Chapter 51: Peaceful Resolutions Are Seldom Exciting

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

In Which Events Occur

There was no heat in Twyla’s voice, and no anger in her eyes. There was a little bit of wariness on her face, but then, the last time that we’d spoken she’d been chewing me out so maybe she was just wary about what sort of reception she’d get from me now.

“Um, I can take off?” Nicki said. “If you two have to talk.”

“Please don’t… if you could just give us like a moment?” I said to her. Imagining the litany of uncertainty that could be running around in circles through Nicki’s head, I decided to be explicit. “I’m really enjoying talking to you.”

“Okay,” she said.

“This won’t take long,” Twyla said.

“I’ll just… um… get more punch, then,” Nicki said. “Oh, would anyone else like some?”

“No, thank you,” Twyla said.

“I’m good,” I said.

Twyla played with the beaten copper bracer on her wrist, rubbing the skin underneath while Nicki retreated towards the refreshment table.

“I guess I should start by saying I’m sorry for assuming the worst,” she said.

“It’s okay,” I said. “So… uh, I guess you figured it out yourself?”

She froze, then jerked her hand away from the bracelet like it was hot.

“Wait… you knew?” she said. She sounded more incredulous than angry, but if that was because she couldn’t believe she’d calmed down and forgiven me and now it seemed like I had been setting her up all along then the anger would be fast on its heels.

“No,” I said quickly. “I really didn’t. I mean, I know now, but that’s because I wanted to find out why Professor Bohd would react that way… after I found out how she reacted, I mean. I seriously didn’t have any idea that was going to happen, Twyla. I honestly thought she’d be the best person to help you.”

“I believe you,” she said. “I just… the only thing I had ever heard of her was that she was kind of a, you know, a strict teacher, and you had this kind of, of, knowing air when you said I should go talk to her, like you were very pleased with yourself. I kind of associate that with someone trying to put one over on me.”

“Well, you weren’t exactly coming out and saying what you wanted from me,” I said. “So I was happy that I thought I’d worked it out and figured out a way to help you.”

“I’m sorry,” she said. ” I don’t like to be suspicious, but… well, when I was in high school, my mother was a teacher. Nobody ever shoved me into a locker or anything obvious like that, but… well, they found other ways of getting at me.”

“Like what?”

“Just as an example, on my first day as a freshman, they told me that the left-handed lockers were on the other side of the school.”

“Didn’t you have an assigned locker number?”

“Yes, but I was told that they re-use numbers,” she said. “The one I was looking at was R-1123, not L-1123… look, it sounded more plausible to me then because I was young and in a hurry and petrified of making a mess of things on my first day. The guy who told me it was older and sounded authoritative. When I made it to the other side and saw that the numbers were still going up and the locks were on the same side as the ones I’d been at, of course, I realized how ridiculous it was… but by then I was already late for my first class. That kind of thing happened… well, not all the time. But enough times to make an impression.”

“You thought I was sending you on a golden snitch hunt?” I said.

“No, I didn’t think that,” she said. “But I was… wary of the possibility. I was too trusting as a child, so sometimes I overcompensate.”

“You went anyway, though.”

“I didn’t have any real reason not to trust you,” she said. “And I couldn’t see any obvious trap… I mean, it’s not like you told me to go to such-and-such a spot and wait. You gave me a name and I found her office. But when Professor Bohd started screaming at me, I… I didn’t really stop to listen. I just figured she didn’t like being interrupted by students, and you knew it.”

“You didn’t even think it could have anything to do with your horns?”

“I… try not to think about them, when I’m evaluating how another person treats me,” she said. “Sometimes it’s glaring, but… well, I think I honestly got more guff for being a teacher’s kid than I did for having horns. As far as I could tell. Anyway, the point is that I was half expecting the worst from you… not because you’re you, but because that’s what I’m used to… and that stopped me from looking any further.”

“What changed your mind?”

“I thought about it more when I cooled down and realized that you don’t seem like the type,” she said. “I mean, the time you caught me envisioning in the ballroom…”

“‘Caught’ makes it sound like you were doing something bad.”

She looked away slightly.

“Well, yes,” she said. “That’s my mindset. I’m used to anything I say or do being used against me by a tribunal of my peers. In my mind, that’s just how it goes. But you didn’t say anything, and then you scribed off a copy of my avatar. It’s just… a lot of little things like that, made me step back and rethink it. By then I didn’t remember much of anything about anything Professor Bohd had said, but I remembered that she said some things that kind of sounded like Alephayic mixed in with it, so I started from there.”

“Maravayan seems more likely,” I said.

“Well, yeah, in hindsight it’s obvious. I didn’t think she was speaking Alephayic… I just said that’s what it sounded kind of like. I know some words in Alephayic, and I know it shares some similarities with Maravayan,” she said. “I still don’t know what she said, but I’d imagine it was a Maravayan word or phrase relating to ifrits, and not a nice one. But even knowing that much was enough to get me looking in the right direction, and as soon as I figured it out… well, once I knew the type of fire, I started looking for ways to hold in or control it.”

“The bracelets?” I said.

“Yeah… I couldn’t figure out where to look for something like this so I just asked an armoury student to help me make something simple. I don’t know how much they’re actually doing,” she said. “Or if they’re doing anything, besides keeping my elemental levels in check. It might just be in my head, or the knowledge that I don’t have to worry about flare-ups… but I feel more centered.”

“Have you looked into side effects?” I asked. “I mean, if they help, they help… but it might not be healthy to have your energy all bottled up. No pun intended.”

“Well, from what I can tell… and I haven’t exactly found any ifrits to interview about this personally, so it’s all second or more like third-hand… but it seems that ifrits do wear copper and bronze bracelets to help keep their own power focused,” she said. “I don’t know how often they take them off, or if they have to do anything to ‘vent’ the excess, or if there are any special enchantments on them… I’m going to have to find out, obviously, but I think l’m going to be okay using them casually. I’m not planning on walking around with them on all the time… honestly, just long enough to get used to them enough to sleep in them, because that’s what really scared me.”

“I can definitely sympathize with that,” I said.

“Do you think copper would work for you?”

“I’ve honestly never thought of it,” I said. “If copper has any general anti-elemental properties, they aren’t well-known to western alchemists… I’m more inclined to think it’s something particular about ifrits and copper than fire and copper. I guess I could check sometime. I have made it this far without them… though I have honestly never thought about what kinds of countermeasures I could use. I mean, divine and cold magic hurts and weakens me, so they’re out the window.”

“Yeah, from what I read, copper works as a ‘vessel’ for ifrit magic,” Twyla said. “It contains without weakening. Even if it doesn’t work the same on other fire creatures, I’d be surprised if there aren’t things that do. Have you never looked into them?”

“My grandmother was only interested in teaching me to control myself, and by the time I was on my own it didn’t seem like that big an issue.”

“I guess if she couldn’t think of anything, there might not be anything,” Twyla said.

“I wouldn’t say that,” I said.”I don’t think she even considered it… I think she thought that if I couldn’t do it all on my own, I was too dangerous to keep around.”

“That’s… severe,” Twyla said.

I shrugged.

“There is something to be said for making sure I can handle myself without any outside aid before getting dependent on that aid,” I said. “Though I really don’t think that’s what she was going for… there was never a phase two in her plan, just get me housebroken and keep me home.”

“I’m sure she loves you.”

“I… I don’t think so,” I said. It stung to say it out loud. “I think if you asked her, she’d say she does… or at least, she’d be offended at the implication that she doesn’t. But her idea of love is an obligation. She sees an obligation to my human blood, to my family blood. She calls it love. Maybe there’s some sentimentality helping enforce that obligation, but… I can’t call it love.”

“Wow,” Twyla said. “I’m sorry. This got kind of… um, it’s taken a turn. Do you want a hug?”

“Um, no, thank you,” I said. “Hey, on a brighter note… at least you know more about your parents now, right?”

“Not really,” she said. “I mean, I know one more fact about them, or part of a fact about one of them… but that’s it. And the same brick wall I’ve always run into is still there. Someone’s drawn a veil over my past, a powerful veil… I think the main thing I’ve learned is how powerful. I’m not actually giving up, but I am getting on with my life. I’m going to focus on the practical things I need to learn about myself before I turn my attention to my roots again.”

“That makes sense,” I said.

“I mean, I can think of two reasons for the veil,” she said. “One would be to protect me from something, and the other would be to protect whoever’s on the other side… I mean, from intrusion or being bothered or whatever. So, stumbling into it just doesn’t seem like a good idea, especially right now when I’m young and hardly know what I’m capable of….”

“That does make a lot of sense,” I said. “What are you capable of?”

“I hardly know,” she said. “I mean, I’ve never felt any pull towards shapeshifting or… until recently… noticed any elemental inclinations. I feel pretty solid, generally, but I don’t have any basis of comparison with how anybody else feels, so I don’t know. So… how did you find out?”

“Well, I went to talk to Professor Bohd. She was… well, she seemed embarrassed when she calmed down. I think that might have been part of why she wasn’t enthusiastic about helping you directly, even then… but she made sure I could find the information.”

“Ah. That makes sense,” she said.

Inside, I wrestled with how much more to say… whether I should be trying to preserve the peace I had for the moment, or laying everything out on the table. I decide it was better to just tell her the truth..

“The thing is… I didn’t figure it out on my own,” I said. “We kind of all know. Not Nicki, but my close friends. I mean, it’s not like posted on a bulletin board somewhere, but I talk about things with my friends. If you’re looking for more information, Amaranth could probably help you find it. She’s the one who really cracked it.”

“I will keep that in mind,” she said. “Well, I should probably let you get back to your…?”

“Friend,” I said. “Nicki. She is my friend, just… new. She’s in…”

“Class with us,” Twyla said. “I haven’t met her yet. I mean, apart from just now. But she seems nice?”

“Yeah, she’s kind of cool, actually.”

“Well, I’ll see you both on Tuesday, I guess.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Thanks for the help,” she said. “Even if it didn’t go how you expected.”

She headed off back towards her friends. Nicki, who’d been waiting over by the punchbowl, hurried back.

“You know, it’s things like this that make me think you lead such an interesting life,” she said.

“Like what?” I asked.

“I don’t even know!” she said. “That’s what’s so interesting… though at the same time, I kind of see what you meant about anticlimax. I mean, you were acting like there was going to be some big confrontation that you had to get over with.”

“That’s what I expected,” I said. “Would you believe I was ready to spend the whole weekend stewing over what to do about her?”

“So what’s your weekend look like now?”

“I’m not sure exactly, but things are definitely looking up,” I said. As I said that, I happened to glance over and see Amaranth coming towards us, as if to prove the point. Her latest admirer was trailing not very far behind her.

“Hey, baby!” she said. “So… it looked like Twyla cooled down. Did she apologize?”

“Yeah,” I said. “And I did, too, for inadvertently getting her screamed at.”

“That’s very good,” Amaranth said. “Um… were those copper wristies I saw her wearing?”

“Yeah,” I said. “So, she’s got it worked out for herself… but I did tell her you’d be happy to help her with additional research.”

“Thank you, baby,” Amaranth said brightly.

“I don’t know if she’ll take you up on that or not,” I said.

“So… um…” Nicki said, her eyes making nervous circuits between Amaranth and me.

“Oh, I’m sorry… I’m Amaranth,” Amaranth said, unnecessarily. “And you’re Nicki, right?”

“Yeah,” Nicki said. “If you want to talk to Mack alone, I can totally scoot… I’m a very good, um, scooter.”

“Oh, don’t be silly… this is a party. Who’d come here to be alone? Oh, and Mack, Nicki, this is Nina,” Amaranth said, putting her arm around the girl who’d been dancing against her. “Her father’s a professor of evocation.”

“Hey,” Nina said, taking in Nicki and me with a slow, sloppy wave, before turning back to Amaranth. “I’m actually gonna run now, but I wanted to tell you that I will definitely be seeing you later.”

“Okay, Nina!” Amaranth said. She gave her a hug, and then watched as she went bouncing away. “You know, I think we’re going to be seeing a lot more of her.”


Tales of MU is presented this month by Amy Amethyst.


A seasonal meditation from your author:

Like leaves under snow,
my old winter coat isn’t
really that useful.


Tales of MU is now on Patreon! Help keep the story going!

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35 Responses to “Chapter 51: Peaceful Resolutions Are Seldom Exciting”

  1. Zarflax says:

    Wait, I’m first? :O

    Ook!

    Current score: 0
  2. Iain of Rockhold, Salushen says:

    I really like the idea of placebo magical items.

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    • Kevin Brown says:

      If placebo magic works in real life why shouldn’t it work in fantasy. Incidentally as placebo means “it works because you believe it works” and real world magic is about the power of belief… I think everyone can imagine where I’m going with that.

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      • Eris Harmony says:

        That’s probably how some types of magic got started. I mean, if magic is affected by your thoughts, and everybody starts thinking that, say, amethysts help heal, then it would probably become very simple to enchant one to be a healing talisman, even if it wasn’t doable in the past. We’ve kind of already seen how that works when the evolution of the TV was described.

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    • Zergonapal says:

      But is it really a placebo when its powered by belief? I don’t know the energy levels involved, but I gather that faith is measurable on some scale.

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      • Mijal says:

        Incidentally, because pharmaceuticals have been so successful in our world, the placebo effect for them has actually measurably increased in recent decades. It’s forced many drug companies to conduct clinical trials in less-developed countries in order to have subjects with less experience with wonder drugs so they can prove their drug beats the placebo effect.

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        • Nono says:

          Actually, recent science has disproved the placebo effect.
          Basically, to have a placebo effect, you need 3 groups:
          – real medicine
          – placebo (fake medicine)
          – no medicine

          A placebo effect would be if there was a difference between group 2 and 3. Most trials only have groups 1 and 2.

          Here are a few papers about it:
          http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0895435697002035
          http://www.nytimes.com/2001/05/24/us/placebo-effect-is-more-myth-than-science-study-says.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

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          • East says:

            Hmm, I’m a little dubious about this because there is so much evidence *for* the placebo effect and many of the trials do take in to account symptom fluctuation and spontaneous improvement. There is also evidence of the nocebo affect too where people develop symptoms they didn’t have before after taking dummy medication.

            The NYTimes article implies that the placebo affect was tested once back in 1955 and never questioned since but this is not true at all.

            Placebos are an interesting phenomenon and I don’t think we have all the facts just yet, however there is so much evidence that it exists that I find it hard to believe one trial that says it doesn’t, especially from the source you’ve presented.

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          • Snuffa says:

            Incorrect, and don’t trust NYTimes with science issues. They’re journalists and therefore are, by definition, always more concerned with attracting public attention, than with establishing truth through scientific inquiry.

            There’s a million studies out there comparing specifically placebo with no drug, that allow to estimate the relative baseline placebo effect for various medication types. Of course, it is strongly dependant on the disease and contrary to the public opinion, only really exists for several selected drug classes. More specifically, the highest placebo responsiveness rate, as I remember from my uni days, is about ~50% – for pain medication. Most medication types do not have even that.

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  3. Laurie says:

    I loved the Harry Potter reference! It made me grin like an idiot. Also, I like this result of this Twyla thing much better than a huge fight. This is far more interesting.

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  4. JiBB says:

    “Golden snitch hunt”. I like it.

    And an anti-climactic resolution is surprisingly satisfying.

    Current score: 0
  5. Anthony says:

    You know, until Twyla actually said the word “ifrit” I was assuming that this would end up with her having arrived at a completely different conclusion from Amaranth as to what she was, and neither her nor Mackenzie realizing it because neither one said it. That would have set up all sorts of interesting and awkward miscommunications…

    Current score: 1
  6. Shugs says:

    As much as I loved the chapter, for the same reasons others have posted and will post, our author’s seasonal meditation(haiku) tickled me silly.

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    • Glad you enjoyed it! There is a bit of a moral to that story, though, which is why it’s next to the Paypal button. πŸ™‚

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      • Schulze says:

        Ouuuhh, far too sneaky…

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      • N'ville says:

        Many a hedgehog
        has hibernated
        Under leaves in the snow.

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      • Brenda says:

        I noticed the sponsorship at the top of the page and was surprised to see that the AUTHOR’S name isn’t mentioned anywhere!

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  7. Dave says:

    Sorry to say I didn’t like the “Golden snitch hunt” – it just didn’t seem a term that would make sense in the MU universe, so it jarred a bit. But never mind, others did like it, and I liked the rest of this chapter. “What will she do about Twyla” has been going on for ages now so I’m glad it’s been resolved in a good way, and one that allows further developments.

    Recent chapters have show us a more mature Mackenzie. I changed a lot in my second year at university, going from unsure and quiet to a lot more outgoing and a bit more confident, so the change in Mackenzie as she starts her second year seems just right to me!

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    • Brenda says:

      Yeah, now I want to see some kind of snippet that explains what a golden snitch is and why hunting it is similar to a wild goose chase. I’m thinking it’s something like a snipe…

      Current score: 1
      • Laurie says:

        I don’t know how AE will portray them in this story, but in a bonus Harry Potter book that Ms. Rowling released years ago for charity, Magical Beasts and Where to Find Them, it said that the original Golden Snitches were small, fast birds, about the size of the ball seen in the books, that were notoriously difficult to find. They were used in the same way that the ball is used in the modern day of Harry Potter, but they became greatly endangered because people would seek them out to use for early Quidditch games, where the bird would often be injured or die. The ball was introduced as a humane alternative, and soon the Ministry of Magic made it illegal to use the birds for in the game. So if she is referring to the same or a similar creature, then yes it is actually quite clever.

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        • Laurie says:

          Actually, now that I think of it, it might have been Quidditch Through the Ages. She released both of them, and I owned both at one point, but a “friend” stole them about eleven years ago. So I may remember a few details wrong, but that was the gist of it.

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  8. Zathras IX says:

    People who have horns
    May have good reason to fear
    Being hornswoggled

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  9. My heart is warmed by the solid and clear and kind communication people are exchanging in this chapter. Yay!

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  10. ShadowKat says:

    You … forgot a tag for Mackenzie… ?

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  11. DarkSage says:

    Rut-Ro…New carector ALERT….can’t wait to see what NINA’s
    contribution to the story will be . πŸ™‚

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    • DarkSage says:

      *NOTE to SELF : Make sure to fully proof-read,before posting. (CHARECTER)

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      • Brenda says:

        *clears throat* Ah, actually it’s “character”…

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  12. Erm says:

    golden snitch hunt

    That made me think: Technically, would it be possible to enchant a broom so that…

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  13. Erm says:

    β€œWow,” Twyla said. β€œI’m sorry. This got kind of… um, it’s taken a turn. Do you want a hug?”

    Aw πŸ™‚

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  14. pedestrian says:

    I agree that these last few pages have been full of the awwdorable, normal self-conscious behavior i have observed among girls. And I was thinking, if Alexandra had been writing about boys, there would be more:
    “Hey man.”
    “Hey.”
    “Hanging out?”
    “Guess so.”
    “Yep.”
    “Yep.”

    And then they would beat each other up. Just to make it clear how much they liked each other.

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  15. Anthony says:

    …and a year and a half later, I don’t think Nina’s ever shown up again. πŸ˜›

    Current score: 3
    • Kathryn says:

      Her father is no doubt Professor Chekov. Hahahaha

      Current score: 1