what to do and handled the paperwork. Courtesy as its own reward!

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  29. pedestrian says:

    I want to add my agreement to all the people complementing Alexandra on the wit and wisdom of her character development. And express my envy at how A.E. has managed to invent and expand upon an intelligently coherent cosmology and philosophe {classical definition} based upon structured magic.

    Since no one else has brought this up and maybe it’s just my natural cynicism speaking {Paranoia is Your Friend, Pay Attention!}such as Acantha filling in for Leclerc at the last minute.

    I am getting an uneasy feeling that there are manipulations going on behind the scene. Perhaps there have been problems finding instructors willing to teach that demon girl.

    Perhaps Daddy Dearest is doing a Hannibal Lector and making sure that his darling daughter is receiving the best education possible by removing less then perfect educators.

    Though LAW is another possibility if they want Mack pre-trained in certain esoteric skills that are based upon her own peculiar talents. Perhaps Mackenzie could take a belly-dancing course?

    All her courses this semester will improve Our Macks combat skills. And yes I am including the outre Design Class.

    Snap recognition of patterns, perception of hidden design features, adaptation to differing circumstances of design and production, camouflage – how to recognize it and use it, manipulation of the user/viewers perceptions and prejudices, all these and more will be ingrained in her by the end this class.

    Ms. Alexandra Erin, if perhaps I am stepping on your toes, please forgive me. I would plead that my enthusiasm for your literary masterpiece has outstripped my good manners.

    Unless you have already diagrammed Mackenzie’s post-college life?

    All these courses she is taking, throw in a couple of languages and her polyamorous education and the resulting graduate would be recruited by the CIA/LAW in a flash.

    An alternative would be internship at the Palatium and become a special operative for the Empress?

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  30. Khazidhea says:

    “There was a soft little phut! sounded as a barely-visible misty projectile shot out of the end. It solidified into a cloud as it flew a few yards away, which then shout out a tiny bolt of lightning”
    Seems to me that it should either be ‘a soft little phut! sounded’ or ‘There was a soft little phut sound’. Also which then ‘shot’ out a tiny bolt of lightning.

    I should have said earlier, but I don’t mind you deleting any of these comments after they’ve been seen, and if they’re not actually helpful feel free to let me know and I’ll stop.

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