In Which Words Of Power Are Discovered

Despite Dee’s parting words and Glory’s favorable response to them, I couldn’t help being nervous once the door closed and we were alone together, cut off from the world outside by walls and silence.

It wasn’t that I found Glory threatening in the way that there were certain people I wouldn’t want to be alone with, whether or not they were a physical danger to me. It was more… social fear. Dee had stayed out of our conversation, playing the role of silent guardian until we reached the point where words would protect me instead of her presence, but she’d been there. Knowing I hadn’t been alone, that someone had been watching my back, had made a huge difference in my confidence.

I told myself that as perfectly poised as Glory seemed to be, she was obviously nervous, too… it might have been less obvious if I hadn’t seen her sister’s even more pronounced insecurity first, but I had and the markers were all there with Glory. She was probably more worried about maintaining her position than any specific fear relating to me, but still, it helped to know that I wasn’t the only one in the room who had doubts about how I handled myself.

It also helped that Glory’s whole aspect had relaxed once we were alone. Her face transformed from a blandly smiling mask to… well, she was still smiling, but there was more animation and her eyes were bright with tears, not just rabid insistence.

“Okay, okay, okay… tell me exactly what she said about me, in as much detail as you can remember,” Glory said.

There weren’t that many true incantations of great power left in the world. History was full of legendary words of power whose mere utterance could supposedly produce great magical effects, but the truth of what these words were was lost to the ages. I wasn’t yet even twenty years old, and with Glory’s help I could now report that I’d rediscovered one of these ancient spells: the phrase “tell me exactly” had the power to obliterate memories.

“Um… she didn’t say a lot about you, but what she did say was good?” I said, trying to remember what had been going through my head when I said whatever it was that I’d said that had got Glory so worked up that she needed privacy to express herself in the first place. It had been something about Grace being impressed with Glory? No, that wasn’t quite it. It was something about Grace wanting to impress Glory… which sounded less significant now that I was thinking about it. “Like… the main thing I was thinking about was that at one point, Nicki said ‘thank you, my lady’ or something like that, and Grace sort of wished that you could hear it? It was something like that.”

“Okay, but did she… was she talking about everyone or me in particular?” Glory said. “Because I could totally see her thinking that might improve her standing with the group… honestly, it would be kind of a mixed bag since some of us would see it as her getting above her station, but she can be naïve about that.”

“It was definitely you in particular,” I said, with a bit more confidence. “It wasn’t what she said so much as how she said it, but it sounded like she was talking about her big sister, not her queen.”

“And you’re sure about that?”

“…reasonably sure.”

“How sure is reasonably sure?” Glory asked. “I mean, like, what would you bet me that you were right, in terms of your body?”

“…you mean, would I have sex with you if I was wrong?”

“No, I mean, what would you let me take,” she said. “You know, with a knife? Not that I would! I’m just… it’s a handy metric for confidence, you know? Like, would you bet your tongue? Your clitoris? Your… head?”

She said the last part with such a hopeful note in her voice that it gave me an aggressive enough case of the willies to overpower the reaction I’d been having to the thought of someone taking a knife to my clit. I was pretty sure that what she meant by that was something similar to what a human might mean in asking someone “would you bet your life on it”, but the added degree of specificity and the knowledge that in middling culture the words weren’t as far divorced from reality was still chilling.

“…I don’t think I’d bet any part of my body on this,” I said. “But that’s not a measure of my confidence. I bet my ass on what I was pretty sure was a sure thing before, and that’s not something I’d repeat for anything.”

“Okay, but you’re… pretty sure?” she said, with a bit of reluctance, like the words weren’t really adequate but would have to do.

“I am pretty sure,” I said. “Like, I just met your sister, but… and I hope this isn’t somehow insulting to you… she didn’t seem to be that hard to read?”

“No, she really isn’t,” Glory said. “Part of that is her age… stillness is something that takes time to learn… and part of that is just Grace being Grace. Treehome might… fix a lot of that.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

“Well, I think it’s not good for her to be so open, and that stillness is a useful set of skills to learn, but then I think, that’s mostly because of what Treehome is like,” she said. “I mean, I’m pretty sure that it will also be helpful for her in her adult life, but if that’s the case she has basically unlimited time to learn it then, and I’m not sure that letting Treehome beat the Graceness out of Grace just to help her survive Treehome is worth it. If that makes any sense?”

“…it makes more sense than most things I’ve heard about Treehome,” I said.

“I just don’t see what the alternative is,” Glory said. “I can’t protect her forever.”

“But don’t you only need to protect her while she’s in Treehome?” I asked.

“Yes, but I’m less than two decades away from adulthood, and less than that before I’ll be out of excuses to stick around,” she said. “And adults don’t meddle in middling affairs… it would make both of us look ridiculous.”

“Okay, but, does she need to stay in Treehome longer than you?” I said.

“She’d have to take a huge course load to qualify for other university housing,” Glory said.

“The dorms are full of people who manage them,” I said.

“People who don’t have any other choice but to try to cram a lifetime of education and education into a few paltry years,” Glory said.

I thought about pressing the point that humans could manage something she apparently thought was impossible for elves to match, but I had a feeling that we weren’t quite there in terms of actual friendship, and might never be. People were rarely grateful to have the conflicts between their beliefs pointed out.

“Okay, well, it’s not like her only choice is Treehome or moving into a dorm,” I said. “I don’t know your family’s finances or if staying in Treehome costs anything, but I get the feeling she might be able to get enough money to arrange for her own housing.”

“Her own housing, you say?”

“Yeah, like an apartment in town or something,” I said. “Commuting to campus might be annoying, but if she only has a couple of classes a semester it could be less so.”

“You’ve raised an interesting idea,” Glory said. “But… we are on a timer here, and I didn’t bring you here to talk about my sister’s future but her present. Before I… before we went off on a tangent, you were talking about working together to encourage the relationship?”

“Yeah… well, like I’ve said, I don’t actually know Nicki much better than you do at this point, but the thing is, I am getting to know her,” I said. “And I’m probably also going to see your sister interacting with her more, since they’re probably not going to be going back to Treehome together and I can’t really imagine you spend a lot of time hanging out with your sister socially.”

“I hope we’ll be really good friends when we’re both grown, but no, that just wouldn’t be done,” Glory said. “So you’re saying you’ll keep tabs on them for me?”

“…I wouldn’t put it that way,” I said. “But I can let you know if something important happens, like something worrying is going on or if Grace mentions a problem, or even if something happens that’s good.”

“How is that not keeping tabs on them?”

“I don’t like the thought of that,” I said. “I mean, I’m not going to be following them around, or hanging out with them to get info for you. But since I probably will be hanging out with them… or at least hanging out with Nicki when she’s with Grace… I will notice things, and I can tell you if something important happens.”

“Do you really need plausible deniability for this?”

“It’s not plausible deniability,” I said.

“Oh, you’re doing that thing again!”

“What thing?”

“Sincerity,” she said. “I’m a little miffed that you’re basically saying that you wouldn’t hang out with them on my behalf when it’s something you’ll do anyway, which just seems petty. I kind of wish I had someone I could punish for that who wasn’t my sister. Can I kick you in the cunt before we go?”

“…that might be hard to explain to Dee,” I said. I instantly wished I’d protested in stronger terms, on my own behalf… coming up with excuses for things I didn’t want to do instead of saying no was an old habit that I’d mostly broken. In my defense, though, the bizarreness and suddenness of it had taken me by surprise.

“You don’t think she’d understand?”

“I’m pretty sure the idea of casually kicking someone there would piss her off on a religious and cultural level,” I said.

“Really? They’re really all about the pussy down there? I always assumed it was, you know, something we made up to make them sound more evil,” Glory said.

I wanted to ask her what would be evil about that, but I was probably the wrong person to be challenging that particular cultural more.

“In any case… I don’t actually think you should have authority to punish me,” I said. “But what I said wasn’t petty to me. There’s no need for me to do something on your behalf if I’m doing it anyway.”

“Yes, but you couldn’t, like… do it in my name?”

“What would that entail?”

“I don’t know, just saying that you’re doing it in my name,” she said. “It sounds cool? I think I would like for people to do things in my name.”

“So, when I’m hanging out with your sister and her girlfriend, you want me to announce that I’m doing it in your name?”

“…okay, when you say it like that, it sounds… yeah, it’s not a perfect plan,” she said. “But you will tell me things?”

“Anything that seems important, as long as Nicki doesn’t ask me to keep it to myself,” I said. “And, um, they are going to know that I talk to you. I don’t keep secrets from friends.”

“Oh… well, that sounds non-negotiable?”

“Completely,” I said.

“Would talking to your owner change that?”

“Nope,” I said. “In fact, she would insist that I don’t.”

“Okay, then I guess I can live with it,” she said. “Okay, before we go, is there anything else you can tell me about what happened?”

“I don’t know what you already know,” I said.

“Well, assume I know nothing, because I mostly quizzed Grace on the sex… I didn’t know enough about what else might have happened to know what to ask about, and it sounds like you were there after the sex happened.”

“Okay,” I said. “Well, I went over to Nicki’s room to talk to her… I didn’t know that they’d met. They were both mostly naked when I got there, but I thought they could use some air and food so they got cleaned up and dressed and we went over to the food court. Your sister was pretty worked up that Nicki did things like holding doors for her, and at some point she agreed that Grace could call her ‘hers’… though the parameters of that aren’t settled, like exclusivity and stuff. They both seemed to want to take thing slow there.”

“You don’t think Nicki’s having doubts, do you?”

“I think that she doesn’t really know Grace yet,” I said. “But I think it’s like Dee leaving me alone with you… it’s not that she distrusts you in particular, and in fact I think she trusts you personally more than she would a lot of surface elves she just met, possibly more than many people in general, but she still doesn’t know you and so she can’t trust you fully. I think that’s how Grace and Nicki feel about each other, and about their relationship. They like it, but they’re not going to leave it alone in a room yet. Metaphorically, I mean.”

“Hmm,” Glory said. “It seems like the best thing I could do right now would be to release Grace to spend time with Nicki, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, that’s really the best,” I said. “Like, don’t get me wrong… I do think it’s good that you can sort of pull them apart, make sure they come up for air and get some time and space apart to think.”


“Yeah,” I said. “I don’t think it would be good for either of them… or their relationship… if they end up spending all of their time together like they did the past few days.”

“Hmm, you have a point,” she said. “And that’s really good, because I had been about to say ‘too bad I can’t do that’ on the whole releasing Grace thing, because technically she’s being punished. But I could spread the punishment out over a longer period of time? Then she’d get more slack from the others while she’s off punishment, and I’d have an excuse to rein her in.”

“Because you couldn’t just not punish her or end her punishment,” I said.

“Yeah,” Glory said, nodding in agreement. I decided not to push it. Grace had also expressed the idea that Glory’s punishments protected her from worse treatment at the hands of the rest of the court. “So… I guess that’s our plan then? I’ll cut Grace loose and you’ll tell me how it goes?”

“Yeah, I guess so,” I said. “How will I reach you?”

“Oh… I hadn’t thought of that,” Glory said. “As much as I’d like to say that I will be reaching you, that wouldn’t make a lot of sense, since I won’t know if you have anything to tell me until you tell me.”

“Um… I’m guessing you have a magic mirror?” I said.

“Yeah. Wait… do you?”

“I have access to one,” I said.

“Okay, then we have a plan!” she said. “This… didn’t at all go like I expected it to, but I can’t really complain about how it turned out!”

And there… right there… I understand what it was about Glory that I liked, in spite of her superior manner and her other flaws. Just being not as bad as other middlings in Treehome wasn’t enough to make her likeable, but she’d believed me when I said I didn’t know things she expected me to know. She didn’t throw a tantrum or break down or ignore reality when the facts didn’t coincide with her expectations or I didn’t fit her mental image of me.

It was… nice. If Grace took after her big sister as much as I thought she did, this boded well for Nicki’s relationship.

Or for her relationship with Nicki.

“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” I said. “But I’m glad it happened.”

“So sweet! Just for that, I’ll let you be the bearer of good news,” Glory said. “If you see Nicki, tell her to expect Grace tomorrow!”

“I will be extremely happy to do that,” I said, and I meant it.

Attention, MU readers!

On occasion when I want some extra money for con expenses, I give readers the opportunity to name a building on campus via the traditional method for doing so: giving money. There’s going to be a new building coming up in connection with Glory and Grace, which means there’s an opportunity to make your mark on the story. The price is $300, and it’s first come, only serve. I will contact the purchaser to discuss their name choice. I reserve the right to reject a name that is unsuitable, but will work with the buyer to come up with a name that meets their needs and works. Typically people pick names to get their own or a friend’s name into a story, or as a memorial to someone they care about. If you want to use the opportunity to honor someone in particular, I can work in some details of the real person’s life into the fictional background of the person in-world the building was named for.

Gilcrease and Paradox Towers, the Archimedes Center, and the Emily Dactyl Center are all examples of buildings named by or for readers, as is the Ian H. Smith Hall.

We have a buyer! Thank you, lucky and generous reader… I’m in transit today, but will shoot you an email tonight that you may respond to at your leisure.

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

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

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21 Responses to “Chapter 153: Alone With Glory”

  1. Tomo says:

    interesting chapter, I wonder what will happen in the future with glory and grace.

    also gotta ask, does grace pleasure glory as well, or does glory just have grace fuck the other elves FOR her?

    Current score: 0
  2. 'Nym-o-maniac says:

    Oh, I do so wish I had $300 to spare. I’d love to get something named after Cassandra Cain… ah well.

    Excellent chapter. Middling culture continues to creep me out a bit – it’s like the distilled essence of high school, only for an even longer period of time and even nastier. I really do like Glory, though.

    Current score: 0
  3. Helge says:

    So with the last OT, you’ve provided a teaching moment about contrasting lifetimes. Nice. If only people would really act on the urgency of their mere four-score years, rather than acting as if they’d never die. ^_^

    Current score: 0
  4. Anne says:

    Though I can’t bid on the naming rights either I am wondering if there would be enough interest to auction it (or something similar) to the highest bidder rather than at a set price. That is if you set a reserve bid of $300 (or whatever amount you needed or wanted) as the minimum?

    Current score: 0
  5. Dani says:

    We’ve been told that Grace’s court is low on the middling pecking order. I wonder why its members join it. Is it composed of Elves who couldn’t get accepted into the Cool Courts? Is it composed of Elves who prefer a court that is, by middling standards, laid-back and non-cut-throat? (I assume that it’s very hard to opt out of the middling hierarchical games, just as it’s very hard to opt out of being a teenager among teenagers.)

    I wonder about the Elf who summoned Mack, and who agreed that she could bring a guard. It might be that such precautions are routine. But it would say something interesting about Glory’s court if the minion Elf was willing to make a judgment call on Glory’s behalf and expect it to stick.

    I wonder what Dee thinks of Glory and her court. Does she think Pale Elves are naive and trusting and insufficiently-paranoic? Or is she used to very-young Elves being cute and harmless by grown-Elf standards?

    Current score: 0
    • Eris Harmony says:

      I don’t think Dee would think of Glory as being particularly young. Socially she may be considered more of an adult than Glory is, just because they come from different cultures, but in absolute terms isn’t Glory older than Dee? Whatever thoughts she has are probably more about Faint Elf culture in general, and middling culture in particular.

      I did find the comment about stillness being learned interesting, and now I’m wondering if Steph’s age was ever established, because it sounds like she has that ability to a greater degree than Grace does. Maybe even more than Glory–Glory seemed to use it as a matter of social need, while for Steph it seems more like a reflex.

      Current score: 0
      • Matt says:

        I was under the impression Steff was the same age as a human in their third year would be, i.e. 20 or 21. I believe Dee is around 30.

        Current score: 0
      • wocket says:

        Don’t forget, Steff is half-elf. While it may seem that a full elf like Grace or Glory would have more of a mastery of stillness, since it’s an “Elven skill”, it’s probably something Steff practiced in an attempt to have her Elven heritage recognized. Meanwhile, full elves don’t have to master Elven skills to be recognized for who they are, so elves like Grace and Glory are able to get away with not being still at all, or only when it suits them.

        Current score: 0
    • Cadnawes says:

      People probably join it for assorted reasons. I mean I can think of how frats and sororities were when I was in college. If you wanted to belong to one, and there are benefits, you might not feel you belong in the prestigious one full of people prettier than you if they’re going to treat you like crap to see how bad you want it. And others I knew back then tried for the “cool” groups and failed, so moved on to their second and third choices. Too, a startling number of people go with the Grace option of going where their family has gone in the past, coolness be damned.

      Current score: 0
  6. N. says:

    Spelling – character tag says Mackenze.

    Current score: 0
  7. Computer Mad Scientist says:

    The word of power bit got me laughing. 😀

    Lacking Sooni’s flavor of insanity is kind of a low standard for liking someone, but I can’t help but agree.

    Current score: 1
  8. Zathras IX says:

    “Tell me exactly”
    Has power to obliterate
    Detailed memories

    Current score: 1
    • Anthony says:

      If the Queen attacked
      Mack, she would have gone out in
      a Blaise of Glory.

      Current score: 2
  9. Not her the other girl says:

    “People who don’t have any other choice but to try to cram a lifetime of education and education into a few paltry years,” Glory said.

    Did you mean education and experience?

    And yes, the word of power part is so, so true.

    Current score: 0
  10. pedestrian says:

    “Okay, okay, okay… tell me exactly…”

    My wife had this magical power to induce amnesia, when she was interrogating me after a party about my private conversations with some pretty, young woman.

    It would of have been useful to be able to set the room on fire….

    Current score: 2
  11. Arkeus says:

    Wait, isn’t Dee 100+ years old? i thought she was well on her way to her second century, though i can’t remember why i thought so?

    Current score: 0
    • tomclark says:

      I thought she was around 30…

      Current score: 0
  12. lordriel says:

    Well, just wrapped up reading everything, and for the first time I’m now one of those who are patiently (ish) awaiting the next chapter.

    Now that my reading is real-time, I can actually comment and not be anachronistic in my responses.

    Thanks, AE, for the world of people you’re bringing to us all.

    Current score: 0
  13. tomclark says:

    “I don’t know, just saying that you’re doing it in my name,” she said. “It sounds cool? I think I would like for people to do things in my name.”

    “So, when I’m hanging out with your sister and her girlfriend, you want me to announce that I’m doing it in your name?”

    “…okay, when you say it like that, it sounds… yeah, it’s not a perfect plan,” she said.

    I snerked so hard at that!

    she’d believed me when I said I didn’t know things she expected me to know. She didn’t throw a tantrum or break down or ignore reality when the facts didn’t coincide with her expectations or I didn’t fit her mental image of me.

    It was… nice.

    Yeah, it’s nice to deal with people who are a bit more grounded in reality than Sooni, as a general rule. 😛

    Current score: 0
  14. pedestrian says:

    I just started laughing at myself, when I came to the realization.

    Here WE are on the electronic Internet as medium.
    As distinct from the ‘reality’ of our experienced lives as is physically possible.

    Expressing our emotional concerns and intellectual debates over the fictional contretemps of fictional characters in fictional situations.

    It is a good thing that Alexandra has such a well developed sense of the absurd. In the manner of Munchhausen and Dodson and Swift, of course. I do not think I am exaggerating when I place AE in that company. Not when I step back and look back over her entire body of work produced too date.

    “Beware the Scholar. At a stroke of his brush, your empire rises and at the next stroke of his brush, your empire falls. To the Scholar all Mankind are but strawdogs.”

    From a new translation of Sun Tzu “Art of War”, if I remember correctly.

    Current score: 1
  15. Xicree says:

    Wow… In her own ways… Glory is JUST as goofy as Grace is. And besides the Elven cultural garbage that comes along, i really like her. heh.

    Current score: 0