Bonus Story: Deep Concern

on October 1, 2008 in Other Tales

Bonus bonus story… a little Surprise Dee, because I fucked up and didn’t have anything for you all yesterday, and because the three weeks in a row of Laurel Anne’s story didn’t give much insight into the current events, however well-received they might have been. Yes, regular updates are coming today.

“Thank you so very much for agreeing to see me on short notice, Teddi,” Dee said, folding her hands in front of her and bowing her head almost to the floor to the mental healer.

“It’s not a problem, Dee,” Teddi Lundegard said, stepping aside to let the ebony-skinned elf into her office. “We’ve all been on call since the news hit… the tsunami, I mean.”

“I apologize,” Dee said, freezing mid-stride in the doorway. “My concern does not directly touch upon the events of the tsunami, and I am keeping you from somebody whose need is greater.”

“Figuring out whose needs are greater or lesser is a job for somebody higher up,” Teddi said. “The on call status is just in case somebody needs us . Right now, you do, so that’s who I’m here for.”

“Your concern touches me deeply.”

“It’s my job,” Teddi said.

“But it’s genuine.”

“It is,” Teddi said.

“The care with which you dispatch your professional obligations is not something to dismiss lightly,” Dee said.

“Well, thank you,” Teddi said. She gestured at the couch and the chairs over by the fireplace. “Sit anywhere you’d like, and we’ll get down to it.”

As she had the previous time, Dee sat on the floor in front of the hearth.

“I hope you are not offended if I don’t disrobe this time,” she said.

“Like I told you, most of my patients don’t,” Teddi said, sitting down on the carpet a couple yards away from Dee. Her back wouldn’t thank her, but she didn’t want to appear to talk down to the proud divinity student. “It doesn’t bother me, and if it helps you to be open I’m all for it, but it’s not an essential part of the process.”

“Thank you,” Dee said. “I am trying to balance an instinct towards privacy with the need to… come clean, I believe is the phrase.”

“On a related subject, I notice you’re shielding more tightly than normal,” Teddi said. “And considering your normal shields, that’s saying something.”

“My thoughts are running in circles,” Dee said. “My whole mind is drawing inward.”

“What’s on it?”

Dee was silent, her face motionless. Her breathing was so slow and measured that she might have been a statue.

“Take your time,” Teddi said. “But you told me on the mirror you were afraid you would hurt someone. If you need…”

“To be precise, I said I felt like hurting my friends,” Dee said. “While I would fear the outcome of such an action, I have no reason to fear it would come to pass. My self-control remains intact.”

“Did your friends do something to hurt you?”

“They disappointed me.”

“Sometimes, when we love somebody, we think so highly of them that it becomes impossible for any real person to live up to our expectations,” Teddi said. “And so we end up disappointed, and hurt because we expected so much better of them.”

“To be perfectly honest, I didn’t expect that much of them to begin with,” Dee said.

“Oh.”

“But I did not expect this.”

“What did they do, Dee?”

“They were party to something… terrible,” Dee said. “Horrible… abominable… unconscionable.”

“Can you be specific?”

“Remind me of the rules which bind you, regarding confidentiality,” Dee said.

“Dee, if a crime’s been committed, I can’t cover that up,” Teddi said. “And neither should you. You’ve had one run-in with the law already…”

“I am not a legal scholar, but they believe their actions fell within the bounds of the law,” Dee said. “And they may be right. Do you know anything of the rights of slaves?”

“They don’t have any, practically speaking,” Teddi said. “Not to liberty, or even life.”

“Where I come from, we don’t speak of rights,” Dee said. “We speak of privileges and responsibilities. But life is a privilege that belongs to all who fulfill their basic responsibilities. It is revoked only with regret. I do not understand how a people who speak of the right to life… and then do such a thing.”

“It can be tough to deal with,” Teddi said. “The dichotomy. History’s not my specialty, but I did have to take ethics courses, and one of them touched on this. The pendulum’s always swung back and forth on the question of slaves and their rights, and there came a point where the law had to decide if slaves were property or people. If they were people, then they couldn’t be abused or killed… but they couldn’t be slaves, either.”

“I do not have to ask how that question was decided,” Dee said.

“I try not to be a cynical person, but on the one side was big business and moneyed folks, and on the other were a bunch of idealists,” Teddi said.

“The law can declare that water pools on the ceiling, but it will not change the course of things,” Dee said. “Personhood is a function of being, not something to be adjudicated by a court!”

“Dee, I feel your anger, and I agree with you, to be honest. Not a lot of people love the system,” Teddi said. “But it doesn’t affect most people.”

“Those it does affect, it affects quite deeply,” Dee said.

“If you think about it, though, even without legal protection, many slaves are protected and well-cared for,” Teddi said. “There isn’t much money in working somebody to death.”

“No, but there may be money in slaughtering them outright,” Dee said. “And college students… children… can order death on an ill-considered whim.”

“Is that… is that what happened?”

Dee nodded.

“Are you sure?” Teddi asked. “I know you told me you overhear a lot of things, and…”

“This was no half-heard conversation,” Dee said.

“Is there any chance it might have been a mistake?” Teddi asked.

“There remains a possibility of an external influence,” Dee said. “And, in a calmer moment, I intend to investigate that possibility. For now, I cling to it like a spot of warmth in the coldness. I do not like to believe it happened at all, but knowing that it did, I would prefer it to not be the fault of anybody I know. Though, that hardly matters to the victim.”

“So, you’re angry that your friends participated in this system,” Teddi said.

“Aren’t you?” Dee asked.

“I don’t know them,” Teddi said. “I know the people you’re talking about aren’t human, and they would have different needs, different customs… I’m appalled, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not here to judge your friends. You don’t need me to validate your outrage.”

“I do not,” Dee agreed. “But… I do not know what to do. Before I learned of this, I had planned on… this falls within the bounds of confidentiality?”

“So far,” Teddi said.

“You are certain?”

“I’ll let you know if we stray into iffy territory.”

“Very well,” Dee said. She closed her eyes and began to speak. “I had planned on asking Amaranth, who is a nymph-creation of the human nature goddess, to instruct me in pleasuring women.”

“I remember you mentioned being nervous about that,” Teddi said. “It’s not anything to be embarrassed about. I think more than a few men… and some women… have used nymphs or golems for ‘practice’ before they move on to the real thing.”

“Yes,” Dee said, her eyes still closed. “My love was not my social equal, so I was not able to reciprocate her skillful attention. Our marriage would have rectified the disparity in standing, but not the one in experience. I screened my fear from her, but I was terrified that I would not be able to perform adequately.”

“A marriage is more than a wedding night,” Teddi said. “Up here, a lot of people save themselves. If there’s a certain amount of fumbling on the night in question, they’re fumbling together, and then they have a lifetime together to improve.”

“A lifetime…” Dee said. “I fear I’ve shortened Alea’s drastically by coming here.”

“You said she left you.”

“She did,” Dee said. “And left the protection of my house and family. I pray for the safety of all my loves. Darek is a skilled soldier, but he is a soldier. Dehsah… Dehsah is called the black diamond of the d’Wyri. Few elves are better protected than my pretty Dehsah, but if somebody wished to harm our house’s standing, that is where they would strike. The risk to either of them fades in comparison to the dangers Alea faces in her dispossessed state.”

“She’s like a slave?” Teddi asked.

“We have no custom so barbaric as slavery!” Dee said, her eyes flying open. Her ebony cheeks were touched with streaks of scarlet, and she lowered her head. “But… she is like a slave, in that privileges I take for granted are not extended to her, and like a slave in that she must to some extent depend upon the kindness of those… above… her, and in that she may be called to lay down her life for no fault of her own.”

“So, you take the death of the slave personally,” Teddi said.

“It would be an outrageous offense had I never met Alea.”

“But the outrage hits closer to home because of her.”

“Yes, it does,” Dee said. “And yet there are differences. I would not have Alea endangered, but that is a selfish impulse… there are things which need to be done for the safety of all, and somebody would have to do them regardless. The slaughter of slaves for pay is a different matter. Nobody ever needs to die for the entertainment or sensual pleasure of others… and while I can well believe that such a thing happens, it seems inconceivable… well…”

“You feel betrayed by your friends?”

“Blindsided. Amaranth is not exactly a master philosopher, but she does not even eat the flesh of dumb beasts,” Dee said. “Her involvement in this dumbfounded me. The other two… one can hardly be blamed for her appetites even if she is responsible for acting upon them, though I thought she had a core of decency. The other… the other has no great respect for the dead, or the living, or anything else… but I somehow thought better of Steff, all the same.”

“Steff Johnson?” Teddi asked.

“Yes, why?”

“No reason,” Teddi said quickly. “You said you were going to ask Amaranth to, uh, instruct you?”

“I would have, before. Amaranth is not my social equal, but she does not exist on the same scale as I do,” Dee said. “She is a child of divinity, and is pious in her own way. I have to believe she would be a skilled teacher.”

“Probably,” Teddi said.

“She isn’t exactly ideal,” Dee said. “But given the chance, I thought it would be better to learn before I return to Durakesh. The only person in my house who would instruct me in the sacrament of cunnilingus is my stepmother.”

“I’m going to need some time alone with that sentence,” Teddi said. “Sacrament of… your stepmother?”

“There’s no precise translation,” Dee said. “She is married to my mother. This makes her my social better, along with my mother and the matriarch. Clearly, she’s the logical choice.”

“Clearly,” Teddi said.

“But, meaning as little disrespect to her as possible, given the choice of submitting to her tutelage or waiting until marriage provided me with an equal, I would have waited,” Dee said.

“I’m getting that there’s not a taboo involved here, so I’m guessing you don’t get along with her.”

“As you are bound by confidentiality and so far removed from my family that you might as well not exist in the same plane, I will say that in my private moments, I have entertained the unworthy thought that she sees me as an obstacle to my mother’s path to the throne,” Dee said. “In the event that our matriarch vacates it within our lifetimes.”

“How would you be an obstacle, exactly?”

“We have an equal claim to it,” Dee said. “The next matriarch would be chosen on merits. I feel my mother is the clear choice, but there have been surprises before. Would you excuse me for a moment?”

“Do you need to use the restroom?”

“I would like to disrobe,” Dee said.

“Oh, uh… feel free,” Teddi said.

She regretted that she didn’t have a notebook or anything in her hands. Looking at the ceiling was a little transparent, so she looked at the pictures over the fireplace instead as Dee removed her cloak and her robe and set them on a chair. The paintings were all still lives and seascapes… she’d insisted there be no portraits over her work space, no eyes gazing down unblinking at her patients.

“Thank you,” Dee said, when she’d sat back down. “The idea of being matriarch terrifies me beyond reason, Teddi. That’s part of the reason I sought a surface education.”

“You wanted to remove yourself from the pool of candidates for a few years?”

“That is part of the appeal,” Dee said. “But a small part. Four or five years is not much, in the span of things. But, no, the human education system condenses practical lessons that I would be expected to learn over a decade or more. It will speed my advancement to full priestesshood, enabling me to marry Darek all the quicker. The sooner I am married, the sooner I can fulfill my destiny as a mother. My first daughter will also be eligible for the matriarchy, as will her first daughter, and so on.”

“You want to hedge your bets.”

“I want the best woman to be chosen,” Dee said. “I simply do not want to be her.”

“Sometimes, the best person to wield authority is the person who wants it the least,” Teddi said. “There’s a story of a man in the old republic, a retired general who was given supreme power to fight off an army of orcs… he whipped the army into shape and routed the invaders, then disbanded his legions and went quietly back to his peaceful retirement.”

“There would be no retirement for me,” Dee said. “It is a lifetime appointment, with few exceptions. Matriarchs have stepped aside, but not for selfish reasons. The thought that I might become one of those forms a basis of my fear.”

“Is the desire to have a child who might inherit the throne instead of you the reason you’re marrying Darek?”

“It’s the reason I wish to marry him quickly,” Dee said. “He has many fine qualities, and he is enthusiastic about me.”

“Last time, you told me you thought your goddess wanted you on the surface,” Teddi said. “Was that an excuse?”

“By no means,” Dee said. “She is a goddess of intricacy… as her servant, I rarely do things for a single reason. Just as there are many reasons I wish to marry Darek, there was more than one reason for my period of exile. Like the strands of a spider’s web, they all weave together to form something stronger than the individual parts. Like my reasons for coming here now.”

“How so?”

“I am disappointed in Amaranth for her part in the atrocity,” Dee said. “This disappointment is deepened because of the important thing I would have asked of her. The plight of the slave reminds me of the plight of my… of Alea, which brings me once again around to Amaranth. The news of the devastation to the east is a reminder of the randomness and capriciousness of death, which may come without warning and from unexpected sources, which again makes me think of Alea, which makes me think of the slave and of my friends. They all connect, you see, and the more I try to fight my way out of the web, the tighter the strands bind me…”

“Have you talked to your friends about this?”

“That is how I know about it,” Dee said.

“Did you let them know how you felt, I mean?”

“I expressed my shock and my outrage,” Dee said. “What more can I do?”

“I guess the answer to that question depends on whether or not you still consider them your friends.”

“I do not know,” Dee said. “There seemed to be some regret… and as I said, there is the possibility of some mitigating circumstance. I have enjoyed their friendship, and would not look forward to spending the rest of the term ostracized from them. Additionally, it would be awkward sharing close quarters, particularly as one of them is the roommate of a very dear friend.”

“Would it be accurate to say that you would like to be friends with them, but you don’t know if you can?”

“That would be precisely accurate.”

“I think to start with, you need to tell them how you feel and why you feel it,” Teddi said.

“I need to explain to persons of human blood and likeness why I find the senseless slaughter of a human person disgusting?”

“You might explain why it affects you so much,” Teddi said. “So they’ll know where you’re coming from. If they feel guilty… and maybe I’m naive, but I have a hard time believing that they don’t… then they may end up becoming defensive if they feel like they’re just being unfairly judged.”

“I would not like being the one tasked with rendering a fair judgment,” Dee said.

“I’m going to go out on a limb here,” Teddi said. “And remember, what you tell me is confidential… but I saw you on TV with Mackenzie Blaise…”

“She was a part of this, yes,” Dee said. “Likely the crux of it, though I could well believe that Steff was the instigator. I don’t want to believe it of any of them. They do not seem to have enjoyed it, but… they are not acting with anything near the solemnity I would expect of a penitent, given the nature of the offense.”

“Have you considered the possibility that they don’t know how to act, under the circumstances?”

“I have not considered much,” Dee said. “I reacted, and I left, and then I slept, and contacted you.”

“I think this is something you need to talk to them about,” Teddi said. “If they listen to you, then you can figure out how to go forward. If they can’t or won’t respect your feelings, then there isn’t going to be much point in trying to save the friendship, and honestly, you’re probably better off for it.”

“I do not abandon a friend lightly.”

“Would you consider this light?” Teddi asked. Dee didn’t answer. “You’ve reached out to a half-demon, as well as to a very troubled person, but both of them need help that you aren’t qualified to give. It may be that hearing your honest feelings will help them come to terms with what they’ve done, and if so, they may become the better for it. That’s a good thing. If not… well, it’s not your responsibility to make them better people. You talk about ‘selfish impulses’ like they’re the worst thing in the world…”

“Believe me, I am aware that there are worse things,” Dee said.

“The fact is, we all have to be selfish sometimes, Dee,” Teddi said. “Selfishness can keep us alive. Eating is a selfish act…”

“Another fact of which I am currently crushingly aware.”

“…but we have to do it. Whatever aid, whatever comfort you give to your friends and loved ones, it depends on you being healthy and sound and able to give it. If you can haul your friends up from a precipice, you’ll do it, because you are a good and selfless person who can do nothing else… but if you can’t, you need to realize that, because you won’t help anybody by letting yourself get dragged down with them,” Teddi concluded.

“The hierarchy of high to low makes for some less convoluted metaphors,” Dee said.

“Say what?”

“Nothing,” Dee said. “I think I need to pray for guidance now. I have quite a bit to think about.”

“I’m sure you’ll make the right decision,” Teddi said. “You’re a very strong young… a very strong woman. I’m sorry, I realize you’re almost thirty, but I think of you as a child.”

“When I take off my robes, I do, too.”


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7 Responses to “Bonus Story: Deep Concern”

  1. pedestrian says:

    I can certainly sympathize with Dee’s dilemma. The unfolding developments in the American economy and the political scene have left me with a slowly boiling anger.

    I thought that I would be most upset at the Dixiecrat revanchist seductive subversion of the GOP but as a historian/scholar I find that my views of their sedition has remained a calm anger. Their predecessors were traitors a 150 years ago, today they advocate if not flagrantly commit treason, 150 years from now their successors will also betray our nation. It’s the same old and tedious argument they profess, that human beings are chattel property and are only of value as the whimsy of our uberman masters.

    Okay, makes me angry, especially when they commit atrocities on those who are too weak to fight back. They see themselves as having the right to be predators upon the rest of humanity. They live as a NatGeo documentary.

    What surprised me the most {about myself} was my shock and horror at their open acts of blasphemy. And here I thought I was just a boring ol’materialistic atheist. But these last two years have bubbled up my Presbyterian/Lutheran/Dutch Reform ancestors. I find myself channeling General William Tecumseh Sherman!

    Current score: 0
  2. MadnessMaiden says:

    I can’t wondering if the general AE spoke of was George Washington or some equally important person. Either way, it was good to see something from Dee and Teddi.

    Current score: 0
    • Antistianus says:

      I supposed the general was a reference to Cincinnatus. But Washington would also be likely.

      Current score: 3
  3. Dangflabit says:

    Holy crap! Someone please tell me i’m not wrong in saying that tedi’s “sometimes the right person for the job is the one who wants it least” is a refeance to dune specifically the flip side if the saying power atracts the coruptable

    Current score: 2
  4. Anon says:

    Meanwhile, while Mack is dicking around on the internet and having sex with mermaids two days after eating somebody, Dee reacts in an entirely appropriate and rational manner.

    Current score: 2