385: In A Name

on June 4, 2009 in Book 14

In Which Mackenzie Maps Out Questions

In truth, Ian didn’t really have to do a whole lot of persuading. I didn’t have any better ideas, I wasn’t likely to come up with one, I really didn’t have time to be worrying about it… and yet I really wanted to dress up for Veil, when I let myself think about it. It was a pleasure that had been denied me for years. My last experience with a Veil costume had been kind of horrific, in a lame childhood way.

Yeah, I had a major crisis coming up in the next day, but it wasn’t like I could deal with that and then go to the Veil Ball on Sunday. So, I let Ian take the costume bits he wanted with only a little more grumbling.

I also got confirmation that Semele wasn’t actually fixated on me in particular as we were heading out of the theater… I heard her telling another girl she wanted to “crawl inside her and start redecorating”.

I wasn’t exactly the queen of smooth-talking myself, but she really needed to get some better pick-up lines.

Still, as creepy as she was, it was reassuring to know that she was spreading the creepiness around.

“So, when’s your last class get out?” Ian asked as we stepped out into the chilly Calendula afternoon.

“Five thirty,” I said. “Republican history.”

“Okay,” he said. “I’m going to scrounge up some accessories, and then I’ll meet you outside Smith… we can get some dinner and then go change.”

“Smith?” I repeated, not sure what he was talking about.

“Smith Hall,” he said, right as it fell into place for me. “The history building?”

“Oh… right,” I said. The name had never really stood out to me.

“You didn’t know it was called that?”

“I did,” I said. “I don’t usually think of the school buildings by name. It’s easier to remember what classes are there. I mean, they’re not all named after somebody like Lazar.”

Ian shook his head and snorted softly.

“What?” I asked, wondering if I was supposed to know who “Smith” was.

“Nothing,” he said.

“No, don’t do that,” I said. “Tell me what you’re thinking.”

“You do know that they’re all named after actual people, right?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “But it’s not like they’re all anybody important… I mean, your dorm’s just named after some jerky cavalier who didn’t want to let girls into the clubhouse. Probably most of the buildings on campus are named after some dead white human guy.”

“Khersis, Mackenzie… did you start dating Sheel when I wasn’t looking?” he asked.

“Shiel,” I corrected. “And no… though I did have a conversation with her earlier about Veil costumes.”

“Oh, I guess that explains your response back there a little,” he said.

“What’s that supposed to… oh, never mind,” I said. “What’s the deal with Mr. Smith? Was he a hotshot skirmish hero or something?”

“How about I tell you the story when I pick you up after class,” Ian said.

“How about you tell me now?” I asked.

“I don’t have a seven hour lunch break hour like you do.”

“I don’t have a seven hour lunch break,” I said. “And I had a perfectly reasonable schedule picked out at first… it just got shuffled around a bunch.”

“Yeah, well, mine’s still reasonable,” he said. “And anyway, I think you’ll appreciate the story a little bit better after you’ve jogged your memory a little.”

“What do you mean?”

“Look over the door of the building when you’re going into history class,” he said. He gave me a kiss on the cheek. “Maybe it’ll make more sense then.”

“Okay,” I said. I was a little frustrated by the pointless mystery game, but I figured I’d used up my quota of stubborn arguments for the day. “See you then, I guess.”

“Yeah,” Ian said, and he headed off towards Weyland Hall.

I still had a few hours to kill before my logic class started. I realized that if I hadn’t been such a bitch about Winnie, I probably could have stayed to hang out with Dust and the other theater kids… as disconcerting as it was to be known to a bunch of people I didn’t know, they seemed like a pretty casual and non-judgmental bunch.

Ian hadn’t just been shopping for costume ideas… he’d been trying to expand my social circle, and I’d flubbed it, even after he’d pretty much told me that was what he was doing. Oh, well. I’d apologized, and Dust didn’t seem like the sort to hold a grudge. It would be weird to turn around and walk back in there, trying to insinuate myself into their group without Ian… but maybe there would be a next time. The drama crowd would probably be all over the Veil Ball. I’d have to make a point to watch for anyone I recognized and be ready do my best imitation of an actual person if somebody waved at me or said hi.

With Two as an example, how could I go wrong?

A bath seemed like it was asking for trouble. I could have used a nap, maybe, but I was feeling a little wandshy about that… I didn’t know what I would see if I closed my eyes, or what fresh trap might be waiting in my room when I woke up. Probably I should have been more freaked about the whole thing, but the way I was gliding from crisis to crisis while trying to have a college life it was hard to keep even one of them in perspective. When I stopped and thought about it… demon father in my dreams, gray elf assassin queen after my ovaries, mermaids want to eat me… it was… well, I couldn’t really think about it and do anything else.

I remembered the thought I’d had in the morning to go to the library… it wasn’t terribly pressing, just more curiosity about the history of other cultures. That made me remember with a jolt that I still had the somewhat open-ended grudge assignment from Hart, to give a presentation on the history of the region. I had those history books back in my room… they would give me something to do, to keep my mind occupied in a productive fashion until it was time for class.

I headed back to Harlowe and went straight up to my room, managing to avoid any entangling encounters with Feejee or Trina or anyone else. I had a brief moment of confused panic when I realized I didn’t know where the books were… they weren’t on my desk, or on my dresser. Two hadn’t stuck them in the closet. I didn’t remember putting them under my bed, but I looked anyway… in fact, I didn’t remember taking them out of my book bag. Chagrined, I suddenly realized how bulky my backpack was: I’d been carrying around four extra books.

I dug them out, putting the Under Enwich one aside… that one was the most personally interesting one but had the least to do with my assigned topic. The other three, from the history of the plains series, weren’t as conventionally exciting but they were interesting. Before the Magisterian Era, Merovia had been the only human power that really formed a challenge to the Nameless Emperor’s hegemony.

Merovia the Double-Blessed was a theocracy. The Merovian King-Priests worshipped their patron Kharolinus alongside Khersis… they followed the Khersian creed that Khersis was the greatest of gods and all humans were his children, but they believed Kharolinus had blessed their line in particular and so it was their duty to honor him as the Lord of Merovia even as they honored Khersis as the Lord of Man. There were some theological splits about whether that meant the two were to be honored equally, or their duty to their personal god was more important, or their duty to the supreme god of humanity was greater, but all their spiritual leaders at least agreed that no other nation was as blessed as they, and their international relations had usually reflected this.

The Merovians had been very enthusiastic crusaders back in the day, waging bloody war in the name of their deity… at least until another major power rose up in the west. With both the Old Empire and the Imperial Republic to contend with, and frequent incursions by orcs… as the Merovians had been slow to learn not to kick that particular hornet’s nest… they had eventually mellowed a bit.

I’d learned all of that on my own, after having embarrassed myself in class by earnestly repeating what my grandmother had told me: that Carolinus had been a white or silver dragon who’d made a deal with the first King-Priest, and that all the Merovians were idolaters who paid lip service to Khersis to maintain his favor while putting on a bunch of pompous airs directed at their false god.

The Merovian colonization of the Westering Lands had taken place during their crusading days. It seemed that they’d pushed further inland faster than the Empire had. When Merovia’s power waned and the newly-fledged Imperial Republic expanded westward, a lot of the Merovian colonists had already died out or went home. Some of the remaining holdouts resisted, and some welcomed the encroachment of greater civilization after having clung onto survival in the wilderness for so long.

The volume from the time of the revolution had a map of the remaining settlements in the area of Prax and Blackwater, a lot of them nestled in the Enias River Valley. A lot of the names were in Kharoline: Le Cratère, Bellevue, Des Arbres… but the one that jumped out at me wasn’t:

Cerridwen.

It was just a dot and a name written on a map. It might not have jumped out at me at all if I hadn’t just spoken to Winnie Champlain. It stood apart from the others, at what would have had to have been a few days’ hike from the river, if I hadn’t any sense of scale. Winnie had said she had a lot of family in the area… and now that I thought about it, “LaBelle” was a Kharoline name, too. “Cerridwen”, no matter how it was spelled, wasn’t.

Was the family naming kids after this settlement, or had the settlement been named after a member of the family?

It was kind of interesting… like finding a piece of a puzzle. A pointless and not actually that interesting puzzle, after I thought about it a bit. As bad as I might have felt for ragging on Winnie, the LaBelles still collectively bugged the hell out of me… and in Puddy’s case, that wasn’t even the worst of it. Unless they’d played some huge role in the politics of the prairie around the year one, it didn’t have anything to do with my assignment. Knowing how Keri LaBelle felt about her given name, I could try to irritate her by dwelling on it in an oral presentation, but that was probably a notion best kept as an idle fantasy. Ms. LaBelle was the sort of person who made a headache contagious. However annoyed I managed to get her, her complaining would be a hundred times worse.

Still, my curiosity was piqued… it was weird that it was out there all by itself, not along the waterway and without any trade roads marked on the map connecting it to other outposts. I flipped to the index at the back of the book, and the only listing for it was the page with the map.

If not for the possibility of a LaBelle connection, I would have just assumed it was not a Merovian settlement. The name “Cerridwen” sounded more… well, I didn’t know what it sounded like. It definitely didn’t seem to be Draconian-derived, though. It wasn’t Pax, it wasn’t Elvish, it wasn’t Dwarvish. It didn’t sound like any kind of goblinoid language… I could conceivably ask Shiel if she recognized it. That would probably be the safest way to phrase the question.

There weren’t any mountains on the plains of Prax so there wouldn’t be any kobold settlements. What I really wanted to know is if she thought it was Gobol. I didn’t figure I could ask her without provoking an indignant response since that wasn’t her language, though really it was a safe bet she’d recognize it. I would have gone straight to Oru, but we weren’t really on speaking terms.

Then I remembered there was at least one other goblinoid in the building, and I knew where he was likely to be. I took the book and headed down all the way to the basement, where Moeli was on duty at the front desk. He’d ditched his usual garb for a black leather jacket. It was an interesting choice… didn’t really fit him that well, with his long, gangly arms.

“Uh, hey,” I said. I’d been all excited and proud of thinking of him, but now I was beginning to feel awkward. The way things had gone at the dance… yeah. Maybe Shiel would have been better. But I’d already spoken.

“Hey,” he said, neutrally.

“I… um… I was looking at a history book and there’s a name I don’t recognize,” I said, putting the open book on the counter and turning it around towards him. “I was wondering if you knew what it was, if it was Gobol or something?” I said, pointing to the village.

“You mean if it’s Fae,” he said.

“Uh… no, actually, I meant… wait, is it?” I asked.

“Cerridwen,” he read. “It’s Fae.”

“How do you know what Fae sounds like?’ I asked.

“Why are you asking me in the first place?” he asked.

“Well, I thought you might know,” I said.

“I do,” he said. “It’s Fae. Look at it, it’s back in the forest and everything. Who else would have been living there but faeries?”

“Are you saying it’s Fae because it’s back in the forest or are you saying it’s Fae because you know it’s Fae?” I asked.

“How many times do I have to tell you I know it before you’ll believe me?” he asked.

“It’s just… it’s marked on a map of human settlements,” I said.

He looked up and down the page.

“I don’t see where it says that,” he said.

“Okay, but that’s what it is,” I said. “There had to have been elves here back then, and goblins, but they’re not marked on the map. All these other towns are Merovian outposts. Why would they make a map that was just the human settlements and one sidhe village?”

“Why would they make a map that was just the human settlements?” Moeli asked.

“Does making one that’s just human settlements and one sidhe village make more sense?” I asked.

“A little bit.”

“How?”

“It leaves less out.”

“Okay, but that would be so completely arbitrary,” I said.

“Arbitrary like only showing the human settlements is arbitrary?” he asked.

“What, did you start dating Shiel?” I asked.

“I wouldn’t kick her out of bed. She’s got substance,” Moeli said. “She’s not shallow.”

“Look, never mind… are you sure it’s a Fae word?” I asked.

He looked at me before he answered, and I started to feel uncomfortable before he finally answered, “No. No, I’m not. I have no idea what I’m talking about,” and I realized my incredulousness had carried me a little too far.

“Moeli… I’m sorry, I don’t mean to doubt you,” I said. “I was just trying to figure out… I mean, I’m actually pretty sure this is a human settlement, is the thing. Not for some arbitrary humanocentric reason. It’s just I think that I know some people who came from there.”

“Oh,” he said. “Well, it’s still a Fae word.”

“Okay,” I said. “Thanks.”

I took my book and headed back upstairs, where I spent the rest of the time before logic class flipping through it and the other two in the series in a kind of desultory fashion. All the internecine turf wars of the Kharolinian paladins, all the skirmishes with the goblins and with the lizardfolk to the south… somehow, it was all less interesting than that one anomalous village in the woods.


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12 Responses to “385: In A Name”

  1. pedestrian says:

    get demonized, get bred, get eaten, get spanked, get whipped, get drunk, get drugged, get kidnapped. best check your social calendar see if you’ve left out anything.

    Our Mackenzie is a soul sister for misadventure with Agatha Heterodyne.

    Current score: 2
    • MackSffrs says:

      “Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from SCIENCE!”
      — Agatha Heterodyne

      Current score: 7
      • zeel says:

        Can’t do that with MU magic. Go poking at it too much and it will poke you back. Hard.

        Current score: 2
        • Reader says:

          Sounds exactly like what sparks do anyways. They warp and pervert the laws of science, why not magic?

          Current score: 2
  2. Anthony says:

    So:

    – French = Kharoline
    – Latin = Draconic
    – Greek = Dwarven
    – Welsh = Fae

    Interesting…

    Current score: 3
    • Kato says:

      and
      English = Pax
      Japanese = Yokano
      Chinese = Chung

      Current score: 3
    • Maesenko says:

      Actually, isn’t it Greek = Elven, as More Tales of MU has pointed out?

      Current score: 1
      • zeel says:

        Quite, I don’t think we really know much about dwarvish – accept that they use runic charecters.

        Current score: 0
  3. Sher says:

    Wow, Mack’s arrogance knows no bounds. He’s answering all her questions, and she chooses to insult him. I hate her just a little more after every chapter.

    Current score: 1
    • Tom says:

      She didn’t insult him, except unintentionally. She’s just confused because she has good reasons for thinking its a human village, not a Fae settlement. Jeez, she annoys me too, but you’re relentless hatred of Mack is getting old.

      Current score: 7
  4. Jechtael says:

    I didn’t see anything odd about Puddy having a Welsh given name, and completely forgot that her surname was Banks-Labelle until the Arena matches. But if Cymraeg=Fae… Hmmm }:-)

    Current score: 1