388: Manners Of Difficulty

on June 12, 2009 in Book 14

In Which Amaranth Puts On A Costume Drama

My costume was set up on my chair back in my room, the panties and bikini top laid out on the seat, underneath a bronze circlet that looked like the crown from a barbarian beauty pageant. Draped over the back of the chair was a cape… a big tannish-brown cape with fur trim that was close enough a match to the hairy swimming suit that my eyes couldn’t tell the difference. A belt with a big, ridiculously wide-bladed sword hung off the side of the chair. A pair of furry-topped boots sat on the floor.

“You really went all out,” I said. “Tell me honestly, did you have this costume in mind already before we went to the theater?”

“No, I really didn’t… and I don’t know where the tiara came from,” Ian said. “And the cape didn’t have any trim when I left it here.”

“Two?” I said, looking at her.

“It’s from Sooni,” Two said.

“Couldn’t be,” Ian said, lifting the hem of the cape. “She doesn’t have this much fur.”

I didn’t know if I should have laughed or glared at that, but I snerked a little.

“How did Sooni even know what I was wearing?” I asked.

“She said you said it was okay for her to help you with your costume,” Two said.

“I don’t think that’s quite what I said,” I said. “But I guess it’s probably okay, if she’s not expecting anything in return… which I suppose is an unnecessarily convoluted way of saying that it’s completely and entirely not okay.”

“Well, I didn’t know that you hadn’t said it and it would have been a false accusation to say she was lying when I didn’t know,” Two said.

“You did okay, Two,” I said. I looked at Ian. “I guess she did the boots, too?”

“No, I brought them… they were a really ugly pink,” Ian said.

“Why did you have fuzzy pink boots?” I asked.

“I didn’t,” Ian said. “A guy down the hall’s girlfriend was getting rid of them, but I thought Two might be able to change them, or know somebody who could, and she did. The sword is a prop one I borrowed from the arena stores.”

“A prop?”

“For exhibitions and reenactments and stuff,” he said. “It’s sharp, but not magic at all, and it’s codeworded into the sheath.”

“What’s the codeword?” I asked, kind of reflexively.

“Don’t know,” Ian said. “And you really shouldn’t need it.”

“Yeah, just curious,” I said. “Not really curious, but I mean, I don’t think you can say that something has a password and not expect everybody in the room to immediately wonder what it is.”

“Oh, yeah,” Ian said. “Coach Callahan would have told me but when I told her what I wanted it for, we both agreed it was better that it stays where it is.”

“You borrowed it from Callahan?”

“No, I went to the other arena, the one the lunch ladies run,” Ian said. “Yeah, I got it from her.”

“And she let you have it?” I asked. “She didn’t make you arm-wrestle a half-giant or fill in for a punching bag or anything like that?”

“Is it so weird for a teacher to help out a student?”

“It’s weird for her to help anyone,” I said. “She hurts people for fun.”

“Oh, she does not,” Ian said. “She hurts people for various reasons, and she has fun doing it.”

The argument was cut short by the rattling of the doorknob, followed by knocking and a kind of annoyed “Let me in, please,” from Amaranth. Two was at the door in a moment to unlock it. When I saw Amaranth, looking like she’d just got done pulling a double shift of carrying the weight of the world on her back, I forgave her irritation.

“Are you okay?” I asked. She nodded absently. “How’s Steff doing?”

“Oh… that Dee,” she said. “Do you know she doesn’t have any idea what that potion actually does? She just knows what the end results look like, and even then she doesn’t have a point of reference for how much exactly that differs from the base. She’s never seen a ‘before’ and ‘after’ embodied in the same person. And she just blithely gave it to Steff… ‘our’ Steff… without any thought about how it might affect her self-image to have her body altered in unknown ways, without any consultation with Teddi, without any…”

“Teddi?”

“Her designated mental healing expert,” Amaranth said. “Steff was asleep… passed out from exhaustion, more like… when I left, but before that she was freaking out because she thought her penis felt like it was growing. And it was hard to tell if it was or not, because it’s kind of… swollen. Yeah. She’s been hard for hours, and too sensitive to touch. We don’t know if that’s a side effect of her body alchemy being in flux, or if it’s the onset of a permanent part of her new condition… Dee says it’s ‘not entirely beyond the realm of possibility that the concoction has the effect of boosting the already not inconsiderable elven sexual appetite’… but she never thought about it before.”

“Um… sorry to ask, but… wouldn’t you be in favor of increasing sexual appetite?” Ian asked.

“Well, obviously I’m all for it, in general,” Amaranth said. “But… it’s not the sort of thing you just spring on a person, even one who doesn’t have huge body issues and emotional issues and… oooh, I am so mad at her right now.”

“Amaranth… please don’t,” I said, watching her digging her nails into the sides of her thighs.

“She isn’t even sorry, that’s what gets me,” Amaranth said, turning away and throwing up her arms. “She just keeps saying ‘it will be worth it’. Worth it! I don’t deny that it might turn out to have been worth it, if she comes through this with no lasting damage by some miracle… and believe me, I’ve been bending Mother Khaele’s ear as much as I can, but I don’t think she would do much for psychological trauma… but even if things turn out okay, I don’t know how she can say it was worth the risk.”

At that point, she started clawing at her own breast and biting at her lower lip so hard it was bleeding.

“Amaranth, I think you’re right,” I said, reaching out a hand towards her. “But you need to calm…”

“And then there’s you, missy!” she said, exploding. “You might have taught Dee about taking stupid risks for superficial reasons!”

“Hey, hey!” I said, jumping back and throwing up my hands. She was right, but that was not a conversation I wanted to have in front of others. “You’re worried about Steff… I’m sure Dee is, too. If she’s not apologetic it’s probably because she’s terrified by the idea that she might have made a mistake… I’ll bet you she starts castigating herself as soon as Steff’s out of the woods. And… if things do go badly, you know it’ll kill her.”

Amaranth sighed.

“I guess you’re right, baby,” Amaranth said, putting an arm around me. “I’m worried about Steff and I’m not dealing with it well… getting angry at people isn’t going to undo what happened, or help guide things towards a positive outcome. Look away.” I turned my head, and felt a slight tingle as she repaired her damaged lip. She then leaned in to kiss me on the cheek, with her fingers between her mouth and my skin. I still felt a little prickle. “I’ll give you a proper kiss later.” She looked around and her gaze fell on my chair. “Oh, is this your costume? You’re going as a swordswoman of northern extraction?”

“Uh, yeah,” I said. “There weren’t a lot of options, but Ian made the most of what was there.”

“He did a great job,” Amaranth said. She tilted her head and frowned. “That’s not real fur, though, is it?”

“Um…” I said, looking at Ian.

“I don’t think so,” Ian said. “I mean, the base outfit’s just a cheap costume and the boots were just something someone was going to throw out. I don’t know about the cape. That’s new… I didn’t have anything to do with the stuff on the cape.”

Amaranth felt the lining of the cape and her nose wrinkled.

“Rabbit,” she said darkly. Then her face unclouded. “Oh, wait… no. It’s just a really close alteration.”

“Um, don’t you use a leather tool on a daily basis?” I pointed out.

“Yes, baby, but fur is… well… the fur industry has even fewer standards than the meat industry, which is where most leather comes from,” Amaranth said. “Though, I guess on some level, it may be the fact that I lived in a farm community that raised large animals so that’s normal to me even if I don’t eat meat… but even then, I think the case could be made that commercial fur’s objectively worse. Though maybe when we wear out your strap we can look at substitutes?”

“You’d wear it faster if you spanked her more often,” Two said. My blush was nothing compared to Ian’s.

“Two, honey,” Amaranth said warningly. “You know that’s not your business.”

“I was just making a suggestion,” Two said.

“So, do you have a costume?” I asked Amaranth, to bring a new subject about.

“Oh!” she said, her cheeks turning pink now. “I’ve… well, I’ve actually gone through several ideas, and I really strongly thought about… but… um… don’t you think it would be kind of, you know, clever if I went as a dryad? A nymph dressing up as a nymph… because nobody would be expecting that, and I’d just need some glamour for my hair and skin. Not that I wouldn’t wear a costume, because this is a religious ceremony and… I mean, it is a costume. A dryad costume. Which coincidentally doesn’t involve any clothing. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t, if I chose another costume that did require…”

“I think that’s a great costume idea,” I said, before she self-immolated. Clearly the idea of breaking her clothing taboo was very enticing to her… but not enticing enough to get her to do it in public, no matter what kind of justification she came up with. I wasn’t going to argue with anything that might preserve even a scrap of her goddess’s good will.

“How about you, honey?” Amaranth asked Two. “Are you going to the ball?”

“Oh, yes,” Two said. “I’m going to be a very tall gnome and my friend Hazel is going to be a very short golem.” She looked at me. “Mack gave me the idea.”

“How’s Hazel doing?” Amaranth asked.

“Not pregnant,” Two said. She frowned. “Or so I’ve been told.”

“Do you think she’s going to keep it?” Ian asked.

“I’m sure she is,” Amaranth said. “Things are pretty old-fashioned in the shires, you know. Even if Hazel’s a bit more liberated than her cousin, I’m sure the possibility wouldn’t even cross her mind even if she was willing to face up to what’s happening. Oh, well. She’s probably got over a year to come to terms with… coming to term.”

“Over a year?” Ian asked.

“Gnomes age a little bit slower than humans,” I said. “And dwarves age a lot slower.”

“Yes, gnomish pregnancies last eight weeks longer,” Amaranth said. “And dwarven pregnancies… well, there’s one story that says it’s the real reason their sexes don’t get along. I’m afraid Two’s friend Hazel is in for some serious discomfort. She’ll probably be bedridden long before it’s over.”

“Really?” Ian said. “I always thought that like elves and stuff had about the same gestation time as humans.”

“Well, elves do,” I said. “If they gestated at a rate proportional to the parents’ aging, they’d be pregnant forever… but they age almost identically to humans until they’re mature.”

“Orcs have very short pregnancies and they age very quickly to physical maturity,” Amaranth said. “Their adult lifespans are potentially slightly longer than a human’s… potentially.”

“That’s interesting,” Ian said. “What about goblins?”

“Who’s ready for dinner?” Amaranth asked. “I was so worried about Steff I hardly had any lunch.”

“Yeah, we ended up not having lunch at all,” Ian said.

“It’s not my business to say that Mack is supposed to eat,” Two said.

“Nobody likes a smartypants,” Amaranth said.

“I was planning on seeing who wanted to make a burger run, among the theater crowd, but Mackenzie kind of stepped in it a little and then I forgot,” Ian said. “Anyway, I’m starving. Do we want to get changed now? There will probably be people out and about in costumes, now that classes are over.”

“Um, no,” I said. “It’s not a terrible costume but I’m not going to walk around outside in it any more than I need to.”

“Also, it will be cleaner if you don’t eat in it,” Two said. Ian snorted.

“That’s getting kind of old, Two,” I said, though I was glaring at Ian.

“Come on, baby, you can practice your table manners at dinner,” Amaranth said. She looked at Two. “And maybe you can start working on your regular manners.”


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8 Responses to “388: Manners Of Difficulty”

  1. BlackWizard says:

    I think it’s sooo cute how TWO really does act like a little sister, pointing out her big sisters little foibles to her sisters friends.. lol

    Current score: 5
  2. Anthony says:

    Wow. Goblin gestation is so squicky that even Amaranth changes the subject when it comes up…

    Current score: 4
    • dracayr says:

      From what has been implied, goblin children bite themselves out of their mother’s bellies..

      Current score: 5
      • C says:

        And they do it while making a pretty good impression of sharks.

        Current score: 3
      • Maesenko says:

        …Which is why I found it hilarious that Amaranth changed the subject to dinner of all things.

        Current score: 7
        • Moridain says:

          This is Amaranth we are talking about. She would probably try Goblin Motherhood if she could, just out of curiosity. 😀

          Current score: 7
  3. Jechtael says:

    Yay! Amaranth is finally trying to to what appears to be more of a patchwork job of fixing the lax sense of politeness she gave Two when she and Mackenzie decided to take up teaching Two to act and feel more normal!

    I hope Dee isn’t wrong or worded her sentence poorly about the standard original shapes of “halfkind” being female, and giving Steff the “turn breasts into bigger breasts and the external part of the clitoris into a penis” potion. She’s possibly still my favourite character, but I am definitely VERY angry at her. It is supposed to result in positive changes for Steff, but that doesn’t justify giving her a potion WITHOUT KNOWING HOW IT WORKS, /AND/ going over the head of their mental heal- …crud. THIS was what she was thinking about when she asked Teddi about standing aside while someone basically kills themself. *headdesk*

    Current score: 2