204: Adventuring Party

on April 29, 2008 in Book 8

In Which Mackenzie And Ian Get Lucky

Ian came back around nine, wearing the same too-tight denim jacket he’d had on earlier. Now that I was looking at it, it seemed a little short on him, too.

“What?” he asked.

“What?”

“You’re staring,” he said.

“Don’t you have another jacket?” I asked.

“I’ve got lots of jackets,” he said. “But I like this one. I’ve had it since I was fourteen.”

“It kind of shows,” I said.

“Well, I’m done growing,” he said. “So it’s not like it’s going to get any smaller.”

“It’s not going to get any bigger, either,” I said.

“Will you leave it alone?” Ian said. “Anyway, is that what you’re wearing?”

“Uh, yeah,” I said. “What else would I wear?”

I wasn’t exactly made out of extra clothes, so I just had on the same jeans and t-shirt I’d worn earlier. I’d thought about putting on my tightest pair of jeans, as a small way of putting on something “special” for the party, but had decided against it. It was hard enough to breathe in those things, let alone eat.

“I thought you might want to dress up, like you did for the dance,” Ian said. “With that skirt.”

“Are you kidding?” I said. “I’ll freeze. I’d freeze walking over, and who knows how cold it’s going to be underground?”

“I just thought you might have more fun if you cut loose a little.”

“I’m going to a party,” I said. “A drinking party, with a boy. I don’t want to cut much looser than that.”

“Okay,” he said, and that was the end of it.

“Let’s head downstairs,” I said. “I don’t want to make Karl climb a bunch of stairs.”

“Good idea,” he said. As we were heading down, he asked, “How do… um… the burrow gnomes manage this?”

“Hazel and Honey,” I said. I shrugged. “They just deal with it. It sucks for them, and Shiel and Oru, but I think that’s the reality of a multi-story building. Lifts are expensive. It doesn’t make sense to raise a big stink over them when there’s other, cheaper things that could be worked on.”

“We have one,” Ian said. “But it’s slow as hell and nobody ever uses it.”

“Newer building,” I said. “And not divided. I think they’d have to knock down the walls between the sides before they could put lifts in Harlowe.”

“That’s pretty stupid to begin with,” Ian said. “Some of the dorms are single sex. Some are divided. Some are mixed. One of the towers even has boys and girls in the same suite. Why can’t they just pick a policy and stick with it?”

“I think it’s easier to set a rule than to change it,” I said. “If they try to split up a hall that’s not already split, the students will complain and the administration looks old-fashioned. If they try to mix up a hall that’s split, parents and religious groups complain and the administration looks ‘liberal’. It’s probably just cheaper and safer to let everything stay how it is and claim they’re giving students a choice.”

“Except for you guys over here,” Ian said.

“Well, technically, nobody has to room in Harlowe,” I said. “It’s just here for our ‘convenience’.”

“How many non-humans do you think there are on the rest of campus, though?” Ian said. “Not counting the elves and dwarves.”

“Don’t know,” I said. “I know the vast majority’s in Harlowe.”

“Might be interesting to find out,” Ian said. “And find out, you know, how they get by and stuff.”

“You actually think about this stuff?”

“Not all the time,” he said. “But… it’s important to you, you know?”

I did know. I tried to give him a quick kiss on the cheek to show my appreciation. Not a good idea, when walking down stairs. Fortunately, he caught me before I went sprawling.

“You might think about taking some remedial walking lessons,” he said.

“Oh, shut up,” I said.

We hung out in front of the building where Karl would be sure to see us, and he showed up at about a quarter after. I introduced him to Ian, and then he produced a pair of blindfolds. My eyes were on the pair of iron cuffs hanging on his belt by a length of chain.

“Oh, it’s sort of traditional,” he said.

I looked at Ian. The look on his face was one of surprise, but beyond that I couldn’t tell how he felt about this development, which Andreas had declined to mention.

“You know I’m not going there for… anything,” I said. “I mean, I’m not part of the entertainment, or whatever.”

“That’s the tradition,” Karl said. “It shows everybody that you are spoken for. I wouldn’t have brought the irons, but both Miss Feejee and Ms. Willikins said it might be, ah, ‘in your line.'”

Ms. Willikins? I wondered if it was simply the human-style surname which prompted this courtesy from the dwarves, or if she’d insisted on that form of address.

“Up to you,” Ian said, but I thought I heard a touch of eagerness in his voice.

I sighed and held out my hands.

“Behind your back,” Karl said, and I obeyed.

“Wait,” Ian said, as Karl stepped around behind me. I wondered if he was going to object to the whole thing, after all. “Let me do it,” he said instead, though, and I felt a thrill.

“Very well,” Karl said. “Just slip them over her hands and they’ll shrink to fit. Also, remember that only an Ironholt dwarf can unlock them.”

“There’s going to be several of you at the party, right?” I asked as Ian slipped the wide bracelets onto my hands.

Karl nodded.

They immediately snapped around the ends of my forearms, conforming to the shape of my arms like stretchy gloves. The chain also seemed to shrink, until it gave a very minimal amount of slack. The metal was unbearably cold, but it was kind of a nice feeling, being bound like this by Ian.

Though, it would have been nicer in the privacy of my own room.

“I don’t have to wear them the whole time, do I?” I asked, at the same time that Ian said, “You don’t have to take them off right away, do you?”

Karl laughed.

“You two will have to work that out between yourselves,” he said. He handed Ian the blindfolds. “I’ll let you apply these, as well.”

Ian tied the blindfold around my head first, and then I assumed he did the same for himself.

“All secure?” Karl asked. “You can’t see anything, can you?”

“No,” we both said. I felt something whooshing past my face and jumped back.

“Just checking,” Karl said. “If you’ll put one hand on me and bring your lady along with the other…”

Ian groped his way to my elbow and then we set out in an awkward, halting sort of way. It was lucky our leader had the shortest stride. As it was, I still kept almost tripping, and kicked Ian’s feet several times.

At least we were still on the lighted paths, as far as I could tell. The stupidity of stumbling around after dark blindfolded and with my hands tied behind my back was starting to get to me.

“This would be easier if you had a leash,” Ian said, after I kicked his ankle again.

“Spoken like a dwarf,” Karl said.

“Do dwarven women all put up with this kind of thing?” I asked, thinking of the dwarven woman I’d met on my trip to Enwich, and Puddy, who was supposedly distantly descended from one.

“Not really, no,” Karl said. “That’s why we like human women so much. There’s less of a power struggle. Dwarven courtships usually tend to lead to a lot of hurt feelings and dislocated joints, so we try to avoid them except when they’re absolutely necessary.”

We jerked to a stop and I heard a door opening, then felt the change in the air as we stepped inside.

“Are we in the union?” Ian asked.

“What are you, keeping track?” Karl asked. He sounded angry. “Counting steps?”

“What? No! Sorry,” Ian said. “Just guessing. I have no idea where we are.”

“I’m not supposed to take you on if I think you’re trying to work out the route.”

“I have no idea, honestly,” Ian said.

“Okay, then.”

From the fact that there was another set of doors immediately, and from the big echoey feel of the space those opened into, I thought it was pretty likely that Ian’s “guess” had been right, but I didn’t say anything. I usually went straight for the stairs up to the dining area, but Karl dragged us off in the other direction and around a couple corners. We stopped, and then there was the sound of a key in a lock.

“Stairs here,” Karl warned.

“Up or down?” Ian asked. Karl made a sort of growl. “Well, we’re going to find out anyway. I just wanted to know before we start climbing them.”

“Oh. Down, of course.”

“Um, could I possibly take my blindfold off for this part?” I asked.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Karl said.

“We could kind of throw you down,” Ian said.

“What?”

“So you only hit once, at the bottom,” he said.

“You’re assuming I’m going to fall,” I said.

“Aren’t you?” he asked.

“I’ll guide you down, one at a time,” Karl said.

“Alright, but you’d better do Mackenzie first,” Ian said. “You know, because, ladies first and all that.”

I let Karl lead me down seven freaking flights of stairs, one step at a time. For the first couple I was afraid I’d trip and fall. For the next few flights, I was thinking that the whole thing was an elaborate trap and that at any moment I would step off of one stair and not find another. By the time we got to the bottom, I’d pretty much forgotten about any thoughts except the automatic action of stepping forward and down. It was jarring to get to the bottom and take two steps in a row on semi-flat ground.

“I’ll be right back,” Karl said, after guiding me over to a wall, and then I was alone in the cold dark underground.

Approximately forever later, he came back and led Ian over to me. We set off again, through a dizzying set of twists and turns.

“Not much farther now,” Karl said after a while.

“Where ex… uh, where, vaguely, are we?” Ian asked.

“The tunnels under the school,” Karl said. “Oh, hang on.”

“Karl?” Ian said. He let go of me. I yelped and he grabbed onto my shirt.

“Hang on,” Karl said again.

I became aware of a rapid clicking sound, like something clattering over stone, and then Karl gave a fierce cry. There was a whoosh, and then a meaty thunk which was followed by a hissing scream, and then more of all of those in different combinations.

It was the most awful thing I’d ever heard, made all the worse for not being able to see it, and the knowledge that I couldn’t have done anything regardless.

Then, all was silent, and I realized that this in fact was the most awful thing I’d ever heard.

“My apologies,” Karl said out of the stillness. “We don’t usually see those in this part of the tunnels.”

“See what?” Ian asked.

“We call it a ‘slaughterpede’,” Karl said. He chuckled. “We lucked out, running into just one. They almost always travel in pairs.”

“So, you’re saying there might be another one still around?” I said.

“You have nothing to worry about,” Karl said. “They’re absolutely harmless, as long as you kill them quickly, before they have a chance to bite, sting, touch, spit acid, or use their mesmeric gaze… which, of course, you don’t even have to worry about. Of course, from a slaughterpede, you in particular don’t have anything to worry about. See what I meant about luck? Of all the monsters that roam down here, we ran into one of the few that doesn’t have any magical attacks.”

“I think I’d like to go back,” I said. My mind was filling up with two sets of equally horrifying images. In one, I was being set upon by something with magical claws or teeth or rays. In the other, Karl and Ian had both been slaughtered by a many-legged monstrosity, leaving me bound and blindfolded and alone in the caves.

“At this point it’d be a longer trek going out than it would be pressing on,” Karl said. “You’ve come this far. Don’t you want a little food and drink for your trouble?”

I didn’t say anything. My heart was pounding, and my teeth were chattering from about equal parts fear and cold. I wanted out, out of the caverns and out of danger… but if Karl was right, then the quickest way out was in.

“It’s up to you,” Ian said again.

“Let’s go on,” I said.

“Excellent!” Karl said. “We’re almost there, I promise.”

It did seem like only a few minutes later when he announced that we’d arrived. I waited for the blindfold to come off, but instead I heard a click and then a prolonged grinding sound. The floor began to shift beneath us, and then it began to move jerkily downwards.

“We’re going even deeper?” Ian said. “The tunnels have been sloping downward since we got in.”

“I thought you weren’t paying attention,” Karl said.

“It was hard not to notice,” Ian said, though I hadn’t noticed. Of course, I’d been too busy freezing my ass off and trying not to trip or run into a wall.

“Can I please get this stuff off now?” I asked.

“In a little bit,” Karl said. We continued to rumble down for about a minute, and then there was a sound from above of something heavy settling into place. “Alright. We’re enclosed now.”

I heard the sounds of fumbling around, and then Ian said, “Thanks.”

“You can do the lady,” Karl said.

A few moments later, I had my sight back.

“Cuffs?” I said.

Karl looked at Ian, who looked at me. He was giving me puppy dog eyes.
Over dwarven bondage.

It was still cute, but kind of in a what the fuck? sort of way.

I sighed.

“It’s up to you,” I said, repeating what he’d said to me several times already. He smiled.

“Let’s keep them on for now,” he told Karl, who nodded in approval.

“You just watch,” Karl said. “It’ll really cut down on the amount of unwanted attention you receive.”

I had a hard time believing that being led into the party in chains would result in a lack of attention, especially when I remembered that there was going to be a human fraternity there. Oh, well. I’d already told Ian it was up to him.

“Almost to the bottom now,” Karl said. The air was getting warmer as we descended, which was a welcome change. “Get ready for your first glimpse of the Underhall.”


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7 Responses to “204: Adventuring Party”

  1. pedestrian says:

    Hey, suggested titles for new films:

    “Demon Woman in Chains!”
    “Bondage Sluts Chaingang!!”
    “Snow White and the Horny Dwarves!!!”
    “Dungeons of Demons!!!!”

    Current score: 0
    • JN says:

      Um, just what *kind* of films were you thinking of, really?

      JN

      Current score: 0
      • Athena says:

        The MU kind. So, presumably, at least a high percentage of porn 😛

        Current score: 0
      • pedestrian says:

        The titles pretty much scream on their own.

        Spell it out on their own?

        How enchanting…

        Current score: 0
  2. zeel says:

    “Let’s head downstairs,” I said. “I don’t want to make Karl climb a bunch of stairs.”

    If only she knew…

    Current score: 1
  3. Athena says:

    Remedial walking lessons… I think I could use some of those…

    Current score: 0
  4. Lara says:

    “You’re assuming I’m going to fall,” I said.

    “Aren’t you?” he asked.

    ^made me laugh so hard. Also I love how perfect a fit Mackenzie and Ian are sexually.

    Current score: 0