268: Pressing Matters

on August 14, 2008 in Book 10

In Which Dee Capitulates

The piece was neither very long nor very informative, and frustratingly, it took three newscasters the entire length of it to tell us, in essence, that they didn’t know anything for sure.

The “unidentified dark elven student” had been arrested following an altercation on Wednesday. It was not known whether or not violence had been involved… it could not be confirmed if she had actually been “naked and raving” when she was arrested… there had been no further comment from the university… there was no word from the embassy in Ceilos… at this time, no more information was available.

“Ceilos?” Steff repeated as they cut away to the next story. “Why way the fuck out there?”

“It’s probably the nearest one,” I said.

“And what’s this bullshit about her being arrested on Wednesday? They can’t just hold somebody for two nights without even charging them.”

“Dee’s not a citizen,” I said. “I’d be really surprised if they don’t have totally different rules for non-human aliens.”

Even as I calmly said I wouldn’t be surprised, I was shocked to realize that I had stronger legal protections than she did.

“You go get our stuff together and I’ll tell the kitchen that breakfast is to go,” Steff said.

“Okay,” I said. I turned and started for the bedroom. There was no need to discuss it… breakfast on the terrace would have to wait. Though, breakfast on this terrace was probably shot.

“Hey, was that live?” Steff asked, before I’d gone two steps. “That bit with her coming down the stairs?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“We should try to get over to the courthouse,” Steff said.

“Don’t you think her lawyer will have put her in a coach?” I asked.

“Yeah, I guess so… I just wish somebody could have been there to meet her,” Steff said. “How did none of us know about this?”

“Well… we were kind of busy,” I said. “Anyway, it sounds like whatever went down, it went down quietly.”

“Yeah,” Steff said. “I just wish she could have seen a friendly face, you know?”

“Yeah… but I don’t know. Maybe she’d just be embarrassed if people she knew were there?”

“You don’t think she’d be scared?”

“Dee… scared?” I asked. It seemed so out of character. “I can imagine her getting pissed, but not scared.”

“But don’t you think, given her race’s reputation up here… and the reputation that us wacky sun-drenched folks must have down there… that some worst case scenarios might have been playing through her head when they took her away?” Steff asked. “Or when she was alone in a holding cell?”

That was a chilling thought, especially since I could very easily project myself into that mindset… all I had to do was remember how it had felt to have the delving students debate whether they should finish me off or leave me to die on my own.

“Ooh, look,” Steff said, pointing at the TV. A woman’s face filled the box. Marble columns were visible over her shoulder.

“Tom, we’ve just received word that the student… now identified as Miss Duh-lee-yuh Day-ell-uh, from the dark elf city of DeVir…”

“At least they got her name right,” I said. From the way she’d over-enunciated it, it was pretty obvious she’d been spoon-fed the pronunciation.

“Shh,” Steff hissed.

“…a statement here at Republican Square in just a few minutes. We’ll be here live for that. It seems this wasn’t Miss Delia’s first bout of exhibitionism, either.” We both cringed at the faux pas. “Yes, it has now been confirmed that this is the same dark elf student who took off her clothes one week ago today in a bizarre show of solidarity with a missing infernally-descended student. The subject of dark elves and demon worship has always been a sensitive one…”

“Uh, maybe because they don’t worship demons,” I said.

“…but it seems clear that there is some kind of sympathy there.”

“Right, because she was the only one at the demonstration,” Steff said. She turned off the TV. “I can’t watch this.”

“Where’s that square?” I asked.

“Downtown.”

“Are we downtown?”

“No, we’re on the wrong side of the channel,” Steff said.

“How long would it take us to get there?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Steff said. “Ten, fifteen minutes… but maybe longer, if traffic’s bad.”

“Well, let’s try,” I said. “If we miss her completely, we can just head back to school and catch her there.”

“Okay.”

Steff had all the rest of our stuff together before I managed to find both of our socks. We canceled the breakfast order. I felt bad about putting the kitchen staff out, but Steff said they probably hadn’t even started making it yet. We hurried downstairs and checked out. I expected the desk guy to ask us to settle the room service bill… or worse, reveal that the payment for the room had been turned down or taken back somehow… but he assured us we were all settled up, and then offered to get us a cab.

“Do you think Mercy’s going to be ticked off that we stuck her with the room service?” I asked Steff once we were safely ensconced in our coach and on the way.

Steff laughed.

“Hon, that’s a drop in the bucket,” she said. “Anyway, didn’t you say she rode up on the room service cart? And that the chicken was her idea? It’s not like it’s going to be a surprise when she gets her statement…”

“I’ve just got a feeling she might try to hold it over me,” I said.

“‘Oh, no,’ said the camel. ‘I hope he’s seriously not thinking about putting that straw in the pack.'”

“Funny,” I said. “But excuse me for being a little worried about having an assassin-cum-slaver-cum-restaurateur-cum-breeder that interested in me.”

“Wow, three times in one sentence and you’re not even tired,” Steff said.

“What?”

“Never mind,” she said. She giggled. “I’m sorry, hon, but I’m only capable of worrying about one person at a time and right now Dee’s kind of at the forefront, you know?”

“Really?” I said. “Because honestly, it’s hard to tell you even like her, sometimes.”

Steff snorted.

“What?” I asked.

“Honey, can you imagine what it would look like to somebody who doesn’t know us when I start in on you sometimes?” she asked.

“But, seriously… when you guys first met each other, it seemed like you hated each other,” I said. “Did you make up when I wasn’t around?”

“Well… no,” Steff said. “And to be honest, I don’t know if Dee has any warm squishy feelings about me, but… I like her. She can take people’s crap without taking any crap, you know?”

“First of all, that doesn’t make any sense,” I said. “But second of all, yeah… I think I do know what you mean.”

“And also, I wish I was as brave as she was,” Steff said.

“You were pretty fearless charging into those ghouls,” I said.

Steff shrugged.

“Ghouls are just dead bodies that don’t have the sense to stop moving,” she said. “I see that a couple times a week. But, she left behind everyone she knows and came here…”

“You went to Kilrest.”

“With Viktor. She came alone,” Steff said. “To a place where she expected everyone to hate her, even.”

“Well… you’re not always welcomed with open arms, either, are you?” I asked.

“No, but I don’t have a choice,” she said. “Dee could have stayed home fucking the help for the rest of her life… she decided to quit being the psychic princess of underland and come be a bogeywoman for a while. That takes guts.”

I took Steff’s hand and gave it a little squeeze.

“Say whatever you want… I think you’re pretty damn gutsy yourself,” I said. “And when I think about people I admire… if I had to pick one person and say ‘I wish I was as brave as they are’, it would be you.”

You say whatever you want, but there’s one thing I know Dee’s brave enough to do that I never could,” Steff said.

“What’s that?”

“Take off my clothes in public, not even caring who sees.”

“Oh, yeah,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Because you’re such a prude, Steff.”

“It’s not that,” she said.

“What?” I asked.

Steff’s eyes flicked briefly downwards.

“What?” I repeated.

“When I take off my clothes, I turn into a boy,” she said. “Clothes unmake the man, you know.”

“I hate to break it to you, but the people who care about what you’ve got between your legs aren’t going to see you as a girl, anyway,” I said.

“Those people can choke to death on their own dicks,” Steff said. “But… seeing is believing, you know? I can’t help but think that it makes a difference to most people. If they meet me all prettied up, they’re not even going to think twice… but once they’ve seen me in living lack of color?”

“I saw you and nothing changed,” I said.

“Yeah, well, give it time… you’re pretty slow on the uptake,” she said.

“Ha, ha,” I said.

Before too long, the coach came to a stop at a curb. It didn’t quite look like the place the reporter had been… we seemed to be by an ordinary block of office buildings and shops, not the government buildings I’d glimpsed in the TV.

“End of the line,” the cabbie called. “This is as far as she goes.”

“The square’s part of a pedestrian thingy,” Steff explained, seeing my confusion.

She paid the fare, and we headed at as brisk a pace as I could manage while keeping my feet down and my head up. Once we got off the street and through the alley, the architecture started looking a little more Republican.

“How do you know this place?” I asked Steff. Civic affairs didn’t seem to be inside her area of interest.

“Field trips to the coroner’s office,” she said.

Judging by the crowd in front of the municipal building, it seemed we hadn’t missed Dee’s press conference. It wasn’t a large crowd, but it seemed a bit excessive once you realized that just about everybody in it was reporters and their crews.

Dee was standing behind a podium, separated from the throng by a semicircle of sawhorses. Her cowl was down, and her long hair was bound back in a tight ponytail… the look didn’t really suit her, in my mind. Dee’s hair normally had an untamed sort of look about it… not wild, but not tamed. It was like she didn’t need to do anything with it because it wouldn’t dare to misbehave.

Her lawyer flanked her on one side, holding a large parasol, and a municipal guardsman stood on the other.

“Good morning, and alim,” she said to the crowd, in a loud, clear voice. “I have a brief statement to make. I understand now that my conduct was inappropriate. I apologize to Magisterius University for the disturbance I caused and to the township of Enwich for the use of their resources engendered by my actions. I will try to remember that I am a stranger to your land and a guest in your province, and I ask for your patience and forgiveness. Thank you.”

She stepped backwards and out from behind the podium, then bowed at the waist until her torso was parallel to the ground and held that pose as questions were shouted from the crowd. The lawyer stepped up to the podium.

“Ms. Delia Daella has no further comment at this time,” she said. “She is eager to resume her studies and put this incident behind her.”

“Is it true that her visa is under review?” a reporter asked.

“I couldn’t speak to that, but Ms. Delia Daella is here in the Imperium legally and as she has not been charged with any crime, there is no reason to believe her status would change,” the lawyer said. “If you will excuse me, I must see to my client.”

The guardsman and a couple of street cops started escorting the lawyer and Dee towards the side of the square while some of the reporters shouted questions and others started moving off to make their reports.

“Dee! Dee!” Steff yelled, bouncing up and down and waving her hand.

The lawyer started to turn Dee around and hurry her away from the crowd, but Dee pulled away from her and started heading towards us… a path that would have taken her straight through the crowd. The guardsman stopped her.

“Come on,” Steff said, grabbing my hand and pulling me towards her. She shoved and darted her way through the thinning sea of people, dragging me along in her wake until I collided with a reporter who’d been speaking into a mirror.

She wheeled around to say something, then blinked at me in surprise.

“Holy Khao, you’re Mackenzie Blaise!” she said.

“Uh…” I said, utterly taken off-guard.

“No comment!” Steff said, yanking me away. A pair of glowering police officers stopped us as we approached Dee. “It’s okay, we’re with the band,” she told them.

“Delia Daella?” the lawyer said.

“They are my friends, and I would speak with them,” Dee said.

“The idea was to get you out of here quickly,” the lawyer said. “We have a carriage waiting to take you back to school.”

“I have not seen such a thing as a one person carriage,” Dee said. “I said what you required of me… is there any reason I must continue to tolerate your presence?”

“You’re welcome, young lady,” the lawyer said. She gestured towards the escorts. “Whatever, let them through… just make sure she gets out of here.”

The guardsman rolled his eyes, then turned to us and said, “You heard the boss… let’s move it along, folks.”

Dee ignored him and bowed to us.

“I am grateful for your presence,” she said. “But I would not have had you absent yourself from your studies on my behalf.”

“Oh, don’t even flatter yourself,” Steff said, waving a hand dismissively. “We were in town anyway… Mack cut for me, and I cut for her.”

“I see,” Dee said. “In that case, I am overwhelmed that you would curtail your personal time for me.”

“You’re touched, I’m touched, everybody’s touched,” Steff said. She looked around. The crowd was starting to draw a larger, less professional crowd. “But I think your legal beagle’s got the right idea about getting you off the street…”

“She is not in my employ,” Dee said, through an unmoving jaw. “She was foisted upon me by the embassy, and once I am quit of her, I intend to press this issue further.”

“Come on,” I said quietly. “You can tell us about it when we’re alone.”

“Very well.”

We were escorted to a black coach parked in a roped-off area of the plaza. It bounced a little bit on the cobblestones until we reached the street proper.

“So… are you alright?” I asked. It seemed like the wrong question somehow, but I didn’t know what else to ask.

“I am physically unharmed,” Dee replied. It was a very Two-like answer, but I let it pass.

“Amaranth was pretty worried about you,” I said.

“Her enthusiastic concern for the well-being of others is among her redeeming traits,” Dee said. “No matter how misplaced it may be.”

“Oh, come on,” Steff said. “Tell us what happened.”

“I was accosted by witless brutes, threatened and terrorized, and forced to read a statement which was an abject falsehood,” she said. Her eyes were flashing, and her nostrils looked dilated. Her hands were trembling. There was a weird hum in the air all around her. “At least I was permitted to say ‘inappropriate’ instead of ‘indecent’… they wanted me to say that my body was indecent. Can you imagine?”

“Well, um… kind of,” I said. “You can’t sit around in public like that… people have certain standards about that kind of thing.”

“I’m well aware of your body issues, but to the civilized mind, the purpose of clothing is personal privacy and comfort,” Dee said. “If I choose to dispense with those…”

“Hon, I’d be the first to agree with you that it’s your right to do whatever and whoever you want with your body,” Steff said, “but you know what they say: ‘When in the Mother City…’.”

“I do not, in point of fact, know what they say,” Dee said.

“Keep your money in your shoe,” Steff said.

“I fail to see how that applies,” Dee said.

“What Steff means is, you have to follow the rules of the society you’re in,” I said.

“I would have no problem obeying the local taboos with regards to clothing,” Dee said. “It isn’t as though there are no customs and strictures regarding the same in my land. It is the reason that is given for them that I find unconscionable. My body is a work of art individually crafted by the goddess of intricacy. There is nothing indecent about it.”

“Okay, but what do you prove if you get yourself kicked out of the Imperium over this?” I asked.

“That I refuse to believe there is anything indecent about my body,” Dee said.

“But from their point of view, they’ll have won,” Steff said.

“Well, they will be wrong.”

“But they’ll never realize that,” I said.

“Yeah, you won’t accomplish anything except for making a lot of idiots think that they’re right,” Steff said.

“So, what am I supposed to do?” Dee asked. “Capitulate? I have never in my life resorted to…”

“If I had three live-in lovers, I’d probably never need to capitulate, either,” Steff groused.

Dee stared at her, her eyes bulging and her lips in something between a quiver and a pout, and then, amazingly… impossibly… she threw back her head and she laughed.

“It wasn’t that funny,” Steff mouthed to me as Dee continued to roar uncontrollably. When she finally stopped, tears had streamed down her cheeks.

“I apologize for that outburst,” she said. “I have not slept since Tuesday night.”

“Uh… it’s okay, really,” Steff said.

“In any event, perhaps it would be prudent to take a longer view of the matter,” Dee said. She produced a cloth from inside her sleeve and wiped her face before reaching behind her head and letting her hair out of the ponytail. “So long as I remain here, I can serve as an example and an instrument of change.”

“So, is anything happening to the newspaper in all this, or do they just keep doing what they’re doing?” I asked.

“The embassy is sending them an informational primer, and that woman… who, I should mention, hardly deserves the title… has said that they will all be undergoing sensitivity training. It is all part of the agreement I was allegedly part of.”

“Well, that’s something,” I said.

“Why do you take off your clothes when you’re protesting, anyway?” Steff asked.

“Isn’t that obvious?” Dee asked.

We both shook our heads.

“You don’t think it would be hypocritical of me not to?”

“Not really, no,” I said.

“Hmm,” she said, and with that, she lapsed into a silent contemplation of the carriage floor.


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8 Responses to “268: Pressing Matters”

  1. pedestrian says:

    I guess the IR hasn’t had their version of Gandhi.

    Current score: 4
  2. Erm says:

    Holy Khao!

    (At least Mack kept from retorting that Kao is only a demi-god and therefore not deserving of the Kh.)

    Current score: 3
    • Moridain says:

      And like the real world the culture of the primary religeon thinks it is okay to curse using the name of other dieties. 🙁

      Current score: 0
      • zeel says:

        Wait, people do that? I have never once heard anyone use any name for a diety other than those for the judeochristion god as a curse. Is this really a thing in some places?

        Current score: 0
        • Anon says:

          I’ve heard ‘merciful Zeus’ and ‘Thor’s beard’ from multiple people in several situations, plus dozens of variations on Buddha…

          The basic concept seems to be that taking the lord’s name in vain would be a sin, but using a deity which *obviously* isn’t even real is perfectly fine and kinda funny.

          Current score: 0
          • Athena says:

            I’ve heard those on rare occasions… but honestly, mostly from people whose relationship with the judeochristian religions are so severely contentious they don’t want touch any of it with a ten foot barge pole, even to curse.

            Which is kind of the *opposite* reason…

            Current score: 0
  3. Rey d'Tutto says:

    I have called on YHWH, Christ, Brahma, Allah, Shiva, Thor, Odin, Jupiter, Mars, Kallisti, the Green Man, and others when frustrated.
    When I’m in pain, however, I curse using Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can’t Use on TV.”

    Current score: 3