318: The Tines Of A Dilemma

on November 19, 2008 in Book 12

In Which Two Counts Her Eggs Before They Hatch

“I take it you see the wisdom of my advice and are contacting your grandmother immediately,” Dee said as I pulled out my mirror again and flipped it open.

“Hell no,” I said. “I want to talk to my lawyer right now.”

“Baby?” Amaranth said.

“The delving teacher just said ‘finders keepers’ and let me walk off with the damned thing,” I said. “And the chancellor, too. Delving students probably are taught how to research and analyze whatever they find in the labyrinth, but they just let me go without any kind of guidance.”

It also occurred to me that if anybody got hurt or hurt someone else while under the influence of the pitchfork’s entity, there would be an apportioning of blame. The best way to make sure that didn’t fall down on our heads was to get the situation under control before that happened… but since the pitchfork had a head start, it was probably a good idea to at least give Lee a heads-up.

The mirror yanked itself out of my hand.

“Hey!” I said, grabbing for it and missing as it wobbled slowly towards Dee.

“This is not the time for selfish action,” Dee said, catching the mirror out of the air.

“I think making sure I don’t end up getting scapegoated and lynched is kind of the bare minimum level of selfishness,” I said. “Anyway, maybe instead of not trying to handle this by ourselves we shouldn’t be trying to handle this at all. We’re just students. You may be a priestess, but you’re only an initiate and a tiny piece of this thing almost took you.”

“You would stand by and do nothing while this entity endangers everybody you know and many more besides?” Dee asked. “I remind you that it bears a particular animosity for Amaranth.”

I felt a touch of horror at the thought of an evil entity out there, filled with mindless hatred for my beloved Amaranth… but after a moment’s consideration, that only hardened my resolve to keep as far away from the whole thing as I could. Let somebody with training and credentials deal with the problem… we’d gain nothing but unnecessary risks by making it personal.

“We’ll let the authorities handle it,” I said. “That’s what authorities do.”

“You don’t feel any personal responsibility to see this through?” Dee asked.

“None of this is my fault,” I said.

“I did not say fault,” Dee said. “I said responsibility. We are already involved.”

“Sorry, but the whole ‘it’s up to us to stop it!’ thing would play better with Sooni than me,” I said. “It isn’t up to us. We aren’t the only ones. I do want to see the pitchfork recovered and dealt with, but I don’t see how our getting any more mixed up with it is going to make that any more likely. Lee can figure out who to contact and how to tell them in a way that won’t make it fall back on us. If the world feels like being any kind of fair, we’ll get credit for doing the right thing and the school will take the blame for letting it happen, but I’ll settle for just not getting blamed.”

Dee turned towards Amaranth.

“She respects your opinion,” she said. “Tell her that this is foolishness.”

“I… I don’t know,” Amaranth said. “Anyway, it’s six thirty in the morning on a Sunday, baby… do you really think you’d get through to him right now?” She turned to Dee. “The same thing goes for Mrs. Blaise. If she’s awake right now, it’s probably for temple services or related duties.”

The mention of the time hit me like a brick, and almost knocked me out cold. With all the excitement, I’d been feeling pretty wide awake… ironically, it turned out that nothing got the blood pumping like a few moments of heart-stopping terror in the morning. Now that the immediate danger was passed, all it took was a mention of the actual time to bring me back down to the state of deep bone-tired exhaustion I should have been feeling all along, considering how little sleep I’d had.

“What if somebody is injured or killed because we delayed in bringing this to anybody’s attention?” Dee asked.

There was another heart-stopping moment. I looked at Amaranth, and she’d blanched… but after a moment, she shook it off.

“Oh, we aren’t going to lose anything because of a few hours,” Amaranth said. “Even when it possessed Mack, it didn’t go tearing around the place killing people. It’s more subtle than that, if only just… that’s another reason why talking to Mr. Jenkins is a good idea. As things stand, we’ve got a lot more supposition and personal observation than we have evidence. I think we’re going to need an advocate, somebody who already trusts us who can then make a case to the authorities that there’s an actual threat. Even then, it seems pretty likely that they’d just take down the information and put out some kind of an alert.”

“Yeah,” I said. I stretched, and then stifled the urge to yawn. “I’m not sure what else they could do, honestly,” I admitted. “I mean, we don’t know where it is. They can put some diviners on it, maybe get a description of the pitchfork to the media with a warning not to touch it… but if it’s already got somebody, it might just be a matter of waiting for it to do something that gets the person arrested. In that case, if the authorities already know about the pitchfork, it might help them get things sorted out a bit faster.”

Dee stared at us like she couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

“Are the two of you under an infernal influence right now?” she asked. “A cursed artifact, harboring a malign soul shard, is on the loose. Had anything of this sort happened back home, I could have brought it to the attention of the matriarch and with one word to the council she could have the whole city turned upside down in a search for the wretched thing or its current victim. Are you saying that your local government will not work with the same alacrity to protect its citizens?”

“Welcome to the great republic,” I said.

“Think of it this way, Dee,” Amaranth said. “A possessing entity impinges on the free will of one person at a time… but suspending civil rights for the entire campus, or the whole surrounding area, would infringe on the rights of all those people.”

“So… if I understand you correctly,” Dee said, turning her attention towards me, “you are telling me that you would rather leave this to the authorities to handle, but you do not think it is imperative to alert them immediately because you have no confidence that they will actually do so?”

Crap. She had a point.

“Okay… we’ll alert the authorities… through my lawyer… after we get some sleep… that it’s out there and then see if we can figure out where the pitchfork went after Amaranth had it,” I said. “If we can pin down where it is, it might be easier to get somebody to act on that. Somebody else, though… as in, not us. We’ve got no business tangling with this thing. If it possesses either one of us, it becomes incredibly dangerous.”

“I suppose that will have to do… and it probably is a good idea for you to speak to your attorney,” Dee said. She set my mirror down on the desk behind her. “But that does not preclude speaking to your grandmother. This is not going to be the last time that infernal issues plague you in your adult life. If you do not build a relationship of trust with her now, you will have to seek aid elsewhere.”

“Well… maybe I’ll just take my chances, then,” I said. “She‘s not the only option, I’m sure.”

“You have already expressed unease at dealing with other exorcists,” Dee pointed out.

“Yeah, but I’m sure not everybody is going to be out to destroy me because of my demon blood,” I said, trying to put more confidence into my voice than I felt.

“No, I rather suspect this world is full of people who would be inclined to give guidance to a young and naive half-demon, for a variety of reasons,” Dee said. That did give me pause. I thought of Mercy, who looked at me as the start of her own personal breeding mill. “Whatever your feelings towards your grandmother might be, you at least know her motivations. You have previously agreed to write to her… I feel you should seek her counsel on this matter, not only for the value of her experience but so that you may begin to build a relationship of trust and respect with her.”

“Is that what this is about?” I asked. “Getting me to respect my mother’s mother?”

“The respect of which I spoke is mutual,” Dee said.

“Guys, this doesn’t have to be decided right now,” Amaranth said. “Mack’s tired… I’m tired. Let’s sleep on this.”

“Please tell me you see some merit in what I am saying,” Dee said.

“Dee… I would love for Mack to have a loving relationship with her grandmother,” Amaranth said. “And if I thought it was enough to get them in a room together, I’d do what I could to make that happen…”

Dee seemed disappointed to not find more enthusiastic support from Amaranth. She stared at her for a few seconds, looked around the room like she expected to find somebody else who agreed with her, and then sighed.

“Very well,” she said, rising to her feet with one hand on the desk to support her. “I suppose I shall have to wait until you have rested and then trust that you will make the right decision. In a calmer moment, Amaranth, I will have a favor to ask of you.” She gave us a small bow. “I hope to see you both later.”

“You make sure you get some rest, too, Dee,” Amaranth said. “You look terrible. Would you like me to walk you to your room? I could give you some healing, if you need it.”

Dee gave a wry smile.

“I think I can manage the distance,” she said. “In any event, my injuries are not physical, so I shall simply bid you both good morning.”

She let go of the desk and bowed again, more deeply… it was hardly the deepest bow she’d ever given, but she nearly overbalanced. Amaranth caught her and steadied her.

“Are you sure you’re okay, Dee?” she asked. I knew she was thinking about the time Dee had accidentally locked her own mind in slumber.

“I am certain that I need nothing beyond rest, and that in my current state I will not need any extraordinary aid in attaining a state of sleep,” Dee said. She straightened her robes and headed for the door. She jiggled the knob unlocked, opened the door, and headed out into the hall.

“Hi, Dee!” Two called.

“Hello, Two,” Dee said, stepping aside to let Two past. She was carrying a heaping full wicker basket covered with a cloth.

“Hello, Mack. Hello, Amaranth,” Two said, closing the door behind her.

“Hi, Two,” I said.

“Hello, Two,” Amaranth said with a smile. “Where have you been this morning?”

“I went into Enwich for the farmer’s market,” Two said.

“You went there and back already?” Amaranth asked.

“My friend Hazel said you have to get there bright and early when it opens, if you want to get eggs before they hatch,” Two said.

“You… um… you know that’s not true, right?” I asked her.

“I know,” Two said. “It’s just one of my friend Hazel’s jokes. But I had to go some time and I did not have a reason to go any other time.”

She took the cover off the basket and spread it out on the desk before she started pulling things out. She counted the eggs as she took them out before putting them away in the fridge, and set some apples and bananas and oranges down on the cloth.

“That’s a very nice basket,” Amaranth asked. “Did you get it at the market?”

“Yes,” Two said. “Some of the stalls had bags but my friend Hazel told me the best part of going to the market was carrying the basket for her mother, so I made sure to get one. Well, actually, I got two, but one is for fruit.” So saying, she pulled out a smaller basket that was really more like a bowl that happened to be made out of wicker and started arranging the fresh fruit in it, then put it on top of her fridge.

“That looks really homey, Two,” Amaranth said, smiling. “It’s starting to look like a little house in here.”

“Thank you,” Two said. She put a hand over her mouth and gave a demure little yawn. “I hope it’s okay if I already had breakfast in town. I stayed up later than I was supposed to last night because it was an emergency, and now I would like to go back to bed.”

“No, that’s fine… we were going to go back to bed, too,” I said.

“We’ll get up in a few hours and you can make a late breakfast or an early lunch if you still feel like it,” Amaranth said. “How’s that?”

“Okay,” Two said. She got undressed, dropping her not-very-dirty clothes into the hamper and then changing into a fresh nighty. “Goodnight. Even though it’s not night.”

“Goodnight,” I said. I got out of my clothes, too. Amaranth gave me a little push on the rear as I climbed into bed and then she climbed in next to me.

With her warmth pressing up against me, it wasn’t long at all before I drifted off, though my sleep proved to be anything but restful.


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8 Responses to “318: The Tines Of A Dilemma”

  1. MackSffrs says:

    …they’re sleeping…
    What.

    Current score: 0
  2. MadnessMaiden says:

    @Macksffr: they can’t really do much now. I can’t say I blame them.

    Current score: 1
  3. Arkeus says:

    Ah, Mack, you bitch. And Amy’s being the usual enabler.

    Current score: 0
  4. Arakano says:

    Arkeus, HOW is Mack being a bitch here? And how is using sexist slurs necessary, anyway?

    What I love about this is how it shows how nobody is perfect, and everyone has a biased view of things: Dee’s deep desire for family harmony and respect/connection to one’s female ancestors makes her push Mack towards re-establishing a really unhealthy and abusive relationship with her grandmother. Of course, she does so because she does not know the relationship Granny Blaise actually had with Mack, what she actually did to her. Should Mack simply tell her? No. It’s not any of Dee’s damn business, pardon my French. It would be like Mack pushing her to break up with Dehsah because it’s not within Mack’s cultural framework to have a relationship with your former wetnurse…

    Current score: 9
  5. lunchbox says:

    Did nobody else notice TWO just DROPPED her clothes into the hamper?

    Current score: 9
  6. Jechtael says:

    Lunchbox: YES!

    I think Mackenzie and Amaranth should have called the law office before going to sleep. Even if Howard (name?) and Lee Jenkins aren’t there, someone should be. (I’m also being a little paranoid of the mirror, but that’s probably something Mackenzie has plenty of reason not to be paranoid about since she wasn’t the one who read a package being thrown out without the return address being explicitly read).

    Current score: 1
  7. undertheteacup says:

    Looooooooool. The chapter where Dee tries to make TOMU into the Harry Potter series, but Mackenzie is srsly having none of it! 😀

    Current score: 2