In Which Mackenzie Is Given A Title

After I left the fitness center, I began to wonder if I’d pushed things too far with Coach Callahan. I doubted it, because she had never hesitated to deck a student for talking back to her, and historically she’d shown even less restraint in dealing with my invulnerable ass. And maybe that was part of what was unsettling something in the back of my brain… I wasn’t used to getting away with it.

I played the whole thing back in my head all through dinner… not out of preference but because I couldn’t find any way to stop it… and it gradually dawned on me that maybe there hadn’t been anything to get away. I hadn’t been out of line. My objections and conditions had been reasonable. I hadn’t been asking the coach for favors or special treatment… she’d been asking me to help her.

Amaranth could tell my mind was elsewhere, so I described the situation to her when we got back to our room and asked her what her thought.

“If it happened the way you describe, then I can’t see where you did anything wrong,” she said. “And if Coach Callahan reacted the way you say, then I can’t imagine that you did. I don’t have as much experience with your coach as Steff or Ian does, but I think they would probably both tell you that she’ll always let you know where you stand with her.”

“That’s definitely true.”

“It sounds to me like she really values your opinion, at least when it comes to complex enchantments,” she said.

“I think she values my command of jargon more,” I said. “But… it’s nice to be appreciated. Especially since I’ve always had such a low opinion of the value of what she does.”

“I think at heart, she’s a pragmatist,” Amaranth said. “From what you’ve told me about her classes, all that she cares about is what works. Even if she personally believes that strength of arms are superior to magic, I don’t imagine that would stop her from accepting a battlemage’s word about battlefield magic.”

“I don’t think she’d take anyone’s word lightly,” I said.

“Yes, but assuming she knew the mage wasn’t foolish or arrogant,” Amaranth said. “My point is that even if she personally disliked someone, she wouldn’t use that as an excuse to discount the source of information that would help her achieve a goal, or survive.”

“That’s probably true,” I said. Our conversation was interrupted by a gentle yet audible chime from my jacket, which I’d dutifully hung up in one of the larger wall cubbies… my mirror had started to go off in the pocket. “…I should get that, it might be important.”

“Oh, dear,” she said, biting her lower lip. “I hope it isn’t Lee.”

“Me, too…”

The reason I had a pocket mirror was so that my lawyer could get in contact with me without me needing to go to a public mirror, but I couldn’t imagine him reflecting me at night unless there was an emergency and I couldn’t imagine what kind of late-night legal emergency would come up that wouldn’t involve me trying to get a hold of him.

So I was a little relieved but not terribly surprised when I opened the compact and saw Glory. The relief quickly faded. I hadn’t thought much of the fact that Grace and Nicki didn’t come to dinner with us… Grace still had her duties to her sister’s court, and while Nicki had become more likely to join us even when Grace wasn’t there, she still didn’t show up every time… but sudden and unexpected communication from her sister on a night when I hadn’t seen Grace was worrying.

“Hey… what happened?” I asked. It wasn’t much of a greeting, even for someone of a less lofty station than a middling elf-queen, but I blurted it out before I knew it.

“What?” she said, the question seeming to catch her off-guard. “Several things have happened, but I don’t know which you would mean.”

“I’m sorry, let me try again,” I said. “Can I help you with something, Queen Glory?”

“Several things, potentially,” she said. “I figured out a way to describe my relationship with you!” she said.

“…do we really need one?” I asked. It was awkward to try to talk around the subject of what we were to each other, but that was why I just didn’t bother to do it. “We’re… two people with a common interest.”

“That almost makes it sound like we’re partners, though,” she said. That was the reason why I didn’t want to pin things down… any term that would appeal to Glory wouldn’t be a symmetrical, bilateral relationship. Her internal organization chart came with an arrow saying ”This side up.”

“As long as we don’t actually call ourselves partners, what’s the problem?”

“It’s not a problem, exactly…”

“Then why do we need to change anything?” I asked. I was being way more blunt than I was used to when speaking with the self-proclaimed monarch, but when I felt stretched thin enough to speak my mind to Coach Callahan as much as I had, Glory’s royal protocol didn’t stand a chance.

“It’s a way of heading off inconvenient questions,” she said. “And… also… to be completely honest, it’s not entirely about defining my relationship, so much as it’s about redefining it.”

“I haven’t agreed to anything except helping you with your sister,” I said. “And that’s more about helping her and Nicki than you, if we’re being completely honest.”

“I know!” she said. “This is a proposal… wait, that can mean betrothal. Call it a proposition… wait, is there a Pax word for advancing an offer that doesn’t also relate to marriage or sex? Because I think I’ve already given you the wrong idea somehow and I don’t want to make it worse.”

“Consider me on guard against wrong ideas,” I said. “But I’m probably going to have to say no… I’ve got a lot of stuff on my plate as it is.”

“Really? Because I’m willing to pay,” she said.

“For what?” I asked.

The mention of money piqued my interest more than it should have. I figured Glory would probably have a slightly better grasp of the value of a shiny disc of metal than her sister did, but her sister’s money and the blasé way she handled gold had to have come from somewhere.

I’d created a bit of an income stream for myself selling my excess magical energy… except under strenuous conditions, it would top itself off faster than I would be able to deplete it anyway, which meant I had a lot of capacity that went to waste in the ordinary course of things, and there were always grad students looking for a little extra juice to put towards a serious enchanted item or a major ritual. Selling energy had kept me fed and given me a small hoard of coins over the summer, and while I would need more of my energy for myself as the fall semester wore on, I knew how to scrape by without any money coming in.

But that didn’t mean I enjoyed it.

“Wait for it…” Glory said, even though I already was. “For being my agent.”

“What exactly does that entail?” I asked.

“That’s the beautiful thing about it!” she said. “It really doesn’t… I mean, it doesn’t connote anything specific, except that you represent me and work for me in some matters. It doesn’t mean that you belong to me in any real sense, but it should be solid enough to keep other elf houses and courts away from you.”

I could see a downside to having such an open-ended job description, but since she’d opened the conversation by saying that she hoped I could help her with “several things”, I had a feeling that she had some specific ideas in mind.

“What exactly would I be doing for you?” I asked.

“First, you’d be minding my sister and her lover, just as you’ve been doing,” she said. “Second, I might ask you to do the occasional errand for me, since my usual errand-runner is increasingly otherwise occupied these days.”

“I’d have to know what kind of errands before I could even begin to make up my mind,” I said.

“Picking things up from town, mostly,” she said. “There are a lot of merchants who won’t deliver to Treehome.”

“That’s something they have in common with me,” I said. “Even if you could guarantee my safety in the compound, I’m not going into the deep woods unless a grade is involved.”

“Well, you could always hand things off to my sister, if it comes to that,” she said. “That might look better, anyway… and in the long run, if things work out the way I hope they will, this might not be an issue for long.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s too early to say,” she said. “Let’s just say that there’s been a… a hopeful development.”

“Are you going to tell me what this development is or what it’s in regards to?” I asked.

“No… but not because I don’t trust you,” she said. “I’m just trying to manage my own hopes a little, that’s all.”

“Glory, I’m going to be as clear as I possibly can about this,” I said. “I don’t really care whether or not you trust me. If you want me to work for you, I need to trust you. I like you… I like you and your sister both a lot. But I don’t know you well enough to trust you.”

“And trust is necessary for a working arrangement, isn’t it?” she asked.

She sounded so disappointed. I had expected maybe a touch of imperious anger or wounded pride, but she just sounded wounded. I wondered if it was possible for an elf-queen to have friends. Her underlings might try to define their relationships in terms of power, greater and lesser, but they probably had people near enough to equals that they could relax around each other.

“I’ll tell you what,” I said, wanting to throw her a bone and also wrap up the conversation. “Just to be convenient, you can call me your agent in any area I’m, you know, helping you with something… which right now is helping your sister’s relationship along. And if there’s anything else specific you want to ask me to do, for money, you lay it out for me and I’ll consider being your agent in that matter, too. How’s that sound?”

“That… that sounds promising,” she said. “Obviously, I’d be specific as to my needs if I were depending upon you to fulfill them. If I seem vague about the proposed arrangement now, it’s simply because I have no specific needs at the moment.”

“Good,” I said. “Just remember that this is a freelance thing… it won’t work if you’re going to be insulted if I have to say no to something. Or if I choose to say no. A fulltime student on a four-year plan has different time constraints than you’re probably used to dealing with.”

“Obviously your time is valuable,” she said. “You have so little of it. But on the subject of insults… you could address me a touch more deferentially, if you’re to be working for me.”

“As long as you remember that you don’t own me,” I said. “And… on that subject, I really can only provisionally agree to this. You’ll need to talk to Amaranth to finalize it, after we’ve talked between the two of us. And another thing that I’m not sure about… you said earlier that being your agent should keep the other elves at bay. How confident are you of that?”

“About… eighty percent?” she said. “But I’m almost ninety-nine percent sure that if there is a confrontation over it, it will happen on my end… and if that happens, it just might be the excuse that I’ve been waiting for.”

“For what?” I asked. This was the second time she’d alluded to something along these lines, and it made me slightly nervous. She didn’t seem like a warmonger or even a serious power player, but she had carved out a kingdom for herself in the cutthroat world of the elven extended adolescence.

“Like I said, it’s too early to say,” she said.

“This isn’t helping the trust issue… my queen,” I said.

“If anything happens with it, you’ll be among the first to know,” she said.

“That’s what I’m afraid of.”


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28 Responses to “Chapter 163: Acquiring Agency”

  1. tigr says:

    Wow, and I wasn’t even expecting an update! Such a nice just-before-going-to-sleep surprise 🙂

    Current score: 1
  2. Zathras IX says:

    Glory doesn’t own Mack
    Making her a free Agent
    Who gets paid to play

    Current score: 1
  3. Nicholas Beener says:

    Typo: “room and asked her what her thought.”

    Should be: “room and asked her what SHE thought.” I think?

    Current score: 0
  4. Cylpheed says:

    And thus the Treehome-Runners were born. -.-”

    Current score: 1
  5. avi says:

    really starting to like the Queen, just wanted to wish everyone goodnight this is way to late for me to be awake but heck its my Bday bash so 😀

    /wave

    Current score: 0
    • Calia says:

      Happy birthday, birthday twin!

      Was too busy yesterday to check, but seeing this chapter first thing in the morning is a great present too 🙂

      Current score: 1
      • Lunaroki says:

        Holy cow, it’s my birthday today too! How many of us are there?

        Current score: 0
        • mathemagician says:

          7.000.000,000/365.25
          = 19,178,082

          Current score: 1
  6. skyskimmer says:

    “Her internal organization chart came with an arrow saying ‘This side up.’”

    Then it gets read by dark elves.

    Current score: 1
  7. Readaholic says:

    Ooh, am I being too hopeful in thinking this involves dealing with Ursula?

    Current score: 0
  8. pedestrian says:

    If Our Mack is the tripwire, line-in-the-sand? Checkpoint Charley? DMZ?

    In the event of the outbreak of Elven conflict, Mackenzie would have the opportunity to field-test what she has actually learned from the Coach’s training and enchantment classes and infernal abilities and maybe even the ROTL.

    A First Strike at Our Mack, testing the limits of her invulnerability, how fast can she recharge her innate powers. The purpose I would suspect is to try to prevent a closer association/alliance with Glory’s Court.

    The cachet/bragging rights of possibly having a notorious half-demon to accept vassalage? Since Glory is just a couple of decades from the fierce competitions of Adult Elven society. Leaving MU with an enhanced reputation or even notoriety would be a shrewd career move on her part. And good reason for her potential competitors to want to thwart her.

    Plus an attack on Mackenzie would be intended to avoid collateral damage among the human community and resultant bad feeling against Elven youthful exuberance. Many segments of Human society would not sympathize with someone of demonic descent and share the smug opinion that this is the just results of mingling/interacting with other Races.

    Current score: 0
  9. Peter Granzeau says:

    I really like the description of Glory’s concept of an organizational chart, and wonder how anyone could find it in them to deal with her on that basis.

    Current score: 0
  10. Lunaroki says:

    Regarding Glory’s remark about Mackenzie’s time being valuable because she has so little of it, she doesn’t really know that much about half-demons, does she? Then again I suppose most people don’t, human, elven or otherwise. She seems to be thinking of Mack in terms of having a human lifespan. From what I recall the only known limitation on how long a half-demon can live up until now is how long it takes before said half-demon winds up getting killed by mob violence or some other type of violence. If Mack is careful she might theoretically be able to outlast Glory.

    Current score: 0
    • pedestrian says:

      Sounds great on paper but so far as we know from canon, most if not all half-demons have ‘spontaneously’ violently abbreviated life-spans.

      Mercy’s pair seem to be the rare exception.

      Current score: 0
      • Zukira Phaera says:

        indeed. but then again, Mercy’s pair are kept private, well fed and on a short leash or in a kennel most of the time. Very little by way of risk/chance there.

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    • Mo says:

      No, I think there was something about Brutus being about 500 and looking 35-40. So maybe 1000-2000 yeas before old age catches up with a half-demon?

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  11. William Carr says:

    Sigh.

    I can just see Glory getting a bit “confused” about the issue of ownership and ending up selling somebody to Mercy.

    She’s gonna need a smack down.

    Mack has the boots for ass kicking, she has the belt for power storage, now she needs the Magic Motorcycle and Magic Chainsaw.

    Really, a magically animated chainsaw shouldn’t be THAT hard.

    You’d fake it, by enchanting the “links” of the chain as “Teeth”. And they wouldn’t have to actually rotate around the bar, just wiggle back and forth like barracuda teeth.

    Chomp, chomp, chomp-puh-puh-puh-puh-puh-puh-puh-brum, brum !

    And it occurs to me Mack could store excess energy in the ‘Cycle… LOTS of it.

    As in her daily surplus for WEEKS.

    If Mercy saw her coming on a magically propelled ‘Cycle waving what looked like a magically animated sword with snapping, snarling metal teeth on it… she might just decide to step out of the way.

    Current score: 0
    • Erm says:

      If Mercy saw her coming on a magically propelled ‘Cycle waving what looked like a magically animated sword with snapping, snarling metal teeth on it… she might just decide to step out of the way.

      Mercy is an assassin. Stepping out of the way and then stabbing you in the back is basically what she does.

      I don’t think she’s indefeatable, but big and flashy would never do the trick.

      Current score: 0
  12. slaxor says:

    This thing with Callahan asking for Macks perspective, wouldn’t that imply that Callahan knows less about enchantment than Mack does about swords of ancient history? I’m sure Callahan’s had to deal with lots of enchantments and magical beings. Like, for instance, a dragon. Wouldn’t she have found it expedient to learn a thing or two? Or couldn’t she have picked something up from acquaintance or experience? I just find it hard to believe that someone as practical and experienced as Callahan would get that much from a freshly minted sophomore.

    Perhaps I’m wrong, and enchantment really is that difficult, but Mack was probing the sidewalks enchantments on one of her first nights here. Did I under-estimate her experience?

    Current score: 0
    • Erm says:

      Knowing the most effective tools for killing sounds like something completely separate from knowing how to analyze unfamiliar enchantments in the abstract – particularly enchantments not aimed at killing.

      (Besides, whatever secrets Callahan has up her sleeves, I kind of doubt something as basic and ubiquitous as enchanted weaponry – even powerfully enchanted weaponry – is what allowed her to kill a a god and seven greater dragons. If it were that easy, other people would have done it.)

      Current score: 0
      • Oni says:

        In other words: Knowing how to put a bullet in someone’s head does not confer any innate skill with the inner mechanics of a machine gun. Also, for the purpose of this case (Callahan/Mock Boxes), it’s closer to guns and german watchwork. Both involve gears and springs, but both also involve stuff like gravity, matter and time.

        Current score: 1
  13. Erm says:

    agent

    – Special Agent Mackenzie Blaise?
    – Agent B?
    – Blaise. Mack Blaise.?

    So many possibilities…

    Current score: 0
    • pedestrian says:

      Mackenzie tends to Modesty about her talents.

      Sometimes though she can be a little too Blasé about her abilities.

      Eventually, with a Liberal Arts education she may qualify as a Pascal.

      Current score: 0
  14. Brenda says:

    Awesome chapter! I’m wondering if Glory is planning some sort of a coup? I know she’s leader of her own group, but that’s the impression I’m getting.

    Also, an awkward bit of repetition:

    “Several things, potentially,” she said. “I figured out a way to describe my relationship with you!” she said.

    Current score: 0
  15. JewceGewse says:

    caution is one thing but at this point mac’s just being racist. not trusting her because shes an elf is like not trusting mac because shes a demon….to be fair both races give myrad reasons not to trust them for those very reasons(mac especially(she’s actually eaten fellow students with no repercussions)) but comeon. glory is pretty apparently well meaning and mac sets out to say’ll always be suspicious of everything she does and goes on to explicitly define their relationship as mercenary pay me for my time with no friendship being hinted at as a possible future. you start off defining something that way its unlikely to change organically. you’d need some other explicit declaration down the road.
    (i mean at the beginning of the conversation i get it but i’d have expected the tone to change a bit when she realized she was probably the closest thing to a friend glory might have)

    basically acting like this is a good way to make sure glory deals with mac and other nonelves on treehome terms.

    Current score: 0
  16. pedestrian says:

    I do not remember Mackenzie actually consuming any fellow students. The odd nibble here or there, perhaps. You know, like appetizers.

    Glory may be as ‘nice’ and human/demon hybrid friendly as one of the {temporary} dominant elves can get. That does not make contact safe or even neutral. Human – Elf relations are the very definition of the word “frienemy”.

    i.e. Look at the USA relationship with the Saudi Royal Family. They definitely have their own agenda and do not share our vision of the New World Order.

    We have suffered through four decades of ignorant incompetency and corruption by the Bush Leaguers as the bumboys for the Saudi’s. They have crippled the Federal Republic and they have left the expansion of the American Empire in disarray.

    Continuing to support the Arab tribes against the Turk/Iranian tribes puts us on the wrong side of the future.

    Current score: 0