In Which Mackenzie Is Asked To Tea

I woke up with no memory of my dreams… not so much as an inspirational training montage… though the feeling that my brain had been running a marathon all night assured me that the owl-turtle thing had been putting me through my paces. I didn’t want to complain because I’d been all in favor of using sleep learning, but it was disconcerting to know that my mind was literally being changed while I slept. Still, if what I knew about the owl-turtle thing and its methods held true, then on some level I had to actually be participating in the exercise, even if no conscious memory of it survived all the way through into the morning.

And even with that little bit of background worry, it was still kind of nice to have an uneventful night’s sleep. With so many things going on in my life, it was good to have eight or so hours of the day that just sort of passed without me noticing. That only left the other sixteen for things to go wrong in.

My Tuesday morning wasn’t very eventful, though. We still ate breakfast in the old dining hall, so there wasn’t even the chance of stealing a glimpse of Grace or her sister, trying to take the measure of their clique. Nicki didn’t join us, but I suspected she’d be sleeping in a bit. I did take the opportunity to ask Steff if she knew anything about Grace or Glory since there were no Treehome students around to listen in. She knew who I was talking about but didn’t know much about them.

“I know they’re pretty low on the tree, though,” Steff said. “I’m not saying Nicki could do better… or should want to… but in terms of social cachet, hooking up with the bottom girl in a fringe group isn’t a whole lot better than getting with one of the unaligned, unprotected outcasts.”

“Like you?” Ian said.

“Honey, I’m not even an outcast,” Steff said. “In terms of my position in elven society, I’m… basically you.”

“It’s always faintly disturbing to observe parallels between your society and mine,” Dee said.

“I just said, it’s not my society,” Steff said. “And it’s not even real society to begin with. Like, grown-up elves still do a lot of posturing and stuff, but these little houses and courts that they make up when playing feudalism in the woods, it doesn’t count for anything once they hit a hundred. Like, less than what sorority you join in college matters when you get out into the real world.”

“I would think it would be about the same,” Amaranth said. “I mean, the value of joining a heraldic order is networking with current and former members. Can’t people who were part of the same ‘court’ do the same?”

“Not really,” Steff said. “I mean, maybe they could, but the impression I get is that a lot of former middlings are embarrassed about their past associations. Like, they hit the big ten-oh and suddenly it’s like the last eight decades never happened. Anyway, Glory’s court is only going to exist while Glory’s there. When she leaves, there might be a new court that has a lot of the same members, but there’s no sense of shared identity except within the new version. And as Glory’s former followers follow her out of Treehome, they aren’t going to be looking to her for help, because her head start over them isn’t going to count for much against the centuries other elves have over all of them. She’s going to be right there kissing ass with the rest of them. The fact that they used to have to kiss her ass isn’t going to win her any loyalty or them any favors.”

“The whole middling thing seems like a huge waste,” Ian said. “They’re legally adults, under the Imperium… why don’t they just go out and get a human lifetime’s experience doing whatever the hell they want to do with their lives and then move into elven adulthood if they want to?”

“Some of them do,” Steff said. “But don’t you think that if you thought you had a chance of being one of the ones sitting on a throne made out of other people’s faces, you’d go and join the wild hunt, too?”

“Even if I did think that way… and I’m not saying that I do… how many people end up being in charge of anything compared to the number of people who are underneath?” Ian said. “And how much is it worth having a handful of underlings if you’re still getting shit on by everyone who’s more popular or more powerful than you are?”

“Right, but how many eighteen to twenty year olds are going to admit they’d not likely to end up anywhere near the top?” Steff said. “I mean, that’s the real secret of Treehome: the whole place would be a lot more livable for almost everyone who’s there if they’d stop competing for power, but nobody’s going to do that because first they’d have to admit they’re personally losing the competition. There are poor fuckers there who are going to spend the next quarter-century being some dude’s spittoon or footrest and thinking to themselves that they’re working their way to the top or just biding their time until the moment is right. They’d be the first ones to turn on someone who suggests upending the whole system.”

“Elven society is insane,” Ian said.

“Again, it’s not really actual elven society that works that way,” Steff said. “And second, that’s not some weird elf thing. It’s actually the way of the world. It just gets concentrated in middlings, because they’re living out elven ambitions over a human lifetime.”

I got a little worried that Nicki might have slept in too long when she didn’t show up for lunch, either, so instead I tried to see if I could spot Grace or her sister. I didn’t see Grace. I knew her sister had an identical face, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pick her out by that. I knew they wore their hair differently, but she hadn’t specified how her sister’s was, so I was looking at hair colors. Most surface elves were descended primarily from the groups that were called gold or silver elves, so they had shining yellow or very pale hair. I saw the dark honey color that Grace had on a masculine-presenting elf, but I expected Glory to be very femme and wearing a mouth veil.

“I don’t see any of them,” Steff said, noticing my survey of the room. “Oh, wait… I think she might be with them.”

I followed her gaze to an elf in a long, flowing canary yellow dress who was gliding into the dining area, seemingly towards us. As she got closer, I could see that it seemed to be made out of layers of some kind of gauzy fabric that were arranged in overlapping layers so that they were suitably opaque in the places that were convenient for decency. She didn’t wear a veil, but she definitely fit into the feminine camp… I supposed that might mean she was open to sex with more than women.

“Looks like maybe she’s coming to introduce herself,” Amaranth said. “That would be a nice change… not that the love-betokening business wasn’t exciting.”

“I told you, Amy-doll, nobody calls it that,” Steff said.

“Amaranth does,” Two said.

“…thank you, Two,” Amaranth said.

The elf in yellow stopped a few feet from our table. Now that she was close, it was obvious that she wasn’t just looking our way but was looking at me in particular.

“Mackenzie Jo Blaise,” she said. She stood up straighter as she said this, giving the impression of the opposite of a bow. “You are invited by Her Pretty Awesome Majesty, Queen Glory, to join her in the Harmony Conference Room.”

“Just Mack?” Amaranth said, frowning, and I didn’t think it was because she felt slighted at not having been invited. She still tried to love everyone, but she’d learned better than to trust everyone.

“The invitation is for her alone,” the elf said.

“Uh, how about Queen Glory comes and joins us?” Ian said.

“Yeah, I’m not going to go off alone with a bunch of people I don’t know,” I said, which made me think that maybe I did know somebody there. “Is Grace with her?”

“I was not told to discuss this with you,” the elf said. “And I was not instructed to entertain your objections. You have been invited by a great elf queen. Do you accept or not?”

By everything both Steff and Grace had said, it didn’t seem like Glory was that “great”, but her herald believing that she was probably had as much to do with the herald’s ego ad Glory’s.

“Amy, she’ll probably recognize your objection,” Steff said. “No offense, Ian, but she’s got more of a pedigree.”

“Hey, yeah… yes,” Amaranth said. “Um… who is Queen Glory to borrow my property without consulting me?”

“Shall I tell her you refused?” the elf asked.

“No… tell her you refused to allow me to take reasonable precautions regarding my property’s safety, thus preventing me from agreeing with her request,” Amaranth said.

“If it will allay your concerns, you may send a representative with her to ensure her safety,” the elf said.

“Should I go, or should you?” Amaranth said to Ian. “Or maybe we should send Steff…”

“Hey, Dee,” Ian said.


“Would you mind doing me a huge favor?” he asked.

“I believe that in this instance, I would not,” she said.

“Hold on, Ian,” I said. “That might be pushing it a little too far.”

“So?” he said. “We’re being pushed. Let’s push back. Either we get to choose our ‘representative’ or we don’t, and if we don’t, I want to have that established in no uncertain terms.”

“But Nicki…”

“I know you don’t want to ruin Nicki’s new relationship, but if that means kowtowing to Big Sis every time she wants to throw a tea party, we should find out now,” Ian said. “You’ve got your own life to live and you can’t give up your freedom for someone else’s happiness. Anyway, if her sister’s going to be an unreasonable bitch about it, how happy do you think Nicki’s going to be in the long run?”

“You have a point,” I said. Even if I’d completely disagreed, I really didn’t want to continue a conversation that would involve Ian saying disparaging things about Glory in front of her servant. He did have a point about the cost of kowtowing to her, but there was a lot of middle ground between calling someone a bitch and kowtowing.

“Delia Daella d’Wyr, daughter of Daella Degra d’Wyr, is our representative, then,” Amaranth said to the herald. “Will that be acceptable to your queen?”

“…yes,” the elf said through unmoving lips.

Dee got to her feet, smoothed out her cloak and robes and pulled the cowl of her cloak up and then down over her eyes. She made a show of checking her mace and sword.

“Lead on, servant,” she said.

I knew there were conference rooms in the Archimedes Center and I had been vaguely aware that they were available for student use, though I’d never investigated the procedure for reserving one. They all had names like “Harmony” and “Cooperation”, invoking the spirit in which the center had been built. Instead of a simple plaque with the name on Pax, the Harmony room had a multilingual banner that had the word in Pax, Elvish, Dwarvish, and a few other languages.

The door was actually being guarded by two elven women standing at attention, or at least very still. Grace hadn’t given me the impression that her sister’s contingent was very large. I wondered if Treehome politics required them to maintain a guard, or if this was something special being done to make their leader look more important. I would have to try to make a point to bear in mind that however Glory spoke to or treated me, the whole formality of the thing suggested she thought I was somehow worth impressing.

The elf in the yellow dress knocked sharply on the door without so much as a glance at the two guards, then stepped aside as the door was opened from the inside by yet another elf.

“Enter and do not speak until bidden,” she said.

We did.

The inside of the conference room looked about as I would have expected, with an oblong table of some heavy, dark-stained wood. There were two large model crystal balls set into it, one near each end. Most of the chairs had been pushed against the back wall of the room, all except the one that was occupied by Glory. Seeing her, the resemblance to her sister was clear. Her hair was in pigtails, which I wouldn’t have expected, but she had a very regal way of sitting.

The elf who’d opened the door closed it behind us, then quietly slipped away to stand in a corner. There were three other elves seated on the floor, on the same side of the table as Glory but at varying distances from her. Grace wasn’t among them. The table in front of her had a big elaborate silver tea set and a bunch of plates of cookies and finger foods.

I hated thinking in hierarchies, but it was pretty clear what the ranking was. The one on the door was the lowest one in the room. The positions of the other three relative to their “queen” probably indicated their relative levels of favor.

“Welcome! Enter! Hello!” Glory said. “Howdy! Have a seat, both of you.”

“Thank you,” Dee said.

We hadn’t been bidden to speak, but I don’t think that mattered to her. She came from a society where rank was just as important but far more enduring than it was in middling society. She waved her hand… a gesture that I knew to be purely for effect … and a pair of wheeled chairs zoomed across the room and stopped at our end of the table. I followed her example and sat in one… it might not have been the best move diplomatically, but I had a feeling that sitting on the floor as expected would undercut Dee in a critical way, which I thought might be more dangerous.

I reminded myself that Glory liked humans, which I more or less was.

“You’re funny,” Glory said. She looked down at the elf sitting nearest to her. “Isn’t she funny, petal?”

“Yes, your majesty.”

“You’ll have to excuse my followers,” Glory said. “They aren’t normally this… stiff. They’re just on edge because I told them whoever fucks things up the worst for me today wins a special prize. Oh, but I’ve pulled you away from your lunch. Help yourself to any of the food or drink or condiments, and make free use of any of the utensils and implements and containers and dishes and, you know, the napkins. It is freely offered and freely given. Um, so, now you can eat the stuff without any cost, and I’ve got to be all insulted if you don’t, so please do.”

I noticed that nothing on the table seemed to have been touched… the stuff on the plates all looked like it had been carefully arranged for presentation and nothing was disturbed or missing. It was kind of suspicious that we were being asked to eat something that no one else in the room had eaten from, but I couldn’t see why Glory would want to poison me or dose me with something… also, from what Grace had said, this was a hierarchy thing. I could see envy in the eyes of the elves on the floor. They’d been sitting there with this meal out of their reach, and now they were expected to sit and watch two strangers… a semi-mortal and the wrong kind of elf… eating ahead of them. Even if they were allowed to serve themselves afterwards, there was still a message there.

I looked at Dee, but she was still hiding her face. If I’d been anyone else, we could have been telepathically conferring… she could have elven whispered in my ear, but there was no guarantee that Glory wouldn’t be able to pick it up.

“Well, it isn’t poisoned,” Glory said as we silently deliberated. “Do you know how much trouble we’d get in for pulling something like that inside the campus bounds? Everybody in Treehome would be at war with us if we brought that kind of heat down. Everything here was prepared by the campus catering service. Your friend Two probably knows half the people who made it. By the way, I love the way you’re not talking.” She looked at Dee. “You, a little less so, but I guess that’s kind of expected. But you,” she said to me, “you are just… A plus on the whole silence thing. Usually you tell a mortal not to talk to you and they’re all, ‘You can’t tell me what to do.’ But you… not a word. What’s your secret? Oh, don’t tell me. I almost wish I hadn’t asked you here to talk, because that’s going to spoil it. Seriously, though… eat. I’m doing a thing here and being very gracious about it, and so far it’s not working.”

“It seems safe enough,” Dee said. She reached out and picked a small strawberry from a fruit platter and popped it into her mouth, then began to fill a small plate with fruits and vegetables. “You will forgive me if I seem overly discriminating in my tastes, but I have a condition that limits my diet.”

“Well, I might, mouthy,” Glory said. She then stiffened, but said nothing else. I had an inkling that Dee had just made it clear she wouldn’t tolerate being insulted again, but had chosen to do it in a way that didn’t obviously challenge Glory’s authority in front of her followers.

I followed Dee’s lead in accepting the food, though I didn’t avoid the little sandwiches or cookies. I wasn’t sure about the tea… I wasn’t a big fan of it to begin with and I didn’t trust myself to pour it properly… but there was a pitcher of what looked like strawberry lemonade.

When we’d both taken food and drink, Glory gave a signal to the girl who’d been on the door, and she came over and began arranging things on a plate with quick, precise moments. I expected her to set it down in front of Glory, but instead she took up a position beside her, holding the plate at what I guess was a comfortable level for the elven queen and standing elven-still.

“Now, then,” Glory said. “We’ve come to a sad part of the proceedings, because you’re going to have to speak. Mackenzie… dear, darling, Mackenzie… I want you, no, I need you to tell me everything you know about my sister’s…”

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39 Responses to “Chapter 151: Court In Session”

  1. Markas says:

    Oh… the suspense!

    Current score: 1
  2. Anne says:

    Now that isn’t nice, Glory!

    Current score: 1
  3. Christopher Martin says:

    Is anyone else reminded a little of Glorificus from Buffy?

    Current score: 1
    • cnic says:

      Oh good, I am not the only one! But at least Dee seems to be the better psionic so no dipping fingers in her brain.

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    • ASeriesOfWords says:

      I sincerely hope the similarity is deliberate.

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    • Alico says:

      Why Yes, I am. Oh man, she was one of my favorite villains, so I really hope that was the aim!

      Yes, your Glorificisness!

      Current score: 1
  4. cnic says:

    If having a veil is a not available sign to men, then is the lack of a veil a not available sign to lesbians (e.g. Mack)?

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    • SSM says:

      As far as I can tell, in elven society, being available to same-sex partners is the default position. The veil is there to indicate if the female is also available to male partners or not.

      I think Steff detailed the various signals of clothing a few chapters back, but I can’t recall them, or if there was one that indicated the female elf is uninterested in other females.

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      • Navi1101 says:

        IIRC, female elves who prefer males tend to dress masculinely, because they want to appeal to the fact that most male elves also prefer males.

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  5. Maahes0 says:

    I would love for her to use this to barter to get information on Ariadne.

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  6. Zathras IX says:

    Glory’s Elfin court
    Is only going to exist
    While Glory is there

    Current score: 1
  7. Iason says:

    Antici…………… pation!

    This seems to be a metaphor for how reserving a lab at my campus works. I could go to the person running the lab and ask to use it on a certain time. Alas procedure requires me to communicate through first a secretary who helps me fill out the pre made forms and then a booking coordinator who receives a scanned version of the form and gets back to you by email (which – sadly – does not mean elf-mail).

    Current score: 1
  8. pedestrian says:

    I dunno why, but whenever I am faced with dull-minded discourtesies, I manage to offend everyone involved by bringing up my fervent desire to legally restore the right to dueling.

    Current score: 1
    • Anne says:

      It certainly might make for a more civil society if you knew that insulting someone could get you called out to a dueling field!

      Current score: 1
      • fin says:

        The last society I remember where that was a thing was really big on politeness and civility, sure. It was also a bunch of vile slavers who committed treason when people tried to point out that slavery might not be the greatest thing.

        Current score: 1
      • pedestrian says:

        Unfortunately the excellent quality of modern gunpowder precludes pistols at dawn. It is an all too popular belief that owning a firearm automatically grants the wielder the competency to use said weapon effectively.

        Similar to the common delusion that purchasing an automobile, magically transforms the owner into a safe and efficient driver.

        And how many men have spent years training to use swords?

        But a large number of men do receive some basic knife in the military or other martial arts.

        Knife fighting, of course, would be in a pit. How would you score damage? What criteria would you use to make odds for betting?

        The big social problem of course, will be the opposition from Women’s organizations. For crying outloud! You gals go and on complaining about us men and our unwanted meddling into female business. Well, here is the other side of that coin. This is the point of women bearing lots of sons. That excess number are expendable.

        Current score: 0
    • Krey says:

      I do miss it, especially after a particularly controversial high school teacher very “physically” demonstrated (in stage combat, with a student who had given prior consent, though we didn’t know it) the beatdown of Sumner by Douglas in the U.S. Senate.

      Current score: 0
  9. Prospero says:


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  10. Hollowgolem says:

    There’s a pretty hilarious subtext here for anyone who’s been in Dee’s position.

    That is, looking at ceremony whose purpose or origin you understand and have internalized be misused and bumbled about.

    I couldn’t stop laughing at the situation.

    Current score: 0
  11. Trystia Indraea Olyphis Farrower says:

    And then Embries shows up, Mackenzie memory-blocks the whole next hour, and we never find out what happened!

    Current score: 0
  12. Computer Mad Scientist says:

    This is going to end with Mackenzie getting another stalker, isn’t it?

    Current score: 0
  13. Arkeus says:

    It is very amusing that however Glory need to show she is in power here, Dee overpowers her in all ways, and even Mackie has more actual power than her.

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  14. Amelia says:

    Strawberry lemonade, huh?

    Current score: 0
  15. Greenwood Goat says:

    …new pet.

    Grace has probably told her sister all that she knows, but Glory wants a second opinion. And since Mack would have had a big mention in Grace’s account – as being an associate of Nicki who was apparently able to take charge of her when required – she made herself look like a suitable candidate.

    My guess, anyway. We shall see.

    Current score: 0
  16. Not her the other girl says:

    Ian chose well. Dee rules so hard, and yes it probably is quite … interesting? Something? for her to see the bumbling of all this ceremony.

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    • Not her the other girl says:

      Rereading this I had a thought – Glory sort of reminds me of how Sooni would be if she wasn’t quite so batshit crazy. I mean really, “Her Pretty Awesome Majesty, Queen Glory”?

      So … Sooni should go hang out with middling elves?

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      • Anne says:

        LOL! So self interested that the world must move to her narrative!

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      • Zukira Phaera says:

        glad I’m not alone thinking that

        … I miss the Nekos. Strange.

        Current score: 0
  17. Trystia Indraea Olyphis Farrower says:

    This really would be an awesome time for Mackenzie to grow a spine and tell Glory that she might discuss things if asked nicely, but that friends don’t talk about friends behind their backs. She might not be an elf, but she’s as immortal as they are, and similarly superhuman. She needn’t bow and pay tribute.

    Current score: 0
    • x says:

      IIRC not “as immortal as they are”, only long-lived.

      Current score: 0
      • Trystia Indraea Olyphis Farrower says:

        Um, did AE ever actually say they could die of old age? I mean, it was established that they can definitely live for centuries, but I don’t recall it ever being said that a half-demon had died of old age.

        Current score: 0
        • Daemion says:

          There has never been a half demon who died of natural causes as far as anyone is aware. But the few who lived for a couple of centuries never stopped aging, they just did so very slowly. I think it was something like a decade for each century, which would put a half demon’s lifespan at roughly 1000 years.
          If I am not completely wrong then at some point it was being said that half immortal beings like Steff usually lived up to 1000 years, so this should work similiar for Mack, too.

          I don’t believe immortality is that great. Have a look at all the immortals in this story: They are either obsessing about something unrelated to the current times, waste their time because they have an endless supply or are so bored that they commit suicide.

          Current score: 0
  18. x says:

    Typo: “they’d not likely to end up anywhere near the top” (“they’re not likely to end” or “they’d not likely end”).

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    • Anne says:

      They’d be not likely to end… (perhaps?)

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  19. Joshua says:

    Whoa, great choice of Dee there. That was a delicate scene.

    Typo? I’m thinking “quick, precise moments” should be “movements”.

    Current score: 0
  20. anon y mouse says:

    “her herald believing that she was probably had as much to do with the herald’s ego ad Glory’s” – as Glory’s?

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  21. William Carr says:


    I still flinch when I hear that name. And reach for my Troll Hammer.

    BTW, the ONE character quirk I think AE hasn’t used yet is a gender/switch.

    Male by day and Female by night ?

    Current score: 0
  22. blackgutter says:

    Dramatic….. PAUSE!

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  23. Leishycat says:

    “The whole place would be a lot more livable for almost everyone who’s there if they’d stop competing for power, but nobody’s going to do that because first they’d have to admit they’re personally losing the competition. There are poor fuckers there who are going to spend the next quarter-century being some dude’s spittoon or footrest and thinking to themselves that they’re working their way to the top or just biding their time until the moment is right. They’d be the first ones to turn on someone who suggests upending the whole system.”

    You just described American capitalism.

    Current score: 0