377: Upon Inspection

on May 7, 2009 in Book 14

In Which The Intricacy Of Mackenzie Is Scrutinized

Dee wasn’t gone very long at all… and when she came back, she wasn’t alone. Celia trailed in behind her, seemingly hiding behind Dee’s robe. Dee seemed a lot more composed than she had been. Celia, if anything, seemed twitchier than usual.

“Celia was able to render a solution to the problem,” Dee said.

“Hey, uh… hey, Mack,” Celia said.

I looked at Celia skeptically. If I hadn’t known the potion was planted in my stuff, and that it was apparently put there by an infernal presence, she would have been my first suspect for wacky alchemical mishaps. It was still possible that she’d had something to do with it, even inadvertently.

It didn’t make her look any more innocent that she ducked down behind Dee in response to my scrutiny. Considering that I was locked inside a protective circle… and I was still sitting on my hands, for some reason… I thought she was overreacting a bit.

“Celia, please give her the potion, or hand it to me,” Dee said.

Celia handed a small vial to Dee, who levitated it towards me.

“What is this?” I asked, watching it bobbing in front of my face.

“Purge,” Celia said. “But not the nasty kind. It just forces other potions to expire quickly.”

“Oh,” I said.

“I have already verified its efficacy and safety,” Dee said. “Take it.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said. I grabbed it, popped the stopper off, and drank it. It had a slightly hot, spicy taste. I didn’t feel a whole lot different. Of course, my right hand still smelled strongly of peppermint… but then, sticking it right up near my face hadn’t made me feel any more swoony or out of control.

“The potion has a prophylactic effect for its duration, which is… unfortunately… not very long, due to its nature,” Dee said. “I suggest you wash your hands in the kitchen within the next half hour. Our bathroom has been cleared of the offending substance by the maintenance staff, but it’s crowded and we only had doses of purge for those most affected.”

“Where’d it come from?”

“Me,” Celia squeaked, coming out from behind Dee a little. “I don’t keep a lot of it on hand. I mean, I give… a lot of money for my potions, I don’t want them crapping out on me early. But sometimes I hit on a bad mix, or I need to come down fast.”

“How much does this stuff cost?” I asked. I was already out the cost of all my bath stuff… my one big indulgence for myself, and it was gone.

“Don’t worry about it,” Celia said. “It’s a trade. Amaranth’s hiding the rest of my stash in her magic nymph pocket.”

“On that note, the campus guard is checking rooms for illicit substances,” Dee said. “You will want to dispose of that container, and remove any items you wish to keep private from your room. I suspect, under your circumstances, that they will simultaneously treat you with suspicion and respect… the latter in order to discourage any accusations of retribution for your case, but the former in case there is something they can use to undermine it.”

“I can’t think of anything,” I said.

“Here, I’ll take that,” Celia said, snatching the vial from me. She popped it in her mouth and swallowed, her throat bulging only slightly as it went down. “What?” she said, as we both stared at her. “I can get it back any time I want. So… anyway… purge working?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Seems to be. You shouldn’t worry, though… I mean, my demonic side could be dangerous to anybody, but not you in particular.”

“I figured you hated me, down under it all,” she said.

“Under all what?”

“You know, deep inside.”

“Why would I hate you?” I asked. Celia wasn’t my favorite person in the world. She wasn’t always the nicest person in the world, but she had a long ways to go to be worse than a lot of people I could think of, on our floor alone.

“Because… well, I tell you and your friends off,” she said. “I call you a mammal.”

“I am a mammal,” I said.

“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean I have to rub it in,” she said. “Also… I lost you the election.”

“I told you I don’t care about that,” I said.

“Yeah, you said that, but I thought that was just because you’re a wuss,” Celia said. “I figured with, you know, your true self revealed, you’d be all anger and rage and angry rage…”

“Mackenzie is half demon,” Dee said. “Her true self is as much a wuss as it is a demon.”

“Just so I’m clear, did you take one of the purge doses, too?”

“Is that word insulting in and of itself? I apologize deeply,” Dee said, bowing. “I had inferred, based on the people who used it and the context in which it was used, that it referred to a finer quality which was being disparaged by tone. As for what I said before… well, under the circumstances I could not pretend that I did not mean it, though I promise you I did not mean to say it.”

“It’s fine,” I said. “Saying you wouldn’t have sex with a half-demon really isn’t some crazy, off-the-wall thing… I mean, it was harshly worded, but the end result is the same as you just not being interested. You at least don’t let your distaste stop you from talking to me.”

“I know you cannot help your heritage,” Dee said. The urgency of the penitent was in her voice. I believed that in her culture, restraint and modesty were taught as virtues. Through no fault of her own, she’d been stripped of hers. “But it is there. It is part of who you are, not something for which you can or should be blamed, but irrespective of that blame, you are tainted in a very real, very spiritual way. I can no more ignore that than I could ignore the danger inside your mind.”

“Believe me, I understand,” I said. I was starting to feel embarrassed… and mostly not on my own behalf. “I’m not angry or disappointed. I have enough lovers, and I still get hung up on the idea that they’re actually willing to have me.”

“Of course, that is part of it as well,” Dee said. “I don’t believe I could climb to intimacy with anyone who has regular congress with a faint elf… much less a faint elf who habitually abuses the remains of fellow creatures. Your social life is like a series of horrible paintings which, when removed from the wall, only reveal an even worse one behind it.”

“Oh, man,” Celia said. She laughed. “That’s awesome.”

“Yeah, um… are you sure you took purge?” I asked. Dee had always struck me as blunt when she broke her reserve to speak, but this was going beyond the pale.

“I am so, so very sorry,” Dee said. “I have not had anyone to confide my more inappropriate feelings in for months now. My therapist has been helpful in that regard, but there are some limits to how candid I can allow myself to be with her. Some things have been bottled up. Now I feel… uncorked.”

“Yeah, well, maybe you should let the rest of the bottle out on your therapist,” I said.

There was a knock at the room next door, and a loud but muffled female voice said, “Room check!”

“Um, you gonna let the naked chick out of the holding circle before the guards do your room?” Celia asked Dee.

“That would probably be a good idea,” Dee said, and she broke one of the lines.

I got to my feet… or I tried to, but my legs had gone completely to sleep. Dee did not hesitate to step forward and steady me, physically helping me up. Celia just stared. Low.

“Man, your junk is messed up,” Celia said.

“It’s just how mammals work down there,” I insisted, though I blushed and covered myself with the hand that wasn’t around Dee.

“No… I’ve seen other girls in the shower,” Celia said. “They aren’t all floppy and shit. Your junk is not right.”

“There is no ‘right’ size or shape for the components of a woman’s intricacy,” Dee said. “There are merely endless complex variations on a simple theme.”

“Wait, you call your thing an ‘intricacy’?” I said.

“Sometimes… I gather that’s not an idiom that carries over into Pax?” Dee replied. “It’s hard to learn the terminology. So few Paciphones are willing to discuss the subject on a mature basis.”

“Don’t you call your spooky forgotten goddess a goddess of ‘intricacy’?” Celia asked.

Forsaken goddess,” Dee said. “And, yes… that is part of her portfolio.”

“So, when you ‘worship the goddess of intricacy’, is that another way of saying…”

“No!” Dee said. “Not always.”

There was a knock on the door. Dee held up her hand and a towel flew to it. It was very coarse, and very small.

“I… I apologize, but I cannot lend you any of my clothing,” Dee said.

“Of course,” I said, holding the towel up in front of me with the top just above my nipples.

The knock repeated.

“Room check,” the woman said.

“It is unlocked,” Dee said, and as she said it, it was.

The door opened, and a pair of female guards came in, with Kiersta hanging out in the doorway. Her eyes were already pretty freaking wide, and they widened further when she saw the three of us. She gave us a pleading look, but I wasn’t sure what she was pleading for, exactly… did she want us to hide the evidence of the potion-and-blood orgy we’d obviously been having before they came knocking?

“What’s everyone doing in here in the dark?” one of them said, surprising me as I’d forgotten the lights were off. She turned them on and Celia hissed in pain, covering her eyes. “Oh,” the guard said, looking at Dee. “Right.”

The other guard was holding a wand, which she angled at us first. It twitched in her hands.

“You ladies take some of that elixir of potion purgation?” she asked.

I looked at the others to see how they were reacting. I knew what the correct answer was, but I wasn’t sure what the right one would be.

“I was assured it was a completely legal remedy, with little potential for abuse,” Dee said.

“It is,” she said. “Relax. Don’t look so guilty.”

“Doin’ a little magic before classes?” the other guard said, looking at the circle. “There are labs for that downstairs. You weren’t summoning something in here, were you?”

“Yeah, we were summoning demons and we got one out of the shower,” Celia said.

“That’s not something to joke about,” the guard said.

“The performance of magic in dorm rooms is not prohibited unless it involves fire or other dangerous forces,” Dee said. “A circle of protection is by its very nature harmless to mortal beings.”

“We know the rules,” the guard said.

Her colleague with the wand was now pointing it all over the room. She ran it up and down the closet, going back and forth, then ran it under the length of Dee’s bed. She approached Dee’s altar last, after checking the windowsill and the vents.

“You have a lot of apothecarial supplies for a first year student,” she said to Dee.

“I am a priestess.”

“A freshman priestess?”

“This is supplementary education,” Dee said.

“Supplemental as in remedial?”

“Supplemental as in additional,” Dee said icily. “I am a priestess. Nothing among my personal effects is illegal for clerics. I checked with the embassy and with the university administration before I allocated any of my limited space for luggage.”

“Aren’t… aren’t you just supposed to be looking for the shi… stuff… that ended up in Mackenzie’s bubble bath?” Kiersta asked timidly. The guards ignored her, and she just went pale and took half a step sideways, hiding partly behind the doorframe.

“I believe I am going to ask you to resume this inspection in the presence of my lawyer and a representative from the embassy at Ceilos,” Dee said.

The guards looked at each other.

“What do you need a lawyer for?” the one without the wand said. “We’re done here.”

They stepped outside, pulling out a notebook and marking some stuff down as they ambled towards my room. Celia let out a breath, her throat making a weird whistling sound as she exhaled. Dee looked at me… I just looked back, not knowing what she expected.

“Don’t you think you should be present while they’re in your room?” she said quietly.

“Yeah, I’m not getting dressed in front of them, and I’m not going to stand there with a towel barely covering me, either,” I whispered back. “I’d rather just wait until they’re done. It’s not like they’re going to try something, not after being bitches to everyone and with my case pending in arbitration.”

“They do not seem to be the cautious or clever type,” Dee said. “Certainly the school would not be so stone-fisted as to plot against you in such a clumsy fashion or employ such obvious tools to that end, but that does not mean that two guards who feel that their standing is great relative to ours wouldn’t do so. Persons who expect no consequences for their actions will not fear them, or take them into account.”

She’d just finish speaking when they knocked. Before I could either make a reply to Dee or go to let them in myself, I heard bare feet hitting the tiles out in the hall and Amaranth singing out “I’m coming!”

“I think I’ll let her handle it,” I said. “She’s a better witness than I am, anyway.”

“Indeed,” Dee said. “You do leave…”

“Yeah, please don’t say anything else about me,” I said.


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5 Responses to “377: Upon Inspection”

  1. Gavin says:

    I love this new asshole-Dee.

    Current score: 8
  2. pedestrian says:

    “Your social life is like a series of horrible paintings which, when removed from the wall, reveal only an even worse one behind it.”

    It is such fluent language as this, that I have come to admire the author of this masterpiece.

    Current score: 11
  3. Aran says:

    I had inferred, based on the people who used it [the word “wuss”] and the context in which it was used, that it referred to a finer quality which was being disparaged by tone.

    She just called Celia a jerk, didn’t she?

    Current score: 3
    • Kanta says:

      Celia is a bit of a jerk. She’s often right, and doesn’t really mean anybody harm, and at least she won’t put up with things like rape, but she’s also a bit of a jerk sometimes, which is definitely not as bad as what some other people on their floor are.

      Current score: 1