11: Bad Eggs

on June 15, 2007 in 01: Welcome Weekend

In Which Mackenzie Fumbles A Weapon Check 

Of those that Puddy had called my “campaign supporters”, Shiel the kobold was nowhere to be found when we set out for the dining hall in the student union, so it was me… Puddy… the nymphs Amaranth and Barley… Two, the golem girl… and snaky, snarky Celia.

Two was trudging along behind us, head down and looking as miserable and out of place as ever. I’d asked her if she was okay a few times, and she’d said yes. She hadn’t sounded like she meant it, but I didn’t know what to do for her and I couldn’t keep asking.

Amaranth was talking animatedly on the subject of civil rights. She apparently knew a lot about the subject. I was glad, because I wasn’t really up to carrying a conversation myself. I was grateful for somebody to talk to besides Puddy. Quite aside from me resenting the hell out of her at the moment, she was kind of busy whipping her head around every time we passed a girl she considered pretty. Barley was walking a little more briskly than us, getting slightly more and more ahead as we went.

The running dialogue with Amaranth also gave me an excuse to ignore the lewd comments that Puddy was shouting… and something to focus on other than the fact that people were visibly giving us a pretty wide berth… and pointing… and staring.

I told myself it was the fact that we had two very attractive, very nude nymphs that was attracting the stares… that people were clearing away from us because of Puddy, who was pretty much whooping like a siren. In my head, though, I could hear them whispering to each other: that’s the girl who told off Halverson. That’s the crazy one. That’s the evil one. Not human. Not human.

Amaranth babbled like a spring, blissfully unaware of the hot blood pounding in my ears, and the growing reluctance of my legs to carry me in any direction except back across the pent and up the path towards Harlowe.

“Of course, the laws have improved immensely over the course of our lifetimes,” she said. “Well, a mortal creature’s lifetime, I mean, I should say a human lifetime, because the lifetime of a nymph can be… well, theoretically, forever.”

“Wait, how old are you?” I asked, suddenly aware that I could perhaps be talking to a timeless, ageless creature. I don’t know why it mattered. Maybe my mind was looking for something else to feel inadequate about?

“Seventeen,” she said. She saw my surprised look, and added, “I know it’s young, for college, but we didn’t actually go to high school, and when Barley announced she wanted to go to university, I took the tests along with her, just as a lark.”

“And the little dear scored higher than me in every category,” Barley said. “Which is just great. Great, great, great. Everybody was just so proud of her. There was a party, and everything. Technically, it was for both of us, but with her test scores…”

“Oh, but you know I didn’t do it on purpose,” Amaranth said quickly. “I didn’t spend a lot of time studying, or anything, and I just…”

“So, you were saying about the laws?” I asked, steering the conversation away from what had to be a sore subject. Was this why they weren’t roommates?

“Oh, right,” Amaranth said. “Well, as they’ve got better at protecting the rights of non-humans, racism hasn’t actually gone away. It’s just become smarter, and more subtle. For instance, the university couldn’t legally force us to live in separate housing, so they created a hall which they advertise as ‘catering uniquely to the needs of non-human students’. From the outside, it looks like a positive thing, and I’d say the people who engineered it aren’t necessarily overtly racist themselves. They’re just protecting the sensibilities of people who are.”

“Hey, don’t make excuses for them, okay?” Celia said. “It comes down to the same thing, doesn’t it?”

“Not really,” Amaranth said. “There’s no malice in it. Some people just think the highest good in life is to avoid conflict.”

“Yeah, and those people are total fucking pussies,” Puddy said, shooting a sidelong glance at me.

“Which works out fine for them as long as everybody leaves them alone. It’s only bad when some asshole comes along and tries to force their will on them,” I said back.

“Right!” Amaranth said brightly, evidently very glad that we were all on the same page. If she noticed me glaring at Puddy, she didn’t say anything. “But they have to walk a fine line with it… there’s no rule that says we can’t use the main dining hall, or any other facilities, for instance, and I doubt very much that absolutely no non-humans ever do. They just use a combination of inducements… like the private catering… and probably couple that with a subtle campaign of making sure students who stray across the invisible boundaries are made to feel unwelcome.”

“Are all nymphs as smart as you?” I asked, feeling like a hick even as the question left my mouth.

“Oh! You think I’m smart?” Amaranth replied, blushing. I’d made a nymph blush. Why did that make me blush? “Oh… well, I guess I just like to read and learn as much as I can. Like, after the meeting this morning, I re-read my student handbook…”

“Re-read? You mean you actually read the fucking thing once before?” Puddy interjected.

“…to make sure that I understood the official policies right, and then I went to the library and looked through back-issues of the student newspaper, and looked up some cases of alleged harassment at MU that actually went to court,” Amaranth continued. “The ones that went anywhere, of course, resulted in the rights and protections we have today… but what I noticed was, it seems like it’s getting harder and harder for the complainants to prove their cases. Intolerance doesn’t go away because you legislate against it, it just becomes more sophisticated.”

“Wonderful,” I said. “So what kind of sophisticated, subtle intolerance do you think we can expect after this morning?”

“Well, they could start by sending a campus guard to check up on us or harass us with some trumped up charge,” Barley said. “Just hypothetically, off the top of my head.”

She had that “this is neither hypothetical nor off the top of my head” tone in her voice, so we all followed her gaze to where a man in leather armor with the tri-dragon MU crest was striding across the pent towards us from the vicinity of the fountain.

“Fuckin’ pink pig,” Celia said. “And I’m carrying!”

“Carrying what?” I asked.

“Just keep cool,” Puddy said. “Smile for the nice guard.”

He’d seen that we’d seen him coming towards us, so we couldn’t really start walking again. We had to just sort of stand there quietly, and then wait while he squared himself up, looked us over, and let the silence stretch out to the breaking point.

“Hello, ladies… having a nice welcome weekend?” he asked.

“Oh, yes,” Barley said.

“Just fine,” Amaranth said.

Puddy and Celia said nothing, for which I was profoundly grateful.

“On your way to lunch?”

We nodded.

“Can I get a weapons check?” he asked. Puddy had her axe and Celia had her short sword out in a second, but the guard didn’t even look at them. He was watching me, his lip twitching beneath the moustache. Under that scrutiny, I totally fucked it up… first reaching my hand along the outside of my jacket, then sticking it inside but missing the inner pocket where my knife was wrapped up.

I heard Amaranth saying, “Show the nice man your mace, Two.” as I fumbled around.

“Don’t you have a weapon, sweetheart?” the guard asked. I looked up, about to tell him that I was getting it… but he was looking at Amaranth, who was holding her student ID. I wondered where exactly she’d got it from… and wondered the same thing twice over about the crescent moon sickle Barley was now holding.

“I have a moral exemption,” Amaranth said, which floored me… I hadn’t realized there was such a thing. I’d read over the student’s handbook, but evidently not as closely as she had.

Of course, my surprise didn’t help me get my knife out any more quickly. By the time I produced it, everybody else’s eyes were on me, but the rent-a-guard had stopped watching. He was filling out a form on a notepad.

“University students are required to have a certified magical weapon within easy reach at all times when on the campus grounds,” he said. “Failure to do so…”

“But I’ve got a weapon,” I said, thrusting the wrapped bundle towards him. “Right here.”

“Within easy reach,” he repeated. “If I had been a wandering monster, your friends could have got themselves killed trying to protect you in the time it took you to find that little butter spreader. Failure to do so results in a fine of fifty silver coins.”

“It’s up to fifty silver,” Amaranth said. “The minimum fine is only five… and you can just give her a warning! It’s only the first day! You have discretion!”

“And my discretion says that it’s never too early to worry about safety,” the guard said, thrusting the ticket into my hands.

“But,” I said disbelievingly, “I don’t even really need…”

“Little lady, I’ve seen a few students in my time who thought they didn’t need a weapon,” the guard said. “And I’ll never forget one of them, no matter how hard I try. I suggest you get yourself a belt for that knife… if not something bigger.”

I wanted to say something else, but I was too mad to even think of what I would have said if I’d been capable. We all stood in sullen silence, willing the man to leave and let us get on our way.

“You lot quartered in Harlowe?” he said finally, though it wasn’t much of a question and he didn’t wait for a reply. “I hear good things about their special meal program. You all take care.”

“Subtle,” I said sarcastically as he swaggered away. Beside me, Celia flipped him her pinky finger. I just got that. “Sophisticated. And I’m out fifty silver. “

“Don’t pay it,” Amaranth said. “If you don’t pay it, we can appeal it.”

“No, we can’t… look at the fine print,” I said, handing it to her. “‘All fines incurred before the start of term must be paid prior to attending classes.’ If I don’t pay this right away, “

“But that’s… term started yesterday,” Amaranth said. “Didn’t it?”

“According to the school calendar, the first day of term is the first day of class,” I said. I could picture the page quite distinctly in my head. “And look at the heading on the ticket… where it says ‘term issued’, he checked summer.”

“Oh… this is so unfair!” Amaranth said. “I bet nobody else gets a weapon citation the first weekend of school… especially a freshman… and for the maximum fine? That is just so outrageous…”

“Maybe I should just apologize to the dean, explain that I really was just trying to get to a bathroom,” I said.

“Wait, you what?” Celia asked.

“I… you know, never mind,” I said. I didn’t have to justify myself to her, did I?

“No, tell me,” Celia said. “You didn’t actually mean that shit you said at the meeting?”

I sighed.

“I didn’t actually say that shit I said at the meeting. All I said was that I shouldn’t have eaten a doughnut because it was making me sick,” I said. “When I ran out, I was going to the bathroom to throw up.”

“Throw up? You’re not pregnant, are you?” Celia asked, a look of horror on her face. “Because that’s fucking nasty, with an egg growing inside you without even a shell on it… I don’t know why the fuck you mammals aren’t extinct, with all the nasty shit you got to do to make babies.”

“Aren’t you a mammal?” I asked, looking at her. I knew she had some kinship with a snake, but apart from her eyes, tongue, and general hairlessness, she looked very human… which made her calling everybody “pink” all the time really hypocritical, since her skin was almost the exact same shade as mine.

“Do I look like a mammal?” she asked, clapping her hands to her breasts… or rather, the place where they would have been. Suddenly, I wasn’t the most flat-chested one in the group. Yay. Of course, behind two voluptuous fertility spirits and a girl with six or seven years worth of pudding pops clinging to her curves, I wasn’t even a close fourth.

“I guess not,” I said.

“Fucking right, you guess not,” Celia said. Her tongue flicked out… in irritation, I guess. She turned away, muttering, “Fucking pink-skinned bitch smelling like bad eggs all the time, calling me a mammal.”

“Wait, what do you mean ‘smelling like bad eggs?'” I demanded. “Is that like a snake insult?”

“No, it means you smell like bad eggs,” she said.

I tried giving myself a cautious sniff without being obvious. I had no idea what she was talking about.

“I think you smell just fine,” Amaranth said. Behind her, Barley mimicked her, mouthing the words and tossing her head from side-to-side in an exaggerated flounce. What the hell was that about? Was she really that sore about Amaranth testing better than her?

“Of course you all can’t smell it,” Celia said. “It’s way too subtle for those ugly lumps of cartilage you go around sniffing with. It’s like a nasty-ass undertaste, under your sweat and constant fear.”

Great… so all my nagging inner doubts were laid bare to Celia, and I apparently had weird B.O.


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2 Responses to “11: Bad Eggs”

  1. Marian says:

    Oh, I get it. She smells like brimstone.

    Current score: 0
  2. aqua says:

    sulfer

    Current score: 0