Chapter 35: The Local Genius (A Brief History Of Violence)

on September 29, 2011 in Volume 2 Book 2: The Trouble With Twyla, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which There Occurs A Partisan Dispute

I decided to take Amaranth’s advice and get in touch with Professor Bohd during the break between my afternoon classes… not just because that let me put off doing anything about it, but because it would give me enough time to swing by her office in person. If I showed up early and she was in, there wouldn’t even necessarily have to be a conversation about the unworkable appointment time.

I found an interesting addition when I arrived in Professor Swain’s classroom: a circular folding table with a detailed model of the part of the campus around the student union on it had been set up on the dais. The union building, with its big class front and kind of domed arch or arched dome over the main lobby area was recognizable even from a distance, which led my eyes to pick out such details as the pent and Leda’s memorial.

It seemed really detailed for its size, which made me wonder what its purpose was. The class was on local hazards, and there had been at least one high-profile student death in that area… but we all walked through it every day. I would have thought that kind of complicated visual aid would be more useful in less well-traveled areas.

Unless there were some specific features highlighted that weren’t immediately obvious…

I still had a few minutes before class, by the timepiece. I looked around the classroom to try to see if the professor was in attendance yet, but if she was, she wasn’t standing out. I figured that meant I was safe. It was hard to make a serious study of gnomish unnoticeability, but one of the impressions I’d picked up over the months of associating with Two’s friend Hazel was that they seemed to recede further into the background when they were deeply involved with something and became somewhat easier to spot when they wanted attention.

With a boldness that only curiosity can give me, I headed down to the center of the classroom and mounted the stage. Up close, the model’s intricacy was even more apparent. The individual trees weren’t just generic hobby shop models, they were all unique… and as far as I could tell, they did correspond with actual trees on the actual grounds. I had a suspicion that the rocks lining the paths near the union were similarly representative, though I couldn’t claim to know that for sure.

I started to suspect that rather than a model, it was an intricate illusion… I wasn’t sure if the fact that I could smell the grass and the trees made that more likely, or less.

“Hey there,” a voice said just behind me. “You checking out my baby?”

I jumped, then climbed back into my skin and turned around to see Eloise Desjardins, Professor Swain’s TA for the class.

“It’s alright!” she said, valiantly but ultimately tragically attempting to stifle a giggle. “I did bring it for show and tell. Thank you for not touching it, though. What do you think of it?”

“It’s… seriously pretty cool,” I said. Eloise was a druid, though not religiously. If she’d made the map, that made it more likely it wasn’t just illusion. I was pretty sure that druid magic included illusions, but it would also include making actual plants. “Those tiny trees are real, then?”

“Yeah, it’s all part of my pet project,” she said. “A three-dimensional living geomantic map of the environs of the river valley. It’s not complete yet.”

“So what we’re looking at here isn’t the whole thing?” I asked.

“Good guess,” she said.

“It’s not much of a guess… it would be hard to assemble a map out of circular pieces.”

“Yeah, the map’s not a circle,” she said. She waved a hand and the viewpoint began to drift along the paths. “The table just has a circular interface to it woven into it, to make it easier to work with. The actual map is only a third the scale you’re seeing it at, but it’s already bigger than a house. I keep it in a cavern I’m renting from the dwarves. I had to agree to some harsh penalty clauses, and even then they only let me in because they trust druids.”

“I didn’t know dwarves have a druidic tradition,” I said, watching the map move. It was dizzying to look too near the edges, where things disappeared or came into view, but watching near the center wasn’t much different from watching TV or viewing an image in a crystal ball.

“They don’t,” she said. “But druids have a secret-keeping tradition, and the dwarves trust that.”

“Do you really need dwarven-level security for a project like this?” I asked.

“It’s not about the security,” she said. “The dwarves charge more than traditional lab space would cost, but I have funding from the IRGS. Of course, that’s just one more reason to work with dwarves.”

“Oh?”

“It makes it that much less likely that I’ll wake up one day and find my map replaced with a thank-you note from John Law,” she said. “That’s just a side benefit, though. No one else has the square footage I need… not without some kind of space-folding enchantments, and I’m told that would interfere with the interface.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Mixing dimensional enchantments can get tricky.”

“I was told there might be tentacles involved, and I’m not sure if that was a joke or not.”

“Tentacles, explosions, vortexes… all kinds of things can go wrong,” I said.

“Are you a transportation major?”

“Applied enchantment.”

“Oh, that explains it,” she said. “You’re one of the folks who likes to know how everything works. Watch this… it isn’t part of the presentation for the class, but you’ll probably enjoy it.”

She waved a hand towards the table, and suddenly the color of everything changed slightly. That was when I realized that everything on the table had been illuminated by a second light source that wasn’t falling on anything else.

“I just killed the sunball inside the cave,” she said. “It makes it a little easier to see the cool stuff come out.”

She moved her hand slightly and a soft green glow began to creep up the tiny branches of the trees. A weaker glow suffused the lawn. Eldritch purple-blue streams of energy flowed across the campus grounds.

The viewpoint was still on the move, letting me see how the energy levels fluctuated around the campus. Everywhere there was a building, the green glow seemed to recede away slightly. There were a couple of exceptions. Coombes’ Tomb, as the necromancy building was called, was surrounded by a blank and barren spot. The elven-influenced Archimedes Center for Student Life not only had the green life glow coming right up to it, it had veins of it crawling all over it.

In a couple of places the energy flow took a sharp turn to go around a building, though a couple of them… the halls where arcane magic were taught… were at the juncture of multiple streams.

“The violet stuff is ley-lines, though you probably already know that,” Eloise said. “This is an enhanced illusion with the background energy filtered out… if you were actually seeing all the magic in the area, the level on the lines wouldn’t be that much higher than the surrounding stuff.”

I nodded. That was one reason that few wizards bothered with any conscious use of ley-lines. In olden days when magic had been even less well understood there had been schools of magic that swore by them, but they rarely mattered enough to be worth charting. If you were laying down the foundation for a new workshop or a tower of wizardry, yeah, it didn’t hurt anything to find the highest concentration of magic in an area, but you didn’t need to travel along the lines for everyday spell-casting.

“What does it look like around the labyrinth?” I asked her.

That ancient site, probably once intended as a prison of some kind, was now a playground for local delving students. I’d spent more than enough time inside it for one lifetime, but it was supposed to be one of the most potently magical sites in the country.

“I’ve never been able to get a clear picture,” she said. “The flow of energy around it is really complex. It would take a lot of high-level divination and thaumatology to sort that out. Obviously I couldn’t model the labyrinth interior for the map, so it’s just a little brick wall… pretty boring, really.”

“Oh,” I said. I knew I wouldn’t manage to not sound disappointed, so I immediately added, “It’s still really cool.”

“Isn’t it?” she said. “Making the world in miniature is more fun than I’d expected. I started off just making a two-dimensional chart, but then I found all these places where the energy flow is different below ground, or above it… once I started modeling topology, it just seemed like a natural step. You wouldn’t believe how many requests I get to do landscapes for that stone soldiers game. If I had time, I wouldn’t need imperial funding.”

“What’s it for?” I asked. “You aren’t just charting ley-lines, are you?”

“No,” she said. “There are charts of those that are good enough for most purposes. I’m interested in macro-entities.”

“Macro-entities?”

“Like a forest as a living thing,” she said. “Or a river system. Or even a city. You know? A macro-entity is the life and mind that emerges from the sum total of physical systems, energy flows, and living organisms that make up a complex system.”

“Oh,” I said. It was all I said… a year at college does a lot more than four years of high school can do to prepare one for the shocking eventuality of hearing about something one has never considered might exist.

“I’ve lost you, haven’t I?”

“Not completely,” I said.

“Well, let’s start with something simple, like a bureaucracy,” she said. “A bureaucracy is made up of rules, traditions, and personalities. When you try to interact with any part of that bureaucracy, you’re actually interacting with the interplay of all of those things, and the bureaucracy’s action in a given case might be contrary to what any one person would have decided and even different from what we might predict based on the bureaucracy’s stated ethos.”

“And this makes it alive?”

“It makes approaching the bureaucracy as a living, breathing thing a sensible approach.”

“So you’re charting the land to try to figure out how to communicate with bureaucratic entities?”

That made her laugh.

“My work is more about how to approach big complex things in general,” she said. “There has been a lot of work done in druidism about how to relate to things like the weather, or the local bird or fish populations, or whatever, and not a lot about what it means when a building is plopped down somewhere or a city grows up somewhere. The assumption has always been that these things are a total disruption to the natural systems.”

“Doesn’t your map show that?”

“Well, yeah… they do disrupt things, but that doesn’t mean the process ends there,” she said. “Each building has its own energy, and when you have a group of buildings associated together and linked as part of an institution, like on campus… well, have you ever met the Emily Center? If one building is… good morning, Professor!”

“Good morning, Ms. Desjardins,” Professor Swain said, having joined us at some point. “Would you mind putting the map back before we begin?”

“Oh, right,” Eloise said, waving her hand at the table. “I’ll just grab your stepladder… good talking to you again, Mackenzie.

“You’re welcome to stay right where you are,” the professor said to me just as I was turning to retreat back up to my desk. “I think you’ll find the view’s much better from here.”

“The professor is here,” Eloise announced to the classroom at large. She waited a few seconds for everyone to sit down and look down towards her, then gestured to where Professor Swain now stood atop a stepladder. “Professor?”

“Thank you, Ms. Desjardin. Good morning’, folks,” she said. “Congratulations to all on making it through a week of classes. That’s a milestone well worth celebrating, but we’ve a lot of ground to cover and I don’t want to tire anyone out before their observation of the most holy night of the college student’s liturgical calendar, Saturday Eve… so let’s jump right in. Are you ready?”

She tipped her head in Eloise’s direction, who nodded and stepped forward.

“Absolutely, Professor,” she said with a smile.

I had the feeling that she liked showing off her “baby”, and she had plenty of reason to. The detail and craftsmanship would have been worth a healthy dose of pride alone, but the way she interfaced with it was a cool effect, and possibly unprecedented in several ways. Setting it all up would have required solving some of the same problems faced by TV makers, and druid magic was rarely used for any kind of modern applied enchantment.

“Wonderful!” the professor said. “You folks are all in for a bit of a treat for the next few sessions… we’re going to be deviating from the planned curriculum very slightly, due to an unexpected opportunity.

“The only reason that most of you are here… the only reason I have to cross over to the main campus three times a week… is that the school grounds are not the sanctuary we all might like to think they are. Every semester a few students learn this the hard way. Now you lucky lot get to learn it the easy way, via a tour of the campus and its environs we’ll be taking for the next week. Thanks to the ingenious, ah, druidry of our very capable teaching assistant, we won’t even have to leave the classroom.

“The campus grounds really are fairly safe, all things considered. But if you learn just one thing in this class… well, then I suppose you’ll fail, because I’m not allowed to hand in a final exam with but one question on it. I suppose I didn’t really think that one through.”

“What if they internalize just one general principle?” Eloise suggested.

“Oh, yes, right,” the professor said. “But if you internalize just one general principle, it should be that safety is relative. It’s not an either/or thing where you’re either entirely safe or in imminent peril. A load of students follow the safety rules for a week or two, or through their first semester and a half… when they realize they’ve never once needed their weapons or seen anything going bump in the night, they decide that the rules are just a bunch of rubbish designed to keep them in line.

“This is the part where… if you’re the sort of person who’s apt to do that in the first place… you’ll probably expect me to say that those people are all going to wind up dead. But no. It doesn’t work like that. If it did, nobody would ever feel safe enough to throw the rules out the window. We wouldn’t even need the rules. You’d go about armed and hide indoors at night because you’d see the sense in it without being made to.

“Now, some folks don’t have to go to college to learn that they need to be on their guard at all times. Some folks don’t find it upends their whole world view when they learn that they take their lives into their hands when they cross a well-lit plaza or footpath after dark. Quite a few of the folks in this room, though, could probably stand to learn those lessons before they need them.”

Eloise waved her hand over the table, and its contents shifted around a little, though staying more or less focused on the union. It was a little less disorienting to watch from a distance, but it had been better up close.

“Those of you who don’t mind standing, feel free to come down and crowd around,” Professor Swain said as she lifted a long baton in her hand. “It’s well worth seeing. I’ll have a projector in place by Monday, hopefully, but this was in the way of being an impromptu addition to our curriculum, since Ms. Desjardins happened to mention her work to me last night at a sort of informal interdepartmental mixer.”

The table now showed the area around the student union and the pent, but it had “pulled back” a bit to cover more of the grounds. with Gilcrease and Paradox Towers back around it to the northwest and the admin building and a few other administration-related buildings a bit to the east. The tops of the two towers were cut off by the interface, revealing hollow cardboard insides. To judge by the curve, there was a dome-shaped field of effect, maybe about half as high as the table was wide.

“Now, even the freshers here should be familiar with this general area,” the professor said. “You ought to at least recognize the union and the towers, if that helps you get your bearings. Once upon a time, this was the center of the campus, going from east to west. Can you slide her south, Ms. Desjardins? Let’s get a nice overview of our area.”

“The map or the view?” Eloise asked.

“The view,” Professor Swain said. “As though we were heading south ourselves.”

“Right.”

I understood what Eloise had meant by the question… when she slid the viewpoint south, all the buildings and grounds seemed to be moving north. The towers disappeared and then so did the little administrative neighborhood and the union as the easternmost school halls and non-vertical dormitories came into view.

“There’s Smith Hall,” the professor said. “The history department throws some excellent parties… now, if you ever join the faculty of a university you’ll soon learn that every department thinks they throw the best parties. As an impartial judge and natural student of the art form, I of course know the truth, but I couldn’t possibly say it because then the other departments would stop inviting me.”

“It’s the bardic arts department, isn’t it?” Eloise said.

“You’d think so, wouldn’t you?”

“I’ve been to their parties and do think so.”

“I won’t say you’re wrong, but only because they’re good enough that I wouldn’t like to be disinvited,” Professor Swain said. “And as they say, ‘better a bad epitaph…’ But no, just between you, me, the walls, and the students, it isn’t the bards, and I should know.”

“What exactly makes you the best judge?” Eloise asked.

“It’s my culture, isn’t it?” Professor Swain said. “We invented parties.”

“I’d think that’s more the sort of thing that any culture might ‘invent’ independently.”

“That’s a good guess, but you’d be wrong. The first party was a birthday party thrown by a gnomish mother who wanted her babe and herself to have a chance to experience the natural jubilation that had surrounded the child’s birth the year before. She did it again the next few years out of concern that the child was missing out on some of the finer points, and then it got to be a bit of a tradition.”

I thought it was a shame that Hazel apparently didn’t get along with Professor Swain, because they had similar senses of… well, maybe “humor” wouldn’t be the best word, but they certainly had similar stories. I figured a good half of the Willikins family tree was apocryphal.

“That sounds a little pat to me,” Eloise said.

“Oh, yes, Little Pat was the wee babe’s name,” the professor said. “Patrick Door. Now, he grew up to invent a useful device that revolutionized keeping the weather out, to say nothing of privacy in the privy and boudoir, as they say dans la belle Merové.”

“You’re just messing with me now, aren’t you?”

“Oh, no, not just you… I have a whole class here to mess with,” Professor Swain said. “On that subject, let’s move on… we’ll return to the subject of parties on and off campus at a later date. This swath of the campus on the eastern edge was once the whole campus. There are some newer buildings mixed in… there’s Weyland Hall, built by an alumnus bequest not eleven years ago, and down in the southern corner of this part of campus we have the Em, one of the newest buildings… but by and large, you’ll find the oldest purpose-built buildings on campus here.

“And more particularly, the oldest protective spells and enchanted pathways. They lack some of the later innovations that are present elsewhere in campus. This is important because when you’re here, you’re right on the edge of the campus. There’s nothing to the east but the main road, which is not a barrier to anything. There’s nothing north of the towers but practice fields and the skirmish pitch. There’s nothing south of the Em but trees. It’s easy to feel like you’re right in the thick of things here, like these old and well-traveled paths are so much a part of the school that nothing would dare intrude on them, but the facts tell a different story. Ms. Desjardins, if you’ll just show those spots I’ve highlighted.”

The map view began to move again, following a path between spots where big red Xs appeared, Professor Swain narrating what… and who… each one represented. I recognized some of them, as I’d been there for the aftermath or heard about them later.

“Young man out jogging or walking in the rain on the tower trail, killed by ghouls,” Professor Swain said. “Young woman partially paralyzed by a spider bite, chased down by ghouls here, died in this ditch here. Three people died under this tree… that is some fantastic detail on that tree, by the way. How do you get the leaves like that?”

“They grow that way,” Eloise said.

“Oh, right,” the professor said. “Anyway, three killed, probably by some sort of nesting creature, though the ghouls leave little for us to go by… you might be noticing a common thread, but notice also that ghouls are only the sole cause of death in one of these cases. Two young lovers out for a late stroll attacked by striges here… one survived, though later dropped out. These all happened in the last academic year, mind you.”

I had a strong suspicion that the one case she had referred to wasn’t a ghoul kill, either… the mermaid Iona had spent nights hunting before she met her own fate, and though I believed she’d more or less followed her kind’s injunction against hunting on dry land, she’d had no problem with bending it to the breaking point… like by killing someone caught out in a torrential downpour.

For that matter, the “nesting creature” might have been Iona, too… her natural form had feathered arms. I kind of doubted that, though. She seemed too opportunistic and not patient enough to lie in wait. It would be tempting to pin as many of the red Xs as possible on her, but that just wasn’t realistic… it wasn’t like the campus had suddenly become dangerous when she enrolled.

Thinking about that made me suddenly consider that maybe she wasn’t the first or only student to prey on classmates after dark. Maybe Iona’s “crime” in the eyes of those who dealt with monsters who happened to also be people was not the fact that she’d killed, but the fact that she’d done so without subtlety or restraint.

She’d certainly picked the wrong person to tear apart for her last victim… someone with important ties and who had been lounging in one of the safer areas of the campus. The fact that she’d been able to get away with her depredations up to that point suggested that there were right victims. Like, people who were wandering where they shouldn’t be after dark.

It was a scarily plausible thought… but one that could easily lead to jumping at shadows. The natural and supernatural dangers of the region were well-documented enough without any imported bogeymen.

The professor was continuing her litany of the dead.

“As we wind our way around the campus’s eastern edge, notice how many of the deaths happened in the area around the union, the pent, and the fountain… the site where the fountain was, I mean,” she said. “I don’t want you to take away from this that this area is the most dangerous. Statistically, it’s fairly safe. That’s why more students hang out there at night than other parts of the campus, and that’s why there are more deaths. The lesson here is that nowhere is safe, only safer. Not to undermine that, but notice how we’re staying away from the admin annex. I don’t know what kind of extra precautions they have there… and nobody will tell me… but monsters seem to give it a wide berth. Think about that if you’re looking for an escape route.”

I thought it likely that there were extra enchantments around the administrative building, but I also imagined that a lot of the local predators steered clear of it because they knew it housed an omega apex predator. Embries could probably have protected the entire campus from routine threats through a simple exercise of his vast will alone, but his attitude on the subject probably amounted to predation happens. A warm body becoming food for the ghouls every now and then wasn’t a problem to be solved but a fact of life.

“Would you like to add something?” the professor said, after Eloise cleared her throat quietly.

“Just a suggestion to not get too close to the main admin building itself at night,” Eloise said. “Since we don’t know what security spells they have.”

Her tone made me suspect that she knew what really protected the building… or possibly it was just my own thoughts that made me hear that in her voice.

“Oh? Good idea, that,” Professor Swain said. “Now, there are no dangerous flora or fauna actually residing on the school grounds. Regular patrols by campus security and students looking for experience credits clear out most things that take up residence. So with the exception of the ghouls, which are common enough and range widely enough to come back again and again to the lights and life they sense on campus, it’d be hard to come up with a concise list of things you might encounter when you go bumping around after dark. You might as well assume that anything that comes up in class might very well stray into your path at some point.”

She resumed the macabre “tour”… I found myself focusing more on the minute details of Eloise’s craftsmanship than on the deaths. It wasn’t that I thought I was beyond the intended lesson… though I really did have no illusions about the safety of the school environs after dark, and wouldn’t have been blasé about ignoring the safety guidelines in any event. It was more just that it was really hard to listen to. My brain tried to drown out the details of the deaths while I tried not to ignore what the teacher was saying completely.

“Now, the three bloodiest nights on campus all year were the Saturday night on the Feast of Veil weekend, after a crucial loss against the Hydras, and in the midst of spring mid-terms… a night of celebration, a night of frustration, and a night of stress. There were other little spikelets of violence on the nights of other Skirmish matches, arena nights, and just before the holidays. Again, patterns to be aware of.”

At the end of the class, Eloise again had to get everybody’s attention back on the professor, as a number of the students still up in their seats had taken the opportunity to do homework or have side conversations.

“Everyone listening?” the professor said. “Good. We’re going to have a bit of an assignment for the weekend. A little light fieldwork, to prepare for the more substantial outings later on. I want you to pick one of the locations we highlighted today and visit it. Go out and visit it… during the daylight, if you please… and note three paths of escape you might use if you were attacked there. You can invent a hypothetical for each path, i.e., why you’d be running in that direction and what you’d be running from. It doesn’t have to be but a page, but please no handwritten papers unless you’re a certified scribe. Ms. Desjardins has informed me that no amount of druidic magic enables one to read chickenscratch.”

As homework assignments that required legwork went, it wasn’t terrible. I wouldn’t even have to make a special trip for it, because the path between my dorm and the student union passed by one of the spots and the dance I was probably going to attend on Saturday was in sight of many of student death sites.

It then immediately occurred to me that this wasn’t an entirely positive thing. I decided to make a special trip somewhere a bit farther afield from where I lived, just so I wouldn’t be thinking about random death and survival plans during a date.


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16 Responses to “Chapter 35: The Local Genius (A Brief History Of Violence)”

  1. Due to a time crunch caused by my still-evolving production schedule, the next regular Tales of MU chapter will not go up until October 4th. The site will receive a content post on Saturday the 1st, containing the first installment of the long-delayed side feature Kin & Distant Relations, which I had planned on having ready for tomorrow. My sincere apologies for both the long delay and this short one.

    We’ve been entering a new era of consistency, reliability, and predictability in posting here so it pains me to deviate even slightly from my stated plans but I believe the quality difference here merits it.

    Also going up on October 1st will be the new official publication schedule. It’ll be a little bit different from what I’ve been doing this month (to avoid end-of-month crunches like this one) but there should be no surprises there for people who read my personal blog (where I tend to hash these things out). The short version is: eight chapters a month, one K&DR installment, three Other Tales. All spaced out at a pace that I can easily sustain or exceed when life hands me ideal conditions and one that I can manage during those oh so rare times when it doesn’t.

    Thank you, as always, for reading.

    Current score: 0
  2. Alyxe Barron says:

    Heyla

    Hee. Professor Swain is a hoot. -g- Also, with “striges”, I keep wanting to either read “stirges” or “strigoi”. Intentional or reversed letters?

    The litany of death was kind of sobering, though. Much mroe violent than my prior perception, which is possibly a good thing to reaffirm the setting.

    -r

    Current score: 0
    • Intentional. “Stirges” is actually a corruption (intentional or not, I’m not sure) of “striges”, which is a plural of “strix”, the ancient Roman beastie from which we also get your “strigoi”.

      (In early editions of D&D, stirges were vampiric birds. The shift of them into weird quadruple-bat-winged-mosquito-things was I suppose a way of affirming their identity as a unique monster in keeping with the altered spelling.)

      Current score: 0
  3. Brenda says:

    I just want to repeat something you already know, AE – short updates are still good! This one’s not that long, but it is quite enjoyable! Mostly because of the professor (also short… coincidence?)

    Something that looked a little off:

    “Now, the three bloodiest nights on campus all year were the Saturday night on the Feast of Veil weekend, after a crucial loss against the Hydras, and in the midst of spring mid-terms… a night of frustration, a night of celebration, and a night of stress…”

    It seems that the second list is out of order. If it were to match directly with the first list, it should be “a night of celebration, a night of frustration, and a night of stress…”
    That threw me because for a moment I was trying to figure out why a loss against the Hydras would be a night of celebration.

    Current score: 0
  4. Zathras IX says:

    Thanks to the TA’s
    Ingenious druidry
    We get the Swain’s tour

    Current score: 0
  5. Miss Lynx says:

    I love Professor Swain so much. My favourite Swainisms this time were:

    “But if you learn just one thing in this class… well, then I suppose you’ll fail, because I’m not allowed to hand in a final exam with but one question on it. I suppose I didn’t really think that one through.”

    and

    “Oh, no, not just you… I have a whole class here to mess with.”

    Current score: 2
  6. readaholic says:

    Om nom nom. A sobering reminder that Iona was not, and is not, even the second most dangerous thing on campus, and you don’t have to be a “monster” to act like one.

    A nice parallel with our world, where a tour of such sites on campus would be very useful for incoming students.

    Current score: 0
  7. Flo says:

    Out of curiosity: is “omega apex predator” a nod to a similar top-down world view to Dee’s? I’m used to seeing alpha as the top of a hierarchy, and omega pulling last and least. Given the number of times you’ve presented POVs where top is least and bottom is best, it struck me as odd, but I’m not sure if it was an intentional inversion.

    I can only imagine that there probably are a fair number of deaths at the admin building… But without any scraps, who’s going to find something to report?

    Current score: 0
    • Not meant to be top-down, no. I suppose a zoologist or ecologist would say “alpha” to mean the top dog in a chain, but a lot of people in less formal contexts use “omega” in the sense of “ultimate”, like Marvel’s “omega level mutants”.

      Current score: 0
      • erianaiel says:

        Omega -is- the final letter in the alphabet after all, so it makes some sense to use it like that.

        Current score: 0
  8. Erm says:

    But if you learn just one thing in this class… well, then I suppose you’ll fail, because I’m not allowed to hand in a final exam with but one question on it. I suppose I didn’t really think that one through.

    =P

    Current score: 0
    • Erm says:

      “That sounds a little pat to me,” Eloise said.

      “Oh, yes, Little Pat was the wee babe’s name,” the professor said. “Patrick Door. Now, he grew up to invent a useful device that revolutionized keeping the weather out, to say nothing of privacy in the privy and boudoir, as they say dans la belle Merové.”

      I keep commenting to quote what I think is the most hilarious part, and keep being wrong. 😛

      Current score: 0
  9. erianaiel says:

    Interesting use of omega apex predator here…

    *sighs* never mind. It was already commented on and explained and I never noticed. Which takes some doing in such a relative short list of comments.

    Current score: 0
  10. Arkeus says:

    I thought it was a shame that Hazel apparently didn’t get along with Professor Swain, because they had similar senses of… well, maybe “humor” wouldn’t be the best word, but they certainly had similar stories. I figured a good half of the Willikins family tree was apocryphal.

    Who is ‘Hazel’? Is she a relative of Two’s Friend Hazel? You really should be clearer here.

    Current score: 0
  11. Arancaytar says:

    “I was told there might be tentacles involved, and I’m not sure if that was a joke or not.”

    “Tentacles, explosions, vortexes… all kinds of things can go wrong,” I said.

    Here in our little village of Arkham, Massachusetts, tentacles get into everything eventually.

    Current score: 1