235: Disenchantment

on June 10, 2008 in Book 9

In Which Mackenzie And Gloria Get It On

I spent a quarter of my enchantment lab in conference with Professor Rankin. He seemed satisfied with having me go over, in detail, the theory of what I would have been doing during the time I missed.

He did take some time to question the possible applications of my mirror finish enhancement. I’d just wanted to make my knife look cool, since I had to lug it around anyway… but since I’d lost both the knife and that requirement, I wasn’t sure what to tell him.

“I just wanted to see if I could do it,” I said.

“That is an admirable sentiment, and you are a remarkably apt young woman,” he said. “If this interruption had come any later in the quarter, it might have set you back, but I think you’ll be fine with simply moving forward.”

He left me to finish up the spell on my practice knife. I was glad I’d sketched out an initial version of the enhancement the last time I’d been in class, a week before. That made it easier to pick back up where I’d left off. I was more careful this time not to just pour my energy into it like I had before. Though I no longer had to worry about “overdrawing”, I did have to watch that I didn’t exhaust my ordinary stores.

I didn’t spend much of the work period actually working magic. Instead, I’d spend a few seconds concentrating on the knife, then a few minutes adjusting the formulae I’d laid down and then trying out the new variation. It was pretty tedious going.

I couldn’t help but think how close this approach was to the old “scientific” method of formalizing spells that had been left behind in the dark ages, the way that resulted in spells that only worked at all under highly select circumstances and could rarely be duplicated by more than a handful of people. It was basically a lot of guesswork and predictions about the behavior of forces that could only truly be experienced directly… but the property I was working with was nebulous and could only be “held” so tightly or so long before the strain got to me.

The “basic principle of magic” was sometimes jokingly defined as “It behaves in unexpected ways except when you expect it to, when it either will or won’t.” Sitting around bullshitting about what might or might not work, or how something might react, could ultimately be no substitute for actually doing it. Several times during the course of the period, I found I had to change my tactics around completely as what I’d worked out no longer worked… but I was able to keep a flexible enough approach that it was a matter of ten steps forward, nine steps back.

Even with the variables shifting around on me, by the end of the class period I had outlined a technique that I could repeat with reasonable consistency. It wasn’t a formal spell, but I could refine it before Thursday and come in ready to do some proper work, and then have a spell ready to turn in by the end of the period.

After that it was back to Harlowe. I decided to change into some of my older surviving clothes while I was grabbing my pitchfork. There was no sense getting my nicer things messed up. Steff certainly wouldn’t be wearing her gorgeous elven style dress to a fighting class, after all.

My anger of a couple hours ago had long since faded, but I was feeling plenty frustrated from my attempts to grapple with a specific enchantment on the theoretical rather than the practical level. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the next hour and a half, but it would be nice if I had a chance to work through some of my stress.

Also, there would be Gloria.

“Oh, there you are!” I heard one of the Leightons say from their doorway as I headed out through mine. I turned to see them looking at me, with big fake looks of concern and sad puppy dog eyes. “We just wanted to let you know that we are so sorry about that article,” Tara said. “We feel terrible.”

“I just bet you do,” I said, turning away. The anger was returning, but it would be more productive to use it out on the field than to blow my top in the hallway, especially holding such a stereotypical weapon as the pitchfork. Who knew when Mr. Angstrom would come back for a follow-up piece?

“No, really!” Sara said. “We were misquoted!”

I found that hard to believe, but it piqued my curiosity.

“Really?” I asked.

“Yes,” Tara said. “He took our words completely out of context. See, we were talking about how bad you smell, and your toilet regime is only part of that. He left out the rest. Would you like to hear it?”

“No,” I said, turning and walking away as fast as I could without whacking my leg into the bottom of the pitchfork pole. I was carrying it upright, of course. The last thing I wanted to do was impale somebody on the way to class.

“I guess you’ll have to read it on the letters page, then!” one of them said, and they both shrieked with laughter.

Fucking hell, they were a couple of annoying cunts. Well, to be accurate, they were one cunt with a couple of annoying heads. Maybe that was their problem… too many girls and not enough holes to go around? I could fix that problem real quick. They’d probably like having separate gashes for a change.

Or maybe I could just separate them completely, right down the middle.

I stopped myself, mid-thought and mid-step, halfway down a flight of stairs. It wasn’t the best place to do so… my foot stopped but my body kept going, and I took another tumble down to the landing. That was enough to jar me completely from the state of mind I’d been in.

Holding the pitchfork and getting angry was apparently not a good thing. I would seriously need to find a different weapon or get myself into some kind of unarmed class… probably the former. I felt I’d made too much progress in my sessions with Gloria to simply throw it away.

Well, the school owed me a magic knife, didn’t they?

I tucked the shaft of the pitchfork under my arm, thinking it might “count less” if it wasn’t actually in my hand, and tried to think positively on the rest of the way to the field.

The fork hadn’t had nearly as noticeable an effect on me when I’d first picked it up, but a lot of curses worked incrementally like that. If you knew something was bad news when you first laid hands on it, you’d never come to depend on it.

Two surprises were waiting for me when I got to class.

One was Steff, looking absolutely stunning and completely out of place in her princess dress.

The other was Gloria, who was nowhere to be seen.

I headed towards Steff, but Callahan had just arrived on the scene and blew her whistle.

“What in the name of the Dark Herald are you wearing, Johnson?” she asked Steff while the class was coming to attention.

“It’s called a ‘dress’, sir,” Steff replied loudly. “If it looks sort of familiar, that’s probably because I took it off of your mother last night.”

“Johnson, come here,” Callahan said, and Steff swaggered over with a shit-eating grin. I could have told her that she was about to be punched in the face… but I would have been wrong. As soon as Steff was within arm’s reach, the instructor reached out and grabbed her by the crotch and squeezed.

“Go change,” she said loudly as Steff’s knees buckled and her eyes bulged “Back in ten minutes or you’re marked absent, and if you ever show up for my class not dressed for combat, I’m keeping these. Understand?”

Steff nodded, gasping and sputtering, and Callahan let her go and turned away dismissively to talk to her teaching assistant. I shifted my pitchfork to my hand as she sank to the ground, and I was by her side in an instant.

“Are you okay?” I asked. As ever, a stupid question to ask. I knew the answer. I’d seen what happened and rushed to her aid, after all.

Steff nodded, though.

“I’m… fine,” she said, breathing hard and ragged. “Oh, sweet fucking hell, I hope she does that again before… before she fucks me.”

“What?” I asked. I knew Steff enjoyed receiving pain as well as giving it, but it didn’t seem possible for somebody with her anatomy to enjoy that.

“Sent her a strap-on through campus mail last week, along with… along with a calendar, with the last day of classes circled,” Steff said, starting to get to her feet. I helped her up. “Black leather. She didn’t say anything, so I think… she must be into it. That… what you just saw… was just foreplay.”

“Or she hates you,” I said.

“Of course she does,” Steff said. “That’s what makes it hot. Anyway, I’ve got to go change.”

“Can you really make it to the dorms and back in under ten minutes, like that?” I asked.

“Doesn’t matter,” Steff said. “According to her, she’s already counted me absent every day so far. It’s just… just flirting, Mack.”

I thought she was kidding herself, but didn’t want to argue. “Do you want some help getting back?” I asked.

She shook her head.

“You need to stay here and practice,” she said. “And pick somebody else.”

“I guess I might have to,” I said.

She kissed me, leaning on me for support as she did.

“Swap spit on your own time, Johnson! Shift!” Callahan barked.

“Yes, sir, ma’am, sir!” Steff said, saluting, and then she hobbled away.

“Crybaby,” Callahan said. “I wanted to see you next, anyway. Well, not ‘wanted’, exactly. I’ve yet to come up with any scenario in which the sight of you would actually be desirable.”

“What the hell is wrong with you?” I asked, stomping right up to her.

Just let her try to punch me, I thought. I’ll burn her hand off.

“Khee, I don’t know, maybe I’m having a bad period?” she said. “Do you want to see my note?”

“You just assaulted a student,” I said, biting back the urge to call her a crazy bitch… by biting my lip. I tasted a faint trace of blood in my mouth.

“That’s what they pay me the big bucks for.”

“They pay you to teach us to fight!” I yelled right up in her face, my voice rising out of control.

“Riiight,” she said, calmly wiping blood mixed with spittle off her face. “Which brings me to the question of why you’re here. Honestly, Crybaby, I’m having a hard time seeing why I shouldn’t boot your ass out.”

Was she for real? Hadn’t she got the fucking memo?

“I had an excuse for last week!” I said.

“How about the week before?” she asked.

“Um, I was here the week before,” I said.

“Yeah, and so what’s your excuse?” she asked.

“For what?”

“Spending all your time making goo-goo eyes at your island girlfriend instead of sparring,” she said.

“We were sparring,” I said.

“You were dancing,” she said. She turned and looked around the crowd. “Dhambizao!”

A knot of students parted as Gloria, looking very grave, came forward. Any delusions I might have harbored that we’d be able to get past our misunderstanding were shattered with one look at her face.

“Yes, ma’am?” she said, her voice completely neutral. Her eyes were fixed straight on Coach Callahan, not even glancing at me.

“You and Crybaby here are going to fight each other one more time,” Callahan said. “Or should I say, one first time?”

“Respectfully, ma’am, I have no wish to…”

“Do I look like a fucking djinni, Dhambizao?” Callahan said. “Do you see a veil on my head or smoke coming out of my fucking ass?”

Gloria shook her head.

“No, ma’am,” she said.

“Then save your wishes for somebody who cares,” the coach said. “You aren’t going to coddle her. You’re not going to let her dance around and dodge your attacks. You’re going to go for her fucking throat, every time. And you,” she said, turning to me, “are going to do the same. Don’t just bore holes through her tits with your eyes.” I couldn’t miss the sharp intake of air from Gloria at these words. “Take that fork and ram it through them. Now, you two go get your weapons mocked and get to it. Dobbs will watch to make sure you’re really fighting while I drill the rest of the class.”

“How long do we have to fight?” I asked.

“How much time is left in the period?” she answered. “Go get your weapons mocked and get it on, ladies. Everybody else, form a circle. Those of you who have any progress will have it evaluated today.”

Silently, Gloria and I headed over to the tables where the mockboxes were kept. She laid her ornate sword in a long one on the table and closed the lid while I went to the largest one, which actually stood upright like a wardrobe, and placed my pitchfork inside.

“I see you have finally relinquished one charade,” Gloria said as she opened the lid. She was inspecting the spectral duplicate, not looking at me. “Does this mean you are done with the pretense of wounded innocence?”

“What charade?” I asked.

“You have laid aside the puny knife with which you mocked me, and brought forth your own weapon,” she said, holding the sword up to the sunlight.

“The knife was my weapon,” I said. “I lost it. Well, I didn’t lose it, but…”

“I have heard enough lies,” she said, turning to face me for the first time. Her eyes blazed so fiercely, they might have been on fire. “I have been deceived by my charitable nature for the last time. Bring your best violence to bear, Mackenzie Blaise… today, we fight.”


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8 Responses to “235: Disenchantment”

  1. pedestrian says:

    Yay!! girl hotties fighting with bitchin’ weapons!

    I hope somebody’s got a camera ’cause this has gotta be on the ethernet. Or what else is it for?

    Wait, Steff will be super pissed if she misses this opportunity to masturbate to Gloria and Mack hacking and pokin’ at each other. And some rolling around in the mud is always good touch.

    Current score: 1
  2. MadnessMaiden says:

    I hope Mack kicks Gloria’s face in.

    Current score: 0
    • Arkeus says:

      But Mack hopes Gloria kicks her face in…

      Current score: 1
      • Anthony says:

        Stop having orgasms while I’m smiting you!!!

        Current score: 5
        • capybroa says:

          This is, in fact, the unofficial subtitle for Tales of MU

          Current score: 8
    • Pamela says:

      It would be somewhat gratifying, but it would only serve to fuel Gloria’s idea that Mack is no more than a violent, evil demon. Realistically, in a case of true weapons combat, Mack should be outmatched by a bit.

      Current score: 0
  3. nobody says:

    For Mackenzie the pitchfork can only help her fight better.
    Boundless rage=willing to actually fight back at all.

    Current score: 0
    • Jechtael says:

      Depends if the mock pitchfork works that way or not. Remember, mocked blessed weapons aren’t blessed. Presumably, a mocked infernal weapon won’t be infernal (unless maybe it corrupts the mockbox).

      Current score: 0