Chapter 152: Cross-Cultural Understandings

on May 17, 2013 in Volume 2 Book 5: Nasty Disturbing Uncomfortable Things, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Dee Clarifies Her Position


$50 dollars more for a bonus story on Monday!

Your contribution keeps the story going, keeps the story free.

At first I thought Glory was just pausing as she searched for the right word to use to describe Nicki’s relationship to Grace, which made sense. They’d just met, and a whirlwind weekend together wasn’t necessarily the makings of anything else. Or maybe she was struggling to define things in terms that would be acceptable to her sensibilities but not overly insulting to Nicki, or humans in general.

But as the pause stretched into a silence and I began to feel that there was something expectant in her intense stare, I had to wonder if I’d misinterpreted her. I mean, I’d been expecting her to ask about Nicki, so maybe I’d heard a possessive where there had been a plural. Had she meant “sisters”? Grace had only mentioned one, but if Glory was the one with status then maybe she’d been the only one who was relevant to the conversation.

Or maybe I’d misheard her completely… maybe my brain had inserted the S because it had been expecting something about Nicki? Maybe she just wanted to know what her sister had been up to during her time away from Treehome. But then, why not ask Nicki? Unless for some reason she thought her sister had spent that time with me… or maybe she was coming to me because I was there and Nicki wasn’t

“…just to be clear, you should be talking here,” Glory said. “My fault, I’m sorry, I probably confused you by praising your silence just before. That was probably a bigger deal for you than I realized? I mean, I knew it would be nice for you, but now you’re probably staying silent because you’re worried that nothing you say will please me as much as silence did.”

“…I was actually waiting for you to finish the sentence,” I said. Explaining myself seemed safe enough, but the sentence felt a little blunt and bare. “Your majesty.”

“But I did finish the sentence!” Glory said. “Oh, wait, that’s not a complete thought in Pax, is it? It would have been, in Elvish… sorry, I’ve had decades to master this language but try to guess how much of that time I spent talking to humans about their relationships. This is embarrassing… I promise, though, everybody else in the room knew exactly what I meant. You know, I’ve heard it said that the Imperium is an ‘ownership society’ but people are weirdly and inconsistently squeamish about these things.”

“I actually was pretty sure you were talking about Nicki, but it would have been rude for me to answer before I was sure you’d finished talking,” I said. “I didn’t want to interrupt.”

“Well, aren’t you sweet?” Glory said. “Yes, Nicki is the one I wanted to talk to you about. I want to know everything about Nicki.”

“I… well, I appreciate your hospitality,” I said, deciding to throw that in so I wouldn’t just be contradicting her, “but you’d be better off asking her yourself, really.”

“Yes, but that would be meddling in my sister’s relationship in a way that I have not yet chosen to do so,” she said. That sounded less ominous since the whole last clause was said kind of hurriedly, like she was throwing it in there as an afterthought. I figured she was probably covering her ass… suggesting that her sister had any kind of expectation of privacy or autonomy in her relationships would probably be perilous for both of them. “But I figure you know her as well as anyone.”

“I… might have to disappoint you,” I said. “I mean, I like Nicki, but we just met this year, and we’ve barely hung out together outside of class.”

“Really? From what I can tell, you’re the best friend she has. I mean, you walk in together sometimes. There are a lot of interrelationships among the people in your circle,” Glory said. “But Nicki’s only tie is to you. When she joins the group, she’s there as your friend. And when she’s not eating with you, she’s eating alone, or not going to the dining hall at all. At least, this has been the case since we started paying attention to her, and admittedly that was only when she started eating with you.”

“Why did that make her interesting?”

“Because you’re interesting,” Glory said. “Your life. Your existence. The fact that you drive my dear auntie into an exquisitely rage is interesting.”

I felt the cold clutch of terror when she said this, knowing that her aunt Ariadne had an office in the building, and had the same supernatural sense of hearing as any other elf… but then I realized that we were in a side room off a big open floor where the lunch crowd was currently being served, and I couldn’t hear anything from outside the room. The conference room was silenced.

Suddenly, the whole audience before the queen thing made a lot more sense. She didn’t want her aunt to overhear our conversation. Whether she’d noticed the invitation or understood it would depend on how much attention she actually paid to me, but if she did ask her niece about it later Glory would have the option of lying.

“You’re not talking again,” Glory said. “I’m not sure if I should be worried or flattered.”

“I’m sorry, the topic of your aunt makes me a little nervous. I wouldn’t try to enrage her on purpose,” I said. “She has a serious issue, and it’s caused real problems in the past.”

“Oh, well, she’s basically harmless,” Glory said.

“I don’t want to suggest that I know your aunt better than you do, but how sure are you of that?”

“I’m totally sure, but I just realized you probably thought I meant harmless in general or to you in particular,” Glory said. “I actually meant she’s not an actual threat to me, which in retrospect is probably less reassuring to you than it is to me. But this is all beside the point… I don’t like, go around antagonizing her to try to stir her up against you and see what she’ll do. The only time that I actually interfered was to head off trouble, even.”

“Yeah… thanks for that,” I said. “I really appreciated it.”

“Don’t mention it!” she said. “Seriously, you undermine your position in the negotiation by admitting that I did you a favor.”

“…I didn’t realize we were negotiating,” I said.

“Really? What would you say is happening here?”

“We’re having a conversation,” I said.

“It’s interesting that you think of those as separate things,” she said. “Oh! So, you’re not playing coy about Nicki to try to get a better deal?”

“No,” I said. “The only reason I wouldn’t tell you about Nicki is if I thought you’d use the information against her, or it would hurt her relationship with your sister… or if we were talking about her behind her back. I mean, in a negative way. Obviously if we’re talking about her and she’s not here…”

“Oh, believe me, you don’t need to explain the concept of talking behind someone’s back to me,” Glory said. “And I have every interest in encouraging my sister’s relationship with her… and I’d really prefer if you’d phrase things that way.”

“What way?”

“With Grace in the possessive position,” Glory said. “It’s creepy the other way around.”

“So, in Elvish, only one person in a relationship ‘has’ the relationship?”

“No, but our language in its purest form has hierarchical cases for nouns that Pax lacks,” she said. “If you said, for instance, the master’s apprentice or the apprentice’s master, or the parent’s child or the child’s parent, the nouns take a case that reflect the standing of the one over the other. Pax puts everyone on a level playing field, which is fine for things like ‘apprentice’ and ‘master’ because it’s part of the connotation of the words themselves, but if you start talking about two people who are in a relationship… if they’re both each other’s girlfriend, then it almost sounds like they’re the same thing to each other, which is… creepy. But I didn’t invite you here to tell you about linguistics. What can you tell me about Nicki?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “She’s nice?”

“Yeah, humans tend to be. What about her in particular?”

“She’s a glamourist? She likes to do things with her hair,” I said.

“Anyone who sees her twice could tell me that,” she said.

“She’s very friendly and very shy,” I said. “Which seems… kind of painful to me. I mean, I’ve always been shy, too, but I’ve also been closed off.”

“Okay, let me get to the meat of it: Okay, I imagine you’ve had sex with her. What was it like?”

“I haven’t,” I said. “We’re just friends.”

“It’s weird that your culture treats those things like they’re elemental opposites even though humans your age seem to have sex with their friends pretty often,” Glory said. “I was going to ask you how she was. Grace was raving about it, but she doesn’t have a lot of experience except in servitude. For that matter, I wouldn’t mind finding out how Grace was. I like to think she would have accounted for herself with style.” She gestured around her, towards the elves seated near her on the floor. “Like, these guys all say she gives terrible head, but you kind of have to say that, in that kind of position.”

“Because otherwise it sounds like she’s doing them a favor?”

“Well, no, because it’s a service she’s expected to provide,” Glory said. “It’s more because it would sound like I’m doing them a favor by providing them with her in the first place. So they can’t be too grateful. Anyway, You really haven’t had sex with her?”

“Glory, I promise I’m not going to lie to you about anything during this meeting,” I said. “Seriously. I’ve never had sex with Nicki. Weren’t you paying attention when she was complaining about her lack of sex?”

“Yes, but I thought she was being hyperbolic,” Glory said. “Or would it be hypobolic? I just assumed she meant she wasn’t having nearly enough of it. I couldn’t imagine she meant none at all…”

“Before she hooked up with Nicki, how often did Grace have sex in the sense that you mean it, instead of just… this sounds rude to me but I hope it won’t to you… being used for others to have sex?” I asked.

“None at all,” Glory said. “But that’s her position. I can’t imagine going without any sex in the absence of a social structure that prevents it. Okay, so, were you there when Grace had sex with her?”

“No,” I said. “I’m… not really comfortable with the idea being in the room when people I’m not in a relationship with are having sex.”

“Damn, I guess the only way to find out if Nicki’s good enough would be to try her myself,” Glory said. Her lips stopped moving, but the rest of her words reached my ears in a very quiet whisper. “Though I won’t, because that would probably destroy Grace.” She resumed speaking normally. “This was fun to begin with but it’s not at all going the way I envisioned it. I thought you would be able to give me the real inside scoop on things.”

“Well, just so it’s not a total loss… what are you trying to accomplish?” I said. “You said you want to encourage your sister’s relationship with Nicki. As long as Nicki’s happy and it’s good for her… which, so far, I think is true… I want to do the same.”

“Are you proposing an alliance?” Glory asked. I thought I sensed a shift in Dee’s posture and maybe an intake in breath, and I figured she was tensing to stop me from agreeing to something without knowing the details of what I was agreeing to. Even without the labyrinthine intrigues of elven culture to trip me up, I did have a bit of a history of that kind of thing.

“…I don’t know what all that would entail to you, so I’m going to say I’m not and instead say that I’m proposing that we help each other towards a common goal,” I said.

“That sounds like less fun, but surprisingly more efficient if it really works,” Glory said. “But what would it entail?”

“I hadn’t thought much about it,” I said. “But, well… we can just sort of… generally encourage them? I mean, she didn’t really explain, but I kind of got the impression you gave Grace a bit of a push already? I think constantly doing that might not be a good idea… I mean, given that you said you don’t want to interfere. But I think just knowing you approve of her relationship means a lot to her. I got the impression she really admires you.”

“Well, naturally she has to,” Glory said. “Wait… you mean… really?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Like, from the heart, not just because of your relative positions. Again, I know your sister even less well than I know Nicki, but she really seemed to care what you think. At one point she was excited at the thought that you might be impressed with her.”

“Excuse me, Dee?” Glory said. “I know you’re here for Mackenzie’s protection on behalf of her owner. Do you feel she’d understand if I asked to speak to Mackenzie without you in the room?”

“I feel I would not be derelicting my duty if I were to step outside, if your followers and servants do the same first,” Dee said.

“Oh, well, I suppose I can be that gracious,” Glory said. She waved her hand and without a word, the other surface elves got up and glided out. “Thanks!” she said when the door was closed. “I’m so glad you suggested it, I was hoping you would. I didn’t want to have to offer it myself as a show of good faith, because that sounds like I’m planning bad faith.”

“Your intentions were transparent to me,” Dee said. “There is something you wish to say to Mackenzie that would make you seem weak or make your sister seem coddled, but to ask your friends to depart yourself would have been rude.”

“Thank you for understanding!”

“You’re quite welcome,” Dee said. “I’m afraid you might not understand me as easily as I understand you, though, so I will take the opportunity to make myself clear. I have heard only good things about you and your court, but it is my understanding that some of the… attrition… of human students each year comes from being ensnared in the affairs of Treehome.”

“That’s true,” Glory said. “It’s never been my doing, but you’d be foolish to take my word for it, and you should never be foolish with someone else’s property. What do you propose?”

Dee stood up and crossed to the back corner of the room, where there was what I had assumed was a storage closet but now I noticed had a pop lock on it just like the main door did. She opened the door and looked out, then closed it.

“This room currently has two exits. With your permission, I’m going to seal this door for the space of… thirty-two minutes should be more than sufficient.” Dee said, gesturing towards the door she’d just closed. She then gestured towards the one we had entered through. “I will know when the divine seal elapses, and will knock on this door for re-admission before that happens. Otherwise, when you have finished your conversation, I expect Mackenzie to walk out that door ahead of you. If you walk out first, your majesty, then I will take necessary steps to ensure that you do not leave before I have ascertained her well-being. Because you are an elf and because I know nothing of your personal capabilities, I will prioritize speed and effectiveness over gentleness. I would very much prefer to not do these.”

“I am flattered that Mackenzie’s owner thinks so highly of me to send such a capable guardian for her property,” Glory said.

“Yes,” Dee said. “You are. Mackenzie, you should avert your eyes now.”

I did. I still felt Dee’s invocation of divine power as she prayed for the door to be sealed. When I looked back, I saw she had actually conjured a physical-seeming web of pulsating darkness that covered it.

“Mackenzie, there was no transfer of authority to give orders to me, and I wouldn’t be comfortable doing so, so instead I will ask you to accept my advice,” Dee said.

“I value your advice more than most people’s,” I said.

“If I thought our hostess meant you harm, I would not leave… I would insist we both withdraw,” she said. “I am almost certain she does not. I have not read her mind, actively, but either she does not have the training necessary to shield her intentions or else she is capable of multilayered misdirection that normally requires centuries to master. But we know you have an enemy who is an elf who is incredibly resourceful and dedicated.”

I nodded. I figured she probably was talking about Mercy rather than Ariadne, but she’d phrased her sentence in a way that wouldn’t give that away. It was possible that Glory already knew about the gray elf slaver who wanted to possess me more than almost anything… but if she didn’t, Dee wouldn’t have just given it away.

“So, in the unlikely event that Glory does attack you or try to take advantage of you,” Dee said, “my advice to you would be: do not fight back.”

What?”

“Do not,” she said. “You’re unlikely to win, and likely to come to harm in the attempt. So do not fight. Instead, set the room on fire. The entire room”

“I can’t do that!” I said.

“You can,” Dee said. “It’s not a large room. You will not endanger yourself because you cannot be harmed by the collateral of your flame any more than you can by your own flame. You will not endanger anyone outside the room because modern human construction standards require the walls to be flameproofed and the standard anti-fire wards would extinguish the fire if you yourself did not do that the moment the crisis passed. The only one in danger would be your attacker… your hypothetical attacker… who would have no safe place to stand. In the event that she has the power to protect herself from even powerful magical fire, the sudden blaze would be evident to my senses even through the door and would also bring a swift response from authorities.” She turned to Glory. “Now I believe you understand me as well as I understood you, your majesty.”

“You have the best friends,” Glory said.

“Yes,” Dee said. “She does.”


This chapter of Tales of MU has been brought to you by the generosity of:
The Management, Hospitality in Heels – Real Tales from a hotel and conference center as told by a tiny, tiny woman.


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

Or if you particularly enjoyed this chapter, leave a tip!


Characters: , ,





54 Responses to “Chapter 152: Cross-Cultural Understandings”

  1. Tomo says:

    OOK

    man, I love glory and grace more and more with each chapter.

    I really hope glory and grace appear more.

    Current score: 1
  2. Em7 says:

    i love dee. this chapter was awesome.

    Current score: 3
  3. Skeeve says:

    Damn.

    Dee is BADASS.

    As if we didn’t know before.

    Current score: 4
    • zeel says:

      “Instead, set the room on fire. The entire room”

      I love her thinking! Mackenzie needs to bust things into flame more often. . .

      Current score: 3
      • Hasufin says:

        It takes a special kind of mind to recognize the possibilities inherent in a fantasy setting; if this were done poorly, it would be “metagaming”. In this case, it fits the characters perfectly. Mackenzie was, basically, raised as a human and doesn’t really know how to take advantage of her heritage. Dee is in an environment that’s basically alien to her anyway; she’s had occasion to HAVE to think beyond the normal limits of her environment.

        I note that Dee’s advice – setting an entire room or chamber on fire – is probably somewhat more lethal where Dee comes from. I’m not a spelunker, but there tends to be certain limits on air levels in caves, yes? Not enough to be a threat when breathing, but in a raging inferno…

        Also, I wonder if, culturally, Dee was also honoring Glory: “I respect you enough to consider you a threat, and to be direct that I am taking safeguards.”

        Current score: 3
    • Author_Unknown says:

      At this point I really wish Dee was in Coach Callahan’s class with Mack.

      Current score: 2
      • Marian says:

        Sadly it is entirely obvious that Dee does not need that particular class. Fighting to win is something that comes natural to her.
        It also shows that Mackenzie has a long way to go before she can earn the A grade she needs as being ruthless and opportunistic with all her abilities is still something she has not learned, and that -mindset- is what Callahan is trying to treach in that particular class.
        I wonder when she start on the 2 on 1 fights with her more accomplished students.

        Current score: 1
        • Anne says:

          Hmmm, maybe with the new mock boxes that is something that Mack can do? Before if she cut loose with the flames they would have been a real weapon against someone who would die.

          And that is something that Mack definitely didn’t want to have happen!

          Current score: 0
        • Daemion says:

          Mack’s mindset is the only obstacle in her path to become an exceptional fighter. She’s showing great potential and could one day become a dangerous battle mage or a magical fighter.
          I’m a gamer and if Mack was my character, my GM would have difficulties finding challenging fights for me after a few more level ups.

          But life is about more than fighting and in the long run winning fights might not be the best path for Mackenzie.
          It may look stupid at times but I quite like Mack’s pacifism. As long as she is aware that violence is an option, she should be reasonably safe.

          Current score: 0
        • Julian Morrison says:

          Dee doesn’t need it as a student, but she’d be awesome as an opponent.

          Current score: 0
          • Anne says:

            which she knows. She already volunteered to play Op-For in the adventures that Amaranth is planning for Mack. Which I think is a good thing. Mack definitely needs to be comfortable using violence if necessary.

            Current score: 1
            • Rey d'Tutto says:

              Violence is the last resort. But if it is necessary, make damned sure you go for the throat.

              Current score: 0
  4. Iason says:

    I love these insights into a completely “alien” culture. Great chapter. Thank you AE.

    Current score: 0
  5. pedestrian says:

    Fantastic Fantasy, Alexandra.

    When a sensible person such as Dee gives advice,
    good advice or bad.

    Let us hope that Our Mack is sensible enough to ignite
    when the appropriate circumstances dictate.

    Current score: 0
  6. Computer Mad Scientist says:

    It’s good that everyone understands how awesome Mackenzie’s friends are. 🙂

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

    OMG, hurrah! She totally stood up for herself, refused to talk about Nicki behind her back, and avoided any obvious bad stuff!

    Current score: 0
    • Anvildude says:

      Interestingly, the sort of introverted, overly thoughtful person that Mackenzie is, tends to be well-suited for the sort of nuanced social battles entailed in a courtly setting- as long as they’re already versed in the applicable cultural norms and vocabulary. Mack would be in deep, deep water here if Glory wasn’t so non-elf-nice, really.

      Current score: 0
  8. Zukira Phaera says:

    Gawds but I love Dee – love love love her.

    Current score: 0
  9. Krey says:

    <3 Dee Forever

    Current score: 0
  10. Alashara says:

    She really does. I love Dee in this chapter.

    I’m not sure if Glory really is as naive about humans as she seems though.

    Current score: 0
  11. Oniwasabi says:

    “I can’t do that!”

    “You can, its not a large room”

    Based on the description its a full size conference room with a banquet table and room for quite a it of elven ‘furniture’ in addition to the regular chairs etc. So this begs the question: How large a room can Mack NOT set on fire?

    Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      In theory, I would think she could set quite a large space on fire. She is more than capable of setting large objects on fire, without trying (first day of class), and she has performed fairly large scale elemental invocations of water – blanketing her bed (no pun intended) with it.

      And that is without trying, and often with elements far harder to produce than flame. Plus, given that the room is certainly made with plenty of wood (elven influence), it should be easy fro her to gain hold of the fire in her environment.

      Plus, we know she can shoot flame in a directed form. If she modified the burst and sustained it, she could sweep it around the room. The combination of directed flame, and invoked fire would give her a rather large attack radius.

      The real limiting factor is mental, how far Mackenzie would be willing to go. Her own self-doubt, fear, and timidity would limit just how big a room she could light.

      In this specific case, one may also take into account the possibility that the room is more than just fireproofed, but enchanted to actively suppress flame – which would stop her from invoking it to the full extent (or at all).

      However, in this case her ability is probably irrelevant. As long as Glory believes she can do it, it’s probably not going to be necessary.

      Current score: 0
      • Anne says:

        I believe that Dee believes that even if the room is enchanted not to burn that Mack invoking demon fire will ring her ward like a bell.

        Current score: 0
        • zeel says:

          That too, the divine ward will no doubt be triggered by any attempt she would make, regardless of success.

          Current score: 0
  12. Eliska says:

    Dee is my favorite.

    Typo: “…you drive my dear auntie into an exquisitely rage”…

    Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      Honestly, I just assumed it was weird elven language again. Could go either way.

      Current score: 0
  13. USMarine says:

    Is it bad that I am in love with Dee and want her to be my “Guardian”?

    Current score: 0
    • Daemion says:

      I think “love” might be a tad too big a word here… but yeah… if Dee was real, I would ask her out in a heartbeat. She’s awesome, she only has a few minor quirks and I really like her when she’s in control. 😉

      Current score: 0
  14. Zathras IX says:

    The whole “audience
    Before the Queen” thing now makes
    A whole lot more sense

    Current score: 0
  15. Cadnawes says:

    I actually really like Glory now because she appreciated Dee, despite being Ariadne’s niece, and was truly happy when she learned of the sincerity of her sister’s regard. There’s hope yet.

    Current score: 0
  16. Readaholic says:

    More signs of the general dysfunctionality of Treeholme, and middling society in general, more signs of Glory’s not just benevolent, but actively protective reign, and yes, Dee is once again awesome.

    Current score: 0
  17. Anne says:

    “You have the best friends,” Glory said.

    “Yes,” Dee said. “She does.”
    This has to be the most awesome conclusion to a chapter in a while.

    Thanks for the excellent read.

    Current score: 0
  18. tomclark says:

    Hmm… any chances of another Q&A session sometime soon? I just recently thought of an awesome question to ask one of the characters, based on information about the world that was not available at the time of the last Q&A…

    Current score: 0
    • Lyssa says:

      Might be cool if AE did another drive for this, maybe?

      Current score: 0
  19. Tamina says:

    While Glory is interesting and I like how the Grace/Nikki thing is playing out, I kind of want Glory to be an agent of the govt./Mercy/Ariadne – Mack having a legit reason to flame out would be cool, PLUS I think it would move the story in an interesting direction. TOMU kind of varies between social/sex stuff and action/intrigue, it’d be nice to pick up some of the dangling action-y threads for a bit.

    Current score: 0
    • Marian says:

      Don’t worry. I am sure you can call this “Chekhov’s demonic fire” that we were just being shown in act one…

      Current score: 0
    • Daemion says:

      I think Glory is just who she says she is. The story has enough villains/antagonists already, we don’t need to add more. Ariadne, Embries, Mercy, The Man… and to a lesser degree Mack’s grandmother, Callahan, Victor and Sooni. We could probably throw in the government or one of its agencies, too… depending on how things play out in the end.
      This story is Mack’s diary, she describes her life at MU. Realistically (yeah, I know, fantasy) the action is only a small part of that.
      What I am saying is that Mack’s life already contains enough drama, conflict, intrigue and mystery, there’s no reason to add more before some of it has been resolved.

      Current score: 0
      • Anon says:

        I really can’t think of Embries as an antagonist to any of the MUniverse stories. Embries more like a force of nature – sure, getting caught up in it is potentially lethal, but he’s not going out of his way to actually do anything except eat his secretaries. He’s a threat, like a volcano that sacrifices are made to, but he’s not an antagonist in any real sense.

        Current score: 0
        • Glenn says:

          I agree that Embries isn’t really an antagonist. In fact, as long as Mack is even loosely affiliated with the University, he’s potentially one of the most important allies Mack has, given that his role in the story is to protect the University. If there is a single ultimate “Big Bad” in this story, it seems to be Callahan, given that she’s the one who is trying to start a global war and wants to kill all the immortals, including Gods like Amaranth’s mother. I wonder if the main reason why Mack’s father and Mercy are close to the University is because Callahan is here. On the one hand, she’s a threat to both of them, since they are both immortal. On the other hand, they would both probably like to see Callahan succeed in killing the Gods, because it would create real opportunities for them to fulfil their own ambitions. Either or both might be a cautious ally of Callahan’s, though neither is really on her side..

          Current score: 0
          • zeel says:

            The Man’s presence has nothing to do with Callahan, and her presence nothing to do with him. As for Mercy, there is not enough information to know if they moved to the same area for any specific reason.

            But I don’t think Callahan is “the big bad”, I think The Man has that role. Not only because he has been in the area for a long time, killing, and seducing young girls. But also because the story is not about the world at large, it is about Mackenzie, and the biggest bad for her is The Man.

            Current score: 0
            • Glenn says:

              The Man has ambitions that extend far beyond just killing and/or seducing young girls. Do you recall how he defined a God as a being so powerful that its claim to godhood can not be challenged? I think that in that sense, Mack’s father wants to become a God, and he arranged for a half demon like Mack to be born because he thinks she may someday, in a few years, have the potential to help him fulfil that ambition.
              If Alexandra eventually follows Mack through all four years until her graduation, then the nature of the story will inevitably change and grow. Mack’s story in year two focuses on different issues than it did in year one, because Mack has grown beyond the sorts of problems she had in year one. How much will she have grown by year four?

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              Correct, which is all the more reason to consider The Man as the big bad.

              Current score: 0
            • William Carr says:

              You DO realize he’s trying to breed an army of 3/4th Demons immune to Divine attack ?

              Only one way to do THAT.

              And it’s why he has no use for his son Dan.

              Current score: 0
          • Marian says:

            Embries is most definitely an antagonist. He may not be actively plotting to get Mackenzie killed, but when offered the opportunity he forced Law to set up a meeting that, if not for the chance decisions by Mackenzie to start using contraceptives, would have resulted in him eating her. He was even quite disappointed by the fact that her scent had changed and he no longer had an ‘excuse’. The agent from Law who escorted Mackenzie to that meeting equally did expect her to ‘inexplicably vanish from the university’.

            Current score: 0
            • Glenn says:

              It’s true that the Law agent thought Embries might kill Mack, and that Embries was a bit disappointed to find that Mack wasn’t very palatable. But that doesn’t prove that Embries would necessarily have killed Mack at that meeting, even if she had smelled better. If Embries hadn’t turned down Callahan’s repeated requests to let her kill Mack, then Mack would have been dead long before that meeting.

              What is it that motivates Embries? His primary goal is to protect the University. It’s likely that part of the University budget counts as part of his hoard.
              To the extent that Mack contributes to the University’s wealth, (which she does to some degree just by paying tuition), he has a motive to keep her alive. It’s true that Embries isn’t perfect. He has a problem controlling his appetite and occasionally eats his secretaries even though he knows he probably should use more self control about the foods he eats. But he seems to consider secretaries more expendable than either the students or the teaching staff, so his lack of self discipline with regard to human secretaries doesn’t prove he’s a threat to Mack.

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              I think don’t thin Embries can be considered an antagonist in the traditional sense. Yes, he did almost eat her, and he did eat someone in front of her, then make her unable to talk about it.

              However this was one incident, preceded by denying Callahan’s request to kill her many times. And there has not been any further reason to believe that he may want to harm Mackenzie. I believe he simply acts in his own best interest at all times, if that may harm Mackenzie, that it will harm her. If that would help her, then it will help her.

              Current score: 0
        • Daemion says:

          I was talking about antagonists in the literal definition.
          “An antagonist is a character, group of characters, or institution, that represents the opposition against which the protagonist must contend. In other words, an antagonist is a person or a group of people who oppose the main character(s). […] The antagonist may also represent a major threat or obstacle to the main character by their very existence, without necessarily deliberately targeting him or her. […] A convention of the antagonist in a story is that their moral choices are less savoury than those of the protagonist. This is often used by an author to create conflict within a story.”

          Yes, Embries isn’t targeting Mack or is even interested in her. He still represents a dangerous force that had a negative influence on Mack.
          There’s also the little fact that he more or less owns the law firm which employs Mack’s lawyer who sued the university on her behalf. So yeah, conflict.

          Regarding the “Big Bad”, that’s undoubtedly The Man. Mercy might seem more dangerous at the moment but as long as Mack avoids being enslaved she’s reasonably safe from that fate.
          Callahan is… an antagonist but also more of an anti-hero than a villain. She opposed Mack more because it’s her job than for personal reasons. She also can’t help the way she was made… she has this drive to terminate immortals put into her during her creation. Considering that she’s quite sane and ultimatively helpful.

          Current score: 0
          • zeel says:

            However Embries also directly helps Mackenzie for months before they even meet, as he keeps telling Callahan not to kill her.

            Similarly, Callahan wanted to kill Mackenzie at first, but recently was prepared to defend her against the school for the mock-box incident.

            It would seem that, in the literary sense, both of them can act as antagonist, though they are not always in that position.

            Current score: 0
            • Marian says:

              Callahan asked every year if she could please be allowed to kill a student to make the rest take her classes more seriously. Embries was not specifically protecting Mackenzie when he declined the request, again.
              Similarly Mackenzie those first weeks was everything Callahan despised in a student: somebody who made it very clear she did NOT WANT to learn. She lacked all background and all motivation and should never have been enrolled in that class by Steff. Callahan knows only one way to deal with things that irritate her, but learned that the university does not approve of killing sprees anymore than Law does.

              Current score: 0
            • Daemion says:

              I enjoy reading your comments, Marian. 🙂

              I agree, Embries wasn’t protecting Mack, he was simply doing his job.
              It’s possible that Callahan thought killing Mack as a demonstration in class would be a good thing. A quick, clean kill instead of her suffering for heritage later… Well, who knows. Perhaps she was just doing it knowing her request would be denied and depended on the rumor to make it out.
              If Callahan -really- wanted to kill Mack, she would make it look like an accident or bribe Embries or simply rely on the fact that most people don’t care about the fate of half demons.

              We also might be looking into this too deeply. Perhaps Callahan just acts like that because the author thinks it’s awesome and funny? 😉

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              Actually, it is seen in one OT that Callahan was taking her wish to kill Mackenzie to a far greater level than her previous attempts to be permitted to kill students. Though still, this was nothing more than doing his job, it certainly shows that he is not really out to get Mackenzie. His interests are in protecting the school (and himself), thus he only has anything against Mackenzie in situations where she could potentially cause damage to the school.

              Current score: 0
    • e says:

      Actually, I find Glory much more interesting if she’s not part of some larger plot. If what we’re seeing is just who she is. She’s also a window into elf middling culture. But then, I really like all that day-to-day life and details of how the world works stuff.

      Current score: 0
  20. Erm says:

    Damn, with that much build-up I’m almost sure something bad is going to happen.

    Current score: 0
  21. William Carr says:

    Dee is complimenting Glory by taking her seriously.

    Like an adult talking seriously to a 15 year old teenager about politics.

    Current score: 0