490: Devoured

on February 12, 2011 in Uncategorized Chapters

In Which The Audience Learns Quite A Bit About Dragons

There was no one waiting to escort me back to Harlowe or whisk me off to yet another unknown fate when I emerged from the administration building, which was already well on its way back from being the embodiment of a great beast’s lair to a rather unassuming edifice designed to shrink into the background.

I still felt…

The whole thing had been…

I couldn’t even…

I headed straight out from the front of the building with no clear plan or goal in sight. My head was reeling and spinning with images of… images that I didn’t have any way to deal with. I couldn’t get them out of my mind. The only clear thought I had in my head was to get away. If I’d thought that I could somehow get away from everybody, I would have. I didn’t want to see anyone… especially not my friends and especially not Amaranth, after… that.

Running off into the woods wasn’t an option, though. Even in my desperation, I knew that was not a good idea. The lie about a wandering monster killing Leda had been founded on more than one shade of truth. There were places I could go to be alone on campus, but while they would have been away from people, they wouldn’t be away. Standing out in the open air, I felt as exposed, as vulnerable, as a rabbit scurrying across an empty plain. Finding some empty corner of the library probably wouldn’t be any better.

The carriage park was right there. If there had been a school coach arriving or waiting at the stop, I probably would’ve hopped on without a second thought, or even a first one. Enwich was full of people, but nobody I knew, and even if the quiet and secluded parts were probably not the safest place to be, the worst thing that could happen to me there was I’d be killed.

There wasn’t any such vehicle conveniently waiting to take me away, though, and there was no way I was going to stand around in the cold night on the east end of campus, with the admin building tucked just out of sight.

I headed back to Harlowe. What else could I do? It wasn’t a safe place, I knew that. It wasn’t secure. I wasn’t beyond the reach of anyone there, especially not a university administrator who also just happened to be a living, breathing… emphasis on breathing… survivor of the primal age of creation, as Embries almost certainly was.

Great dragons couldn’t do those things. Not the… I was pretty sure they could do that, and wasn’t interested in learning any more on the subject. It was the imposition of will that I was thinking about. I wasn’t an expert on the abilities of dragons in particular but I was almost sure that merely great dragons couldn’t do anything like that.

They had imposing presence, yeah. They would surely inspire the primal fear and awe that Embries had talked about. They could probably, under the right circumstances and when dealing with the right mind, compel obedience.

But they weren’t so strong-willed as to be able to give a god pause, and that estimation of Embries’s power based on his wards seemed a lot less hyperbolic than it might have to someone who hadn’t been standing in his unmasked presence. A greater dragon was technically beneath a god, but there were stories… historical accounts, even… of greater dragons obliterating a god’s physical form in combat.

They weren’t detailed accounts. The stories could be full of flourishes, but in terms of actual verifiable detail, all that could be ascertained was who had come back from the fight wearing a body and how many miles around had been devastated in the process.

Even the remotest divination of a battle like that wasn’t very safe.

Thinking about this… about the fact that there was a greater dragon not only living in the area but apparently running the school… well, it didn’t make me feel better, exactly. It stopped me from feeling worse, from continuing to spiral down the whirlpool of images that filled my brain and that I had no hope of releasing.

I couldn’t deal with what I’d seen, what I’d been made to witness. Could I deal with the fact that there was a dragon… a greater dragon… on campus? That I’d felt his will clamp down like… like something I really didn’t want to employ as a metaphor at the moment… on my mind?

Maybe… given time.

I had felt the mammal’s hereditary fear of dragons before, albeit at a distant remove… but “Mama Blackwater”, as we called our province’s most famous resident, was lazy and unambitious and much more concerned about the doings of other dragons than anything else. Where Embries was disturbingly vital and active in his advanced age, she seemed more old and tired than ancient and terrible.

There was a treaty between the Imperium and her, as there had to be with Embries… though hers was publicly known and celebrated. The Blackwater Compact was a big part of the Province Day festivities. The fact that the compact named the province after her (or after her most widely-known epithet) had done a lot to placate her draconic sense of vanity, and the fee she was paid out of the budget as a royalty on the name (because the Imperial Republic of Magisteria does not pay tribute to any sovereign power, of course) did even more to convince her that letting a bunch of humans come into her land and set up the trappings of their empire was not so bad a thing.

The news occasionally reported on her movements or cautiously sought her out for commentary on local events… there would sometimes be a stir when she was spotted flying north of her more usual haunts to the south of the border of the human-settled lands. Mostly, she just wanted to be left alone… I mean, you couldn’t think about your house being under a dragon’s potential flight path and not shiver… but you got used to it.

People got used to living in places with heavy elemental activity, or on unsecured borders with hostile races. Blackwater and the lands to the south of it were dragon country, to the point where it had seemed strange to me that Prax was free of them.

Dragons of any size weren’t common… they were the product of an earlier age and their numbers had never done anything but dwindle. But they weren’t exactly rare, and their territories tended to be so large that the only time an area was truly free of them was when a concerted (and costly and dangerous) effort had been made to clear the area of them, and then to keep it clear.

The remaining intelligent dragons on the east coast, for instance, were either deep underground or completely assimilated. Lesser ones were either domesticated or held in captivity.

Outside the imperial boundaries? There wasn’t a square inch of the badlands to the west that weren’t claimed as territory by an intelligent dragon or inhabited by some of their lesser kin. There were known to be a host of reds and a few noble dragons of various shades and magnitudes up and down the Wall of the World to the west… one of them was probably the bad neighbor that Embries had mentioned.

And of course, that explained the hole in the dragon range map that was Prax. Some greater dragons allowed kin to lair within their lands, like vassals under a monarch, but it didn’t seem like Embries was the type to enjoy that particular form of flattery. He didn’t like to share.

I supposed my altered smell was probably a saving grace. I didn’t know if things would have turned out differently if not for the potion I’d taken… but I could imagine this one encounter turning into an ongoing interest of exactly the kind I didn’t need any more of, if I’d gone in there smelling like my usual self.

When I got back to Harlowe, I found it seemed that the Law men had withdrawn. At the very least, there weren’t any policing the downstairs hallway. I didn’t go down into the basement lounge to see if they’d given Gwendolyn’s office back. She wasn’t lurking in the stairs any longer. I felt a layer of unreality settling over the whole thing, like it hadn’t really happened.

I wasn’t able to fool myself into believing this, but the feeling was welcome all the same.

I would need to figure out how to deal with this… how to handle what I’d seen, and what I knew, and I would need to figure out how to do it alone. I couldn’t tell Amaranth or Ian. I couldn’t relate it to a mental healer. I could look for a way around it, but I probably wouldn’t find one and it might be dangerous to try.

He’d known when I’d been fighting his influence… he’d known before I’d realized it.

Climbing the stairs, I felt an increasing dread at the thought of seeing my friends… not just because of what I’d seen before, but also because I didn’t know what to tell them. I didn’t know what I could tell them. Short of having someone sharing my soul and letting me know what they see so I could find the discrepancies, I didn’t know where exactly the limits were, and as I’d said it would be dangerous to test them.

Embries hadn’t just been bragging or displaying an arrogant contempt for other orders of creation when he’d said his power wasn’t like faerie magic. In a true geas, the restrictions on me would be sharply outlined according to the exact words used to place it. That wasn’t a weakness… far from it. Reality itself wasn’t necessarily stronger or more unbending than the wording of fae magic. That made a true geas extremely strong, but it also meant that some of them could be circumvented or neutralized without being broken.

But the words Embries had said aloud had been a mere description of what he was doing, and they could be as imperfect or flexible as any other description. It was his will that mattered, his will that had held me in place and even now was holding my tongue. It was not a precise instrument, but it didn’t need to be.

His talk about how even someone reading my mind or soul being unable to find the truth might have been just flowery, overblown talk… if it was true, then it was more than just a matter of his will overriding mine.

Was the will of a greater dragon actually faerie magic-level strong? I had to wonder about that. It would mean it was powerful enough to reshape reality, in some ways… but that didn’t seem impossible to me, given everything else that had happened… after he’d accidentally fascinated the majority of the student body, it seemed like not only did the effect fade very quickly but it was downplayed in people’ memories of the event.

There was no reason that couldn’t have just been a purely mental memory tampering of the same sort that a telepath could do, but I didn’t think a telepath could just send out a thought like “I want everyone who saw me doing this to forget about it” and have it be done. It seemed like a telepath would have to go in a mind and do something, examine the memory and rearrange it somehow. The logistics of doing that across the entire campus were mind-boggling.

On the other hand, if he could just will forget… or remember something else… and have it ripple through people somehow…

It was a scary thought, though not the scariest one in my thought by a wide margin… the fact that I was keeping myself occupied by thinking about dragons was a pretty good indication of just how fucked my life had become.

And then I was approaching the topmost flight of stairs and I still didn’t have a clue what I was going to say or what would happen. Amaranth would see the distress on my face… probably even I could have seen the distress on my face. Dee was sure to know that something was wrong from what was leaking out around the edges, even if she couldn’t read my mind and wouldn’t be able to pick up the relevant details if she could.

And what would they think if I couldn’t adequately explain why I couldn’t tell them? I would need time to sort that out, but they would be so anxious and me not telling them would only make it worse. I needed to be able to convince them that I was alright, that things were fine on some level while knowing that in so many other ways I wasn’t alright, things weren’t fine…

I could tell my room was occupied as I approached it. It was too quiet for it to be empty. I realized that under the circumstances the door was almost certainly locked and fumbled for my keys in my coat pocket. The hush inside broke up in a scramble of noises. The door lock was fumbled open, and the door swung inward.

Amaranth was there, looking as beautiful and awful and awfully beautiful as she always did after she cried.

“It’s… over,” I said.

It really was the most I could say.


Soon: Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan, I don’t even know.


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243 Responses to “490: Devoured”

  1. Hey, folks! Sorry this chapter has gone up so late… it didn’t take long to write but it took me over an hour to realize it really was finished. Some chapters are longer, some are shorter… I never worry that people will be unhappy with a 4,000 word one but I can’t seem to shake the sense that someone will feel cheated by a 2,200 word one.

    But when the chapter revolves around… well… there was only so much that it could say, you know?

    In other news, a project that my blog-readers have been following the progress of since January is now coming to fruition. Pre-sales for The Gift of the Bad Guy are now available. The book launches in a month, on March 14th.

    If you haven’t followed the evolution of this project but would like to know more, you can check out the tag on my journal, though I don’t believe it’s on the earliest entries, from before the book had a name.

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    • A Random Pooka says:

      Beautiful.

      I didn’t count the words and I don’t care how many you used. It’s what you did with them that matters. I’ve read many FAR wordier writings that were utter rubbish, so write whatever length you feel you need to to make yourself happy. I’m sure we all will love that far more than a chapter cut to fit a specific size when you finish it.

      The audience did indeed learn quite a bit about dragons, and it seems to me that perhaps Embries has earned himself on the Story Tag wall of fame? A character that powerful that has so greatly affected the lead of your story can’t possibly just disappear never to be mentioned again.

      Current score: 1
      • Do you mean the cloud in the sidebar? It’s generated based on number of appearances. When I get back from the trip I’m about to take, I’m going to finish up the “parchment” redesign of the site and making a page where you can view all the character tags is part of that.

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  2. Frelance says:

    Thining about this… about the fact

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    • Frelance says:

      that. It wuold mean it was powerful enough to reshape reality, n some ways… but that didn’t seem impossible

      wuold

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      • Hoeppner says:

        Not shaping reality shaping thought, belief, or memes.

        I personally would hedge my bets on belief.

        And since we have magic thoughts are actually manipulative in ways they aren’t here.

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  3. Billy Bob says:

    Is 489 skipped on purpose?

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    • Frelance says:

      The incidents therein described have been redacted for the mental health of the readership. Ponder it further at your own risk.

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      • Krista says:

        lol

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      • Kevin says:

        It would have been amusing if there had been a chapter of redacted text (with the black bars where words should be along with the bits of “the” or “it” that the powers that be did not feel needed redaction) between last chapter and this one.

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        • bramble says:

          It would have, but this story arc is so completely not about being amusing.

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          • Kevin says:

            Not amusing in the funny way amusing in the way of a more obvious something was skipped but you can’t see what kind of way. I should probably not refer to that as amusing.

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            • bramble says:

              I think it’s plenty obvious that something was skipped here – there’s a chunk of time missing in the narration, followed by a passage in which Mack cannot tell us certain things. Even if you take a moment to notice that chapter 489 doesn’t exist, it’s still clear that we’ve missed something major.

              Your use of the word “redacted” makes me think of the SCP Foundation site – are you familiar with it? They make use of the “black bars” method of censorship, but only for small bits of information. A two- or three-digit number, or the name of a city and state… those are creepy when blacked out, because your brain tries to fill in the gaps. An entire block of text? It’s really easy to tip over from disturbing to funny with a long block of text that’s almost completely blocked out. It stops being information with gaps for your brain to fill in, and starts being a sight gag. Simply leaving the information out entirely (on that site, they usually do it with a note of [Data Redacted] or a note that your clearance isn’t high enough, but in the format of this story, just leaving out the chapter entirely works well) brings it back into the realm of letting your imagination fill in the details. We don’t have a framework to stick our ideas into, beyond what we know of Embries, and that really lets the imagination run horribly wild.

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            • Kevin says:

              I got redacted from spy novels and movies (as well as the TV series Burn Notice) and it’s more blanks than the SCP foundation but not just a huge mass of blank.

              Incidentally it is about what you would get if you asked for classified material through the Freedom of Information Act, if they even give you an answer.

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            • bramble says:

              I guess I just feel that large blocks of blacked-out text wouldn’t serve any more narrative purpose as just not having the text in the first place, and would therefore just be used as a gag or a novelty, which would not be consistent with the tone of the chapters immediately before and after. Not to mention that it might not be an accurate representation of Mack’s inability to tell anyone – it’s not that what she can tell is censored, it’s that she just flat out can’t talk about it at all.

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            • Kevin says:

              You have a good point I was just thinking that some people might not notice the missing chapter, and not everyone reads the comics.

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            • Kevin says:

              comments not comics I have no idea where that came from.

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            • JS says:

              I wondered about whether or not that is true. I think she physically /can/ say something, but is not allowed to and that is part of the punishment. Closer to censored than not.

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            • bramble says:

              But if she tried to tell someone about it, I doubt it would come out as bits and snatches of innocuous conjunctions and articles.

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    • Ducky says:

      I didn’t even notice.

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  4. Nick says:

    I can’t speak for everyone, but I don’t think you have to worry about us feeling “cheated” by a shorter chapter. When I first found this online I spent 2-3 full days reading through the archives, loving every minute on it. Every time there’s an update, I don’t stop and think “how long is it?” I think “sweet, a new update, can’t wait to read it”.

    Maybe that’s just me, but when a chapter is finished, it’s finished, regardless of the length.

    Current score: 1
    • SirBatty says:

      I agree fully. Once I caught up to the current chapter. I have been fully enthralled by the whole telling of the story.Anxiously awaitting the next instalment. Your writting is totally Spell-Binding.

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  5. Burnsidhe says:

    That was probably the best way of handling it without losing a ton of readers.

    Now let’s hope that Amaranth, Dee, and Mack’s other friends manage to keep her together long enough for her to see a mind healer and begin the process of getting her stable again.

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    • Altima says:

      I don’t know. I don’t think I’d mind if Mackenzie fell apart, and we got to see her being put back together.

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      • drudge says:

        Indeed. Thats the fun of breaking something, to rebuild it better than it was in the first place.

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        • Kevin says:

          Spoken like someone who has repeatedly broken bones.

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        • Frelance says:

          I met God this afternoon/riding on an uptown train…

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  6. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Alexandra Erin, Sharon T. Rose. Sharon T. Rose said: RT @alexandraerin: Chapter's up! http://www.talesofmu.com/story/book0x/490 #ae_stories #talesofmu #weblit […]

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  7. Burnsidhe says:

    One thing that does surprise me is that she didn’t at least have the dry heaves walking back.

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  8. Jane says:

    Clever, and in retrospect, should have been obvious. This is a first-person narrative – if she can’t tell what happened to anyone, that includes not telling it to the narrative. Which implies that it isn’t going to be broken in the gap between when these events happen and when she narrates them (sometime in the vague future? it’s past tense, but no commentary from older-and-wiser Mack).

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    • The (much) earlier chapters did have more deliberate retrospective asides. I’m going to be returning to them in the near future. One of the reasons I abandoned them was that as the story became more emotional and dealt with Mackenzie experiencing and learning new things, I felt they took away from the immediacy of it… especially as some people complained that it seemed inconsistent if “narrator Mackenzie” knew things that happened to “story Mackenzie” later.

      My own older-and-wiser take on it is that it takes a strict adherence to a well-constructed framing device to make a narrative that’s not inconsistent in that way, and I’m more interested in just telling the story properly than anything else.

      So Mackenzie’s narration will be in retrospective when it needs to be and in the moment when it needs to be. Readers are welcome to assign their ideas about what the “medium” of the story is; there will never be an official one.

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  9. drudge says:

    Damn, that was …damn.

    On a more observational note:

    1. He has some sort of mind based powers, these seem to be slightly different from the norm, or else he’s pouring on so much power they may as well be something else entirely.

    2. You can be resistant, to different degrees. Mackenzie and Iona didn’t get the same reaction a normal human(or a goblin, or anything else), but when he actively tries to affect you, that resistance won’t do much(I’d wager a god wouldn’t be cowed so easily, otherwise there wouldn’t be a need for the aforementioned battles).

    3. Dragons, for their mental power, are still physically strong. You don’t beat up a god in the flesh without noodly limbs, and even the tiny little animalistic ones Jamie saw weren’t exactly the sort of thing you could keep as a pet without a lot of effort.

    It seems MU made a mistake in contracting a dragon, because while it’s no doubt relatively easy to get them to accept a position of power, getting them to LEAVE would cause no doubt of issues. Not to mention that he’s probably gone through about as many students as half the rampages he was supposed to keep down by this point.

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    • Burnsidhe says:

      Hardly that many. He hires from outside, so far as I can tell, most of the time. And, even if he wasn’t at Magisterius, he’d still be walking and living among humans in the city.

      This is his territory, after all.

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    • Erm says:

      From what we’ve read so far, he only seems to routinely eat his secretaries. I guess nothing could prevent him, though, unless the contract with the university specifically had a clause about “No Eating Students”.

      (Which seems unlikely given what just happened to Iona, unless his deal with Law included some legal maneuvering to reclass Iona as a “monster” rather than a “student”.)

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      • zeel says:

        He could have expelled her. She committed a crime, and MU has a zero tolerance policy. She could have no longer been a student.

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        • Ducky says:

          But that would have been reasonable.

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          • Chips says:

            And humanish. Not Monsterous.

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          • bramble says:

            I think what zeel was getting at was that it’s possible he expelled her, thus making her not a student anymore and putting her back on the menu, and then eaten her.

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        • drudge says:

          Yes, but then the shifters wouldn’t have been satisfied.

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      • Frelance says:

        He said it very clearly: this is no longer a matter for civilized beings, or any of their laws, let alone something as piddling as a contract with barely-sentient fodder such as school administrators. This is a matter of monsters, to be settled by monsters in a monstrous fashion.

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        • TheTurnipKing says:

          She excused her murders as simple predation, so her own death at the hands of an apex predator is about as fitting as you can get.

          That said, because Mackenzie can’t talk about it, we really don’t know any more about what happened than her friends will. Which is very clever and quite agreeable – I don’t think there’s any better way to end this than the dark inferrances which we can draw.

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  10. drudge says:

    “Great dragons couldn’t do those things. Not the… I was pretty sure they could do that, and wasn’t interested in learning any more on the subject.”

    My first thought on the re-read amounted to “here we go again.”

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    • Burnsidhe says:

      This is Mack letting her mind chase itself in little circles to avoid thinking about the greater trauma. It’s a coping mechanism that generally only works in the short term.

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      • Is it really so unclear what that part’s talking about?

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        • drudge says:

          In case it wasn’t clear, I wasn’t entirely serious with that comment.

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          • No, it really wasn’t. I’m trying to give you the benefit of the doubt, and have actually enjoyed reading your comments the past few chapters, since you clarified where you’re coming from and I’m reading them with fewer preconceptions.

            But that was really close to something that you might have said before, during the doom-and-gloom period that made me see everything you posted as scathing.

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        • Burnsidhe says:

          ? I was commenting on Mack’s state of mind and, how, as she says herself, “the fact that I was keeping myself occupied by thinking about dragons was a pretty good indication of just how fucked my life had become” as a counter to the original comment of “Here we go again.” Well, obviously to me, here we don’t go again.

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          • Yeah, I got that, but you said it in response to drudge’s “Here we go again” comment on Mackenzie being “unwilling to learn”… given what she’s referring to there, no, it’s not a short-term coping mechanism, it’s a long-term survival mechanism.

            I really don’t like explaining the “read between the lines” parts of the story but I didn’t exactly think it was subtle or obscure what she was referring to there and so I’m kind of perplexed/worried when it looks like two people in rapid succession didn’t get it.

            Current score: 0
            • Burnsidhe says:

              I’m not sure how I can express myself better; It’s like any other tool. You use it as long as you need to and then put it away when you don’t, but you’re not throwing it away when you put it away.

              As for “unwilling to learn”.. I’ve never seen Mack as being *truly* unwilling to learn, or she’d never have come to MU in the first place. That said, I have seen her struggle to understand how to use the things she’s learning and put them in the proper place for her life and hopefully continued existence. And I do remember the early chapters where she was extremely reluctant to open her mind to new information, simply because she’d been in “how to survive around Grandma” mode so long.

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            • Burnsidhe says:

              And following up on that thought; it’s nice to see that Mack is occasionally putting down that tool to take a look around herself, learning new modes of interaction.

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            • Kevin says:

              Reading between the lines is a necessary bit since certain facts about the universe that “everyone knows” would be just bizarre to explain to the readers, a tactic known as “as you know bob” or being hit by a “clue by four” and probably a few other terms as well. The point is I believe most readers can figure out things it is either impossible or illogical to say flat out.

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    • I hope your second thought was a better one.

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      • drudge says:

        Generally, my second thought amounted to “Exactly what about unintelligent dragons gives makes the smart ones pause?”

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        • bramble says:

          I’d guess that it’s pretty much whatever it is about any large, territorial predators that gives any intelligent being pause. Sure, the average greater dragon could probably clear out the “dumb beast” variety from a given location, but not without at least a little personal risk and a good deal of effort. If there’s something about the lesser dragon’s territory that the greater dragon has use for, or if the lesser dragon is making trouble, it’ll get driven off or killed, but greater dragons probably don’t go around beating up on their less intelligent kin for shits and giggles.

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  11. Burnsidhe says:

    Oh, hey there, “exceeded connection limit.” I thought you’d gone into retirement.

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  12. Kalistri says:

    I think in the comments on the last post someone asked the most pertinent question here: did Mack snag a job application form for the secretarial position? Did she even think of Amaranth through all this? Yeah that’s a joke.

    You know, the first thing that occurs to me is that throwing in a bit where Mack bumps into Callahan sometime soon could be interesting, though I don’t know if that’s possible, since I believe Callahan’s supposed to be off somewhere, right? Regardless, I think a cool arc would be some sort of enmity or rivalry happening between Callahan and Embries, and maybe Mack stuck in the middle. But that’s just a random idea. (I read the bit about ideas in the comments being up for grabs AE… go ahead. I actually think that policy applies to the internet as a whole anyway.)

    Incidentally, a couple comments concerning Callahan since I’m on the fleeting mention of her… am I the only person who noticed that Callahan disappeared around the same time as when there was apparently a meeting between several gods? (Incidentally, I loved the bit about the lack of a law against successful deicide.) Also, I think the only reason she’s teaching at MU is because of Embries, though that’s just a guess.

    I wonder if she’s affected by Embrie’s aura of majesty or whatever because she’s half-human or because of the hole the pitchfork left? Anyway, you know a constructive reaction for Mack to have would be if she put that mental defense thing on a higher priority. Maybe the ROTT could help. Does anyone think the ROTT is the pitchfork? No, me neither. :p

    Maybe some silver lining: a greater dragon living on campus could serve to put Mack’s apparently inherent badness in further perspective. She thinks she’s a danger to the people around her? Dude, they’re living in close proximity to a greater dragon.

    Anyway, nice update.

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    • The Dark Master says:

      That the sort of thing I was thinking Mack would need to do if she was going to take down Embries. Mental training to resist his compultion (its possible, Callahan did it).

      Actually building herself to the point where she could beat Embries could be a main point of the story from here on. She can’t get someone else to do it, Embries made sure of that; and the only other option is to hide from the horror, try and cope with the greatest trauma she has ever faced.

      To never grow as a character in that regard, or learn that this world is horrible place and there are certain things you cannot fix or change and you can only do what you can. If you can’t change something, you need to become powerful enough to do so. That seems to be the Embries moral, maybe even Mack Daddy’s.

      Current score: 0
      • drudge says:

        Emberies himself isn’t the biggest threat to Mackenzie herself. Provided she can keep herself under control, she’ll survive. Granted down the line a whole lot of other people won’t, but hey, priorities here. She’s still got Mercy and Mack daddy to deal with, not to mention Einhorn, Feejee, Pitchy, whoever has Pitchy, and no doubt someone I’m forgetting. Emberies made a big impression, but that impression seems to be so he won’t have more work to sort out from her later.

        Current score: 0
      • Kalistri says:

        I’m not sure that there’s much point in looking for a moral to the story. Of Tales of MU in general. I could be wrong though… I’m just not sure. Many writers seek nothing more than to explore their imagination. I think this is a worthwhile exercise without the need for moralising because it is an exercise of your morality in and of itself. Imagination isn’t action, but it is useful to anyone and everyone for making choices about your actions. This is just my opinion, but I suspect that imagination has a strong correlation with morality, because it’s how you test your principles without literally putting yourself into a spot where they’re tested.

        Incidentally, I consider the lesson that you can’t do something about everything to be a worthwhile one, and also as not necessarily a cynical, pessimistic kind of lesson, because it goes hand in hand with the concept that you don’t have to do everything, you don’t have to save the world… it can save itself without you.

        Away from philosophic discussions… the idea of Mack learning to help Callahan take down Embries kind of appeals to me, but I wouldn’t expect it and I’d be happy with that not happening, because if you want to find a fantasy story about a hero/ine taking down a big boss monster, you’re looking in a haystack for… hay.

        Current score: 0
        • Oh, there’s a moral.

          It’s complicated.

          Current score: 0
          • Kevin says:

            I’d ask what’s complicated but it’s either the moral or life in general.

            Current score: 0
            • The Dark Master says:

              Can I hazard a guess at what the moral is?
              All the mosters that Mack has met are foils for the things she could become. Iona, Mack Daddy, Mercy’s pets, the pitchfork, and Embries; is Mack going to become a monster like one of them? Or is she going to try to not be a monster and chose to be a person? Thats my guess anyway, there may be a bunch more smaller things, but I think thats the big picture.
              .
              I also see now why Mack Daddy is mad that demons got banished by Kheris, but dragons where not. I think that Embries and Mack Daddy likely have the same moral code, the same monster mentality. So why did the dragons get off scott free? The reason I’d guess is that they where too powerful, but the whole thing isn’t really fair. Maybe thats the point in this regard; Dieties arn’t fair.

              Current score: 0
            • Why do you have to guess? I told you what the moral is.

              Current score: 0
            • The Dark Master says:

              Hahaha, clever.

              Current score: 0
            • erianaiel says:

              I was kind of hoping for:
              expect the unexpected …

              Current score: 0
            • Frelance says:

              Well, both, but some specifics can be interpolated. The key observation to me is that Embries is an educator. He’s very many other things to greater & lesser degrees, but that’s at least part of him. He has no need, as might be the case for other less puissant forces, to impress, intimidate, or bully someone else with just a little power. So, as long as it’s not in violation of other elements of his character, one can imagine that he’s taken the rather special opportunity of a “monstrous” situation to edify Ms.Mackenzie in a manner that wouldn’t be available to her in the course of her mainstream education.

              He has some unique perspectives to offer. There are scary things, but they’re not what you think they are. There is real power; it’s all about will. You have a place in the world; it’s not what you think it is. Embries gave up nothing (which is important to the rest of him) in indulging the educator part of himself on behalf of a “special needs” student.

              Current score: 0
            • Kalistri says:

              The context I’ve been considering when thinking about Embries is his long life span. His tenure at MU is probably the equivalent of time spent playing a board game like monopoly for you or me. He doesn’t consider himself an educator any more than I might consider myself a monopoly player.

              Therefore, I think he’s just fucking with Mack. The fact that he can justify it by saying that he was “educating” her is probably just something that makes the situation a little more amusing to him.

              Current score: 0
  13. The Dark Master says:

    So AE is not so sadistic to go through with it, I’m glad. Unfortunatly, I’m m now at a loss as what to say. Really, I’m speachless; nothing in this chapter has given me new insight on the characters.

    Current score: 0
  14. rumrunner says:

    First I felt sort of ripped off, but then again I guess it’s appropriate for Mackenzie to console herself with a bunch of logic-atizing and fact-hashing and suchlike.

    (though really, I would have liked more ripping)

    Current score: 0
  15. Denyre says:

    This was a nice chapter but It feels to me a bit anticlimactic. Unless Ms. Erin has something else planned I hope to see the missing bits from Embries’ POV at least.

    Current score: 0
  16. Burnsidhe says:

    I think I’m with Mack on this one. I’m as acquainted with a Noble Dragon’s feeding habits up close as I need to be at this point.

    Current score: 0
  17. Lyssa says:

    AE, I want to say that this is one of the most beautiful post-trauma story-tellings I have ever seen. You handled this immensely well, both in terms of keeping it very tasteful, and in keeping it true to the character. While a few of your readers may have not “gotten” bits of it, I think that for the most part, we have. This is a very good explanation of how Mackenzie is going to be able to survive as a fairly ethical person who has experienced a horrifying thing.

    Nicely done. 🙂

    Current score: 0
  18. Jinzo says:

    Heh funfact. Chapter 489 has been skipped, trying to type it in manually redirects you to 488. Secret chapter 😀
    Problebly wise to skip the actual eating too, meta-analyzing says that alot of readers would be disappointed either way. Sides this makes it so that the horror of what he saw will be up to the readers imagination, something that almost always gives the best results (scary wise, compare horror movies who are implicit or explicit).

    I like the way Dragons (atleast greater ones) are portraid in this world, as creatures ancient, powerful and whos magic isnt the copycat version humans use… they just alter reality with will alone.

    Current score: 0
    • Chips says:

      Oh, I don’t know… about a six-word chapter/update could provide enough detail to let us know what happened:

      “And Callahan brought the tartar sauce.”

      Current score: 1
  19. Kaila says:

    Interesting.

    I suppose you could have done this two ways: either write the event, or write Mackenzie’s reaction/response to the event, but I really couldn’t see you doing both – it’d drag on too long and lose the impact. Also, being Mackenzie, thinking or overthinking things seems to be her MO, so you couldn’t do the event without the thinking, but you could do the thinking without the event.

    It’s narratively sound, and in keeping with the style so far.

    I like it.

    Current score: 0
  20. Zergonapal says:

    Besides anything AE wrote would probably pale in comparison to what we would have imagined happen.
    This isn’t a criticism, just an observation 🙂

    Current score: 0
    • …it would probably be a mistake for me to interpret this as a challenge.

      Current score: 0
      • Ducky says:

        Nonsense! If you do write it, you should probably post it with a warning, though…

        Current score: 0
        • Lunaroki says:

          If you do take up the challenge and write the missing chapter I know I’d read it. I might wind up highly disturbed and traumatized to do so but it wouldn’t be the first time I’d read a story that left me feeling that way. Just make sure if you do write it that you don’t post any direct links around. Just add a note at the end of this chapter and a comment on the next chapter you post mentioning that the missing chapter exists if folks want to read it badly enough to figure out the link for themselves and warning of what highly disturbing content they will find there.

          Current score: 0
          • zeel says:

            It could be written as an OT, negating the problem of Mackenzie not being able to tell. But the idea of a hidden chapter is interesting.

            Either way I would love to know what happens, It would make watching Mackenzie’s inability to talk about it all the more interesting. And we would soon learn the extent of the spell, probably faster than Mackenzie (she is a bit slow at times).

            Current score: 0
            • The Dark Master says:

              If Embries dies, I think that this idea would be fine, his death scene, a flash back to the lost chapter, and then flash forward to Embries on the ground, dead.

              Current score: 0
            • That’s exactly what I’ll do. When Embries dies because Mackenzie killed him as the culmination of the training that begins her heroic journey towards her greater destiny, there will be a flashback that reveals what happened in chapter 489.

              Current score: 0
            • Krista says:

              And because you’ve said it like that, Mack killing Embries is exactly what’s not going to happen, right?

              Current score: 0
            • I can assure you that your statement is completely untrue.

              Current score: 0
            • Major says:

              Very clever. Krista’s statement ignores the fact that Mack killing Embries was never part of the planned story, so your previous sarcastic reply to Dark Master is as relevant as the whiteness of fresh snow is to someone’s statement that it is black.

              Current score: 0
            • The Dark Master says:

              Alright, I’ll stop.

              Current score: 0
            • The Dark Master says:

              Though I wouldn’t put it past you from putting that as one of the possible endings that people could vote for, there at least two characters in the story that would probably like it if Mack became capable of slaying greater dragons.

              Though in my last comment, I meant if Embries was killed in general. Callahan could pull it off or some diety.
              .
              Oh ya, I also remember you not liking it when people say how they think Machenzie’s character could be shaped, my apologies for speculating one of many solution.
              .
              Seriously though, I am not trying to antagonize you or tell you how to write your characters AE.

              Current score: 0
      • drudge says:

        I want to say “yes”, but so many questions burn in my mind right now.

        Did he do it all in one bite or did he take his time, did he even CHEW if he’s so huge, did he use the gravy boat?

        For the love of god, DID HE USE THE GRAVY BOAT?

        Current score: 0
      • Dashel Illioni says:

        I do hereby challenge you to meet or exceed the horror that you have already conjured specifically in regards to what happened in 489 or at least in a speculative piece.

        By the way, Embries was the best written dragon I have come across in years of fantasy reading, bar none.

        Thank you so much!

        Current score: 0
  21. Peter says:

    Is their both a Prax and a Pax? Both seemed to have turned up more than once.

    Current score: 0
  22. SilentSooYun says:

    Well, in about three or four days she can correctly and accurately report that Iona has been expelled.

    …depending on how efficient a dragon’s digestive system is.

    Okay, so to me, jokes are the order of the day, a sigh of release after having held my breath. Last chapter was genuine nightmare fuel for me… literally, I had dreams about what would happen, something I’ve never done before. Being eaten alive is a primal fear and affects me worse than most. I can’t even watch Jaws, I’m that pathetic.

    That being said, I’m glad the actual scene wasn’t “shown”… not due to my weakness, but because any description would have paled to what my imagination can conjure up. Not a dig on Alexandra’s writing skills… far from it. The best horror is the horror that’s never seen, because it leaves the audience to personalise that horror.

    Current score: 2
    • zeel says:

      True, but there are some general portions that I would like to know. For instance, did Mackenzie partake of the meal?

      Current score: 0
      • Xenophon Hendrix says:

        “He didn’t like to share.”

        Current score: 0
      • Frelance says:

        Dragons DON’T share.

        Current score: 0
        • Jennifer says:

          I agree, Mackenzie states right out that Embries isn’t the type to share (even land). Also, if she HAD been forced to partake, I suspect there would be quite a few extra stomach turning thoughts: I can’t believe he made me…. I’m going to be physically ill… etc.

          Current score: 0
      • Kitsune 9tails says:

        Did Iona?

        Current score: 0
        • Critter says:

          …I was totally cool with all of this until you said those two words. Now I’m disturbed. Thanks for the horrible mental pictures that may give me nightmares. XD

          Current score: 1
    • Kevin says:

      Being eaten isn’t a fear so much as a fascination for me I’ve always thought it would be a good way to give back to nature if your body were used to feed scavengers or make compost rather than sit in a box in the ground.

      Current score: 0
      • tibetian sky funeral eh?

        Current score: 0
        • Kevin says:

          I had to look up the Tibetan Sky Funeral, didn’t know anyone had a practice like that cause whenever I mention the idea somebody accuses me of being a sick freak for not wanting my only choices to be: burned into brittle bone fragments then crushed; or buried in a sealed box to become a hollow husk taking up space in the ground preserved as an hideous cadaver pumped full of carcinogens.

          Current score: 0
          • Fundamentally I think its a beautiful idea, though at the same time it must seem very distasteful and disrespectful to most people because of current culture.

            The Tibetian Sky Funeral or a variation on it is what I’d choose for myself after any organ donations that could be attended to. Symbolically both continuing to live by the gift of life with the donations and giving life in the feeding of other residents of the planet. You can find videos online of the sky funerals although its not just something done in Tibet – some Native American tribes also had a similar practice so for me, that part would be also a final action in keeping with my own ancestry.

            You might also find it interesting that Jack Nicholson was recently interviewed and discussed the topic of funeral arrangements and mentioned that he was considering a sky burial. You can find that article here.

            Current score: 0
      • bramble says:

        I don’t know if your “recycle your earthly remains” thing is serious or just a thought exercise, but have you considered looking into donating your body to a forensic body farm? That would allow you to naturally decompose, plus help train people in analyzing the process of decomposition so that they can better solve murder cases.

        Current score: 0
      • drudge says:

        While I’m no funerary expert, aren’t most boxes made of wood and decompose over time anyway? I mean, the expression “worm food” didn’t come from nowhere.

        Current score: 0
        • bramble says:

          Well, no, it didn’t come from nowhere – but I’m pretty sure it predates modern embalming and burial practices. Obviously, no casket or cocktail of chemicals will protect a body perfectly or forever, but an embalmed corpse in a well-built casket will last significantly longer than a badly embalmed or natural corpse in a leaky pine box, which will in turn take longer to decompose than a body left on the surface, exposed to scavengers and to the elements.

          Current score: 0
      • SilentSooYun says:

        My fear isn’t of being eaten, it’s being eaten *alive*. Once I’m dead, I’m beyond caring what happens to the body.

        Current score: 0
  23. Wysteria says:

    I enjoyed this one. I hope the others don’t make the next bit too awkward.

    Current score: 0
  24. ConstantlyPuzzled says:

    I gotta say, if she’s going to be unstable enough to fall apart in the first place, I doubt a mental healer would help. Usually, you go and ‘talk’ about what’s bothering you, which we know she can’t. So her going to see someone, at least for this, seems like a waste of time.

    Current score: 0
    • Lunaroki says:

      Perhaps there’s nothing a mental healer can do to touch the issue itself, the memory of what happened, but there’s plenty they could do to address it’s consequences and ramifications in Mack’s mind. It will never be an ideal solution, but they can work around the problem area to address the associated issues it brings up, maybe even build a mental barrier around the memory so that Mack herself doesn’t have to deal with it anymore. Weld the fragments of her mind back together in a new configuration strong enough to bear the burden of the knowledge currently fracturing it and she’ll be better off than she was before, even with that horrific memory still sitting there in her mind.

      Current score: 0
      • Colette says:

        for such a Healer to do this type of thing, they would have to go into her Mind and face the Infernal side of her Nature…I doubt there are many that would be able much less willing so to do.
        Embries could, did, and would have anticipated such.
        “Even one sharing your Soul..” cannot see it and may not be able to detect the offending memories in order to wall them off.
        Plus I suspect Embries would KNOW if such were attempted…
        NOT a good place to be…

        Current score: 0
        • essentially saying ‘daddy’ isn’t gonna be able to see or do anything about it either.

          Current score: 0
          • JS says:

            let alone Pitchy? why else mention “one sharing” her soul?

            Current score: 0
            • drudge says:

              Who knows. Maybe Mackenzie’s repressed such a large part of herself for so long it’s split off into a different entity altogether? Maybe he knows Mack Daddy would want to watch? Maybe he thinks Dee is going to try some shit somewhere down the line.

              Current score: 0
  25. Not that girl, the other one says:

    “The fact that the compact named the province after her (or after her most widely-known epithet) had done a lot to placate her draconic sense of vanity, and the fee she was paid out of the budget as a royalty on the name (*because the Imperial Republic of Magisteria does not pay tribute to any sovereign power, of course*) did even more to convince her that letting a bunch of humans come into her land and set up the trappings of their empire was not so bad a thing.”

    Hehehe.

    Current score: 0
  26. Zathras IX says:

    Wall of the World map
    Notations “Here Be Dragons”
    Are not called Legends

    Current score: 1
  27. fka_luddite says:

    The idea expressed in

    “There were known to be a host of reds and a few noble dragons of various shades and magnitudes up and down the Wall of the World to the west… one of them was probably the bad neighbor that Embries had mentioned,”

    seemed somewhat off to me. Embries mentions this in connection with having previously met Granny Blaise; this would suggest that the neighbor was Mama Blackwater.

    Current score: 0
    • bramble says:

      I’d presume that the White Dragons (er, the paladins, that is) go where they’re needed. There’s also the fact that Mack was completely unaware of her grandmother’s history as a paladin, implying that Martha kept some distance between her history as Brimstone Blaise and her family life in Blackwater. Furthermore, as far as Mack knows, Mama Blackwater doesn’t seem to have the ambition to become enough of a threat to warrant the attention of an order of paladins.

      Current score: 0
      • Kevin says:

        If anyone knows where the Brimstone Blaise chapter is I believe it mentions her dueling a greater or great red dragon to a draw.

        Current score: 0
  28. The Other Leighton says:

    “I supposed my altered smell was probably a saving grace. I didn’t know if things would have turned out differently if not for the potion I’d taken… but I could imagine this one encounter turning into an ongoing interest of exactly the kind I didn’t need any more of, if I’d gone in there smelling like my usual self.”

    Maybe I’m just being super-dense, but I don’t get how that paragraph relates to the entire rest of the story. I know she smells different because of the potion and whatnot, but how’s that a saving grace?

    Other than that I’m a bit disappointed that other situations can be written with such graphic detail and relish, but what some might describe as “gore porn” (i.e. vivid descriptions of violent scenes) is glossed over. Then again, that’s not what’s being written here and I guess expecting that kind of gritty writing is going to lead me to constant disappointment.

    Good chapter, though. Looking forward to Monday.

    Current score: 0
    • Silverai says:

      She doesn’t smell all OMNOMNOM like normal, which saved her from Embries thinking OMNOMNOM when he smelt her, thus a saving grace.

      Current score: 0
    • Mime says:

      Her smell makes certain other beings want to eat her but apparently her changed smell has dulled that by quite a bit

      Current score: 0
    • The Dark Master says:

      Its more of an aura of “you want me” when you sence Mack. Preditors have a strong sence of smell so thats how they are affected (though I could be wrong and it could be just a smell), and they interprit it as “I really want to eat you”.

      The evidence, Feejee getting stuck on Mack’s smell, and people wanting more of Mack the closer they get to her (Ian at the first dance).
      .
      The focus point of the aura is Mack’s naughty bits, so it is likly suppose to make you want to screw her (again, Feejee points this out).

      Current score: 0
      • Kevin says:

        The “Naughty bits” are always the strongest smelling parts of the body that’s why cats cuddle in your crotch more often than your face.

        Current score: 0
        • The Dark Master says:

          I guess you learn something new every day. Did AE know that?

          Current score: 0
          • Kevin says:

            If she has a cat then probably I don’t know if it’s been mentioned.

            Current score: 0
        • rumrunner says:

          It’s the groin and the armpits, right?

          Have Mackenzie’s armpits been given any predatory/promiscuous attentions?

          Current score: 0
          • The Dark Master says:

            I don’t think so, Feejee only said that the smell was strongest in the groin, I think she made a point that it wasn’t anywhere else, and that Mack should not look too much into that. Maybe she should have, but for different reasons.
            .
            Its the sweat thats the source of the smell though right? I don’t think that vaginas sweat though, shouldn’t Feejee have been more interested in the space between the mound and the legs then? Feejee was almost fixated on the inside of the vagina.

            Current score: 0
  29. KrataLightblade says:

    I admit to being only faintly disappointed as to not seeing the actual event.

    But I have a… somewhat higher tolerance level for very messed up stuff than most people. And a somewhat more… thorough… imagination when it comes to them than some. Essentially meaning it’s actually somewhat more Nightmare Fuel-y this way.

    I love you and hate you for that.

    Current score: 0
  30. fka_luddite says:

    AE,
    Any chance of getting Vice-Chancelor Embries into the cloud?

    Current score: 0
  31. Lara says:

    good chapter. but why are the lj posts under a cut tag anymore?

    Current score: 0
  32. Fylas says:

    I’m so glad I didn’t have to read that in detail.
    I was positively scared of the chapter, but the evil part is I don’t even really know just WHAT happened after she sprawled on the table. it could be anything despite the obvious.

    hey AE thanks for not crushing my psyche ^^’

    Current score: 0
  33. Pate Granzeau says:

    The missing chapter number is highly significant, IMHO.

    Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      This is the first skipped number isn’t it? or was there one before?

      Current score: 0
  34. Colette says:

    AE, very very well done.
    PTSD, mising chapter number, very adroit.
    Daddy Demonic was right about being the dangers of being alone with Embries!

    Current score: 0
  35. Daniel Holm says:

    “Why was 5, 6, and 7 afraid of 4?”

    Couldn’t help it.

    Current score: 0
    • Kevin says:

      I believe the joke was “Why are 5 and 6 afraid of 7” with the punchline “cause 7 ate (8) 9”

      Current score: 0
    • Oh, man, now I wish I’d thought to drag this out for another 300 chapters.

      Current score: 0
  36. Billy Bob says:

    I’m actually disappointed. I wanted to read the horror it would have been interesting and part of the story. The question I have is was it left out because it is supposed to be to nasty for sensitive readers, or because it would be too hard to write? Anyhow, I’m disappointed.

    Current score: 0
    • carson says:

      Neither. It was left out because Mack can’t tell us about it.

      Current score: 0
      • Billy Bob says:

        No, that’s the excuse.

        Current score: 0
        • No, that’s the reason.

          Current score: 1
          • Just a thought – but if there’s enough outcry for it, you could do a paid (donation drive) chapter with the left out one somewhere down the line, where-in Mack finds a way around the mental block in the then current storyline – we all see the consequences of her regaining the memory but only those who have donated at that time (or perhaps ever donated after the donation drive) gain access to the chapter. If that makes any sense of course.

            Mind you though I really like it as is and I’d imagine it would lose something if it did ever become viewable. The unknown can be far more evocative in cases such as these than the known.

            Current score: 0
            • Elisabeth says:

              If you do write it, instead of a donation drive maybe you could just sell the chapter itself so that only people who pay for it can read it. It seems to be something where some readers think “I wish I’d been able to read that” and others think “I’m so glad I didn’t have to read that.”

              Current score: 0
            • Kalistri says:

              Erm… you know Mack can remember the scene in full detail, she just literally can’t tell anyone, including us. It’s not like she can’t tell anyone because of the horror or whatever… it’s solely because of what Embries willed.

              This idea that AE couldn’t compete with her audience’s imagination or that she was afraid audiences couldn’t take it is a little silly. The scene doesn’t even have to be as horrific as everyone thinks (although there’s no reason why it couldn’t be either :p), because Mack isn’t blocking a memory she can’t accept, she’s just been blocked from talking about it by someone else. It only has to be horrific enough that Mack would find it difficult to deal with them. Despite what she says, she can actually deal with it and is already doing so, it’s just that she can’t go to her newest, preferred method of dealing with things, which is talking to her friends.

              Current score: 0
            • Speight says:

              It seems that we already know quite a bit more about what happened than she was able to tell her friends; if she was describing the event after the fact, she wouldn’t be able to get that far. This is consistent with the story being more of a virtual diary of sorts, conveyed to the reader as events transpire, than a real one written after the fact. Our inability to follow only seems to have begun at the time the will was imposed.

              Current score: 0
        • bramble says:

          Some of us find the psychological horror of the situation to be at least as powerful as a chapter of gorn would have been – Mack knows what happened, but can never, ever tell anyone, even us, the details, totally isolating her in her trauma and rendering just about any typical method of recovery useless and impossible. This is going to color her interactions with others, her responses to threats, any mental healing she ever undergoes for other issues. And it seems that there’s nothing she can do about it. Ever.

          Current score: 0
          • The Dark Master says:

            nothing she can do so long as Embries is still able to impose his will on her. That is unlikely to change soon.

            Current score: 0
            • bramble says:

              We don’t know that it’s tied to Embries’s continued existence, do we? I mean, it could be (his will is that Mack cannot talk about it), but it could also be an effect that does not require him to maintain it (his will is that Mack will not be able to talk about it).

              At any rate, even if eliminating Embries would free her, I really don’t see that happening in any kind of time frame that’s useful in terms of Mack’s recovery from this experience.

              Current score: 0
            • The Dark Master says:

              The other possibility is Mack gaining a strong enough will to oppose Embries’. Or if someone with a strong enough will to overcome the will of Embries forces the memories out. Either case is still unlikely to occure soon.

              Current score: 0
            • Jinzo says:

              If strong will was enough, I doubt Embriss would have let her go with nothing more then the dragon-style-geas.

              If mind readers or soulsharing is not enough, then her own will, will not be enough. Especially since it was stated outright that it isnt a normal geas, that can be tiptoed around by taking the wording literary or the like.

              Current score: 0
            • The Dark Master says:

              Or he didn’t think there was anyone who could oppose his will, he is a greater silver dragon. He may think of himself as the appex of preditors.

              Current score: 0
            • Jinzo says:

              And he might be right.

              Current score: 0
            • drudge says:

              @Jinzo.

              If a greater dragon is the apex, then what does that make Callahan?

              Current score: 0
            • erianaiel says:

              Actually, there is something on Campus that likely has the power to undo Embries’ tampering with Mackenzie’s mind.
              Of course that being is likely even more dangerous than Embries himself is, so that may not be the best route to take to get rid of his influence.

              Current score: 0
  37. Ken-Lo-Korai says:

    To me, this update feels like another anticlimax (the previous one being the actual appearance in-story of Granny Blaise). A big narrative buildup that results in no meaningful change in the story is a big disappointment.

    Mackenzie has just has a shatteringly significant experience — but with her usual power of reverse alchemy, she’s busily transforming it into just *one more thing* she can refuse to think about…refuse to learn about [Quote: “and (I) wasn’t interested in learning any more on the subject.”]…and to beat herself up for.

    So the outcome of this section? As far as Mackenzie’s concerned, the same exasperating habits operating, but even moreso!

    Current score: 0
    • Billy Bob says:

      Yep, I agree.

      Current score: 0
    • You might give some thought to what exactly the line about not wanting to learn more about refers to.

      Current score: 0
    • drudge says:

      I was actually satisfied with Granny Blaise, and could take or leave an actual description of the eating.

      The problem with both of those incidents is that nothing could ever live up to your expectations of it. I mean really, did you expect Martha to actually do different?

      Current score: 0
  38. Bau says:

    In the beginning there were dragons.

    And it was good.

    Soo… how much $$ for #489 ?

    Current score: 0
  39. arsenic says:

    Possible typo:

    “If I * thought that I could somehow get away from everybody, I would have. I didn’t want to see anyone… especially not my friends and especially not Amaranth, after… that.”

    I think there should be a “had” at the asterisk.

    – grammar freak

    Current score: 0
    • bramble says:

      That may not be entirely correct, but it’s not uncommon usage, either. I think it fits Mack’s voice.

      Current score: 0
  40. marchmadness says:

    Wow, what a chapter. Mac can’t tell anynoe what happened and worse she knows exactly what occurrd and the details are fading. The feeling will always be there but the reason may not. No wonder her lawyer wanted to get her away, he must have known what would happen and would hide Mac. And, I thought that Mac Daddy told her stay away from Enbries(dragons). NOw we know why.

    Current score: 0
  41. Ken-Lo-Korai says:

    QUOTE: “Great dragons couldn’t do those things. Not the… I was pretty sure they could do that, and wasn’t interested in learning any more on the subject.”

    This quote is typical Mackenzie; she seems to be saying that she’s pretty sure she knows what’s what here, so — because it’s frightening and horrific — she’s not going to think about it any more. And she certainly doesn’t want to *learn* anything more about the situation, because it’s threatening and potentially dangerous to her.

    This has typically been Mackenzie’s approach to most new, different or challenging situations…and she seems to be doing it *again*, even with this most potentially life-altering experience. Hence ‘alchemical ability’; here’s Mackenzie turning the pure gold of a singular, significant and terrible experience into a lead weight of unwanted information to be ignored, avoided, disregarded — and ideally, forgotten.

    Current score: 0
    • Burnsidhe says:

      Would *you* really want to dwell on the memories of watching another sapient being, one you’ve lived with, be eaten alive?

      Current score: 0
    • I’m really curious what it is you think she’s saying she doesn’t want to learn about, and how you think she’d benefit by learning about it.

      Current score: 0
  42. beappleby says:

    Wow.

    While my first reaction was frustrated disappointment that it had happened (not that we hadn’t gotten to see it happen, but that it had happened at all) I thought this was a well-done followup.

    It took me a while to be sure that she really couldn’t say anything, because it also reads as her being in shock and not being able to say anything. It’s probably a combination of both.

    I read the comments above about how a mental healer wouldn’t be able to do much because they would have to face the infernal aspect of Mack’s mind, and was struck by the thought – Oh, shit. The Man is going to be the only one who can help her.

    I’m not sure if that’s ironic, or one of those other words I sometimes get “ironic” confused with…

    And I’m wondering what she is going to say. Will she be able to say that she can’t say, or are they going to have to figure it out?

    Current score: 0
    • Colette says:

      Demon Daddy might not be able to sense those memories.
      If so the ONLY way he would know they exist would be through some form of scrying (either as it happened or looking back through time)…and I just bet Embries Wards include just such protections.

      Current score: 0
      • bramble says:

        I also think that if the Man figures out what happened, he might not be entirely supportive of Mack. He just got through telling her to stay away from Embries, after all, and while it might not be fair to blame her for being practically arrested and marched across campus to be traumatized against her will… well, this whole chain of events has been a pretty good primer in how unfair beings of this magnitude can seem, from a human (or near-human) perspective.

        Current score: 0
        • The Dark Master says:

          Mack Daddy was probably more worried about Embries eating Mack, thanks to her aura that makes avid human eaters want to eat her. That potion of anti-fertility that disabled her aura probably saved her life.

          Current score: 0
          • arsenic says:

            Now that you mention it, that’s probably why he was like, “Are you sure this is Mackenzie, the half demon? You’re SURE?” and then seemed disappointed. She didn’t smell as good as he expected.

            Or, you know, it could something else that we’re entirely unaware of.

            Current score: 0
  43. Novaseer says:

    I wouldn’t worry about posting a “short” chapter… after all technically, you’ve just posted TWO chapters… 489 exists somewhere, even if only in your readers’ imaginations

    Current score: 0
  44. Belial666 says:

    There is probably a simple way for Mack to share the info about what happened if she really tried. She knows the info, only Embries’ will is preventing her from sharing. Why not get herself under a magical compulsion that forces her to write everything down against her will?

    In that case, such magical compulsion will (probably) have to oppose Embries’ will – in which case it normally fails because it is too weak. But consider for a moment putting the compulsion on a specific trigger. Now, consider making a few such triggers a day, for a couple of years… and then triggering all ten thousand of them at the same time. Embries’ will is powerful but not omnipotent; given enough magic working against it in a brute force approach, it should fail.

    Secondly, are there antimagic fields or zones where supernatural effects do not work in this world?

    Third, when playing DnD a while ago, we captured a slave of the BBEG. Unfortunately, the slave was put under a “forbidden speech” spell that prevents the sharing of information even through telepathy, mind-reading and the like and the BBEG’s magic was too strong to dispel. So, what do we do? We cast the spell “undeath after death” on the slave and then kill him. When he dies, the magic binding him goes away and come midnight he rises as an undead which we subsequently “command undead” and force him to speak.
    So Embries’ binding can be circuvented in the same way. Of course, Mack may not like being an undead horror. I wonder if ressurection magic would apply to her – we used “undeath after death” because it’s cheaper than ressurection and easier to control the undead if you’re anecromancer.

    Current score: 0
    • bramble says:

      Maybe it’s just me, but triggering ten thousand mental compulsions in one fell swoop sounds like a really good way to shatter someone’s mind.

      Also, I have a sneaking suspicion that if Embries found out about that, he’d consider it cheating, and the punishment for getting out of her punishment is likely to be much worse.

      (On the other hand, it occurs to me that we have seen safe, temporary undeath very recently in the story – it was offered as a birth control option.)

      Current score: 0
      • The Dark Master says:

        Oh wow, good call! Plus its a new kind of magic, and Embries isn’t familliar with most new advances. This could be the easiest solution, provided Mack can stomach the undeath aspect. The timing and indeapth explination of something that was just going to be tossed aside deffinitly suggests that the avira(?) potion of undeath would be used soon.
        .
        Actually this whole thing seems to suggest that Mack may start to become a regular practitioner of potions, Celia may make a comback. (see the next main comment for potion discution)

        Current score: 0
        • Burnsidhe says:

          If you know how to build a stone wall that will last for a thousand years, you don’t need to know how to build it out of reinforced concrete instead.

          Embries doesn’t need to know mortal magics because, it seems, he’s *much better than that*.

          Current score: 0
          • drudge says:

            You do realize concrete is usually stronger, more versatile, reliable, and can have things constructed from it over time right? Or, an I believe your metaphor will *love* this tidbit, concrete grows stronger over time instead of staying at one particular strength.

            Current score: 0
            • Burnsidhe says:

              It also crumbles when exposed to the elements over time. And faster than stone wears away.

              Current score: 0
            • drudge says:

              Of course, this depends on the kind of stone vs the kind of concrete.

              Current score: 0
    • Jinzo says:

      Volontarily go Undead / temp dead (possibly including a visit to Hell) with an unknown chance of mishaps due to her not being 100% human (and therefore not really tested on her racially) ?

      Sounds abit much effort, inconvinience, risk and plain “eeeww” for being able to tell FeeJay that Iona was eaten by a dragon for eating sentients.
      Cause going public with “Embriss eats people” is NOT something Mack is insane enough to even contemplate.

      Current score: 0
  45. drudge says:

    I’m wondering if she isn’t going to try ordering that potion in bulk now. I mean between all the demons, part demons, devil things, a dragon, and god knows what else crawling out of the woodwork, a potion to suppress her smell is probably a good thing to have on her at all times.

    Current score: 0
    • The Dark Master says:

      If an anti-fertility potion compleatly negates her aura of temptation (and possibly her entire sex drive); what would happen if she took an increased fertility potion? Maybe she should have a supply to counter them when needed.

      Current score: 0
      • drudge says:

        Of course, if she keeps too many smell altering potions in her room at once, I have a feeling Celia will attempt to make a few unwanted visits.

        Mackenzie should probably keep a few potions on hand anyway. Given the long list of ways she could suddenly die and the number of Gold coins Mercy is willing to award for her, stocking up on a few things might be a worthwhile course of action.

        Current score: 0
        • The Dark Master says:

          Anyone who has played D&D knows the value of holding onto some potions, for anything that might happen. Issues of subtance abuse or contraband might become an issue though.

          Current score: 0
          • drudge says:

            Not to mention health issues. It was mentioned some Haste recipes took a year off your life per dosage, and we only have a dealers word that his don’t.

            Granted, Mackenzie doesn’t look like she’ll run out of years on her own, but she doesn’t want to go blind for five days just because she mixed POSH, haste, and Alivia wrong.

            Current score: 0
  46. HiEv says:

    “[…]it seemed that the the Law men had withdrawn.” One too many “the” in there.

    Current score: 0
  47. Sarah says:

    Is there a reason the RSS feed on LJ is displaying the whole update rather than a link to the update these days?

    Current score: 0
  48. ArteminKhaldrem says:

    Good lord it’s been a while since I posted. (So long I had to actually do research to remember my name from LJ).

    AE, wanted to say fantastic chapter, and as a point to bring up to everyone else about trauma, knowing our protagonist like we do, think about it…how gruesome would it really have to be to have her 1) be traumatized but not enough to 2) be physically ill? It may well have been a simple meal for Embries, and no actual merit or punishment beyond what he said would have been necessary. I mean let’s be realistic, to affect Mack, all he really had to do is say “this is your fault” and go. He seems to be a creature of practicality and, I hesitate to say, laziness. Effort isn’t expended on mortals when it isn’t necessary. What WAS necessary however, was to make certain that Mack didn’t reveal Iona’s disappearance in connection with her clearly being at fault with the crime, and that was very specifically achieved. I for once, find it hard to believe that Embries has any sort of caring one way or another as to whether Mack survives college or the world. I would find it out of character for him to, in fact. (Unless of course there is some further connection between Mack’s father and him, in which case it may have been appropriate to add unnecessary gore to the punishment to specifically appeal to the side that he (they) would want to trigger.) Realistically, Embries is not going to take any more action nor any less than is absolutely necessary. I wouldn’t kid ourselves however, into thinking that he cared a whit for the well being of the students beyond it being less trouble for them to survive than for them to disappear or die in college. Just some things for everyone to chew on for a while. 😉

    -AK

    Current score: 0
  49. Elisabeth says:

    So…according to Embries it was wrong that she knew Leda was a murderer and did nothing.

    Does that mean that according to Embries logic she should be reporting him? I mean it’s okay to say what he did to Leda was justice, but he did murder and eat his secretary, so it’s not like he doesn’t kill people for pleasure.

    Current score: 0
    • 'Nym-o-maniac says:

      Iona, not Leda.

      Current score: 0
    • Christy says:

      Actually, Embries is committing the same crime he’s accusing Mack of committing by not letting people know the dangers of merpeople.

      Current score: 0
  50. Belial666 says:

    And she’s going to report him to whom, exactly? It isn’t as if the authorities don’t know of his eating habits – he set up the whole “let’s eat Iona” deal with them.

    Current score: 0
  51. Kitsune 9tails says:

    This was a great chapter. I am in the camp that will be just fine with waiting until after Mack kills Embries to be able to read the missing chapter.

    Among many questions raised, I find myself very interested in how the ‘Dragon Geas’ will manifest itself in the future in response to the various people who will want to know what happened.

    If the missing Chapter 489 is any indication, Mack cannot describe the actual events, but can talk around them to some extent.

    For instance, she might be able to say “Vice-Chancellor Embries invited Iona over for dinner. We will never see Iona again.”

    I doubt that the compulsion can be brute-forced without destroying Mack if her intimation that Embries’ Will might be stronger than Reality is true. And we know that it is not limited to his wording, which begs the question of how ‘smart’ the Dragon Geas is (it might be an entity in its’ own right).

    If we accept that the compulsion is smart to some degree, the question is raised as to what it is intended or intends to prevent?

    Embries being outed as a Greater Dragon? Unlikely as several entities who could possibly deal with Embries (Callahan, Law, gods) already know.

    Embries being outed as having committed a capital crime? Also unlikely, as Law seems to be complicit.

    To me,the most likely scenario is that Embries has taken an interest in influencing Mack’s psychological/spiritual development.

    If so, I can see why Mack Daddy might not want that.

    Of course, this all presumes Embries (at least)ate Iona. We don’t KNOW that’s what happened, which seems to be part of the point.

    I also wonder if Mack is going to have an upcoming interesting confrontation with Feejee…

    Current score: 0
    • Kevin says:

      Embries has not committed any capitol crime that I am aware of. Also, if anyone wants to mention him “murdering” his secretaries and Iona I have one thing to point out: Being eaten by a dragon is death by natural causes, no crime involved.

      Current score: 0
      • Kitsune 9tails says:

        Good point. Also good technicality. It’s kind of like having an F5 tornado on staff.

        Current score: 0
        • beappleby says:

          I had glanced away for a moment while reading and when I glanced back I could have sworn that said “tomato” not “tornado”…

          Current score: 0
  52. EOI says:

    Embries “nom nom nom mmmmmmmmmmmermaid, care to pass the flipper mack or do you want it?”
    I know its nothing even close to what would have been said but in my morbid(an uncreative) mind itd be so.
    Is there anyway we can find out what exactly happened? Was he quick about it or did he go slowly as to prolong both the physical and mental torture on bouth parties? Im guessing that Embries did in fact transform to his original form, just for the practicality of devouring a whole mermaid. I’m also wondering if “The Man”(is he ever going to be named?) can undo Embries mind magic? Whick would atleast put him on scale either way. It’s just nice to know the hierarchy of power in the Muinverse

    Current score: 0
    • drudge says:

      On one hand, Emberies could probably go toe to toe with some gods. On the other hand, demon fire has been shown to break enchantments and magic effects. It’s really anyone’s game until we see what actually happens.

      I’m getting the vibe he actually transformed at some point, but there’s no reason to say right away. Either way, Iona wasn’t exactly Shiel in terms of size. I wonder if he’ll look like he’s gained weight due to this.

      Current score: 0
    • Burnsidhe says:

      Kent: “It might take longer than [two hours].”
      Also, the Law people had time to clear out entirely, it seems and Amaranth had time to break down and cry and then recover (sort of), so I don’t think it was a “chomp crunch crunch swallow” sort of situation.

      There’s no sign that Mack got spattered with blood, either. At least so far. That would be another indication Embries took his time.

      Current score: 0
    • ylistra says:

      The hierarchy, as far as I can tell, goes something like this (listed from lowest to most powerful)

      Common Man
      Demi-Humans
      Wizards, Heros, etc.
      Demons and other elementals
      Gods
      Greater Dragons
      Callahan

      Current score: 0
      • Kaila says:

        There should be a ‘like’ button for this post.

        *thumbs up*

        Current score: 0
      • VXC says:

        You forgot the fae. I’d put those even above the demons.

        Current score: 0
      • at the top of that list, as being lower than common man you’re missing slaves (lowest of low so first on your list) and golems. Otherwise, I think its perfect.

        Current score: 0
        • bramble says:

          Well, this is in terms of how powerful they are, not social standing. Two is certainly more powerful than a non-spellcasting baseline human, and Callahan isn’t actively ruling the universe.

          Well, not that we know of.

          Current score: 0
          • That is true, Two herself might be of a higher power but not all golems are as powerful as Two is. Generalizing golems would put them lower on the totem pole. Two just happens to be one of the exceptional ones.

            Current score: 0
      • lunarennui says:

        Ah, therein lies a question: Where does Mercy come in, on that list? Is she equal to greater dragons, or less than them? It seemed clear to me that she might, possibly, equal Callahan. So where, exactly, does this grey elf fit on this scale?

        (Also, I fully believe that she is in fact a grey elf halfkind–Ce is the child of an elf (dark elf) and an elf (faint elf). That this abomination exists and is so unspeakably abhominable to both races that they completely refuse to believe that it is even POSSIBLE proves even more, to me, that that is exactly what ce is.)

        Current score: 0
  53. Mike says:

    “…if he [Embries] could just will forget… or remember something else…”

    If we add up the scenes with Embries, he seems playful and self-interested but not truly malicious (or at least, that’s my sense of it). Part of me wonders if he didn’t actually eat the sea-demon in front of MacKenzie, but just gave her the thought that he did.

    Current score: 0
    • Gorgonopsid says:

      “Part of me wonders if he didn’t actually eat the sea-demon in front of MacKenzie, but just gave her the thought that he did.”

      Oh, that wouldn’t be malicious at all.

      Current score: 0
  54. beappleby says:

    Will she be able to say anything if the person has already guessed the truth?

    If there’s anyone who will be able to question her without actually asking what happened, it will be Two…

    Current score: 0
  55. Yahrlan says:

    Very clever with the numbering of chapters.

    Current score: 0
  56. Arakano says:

    @Mike: Ehm… Embries HAS eaten several secretaries already… please don’t be an Embries-apologist – that’s not quite as bad as a MackDaddy apologist, but still, as a fellow human, you should try to resist the aura of Embries. 😉

    And poor Mack. Although… I may be a terrible human being for pondering this, but… I dunno if I’d be seriously traumatised by watching a human enemy of mine getting eaten by a dragon. Then again… maybe in combination with being unable to even move on my own… that might be a freak-out.

    Current score: 0
    • drudge says:

      I think it’s not the information “Iona is dead and gone” so much as the presentation. You can’t move, or blink, or resist. She can’t move on her own, is forced to smile, and so on.

      And then you watch her die, messily. I doubt Emberies just swallowed her whole(though that begs the question of what happens to her when he goes back to human form).

      Not to mention that Mackenzie isn’t exactly a hard boiled badass. Watching someone die in front of you is generally detrimental to mental health in any circumstance.

      Current score: 0
      • Kevin says:

        What happens to all the mass of a greater dragon when it shifts to human form?

        Current score: 0
        • drudge says:

          I assume the opposite of what happens when Mackenzie pulls earth out of air.

          Current score: 0
          • Rey d`Tutto says:

            There y’all go, trying to use “Math” and “Science” to understand the complexities of Form Alteration Majicks. Like every use of Magical energy, the thought and will behind the language used is what evokes the alterations. There is no “conservation of mass” when translating a 2-meter bipedal humanoid into the form of a 30+ Meter Ancient Great Dragon. The Entity’s form is simply one or the other. There is no in-between, unless it is required by the caster. Think of a Block, with 6 sides. You can only ever see at most half of the Block, and more usually only 2 or even a single side. Alteration Majicks only “Rotate” the surface, allowing you to see a different manifestation of the same entity. The Entity itself is unchanged, only the perception of that Entity through the consensual observed hallucination we jokingly call “Reality” is.

            Current score: 0
      • Erm says:

        I doubt that Embries ever left human form. The (sorry) dining-room isn’t described as particularly roomy, and if the painting is any indication, Embries is *big* in his natural shape.

        It’s a bit hard to (sorry again) swallow, but him eating in human form still sounds more plausible than the administration building suddenly containing a full-fledged dragon.

        Current score: 0
    • Mike says:

      Oh, I am completely certain that Embries ate Iona. I have doubts about him making MacKenzie watch out of some malicious sense of justice.

      Current score: 0
  57. Hm… will we ever get the missing Chapter 489?

    Current score: 0
    • Rey d`Tutto says:

      Yes, Please.
      Altering the URL to 489 simply reloaded 488.

      Current score: 0
      • Burnsidhe says:

        You won’t get 489. Here’s why.

        Mackenzie is the narrator of the story. We’re seeing events as she relates them to us. She’s telling us what happened.
        By Embrie’s will, she is unable to tell what happened in 489. Therefore, the “missing” chapter will always be missing.

        Current score: 0
  58. Stonefoot says:

    A lot of ways that someone could help Mack break through the compulsion have been suggested. My suggestion is that for either Mack herself or someone else merely to try to investigate the compulsion would be extremely dangerous. There could easily be some trigger there so that Embries would immediately know if anyone went poking around there.

    Second: While we know Mack can’t tell anyone what she remembers, we don’t know that what she remembers is actually what happened. And since Embries was describing what he was doing while he was creating her compulsion, but actually doing it purely by force of will, he could have done other things than what he said. One unlikely but very interesting possibility would be strengthening her barrier against Mack-Daddy so he can never again talk to her, unless they actually meet face-to-face. Even more interesting, he could have “set a trap” so he immediately knows when Mack-Daddy contacts her, suggesting that one reason he’s interested in her is as a link to find The Man. (Which is very unlikely to be good for The Man.) Either of those would be very good reasons for The Man to try to keep her away from Embries.

    And just going waaaaay out there – Embries no doubt makes very long-term plans. And he can do some serious messing with peoples minds. Could Embries have been involved in the creation of the Imperium itself? Some of the actions described in Mack’s history class seem quite ill-advised. Of course that’s true in the known history of our own world, and (in both cases) we have entirely plausible reasons why people did what they did, but if Embries had been lurking around, the real reasons might be his, not theirs. Maybe the Imperium is just a nice orderly place where he can quietly and restfully do as he pleases. Like “Mama Blackwater” on a far grander scale.

    Current score: 0
    • Arakano says:

      Hm, I doubt Embries was quite THAT influential… some of the Gods might have noticed and gotten a bit pissed over it, and yeah, we heard greater dragons CAN win against Gods, but I figure someone like Embries would not take such unnecessary risks. Besides, engineering the Imperium would have required moving and acting far beyond his domain…

      Current score: 0
      • Christy says:

        Also, in the interview in the Q&A with Embries, he said that the reason he doesn’t eat nymphs for a steady supply of food is that even greater dragons don’t want to piss of Mother Khaele.

        Current score: 0
    • Jinzo says:

      1) Assuming Mack is even free enough to have somone poke around with the compulsion (before poking is made others need to know there is poking to be done), Embriss would know I’m sure. He did sense Mack trying to close her eyes and Ionas shifting (and blocked both before they even begun… pretty quick to block somone shutting their eyes before they do that).

      2) Mack herself must remember. Afterall the burden to her was quite specifically to know a horrible secret but become unable to do anything abou it.

      3) Lotta speculation on how to break the compulsion. But who would gain anything ? Noone. At BEST Mack could have an easier time talking about it in therapy, but it would also put her in focus of Embriss and admitting to the act of eating a mermaid to death (only reason she wasnt killed at 6 when she turned was that blood is quite renewable). The school itself, would hold this against Mack in the settlement.

      Anyone else would have NO gain in knowing, or making public, the fact Embriss excecuted Iona on behalf of the Shifter nations. (I suppose a part of the readership would like to read the 489 chapter and they are safe from dragons.)

      Current score: 0
  59. Arakano says:

    Some folks still do assume that Mack participated in the eating of Iona. I think she was just forced to watch. Is this intended, AE? Or can there please be a mighty word of author to dispell the confusion and let rejoicing commence? *bows*

    Current score: 0
    • Nick says:

      She does manage to say here that Embries does not like to share. Now, he MIGHT have just said this at some point during the Lost Chapter, and it’s only implication, but what I take from this is that seeing the feast aroused hunger in her demonic side, something Embries would sense as he easily as could sense the desire to close ones eyes, and he told her he did not want to share his meal. The beauty of this hold on her ability to describe what occurred is the specific events are all wrapped in delicious candy coatings of implication.

      The spook foreshadowed this, when he mentioned how with everything one says, they are actually saying three other things. A spook with enough time could probably figure out a neat outline of the events within a certain margin of error, without even touching Embries’ hold, because the right type of spook can learn information that is never in any way shared.

      One part of this skill is negative information outlining. When one speaks AROUND something enough, a crude outline of that information is formed, as sure as the outline of a person is left when a knife thrower tosses the knives everywhere around them, then they step away. You might not know which way the person was facing, you might not know what color their eyes or hair were, but you can spot the outline of a person. Enough non-information can in this way become information.

      Current score: 0
      • Nick says:

        Supporting evidence:
        “My eyes seemed fixed to Iona by invisible strings as she got up rather primly and did an obscene, jerky version of a model’s catwalk strut, her scaled legs melting into meaty skin as she did.”

        Here, her monstrous hunger rears its head. The most horrible part of Embries’ feast is not that she participated… but that she WANTED TO, with all of the side of her that is a monster, and was not allowed, and she must live with having felt that desire, and must live with knowing part of her IS truly a monster.

        To be brutally honest, these past two chapters have provided more substance to the subject of inhuman and monstrous behavior then is generally acceptable. Far beyond.

        The only other place you will find such interesting treatment of monstrous conduct is in “Dexter.” The novels can be over the top, and deal with a true monster trying to live a human life. Particularly see “Dexter is Delicious” in which we can see, through various means, the protectiveness a true monster can show for its offspring, and how that makes a monster more sympathetic and yet more brutal.

        And the entirety of the Showtime series, in which we see a protagonist somewhat more like Mack, someone who is not fully a monster, but cannot be otherwise either, a tortured creature stuck between two forms of existence, wishing he could be more human than what he is, TRYING to be. In his inescapable failing at humanity, at least he makes an effort to be a monster whose deeds are something like acceptable to his human portion, something remotely acceptable to human reasons for his monstrous acts.

        Current score: 0
        • Burnsidhe says:

          Uh… Embries wanted her to watch Iona, and every moment of what was to come.

          He can stop her from blinking even. That’s why she can’t look away from Iona; Embries is controlling where Mack’s eyes are focused.

          Current score: 0
          • Nick says:

            Not that part – the thought that her legs are now “meaty,” which is Mack’s own, and is a very precise choice of words. I just don’t like leaving incomplete sentences.

            Current score: 0
  60. Don says:

    I’m more curious about what is going to happen to FeeJee. Embries implies he’s not thrilled to have the sea devils wandering about. She might be innocent in this particular matter but it doesn’t mean she’s welcome or that she’s not a ticking time bomb. Will she get et? Encouraged to leave? Disappeared?

    Current score: 0
  61. Sindyr says:

    Good job, AE! I like the “missing chapter”–cleverly done. As always, keep up the great work!

    Current score: 0
  62. A fan says:

    Am I the only one who thinks the “missing chapter” is badly implemented?
    It might work for the people who are reading everything the day it is released, but seeing a gap 5 chapters ahead is rather irritating.

    Current score: 0
  63. 2nt9 says:

    I still felt… The whole thing had been… I couldn’t even…

    Mack thinks to herself ^

    and im thinking “what is this, I don’t even…

    If you have no idea what im blathering on about you can take it up with the nice people at KYM —> http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/what-is-this-i-dont-even

    Current score: 0
  64. 2nt9 says:

    Also just to put this to rest, only one person in that room was human and its only a half human.

    Trust me the person who was recieving this decadent capitol punishment is far from protected by the imperium.

    Current score: 0
  65. Christy says:

    I think Embries was being a sort of hypocrite or something. He doesn’t want to out Iona to everyone and let everyone know that merpeople eat humans, yet he punishes Mack for doing the same thing? This is why I’ve already got a sort of alternate reality thing going on in my head where Mack circumvents Embries’ power and manages to at least tell Amaranth, who calls Khaele, who gets really pissed off and blasts Embries…

    Current score: 0