Chapter 44: Deep Thoughts

on November 8, 2011 in Volume 2 Book 2: The Trouble With Twyla, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Motives Are Questioned

When it was properly morning, I went into the shared bathroom that connected our room to the one that Two shared with Dee and knocked on their door. I wanted to talk about what had happened the night before with someone who could give me a different perspective, and there was a decent chance Dee wouldn’t need any bringing up to speed… though she would politely refrain from acknowledging this unless prompted.

“You may enter, but please close the door behind you,” Dee said from within.

I did as directed, not being too surprised to find her sitting in her meditation position in the nude. She didn’t mind being seen without her vestments on, but that didn’t mean she had no concern about her privacy. I imagined that she preferred to choose how exposed she was.

“Good morning, Dee,” I said. Two was nowhere in sight, though her bunk was neatly made with her teddy bear Hand Wash sitting on top of the pillow. “Did you hear anything last night?”

“No, I did not,” Dee said. “I put a veil of silence up to give you your privacy when I heard that Ian was staying over. I had intended to ask if you felt any effects from proximity to it.”

“No, I didn’t notice it at all,” I said. “It might have been a little uncomfortable if I’d had to get up and go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, but since that never happens… anyway, though, I was asking because something happened and it might have saved some time explaining.”

“I see,” Dee said. “Did you receive another visitation from the demon who fathered you?”

“It’s that obvious?”

“With your life, it would probably not do to underestimate the number of possible misadventures that could occur in a locked bedroom at night,” she said. “But it seemed to me to be the most probable one. Also, my mind tends to roam in the direction of unwanted nocturnal visitors… has he learned ways around the countermeasures that you mastered?”

“Not that I could tell,” I said. The possibility was always in my head that he might have been playing along in some fashion, choosing not to resist when I tried to wake up or exercise his full ability to manipulate my sleeping mind. “I did let him talk a bit longer than I should have, though.”

“I cannot imagine any serious harm was done,” Dee said. “I would advise you to practice vigilance against such laxity in the future, but to dwell on it will serve no purpose.”

“The thing is, one of the things he said has got me thinking…”

“An admirable occupation, in general,” Dee said. “Though thoughts can be as treacherous as words. I these thoughts originated in treacherous words, I would advise caution.”

“I’m being very suspicious of what he came to tell me, believe me,” I said. “But this was more of a side thing… just the way he worded something. I’m kind of wondering if he had anything to do with the death of my mother.”

“You mean that you wonder if he was responsible for it.”

I nodded.

“Is this the first time that the possibility has entered into your head?” Dee asked.

“Did everybody else just assume that he did it and not tell me?” I asked.

“I thought in the first place that you might be in possession of facts regarding the matter and in the second place that it was no business of mine,” Dee said. “But in any case, I apologize… I do not mean to be brusque or presumptuous when we are talking about your mother.”

And to my surprise, she got to her feet and hugged me tightly. The gesture was less awkward physically than I might have imagined… I didn’t think that casual physical contact was very common in Dee’s culture, and I knew that a lot of telepaths avoided it.

I felt plenty awkward… being accustomed to seeing Dee in the nude was not the same thing as touching and being touched by her.

“I’m okay!” I assured her. “Really. I mean, I miss my mom and I would give anything for her to be alive… but that happened years ago. I’m not like reliving her death or anything. Honestly, I’m more mad than anything.”

Dee stepped back, though she kept her hands on my upper arms.

“Where I come from, anger is numbered among the comforting emotions,” Dee said. “That is, one of the emotions that is deserving of and in need of comfort.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because one who is deeply angry has been wronged, and one who has been wronged has been hurt,” Dee said. “And because anger hurts, whether it is expressed or nursed within. It can be a healing pain, but it is pain nonetheless.”

“I appreciate the gesture, but this isn’t something that a hug can make go away,” I said. “Ian held me for most of the night and while I didn’t wake up in a giant frothy rage, I still can’t think about it without getting angry again.”

“I apologize,” Dee said, letting go of me and taking a step back so she could bow slightly. “I did not intend to suggest that your pain is somehow more important than or truer than your anger… my intention is not to blunt your anger, but to lessen the burden of it.”

“I guess I can understand that,” I said. “I mean, it makes sense when you say it, but it’s not how I’m used to thinking about anger. If somebody who is angry needs comfort, it kind of… well, it’s like saying they’re not really angry, or not angry for the right reasons. Like, ‘Okay, what’s really bothering you?'”

Dee nodded once.

“I have noticed that within human society, often the only time that the pain of anger is acknowledged is when someone is attempting to minimize or deflect the anger by focusing attention elsewhere,” she said. “The way that my people practice comfort, this need not be the case.”

“So you think my anger is justified?” I asked.

“It would not be my place to pass judgment on your anger,” she said. “But I believe your interest in the truth of your mother’s fate is well-placed.”

“Even though I might not be able to prove anything, or do anything about it if I can?”

“It is important to you,” Dee said. “She is important to you. This may not be a particularly practical concern, but the practical value of familial bonds depends on many things that seem impractical. Even when my ancestors were wandering in the wilds and fighting constantly for their own survival, they did not expunge all sentiment from their hearts. You said that this was a ‘side thing’… what was the principle excuse for his visit?”

“It had to do with Twyla,” I said. “But ‘principle excuse’ is an interesting phrase. I don’t think he showed up wanting to make me think he killed my mother… what would he gain?”

“Perhaps it would be easier to understand his motive in a particular thing if you could better understand the larger motives underlying all his actions,” Dee said. “You take it as an article of faith that he does not show up out of what one would call ‘fatherly concern’?”

“Yeah,” I said. “At best… absolute best… I could believe that he has an image in my head of the daughter he’d want, and that he’s acting in her best interests: encouraging me to see the rest of the world as enemies, trying to get me to treat my friendships like they’re strategic alliances… and to get me away from people who can get between him and me.”

“Interesting,” Dee said.

“How so?”

“You might have been describing what is a somewhat popular philosophies among elves,” Dee said. “Of all colors, I believe, though I am most familiar with it as it is practiced among my own kind. Proponents treat all interpersonal interactions as a potential power struggle and an opportunity to solidify one’s position socially. They practice the arts of conversation and social politics in the same way that warriors drill at swordplay.”

“I take it that you’re not a true believer,” I said. Dee was more formal in her friendships… and everything else… than anyone else I knew, but she was hardly mercenary about it. She valued friendship for its own sake, and would throw away a considerable advantage to help a friend.

“I am not,” Dee said. “There are practitioners of the way of the manifold mind… or possibly tongue, or mind and tongue, as it might be rendered somewhat clumsily in Pax… within my house, but it did not have a strong foothold when I left. But I did not bring this up for reasons of idle cultural comparison. If someone who followed the way came to me and warned me of external dangers, I would assume that their desire was to position the two of us as allies, to bind themselves up with me in a web woven of mistrust.”

“I just figured he was trying to get me to see things from a demon’s point of view,” I said.

“That may be so,” Dee said. “Or both things may be true.”

“I really see what you mean about how this would be easier if I knew what he was after overall,” I said. “I don’t trust his motives, but I don’t have a clue what they are.”

“Another thought has occurred to me,” Dee said. “Though I am… somewhat hesitant… to give voice to it.”

“What is it?” I asked.

“While it is possible that your mother never truly knew him or vice-versa, there are a number of possible scenarios that depend on him having gained her trust enough to get close to her,” Dee said. “She was, I believe, somewhat young when she birthed you?”

“Younger than I am now,” I said. “And yeah, it has crossed my mind that he might have used similar tricks to get close to my mother, but that doesn’t tell me what he’s after. Obviously it isn’t the same thing he wanted from her.”

“Forgive me for asking… but is it truly so obvious as all that?”

“Okay, um… I’m going to be the last person to defend demons,” I said, “but just being amoral and willing to do sick and twisted things doesn’t actually give him a motivation to do any random thing just to be twisted. Demons have ‘appetites’, yeah, but I don’t think they get off on perversity for its own sake.”

“This is why I was hesitant,” Dee said. “I was aware there is something of a taboo among humans regarding the same man fathering a child on two generations of the same female line, but I was not certain how strong it was.”

“Something of a taboo? Dee, you’re talking about a man having sex with his daughter,” I said.

“Well, things are a bit different for us, as we don’t trace blood relationships on the male side and individuals of differing generations will spend centuries at the same level of physical maturity… a man who proves to be an acceptable match for one woman of a line may well prove to be equally compatible with another woman of the line,” Dee said. “Some care is taken to ensure that the same well is not returned to too many times in too rapid succession, but a mother and adult daughter sharing a mate who may have been a distant participant in the daughter’s genesis is not viewed any differently from the two of them sharing any other mate. It is different, of course, if the mother and male are exclusively bound… in that case it would be viewed as ‘cheating’, and be borderline incestuous, as well.”

“We really come from different cultures,” I said. Well, I’d come to her for a different perspective.

“Indeed,” Dee said. “And in case, my assumption would not be that the man in question would be pursuing you ‘for the sake of perversity’, as you put it, any more than he necessarily did so with your mother.”

“I don’t think he was after her companionship,” I said. “My operating theory is that he was trying to stick it to my grandmother.”

“That may have formed a secondary motivation,” Dee said, “but I imagine he could have found a more straightforward and obvious way to strike at her through her child if that were his only goal. Do you imagine he thinks much of the taboo that has you reacting with such vehemence to this idea?”

“No, but he really hasn’t given me any impression that he’s interested in that,” I said.

“He also hasn’t made any progress in gaining your trust,” Dee said. “I can’t imagine he would expose his designs to you prematurely. But… I know nothing of him, save what you have told me and what I have overheard you telling others. All of my information is secondhand or worse. If you don’t think it is likely, perhaps you are in a better position to judge.”

“I’m not in a position to judge anything,” I said. “I just… if he wanted to get laid, or get someone knocked up, or whatever, there are easier targets. I’ve done nothing but push him away, and I’ve never even seen him in the flesh.”

“Not so far as you are aware of,” Dee added.

“Yeah,” I said. I shook my head. “We really are talking in circles, though, because no matter what guesses we make, we’re still stuck with what you said at the start: without knowing his larger motives, it’s hard to figure out anything.”

“I apologize for having raised a disquieting possibility while providing no true insight,” Dee said.

“No, the insight is there,” I said. “And the possibility is there… it’s as likely as anything else, really, and if nothing else it just gives me one more reason not to trust him even an inch. From here on out, my mind’s going to be a fortress again. I’ll miss as much sleep as I have to in order to keep him out.”

“That might limit your opportunities to examine his motives,” Dee said, “but I think it is the best approach. Your relative inexperience will leave you more exposed than he is, in any mental confrontation. But if I may say, this does not seem to leave you with many avenues of inquiry to pursue.”

“Ian came up with some ways to look into my mother’s death without involving him,” I said. “I think that’s the best bet. If it was something suspicious, or violent, or obviously demon-related… well, that won’t be proof, but it might be a sign to look further.”

“Is there anyone you could ask about the circumstances of your mother’s pregnancy?”

“I’d say just my grandmother and I’m not willing to ask her, but… I don’t know that she’d know much about it,” I said. “I know that my mother was living on her own when she had me, and I don’t think she would have been impregnated by a demon if it had happened in front of her.”

“Do you recall any neighbors from your childhood? Any friends your mother had?”

“Nothing’s really jumping out at me,” I said. “We moved a couple of times when I was really young… she never seemed that close to anyone… though she did talk to her sister even when she wasn’t talking to her mother.”

“If you don’t feel any strong antipathy towards your aunt, perhaps she could provide some information,” Dee suggested.

“I suppose,” I said. “I’m not sure exactly how I’d approach her, or what I’d say, or how to make it anything but a way of giving my grandmother another route back into my life…”

“If she and her sister were close, I imagine you have little to worry about.”

“I barely remember her,” I said. “What’s it going to look like, me contacting her out of nowhere after so many years?”

“A reunion,” Dee said, and I couldn’t really argue with that.


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54 Responses to “Chapter 44: Deep Thoughts”

  1. Burnsidhe says:

    I never thought of anger from that perspective before.

    Very accurate, very insightful.

    Current score: 2
    • Zukira Phaera says:

      I sense some introspection in Dee’s view on anger. *hugs for AE and Jack*

      Current score: 2
    • Emma says:

      That’s pretty much how anger is described in therapy – coming from a root of pain and/or fear. Or at least according to the therapist I had as a teenager! She mostly practiced CBT but I think most mental health professionals would agree.

      Current score: 0
      • SongCoyote says:

        As I read this, my fevered brain used a very different definition for CBT – one that I’d probably better not explain (at least, not here) to anyone who doesn’t already know 😉

        I really enjoy when relatively alien races’ approach to life is expounded upon in these stories. As a bit of a xenophile myself I have a particular appreciation for unusual ways to approach life, society, etc. Thanks, AE, for putting such amazing insights into your story! It makes the world much more colorful and alive, and has a lot to do with why I’ve kept reading for so many years.

        Light and laughter,
        SongCoyote

        Current score: 0
  2. Alyxe Barron says:

    Heyla

    Yay, what a Dee-lightful chapter. -g- I love how exposition on the subterranean elven culture flowed so naturally and I quite agree… that view on anger was interesting.

    -r

    Current score: 1
  3. Ariel says:

    Bwah?? there is an aunt??!

    Current score: 0
    • Seth Gray says:

      I’m fairly certain it’s been mentioned that Grandbitch Blaise had multiple children.

      Current score: 0
    • Lesath says:

      Yeah, this was established in one of the side stories already.

      Current score: 0
    • ayla says:

      Early on, Mackenzie said that during her childhood Martha was able to provide virgin blood for her by collecting it from her “cousins.” Also, in the OT where Mackenzie’s mom first meets The Man, it’s shown that Laurel Anne had an older sister.

      Current score: 0
      • Brenda says:

        There was another OT story where Little Mackenzie and her mom go to Grandma’s house for Khersentide, and Laurel Anne’s sister is happy to see her.

        Current score: 0
  4. Chris says:

    Great chapter – the subterranean elves are always interesting.

    Typo report:

    ‘I these thoughts originated in treacherous words’ – ‘I’ should be ‘If’.

    ‘principle excuse’ – should be ‘principal’

    Current score: 0
  5. anon y mouse says:

    “An admirable occupation, in general,” Dee said. “Though thoughts can be as treacherous as words. I these thoughts originated in treacherous words, I would advise caution.” – If these thoughts?

    ‘“You might have been describing what is a somewhat popular philosophies among elves,” Dee said.’ – a somewhat popular philosophy, or are somewhat popular philosophies, maybe?

    Current score: 0
  6. Kayly says:

    The aunt was mentioned in a khersentide side story, I believe

    Current score: 0
    • cnic says:

      Do you where to find that one? This story made me think of it but I wouldn’t know how to go about finding it.

      Current score: 0
  7. MrGull says:

    I’m loving the consistent updates and the quality has been great recently aswell!

    Current score: 0
    • Brenda says:

      I agree! I never remember which days are supposed to be update days, but it has gotten pretty well established in my head that there are updates “every few days”. Thank you and please don’t stop!

      Current score: 0
      • Lyssa says:

        I’m the same way. I really love being able to check in every few days and see that there’s been an update. That really rocks! Thanks, AE!

        Current score: 0
  8. Matarael says:

    her sister is also mentioned in the OTs regarding her first meeting “The Man”.

    Current score: 0
  9. Zathras IX says:

    One who is deeply
    Angry has been wronged, one who’s
    Been wronged has been hurt

    Current score: 1
  10. Lunaroki says:

    Typo Report

    I could believe that he has an image in my head of the daughter he’d want,

    Not sure, considering the Man actually does get into Mack’s head once in a while, but I’m thinking that “my” is meant to be “his”.

    Current score: 0
    • Oni says:

      Was going to say the same. Pretty sure that should read “his”.

      Current score: 0
  11. CMEast says:

    Perhaps he raised the thought so that she would investigate into her mother, find out the her father had actually been really good to her or had tried to save her. She would feel guilty for doubting him and she might even start trusting him.

    Which might be exactly what he’d planned from the start.

    Current score: 0
    • Burnsidhe says:

      Not likely. Putting together information that Mack wouldn’t have, he’d more likely be pushing Mack to find out the truth about her mother’s “death” and maybe get them to meet. Once they meet, The Man’s agreement with Laurel Anne about staying away from Dan is over, and then he will feel free to meddle in Dan’s life, and even approach little Aidan.

      Current score: 0
      • Ducky says:

        I have no doubt that Dan would not take kindly to a visit from his father upon his son. Dan is far more able to defend his family than Mackenzie, and Aidan is able to defend himself, so I don’t know if Mack Daddy would find it worth the risk.

        Current score: 0
  12. Seeker of Justice says:

    “Indeed,” Dee said. “And in case, my assumption would not be that the man in question would be pursuing you ‘for the sake of perversity’, as you put it, any more than he necessarily did so with your mother.”

    And in ANY case, perhaps? ‘In case’ would work if she was offering advice, but the more regular ‘Just in case,’ would work better if that was the situation. Since Dee is explaining her thought process, ‘in any case’ feels more appropriate.

    Current score: 0
    • Ducky says:

      Dee’s first language isn’t Pax – it could be intentional.

      Current score: 0
  13. Pete Granzeau says:

    “Not so far as you are aware of,” Dee added.

    Maybe it’s just me, but that “of” seems superfluous.

    Current score: 0
    • fka_luddite says:

      While technically the “of” is superfluous, the wording is a common usage.

      Current score: 0
  14. sliversith says:

    “‘The thing is…'”

    “When it was properly morning….”
    Graaaaah!!!

    Current score: 0
  15. ayla says:

    Apropos of not much…

    I read this story before going to bed last night. Then I dreamed that AE wrote an OT about an IBF profiler’s file on The Man… in which it was revealed that The Man’s true name is Leland Palmer. That will only be funny if you’ve seen Twin Peaks. (If you haven’t seen Twin Peaks, go watch it now!) Anyway, upon waking I thought that was pretty hilarious. In a creepy David Lynch way, of course.

    Current score: 0
  16. Angnor says:

    Idle Speculation: Based on Dee’s talk of Mack’s dad possibly wanting children with her… Is he perhaps trying to breed back to full (or nearly so) blooded demons being naturally present in the world again?

    It’s an interesting thing to try, if that’s what he’s doing.

    Current score: 0
    • Burnsidhe says:

      Again, unlikely. Fertile female half-demons smell delicious to other demons and predatory monsters. That’s delicious in the cannibalistic sense. Maybe he’d have enough control, but maybe not. It’d be an extremely risky ploy.

      Current score: 0
      • Angnor says:

        Certainly the smell is an issue, but so is awareness and control. Which is one of the things he has talked to Mack about and offered (for whatever reasons of his own) to help her with.

        By his own admission (assuming he wasn’t lying in the Q&A) he’s breeding on purpose. He’s trying for some sort of legacy, and some of his Khersis’ commentary about the banishing of demons and Khersis’ activity in the world could be his way of commenting on how he’s testing the waters for such a thing. Certainly it’s a pretty natural topic for demons (especially when on was raised by a Paladin) but it might mean more.

        Ultimately, I agree, it’s not likely, but it would certainly be an an interesting ploy.

        Current score: 0
      • Zukira Phaera says:

        It is an interesting notion. Though that raises the question further… is the delicious smell the human blood mixed with an exotic booster (the demon blood), and would back breeding to a more close to full demon blood ratio lessen that or would it actually make it worse?

        Current score: 1
  17. readaholic says:

    @Angnor – I think The Man’s interest in breeding female half-demons is culinary. He only wants to lure Mack away so he can nom on her.

    Current score: 0
    • Angnor says:

      Considering there are ‘colonies’ (foundations?) with half-demons, enough so that Mercy can get ahold of some, breeding seems a rather slow and cumbersome way to go about it.

      But his true motivations are unknown, so maybe, but honestly it just doesn’t seem to fit with what little we’ve seen of him.

      Current score: 0
      • Zukira Phaera says:

        The ‘colony’ she got them from was more a prison, that resulted from a demon rampage. They were all separated until Mercy tried to breed them. That was the only reason those females she got had lived as long as they had before she got them.

        Current score: 0
  18. ripvw says:

    A letter to a fictional character:

    Oh god, Mackenzie, you’re doing it wrong! You’ve had an opportunity to learn more about your father before, and you could still do it. Doesn’t it sound like reading up on him might help clue you in to his motivations?

    Current score: 0
    • JS says:

      Yeah, but how would she read up on him? She has no identifying information, or am I wrong about that? I’ve forgotten stuff before.

      Current score: 0
      • Burnsidhe says:

        She has an invitation from what is effectively Imperial Intelligence to read up on what they have on him. The invitation was extended during the walk to Embrie’s ‘lair’, at the denuement of the investigation into Leda’s death.

        Current score: 1
  19. Sindyr says:

    Excellent chapters, AE! Thank you so much for sharing your time and talent with us. Keep up the good work!

    Current score: 0
  20. Dave says:

    A long time ago (last year in story terms), TWO investigated something about demons and did some experiments in the “lab”. Did we ever find out what she learned? We did assume it was to do with Mackenzie’s father.

    Current score: 0
    • Angnor says:

      I don’t think we ever learned exactly what it was about, but it came after Two’s… revalation for lack of a better word. It was when she was trying to find out about demons to help Mack because Mack was learning about golemns to help Two. It seems unlikely based on what we learn about The Man later that Two actually summoned him specifically.

      Current score: 0
      • Zukira Phaera says:

        indeed. I think she got someone much less civilized, and well she got burned for trying.

        Current score: 0
  21. Erm says:

    I could believe that he has an image in my head of the daughter he’d want

    Is “my head” rather than “his head” on purpose?

    Current score: 0
  22. Colin vH says:

    I these thoughts -> If these thoughts
    principle excuse -> principal excuse (twice)
    in my head -> in his head

    Thanks for the free literature!

    Current score: 0
  23. Daezed says:

    Huh…. I can’t believe it took me this long, but I *finally* figured out who Dee reminds me of when she speaks…. Spock! No idea why I didn’t put together the familiarities sooner! =)

    Current score: 1
  24. Anthony says:

    Hey, what happened to the end of the last chapter? It left us on a cliffhanger, with Mackenzie right about to say something to Ian about the circumstances of her mom’s death… and then she’s suddenly going over and chatting with Dee?

    Current score: 0
  25. Ikeren says:

    ““Mackenzie, I understand that this is hard to talk about, but you can’t really do this without you,” Ian said. “If it’s too painful, you might have to make a decision about what’s harder: bringing it up or letting it go. Of course, you don’t have to decide that right now.”

    “I definitely want to do this,” I said. “The thing is…”

    I spent an afternoon copy-pasting all of the book to a word document then generating Epubs (while catching up on a season of Dr. Who). This is where I am in a full reread after a month and a bit. This is the first time where a chapter shift was jarring enough to leave me confused.

    Current score: 0
  26. Mickey Phoenix says:

    Am I the only one suddenly wondering if Ian is The Man, playing a very long, deep-cover game?

    Current score: 0
    • JimmyJoe III says:

      You know, I was thinking the same thing, until I remembered that Ian has a human father and enjoys beating Mackenzie up. :U

      Current score: 1