201: Pizza With Friends

on April 22, 2008 in Book 8

In Which Mackenzie Rediscovers An Old Pleasure

Saturday, Calendula 3rd 222 (Lunch)

After getting dressed and cleaned up a bit, we headed over to Hazel and Honey’s room, where we’d last seen Amaranth. The door was open.

Amaranth was sitting with her back against one of the beds and her long legs stretched out in front of her, a plate with two slices of the cheeseless pizza and another one with two slices of cheese next to her.

The tea tray had been moved to one of the beds, and three boxes of pizza sat in its former place on the table. Oru, Shiel, Hazel, Honey and a redheaded dwarf with a plaited beard were seated around the table, eating and drinking.

Two was also sitting on one of the tiny chairs, with legs crossed in front of her and her plate almost out of reach on the table. She showed absolutely no signs of discomfort. In fact, she looked absolutely content.

The dwarf leapt to his feet as we stepped into the room.

“Hi, baby!” Amaranth said. “Sorry we started without you,” she said, though I noticed she hadn’t yet touched her slices. It didn’t look like Two or Honey had even taken any yet. “We would have told you guys the pizza was here, but Two absolutely forbade anybody from bothering you while the sock was on the door.”

“That’s what it’s for,” Two said.

“It’s okay,” I said, smiling.

“Ian, Mack, I’d like you to meet my man, Andy,” Hazel said, gesturing towards the dwarf. I did a double take. She’d previously described her boyfriend as “big” and “not from Harlowe”, so my mind had gone to “human.” Well, the dwarf was around a gnome’s head taller than her, and quite a bit broader across the shoulders and waist.

“Andreas, son of Andreas,” he said, bowing. “Of Clan Ironholt.”

“Oh, I used to have a class with one of your kinsmen,” I said. Karl, son of Krieg, had been among the first people to walk out of Professor Ariadne’s class when her snit against me backfired.

He nodded. I noticed he’d put his hand on the back of his chair and pulled it out a bit, and was looking at me somewhat deferentially.

“Um, thank you, but that’s okay,” I said. “Thanks.”

He nodded, and re-took his seat.

“Ian, we’ve got supreme, cheese, and vegetarian,” Amaranth said as she held up the plate with my pizza on it. I accepted it and sat down beside her. “Go ahead and help yourself.”

I lifted the still-warm slice and took a careful bite. Nine years separated me from my most recent experiences of cheese pizza delivered fresh. My memories weren’t so much of a taste as the feeling of “Pizza! Yay! Pizza!”, but I wasn’t disappointed. The cheese was gooey and satisfyingly stretchy, and the tangy sauce was surprisingly sweet.

“Which one’s supreme?” Ian asked, heading towards the table.

“The big one on the bottom,” Hazel said, shifting the other boxes off of it.

Ian took two slices from it. Honey took three, and Two took one slice of each kind.

“Um, how much…?” Ian asked as he settled down on the other side of me.

“It’s pay what you can, here,” Hazel said. “Oh, and these are Oru and Shiel. Oru, Shiel, this is Ian, Mack’s fella.”

“Hi,” Shiel said.

“Very nice to meet you,” Oru said.

“Uh, yeah, hi,” Ian said. He seemed a little weirded out by the goblinoids, but he didn’t say anything and at least he wasn’t staring.

He refused to let me chip in anything for the pizza while he was there, though I have to admit I didn’t argue very hard. I was coming to accept this as part of having a boyfriend. As Two would say, it was what he was for. Okay, so that’s not a completely modern or enlightened view, but I’d missed out on so much dating fun in high school.

“What do you want to drink?” he asked me. Everybody else had cans and bottles of soda, except for Andreas, who had a bottle of beer.

“I’ve some more beer, if you want one,” Andreas said, holding up a wicker carrying case which chinked.

“Hey, sure,” Ian said. “Thanks.”

“Hold on, Andy,” Hazel said. “No drinking out of bounds in front of Two. Her poor head might explode from the wrongness of it all.”

“Two won’t mind,” Amaranth said.

“Yes, I would,” Two said.

“It’s okay,” Ian said. He gave Two a dirty look, which she returned.

“I’ll take a strawberry or orange if they’ve got it,” I said quickly. “Or root beer. Please.”

“Be right back, then,” he said, and headed out into the hallway.

“Two… do you happen to still have a key to your old room?” Amaranth asked.

“No, I do not happen to still have a key to my old room,” Two said, shaking her head. “I was required to turn it in when I changed.”

“Pooh,” Amaranth said, frowning. “I would really feel better if I could check on Dee. Baby, if we found somebody who could fix it, would you break the lock for me?”

“Um, I guess,” I said. “But I’d really rather not. That seems kind of serious, even if it’s fixed.”

“Breaking into another resident’s room is grounds for disciplinary action up to and including expulsion or eviction from the residence hall,” Two said.

“Well… we probably shouldn’t risk it, then,” Amaranth said. She chewed on her lip. “Though, if it’s a matter of life and death…”

“You don’t really think it is, though, do you?” I asked.

“I don’t know!” Amaranth said. “That’s what bothers me. What if it is, and we don’t do anything?”

I shrugged. I didn’t have anything useful to contribute.

“I know Trina’s taking a minor in the subtle arts,” Amaranth said. “But I haven’t seen her all day. Do we know anybody who’s in divination?”

“Twyla,” Two and I said at the same time.

“Maybe we can talk her into peeking through the door,” Amaranth said. “And if something is wrong, we can make Kiersta open the door, or have some justification for breaking it down if she won’t.”

Having even such a nebulous and conditional plan as that seemed to cheer her up, and she picked up a slice of pizza and took a bite.

Ian came back with a bottle of strawberry soda for me and an I.C. Cola for himself. He handed me my soda, and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek as he sat back down beside me.

“So… did you two have fun?” Amaranth asked us.

“Yes, ma’am,” I said, blushing despite the fact that there were undoubtedly other ways the question could have been taken.

“I knew you were worried over nothing,” she said.

As we settled in to eat, Oru and Honey were having a conversation about choral music. Hazel was talking with a rather subdued Shiel about their war game. She kept trying to engage Andreas in the talk, but he and Shiel seemed to both prefer to pretend the other wasn’t there, which made it a little difficult.

“So, Seeyan,” Oru said, looking at Ian. “I’m told you’re a musician?”

“Um, it’s ‘Ian’,” Ian said. “And yeah, kind of.”

“Ee-Yan,” Oru said, overpronouncing the name. She giggled.

“What?” Ian asked.

“Human names are so weird,” she said.

“Um, okay,” Ian said.

“Are there girls named Ian?”

“Why would there be girls named Ian?” Ian asked. “It’s a boy’s name.”

“Well, I don’t know,” Oru said. “That’s why I asked, isn’t it?”

“Ian’s in a band,” I said, trying to bring the conversation back around.

“Oh, yes!” Amaranth said. “You have to tell us all about that.”

“Well, it’s nothing, really,” Ian said. “I mean, everybody with a lute’s in a band, in college, right?”

“Do you sing?” Honey asked.

“In the shower,” Ian replied. “I mean, at home, I did. Not here. That might get weird.”

“You know, it took me a while to figure out those showers,” Oru said. “I’m used to washing from a basin, so at first I stood alongside the water and just wet my washcloth, until I saw somebody else getting under the water.”

“I still do it that way,” Shiel said. “One of the virtues of underground living is you never have to get rained on. I’d wash at the sink if it wasn’t so exposed, or in the tub if it wasn’t so awkward getting in and out.”

Oru shrugged.

“It’s kind of fun, actually,” she said. “Once you get used to it, and work out how to keep the water cold enough.”

“You like cold showers?” I asked, shuddering.

“Of course,” Oru said. “Hot water’s for cooking.”

“Oh,” I said. I turned to Amaranth. “That reminds me,” I said, quietly. “I need to talk to you later, about… um… rings.”

“Oh, baby, you didn’t!” Amaranth exclaimed, horrified.

“What?”

“Have unprotected sex!”

“No!” I said. “But… apparently, I’m too cold-susceptible to use them safely.”

“Oh!” Amaranth said. “I didn’t even think… you didn’t have a problem last time, though, did you?”

“It was sort of extremely uncomfortable, but I got over it,” I said. “I figured it was normal. But Ian had an extra-strength model and it just about froze me solid.”

“You should have said something,” Amaranth said. “We can’t look after your needs if we don’t know what they are.”

“Sorry,” I said. “I really thought it was nothing. Do you think it’s okay for me to keep using the regular ones?”

“We’ll look into it,” Amaranth said. “But it’ll be better if we can find something that doesn’t cause you discomfort. We’ll ask Steff what she knows about necromantic alternatives, okay?”

“Necromancy in my personal life causes me discomfort,” I said.

“Well, it’s the easiest way to prevent unwanted life… using the ice element’s kind of taking the long way around in order to avoid upsetting people’s sillier sensibilities,” Amaranth said.

“What’s silly about not wanting death magic in my vagina?” I asked.

A noise from the table caught my attention, and I turned to see the aftermath of Andreas apparently squirting beer from his slightly oversized nose.

“Oh, baby, you should know that death is just the other side of life,” Amaranth said. “Anyway, it’s too bad pregnancy’s your main worry and not disease. You can get rings with run-of-the-mill disease protection without the anti-conception enchantments. Though, those are usually blessed rather than enchanted… so I guess you’d have a problem, either way.”

“We can do other stuff,” Ian said. “It’s not a big deal.”

“It is!” I said. “I don’t want to be the next girlfriend you can’t do certain things with.”

“We’ll look into it, baby,” Amaranth said soothingly. “There will be something you can do, I’m sure.”

“So, um, Ian,” Oru said, pronouncing his name a bit more naturally, though she still had a bit of amusement on her face as she said it. “Have you met Moeli?”

“Who?” Ian asked.

“One of the older boys here,” she said. “I’d like to introduce you to him.”

“Is he a musician?”

“I don’t think so,” Oru said. “But I really think you should meet him. Hey, you know, I heard there’s some kind of dance at the pent on Wednesday. Maybe we should all go together, you and Mack and him and me.”

“Uh, what do you think?” Ian asked me.

“I think it could be fun,” I said. “Who’s putting on the dance?” I asked Oru.

She shrugged.

“I don’t know,” she said. “One of the student groups or another. I just heard somebody talking about it in my history class.” I scowled, and Oru jumped back a little in her seat. “I just thought it might be fun!” she said quickly.

“Oh, it’s not that,” I said. “It just pisses me off that we’re always the last to hear about these things.”

“Sorry,” Ian said. “I could try to make a point to tell you about dances and stuff, if you’re interested.”

“It’s not… actually, yeah,” I said. “Please do. Make a note of any posters and things that go up in your dorm.” It wouldn’t hurt to have some documentation of exactly what we were missing, and of course, then I could also make sure everybody else knew.

“Right,” Ian said. “Well, there’s that dance thing, and then there’s another one in a couple weeks for Veil.”

“What?” I asked. The thoughts of my personal crusade were rapidly receding in my mind.

“The Veil Ball,” he said. “It’s in a couple weeks.”

“There’s a Veil Ball?” I asked.

He nodded.

“Do people… does anybody dress up for it?” I asked.

“It says there’s prizes for costumes, so I guess so,” he said. “Remember, this is my first year, too.”

“I’ll bet Steff knows all about it,” Amaranth said.

I didn’t say anything. This was almost too much to believe. I’d never sat down and thought about it, but I’d kind of taken it as an article of faith that as college students, we were all “too old” for such silliness as dressing up as monsters and princesses every Calendula.

“We should protest,” Shiel said.

“Huh?” I asked.

“Veil,” Shiel said. “Humans got up like ‘monsters’ and terrorizing each other. It’s offensive and it reinforces stereotypes.”

“It’s not like that!” I said.

“What is it like, then?” Shiel asked.

“Pretending you’re somebody else,” I said. “Something you’re not. Hiding your face from the world.”

“Well, I can see why that might appeal to you,” Shiel said. “But I’ve got nothing to hide.”

“It’s fun,” I said. “Or at least, it’s supposed to be.”

“I wonder…” Amaranth said.

“What?” I asked.

“Veil’s a religious feast, isn’t it?” she asked.

“It was originally,” I said. “Arka… Arkhanite.”

“And the costumes are part of that?” she asked, not noticing my slip.

“I think,” I said. “It ties in somehow. I don’t really know much about it, except what my grandmother told me.”

“I wonder,” Amaranth repeated.

“I guess Steff would know about that, too,” I said.

“So it’s not just a hotbed of racial insensitivity,” Shiel said. “It’s wholesale appropriation from an oppressed religion by the dominant culture.”

“I think it’s important to honor other peoples’ religious traditions,” Amaranth said. “Very important.”

I began to see where her line of thinking was going. I privately wondered if Mother Khaele attached the same importance to the nymphly dictate against clothing that Amaranth did. Personally, if I had been a nature deity, I would have been more concerned about her attempts to argue around the strictures against bestiality.

“I’m not sure I’d call it ‘honoring’,” Shiel said.

“You know, in some circles, it’s considered impolite to discuss religion at the table,” Honey said.

“I don’t discuss it anywhere,” Oru said. “It only leads to arguments.”

“I’m sorry,” Shiel said. “I suppose we’ll have to agree to disagree.”

“So, um… you want to go to the Veil thing?” Ian asked.

I nodded.

“Yes,” I said. “Very much.”

“Okay,” he said. He took my hand and gave me a squeeze.

“We’ll go together,” Amaranth said. “The three of us. And Steff, if she wants to. Which, I bet she will.”

“Oh, joy,” Ian said. I gave his hand a slightly harder squeeze, and he grimaced.

“Have you, um, talked to Viktor about the whole thing?” I asked Amaranth.

“Not yet, baby,” she said. “But I’m going to work the boys’ side here today.”

“Okay,” I said.

“It’ll be okay,” she said. “I promise.”

I didn’t say anything. I was sure she meant it, insofar as it was within her power to do anything about it. I just wasn’t sure how far that power would actually extend. If Viktor said Steff and I were through, the only choice Steff had was to obey or end things with Viktor. There was no question how that would turn out.

“Well, I think it sounds like an absolute lark,” Honey said. “I haven’t been to a fancy dress party in ages. Do you remember, Hazel? New Year’s at my uncle’s? We went as peacocks!”

“I remember putting my knee to your uncle’s grapes when he showed an unseemly amount of interest in my tail feathers,” Hazel said.

“Oh, you didn’t!” Honey said.

“I did so,” Hazel said. “I very nearly gave them to him to wear, if he liked them so much.”

“I suppose that would explain why we weren’t invited back next year.”

Shiel sighed.

“I don’t suppose I can count on you to oppose this pageant of insensitivity?” she asked Oru.

“We should go as each other!” Oru said to Honey. “Me as you and you as me.”

“I can paint my face!” Honey said, nodding eagerly.

“I weep for the future,” Shiel said.


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11 Responses to “201: Pizza With Friends”

  1. pedestrian says:

    crocodile tears…how sad!

    Current score: 0
  2. Terribadger says:

    “Necromancy in my personal life causes me discomfort” belongs on a T-shirt. That, followed up by “What’s silly about not wanting death magic in my vagina?” made me cackle out loud while reading this one.

    Current score: 12
  3. Anthony says:

    Oy. Shiel’s *so* annoying. I was really glad when she got some character development and stopped being such a one-dimensional race-baiting obnoxious pest.

    Current score: 2
    • MentalBlank says:

      Shiel has strong opinions, and is entitled to them. I’m sure we all know someone who has iron clad views on certain subjects. Plus at this point her character hasn’t exactly been heavily featured. Give readers a chance to see her develop or not.

      Current score: 4
  4. Cadnawes says:

    Ok, guys? Pointing out future character development is almost s bad as pointing out future plot development. SOMEBODY, SOMEWHERE, HAS NOT YET READ THIS. STOP IT. Seriously, bad form, Peter Pan. I don’t even spoil classic lit. And neither should you.

    Current score: 5
    • nobody says:

      I am lucky to be immune to spoilers.

      Current score: 2
      • Thorbjorn says:

        Ha I see what you did there because Nobody is imune to spoilers.

        Current score: 3
  5. Leila says:

    This is my second readthrough, but I don’t remember if we ever see much more of Andreas, I hope so, and if we don’t, I hope AE fixes that sometime. He seems like a great character, and a real gentleman, just in the tiny bit we see of him here.

    Current score: 2
  6. Moridain says:

    Painting their faces… A reference to going in black face..? 😀

    Current score: 1
  7. Jechtael says:

    Imperial Crown Cola?

    Current score: 2