193: War And Love

on April 8, 2008 in 07: Pitched Battles

In Which Mackenzie Gets A Little Pie

Friday, Calendula 2nd (Evening)

We finished eating shortly after that, though Steff and I hadn’t actually eaten that much. Amaranth offered to help carry the shorter students’ booster seats back for them. Shiel declined, but Oru and the shirelings accepted, and Amaranth, Steff, and I each took one.

Without any prior discussion, we left them in a neat row along the wall beneath the shelf that housed them. One of the dining hall staff came over as we turned to go and started picking them up.

“Hey,” I said. “Don’t you think that they’re just going to need to use those again next meal time?”

“It’s a tripping hazard,” he said.

“For who? People going to the shelf to get boosters down?” I asked.

“Get off my ass,” he said. “I’m just doing my job.”

“Right,” I said. I reminded myself that he was probably just a student. There was no sense going off on him.

“Is this a written policy?” Amaranth asked.

“What?”

“That they have to be put up on the shelf in order to avoid tripping,” Amaranth said.

“If it’s a written policy, I’d like to see it,” Shiel said.

“It’s what we have the shelf for,” he said. “Why does it matter if it’s written or not?”

“If it isn’t an actual rule, then there’s no reason you have to put them back up,” Amaranth said. “If it is, then we certainly won’t blame you for doing your job, but it’s something we’ll have to take up.”

“Fine, whatever,” he said, putting the plastic seat back down and walking away.

“He’ll probably put them back up as soon as we’re gone,” Hazel noted.

“Probably,” Shiel agreed. “Ideally, we wouldn’t have to get booster seats at all, though I suppose the only way around it would be to make some of the seating different sizes to begin with, and that would arbitrarily limit our options.”

“I guess there really is no perfect solution for accommodating different sizes and shapes,” I said.

“No, but that just means you can always do better,” Shiel said.

The floor meeting wasn’t until eight, so we had some time. Hazel was eager to get back to her game with Shiel, and we all kind of mutually drifted along… except for Dee. She excused herself when we passed her room, begging off any further sociability due to a headache. She asked Two to make sure she was awake for the floor meeting.

“Are you okay?” Amaranth asked, frowning in concern.

“I fear that I overexerted myself,” Dee said. “My kinetic gifts have always been somewhat lacking.”

“Well, have a good nap, anyway,” Amaranth said.

“Thank you,” Dee said, then disappeared into her dark room.

“Guess we’re back to doing things the old-fashioned way,” Hazel said. “That might slow things down a bit.”

“That might be a good thing,” Honey said.

“How do you mean?”

“Some of your strategic decisions seemed a bit… hasty?” Honey said.

“Bold, I think you mean,” Hazel said. “Daring.”

“Oh, yes,” Honey said, rolling her eyes. “Daring’s the word I meant, to be sure.”

Eight people in a dorm room was edging towards crowded anyway, even without a battlefield sprawling over a good portion of the floor. Honey sat on Shiel’s bed where Dee had been. Two had a clear space on the floor next to Hazel. There was really no place for the rest of us larger types to sit, so we just stood at the edge of the room.

“Attack phase,” Shiel reminded Hazel once they were both settled down.

“I know!” Hazel said. “Hey, there’s a bottle of pop in my fridge and some cups if somebody wants to go get them. The door’s open.”

“I’ll go,” I said. Warfare, miniature or other, didn’t really interest me. Also, this might be a chance to have a word with Steff. “You want to help?” I asked her.

“I… I’d kind of like to see this,” she said.

“Okay,” I said.

“Grab the bags of crisps off my desk, too,” Hazel said. “Oh! And there’s a big unopened tin of biscuits. That should do us for a start, at least until the floor meeting. We can order out for a couple pizzas after that.”

“I’ll be right back,” I said, exiting the room before Hazel could add anything else.

The gnomes’ room was more completely furnished than any I’d seen, with actual carpeting laid down and drapes on the windows. The beds had been made up to look more like something out of a catalogue than a dorm room. They’d brought some of their own furniture, including a pair of easy chairs, three curio cabinets, some shelves of ornaments, and a low, round table in one corner of the room with six chairs around it. An elaborate tea set was arranged on a tray in the middle of the table.

The strangest item looked like another curio cabinet with elaborate carving, but instead of shelves all it had inside was a round pendulum that swung back and forth with unsettling regularity. It was topped with a box displaying the numbers one through twelve, with three arrows pointing at various spots around it. One of them was actually moving.

I squatted down in front of the odd cabinet for a while before I realized it could be a timepiece, if the shortest arm was pointing to the hour and the longer, thicker one was showing about how much of the hour had elapsed. The longest, thinnest arm was sweeping around the circle at what seemed to be about one revolution a minute.

It seemed a terribly inefficient and backwards way of displaying the time. I wondered who had come up with it, and why they’d chosen such a circuitous route. Most timepieces simply linked an illusion spell into the timekeeping one. This had to have been a lot more complicated to enchant, on top of being harder to interpret.

Perhaps illusions were an underdeveloped discipline among the burrow gnomes? Or had been when the piece was made? It looked kind of old. It could be an antique or heirloom of sentimental value.

“Oi!” Hazel yelled across the hall. “You get lost in there?”

“Sorry!” I called back. “I’m coming.”

There was a mostly full three liter bottle of root beer taking up a good portion of the fridge, and a stack of plastic cups on top of it. I wrapped my arm around the bottle despite the uncomfortable cold and held the cups in my hand, then gathered up the snacks. I knew “biscuit” meant “cookie” in Mother Pax, and anyway, the big metal can had “assorted biscuits” written on it. It took me a moment to figure out the “crisps” she’d referred to were the bags of potato chips, though.

Bottle under one arm and tin under the other, my hands full of chips and cups, I returned to the field of valor.

“Oh, baby, let me help you with that,” Amaranth said, grabbing the root beer and then the cups. “You should have taken two trips.”

“How did you guys get all that stuff up to your room?” I asked, setting the snacks down by the bed behind Hazel.

“Honey’s uncle and her cousins brought most of it up the first weekend,” Hazel said. “The table and tea service arrived a week later.”

“It’s sort of the bare minimum for comfort,” Honey said. “But we manage.”

Amaranth was handing around cups of root beer.

“Well, this is kind of nice,” she said. “It’s like a party where everybody has their clothes on. Get the biscuits open, won’t you, baby?”

I picked it up and started looking for a loose edge to the seal. Steff took it from me and immediately peeled off the adhesive with her fingernails and popped the top off. It apparently had multiple foil-wrapped trays stacked inside it. She pulled the top one out and set the tin down, then opened it.

“Oh, those all look so good,” Amaranth said. She picked up the tin and found the ingredients. “Ooh, but they’ve got real butter,” she said, curling her lower lip. “Well, they look nice, anyway.”

There was an assortment of different goodies, including fairly plain looking chocolate chip cookies, what looked like square ginger snaps, butter crackers, some kind of flaky tube things, and a pair of oversized cookies or undersized pies, with yellow and red filling, respectively.

“They’re about the best you can get in town here, if you don’t want to pay for fresh at the bake shop,” Hazel said.

“Is that lemon?” I asked, looking at the yellow-filled one.

“Lemon tartlet,” Two reported. “They’re good. I like the raspberry ones, though.”

“Raspberry for the pseudowench, then,” Steff said. She handed the lemon to me and passed Two the raspberry, then offered the tin around. While Amaranth abstained, Oru and Shiel each accepted one. Honey took three and Hazel took five. Well, there was a full tin and it was theirs. I added a chocolate chip cookie and a plain chocolate one to my lemon pie thing.

I’d finished the smaller cookies pretty quickly and was nibbling on the pie, savoring the taste of it, when I noticed Steff and Amaranth smiling at me.

“What?” I asked.

Steff giggled and looked away, but Amaranth just smiled wider.

“Baby, you have got crumbs all over your face.”

I blushed.

“They’re crumbly,” I muttered.

“There’s paper napkins somewhere, if you want them,” Hazel said without looking away from the field. She seemed to be measuring distances on the field.

“It’s okay, I’ve got wipes,” Amaranth said. She took the tartlet away and set it down on the nearest desk, then pulled me by the hand towards the door. “Come on, let’s not get any more crumbs on Shiel and Oru’s floor than you already have.”

Steff followed us out into the hall. Amaranth produced a wet towelette and began dabbing at my face.

“Mother, did you get any of those biscuits into your mouth?” she asked.

“They were crumbly,” I said again.

“I bet you were adorable when you were a kid,” Steff said.

“She’s pretty darned cute right now,” Amaranth said. The used towelette vanished from sight. I wondered if there were any ramifications to making something disappear indefinitely, like a total weight or size limit. If not, it could be an efficient way of disposing of garbage. Before I could ask, though, she moved me slightly to get out of the sight of the doorway and kissed me.

Warm comfort. Amaranth’s kisses were sunlight, any time of day.

“You’re staying with me tonight, right?” I asked.

She nodded.

“Just try to keep me away,” she said. “We won’t even have to do anything, after the day I had… though, of course, I’m up for anything.”

“I think just sleeping will be more than enough for me,” I said. The day was catching up with me. It was hard to believe that it had only been that same morning that I’d made my way through the labyrinth. Going to afternoon classes had let my mind draw a line between the morning’s experiences and everything that had come after… but my body wasn’t quite with the program there. I turned to Steff. “Do you want to stay with us?”

She shook her head.

“No more sex,” I said. “Just… be with us.”

“I don’t want to push Two’s acceptance too far,” she said. “She’s been so great…”

She sniffed.

“What?” I asked.

“Just remembering that day we went to town,” she said. “After we got back… the hugging and falling all over each other like soppy idiots.”

“You said, ‘I love you guys’, and Two needed clarification,” I said. I was starting to get misty-eyed, too. “That you loved her, too.”

“This must have been after I left,” Amaranth said.

“Oh, yeah,” Steff said. “Sorry you missed it.”

“The year’s just starting,” Amaranth said. “There will be lots of other times… other moments.”

Steff looked like she was going to say something, but she didn’t. Amaranth kissed her, and then I did, and then I kissed Amaranth. We kissed each other in turns. This seemed to me to be the essential weakness of polyamory; there were doubtlessly lots of different ways in which multiple people could have sex, but only two people could kiss at a time the way it was meant to be done, lips together and arms around one another.

There was something to be said for it, all the same.

I wanted to be kissing both of them.

“Oh, my fucking Khersis,” one of the Leightons said, startling me out of an embrace with Steff. I turned to see it was Sara. They were coming up the hall with Trina, Twyla, and Finbar in tow. “Will you freaks please get a room?”

“Hey, I don’t think boys are even supposed to be in here after dark,” Tara said.

“Yeah, I don’t think so,” Sara agreed. They were both looking at Steff, despite the fact that their furry-faced boyfriend Finbar was there. Not only that, but they were carrying a bottle of some clear liquor and a little carrier with six bottles of beer. It seemed a little hypocritical for them to complain about us bending the rules, and downright unlikely that they’d do anything more than give us shit about it.

“Well, none of us girls will say anything about your boyfriend, then,” Amaranth said, stepping between Steff and the twins, who hurried into their room without another word. Trina gave me a big dumb smile as she went in. Twyla was staring at the floor. Fin looked apologetic, but didn’t say anything.

“Twats,” Steff said when their door had closed and locked. “I’d love to cut off one head and see how long the other one takes to die.”

“Now, that’s a little excessive,” Amaranth said.

“You think? Did Mack tell you what they did?” Steff asked.

“When?” she asked.

“Today,” Steff said. “Just this afternoon.”

“It was nothing, really,” I said. I’d had enough of the Leightons and their stupid, childish antics for the moment, and wanted to forget about the whole thing.

“Baby, you know that’s not how it works,” Amaranth said. “If somebody’s giving you a hard time, you need to tell me about it.”

“You didn’t act like it was nothing earlier,” Steff said. “They threw their shitty toilet paper and a cigarette into the tub with Mack.”

“They were smoking?” Amaranth asked. “You should have told Kiersta.”

“I did,” I said. “She said if she didn’t catch them at it, she couldn’t do anything.”

Amaranth was scowling.

“We should go have a chat with Kiersta right now,” she said. “They’ve got beer and vodka in there right now. She couldn’t help catching them in the act.”

“Amy, Fin’s in there,” Steff said.

“Well, you know what they say,” Amaranth said. “If you lie down with… um… actually, that might be a little racist. The point is he should pick his company better.”

“But Twyla didn’t pick her roommates,” I said. “Let’s just let it go. I don’t want to get a bunch of people in trouble because of the Leightons.”

Steff shook her head, and sniffed again.

“What?” I asked.

“You’re so stupid,” she said. “I mean, good.”

“Uh, thanks.”

“No, I mean it,” Steff said. “Except for Fin, who really is an okay guy, there’s nobody in that room who isn’t a total bitch…”

“Twyla isn’t,” I said.

“Do you think she’s going to vote for you?” Steff asked. “And it’s no wonder Trina needs that extra eye. It’s the only way she can see with her nose so far up Gladys’s ass. None of them are worth a tenth what you are, even Fin, but you’re being all noble or wishy-washy or something and not nailing them when you have a chance.”

I shrugged.

“I’m not comfortable ‘nailing’ people,” I said. “A lifetime of being the nailee…”

“It’s frustrating to watch you,” Steff said.

“I think it’s one of her finer qualities,” Amaranth said. “As long as she’s not letting people walk all over her, I mean. Which is why you need to tell me about these things, Mack.”

“Okay, okay,” I said. I remembered something. “Um… kind of on that subject?”

“What, baby?”

“This one really is nothing,” I said. Amaranth looked at me over her glasses and I quickly added, “But I’m telling you anyway… Maliko kind of threatened me in class, if I ‘touched Sooni under her clothes’, or something like that.”

Amaranth sighed and shook her head.

“That poor, dear, sweet girl,” she said, chewing thoughtfully on her lip.

“You’re both crazy,” Steff said. “Crazy and stupid and crazy stupid and stupid crazy. I hope you know that.”

“We know,” I said, smiling. “And we love you, too.”

Steff turned her head and dropped her eyes to the floor.

“Hey,” I said quietly. “It’ll be okay.”

“I don’t want to lose you,” she said quietly.

“You won’t,” I said.

“Or Viktor,” she said.

“Sweetie, Viktor loves you,” Amaranth said. “And he knows you’re going through a hard time. He makes rules to help you. He won’t do anything capriciously, or just to hurt you.”

I tried to force a laugh. “If anything, I should be worried, not you.”

Steff didn’t seem reassured by that.

“You should come to the meeting with us,” I said. “Unless you’ve got something going on, I mean.”

Steff shook her head.

“We got our rep elected last week,” she said.

“Then if you don’t mind, I want you by my side,” I said. “Win or lose, I want you there.”

A string of colorful, gnomish-accented curses from the open door made us jump.

“On the subject of winning and losing…” Steff said.

“You want to watch the game,” I said.

Steff nodded.

“Okay,” Amaranth said, and we went back in to watch the battle until it was time for the meeting.

I finished my tartlet and had two more… they’d made it through two layers of the tin while we were in the hall, though Hazel and Two had saved out the lemons for me.

I didn’t really follow the game that well, except for the fact that Hazel was losing, very badly and very poorly. Shiel didn’t appear to mind, and Hazel seemed madder at herself or the situation than anything. I think she was having a good time, somehow, all the same. It was nice, with store brand root beer and imported cookies and friends all around, even if it was a bit cramped.


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7 Responses to “193: War And Love”

  1. pedestrian says:

    A.E. this reminded me, I have been curious. Could not Amy use divine healing to assist Dee with situations such as a headache?

    And, in the MU Canon, could Amy “re-fuel” Dee or others by acting as a conduit for divine energy?

    And would go against your future plotline for Mackenzie to have her learn to tap and utilize infernal energies in a controllable, useful action?

    Current score: 1
    • Zukira Phaera says:

      Hmm, Amy probably could heal Dee’s headache, except some things to consider

      would Dee let her being that it is only a headache?
      would the cause make it possible, being that this one is implied to be more from over use of a mental muscle it might not be anything that can be cured by aught but rest, kinda like Mack had to recharge her batteries with some good ole fashioned down time.

      I always thought this chapter was a bit of a foil to the whole arc with Mack overextending herself.

      Current score: 1
  2. Lunchbox says:

    I don’t think Amaranth “re-fuel” Dee, their magic is divine, and they both have different Goddesses. My assumption is that their magic would be very different at the core because of that.

    Current score: 1
  3. Hoopla says:

    She was using psionics, not magic, from what the story seems to indicate. It’s not a matter of refeuling but relaxing an overexerted “muscle.”

    Current score: 2
  4. Macman says:

    Psionics doesn’t rely on higher powers. Dee was using her power and her goddess is a goddess of intricacy which means the divine energy acts as inspiration for how Dee uses her own energy.

    Inspiration not ability as is seen later when Dee exhausts herself against a demonic entity inside her mind and her goddess only helps when asked.

    Current score: 2
  5. zeel says:

    Shiel didn’t appear to mind, and Hazel seemed madder at herself or the situation than anything. I think she was having a good time, somehow, all the same.

    Sometimes being a troll of loser can be as fun as winning. I love Starcraft, but I am not very good at it. I often find myself running around at the end with a single probe building pylons just to waste the enemies time trying to destroy them all.

    Current score: 1