397: An Elf Of A Different Color

on July 9, 2009 in Book 14

In Which A Nymph Changes Her Spots

Ian registered what we’d actually said right when we got up to the point of going into the bathrooms.

“I guess I’ll see you in a few minutes,” he said.

“Yeah, it won’t take that long… I don’t actually have to go,” I said. “At all. Ever.”

“Me, neither,” Amaranth said. She glanced at the ladies’ room door. “But you know what? Maybe we should look at this as a social experience, like it is for most girls. We could just go and… freshen up.”

“But you’re basically permanently fresh,” I said. “What are we going to do, go in and wash our hands and then come out? That‘s not exactly a new experience.”

“I don’t know, baby, I’ve seen your fingernails,” Amaranth said. She sighed. “Okay, I guess it would be kind of silly… not every new experience is created equal.”

The two of us ducked inside the bathroom… it was crowded slightly out of proportion with the density outside. Far from it being a social experience, I felt a bit like an intruder or an impostor, since I didn’t really need the facilities and I had never been part of the international sorority of nose-powderers. Rather than taking up a stall, I just turned to face the wall so I could let go of my cape and slip my bikini bottom back on without flashing anyone.

“You still want that slow dance?” I asked Ian when we got outside.

“Yeah, um, now that we’re over here, I do kind of have to go,” Ian said. “Sorry.”

“Well, we’ll just wait here,” Amaranth said, taking my hand and pulling me out of the path of the door.

Ian headed into the guys’ bathroom. From the edge of the room we had a pretty good view of the whole place, including the people coming in… some of them looked pretty nervous about stepping through the wall of shadow, but some of them were laughing and talking like they did it every year. They probably did. If the Veil Ball used a similar set-up every time, it could even very possibly be a class project.

“Oh, will you look at that?” Amaranth said, as a girl… an elven girl, though it was a little harder than normal to tell… came through with a large group of people. She was wearing something skintight and possibly not all that large, but it was hard to tell because she’d painted it and her exposed skin like a cheetah. At least, it looked like it was probably paint… it was a bit too glisteny and not textured enough to be a good glamour.

“That must have taken some dedication,” Amaranth said.

“A glamour would have been easier,” I said.

“Don’t be so negative, baby… sometimes doing things the hard way can be more rewarding.”

“A glamour would look better, too.”

“Maybe she was going for stylized over realistic?” Amaranth said. “It could be that she was going for that specific effect.”

“Well, a glamour could do that, too,” I said. “In fact, it could be a glamour.”

“I want to go meet her.”

“What? Why?” I asked.

“Because she has a cool costume,” Amaranth said. “Because I want her to hear from at least one person who appreciates what she’s done as art and doesn’t just grumble about how a glamour would be better. Anyway, this is a party… we should be talking to people outside our usual little circle.”

“But… Ian,” I said. “And you said we should go talk to people we know.”

“If you see someone else you’d rather talk to… anyway, looks like they’re headed over here,” Amaranth said, and a big cluster of the girls were indeed making a beeline for the bathrooms, including the cheetah-elf and another girl… who I recognized a moment too late as Winnie. I realized who the be-spotted elf was a moment later… right as she was recognizing me.

“Oh, this is just perfect,” I said as Semele did a big theatrical lip-licking and stalked over towards us.

“Oh, do you know her?” Amaranth asked.

“I met her once,” I said. “It was enough.”

“Don’t be rude,” Amaranth said. “She can probably hear you.”

To my surprise and momentary relief, Semele ignored me completely… momentary because she instead grabbed Amaranth by the arm and started pulling her away.

“Hey!” I said, grabbing her other arm.

“It’s okay, baby,” she said. “Just give me… seven minutes and forty seconds, okay?”

I didn’t like it, but it wasn’t as though Semele could do anything to hurt Amaranth permanently… and Ian had suggested that her creepiness was more of a put-on than anything else.

I couldn’t really object to Amaranth doing her job, though… it seemed like people approached her less and less while we were together, the longer we were together. So, I just stood there, waiting for her or Ian to come back. I tried not to look around too much, because the first time I did, Winnie caught my eye and I thought she was about to come over.

Eventually she did, anyway… so gingerly that she was practically tiptoeing.

“Um, hey… that was your nymph-friend that Mel went off with, right?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I said.

“And… she’ll, you know, do it… with anyone, right?” she said. “I mean… sex?”

“She’s a nymph,” I said. “It’s not like it means… anything bad.”

“Oh, I know!” she said. “I just mean… she’s not going to turn Mel down?”

“Probably not unless she… actually, I don’t know how to finish that sentence,” I said. “No, she won’t.”

“Oh, good,” Winnie said. “She has… well… she’s not very good at that kind of thing, and it really affects her self-esteem problems.”

“Maybe if she found some new pick-up lines, she wouldn’t have that kind of issue,” I said.

“Maybe,” she said. “Being a copper can’t be easy, though.”

“Copper?” I repeated.

“Yeah,” she said. “You did notice she was a copper, right?”

“Huh?”

“Copper elf?” Winnie said. “You know… reddish-blonde hair, slightly tan… well, slightly less fair, anyway?”

“I actually didn’t notice that,” I said. “And I’ve never heard of ‘copper elves’.”

“Oh, yeah, the old world elves pretty much bred them out completely,” Winnie said. “Even over here, most of the elves are descendants of the silver and gold elves. But there are some small populations of copper elves up north, and even around here there are a few elves with copper features.”

“Are you making this stuff up?” I asked. “Other than, you know the big above/below split, elves are a pretty homogenous bunch. They don’t really come in ‘types’.”

“Well, not so much any more,” Winnie said. “I mean, they’ve got a very narrow standard of beauty. But they used to come in all sorts of colors… there were gold elves and silver elves, and copper elves and bronze elves and wood elves…”

“All elves are ‘wood’ elves,” I said. “I mean, the surface ones.”

“Well, after the breed disappeared, a lot of people assumed that term just meant ’elves who live in the woods’, which is all of them, but the original phrase referred to elves with a woody complexion. Like the one your girlfriend’s wearing, really.”

“Where did you get all this from?” I asked. “I’ve never heard any of it.”

“Studying history. I love elven history.”

“I read a lot of history stuff… I mean, I did back in high school, and I never heard about this.”

“It doesn’t get talked about a lot, but if you listen to the old elven epics, there are hints that elves used to be a lot more diverse,” Winnie said. “But the whole conformity thing… somewhere along the line they started breeding for a really specific ideal, which was a combination of silver and gold traits. So now most elves are pale and fair, with yellow-white hair and silvery blue eyes… some have yellower hair or even golden eyes, but the further an elf gets from the perceived baseline, the more they’re treated as a weird anomaly. Even someone like Semele, who’s just barely got some red in her coloration… well, that’s probably the most copperish you’ll ever see around here, but the other elf girls won’t touch her.”

“Did you learn about this copper and bronze and wood stuff from her?”

“Yeah,” Winnie said.

“Has it occurred to you that she might be crazy?” I asked. I’d seen a gray elf, of course, but it had been pretty obvious where she came from.

“What’s crazier, that a race of people would have different populations with different ranges of skin tones and hair colors, or that they’d come in exactly two shades that are completely the opposite of each other?”

“If elves came in different colors, how would they have ended up with a cultural aesthetic that prizes a single narrow slice of the extreme end of the scale?” I asked her.

“I don’t know,” Winnie said. “But they’re probably not the only race that’s done that.”

“Yeah? Can you name another one?”

“Not off the top of my head… but then, I haven’t studied other races as much as I have elves,” she said. “Anyway, wouldn’t it be more likely that a race of people who were naturally almost identical would end up valuing differences even more?”

“It’s possible,” I said. “I’m just having a hard time believing that there would be whole colors or sub-races or whatever of elves that they just never talk about.”

Ian came back right then, and he jumped in the conversation by saying, “Yeah, I know I go around randomly informing dwarves and gnomes about the existence of other-colored humans.”

“Oh, shut up,” I said. “Do you even know what we’re talking about?”

“Not a clue,” he said. “But, really, Mackenzie… that did sound kind of…”

“What?”

“Well… stupid,” he said. “How often do you talk to elves?”

“I talk to Steff just about every day,” I said. “Every other day, at least.”

“Okay, yeah, but how much insight do you think having a half-elven friend who was… as far as I can tell… mostly raised human… give you into elven society?” Ian asked. “And even if she was a full elf who wouldn’t shut up about her homeland…”

“What?” I asked, when he just sort of trailed off.

“Never mind,” he said.

“Don’t do that.”

“It’s better if I don’t finish that thought, I think,” he said.

“No, tell me.”

“Well… earlier this evening, I watched you look through a group of humans like they weren’t there,” Ian said. “How long do you think someone with no experience of humanity would have to spend rooting around in your head before they realized we weren’t all the same color?”

“That’s ridiculous,” I said. “It’s not like I don’t think about… I mean, I was distracted by all the elves and dwarves who were out and about and all the costumes, but in my fighting class, I definitely noticed Gloria.”

“Yeah, I notice when a hot girl kicks my ass, too,” Ian said.

“You aren’t actually suggesting that I’m racist, are you?” I asked.

“Well,” Winnie said, “you do seem weirdly hostile to the idea of tan and brown elves.”

“Excuse me, but this is a private conversation,” I said.

“Yeah, I was having it with you,” she said. “About Mel. Remember?”

“Oh, right,” I said. “I’m sorry. I guess we got a little sidetracked… it’s just, I guess if I don’t think about race in terms of color all that often, it’s because it’s not that big a thing to me. My mother raised me to respect everybody.”

“Look, you don’t have to explain yourself to me,” Winnie said, throwing up her hands. “I’m just… there’s more than two kinds of elves and Mel has problems for not looking like the popular kind. That’s all I was saying.”

“Okay, well, I can understand how elves could be dicks to somebody whose hair is slightly reddish-blonde instead of very pale white blonde,” I said. “But she really needs to learn that the threat of being skinned alive isn’t really a selling point.”

“With most people,” Ian said. “Someone could be into that.” I gave him a look, and he said, “Hey, you never know. Um, on a completely unrelated subject… where’s Amaranth?”

Hopefully she’s busting Mel’s cherry sixteen ways to Sunday,” Winnie said, and then she laughed… we’d made it so far without her doing that, and it was even worse than I remembered. It was like a woodpecker was sitting on my shoulder and thought my eardrum looked like a tasty snack. “That girl needs to get laid, badly.”

“Wait, you’re talking about an elven virgin and the part Mackenzie had a hard time believing was her hair color?” Ian asked.

“It wasn’t her hair color I didn’t believe in,” I said. “It was all the other stuff that was supposed to go along with it.”

“Like I said, it’s hard for her,” Winnie said.

“Easy for you to say,” I said. “She wasn’t hitting on you.”

“Oh, she did… does, sometimes, still,” Winnie said. “That’s among the reasons I’m happy she found your nymph. I just tell her I’m not interested, politely and firmly.”

“And then you still hang out with her?”

“What? I’m not going to shun someone for thinking I’m halfway attractive,” Winnie said. “She’s really kind of sweet, once you get to know her… and when you start thinking of her attention in terms of a generic compliment.”

“You mean if you ignore what she actually says,” I said.

“Listen, she sees other elves being aggressive and she sees it working, so you can’t really blame her for trying the same thing but more,” Winnie said.

“You can blame her a little,” I said. “Especially when it doesn’t work.”

“Yeah, it’s annoying when someone keeps doing the same thing over and over again and not learning anything from her failures,” Ian said.

“Oh, don’t start,” I said.

“Oh, wow,” Winnie said, looking past us. “I guess Mel really did… wow.”

Amaranth was heading back, her hips swaying and a look of satisfaction on her face. It wasn’t the only thing on her face. She had orangish paint smeared all over her mouth, and on her nose and cheeks. There was another big smear between her legs.

“Hey, baby, would you go get me a napkin or something?” she said. “Or I guess they’d have paper towels in the bathroom… anyway, I think you may have had a point about the glamour, after all.”


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9 Responses to “397: An Elf Of A Different Color”

  1. pedestrian says:

    an interesting version of “painting the town red”.

    Current score: 1
  2. Arkeus says:

    Thank you, Ian. Mack has an annoying habit of switching between “no opinion on things” and “arrogant opinion”. Well, it’s obvious why, but she is, very slowly, getting better.

    Current score: 5
  3. Anthony says:

    Wow. Winnie makes a much better impression the second time around…

    Current score: 10
  4. Daezed says:

    ”If I’ve never heard of it, it obviously can’t be true…. ’cause EVERYONE knows that!”

    Come on, Mackenzie. Just….come on!

    I’d forgotten how much she irritated me now and again in past read-throughs, lol.

    Current score: 1
  5. JerK says:

    Everyone that hates on Amy should take a look at how obnoxiously arrogant Mack speaks to people when she’s not around.

    Current score: 1
  6. Sher says:

    Once again, I hate Mack just a little more than I did before. That means I hate her a lot more than I did in the beginning. It’s getting worse every chapter I read. Her stupidty grows exponentially.

    Current score: 0
    • Rey d'Tutto says:

      If you hate the protagonist so much, and your hatred grows as you read… why exactly are you reading this story?

      Current score: 7
  7. Hunter says:

    I can’t speak for the person you replied to, but I personally dislike almost every single character in this story. The writing is still good, and your response strikes me as a bit… silly, really. When the author shows such skill in creating flawed characters that stand out due to both their unique personalities and their individual mannerisms, do you really think it’s an accident so many of them provoke people to dislike them? It seems less likely to me than the possibility that the author realizes people are flawed and not necessarily 100% good, and creates characters with that in mind.

    Current score: 7